The parish close trail, crossing the Elorn Valley, yields a highly original insight into Catholicism. On a calvary cross, rood-screen or triumphal arch, Breton legend and religion are woven together in altogether surprising ways. These fascinating masterpieces are well worth a visit!
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Experience the Parish Closes
Between Morlaix Bay and Brest harbour, the magnificent parish closes jostle with each other to capture your attention. Quintessential features of Brittany’s villages, they bring together within a walled area an ossuary, calvary cross adorned with figures, chapel and an entrance arch. The scenes carved out into the stone connect the world of the living to the heavenly realm. These quite splendid monuments, erected from the 15th to 17th centuries, celebrate not only the region’s strong faith, but also the prosperity of the textile industry and ports at that time.
Competing for glory
The most impressive along the trail – Saint-Thégonnec, Guimiliau and Lampaul-Guimiliau – all try and outdo each other with their closes one after the other. Surely the most remarkable, the most extravagant, is Saint-Thégonnec, with its lavish ornamental displays:a calvary with three crosses, pinnacles on the church, a finely worked pulpit… All the wealth generated through the flourishing linen trade is on opulent show, from the entrance steps to the top of the bell tower. Guimiliau stands out for its impressive calvary cross. Mythical and religious scenes are brought to vibrant, expressive life by more than 200 figures. These are 3D stories well before their time! On the church porch, a gallery of apostles greets visitors. Lampaul-Guimiliau close, though more unassuming on the outside, boasts a prestigious rood beam on which a polychrome frieze sculpted on 3 sides unfolds, as well as 6 altarpieces which are like fully-fledged illustrated books!
Did you know
Why such a punishment?
In Guimiliau and Plougastel-Daoulas, Katell Gollet is being skewered by the devil, alluding to the story of ‘Catherine the Lost’, a young woman of loose morals who stole a host (consecrated bread of the Eucharist) at a lover’s bidding.
Each site harbours its own treasure
Alongside the most ornate closes, several others are worth a peek too. Stop by La Roche-Maurice to see its impressively coloured rood-screen decked out with all sorts of strange creatures and figures. The stone filigree of its bell tower rises to a height of 60m. La Martyre is the oldest close in the Léon region. All over its elaborate façade are motifs on the death theme. Pleyben proudly sports two church towers!