Period II newsletter

Aigle. Photo/Foto: TES.

The Via Francigena in Switzerland

The origin of the Via Francigena which links Canterbury to Rome, crossing England, France, Switzerland and Italy, goes back to the old Roman road system when soldiers and merchants travelled from the South to the North of Europe and the other way around. The Via Francigena crosses the cantons of Vaud and the Valais and the Grand-Saint-Bernard. The Romans used this road when they headed up North to conquer Britannia. In 43 AD.

The current name of this ancient Roman road is from a much later date, however. In 772, when the Lombards (and their Italian Kingdom with its capital Ravenna) threatened the pontifical states, Charlemagne, King of the Franks, went to the help of the Pope. It is from this time that the way received the name Via Francigena, which means the ‘road which comes from France’. The road became a Christian pilgrimage after the archbishop of Canterbury had travelled to Rome to receive the pallium from the Pope in 985. This itinerary was written down, and the document (British Museum nowadays ) became a reference for pilgrims. The cantons of Vaud and Valais belonged to the Burgundian Kingdom (888-1032) these days. The Swiss cities can be found by their (vulgar) Latin names, among others Bourg-Saint-Pierre (Petrecastel), Orsières (Ursiores), Saint-Maurice (Sce Maurici), Aigle (Burbulei), Vevey (Vivaec), Lausanne (Losanna), Orbe (Urbe) and Yverdon (Antifern). In 1994, the Council of Europe recognised the Via Francigena as a European Cultural Itinerary, and in 2001 the European Association of the Via Francigena was founded. (Source: A. M. Barelli, Le Chablais (Viterbo, 2014).