Sts. Serenicus and Serenus of Spoleto
May 7th is the commemoration of Sts. Serenicus and Serenus of Spoleto
“Young patricians from Spoleto who abandoned their family and their possessions at the bidding, it is said, of an angel, and betook themselves to Rome. The tombs of the Apostles were at that time under the care of the Benedictines, with whom the two strangers were brought into contact and from whom they received the habit. For some time they lived the community life in Rome, edifying their brethren by their youthful piety, but before long they withdrew, still under angelic guidance, to seek a new home beyond the Alps in France.
On the site of the present town of Château Gontier, in the diocese of Angers, and subsequently in the forest of Charnie, near the village of Saulges in Maine, they led a life of extreme self-abnegation as solitaries. But, desirous though they were of remaining lost to the world, the fame of their sanctity began to attract visitors, who disturbed their solitude. So strongly did Serenicus feel the call to greater seclusion that he bade farewell to his brother, from whom he had never previously been parted, and struck out into the unknown region of Hyesmes, accompanied by a child whom he had baptized and who would not leave him. On a spot surrounded by boulders, situated over the river Sarthe and approached only by a narrow path, he determined to make his abode. He was soon to discover that solitude was not for him. Disciples gathered round, and he became the head of a large community of monks, whom he taught to recite the full psalmody, consisting of the complete Roman use in addition to all the Benedictine offices. He continued to rule over the monastery he had founded until his death which occurred when he was very old, about the year 669.
In the meantime his brother Serenus had remained in his hermitage at Saulges, his fasts and austerities winning for him many graces, including visions, ecstasies and miracles. When the countryside was stricken by pestilence, famine and drought, following on the horrors of the civil war, St. Berarius, bishop of Le Mans, besought the intercession of the recluse. The cleansing rain which cleared away the infection and refreshed the earth was attributed by the grateful people to the prayers of St. Serenus, whose reputation as a wonder-worker was greatly enhanced. Like St Serenicus, he lived to old age, and as he lay dying, sounds of celestial music are said to have been plainly heard by those who were near him at the time.
They were members of a noble family in Spoleto who entered the Benedictines and became hermits in France, in the Charnie Forest.
Serenus remained a hermit until his death and was known for his miracles, including ending a plague and a drought. Serenicus eventually served as head of the community of followers who had gathered under his spiritual guidance near the Sarthe River, following the Benedictine rule.”
“Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei, a village built on a rocky spur overlooking the river Sarthe near Alençon and the Alpes Mancelles, is one of the most beautiful in France. It was founded 1044 by William Giroie, who built a castle here. Unfortunately, little remains of the walls today. The place is named for Serenicus (Céneri), an Italian hermit who lived here in the 8th century. When he died, a monastery was built but later destroyed by the Normans in 903. Legends abound about the life of the monk Céneri. In his youth, accompanied by his brother Céneré, he moved to Rome to be in the Pope’s service where he entered the Benedictine order. Five years later, a vision ordered him to go west. The two brothers crossed the Alps in 659 and arrived in Saulges in the diocese of Le Mans.
There they stayed until 689 when Céneri and a disciple, Flavard undertook a journey through the Alpes Mancelles during summer. Upon arrival at the edge of a beautiful river skirting a rocky promontory they decided to rest. Exhausted and thirsty, Céneri asked God for aid. A miraculous spring suddenly appeared along the side of a hill. Since then, the spring has never stopped flowing and a stone fountain was built around it. The water is said to have healing properties and can cure certain eye diseases.
Fountain of Saint-Céneri
Another legend tells of a time when the river Sarthe was flooding and Céneri and some travellers wished to cross. Again, Céneri asked for God’s help. Suddenly, the river stopped flowing and everyone was able to cross the river. This section of the river was a favorite spot for Céneri and he built a small hut out of branches where he maintained a quiet existence as a hermit. As the reputation of Céneri’s holiness grew, disciples joined him and a thriving Benedictine community of 140 monks took hold. In 669, Céneri began construction of a wooden church at the top of the rocky promontory. He died on May 7, 670 before the completion of the church.
In the early 15th century La chapelle St-Céneri was built at the same location as his small hut. Its simple Gothic style fits perfectly into the pastoral landscape. ”