Visit Rocamadour (Midi-Pyrenees, France)
Rocamadour is in the Lot department of the Midi-Pyrenees, near the eastern border of the Dordogne department. Situated in the Regional Natural Parc of the Causses de Quercy Rocamadour receives more than a million visitors - tourists and pilgrims - each year. And has a population of 600.
Although the history of the village dates back to prehistoric times, it is as a medieval pilgrimage destination that Rocamadour is best known, with the first church here being constructed in the middle of the 12th century.
Brief History of Rocamadour
Since the history of the village is so important for its visitors a general knowledge of this history is essential for your visit. the story starts in 1166 when the preserved body of a hermit, reputed to be Saint Amadour, was discovered in what was to become Rocamadour.
Saint Amadour is reputed to be Zaccheus, the inn keeper who climbed the tree to see Jesus and whose wife St Veronica wiped the face of Jesus with a handherchief whilst he carried the cross. After the death of his wife Zaccheus came to Rocamadour as a hermit. He built a sanctuary in the rock and locals called him Amator (’the lover’) because of his devotion.
Hence Rocamadour was named after the rock of Amator.
Within a few years of a body being found (which was perhaps his) numerous miraculous healings were attributed to the saintly remains. Pilgrims started arriving - and kept arriving!
The Black Madonna and the shrine became the main attraction for pilgrims and the town grew wealthy under the important patronage of kings and nobles of the time. Henry II of England was one of the first to come and donate a lot of treasure.
The hospitals and churches, and the village of Rocamadour itself, grew to cope with the influx of pilgrims, as did the 'grand staircase' which pilgrims climbed on their knees to reach the village.
By the 16th century the number of pilgrims had dwindled, and the Wars of Religion had caused great damage to the village, and it was not until the 19th century that the Rocamadour we see now took shape.
Places to visit in Rocamadour
Rocamadour, although a small village, is an amazing place to visit both for its location and its monuments. The village is built on the edge of a cliff, with the river Alzou below at the bottom of the gorge. Many of the buildings are cut into the rock.
On entering the village of Rocamadour park near the chateau and pay the two euros to walk around the ramparts to get a view of the village down below. From here walk down the Chemin de Croix, a shady walk down the hillside where you can see the Stations of the Cross as you make your way down. Alternatively there is a lift for those who need it.
At the bottom of the footpath you arrive at the religious centre with its seven sanctuaries. As an ensemble this has a very italianate feel with lots of arches and stone balustrades. The Basilique St Sauveur is the largest of the seven churches and inside one of the walls is the cliff face. It has a wooden gallery at the back which is very similar to those in the Basque region.
The Black Madonna is in the Chapelle Notre Dame, a small chapel in built in gothic style in 1479 after a rock fell into the original sanctuary. The black madonna, is thought to have been carved in the 11th century. Above the door on the outside is the sword of Durandal embedded in the stone.
The Grand Escalier has more than 200 steps and leads down to the village of Rocamadour. Originally pilgrims climbed these steps to the churches on their knees.
There are four of the original stone gates in the town: Porte Basse, Porte Hugon, Porte Salmon and Porte Figuier. The main village in Rocamadour lies along one road and is very pretty with its stone houses, the arched stone gates and view of the gorge above.
Admittedly it can be very busy in August and the shops are dedicated to tourists (though there are some interesting little boutiques amongst them). Visit Rocamadour in the quieter months if possible but it is still well worth a visit whenever you are in the region.
Note: some photos kindly contributed by Niall O'Neill
Photos of Rocamadour
Click any picture to start the gallery
Tourist classifications for Rocamadour
Rocamadour is classified as a listed Grand Site of France
Address: Rocamadour, Gramat, Gourdon, Lot, Midi-Pyrenees, 46500 || GPS: latitude 44.799, longitude 1.6183
Map of Rocamadour & places nearby
Highlights close by
Suggested tourist attractions to visit near Rocamadour, France
- Rocamadour basilique Saint-Sauveur (monuments on French pilgrim routes) - heritage site
- Le rocher des aigles (eagles) - zoo or wildlife park
- Gouffre de Padirac - site of natural beauty (12km)
- Abbaye Sainte Marie (Souillac) - religious monument (15km)
- Carennac - most beautiful village (16km)
- Eglise de Saint Pierre (Carennac) - religious monument (16km)
- Loubressac - most beautiful village (17km)
- Autoire - most beautiful village (17km)
- Notre Dame des Cordeliers (Gourdon) - religious monument (19km)
- Gourdon - recommended detour (19km)
The French version of this page is at Rocamadour (Francais)