The Via Francigena

The Via Francigena is translated to mean "Your Road of the Faith". This was the medieval road of the pilgrims toward Rome and the Jubilees.

In 1994 the road has received the recognition of the "European Cultural Itinerary" from the European Council.

The Via Francigena was rediscovered to have run over the same routes as the Roman roads. In fact they were probably one and the same. After the fall of the Roman Empire the Via Francigena was reduced to poor condition because of the notable reduction of the commerce and the trips during the barbaric invasions.

The documentary and the DVD will introduce the natural, artistic, religious and cultural " mirabilias " met by a tourist-pilgrim that, today, will cross the Francigena Road along the 1800 kilometers that separate Rome from Canterbury.

Particularly meaningful and fascinating is the possibility that the Via Francigena Road can be used to travel by foot, bicycle, horse, or by auto. Even to this day this authentic medieval road still has intact bridges of Roman epoch.

Testimony of the longevity of the Francigena is shown through the fact that many routes have been asphalted and they are still used by ordinary traffic.

The documentary and the DVD will introduce this whole period of the Middle Ages to our days, from the cathedral of Reims to the ruins of the small oratory of Gesi˛n near Ivrea. There are many large, grand, buildings that are full of intense charm.

The layout of the Via Francigena in its Italian section is sketched with the entrance of the Longobards at the end of the seventh century.

The Longobard Kingdom was centered in Pavia and needed a connection with their Dukedoms at the center and southern parts of Italy. They needed a road secure from raids of the Byzantines or the Roman East Empire.

The Byzantines belonged to the empire of east, in the territories of the "Esarcato of Ravenna" and the two "Pentapolis". The Byzantines monitored the passage of oriental travelers of Appennino. These travelers would cross using Roman roads like The Florence-Faenza. These passages were located in the territories along the tall Adriatic on which the consulars Roman roads Flaminia and Popilia were not monitored.

To cross the Appennino tosco-emiliano, the Longobards were therefore forced to choose the layout of the ancient Roman Road Parma-Lucca as well as the Via Aemilia Scauri. The road of the Bardone Mountain was called (the Mons Langobardorum, now Cisa Pass), it was the artery that gave origin to the future Francigena Road.

After the conquest of the Lunigiana, the Byzantine territories grew outward from the Ligure Sea, the road of the Bardone mountain was equipped and made easier to travel.

Meanwhile the Road was starting to be crossed by the troops from the Longobard population. The road was also being used by the arriving pilgrims from the southwest of Europe and from the British Islands that were traveling toward Rome or Jerusalem.

 

To the end of the ninth century with the hunting party of the Longobards from the Franchis, it begins to appear in the documents of the epoch the name of Francigena Road or "Francisca" that is originated from France. This has been determined that this was not an actual nation, but a geographical denomination that at this time period understood this to be the territories around the river Rhine and the Netherlands.

 

The Via Francigena assisted in Europe's general renewing of spirit that adds to a demographic increase, and to a progressive economic comfort.

The development of the Via Francigena is due to the different positive exchanges of pilgrimages. The Via Francigena has involved "in primis " of it.

Shortly the Road, therefore, became the more important European road of the Middle Ages, the principal "high way" between the cities of the northwest of Europe and the Roman capital. At one point of only the Roman Empire and now of all Christianity.

The Via Francigena has been crossed by merchants, pilgrims, by kings and armies. At the end of 1000 AD it was use by knights and Crusaders coming from "ultra Alps" to regain the Saint Sepulchre.

The trip toward the tomb of the apostles Pietro and Paul united the rich man to the poor man, the prelate to the wandering pilgrim.

The Via Francigena dealt with an authentic adventure. It was studded with traps, dangers and natural obstacles, but was regarded also as a walk of purification, as well as a walk of discovery in the search of a new man.

The Road didn't maintain the aboriginal run, but during the years it changed more times from different political, physical, atmospheric factors.

Different names were given to The Via Francigena as it crossed through French territory. Some of the names were Chemin Romiou, Chemin des Anglais, Route des Flandres.

Between the different chronicles that has been passed on to us of pilgrimages along the Via Francigena, we have chosen to highlight the one of Sigerico, Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop departed for Rome in the spring of 990 AD to receive from the Pope the "pallium ", wool dress adorned by the cross symbol of the Episcopalian investiture.

The Archbishop Sigerico reached the Urbe in July and stayed only two days, just long enough to meet with Pope Giovanni XV and to quickly visit the churches of the eternal city.

The Archbishop Sigerico write of his return journey named the "submansiones de Rome usque ad mare". The Archbishop told and chronicled eighty places, from the Urbe to English Channel. Among these places were big cities and small suburbs, some of which disappeared many centuries ago.

The best know transcripts of the Archbishops journey, which references are made in his itinerary are: Arras, Reims, Pontarlier, Besanšon, Lausanne, Martigny, the Big St. Bernard Pass, Aosta, Ivrea, Vercelli, Pavia, Piacenza, Fidenza, the footstep of the Cisa, Pontremoli, Massa, Lucca, San Gimignano, Siena, Bolsena, Rome.

An average trip on The Via Francigena covered about thirty kilometers a day. This was done mainly on foot. The more fortunate people would cross by mule. While the most powerful and prestigious people, such as Kings, would travel this road by horse.

Based on these average distances pilgrims had to spend the night and refreshed themselves at taverns and inns along the way.

"Spedali" refuges, religious congregations normally managed these tavern and Inns, or by private institutions, some of which have survived to this day.

This normally offered a pilgrim a roof over their head, some straw to sleep on and sometimes a frugal meal. 

During 1200 AD, after centuries of forgetfulness or lack of local use entirely, travelers started bypassing the Pass of the Central-Eastern Alps. First between the whole Brennero Pass using other passes of the Appennini, giving origin to the new current traffic of pilgrims and merchants.

These new passes lead to the decay of the Via Francigena, which in turn removed it from being a road line that was a important national artery of regional value.

 

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