Voted “the most favourite village in France 2016” it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built dramatically into an overhanging cliff high above the gorge of the Alzou in the Lot Department. It owes its fame and fortune to the late 11th Century cult of the Black Madonna, whose shrine was promoted by the Benedictines at Tulle and who built an hospital next to Rocamadour for the passing pilgrims.
In 1166 a man’s body was found near to the alter. This the Benedictines announced was St Zaccheous, who was the publican who climbed the tree to see Jesus. After the crucifixion he fled with his wife and settled in Limoges. When his wife died he went to live as an hermit and built the first sanctuary in the cliff face. The local people called him”the lover”, or Amator for his devotion, hence Roc-Amadour, the rock of the lover or lover of rock.
The pilgrim road enters Rocamadour by way of the 13thC Porte du Figuier, which is one of four gates that defended the villages.
Once through the gate you walk past the various shops and souvenir stands. Selling everything from postcards, ornaments, gorgeous linen tablecloths to ice cream and cakes.
To get to the Basilique St-Sauveur you will need to climb the 223 steps or use the lift. In the days of pardon, pilgrims and criminals would climb the steps on their knees in order to be forgiven for their sins. They were bound in chains and led to the Black Madonna where they would pray and then the priest would strike of the chains and give them a lead metal with a picture of the Black Madonna to take back to their village as proof of absolution.
Another attraction is the Durandal, the famous sword of Roland; the legendary paladin of Charlemagne. Just before he died at Roncesvalles, Roland confined his blade to St Michael.
The Archangel hurled the sword from the Pyrenees straight into Rocamadour’s cliff where the sword sits high above supported by a chain.
The workmanship is outstanding.
A close up of one of the towers.
23rd and 24th September is the Annual two day hot air balloon festival with participants from all over Europe.