Custom Errorpage for Pelican Blog

When a visitor clicks a link to a page on your website, which does not exist, the webserver will generate a 404 error response and usually show a default error page. After migrating my website to Pelican, my goal is to inform visitors about the restructuring and give some help to find the content they are looking for. That's why I have set up a custom 404 error page for this website.

There are two steps needed:

  • Configure Apache to serve a custom error page for the 404 Not Found error.
  • Create a suitable error page (with Pelican)

Set up Apache

First we need to tell the webserver to serve a custom error page. For this, you can either modify the main apache configuration or - as I have done - put the new setting into an .htaccess file in the /blog subdirectory, where my website is stored.

Then you need just one line to tell Apache, which page to send out, if a non-existent URL is requested. Ensure that you use an abolute path for the error page (not filesystem path, but path in the URL).

# Page to show on 404 error. You cannot specify relative paths here!
ErrorDocument 404 /blog/pages/error-404.html

Create the Error Page

I put a file named into the content/pages directory of my Pelican project and added some text, including some links, e.g. to my About page. The result is this error page.

Then I realized, that there is one issue. I want to add links to the error page. Pelican generates links as relative links. But the error page is served for each non-existing URL! So if someone tries to access the URL, the error page is served under this URL. If the error page now contains a link to ../../pages/about.html, this will not work, because the browser will now request, which also does not exist. So relative links on this page do not work.

Simple Workaround

The simple workaround would be to just put absolute links in the error page. As I use the development server when writing content, the pages are served from http://localhost:8000. And on my blog, they are served from So absolute links to not work for both use cases.

Better Solution

I realized, that Pelican already knows about the root location of my website. It has the SITEURL setting! Now how to put this automatically into the page? That must be possible with the jinja2content plugin.

But unfortunately, this plugin does not provide any context when processing the page content with Jinja. So I cannot access the SITEURL value. One small modification to the read(...) method later, the plugin knows about all Pelican settings...

    def read(self, source_path):
        prefix = self.settings.get('JINJA2CONTENT_PREFIX', '')

        with pelican_open(source_path) as text:
            content = prefix + text
            # Pass the settings dictionary as context to Jinja
            content = self.env.from_string(content).render(**self.settings)

        with NamedTemporaryFile(delete=False) as f:
            content, metadata = super().read(

            return content, metadata

Now I can create links in the error page like this:

{{ SITEURL }}/pages/about.html

The link will correctly adjust when I access the page on the Pelican devserver. And also adjusts when deploying content to my main webserver.

Note: I'm planning to contribute my changes to the jinja2content plugin back to the Pelican project. If you're lucky, you can soon use an unmodified version of the plugin for this.

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