The VIIIth meeting between the European regions of the Via Francigena met in Canterbury on 17 and 18 December, coordinated by the European Association of the Vie Francigene with many international delegations present. The event was hosted by the Canterbury City Council, a member of the AEVF since 2005.
The splendid Canterbury cathedral, in front of which is the 0 kilometre stone of the Via Francigena, was the backdrop to the meetings conducted over two days that were dedicated to the interregional coordination of the route. There were representatives from Kent (Velia Coffey), Champagne-Ardenne (Pierre Labadie), Cantone Vallese (Gaetan Tornay), The Region of Aosta (Laurette Proment), Piemonte (Gaetano Di Blasi), Tuscany (Giovanni d’Agliano) and Lazio (Maria Vincenza Zongoli).
“Let’s start from Canterbury, the roman Durovernum. The original name recalls our common roots and our civilization. Canterbury represents a milestone for the European project of the Via Francigena. This project is firstly a bridge between cultures as defines by the great historian Jacques Le Goff. Indeed, without Canterbury and English culture the Via Francigena would not exist” said the EAVF President Massimo Tedeschi.
The first day of meetings took place in the historic Guildhall where presentations were made regarding the development of the Via Francigena in England. Presentations were given by Velia Coffey (Canterbury City Coucil), Peter Morris of the North Downs Way, John Meardon from the Canterbury Cathedral, Chris West of Visit Economy and representatives of the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome, Brian Moody and Julia Peters. During the course of the presentations it was evident that much progress has been made in the signing of the route and its maintenance. The meeting on the 17th concluded with a presentation by Giovanni D’Agliano, working group coordinator for Path standards and Silvia Lecci, the Committee coordinator, on the handbook with shared guidelines for signage and safety along the path. This document will be finalized within the next three months and made available online.
The second session on the 18th commenced in the grounds of the cathedral where a new sign for the Via Francigena was unveiled by the Mayor of Canterbury. The group then proceeded to the Beaney Centre of Knowledge and Learning where discussions (led by Laurette Proment) focused on accommodation along the route. Other topics included; research currently underway by the University of Lille on the cultural heritage along the Via Francigena; the cooperation with the cultural routes network in Turkey, through a European project and the joint application for Interreg in 2016 by The Green Pilgrimage Network (Alison Hiliard and Can. Caroline Pinchbeck) and three European cultural routes linked to pilgrimage: The Francigena, the Cammino de Santiago, and Saint Olav’s Way.
The next meeting of the Interregional Committee will take place in June, 2016 in Bruxelles (to be confirmed), where the Vademecum will be officially presented as the European standard for the Via Francigena.