The 8.4-km route through the city itself, which has been added to the Invisible Bordeaux GoogleMap, leads out of Le Bouscat along Avenue de Tivoli. A small square marks the official arrival in Bordeaux... and that may just be a scallop-shaped sculpted feature there to greet the pilgrims!
Saint-Seurin was originally built in the 6th century then overhauled and extended between the 12th and 14th centuries, partly to be a more prominent sight for pilgrims passing through. The basilica boasts some fine samples of Christian carvings and sculptures, and an impressive pipe organ which was first installed in 1776.
In the early years of the 20th century, archaeological digs uncovered a large Christian cemetery with graves dating from the 4th to the 18th centuries, including those of Saint James' Way pilgrims! Excavations revealed a set of walls that formed constructions from different periods housing fresco-decorated tombs and pottery storage jars that were used to bury infants. The haunting underground site can be visited afternoons between June and September.
The path then proceeds across Place Gambetta, along Rue de la Porte-Dijeaux and Rue Saint-Rémi to the quayside and down towards Porte Cailhau – the first port of call for pilgrims arriving in Bordeaux directly from the right bank.
From here on, it is now easy to track the pilgrims' progress through the heart of Medieval Bordeaux, by following the bronze studs that have been positioned on the ground (as pictured at the top of the article). The route loops around past the 14th/15th-century Saint-Pierre church and Place Saint-Projet (once the city's central "forum", later a cemetery, now a lovely square) to Rue du Loup, which in turn leads through to Place Pey-Berland and Saint-André cathedral, the second of the city’s churches to be recognised by UNESCO as emblematic landmarks on the pilgrimage route.
The 13th-century Porte Saint-Éloi was one of the main gates to and from the heart of the city and a natural extension to the existing Saint-Éloi church. Given the steady stream of Saint James Way pilgrims, it was also known as Porte Saint-James. The Grosse Cloche (Great Bell) belfry was added in the 15th century and has become one of the best-known landmarks in Bordeaux, visible on the city’s coat of arms.
Saint-Éloi church was originally built in the 12th century, although the gothic construction which can still be seen today was completed in 1245. It fell into disuse in the 1980s and even became a squat. A Catholic non-profit association set about renovating the church in the early years of the 21st century, and in 2007 it became a working church once again.
Leading south is Rue du Mirail, where Hôpital Saint-Jacques was located from the 12th century onwards. It was a haven where pilgrims could spend the night, as well as serving as a hospital for many of the city’s poor until at least the 16th century. Nothing remains today and the area where the hospital was located is privately-owned. The last remaining catacombs collapsed in 2001 although it is reported that a sculpture of Saint James came through unscathed.
Turning left at Hôtel Saint-François provides the shortest route to Saint-Michel.
Église Saint-Michel may be the last of the three main places of worship along the pilgrims’ route in Bordeaux, but is possibly the stand-out point of interest as Saint James travellers have their own dedicated chapel.
This flamboyant gothic church was built between the 14th and 17th centuries. Again, the belfry stands apart from the main edifice (as with Saint-André, the instability of the Bordeaux soil was the reason behind this decision). The “Flèche de Saint-Michel”, as it is known, tops out at 114 metres!
The path then winds back towards what is now Place de la Victoire and down the linear Cours de l'Argonne.
- Find them: square and sculpture, Saint-Seurin Basilica, Porte Cailhau, Saint-André Cathedral, Place Fernand-Lafargue, Porte Saint-Éloi,
- Detailed information about Saint-Seurin, Saint-André and Saint-Michel churches.
- Full guide to the Paris stretch of the pilgrimage on partner website Invisible Paris!
- Thanks to Harvey for pointing out the "croix de carrefour" which I would otherwise have missed!
- Maps showing full itinerary through the area.