Key points about this information item Rocamadour, Lot, Midi-PyreneesInformation Description:
Rocamadour, in the Lot department, is a truly beautiful setting that should be on every visitors list of must sees. It is also an important stop off on the pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostella.
The village is perched on the very edge of a gorge overlooking the River Alzou, a tributary of the Dordogne. The chateau, built to defend the sanctuaries, occupies the very summit of the cliff with the monastic buildings and churches lower down and the village stretching downwards almost to the river. The buildings are in staged terraces, rising up to 400 ft and accessed by steps. There is now a lift to allow the less able to access the religious sites.
Finding your way around is easy as there is only the one street, rue de la Couronnerie, which joins two medieval gateways. From here, a lift has been dug into the cliff to take you half way up the cliff face to the chapels, but far better to climb the 223 steps of the Via Sancta that have been worn down by the thousands of pilgrims. This will bring you to an area containing seven chapels, the primary of which is Notre Dame. You are in good company here as numerous Kings of England and France have made the climb, some for pilgrimage and others intent on destruction.
The village is famed for the discovery of the perfectly preserved body of Saint Amadour and the wooden Black Madonna statue that he carried. The statue is reputed to have the ability to perform miraculous cures and hence the steady streams of pilgrims climbing the steps since the 12th century. The statue is held in a protective cage in the Chapel Notre Dame under subdued lighting and little else in the chapel is of interest.
Above the entrance to the chapel is a sword jammed into the rock face. The local folklore claims that this is part of Durandal, a sword wielded by Roland, who was one of Charlemagne's paladins. Look at the page on Durandal for more detail.
The Musee d'Art Sacre contains a number of sacred art treasures and historical documents, and has been dedicated to the French composer Francis Poulenc who claims to have received miraculous inspiration from the Black Madonna.
From the churches, another set of steps will lead you up to the 14th ramparts of the chateau and stunning views across the gorge. Entrance costs 2.50€ and they are open daily from 0900 to 1900. Again, a lift is available to the chateau if required.
For an overview of the village and another option to get from the valley car park into the village, hop on the little tourist train. It runs every 15 minutes, from 1000 to 1930.
The village has always been dependent on the pilgrimages for its economy, but now tourism has assumed a much greater importance.
Flying to the area offers a number of choices, with the international airport of Toulouse and the local airports of Bordeaux and Rodez nearby. Have a look at our travel page for more information.
The easiest way of getting to Rocamadour is by car, with parking either at L'Hospitalet about 1.5 Km from the town, but with great views, or there is a parking area at the foot of the cliff. The A20 motorway runs quite close to the town, making access to the general area very easy and there are plenty of sign posts.
The nearest SNCF station is at Gramat about 4 Km distant and from there you will either have to walk or hire a taxi as the bus service is typically scarce.
Rocamadour Tourist office has even more details on the area.
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