Dieppe: parish church of Saint-Jacques de Compostelle

Day 13a: Walking Out of the World, a two thousand kilometre 86-day pilgrimage to Compostela on foot across England and France to the north west corner of Spain.

(Previous post: Day 12b An interlude: The Midnight Ferry to Dieppe)

Dieppe: arrivée du paquebot “Le Steamer” d’Angleterre (postmark 1904).

The ferry arrived in Dieppe at 5.30 a.m. and there is – for the pilgrim – a four hour wait, because Mass at the parish church of Saint-Jacques de Compostelle is not until 9.30 a.m. After Mass, five hours of the walking day will be gone and the best part of the day is the early morning walk. As a traditional pilgrim there is nothing else for it but to wait, for this is the first parish church on la Route des Anglais.

So I have decided to divide today’s episode into two parts, Day 13a which is this part – hanging around in Dieppe – and Day 13b which is actually walking somewhere, possibly to Longueville-sur-Scie or a bit beyond, with what’s left of the day after spending five hours leaving Dieppe.

A comment to Alys from the previous post: “I was trying to remember the way the boat used to dock in Dieppe, before the new ferry terminal was built. We came off the ferry and up the ramp directly into the port. Sometimes they let us cyclists off first. Other times they would let all the cars leave first, then the cyclists, and we’d be left in a cloud of exhaust fumes in the empty car deck, before making our way up the ramp. Immediately we were cycling alongside the little cafes and restaurants of the Dieppe fishing port, looking for an early boulangerie and asking if there was a bar-tabac at this hour.

GT comment to Alys, Day 12: Wych Cross to Newhaven ferry
Le train Rapide de Paris à l’arrivée de la Malle Anglaise (postmark 1913).

Older drawings and paintings show the continuity, and this is the dock where mediaeval passengers would have arrived to begin one of the established routes through France regularly travelled by English pilgrims in the high period of the routes to Compostela from all over Europe. For nearly three hundred kilometres ahead, as far as Château Renault, you will hear French people speak of la Route des Anglais.

Although there are no waymarkers or signposts (balisage) bearing the name, it is still remembered in local oral tradition and I find that continuity of tradition remarkable. Our English pilgrim route is later subsumed into the mainstream flow of European travellers to Compostela after twelve days walk – plus a rest day or two – when the route reaches the river Loire, shortly before Tours at Vouvray, where it meets the riverside route from Orléans.

At Tours the route becomes the Via Turonensis (follow the balisage of the long distance sentier GR655.) This route was well established and described by the 12th century, in the celebrated guide by Aymeri Picaud, a precursor of 19th and 20th century Baedekker or Michelin guidebooks. Picaud’s book was copied in manuscript, for he wrote long before the printing press was invented.

So that preview sets the footsteps ahead of us for you, on this virtual pilgrimage: an overview of the route that takes us south as far as Mirambeau on the way to Bordeaux, then we pick up another route through the Landes. It will take more than five weeks to cross France on foot, for it is a big country. And it is raining here in Dieppe outside the parish church of Saint-Jacques de Compostelle, where it is now 9 a.m. – half an hour more to wait – and the smell of fresh bread and croissants from the boulangerie near the closed church door beckons me into the brightly lit shop.

“Ah! Un pèlerin anglais à Compostelle avec un joli grand bourdon. Quelle surprise,” says a round-faced lady at the counter. “Priez pour moi lorsque vous atteindrez le sanctuaire de l’Apôtre, et embrassez-le pour moi!”

“Bien sur, madame,” I said, reassuring her I would pray for her and embrace the statue of the Apostle when I reached Compostela.

The Virtual Pilgrimage Style Book is in development for this blog series which is also – as you may have guessed by now – a first draft for a book. Saint James the Greater, Santiago de Compostela, is referred to as the Apostle, with a capital ‘A’ because the title refers to a particular individual, as opposed to ‘the apostles’. My style book will be a slimmer volume than the El País Libro de Estilo (gripping reading for us failed newspaper designers, geography and chemistry teachers here in the Costa Blanca) but it will go through at least 18 editions* in the course of this three month pilgrim narrative. (*Correction: eighteen editions. Quantities in two digits must be expressed in words, not figures.)

