The sacred line of Saint Michael, this mysterious path which connects seven sites dedicated to the archangel

The sacred line of Saint Michael, this mysterious path which connects seven sites dedicated to the archangel

In 2023, Breton Eric Georgelin walked for 109 days on the “sacred line of Saint Michael”, an alignment of seven places dedicated to the archangel. As he prepares to take this path in the opposite direction, he tells us about his journey on this mysterious route.

What is the “sacred line of Saint Michael”?

It is a remarkable geographical alignment that connects seven major sacred sites, from Mount Carmel in Israel to the southwest tip of Ireland. On its western part, all the sites are dedicated to Saint Michael, from the Gargano peninsula, in Italian Puglia (where the archangel appeared for the first time in the Latin world), via the Sacra di San Michele near Turin, Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, St Michael's Mount in English Cornwall, and ending at Skellig Michael, an absolutely rugged islet off the coast of County Kerry. The Italians call this line the “Spada di San Michele” (the sword of Saint Michael): it would symbolize the sword blow that the archangel dealt to the devil to send him to hell. For this first trip, I connected Mont-Saint-Michel (Manche) to Monte Gargano. The rest will follow!

How did you learn about this route and why did you want to take it?

Today I am so steeped in this path that I no longer know how I learned about it. Perhaps it was at the foot of the Mont-Saint-Michel abbey, on billboards, or in a book. What I know is that I have been inhabited by this line for six or seven years. The plan to explore it on foot seemed obvious to me. Isn't this the ideal way to get a little closer to the complex and rich figure of the archangel?

How did you prepare for your trip and establish your itinerary?

I have devoted a lot of time to studying the sources on this line of Saint Michael, which are few and scattered: the writings of the Hellenist Jean Richer, the Gargantuan Chronicles, the history of Mont-Saint-Michel, the toponymy and mythology of the place. Then I made a decisive discovery: the book The Dance of the Dragon, published in 2000 by two Britons, Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller. These men, who devoted several years to the study of this line, noted several hundred locations. All I had to do was complete this list with my own research. So, the preparation was already an adventure!

How did your walk go, logistically?

In big cities, I slept in paid accommodation. The rest of the time I trusted the path: I asked for water and ended up on the family couch! In the Mâconnais, a lord even lent me his home and took me to dinner in a gourmet restaurant. And when luck was not in my favor, I found shelter in the most unusual places: abandoned barns, communal premises for stray animals, bus shelters, sheds, public toilets, etc. As for the route, there are no markings or guides; so I created my entire track on Google Earth. As for food, it was often complicated, because businesses gradually deserted our countryside. I sometimes had to walk three or four days between two supply points, and carry extra weight.

Was it a hike or a pilgrimage for you?

Ten years ago, I walked along the Loire, from Nantes, to reach Vézelay. I left as a hiker, and arrived as a pilgrim. This time, the journey was a companionship with the archangel. So, not for a moment did I feel like I was hiking.

Which places struck you the most?

The Sacra di San Michele, at the foot of the Alps, next to Turin, which is equidistant from Mount Normandy and the Gargano peninsula. This place, perched on a rocky spur so characteristic of Michaelian places, is a place where the Spirit breathes. I would also mention some lost churches, far from the villages, like that of Cortazzone, where the symbolic richness, the perfection of the construction offered me a privileged moment of communion with the sacred, and thereby presented the mirror of my immense ignorance in the face of the mysteries of the faith and the builders.

Your best and worst memory?

I don't think I have any bad memories, at most disappointments: for example that of having often been received like an outcast, where I thought that the Gospels guided the actions of the servants of the place. But I prefer to remember the open hearts of all those who helped, encouraged or welcomed me. Choosing the best souvenir is equally difficult. There are so many! Among them, the evening and night of grace that I spent in Serracapriola, a small town in Puglia. Although I knew nothing about this place, I was offered to sleep alone in the monastery where Padre Pio learned theology before being sent to the convent of San Giovanni Rotondo. What a great gift!

What has this path brought you?

A thirst for the sacred and the encounter with my life mission. I experience this as an immense grace. But I must tell you a secret: I also learned gluttony there, the insatiable appetite for beauty. I came back addicted to it, and I feed on it every day. And then, there is what I call the “big secret”: Humanity is beautiful. Humans have an immense reservoir of inner goodness. Take away the fear, and all the dikes are broken!

Why do you want to do this in reverse?

Because if I didn't, I would feel like I hadn't fully accomplished my task. In the concordance of sites, we find two paths. They cross paths at the main points of this Saint Michel line, but they take different routes, sometimes very close, sometimes a few dozen kilometers apart. The general diagram is that of a gigantic caduceus which would be inscribed in landscapes on a continental scale. And then, I like the idea of ​​circumambulation.

What are your plans on this subject for the years to come?

In the spring of 2025, I will therefore travel the second path, starting from Brindisi. If all goes well, four months later, I will be at Mont-Saint-Michel. The following year, I will travel across Greece: Corfu, Delphi, Athens, Delos, Rhodes await me there. Finally, I will complete the line to the two ends of this line: Mount Carmel, in Israel, then English Cornwall and the west of Ireland.

Would you recommend taking this route?

How could I not want to share this joy? However, it is not a very easy journey. This is the reason why each year, only three or four pilgrims travel this route. There is no marked route as such; even if, from Isère, you can connect to the Chemin d'Assisi. In France, I only took long-distance hiking trails for around fifty kilometers. The absence of infrastructure and solitude are also a source of freedom and a call to Providence: they must be desired.

If we had to summarize this trip?

I lived these 109 days with my heart wide open and all the senses alert, in the gratitude of the simplicity which encourages the encounter, in the extra life that the authenticity of the journey on foot brings. For me, it was a path of beauty and joy.

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