BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH!
Rocamadour bursts before our eyes to dazzle us. Built into the side of the cliff that forms the Alzou gorge, the whole town seems to be part of the rock. The Marian city is perfectly nestled between heaven and earth.
150 metres above the ground, from our perch on the edge of the cliff, we discover how everything blends in with nature. With only 630 inhabitants, this village is one of the main destinations in France, once a place of religious pilgrimage, now a tourist destination.
The "cité" is carefully constructed on different levels.
On a higher level is the feudal castle, a defensive bastion and protector of the city. To-day the castle is privately owned, although it is possible to walk along its wall section for €2 every day from 8 am to 7 pm, offering privileged views over the town and the gorge.
At a lower level, there is the Marian Sanctuary, guarded by two gates, where the relics of the "Black Virgin" and of its founder "Saint Amadour" are venerated, giving the town its name, Rocamadour, which means "the Rock of Amadour".
The Sanctuary consists of 6 chapels, a minor basilica, the Palace of the Bishops, and the Saint´s tomb. There is a walkway around the outside of the Sanctuary.
Further down is the lower town. This pedestrian artery is very lively with its shops, res-taurants and shops selling handicrafts and local products. It is crossed by a single, very long street of 500 m., which changes its name from one section to the next.
At a lower level is the Alzou riverbed. You can access it from either end of the main street or from the steps that run perpendicularly along the road.
Two lifts access the Sanctuary from the upper part at Place du Château and from the lower town at Rue Roland Le Preux. 40 seconds will be enough to save you 216 steps or 155m of a steep slope. Each ticket is 2,10€ each way and 3,10€ each way. Open in low season from 10am to 6pm, in high season from 9am to 7pm.
Le coin du photographe
Chemin du photographe
TENDER, TASTY AND CREAMY!
Some flavours bring sweetness and tenderness to those who savour them. An exquisite and typical Rocamadour delicacy. Beneath its thin white layer of softness, it hides a very creamy, beige-coloured texture.
Rocamadour goat´s cheese conveys all its qualities on the palate. Far from intense fla-vours, it reveals a smooth taste of cream and almond on the palate.
Both texture and flavour will vary slightly according to the cheese dairies and farms to remember that each Rocamadour goat´s cheese is unique.
The most tender of all goat cheeses. Its creamy nature is the result of maturing for 6 to 7 days. It should be left to air for an hour before consumption at room temperature in or-der to appreciate its sponginess. A few drops of cream dripping from the cheese will determine the right moment to taste it.
This small goat´s cheese, or "cabécou", is called in the local Oc language (Occitan) and is made from raw Alpine goat´s milk. It was known for a long time under the name of Cabécou de Rocamadour until it remained only the name of the locality with Appella-tion d´Origine Contrôlée.
It´s hard to resist this creamy delicacy, devoured in just two bites. Generously spread on a lightly toasted slice of bread, it becomes a real treat.
A.O.C. (Controlled Designation of Origin) 1995 has been cured in caves. It is presented in a rounded shape with a diameter of 6 cm. by 1.6 cm. high and weighs 35 gr. A 4 cm. label indicates A.O.C. Rocamadour and the producer´s address.
Up to 10 species of goats of alpine breed graze per hectare. They feed on 70 % natural grass in summer or hay. The rest of their diet consists of cereal grains and legumes and feedstuffs such as peat (pressed residue resulting from the extraction of seed oils). Fer-mented and genetically modified foods are prohibited in their diet.
Lactating goats give 2 to 3 litres of milk per day, with a high-fat percentage.
There are already records of its production in the 15th century. It was even used as a bargaining chip to pay taxes and agricultural work.
It can be enjoyed as a dessert, starter or accompaniment to the main course in any of the many restaurants in Rocamadour or bought to take away in the "Delicatessen" shops, along with the region´s cured meats and pâtés.
If you want to make gold, plant some young oak trees, graft the "melano sporo" mush-room seeds on their roots, and get truffle. The truffle is a tuber type mushroom that mainly grows on the roots of truffle oaks, green oaks, and hickory trees.
