Landévennec

Purest Celtic pedigree 

Picture 1 Landévennec Picture 2 Landévennec Picture 3 Landévennec Picture 4 Landévennec Picture 5 Landévennec

One of Brittany’s greatest saints, Guénolé, is credited with founding the major abbey of Landévennec. The location is splendid: at the spot where the Aulne River enters the Bay of Brest. Destroyed a number of times, the medieval abbey’s ruins are still to be admired, alongside the modern museum and abbey.

A Breton miracle-worker 

A model of 5th-century purity, and a miracle-worker, the story goes that Guénolé, somewhat following in Christ’s footsteps, walked over the water from the nearby isle of Tibidy to found a new monastery at Landévennec, supported by 11 disciples. The abbey developed into one of the most important in Brittany, promoting a Celtic brand of Christianity at odds with the Catholic one. A cult grew up around Guénolé. His aid was invoked in helping babies learn to walk, as well as in curing warts and neuralgia.

Waves of success and destruction 

Vikings ruined the Dark Ages abbey, but the place re-emerged as a powerful force again, clinging on to Celtic Christian ways. Extraordinary manuscripts survived the Carolingian period; now in New York, fascinating copies are displayed in the museum, along with models showing the abbey’s different incarnations through time. Many of the picturesque ruins date from the 11th and 12th centuries, although the 14th-century Breton War of Succession led to further devastation and rebuilding.

Breathing new life into Landévennec 

Falling into ruin with the Revolution, what remained of the abbey became the plaything of a dandy at the end of the 19th century. The Comte de Chalus enjoyed dressing as a monk to wander round his grounds; he lavished attention on the abbey gardens, planting them with exotic species, hence the surprising legacy of palms around the medieval remnants. Work then began in 1958 on a brand-new Benedictine abbey close to the ruins. This has brought renewed spiritual life to Landévennec, with people from outside welcome to go on a retreat, attend services and concerts, or simply to buy the confectionery the monks make, in part with fruit from their orchard. Don’t miss the lovely parish church right down at the waterside.

Did you know? 

Landévennec proudly claims to be the oldest abbey in Brittany, and to celebrate the region’s longest-running pardon, or pilgrimage, having honoured St Guénolé on 1 May practically every year since Charlemagne’s time.

With TripAdvisor’s reviews from travellers

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