23 June 2009

2006: Bourbriac and Points South

23 June

The day dawns bright, with few clouds, yet within two hours has turned decidedly unwelcome, damp, and breezy in Bourbriac, home to the Eglise de Bourbriac.

The church was dedicated to a 7th-century Irish saint named Briac.

From the information provided, there has been a Romanesque church on this site since the 9th century; the four huge pillars in the choir are apparently all that remain of that original building. The crypt underneath the apse dates to the 11th or 12th-century, and at one time contained the tomb of Briac, but it does not say whether Briac still lies within.

Outside, the flowers, even though not lit by sunshine, were magnificent in colourful bloom: roses, dahlias, daisies, lilies, and more.

The next stop, the 14th-century Eglise St Pierre, was unfortunately closed, and while the Menhir de Cailouan was interesting enough (if non-photogenic with the clouds), it wasn't until 13.30 that more fascinating and eerie was discovered.

The second Eglise St Pierre in an hour is located in the town of Kerpert, and is not listed on the tour plan. Once again, the church was not open. However, always open in a place of pride (as described by the information plaque for the church) alongside the front door of the church is the 17th-century ossuary, impossible to miss. The church dates from the early 1500s, and over the centuries headstones and tomb markers erode, move, become vandalized or stolen, etc. The ossuary was born to provide a space for bones that were uncovered in the course of new burials within the church close (court yard).

Onwards to the next destination, Saint-Gilles-Pligeaux. Of course, map, directional road signs, and tour plan lie dramatically, and I find myself serendipitously at the Abbaye de Coat Malouën, well north of where I wanted to be.

I'm afraid I can't tell you much about the Abbaye, except that it lies in ruins along a road I have no confidence in naming. The ruins, however, are a joy to walk through as the clouds that had been driving me further south finally dissipated to mere humidity.

The THIRD Eglise Saint-Pierre of the day is in the market town of Saint-Nicolas-du-Pélem. It began life as a 15th-century chapel named for St Nicolas, and after being donated to the town in 1860 became a parish church rededicated to St Peter.

The renovations included the repair of stained glass, the building of a gallery, and a sacristy and font were added.

Early afternoon, time for a quick meal. I'm of the opinion you can eat well in Europe without spending a fortune if you are flexible in WHERE and WHAT you will eat, and HOW it is acquired. For example, a few minutes before meeting the third St Peter, I happened upon the small town equivalent of a chain supermarket. Within was located a pate of smoked salmon, one litre of orange juice, a basket of white peaches, and a crusty baguette. Now, personally, the baguette could have been (and probably should have been) purchased at a local baker (boulangerie) for fresher taste, but I was a bit impatient to be on the road, so... Total price, four Euros and change, or a bit over $5... The baguette and the smoked salmon (amazingly good) lasted two days, the last of the peaches will be gone by day four, and the juice lasted into the evening... Yes, you can pay tons and get great food, but you can also pay minimal funds, enjoy a picnic in the scenic outdoors, and eat great food. Your choice...

Once again, the weather is going south (as it were), and occasional rain is beginning to dampen the countryside. Again. However, there is another treasure to be found, in Lanrivain: Eglise Saint-Gregoire. Surprise! It's not named after Saint-Peter!

It more than makes up for its lack of size with a bounty of things to see:

# a 16th-century Calvary statue mutilated during the French Revolution, restored in the mid 1800s,
# the statue of an unnamed church leader, holding his head in his hands,
# a beautifully-simple, hand-carved altar,
# a statue of Joan d'Arc, and
# a 15th-century ossuary, purportedly one of the few in Bretagne to still contain relics

The church itself is at once simple, tasteful, and beautiful. The wood-working, the masonry, the openness and colours, all make this an incredible visit.

An hour later, the Gorges of Toulgoulic are a fascinating hike, if only to "see" a river flowing underneath a forest of humungous boulders the size of Hummer Dealerships. You can hear the river from over one hundred metres, but even when walking on the boulders themselves it isn't always easy to find. The hike from the car park is about 1/2 mile all downhill. The hike back will burn more than a few of those lunch calories, and give your sweat glands a workout.

Nearby, foals gambol in their first summer season. Fun to watch.

Bulat-Pestivien. The town's name doesn't exactly flow off your tongue. For what it's worth, the Eglise Notre-Dame is much easier to remember.

Several chapels were built on this site between the 13th and 16th-centuries, and it became a parish church in 1804. There are gothic themes here and there, but the overall feel is renaissance. As with many churches here, the gargoyles can be quite fanciful, and a few are downright odd.

For some reason, many of the churches visited today have statues dedicated to Joan d'Arc, including this one. I thought she was affiliated with the region surrounding Orleans, yet she obviously made an impression around here...

To cap this report, I recorded about 2 minutes worth of ambient sounds while I was out and about the church. I've learned the recorder is good enough for voice that is within a foot of the mike, but not so much outside that range unless the sound is VERY loud. If you'd like to hear a bit of conversation between two women (close to the end of the recording), you will need to wear headphones in a quiet spot. They were walking to a headstone about 50 feet away as the bells stopped (for the first time; another story)... Sorry...

Click here to listen to Evening Sounds, Eglise Notre-Dame, Bulat-Pestivien [ 2009: Nominally, I'd simply load this somewhere for everyone to enjoy, but neither Blogspot nor Flickr handle audio files. As such, if you would like a copy of the file, let me know and I'll email it to you. It's small, yet it brings back memories. ]

Please let me know if you'd like more information about this little tour, which isn't quite finished yet (there are still about 8 sites left; it can't rain forever :)...

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