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Sainte Brigitte en route vers Compostelle: histoire de la Via Sanctae Birgittae – 1/3

4 août 2019 | Publié dans Histoires de pèlerins, Voies de pèlerinage | 19 Commentaires
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Route de sainte Brigitte depuis la Suède jusqu'à Compostelle
Saint-Jacques le Majeur et sainte Brigitte de Suède sont tous deux patrons des pèlerins. À l’occasion d’une conférence donnée à Montpellier, Gérard Ecorcheville-Olsson, qui travaille à la réhabilitation d’une Via Sanctae Birgittae depuis la Suède jusqu’au Finisterre espagnol, rappelle les origines du pèlerinage vers le Champ d’étoiles
 
Cet article est le premier d’une série de trois articles qui reprennent l’essentiel de la conférence :

1/3 : Origine et développement du pèlerinage de Saint-Jacques
2/3 : Brigitte en Suède avant son départ pour Compostelle
3/3 : Le pèlerinage de sainte Brigitte à Compostelle

Origine et développement du pèlerinage de Saint-Jacques

« En l’an 33, un certain Jésus de Nazareth parmi ses dernières paroles dit à ses Apôtres

« Allez porter la bonne nouvelle aux extrémités de la terre… »

Au sein des Apôtres, il y avait Jacques frère de Jean l’Évangéliste tous deux surnommés par Jésus Boanergès les fils du tonnerre tant ils étaient fougueux à répandre la nouvelle parole. Aussi pêcheurs de ce lac de Tibériade dont la ville est jumelée avec Montpellier et cela donne un lien supplémentaire à cette petite communication. Comme extrémité de la terre Jacques choisit la Galice au Nord-Ouest de l’Espagne où disait-on il y avait des communautés juives qui seraient intéressées par une nouvelle prédication avec un nouveau Prophète, variante très profonde qui restera jusque vers l’an 150 dans le giron du judaïsme.

Comme pour le Finistère dans notre Bretagne, il existe dans cette Galice un autre raz ou cap appelé Fisterrae, c’est-à-dire en latin la fin de la terre connue de l’époque, et Jacques, par ce voyage évangélisateur, suivait donc parfaitement en y arrivant les instructions de Jésus…

Cette évangélisation de la Galice fut plus difficile que prévue et Jacques le majeur se retourna en Palestine, découragé quand la Vierge Marie lui apparut sur un pilier à Saragosse d’Aragon le 2 janvier 39 en le consolant et en lui disant que ce qu’íl avait semé allait bientôt germer. Mais l’Apôtre rentra en Palestine où les persécutions avaient repris de plus belle. Il fut décapité sur ordre du Roi Hérode Agrippa I. Ses restes furent ramenés par ses compagnons en barque, il y a toujours en terre chrétienne la symbolique de la Barque puis un voyage « mortuaire » jusqu’en Galice où le martyr fut enterré près des lieux de sa prédication comme il l’avait souhaité.

Pendant huit siècles, sa tombe fut oubliée et redécouverte en 831 à l’occasion du songe d’un ermite nommé Pélage et guidé par les étoiles, c’est la raison pour laquelle la future ville s’appellera du lieu de cette découverte Compostella du latin Campo Stelae ou champ d’étoiles. Très rapidement la nouvelle se répandit et les pèlerins affluèrent. Cette affluence fut toutefois interrompue par le pillage de la ville par l’arabo-andalou Ibn Abî Amir-El Mansour, le victorieux en arabe, en l’an 998 qui en emporta les cloches à « dos de chrétiens » jusqu’à Cordoue, en mettant la ville et la Basilique à sac, sans toutefois toucher à la tombe de l’Apôtre, paraît-il.

La consternation fut grande parmi les chrétiens, et un pape d’origine bourguignonne, Calixte II, décida de relancer le pèlerinage en ce début du IXe siècle, et les papes suivants, en y faisant venir de nombreux ordres religieux, comme Cluny, les Templiers, les Lazaristes protecteurs des lépreux, et même tout au long du chemin de nouvelles populations comme les francs. À noter que Jean-Paul II relança aussi mille ans plus tard le pèlerinage au début de son pontificat en organisant à Compostelle les premières Journées mondiales de la jeunesse, il y avait alors seulement 2 000 pèlerins pédestres par an, ils sont aujourd’hui cent fois plus. En plein Montpellier passe ce Chemin de Saint-Jacques, un des 5 sentiers principaux, celui de la via Tolosana appelée aussi Chemin d’Arles et l’on reconnaît au sol de la ville ancienne les belles coquilles en joli cuivre jaune.

