Reflections on the second charity walk on the Via Francigena, UK section

On 7 October, 2017 the second charity walk, organised by CPR Canterbury Representative Julia Peters, in aid of Save the Children, took place on the Via Francigena UK (Canterbury to Dover).  The event raised £770 including gift aid for Save the Children, supporting their important work in providing essentials such as food and clothing, as well as education, for many vulnerable children across the world. 

Pilgrims arrived at Canterbury Cathedral at 7.45 am where they were given a wonderful send off by the Lord Mayor of Canterbury, Rosemary Doyle.  The Lord Mayor expressed her particular interest in the event, as she been involved in the development of the Via Francigena and its promotion over 10 years ago when the zero kilometre stone of the Via Francigena was placed within the Cathedral Precincts. Other notable attendees included:   Velia Coffey of the Canterbury Council and Vice-President of the European Via Francigena Association, who has twice cycled to Rome, also came to wish the group well,  Luca Faravelli of the Via Francigena Association who had travelled from the Association’s headquarters in Fidenza, Italy, and CPR member Philip Singleton, who has walked the entire route from Canterbury to Rome.  After an inspirational blessing by Canon Clare at the Zero Kilometre stone, the group of 20 pilgrims set off on the Via Francigena, just as Archbishop Sigeric would have done in 990 AD as he began his long journey to Rome.  

The charity walk aimed to give pilgrims an immersive experience of pilgrimage and so included a visit to each of the churches the route passes on the way to Dover.  These included St. Martin's, Canterbury, and the churches of Patrixbourne, Womenswold, Shepherdswell and Whitfield.  An organisation of volunteers known as the Dover Greets also opened the doors of the lovely St. Edmund's Chapel in Dover, where the walk officially ended. 

This is the second charity walk, but the third pilgrimage walk that Julia has organised along this section of the route.  As a result of these organised pilgrimages, Julia now has established a network of local people who are interested in promoting the Via Francigena and who are willing to support events such as these.  On 7 October, the churches gave talks on the architecture and history of the buildings, they provided coffee, tea and cake, and Womenswold served a lunch of homemade soup.  There was clear enthusiasm expressed for the events and for the Via Francigena by the parishioners who volunteered in the churches for the charity walk.  By building on this interest and willingness to support the VF, Julia hopes to see further local engagement along the route from Canterbury to Dover in the future.           


 Pilgrims outside of St. Mary's Church, Patrixbourne

Pilgrims outside of St. Mary's Church, Patrixbourne

Francis Geere

Francis Geere, one of the great friends of pilgrims and a champion of the Via Francigena, has died aged 73, from a heart attack while driving near his home in France. A retired diplomat, Francis lived in the village of Nans-sous-Sainte Anne, south of Besançon, where over many years he made all pilgrims welcome. Married three times, with two children from each of his first two wives, Geere was a chorister at Exeter Cathedral as a schoolboy where he developed a life-long passion for singing. His postings with the Foreign Office included India, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Congo, and Switzerland.  

Paul Chinn has written this tribute.

He was a much travelled English consular official who retired to live among the beautiful slopes of the Jura in France where he brought with him his love of languages, travel, landscape, history and above all people. He was a champion of the Via Francigena and an aid and friend to me and many, many pilgrims passing through Franche-Comté. The route will be the poorer for his passing.

Francis and his trusty mountain bike explored every inch of the roads and pathways between Langres and Sembrancher in Switzerland, constantly seeking to find routes as close as possible to the roads taken by Archbishop Sigeric, and yet practical and safe for the modern day pilgrim, whether on foot or bike  His photographic recall of maps and intimate knowledge of the historic sites of the region led him to challenge the received wisdom of Sigeric passing through Yverdon Les Bains on his return from Rome and made a strong and now accepted case that the sub-mansion of Antifern was indeed close by Jougne on the Swiss-French border, and not content with this he mobilized his diplomacy to persuade management of the Conifer scenic railway to allow pilgrims to pass along the track side path.
His dedication to helping pilgrims was unmatched.  He would willingly travel by car for dozens of kilometres to pluck an exhausted pilgrim from the wayside, whisk them to his home, La Maison Rose, in the little village of Nans-sous-Sainte Anne close to the waterfall source of the River Lison, to ply them with one of his memorable curries and a little Jura wine, before returning them refreshed to the route the following morning.

