Pilgrimage to Chartres!

For some years now I have taken part in one of the most amazing and spiritually uplifting pilgrimages that has surely ever been organised. The walk is long and tough, so good physical fitness is a must, but the meditations, hymns and prayers we enjoy as we trudge along the way, and the daily beautiful celebration of Holy Mass, help us to forget our aches, pains and tiredness. Oh yes, this pilgrimage is a wonderful opportunity to offer up sacrifices for the saving of souls! Plenty of priests and religious take part, and everyone has a chance to go to confession or receive spiritual guidance en route. Many pilgrims make a Consecration (or re-Consecration) to Our Lady after the manner of St Louis de Montfort, and others have special intentions to pray for.

Hope to see you there dear readers! You won’t regret it.

British Pilgrims entering the Cathedral at Chartres


The Chartres Cross

What is the Chartres Pilgrimage?

The Chartres pilgrimage is an ancient tradition in France which has been given new vigour by the association Notre-Dame de Chrétienté which has organised it for the last 25 years. It is a walk of  prayer and penance to the glory of God and Our Blessed Lady.  Encouraged by the Pope, and numerous bishops, 15,000 pilgrims (including 850 from outside France) take part in a three-day walk of 70 miles, making this the largest pilgrimage of its kind in Western Europe, both in the distance covered and in the number of pilgrims.

What happens?

It begins on the day before Pentecost when thousands of  Catholics from the USA, Russia, Australia, Ireland, Canada, the UK, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Spain and so many other countries join their French brothers and sisters at dawn beneath the spires of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.  Three days later it ends in the city of Chartres as the dust-covered pilgrims complete the challenging march and kiss the stones of the ancient Cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres. Much of what happens in between defies description.

The British Group over the last few years has  contained several musicians, lawyers, doctors, students, civil servants, computer specialists, physiotherapists, teachers, builders, postmen, engineers,  a retired famous footballer, the young and the old…..the pilgrimage is for everyone.


Why do thousands of Catholics from all over the world make the journey back to France every spring?  Each has his own reason.  Some have a special intention, a loved one to pray for; some have a difficult decision to make; some offer thanks for favours received; but many come back because nowhere in their daily lives do they see the Catholic Faith alive as it is on the road to Chartres.

They see a Faith which is dynamic, solid and comprehensive; they see hope for the future in the enthusiastic unashamed desire to be truly good on the part of the young pilgrims; and they see charity alive and on fire.  Christianity without compromise.  It is a sight to behold.  It is also fun as the comradeship, good humour and shared experience of the pilgrims make the heart sing.

“Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows… What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden  entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.”  (Pope Benedict XVI)

For three days,  France can’t ignore this strange and wonderful pilgrim parade, flanked by countless priests in muddied cassocks and purple stoles.  Throngs of scouts lovingly carry statues of Our Lady on their shoulders; banners of the saints are raised high for all to see; pilgrims sing forgotten hymns, renew broken vows, and celebrate Mass in the Rite of their forefathers, saints and martyrs.  The Pilgrimage to Chartres is fire in the darkness that covers modern Europe.

How does it work?

The pilgrims walk in “chapters” (groups of 20 to 50 people), under the patronage of a Saint and are led by a leader who, with the help of  chaplains organise the chapter hymns,  meditations, rosary and prayers.
Each day, Mass is celebrated in the most beautiful way, according to the Roman Missal of Pope John XXIII (in accordance with the Pope’s Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum”). Two Masses in the open air and the last in one of the most beautiful Cathedrals in the world.

Each evening a tent city is created to house the many pilgrims.  A hearty soup is served to all and a great bonfire and historical pageant is performed on Saturday night.  Sunday night is for Our Lord, all-night adoration in the open air ensuring a night of prayer and silence.

For all those who are interested, view these attachments:
1. Itinerary
2. Registration Form
3. Registration Form for Individuals
4. Informing Flyer

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10 Responses to Pilgrimage to Chartres!

  1. latinmassuk says:

    Great! As it’s not immediately obvious, the dates of the Pilgrimage in 2011 are a) from London: 10 to 14 June and b) from Paris: 11th to 13th June. More information can be found on http://www.chartresuk.blogspot.com or http://www.nd-chretiente.com. God Bless!


  2. toadspittle says:

    As one who scrapes a modest competence by robbing and killing the occasional passing pilgrim on the Camino to Santiago, Toad can only whole-heartedly endorse the idea.


  3. golden chersonnese says:

    Kathleen, you may know that this annual French pilgrimage has given rise to similar pilgrimages around the world from cathedral to cathedral, like this one each year on the Christ the King weekend:


    You didn’t say if you always get blisters, Kathleen.


  4. kathleen says:

    Thanks for that link GC. No, I didn’t know that – how wonderful! Have you taken part on this pilgrimage?

    Yes, I usually get some blisters, plus aching muscles, in spite of being a hardened hiker!! The first time I went on the Chartres pilgrimage my sufferings were so immense, I thought they must have emptied Purgatory 😀 . Seventy miles over three days is very very demanding! And yet it is such a fantastic and indescribable experience seeing Christianity on the march. How the soul sings for joy! It was a little foretaste of Heaven for me, and I couldn’t wait to return the following year. Can you imagine 15.000 people, most of them very young, fired up with love for God and their Catholic Faith, walking all that way whatever the weather, sleeping rough? Anyone who thinks Catholicism is dying in Europe, should come on the Chartres pilgrimage!


