Today the 5 of us squeezed into the Peugeot and headed for Rocamadour. It is also one of the 'most beautiful villages in France' and is built up the side of a hill. We wisely parked at the top and walked down, though there are lifts.
We walked down the pilgrim way, a series of hairpin paths that lead you to the square where there are 7 churches. Rocamadour was a pilgrim site, as it houses the Black Virgin. This cult began in the 11th C and coincided with the foundation of L'Hopitalet, the hospital town at the foot of the cliff, founded for pilgrims en route to Campostela. The 7 churches mirror the 7 in Rome, though in a much abbreviated space. Only 2 are now open, Notre-Dame and Ste-Saveur, off the small square. In the gothic Chapelle Notre Dame is the Black Virgin. Also in this chapel are a lot of ex votos, many from Breton sailors. Outside the door, high in the rock, is Durandel, the sword of Roland, supposedly hurled into the rock face by the archangel Michael. If you recall from a previous entry, the Young King, son of Henry II Plantagenet, raided Rocamadour to pay his soldiers when warring against his brother Richard the Lionheart, and for his sins was struck down by a killer fever. Henry II promised to make good Rocamadour's losses and thus saved his son from ex-communication. All of these tales enhanced Rocamadour's fame greatly, and it became one of the busiest pilgrim shrines in Europe. And it is also, in high summer, one of the great tourist shrines also. It was busy when we were there, but apparently gets even busier.
So starting at the top:
There's a 15th C chateau at the very top, bu we just looked at the outside
we began the walk down the pilgrim way
lined with the stations of the cross
until we reached the Parvis de Se-Amadour, the square of the churches. You enter the town through a long passageway inside a rather nice castle-like buiding. The guide book doesn't really mention this, unless its the church of St Michael or else the back of Notre Dame. Whatever, here is the front wall, and the doorway leads into a long tunnel
that brings you out into the square
the church on the left front is Notre Dame and the one facing, more to the right, is Ste-Saveur. Behind us is the cliff wall, which is one of the walls of Crypt St-Amadour, where the body of the hermit, who gave his name to the town, was venerated.
Behind the square, and beside the crypt, a path leads out to the door of this little church, with a lovely view of the walls of other churches. In truth, it's very hard to see where one stops and the next begins
That's the path, where the man is standing, so we are looking back at the square, which is behind the wall.
Here's the door of Notre Dame - note the duelling skeletons
On the main part of the square is the grand staircase that leads down into the town
We walked down the stairs, which bend at the end of this photo and continue down into the town, These steps are in the old bishop's palace. At the bottom of these stairs you come out onto the Place des Senhals, where merchants sold holy medals and still do today, along with postcards, placards, maps, poster, jewellery, ice-cream etc etc. We actually had a nice lunch here, later on, looking down at the town and countryside
We then walked down the next 144 steps to the main town, full of tourist rubbish, but attractive nevertheless.
Here's the gate at one end, the Porte Salmon (see the chateau at the top)
and all the way back through Rocamadour's one street to the other end, through another gate into the Quartier de Coustalou, the un-touristy part
We climbed back up the stairs to the mid-point for lunch
Then after lunch we climbed back up to the Parvis, out the tunnel and back up the pilgrim way. So we walked down into town and then walked back up. So much for my plan to walk down and get the lift up!!!
Here's a last shot of Rocamadour, the chateau and the churches at the level of the Parvis de Ste-Amadour
Home to Thonac and we were making pizza when the bowl broke. That was the end of the flour, so we bought take-away pizzas from a little van parked at the roundabout in Thonac. We also barbecued some merguez sausages as an appetiser and ate them and the pizza along with some lovely muscadet de Loire et Saone. The boys then ate the small sorbets N had made by freezing the mashed strawberries and raspberries with sugar and vanilla. We ate and laughed and talked into the lovely long twilight.