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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 8 of 32: Guerlesquin - a Town Square

photo by MAW

Guerlesquin Church and the old military training ground

Guerlesquin is about 23 miles west of St Thégonnec and is unusual as it is the only remaining example of a ’Town Square’ with the three elements of power of the Ancient Regime: market hall, prison and church.

The town was established in the 11thC adjacent to the site of a feudal motte. It was a flourishing town by the 16thC. The houses of the wealthy were built round the square with workers houses built on the surrounding streets.

The town square is massive and is planted with rows of trees which mark out parking bays. The Seigneurial Prison is a solid stone building from 1640 with circular watchtowers at each corner and two latrines on the west wall. The coat of arms of the Parc family was defaced during Revolution. The ground floor was the prison with dungeons. The upper two floors were living quarters. The building was used as the town hall until 1965.

The Town Grain Measure from 1539 is to one side of the prison. This is a massive block of stone with two hollows which had a capacity of half bushel and one bushel. It was used to help calculate tax payable on grain. It was referred to as the ‘lying stone’ as the measures were slightly larger.

Beyond the prison is Les Halles, the market hall. This was originally wood but a stone building replaced it in the 18thC. It is an unimpressive building on three sides but one side still retains the large arches which now have large glass windows.

At the far end of the square is the church, a massive 19thC building which is bare and uninspiring inside. Beyond is the old training ground, which was used by local soldiers. It is now a flower garden with trees and a fountain.

Chapelle Saint-Jean is a plain stone building on one side of the square. The present building is 19thC and is the only remaining building of the Couvent des Dames Paulines, a 17thC building which educated poor girls and visited the needy. The nuns were expelled during the revolution and the building sold.

There are very few shops around the square which does rather feel as if it has been preserved in aspic. There is some new housing round the edge of the town and a small shopping centre with a SuperU a short distance from the square.

It was interesting to see the old preserved centre of the town but is probably not worth travelling out of your way to visit.

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