The Church of Notre-Dame in St Thégonnec, 14C-18C, is one of the ‘great’ parish enclosures, a huge and impressive complex which is perhaps not to everyone’s taste because of its size and opulence. Nevertheless, it has all the necessary components of a Parish Enclosure – walls, Triumphal Arch, Ossuary, Calvary, South Porch, and of course, the Church.
St Thegonnec originally came from Wales to Brittany where he tamed a deer to pull his cart carrying stones to build his church. One day a wolf killed the deer; the saint tamed the wolf who then pulled his cart.
The Triumphal Arch dates from 1587 and is built of local granite by craftsmen from the workshops of the Chateau of Kerjean.
The Church has two spires: the lower tower is from the original church of 1563, while the second, taller tower is early 17C.
The complex of buildings is covered in carvings – they are everywhere, and remember these are made of granite! On the outside of the South Porch is a beautiful carving of St John (1625), leaning forward, head bent by Roland Doré. It is in strong contrast with the more standard, stiff figure on the right.
The Ossuary (1676-82) is a grand, elegant building. Over the door St Pol stands over the dragon he conquered on the Ile de Batz. Apparently this building was never used to store bones, but was always a Chapel. (There is an ‘Entombment’ in the crypt of the Ossuary which is similar to that in Lampaul-Guimiliau, but apart from the head of Mary Magdalene I think it compares poorly.)
There are two Calvaries at St Thegonnec: one on the north side of the church, built into the enclosing wall, in 1864 and made by Yan Larhantec; and the main Calvary of 1610 on the south side which was mostly created by the ‘Master of St Thegonnec’ with a single group by Roland Doré.
Some of the scenes are brutal…
You can spend hours exploring the complex exterior of the complex, and feel quite overwhelmed by richness and variety, but it will not prepare you for the opulence of the interior.