The Church of St Suliau, Sizun

The church in Sizun is just up the road from the gîte and I strolled up in the evenings, loving my me-time trying to capture the atmosphere in this magical place. I first visited late in the afternoon when the organist was playing. As I sat down he launched into Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in d minor – the grandeur of those moments stayed with me on future visits.

This early photograph must be late 19C, by that amazing photographer Médéric Mieusement. 

Sizun Church (Ministry of Culture database); photograph by Mederic Mieusement (1840-1905)
Sizun Church (Ministry of Culture database); photograph by Mederic Mieusement (1840-1905)
Approaching the Church in Sizun
Approaching the Church in Sizun

The Church is an Enclos Paroissial – a complex consisting of an enclosed space with a boundary wall which separates the world of the living from that of the dead, a Triumphal Archway, an Ossuary, Calvary, and of course the Church itself. In Sizun the enclosure wall is clear and the Arch is truly triumphal, built 1585-90.

The Triumphal Arch, Sizun Church
The Triumphal Arch, Sizun Church
The Triumphal Arch, Sizun Church
The Triumphal Arch, Sizun Church
The Calvary on top of the Triumphal Arch, Sizun Church
The Calvary on top of the Triumphal Arch, Sizun Church

The Stone Cross or Calvary, is usually a monumental structure with sculptures representing stories in the Bible. At Sizun this Pietà of the 15C is all that remains.

15C PIeta at Sizun Church
15C PIeta at Sizun Church

The Ossuary, which was used to store bones dug up when the churchyard was full, was built at the same time of the archway and now it houses a small museum. There are statues of the Apostles in niches aligned with the pediment, and below, between rounded window arches, are apparently naked women – curious carvings for a religious building. This strange mix of ‘standard’ religious icons and more ‘primitive’ images was everywhere in Brittany. Look at the mermaid on a corner of the Ossuary roof below – Wikipedia suggests it is a ‘..Demon with the bust of a woman and the body of a serpent…..plucking the apple from the tree of Temptation..’. Ah, the power of women!

The Ossuary of Sizun Church, photographed by Georges Esteve, probably 1st half of 20C
The Ossuary of Sizun Church, photographed by Georges Esteve, probably 1st half of 20C
The Ossuary, Sizun Church
The Ossuary, Sizun Church
Figure on the Ossuary roof, Sizun Church
Figure on the Ossuary roof, Sizun Church

St Suliau himself has been reduced to a small statue at ground level, watching. St Suliau or Suliac was originally a Welsh Prince who became a monk, eventually fleeing to Brittany, because of persecution in his native Wales, and dying there in c.650AD. He is remembered in many churches in both Wales and Brittany.

St Suliau
St Suliau

Two more posts to come – do join me around and inside this wonderful place.

You may be interested in
The Enclos Paroissial
St Suliac

3 comments

  1. Now that is interesting! I looked up the Chessmen and they are 12C, Nordic. This statue is probably later, but the Vikings invaded Brittany in the 9C and 10C so there may be a connection.

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