Of every 10 trees, only one will develop truffles, which will determine its high price, with the price per kg. Being between 700 and 1000 €.
The truffle tree can be recognised by an often circular, grassless area around its trunk. The truffle is born from the end of April to the beginning of June. It grows throughout the summer, benefiting from the August storms, and matures with the first frosts in No-vember. It lives under calcareous soils on plateaus and hills of the region.
After 7 to 10 years, the oak we have planted begins to bear fruit.
To find that precious black diamond, we need animals. Sows used to be bred for this purpose, but dogs eventually overtook them.
When the dog has found the truffle, we can ask him to scratch the ground; otherwise, we will use an iron spike.
On sunny winter afternoons, we can find the truffle fly. This pink fly comes to perch on the place where the truffle grows to lay its eggs.
The truffles "on the mark" are close to the surface, which, having fattened, form lumps, where sometimes the earth has cracked. It is enough to observe them well to locate them.
There are 3 types of truffle:
• The black truffle is the most expensive. It is very fragrant. Delicious grated in an omelette or in ravioli filling.
• The brumal or muscat truffle is produced between December and March. It has a powerful aroma but a less refined taste.
• The summer truffle or St. John´s truffle is black on the outside like the other two but white on the inside. It is much less aromatic. Ideal for grating on pasta.
You can find them by weight or packed in glass jars in any artisan products shop. Grat-ed, it is the perfect condiment for your cooked dishes.
I LOVE BIRDS... AND HERE I WANT A PHOTO!
Our next protagonists are the masters of the skies. Only 100 m. from the hotel where we are staying, we have the opportunity to get to know the birds in their own habitat.
The ornithological park "Rocher des Aigles" in Rocamadour immerses us in an animal universe where we can share man and birds´ identity, intimacy, and complicity.
In a wild and preserved environment such as Rocamadour, birds with their aerial prow-ess reveal their untouched nature to us: a challenge for birds born in captivity under-stood as a reality based on facts. Many species are still endangered, others are on the verge of extinction, and some have disappeared. And in the face of this observation, the conservation of species must be the mission of zoos.
Birds kept and protected in captivity prove that species can be reintroduced into the wild.
Captivity should not be understood as a deprivation of freedom. Still, as a commitment: some men destroy but also rebuild to promote a new reality removed from their mis-takes.
At the "Rocher des Aigles", women and men live daily with the birds that have made this place their home. We are in the territory of the birds.
The small shadow in the sky is the bearer of hope. It means that the bird has accepted man but also trusts him. It is living proof that reciprocity between man and animal is possible and that human technology that respects the integrity of animals is constructive.
A guarantee for visitors to participate in a unique experience and experience untamed and fascinating nature sensations.
You can watch a demonstration of birds of prey and parrots flying, the speciality and the show par excellence of "Rocher des Aigles". You will be able to admire perfor-mances full of skill and technique by these aerial balancers and appreciate the complicity between the animal and its handler.
The swoop is the most eagerly awaited moment for everyone.
Rocher des Aigles
Marcayou, 46500 Rocamadour
Open daily from 1 April to 30 September.
April to 10 May and the last 2 weekends in May from 10.30 am to 7 pm
June and September from 14h to 19h
July and August from 10h to 20h
It is well known that the Sanctuary of Rocamadour is one of the most important
A centre of Marian pilgrimage since the Middle Ages, where the statue of Our Lady of Rocamadour is venerated.
According to legend, Saint Amador is the founder of the Sanctuary, who carved the image of the Virgin, which was kept in a primitive hermitage of small dimensions, giving rise to the first pilgrimages.
The present image is a statue-reliquary, 76 cm. high, from the end of the 13th century, sculpted in walnut wood, in whose lap lies the Infant Jesus.
The modest effigy is depicted as both mother and queen, with a hieratic expression and closed eyes.
Known as the black Virgin, it was polychrome and covered with precious metals and gems. It lost with the impunity of looting and plundering. Its current black colour is a mystery today.
A verse from the biblical book of Songs proclaimed, "I am black but beautiful".
