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Report 1982: Megaliths, Parish Closes and Cider - Part 3 Northern Finistère

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2011

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Page 12 of 32: Parish Closes - La Martyre

photo by MAW

High altar

La Martyre is now a small village with an old, stone built Marie. It had an annual fair where merchants from England, Holland and Touraine came to deal in linen cloth, livestock and horses. The town became rich on rates levied on these transactions and could afford the best workmen to decorate the Close and church.

The church is dedicated to the old Breton king and martyr, St Saloman. The Parish Close is the oldest in the region, being built between the 11th - 17thC.

The massive triumphal arch is 15/16thC and has a calvary on top, with the crucified Christ and the two robbers. There is a walkway across the top of the arch. The house immediately to the left of the Triumphal arch was a lookout post.

To the left of the triumphal arch is the 1619 ossuary with a carved doorway and a figure holding a skull and long bone. Two angels hold banners with dire warnings in Breton.

The highly carved south porch has a carving above the archway of the Virgin Mary giving birth with two oxen looking through the window. There are carvings of angels and knights on the surrounding arches. Inside are carvings of the twelve apostles and the remains of a painting of the four evangelists on the ceiling. Between the doorways is a stoup with an ankou holding a severed head. Above is a statue of the Virgin holding the Christ Child.

The interior of the church has low pillars with carved heads of people and animals supporting the pointed arches. The roof is lime washed wood. The ceiling beams in the north aisle are highly carved and have the remains of paint on them. There are further 14thC wall paintings, discovered during renovations in 1997, in shades of faded red with some yellows on the tops of the walls in the nave and choir.

The pulpit is carved wood. The font at the back of the church has a decorative canopy in shades of pale grey, slate blue and gilt. There are statues on the nave pillars.

A stone carved altar rail separates the choir and side aisles. This originally went all round the choir, but the central bit was removed and has been replaced by low wrought iron railings and a small carved wood rood screen. This is supported with four pillars on each side with an arch above. On top is a crucifixion with the two Marys.

The high altar is covered with gilt and has scenes of martyrs on the bottom. Above, angels surround a carved roundel with a star burst and crown. On either side are large blue and gilt pillars with statues, one looks like a bishop, the other a king, each stand on a pedestal. One has a carving of the last supper, the other Jesus praying in Gethsemane with Mary Magdalene and two disciples asleep. There are more statues between the windows.

The south altar has a carved stone base with scenes of hell below a painting of an angel is reaching out to martyrs being burnt. On either side are statues of St John and St Paul. The north altar has a similar carved stone base with a wooden host box on it.

The treasury is displayed in a cabinet in the back corner of the church. It holds the communion plate, the processional cross, a 16thC silver reliquary box of St Salomon and two 16thC painted wooden heads of John the Baptist on a plate.

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