Leaving Chartres: How To Prepare for the Transition

It is helpful to transition from a pilgrimage site thoughtfully. 

As the end of a pilgrimage grows near, some people are tempted to “check out” and begin to focus on their post-pilgrimage life. Notice if this urge comes up for you. If so, you can choose to stay—mentally, physically, and spiritually. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to integrate more of your experience as you prepare to leave. It’s not over!

Questions to explore in your journal or with a trusted pilgrim:

What words, images, feelings, smells, tastes, and/or sounds express the core of the pilgrimage experience I am having?
What emotions am I experiencing when I think about leaving Chartres?
What do I need to do before leaving?
How and when would I like to say “Goodbye” to the cathedral?
What wisdom am I taking back to my communities?
What next steps have you identified for when you get home? What help will I need in terms of support? Where will I seek that help?

Stone bannister in the North Tower by photographer Jill K H Geoffrion

Finding a way to mark the ending of the Chartres phase of your pilgrimage will help as you transition.
  • Circumambulate the inside and/or the outside, reflecting on your time in Chartres and saying “goodbye” to the cathedral.
  • Go back “one last time” to the places that have meant the most to you. Remember why they have been important.
  • Acknowledge the places you would have liked to have been able to spend more time.
  • Thank God for whatever you have received.
  • Light a candle as a symbol of gratitude, or of a vow you are making to God before you leave.

Moving Van with an image of the cathedral in Chartres by photographer Jill K H Geoffrion

Reflecting on these questions will prepare you to share your pilgrimage with others in meaningful ways.
  1. When people ask, “How was your trip?” what one sentence could you say that would invite those who want to really hear about the meanings of your pilgrimage to do so?
  2. What are three things you would like to share with someone about your pilgrimage to Chartres?
  3. What two things would you like to wonder about with a trusted spiritual companion? (Friend, pastor, small group, of spiritual director, etc.)
Considering the Labyrinth of Your Pilgrimage in Chartres

Pilgrims to Chartres have found this series of writing prompts helpful.

Use them to gain a deeper understanding of your pilgrimage.

  • I decided to come because…
  • I prepared by…  I was prepared by…
  • In the beginning, I was surprised….
  • Settling in was…
  • Things really shifted when…
  • Although I might not have been aware, it was important that…
  • I got distracted when…
  • Being on the path with others…
  • I experienced the center of this pilgrimage as…
  • Being here helped me…
  • I experienced another shift when…
  • I received…
  • As I followed my path…
  • I am deeply grateful for…
  • Now that it is almost time to go…

To Consider As You Transition

“Maybe at the heart of all our traveling is the dream of someday, somehow, getting Home..”Frederick Buechner

Sometimes the pilgrimage site feels more like home than home. How can we bring this “home” to our other homes?

“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding

“Pilgrimages are circular. Lake sacred processions—whether around the Ka’aba in Mecca or with the Torah scrolls in the synagogue or around German country-churches at Christmas—they are progressions in a circle—one comes in order to return, not in order to stay; one fills oneself…and one departs home.” William Melczer. The Pilgrim’s Guide to Santiago De Compostela. (New York: Italica Press, 1993) 6.

“The time for returning home usually comes before the pilgrim feels ready! The thought of incorporating all that has been experienced and learned into the life one has left can seem overwhelming and impossible. Fear of losing a sense of spiritual connection is often reported. …The need to make this transition invites the pilgrim to begin shifting her or his attention outward. Now is the time to consider how to let the experiences of the pilgrimage continue to teach, shape, and direct. Now is the time to begin sharing the wisdom that has been gleaned.” Jill Kimberly Hartwell Geoffrion. Praying the Chartres Labyrinth: A Pilgrim’s Guide. (Cincinnati: Pilgrim Press, 2008) 134.

Stained glass windows (13th century) above the choir by photographer Jill K H Geoffrion
A Benediction for Pilgrims Written by Jill


where you have been.

your present journey.

open to Sacred Connection.

May that which has begun,

May it be so!