Mini-pilgrimage on the Via Francigena

Part of a series of events focusing on the use of cultural routes to restore meaning to disconnected heritage sites, the mini-pilgrimage (6-7 May, 2017) was organized to provide an authentic taste of what thousands of pilgrims who walk or cycle the routes of the Camino de Santiago or the Via Francigena experience each year. Essential elements include: following a historic route that was once travelled by medieval pilgrims, comradery, good food, a libation or two (in this case in the form of a good Kent cider), and the magical ingredient of the generosity of strangers. 


The UK has only 20 miles of the 1800 km route from Canterbury to Rome.  Despite this small section, the Via Francigena in Kent has much to offer walkers and pilgrims.  Starting at the UNESCO World Heritage Site which includes Canterbury Cathedral, St. Augustine’s Abbey and the church of St. Martin’s, it winds its way down country lanes and across fields, through delightful villages with their historic churches and quaint cottages, along the Downs to the port of Dover.  Nestled between the stark white cliffs on either side, travelers have departed the British Isles from this port for centuries – as the magnificent bronze-age boat in the Dover Museum attests.  The mini-pilgrimage on the Via Francigena was a means of introducing participants to this historic and natural heritage. 

To read a full account of the mini-pilgrimage please visit:

Thank you to Brian and Gail Mooney for coming all the way to Canterbury to support the event!

Julia Peters (CPR Canterbury Rep.)

New Leaflet on the Via Francigena for Cantebury Visitor's Centre

Julia Peters, Canterbury representative of the Confraternity, received funding from the University of Kent to design and print 6,500 copies of a leaflet on the Via Francigena for the Canterbury Visitor’s Centre. 


‘It is vital for the local promotion of the route that Canterbury residents are aware that they live at kilometre 0 of a Cultural Route,’ Julia stated at a presentation of the leaflet at the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge on 5 May.  Present at the reception was Peter Morris of the North Downs Way, a National Trail which shares the same paths as the Via Francigena from Canterbury to Dover.  Also present were representatives from the Canterbury City Council, the Canterbury Heritage Design Forum, Canterbury Cathedral, Historic England and The Canterbury Society.  The presentation was met with great enthusiasm. Bob Jones of the Canterbury Business Improvement District (BID) approached Julia after her presentation to express interest in helping to resolve the issue with accommodation between Canterbury to Dover.  Julia hopes that continued promotion of the route in Canterbury will result in an enduring commitment to improve signage and facilities for pilgrims on our 20 miles of the Francigena.  

You can download the leaflet here. 

New Pilgrim Credential

The Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome (CPR) has produced a new Credential/Pilgrim Record with space for 100 stamps and information about where to get the Testimonium in Rome. Kate and Patrick Mullins (pictured below) were the first to receive the new passport. They set out from Canterbury to Rome on 8th May.

Mini-pilgrimage on the UK section of the Via Francigena

On 6-7 May there will be a mini-pilgrimage on the UK section of the Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome.

Julia Peters (CPR Canterbury Representative), with the help of Rev. Jo Tinkler, has organised this walk to promote the route locally.  For many it will be their first experience of a pilgrimage.  Pilgrims will leave Canterbury Cathedral at 10 am on 6 May and walk to Eythorne, which is just 1.5 miles from Shepherdswell.  The Eythorne Parish will accommodate pilgrims at the Community Hall and provide dinner and breakfast.  In the evening there will be a showing of the film The Way.  On 7 May the walk continues for the last 10 miles to Dover.  Along the route participants will be encouraged to appreciate the landscape and local heritage sites such as St. Augustine's Abbey, St. Martin's Church in Canterbury (both UENESCO World Heritage Sites), the  Norman churches of Patrixbourne and Womenswold, and to visit the Dover Museum to appreciate the rich history of the port town.  

The cost to participate is £10, which includes accommodation for one night in Eythorne, dinner and breakfast.  

To learn more about the walk and to register, please visit:

Chairman’s Report – AGM 11th March 2017

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all today to the Confraternity’s 10th Annual General Meeting.

It’s nice to see one of our founding fathers here, William Marques, who on 18th November 2006 attended the inaugural meeting which established the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome. There were just 15 members then, and that founding crew did great pioneering work in putting the CPR on the map. William was our first chairman.

