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Report 1981: Megaliths, Parish Closes and Cider - Part 2 Morbihan

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2011

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Page 26 of 27: Kernascléden

photo by MAW

Dance macabre

Kernascléden is a small town between Le Faouet and Guémené-sur-Scorff. It was a long drive from Plumelec, but we wanted to visit the church to see the 15thC frescoes.

We arrived and parked in the square by the church. Our hearts sank when we saw that the whole of the east end was surrounded by scaffolding and polythene and had visions of the church being shut for restoration. A lot of money is being spent restoring many of the churches in Brittany. We were lucky; it was open.

The church was begun in 1420 by orders of the Rohan family and was consecrated in 1453 although the choir vaulting was not finished until 1464. It has a very ornate steeple with open carvings of flowers and a network of delicately carved roses. Apparently there are 100 small pinnacles (we didn’t count them).

Entry is through a highly carved south porch with painted statues of the twelve apostles each wearing a sash with his name. The church is huge with pillars and plain glass windows. At first glance it seems fairly plain with a simple vaulted ceiling in the nave and more complex vaulting in the choir. Then you see the wall and ceiling paintings, which are mind blowing. These are some of the most complete and best preserved 15thC frescoes.

In the south transept there is a painting of Danse Macabre round the walls. The figures are outlined in black with the remains of orange and red colours. The Preacher explains that when death sounds, all are equal and none can escape. There is a written frieze above and you can see Death blowing his trumpet and a series of paintings showing the pope, emperor, king, cardinal, nobleman, rich and poor lining up for death. Not all are clearly visible. Above on the west facing wall are images of the 15thC vision of hell. There are two large cauldrons full of bodies being boiled and below the devil is prodding further bodies with his fork. Above is a thorn tree with bodies impaled on the spikes. Their hands are tied to stop them trying to escape. To the left is a barrel containing bodies which is being turned by another devil.

The choir ceiling has 24 paintings in the different ‘panels’ representing the life of the Virgin Mary. The first six paintings show her parents, St Anne and St Joachim. These are followed by her marriage to Joseph, the annunciation through to her death and assumption into Heaven. The eight paintings in the arches below show the Agony of Christ.

The paintings on the roof of the north transept have winged angels in paradise playing drum, rebec, violins and a harp. There is also a large painting showing the ascension of Christ on the south facing wall.

The colours of the roof paintings are still bright with green, black, grey, orange, red and yellows being the main colours used.

There is a carved granite altar with altar rail and a small wooden mass altar in front.

Statues include 15thC Our Lady of Kernascléden, St Anne the patron saint of Brittany, St Sebastian (who you pray to for easing of pain and suffering) and the Pietra with the Virgin holding the body of the crucified Christ.

This was a very well worthwhile visit and definitely repaid the long drive.

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