Rocamadour: the pearl of the River Lot
In the 12th century, Rocamadour was one of the four major places with Rome, Jerusalem and Saint Jacques de Compostelle.
At that time, there was a legend about Amadour, an ermite who would have created an oratory in the rock, dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Three benedictin monks lived on site and were missioned to pray and welcome pilgrims. The increasing interest for the sanctuary led their superior, the abbott of Tulle, to engage in the construction of a church on the side of the cliff.
In 1166, a perfectly preserved body was found in the cliff. The investigations concluded that it was Amadour’s body, he became St Amadour. At that time, the site was known as “Roca” or “Rocamajor” – the major rock or the majestic rock, and with that event, the name became Rocamadour and the renown site continued to grow as an important pilgrimage site.
126 miracles are recognized by the Catholic Church and they are edited in a book, published in 1172.
The pilgrimage reached its peak in the 13th century. Many famous and important people come and climb the great staircase to pray to Mary or Rocamadour: Saint Louis, Blanche de Castille…
The religious war between catholics and protestants followed by the French Revolution damaged both the middle age city and the Catholic Sanctuary. Many robberies and fires occurred, altering buildings and constructions.
In the 19th century, buildings were in a critical shape and threatened to collapse. The abbott Chevalt, a disciple of the architect Viollet le duc (who restored Notre Dame de Paris) conducted and financed important work renovation that ended in 1872.
A Witness to ‘Holy’ History
During its first years of existence and because of how it was built, the Sanctuary was naturally protected and relatively safe. In the 13th century, multiple conflicts emerged and a defensive building was created: what we know as the ‘castle’. It was then only part of the defense of the Sanctuary: rampart, trench, secret stairs…
These defenses were quite useful during the religious wars. With the Renaissance period, wars stopped and the defenses were not useful anymore, they gradually fell in parts.
From the 17th century, the renown of the Sanctuary was not as important as it used to be and it was forgotten over time.
The abbott Caillau was a priest that was miraculously cured in the 19th century. He gave his fortune to the Black virgin Mary of Rocamadour. To be thankful, he bought the castle in 1836 with the ambition to restore it. He intended it to house chaplains, priests to the service of the Sanctuary of Rocamadour.
In association with abbott Pierre Bonhomme, priest of the local city of Gramat, they organized retreats. By doing so, they progressively gave a new life to the pilgrimage.
Little by little, Rocamadour came back as an important pilgrimage and a cultural site.
The guardian of your visit
Over the centuries and despite partial renovation work, the castle has significantly deteriorated. The general structure remains solid but the numerous alterations are concerning: infiltrations, degraded walls and ceilings, broken stones…Important restoration work is needed and we need your support. Being engaged with our project is becoming a guardian yourself of Rocamadour.
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