National Geographic : 1953 Feb
233 Al Taylor Visitors Stroll the Old Pilgrim Route Beneath Vezelay's New Gate, Six Centuries Old When 14th-century travelers approached walled V6zelay, they toiled up this road and through the fortified Porte Neuve, or New Gate. Originally the town had seven gates; only this one remains intact. Old houses seen through the gate are as charming as they are drafty. Many of them lack plumbing. was said to have transferred the remains about the middle of the 11th century. At that time the abbey had been in existence more than a century and a half. Reports of the acquisition brought streams of pilgrims to the little hilltop aerie. With the outpouring of wealth from devout peni tents, Benedictines built on the site of their old abbey the huge, Romanesque basilica which now crowns the hill (page 235). A Pilgrim Writes of Miracles The basilica was dedicated in 1104 by Pope Paschal II, who rode on muleback more than 800 miles from Rome to officiate at the cere mony. Soon the nave, though quite large, proved inadequate to receive the mass of pil grims, and the narthex, known as the Church of the Pilgrims, was added in front. Santiago de Compostela preserves in its archives a Latin manuscript written by one of these pious 12th-century pilgrims, who de scribed the V6zelayan scene with these words: "In this place a great and very beautiful basilica and an abbey of monks were estab lished; the wrongs of sinners are forgiven by God for love of the saint, the blind are re stored to sight, the tongues of mutes become unbound, the halt stand erect, those possessed are delivered, and ineffable benefits are ac corded to many of the faithful." Townspeople, as well as the abbey, profited by the influx of pilgrims, and Vezelay grew rapidly. At that time the principal road of approach led through the hamlet of La Gran geotte. Booths flanked the thoroughfare, hawking food, wines, clothing, and objects of silver to be offered at the saint's shrine. Eventually, for various reasons, belief in the authenticity of the saintly relics was shaken. The influx of pilgrims dwindled. Vezelay shrank to a half-forgotten village. Today, at least in winter, there are barely 250 people living within the crumbling walls, and perhaps another 150 in the outlying hamlets.