Opening Conference for the 50th Anniversary of the European Cultural Convention
9-10 December 2004
Awards Ceremony for Five Cultural Routes
9 December 2004
“The Via Francigena” Route
Presentation by Ms Adelaïde TREZZINI
Chair of the International Association Via Francigena
(To be checked against delivered speech)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In June 1997, the Council of Europe expressed strong support for setting up an association to revive and promote the Via Francigena.
As a North-South pilgrimage route, the Via Francigena complements the East-West Santiago de Compostela Routes. However, its main characteristic was that of a major communication artery of the time, which generated a plethora of economic and cultural exchanges, giving rise to developments in terms of accommodation facilities, economic growth and production and settlements from the North Sea to southern Europe.
The International Association Via Francigena, a non-profit association registered in Switzerland, is honoured to include among its founding members and committee members the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Bernard Ardura, the Académie Française member, Charles Bonnet, and the National Association of Tourist Guides of Italy (ANGT). Following the establishment of a Francigena website in June 1998, the Association quickly took on an international dimension. With delegations in England, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and, of course, Italy, it now has 370 members in 12 countries on 4 continents.
According to the Director of the European Institute of Cultural Routes (EICR), Mr Thomas-Pennette, the new Association has revived genuine co-operation between the various local routes and initiatives in Italy and helped promote them throughout Europe, by relaunching the study of the route’s history and providing pilgrims and tourists with information about neglected or little known stretches in Switzerland and France. The Institute of Luxembourg therefore concluded a partnership agreement with the International Association Via Francigena in 1998 with a view to restoring continuity between the countries and local and regional authorities involved over the entire length of the route.
The Association has worked relentlessly to give the Via Francigena a EUROPEAN dimension again, as quickly and practically as possible, after over three centuries of neglect.
In the space of only four years, it has published two vademecums covering the 2 000-km route from London to Rome, enabling pilgrims and tourists alike to follow the trail of their shared history and culture, while providing them with all the necessary practical information.
This was followed in July 2004 by the publication of TOPOFRANCIGENA, a set of geo-cultural maps covering the route from Canterbury to the Great St Bernard; the second part covering the Italian section will be ready within three months.
In recent years, the Via Francigena has moved from being a route for “adventurers” and then pioneers to one that is universally accessible: we offer a main route picking up and linking the remains of Roman and medieval roads like a guiding strand of Europe’s history, art and economy, which also publicises localities that the general public are less familiar with.
The co-operation of ALL the relevant local authorities, tourist offices, parishes, dioceses and cultural and sports associations was essential: however, although the co-operation was exemplary in England, in France most of the time and in Switzerland, it was more difficult in Italy.
Being awarded the Testimonium, a parchment certifying completion of the pilgrimage at St Peter’s Tomb, in the Vatican Grotto, is a moment that sticks in pilgrims’ memories forever. All of these initiatives, plus the setting up of a European scientific committee, the posting online of the list of all the documents in the European Via Francigena Library, which total around 800, and our Francigena website in five languages to promote the route, have been made possible by the voluntary work of the members and FRIENDS of the Association.
It is to be hoped that the European Via Francigena logo modelled on the Santiago de Compostela logo, which the Association developed in co-operation with the European Institute of Cultural Routes and approved by the the Council of Europe in July 2001, will very soon be seen on signs along the route from northern to southern Europe.
The International Association Via Francigena’s motto is “Knowing the Europe of the past so to make more of Europe today”.
Judging by the first statistics from the Register of Pilgrims in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Via Francigena is already acting as a CATALYST for European religious, spiritual and cultural values for the young and not-so-young from all over the world.
Thank you for your attention.