El País Libro de Estilo

Immediately the contrast with England is astonishing and welcome. A people that keeps a sense of its own community and history, and a continental attention to fine detail, good grammar and typographical design is such a different experience. Which is why the UK leaving the EU is as good as leaving their senses and I think that was something that brother bujorojo was helping us understand yesterday in his comments about the first moments in France, arriving off the ferry:

“One is immediately reminded of the inadequacy of the place one just left behind. There’s a strange sort of relief when you are reminded of things which on the face of it would appear to be distinct disadvantages. The first of these, a large sign, ‘tenez la droite’, accompanied by a vast arrow, is in fact, one of the first signs you’ve reached civilization. Wonderful.”

bujorojo on An interlude: The Midnight Ferry to Dieppe

My next question to the lady in the bakery was too complicated for my basic command of French. Through miming a stamping action with my fist on my credencial I asked if I could get it stamped here at the church.

“Oui, vous pouvez obtenir un tampon du prêtre lorsqu’il vient dire la messe,” she replied. So that is how I learned that I must get a tampon from, the priest when he arrives to say Mass, and so learned the vocabulary I would need to cross France as a pilgrim. At each church, cathedral, town hall, tourist office or camping municipal, I would stride boldly in and say I have come for a tampon. (But never in a pharmacie.)

There is a statue of St James here in Dieppe, a 14th century stone sculpture not so fine as the sculpture of the Apostle in Chartres cathedral but a good waymarker for the pilgrim on the Route des Anglais to Compostela.

And the pilgrim has finally gone into church… He emerges twenty-five minutes later, after one of those French parish weekday Masses said at breakneck speed with a sturdy parishioner reading from the Epistle of Saint James as if it was the Paris stock market closing price list and the priest’s final blessing and sign of the cross done at the speed of a karate expert demolishing a small stack of floor tiles.

The priest’s final hurried strides to the sacristy to hit my pilgrim passport with a tampon completed this rushed first encounter with the Catholic Church in the diocèse de Rouen, and Monsieur le Curé ran off down the aisle and out the door, removing his clerical collar on the way.

The stalwart parishioner who had read the second chapter of the Stock Market According to Saint James began dusting a wooden statue of the Apostle behind the altar. She wished me “Bonne route,” as I escaped. As for the first stamp in my credencial to begin the epic pilgrim route through France, I’d been given a better tampon in Edenbridge Town Hall…

22/11/2020 17.00

The second part of today’s pilgrim journey – Day 13b – will appear tomorrow. I am camped somewhere in a virtual wood on the Chasse Marée footpath hiding from a wild boar and awaiting some clear instructions from Jean-Noël Toulouzan and emergency assistance from Les Amis de Saint-Jacques de Normandie, as my maps have disintegrated in the rain. This virtual weather is worse than Witney on the Oxfordshire Way. Thank you and a Ultreïa!

En Française corrected by a proper* French pèlerin:

“La deuxième partie du chemin de pèlerinage d’aujourd’hui – le jour 13b – paraîtra demain. Je suis campé dans un bois virtuel sur le Sentier de la Chasse Marée, me cachant d’un sanglier, et j’attends quelques renseignements précis de Jean-Noël Toulouzan par Facebook ou email, et un peu d’aide au secours de la part des Amis de Saint-Jacques de Normandie, car mes cartes se sont désintégrées sous la pluie. Le temps virtuel est pire ici qu’à Witney sur le sentier d’Oxfordshire. Merci et Ultreïa!”

* Note to Jabba: Yes I will accept corrections of my French over the next five weeks when you spot them, until I’m safely over the Pyrenées, except when uttered by me in dialogue, when it is written in bad French in order to characterize my way of speaking French, which is bad.

Vous êtes déjà confus?


5 thoughts on “Dieppe: parish church of Saint-Jacques de Compostelle

  1. The old ferry terminal in the town of Dieppe gave the crossing more character. You immediately felt that you have arrived in France, a feeling that the present rather anonymous terminal lacks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with you, Simon: the new terminal is a soulless place. I think the volume of lorry traffic made it inevitable, to spare the town.

    I used to love sitting in a quayside cafe or one of those fish restaurants next to the boat and leaving it until almost the last minute before going across the road to board as a foot passenger or a cyclist. There were still night trains from Paris pulling up at the Malle Anglaise – as shown in the above 1913 postcard – until the 1980s, and I remember arriving that way once. It seemed a glimpse of a more romantic way of travelling. Back to the world of the Orient Express!


  3. Good stuff: adding your balisage notes to my “style book” (not joking: I have it in alphabetical order too!) I will use balisage/chemin/tampon etc. throughout the next month through France. French will be usually italicised. I’m deliberately inconsistent in using credencial (Sp.) but I’m taking it as read, that credencial is generic for pilgrim passport among pilgrims. Thanks. Keep up the good work.

    I presume you are virtually walking this route alongside us? 🙂


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