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has attracted visitors for its setting in a gorge above a tributary of the River Dordogne, and especially for its historical monuments and its sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which for centuries has attracted pilgrims from many countries, among them kings, bishops, and nobles.The town below the complex of monastic buildings and pilgrimage churches, traditionally dependent on the pilgrimage site and now on the tourist trade, lies near the river on the lowest slopes; it gives its name to Rocamadour, a small goat's milk cheese that was awarded AOC status in 1996.On the summit of the cliff stands the château built in the Middle Ages to defend the sanctuaries.A legend supposed to explain the origin of this pilgrimage has given rise to controversies between critical and traditional schools, especially in recent times.The composer Francis Poulenc wrote in 1936 Litanies à la Vierge Noire (Litanies to the Black Virgin) after a pilgrimage to the shrine.
Below, the pilgrimage church opens onto a terrace where pilgrims could assemble, called the Plateau of St Michel, where there is a broken sword said to be a fragment of Durandal, once wielded by the hero Roland.
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The origin of the sanctuary of Rocamadour, lost in antiquity, is thus set down along with fabulous traditions which cannot bear up to sound criticism.
After the religious manifestations of the Middle Ages, Rocamadour, as a result of war and the French Revolution, had become almost deserted.
It is now well established that Saint Martial, Amadour's contemporary in the legend, lived in the 3rd not the 1st century, and Rome has never included him among the members of the Apostolic College.