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Megaliths, Parish Closes and Cider - Part 3 Northern Finistère


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This trip report covers a week we spent in St Thegonnec in northern Brittany in September 2011. It was originally written for Slow Travel and Pauline has asked me to enter it on Slow Europe.

This was week three of the trip. Week 1 covering Southern Finistere is here. Week 2 covering Morbihan is here.

There is general information about Brittany here.

Michael's web site of pictures from the holiday is here.

To St Thegonnec and Forges des Salles

It was another dull and damp start. We drove to ROHAN and now know why none of the guide books mention it. It is a small, unmemorable settlement on the Nantes Brest Canal. We then cut across country to GUELTAS, a small village around the church.

We had a personal guided tour of the church by the old soul who had let us in. She was having a marvellous time pointing out all the highlights of the church to us including photographs in the windows of two of the men from the village killed in WW1.

Next was MÛR-DE-BRETAGNE, a delightful small town with a lot of old houses and definitely not a village as described in the guide books, with shops, eateries and several old houses made of dark schist blocks. The church is C19th and has carvings of the 12 apostles in the porch.

We parked up in the drizzle for views of LAC DE GUERLÉDAN as we ate our lunch. Judging by the size of the car park this gets very busy in summer. We then continued along the north side of the Lake and up GORGES DE DAOULAS. This didn’t live up to the hype “most spectacular spot… river cuts through precipitous gorse clad rock formation…. slabs of rock rise vertically…” It was a pleasant wooded valley with a few bare rocky cliffs. It is probably better seen going down than up. We drove it both ways to check.

BON REPOSE ABBEY was busy with cars and people with bikes and walkers (which may have been linked in with the major mountain bike event that weekend). There are nice views of the river on the way to Salles de Forges and glimpses of the abbey through the trees.

FORGE DES SALLES is a small iron making hamlet in a steep river valley with deciduous woodland. It had been a major mining and iron making centre in the C18th. The buildings have been restored and are a fascinating place to visit.

We were the first to arrive after opening and had an individual guided tour with a young English lad who had moved to Brittany with his parents 5 years ago. He was informative and able to answer most of our increasingly detailed questions. It was a very worthwhile visit. For those who don’t want to have a guided tour there is an information leaflet numbering the different buildings around the site with information about them.

Mining was first established in the valley by the Rohan Family in 1623. The soil was rich in iron ore and there was plenty of wood for charcoal and an abundant supply of water. In 1802 the estate was bought by Compte de Janez who was very enlightened for the time and looked after the workers very well. His descendants still live in the big house. In the C18th this was one of the largest industrial sites in Brittany. Mining and processing of iron ore finished in 1880 and the buildings were gradually deserted. The site has now been restored as a museum.

The hamlet is dominated by the large house with its outbuildings, stables, kennels, carriage sheds as well as joinery and carpenter’s shop. The carpenter was responsible for maintenance of all roofing on the estate. This was originally where the Estate Manager and the Master of the Ironworks lived. Most of the building is C18th but the right wing was added in 1920 when the family moved in.

Beyond, the terraced garden rises up the side of the valley with a small orangery at the top (which now hides the water tower for the estate). This provided fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs for the big house.

There was a terrace of single storey C18th iron workers cottages. One has been refurnished as it would have been in the 18thC. Others contain exhibitions about the site.

Each family lived in a single room with shale or beaten earth floor, fireplace and storage for hay above. At the back were two store rooms. Water came from a well but later water was provided to the cottages. Cooking was done over the fire but bread baked in the communal bread oven. A 6kg loaf would be baked as it kept better. Each family was allocated a plot of land to grow vegetables and keep animals. They had shared use of a horse which was stabled in the middle of the row of cottages. Families lived rent free. Life expectancy of the men was low. Widows were allowed to continue to live in the cottage and were given a pension. The son would take over the father’s job and live in the family home.

The row of two storey C19th cottages housed the foreman and office staff. Facing south, they caught all the sunlight. There was also a terrace of three storey manager’s houses, built when the Rohan family moved into the ‘big house'.

The Administration building is close to these and was also the pay office. The chief clerk was responsible for the book keeping of the estate which included forestry workers, charcoal burners, carters and miners living off the site as well as villagers. About 400 people were employed by the estate. Wages were paid every eight days. Miners and charcoal workers lived in the woods to be near their work. They would bring in ore or charcoal in horse drawn wagons which would be weighed and they would be given a chit to collect their pay from the office.

Behind the Administration building is the Chapelle St Eloi (St Eligius) who is the patron saint of metal workers.With no belfrey, it looks more lik a house than a church.

This has two entrances. the north entrance was used by the villagers and the main west entrance was reserved for the Master of the Ironworks, chief clerk and the family if in residence. They sat in larger and more comfortable seats at the back. The chapel is plain and simple as it was built by the Rohen family who were protestants. Now it is a catholic chapel.

At the far end of the village is the smithy with blacksmith’s cottage attached. Not only did the smith shoe horses he was also responsible for the repair of broken machinery. Nearby was a large canteen where the men were given a free midday meal and it served about 70 meals a day. Next to it was a was a small shop.

The men were paid in cash and the shop used money rather than a barter or truck system. This provided the women with all the essentials they could not provide themselves. It was also a meeting place to exchange gossip, especially when the packmen delivered goods.

There was communal bakery and cider press.

The French put a tax on grapes and cereals. There was no tax on apples or buckwheat which is one of the reasons Brittany produced cider rather than wine and used buckwheat (in crepes) rather than wheat based products. The cider press could produce 800l of cider in a pressing. The men were given an allowance and would drink cider in the canteen.

The Compte de Janez family provided a small free school for the children. This was well away from the industrial site to ‘spare the children noise and fumes’. About 50 children attended the school. It was run by the Sisters of the Holy Spirit from St Brieuc, who also acted as nurses to the community. French rather than Breton was used in the school. Very intelligent children were identified and the Compte would pay for their further education. At the end of primary school the boys became apprentices. The girls stayed with their mothers and learnt housekeeping skills. The school stayed open until 1970. The Compte’s children attended the school before going to boarding school. As the school building no longer exists, a building in the village has been converted into a schoolroom to show what an C18th school was like.

The blast furnaces, charcoal and iron store are in the centre of the village and horses pulled wagons on tramlines.

Originally there were three furnaces in the valley, each with a lake to provide power for the waterwheel working the bellows. They ran for nine months each year as there was not enough water to run them during the summer. This time was used to repair/refurbish the furnaces. Gradually two fell out of use leaving the main furnace in the village.

Originally all produce came in or out by horse and cart but once the Nantes Brest Canal was constructed output increased rapidly. There were large storage sheds for iron ore.

The charcoal store was large and open to the outside, to reduce the risk of explosion.

There was a lime kiln to produce lime from locally mined limestone.

Iron ore, charcoal and lime were taken by horse drawn wagons from the stores along tramways and tipped into the top of the furnace.

The waterwheel worked two huge bellows pumping hot air into the base of the furnace. They got more money for finished product although some wrought iron was sold to nail makers in Brittany. Artisans used the wrought iron to produce agricultural machinery. During the Napoleonic Wars they made link chained cannon balls. The slag was used for roads or building work.

Iron working closed down around 1880 as furnaces nearer the coast could produce more iron. The Furnace was demolished in 1887. A new furnace has been rebuilt on the site and contains some of the iron working tools. The pond was filled in as a health hazard.

