Rothar Routes

Cycle routes & pilgrim journeys in Ireland and Europe …..

Posts from the ‘Pilgrimage’ category

The Green Fields of France

I never gave much thought to the First World War. Sure I learned about it in history class but our interest in history would have been Irish history and while we did cover WW1 I don’t remember talking very much about the loss of life suffered by the thousands of Irish men who fought in The Great War.They fought for a variety of reasons – many fought to put food on the kitchen table, others for the promise of Home Rule yet others fought for the Crown and ‘the freedom of small nations’. I guess we were ambivalent about it at best. Yet almost 50,000 Irishmen lost their lives in the most inhumane conditions imaginable.

In 2010 I was fortunate, along with my youngest son Ronan, to have the opportunity to cycle from Canterbury to Rome along an ancient pilgrimage route, The Via Francigena. That was an amazing experience in so many different ways but perhaps the most unexpected was that it brought WW1 right into the present day for both of us. Our planning hadn’t factored in that we would be cycling through areas of France that were in the front line of battle. It was a shock to the system to suddenly come across, on Monday 6th September, small beautifully kept cemeteries along the 60kms of backroads of France between Arras and Peronne.

We stopped and paid our respects at each little graveyard and it was one of the most emotional places and moving things I have ever done. It really brought home the futility of war to walk among row after row of identical white memorial headstones and read the ages of these teenage soldiers who all died in vain, for the nations of Europe were to repeat those mistakes again and again.

I’ve edited out a little video clip at the end of this blog post of our visit to one of the cemeteries as a gesture of remembrance for all the dead on both sides and the civilians who were caught up in this most brutal conflict.

It was lovely to see how well maintained all the cemeteries were.

This post is to mark the one hundred anniversary of Armistice Day and to help us not forget.

Allied War memorial between Arras and Peronne

Respectfully maintained WW1 cemeteries are to be found on the back roads of France. There are many more than the more well known major memorials and serve as a reminder of the futility of war.

Hindu Soldiers honoured

Four years later I was back in France and cycling in the Lyon area and I went astray taking what turned out to be a very long shortcut! But it was very interesting and I came across a WW2 graveyard as poignant as coming across the WW1 graveyards in 2010. But this was even more surprising for this was a cemetery for almost 20,000 German soldiers at a place called Dagneux.

Dangeux WW2

The war graces site at Dagneux was developed by the German War Graves Commission with the permission of the French Authorities during the 1950s and 1960s.

 

Dagneux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pattern at St Mullins

Pilgrimage is back in fashion.Over 300,000 obtained the Credencial upon completion of the Camino Santiago in 2017, the ancient pilgrimage routes across Spain to the tomb of St James.

 

 

Old pilgrimage routes are being revived across Europe as people try to find a greater meaning in life or maybe just go for a long walk!

The Pattern at St Mullins is a 1300 hundred year old tradition linked to St Moling and St James. It is linked ot St James because the date is set on the Sunday before July 25th, the feast day of St James.I wonder was it ever a starting point for the Camino?

Each year thousands gather here to commemorate St Moling and to visit the graves of this picturesque graveyard and monastic site. The pilgrimage starts with the blessing of the water of the well with pilgrims drinking the water which reputedly has been responsible for many cures down the centuries. The water from the well flows through the mill race that Moling dug out over a period of 7 years Mass is then celebrated at the penal altar in the centre of the graveyard. During the time of the Penal Laws, celebration of mass was outlawed and had to be celebrated in secret and a lookout would have been placed on the nearby motte.

St Moling has attracted pilgrims here for hundreds of years to the monastery he founded in the 7th century; it is Carlow’s Clonmacnoise – the Book of Moling can be seen ion Trinity College, Dublin alongside the more famous Book of Kells.

The graveyard holds many famous remains, from St Moling himself, to Art Kavanagh, King of Leinster who was buried here in 1417 having been poisoned in New Ross. There are many graves associated with 1798 including General Thomas Cloney who died at the age of 24.

With the revival in pilgrimage across Europe, there is surely great scope to develop a Carlow pilgrimage route considering the number of really ancient and important ecclesiastical sites across the county associated with St Moling, Columbanus, St Fiacre, St Laserian and others.

Well worth a visit.

All Roads Lead to Rome

The three great pilgrimage routes in Christendom are Santiago de Compostella, Rome and Jerusalem. In 2010 myself and Ronan set out from Canterbury on the ancient Via Francigena, crossing south east England, France, Switzerland and Italy on our bikes, edging ever closer to the Eternal City.

Just discovered my old video files tonight!

The culmination fo that great pilgrimage was arriving into St Peters on our bikes!

Ronan is in Dubai now but there’s is no way I’m joining him to cycle to Mecca!

 

 

Pilgrims!

I can safely say some of my best memories were cycling the Camino with each of my three young lads, Cian, Darragh and Ronan just after they finished primary school. 12 years age and it was no problem to them! Ronan then cycled the Via Francigena with me in 2010. Only Jerusalem left to complete the three great pilgrimage routes of Christendom! Some nice memories here – have lost a lot of the video footage but these clips give a flavour

Via Appia Antica

Winter has well and truly arrived and the only cycling I am doing is in my dreams of fine summer days and bike touring! Here is a great shared memory from 2010 on the VIa Francigena with Ronan. Maybe there is another book to follow on from #CyclingSouthLeinster with the Collins Press!

Having cycled from Canterbury along the Via Francigena, we had one more hurdle to negotiate before our flight home. Getting to the airport at Campino with our bicycles.

We decided to depart from the Colliseum and pick up the historic Via Appia Antica, in the hope it would lead us in the general direction of the airport.

It was an incredible last day of cycling. We had the Via Appia to ourselves. It was easy imagine Roman Legions marching up and down this paved road, the earliest of the main arteries to service trade routes across the Empire and transport troops to the front lines. The forced march of prisoners back to the centre of the Empire, the roadside crucifixions of Spartans….out past the catacombs – was this the road the Apostle Peter, first Bishop of Rome, followed back to Rome and his eventual crucifixion?. Staggering history along every kilometre of this road.

Appia longarum… regina viarum“- the Appian Way the queen of the long roads”

As we made our way along the treelined lined cobbled road, a shepherd with his dogs herded his flock of long eared sheep over the roadside ditch and past us on his way to pastures new…. magical memories!

Hard to believe it was 2010 and my plan was to come back and continue to Brindisi with the final destination Jerusalem. One of these days I will get to take up where I left off and resume my pilgrimage to the Eternal City.

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