On peut dire qu’à partir de cette date, dès les années mille, que c’est l’apogée du chemin de Compostelle et pendant quatre siècles. En fait, c’est l‘Europe qui se crée et qui marche sur ces chemins-là et, par la marche tout au moins, l’idée européenne qui se forge dans la fraternité des pèlerins qui furent plus de 50 millions : on a estimé qu’à certaines périodes du XIIIe siècle, 10 % de la population européenne marchait vers Compostelle c’est considérable, 10 % mourrait de maladie, attaqués par les ours, des loups ou les brigands, ou simplement de fatigue. De là se répandit le terme hôpital pour accueillir, soigner les pèlerins, dont celui du Col de Roncevaux qui servait 30 000 repas par an. Goethe a dit que « l’Europe est née en pèlerinage » et à mon sens c’est une réalité tout fait exacte, bien plus enthousiasmante qu’une supposée naissance de l’Europe ou de son idée dans le sang des croisades ou le sang de la lutte contre les Ottomans. Notre poète des lumières a raison, c’est sur le chemin de Compostelle que se rencontraient, les artistes, les tailleurs de pierre, les charpentiers, les bâtisseurs des églises romanes et ils s’échangeaient des informations, des expériences, puis bâtirent nos cathédrales gothiques.

Maître Mateo, ce moine bourguignon, n’a-t-il pas achevé son trésor architectural par l’incroyable escalier à vis de l’abbatiale de Saint-Gilles du Gard en région et que l’on peut toujours visiter ? C’était avant que cet artiste ne dirige les sculpteurs qui feront des merveilles artistiques à Compostelle, les œuvres du tympan de la Basilique dont témoigne pour notre joie le sourire du prophète Daniel, la sculpture gothique d’emblée y atteint son sommet. Plus près de nous encore, Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert haut lieu du patrimoine chrétien par lequel tous les pèlerins se devaient de passer et dont je salue ici la présence de Jean-Claude Richard, un de ses éminents conservateurs du patrimoine.

Ce n’est certainement pas uniquement une idée artistique et religieuse européenne qui se bâtit par les chemins mais aussi ses prémisses politiques avec par exemple sa libre circulation ce véritable visa Schengen avant l’heure ce sauf-conduit que l’on donnait au pèlerin, le crédencial, un véritable passeport du pèlerin que l’on faisait composter (« !!! ») ou tamponner à chaque étape si vous préférez et qui vous permettait de circuler à travers toute l’Europe et même éviter les péages des autoroutes — pardon des routes et des ponts. À l’arrivée, on vous délivrait une Compostella un certificat de pèlerin très utile devant saint Pierre, un visa en somme pour le voyage plus lointain de l’au-delà. Ces pièces existent toujours pour le pèlerin moderne. À Montpellier, les pèlerins se rassemblaient et recevaient le passeport crédential en l’église Saint-Jacques avant la bénédiction du départ.

Si j’ai dans ma famille ou vous-mêmes des Leroi, ce n’est pas que nous avons des attaches avec la famille royale Bourbon mais probablement parce qu’un ancêtre pèlerin avait gagné le concours final du pèlerinage sur la butte – le Mont de la Joie, le Monte Gozo – à l’entrée de Compostelle où il fallait être le premier tout en haut. Ainsi, il devenait le roi du pèlerinage et gardait le nom Leroi retournant avec comme preuve de son pèlerinage la coquille Saint-Jacques ramassée sur les plages de Galice. Aujourd’hui, peut-être, hélas, on fait le contraire en s’accrochant au départ parfois des coquilles de chez Picard »
 

Extrait d’une conférence de Gérard Ecorcheville-Olsson, président de l’Association Via Sanctae Birgittae à la Maison de l’Europe et des Relations internationales de Montpellier le 25 Janvier 2010.

En présence de
Madame Sarah Elamani, conseillère municipale de la ville de Montpellier, monsieur le consul général d’Espagne, Joseph Maria Bosch, monsieur le consul de Suède, Pierre Moulin et monsieur le directeur de la Maison de l’Europe de Montpellier, Gérard Rousset.

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