This was a fascinating visit, brought to life by a guide who was passionate about the site. For any one interested in industrial archaeology, it is a must.

It was then a fast drive to St Thegonnec. By now the sun had come out and it was a glorious run over the top of the Monts d’ Arrée. These are heather moorlands with rocky outcrops with good views across the plain north.

Beyond was gentle rolling countryside with a lot of woodland and fields of maize and pasture.
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Eglise de St-Thégonnec

ST-THÉGONNEC is a thriving small town with a good range of shops arranged around the square with the church. It was one of the richest parishes in the area with wealth based on the linen trade. The Parish Close reflects this wealth.

A stone wall surrounds the Parish Close. Entry is through the TRIUMPHAL GATEWAY topped with small lantern turrets. Inside the close is the Ossuary and calvary.

The CALVARY has a central figure of the crucified Christ with two soldiers on horseback with more figures below. On the other side is a carving of the Virgin with the body of the crucified Christ. Below on either side are the robbers.

The calvary is mounted on a massive stone block with what is described as a ’table of offerings’, below a small carving of St Thégonnec. Apparently, donations could be left here which could be auctioned to raise money to maintain the Parish Close. The carvings round the base show scenes leading to the crucifixion, with figures in C16th dress. There is Christ with his hands bound being shown to the crowds and being mocked by his tormentors as well as his followers mourning the dead body.

The ornate C17th OSSUARY at the side of the close has a carved wooden door with 3 windows on either side. Above is a carved frieze with an inscription and the date 1702. Above are empty arches with carved shell tops.

It now contains a bookstall and display of church silver including the ceremonial cross. This is no longer a place to store bones but a sumptuous Chapelle Funéraire, where masses were said for the dead. Inside is a highly carved altar with vines and statues and steps on both sides.

In the crypt below is a full size carving of the entombment of Christ complete with an angel holding the crown of thorns and nails, weeping Mary and Veronica holding a handkerchief with the image of Christ’s face on it.

The CHURCH is a splendid structure with a massive square tower with a central pinnacle and smaller ones at the corners. There is a smaller spire to the NW. Entry is through the massive south porch which has a carving of St Thégonnec above. Inside are carvings of four of the apostles.

The inside of the church is best seen on a sunny day when all the gilt really does glow in the light.

Inside, massive pillars support round arches. There are square windows above and ornate arched windows in the aisles below.

Above the west door is a massive organ which has a carved wooden front. There are five panels on either side with painted floral designs on them. There is a floral frieze below with the date 1746. The organ itself is splendid with gilded angels playing instruments and other figures.

The ornate pulpit is painted grey with gilt decorations. On the sides are a series of carvings which show a bishop studying and holding a book while eating, another is writing in a book held by an angel. One shows a dove representing the Holy Spirit giving the bishop inspiration as he writes. There is a picture of St Herbot, a popular Breton saint with a cow. There are also carvings of roses and marigolds. Behind are carvings of angles and the sounding board above has gold cherubims above and a dove under the canopy.

The high altar has grey/beige paneling and gilt decoration with painted roundels beneath. There are three round topped stained glass windows. In front is a modern free standing mass altar. There are three large painted chairs in red and gold for church officials.

There are more altars on either side of the main altar.

At the ends of the side aisles are large and very ornate altars, with retable stretching from floor to ceiling.

The north altar has carvings from Genesis along the base from the creation of Eve to the banishment from the Garden of Eden.

There are smaller side altars painted in shades of blues, reds and golds.

On the south wall is a carved statue of the Virgin Mary surrounded by the tree of Jesse with the ancestors of Christ and a serpent at her feet. This has has doors which can close over it. The inside of the doors are painted with scenes showing the nativity and the annunciation.

There is a similar statue of an unidentified bishop - perhaps the same one as on the pulpit?

This is a wonderful church and really does have the WOW factor.
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St-Thégonnec and the surrounding area

Brittany is an area of small villages. Few feature in the guide books and often don’t have a web presence. These are some of the hidden gems we discovered while exploring the area.

St-Thégonnec is in the heart of the Parish Closes area in Northern Finistère, surrounded by rolling wooded countryside with fields of maize and pasture with cows. It was one of the richest parishes in the area with wealth based on the linen trade.

Flax thrived in the temperate moist climate and was used for making paper, twine, ropes, sail cloth as well as towels, damask and fine linen. The ripe flax was harvested by hand and once the seed heads were removed, it was ‘retted’ by soaking in ponds for 1-2 weeks. This began to break down the pectins holding the fibres together. The flax was then beaten to remove the woody bits and drawn through a comb. This produced long strands of flax fibres. In their natural state these are a pale golden colour. To produce white linen, the flax had to be bleached before spinning. This was done in a special building known as a kanndi. Once every settlement had a Kanndi but few survive in recognisable form.

Kanndi du Fers is one of the few kanndi to have been restored, but is not very easy to find. About 4km south of St Thegonnec is the small C17th Chapelle St Brigitte, a simple stone building in the shape of a cross. Turn left at the chapel and take the first right at the wayside cross. The kanndi is below the road at the corner of the next cross roads. It is a small stone building with a slate roof set in the trees by a stream.

Inside is a single chimney, fire place, big iron pot and slate rinsing sink. In the C16th to C17th linen fibres were brought to the kanndi between February to July. They were suspended in the vat with beech ash and washed in warm water. The potash in the ash helped to whiten the fibres. Rinsing was done in the large slate sink fed by a water supply from the stream. The skeins were left in the sun to dry and bleach. This process had to be repeated 6-9 times until the flax was white enough to weave and could take several months.

We also found another Kanndi in the tiny settlement of PEN-AR-VERN, a small hamlet of C16th and C17th houses lived in by linen workers.

The Kanndi is at the bottom of the village along a grass lane. This was larger and had two fire places. A scrubbing brush and bar of soap suggests it is still used for laundry. There was an information board in French which said the kanndi processed lin et cambre which was used for towels and linen.

Near here is LOC-EGUINER-ST-THÉGONNEC, a nice little village with a splendid Marie dated 1825 and a small C16th church with a small calvary in the churchyard.

Below are two fountains, one dedicated to St Eguiner and the other dated 1566 to St John the Baptist.

PLEYBER CHRIST, about 6km to the south east of St-Thégonnec, is rather a work-a-day, scruffy place. It is ignored by the guide books but the church is worth a quick look. The C16th church was enlarged in the C18th to meet a growth in the population and has some rather nice altars and retables. It lost its graveyard, calvary and archway in the C19th to make space for an enlarged town square.

It is a large church with a double aisle on the north side. The porch has carvings of the 12 apostles. Round pillars support round arches and there is a carved wooden frieze round the top of the walls. Above the west door is a massive dark wood carved balcony supported on wooden pillars and reached by a spiral stairway. On the wall above is a picture of Christ with the twelve disciples and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove above.

The highly carved altar has a scene of the last supper underneath. There are sculptures of saints on either side and a large paintings on the side walls.

There are two massive side altars. One has the Virgin Mary with cherubs. The other has St Peter with the Christ Child and two saints. There is a picture of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead underneath.

A bit further south is PLOUNÉOUR--MÉNEZ a pleasant small town with old plaster rendered granite houses round the square.

According to the guide books, the church has the tallest spire in Brittany. It has a large triumphal arch, small calvary and a sundial with angels.

To the west of St Thegonnec is ST-SERVAIS a small village just off N12 with a large large parking area surrounded by a wild flower garden.

