One of the last existing hermitages in France is L’ermitage Saint-Gerbold near Gratot in Normandy. Between 1403 and 1418, Philip of Argouges, lord of Gratot, built the chapel dedicated to Gerbold, a 7th century saint who was the bishop of Bayeux and a resident of nearby Argouges. Owned by the Argouges family in the 17th century, the hermitage was transformed into a chapel between 1619 and 1623. A plot of land was also offered so that the hermit could cultivate his “herb garden.”
Confiscated and sold as national property during the French Revolution, the building did not return to the Argouges family until the 19th century where it once again became a hermitage until the death of its last occupant in 1830. Sold again, its successive owners ignore it and it gradually falls into disrepair and ruin. The roof finally collapsed in 1947.
Led by its ultimate owner, associations and enthusiasts, the building was classified as a historical monument in 1995. In 2000 it was purchased by the Conseil général de la Manche who restored it and opened it to the public in 2006. During excavations, the remains of an old nave were found as well as a statue of Saint-Gerbold. It had probably been buried by the faithful during the Revolution to save it from destruction. Dated from the mid-15th century, the statue is now on view at l’abbaye de Hambye.
According to legend, Saint-Gerbold died in 695 and relics of his body can be found in the Musée Baron Gérard in Bayeux and in l’église du Petit Celland. He is the patron saint of digestive disorders and his feast day is celebrated on December 4th.
The site is open daily to the public but the chapel is only open during special times of the year by guided tour including European Heritage Days.
The surrounding district of Saint-Jean in Caen was badly bombed during World War II. Most of l'église Saint-Jean had to be rebuilt but, fortunately, it was possible to restore it.
The fine Flamboyant Gothic building was begun in the 14th century, and repaired in the 15th century. The bell tower, of which the base and first story are 14th century, was inspired by the tower of nearby church, St-Pierre, but owing to the instability of the marshy ground which had already caused some subsidence, the spire and the belfry were never built, nor was the central tower. The lower courses of the second story were capped with a dome.
In the interior the same subsidence is visible in the pillars. The vast nave has a remarkable Flamboyant triforium and a highly ornate cylindrical lantern tower over the transept crossing.
The highly venerated statue of Notre-Dame-de-Protection dates from the 17th century.