Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rocamadour - A Pilgirmage, of Sorts

Rocamadour, located on the edge of the Lot Valley, in the Perigord  Noir, is a rock city built on the top of a hill.

It has been inhabited by one kind of civilization or another for about 10,000 years, but it is best known for the hoardes of Christian pilgrims that have trekked up its stony steps, singing hymns and praying to their savior and saints since about 1,000 BC. In medieval times as many as 20,000 pilgrims a day passed through the city gates, of which there are 7. The gates were opened and closed as necessary to control the numbers of people within the city.

The town, built on three levels, today services more more tourists than pilgrims. The bottom level houses hotels, tourist shops, and restaurants. The middle level, or cite religiuse, is a haven of 5 chapels built around a small plaza, and is reached by stone steps, or for the less religious, an elevator that costs about 3 euros round trip.

We did see a couple of groups of pilgrims, identifiable by their kerchiefs and hymnals, and heard the reading of the scriptures as they made their way to the sacred chapels. But I digress.
The third level of Rocamadour, is reserved for the most devout worshipers. There is a small inn, available only to pilgrims, and a church which requires silence to enter. 
We were pleased to survey the ancient architecture and the famous Black Madonna, one of about 200 in the world. I left my camera below, so have borrowed this picture from Judi.

One of the prettiest sites of this rocky precipice occurs after dark, when the night time illuminations cast their golden light on the rock. The view below is of the cite religiuse.

The following photo is the view of a small watchtower across the valley from our hotel room balcony, awash the morning sun.

 Our pilgrimage was not one of a religious nature, but certainly offered a memorable experience. Simply walking over the ancient cobble stones, breathing the sweet, incense and beeswax candle scented air within the chapels, hearing the scriptures and hyms of the devout, gives one a sense of place and continuity from antiquity to modern times.

I have a renewed appreciation for the labors of those who,  without modern tools and machines, could build such a magnificent and wondrous place. 

Should you find yourself near Rocamadour, I would heartily recommend the hotel Le Terminus del Pelerins.... Hotel keeper Genevieve was born here and her pride in her sweet little hotel and restaurant shows in her attention to detail. Vive la France! 

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