There is a tiny village in Normandy called Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei that is so charming, it is known officially as a ‘Most Beautiful Village of France’. It was a privilige to spend my birthday afternoon there in September with my family ~
The River Sarthe flows through this village with pretty cottages nestled cosily on both sides of the riverbank ~
A short walk from the car park at the top of the village across the stone bridge brings you to the town square in minutes ~
We hoped to find a place to eat, but were a little late for lunch at this quaint café ~
This delightful café set within a walled garden looked ideal, but was also about to close ~
I would have been happy here with a glass of wine or a cup of tea. Or both ~
We found a restaurant on the other side of the square and then strolled through the village, captivated by its picturesque charm ~
We found a path that took us out of the main part of the village towards the 11th century church ~
And there, as we walked away from the church, the path opened up to a green expanse and a magnificent 15th century chapel ~
This beautiful and unique chapel stands on the original, 7th Century site of the village of Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei, so named after Saint-Céneri, an Italian priest who, the story tells, having been guided by an angel, travelled north-west with a companion.
The long pilgrimage brought the two men across Northern Italy and eventually to the banks of the River Sarthe in the late 600s. Exhausted and thirsty, they struggled to find clear water to drink. Saint-Céneri made the sign of the cross and suddenly, a clear water source flowed up out of the ground. This source never dried up, and today, across the river, the Fountain of Petit Saint Celerin still stands ~
Miraculous healings of eye diseases are attributed to the water source. Another miracle occurred when Saint-Céneri prayed and asked God to part the waters of the river, enabling him and his companion to safely cross, before the river closed back up.
Weary from his travels, the priest stayed in the so-named Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei, living as a hermit and visited by disciples, word having spread far and wide of these and other miracles.
Artists are more likely to visit the chapel these days, each giving their own rendering ~
Today, with the horrors of the tragic attacks upon the citizens of Paris very much on my mind along with so many the world over, I hope and pray that those suffering find some small measure of comfort and peace as they grieve for the needless, tragic loss of so many beloved victims.
I remember the cool tranquility offered by this little chapel on a balmy, September afternoon ~
Feeling helpless, lost, reeling from the terrible cost of violence and terror and the despair of the innocent, we can do little else but pray as we stand with our neighbours in solidarity, holding them ever-close in our hearts ~
And we can hope that even in the face of such devastation, those suffering today in fear and pain, uncomprehending in all that has happened, will find healing and strength within the light and safety of their own, private sanctuary.