The year between December 2015 and November 2016 was a very special year for the Catholic Church: an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (also called the Year of Mercy) has just begun and will be a chance for millions of pilgrims to receive remission of sins and universal pardon. On December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis presided over the opening of the Holy Door of Saint Peter’s Basilica, marking the beginning of the Jubilee, which ended on November 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Christ the King. Between these two dates, a dense calendar of varied events will accompany Christians on the faithful path. What does the Jubilee of Mercy mean for the faithful? It means that by going to specific churches and passing through designated Holy Doors you can obtain an indulgence for your sins.
To find out which Tuscan churches were designated ‘jubilee churches,’ take a look at this article. The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy was also an occasion to go on a pilgrimage path, arriving in Rome after time for spiritual reflection along the way. This post will highlight the pilgrim paths leading to Rome from Tuscany.
The Via Francigena
In medieval times, the Via Francigena ran from Canterbury (England) through France, Switzerland and Italy, eventually arriving in Rome, the Eternal City. The entire Italian section of the Via Francigena goes from the St. Bernardo Pass to Rome, but on this blog we’ve focused on the Tuscan section, which covers 354 kilometres and 14 legs touching towns and villages from Pontremoli to Radicofani. For lots of information about this topic, have a look at the special focus section on the blog. If you want to arrive directly in Rome after the Tuscan section of the Via Francigena, you can continue this path from Radicofani (Tuscany) to Acquapendente (Lazio). You cross 9 legs of the via Francigena in Lazio before arriving in Rome: from Acquapendente to Bolsena; Bolsena to Montefiascone; Montefiascone to Viterbo; Viterbo to Vetralla; Vetralla to Sutri; Sutri to Campagnano di Roma; Campagnano di Roma to La Storta; and finally, La Storta to Rome. During the Middle Ages, numerous roads to Jerusalem also began to appear. Today we call that road the southern Via Francigena: it led from Rome to the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic coasts so that pilgrims could continue the journey to Jerusalem. On the flipside, from southern Italy, these roads converged on Rome, creating a network of alternative paths so that travellers could avoid swamps and malaria.
The Way of St. Francis (or Cammino di Francesco)
The Way of St. Francis is a cultural route that runs through places where St. Francis lived. In contrast with the traditional stabilitas loci of some other monks, the Franciscans, like the mendicant orders that arose between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, were inclined to wander. Hearing and preaching the Gospel led Francis and his brothers in search of places to pray. The Way of St. Francis is a journey through places significant to St. Francis’ faith: hermitages, sanctuaries, medieval towns and ancient forests that inspired the Assisi saint’s love of nature. The Way of St. Francis starts from the Sanctuary of La Verna (Arezzo province, Tuscany), where Francis received the stigmata; it then reaches Assisi (Umbria region), home to the Basilica where St. Francis is buried; and then continues in the Sacred Valley of Rieti in Lazio, where you’ll find four Franciscan sanctuaries placed at the cardinal points. The last leg reaches Rome, the Eternal City, where the tomb of St. Peter stands.
Via Romea from Tuscany to Rome
In the past, the Via Romea da Stade brought pilgrims to Rome not from the great and famous Via Francigena (east side of Europe), but from the Germanic countries. Although the journey along the Via Romea may be long and challenging, it is undoubtedly rewarding, passing through scenic landscapes, villages and historic locations. The “Via Romea di Stade” is mentioned in a Latin text dating from 1230, kept in Hanover, Germany, called “Annales Stadenses Auctore Alberto.” This text chronicles a dialogue between two imaginary German friars (Tini and Fini) about the convenient pilgrim routes leading to Rome or the Holy Land, focusing on seasons and the length of each leg. This road has many names: it is known as “Romerstrasse” in Bavaria, “Via Romea” in the area of the Po River, “Via Major” in the medieval documents found in Arezzo and Camaldoli and “Via Romea dell’Alpe di Serra” by scholars. Many German emperors, kings and armies have passed down this road, in addition to an even greater number of pilgrims in transit between Germany and Rome. When we say “Via Romea” we’re referring to the path that, from Bagno di Romagna, climbs the Passo di Serra up to the Casentino, Arezzo and the Val di Chiana, then descending toward Trasimeno and Umbria until eventually reaching Lazio after Orvieto. In the monumental Basilica of San Flaviano in Montefiascone, the path joins the Via Francigena, to then finish the remaining path to Viterbo and Sutri to Rome.
If you are interested in pilgrim paths, take a look at this post, too: "The pilgrim paths of Tuscany beyond the Via Francigena".
This article was originally written by Serena Puosi.