Rocamadour   (Roh cah ma do er)


Rocamadour is not just an exotic name. It’s an exotic destination, a cliffside village built on three levels in the southwest of France. It’s located in a region called La Dordogne, home to stunning views and historical artifacts. Rocamadour is one of these unforgettable sights, a medieval village of historic importance that hangs over the Alzou Canyon. You’ll want photos, of course, especially as you approach it.


Perched above the Dordogne River, Rocamadour has drawn visitors for centuries. In medieval times, it drew pilgrims from all over Europe to what is still known as a sacred village. In 1166 a preserved body, one believed to be Saint Amadour, was discovered. This and the revered Black Madonna statue, along with accounts of miracles, sparked a wave of pilgrimage visits including those of English and French royalty.


You can visit the significant churches, relics, and other religious and historical structures on the second level of the village. Though damage occurred during the Wars of Religion and the Revolution, restoration was done in the 1850s. Rocamadour is included as a site on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route.


Currently, the crowds are tourists taking in the wonders of the place. Back in the day, pilgrims climbed the 216 steps to the Sanctuary on their knees for penance. Now visitors who don’t want to make the climb can take one of two elevators.


What to do in Rocamadour


As mentioned, the village has three levels. On the first level is the main street, with beautiful medieval stone buildings and photogenic archways. There are also cafés, restaurants, and shops. The village is completely pedestrian.


On the second level, you’ll find the religious buildings. First, the 12th-century Saint Sauveur Basilica, a Romanesque-Gothic building that houses the relics. Right next door is the Chapel Notre Dame with the  Black Madonna statue. While you’re on this level, be sure to see the Saint Michel Chapel, partly buried in the rock. Other religious sites include the Chapelle Saint-Jean-Baptiste, the Chapelle Saint-Blaise, the Chapelle Sainte-Anne, and the Crypte Saint-Amadour.


Continuing upward, climb the Way of the Cross to the top and third level where you’ll find a 19th-century castle built on a 14th-century fortress. It overlooks the valley with stunning views. In fact, you’ll find amazing views from all over the village. The castle ramparts are open to the public for a stroll and more gazing across the valley.


In the upper part of the village known as Hospitalet, you can see the ruins of a medieval hospital. It’s one of the best views of the entire village and valley. You can also enjoy lunch there at Le Belvedere.


Nearby Activities


Rocamadour is close to the Périgord region and Cahors, both significant historically and worth a visit for picturesque scenery. Also nearby is the Parc naturel Regional de Causses de Quercy. In this area, you can visit the Gouffre de Padirac, a network of caves accessible by boat. Along with caves there are rivers, cliffs, and trails where you can hike, bike, and picnic.


A prized goat cheese from Rocamadour has the same name, but is also called Cabécou, and has received the AOC quality label. Each June a cheese festival takes place, with tastings, a market, and musical festivities. A hot-air balloon festival, Les Montgolfiades, occurs at the end of each September, drawing over 20,000 visitors.


If You Like Animals . . .


Visit the Rocher des Aigles to see birds of prey, various types of parrots, and many other birds at this bird park.

La Forêt des Singes is also in the area, featuring 150 monkeys in liberty.


Getting There

Reach the village by car on the A20 highway or by train. You could also take a 3-hour drive or shorter train trip from Bordeaux or Toulouse.


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