The church has a very ornate slender spire with pinnacles and two balconies.

There is a fairly simple calvary with figures carved round the square base and a splendid ossuary with a highly carved door. Inside is a small white altar with gilt decoration and a carving of the annunciation on the base. There are empty wooden niches and small statues on the window ledges.

Yan D’Argent was a local lad who became a well known painter in Parisin the C19th. He was responsible for the paintings and decorations in the church and ossuary and there is a museum about his work. Both church and museum were shut when we visited but the ossuary was open.

Just to the south is PONT CHRIST with an old bridge across the river. CHAPELLE NOTRE-DAME-DE-BON-SECOURS was built in 1533 but destroyed by fire in the C19thC under mysterious circumstances. It had been a big church. The village had had 206 inhabitants in 1790. Now all that is left are a few scattered houses. The church had a small square tower at the west end with an open belfry and small spire. There were the remains of a small ossuary built onto the SW corner of the church. The east wall is still standing with the empty remains of the east end window. There is the remains of an arch on the north side of the church. In the church yard was a small calvary.

This is a delightful spot and well worth finding.


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GUIMILIAU is a small village whose wealth had come through the linen trade and is reflected in the Parish Close, especially the calvary. It is also on the ‘must see’ list.

A low wall surrounds the close with a fairly plain triumphal arch with two figures on horseback and Mary with the Christ Child on the top. On either side are stiles used by the faithful to enter the close.

The most notable feature of the close is the CALVARY carved between 1581-8. It has a simple crucifix on a thorny stem with Christ and the two robbers at the top.

The base has about 200 carved figures all in 16thC costume. They show different scenes in the life of christ from his birth, adoration of the magi and flight into Egypt to the last supper, his arrest and trial, carrying the cross, crucifixion , entombment and resurrection.

This was used as a teaching aid and the preacher could climb on the platform to comment on the different scenes. At the base was a table for the villagers to leave offerings to finance the church.

The Ossuary or CHAPELLE FUNÉRAIRE has a central doorway and small spire. There is an outdoor pulpit reached by a door.

The CHURCH is C17thC. The ornate south porch dated 1606 has a small OSSUARY on one side with open pillars supporting the roof. It has supporting towers at the sides and an open tower above.

Inside are carvings of the 12 apostles, separated by columns and still showing the remains of their original paint.

Below is a carved stone frieze with animal heads and a lovely scene from the creation with God pulling Eve from Adam’s rib.

The nave has cylindrical pillars supporting the pointed arches. The walls are painted white. The ceiling is blue wood with natural wood ribs and a carved wooden frieze.

There is a crucifix on the south wall and carvings of saints including St Herbot with a cow, St Margaret with the dragon who tried to swallow her and St Herve with his wolf.

The high altar is heavily carved wood with a scene of the Last Supper on the base.

There are five carved choir seats on each side and a highly carved Bishop’s Chair from 1677. There is a wooden eagle lectern and two others with cherubs.

The side aisles altars have large and splendidly carved and painted retables which stretch from floor to ceiling. They have twisted columns with vines and lots of gilt as well as statues.

To the north is the Retable of the Rosary with the Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child as she gives the rosary to St Dominic and the scapular to St Catherine. On either side are St. Nicolas and St. Zachary. Above is God the Father holding the body of the crucified Christ. There are cherub heads supporting swirl designs with leaves.

To the south is altar of St Miliau with a small window separating it from the Altar of St Joseph.

The retable of St Miliau has a large central carving of St Miliau surrounding scenes from his life, including his beheading by his brother.

The retable of St Joseph has Joseph with the small Christ Child. At the top is St Lawrence eith his grid iron and cherubs holding the tree of Knowledge with a serpent on a branch.

The pulpit has carved wooden panels showing ‘theological and moral values’.

At the back is a massive carved wood organ supported on panels. and with carved panels. These have David playing the harp and St Cecilia the organ as well as cherubim.

The baptistry has a granite font surrounded by a rail of slender carved pillars. Above this eight twisted columns support the carved wood canopy with carved figures and a lantern arch above with the baptism of Christ.

Display cases hold the 17th processional banners embroidered in gold and silver thread. One has the Virgin and Child on one side and angels with a sunburst on the other. The banner of St Miliau has the crucifixion on the reverse.

This again is a splendid church and not to be missed.


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Lampaul-Guimiliau is another of the ‘must see’ list of Parish Closes. The wealth came from linen and tanning. The close is surrounded by a low wall and triumphal arch which has a balustrade and small calvary on top. Next to it is the C17th CHAPELLE FUNÉRAIRE, with round doorway and beautifully carved door with a representation of the tree of Jesse. Above the windows are columns and blind niches. The CALVARY in the churchyard has the crucified Christ with the two robbers. Two angels below Christ are collecting his blood. On the reverse side is a carving of the Virgin with the body of Christ.

The CHURCH tower has an archway through which the road would have run. The Spire was one of the highest in Brittany until it was struck by lightning in 1809. It is now left as a short and stubby stump.

The south porch is dated 1533, capped with pinnacles. Inside are carvings of the Twelve Apostles. There is a carving of the Virgin and child above the twin doors. It has a highly carved ceiling with bosses and a stoup.

Inside the church there is an arcade of pillars supporting pointed arches. The walls are white and have a decorative carved wooden frieze. The lime washed wooden ceiling has wooden ribs and there are carved wooden beams across the nave. The side windows are modern with abstract designs in shades of pale yellows, browns, greens and whites.

A painted C16th Holy Rood of Glory separates the choir from the nave. It has a carving of Christ on the cross with the two Marys. Below are a series of carvings of different scenes of the Passion of Christ from the Mount of Olives the scourging and crowning with thorns to the carrying of the cross, crucifixion and the entombment. On the side facing the chancel are scenes of the Annunciation.

The high altar has quite a small retable and is dwarfed by the two massive Baroque retables on the walls on either side. One has St Lawrence holding a grid iron. He was a C3rd martyr who according to legend was roasted on a grid. Another has St Margaret trampling the dragon which had swallowed her. (Satan in the shape of a dragon, tried to swallow her but she escaped alive when the cross she carried irritated the dragon's innards.) On either side of the east window are the statues of St Peter with the keys of Heaven and St Paul. There are four choir stalls and a carved wood eagle lectern and a highly carved altar rail.

At the end of the side aisles are C17th altars with huge highly decorative painted retables.
To the south is the Retable of St John the Baptist. This stretches nearly to the ceiling and only a bit of the stained glass window peeps above it. It is a glorious display of carving and colour. The central panel shows five scenes from the life of John from his baptism of Jesus to Salome presenting his head to Herod. It is surrounded by highly carved pillars. On either side are further carvings including a scene of the fall of the Angels, a statue of John on the right and Michael slaying the dragon on the left. Above each of these are cherubs.

On the north side is the equally impressive Retable of the Passion. The central panel has gilt representations of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples and the last supper. Above are scenes from the passion including the kiss of Judas, the scourging, carrying the cross, crucifixion, descent from the cross and entombment.

In the bottom left hand corner is a lovely scene depicting the birth of the Virgin Mary. Anne is lying in a four poster bed being congratulated by St Joachim the proud father. The midwives are washing the newborn infant.

The pulpit is C18th and has carved panels of the four evangelists and also the four doctors of the church (St Augustine, St Jerome, St Ambrose and St Gregory.

