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RocamadourAmy McPhersonexplores the rock ofmiracles...
“That’s real, right?”“Yes.”“It’s not a mirage?”“No.”Imagine, having just spent four hours hikingthrough wilderness, encountering only fivehumans and three dogs enroute, I emerge outof the forest like a wild beast, to the end ofthe trail, cross a concrete car park and curvearound the cliff top, to be greeted by a villagethat looks like a medieval painting, anapparition from a Games of Thrones film set.This flourish of a settlement seems to springout of the rocks and flow to the gorge’s base,and I would not have been surprised should Ifind a dragon guarding its entrance gates.I have arrived in Rocamadour as a finaldestination of a multi-day walking trip. AUNESCO Heritage Site, Rocamadour has beenan important religious site along the St James’Way pilgrimage route and is built around thechurch complex at the heart of its blueprint,stacked vertically on the rocks that drop 150meters onto the valley floors of the Alzou.Immediately visible from the top is the 19thCentury castle that was the access control ofthe religious compound below. I climb the14th Century ramparts to admire thepanoramic view of the surrounding gorge andthe wilderness whence I emerged. The castleitself is private and unfortunately does notallow visitors.Today, I will walk down the staircase from thecliff top to the valley floor. Back in the MiddleAges, tired pilgrims would have traced thetrails along the river from beyond to climb the216 stone steps of the Grand Escalier on theirknees as an act of penance, to pray to and askfor a miracle from the Notre-Dame ofRocamadour, the Black Virgin.
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