Legends of the Blessed Virgin – The Precipice

Legends of the Blessed Virgin, by Jacques-Albin-Simon Collin de Plancy“Renowned Virgin.”

Many saints have lived on earth unknown to men, whose hearts were entirely detached from the world, and who sought only to know and be known to God. Such was one of the patrons of the diocese of Cahors, whose life was so hidden, that even his real name is unknown, and he is venerated under the title given to him by the people – Amadour – perhaps from his great love of God and of solitude. He lived in the wild and rugged rocks. We do not intend to give the popular legend concerning him, which is not sufficiently trustworthy. But we state a well- established fact, that in the third century in which he lived, he constructed in one of the rocks, called from him, Roc-Amadour, a little sanctuary dedicated to Mary. Saint Martial consecrated this chapel, which became a celebrated pilgrimage, and from this humble dwelling hewn out of the rough rock, has the Help of Christians dispensed many a blessing.

In the eighth century, pilgrims from all parts visited it. Roland, the illustrious nephew of Charlemagne, travelling through Quercy, in 778, turned out of the highway to seek the lofty sanctuary of Roc-Amadour. Many persons of distinction followed in the tract of the noble hero of Roncevaux. Rich presents were made to the chapel and placed over and about its simple wooden altar, and soon a body of religious attached themselves to its service, and a town sprung up near it. Several privileges were accorded to the spot by Popes Clement II, Alexander III, Gregory XI, Martin V, Pius II, Clement XII, Pius VI, and Gregory XVI.

During the early wars, the holy image venerated at Roc-Amadour was held in such respect, that they who carried about them the medal on which it was represented were never molested. Sad indeed is it to relate, that the Protestants in 1562, and the revolutionists of 1793, those epochs of destructiveness, profaned this holy spot by their presence and its inevitable consequences. But we will hurry over these terrible scenes. Their violence could not detract one iota of the power or the influence of our sweet Lady, who, as she protected Erard de Brienne during the first crusade in 1217, and the Viscount de Turenne in his engagements in the fourteenth century, still blesses the pious pilgrims who frequent her shrine.

From the innumerable miracles which have been wrought by our Lady of Roc-Amadour, we have selected one simple history.

At the commencement of the last century, a man, who, in his early age had made the pilgrimage of Roc-Amadour, was travelling through Auvergne, along a very dangerous road cut out of the rocks and bordered by precipices. He was on horseback. A terrible storm arose. The lightning was so vivid and the thunder increased with such fearful rapidity, that he was obliged to halt and dismount. But as he was in the act of withdrawing his foot from the stirrup it became entangled, and he could not succeed in gaining the ground. In his efforts to disentangle his foot, he struck the spurs into the horse’s flank. The animal, which had been frightened by the lightning, on receiving the spur, set off at a furious and headlong gallop along the rocks, leaping over gaps, completely freed from all control.

The terrified traveller bethought him in his need of our Lady of Roc-Amadour; he implored her help with all the earnestness and warmth of one who is about to perish. Scarce was his prayer ended, when he closed his eyes and felt a strange sensation come over him. On his recovery, he discovered that he was in perfect safety and on his feet, while below him at the bottom of an immense precipice, he saw the mangled body of his horse. On looking at his feet, he found that the sole and spur had been torn away, while the upper leather still covered his ankle. The powerful hand which had held him when on the brink of the precipice, had placed him on an artificial seat in the rock, where he found himself on recovering his senses. The rescued traveller devoutly signed himself with the holy cross, and hastened directly to Roc-Amadour to thank our Lady for his wonderful preservation.