Thursday, 1 May 2014

The beautiful city of Rocamadour, a commune in Lot, a department in south-western France.

On the first day of our little trip to the Lot, I took over 100 photos, and after editing, I still had 70 that are pretty good, so again I have whittled down, and am left with what I consider to be the best for you to appreciate!

We left home early, but were held up in a minor traffic jam  in Périgueux; they were sweeping the streets!  We arrived at Rocamadour just on lunch time, so decided to stop at the first "traveller recommended" place to eat. This proved to be a mistake, as we should have waited to see what else  was available. The meal was passable, but nothing special!   I digress though, and on to Rocamadour!  It is set on a cliff 120 metres (390 feet) high forming the side of a deep gorge on the Alzou river, a tributary of the Dordogne.  The city also gives its name to a small goat's milk cheese, which is made locally. 

The name is said to come from Roc (cliff in the local Occitan language) and Amadour, who might have been either a saint, a hermit or the bishop of a nearby diocese. There are several legends related to its foundation, but the scholars believe them to be untrustworthy, so the distant past is "lost in antiquity"! The city declined during the religious struggles of the Middle Ages, wars and the French Revolution.

By the beginning of the 19th century, Rocamadour had fallen into a state of disrepair, with trees growing in the 'grand stairway' (see later) and the traders having left.  In 1855, the bishop of Cahors decided to promote a lottery  to help fund the essential restoration work, but nearly 20 years passed before the major work was finished.  

We started our our walking tour where we had parked the car at lunchtime, in the hamlet of l'Hospitalet (presumably taking its name from the nearby gateway - see below), where there is the gorgeous chapel of Saint-Jean-de-l'Hospitalet built in the 13th and 14th centuries, next to the ruins of the original chapel, founded 200 years earlier. 

The chapel of Saint-Jean-de-l'Hospitalet and ruins of the original chapel.

The ruins of the old chapel

The chapel, seen through the ancient entrance arch.

Inside the chapel

The première porte (gateway) to Rocamadour, just beyond the chapel

Along the pilgrims' route in the city, one sees many  fortified gates built in the Middle Ages.  The first gate (above) called Hospital's Gate, marks the beginning of the holy way leading to the lowest part of Rocamadour.  There are five major gateways on roads or pathways that lead up to  Notre Dame, the pilgrimage church in the city and other smaller churches at the same level. Here at the first gate, the pilgrim can contemplate and enjoy the view, across the valley, of the ultimate goal, the vertiginous city built on the rock above the river.  The pilgrim can then give thanks, and worship God for all his wonders.

The view as seen from the première porte.

We decided that the  downhill walk  was quite possible, but we would not have the energy to return!  We took the car down to another car park right at the  bottom of this photo, where we managed to park fairly easily, as this was the low season. How crowded it becomes there in high season, I dread to think!

We then caught a ride on one of these little trains which took us up to the bottom of the village, about half way up the cliff face.

Upper and lower Rocamadour, taken from the car park.

The narrow streets of the city, looking up to the château built in the Middle Ages to defend the pilgrim sanctuaries.


Walking through the narrow residential streets of the lower town. At the top of the photo, see how part of the château is built on a rock overhang. Those ancient builders were brave, but they didn't have health and safety regulations then!

Closer to the centre of the town, and Porte Hugon in view at the centre of the street. I think this must be the second gateway.

Porte Salmon, the third of the gateways.

I passed through the fourth gateway at the bottom of the 'grand stairs'. With its 216 steps, it is the last stage to the sanctuary. The stairs were stabilised with reinforced concrete and carefully restored (often stone-by-stone) in a 3 year exercise (2008-2011) to put right defects  and wear caused by freezing winters and the millions of visitors since the last repairs in 1872. Many pilgrims including saints and kings have climbed these stairs, so I felt as if I was in good company! There's a plaque on a wall listing visits of the most prominent from 12th to 15th centuries, these including Henry II of England, many kings of France and Pope Jean XXII.

After the first flight; looking up to the château far above me. I never did make it up that far!

