But Why? ~ June 1, 2016

  • Wednesday, June 1, 2016
  • Day 32 (Day 29 Camino)
  • Maubourguet
  • Distance: 11 miles (80% tarmac) 414 total miles
  • Ascent 1,027 feet and descent 970 feet
  • Time: 7 hours
  • Weather: 60-70 degrees, Cloudy. 16 mph wind

Okay, I get it. We walk from church-to-church.

But, why are churches always at the top of a hill?

  1. Towards Maubourguet – C15th church with 35 meter spire
  2. Towards Maubourguet – C15th church with 35 meter spire
  3. Maubourguet – Church of Saint-Martin

4 thoughts on “But Why? ~ June 1, 2016”

  1. Linda,
    I googled your question and this was one response I got:
    1. “Nearer My God To Thee” — human beings from ancient times have chosen high ground to bury their dead closer to the sky and the gods that live there. Christians who, while having no specific biblical reference for this practice, have adopted it from the previous religious practices of its old converts.

    2. Visibility may be a factor since a hilltop locations may provide a better view from the town, and thereby emphasizing the presence of the church. Even the church bell might be better heard from a higher elevation than the town.

    3. Hilltops were more difficult to till and thus less promising as farmland than bottomland near rivers and creeks. Since the land for churches was often donated by a land owner, hilltop parcels may have been considered more expendable than fertile farmland.

    4. Locating a burial ground anywhere near a high water table is a bad idea: the area could eventually flood. During floods when the soil becomes saturated, the pressure of underground water can cause the caskets — and the dead – to be forced out of the ground and float down the rivers. New Orleans, which is built close to sea level, dealt problem the problem by using above ground mausoleums. Also, cemeteries built along rivers banks are subject to normal erosion.

    5. Generally, rural churches and cemeteries are were built on high ground above the road, and often the cemeteries will be found above the churches – if a difference in elevation was present. Given that cemetery visits are more infrequent than church and town visits, it makes sense to locate a less-visited site in a more secluded area.


    1. WONDERFUL and welcomed research. I have forward your reply to my Parisian friend for we laughed over this fact by phone just yesterday. Thanks Pam. linda


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