The brand new pilgrim shelter
In the village of St Leger I came across an extraordinary piece of new infrastructure. A pilgrim resting place, a shelter, made out of stone and huge timber Beams with maps and sculpture and a visitor’s book. On the wall details of how it’s been paid for by the regional government, 25k for something that visitors will use once for a maximum of 45 minutes before moving on.
Think back to the golden age of Aquitaine… Eleanor and Richard the Lionheart. The latter years of the 12th century were a golden age for pilgrims on the way of St James. People yearned to travel. They were drawn by their spirituality, and inquisitive nature. They had a passion for art, music, poetry and adventure. The Camino De Santiago was growing in popularity such that a quarter of a million people walked there and back across Europe every year. That is a big boost to any economy and the middle ages thrived on pilgrimage. It also inspired the robber barons who plotted and plundered.
Poor pilgrims were often set upon and robbed by organised gangs. They appealed to kings Henry and Richard to protect them. Which they did. This had a huge benefit to the regional economy. And that brings us back to why a regional government would invest so much money in something for such temporary and transient visitors. I think they believe this will have an economic benefit down the track and encourage more people to visit the area for walking, exploring etc. I certainly want to come back and see how this develops. Fancy that…a second visitor this year straight after me!