The Our-Lady-of-Pleasant-Place Hermitage is a small sanctuary hanging from the rock. Located in a ruiniform landscape (dolomitic limestone) and fragrant garrigue, more than one hour walk from the village of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, it is a pleasant place where freshness can be enjoyed. The little chapel and its outbuildings are sheltered from the wind and the hot sun.
The origin of the hermitage
The hermitage is humble and isolated in accordance ith the wish of its founder, Jean d’Alble, a layman from diocese of Lodève. Jean d’Albe built the hermitage which was called Pleasant Place. Willing to ensure the perpetuity of his work, he asked to Pope Benedict XIII permission to raise an altar to the Virgin Mary. In 1395, the Pope issued a papl bull agreeing.
A clock was added to the chapel, which was henceforth under the supervision of the parish of Saint Barthélémy, that is to say under the supervision of the Abbey of Saint-Guilhem.
Later, the original clock has been replaced and the building extended. A room used as a shelter is added on the ground floor. A crypt was dug into the rock to bury the deceased hermits. The house where the monks live dis the one once used by the hermits, which had been extended. There was a stable, a cellar and a storeroom. There were 7 rooms on the first floor. This house was built in the 17th century.
The foundator of the hermitage had not chosen the place at random : there is a little spring which trickles from the rock wall behind the sanctuary. Without it, life in this place, in the middle of the mountain, would have been impossible.
There were only two hermits in 1631, but other seclusion-loving devotees continuously lived in this building until the French Revolution : as the place is highly suitable for prayer and meditation, from the 1500’s to the 1860’s, 23 pious men lived there – they were the famous « brothers » who gave their name to the adjacent valley.
The hermits devoted their time to prayer and contemplation, according to the rule of Saint Benedict, and spent their free time (as in every monastery) to grow vines, olive trees and vegetables on the poor soil of these marginal lands, and to help local people in the villages, hamlets and farms. They took care of the sick administered the last sacraments to dying people, and also « disinfected » in the days of plague epidemics.
Until 1860, the hermits lived a strict religious life at Our-Lady-of-Pleasant-Place. But then, the Abbey of Saint-Guilhem declined, the monks henceforth lived here and there in the village without observing anymore a strict religious rule, and the hermits imitated this less strict way of life.
Abbot Léon Vinas, aware of this decline, raised up in 1844 fourteen crosses on the path from Saint-Guilhem to Pleasant-Place. This « Way of the Cross » gave a new vocation to the hermitage : it strengthened the fervour of the local community and helped to maintain old traditional processions. There are still nowadays two processions to the hermitage. Every year, on Easter Monday, the inhabitants of Saint-Guilhem go to this sacred place to thank the Virgin who saved them from the plague in 1628. There is another procession the second Sunday of October, in memory of their prayer to Our-Lady when people, in 1724, asked her to save them from the flood of the Verdus (the river that runs through Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert).