Over the ensuing centuries the crypt of St. Amadour and the chapel of the Black Virgin underwent periods of prosperity and decline. In 1562 the chapel was pillaged and burnt by the Protestants, and the body of St. Amadour was destroyed. Reconstruction of the shrine began in the 1800’s and through it all, the statue of the Black Virgin remained unharmed. The chapel and its legendary statue continue to be the venerated and Rocamadour remains one of the most popular Marian holy places in all of France.
The Chapelle de Notre-Dame is immediately adjacent to the Basilique St-Saveur. Above the door leading to the chapel is an iron sword that, according to legend, belonged to Roland. Inside, the chapel is devoted almost exclusively to the venerated Black Madonna statue.
Intentionally hundreds of icons of Mary have black faces and hands. In France they are called "Vierge Noires" or Black Virgins. In other countries they are called Black Madonnas.
A wooden Black Madonna reputed to have been carved by Saint Amator (Amadour) himself.
According to legend, St. Amadour, a witness to the martyrdom of St. Paul and St. Peter, traveled to the location and took up hermitage following his wife's death. The story might be part myth and part history, but the legend, beloved of locals, adds toRocamadour's charm and magic.
Backed against the cliff, the Basilique St-Sauveur was built in the Romanesque-Gothic style from the 11th to the 13th centuries. It's decorated with paintings and inscriptions recalling visits of celebrated persons, including Philippe the Handsome.
Completely rebuilt in 1868, the former abbey palace architecture obeys a troubadour style, very popular during the nineteenth century. It is surmounted by a tall tower pepper to Viollet-le-Duc. Inside, the Museum of Sacred Art is home to a Bible of the sixteenth century incunabula.
A cluster of chapels and churches high on a rocky plateau. And to going up I need to climb a stairway of 216 weathered steps. Even today, devout pilgrims make the climb on their knees in penance. Along the way are 14 Stations of the Cross culminating in the Cross of Jerusalem at the top. There is also an elevator from the lower town (Basse Ville).
As Rocamadour was built on a limestone cliff, it offers great views in all directions
If you feel lazy , an elevator will bring up all the way up or down, but obviously you won't feel for a split second like the pelgrims in that case.
Walking on this medieval street, feeling like not in the religious site, but mostly feeling like on the beach area suchike in Bali-Indonesia, 'cos i can find many souvenirs same like selling in Bali island :))
A chance to see the monkeys (actually Barbary Apes like you'll find doing the same in Gibralter) in the wild and marvel as they run off with your handbag or mug you for the bag of food that you get at the entrance.
Seriously, the monkey forest is a good walk around and a chance to sit and have a 30lb ape sit on you and try to steal anything not bolted down.
You can get up close and dirty with them and they respond as animals always do.. don't put your hands in their mouths.. they will bite you.
All that said it is excellent fun!
Thanks to the progress of the Marian cult and thanks to the discovery, in 1166, of the body named St Amadour, in the 10th century Rocamadour became as important pilgrimage place in the Christian West as Santiago de Compostella
Unfortunately, the many religious wars laid waste to the shrines and only in the 17th century was a new set of liturgical pieces amassed. A book on the history of Rocamadour revived the pilgrimage in the 19th century.
Today, Rocamadour remains a famous place which offers pilgrims historical works and spiritual experiences.
The Parvis of the Churches (Pl. St.-Amadour) is a small square which is the focal point of the journey for both tourists and pilgrims. It is situated on a platform above the main town, approached from there by the Grand Staircase and from above by the Calvary (the Stations of the Cross) leading down from near the parking lot at the Chateau atop the cliff, and a connecting path. The various religious structures (church, chapels, tomb of the saint) are on the square or on a balcony ending at the rock face, projecting from the square. approached by pleasant short flight of stairs at each end. Still higher from there are further chapels (such as St. Michael's).
At the back of the balcony off the Parvis, against the steep rock face is the Tomb of St.-Amadour. The body was destroyed during the Religious Wars in 1562 but this is still a venerated site. To the right is an accoladed Renaissance doorway that enters the Chapel of the Virgin. Jutting out from the rock face at the level of the shield above the decorated doorway is the miraculous sword of Roland (Durandal), which inserted itself there. High up on the side of this alcove is the lateral wall of the Chapel of St. Michael. Here is a colorful 13C fresco (discussed in a separate Tip).
The two colorful 12C frescos and the fragment below are worthy examples of very early large religious paintings before Giotto. They appear to derives from Byzantine models on reliquaries or illuminations. The picture on the left has a gracious Mary receiving the Annunciation and on the right her meeting with Elizabeth. Below it is a sketch, lightly colored of the same period and probably another part of an unknown subject. Note also the framing cornices of the upper fresco which display fine modillion heads. These frescos were originally on the wall of the Chapel of Our Lady in the 12C . The adjacent chamber was destroyed by rock fall or plunderers or both. The reduced chapel was rebuilt smaller to the right.
The inside the chapel is quite dark and difficult to photograph. One side of the chapel is cliff wall . At the back is a retable housing Our Lady of Rocamadour holding the Infant Jesus on her knee. It is a wooden statue of the 12C. It has discolored over time and is dubbed the "Black Virgin" (as have many similar effigies elsewhere). Hanging from the vaulting of the chapel is the 9C miraculous bell which rings spontaneously now and then indicating the saving of a life of a sailor, freeing of a prisoner, etc. (many votive offerings).