On the north wall is a C15th carving from a single block of oak of the descent from the cross. It shows the women collecting the dead body of Christ prior to burial.

Above the west end of the church is a carved wood balcony with the organ. To one side is the font with carved canopy painted blue, red and gilt. It has finely carved pillars with the baptism of Christ and the 12 apostles above.

To the other side is a limestone carving of the entombment from 1676. Christ is lying on the tomb and surrounded by beautifully painted carvings including the The Virgin Mary being comforted by St John and Mary Magdalene. There are two glass cases containing the processional banners. One has St Pol with the risen Christ being crowned by God the Father and cherubs on the other. The other has the Virgin and Child on one side and a sun burst on the other.

The two altars with their massive retables make this church well worth finding. The detail of the carvings is amazing.
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La Martyre

La Martyre is an attractive small village with an old stone built marie and many old houses.

The town had an annual fair where merchants from England, Holland and Touraine came to deal in linen cloth, livestock and horses. Town became rich on rates levied on these transactions and could afford the best workshops to decorate the close and church.

The church is dedicated to the old Breton king and martyr, St Saloman. The Parish Close is the oldest in the region, being built between the C11th and C17thC. The massive TRIUMPHAL ARCH is C15/16th and has a calvary on top, with the crucified Christ and the two robbers. Coffins used the central gateway. Other people used the side gates with the steps and flat stone slabs. There is a walkway across the top of the arch. The house immediately to the left of the Triumphal arch was a lookout post.

To the left of the triumphal arch is the 1619 OSSUARY with a carved doorway and a figure holding a skull and long bone. Two angels hold banners with dire warnings in Breton.

The highly carved south porch has a wonderful carving of the Virgin Mary giving birth with two oxen, angels and knights above the archway.

Inside are carvings of the 12 apostles and the remains of a painting of the four evangelists on the ceiling. Between the doorways is a stoup with an ankou (personification of death) holding a severed head.

The interior of the CHURCH has low pillars with carved heads of people and animals supporting the pointed arches. The roof is lime washed wood. The ceiling beams in the north aisle are highly carved and have the remains of paint on them. Along the top of the walls are the remains of C14th wall paintings in shades of faded red with some yellows, discovered during renovations in 1997.

The font at the back of the church has a decorative canopy in shades of pale grey, slate blue and gilt.

Low metal railings separate the choir from the nave and there is a lovely carved wood rood arch supported with four pillars on each side. On top is a crucifixion with the two Marys.

The high altar is covered with gilt and has scenes of martyrs on the bottom. Above, angels surround a carved roundel with a star burst and crown above. Between the tall C16th stained glass east window windows are statues set in Baroque style niches.

The south altar has a carved stone base with scenes of hell below a painting of an angel reaching out to martyrs being burnt. On either side are statues of St John and St Paul.

The treasury is displayed in a cabinet in the back corner of the church. It holds the communion plate, the processional cross, a monstrance, a C16th silver reliquary box of St Salomon and two C16th painted wooden heads of John the Baptist on a plate.

This doesn't have the WOW factor of some of the other Parish closes (St Thegonnec, Guimiliau and Lampaul Guimiliau) but none the less, thre is sufficient of intrest to make it wotrth seeing if in the area.


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La Roche-Maurice and Roc’h Morven Castle

La Roche-Maurice is dominated by the remains of ROC’H MORVEN CASTLE on a rocky promontory above the town.

Restoration work has been done on this and there are a series of information boards around the site. There is a well made path up to the castle and access is by an outside metal staircase. Parts of the curtain wall can be seen.

There are the remains of the kitchens with ice store and the castle keep which is roofless and has no internal structures left.

The stone keep was built at the end of the C12th and the castle was extended in the C14th by the Rohans following a fire. There was further work in the C15th. The castle was abandoned and the stone robbed for buildings.

Entry is free and although thre is little left of the castle, it is worth the climb for the views of La Roche-Maurice and the surrounding area.

LA ROCHE-MAURICE is a pleasant small town with a large square which could have been the castle bailey and another square by the church. It has many old stone houses and an excellent bakers.

The CHURCH was built from the wealth of the linen industry and has a very tall and striking steeple that dominates the town. It no longer has a triumphal arch or calvary.

There is a large ornate OSSUARY with pillars and empty niches in panels under the pillars. It has a stoup with an ankou.

Entry to the church is through the south doorway. Immediately inside is the old stone font. There is a small font at the back near a confessional box which is unused and blocked by chairs and old pews. In the opposite corner is an wooden bier.

One of the most striking things of the church is the very ornate rood screen which is painted red, green and grey. Christ, Mary and St John are on the top. Below are carvings of the 12 apostles facing the nave.

On the side facing the high altar are carvings of saints.

The underside of the main bar of the rood screen is highly carved and supported by red and green mythical beasts, with small carved figured between them. Finely carved banisters separate the choir and have small heads carved between the tops. Below are red and green pillars with small panels between them which have flower motifs with human faces and bodies.

The chancel ceiling is painted blue with winged angel heads.

The rest ceilings are painted blue wood and have a very highly carved wooden frieze round the top of the walls with oxen ploughing and pulling a cart, faces, angels holding scrolls.

The other highlight of the church are the statues. In the north aisle by the rood screen is St Margaret and a dragon. Satan in the form of a dragon swallowed her but she escaped as the cross she was holding irritated the dragons innards.

In the south aisle is St Anne with the young Virgin Mary.

La Roche-Maurice and Roc’h Morven Castle don't feature much in the guide books but again are worth a stop if in the area.


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Locmélar Church is ignored by the guide books. All the information I had was that it was C16/17th with imposing altarpieces dedicated to St Melar and St Herve and banners with gold and silk embroidery. Again this is a hidden gem.

The CHURCH has a solid square tower with a tall spire with small holes. There are elegant pinnacles on the roof. There is a large sacristy with a domed roof. The triumphal arch is reduced to two pillars and the ossuary was demolished in 1920. The simple calvary has Jesus with the two robbers and two horsemen. Below is the Virgin holding the crucified Christ.

The 1664 south porch contains statues of the 12 apostles with the remains of red and gold paint still visible.

Inside the church, there is a wonderful blue ceiling with cherub heads. Each one is slightly different and they are decidedly 'rustic' in character.

The massive high altar painted in shades of pale grey, red and lots of gilt dominates the east end. It has scenes of the passion. On either side are statues of St Melar and the Virgin and child. Above is a statue of Christ in glory with a globe in his hand and God the Father above surrounded by angels. 
There is a carved wooden altar rail and 3 carved altar seats with misericords on either side.

The retable above the south altar has a painting of the Assumption with the Virgin Mary, 12 apostles and angels. Above is a carving of the Virgin and child. The retable above the north altar has the blind St Hervé being led by his guide Guic. Above is St Hervé accompanied by a wolf. The wolf ate Herve’s plough ox, but when Herve talks to him the wolf is sorry and takes the Ox’s place and serve St Hervé. Both are decorated with painted pillars with scrolls of vines.

The sides of the retable adjacent to the choir are highly decorative with carved roundels or panels and more statues of saints, in this case St Peter with the keys of Heaven.

The massive C17th pulpit is very colourful with white, red, green and grey paint. The canopy is crowned with an angel blowing a trumpet and has a dove underneath. 

The font has a decorative canopy with pillars painted to resemble marble. The blue, red and gilt carved top has figures and the Archangel Michael subduing the devil.

