Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 3, 2007
Mary and child find shelter in this cave
Pilgrims often climb the 216 steps on their knees
Our Lady of Rocamadour – September 8
By TED FITZGERALD
The small, 68-cm high dark wooden image of Mary . . . has been an object of devotion for millions.
Traditionally, pilgrims make the ascent to the religious city by way of the 216 steps of the Great Stairway, sometimes prayerfully on their knees. Today, however, many visitors will opt for an elevator to the second level sanctuaries.
There, seven churches are arranged around the Lower Parvis of the Sanctuaries. Chief of these is that dedicated to Notre Dame, repository of the original wooden statue, on the site of the grotto. A daily Pilgrim's Mass is celebrated here.
Two informational plaques face onto the Parvis. One identifies the location of the tomb of town namesake Saint-Amadour, discovered in 1166 here, but subsequently desecrated during religious wars. Believed to have been a hermit living in the area, almost nothing is known about the saint.
On another wall is a description of the events surrounding Jacques Cartier's first winter spent at the future site of Quebec City in 1536. The explorer and his crew were introduced to a scurvy antidote by native people after prayers were offered before a statue of Our Lady of Rocamadour.
From the Religious City, the Way of the Cross follows a switchback route up the hillside. It's a pleasant exercise where each station is enclosed in an attractive shelter as the route traverses a quiet naturally wooded area. The devotion ends at a large cross at the uppermost level of Rocamadour.
For those unable to make the climb, another elevator connects the second and upper levels. The most prominent structure at the site is the towered castle or chateau that caps the cliffs, the traditional residence for clergy. From this level, visitors are able to experience spectacular views of the narrow, wooded Alzou Valley and the stepped town below them.
Descending from the sacred aeries, spiritually renewed visitors find themselves back in the lower town and ready to enjoy a variety of eating places along the main street. At gift shops, many will spend some time acquiring books or religious articles - prayer cards, statues, mementos of time spent in a most unusual holy place.
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