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Report 1982: Megaliths, Parish Closes and Cider - Part 3 Northern Finistère
By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2011
Page 9 of 32: Parish Closes - St-Thégonnec
The entombment of Christ in the crypt of the ossuary
St-Thégonnec was one of the richest parishes in the area with wealth based on the linen trade. The Parish Close reflects this wealth.
A stone wall surrounds the Parish Close. Entry is through the triumphal gateway topped with small lantern turrets. Inside the close is the Ossuary and calvary.
The church is a splendid structure with a massive square tower with a central pinnacle and smaller ones at the corners. There is a smaller spire to the NW.
Entry is through the massive south porch which has a carving of St Thégonnec above. Inside are carvings of four of the apostles.
The inside of the church really does need to be seen on a bright sunny day when the gilt paint catches all the sunlight. It is fairly dark inside and on a dull day it is difficult to see details.
Inside, massive pillars support round arches. There are square windows above and ornate arched windows in the aisles below.
Above the west door is a massive organ which has a carved wooden front. There are five panels on either side with painted floral designs on them. There is a floral frieze below with the date 1746. The organ itself is splendid with gilded angels playing instruments and other figures.
The ornate pulpit is made of carved plaster. It is painted grey with gilt decorations. On the sides are a series of carvings which show a bishop studying and holding a book while eating, another is writing in a book held by an angel. One shows a dove above the bishop, giving him inspiration as he writes. Another has an eagle. There is a picture of St Herbot, a popular Breton saint with a cow and what looks like Daniel in the lions’ den. There are also carvings of roses and marigolds. At the back are carvings of angles and the sounding board has gold cherubims above and a dove under the canopy.
There is a wooden beam between the nave and choir. This has a carving of Christ on the cross with a female figure on either side.
The high altar is surrounded by grey/beige paneling with gilt decoration and painted roundels. There are three round topped stained glass windows. In front is a modern free standing mass altar. There is a carved wooden altar rail in front of the high altar and an outer rail around this and the north altar. There are three large painted chairs in red and gold for church officials.
To either side are two large and very ornate side altars. The retables stretch from floor to ceiling. There are smaller side altars painted in shades of blues, reds and golds. One has scenes of Adam and Eve in the garden of Paradise and being expelled after eating the apple. The Retable of the Rosary is to the north and the altar of the Blessed Sacrament to the south which has a large painting of the birth of Christ. There is a glorious carving of St Pol de Leon crushing the dragon under his foot which had been terrorising the Isle de Batz.
On the south wall is a carved statue of the Virgin Mary surrounded by the tree of Jesse with the ancestors of Christ and a serpent at her feet. This has doors which can close over it. The inside of the doors are painted with scenes showing the nativity and the annunciation. There is a similar statue of an unidentified bishop.
The calvary has a central figure of the crucified Christ with two soldiers on horseback with more figures below. On the other side is a carving of the Virgin with the body of the crucified Christ. Lower down on either side are carvings of the two robbers tied to their cross. The calvary is mounted on a massive stone block with what is described as a ’table of offerings’. Apparently, donations could be left here which were used for the maintenance the Parish Close. The carvings round the base show scenes leading to the crucifixion, with figures in 16thC dress. There is Christ with his hands bound being shown to the crowds and being mocked by his tormentors as well as his followers mourning the dead body.
The ornate 17thC ossuary at the side of the close now contains a bookstall and display of church silver, including the ceremonial cross. It has a carved wooden door with three windows on either side. Above is a carved frieze with an inscription and the date 1702. Above are empty arches with carved shell tops.
This is no longer a place to store bones but a sumptuous Chapelle Funéraire where masses were said for the dead. Inside is a highly carved altar with vines and statues and steps on both sides. In the crypt below is a full size carving of the entombment of Christ complete with an angel holding the crown of thorns and nails, weeping Mary and Veronica holding the handkerchief she used to wipe Christ's face and has an image of Christ’s face on it.
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