Three days of intense debates, studies and discussions with international experts during the conference “Via Francigena: Way to Rome, Santiago and Jerusalem” have just concluded. The conference was organized by the European Association of the Via Francigena Ways, Apulia Region and the University of Bari.
The event allowed to deepen important aspects of the Via Francigena, such as pilgrim’s welcome and final destination, the soul and the symbolic aspects of the route, the European dimension of the Via Francigena, which connects Europe from the North Sea to the ports of Apulia. The interconnection with other European pilgrimage routes was also highlighted.
Twenty-three interventions of qualified experts took place during this event, making it possible to tackle the Via with a multidisciplinary approach and under different axes – from cultural, historical and spiritual to economic and territorial development.
On Saturday, 12 October 2019, scientific interventions focused on spiritual dimension of the path with the interventions of Monsignor Paolo Giulietti, Archbishop of Lucca, and Monsignor Maurizio Bravi, delegate of Vatican in the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, who highlighted that “the Via Francigena comes from ancient pilgrimage routes that have played an important role since the Middle Ages in defining a common European identity. Their rediscovery once again drew attention to the secular bond of faith and culture.”
Paolo Spolaore (the paths in Italy by Jean Tournai), Ada Campione (Pilgrimages to Saint Nicolas of Bari), Christian Schuele (Francigena between the Alps and the Jura) and Francesco Cerea (The story of the Camino de Suizos) provided detailed information on the pilgrims’ routes.
On Sunday, 13 October 2019 a round table on the Via Francigena and its animation was told. Francisco Singul, from the Xunta de Galicia, presented the experience of the Saint James’ Ways with its extensive road network, now covering 85,000 km worldwide. Monica D’Atti, from the Confraternita di San Jacopo de Compostela, shared her personal pilgrim experience on the Saint James’ Ways and Via Francigena. Values related to authenticity of the route and image of a modern traveller were highlighted in an intervention of Michele del Giudice, a pilgrim who has travelled thousands of kilometers on the main European pilgrimage routes.
A detailed analysis of communication and narrative aspect of the Via Francigena was conducted by Pierre Frustier, expert and evaluator of the Council of Europe for cultural routes, while the artistic director of the festival Via Francigena, Sandro Polci , highlighted the vitality and cultural animation of the Via Francigena through the activities that take place on the route during the festival.
The final reflections of the conference emphasized the importance of a dialogue between scientists, institutions and associations. Paolo Caucci Von Saucken of the Confraternita di San Jacopo de Compostela said that “today a road like Via Francigena must be understood and valued in its many aspects, but special attention must be given to the final destination, Rome, which needs to resume a greater identification with the route. A goal that must be achieved in view of the Great Jubilee of 2025.”
It was highlighted that the Via Francigena, from its history to the present day, needs to find its own identity that differs from many trekking, environmental and cultural paths, proposed at the European level. The double nature of the Via Francigena is on one hand – its true value as a pilgrimage route, connecting the destinations of Santiago de Compostela, Rome, Monte Sant’Angelo and Jerusalem, and on the other hand – its link to the values of the Council of Europe and the program of cultural routes.
In conclusion of the conference, Massimo Tedeschi, EAVF President, stressed that “today there is an absence of a “myth” around the last part of the trip along the Via Francigena and arrival in Rome. Greater involvement of church institutions and Italian national government is necessary to work together on this aspect; however, the Monte Sant’Angelo Conference has given a strong impetus to find a common ground for dialogue between secular and religious institutions for the sake of the Via Francigena. “
Finally, Angelo Fabio Attolico, Apulia Region, presented a technical study of the new route that connects Rome to the Apulian ports with a total of 900 km, highlighting the extraordinary work done in recent years by the Italian regions on the Via Francigena in the South. It is a technical goal that has a great cultural value and can build an important bridge between the northern Via Francigena and its southern stretch connecting to the Mediterranean.
Following the three days of Monte Sant’Angelo the Proceedings of the Conference will be produced.
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