L'histoire du chemin de
St Jacques de Compostelle en Ariège
Although Ariege is situated well away from the four major pilgrimage routes it is far from impervious to the cult of the apostle St James and his pilgrimage. Not only have certain parishes put themselves under the protection of the saint -- Bordes-sur-Arize, Taurignan-Castet, Saleix, Cazenave, Aubert, Sentenac d'Oust -- but the whole area has taken on "jacquaire" colours as so many place names attest: a suburb of Mazères, a street in Foix and in Laroque d'Olmes, a courtyard in Léran, a narrow lane and a farm in St Lizier, a rural property in La Bastide-de-Besplas, "lieu-dits" in Bélesta and Vira still carry the saint's name, while another rural property in Mirepoix and a house in the celebrated occitan village Montaillou have had since time immemorial the name "jacquet", thus recalling that their long ago occupants once took up the pilgrim's staff to journey to Compostella.
The villages of Montjoie and Montgauch, situated on two hills in the Couserans near St Lizier, once an important pilgrimage destination, seem to have adopted the name of "Montjoya", a hill overlooking Compostella where exhausted pilgrims cried out in joy at the sight of the galicien sanctuary.
The Pyreneen Foothills route crosses Ariège from Mirepoix to the Col du Portet d'Aspet via Pamiers, the Mas d'Azil, Saint-Lizier, Castillon-en-Couserans in the direction of Saint-Bernard-de-Comminges. This route leading towards the Spanish finistere, links various sites where numerous jacquaire symbols are found.
The itinerary plotted for crossing Ariege has been designated at Grande Randonnée trail (GR 78). The 140 km can be walked in several stages of about 15 to 20 km each.