Archive for Malestroit

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!

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!

Medieval Sculptures, Malestroit

Posted in Art, Brittany, History with tags , , , , on December 2, 2012 by mysearchformagic

Sitting on the banks of the river Oust in south east Brittany, Malestroit is a charming little town. Its historic quarter is made up of a maze of narrow streets and alleyways lined with crooked medieval houses, and at its heart sits the imposing church of Saint-Gilles, parts of which date back to the 12th Century. Despite its picture-postcard perfection, Malestroit doesn’t get much of a mention in guide books, and retains the atmosphere of a sleepy French market town. As a result, it is a place still filled with little pockets of magic.

One of the most remarkable features of Malestroit is the strange sculptures that decorate many of its oldest buildings. Depicting biblical figures as well as fantastical creatures, these carvings were intended to be both decorative and informative, designed to amuse but also to remind the locals of the pleasures and pitfalls of sanctity and sin.

The south facade of the church of Saint-Gilles

The south entrance to the church of Saint-Gilles offers its most spectacular aspect, the bright crimson doors surrounded by a mass of beautiful, sometimes bizarre sculptures. On the left side Sampson struggles with a lion, attempting to pour honey into its mouth as an act of charity, on the other a large Ox sits quietly, proudly displaying its impressive horns. Below Sampson, an acrobat tumbles head over heals, a symbol of those who have fallen from the path of goodness.

An acrobat somersaults into sin

Round the back of the church, in a quiet, shadowy alleyway, can be found the Fountain of the Golden Lion. The water that fills its deep basin emerges from a spring which was has been venerated since Celtic times, its importance probably leading to the creation of the town of Malestroit itself. Today it has an air of gloomy neglect, the carved Romanesque head which decorates it covered in moss and mildew.

The Fountain of the Golden Lion

Just a few metres away in the town’s main square stands a tall, oak beamed house known as the Maison des Singes, which is covered with more weird and wonderful sculptures. Carved in wood, these figures are even more bizarre than those on the church. Most famous is the bagpipe-playing hare which looks anxiously over its shoulder, while a nearby pig sports a bulky buckled belt.

The famous bagpipe-playing hare of Maletroit

The pretty Rue des Ponts leads down to the river, an impressive sight with its wide weir gushing noisily alongside a large mill. Next to the site of one of the town’s now demolished gateways stands one of Malestroit’s most historic houses. Along the base of its balcony sits a row of cheeky faces carved into the end of the ancient oak beams. Grinning devils with stubby horns and lolling tongues stare out defiantly at the Oust, an attempt perhaps at holding back the yearly floods which play havoc in this part of France.

Its reassuring to see that our ancestors had a sense of humour just as strong as their belief in the power of magic!

A cheeky devil

Find out more about magical Malestroit at http://www.malestroit-brittany.com