THE STAGES, DAY BY DAY
Getting back on road past Barbastro, we wilfully climb across the chain of the Pyrenees for two days, touching the highest point so far in our journey.
On the first day, we travel up the Ésera and Isábena Rivers towards the city of Vielha, a place dominated by the Posets-Maledeta Natural Park. As we enter Vielha on the second day, the octagonal tower and the Romanesque portal of its parish church welcome us. Leaving the city behind, we cross the border on foot at the end of the second day.
Passing through a series of small villages and castles, we reach the city of Saverdun, the birthplace of Jacques Fournier, who would become Pope Benedict XII in 1334. Four years later, the philosophical theories of William of Ockham and Marsilius of Padua argued for independence and autonomy between the political imperial and papal powers. The following year Pope Benedict XII confirmed Verona as Studium Generale but the university followed the fate of the Della Scala Family and was short-lived.
We arrive in the fortified city of Carcassonne (UNESCO) on the fifth day. The historic citadel, surrounded by a double row of fortified walls and 14 towers, defines it as Europe’s largest fortified medieval city. The towers guard the castle of the Counts and the Basilica of Saint Nazarius. The oldest part of the basilica, the Romanesque tripartite nave coexists with Gothic stained glass windows. The original Visigothic church was renovated by architect Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, who received criticism for his construction of pointed tower caps ready for battlement.
The next day we arrive in Béziers, a city where the in utroque jure graduate of Padua, Giovanni Bonsi became its bishop in 1596. Thanks to the numerous diplomatic missions, Catherine de’ Medici married Henry IV, and Bishop Bonsi grew in favour of the entry of the Jesuits and their teaching into the city.
From here, we cross the Canal du Midi (UNESCO) until we reach the city of Agde formed by the cooled lava of Mount St. Loop that holds a fortified church dedicated to St-Étienne. The same city and birthplace of Bernardo Platon, who became the bishop of Padua in the Middle Ages and who requested to be buried in the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua surrounded by the admiration of the Order of Friars Minor. Reportedly, local citizens enraged by famine and heavy taxes killed Bishop Bernardo, but this rumour was never confirmed.
We come to the end of the seventh stage of our journey as we skirt around the Réserve Naturelle du Bagnas, touching the Mediterranean Sea and crossing beaches and lagoons until we reach La Grande-Motte.