The Virgin is located inside the Chapel of Our Lady of Rocamadour, inside the Sanctu-ary, next to the Basilica of Saint Saviour, leaning against the rocky wall.
Virgin of sailors and fishermen, the "miraculous" bell of her chapel rings alone every time a sailor is saved at sea after praying to the Virgin. There are many ex-votos in the form of a model ship hanging inside the chapel.
On his second expedition to Canada, the discoverer of these lands, Jacques Cartier, camped near what would later become Quebec City and suffered the loss of some of his men. Suffering from a fatal illness, he and his crew implored the help of the Virgin of Rocamadour, the traditional protector of sailors.
The response came from the Indians of the neighbouring village, also victims of such a pandemic, who provided them with a remedy based on extracts from a local tree. This white cedar ended the epidemic.
Out of respect for his promise of a miraculous response, Jacques Cartier made a pil-grimage of thanksgiving to Rocamadour after returning to France.
Chapel of Notre Dame de Rocamadour
Open from 7h15 to 22h
Imagine for a moment becoming a pilgrim!
You came on foot to Rocamadour from the confines of Christianity, moved by faith or imposed by the authorities as a condemnation, to thank the "black" Virgin for having granted your wish or to venerate the relics of the Saint in search of a cure.
But one last effort remains...to climb the 216 steps to the Sanctuary, where the carving of the Virgin in the Chapel of Our Lady and the Relics of St. Amador in the Basilica of San Salvador are located.
In search of redemption, the pilgrims climbed them on their knees.
After their feet were destroyed from all the walking, they ended up destroying their knees.
Saint Amadour is known to have performed 126 miracles. Each of them is symbolised by plaques that you can see entering from the San Marcial Gate.
Have you ever wondered why some saints grant more miracles than others? The answer is very easy, only God knows!
And be careful what you ask for. A girl who had tried unsuccessfully to become a mother several times went to Our Lady of Rocamadour to seek her help. But her wish was not granted and she said to her: "Madam, I have come to you three times to get pregnant and it has never worked". Finally she became pregnant with triplets.
From the lower town there is a large staircase, the last steps of which pass under a tun-nel-like porch called the Holy Door, which leads to the esplanade, around which the different chapels and basilica that make up the Sanctuary are distributed.
Cobbled in white stone, the esplanade occupies the centre of the Sanctuary, which is also accessed through the Gate of San Marcial, located at the other end of the esplanade.
If you were in the upper part, you would enter through this last door and then descend the 216 steps to reach the lower city.
Entering through the Gate of Saint Martial, on the right is the Basilica of Saint Saviour, the Chapel of the Virgin, both connected to each other, and the tomb where Saint Amadour was found, on a slightly higher level.
Rue de la Couronnerie
In 1166 a major event took place that was to have a major impact on the life of the Sanctuary. A perfectly preserved body was found in a hollow in the rock. Tradition would name him Amador "the loving".
He is credited with founding the Sanctuary where the first carving he sculpted of the Virgin of Rocamadour was to be housed.
But who really was Saint Amadour?
According to the Benedictines, Saint Amador was a hermit who came to Gaul with a small statue of the Virgin Mary sculpted by Zacharias. In search of solitude, he found it at the foot of a rock, and the place became Roc´ Amadour. With his own hands, he built a chapel consecrated to Our Lady of Rocamadour, and the people of the surrounding area came to pray to her, attracted by the ascetic virtues of the Saint.
Another version identifies him with Zechariah, who was the husband of Saint Veronica. A collector like Saint Matthew, he was converted by Jesus to serve the Holy Family. Forced into exile, he crossed the Mediterranean, using the same route used by St. James to end his days in a cave. When his body was identified, the pilgrims wanted to see, touch and pray to the thief who had become a saint.
The body of the Saint was venerated in the crypt built for this purpose until his body was desecrated and dismembered by the Huguenots, who burnt the Sanctuary during the Wars of Religion. Today, only two skeletons remain, placed in a new reliquary to commemorate the 850th anniversary of the discovery of the body, located in the church of Saint-Sauveur.
