Since 1998, the Saint-Jean de Sorde Abbey has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List as one of the Santiago de Compostela routes in France.

It shares this international recognition with three other regional sites:

The porch and bell tower in Mimizan, Saint-Sever Abbey and Sainte-Quitterie Church in Aire-sur-Adour.

France’s Santiago de Compostela routes: a serial cultural site with outstanding universal value

71 monuments and 7 sections of paths have been registered since 1998 on the UNESCO World Heritage List under the official title of "Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France" (List 836). It is part of a series of cultural sites. Unlike an isolated monument or an urban centre, the "Routes" are registered as a collection of discontinuous components, considered by UNESCO as a single site, divided into 10 regions.

Each of the 78 components contributes to the value of the site as a whole providing some of its significance. Only this ensemble, as such, justifies it being on the World Heritage List.

UNESCO explains why this cultural property is listed:

Throughout the Middle Ages, Santiago de Compostela was a major destination for numerous pilgrims from all over Europe. To reach Spain, the pilgrims had to pass through France, and the noteworthy historic monuments that comprise World Heritage List 836 were milestones on the four routes they travelled.

Registration criteria:

  • The pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela played a key role in religious and cultural exchanges and development during the late Middle Ages, and this is admirably illustrated by the carefully selected monuments on the routes followed by pilgrims in France.
  • The spiritual and physical needs of the pilgrims travelling to Santiago de Compostela were met by the development of a number of specialised types of buildings, many of which originated or were further developed on the sections.
  • The pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela bears exceptional witness to the power and influence of the Christian faith among people of all classes and countries in Europe during the Middle Ages.

The Convention:

The World Heritage Convention is an international treaty signed in 1972 between States and the United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Its goals are to ensure the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission of heritage to future generations. Heritage sites on the World Heritage List represent invaluable and irreplaceable wealth for each nation, but also for humanity as a whole. Its preservation is an important factor in maintaining the richness and diversity of human cultures and their environment. Action in favour of heritage is part of UNESCO’s approach to promote a spirit of peace through dialogue between people, transcending differences. In 2019, France had 43 cultural and natural sites among the 1,121 sites registered on the World Heritage List.

A cultural property with outstanding universal value:

Since 1987, the ancient pilgrimage routes to Compostela have been recognized as a cultural route by the Council of Europe. In 1998, UNESCO registered the serial cultural site as "Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France" on the World Heritage List due to its outstanding universal value. This site (No.868 on the List) consists of a selection of 71 buildings and 7 trail sections. This registration does not concern the routes as such, but is materialised by pilgrimage churches or simple sanctuaries, hospitals and bridges that mark the four routes.

Nowadays, the routes to Compostela, opened as hiking trails and travelled by thousands of walkers of more than 130 nationalities, have become a universal heritage. They symbolise the pilgrims' journey over several centuries. What was once a religious phenomenon based on the expression of Christianity still resonates in the contemporary world as spiritual and cultural roaming.

L'Abbaye de Sorde est membre de l'ACIR Compostelle : www.chemins-compostelle.com

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