From much the same position, in a different direction, I could see the bell tower of  the Notre Dame church.

The final flight to the 5th gateway on the 'grand stairs', the entrance door to Notre Dame church beyond.

The last few breathless steps on our walking tour!

La Porte Sainte.   The church entrance, which is the fifth and final holy gateway to the shrine of Notre Dame of Rocamadour.   I only went through the gateway; there were a lot of people inside the church, and more steps to climb once in there!

Looking back at the archways over the  church entrance, from inside.

From here we travelled on to Cahors where we stayed 3 nights, so watch this space for the next part of the trip.

See also My Life Before Charente (updated 30 March)
and my daily blog


62 comments:

  1. Hello Diane,

    We have long wanted to get to Rocamadour and your beautiful photographs just make us want to be there right now. It is all so intriguing and the sense of history of the place must be incredibly profound when one is walking where thousands upon thousands of pilgrims have walked before.

    It is so very beautiful and we are much impressed by your staying power on the walking tour. We are certain that we should have given up long before and sought refuge in a cafe!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Jane and Lance, if you ever have the chance to visit here it is well worthwhile. It would probably been better if we had not made it a visit en route, and had a little more time there. I regret now not climbing the last flight of stairs in the Notre Dame and despite the people there I am sure I could have taken some reasonable photos, but hindsight is a wonderful thing! There was a little cafe after the first flight so a rest would have been possible, but N was waiting for me at the bottom so I did not want to keep him there for too long. It is a good excuse anyway though he would have happily held on. Hope that all is well with you both. Diane

      Delete
  2. what a wonderful place. it reminds me a lot of old quebec just below the frontenac!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment. Having never been to Canada I cannot comment, but one thing is for certain, and that is Quebec will never have the history that Rocamadour has. It is am amazing place and it seems a lot of its history is difficult to find. Keep well Diane

      Delete
  3. You are so very lucky to be able to visit this amazing places. I love the shot of the chapel through the ancient entrance arch. Beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pam we are lucky. living in Europe has lots of advantages :) I also like that shot. Keep well Diane

      Delete
  4. Dear Diane, Thank you for sharing your photos of these historic and beautiful sites you see.
    It was a lot of walking! Though I am sure it was pleasant with all that there was to see.
    Blessings, Catherine

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Catherine for the visit and the comment. There are some amazing places to see in France and so much history. Have a good day Diane

      Delete
  5. What a lovely place, but I think I would have stayed at the bottom of the hill and 'people watched!'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Vera it was a temptation but then I would have missed so much :-) Have a good evening and take care Diane

      Delete
  6. Dear Diane
    Φανταστικό χωριό !!!
    Οι φωτογραφίες σου και οι πληροφορίες εξαιρετικές! Σ΄ευχαριστώ για την εκδρομή!
    Καλό μήνα και πολλά φιλιά

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Magda for the comment and the kind remarks. You have a good month as well Take care Diane

      Delete
  7. Phew, I am tired just thinking about it.
    Many years ago (and many years younger) we visited and got all the way to the top, standing out on that part of the chateau wall on the overhanging rock. Quite breathtaking in all respects. I wonder if you can still do that, maybe health and safety rules have now reached tourism as well. I remember it as a lovely old town. Your photos really do capture the essence of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know how close you can get to the château wall nowadays, I did not have that much energy! It is an amazing place but not sure I would be happy to live in the lower part of the town with that cliff overhanging! Thanks for the kind comment. Take care Diane

      Delete
  8. Merci Diane pour cette visite dans la célèbre cité. J'ai ai souvent entendu parler, mais je ne l'ai jamais visitée!
    Bonne fin de semaine à vous!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Luci essayer de faire une visite ici. C'est une belle ville. Merci pour le commentaire. Bon week-end. Diane

      Delete
  9. These were superb photographs...I felt almost as out of breath viewing them as I did when I visited the place when the legs and lungs were a lot younger. Brought back some good memories...thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks fly and glad they are good memories. I wish I had made this visit 30 years ago, it would have been so much easier :) For all that I am glad we went. Have a good weekend and I hope that your are both well. Diane

