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Last Updated: Monday, 14 November 2005, 17:18 GMT
Prodi promises pilgrims progress
Italian opposition leader Romano Prodi says he hopes to revive the medieval route that took Christian pilgrims from Canterbury to Rome.

The Via Francigena from Britain to Italy dates back to the 10th Century.

Correspondents say the plan is bound to go down well with the millions of Roman Catholics among Italy's electorate.

Mr Prodi, formerly European Commission president, set out his proposals in a book of interviews with politicians called Winners and Losers.

"If elected I would like to rebuild the big roads of the pilgrims, like the Via Francigena," he told the book's author, journalist Bruno Vespa.

He said he would like to see the Italian routes used by pilgrims on foot, bicycle or horse.

Bishop's footsteps

Canterbury's own fame as a pilgrim destination is immortalised by Geoffrey Chaucer's account of 14th-Century pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales.

Romano Prodi
Romano Prodi will challenge Silvio Berlusconi in next year's elections

But it was also the starting point for an international journey of religious devotion.

The 1,200-mile (1,944 km) Via Francigena, or Way of the Franks, was founded after the 10th-Century Archbishop of Canterbury, Sigeric, documented his journey to see the Pope - leaving Canterbury and crossing France, Switzerland and Italy to Rome.

His writings give a detailed account of his route, which became a key path to one of the three important pilgrimage centres of the day - the other two being Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.

Spain's Camino de Santiago, or Way of St James, from southern France to Santiago de Compostela, still attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and tourists each year.

Interest in the Via Francigena has increased since it was designated a cultural route by the Council of Europe in 1994.

Reports from pilgrims on the Association Via Francigena website suggest the route is more evident on some parts of the journey than others.

Mr Prodi will challenge Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in next year's election.

Country profile: Italy
09 Nov 05 |  Country profiles


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