THE ORIGIN OF THE FRENCH WAY
EVOLUTION OF THE ROUTE
Since the onset of the layout of the itinerary, the best already designed and built route to that date was exploited: the Roman causeway Ab Asturica Burdigalam, that is to say, the road that connected Astorga with Bordeaux. Although the stone slabs were disappearing as they were being reused or covered by layers of dirt, the track was already made. Thus, at the Ibañeta Pass there was already an old Roman “mansio” (hostel) that was occupied by the first pilgrim hospital established in Roncesvalles.
After passing the Summo Pyreneo, the road went down to old Pompaelo, which at the time was divided into three “burgos” (townships) confronting one another but still becoming richer thanks to the passage of pilgrims.
The main difference between the route followed by pilgrims during the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries and that of the 11th century onwards was the change of the track between Pamplona and Burgos.
The old route left Pamplona and headed directly for the Sakana valley, passing through Irurtzun, Uharte-Arakil, Salvatierra, Vitoria, Miranda de Ebro and Briviesca until it reached Burgos. It was Sancho III the Great, king of the then Kingdom of Pamplona, who diverted the route, redirecting it through the El Perdón Pass, Puente la Reina, Estella, Viana, Logroño, Nájera and Santo Domingo de la Calzada, finally reaching Burgos .
Map of the north of the Iberian Peninsula in 1035. The advance of the Christian kingdoms made it possible to control the entire route of the old causeway to Bordeaux. The classic itinerary of the Way of Saint James was planned based on this and following several other diversions.