Calvary Churches in Brittany

Historically, coastal communities were more religious than their inland counterparts because their fate depended heavily on Mother Nature – shipwrecks, plenty of fish or not enough. Therefore it comes as no surprise that many coastal towns boasted churches with elaborate calvaries.

Breton churchyards resemble English cathedral closes in that they feature intricate sculptured depictions of crucifixion known as Calvaries that stand out.

St Samson of Dol

St Samson of southern Wales was one of seven founding saints of Brittany along with Pol Aurelian, Tugdual or Tudwal, Brieuc, Malo, Patern (Paternus) and Corentin. Samson became both bishop and abbot before founding many churches and monasteries – most significantly in northwestern France at Dol – through an ascetic missionary activity and teaching career that were all notable Church figures at that time.

In 550, Samson brought some monks from Wales to Dol in Brittany and founded a monastery. Three years later, King Judual transformed it into a bishopric with Samson serving as its bishop; during this period he is credited with having converted much of Brittany and healing miraculously of rheumatism and eye diseases – for which there still stands today near Landunvez, Finistere department in northern France as a Historical Monument.

As bishop, Samson was closely connected to the rulers of Brittany and actively took part in political matters. For instance, when Conomor murdered and captured Domnonia’s legitimate King and took custody of his son, Samson traveled to Paris where he convinced Frankish King Childebert to release the latter. Samson is also noted as participating in a Church Council between 556-565 at Paris.

The current Life of Samson of Dol was written in Latin around one hundred years after his death by a Breton author who used as source a manuscript believed to have come down through deacon Henoc and his uncle – now housed at Dol Cathedral.

The Church of Saint Samson is an astoundingly beautiful and well-preserved building. Although its south facade was altered between 13th and 14th century reconstruction, most of its nave and choir remain original features of this cathedral and are among its most striking characteristics. It was listed as a Historic Monument in 1840; its 6th-century crypt houses tombs for pilgrims as well as early Christian sculptures including an effigy of Samson himself.

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St Thegonnec of Morlaix

Saint-Thegonnec, situated near Morlaix in France is a quaint village of approximately 3, 000 inhabitants that boasts an outstanding architectural legacy. Additionally, its stunning nature provides you with plenty of hiking trails for exploration; not to mention other activities and sights to see such as its well-known calvary!

Saint-Thegonnec church dates from 16th century and represents an example of a parish enclosure (enclos paroissial). An enclos paroissial is defined by a wall that separates sacred from profane spaces, such as an enclosed courtyard housing multiple altarpieces with rich decorations; an adjacent calvary; triumphal door; porch, sacristy and sacral facilities that were originally integrated into these structures as cemeteries; this type of setup provides many potential advantages when building or renovating such complexes is complete.

Calvaries are collections of statues that depict the Crucifixion. Saint-Thegonnec’s Calvary dates from early seventeenth century and is an impressive piece of art; however, some figures do not appear chronologically due to French Revolution orders for destruction of religious icons and statues; fortunately Saint-Thegonnec was spared!

This ornate ossuary features elaborate carvings, such as sheathed caryatids and two images of the Evangelists, plus what appears to be a carving of what could be a mermaid and another depicting a woman’s head and upper part.

Saint-Thegonnec Church is an exquisite attraction and well worth a stroll through town, as there are other interesting attractions such as a feudal mound, bread ovens, remarkable houses and hiking trails that lead to its calvary, ossuary, washhouse dedicated to linen production and its designated hiking trails. Additionally, restaurants in town provide delicious foods and beverages – an excellent place for taking a break from bike riding while relaxing and refreshing your batteries.

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Wayside crosses

Brittany’s countryside is filled with wayside crosses (crosses that don’t depict Christ) and calvaires (cross-like structures erected to commemorate Jesus’s crucifixion). These structures serve as memorials for accident victims or as burial markers in fields. Additionally, these crosses play an integral part in local festivals and pilgrimages – serving as both focal points and memory-keepers alike.

Crosses were one of the primary symbols in pagan religions, leading to its adoption by Christians. Early Christian churches took over ancient pagan religious sites, replacing pagan shrines with crosses bearing images of Christ; later these crosses would be placed at crossroads as markers to ensure safe passage for travellers and commemorate specific events that occurred nearby – for instance gravesites for victims of accidents or plague-stricken villages once stood nearby.

Throughout the 20th century, some of the older crosses have been lost or restored using modern materials; others have been rebuilt using this traditional design; many new ones were also constructed following this same model. A souvenir album featuring many such crosses was published in 1925 while Leon Massicotte conducted extensive analysis of their artistic and cultural characteristics for La Patrie journal in 1954 and declared them to deserve heritage status.

Today, nearly 3,000 wayside crosses can be found lining Quebec highways and byways, some in dilapidated states while others still used as focal points for festivals and pilgrimages. Unfortunately, due to being privately owned most are difficult to preserve or protect but efforts by some owners have led to their preservation or even restoration; some have even been declared historical monuments; sadly some others have been neglected or even destroyed completely.

Parish closes

Robert Harding and David Hughes’ photographs of Breton parish closes provide us with not just architectural features of churches but also an entire cultural tapestry, reflecting centuries of religious devotion. These magnificent enclos paroissiaux – unique in Europe – showcase the skills and dedication of sculptors, cabinetmakers, woodcarvers, stonemasons, painters and silversmiths who worked to complete them; within its walls are found churches with calvaries, chapels of reliquary chapels of reliquiary chapels as well as triumphal arches that surround all these elements of society.

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Breton towns whose prosperity was tied to linen trade in the 16th and 17th centuries often competed to build extravagant parish church complexes as an expression of their wealth, as a celebration of Catholic faith reviving among rural communities as well as of Breton’s prosperous flax and linen trade.

Though Brittany boasts some large, impressive parish closes (such as Saint-Thegonnec), smaller ones can be found all throughout the country. A great example is Guengat – often overlooked in guide books yet offering a lovely C16th church and charming parish close. Inside is decorated with beautiful woodcarvings, paintings and exquisite furniture such as an exquisite wall cupboard with its original carvings as well as processional cross, processional cross retable and grand scale calvary with recumbent statues representing Lord Alouarn and Lady (perhaps St Alouarn and his wife?). The grand scale calvary also contains recumbent figures recumbent with recumbent effigies likely representing Lord Alouarn and wife (perhaps St Alouarn and wife!).

Ossuary No. 16 in Arundel is an exceptional specimen, being one of only two I know with its original Gothic gate dating from 1425. Since then, its parish close has been enhanced with addition of a C17th triumphal arch and an elaborately carved ossuary featuring a plain Corinthian column instead of typical caryatid carvings; additionally the church dedicated to Saint Non features mid-15th century recumbent effigies of her that exude peace rather than more masculine depictions found elsewhere.