Photo of Sanctuary of Rocamadour

Visit Sanctuary of Rocamadour

Rocamadour is one of the Grand Sites of France and the Sanctuary of Rocamadour has been an important pilgrim destination for centuries. The Sanctuary is made up of a group of beautiful buildings in a cluster halfway up the rock face and with stunning views over the village and the valley.

Explore the Sanctuary of Rocamadour

The Sanctuary is composed of a cluster of seven chapels and churches. Above them higher up the cliff face is the castle that was built to protect the Sanctuary and below is the town that grew up to accommodate the pilgrims who came to visit.

Between the town and the Sanctuary is a steep staircase called the Grand Escalier which is composed of 216 steps. Pilgrims once climbed these on their knees as an act of penance. There is a lift that you can take instead of the steps. There are two lifts, one from the lower town to the Sanctuary and one from the castle above to the Sanctuary. There is a charge to use the lift.

Rocamadour Sanctuary

Short History of the Sanctuary of Rocamadour

Legend has it that Rocamadour was home to a hermit, Zaccheus of Jericho, who is said to have personally spoken to Jesus. He died in 70AD and was buried at Rocamadour. The Virgin Mary was worshipped in Rocamadour from the 9th century but in 1166 a perfectly preserved body was found which was said by some to be Zaccheus and by others to be Saint Amadour, a hermit who lived in the caves.

Either way the discovery caused the pilgrims to come flocking and Rocamadour became a major pilgrim destination. The body was found with a black wooden statue which has since been linked to many miracles and the Black Madonna attracts many pilgrims including, in the past, King Louis XI of France and King Henry II of England.

During the Middle Ages Rocamadour was the third most important pilgrim destination in the world after the Holy Land and Santiago de Compostela. It still receives around one million pilgrims each year.


At the centre of the Sanctuary is a small square called the Parvis des Eglises. Surrounding this are the different chapels and churches which have been built in a beautiful ornate style with towers, arched windows, crenellated walls and many more decorative features.

Basilica Saint-Sauveur

The Basilica Saint-Sauveur is an 11 to 13th century church built in Romanesque-Gothic style. It was designated a basilica in 1913. The basilica is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Notre-Dame Chapel

Next to the basilica is the Chapel of Notre-Dame which is home to the statue of the Black Madonna. The Black Madonna is linked to many miracles and especially to the saving of lives at sea. Because of this there are many ex-votos (offerings) of ships hung on the walls and hanging from the ceiling is a bell which is said to ring each time a miracle happens.

Above the chapel is a sword called the Durandel sword. According to legend when Roland, the nephew of Charlemagne was badly injured in battle he begged the Archangel Michael to save his sword from the enemy. He threw it into the air and it miraculously landed in the rock face at Rocamadour 300 km away.

Black Madonna

The Crypt of Saint Amadour

The Crypt of Saint Amadour is in the Chapelle Miraculeuse which dates to the 12th century though was burned along with the relics of Saint Amadour in the Wars of Religion in the 16th century.

The bones of Saint Amadour which survived the fire are in a small reliquary in the chapel. The chapel is very simple in style with a single nave and hanging from its ceiling is one of the oldest known clocks which dates to the 8th century.

The Saint-Amadour crypt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Chapel of Saint Michael

The Chapel of Saint Michael is a 12th century Romanesque chapel which sits underneath an overhanging rock. It has been extensively renovated in the 19th century along with most of the buildings of the Sanctuary but houses a collection of well preserved 12th century frescoes.

Other chapels

The other chapels are the Chapel of John the Baptist with a collection of paintings of important pilgrims, the Chapel of Saint Blaise, the Chapel of Saint Anne and the Chapel of Saint Louis which rather strangely is dedicated to rugby and contains various rugby memorabilia!

Attractions nearby

From the Sanctuary you can descend the steps to the village, descend part way to the attractive houses of the Chemin de ronde or take the winding path up the Chemin de croix, or Way of the cross, which passes all the Stations of the Cross ut to the cross on the hill above.

At the top of the hill is also the castle whose remparts you can visit for some excellent views.

Walk along to L'Hospitalet which has a church and the ruins of a previous chapel and also some stunning views over Rocamadour. There are various car parks for Rocamadour at L'Hospitalet and one at the castle.

See also: 

Photos of Sanctuary of Rocamadour

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Map of Sanctuary of Rocamadour and places to visit


Sanctuary of Rocamadour places to visit

The Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross is a path between the Sanctuary of Rocamadour and a large cross on the cliff top with the Stations of the Cross illustrating Christ's journey to Mount Calvary and his crucifixion.

The Way of the Cross guide


Rocamadour is an important pilgrim destination and one of France's most visited sites.

Rocamadour guide
Gouffre de Padirac

Gouffre de Padirac

The Padirac caves are entered by boat! They are extremely popular.

Gouffre de Padirac guide


Martel is a beautiful town known as the town of seven towers.

Martel guide


Souillac is a pleasant town with an impressive abbey.

Souillac guide


Carennac is one of the most beautiful villages of France

Carennac guide