Pilgrimages to Le Puy peak during Jubilees, irregular occurrences that arise only when Good Friday falls on the same days as the Annunciation – the 25th March, and have been attracting huge crowds since the early 15th Century. On these occasions Aiguilhe is frequently cited, even if documentation is scarce, with just a single source left by the chronicler Etienne Médicis.
In the walled town of Le Puy, the inevitable traffic was tightly controlled in order to avoid a crush, until the pilgrims left the town via Aiguilhe. The fair which accompanied the pilgrimage occurred mainly outside of the town, therefore between Le Puy and Aiguilhe. A visit to Aiguilhe was an optional part of the path, supplementary to the official pilgrimage. Nevertheless, the extraordinary topography of the site required constraints to ensure the safety of pilgrims.
For certain jubilees, even more effort was made. In 1418, no less than three of the seven altars offered to the pilgrims by the canons (cathedral priests), were situated in Aiguilhe – one at Saint-Claire, one at Saint-Gabriel and one at Saint-Michel itself. The role played by Aiguilhe was, therefore, hardly less important than that of the cathedral in peoples’ plans.
In 1524, the Saint-Michel Chapel at the summit of the Rocher was made part of the proposed pilgrimage route. Two canons were put in charge of the Rocher – one at the bottom towards the Saint-Gabriel Chapel and the other on the higher steps.
Each was in charge of a trunk for offerings. The canons organised the pilgrims with the help of several assistants who were armed with sticks to separate those ascending from those descending. Few pilgrims chose not to make this arduous climb so as not to miss the ‘marvel that many people from afar desire to see’ stating that others had ‘taken a turn’ around the summit and therefore ‘so shall we.’
Médicis is critical of people who came out of curiosity to stand below where the ‘virgin jumped’ and, in this way, undermined the importance of the site, reproaching them as ‘self-indulgent’. They also found themselves surrounded by money – something of which the chronicler does not approve.
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