Yonne river
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The Region

The meandering waterways of the Canal Nivernais and the Yonne river, bordered by coral rock cliffs on one side and cow fields and farmland on the other, define the bucolic surroundings of Mailly le Chateau. Barges work their way slowly up and down the Canal, as bikers and walkers ride and stroll along its banks. Hikers navigate the foot trails through the forest reserve of the Bois du Parc, catching the cliff top views from above.

The medieval hill town of Vezelay is within a twenty minute drive from Mailly le Chateau. The twelfth century basilica, crowning its hilltop, contains some of the finest examples of early Romanesque sculpture.

The Abbot Geoffroy's displaying of the relics of Mary Magdalene in Vezelay in 1037, resulted in its rapidly becoming, in the early twelfth century, one of the most visited pilgrimage sights on the road to Santiago de Compostela.

The launching of the second crusade from Vezelay in 1146, is a testament to this villages' importance during the middle ages. King Louis VII of France, with Bernard, the great abbot of Clairvaux, at his side, stirred massed crowds to frenzies of religious passion, as well as to visions of glory and personal gain. The great crusade, to regain Jerusalem from the infidel Moslem, ended however, in failure and humiliation for the Christians.

Vezelay remains, to this day, a gathering site for religious pilgrimages.