      Delete
  10. I am constantly amazed how well preserved these medieval villages are. A lot of love and work must go into maintaining them. I would have definitely needed a ride on one of those cute trains. Those steps look steep.
    Sam

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sam that makes two of us, it is good that France is so keen to restore these beautiful historic places, it would be a sad loss if they just pulled them down. Those steps are steep!! Take care Diane

      Delete
  11. What an awesome place to visit. I'm afraid it would take me all day if I had to do that walking tour (and a lot of sitting to catch my breath. I bet there are no benches along the way to the top. Fantastic tour Diane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't remember Horst if there were benches or not; I was trying not to wast time as N was waiting for me at the bottom. he can't cope with that kind of walking especially in the short time we had to visit! He is fitter and slimmer than me but his feet are not so good. C'est la vie. It is an incredible place though and certainly worth the visit. Keep well Diane

      Delete
  12. Despite several visits to the Perigeux area we have never made it to Rocamadour. So thank you for showing me what we have missed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Every time we go anywhere in France we return finding out what we had missed :) There is so much to see and so much history around. Glad you enjoyed the post. Take care Diane

      Delete
  13. What a wonderful trip - a gorgeous town - and yes, a lot of walking!
    Mary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mary it is a stunning area all around the Lot. The walking is one thing, the climbing the steps, now I am older, is quite another! It was worth it though. Have a good weekend Diane

      Delete
  14. Hi Diane , Absolutely fabulous , your photos are amazing. That certainly is one climb , love the little train to take you on a bit of the journey though. When doing the research for your card, only then did I realize how close I had been when on my visit to Cahors and Figeac and the Lot. Yes I do think it is a place that you need to spend time at , rather than on route , but we live and learn . It looks incredible. Take care , not that long now , til I am in France , xoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anne yes you were quite close but I think that will always happen when visiting France, there is so much to see:) Nope you will be here very soon now. Keep well and have a good weekend Diane xox

      Delete
  15. What a great tour, Diane! We just have to return to Europe some day! So much to do and see. You were so lucky to visit this beautiful area with all the great architecture! Can't imagine all those stairs. I really enjoyed this, thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pam having lived in Africa most of my life I now realise how happy I am to be in Europe and catch up on all the history here. There is so much to see and do and I am more that happy we chose here to retire. Keep well, Diane

      Delete
  16. I'm thinking that most of these villages survive because of tourism. Am I right? Or are there major manufacturing or wineries that provide jobs? Most interesting, even if all that walking around can wear our bones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rosaria, you are probably right in the fact that the town itself survives because of tourism, numbers would be very high in the summer. We understand it is the most visited place after Paris and Mont St Michel. Close by though there are wine estates, Cahors produces some excellent wines. How many people they employ though I have no idea.

      It was an incredible place though and well worth the visit. Take care Diane

      Delete
  17. what lovely and beauty pictures always you have Diane, Love the chapel and especially inside the chapel! beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Gloria for the comment, the chapel was lovely. I wish though that I had taken on a few more stairs and gone into see the Notre Dame. Too much to take in for one day though. have a good weekend Diane

      Delete
  18. Diane, I love towns like this! I could happily spend hours browsing, admiring, taking in the lovely views and things to do and taking photos. That chapel is beautiful, the buildings are fantastic, I love the architecture and positioning of them and the streets! Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this tour.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Linda if I was alone on these visits I would probably take far too many photos LOL Good job my husband is with me to keep me on the move. It is a very special place and one I would quite like to return to, but then there is so much else I want to see in Europe!! Have a great weekend Diane

      Delete
  19. I enjoyed looking at every one of your photos, what an amazing town!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Denise, it is pretty amazing and it has been there for so long teetering on the edge of the cliff. I hope it is there for just as long again. Take care Diane

