VÉZELAY, the Eternal Hill

This little village became a star in Burgundy, just by the number of illustrious people who made it famous! But it’s best known for its basilica which overlooks the surrounding countryside.  This impressive religious building, saved from ruin by Viollet-le-Duc, a jewell of romanesque architecture, has been part of the UNESCO world heritage list for the past fourty years.  Thousands of people flock to discover or rediscover this monument on the road to Compostela.

Famously used as a backdrop in the cult french film “La Grande Vadrouille”, the village, surrounded by vineyards, will impress you by its diversity; art, literature, gastronomy, religion, plus its surrounding countryside…  Vezelay’s soul is as authentic as it is inspiring.

The town of Vézelay is a departure point for the major medieval pilgrimage to the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, as well as a pilgrimage destination in its own right, as the possessor of the relics of Mary Magdalene.

Saint Mary-Magdalene Basilica –  A masterpiece of Romanesque Architecture

You will be dazzled by the overwhelming beauty of the roman basilica, where light is in perpetual motion and breathes life into the stone itself.

You just have to let the contradictions wash over you: the beauty of the building and the modesty of its layout;  the complexity of the sculptures and the simplicity of the architecture.  The height of the archways and the strength of the pillars.

Be entranced by the chants of the benedictine monks and nuns which resound three times a day from the abbey-church.
Meditate in the crypt where, for hundreds of years, pilgrims in their thousands have travelled to worship the relics of Saint Mary-Magdalene

Summer and winter solstice in the Basilica –  the magic of light

The basilica is impressive by its overwhelming proportions.  When you enter,  the light gives the building an incredible dimension

When the sun reaches its highest point on the summer solstice,  on 21st June at solar noon, the light coming through the southern clerestory windows casts a series of nine circles of light perfectly aligned along the center of the nave floor, connecting the narthex to the quire

On winter solstice, the 21st december at solar noon, the sun hits the capitals of the higher part of the nave facing southward with perfect symmetry.


Vézelay and  surrounding villages make up a remarkable territory, thanks to the beauty of its landscapes and architecture.  Vézelay and its surrounding area committed to obtaining the GRAND SITE DE FRANCE label back in 2010, with the support of different government departments and locally elected officials, but the procedure is long winded.   Ministerial approval was granted end 2011 and the county council has taken charge since 2017 with the help of central government.
Grand Site de France status has been granted by the Environment Ministry to a dozen tourist sites which respect sustainable development such as Mont Saint-Michel, le Pont du Gard, Bibracte…
It not only means restoring heritage sites and landscapes which make up the reputation of Vézelay and its surrounding area, but also laying down the cornerstone to preserve them and ensure that they continue to thrive.