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Béziers is a stage on the Way of St James. Whether it be 1192 or the 21st century, experience the magic of our beautiful town.
The year is 1192…
Just picture it: a summer night in 1192. You and your exhausted group of pilgims drag your feet as you dream about a few hours’ rest. You reach Béziers on the Arles path to Santiago de Compostela.
Or rather, the “Camin Romieu” a.k.a. the pilgrim’s path on the piedmont road, an alternative route winding through the Languedoc plain. So coming from east of Béziers along the Via Domitia (now Avenue Saint Saëns), you cross the drawbridge over the rampart’s moats (now Allées Paul Riquet). You approach the château’s “portette” or “little gate” (Place Jean-Jaurès) guarded by Viscount Trencavel’s soldiers. You show your credentials and you’re happily let in.
Brave walkers, brimming with hope and belief, you trek through town, past the viscount’s soldiers coming up Rue de la Citadelle, then a horseman and his charger in all its finery on Place du Forum. Here and there are shopkeepers sitting down for a break near a well on Rue Canterelles, the main high street. You could do with freshening up after the dusty journey too.
You head to the Bout du Pont gate above Pont Vieux bridge in the western rampart. That’s when a good Samaritan sees how exhausted you are and offers you a bed of hay in his stable for the night and a bowl of bean stew to perk you up. Tomorrow, at sunrise, he bids you “bon camino” (safe travels in Occitan)…
You’re back in the 21st century but “bon camino” still applies
In the Saint-Jacques Church neighbourhood (appropriate seeing as Saint James is Jacques in French) near Rue Canterelles, Bon Camino is a hostel that opened in spring 2016 to welcome pilgrims on the Way of St James who, like you, are visiting Béziers. Nearby Place des Casernes brings a smile to your face with the mural painted in June (2016 too) of the map of the main Ways of St James. As does the inevitable “jacquaire” pilgrim with his shell, hat and staff. To find your way through town, keep a close eye on the pavement for bronze buttons guiding you on the Camin Roumieu-Béziers.
The Ways of St James have been a powerful draw for countless people for 1000 years (the pilgrimage boomed in the 11th century): 350,000 people made the journey in 2019, three times as many as in 2004! Most of them have been women since 2018… It is one of the Catholic Church’s “holy” pilgrimages alongside Jerusalem and Rome.