These spiritual places are recognised for their international importance, and are often labelled as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The shrines include world-renowned places of worship such as Lourdes or the Mont Saint-Michel, as well as smaller shrines and cathedrals.

Sanctuaries and Tourist Offices share a common aim: to ensure the best possible welcome to travellers searching for spirituality, wellbeing, culture. Each destination is unique, with its own traditions, architecture, food and a wide range of activities available nearby. From spiritual retreats to Christian pilgrimages, from cultural exploration to new discoveries, The Villes Sanctuaires Association will help you add a sense of purpose to your journey.

19 Shrines, 19 different stories

The term sanctuary comes from the Latin Sanctus, meaning Saint. The Association’s 19 shrines are all spiritual places and linked to the Roman Catholic faith. In the past, pilgrims travelled to worship the relics of saints or because the sites themselves were remarkable, due to extraordinary spiritual experiences. Today, they are welcoming centres for believers and non-believers alike, who are searching for deeper meaning and/or refuge from the hardships of modern life.
In times when religion was associated with power, kings contributed to the notoriety of these shrines, by gifting relics found in far-away lands, or by financing their construction. These sites are full of history, combining spirituality, beauty, Christian and cultural heritage with artistic traditions from Romanesque to Gothic art and beyond. Despite their shared faith, each sanctuary is profoundly different, a reflection of the image of its founders, their respective histories and the messages they convey.

Spiritual retreats

Whether believer or agnostic, most of us will at some point seek the meaning of life, an attempt to understand the reasons for life’s tribulations. In the Middle Ages confession and prayer were the main purpose of these religious shrines but over time, societal changes have entrusted them with other missions. More and more people are looking for a break from the fast pace of modern life, through different forms of spirituality, meditation, yoga...
The Villes Sanctuaires Association can assist with organising your spiritual journey, from a few days to several weeks, alone or as part of a group.
Don’t hesitate to contact the Shrines and Tourist Offices of The Villes Sanctuaires Association to obtain further information on cultural events, sightseeing, music festivals... elevating the soul and filling it with emotional sustenance.

Pilgrimage and physical activities

Pilgrimage is both physical and spiritual, beneficial for the body as well as the mind. It is equally popular with non-believers, who also are searching for wellbeing and a break from the sometimes exhausting daily routine. More than 300,000 pilgrims and hikers travel on the Road to Compostella every year. Whilst 38% make the pilgrimage for religious reasons, everyone benefits from switching off, finding themselves again and appreciating beautiful landscapes. Equally as important as enjoying silence or taking a holiday, sport is an effective way of soothing the mind.
The Villes Sanctuaires Association organises many sports activities throughout its 19 destinations. Hiking, skiing, cycling or mountain biking, walking in the forest, water sports... All have positive effects on the mind, just like tasting the delicious local cuisine on offer throughout France.

The members of our association are eager to welcome you to their destinations. Here’s a little glimpse of what you will find, once you decide to take the plunge and come on your spiritual journey to France. We are sure you will be wowed by the beauty, refreshed by the peace and tranquillity and uplifted by this wonderful experience. Please come soon, we can’t wait to meet you.

LISIEUX: In the footsteps of St Theresa and her parents

ALENCON: In the footsteps of St Theresa and her parents St Louis and St Zélie

MONT SAINT MICHEL:The wonder of the western world

SAINTE ANNE D’AURAY: Brittany’s spiritual capital

CHARTRES: The capital of light and perfume


VEZELAY: St Mary Magdalene’s basilica - A masterpiece of Roman architecture

NEVERS: St Bernadette of Lourdes in Nevers

PARAY LE MONIAL: City of the sacred heart, love with the heart of Jesus


ARS SUR FORMANS: A sanctuary in the former principality of Dombes

LE PUY EN VELAY: The European hub of the road to Compostella

SAINT MAXIMIN ET PLAN DAUPS SAINTE BAUME: In the footsteps of Mary Magdalene

COTIGNAC: Village of the holy family

ROCAMADOUR: A Christian shrine since the middle ages

LOURDES: Lourdes, a source of inspiration

LA LOUVESC: The Mountain of forgiveness, protected by Saint Jean-François Régis and Saint Thérèse Couderc.

Souvigny, peaceful Sanctuary

LES SAINTES MARIES DE LA MER: Christianity in Europe began here, in the heart of the countryside.