Via Francigena. The Road to Rome

Canterbury and the Via Francigena, connected thanks to the EAVF

The President of the European Association of Via Francigena, Massimo Tedeschi, was invited to Canterbury by the City Council to underline the important work that the Association is doing for promoting the route.

The speech of the President Massimo Tedeschi.

"I heartily want to thank Jean Law for the invitation to be here today.

I remember well the other wonderful meeting of 13th December 2010, when I was honoured to receive the Civic Award handed to me by the Lord Mayor Pat Todd and unanimously voted by the City Council.

Well, let’s set off again from Canterbury, from the roman Durovernum. I like to remember the ancient name, because it recalls the common roots of our civilization.

Canterbury is the mainstay of the European project of the Via Francigena. A project that is above all, a "bridge of cultures", quoting Jacques Le Goff’s words, a great French historian.

And in fact, without Canterbury, without the English culture, the Via Francigena wouldn’t exist. That’s why I always insist with Veliathat a representative of the City Council should be always present (obviously as far as possible) at the events of the Via Francigena.

Looking back, I would like to remember the meeting at Monteriggioni in Tuscany on 21st January, with the region president Enrico Rossi; the meeting at Reims, in Champagne-Ardenne, on 12th and 13th December for the meeting of the all regions of the Via Francigena and for the presentation of the new edition of the magazine "Via Francigena and the European Cultural Routes"; the meeting in Rome, on 8 November, organized by Historia of Alessandro Barelli (an important partner for the EAVF). Each time, Jean, Colin,Velia have represented Canterbury splendidly. I am very grateful since I note that Canterbury is giving a huge contribution to the cooperation between the local and regional communities of the Via Francigena.

We have gone a long way together. Let me remind you again of some important stages in our journey.

On 30th April 1998 (17 years ago!), Denis Linfoot (that I am very happy to meet here) and Colin Carmichael were the first "explorers" who came over to Fidenza for an official visit, at my invitation, taking the first step in our common journey.

On 22nd April 2005, Harry Cragg signed the official membership documents to the Association in Piacenza.

On 27th November 2006, the kilometre zero of the Via Francigena was officially inaugurated, in the churchyard of the wonderful Cathedral, the starting point towards Rome.

In August 2007, twenty-seven cyclists left from Canterbury to reach Rome: they travelled along 2,000 kilometres throughout England, France, Switzerland, Italy, guided by the Canon of Canterbury Cathedral Edward Condry.

On 17th December 2007, Canterbury hosted the launch, just as this morning, of the sixth number of the magazine "Via Francigena".

In 2012 and 2013 we worked together in the framework of the European Project PER VIAM, financed by the European Union.

From these first phases followed others, such as this wonderful meeting on 13th December 2010, which I just mentioned.

And like this, stage after stage, the Via Francigena progresses. We estimate that more than 25.000 people from all over the world walked on the Via Francigena in 2014 for at least one day. Besides there are many people who have visited the beautiful places and cities of the Via Francigena, for example Canterbury. In this regard, I think that a tourist package Reims-Canterbury would be a winning one. In the month of December we hope we will be back to Canterbury to hold the general Assembly of the Association and the presentation of the new edition of the magazine "Via Francigena and the European cultural routes" and for the meeting of the technical coordination among the 18 European regions of the Via Francigena. The technical coordination makes a very important work by defining commun system for signposting and accommodation along the Via Francigena.

Finally I want to inform you about a very important decision which the general Assembly of our Association, scheduled for next Thursday in Rome, will take. It’s about the approval of the "Via Francigena of South" . This is the itinerary which leads from Rome to the Puglia Region and, from there, toward Jerusalem.

The Via Francigena would like to connect five important centres of spirituality: Canterbury, Santiago de Compostella, Rome, Istanbul and Jerusalem, in order that people of all ages, off all races and off all religions , unlike the soldiers two thousand years ago, can walk together in peace. That’s the utopia of the Francigena.

We would like to reach Jersualem also overland, by rediscovering and by developing the Via Egnatia, an ancient Roman road, which connected Rome with Constantinople, across Brindisi, Durazzo, Albania, Macedonia, Greece andTurkey. A long way to go and the point of departure is Canterbury.

The next year on 7th April, we will celebrate 15 years of life of our Association: A goal that we will celebrate together, people and institutions, thrilled and committed to the Via Francigena. In these 15 years the EAVF has built an important expertise and know-how for supporting international relations, management, communication and promotion of the route for the EAVF members,

I finish by thanking once again the councillors and even some of you soon will no longer have direct responsability in local government, I am sure that all of you will continue your interest in our project and that our friendship will go on.

Moreover this is the strength of the Via Francigena: it gives rise to bonds of respect and friendship among the communities and the people, that remain and grow over time."

Massimo Tedeschi

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