This is the second most important, not To mention popular, destination in all of France, after the iconic Mont St Michel. I believe it is also the second most important catholic pilgrim site after the Camino, as a consequence of the Chapel of Notre Dame, which houses the “black Madonna”. ￼
The name Rocamadour derives from the local dialect which refers to a hermit who lived in a cave on the awesome limestone walls – ” roc amator” – he who loves rocks. Each to his own, I say.
And another thing, lest you think that the Roman Catholic Church has suddenly become inclusive and celebrating diversity, sadly it is not the case. The black Madonna was a not quite pure white statue carved from walnut wood which over the millennia, has been blackened by the soot and smoke of burning candles!
During July and August upwards of a million tourists visit Rocamadour each month! Thankfully I arrived early September when the numbers drop dramatically: 999,999. Seriously the town was decidedly peaceful.
The other quaint custom is that pilgrims even today are required to climb the 223 steps of the Great Stairway on their knees and once at the top they enter the chapel and are presented with a medallion, a parchment certificate and a list of local orthopaedic surgeons.
The original medieval pilgrims not only climbed on their knees, but wore chains around their ankles! A rather wincing vision that is to this day recreated at the biennial meeting of the local chapter of the Rocamadour Masochists.