Print Posted By Lost in France on 12 Mar 2010 in French Regions - Midi Pyrenees

Rocamadour on the edge of the Dordogne River

Rocamadour clings precariously to the hillsideHeading towards the Lot, to the Causses du Quercy Regional Nature Park. Here we are right by the Dordogne valley, also just by the Gouffre de Padirac chasm. After a bend in the road, Rocamadour suddenly emerges: the medieval village is built in a series of platforms on the cliffside, clinging 120m above the Alzou canyon.

In the 12th century, pilgrims would cross the whole of Europe just to pray here, in a village holding the remains of Saint- Amadour. It was also the sanctuary of the Black Madonna and was an essential stage along the St-Jacques-de-Compostelle pilgrimage route.

Enter Rocamadour through the Figuier gate, then follow Rue de la Couronnerie: the only street in Rocamadour, lively and bordered with boutiques and exquisite 13th-17th century houses.

This street leads to a monumental stairway with 233 steps. This runs up to the parvis of the sanctuaries with its 7 squares and chapels. Amongst these, Saint-Sauveur Church and the Saint-Amadour Crypt are listed Unesco world heritage sites, along the Saint-Jacques-de- Compostelle pilgrimage route.

Delve right into the heart of the sacred city

The Abbey at RocamadourNotre-Dame Chapel emerges on the parvis of the sanctuaries, sheltered by the 72m cliff. Semi-troglodytic in structure, it is considered as being the spiritual heart of de Rocamadour. It houses the mysterious Black Madonna, an object of worship from the 12th century onwards, source of the great fame of Rocamadour in Western Christian Europe in the Middle Ages. The Black Madonna is a 69cm Roman statuette in silver and gold-plated walnut. Its frail outline radiates a spiritual aura felt by many visitors throughout the ages. In 1936, composer Francis Poulenc was struck by faith when contemplating the statue, inspiring his composition of the Litanies de la Vierge Noire. The museum of sacred art in Rocamadour was subsequently named after the composer. The museum is housed in the former episcopal palace and exhibits 200 pieces from the site and other churches of Quercy.

The Easter Sportelle hunt

The Easter bells ring out in Rocamadour, announcing the Easter sportelle hunt rather than a traditional Easter egg hunt. The sportelle is the medallion which, in the Middle Ages, acted as a safe-conduct for the pilgrimages on the St-Jaques-de- Compostelle route. The Rocamadour sportelle was made of lead or tin and bore the effigy of the Black Madonna. On Easter morning, families are invited to discover the 1,000 chocolate sportelles which will be hidden in and around the site. Information: Rocamadour Tourist Office - Phone: +33 (0)5 65 33 22 00.

Rocamadour's Fête des Fromages

The sacred city is the birthplace of Rocamadour AOC: this little goat's cheese which tastes of butter and herbs has been produced in the Causses du Quercy since the 15th century. Every year, on Pentecost Sunday, Rocamadour organises a most enjoyable and lively celebration in honour of this cheese. With participation from 40 producers from the Great South, the celebration begins with a Fruit of the Earth mass and ends with a competition of farm cheeses. The day's events include free tastings, presentation of Rocamadour's caprine livestock, picnic in the countryside and live music. This festival is one of the rare celebrations exclusively dedicated to cheese in the South of France, starring an AOC guest of honour every year.

A hotel befitting the Causses du Quercy

On the heights of Rocamadour, Hôtel des Esclargies is in the Causses du Quercy Regional Nature Park. This 3* Hôtel de Charme was built in the middle of an oak grove, from stone and wood with loft-style architecture. The 16 rooms combine refined, natural materials and reflect the natural spirit of the site, typical of the Causses de Quercy: oak, low dry-stone walls, hedges and clumps of boxtrees. The hotel is a member of the Hôtels au Naturel charter and therefore respects eco-responsible practices. Example of prices: from €150 per person for 5 days/4 nights, breakfast included. Information and bookings: Midi-Pyrénées Vacances Loisirs - Phone: +33 (0)5 34 25 05 05

Further Information

Comité Régional du Tourisme Midi-Pyrénées
54 Bd de l'Embouchure
BP 52166 - 31022 TOULOUSE Cedex 2

More Info

Source: ATOUT FRANCE - France Tourism Development Agency. For more information visit

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