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The many legends of Saint Cénere-le-Gérei

After an impulse purchase of a postcard depicting a shed in a field, we looked forward to routling around for something interesting about it.

We felt rather foolish when we instantly uncovered an avalanche of stories.  Clearly this particular small shed attracts more than its fair share of attention.

The chapel of Saint-Céneré
The chapel of Saint-Céneré, not a shed in a field

To precis a few tales:

Legend 1: The miracle of the parched monk

The young monk Cénere, parched after a trek over the Alps, prayed for refreshment an lo! A miraculous spring of fresh water appeared. Cénere was suitably grateful for this kind gesture by our Lord and Saviour, also a bit confused as just around the corner is the fairly gushy Sarthe river.

In no time the fountain developed healing properties, with thankful sparkling eyed visitors claiming cures for all sorts of gunky eye disorders.

Legend 2: Not quite the Red Sea but a good effort

After a particularly heavy Norman downpour the river Sarthe was impassable.  Cénere and some friends had a pressing yet unrecorded reason to be on the other side.

Everyone was chuffed when a prayer stopped the river and led them across to a field that Cénere fell in love with.

He built himself an oratory and devoted his life to the Lord.  This was the first incarnation of the shed.

Although he desired a simple life, Cénere inspired everyone he met. It was the dawn of history and a record of successful prayer had given him hero status.  Soon many admirers lived around the hermit’s hut.  A visit to Saint Cénere-le-Gérei has been a popular pastime ever since.

Céneri and Flavard statues in the chapel  Saint-Céneré
Céneri and friend Flavard?

Legend 3: For love and continence

The charming building we see today is a fifteenth century upgrade. Walking through a meadow alongside the gently flowing Sarthe it was easy to understand why this timeless place appealed to Cénere.

Inside, Saint Cénere (an unsurprising promotion) is apparently represented by a modest statue dressed in red. There are two statues and we think he is the one on the left with the hat and more clothes.

Young girls wanting to be married hide needles in his robes and get their wishes granted – a good story to stop overly inquisitive visitors prodding the relic and we wouldn’t question it.

Saint Cénere’s bed is said to be the large stone within the chapel. Approach it with extreme caution; believers lie down on the stone to be cured of incontinence, or to get pregnant.

The surprising church of Saint Cénere-le-Gérei

Back in the village, tired and keen for dinner, we nearly walked passed a nice old church.  There is nothing about it to give a clue to the marvels inside.

Along one wall is a remarkable set of forged iron statues representing the twelve stations of the cross. Their simple but realistic attitudes and the shadows they make on the wall give the procession an eerie life.  Quite beautiful.

The church also has some impressive wall paintings and apparently the view from the tower is lovely, we shall be back.

 Saint-Céneré le Gerai
Many thanks for letting us use this photo
View from the church, isn’t it lovely? Pic © Normandy Tourist Board – many thanks! Click on the pic to visit their excellent website.

A fond father

The village of Saint Cénere-le-Gérei is undeniably beautiful and visitors can seem to be it’s main preoccupation.  But, as we walked through the dark now quiet streets we saw a gentle sight that reminded us Saint Cénere-le-Gérei is still a home.

An elderly gentleman dressed in old French blue slowly walked down the stone steps of his cottage, to be greeted by a dozen mewing cats.  As he opened the door a bundle of patchwork kittens tumbled out and he happily greeted every one like a fond father.  His old string bag was completely stuffed with cat food and he waited patiently while the cats sauntered into the cottage, heading for a glowing fireplace.  Then he firmly closed his door.

Notes:

  • A brocante antiques fair takes place every last Sunday of July, in the meadow next to the Sarthe river
  • Find out more about the village on their website
Stations of the cross Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei
Beautiful ironwork stations of the cross at Saint Céneri-le-Gérei church

2 thoughts on “The many legends of Saint Cénere-le-Gérei

  1. Congratulations on a very well-written tidbit of local interest. Entertaining stuff. Fell onto your website accidentally and have had significant trouble getting on with what I should be doing instead, which is always a good sign.
    Keep up the good work.
    Kindest regards, Diane

    1. Hello Diane, thank you very much for the encouragement, much appreciated!
      Best wishes,
      Normandy Then and Now

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