There are beautiful old processional banners in glass display cases on the north wall. One has St Peter holding the keys of Heaven, another has a scene of the Crucifixion.

On the north wall is a beautifully carved wooden panel dated 1575 with scenes of the passion of Christ and crucifixion.



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Bodilis is another small village which doesn’t feature in the guide books and there is little information about it on the web. The C16th church is another hidden gem.

It is reached through a gateway into the churchyard. The tall tower has big pinnacles and a spire with a carved balustrade round the base. There is an archway running underneath it. There are pinnacles, a small spire and open carvings. The nave is long and low in comparison.

The massive south porch was built 1585-1601 and has a statue of Mary and Jesus above the archway. There are statues on the side pillars and animal heads underneath.

Inside the porch are carvings of the twelve apostles. The remains of blue paint can be seen on their robes and red paint under the canopies above them.

Below is a lovely carved frieze.

The small stoup has a lovely carving of a head.

The inside of the church is equally impressive with a lot of gilt which glows if the sun is shining.

The wooden ceiling is painted blue with stars and there are highly carved beams across the roof. One has the date 1574.

A carved frieze runs along the top of the walls, although quite a bit of this in the aisles is a modern replacement. The carving is less elaborate and mostly a simple repeating pattern. The older frieze has heads, oxen with carts, grotesque people lying on their sides, mythical beasts.

The chancel is a mass of gold with a gilt retable and gilt decoration on the walls and pillars.

There are two altars painted to resemble marble with massive retables on either side of the high altar. On the north side is the Retable of the Holy family and Our Lady of Bodilis. On the south side is the Retable of John the Baptist.

Beyond this is the retable of the Rosary with the Virgin, St Dominique and St Catherine of Sienna.

Below a crucifix in the nave is a touching carving of Mary and the other women collecting the body of Christ.

This is a delightful church and the different retables really are impressive. It is worth finding.


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A day around the Abers

The Abers are the three big river mouths, (Wrac’h, Bentoît and Ildut) on the coast of north east Brittany. This is an area of low rocky coastline with sand dunes in places. It doesn’t have the pressure of tourist seen further east along Côte de Granit Rose.

We decided to do this clockwise beginning at POINTE DE ST-MATHIEU, where there are the remains of C11/12th abbey which was rebuilt in C14/15th and Bishop’s Palace (now a museum). In the C17th the monks used to light a fire on the top of the church tower to guide ships. There are now two lighthouses; a smaller square one at the point and a larger round one. The land around is very flat and there are no trees. The coast line is low, rocky and attractive.

Plans to see something of the coast between Le Conquet and Lampaul-Plouarzel were thwarted by lack of signs and my navigation. Having gone round in a circle three times in Lampaul-Plouarzel, Michael’s patience was beginning to wear thin and there were muttered comments about sat nav. For the sake of Michael’s blood pressure and we decided to stick to yellow roads.

This is low flat countryside with fewer trees. Field boundaries are banks. There is more agricultural inland, especially cabbages.

We missed, or didn’t see the sign for St Govan’s Chapel but did manage to find a sign for Route Touristique which took us round the coast to CHAPELLE ST-SAMPSON. There is good walking both ways along the coast but it was too windy to want to go far.

This is a simple C18th stone building beside the road which has been restored recently. Outside there are two old stone crosses and the fountain is below the church. St Sampson was a celtic missionary who visited Armorique several times before settling here.

Inside there are bare stone walls and wooden ceiling painted blue. A splendid altar takes up most of the east end with the processional banner of Virgin and Child and statues of St Sampson (L) and St Yves (R). There is statue of St Isadore on the north wall.

Further up the coast is PORTSALL, a large settlement with a lot of boats in the bay. This was where the Amoco Cadiz ran aground in 1978. We followed the coast road along the sand dunes with no views of the sea to the long, straggling settlement of ST-PABU on Aber Bentoit. It was low tide.

We skirted Lannilis to pick up the coast road to around the small peninsula to BROUENNOUT which had nice views across Aber Bentoit to St Pabu. Cezon Fort was disappointing - a round tower on an island.

Back at Lannilis, we headed north across the bridge over the Aber and then picked up the white road which ran back upstream along the aber to find PONT DU DIABLE. I was glad I had printed off a google map showing its location as there were no signs and we would never have found it. We approached from the north side of the Aber rather than the south side as recommended by Michelin, as access looked to be better. There is a small parking area and it is a pleasant walk down a sunken lane lined with tall trees to the ‘bridge’ across the aber which is tidal here.

This is in fact a causeway of large granite slabs with gaps to allow the tide to flow between them. It is possible to cross with care and a footpath leads up from the far side.

There seems to be some confusion as to the age of the causeway. Michelin describes it as a Gallo-Roman stepping stones. Other sources believe it to C10th. It would have been an important crossing point over the Aber and there is a small stone cross set up beside the causeway.

According to legend a local miller was fed up of having to make the long detour around the Aber. He made an pact with the devil who would build the bridge in exchange for the first soul that crossed it. Next morning the bridge was built. The miller loaded a sack of flour containing his cat. When he reached the bridge he pretended to be tired, put down the sack and released the cat. Apparently drunk peasants going home at night would fall off the bridge and drown - the devil’s revenge.

We stopped off in PRAT PAUL on the way back which has a nice little Chapel dedicated to St Pol Aurelien, a celtic missionary who was one of the seven founding saints of Brittany and stopped here during his travels. It is a lovely little stone building set on a grassy bank with a fountain. Unfortunately it was locked.

Through Plouuerneau we headed for the coast and to ILIZ-KOZ. This had been the site of a medieval village. During the 18thC the sand began to encroach and cover the houses. Eventually the inhabitants left and the sand covered the site. A new village was built in the mid C19th. The site was rediscovered in 1969 when a bulldozer digging the foundations for a new house. The ruins of the chapel, Presbytery and part of the graveyard have been excavated.

The site is not well signposted. There is a small car park by the site. We parked in a large car park by the sandy beach, where a small sign directs you down a track which is about 5 minutes walk to the site. This is surrounded by a tall hedge with a partially hidden cross.

The church is surrounded by a graveyard with long flat grave stones. Carvings can still be made out on some of them - boat and anchor, spears, cross and two hands.

The walls stand 3-4 feet high. There was a large porch on the south side with an attached ossuary to the side. Off the choir is a large chapel with graves of the Parscau Family. Beyond the church is a stone paved lane with high stone walls leads through an archway to the the remains of the Presbytery with the remains of a stone staircase, fireplace and windows.

Opening hours are quite restricted at the site. It was interesting to have seen but not worth planning a holiday around the opening times.

Further east along the coast is MÉNÉHAM. This was a small seaweed gathering, farming and fishing village which was almost deserted by the 1990s. It has now been immaculately restored and is a neat little village of stone houses with thatch or slate roofs. It has an inn, and craft workshops. The remains of the old fields can still be seen round the village.

We drove past the village and found a large car park by the beach. It is a beautiful stretch of coast with sandy beaches, sand dunes and massive granite blocks stretching out to sea. This is good walking country. The C17th Vauban watchtower is a small granite building with small windows tucked between two massive granite rocks.

Back on the main road we drove to BRIGNOGAN-PLAGES, a large settlement with no obvious centre and some thatched houses. We drove past a huge menhir with a cross carved on the top to Chapelle St Pol, a C19th stone building with a small calvary and surrounded by big rocks that had a lookout post on the top. There was nowhere safe to park so we drove on to the end of the road at Poine de Pontusvel where there is a small parking area. It has a nice sandy beach with a small lighthouse and keepers cottage on the headland. There were good views of the rocky beaches back to Brinogan Plage.

