Archive for the Brittany Category

The Ancient Quarry and Chapel of Locuon, Brittany

Posted in Brittany, Church, History, Sculpture with tags , , , , , , , on September 3, 2014 by mysearchformagic

The village of Locuon is, like many in Brittany, a pretty sleepy place. At first glance it might even seems rather ordinary, although its 16th-century church dedicated to Saint-Yon is pretty enough. But lurking behind the church, down a steep, tree-lined path, at the foot of a long flight of stone stairs, sits something much more magical.

The path down into the ancient quarry of Locuon

The path down into the ancient quarry of Locuon

The huge dip which can be found behind the church of Saint-Yon is not a natural valley, but in fact the rare remains of a Gallo-Roman quarry. Carved out over centuries, this quarry supplied stone for the nearby town of Carhaix. After the departure of the Romans the quarry became a place of holy pilgrimage, and a chapel was constructed in the 16th Century. Now it is a wonderfully atmospheric spot, peaceful and far removed from the outside world.

The chapel of Notre-Dame de la Fosse in the ancient quarry of Locuon

The chapel of Notre-Dame de la Fosse in the ancient quarry of Locuon

The quarry is a great place to explore, with lots of strange and intriguing gems hidden in its ferny nooks and crannies. At the foot of the steep flight of steps which lead into it, for example, you will see an ancient goddess sculpture, the outlines of her hands wrapped round her headless torso just visible below a thick coat of lichen.

The goddess sculpture at the foot of the stairs into the ancient quarry in Locuon

The goddess sculpture at the foot of the stairs into the ancient quarry in Locuon

Further down in the depths of the quarry lies a holy well, which trickles out of a carved niche in the cliff face, along a gully and into a murky pool.

The holy well deep in the ancient quarry of Locuon

The holy well deep in the ancient quarry of Locuon

Not far from the pool are some remnants of the ancient quarry in the form of a group of sculpted stones, carved from the rock face but later abandoned here. They are now almost hidden in under a layer of moist green moss.

Ancient carved stones in the quarry of Locuon

Ancient carved stones in the quarry of Locuon

The chapel itself, known as Notre-Dame de la Fosse, is tiny, and fits snuggly into a recess in the quarry side. Its interior is simple, shadowy and silent, but the exterior is more showy, and decorated with elaborate carved reliefs.

The chapel of Notre-Dame de la Fosse, Locuon

The chapel of Notre-Dame de la Fosse, Locuon

The most impressive carving on its exterior shows Saint Roch, famous for his miraculous ability to cure the plague. The fact that he is shown here may relate to the healing properties attributed to the holy well nearby.

The carving of Saint Roch on the exterior of the chapel of Notre-Dame de la Fosse, Locuon

The carving of Saint Roch on the exterior of the chapel of Notre-Dame de la Fosse, Locuon

The ancient quarry of Locuon is a special, unique place. This being Brittany, it is also an undiscovered gem, far from the tourist trail and largely ignored by visitors – I only discovered it thanks to some helpful advice for a local. Wandering around this shady quarry, it’s easy to forget about the modern world which lies not far away, and really lose yourself in the magic.

The Château and Village of Trégranteur, Brittany

Posted in Brittany, Castle, Church, History, House, Sculpture with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2014 by mysearchformagic

I am off to Brittany again next week, and will be searching for magic of course. Thinking about my trip reminded me of a wonderful place I came upon by chance during my last visit to that part of the world, namely the Château and village of Trégranteur.

The Chateau de Trégranteur, Brittany

The Château de Trégranteur, Brittany

I was on a long, rather boring drive when I spotted an old rusty signpost for the chateau pointing down a narrow side road. On the spur of the moment, hoping to break up the journey, I decided to check it out. The grand 18th century château wasn’t actually open to the public, but could be viewed from the nearby road. In fact, with its closed shutters and firmly locked gates, it looked all but deserted. The village next to it was empty too, a bit of a ghost town, but all wonderfully magical. Next to the church stands the rare Colonne de Justice (Column of Justice) dating from the 17th Century, where every Sunday a local official would read out the latest orders and judgements.

