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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 22 of 32: Côte des Bruyères

photo by MAW

The triumphal arch at St-Jean-du-Droit

From Ploujean we picked up a white road along Rade de Morlaix with nice views across the river, with deciduous woodland, small settlements and boats anchored. The road goes inland through Plouezoc’h (nice) with rural countryside and fields of artichokes and cabbages to Cairn De Barnenez (page 21).

From here it is a nice drive along the coast through Terenez. The loop round St Sampson and Le Guerzit isn’t worth doing. We parked by the harbour in Le Diben, a big sheltered bay with lots of boats and walked a short distance along the coast with good views across the bay to St-Pol-de-Léon and Pointe de Primel. There are small rocky islands out at sea and massive stone blocks.

We parked at Pointe De Primel with the intention of walking out to the headland. There is a large board with a map showing footpaths, a stone embankment across the headland and defences from 15thC to WW2. Some of the paths are grassy, others go through scrub land. We gave up when the path began to climb up one of the rocky outcrops and there was no way round it.

Next stop was St Jean-Du-Droit, a nice little village but very dead with no one around. There isn’t even a bakery. Next to the church is a massive stone house, Maison de Gouvernment. This was built between 1562-72 for the governor of the church. It was enlarged in the 17thC. It would have been used to house guests of the governor and important pilgrims. It has thick stone walls with tiny windows. Originally it would have had coats of arms carved on the stones but these were defaced during the Revolution. It is now a private house.

The church was built in the 15thC to house the finger of St John the Baptist, although no one is quite sure how it reached here. It has suffered assorted fires, the last one in 1955 when the spire was damaged.

The church has a splendid triumphal arch. This has a platform where the priest would preach to the hordes of pilgrims before they attended mass in the outdoor oratory and performed their devotions at the fountain. The fountain has a large granite basin with a pillar supporting three bowls. At the top, God the Father blesses his Son who is being baptised by John the Baptist lower down. Water flows out of the mouths of cherubs.

The oratory is a splendid structure which has bulging stone walls with carvings and a decorative rope pattern round the top. Pillars support the tiled roof. Inside is a stone altar and stoup. There are shelves on either side of the altar which would have housed statues. The ceiling is wood with a highly carved decorative frieze.

The church is very tall. Inside are tall, thin octagonal pillars supporting pointed arches. Two pillars near the side aisles are more massive and fluted. It is very plain, with no pulpit or stages of the cross on the walls. The windows are modern with an abstract pattern of predominantly white, yellow and pale tan glass. The high altar is simple. There is a boat on the left hand side of the high altar and a crucifix on the north wall. There are the remains of a stone altar in the south aisle with a decorative carved recess in the wall. There are two stone fonts at the back, one bigger than the other.

We drove through Guimaëc to find Domaine De Kerveguen Cider down a side road in a 15/16thC manor house surrounded by orchards. The cider is sold in the old outbuildings. The cider is matured in old oak barrels and we were taken to see the store holding the massive barrels of cider. They sell apple juice, sweet and dry cider and apple spirits. You are able to taste before buying. The cider was nice but expensive.

We skirted round Locquirec to pick up the white road round Corniche de l’Amorique to St-Efflam. There is a huge sandy beach at low tide with pine trees down to the shore. We parked and walked to the Gallo Roman Bath Remains at Hogolo just above the beach. The original bath house was built around 100AD and had a cold room and hot room with plunge pool. During the 2ndC AD the bath house was extended and an extra hot bath and furnace added. The main furnace area was extended as a fuel store. The site was abandoned in the 4thC and robbed for building stone before disappearing under sand dunes.

The walls stand about 4’ high in places. The cold bath was at the end with the two hot pools by the side of the beach. The stoke holes, hypocaust and remains of wall ducts can still be seen.

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