A medieval village that seems to defy the laws of gravity, Rocamadour surges out of a cliff 1,500 feet above the Alzou River gorge—an awe-inspiring sight that makes this one of the most-visited tourist spots in France. Rocamadour got its name after the thousand-year-old body of St. Amadour was discovered "quite whole" in 1166. Legend has it that Amadour was actually a publican named Zacheus, who entertained Jesus in his home and, after the crucifixion, came to Gaul, eventually establishing a private chapel in the cliff here. In any case, his saintly remains soon began working miracles, and the sanctuary that housed them began attracting pilgrims who’d ascend the 216 steps to the church on their knees. Making the climb on foot is a sufficient reminder of the medieval penchant for agonizing penance; today two elevators lift weary souls. Unfortunately, the summer influx of a million tourists can itself be agonizing.
Climate change, industrial activity, poaching, and urban expansion are a few of the problems that plague the preservation of the world’s most important monuments andMore