A gem of breton heritage

A gem of breton heritage

An exceptional heritage

In the 16th and 17th centuries, parishes in the north of Finistere experienced significant economic growth. Enriched by commerce in cloth, agriculture, fairs and tanning, eminent citizens invested in the construction and embellishment of the parish closes, in the hope of going to heaven one day. But between the “fabriques” (parish councils) a lively competition was expressed in unprecedented artistic and architectural rivalry. The councillors, both proud and determined, called on the best artisans: stone-cutters, sculptors, wood-workers, cabinet-makers, weavers, upholsterers… They even brought in organ-makers from England, Flemish copyists and materials from the Loire valley to make the parish closes magnificent and exceptional places.

Parish close of Guimiliau

 

The parish closes all have the same basic structure. They consist of a central church, a monumental gate, a calvary and an ossuary. The surrounding wall which encircles the parish close is both a physical boundary and also a symbolic divide between profane and sacred space. Inside the parish close, the wealth of the parish and the piety of the faithful are illustrated in the majestic works: calvaries displaying many figures, monumental porches, gates with the appearance of triumphal arches, altarpieces of exuberant ornamentation.

Stone and wood were formidable resources for artistic expression. We can see this on the stringbeams, the altarpieces and the calvaries, a wide palette of decorative detail: human and fantastic figures, vegetal ornamentation and geometric forms. Some multi-coloured traces still visible recall that the stone was painted originally.

One basic structure for the parish closes

A place of life and learning

Monuments dedicated through faith, the parish closes were also places of daily life situated at the heart of villages: here the old people enjoyed discussions, the notables took all kinds of decisions and business was done. Young people met in the parish close, which hosted the market as well as festive occasions. A communal and central space, the parish close was both the pride and the arena of daily life for the parishioners.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the population was mostly illiterate. So the parish close had an educational aspect: here the parishioners could discover sacred texts (the Old and New Testaments) thanks to scenes portrayed on the calvaries and altarpieces.

The altarpiece of Commana

But Louis XIV, pressed by the cost of the war against Holland and the heavy burden of Versailles and his court, was looking for new sources of income. To provide for the needs of the kingdom, Colbert imposed taxes on exports. In the land of the parish closes, 80% of cloth was exported to England. So the taxes sounded the death knell for the Golden Age of Breton cloth, soon supplanted by that of Silesia.

Detail from the parish close of Sizun

Contact us

+33 02 98 68 33 33 53, rue du Calvaire, 29400 Guimiliau

Opening hours

July 1st - september 16th:

Monday to Saturday:
09.00 – 12.30 and 13.30 – 18.00

Sundays and public holidays:
09.30 – 12.30

From september 17 th:

Monday to Friday:
09.00 – 12.30 and 13.30 – 17.30

Other

Tariff

Free entry

Persons with reduced mobility

The Parish Close Interpretation Centre is accessible for those with reduced mobility. Note also that the parish close of Guimiliau is partially accessible to persons with reduced mobility.