lundi, septembre 06, 2010

Rocamadour, France


We wanted to visit the caves of Padirac, but the queues were at least 2-3 hours long under the hot sun and we didn't have the courage for it. Hub and I were there once more than a decade ago though we didn't remember having to queue up for it.

So we visited the beautiful World Heritage site of Rocamadour instead. The Cliff of Saint Amadour, if you wish. And the name (AOC) given to a goat cheese from the village.

Medieval Rocamadour is a stop in the Way of Saint James. Saint Amadour is also known as Saint Amator in English, the founder of the ancient santuary where his crypt is situated. His perfectly conserved body had been discovered in the 12th century and exhibited to pilgrims before being burnt during the religious wars. Some bone fragments remained and are now kept in his crypt.

The wooden black Madonna

The village is organised into 3 levels : at the top level you find a complex of monastic buildings (including a castle) formerly occupied by the knights and all those who protected the sanctuary; in the middle the pilgrimage churches (e.g. St Sauveur, St Michel, St Amadour) occupied by the religious clerics; and at the lower level near the river bed, the laymen who traditionally depended on the pilgrimage site and now on the tourist trade.

One of the main streets below with restaurants and shops

The 15th century Church of St Michel is still used by a small Benedictine community and houses a wooden Black Madonna reputed to have been carved by Saint Amator (Amadour) himself, attracting for centuries pilgrims including kings and bishops.

One of the houses leftover from the Middle Ages

In fact the black Virgin's tint is associated with the saving of the lives of sailors at sea, making the Notre Dame de Rocamadour an object of veneration in churches from the Finistère to Québec.

Rocamadour seen from across the valley

Rocamadour is really an impressive medieval village if a little too touristic. Glad that it was restored in the 19th century in spite of the difficulties and dangers encountered during the project. Definitely worth a visit if you happen to be in the Périgord.

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