Saint Céneri le Gérei is on the border of three départements and two regions ! The mairie (town hall) and church are perched on a hill in Orne. On the other side of the River Sarthe lies Moulin Le Carbonnel in the Sarthe department and if you cross to the other side of the Sarthon stream you are in Mayenne ! So one side of the village is in Normandy, and the other side is in Pays de Loire.
All this is of no importance whatsoever to visitors who come to see a character village which is also one of the « Loveliest Villages in France® » ! The centre clings to a rock and spreads down to the bottom of the valley where the River Sarthe meanders along. Rock is everywhere and the houses are delightful. The Romanesque church overlooking the bridge over the Sarthe has some wonderful frescoes in the choir and the apse. Below it, the chapel and fountain tell the story of the hermit Cénéri who came here in search of solitude.
At the top of the village, several fragments of wall are all that remains of the medieval castle and further up the hill, the Jardins de la Mansonnière take visitors on a wonderful journey into a world of art and plants.
Saint Céneri le Gérei – Little Barbizon in Normandy
The village is still an artists’ village and some, like Malezieux, live and work there all year round, while others come to hold regular exhibitions. I invariably visit the church to see the painting of « le manteau de la Vierge » then to the viewing platform like an eagle’s nest at the top of the hill, before coming back through the narrow streets. If I’m feeling brave, I go right to the top of the village on the road to Alençon to visit Alexandre in his studio.
Explore Orne in Normandy with Gites de France Orne : Pays d'Ouche, Bagnoles de l'Orne, Chambois, the medieval village of Domfront, Alençon, Suisse Normande.