Rocamadour, Lot: tourism & sightseeing
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Rocamadour is in the Lot department of the Midi-Pyrenees, near the eastern border of the Dordogne department. Situated in the Causses du Quercy Regional Natural Park, 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.
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 and the houses and monuments are all beautifully preserved and renovated.
France This Way comment: because of its many attributes Rocamadour is also one of the most visited destinations in France, which as you might guess means that there are often a very great number of visitors here. If you want some degree of solitude you will have to get here quite early in the morning or out of season but if that is not possible it is still well worth a visit when you are in the region, despite the crowds!
The layout of the village is that Rocamadour has a castle above the village; the sanctuaries further down the hill; the main pedestrianised village still further down the hill and typically reached by the 'Grand Escalier'; and then the gorges that lead down to the river.
Your first decision when you visit is where to park! There are car parks both above the village near the castle, and below the village near the river. There are also lifts available between the ramparts, the sanctuaries the village.
Chateaux and Sanctuaries
At the highest point of Rocamadour you can walk around the ramparts to get a remarkable view of the village down below. From here you can 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.
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 and the most interesting and beautifully decorated of the chapels here. 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.
Village and Grand Escalier
Between the village of Rocamadour and the sanctuary, the Grand Escalier has more than 200 steps. Originally pilgrims climbed up these steps to the churches on their knees.
There are still four of the original stone gates in the town: from west to east these are 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. The shops are very much dedicated to tourists though there are some interesting little boutiques amongst them. The centre of Rocamadour is entirely pedestrianised.
Brief History of Rocamadour
A knowledge of the history of the village will greatly enhance your visit to Rocamadour. The story starts in 1166 when the preserved body of a hermit, reputed to be Saint Amadour, was discovered here. Saint Amadour is reputed to be Zaccheus, the inn keeper who climbed the tree to see Jesus and whose wife Saint Veronica wiped the face of Jesus with a handkerchief 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 the body being found 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 - a charming and popular destination - took shape.
As you explore you can also visit the Museum of Sacred Art, and see the tapestries inside the Town Hall, by Jean Lurçat.
There are many beautiful views of Rocamadour from just outside the village, and the most popular is perhaps the view from L'Hospitalet a short distance east of the main village. In L'Hospitalet you can also see a small 13th century chapel and the remains of the original medieval hospital that gave the hamlet its name.
Places to visit nearby
Rocamadour is just 15 minutes from the magnificent cave system of the Gouffre de Padirac. This is the most visited cave in France and for good reason - don't miss it!
Photos of Rocamadour
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Map of Rocamadour and places nearby
Visit near Rocamadour with France This Way reviews
... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Lot
Tourist classifications for Rocamadour
Rocamadour is classified as a listed Grand Site of France
Address: Rocamadour, Gramat, Gourdon, Midi-Pyrenees, 46500, France || GPS: latitude 44.799, longitude 1.6183
Plan your visit to Rocamadour, Lot
Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- 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 (12 km)
- Gouffre des Vitarelles: site of natural beauty (13 km)
- Abbaye Sainte Marie (Souillac): religious monument (15 km)
- Carennac: most beautiful village (16 km)
- Eglise de Saint Pierre (Carennac): religious monument (16 km)
- Loubressac: most beautiful village (17 km)
- Autoire: most beautiful village (17 km)
- Gourdon: recommended detour (19 km)
- Notre Dame des Cordeliers (Gourdon): religious monument (19 km)
- Castelnau-Bretenoux Chateau: national monument (20 km)
The French version of this page is at Rocamadour (Francais)