The Via Podiensis


One of the leading four pilgrimage routes that converge to become the Camino Frances. The Via Podiensis includes many variants of Romanesque architecture that evoke its origins as a highly insular climate of monastic control and the entrenched economics of feudalism.  This was a landscape predominately of destitution and geographic isolation tucked away into the foothills of the Pyrenees.  From Le-Puy-en-valey to the St. Jean Pied de Port, the Via Podiensis covers some 650 km of the most pristine Romanesque architecture as well as a unique pilgrimage response to the built environment.    
What remains today is mostly a vestige of the cult phenomena of Ste Foy at Conques that shares its network of trails with older Roman itineraries.  In the 10th c., the routes coalesced into a conduit bringing a growing audience into Conques to invoke the healing power of its famous gilded reliquary.   The economic engine of the region no longer depended on agrarian practices alone, but waves of christian "tourists" supporting the monastery through their donations and lodging.  
As patronage increased, so too did the geogrpahic extent of the miracles and an audience of wealthier patrons.    The realization of this economic power slowly wove like a the great web of pilgrim itineraries to connected the christian empire for the first time since the fall of Rome.   Monasteries like Cluny became involved with efforts to unify many of the sites as part of a growing Christian manifest destiny.   This effort coincided with the need for modern shrines to be both visually iconic structures and signs of inherent prosperity for the parent monastery.   Building booms of the late 11th c. forwarded the vision of a universal Romanesque architecture that was, up to that point, only in its infancy.  
Implementation of the first contiguous "pilgrim style" of architecture was first seen along these French routes as part of the unifying message of the greater Reconquista effort which funneled knights alongside religious pilgirms to occupy the fringe of the Christian empire.   With the Reconquista of Alfono VI and Cluny, the Via Podiensis assumed a role along the greater Camino to Santiago Compostela, and much of the uniqueness of local pilgrimage cults like Conques lost their primacy as just another point along the way.    
The architecture along the Via Podiensis primarily reflects geographic and nascent economic factors.  The stasis of these buildings reveal a snapshot of a highly mercurial building practices that suddenly ceased with the decline of pilgrimage in the 13th c.  
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