St Jacques, Aubeterre

The church of St Jacques at Aubeterre sur Dronne is a typical pilgrimage church on one of the routes through France to Compostella in northern Spain, approached by a long climb up through the village from the river Dronne. Romanesque simplicity is the keynote, remarkably beautiful.

West front and tower, wide angle lens

I passed through many similar churches over 20 years ago, as I followed the route from Vezelay to Compostella in our motorcaravan. The basic plan is the same.

Enter, there is no one there, you find a haven of peace, the atmosphere shared with so many thousands of pilgrims since the 12th century. Profoundly moving to tarry awhile, part of that historical stream of seekers.

Nave and side aisles

The tradition of pilgrimage lives on, not only in the so-called Christian world. Yet so many today appear to have forgotten about the interior dimensions of life, focusing only on the external – money, business, science, technology, politics, war… Yet the interior journey is the true journey of life – how we deal with the challenges thrown up by the external, how we learn from it and grow…

I should add that Aubeterre is perhaps better known for its Church of Saint Jean, an underground, Monolithic church built into huge caves in the rock of the hillside – also well worth a visit.

Aubeterre is in Nouvelle Aquitaine, France’s largest region, administered from Bordeaux.