Canterbury is the starting point of the route. You can't come to Canterbury without visiting the world-famous cathedral, the site of the shrine of Thomas Becket and the seat of the Archbishop. The spectacular building houses many stunning features, including a Romanesque crypt, a perpendicular nave, and beautiful medieval stained glass windows. It is the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
More than a thousand years ago, pilgrims walked from England to Rome. After the Eternal City, the route continued for them to Jerusalem through the port of Brindisi, along the ancient Via Appia. Now you can follow in their footsteps by cycling EuroVelo 5, the 3,200 km version of this legendary route. Here are some must-see stops on the Via Romea Francigena to discover religious heritage sites.
The second city on our list is Strasbourg, which is home to important sites for Jewish heritage, one of the largest mosques in France and, of course, the Strasbourg Cathedral, listed by UNESCO. The Notre-Dame de Strasbourg Cathedral was founded in 1015 on the remains of an old cathedral. Today, it is the second most visited cathedral in France, after Notre-Dame de Paris, with eight and a half million tourists a year. From its construction until the 19th century, the cathedral was the highest human construction in the world.
After an arduous crossing of the Alps, a stop must be taken in Como. The picturesque town is home to a lot of religious wonders considering its size. Among them, we can highlight the Cathedral of Como, a late Gothic style building built between 1396 and 1740, which mixes Gothic elements such as the built facade, Renaissance elements particularly visible from the rear of the cathedral, and finally, the rococo dome, whose completion marks the end of the construction of the cathedral.
Milan is full of ancient churches of great importance and influence on Europe's religious heritage. The Romanesque Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, the Basilica of San Lorenzo, and the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which houses the "Last Supper.” The most famous church in Milan remains its cathedral which, unlike most Gothic cathedrals, has a unique shape, being covered with many small pinnacles. Climbing up the stairs to the roof, you will have a breath-taking view of the city of Milan and, on a clear day, of the gigantic Alps.
Going down the Po valley, the town of Pacienza presents an interesting choice of incredibly well preserved religious buildings. The cathedral and basilica of Saint-Savin from the 12th century, the church of Saint-François, and the basilica of Saint-Jean-de-Canal from the 13th century. The most impressive religious building would probably be the Basilica of Sant'Antonino, founded in the 4th century, a rich example of Romanesque architecture, characterized by a large octagonal tower.
The historic centre of Siena bears witness to the wealth of the city during the Middle Ages and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Cathedral of Siena is, without a doubt, the focal point of this ensemble. The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta was built in the 13th century in the Italian Romanesque-Gothic style. It is famous for its extensive use of marble inlay. An enlargement of the church took place in the 14th century, but was abandoned due to its failure.
With some 900 churches, the city of Rome is one of the best places in the world to discover religious architecture. The capital of Italy is famous for being one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and this is especially evident in its magnificent architecture, world-class art and fascinating history of Rome's churches. In addition, the city of Rome contains the state of the Vatican, where the most famous basilica in the world, St. Peter's, is located.
A relatively small city, especially when compared to Rome, Melfi nevertheless deserves a stop before reaching the east coast of Italy. In addition to the city's own religious sites, including a beautiful 18th-century cathedral, you will find several rock churches, the most famous of which is the church of Santa Margherita located just outside the city. The 13th century church has a Byzantine architecture and houses important frescoes from the Angevin period.