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.
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, a Calvary, and of course the Church itself. In Sizun the enclosure wall is clear and the Arch is truly triumphal, built 1585-90.
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.
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!
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.
Two more posts to come – do join me around and inside this wonderful place.