      Delete
  20. My son and I went to Rocamadour after visiting first "le gouffre de Padirac". This whole area of France is really picturesque.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nadege we were only saying a couple of days back that we had missed the caves. We should have thought ahead and bought tickets on line but..... You are right it is a very beautiful part of France. Thanks for the comment. Diane

      Delete
  21. What a beautiful town! It's just great seeing your photos of places I haven't heard of. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks José for the kind comment. Have a good week Diane

      Delete
  22. This town is beautiful and the first sight you get of the town is enchanting. I went at a slightly busier time (although not the height of the season) and going around the town did feel a little like being in a queue at times.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Phil I would not have like to have been there any later in the season. I hate crowds and mainly this was OK. In the season it would not be fun for me at all! Hope your week is a good one. Diane

      Delete
  23. I agree with Jose I love seeing places I will never get to on your blog. This is an amazing village the way it is built on the side of a gorge. How the early builders got materials up there is mind boggling. It must have been a hard climb for you too. Well done. Great shots too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Diane it will never ceases to amaze me how some of the building were actually built hundreds of years ago with out the machinery we now have. They also last much longer than modern day buildings! It was a good bit of exercise :-) Take care Diane

      Delete
  24. Dear Diane!! Thanks again for such wonderful tours. This town is so interesting and beautiful. Away from the efforts to build the town itself it amazes me how much man is capable of doing in name of religion, such beautiful pieces of art! Thanks and thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pamela glad you enjoyed this virtual tour, it is an amazing place. Hope that you have a good week Diane

      Delete
  25. Rocamadour abounds with archways.. very beautiful city Diane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are so right, there are many archways but it is amazing how it was built in the position it is in! Keep well Diane

      Delete
  26. I noticed right away that you never disappoint, and always give me some lovely shots of a chapel, church or cathedral. It's amazing that the archways still stand, even though the buildings are long gone. Looking at the structures built right into the face of the cliff is awe-inspiring; I don't wonder that you didn't make it all the way up to the chateau. Looking forward to your next installment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Marjie for the very kind comment. I must get may act together and go through the rest of the photos but time is short and there are so many!!! I hope that you are all well and that your husband is now fully recovered. Take care Diane

      Delete
  27. Hello Diane!
    Your are really welcome about the lizard!!
    Rocamadour is a very beautiful place indeed, Great to see your pics reminding me of our travel there!
    I hope you have been to the "Rocher des Aigles" where you can see a great show with large birds of prey and parrots... really well worth seeing!!
    I guess you'll be soon on the roads again!!
    Keep well, cheers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Noushka I was delighted that you cam up with an answer for me. I will look out for more now that I know! No I have not been to the Rocher des Aigles, will make a note of this though, thanks. Yes next month we are off to Spain and Portugal :-) Take care Diane xx

      Delete
  28. The surely do not have to worry about traffic on those narrow streets and with it built on the hill I suspect they do not even use bycycles? Each place has a lovely view though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joan we did see a few small cars, well two I think, on the roads, but certainly no bicycles. The Tour de France guys may be able to get up some of those roads but few other people would manage it! Walking was quite bad enough!! It is a stunning place though none the less. Have a great week Diane

      Delete
  29. I am reliving a trip of years ago through your beautiful pictures

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad to hear it Belgium, hope you are well Diane

      Delete
  30. It's fascinating how they designed that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are so right Rose, It is an amazing place. Keep well Diane

      Delete
  31. That's a beautifully illustrated account of such a fascinating place, Diane. It looks as if you were blessed with splendid weather too!

    I hope that all is well with you there - - - - - Richard

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Richard the weather was amazing, it was like mid-summer, it has been rubbish ever since we got back home!! Off on holiday soon so will be off the blogs until July :-) Think the break may be good for me! Keep well Diane

      Delete

Thanks for taking the time to visit and pass a comment. Every comment is appreciated and I try to reply to each and every one. All comments are verification free but will come to me for approval first :-)) No Anonymous Users!

Please note that if you are on Google + and I do not pass comments on your blog, I am sorry but many blogs I cannot get into any more. I tried plus and found some people could not comment on my blog so I cancelled it!