The stretch of coastline between PLAGES DE PORS-MEUR and MOGUÉRIEC has some beautiful sandy beaches with grass covered headlands with granite rocks stretching out to sea. There are a few harbours but apart from Mogueriec where there were a few fishing boats, the rest were marinas.

There is a large parking area in KERFISSIEN which has good views of the coastline and access to the coastal path. On the headland there is the remains of a sea weed kiln - a long narrow pit lined with granite slabs which was in use until 1955. Seaweed was burnt for 24 hours and the soda blocks which were sold to a nearby factory to extract iodine for pharmaceutical industry.

LE GRENOUILLÉRE HEADLAND at Theven Kerbrat makes a good walk. There are several massive rocks and small stone granite 1744 guardhouse which was built as a relay for transmissions between guardhouses along the coast in case of threat of enemy ships.

This stretch of coastline from Ménéham to Roscoff is most attractive. It hardly gets a mention in the guide books. We found it as attractive as the highly promoted Côte de Granit Rose but without the solid mass holiday villas and people.


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Chateau de Kerjean

Chateau de Kerjean is set back from the road and reached down a long tree lined drive from the road. The parking area is screened by trees. There is a long drive way to the château with a big round dove cote to the right. The château is surrounded by a stone wall and dry ditch.

Entry is through a large gateway in the grassy outer courtyard with the ticket office.

A second gateway leads into the cobbled inner courtyard.

The château was built between 1566-95 around a central courtyard.

Part of the building was burnt down in 1710 and it was confiscated during the Revolution and parts of the building were taken for building stone. It passed into state control in 1911 and parts of the château have been restored although most of the main building is still a facade.

Ahead were the state buildings with the north west pavilion which had the lord’s private kitchen in the basement. This had 2 spiral staircases ; one for going down, the other for going up.

The stables wing on the left housed the kitchens and servants quarters. The charter room with its massive wooden doorway and stone vaulted ceiling and barred window was here. On the right are the storage buildings which would have housed coaches, agricultural machinery and the blacksmith’s forge.

The chapel pavilion is on the front right and a balustrade walk connects it to the clock tower on the left.

The chapel had a wonderful wood domed roof with a carved frieze round the base.

There is a numbered route from the corner of the storage wing through the main building. There are information boards explaining what different rooms were used for. Most rooms are unfurnished although a few had pieces of C17th furniture. One room had examples of box beds, storage cupboards and linen presses. Other rooms held exhibitions about the château and C16th life.

The facade is impressive but apart from that, there isn’t a lot else for the visitors.


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Ploujean like so many of the small villages in Brittany doesn’t feature in the guide books and there is little information on the web. Just north of Morlaix, we drove through on the way to Cairn of Barnenez. It looked a pleasant, well cared for place so we decided to stop.

According to the information board, CHURCH OF ST ETIENNE ‘was built between C11-17th with polychromatic wooden statues from the C15thC’. It is well worth the stop. It is well worth visiting.

There is a small ossuary by the church.

The church has an attractive tower topped with a spire and is entered through large porch.

The inside of the church is fairly plain. The massive nave doesn’t have pillars, as the round topped arches just continue down to the floor.

A low chancel arch leads into the chancel area which does have pillars supporting pointed arches in the choir. The high altar is a table with pink and blue carvings. This colour scheme continues round the paneling in the choir. There were modern stained glass windows with statues of the Virgin and John the Baptist on either side.

The side aisles had blue wooden ceilings with red and grey ribs and a decorative black frieze with different patterns of leaves around the base of the ribs.

The ribs are supported by carved and painted heads.

There is a wonderful painted carved wooden frieze round the top of the walls with angels.

The north aisle is closed off as a sacristy. This has an ornate painted frieze with carved angels and the wall above the arch is painted. This is a much more elaborate design with vine leaves twirling round a small roundel with a figure painted in it.

There is a massive carved wood organ in the balcony above the west door. This is supported by two red painted pillars with gilt scrolls on the top. The front of the balcony has paintings separated by carvings of ‘naughty’ ladies - the definite highlight of the church.



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Cairn de Barnenez 

Unlike the south of Brittany, there are few megalithic remains in northern Brittany, which immediately adds Cairn de Barnenez to the ‘must sees’ in the area. It is near Plouezoc'h, on the Kernéléhen peninsula in northern Finistère. The cairn has been carefully restored and ranks equal with the megalithic remains around Carnac.

It is a massive stone structure built on the highest point of the peninsula overlooking the sea. There is plenty of parking along the road and the cairn is hidden by trees. The Visitor Centre is carefully built into the hillside and is unobtrusive. This has basic toilets and sells a small selection of books and tee-shirts. Some of the finds from the cairn are displayed in the centre.

It is a short walk to the cairn which is on a grassy site although surrounding tree and shrubs restrict views.

This is the largest and oldest cairn in Europe and was built in two stages. The oldest part of the cairn is the eastern part. This was built about 4500BC from green dolerite and contained five chambers. The cairn was extended to the west between 4200-3900BC using granite which is slightly paler in colour. Six more chambers were added. A model in the Visitor Centre helps give an overall impression. The cairn is made up of steps of stone which gives it greater stability.

It was in continuous use for over 2500 years before being abandoned.

In 1955, part of the north western part of the cairn was removed when quarrying for road stone. This exposed several chambers. Quarrying was stopped and the cairn excavated, plant growth removed and stonework restored. This picture gives an indication of the amount of stone removed.

Most of the eleven original chamber entrances are now blocked. There is no entry to those which are not.

The quarry at the back of the cairn reveals the structure of the chambers with the use of large upright stones and carefully packed smaller stones. Some chambers have flat stone slabs. Others have corbelled roofs made up of smaller stones.

This is a lovely unspoilt area of Brittany which gets few visitors.It has good views too...



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Côte des Bruyères

From PLOUJEAN we picked up up a small white road along Rade de Morlaix with nice views across the river. There is deciduous woodland with small settlements along the side of the river and boats anchored.

The road goes inland through Plouezoc’h (nice) with rural countryside with artichokes and cabbages to CAIRN DE BARNENEZ.

From was a nice drive along the coast through Terenez. The loop round St Sampson and Le Guerzit wasn’t worth doing. We parked by the harbour in LE DIBEN a big sheltered bay with lots of boats and walked a short distance along the coast with good views across the bay to St-Pol-de-Léon and Pointe de Primel. There are small rocky islands out at sea and massive stone blocks.

We parked at POINTE DE PRIMEL with the intention of walking out to the headland. There was a map showing footpaths, a stone embankment across the headland as well as defences from the C15th to WW2. Some of the paths were grassy, others went through scrubland. We gave up when the path began to climb steeply up one of the rocky outcrops and there was no way round it.

Next was ST-JEAN-DU-DROIT, a nice little village but very quiet with no one around. There isn’t even a bakery. Next to the church is a massive stone house, Maison de Gouvernment, which was built between 1562-72 for the governor of the chapel. It was enlarged in the C17th and would have been used to house guests of the governor and important pilgrims. It has thick stone walls with tiny windows. Originally it would have had coats of arms carved on the stones but these were defaced during the revolution. It is now a private house.