I am the third, and in time I look forward to handing over an ever more robust Confraternity to a successor.

The number of people who have joined the CPR since we started now totals 889 (as at 10/03/2017) from 28 different countries, up from 818 last year, and we currently have some 274 paid up members, including 16 life members. Our finances are in good health, as you will hear later from our Treasurer.

The last 12 months represented a period of transition, with the Confraternity led by a largely new Steering Group.

There have been significant achievements, but there are one or two areas where we could do better; and we are always looking for new ideas and new volunteers.

We have a new much fresher looking website, but it is still work in progress – the photo gallery, for example, needs curating – and we don’t have the resources to take it further. Our hard working webmaster, Patrick Tuck, handles updates and maintenance. He has also set up a MailChimp account through which we can distribute routine messages to members and an e-newsletter.

The existing CPR Newsletter is a less than happy tale. We produced a large number in the early years – chock-a-block with fascinating articles on the Via Francigena – and these were all published on the old website. The problem was that virtually no one read them.

We are now attempting to revert to old fashioned hard copy, but in the 12 months since the last AGM we have failed to get even a single edition out of the door. Is there anyone who would like to take on the task of editing and overseeing the printing of a Newsletter?

The CPR’s accommodation list is an even bigger challenge.

This used to be the jewel in our crown. It was put together painstakingly over a number of years on the back of people’s helpful contributions. In the early pioneering days of the VF this was clearly an invaluable tool. But in today’s wired up world, with everyone carrying an android phone or something similar, and with many more hostels, b&bs, and hotels on the web, such a service is no longer quite so essential.

But it is our intention to keep it going. The problem, however, is that people have stopped contributing new information and – more of a problem – we do not have anyone who has the time to edit and keep the database up to date. Julia Peters will be talking to you later about this issue.

Jim Brodie, our membership secretary, has been working hard to get our membership database up to date but there is still some work to do on that.

And finally on the subject of resources, we don’t have a secretary to take minutes and issue agendas – light work, but vital.

We have an active presence on Facebook, thanks to one of our Steering Group members, Jonas Ewe. Jonas is also working on a design for a new CPR Pilgrim Passport. The passport or credential is a vital part of all pilgrim journeys, and the CPR takes great care and pride in issuing them. (We sent out 170 in 2015 and 171 in 2014, although only 31 last year, and about a dozen since the beginning of 2017).

A year ago I reported that there were serious deficiencies in the signage leading from Canterbury Cathedral to the exit of the city where pilgrims join the North Downs Way to Dover. I am glad to report that there has been some progress.

There is understandably a lot of interest in Canterbury in the Via Francigena, and we are fortunate in having a representative there who is very active and has herself walked the Via Francigena. This is Julia Peters who is doing post-graduate work at the University of Kent and which has provided funding for a series of events led by Julia. Julia is creating a leaflet to be made available at the Canterbury tourism office with information on the background of the Via Francigena, and a map of the section between Canterbury and Dover. The Beaney museum in Canterbury will display information on the Via Francigena on flat screens throughout the museum. 

New finger post signs will be placed along the route to guide pilgrims from the Cathedral gate to the outskirts of the city. These will be funded by the CPR. The rural section of the route was re-signed in the autumn by Peter Morris of the North Downs Way.

A new interpretation panel has been placed outside Saint Augustine’s Abbey. This is very informative, and has a map of the route guiding pilgrims to where the official North Downs signage begins.  

A 2016 Charity Walk led by Julia raised over £2,000 for Save the Children. It saw 45 people walk from Canterbury to Dover, including some CPR members. Julia hopes to make this an annual walk, with the next scheduled for the first weekend in October.

As part of an initiative to create a wider community we have started to put together a list of members who have completed a pilgrim journey to Rome. The CSJ is also assembling a database of completed pilgrimages to Santiago. Our list is on the website, and it is growing modestly each month. It now totals just over 70. If anyone has a journey to add, please send us an email with date and place of your departure and the date of your arrival in Rome.

The numbers walking all the way to Rome are still only a fraction compared to the avalanche on the Camino Francés (278,000 pilgrims were issued with the Compostela in 2016).

