top of page

DAY 39: from Vézelay to Montfey, 100 km

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

The dormitory wakes up early because many pilgrims want to go to the toilet and take a shower. There is only 1 shower and 1 toilet per dormitory (for 15 people!). Like some others, I took my precautions and showered the night before. At night I went to the toilet at 4:30 am and brushed my teeth. I put on my shoes in the spiral staircase because shoes must all be placed in a rack outside the dormitory. At 6:15 a.m. the delicious but sober breakfast starts. Almost everyone starts their pilgrimage and therefore goes to the basilica at 7 o'clock for the lauds followed by a blessing of the pilgrims. I did that last year and it is still poignant. I also walk in myself to hear the beautiful hymns, mutter a short prayer with lamentation (as Jeremias) and to see the beautiful tympanum again with the Pentecost.

Vézelay: The dining hall of the pilgrims' house, the ramparts and the basilica Marie Madeleine in the distance on the top of the Sacred Mountain of Vézelay

I say goodbye to Yves the Dutchman who has provided me with a few fascinating websites for pilgrim hikers and is starting to walk today. I also thank Luc for taking such good care of me. His week as a hospitalier is over and soon he will be driving to Dinant with his bicycle in the car. I also say a special goodbye to the Parisian young baker-pastry chef, Guillaume, who works in the bakery “Le pain retrouvé” near ND de la Lorette in Paris. He walks as a pilgrim for the first time and only for one week because then he has to be back in the bakery. He will then move on next year.

Views of Vézelay

When I leave Vézelay along the street that runs to the side of the basilica to the medieval Porte Neuve (used by many pilgrims), I see the ramparts in full again and especially the impressive medieval gateway to Vézelay. Then I roll down the hill and take a few more pictures of the basilica that is quietly waiting for the many tourists who will pass by again today. Below I take the road to Auxerre that leads me there past the town of Asquins where the itinerant monk was a priest who wrote the first travelogue of the Camino. Quickly I also take a few pictures of the landscapes near Vézelay.

In a village there is also a beautiful lavoir or washing place and I take a picture of it because I love lavoirs, the social place for the women in the Middle Ages to gossip about the entire village.

The lavoir of Asquins and the way to Auxerre

A little further I pass through Nitry with the église Saint Christophe where work is in full swing, but I still take a few interesting photos, including a beautiful crucified Christ in wood and next to it a stained glass window with Christ on the cross. Seeing an image of Saint Christopher as a pilgrim meant that you were protected against an unforeseen death: dying without having received confession and the Holy Communion. Without those two sacraments you went to purgatory indefinitely …

The church of Nitry

My original idea was to go to Auxerre along the way, where I passed 40 years ago and was impressed by the St Germain church and the double crypt. On the way it starts to rain heavily on top of a plateau. I can't find shelter, so I put on my poncho raincoat, but I'm completely wet in 10 minutes. Instead of cycling 15 km further in the rain, a part steeply uphill, I decide to cycle 3 km back down and continue cycling past the wine village of Chablis. Miraculously, it is still dry there in that other valley and the sun even dries me up. I needed it because I was numb and cold from the rain.

The vinyeards, the church and one of the famous wine cellars of Chablis

To comfort me there is a beautiful church in the wealthy village of Chablis. You see that many winegrowers live there with money. The church is not open but there is a barred door through which I can take some pictures of the insterior in addition to the pictures from the outside. A Gothic church with Romanesque parts inside. I also take some pictures of the village itself, which is very commercially oriented on the best Chablis wines such as the premeir crus. Around the village there are many vineyards with a lot of limestone in the soil that retains the heat of the sun in the limestone and releases it later in the day when there is no more sun. I'm not going to taste Chablis because firstly I don't want to end up in a ditch and secondly I don't like Chablis. I'll go shopping in the Intermarché and that's a good thing because in the hamlet of Montfey where I'm sleeping tonight there is NOTHING except a few houses and beautiful nature.

The church of Ligny-le-Chatel with the monument for those killed in wars.

I continue to Ligny-le-chatel where there used to be a castle and a church and now only the Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul church is still standing: with Romanesque parts, Gothic parts and even classicist additions. To the right of the church is a monument in honor of all deceased villagers in wars of and for France. This column gives a good overview of all the wars that France won or lost over the centuries.

Tha abbey of Pontigny

I now continue towards Saint Florentin towards my last goal for the day, the Cistercian church of the abbey of Pontigny. It is 5 km to the right of my road. It has rained but there is plenty of sun and so I go for it. The driving force behind the development of this austere and strict order was St. Bernard of Citeaux (1090 to 1135). The church lies like a stranded giant ship between the flat fields near a small river, the Serein (excellent for serene monks). Each abbey was built near a river; on the one hand because water was needed for the kitchen (for cooking) but downstream were the latrines or toilets of the monks, the brothers and other people who lived there. The monks did not drink unboiled water, but beer… and Cistercians thus later became Trappists… with a reform led by the abbey of La Trappe.

The abbey of Pontigny: interior

Usually the Cistercian churches were not intended as a parish church, but here there is a beautiful narthex on the west side, the part of the church where the catechumens (candidates for baptism) and the unbaptized were allowed to come. Inside a very large room with about 15 small altars in the choir area. This proves that in the 12th century there were many monks here (many not all) who were ordained priests. So many masses could be celebrated simultaneously. Many of the conventual buildings have disappeared and time seems to stand still here between the fields. I am the only visitor and quietly stroll through the church, which is empty except for some choir stalls and chairs. I try to imagine the hustle and bustle that used to be there. I walk out and take some more photos from further afield to show the ship stranded in the fields.

Goats playing in a garden; the church of Racines with its beautiful narthex

Now I reach my B&B in the hamlet of Montfey some 20 km left of St Florentin. My Google maps suddenly stopped working because there is no internet. Don't worry: Magda helps as well as several residents of the villages that drive through and who all wonder why I will sleep in Montfey. Simply because it was too expensive elsewhere or there was no room left. Along the way I see a few small churches and it is striking that in the department of the Aube, named after a river, a lot of wood and brick are used. No pieces of rock or granite because there is none, but brick. I think a particularly beautiful church is that of Racines, built or made between the 14th and the 16th century with a very beautiful wooden narthex. On the way I see two goats practicing a strange sport for goats… and that is worth a picture.

The church in Montfey and my B&B

This is how I reach the hamlet and the farm where I have a room or rather an apartment. The owners, sweet and helpful farmers, now rent out the part where the grandmother used to live to tourists or pilgrims. I reach it by a private staircase on the outside of the house. A sea of ​​space, also a terrace: I use the kitchen, the terrace, and of course the bed and the bathroom. an ideal place to spend a quiet holiday with two people and even one or two children. It is located on top of a hill and surrounded by beautiful nature. I still eat something, write the blog and go to bed at 8 pm. Another three or four days to cycle and then I will, hopefully, be home. Tomorrow towards Reims….

4 views0 comments


bottom of page