The Column of Justice, Trégranteur

The Column of Justice, Trégranteur

As I wandered round the village, with its pretty old houses, many of them now empty and derelict, I also spotted a couple of interesting medieval religious carvings, both worn and covered in colourful mosses and lichens. I didn’t see another soul during the whole time I was there, apart from a couple of noisy, but thankfully friendly, dogs.

A medieval carving in the village of Trégranteur, Brittany

A medieval carving in the village of Trégranteur, Brittany

I’ll be reporting back from my Breton adventures soon!

A lichen-covered carving in Trégranteur, Brittany

A lichen-covered carving in Trégranteur, Brittany

The Guardian of the Little Bridge, Malestroit

Posted in Brittany, History, Sculpture with tags , , , , , , , on May 29, 2014 by mysearchformagic

I’ve been back in Malestroit this week, a little French town filled with magical sculptures. I thought I had seen them all, but on this visit I discovered a secret, rather mysterious addition to the list.

The 'Little Bridge' of Malestroit

The ‘Little Bridge’ of Malestroit

Malestroit is intersected by the River Oust, with part of the town sitting on the L’île Notre-Dame, or island of Notre-Dame. Once the site of a monastery, this small island is joined to the town by two bridges and is now home to a couple of houses and a large, deserted mill. I was recently told about the existence of a sculpture known as the ‘Gardien du Petit Pont’ (Guardian of the Little Bridge) near the smaller of these two bridges, and decided to investigate further. I searched high and low, peering over the edge, hanging precariously over the rushing water, scanning the neighbouring houses. No sign of the guardian, and I was almost ready to give up.

An unpromising corner of the 'Little Bridge', Malestroit

An unpromising corner of the ‘Little Bridge’, Malestroit

Just as I was about to walk away in defeat, I took a last look in an unpromising corner, amongst some weeds which were growing behind a lamp post. And there he was, the face of the guardian carved into the stonework of the bridge itself.

The Guardian of the Little Bridge, Malestroit

The Guardian of the Little Bridge, Malestroit

I have no idea when the guardian was created, or who put him there, although I suspect he may have originated from the monastery which used to stand nearby. The guardian may not have prevented the regular floods which hit this town, but he has kept the bridge standing through some pretty extreme conditions. No wonder he looks so pleased with himself!

The Château de Trécesson, Brittany

Posted in Brittany, Castle, Ghosts, History, House, Legend, Superstition with tags , , , , on February 25, 2014 by mysearchformagic

I’ve just got back from another trip to France, and just like the last time I have been tracking down more of Brittany’s magical castles. During this visit I made the journey to the picturesque château of Trécesson, which lies in a quiet, wooded valley not far from the town of Campénéac on the borders of the forest of Paimpont, a region steeped in myth and legend.

The château of Trécesson

The château of Trécesson

Much of the present-day castle seems to date from the 15th century, although it is assumed that there has been a fortress on this site for much longer. Its impressive towers and strong walls of the emerge from the depths of a wide, dark moat, and past the elaborate turreted gatehouse a small chapel sits next to a pretty 18th century wing.

The turretted gatehouse of the château of Trécesson

The turretted gatehouse of the château of Trécesson

Not surprisingly given its location near Paimpont, Trécesson has its own collection of supernatural legends. One concerns a ‘white lady’, the ghost of an unfortunate past resident who was bricked up into the walls of the castle by her own brothers for daring to marry the wrong man. A ‘headless curate’ haunts the corridors, and phantom card-players have also been seen in one of its bed-chambers, apparently indifferent to the terror that their appearance induces in hapless guests.