The statistics kept by Danilo Parisi, the Po ferryman, recorded 1,176 long-distance pilgrims in 2016. Year by year Danilo carries increasingly more pilgrims, and he now has a new launch – a gift from the local authorities as a sign of how much they value his contribution to the Via Francigena. In 2015, Danilo ferried 919 pilgrims, up from 735 in 2014, and 520 in 2013 – so his numbers have more than doubled in four years. The same pattern is repeated with the numbers of British pilgrims – 51 last year, 34 in 2015 and 17 in 2014 and just 9 in 2013.

Danilo is three weeks walk from Rome, and many pilgrims reach there after journeying far shorter distances – you only need walk 130 km from Acquapendente or cycle 400 km from Lucca to qualify for a Pilgrim Testimonium.

I visited Danilo last year for the third time. Our first two encounters were on my pilgrim walks to and from Rome. Spending time with Danilo is always rewarding.

I was in Emilia Romagna along with Julia to attend the 15th anniversary of the European Association of the Vie Francigene (AVEF). This is the Fidenza-based organisation that has tapped into and pooled the resources of the municipal and regional governments and local business along the way to foster the development of the Via Francigena. They have been remarkably successful in putting the Via Francigena on the map in Switzerland and Italy, especially in Tuscany which is beautifully waymarked, though they have been less successful in France.

We have good relations with our French cousins in the Rheims based Féderation Française Via Francigena. But the waymarking in France is not altogether a happy story – or rather it is still work in progress – and it is often more advisable to follow a guide book than the waymarks which tend to take pilgrims on devious scenic routes. Long distance walkers, as we all appreciate, do things in a straight line.

This brings me to our Steering Group.

We met two times since the last AGM – in July 2016 and January this year. These are productive sessions but they only reflect a tiny amount of the actual work we do. I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of all our members to thank the Steering Group for their dedication.

I’d also like to mention each in turn.

  • Myself – Brian Mooney

  • Alison Raju, whose Cicerone guidebooks to Santiago and Rome have shepherded thousands of pilgrims over many years, currently looks after our Newsletter.

  • Jonas Ewe helps with external communications and design issues, and manages our presence on Facebook.

  • Jim Brodie, who is absent, is our membership secretary responsible for welcoming new members and sending out Pilgrim Credentials.

  • Julia Peters, our Canterbury Representative, also looks after our accommodation list and she will be talking to you about that a little later.

  • Patrick Tuck, a master brewer, is our webmaster, and handles updates and changes to the website.

  • And finally, Robert White, our Treasurer, who I will shortly call upon to give his annual financial report.

All the members are offering themselves for re-election.

Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome Annual General Meeting

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the 10th Annual
General Meeting of the Confraternity of Pilgrims to
Rome will be held at the Conference Room, St James
Church, 197 Piccadilly, at 10.30am on the 11th March
2017 to transact the following business.



1.  Apologies

To be advised.

2.  Minutes of the previous meeting

To be agreed, and matters arising.

3.  Presentation of Annual Report

To receive the annual report for the year ended 31 st December 2016 – Chairman Brian Mooney.

4.  Presentation of Accounts

To receive and consider the accounts for the year ended 31 st December 2016 – Treasurer Robert White.

5.  Election of Steering Group Members

Brian Mooney, Alison Raju, Jim Brodie, Jonas Ewe, Julia Peters, Patrick Tuck, Robert White. 

6. The Accommodation List

New initiatives – Julia Peters.

7.  Any other business

The programme:

1030 – Gather for tea/coffee (supplied)

1100 – AGM formal business

1200 – Mary Kirk

“Walking to Rome – What happens when things don’t quite go to plan.”

1230 - General discussion and Q&A

What do you want to know?  Clothing and footwear, terrain, accommodation, tents climate, time of the year, expense, dogs, language, departure time of year, start point, end point, companions.


St James’s Church is located between Piccadilly and Jermyn Street about 200 yards from Piccadilly Circus. The nearest Underground stations: Piccadilly Circus and Green Park. It is on or near these bus routes: 3/6/9/12/13/14/15/19/22/23/ 88/94/138/139/159.

The Conference Room is located at basement level off a paved footpath, Church Place, on the south side between Piccadilly and Jermyn Street just after Costa and before the church.

