It took us about an hour and a quarter to travel through Sarlat, Souillac and then by twisty turny but deliciously scenic small roads to Rocamadour which is on the Alzou, a Dordogne tributary.
Rocamadour became a pilgrimage site when a perfectly preserved body believed to be that of St. Amadour, AKA Zachias of Biblical fame, was discovered. There had already been a chapel to Our Lady and a black madonna (black from the soot-covered silver overlay of the wooden statue), said to have been carved by St. Amadour himself, was credited with saving sailors (a bell would mysteriously ring each time a sailor was saved). While these histories do not stand up to modern scrutiny, they made this place an enormously important and wealthy pilgrimage site as well as a church on way to Compostela in Spain.
|Castle at the top (I know it looks like a church steeple, but it isn't. The large building in the center houses the shrines and chapels of Rocamadour.|
The wealth of this pilgrimage site required the construction of a castle at the top as well as several fortified gates to protect the town and chapels. Amenities needed by pilgrims were provided by the town at the base of the site as well as surrounding areas, like Rocamadour l'Hospitallet. Of special importance were the hospices that took in travelers and fed and bedded them. There were also hospices where the ill and infirm could be housed on their journey to the shrines for healing. We parked our car at l'Hospitallet and began our pilgrimage to the holy site.
|The path down to the city from l'Hospitallet, about half a mile.|
Pilgrims would start from the hospices and walk down the "Voie Sainte" (Holy Path) to the town at the base of the site.
|The upper road with houses on it is the Voie Sainte, the Holy Way and is how pilgrims would enter the shrine,|
They would then enter the gates and ascend, on their knees, the 216 steps to the level of the 7 chapels.
|The city gate of Rocamadour|
|The "Grande Escalier" the second 40 steps. It would be painful to do this on one's knees.|
|It's a long way up|
|Chapel of Notre-Dame de Rocamadour|
|Entry to the last 40 steps.|
|Looking down from the castle to the chapels terrace.|
|Lynn climbing the last 40 steps to the level of the chapels.|
After exploring the 8 chapels, including the chapel of Notre-Dame de Rocamadour where the black madonna is housed over the altar
and the Basilique Saint-Sauveur (Basilica of the Holy Savior)
|stained glass window over the altar|
|Organ in the Basilique Saint-Sauveur|
we left by the 13th century fortified gate of St. Martial. At that point, Clark and I rode the "ascenseur" (elevator, in reality a funicular) to the castle level, while the others followed the walk of the 14 Stations of the Cross to the top. They claim the walk, though riddled with switchbacks, was actually quite gentle as slopes go and easier than climbing the 216 steps.
We lunched at the top, in view of the castle whose clock chimed ever quarter hour.
To finish the tour, all but Evie and I entered the castle grounds to walk the ramparts. This was accomplished by putting a 2 Euro coin into a pass-gate. However, the gate was a money-eater and several paid 4 or even 6 Euros to enter. And the consensus was that the entry fee wasn't worth the views that were just about as good from our ground level vantage point.
Day completed, we walked the half-mile back to the car and headed for home for appetizers and dinner of beef stew Janis and I had prepared the day previous for heating up after our long day.
|Stone walls like these seen on our walk back are everywhere in this part of France separate fields.|