This famous pilgrimage centre, 59km north of Cahors, is one of the most dramatic sites in France, spectaculary situated on a vertical, 150m-high cliff-face above the river Alzou. It was founded in the 12th century, on the site of a shrine to a Black Virgin ( or Madonna ) and a hermit’s rocky cave ( roc amator means ‘ he who likes the rock in Occitan’). The hermit was supposedly the tax-gatherer Zaccheus, desciple of Jesus, who was to believed to have fled with his wife, Veronica, to this remote corner of France.The shrine rapidly became famous for it’s miraculous powers and hosted tens of thousands of pilgrims and a stream of VIPs. For 200 years the expanding village of shrines-called the Cité-was an important stop on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella, but its riches also attracted a succession of pillagers. Desecrated during the Wars of Religion and the Revolution, Rocamadour was restored in the 19th century and has once again become a mayor pilgrimage site. Now crammed with souvenir shops and tourists it’s frequently a high season nightmare. Come here at dusk or dawn if if you want a glimmer of it’s uncommercial precpitous attractions.
Rocamadour is on three levels: the medieval city, full of shops, hotels and restaurants; the level above this featuring the chapels; and the plateau, 500m above the Alzou River valley, with the remains of a 14th-century chateau and ramparts. Some 900m to the east of the plateau is L’Hospitalet (1.7km via the D32 from the Cite). This busy village (once the site of an 11th-century pilgrims’ hospital) is centred on the place de l’Europe crossroads. Near here is the main tourist office, a few hotels and restaurants and various nonpilgrimage tourist attractions.
The tourist office (tel: 05 65 33 22 00, fax: 05 65 33 22 01; Email: email@example.com), in a big modern glass-fronted building just off L’Hospitalet’s place de l’Europe, is open 10am to 12.30pm, 2pm to 6.30pm daily May to mid-September (10am to 7.30pm daily mid-July to 25 August); it closes Saturday morning in April, weekend mornings mid-September to mid-November and at 5.30pm daily mid-November to April. There’s an SNCF ticket office here. A smaller tourist office (tel: 05 65 33 62 59) in the Cite’s main street, rue de la Couronnerie, is open 10am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 6pm daily (to 6.30pm May to mid-September and 9.30am to 7.30pm daily mid-July to 25 August). It closes at 5.30pm mid-september to mid-November and all mornings mid-November to April.
There’s a post office in the Cite and banks both here and in L’hospitalet, currency exchange is also available at the post office and tourist offices.
PLACES TO STAY :
B&B Ferme de Tayac is just 50 min. drive from the center of Rocamadour