A Breton Sampling (Dennis Aubrey)


We’ve arrived in France and we’re delighted to be here and shooting. Here is a sampling of some shots of Breton Romanesque churches that we’ve shot in the last few days.

The first church is the superb Carolingian church of Saint Philbert-de-Grandlieu. This church, just south of Nantes, is at the gates of Brittany.

Église Abbatiale Saint Philbert-de-Grandlieu, Saint Philbert-de-Grandlieu (Loire-Atlantique) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

In the small town of Ambon is a fine Romanesque-based church with some Gothic additions. The Église Saint Cyr et Sainte Julitte has wooden vaults to top its very early Romanesque nave, which reminds us of the church in Vignory.

Église Saint Cyr et Sainte Julitte, Ambon (Morhiban) Photo by PJ McKey

We both especially like the half-barrel vault in the side aisle, which mimics but certainly does not have the same structural function as a stone half-barrel vault.

Église Saint Cyr et Sainte Julitte, Ambon (Morhiban) Photo by PJ McKey

The church of Saint Gildas-de-Rhuys is quite interesting for its mixture of styles, but the most interesting part for us is the beautiful hemicycle of the choir with its surrounding ambulatory. This is the original Romanesque part of the abbey church and was a joy to photograph.

Hemicycle, Abbaye Saint Gildas-de-Rhuys, Saint Gildas-de-Rhuys (Morhiban) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

PJ’s shot here shows the hemicycle from the north side, across from the stunning modern altar. This is one case where the introduction of a modern piece of liturgical art melded perfectly with the Romanesque hemicycle.

Abbaye Saint Gildas-de-Rhuys, Saint Gildas-de-Rhuys (Morhiban) Photo by PJ McKey

In the ambulatory is a nice memorial to Saint Gildas. It sits under the hemicycle directly behind the main altar.

Abbaye Saint Gildas-de-Rhuys, Saint Gildas-de-Rhuys (Morhiban) Photo by PJ McKey

Today we found a jewel of a church near Lorient, the Église Notre Dame de Joie in Merlévenez. Not only is it a fine example of Norman Romanesque, it has a most rare feature in this style church – a wealth of interesting figurative capitals. We spent three hours here exploring Notre Dame de Joie; we will definitely be posting on the capitals at a later point.

Église Notre Dame de Joie, Merlévenez (Morhiban) Photo by PJ McKey

The “Eclairage Artistique” in the church is somewhat of a pain, however. It is on a three=minute timer – when you hit the switch, the lights go on and music starts. Right in the middle of a long-exposure, however, the music ends and the lights go out, leaving us in a dark church. We learned eventually that you can press three times and get a nice nine-minute stretch, but the music got very boring! Small price to pay, though.

Église Notre Dame de Joie, Merlévenez (Morhiban) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

We’ll post again in a few days, probably from Normandy. We are quite taken with Brittany, however, which reminds us in so many ways of Cape Cod, where we live.

11 responses to “A Breton Sampling (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. I love the simplicity of the first few photographs. It’s wonderful that digital photography and wi-fi allow you to post these while you are on the move. I didn’t ever receive your email. I wonder which address you used: viviblake@orange.fr (don’t forget the i in the middle!)

    • Jong-Soung, Saint Philbert-de-Grandlieu was very interesting to shoot. They were preparing for the Patrimony weekend so there were banners and placards everywhere. But the church has such great bones that it photographs beautifully. We shot Sainte Croix in Quimperlé today, a rotunda church like Neuvy-Saint-Sepulchre. Magnificent. We’ll post on that later in the week.

    • Lynne, we’re preparing a post now on the rotunda church, Église Sainte Croix in Quimperlé. Should be up in a day or two. Some wonderful churches here although the Romanesque is comparatively rare.

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