The Via Francigena of Sigeric from Pontarlier to Orbe by Carol Neville

Recently I joined officials from the EAVF and AIVF for two days of walking in the Jura. The walk focused on Antifern, stage 56, ofSigeric’s journey from Rome to Canterbury. 

The main purpose was to explore a rediscovered section of the historicpilgrim route from Les Fourgs to Jougne. This route is important because it is more direct compared to the official path and saves 20 km of walking, making the passage to Switzerland faster. Also, evidence points to its historical accuracy.

Our first day of walking from Les Fourgs to Jougne was quite a challenge. This was mostly because we were walking in the rain and the trail, G.R. 5, was poorly marked. Our walk began at La Chapelle du Tourillot where ‘La Madone’ keeps watch over the village of Les Fourgs. Then we walked along a wide white road through fields filled with spring flowers. Then, to my dismay, we headed off into the fields through unmarked trails, climbed barbed wire fences, and negotiated some very wet forest. 

One of the highlights of the walk was arriving in the Sapin Forest and seeing the famous ‘Sapin President Edgar Faure’, a 450 year old tree with a sculptured face. There was also a large group of people having a bbq in a picnic shelter in the forest. And, a little further on we stopped at Auberge du Vourbey for a picnic and a welcome glass of wine.

The walk had its difficult moments, but we eventually made it to Les Hôpitaux-Vieux and then on to Jougne. Overall, this track has great potential for reducing walking time for pilgrims. Although I was able to trace our journey on google maps, a hard copy map and GPS are needed to avoid getting lost. The pleasant company, variety of scenery and the spring landscape made this an enjoyable walk. I liked the mix of paved road and unmarked trail exploration.

On the second day we walked 7 km from Jougne in France to Ballaigues in Switzerland. We began our day with official speeches at the Chapel of St Maurice and then a tour of the Chapel’s ancient Carolingian crypt. The presence of this crypt and the nearby bank of the ‘Entefer’ or ‘Antifern’ river indicate that Sigeric’s rest place, 56, was in this area. Continuing on our way, we followed a gentle flowing mountain stream that was well signposted. Also, there was a wealth of information about the history of the area, especially iron ore mining and hydraulics. Then, we made a steep ascent through a forest arriving at a picnic shelter for lunch. After a while, we came across a tiny border crossing marked by a border stone and entered Switzerland.

The end of this walk was my favourite part of all! As we approached Ballaigues, we came across the Voie Romaine which is the remains of an ancient Roman road. An interesting feature of this road is the presence of 2 deep parallel ruts, possible caused by carts hanging hooks into the ruts to act as brakes. There are pictures of this in the Roman mosaics at Orbe. And so, beneath a sign indicating that I was 390 km from Paris and 720 km from Rome, I said goodbye to my new friends and ended my visit to the Jura.

Carol Neville

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