An amazing bestiary

Last saturday, despite the grey weather, we couldn’t bring ourselves to stay inside after the previous glorious day!

The objective was to get some historical information on the site run nowadays by missionary priests in Haïti and Brasil.

Name of the place: St Jacques.

Location: Guiclan 

We were not expecting to stop short, just like hunting spaniels 😉 , at the sight of a chapel we didn’t know anything about – probably too close from our original home-  despite the fact we have thoroughly toured around, in the last three decades, attracted by sacred art very much represented in our part of the world. Nothing really sacred here but a collection of carved granite animals, which really impressed us. 

This carved  granite XIXth century bestiary is fascinating and one always wonders what was at work in the sculptor(s)’ mind when faced with a compact block of granite using tools which hadn’t much evolved since the Middle Ages.

Their creative inspiration was certainly found in the familiar local domestic and wild fauna but also fed by mythical creatures such as snaky or winged (or both) dragons supposed to symbolize the Devil. Countless statues represent dragons trampled underfoot of countless female saints in Brittany. Female saints mostly as if women had crushed down Eve’s original sin. One must keep in mind the Church had to evangelize people who weren’t taught how to read or write before the end of the XIXth century, not that long ago if you think about it! As a result, the scriptures were passed on visually. Some representation of the Devil must have been terrifying for poorly educated peasants then. The objective of the Church was mainly to induce fear in people’s mind. Nothing new under the sun, let’s say!!

These stone animals are mostly placed on the granite rim which run alongside the chapel walls, at the junction of the roof and the walls. Their function was to decorate that part of the chapel to catch the eye,  to soften the austerity of the construction but not only! Some of them are real gargoyles to drain away or divert rainwater in order to protect the walls and the masonry. 

I might be mistaken but I think I counted about 19  gentle, beastly or dragon-like animals, my favourite being the hare 🙂P1120310

Below, a slide show I made and posted on Youtube.