Sunday, February 28, 2016

Rocamadour – Erich

One afternoon we visited the town of Rocamadour. Rocamadour is breathtaking. The town is built into the side of a cliff. There is only one road through the town, with switchbacks and steepness. And then to travel by foot around town can involve a lot of stairs.
The view of Rocamadour from the other side of the canyon
When we first drove up to the city, we were along one side of a canyon and you could see the rocks on the other side.
All you could see at first.
But until you come around the bend, you don't see any houses. Then all at once it's “Wow!”
The "Wow" moment
Not only is this built into the side of a hill, but there is a beautiful chateau at the top, rampart walls, and a whole bunch of chapels and churches.
The ramparts from across the way
Why so many chapels in a town of not a huge population? Well, Rocamadour is a Catholic pilgrimage site.
One of many chapels
Long ago, like in the 10th Century, a man fleeing persecution came to this area to live out the rest of his life as a hermit. The French call him Saint Amadour, and Rocamadour is the Rock of Amadour. Long later, a perfectly preserved corpse was found here, said to be the corpse of the saint himself.
Another view of ramparts and the tower
Pilgrims began their journey here, but not only because the crypt of St. Amadour is here. In one of the churches, the Chappelle de Notre Dame, there is a small walnut wood statue of the Virgin Mary. This is called the Black Madonna. And it is supposed to have miraculous powers.
The tower from another angle
Pilgrims arrive at the base of the cliff and then climb over 200 steps on their knees to reach the Black Madonna. On their knees! That is dedication or religious fervor. We decided against knee abuse and just used our well shod feet instead.
That's a long way up!
The churches are a good way up from the bottom. But they are not yet at the top. The ramparts and chateau are even higher. We walked up the ramparts. Along the way is the Chemin de la Croix, or the Stations of the Cross. As you walk up the path replete with switchbacks, at each turning point there is a carved and painted relief showing one of the stages of Jesus's crucifixion. I'm not so up on the Christ story that I knew all the stages. But it starts at the first stage where he is condemned to death, continued through him falling three times, a man helping him carry the cross, a woman cleaning the blood from his face, his mother crying, and ultimately to his being placed on the cross, dying, and his body being given to his mother. (I'm sure those are not all in the correct order.) But I do know that there were thirteen stages.
In addition to the man-made wonders, there are plenty of crevices and small caves in the rock face. And sometimes, there is a mix of a natural cave and man-made pillars along with it.
A cave with columns
The buildings are beautifully detailed with carvings and engravings.
So much detail
In the city are two large archway portals into parts of the town. These were from the 13th Century.
Proof of the age
One is just big enough for a small car to drive through, but is mainly meant for pedestrians.
The smaller Porte
The other is much larger, like a grand castle gate. But that one is up so high no cars are even allowed up to that point.
The larger Porte
Rocamadour is a beautiful site, and it makes one marvel at how people could have possibly built such a thing. It would be a wondrous accomplishment with today's technology. To imagine people in the 11th through 14th Centuries building all of these structures is even more amazing.

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