Sanctuary of Rocamadour visitor guide

Photo of Sanctuary of Rocamadour

Visit Sanctuary of Rocamadour, France

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The sanctuary in Rocamadour, also known as the Religious City of Rocamadour, is built against the cliffs above the medieval village and accessed from the village by a staircase called the Grand Escalier or by a lift (charge payable).

The monuments in the sanctuary are together listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Explore the Sanctuary of Rocamadour

France This Way review: the Cité Religeuse (sanctuary) in Rocamadour is an ensemble of religious buildings above the village, and an important and interesting part of your visit

To arrive in the Cité Religieuse from the medieval village of Rocamadour you take the staircase called the Grand Escalier from the main street in the lower part of the village. This staircase leads into the centre of the Sanctuary, either directly or by following the Chemin de Ronde around the edge of the complex to a second entrance.

Parvis des eglises in Rocamadour sanctuary

This first (lower) part of the city incudes the Archbishop's Palace and the Treasury Museum. A second staircase continues to climb the hill to reach a lovely square which has the cliffs as a backdrop and is surrounded by the ensemble of chapels and other monuments - all these can be accessed from the square.

This small square is called the Parvis des Eglises and the most important religious monuments that can be accessed from the square are:

Crypt of Saint-Amadour

The crypt of Saint-Amadour is in a small chapel built in the 12th century. The chapel is very simple in conception, wth a single nave and no altar or transept. Originally the chapel contained the relics that were claimed to be those of Saint-Amadour, and attracted many pilgrims and were often said to cause miracles to these visitors.

The chapel and relics were burned during the Wars of Religion in the 16th century and only a small number of fragments of the skeleton were retrieved from the damaged building, which were placed in a small reliquary.

Basilica Saint-Sauveur

The Church Saint-Sauveur was built in the 12th century, and designated as a basilica in the early 20th century. The wooden balconies were added in the 19th century to accommodate the large number of pilgrims visiting Rocamadour.

The inside of the basilica is rather gloomy because of the dark stone used for the walls and ceiling. It is the centre for religious services and the reception of pilgrims who visit Rocamadour.

Statue of the Black Virgin

Chapel Notre-Dame

Next to the basilica, this chapel contains the statue of the Black Virgin with child, perhaps the most famous artefact in Rocamadour, that has attracted pilgrims to the town since the middle ages. The original 12th century chapel was destroyed by a rock fall in the 15th century, and rebuilt soon after - the current chapel is the larges in the sanctuary a Rocamadour.

This chapel was also damaged during the Wars of Religion and again during the revolution, but has been renovated since the 19th century. As well as the statue of Black Virgin and the altar below the statue, you can see the impressive chapel entrance in the 'flamboyant gothic' style and some fragments of frescoes.

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The other chapels that can be seen around the square are:

  • the Chapel Saint John the Baptist, a small octagonal chapel that contains some imposing portaraits of important pilgrims that have visited the Sanctuary at Rocamadour, as well as the tomb of a Knight called Jean de Vallon
  • the Chapel Saint Blaise, a small chapel with stained glass windows and paintings
  • the Chapel Saint Anne, with a baroque style altar in an 8th century chapel
  • the Chapel Saint Michael and the chapel Saint Louis, built against the cliff above the main sanctuary, the lower of these is now dedicated to rugby and contains various items related to the game (rather surprising!) while the Chapel Saint Michael has medieval frescoes both outside and inside

Stone arch in the Cite Religieuse of Rocamadour

Attractions nearby

The arch on the side of the sanctuary courtyard leads to the Chemin de Croix of Rocamadour, a pilgrim path up the hill that leads to the cross on top of the cliff. For information about the main medieval village see the Rocamadour guide.

See more churches in France. You can find more travel ideas in the Lot guide and the Midi-Pyrenees guide.

See also: 

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The French version of this page is at Sanctuary of Rocamadour (Francais)

 
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