Today, Caroline Trainor, who leads our team in Lourdes, shares some history about Gavarnie and its many sites to visit.
As part of our pilgrimage to Lourdes, there is an optional trip to Gavarnie that should not be missed by anyone visiting the Pyrenees.
This small village, located in the heart of the Pyrenees National Park and close to the border with Spain, is known for its natural beauty, as well as its cultural heritage. At an altitude of 1400m, Gavarnie is the highest village in the French Pyrénées.
As Caroline mentions, “the drive to Gavarnie takes about an hour and a half and it usually makes a stop of about 15 minutes at Napoleon’s Bridge on the way up.”
At the entrance of the village, pilgrims will enjoy the beautiful statue of Our Lady of the Snows. Mountaineers used to ask our Lady for protection during their expeditions into the mountains.
The Church of Gavarnie
Caroline Trainor also shares a bit of history about the 12th Century beautiful Church:
Dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, the church was a refuge for medieval pilgrims on their way to visit Santiago de Compostela. The history of the church is related to The Knights of Malta who had provided care and shelter for many of its pilgrims. Many items in the church attest to this historic past.
Some of our pilgrims have walked in the footsteps of these pilgrims of past centuries and offered a prayer at the Basilica Notre Dame de Bon Port, one of the beautiful shrines, that pilgrims will see during their visit.
Another important shrine is Our Lady of Safe Passage, where “the Compostela pilgrims would have gathered in prayer invoking Our Lady’s protection for the remainder of their journey.”
The cirque de Gavarnie
The village is best known for its spectacular Cirque de Gavarnie, a natural glacial cirque with over 3000 metres of elevation, it’s truly a spectacular sight to behold.
Located in the heart of the Pyrenees National Park, Cirque de Gavarnie is also part of the unique UNESCO listed site of Mont Perdu.
Formed by glacial erosion, the magnificent Cirque de Gavarnie was once referred to by Victor Hugo as a ‘colosseum of nature’ for its amphitheatre shape and huge dimensions.
Visiting The cirque de Gavarnie during the Spring months has many benefits; in addition to seeing incredible waterfalls and beautiful views, you might be able to catch a glimpse of snow melting from the top peaks.
La Breche de Roland
La Breche de Roland is a natural gap in the cliff that surrounds the Cirque in the Pyrenees. It serves as a mountain pass between France and Spain, and it is known for its beautiful legend, the Epic Poem ‘la Chanson de Roland’ or The Song of Roland.
La Breche de Roland draws in pilgrims and hikers from all over the world to witness some of nature’s most extraordinary features.