Celtic houses of God
In Brittany, the Church has been an extremely powerful force since its inception â€“although just as a distinctive Celtic brand of Catholicism developed in the region, so did a slightly different religious architecture. The elaborate outdoor carved calvaries may be the most unusual element to many a parish church, but, be it little or large, you canâ€™t mistake a Breton religious house.
Lording it over town
Itâ€™s not just beautiful, rather quirky cathedrals that dominate the skyline and centre of many big Breton towns, other major churches also still make their presence felt in most towns. At St-Pol-de-LĂ©on, for example, the bishopâ€™s church is sensationally outdone by the town churchâ€™s spire. Often, urban centres grew up around an influential abbey and in QuimperlĂ©, Redon, St-Gildas or Daoulas, the abbey buildings still stand at the heart of the place. In the last instance, the interiors have been turned into a major exhibition centre.
Rural religious stops
Even small Breton communities would pay for as fine a church as they could afford in medieval times, explaining why so many villages have remarkable religious edifices. FinistĂ¨re is famed for the elaborate array of elements in its parish enclosures, notably the highly carved outdoor calvaries. In the countryside, chapels could be very modest, their roofs almost touching the ground, but they were cherished.
Medieval abbeys were often founded deep in the countryside, leaving the monks to develop learning and the land in quiet communion with nature. Although many of these fell into ruin, some have been restored as cultural centres, such as Beauport, Bon-Repos, St-Maurice and LandĂ©vennec, the last an influential Celtic abbey famed for its manuscripts.
Find out more about Abbeys and Churches to visit in Brittany.