The way is old: it seems to date back to the 12th century, when Ebles de Turenne then Géraud d’Escorailles, priors of the Saint-Martin de Tulle monastery, settled in Rocamadour and developed the pilgrimage. At that time, Rocamadour forged links with the Camino inglés, in Spain, and many pilgrims pass through the largest Marian sanctuary in the West before reaching Compostela. But the turbulence of history had made us forget this itinerary… or almost!
“In Collonges-la-Rouge, explains François Ceyrac, we had a museum on the theme of the goose. However, in the Middle Ages, the crow’s feet was one of the symbols of the pilgrimage. We did research and discovered in the archives allusions to a path linking Bénévent-l’Abbaye to Rocamadour (Lot).”
That’s all François Ceyrac needs to set off an exciting treasure hunt. A small team joins him and they discover, between these two places, testimonies from Saint James who attest to the passage of pilgrims: in Eymoutiers, a pilgrim is hidden in the stained glass windows of the collegiate church; in Treignac, a shell appears on the pediment of an old inn welcoming pilgrims; in Chaumeil, a stained glass window and two statues represent Saint Jacques; in Tulle, there are many symbols of the Saints (statue, shells, Auberge Saint-Jacques, Porte d’Espagne, etc.); finally, a chapel is dedicated to Saint Jacques in the Saint-Pierre de Collonges-la-Rouge church.
From then on, the stages follow one another. In 2009, the association Un chemin de Saint-Jacques. The way of Rocamadour in Limousin and Haut-Quercy is created, of which François Ceyrac assures since the presidency. In 2010, a route was created. And in 2011, with the help of the 48 municipalities crossed and a few public and private sponsors, the Rocamadour route was inaugurated.
Editing a guide
“The first guide was published by Rando-Éditions in 2011, continues François Ceyrac: it describes the route from Bénévent-l’Abbaye to Rocamadour, i.e. 255 kilometers on foot and 12 to 14 days.” A precious tool for traveling to this high place of pilgrimage where a Black Madonna has been venerated since the 12th century. But it lacks the description of the connecting routes to the GR®65 (or Puy-en-Velay route), if you want to continue towards Compostela. In 2017, the new edition of this guide (published by Éditions Glénat, which has in the meantime acquired the Rando-Éditions brand) fills this gap by offering two options: join La Romieu, in the Gers (240 km, 9 days of walk), or Cahors, in the Lot (70 km, 3 days of walking).
“This book being out of print, explains François Ceyrac, we wanted to offer a new formula: pocket format with spirals (which saves 90 grams and makes it more manageable), new accommodations, a few changes in layout.” In a word, a contemporary look for a path adapted to our times!
The advantages of the Rocamadour route are indeed numerous. “Having done it twice with a cousin, confirms Geneviève, I particularly appreciated the welcome received all along the way: by booking in advance, you can sleep every night in pilgrim reception, in private homes or in communal stopover lodgings.” We will not fail to stop, for example, at Daniel and Claudie Geneste, hosts in Bar (Corrèze). “For health reasons, I could not make this journey, confides the one who is nicknamed “Claudie du Chemin”. But I walk with the pilgrims whom I welcome with wide open arms. When they arrive, I offer them a drink. Then they shower and write their mail. They then come to our table for dinner, and I prepare a well-balanced meal for them. In the morning, before heading back on the road, homemade jam and old-fashioned chocolate!”
The landscapes are also popular with travellers. “They change at each stage, specifies François Ceyrac, due, in particular, to the dwellings built with local stones: granite from the Millevaches plateau, gneiss from Aubazine, red sandstone from the Collonges massif, limestone from Quercy.” On the route, little tar: we are most often immersed in nature. So that when they arrive at Bénévent-l’Abbaye, some pilgrims who take the Vézelay route branch off on this route.
More and more pilgrims
This forgotten and rediscovered route is still in its infancy: an eco-meter placed between Aubazine and Collonges (Corrèze) counted around 2,000 walkers there in 2019. “More and more people are taking short three- or four-day walks there. , most of the small stations are still open along this route, adds François Ceyrac.You can also make the journey from Bénévent-l’Abbaye one year, in two weeks, then leave Rocamadour for Compostela the following year. ” Finally, a novelty: the path is now signposted in both directions, which facilitates the progression of pilgrims who follow the path of Bernadette from Lourdes to Nevers.
However, this route remains a popular alternative for walkers looking for a peaceful and solitary route. “Inner peace, serenity, beauty” are the three terms that characterize him, concludes François Ceyrac. On one condition: avoid the strong summer heat!