Saturday, January 31, 2009

AGM - Tuesday Feb 3

We have our association AGM on Tuesday (2pm) in Plouneour Menez at the salle polyvalante. In addition to celebrating Brittany Walks' anniversary with a birthday cake, we will look forward to a range of new activities for 2009, including a Tro Breizh project for members to participate in, Days of Discovery (a festival of walking, guided in English, throughout Brittany) and short break coastal and canal holidays as well as our regular walks and outings. Weather permitting we'll have a short walk around the bourg during the afternoon, and finally a presentation of the Britons in Brittany intiative followed by refreshments. All welcome. Memberships available on the day.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Conomor was here

Hard at work, but not entirely without sustenance, the history course students are puzzling over a little question: why were the early saints of Brittany said to have arrived on these shores in stone boats? To help they have a picture, a couple of facts, a Latin quotation and some words from old Breton. But will they get it?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

History of Brittany Course - Study Day 1

After a most enjoyable start to this course with a taster day, we begin work in earnest this Tuesday at Gouarec, looking at the earlier periods of Breton history with a focus on megaliths, the Age of Saints - when Brittany began - and the 9th century kings. All places are booked but it is possible to sign up for a future repeat of the course.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

We visit some famous Parish Closes

We all met on Wednesday morning at the church of St-Thegonnec, south west of Morlaix, for an educational day, visiting three of Brittany’s famous Parish Closes. These were built mainly in the 16th and 17th centuries and reflect the wealth, particularly in the region of Léon, resulting mainly from the linen trade with England. At that time, personal wealth was used for the benefit of the community, particularly as an expression of faith and local pride. The wealthy peasants, because it was the peasants who benefited from the economic wellbeing of the period, paid for these Closes and competition arose between communities to see who could build the biggest and the best.
A Parish Close consisted of, on the exterior, the triumphal arch entry gateway, modelled on the Roman triumphal arch, the Ossuary (a funeral chapel where bones were kept, often with a scene of sculpted figures showing the ‘Mise en Tombeau’ (Christ being placed in his tomb)), the Calvaire depicting the life, death and resurrection of Christ, the porch with statues of the Apostles and the Sacristry. The interior would contain the Baptistry, Pulpit, Altarpieces, statues of the Saints, the ‘Poutre de Gloire’ (beam of glory), and processional banners for the pardons (celebration of Saints’ Days).
We visited three parish closes – those of St-Thegonnec, Guimiliau, and Lampaul-Guimiliau. They are all similar in their constituent parts, but very different in the way in which these are presented. Apart from the coffee at the Salon de Thé at Guimiliau, which was very welcome as the day was quite cold, what was it that struck me most?
The Calvaries were so different. At St-Thegonnec, the Calvary has nine scenes on the main frieze. The one at Guimiliau, by contrast, depicts 200 people in the scenes of Christ’s life, death and resurrection and the carving is spectacular. However, at Lampaul-Guimiliau there was far less decoration, it was a much plainer piece of work. The interior of the church at St-Thegonnec was badly damaged by fire in 1998, but has been wonderfully restored. The door to the ossuary at Lampaul-Guimiliau is quite lovely, depicting the tree of life, but over the door is the usual reminder that we will all die. Inside the church at Guimiliau, the beautifully carved organ was made by Thomas Dallam, an Englishman who fled Cromwell’s England to produce such tremendous pieces of work for the Catholic church abroad. The baptistery at Lampaul-Guimiliau was colourful, as indeed were the altarpieces; the Poutre de Gloire was magnificent. All three Closes were lovely in their own particular ways.
Oh, and you may be asking what has this got to do with walking? Well we did do a walk, albeit short, between eating our picnic lunches and visiting Lampaul-Guimiliau, taking in the Fontaine de Ste Anasthasie, killed by her father because she wouldn’t marry the man he wanted her to! And we had just one canine friend with us today, Merlin.
What did Alan & I take away from today? The desire to see the rest of the Breton Closes – a project perhaps for the coming Spring and Summer.
Liz (and photos by Alan) Quantrell

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Parish Close Outing - Wednesday 21st

On Wednesday January 21st we have an outing (by car - sharing if possible) to visit some of the finest parish closes in Brittany. This spectacular form of architectural ensemble is a particular feature of northern Finistere, although there are a few exceptional examples elsewhere. Lots of interesting and amusing details to spot as well as all the historical significance - you won't find more impressive testaments of simple faith in the region.
We meet in St Thegonnec at 11am and will be moving on to several other locations. Information sheets provided. Weather permitting there will be a short forest walk, entirely optional, in the afternoon. Bring picnics, but a nice salon-du-thé in a bakery will be open on our route about lunch-time. Everyone welcome.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

History of Brittany course

The course begins this Tuesday (13th) with a Taster Day for an overview of the history of Brittany from neolithic times to the present day. Three further study days will look in more detail at specific periods. The venue for this course is the home of the AIKB in Gouarec.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Today's event

We had a great walk today, despite the awful road conditions that discouraged many from joining us. The sun shone throughout on our merry small band of intrepid adventurers, on glistening snowy paths and splendid long views of the wild open hills of Finistere. We deserved our hot chocolate and muffins at the end. Getting up the hill in cars on departure was not such an easy matter, but a small price to pay for such an enjoyable afternoon (I hope).

Thursday, January 1, 2009

January Walk

Happy New Year to everyone! We have our first walk of 2009 next Tuesday (6th), in the Monts d'Arrée. See for details. Weather conditions will determine the length and route, but let's just say muffins AND cake afterwards! Everyone is welcome!