Rocamadour - Encyclopedia

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ROCAMADOUR, a village of south-western France, in the department of Lot, 36 m. N.N.E. of Cahors by road. Pop. (1906) 296. Rocamadour, a famous place of pilgrimage, is most strikingly situated. Its buildings rise in stages up the side of a cliff on the right bank of the Alzou, which here runs between rocky walls 400 ft. in height. Flights of steps ascend from the lower town to the churches - a group of massive buildings half-way up the cliff. The chief of them is the church of NotreDame (1479), containing the wooden figure of the Madonna reputed to have been carved by St Amadour. The church opens on to a terrace called the Plateau of St Michel, where there is a broken sword said to be a fragment of "Durandal," once wielded by the hero Roland. The interior walls of the church of St Sauveur are covered with paintings and inscriptions recalling the pilgrimages of celebrated persons. The subterranean church of St Amadour (1166) extends beneath St Sauveur and contains relics of the saint. On the summit of the cliff stands the château built in the middle ages to defend the sanctuaries.

Rocamadour owes its origin to St Amadour or Amateur, who, according to tradition, chose the place as a hermitage for his devotions to the Virgin Mary. The saint is identified with Zacchaeus the publican and disciple of Jesus, who is said to have journeyed to Gaul to preach the gospel. The renown of Rocamadour as a place of pilgrimage dates from the early middle ages.

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