After Christ’ s resurrection the apostles set out to evangelise the world. Legend attributes the evangelisation of the Iberian peninsula to Saint-James (Santiago in Spanish language). His sepulchre was miraculously discovered around 820-830 in Galicia (which is now Santiago de Compostela), and Spanish Christians made Saint-James the standard bearer for the reconquest of the territories occupied by the Moors.
In the Middle Age, walking on the pilgrimage route meant heading out on a dangerous adventure with faith and courage. They followed routes dotted with sites sanctified by precious relics or supernatural events. The Compostela pilgrims could be easily identified thanks to their traditional long walking stick ( ” bourdon ” ) and the scallop shell attached to their hats or clothes.
Christians from all over Europe took one of the four main routes leading across the Pyrenees mountains to reach Compostela. The most southerly, starting from the Rhone valley ( ” Arles ” ) , was called Via Tolosana because pilgrims had to go through Toulouse .
Other routes can be walked : France was the country to cross before reaching Spain. Pilgrims coming from Eastern and Northern Europe inevitably crossed one of the major routes in France.
Basilica Saint Sernin
A basilica dedicated to a bishop, major stopping place in the pilgrimage to Compostela
115 metres long and 64 metres wide ( to the top of the transept ), Saint Sernin basilica is the biggest Romanesque church in the world still standing…. and without a doubt the most beautiful.
The choir was adorned with baroque decor during the 18th century, designed to glorify the tomb of Saint Saturnin.
Chapel of St-Peter.
The vaulted nave and its tribunes.
The basilica of Saint Sernin was built in honour of a martyr , Saint Saturnin, first bishop and martyr of Toulouse, who lived in the first half of the 3rd century . In 250 he died after being dragged through the streets by a sacrificial bull.
In 1987, the pilgrimage paths were declared the ” First European cultural routes “. In 1988, they were declared UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, in the form of a series of individual monuments with important historical significance defining the path of pilgrimage routes in France…. This meant that the basilica of Saint Sernin joined the prestigious circle of monuments listed by UNESCO on the most southerly route to Compostela .