The tradition of Catholic pilgrimages in France dates back to the Middle Ages. People of faith undertook these long, arduous journeys as a way of deepening their religious devotion, seeking forgiveness for their sins, searching for physical and spiritual healing (sometimes in the form of a miracle), and for the overall experience of the journey itself. Each pilgrimage lead to a specific destination, typically a holy site at which a miracle had been performed, or a sacred spot commemorating a saint. Today, many of these pilgrimage sites are marked by an impressive cathedral or basilica. France is home to world-famous pilgrimage sites that still attract large numbers of pilgrims and tourists each year. Want to join them in a unique spiritual experience? Then keep this list handy on your next European getaway!
Our Lady of Lourdes Basilica
Being the site of the most famous Marian apparitions — Mary appeared to a teenage girl, Bernadette, several times here –, it makes sense that Lourdes has become an undisputable, popular tourist destination in France over the years. The entire town functions around the millions of visitors that flock to this site every year.
St. Thérèse Basilica in Lisieux
Located in Lisieux, this well-known cathedral was constructed after Pope Pius XI canonized Thérèse — a young French woman known for her piety — on 17th May, 1925. The massive basilica is actually the second-largest pilgrimage site in France after Lourdes, being able to welcome up to 3,000 pilgrims!
Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Paris
Located in Paris’s tres chic Montmartre neighborhood, Sacré-Coeur is specifically dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The iconic basilica, widely recognized by its large, white dome, was constructed in 1914 and it’s one of the main tourist attractions in the city of lights, welcoming millions of visitors every year.
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (Camino de Santiago)
Considered the main pilgrimage route in Spain, the world-famous Camino de Santiago has at least one route that allows you to start your journey from France. No matter where you start, you can be sure that the end of the road will be the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in the northern Spain region of Galicia. Be sure to have a pilgrim staff and a scallop shell with you at all times to do it like a local!