The overgrown avenue leading to the château of Trécesson

The overgrown avenue leading to the château of Trécesson

Despite these creepy stories, the castle seemed like a calm and quiet place on the day that I visited. A grand avenue of trees, now long-neglected and overgrown, leads up to the front gate. Most of the year the castle is closed to visitors, with only the exterior visible from the nearby road. However, the courtyard and chapel of this still privately-owned château are apparently open to visitors during the summer months, so you can be sure I will be back there soon in search of some more Trécesson magic…

Place Sainte-Anne, Rennes

Posted in Brittany, History, House with tags , , , on January 19, 2014 by mysearchformagic

I’ve made a few brief visits to Rennes over the years, but on my recent trip to Brittany I finally got to explore the town properly. I discovered the ancient heart of the city, and plenty of wonderful streets lined with colourful houses like these in the Place Sainte-Anne.

Colourful houses in the Place Sainte-Anne, Rennes

Colourful houses in the Place Sainte-Anne, Rennes

Wandering through the maze of cobbled streets in the medieval quarter of Rennes, it is easy to feel like you have stepped into a fairytale. Truly magical!

The Castles of Morbihan

Posted in Brittany, Castle, History with tags , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2014 by mysearchformagic

The weather may have been terrible on my recent visit to Brittany, but I still managed to take advantage of the dry(ish) days and visit a few magical places.

Brittany has a rich collection of wonderful castles, including the atmospheric Forteresse de Largoët. In the depths of winter most of them are closed to the public, but the exteriors of some are so impressive that I enjoyed taking a look anyway.

The view towards the château of Suscinio

The view towards the château of Suscinio

The castle at Suscinio lies amongst wild marshland near the south coast of Morbihan. Once a royal hunting lodge, it later fell into ruin and was extensively restored in the 20th Century. Sitting as it does on a wide, flat plain, the castle’s sturdy towers and conical roofs can be seen from miles away, and it is even more impressive close up.

The sturdy towers of the château of Suscinio

The sturdy towers of the château of Suscinio

Pontivy sits on the River Blavet, and reputedly takes its name from the fact that a monk called Ivy built a bridge there in the 7th Century (Pont D’Ivy).

A sign for the château of Rohan

A sign for the château of Rohan, Pontivy

Its imposing château was begun in 1485 by the Viscount Rohan, and since then has faced a number of sieges and violent attacks. Luckily it’s a bit more peaceful nowadays, and although I am sure it is normally a bustling place, on the drizzly Sunday morning that I passed through there was nobody around.

The château of Rohan

The château of Rohan, Pontivy

The castle at Josselin is probably the most magical of all. With its soaring towers rising dramatically above the (currently overflowing) River Oust, the history of this castle goes back over 1000 years, when a simple stockade was first built on its rocky promontory.

The approach to the castle at Josselin

The approach to the castle at Josselin

In the following centuries the castle was rebuilt and extended, and the interior now includes a suite of lavishly furnished rooms which are open to the public. Only four of the original nine massive towers remain, but the castle is still a breathtaking sight.

The fairytale towers of the castle of Josselin

The fairytale towers of the castle of Josselin

I think you will agree that these three châteaux are rather wonderful, and definitely magical. Who needs Disneyland Paris when you have real fairytale castles, each with their own fascinating history, just a couple of hours away?

A Magical Breton Christmas

Posted in Brittany, Christmas, Church, History, House with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 26, 2013 by mysearchformagic

This year I am spending the holidays in the lovely French town of Malestroit.

Chritstmas lights in Malestroit

Chritstmas lights in Malestroit

With its pretty medieval quarter dotted with strange sculptures, Malestroit is always a pretty special place. At this time of year the locals decorate the main square with Christmas lights and place a huge tree next to the ancient church. As you can see from these photographs, the results are rather wonderful.

The medieval houses of Malestroit

The medieval houses of Malestroit

On a dark evening, the chill air filled with the sweet smell of wood smoke, the atmosphere here is truly magical.

But the great thing about Christmas is that it can be magical, wherever you are.

The church of St Gilles, Malestroit

The church of St Gilles, Malestroit

So here’s to a happy, and of course very magical, 2014!