France: Pentecost Pilgrimage 2023 (1) – Saturday May 27

May 31, 2023

After the difficult 2022 event which had seen the Pentecost pilgrimage stop due to weather making it impossible to continue, the 2023 edition opened under much more favorable auspices.

History of the Chartres Pilgrimage

Built over an old pagan well, the Chartres sanctuary may truly be called the historical cradle of Marian devotion in France, as well as the national pilgrimage par excellence. A tradition that claims, even before the birth of Christ, that the Gallic tribes of the Carnutes already venerated the “Virgin who must give birth” there.

Beginning in the 9th century, Chartres became one of the great places of French pilgrimage because people came there to venerate the “Virgin’s Veil,” given to Chartres Cathedral around 876 by King Charles the Bald. It was quickly revered for its many miracles, and at the time protected the city and cured poisonings.

Most of the kings of France made a pilgrimage to Chartres, notably St. Louis IX. Henry IV was crowned king there, because the city of Reims was then occupied by the English. During the French Revolution, pilgrimages to Chartres were interrupted.

In the middle of the 19th century, the Chartres pilgrimage was reborn. The apparitions of Our Lady at La Salette (1846), Lourdes (1858), and Pontmain (1871), as well as the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (1854) relaunched the Marian cult. Crowds again came in large numbers during the coronation of Our Lady of the Pillar (1855).

In 1912, Charles Péguy, stricken by the illness of one of his children, went on a pilgrimage to Chartres. He returned there in 1913 and wrote to one of his friends:

“I have suffered so much and prayed so much… but I have treasures of grace, an inconceivable superabundance of grace.… I made a pilgrimage to Chartres… 144 km in three days… You can see the steeple of Chartres 17 km away on the plain… As soon as I saw it, it was ecstasy. I no longer felt anything, neither fatigue nor my feet. All my impurities fell at once, I was another man.”

It revived not the pilgrimage itself but the medieval practice of walking because pilgrims no longer came on foot. In its wake, a major student pilgrimage was born in 1935.