The church was built in the C15th to house the finger of St John the Baptist although no one is quite sure how it reached here. It has suffered assorted fires, the last one in 1955 when the spire was damaged.

The church has a splendid triumphal arch. This used to have a platform where the priest would preach to the hordes of pilgrims before they attended mass in the outdoor oratory and performed their devotions at the fountain.

The fountain is late C17th and has a a large granite basin with a pillar supporting three bowls. At the top, God the Father blesses his son who is being baptised by John the Baptist lower down. Water flows out of the mouths of cherubs.

The oratory is a splendid structure which has bulging stone walls with carvings and a decorative rope pattern round the top. Pillars support the tiled roof. The inside with its altar and stoup is now looking very neglected. The shelves on either side of the altar would have houses statues. The ceiling is wood with a highly carved decorative frieze.

The inside the church is very plain, with no pulpit or stations of the cross on the walls. The nave is very tall with tall, thin octagonal pillars supporting pointed arches. The windows are modern with an abstract pattern of predominantly white, yellow and pale tan.

The high altar is simple. There is a boat on the left hand side of the high altar and a crucifix on the north wall. There are the remains of a stone altar in the south aisle with a decorative carved recess in the wall. There are two stone fonts at the back, one bigger than the other.

After St Jean-du_Droit, e drove through Guimaëc to find DOMAINE DE KERVEGUEN CIDER down a side road in a C15/16th manor house surrounded by orchards.

The cider along with apple juice and apple spirits is sold in the old outbuildings. The cider is matured in old oak barrels and we were taken to see the store with the massive barrels of cider.

We skirted round Locquirec to pick up the white road round Corniche de l’Amorique to ST-EFFLAM. There is a huge sandy beach at low tide with pine trees down to the shore. We parked and walked to the GALLO ROMAN BATH REMAINS at HOGOLO just above the beach.

The original bath house was built around 100AD and had a cold room and hot room with plunge pool. During the 2ndC AD the bath house was extended and and extra hot bath and furnace were added. The main furnace area was extended as a fuel store. The site was abandoned in the C4thC and robbed for building stone before disappearing under sand dunes.

The walls stand about 4’ high in places. The cold bath was at the end with the two hot pools by the side of the beach. The stoke holes, hypocaust and remains of wall ducts can still be seen.



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Lanmeur is a work-a-day place about 12km north east of Morlaix. It has several shops around the main square and a Super U on the outskirts. The main reason for visiting is the church dedicated to St Mélar with its C11th crypt.

Prince Mélar was heir to the kingdom of Cornouaille in the C6th. His wicked uncle had killed his father as he wanted to become king. Although Mélar was only seven he was regarded as a threat. His uncle tried to poison him, but Mélar made the sign of the cross over his food before eating which revealed the poison. His uncle ordered his men to cut off Mélar’s left leg and right arm to prevent him riding his horse and using a sword. He hoped this would incapacitate him so preventing him becoming king. The child was given a silver hand and a bronze leg which he could uses as easily as real limbs. They miraculously grew as he did. In desperation the uncle ordered the child to be beheaded. The oxen pulling the body of St Mélar to be buried with his ancestors refused to move further than Lanmeur and the cart collapsed. His body was buried on the site of the present church.

Although EGLISE ST-MÉLAR has an C11th crypt, the rest of the church was rebuilt in the early 20thC in the Romanesque style. It is a very stylish building. It is a large, light and airy building with round stone pillars supporting round arches. The stations of the cross are on walls. Above are round topped windows between more round pillars and arches. There is a simple vaulted ceiling of plaster with stone ribs. The rounded apse has three long and narrow stained glass windows. Beneath is a carved stone altar with scenes of the last supper. On the low retable behind is a carving of Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac but being stopped by an angel.

There are identical altars in the north and south aisles painted to resemble marble. Each have carved stone altar rails. Above are carvings of Mary and the baby Jesus and another showing Jesus blessing Mary of Magdalene (complete with a rolling pin at her feet).

The carved pulpit has scenes from the life of St Mélar and there is also a statue of him holding his severed hand.

Entry to the crypt is down steps at the side of the north altar. There is an meter box asking for 20c donation for the lights. (The money falls straight through into a pot below…)

The crypt is all that is left of the C11th church. It used to have slit windows for light but these are now blocked. There are two rows of round pillars which support low rounded arches. Two have carvings at the bottom. These look like snakes although the information board in the crypt says they are Adder’s Tongue Ferns. There is a statue of St Mélar at the east end in a round arch. There is a small sacred fountain by the door, which was dry when we visited.



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Le Yaudet

Le Yaudet is tucked away on a small headland overlooking the mouth of the River Leguer. It is a small, compact hamlet with old houses surrounding the church.

The area has been settled since neolithic times and was the site of a Roman fort. There is a huge car park and way marked walks around the headland.

The remains of the granite rampart and ditch cutting off the peninsula can still be seen with the remains of the stone walls from the iron age settlement.

There is a steep drop with a lot of steps down to a viewpoint of the river mouth. At low tide the remains of a fishing wall can be seen. This held back fish as the tide fell and was in use until the C19th.

The headland itself is covered with scrub and trees so there are few views. The trail goes past a small stone guard house with a stone slab roof, built on the end of the peninsula in anticipation of possible English Invasion during the Napoleonic Wars.

Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Yaudet is a C19th building replacing an C11th chapel which is thought to have been built on the site of a Roman temple. The inside is very simple with white walls and hexagonal pillars supporting pointed arches. Boats hang from the blue painted wooden ceiling. The most notable feature is the gloriously naff Virgin Mary and child in a bed with lace drapes and bedcover with an old statue of a king and a dove above. This is above the altar and is surrounded by pillars and saints with angels above. There is a smaller altar in the north aisle with rather garish modern statues.

Although there is little to do and see at Le Yaudet apart for the walks it is popular with visitors. Don’t miss the Virgin Mary. It really is worth going all the way to Le Yaudet to see her….


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Château de Tronqédec

Château de Tronqédec is about 10km south of Lannion and reached along a narrow, very windy road through woodland, with deeply carved valleys. The ruined château is built on a strategic site high above the Leguer valley.

The original château was built in the C13th but much of it was destroyed and rebuilt in the C15th. It was razed in 1622 under the orders of Cardinal Riechelieu as it it was a Huegenot stronghold.

Entry is through small gateway with ticket office into a large open area surrounded by a curtain wall, with two towers. One of these is accessible and has been refurnished as a guard room with small fire.

Facing is a massive gateway with two large guard towers. These were added in the early C15th to withstand artillery attack. The remains of the original C12th towers can be seen inside their bases of the towers.

To the side of the gatehouse is the Acigné Tower, which is reached by a drawbridge.

There are good views down from the top onto the inner bailey, which had living quarters along the side walls with cellars underneath. The remains of a fireplace, storage cupboard and drainage channels can still be seen in the kitchen. Beyond are the foundations of a C13th tower.

At the far end of the inner bailey is the north tower. This is now an empty shell and is reached by modern external stairs.

There are more good views from her along the walls to the Acigné Tower and gatehouse.



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Tréguier is one of the few hill towns in Brittany and overlooks the wide estuaries of the River Jaundy and the River Guindy.

In the C6th St Tudwal, one of seven founding saints of Brittany, established a monastery here which became a site of pilgrimage. It was destroyed during the first Norman invasions. The present settlement dates from C10th when the cathedral was built. It became a busy port and the cloth trade brought prosperity to the town and it grew rapidly. The narrow streets around the Cathedral are lined with timber framed and granite houses from the C15th and C16th.

