Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Hermits and Hermitages

Ermite, Hermite, Renclus

“Renclus” is a French word that means “recluse” or “hermit” in English. It is a noun that refers to a person who has chosen to live a solitary or secluded life, often for religious or spiritual resons. The term is sometimes used in medieval and religious contexts to refer to someone who has withdrawn from society to live a life of prayer and contemplation.

In Arthurian romances, hermits and hermitages often play symbolic and narrative roles, contributing to the spiritual and moral dimensions of the stories. These hermits are typically holy men who lived in seclusion, often in the wilderness or in remote locations.

Spiritual Guidance
Hermits are portrayed as spiritual advisors, offering counsel to knights and other characters on matters of morality, virtue, and the code of chivalry. Knights often seek out hermits for guidance on their quests, advice, redemption, or to gain insights into their destinies.

Solitude and Asceticism
Hermits in Arthurian literature typically lead solitary and ascetic lives. They choose to live in remote locations, such as forests, caves, or mountains, distancing themselves from the wordly distractions to focus on their spiritual pursuits.

Symbolism of Nature
The choice of a natural setting for the hermitage, often in the midst of a pristine landscape – such as deep forests, remote caves, or secluded valleys – symbolizes the hermit’s connection to the purity of nature and the divine. This natural setting enhances the spiritual and mystical atmosphere of the Arthurian tales.

Healing and Redemption
Hermits are often associated with healing, both physical and spiritual. Knights who are wounded in battle or who seek redemption for their sins may encounter hermits capable of providing healing or guidance toward a path of righteousness.

Guardians of Sacred Objects
Hermits may be the keepers of sacred relics (Holy Relics) or mystical objects. These objects often have significance in the quests undertaken by the knights. The hermit might reveal the purpose or importance of these items to the quest. Knights on quests may be directed to seek these hermitages to find or learn about these powerful items.

Tests and Challenges
Hermits may subject knights to tests and challenges that assess their virtue, integrity, and adherence to the code of chivalry. These tests serve as moral lessons and contribute to the development of the characters.

Quests for Knowledge
Characters in Arthurian romances often embark on quests to seek out hermits who possess knowledge about the destiny of the knights, the Grail, or other mystical elements of the Arthurian world. The hermits become sources of hidden wisdom.

Role in Quests
Hermits frequently become integral to the quests of the Arthurian knights. They may provide vital information, magical items, or spiritual insight that aids the protagonists in their endeavors.

One notable example is the Fisher King, a wounded king associated with the Grail Quest. The Fisher King is often connected with a hermit or a holy man who guards the Grail Castle. In some versions, the Fisher King is also identified with the hermit.

Prophecy and Oracles
Hermits are sometimes depicted as having prophetic abilities. They may provide cryptic prophecies or oracles that guide the actions of the knights and contribute to the overall narrative of the Arthurian legends.

There are several “hermits” in the Vulgate and those below are some from Sommer’s list.

  • Hermit
    Who baptises King Label.
  • Hermit
    To whom King Mordrain had himself carried.
  • Hermit
    The one who was found near the rudder of Mordrain’s ship lamenting and moaning about murder and treason.
  • Hermit
    A former knight, who had lost twelve sons. He is probably Aliers de Thanningues.
  • Hermit
    Near the castle of Leverzerp where Gawain stayed.
  • Hermit
    A former knight, the uncle of the damsel who conducts Lancelot and Galeshin to Escalon li Tenebreux.
  • Hermit
    With whom Ywain finds his cousin Gawain.
  • Hermit
    At whose hermitage Lancelot passes the night before going to le Chastel as Puceles.
  • Hermit
    To whom Gawain comes after leaving the Grail Castle.
  • Hermit
    Who tells Ywain the antecedents of the giant Mauduit.
  • Hermit
    Who gives Bohort an account of Lancelot’s baptism.
  • Hermit
    In the Perilous Forest, at whose house Lancelot and Mordred stay and who tells them that this is beyond them to understand the miracle of the stag and the four lions.
  • Hermit
    Where Bohort learnt that Lancelot had passed there.
  • Hermit
    Where Lancelot passed a night on his return ride to Camaalot.
  • Hermit
    Who finds Lancelot when, in his dementet state, he has followed and killed a wild boar.
  • Hermit
    Whom Bohort met carrying the sacrament.
  • Hermit
    Whom Lancelot finds and by whom he is blamed for his past sinful life and encouraged to mend his way.
  • Hermit
    Who explains to Lancelot that chivalry alone cannot help him, and that all who hope to be successful in the quest of the Grail must be free from sin.
  • Hermit
    Whom Lancelot found mourning and lamenting over a dead body.
  • Hermit
    Who interprets Lancelot’s vision and tells him his only hope is God’s mercy.
  • Hermit
    Who endeavours to dissuade Lionel from fighting his brother Bohort, and who is killed by him.
  • Hermit
    With whom Lancelot stays when is wounded by one of Arthur’s huntsmen.
  • Hermit
    In the forest of Nordelonde this hermit christened Gawain, and to whose intercession with God he owes the peculiarity which had been fatal to so many knights.
  • Hermit
    Who told Bohort that he would find Lancelot on a certain day at La Joyeuse Garde.
  • Hermit
    A hermit priest Perceval encounters in a forest. His companion was named Alecys.
  • Hermit
    Who induced Nascien to renounce chivalry and tells him the gospel of Nicodemus.
  • la Renclus
    Perceval’s aunt who was the Queen of Terre Gastee (Queen of the Waste Lands).
  • le Renclus | l’Enclusage
    The abode of Perceval’s aunt.

There are several “Hermitages” in the Vulgate, the first two comes from Sommer’s list.

See also
Black Hermit | The Legend of King Arthur
Errant’s Hermitage | The Legend of King Arthur
Hermit | The Legend of King Arthur
Hermitage of the Cross | The Legend of King Arthur
Hermitage of the Hedge | The Legend of King Arthur
Hermitage of the Mount | The Legend of King Arthur
Proud’homme | The Legend of King Arthur