Sunday, January 10, 2010

Neo-Romanesque (Crédin)

We've seen many WWI memorials around here (Mac can tell you why the memories are so vivid and preserved), but this one is unlike any others I've seen. It's so period-specific (the weapon, the clothing, the mustache) that I wonder if it wasn't made even during the war. Why the dates beneath him are "1914-1919" instead of 1918 is a bit of a mystery. Mistake? Or did they think it would go on and on? The memorial has also become a WWII memorial. All of this in a little (and I mean little) town called Crédin. We had come out here to attend a Fest Diez (we can translate this (from the Breton!) as Day Party), which would have involved Breton music (Celtic sounds! doodlesack!), and probably some kind of group dancing according to the YouTube videos.

We were all really really looking forward to it - but it looks as though the snow got the better of everyone, and the show was cancelled. :-( But Mac, le Internet Chef, has found web sites that list play dates for all these Breton music groups - there are many of these in the region, seemingly amateurs, people who do this for the fun of it (no albums or anything like that) - just live music on a Sunday afternoon. There's a concert somewhere within our 20-mile radius every five days or so - !!! - so we'll be attending one of these sooner or later. Oliver "Mad Man on the Fennell" Mackenzie, can't wait.

So we decided to explore the town of Crédin. We were immediately seized by this stately neo-Romanesque church: the kids because the snow there was perfect for snowman making, and Mac and me because of the history of the place. It's pretty unusual to see anything in the Romanesque style around here. Despite Brittany really taking off as a duchy in the 12th century, religious edifices are mostly from the 14th and 15th centuries (with plenty more going on in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries). The 19th century saw a period of Neo-Catholic revival and lots of building in medieval styles to evoke the grandeur of the Church's heyday. I still want to work through the process of laïcization in Brittany of the 20th century (certainly, the French Revolution did a lot to prize secular, civic culture over religious culture, but I want to know about the religious shut-down after the Neo-Catholic Revival - from what I can see, Brittany is still pretty Catholic, but the churches are pretty empty, and in fact, the mass is celebrated at Crédin only once every three weeks, rotating to other parishes the rest of the time).

The nave is gorgeous, isn't it? So clean, such a stately following of Romanesque (but with modern molding and that tell-tale modern smoothness). The stained glass is all late 19th-early 20th century as well. I couldn't help but daydream a little bit about this new Romanesque, and try to fantasize about what a new Romanesque church might have looked like in the 12th century. The 19th century really cleaned up the Romanesque, and its love of wild, fantastic animals, grotesques and devils. The builders here just kept the smooth, peaceful lines. So, of course, we had to ask ourselves: how did this little town of Crédin get this great big gorgeous Neo-Romanesque church? The answer lay in another plaque!

Here lies the body of Joseph Marie Royer, priest; 1849-1922
He was rector of Crédin for 23 years. For God and his parishioners, he had this beautiful church built. He loved souls, and the sight of evil awakened a saintly anger in him. He was good to others and harsh to himself. A man of prayer, he died, breviary in hand, after a rough day of work.

Pretty incredible, eh? The language is so powerful, so direct. Made us wonder what kind of man he was - certainly had a powerful will to be building a church of this magnitude. Wow!

Meanwhile, the kids built snowmen - here is Oliver's - I love that it shares his smile! After romping and musing, we explore a bit more of the countryside - drove through Rohan (just for its evocative name, Tolkein fans!), then to a 19th century Cistercian abbey (which sits on 100 acres!!! and is available for retreats), and finally past a town called Les Forges, which was established in the 18th century (on the edge of a forest and by the river) as a foundry for Marine canons (very beautiful grounds, and we read there's a museum to be seen, too!). Tomorrow is our first day of school/work after a five day hiatus - Iris did say today that she can't wait to get back to school! Oliver and Eleanor concurred: Oliver for the lunch, and Eleanor for that green couch she loves so much! See you soon!

1 comment:

  1. So, you mentioned Rohan "just for its evocative name, Tolkein fans." I must ask, out of sheer literary curiousity do they raise horses in Rohan? Also on the theme of fantasty literature... Oliver--where are you in Harry Potter right now?