It is a thriving little town and a pleasant place to walk round. There is a large market area outside the cathedral lined with shops and eating places.

The cathedral is supposed to be one of the finest in Brittany and its spire dominates the town.

The main building is of the cathedral dates from the C14/15th. Only the Romanesque Tour Hastings is left of the original church, and the newer church was built round it.

The spire is C18thC and is built above the end of the south aisle. The open carvings are supposed to represent playing card symbols as the Loteries de Paris contributed towards the cost.

We managed to get into the Cathedral just before it closed for lunch but unfortunately not the cloisters or treasury. Entry is through the impressive south door with the massive C11th Tour Hastings straight ahead. Architecturally this is completely different to the rest of the cathedral. It is tall and narrow and massively built with rounded arches and windows.

The rest of the church is Gothic. The nave pillars are a mix of highly fluted, octagonal and round and many have banners hanging from them. They support pointed arches with decorative open carving above. The ceiling is vaulted. There is a large organ above the west door which is decoratively carved.

The chancel roof is painted with angels. The high altar has a carved wooden base with gilt above and gilt angels. There are old wooden choir seats with misericords and highly carved ends and a large carved bishop’s chair. There are three small chapels behind with altars.

The massive C19th tomb of St Yves is a copy of the one built by Jean V Duke of Brittany in the C15th which was destroyed in the Revolution. St Yves is the patron saint of lawyers and his tomb is surrounded by marble plates saying ‘Merci’. His skull and two bones are displayed in a glass reliquary box to the side.

Behind is the tomb of Jean V which was sculpted in 1945. There are other tombs in niches in the side walls and beneath the altar by the south door.

Treguier is a most attractive town with a good shopping centre and an impressive cathedral. It is worth adding to the list.


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La Roche-Jagu and La Roche-Derrien

These are both close to Tréguier and can easlily be done in an afternoon. They are both nice but very much 'B' list rather than must sees.

LA ROCHE-JAGU CHÂTEAU was built on a defensive site high above the river Trieux in the early C15th. It is a massive plain granite building with an external spiral stairway in a round tower. The roof has small dormer windows and decorated chimneys. The château is unfurnished and is now used to house exhibitions. Having had bad experiences of exhibitions in other chateaux which got in the way of the architecture we decided to miss the inside of the castle.

There is free access to the extensive grounds which have good views down to the river below. On a nice day you could spend several hours walking here. Judging by the size of the car park this is a popular day out with locals.

There is a large herb garden with plants grown in raised beds surrounded by concrete and hidden by plaited willow.

There was a living willow fence with entwined stems with leaves above. There was a small pergola with water dripping off it into the fountain below. To one side of the chateau overlooking the river is a herbaceous border with white cosmo, cleome and nicotiana.

LA ROCHE-DERRIEN is a small fortified town built on a promontory at the head of the Jaudy estuary. It has retained its medieval street plan and has a lot of old timber frame and stone houses. It has a good range of shops around Place du Matray.

La Chapelle du Calvaire is built on the site of the castle motte and has good views of the river and across the roof tops.

EGLISE STE-CATHERINE was built in the C13th but damaged in the C14th during the War of Succession and again in the C18th by lightning. It was restored in 1820. The western door is the only part of the C13th church to survive.

There are two doors on the south side leading into the church. The church is unusual as the north and south aisles are offset and not opposite each other. At the east end, the high altar is made of highly carved dark wood with statues of saints on either side and stained glass window above.

To the south side is a massive altar stretching from floor to ceiling with a large painting.

The huge offset north aisle has a splendid large altar with a painting of the crowning of the Virgin, statues and a lot of gilded carvings. There is an old tomb of lord and lady in a small a niche on the side wall.

The walls of the nave are pale and the vaulted ceiling ribs are painted in red and gilt and the windows outlined in red paint. There are carved heads at the bases of the arches. There is a big painting of the nativity on the north side of the nave. There are carved and painted stations of the cross on the walls, a crucifix and statues. The font is C14th and decorated with the symbols of the four evangelists.

The C16th organ came from Westminster cathedral. It was brought to France in 1545 following Henry VIII’s decision to dissolve the monasteries. La Roche-Derrien acquired it from the Cathedral of St-Brieuc in 1847.


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Commana is a small village on the edge of Monts d’Arrée. The village and church rarely get a mention in the guide books which is a shame as the church has three amazing altars and is definitely worth visiting.

EGLISE ST-BERRIEN is a C16/17th building surrounded by a wall with a large but fairly simple triumphal arch, small ossuary and a small calvary with the crucified Christ and two figures below. The church has a massive granite tower with a spire on top. There are two side aisles with dormer style windows and the fairly simple sacristy building at the end of the south aisle.

The south porch is massive with round arches with an inscription above and finials. Above the porch is an open work tower with statues and carved heads. Inside there are empty niches which would have held statues of the 12 apostles. There are two carved wooden doors painted red with a stoup between them.

Inside the walls are white with a blue wooden ceiling with stars which has a carved wooden frieze below. There are statues on the pillars, including St Roche showing the wound on his leg. An ornate doorway leads from the south aisle into the sacristy. There is a massive carved balcony above the west end, reached by a spiral stairway.

The stone font is in a back corner and has a very decorative carved wooden canopy over from 1683. This is painted white and has gilded panels around the bottom. The pillars have painted statues representing Faith, Hope, Charity, Justice and Temperance. On the underside of the canopy is a carving of St John the Baptist. Above smaller carved bannisters support a second roof with three caryatids supporting Jesus carrying a cross.

The pulpit is 1613 and made of dark carved wood and there are old banners hanging from the north wall.

The most stunning feature of the church are the altars. There are two altars to the south of the high altar and one to the north. The high altar is the simplest. It is a cream table with front painted to look like marble with gilt decoration. Above are steps with with a box to hold the host. These have gilt carvings and angels on either side. Above is a modern painting of the crucifixion framed by carved pillars with grapes and vine leaves. This is flanked by plain glass windows with a yellow decorative border.

To the right is the 17thC Retable de cinq plaies (Retable of the five wounds). In the centre is Christ showing his wounds. He is being crowned by two angels who are holding the crown of thorns and the nails. At the sides are statues of St Sebastian and St Margaret with her dragon. These are surrounded by carved and gilded pillars with cherubs above. On the top is the figure of God the father holding a cross and two eagles.

Beyond this is the Retable of the Rosary with a central panel of the Virgin with the Christ Child with St Catherine and St Dominic below. To either side are St. Joachim and St. Joseph with a shell above and pillars with grapes and vine leaves. Above is God the father with cherubim.

The Retable of St Anne is the the north. This really does have the wow factor with red, gold and blue paint. It dates from 1682. In the centre, the Virgin and St Anne are watching the baby Christ who has a globe with a cross in his hand. In niches on either side are St. Joachim and St. Joseph, with carved red and gold pillars. Above them are the Virgin and the Angle Gabriel with cherubs. At the centre top is God the Father holding the body of the resurrected Christ, flanked by two eagles.

MOUGOU BIHAN is a short drive from Commana along a quiet country lane through the hamlet. This is a covered alley dating from 3500BC. It is in grassland to the south of the hamlet and has a large car park with picnic tables.

This has large slabs of granite supporting the cap stones. There is a gap in the side wall large enough to squeeze through. We could just make out an axe on the end stone and two spears on the side stones.



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