Gite d'etape des Capucins, was my first place to stay on the Chemin,
the name evocative of the rich religious past
of this city of Le Puy
buried deep in the Auvergne.
I walked up to the Cathedral
straight up the steep approach
my first challenge as a pilgrim.
Hidden were more steps under the arch, then more around corners;
penance already before the real walking begins!
Inside the Cathedral
reverence permeated the stones
a place for the devout
A modern crucifix -glass reflecting light-
caught my eye as I entered,
the glory of Resurrection
not just an immersion in death.
St Jacques statue bathed in welcoming light.
The altar around the black Madonna
was surrounded by red lamps.
Often such an icon in a dark place
would fill me with a kind of dread
but here, light permeated from behind, allowing peace.
I prayed for some people here,
and left a prayer for another pilgrim to carry.
I walked out into a maze of historic streets
and saw the giant Notre Dame statue looming high above on its volcanic rock
but the zigzag climb had resting places,
and I soon enjoyed spectacular views
of Le Puy nestled in its volcanic basin
magnificent in the sunshine
orange roofs against green vegetation.
I visited the cloister in the calm of Sunday morning,
before Mass with incense
in the Cathedral where the Virgin resides.
Then I climbed to Roch St Michel chapel
the very bones of its columns and arches
holding the prayers of ages past
the archangel defending, protecting and challenging.A wish and greeting came from a woman passing by
the first time I was recognised as a pilgrim,"Bonne Courage! Bonne Route!"
2012: I arrived in Le Puy this time early in May at the end of a walk from Cluny- a challenging, solitary journey.
My French friend had recommended that I stay at the Gîte Relais du Pèlerin Saint Jacques, and they were incredibly welcoming there.
When I reached Le Puy I lost the chemin I had been following- after just over two weeks of keeping my eyes peeled for small coquille markers. I had had to be 'strong' by myself on the Cluny route, but I 'lost it' once in the sanctuary of the crowds in Le Puy. I found this little chapel near where you climb up the 'needle'. Luckily, for several minutes, no tourists came in while I cried, and the one person who then did come in was a pilgrim who had just finished walking five weeks. He understood!
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