In the footsteps of Saint Benedict Labre

From the Abbey of Sept-Fons to Dardilly, a new 190 km path, in the footsteps of Saint Benoît Labre

You can walk in the footsteps of Saint Benoît Labre (1748-1783) from Amettes-en-Artois (place of his birth) to Rome (place of his death), by taking the Via francigena. But this journey takes about three months!

This is why a pilgrim from Allier, Dominique Drut, had the idea of ​​creating a more modest route in the footsteps of this saint. “This idea came to me, he explains, when with my wife we ​​had made the way of Saint-Jacques between Cluny and Santiago, by sections, over six years. On our return, we decided to accommodate pilgrims (1) who would pass through Charlieu (Loire), where we live. This is how one stormy evening, we welcomed a pilgrim who had left the Notre-Dame-de-Sept- Fons, located in Diou (Allier), and which was heading towards Dardilly (Rhône), where the holy Curé of Ars was born. I then immersed myself in reading the work of André Dhôtel that this pilgrim was reading (2 ), to discover the life of the one who was nicknamed the “Wanderer of God”.

The “Wanderer of God”

The path that has been traced is indeed inseparable from the life of Benoît-Joseph Labre. Born in 1748 in Amettes (Pas-de-Calais) into a peasant family, he was the eldest of fifteen children. At the age of 18, he announced to his parents that he wanted to enter monastic life. After several unsuccessful attempts in different monasteries, he joined, at the age of 21, the Abbey of Notre-Dame-de-Sept-Fons, where he remained for about eight months. But there again, his superiors advise him to renounce this monastic life. It is from this moment that his destiny as “Vagabond of God” is forged. He then went to Paray-le-Monial (Saône-et-Loire), to Tarare (Rhône), then, in July 1770, to Dardilly where Mathieu Vianney, the father of Jean-Marie Vianney, offered him hospitality.

Benoît-Joseph Labre then understood that his religious vocation was not sedentary but itinerant. Satchel slung over his shoulder and a crucifix around his neck, he traveled 30,000 kilometres, going to Santiago de Compostela, eleven times to Loreto, and twice to Rome where he breathed his last in 1783, at the age of 35. Canonized in 1881, he became the patron saint of pilgrims, beggars and the homeless.

The creation of a path

“Where Benoît-Joseph Labre passed through our region, comments Dominique Drut, his memory is still very present. At the abbey of Sept-Fons, a brother showed me a statue representing him who came from Czechia. also spoke of a representation of this saint in Paray-le-Monial. And in Charlieu, I met a person who had called his son Benoît because his ancestors had hosted Benoît-Joseph Labre.”

Dominique Drut then set out to trace a route that connects Diou to Ars-sur-Formans, a possible junction with the Chemin d’Assise. “I made the path five times, he says, to take the GPX tracks and identify the places of accommodation and catering; then I did it with my wife, to see if it worked!” The route, 190 kilometers long, is now identified, described, plotted (.GPX) and presented on a website. It does not benefit from its own markings, but most of the time it uses existing paths. There are many types of accommodation: donativos receptions (abbey of Sept-Fons, jacquaires receptions in Charlieu), stopover lodges, religious congregations (Paray-le-Monial, Semur-en-Brionnais, Ars-sur-Formans) guest rooms , small hotels… and even, in Cublize, a yurt! At a rate of less than twenty kilometers per day, this route can be completed in 11 or 12 stages. “This route can be a small variant of the way to Assisi or a large variant of the Via francigena”, concludes the pilgrim.

Discovering heritage

One word to sum up this path? “Diversified”, replies Dominique Drut. We cross three regions: Charolais-Brionnais (bocage and large meadows), Haut-Beaujolais (Douglas forests) and Beaujolais des Pierres Dorées (vineyards).

It is also of an extraordinary historical and heritage richness with, in particular, Semur-en-Brionnais (Cluniac site on the circuit of the Romanesque churches of Brionnais), or the medieval villages of Charlieu, Oingt, Ternand and Trévoux.

Finally, the pilgrim will find on his way many places to meditate: the abbey of Sept-Fons, the basilica of Paray-le-Monial, the Marian site of Notre-Dame-de-la-Roche and the sanctuary of Ars. “Besides, adds Dominique Drut, we called this route “the path of the Three Hearts”; in reference, of course, to the prayer that Saint Benedict Labre left us, but also because it passes through Paray-le -Monial, the city where we celebrate the Sacred Heart, Saint Marguerite-Marie and Saint Claude La Colombière: three other loving hearts!”

And the opener of this path to conclude: “To dare to embark on a project is first to dare to trust yourself. And to dare to trust yourself is to dare to no longer let yourself be guided by your fears.” So here is a great idea for a next walk, far from the too beaten and too busy paths to find serenity!

(1) Reception of Saint Jacques de la Tour.

(2) André Dhôtel, Saint Benoît-Joseph Labre, The Round Table, 2002.

Similar Posts