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The Arrée Mountains and Extraordinary Churchyards

If you’re staying in Finistère, you mustn’t miss the Arrée Mountains, land of vast, open spaces and preserved natural beauty. Local heritage is also ever-present here, especially thanks to the extraordinary, flamboyant churchyards..

Come along and take a look...

A visual tour through the Arrée Mountains

Let’s start our journey at Saint-Thégonnec, famous throughout Brittany thanks to its ’enclos paroissial’, or churchyard of special architectural interest.

A fresh perspective on sacred art
These extraordinary parish churches and churchyards encompass all manner of sacred art, from glorious Gothic and inventive Renaissance to the grandeur of the Baroque.

To better understand the concept of an extraordinary parish churchyard there is no better place to start than Saint-Thégonnec. This parish church is a beautiful illustration of the wealth and architectural pride enjoyed by rich local linen merchants (known as "juloded") in the 16th and 17th centuries. Concentration and a monumental scale are the hallmarks of this particular parish churchyard. Its church, which caught fire in June 1998, has been treated to an impressive restoration, particularly its brightly-coloured furniture.

Brittany’s extraordinary parish churches are like history books written in stone. These architectural groupings are unique, they bear witness to the consuming religious fervour of the time and transport you to another era.

Our spectacular light show entitled «Quand le calvaire s’illumine...» is an invitation to share a different vision of this aspect of Breton heritage, blending the imaginary with our historical knowledge of these unique works of art. The central thread of this show is using coloured lights on Brittany’s monumental stone crosses - known as ’calvaires’ - to set them off to best advantage using staging and customised illumination.

Quand les calvaires s'illuminent... from An Tour Tan on Vimeo.

Rather more modest, but indispensable to the wealth and fortune of the region, you can also discover the kanndioù where linen was treated. Follow in the steps of Federico Gonzalès, the son of a 17th-century Spanish trader on the Discovery Trail "Gwenojenn al lin", at the Kanndi du Fers.

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Kanndi du Fers, Saint-Thegonnec, Bretagne, Enclos paroissial

Let’s move on from Saint-Thégonnec to find Loc-Eguiner Saint-Thégonnec. Along the way, the countryside changes, becoming a more closely wooded landscape that is crossed by the Penzé River. Halfway along, be sure to look out for Chapelle Sainte-Brigitte.

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Chapelle Sainte-Brigitte, Saint-Thégonnec, Bretagne, Finistère, enclos paroissiaux

Loc-Éguiner Saint-Thégonnec, a relatively young community dating from 1866, was a former annex of Plounéour-Ménez, but its distance on foot meant it made sense to have its own church. Discreet, with a small bell tower, this church dating from 1566 surprises visitors with its double nave and quality sculptures. Around, a simple enclosure completes the tranquility of the village.

At the foot of the Arrée Mountains

Continuing towards Plounéour-Menez, the north face of the Arrée Mountains stands imposingly, a rocky mass of moorland.

Part of the Natural Regional Park of Armorique, Plounéour-Ménez reveals how people knew how to take advantage of a natural landscape that has always been well-preserved: fresh running water to whiten the linen and the ground was rich in granite, schist or peat. The slate quarries remind us and the rural habitat proves it, often with its maisons à apoteiz (overhanging roofs). Almost everywhere you turn, you’ll find a splendid parish church, and magnificent altars. The ’menez’ - the Breton word for mountain - beckons you to come walking.

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Enclos paroissial de Plouneour-Menez, Monts d’Arrée, Bretagne

Now let’s continue our journey eastwards towards the Abbaye du Relec, where the peaks of the Arrée Mountains hail you, reminding you of the wild aspect of this land, chosen 900 years ago by Cistercian Monks. These moors and marshes hardly lend themselves to easy dwelling.
What remains of ten centuries of monastic domination? The moving and spiritual Abbey which is still in use today for concerts and exhibitions, some ingenious hydraulic installations such as the lake, fishponds and watermills, and finally an inherited farming system known as ’quévaise’ (a system that tied the tenant farmer very closely to the authority of the Abbey).

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Abbaye du Relec, Plouneour-Menez, Monts d’Arrée, Bretagne

A real haven of peace, perfect starting point for walks or on your mountain bike, the Abbey is open to visitors all year round.

A new stage in the circuit : Le Cloître Saint-Thégonnec, the former priory of the Abbaye du Relec.

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Musée du Loup, le Cloitre Saint Thégonnec, Monts d’Arrée, Morlaix, Bretagne

Calm, airy and light, this town is a worthy stopping point because it is also home to the one and only French museum dedicated to the Wolf. This is your chance to untangle fact from fiction thanks to an excellent and completely updated museum that examines the wolf in the wild as well as in history and literature. A great visit for young and old alike!

The town of Cloître-Saint-Thégonnec also offers a discovery Circuit on the theme of water: ’riboul an dour’.

Riboul an dour invites you to discover the history of a washerwoman in the Arrée Mountains. Making the most of all the local heritage connected with water, from lavoirs to fountains and wells, this circuit aims to set us thinking about our relationship with water today and its current challenges.

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Riboul an Dour, sentier de l’eau, Monts d’Arrée, Morlaix, Bretagne

Our circuit is coming to an end: destination Pleyber-Christ, through a landscpae of open woodland. Along the way, Potic, a pilhaouaer (rag-and-bone man) from the Arrée Mountains at the end of hte 19th century, invites you to discover how the countryside evolved along with the use of the Valley of Queffleuth, through another circuit called ’Riboul Potic’.

To find out more about ’Riboul Potic’ and the meadows of Prat ar Gaor

We finish our trip in Pleyber-Christ, in the land of the linen workers, a town that made the most of being close to Morlaix. The scale and structure of Saint-Pierre Church stand as witnesses to the town’s wealth, as do the goldwork, the quality of its sculptures and its Apostles by Roland Doré, the gifted sculptor of the King at the end of the 17th century. The celebrated and much-venerated Christ’s Chapel gave the town its name. Be sure to visit it! And of course don’t miss the exhibitions at the Salle Anne de Bretagne.

The splendour of these extraordinary, flamboyant parish churchyards and the mysteries of the Arrée Mountains are all waiting for you to discover them …

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