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Report 1980: Megaliths, Parish Closes and Cider - Part 1 Southern Finistère

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2011

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Page 17 of 26: Locronan - A Small Heritage Town on the Tourist Beat

photo by MAW


Until the 17thC this had been an important and wealthy linen town supplying sails for the French, English and Spanish navies. There had been a rapid decline in the 19thC with little development or new buildings. The buildings have been restored and the town now markets itself as a tourist attraction and is popular with film makers.

It is thought there was originally a druid settlement here before the arrival of the Irish missionary, Ronan. An early church was built about 9thC.

Cars are not allowed in the town after 11am and there are large car parks at the entrance of the town. There is a charge of €3 and you are given a sticker which gives free parking for the rest of the year. It is a short walk into the town.

The cobbled streets around the church and square are lined with large and splendid granite houses with slate roofs dating from the 17th & 18thC. There is a small communal well in the middle of the square. There are a few restaurants, a couple of clothes shops, gift shop and several bakeries selling tins of biscuits. Firm control is kept over the size of signs and premisses are not allowed to display their wares across the pavement. We found the post office which just sells stamps. A buzzer sounds as you enter and there is a small counter with no security grilles.

Eglise St-Ronan stands in the centre of the town. This is an impressive building built in the 15thC with money from the Dukes of Brittany. The tower is massive but not very tall after the top part fell down early in the 19thC.

Entry is into the Chapelle du Penity which adjoins the south side of the church and has a narrow spire. It was built a few years after the church, over the presumed site of the hermitage of St Ronan and contains the tomb of St Ronan. Some of his bones were returned here and are stored in a small reliquary on a stone altar. The coats of arms of the great families who donated money for building and upkeep are in the window.

Arches lead into the main church past a tableau of Mary Magdalene and others with the body of the crucified Christ.

The church is fairly plain with massive pillars with carvings of saints on them. The pulpit has carvings of the life of St Ronan and there is the usual selection of side altars and statues.

Rue Maol drops steeply down the side of the hill. It is cobbled and lined with low buildings where the linen weavers would have lived. It leads to Chapelle Notre-Dame-deBonne-Nouvelle, a 15-17thC building. This is in a lovely setting at the bottom of the town surrounded by trees and fields. It has a small calvary and there is a small fountain with lavoir which was used for retting flax.

The chapel is very simple inside with a depiction of Jesus on the cross surrounded by the two Marys on a beam of wood across the choir. There are statues of the Virgin and Child and God the Father with the crucified Christ.

Venelle de Bonne Nouvelle, a tree lined green lane leads back up into Locronan.

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