27 July 2009

2006: Westward Ho...

27 July

Perhaps the last roadtrip of the visit, I head west into Finistère. First stop, Saint Pol de Léon.

An interesting town that, were it not for Roscoff just down the highway, might not be as touristy as it is today. As well, the circus will be in town during the weekend, so crowds are quite impressive. I won't say anything about the fact the circus will be in most Bretagne towns over the next month or so; you can't go too far without seeing a sign stating so, when, and where...

Oddly, while the Cathedral is a fairly large structure,about two blocks away is the Chapelle Notre Dame du Kreisker, a very small church on the main, but the steeple is much taller than either of the two Cathedral towers. While I'd love to tell you more about it, within is little more than an exhibition of what the church itself looked like in previous years, and thus is safe to miss.

The Cathedral, though, is difficult to miss. Yes, there is construction outside, but the construction seems exclusively outdoors.

More remarkable things within to photograph, but I won't bother you with the details unless you express an interest. It almost seems as if I've spent a vast amount of time seeking out nothing but churches. To be honest, I'm immensely more fascinated by their history and the accomplishments of the people who put them together, provided for their interior beauty, etc. It's just that there are so many in comparison to the UK, and there aren't many chateaus or castles in this part of Bretagne that are photo- or visit-worthy, so that task falls to the local l'eglise. Yes, there were many churches along the route taken today. Et fini.

In Landerneau, the river Elorn bisects the town square, flowing underneath le Pont de Rohan, the bridge itself which is inhabited by village buildings. In the river were one of my other passions, birds. In this case, one Mute Swan,

one Black Swan (which the internet tells me belongs in Australia, not France),

a few Jackdaws, and predominant: Black-headed Gulls.

Oh. I've learned the birds I thought were Bonaparte's Gulls are really Black-headed Gulls, which have brown heads, unlike the black heads on the Bonaparte's Gulls. Go figure.

Anyway. It was fun photographing birds for a change, and the Swans posed several times while they preened.

Because this isn't necessarily about the church itself, but more about beliefs and history, I'll tell this story. Above the D712 sits the town of La Roche Maurice. I've just finished walking through the church, noted its few points of interest, and was wandering back to the car when a young gentleman approached. He is one of the docents for the church and, between his English and my French, he managed to convey a fascinating story about this rather non-descript place. My favourite part detailed the story of l'Ankou, which is the Bretagne version of the Grim Reaper, or Death.

Apparently, many churches sculpted images of l'Ankou, and placed them at variable points around the consecrated ground. In La Roche Maurice, he is but a small skull and bones figurehead just above an outside holy water font. When asked why, among the reasons was that people would visit the graves of their loved ones and would bless themselves in front of death as if to say, "Yes, I will be yours eventually, but not today". How l'Ankou is depicted subtly changes from parish to parish, but not the basic storyline.

I've also noticed a great many close (consecrated ground surrounding the church) entrances have a raised concrete barricade that requires one to step over with care to enter the grounds. It was my belief this was to keep the dead inside, and because I rarely saw this effect in places where there were no graves, I held to that belief. My docent friend said the reason it was done here, and to his knowledge elsewhere, was to keep cows from entering the grounds.


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