  5. golden chersonnese says:

    No Kathleen, but the original organisers of the pilgrimage were friends of mine (and still are), though I rarely see them now since I returned from Australia 20 years ago.

    I think the pilgrimage between the two cathedrals there is not so long. It’s three days also but I think the distance is more like 60 miles. Blisters would be slightly more modest probably, although the terrain is very hilly.

    What accommodation do they have along the way for the Chartres pilgrimage, Kathleen? As you saw for the Christus Rex pilgrimage, they just sleep in church halls and community centres or under the stars in a paddock. That would be a bit tricky for 15,000 pilgrims to Chartres, I bet, Kathleen?

    You probably noticed that the Christus Rex pilgrims number only in the hundreds at the moment. Maybe some of the Chartres pilgrims wouldn’t mind roughing it too in October. Weather should be getting a bit chilly that time of year in Europe, but it’s late Spring down there.



  6. kathleen says:

    Hi Golden,

    Sorry for the delay in answering your questions.
    If you’ve looked at the itinerary above, you’ll see that on arrival to the outskirts of Paris on Friday evening, the British pilgrims (and probably all the other non-French groups, plus some French ones from further away) stay at a modest little hotel. That’s our last taste of creature comfort till we reach Chartres two and a half days later. The start of the pilgrimage on Saturday morning, with prayers and the blessing of the banners in Notre Dame, is very early!
    During the pilgrimage, on Saturday and Sunday nights, we camp. Some people bring their own little tents and erect them on the vast camping sites somewhere near their own group, but the majority make use of the large tents provided by the pilgrimage organisers. A very warm sleeping bag is necessary, as it is amazingly chilly (especially at Gas on the Sunday night) in this wide open countryside…… in spite of the time of year, either May or June, late Spring for us.
    That is why I feel even moved to tears on Pentecost Sunday night to see the large number of youngsters, having just walked 28 long miles, leave the warmth of their sleeping bags and brave the cold night air to kneel on the earth (some of them for hours) in silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed on an altar on the hillside there.


  7. golden chersonnese says:

    Thanks, Kathleen.

    I must say your description gives others very great encouragement to join in this pilgrimage to Chartres. Can I say your account of it was very well done?

    Would you mind if I add that I’m sure that the Christus Rex Society would be more than delighted to see any pilgrims coming from Europe for their pilgrimage between the two Cathedral cities down under in October each year? They seemed very thrilled to score just one pilgrim all the way from New Zealand last year (I don’t think ti was joyful papist either). A few from Europe would probably leave them speechless! And no, I don’t think anybody is going to be bitten by a tiger snake, gobbled up by wombat or attacked by a frenzy of black swans on the way.

    Here’s their website again:


    And here’s a shot of Sandhurst (Bendigo) Cathedral where the pilgrimage ends with Pontifical High Mass.

    (I am not sure who will celebrate the Mass this year as the Maltese-born Bishop of Sandhurst – Angelo Grech – died on 28 December at the age of 62, may he rest in peace. The see is vacant for the moment.)


  8. kathleen says:

    Dear Golden,
    Thank you for your kind words and the links.

    You might have already see this comment of Joseph Shaw’s (one of the pilgrims on last year’s Chartres pilgrimage) but I’m repeating it because I think it sums up very well the raison d’etre of the Chartres pilgrimage:
    “Our organiser Francis Carey said in a speach to the British pilgrims at our dinner after our arrival in Chartres, that when he first experienced it he realised that this was they way Europe would be converted. There is something in this. The witness to the faith, the prayers of the pilgrims, the being prepared to do something extreme, something really gruelling, for the love of God and for the conversion of the world: this is a unique instrument of God for the re-evangelisation of the West.”

    Here’s an account of the first-of-its-kind pilgrimage to Walsingham, East Anglia, last summer, where Joseph Shaw (who also took part) mentions that the organiser, Paul Smeaton, went on the Christus Rex pilgrimage from Ballerat to Bendigo in Australia, from where he learnt some useful tips!



  9. kathleen says:

    I’ve just returned from the 2011 Chartres pilgrimage! Although weary and footsore, and having caught a heavy cold due to the damp weather conditions, I feel so happy and very blessed to have been able to take part in this uniquely beautiful and inspiring event. (And I only got three blisters this year 🙂 .) Some years the numbers of pilgrims have been around 15.000 ! This year, due to the late date of Pentecost, when many youngsters are in the middle of exams so couldn’t make it, there were approximately 9.000 – still a vast number.
    The organisers of the British chapters, Francis Carey and Jamie Bogle, did such a fantastic job that our fame spread to other English speaking pilgrims, and we had some really nice Americans, Germans and others joining in our chapters to listen to our lovely meditations (both informative, interesting and prayerful), and take part in the prayers and hymns. As you become absorbed in these whilst trudging along at quite a pace through fields, woods, and some roads, the physical pains and tiredness are soon forgotten.

    The Holy Catholic Church, the Bride of Christ, on pilgrimage through life to our eternal destnation in Heaven……….. that is what the Chartres pilgrimage is all about. Deo gratias.

    I hear that you were taking part too in the Irish chapter, is that right? Creeping up to sit in the shade of the trees next to your chapter for the beautiful Mass on the vigil of Pentecost, we must have been right beside each other without knowing it 😉 . )


  10. Stef Toha says:

    Interesting blog , it reminds me of Lourdes , pilgrims may visit Lourdes to be cleansed of their sins and to be cured of their illnesses.
    I tried to write a blog about Lourdes, hope you also like it: https://stenote.blogspot.com/2019/07/ave-maria-day-at-lourdes.html


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