Rocamadour, is both a pilgrimage site and a beautiful village that we stumbled upon whilst exploring the Dordogne.
During the day there is a hive of activity; shopping along the narrow streets or spending time exploring one of the many religious monuments. At night, the ambiance of the village changes dramatically. The streets are deadly quiet; tourists have almost deserted the place – or so it would seem.
After sunset the spiritual nature of this pilgrim site comes alive…that does not mean you need to be religious to appreciate what you observe, but you do need to have a respect for other people’s beliefs.
Wandering around I notice a large group of people mingling in the front of a small chapel, my inquisitive nature gets the better of me and so off I go to explore. Shortly, after joining the group one of the Priests of Rocamadour appears and invites everyone to join him in a previously unseen chapel. Now you may assume at this point that my French is of a high standard, however, this is definitely not the case, so after asking the Priest to repeat himself, one of the many lay workers around offered to be my translator should I wish to join the tour. I cannot thank this young lady enough for her support so that I too could appreciate the history of this wonderful site.
My tour, which ran from about 9.30ish to around midnight included a tour of the sights that are not open to the public during the day, with commentary from someone that truly believes all that has been said about this village. Whilst not religious myself I do have a desire to try and understand the theological teachings and beliefs of others so I was completely enthralled throughout.
So What Did This Tour Teach Me?
Firstly, at one point there were 12 chapels reserved for worship, however, thanks to historic acts of violence there are now only 8 left. These 8 are highly regarded and other than Jerusalem, Lourdes and Rome this is the most visited pilgrimage site – that is an impressive stat!
Why is Rocamadour so Popular?
In the 12th Century alone, it is believed that 126 miracles took place here. For many this is a strong reason to visit. For this reason people still believe today that this is a site for miracles…one lady visited on three different occasions desperate for a child; after her third visit she did fall pregnant…with triplets. To this day, she claims this would not have happened without Rocamadour.
This lady is not alone, for nearly a thousand years, the narrow canyon home to a cluster of buildings clinging to the rock face has drawn millions of people to the shrine of the Black Virgin of Rocamadour. It was the discovery of the preserved body of Saint Amadour in 1166, which looked after by Benedictine Monks, caused the flourish of individuals to come here. Regardless of the reason, you have to start to wonder whether all of these people could be wrong
It is also a site where, centuries ago, Prisoners were give an option to visit. They could either stay in prison and see out their time or complete a Pilgrimage; that is the strength of the belief that this place can change people.
Has Anyone Famous in History Completed a Pilgrimage to This Site?
Several in fact, including Henry II of England, Louis IX of France, Charles IV of France, Louis XI of France and Jacques Cartier, the explorer.
Thanks to the wealth of history, Rocamadour, since 1998, has been classed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is part of the St James’ Way pilgrimage route which heads into Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
As I have mentioned, this is not only a site for the religious, this should be on anyone’s travel itinerary if you are in the Region. The unique landscape of the village should draw your eye and the boutique shops, full of local produce, provide you with an excellent opportunity to buy gifts for yourselves or others.
During our visit there was also a tribute to a local author who had recently pasted away…some of their best work had been turned into holograms and bounced off of walls and floor.
If you do decide to visit, consider walking in the footsteps of others from the old L’Hospitalet, which provided medical care to pilgrims, through the old cobble streets towards the main village. From the vantage point near L’Hospitalet the view to Rocamadour is amazing. There are also many hotels and restaurants in this area should you wish to spend longer here. If you intend to have lunch I can definitely recommend the Rocamadour Salad which was excellent (although not great if you have an allergy to nuts – noix in French!)
Should you wish to spend a night in Rocamadour village itself, whilst I have not stayed there myself, the Grand Hotel Beau Site, came highly recommended by others that I spoke to during the night tour. Should you prefer you can rent a Gite in the local area as well, many of which have outdoor space and swimming pools. There are several restaurants offering many different cuisine options, for an enjoyable evening meal try Les Jardins de la Louve, towards the end of the main street – I guarantee there is something on the menu for everyone!
We loved our time here, visiting twice in one week…take the time to explore, relax and talk to others and the experience will be something completely different to anything you have done before.
Rocamadour is a wonderful pilgrimage site, but what other pilgrim locations should we be visiting?