This post is part of a weekly feature called Discovery of the Week. By discovery, I mean a place, a custom or dish that is not widely known. See, I love to read travel magazines, websites and books. Very often, I find beautiful and interesting gems that not a lot of people seem to know about. That is why I thought about introducing this feature because I am sure it will expose a lot of astonishing places. Additionally, I enjoy learning about the many amazing places in the world. I believe my readers also enjoy this activity.
Discovery of the Week: Rocamadour
Where it is located: In the Lot department in south-western France.
What it is: A village constructed in a gorge, famous for its historical monuments and its sanctuaries (which has made it a pilgrimage site).
The buildings of Rocamadour (from ròca, cliff, and sant Amador) rise in stages up the side of a cliff on the right bank of the River Alzou, which here runs between rocky walls 400 ft. in height. Flights of steps ascend from the lower town to the churches, a group of massive buildings half-way up the cliff. The chief of them is the pilgrimage church of Notre Dame (rebuilt in its present configuration from 1479), containing the image at the center of the site’s draw, a wooden Black Madonna reputed to have been carved by Saint Amadour himself.
This village of 600 people receive about a million visitors annually due to the sanctuaries. Because of this reason, the village tends to get very busy. It is best to visit early morning or out of season.
Rocamadour has several highlights well worth exploring, although it is the ‘village as a perfect unity’ which is really the big attraction.
The village is essentially just one paved street, lined with medieval houses, several of which are notable and many of which are impressive, and passing through stone fortified gateways – the Porte du Figuier and the Porte Salmon are the two main gateways.
The Grand Escalier (216 steps, once climbed by pilgrims on their knees) leads from the village to the sanctuaries above, and L’Hospitalet, with its views of the old town.
The sanctuaries include the Chapelle Notre Dame – home to the Black Madonna – and the basilica Saint-Sauveur; the Saint-Michel chapel; the Palace of the Bishops and three chapels.
On the top of the cliff (higher part of town), stands the château (called the castle) built in the Middle Ages to defend the sanctuaries.
There are other attractions in the area worth visiting. For those interested in natural sights, there are various caves open to visitors. Beautiful towns like Loubressac, Carennac and Martel are close to Rocamadour.
Did you know about Rocamadour? Let me know in the comments section below.