Converted into a basilica, it is built over the crypt where the Saint´s body rested. It is attached to the rocky wall next to the chapel of Our Lady with which it is connected. Next to it is the place where the body of the Saint was discovered. These four places were the main places of worship in the Marian City.
Since the Pope mentioned the pilgrimage to the Blessed Virgin of Rocamadour in the 12th century, the Sanctuary has become one of the four main pilgrimage centres of Christianity.
Basilica of San Salvador
Open from 7h15 to 22h
THE WAY OF THE CROSS!
Our walk will take us along the Way of the Cross. Set into the side of the cliff, 14 chap-els carved into the rock, decorated with polychrome sculptures, recreate the Passion of Christ.
The origin of this tradition dates back to the 14th century when the Franciscans wanted to involve the pilgrims who came to Jerusalem by walking the route from the courts to Calvary to raise awareness of the suffering that Jesus endured from the time he was condemned to death until his crucifixion. For those who could not go to Jerusalem, they created re-enactments of the episodes of Christ´s passion. They soon spread this devo-tion as they did with the Nativity Scene.
The idea of creating this Way of the Cross came about in the 19th century when the Rocamadour Sanctuary experienced a notable increase in the number of pilgrims, and the creation of this "road" symbolising the ascent to Mount Golgotha was agreed as a timely complement.
This is a perfectly paved and cemented path with the occasional step that you will find leaving the Sanctuary through the San Marcial Gate. You walk for about 100 metres, and on your left begins the ascent that ends next to the castle. If you do the via-crucis in reverse, you walk along the inside of the wall for about 50 m. on Rue du Château (Castle Street).
The route of the Via Crucis will take about half an hour, and requires a certain amount of physical fitness as the slopes are steep.
Each at his or her own pace, the effort will have been worthwhile.
The 14 stations that make up the route are:
I. Jesus is condemned to death
II. Jesus carries his cross
III. Jesus falls for the first time
IV. Jesus meets his very Holy Mother
V. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the cross
VI. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
VII. Jesus falls the second time
VIII. Jesus comforts the women of Jerusalem
IX. Jesus falls for the third time
X. Jesus is stripped of his clothes
XI. Jesus is nailed to the cross
XII. Jesus dies on the cross
XIII Jesus is taken down from the cross and handed over to his mother.
XIV. Jesus is taken to his tomb
Chemin de Croix.
ALZOU VALLEY: MY BREAK IN THE DORDOGNE VALLEY!
The Alzou Valley, part of the more expansive Dordogne Valley, is a symbolic limestone plateau crossed by the river Alzou, which has generated a natural phenomena such as the Alzou Gorge, one of the largest and most spectacular karst phenomena in the region. In some sections, the gorge´s walls become narrower and can reach a height of up to 400 metres.
From the main street of the lower town, you can reach the bed of the river Alzou. It is only 31 km long. Its flow becomes subterranean in some sections, as is the case when it passes through Rocamadour, creating a grassy corridor. Its dry basin is ideal for walks and other outdoor activities like cycling and horse riding. They are often organised by the organisation that manages the geological routes of the Regional Natural Park.
Its plateau is used for grazing, mainly sheep, and its flora includes three exceptional trees: oak, walnut and chestnut.
The Romans called oak "robus" because of its robustness
. Because of its impermeability, it was used as roofing for Gothic cathedrals, for its wa-ter tightness in shipbuilding and its resistance to vibrations in the construction of railway tracks.
The walnut tree is prized for its nut, which is highly nutritional. It is used as an ingredi-ent in local handmade products such as liqueur or oil, nut brittle, bread or even sausage.
If oak wood is used for wine barrels, chestnut wood is used for sparkling wine barrels. The chestnut tree was known as the bread tree for a long time, as the chestnut saved many families from starvation.
And who can resist roasted chestnuts?
The Alzou valley is included in a management and enhancement programme. It is a sensitive natural area and a fragile ecological reserve.
From the opposite bank of the town, at a higher level to the river bed, possibly the best view of the Marian town of Rocamadour is offered. The magnitude of such an improba-ble construction can be admired in peace and silence.
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