After Le Sauvage, the pilgrim leaves the Auvergne and enters Roussillon Languedoc. The actual department is Lozère, with France’s thinnest economy and population. Some cows, some tourists, some French life-style changers, some English scoring technically-South-of-France real estate. And quite a few pilgrims. Pilgrimage has a nifty way of injecting a little money into picturesque but harsh regions; and Lozère really does have a tough beauty about it.
Our group had decided on a testing day, where we were to cover at least 27 kilometres, each at personal speed. I was last to leave, slowest to move, and last to arrive at Aumont-Aubrac, the day’s destination.
Mercifully, the rain, wind and snow stopped, the sun emerged. I was able to loll about at lunchtime near this lovely Romanesque church with its clocher à peigne, its “comb” bell-tower.
I now give the reader an account of a miracle, as it was related to me by the beneficiary of the miracle. Firstly, here are the fountain and chapel of St. Roch, which I saw on the way to Aumont-Aubrac.
The waters of the fountain are said to have special curative and refreshing powers.
Below, photographed at a chance re-encounter in Conques, is Dominic, a French hospitalier, a pilgrim who volunteers his services at religious gîtes. I was to meet him the first time in the Hospitalité Saint-Jacques, run by a lay order of religious in Estaing. While Dominic seemed most serious, even rapturous, at evening prayers, he was otherwise quite the witty and wily Frenchman. The man loves pilgrimage.
Here in Conques he told me of how he did his first pilgrimage from Le Puy to Santiago on a bicycle. When he got to St. Roch’s chapel, his axle and gears were a wreck, and he was about to pull out.
So he dipped his entire bike in St. Roch’s fountain!
You can guess the rest…
I don’t even know if I should be repeating this stuff.