The pilgrimage roads as defined in the twelfth century manuscript referred to as the Book of Saint James follow four distinct routes across France. As they reach Spain they join to form a single route, known today as the Camino Francès.
The four French roads travel from the north, east and south. Each passed through the most important saintly shrines of their regions.
The Road of Tours took its name from the shrine of Saint Martin of that city. This route afforded its travellers the opportunity to visit the great shrines of Saint Denis near Paris, Saint Hilaire at Poitiers, Saint Eutropius at Saintes and Saint Seurin at Bordeaux.
Those who travelled the Road of Limoges began their journey at the abbey of Vézelay in Burgundy which claimed possession of the relics of Mary Magdalene. In the Limousin they could visit the shrine of Saint Leonard of Noblat and Saint Martial at Limoges and in the Périgord that of Saint Fronto.
The Road of Le Puy began at the cathedral town of Le Puy-en-Velay, home to a prehistoric healing dolmen. At Conques was the reliquary statue of Sainte Foy renowned for her miracle working powers. Further on was the abbey of Moissac on the banks of the Tarn river, the great centre of monastic power in southern France
The Toulouse Road began at the ancient Roman necropolis of Arles with its numerous saints’ tombs. On the other side of the great delta of the Rhone was the shrine of Saint Gilles. Travelling up into the mountains of the Languedoc, pilgrims visited the tomb of Saint Guilhem, the knight turned monk and hero of numerous epic legends. The road then headed west to Toulouse and the shrine of Saint Saturninus.
The Pilgrim’s Guide which forms the fourth section of the Book of Saint James, recommends over twenty saints relics to venerate, although there were many more. On the Spanish road there are approximately 600 kilometres from the Pyrenees to Santiago itself with the route passing through Burgos and across the flat parched meseta plateau to Leòn and the shrine of Saint Isidore. From there the road rises to cross the mountains of Galicia before reaching Compostela, a short distance from Finistera on the Atlantic coast.