The Church of Notre Dame in Lampaul-Guimiliau is one of the famous Parish Enclosures in the Élorn River valley. It was built in the 16C, replacing an earlier building on the site, and was financed by the linen, flax, and cloth trade which flourished in the area. The Church is lavish and has been photographed many time, nevertheless I would like to share with you some of my thoughts and reactions to this incredibly beautiful site. (I also visited a year ago, here.)
The Church is hemmed in by buildings, so I stood nearly outside the town, then underneath the little hill on which the Church is situated, and finally walked round the building itself. This gives some idea of the building in its context.
The Sacristy of 1679 looks rather odd – rather ‘oops, here’s a window!’ – did the builders make a mistake?
And now the really gorgeous bits! The spire was cut off by lightning in 1809 but this ‘flêche’ is still very impressive. There is a passageway with a date of 1573 through the bell tower, the second oldest part of the building. The tower abuts on to a Chapel built on the site of the Ossuary.
An Ossuary stood on the site of what is now a Chapel of the Trinity (1667) is an elegant building, with a fine carved tree of life on the door which reminds us to remember we are mortal. And a rather curious man, stroking his beard – what is he thinking? Or is he reminding us to think about something?
There are two Calvaries: one on top of the Triumphal Arch, 16C, which some sources say was also a public preaching platform (but how did the preacher get up there?) and the other inside the walls of the enclosure, 1668.
The freestanding Calvary is double-sided: on one side two angels are collecting Christ’s blood in a chalice, and alongside him the robbers await their fate – the one going to Hell has a little demon below his feet, while an angel waits for the other. Backing this scene is a pièta which has been restored.
The oldest part of the Church is the Gothic South Porch (1533). Unusually, the doorway is carved with plants, rather than religious figures and I can see builders’ marks carved into the stone – perhaps the doorway was carved elsewhere and assembled on site? Mediaeval prefabrication? Inside the Porch the apostles line up, and there is a wonderful figure of St Peter with the key to heaven. This is where the merchants would meet, sitting on the stone benches under the apostles. At the top of the doorway is a statue of St Michael killing the dragon, and above that a statue of St Pol. (The town’s name means ‘St Pol’s Church in the Settlement of St Miliau’.)
And then the door opens…