Archive for Chapel

The Fountain of St Nicodème, Brittany

Posted in Brittany, Church, Fountain, History, Legend, Sculpture with tags , , , , , on February 1, 2015 by mysearchformagic

With its huge tower topped by an elaborate spire, the impressive church of St Nicodème seems rather out of place, sitting as it does in the middle of the Breton countryside surrounded by a tiny village of just a few houses.

The chapel of St Nicodème, Brittany

The chapel of St Nicodème, Brittany

Partly dating from the sixteenth century, legend has it that a vision of St Nicodème himself instructed the local people to follow some oxen and build a chapel where they came to rest. A more likely reason for the church’s surprisingly remote position can be found in the small dip next the tower, at the foot of a wide flight of stairs.

The stairs leading down to the fountain of St Nicodeme

The stairs leading down to the fountain of St Nicodeme

The elaborate gothic fountain which lies at the bottom of these stairs is in fact dedicated to three saints, Nicodème, Gamaliel et Abibon. The statues of the saints which once decorated the structure are now gone, but much of their carved decoration remains. Although the date of 1608 is etched onto the back, it is now assumed that this records a restoration of the structure, which could in fact be almost a century older.

The fountain of St Nicodème, Brittany

The fountain of St Nicodème, Brittany

The water from the fountains, now rather green and slimy, is said to have magical properties. Until the end of the nineteenth century men would use the water to shave off their beards on the day of the local ‘pardon’ at the beginning of August, in the belief that it was good for the skin. It was also traditional to offer butter to St. Nicodème, and small empty pots were distributed on the Sunday before the pardon so that everyone could fill them for the big day, which subsequently became known as ‘le dimanche des pots’. Although this was once a place of pilgrimage, nowadays its legends are largely forgotten, and St Nicodème is once again a quiet, lonely and rather magical corner of rural Brittany.

The Chapel of St Gildas, Morbihan

Posted in Brittany, Caves, Church, History, Legend, Superstition with tags , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2015 by mysearchformagic

The Blavet valley in Morbihan is famous for its picturesque views and peaceful countryside. Probably its most magical location can be found near the pretty village of St Nicholas des Eaux, at the sixteenth-century chapel of St Gildas.

The magical chapel of St Gildas, Morbihan

The magical chapel of St Gildas, Morbihan

This tiny chapel fits snuggly under a huge craggy cliff just next to the river itself. The best view of it can be found on the other side of the Blavet, from the river-side path that snakes its way from the village.

Legend has it that the chapel was built on the site of a cave inhabited by the hermit Gildas in the sixth century. The site became a place of worship, and Gildas would call the local people to prayer by hitting a ‘ringing rock’, which gave a loud, bell-like tone.

The pulpit rock outside the chapel of St Gildas, Morbihan

The pulpit rock outside the chapel of St Gildas, Morbihan

Outside the building can be found a rock pulpit from which St Gildas used to deliver his sermons. Just below, a tiny spring reputed to have curative properties emerges from a crack in the rock.

The holy spring emerging from a rock below the chapel of St Gildas, Morbihan

The holy spring emerging from a rock below the chapel of St Gildas, Morbihan

The chapel also has some wonderfully weird carvings on its exterior, including strange faces. With its buggy eyes and chubby cheeks, this sculpture reminded me of the ancient Celtic stone heads that are found throughout Europe. And is it just me, or is that a rather impressive handlebar moustache?

A carved face on the exterior of the chapel of St Gildas, Morbihan

A carved face on the exterior of the chapel of St Gildas, Morbihan

The chapel was locked on the rather drizzly day that I visited, so I didn’t get a chance to see the famous ‘ringing rock’ which is still preserved inside. Apparently much of the interior is formed from the original cave, which sounds distinctly magical. The wonderful setting of the chapel made it well worth the visit, but I slightly fell in love with this place, so I am determined to go back in the summer, when it will hopefully be open for further investigation…

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 Valley of Saint-Clair, Morbihan

Posted in Brittany, Church, History, Landscape, Legend, Superstition with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2013 by mysearchformagic

The Chapel of Saint-Clair nestles in a quiet valley just outside the Breton village of Limerzel. This is a tranquil part of the world, one that the rapid developments of the late 20th Century have largely passed by. As a result, a visit to this valley, with its collection of fascinating ancient monuments, is rather like stepping back in time.

The path into the Valley of Saint Clair

The path into the Valley of Saint Clair

The path towards the chapel begins in a stretch of shady trees. There is a picnic table here for any passing tourists, although this is not the kind of place that attracts lots of visitors, just the odd dog walker from the village or maybe a passing farmer on his tractor. Walk a bit further down and you will find the first curiosity on this short journey, namely the Fountain of Saint-Clair.

The fountain of St Clair

The fountain of St Clair

Large scale holy fountains like this were once common in Brittany, and a number of them survive to this day, but few are as decorative as this beautiful example. Saint Clair himself can be seen carved in polychrome relief below the elaborate canopy. The first bishop of nearby Nantes, Saint Clair was responsible for bringing Christianity to the region in the late 3rd Century. In the past, his fountain has been attributed with healing powers, particularly for those suffering from maladies of the eyes, although the mossy, leaf-filled pool which lies at the heart of the fountain doesn’t inspire much hope for modern miracle seekers.

Follow the path a bit further and you will emerge out of the trees; take a sharp right turn and you will discover the next point of interest – the Cross of Saint-Clair. Like many of the crosses which dot the landscape in this area, the carving on this monument is provincial and naive, while centuries of erosion has erased much of the fine detail. The base is dated 1818, although the obvious age of the cross itself suggests that this date relates to a later restoration rather than its original construction.

The cross of Saint Clair

The cross of Saint Clair

By now the chapel itself can be seen nearby. It is just a short walk across a babbling stream to the final destination of this magical pilgramage, a simple building which dates from the 15th/16th Century and was sympathetically restored during the 1800s. Nowadays the chapel is almost always locked, but a small grille in the door allows visitors a view into the sombre interior, its religious statues and austere furniture bathed in the golden light from the small stained glass windows.

The chapel of St Clair

The chapel of St Clair

Every year on the 15th September the locals celebrate the Pardon of Saint Clair, during which a procession makes its way from the fountain, which is temporarily festooned with colourful flowers, to the chapel. After the procession everyone indulges in a communal meal to commemorate the Saint’s day. But for the other 364 days of the year the chapel remains peaceful and largely forgotten in this secluded valley, a place which still remains a magical haven far from the noise and bustle of modern life.

The gloomy interior of the chapel of St Clair

The gloomy interior of the chapel of St Clair