Rocamadour - the Cliffside Pilgrim SiteOctober 10, 2019 in France ⋅ ☁️ 18 °C
"I think we should go to Rocamadour", she said. "It's very close to here", she added. Although I had never heard of the place, she convinced me that it really was one of the most amazing places in the whole of the Dordogne Region. In such circumstances it is futile to resist.
"When do you want to leave ?", I meekly asked. Soon we were sitting in the car, entering the details into the GPS system. "This time we want the FAST option", I demanded. "No more of those tiny roads in the mountains".
With the GPS loaded, we wound our way out of Sarlat and headed towards Rocamadour. According to the GPS, it was about 50 km and 90 minutes away. How did that calculate ? Soon I had the answer and it was not the one I had been hoping for.
Once again we had been directed onto the narrowest, most circuitous, roughest and certainly the most dangerous tracks in the entire district. Where were the wide highways that I wanted ? Certainly not here.
Within the first 10 km Maggie had changed her mind about seeing Rocamadour. "I want to go back", she screamed, with her fingernails imbedded deep in my right thigh. "It's too late now, there's no space to turn around". I also added "Remember that this was your idea, not mine". I also pointed out that it was about 50 km to the elusive hilltop town, hardly the "very close" that she had claimed.
There was no denying that the scenery was beautiful. With the trees now fully decked out in the full range of autumn shadings, they were simply breathtaking. At times we drove above the Dordogne River, but the roads were always too narrow to stop to take a picture.
A couple of hours of very nervous driving later, we finally arrived at the ancient town. The records of this place date back to the 12th century and it is surrounded in myths that have attracted pious pilgrims walking the Way of St James for hundreds of years. Whenever you see the way that the ancient stonemasons were able to build massive churches and abbeys precariously clinging to almost vertical cliffsides, you have to appreciate their skill and hard work. And all without the assistance of power tools and computers.
Rocamadour was once one of the four most important pilrimmage sites in Christendom and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Perhaps the reason for the religious importance was the discovery of an apparently incorruptable body in this location, way back in 1166. Early pilgrims used to climb to the summit on their knees but, since my knee is not yet fully recovered after my accident in Sancere, I decided against that option.
In one place a large number of plaques testify to a range of miracles that have been attributed to divine intervention. Many of these miracles relate to ships at sea. That is why there are numerous models of boats in the church sanctuary.
Of course Maggie took one look over her head and stated that she would NOT be climbing to the top. I reminded her that, if I could drive here, she could make the effort to overcome her fear of heights. She promised to think about it.
After a lovely lunch on a terrace with a panoramic view and a little retail shopping therapy, she felt a little better. All women do. She reluctantly agreed to come to the top and, once she was there, she was thrilled at the unbelievable views we were rewarded with. Perhaps it really was worth all that we had gone through to get there after all.
The drive back to Sarlat did not seem anywhere near as frightening, probably because we took a completely different route that time and avoided the tiny tracks.
We finished the day with an evening walk around the centre of Sarlat and then returned for dinner in our apartment. It had been quite a day.Read more