New ferry for pilgrims crossing the River Po

Local authorities have supplied Danilo Parisi with a new ferry to carry Via Francigena pilgrims across the River Po. The river crossing  and time spent with Danilo is invariably one of the high points of today’s pilgrim journey to Rome. 

The photo captures the inaugural journey of the San Colombano carrying a group of Tuscan pilgrims on the first passage across the River Po in the New Year.

Danilo runs his ferry back and forth from the quay at Corte Sant’ Andrea to his home at Soprarivo down the same four kilometre sweep of the river that pilgrims in previous generations crossing from Lombardy to Emilia-Romagna would have taken in a boat propelled by sails and oars.

Pilgrims on foot and bicycle can book his ferry by mobile phone (+390523771607). He charges only a modest fee, and chiefly plies the river for the love of it.

The Via Francigena is his passion. Danilo is not just a ferryman; he is one of the gatekeepers of the modern pilgrim journey to Rome.

Danilo keeps a statistical account of pilgrims passing through his domain and we will be updating these shortly with the 2016 figures.

Walking the Via Francigena the Hard Way

    What happens when things don’t go quite to plan

Mary Kirk, 69, will be the guest speaker at this year’s AGM in London on Saturday 11th March.

Mary completed the Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome on foot in 2016. However, her journey was not without its difficulties and set-backs, and Mary will speak on and illustrate some of the practical challenges she encountered and will give helpful information on how she tackled them.

Mary describes pilgrimage as “a metaphor for life, with its ups and downs, joys and sorrows, pains and pleasures; with its turning upside-down of plans, its encounters with the unexpected; with the people who cross one’s path, and the people with whom one walks a stretch and more.”

The Annual General Meeting takes place at St James’s Church, 197 Piccadilly, at 10.30 am on Saturday 11th March 2017, and it is open to both members and non-members, to anyone who wants to learn more about the Via Francigena and especially to those who are thinking of joining us.

69-year-old member walking to Rome

CPR member Mary Kirk is currently walking ‘phase two’ of her pilgrimage Canterbury to Rome.  Mary, at 69 years old, is an inspiration in determination as she returns to the Francigena after having had to stop in Vercelli due to a knee injury in the spring of this year.  In the latest post of her blog ( we find Mary just having crossed the Cisa Pass in the Apennines.  Tuscany and the towns of Lucca and Siena lie ahead of her. 

Mary will be speaking at the CPR’s AGM in March, 2017 and we can look forward to an account of her tremendous journey.  Mary describes pilgrimage as“a metaphor for life, with its ups and downs, joys and sorrows, pains and pleasures; with its turning upside-down of plans, its encounters with the unexpected; with the people who cross one’s path, and the people with whom one walks a stretch and more. As in life, it is how one deals with all of this that brings to light one’s true self, and the necessity of transformation.”

If you would like to support Mary in her efforts to raise funds for refugees and the homeless please visit the following websites: (Refugee Action) (Shelter)

Buen camino Mary!

Via Francigena - Being Human

The Via Francigena features in UK’s Being Human Festival

As part of the UK-wide festival entitled ‘Being Human’, the University of Kent has organised a 12 mile walk on the pilgrimage route The Via Francigena.  Participants will begin their experience of the historic route at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Canterbury Cathedral.  Exiting the walled city, the Francigena goes past the Abbey of St. Augustine and St. Martin’s church, the first Christian church in the English-speaking world.  The route takes in the Kent villages of Patrixbourne, Womenswold, and lastly Shepherdswell, where the walk will conclude. 

The Being Human Festival is led by the School of Advanced Study at the University of London, and is being run in partnership with the Arts & Humanities Research Council and the British Academy.  Its aim is to engage the public with humanities research that is taking place throughout the UK.  The overall theme for this year is the human experience of hope and fear, which ties in particularly well to the experience of pilgrims through the ages who have journeyed along the Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome.  The walk, led by PhD student Julia Peters, from the department of Classics and Archaeology at the University of Kent, offers participants an opportunity to reflect on the experience of pilgrims setting off for unknown lands where their fate rested on the generosity of both man and nature as they covered 1200 miles typically on foot.  

This free event will take place on Sunday, 20 November and will begin at the gates of the Canterbury Cathedral at 9 am and finish at 3pm. 

Follow the festival on Twitter @BeingHumanFest | #BeingHuman16