The great pilgrimages



Some of the pilgrimages to Chartres have lasted several decades or have gathered thousands of faithful…

Étudiants d’Île-de-France (in French)
Monde du Travail (in French)
Notre-Dame De Chrétienté (in French)
Aumônerie des Tamouls du Sri Lanka (in French)

There are many others: parishes, chaplaincies and youth movements. More than 100,000 people a year organize their celebration. They pray in the nave of the cathedral. They discover with the guides of the Cathedral’s Service des Visites what the cathedral is: a gigantic bible of stone and stained glass.

For those who approach Chartres on foot, a pilgrimage is an opportunity to discover nature: open fields or the Eure valley.

Going on pilgrimage is to renew the link between body and spirit: both in movement, unified in prayer. Accepting to leave one’s usual comfort, both material and emotional, is also an opportunity to move forward: what wounds, what projects, what potentialities. The fatigue of the feet frees the head…

An important place can be given to the texts of the Gospels: a strong tendency of the last two decades, with groups of children as well as their elders. To this exercise, the passage of the ‘Pilgrims of Emmaus’ serves as an introduction – as a ‘manual’: Christ speaks to the intelligence, comments on the prophets, listens to the deep thoughts of the disciples, changes the opinions that have been decided upon, invites to the Eucharist.

Spiritual discoveries are lived in community: they are born (integration trips for high school and university students) or go through the ups and downs of life (couples linked in the Notre-Dame teams), over a period of more than thirty years. Discovering others as they are and accepting them as brothers and sisters: the experience of sharing is essential. As a team, to expose, without judgment, one’s thirst for the Truth: to fill one’s heart, to desire God – to know absolute Love.

The great pilgrimages? It is also an important logistic. As early as April, a meeting at the prefecture allows all the essential questions to be asked in order to maintain order and meet security requirements. The organizers of large gatherings present their projects to the public authorities and discuss them with all the services present: gendarmerie, national police, departmental directorate of equipment, SNCF, bus station…

The organizing teams rely on the investment of volunteers, whose functions are multiple: communication, logistics, security…

But what is the message of Chartres? The spirituality of the pilgrimage was admirably interpreted by the Prayers in the Cathedral of Charles Péguy: adoration of Mary Mother of God, yes! But also the rediscovery of an interior space, a disposition of the soul that unfolds as one approaches the cathedral. Péguy is in fact inseparable from the Chartres pilgrimage, to the point that he has deeply marked several generations. By the end of the 19th century, pilgrims had returned to the streets of Chartres. However, it is he who is considered a sort of “refounder”: in his footsteps, most often, the great pilgrimages of the last hundred years have entered.

It all began on June 14, 1912, when Charles Péguy undertook the pilgrimage to Chartres following a vow he had made the previous summer at the bedside of his sick son: “Then, my old man, I felt that it was serious. I had to make a vow… I made a pilgrimage to Chartres. I am a Beauceron. Chartres is my cathedral. I walked 144 kilometers in three days. (…) To die in a ditch is nothing; really, I felt it was nothing. We are doing something more difficult”. He returned transformed. Because he knew how to search for what was inside him and to fix his eyes on Mary – at the end of the road.

On the spot, the pilgrims pray in the nave of the cathedral. They discover with the guides of the Service des Visites what the cathedral is: a gigantic bible of stone and stained glass.


En 2019 : 3000 scouts unitaires des Yvelines, 4.000 scouts d’Europe, 1.300 jeunes de l’aumônerie de l’enseignement public d’Évry, 1.000 paroissiens de St-François-Xavier à Paris, 1.800 élèves du collège Stanislas, 300 salariés et bénévoles de l’archevêché de Paris…