Our first stop today is in France, in the town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. For many pilgrims this is the starting place for the Camino to Santiago. We’ll have time to grab a coffee and croissant, soak in the special vibe of the town, and of course visit the Pilgrim’s Office.
We then make our way by bus up to Ibañeta Pass, which is on the Camino a couple of miles from the French border. It’s time to stretch our legs and walk down to Roncevalles, where we attend a moving Pilgrim’s Mass and spend the night. The blessing at the end of the Mass is an appropriate way for us to start our journey. Afterwards, it’s dinner – perhaps some trout, like the ones Hemingway used to catch in the local river!
The Abbey of Roncesvalles, also known as the Colegiata, was founded in the 12th century. It was established as a collegiate church, meaning it was run by a chapter of canons (clergy members) rather than monks. The primary purpose of the Abbey of Roncesvalles was to provide spiritual support, shelter, and hospitality to pilgrims traveling along the Camino de Santiago.
The abbey served as a crucial resting place for weary pilgrims and played a significant role in the development of the Camino de Santiago as a major Christian pilgrimage route during the Middle Ages. Its strategic location in the Pyrenees allowed it to provide refuge and care for pilgrims coming from France and crossing into Spain. Over the centuries, the Abbey of Roncesvalles has been rebuilt and expanded several times. Its current structure includes elements from different architectural styles, such as Romanesque and Gothic. The abbey complex includes a church, a cloister, a museum, and a pilgrims’ hostel.
Today, the Abbey of Roncesvalles continues to welcome pilgrims and visitors from around the world, preserving its historical and spiritual significance along the Camino de Santiago. It remains an essential place for those embarking on the pilgrimage, providing a meaningful and symbolic start to their journey.
Roncesvalles is also known for the Roncesvalles Pass, a historic location located in the Pyrenees mountain range between France and Spain. It is famous for its significance in medieval history and the legendary Battle of Roncesvalles, which took place in the early 9th century.