Rocamadour is a town perched high on a rocky plateau overlooking the Alzou Valley, it is estimated that the town receives 1.5 million visitors each year and is a major point on the religious pilgrimage route. For pilgrims Rocamadour’s is important for Shrine of Our Lady of Rocamadour or Sanctuaries which is , a complex of religious structures that are set halfway down the cliff and centered on a statue of the Virgin Mary (Black Madonna) and the tomb of an ancient saint, St. Amadour.
History | Rocamadour
According to the legend, Rocamadour is named after the founder of the ancient sanctuary, Saint Amator the tax collector of Jericho mentioned in Luke 19:1-10, and the husband of St. Veronica, who wiped Jesus’ face on the way to Calvary. Driven out of Palestine by persecution, St. Amadour and Veronica embarked across the water and were guided by an angel they landed on the coast of Aquitaine, where they met Bishop St. Martial, another disciple of Christ who was preaching the Gospel in the south-west of Gaul. After journeying to Rome, where he witnessed the martyrdoms of St. Peter and St. Paul, Amadour, having returned to France, on the death of his spouse, withdrew to a wild spot in Quercy where he built a chapel in honour of the Blessed Virgin, near which he died a little later.
This legend has been caused great controversy and parts of have been disputed by scholars and historians alike however it is known that Rocamadour was first mentioned in the texts of Pope Gregory VII as one of the four main pilgrimage sites in the Middle Ages along with Rome, Jerusalem and Compostela. In 1160 the construction of the Sanctuary of the Black Madonna commenced, it is reputed that the statue of the Black Madonna was carved by St Amadour himself The Discovery of St. Amadour, perfectly preserved body was discovered in 1166 and as a result thousands of pilgrims flock to the shrine to worship the saint. The 13th century was a golden age for Rocamadour with Kings and Nobility visiting the site on pilgrimage. In 1470 disaster strikes and a rock slide crushes the Notre Dame Church, which is later rebuilt. The body of St. Amadour is burned by the Huguenots during the religious wars in 1562 and Rocamadour’s decline begins. After the French Revolution in the late 1700’s Rocamadour is left in ruins and is deserted.
Restored in modern times Rocamadour is now the spiritual center of the diocese of Cahors and, once again, is a significant town on the pilgrim route. Rocamadour is also a major tourist destination in France.
Rocamadour is also famous for it’s AOC awarded goats cheese.
The Town Rocamadour is a stunning town that cascades down a cliff high above the Alzou Valley and is a stunning town to visit.
Sanctuaries These are a series of 12th to 14th century chapels that are halfway down the cliff. The Sanctuaries hold the town’s most important relics. There are 216 steps leading down the Grand Escalier, stairway, which pilgrims climb on their knees. (There is also an elevator!)
Black Madonna (Vierge Noir) The famous Black Madonna is one of the two most significant relics in Rocamadour. The statue is housed in the Chapelle Notre Dame which is part of the Sanctuaries.
Chapelle Miraculese The Chapelle Miraculeuse contains the Tomb of St. Amadour, who is said to have carved out of an hermitage in the rock. Hanging from the roof is one of the oldest known clocks, which dates to the 8th century.
Basilique St-Sauveur The Basilique St-Sauveur was built in the Romanesque-Gothic style from the 11th to the 13th centuries. It’s decorated with paintings and inscriptions recalling visits of celebrated persons, including Philippe the Handsome.
Chapelle St-Michel A 12th-century Romanesque chapel is sheltered by an overhanging rock; inside are well-preserved frescoes dating from the 12th century. Outside there is a courtyard where there is a broken sword said to be a fragment of Durandal, once wielded by the hero Roland, one of Charlemagne great warriors.
Grottes des Merveilles – Caves of Wonder An Interesting cave of stalactites and stalagmites.