Abbey Church of Saint Gildas of Rhuys !

Well let me go again into one of the peninsula’s of my beautiful Morbihan dept 56. We have three, I told you, but let me bring you back to the most southerly one, the Presqu’ïle de Rhuys peninsula and a gem of our times.

The Abbey is located in the town of Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys,at Place Monseigneur Ropert , on the Rhuys peninsula in the Morbihan dept 56 of Brittany. It has wonderful beaches as well but I like to tell you about the Abbey here worth the detour indeed.

The Abbey of Saint Gildas of Rhuys is a former Benedictine Abbey whose legendary foundation is linked to the second migratory wave in Armorique (old name of Brittany from where migrants from UK came centuries ago) with the arrival on the mainland of Saint Gildas. But his story is not well known. Yet for a few years, we seem to be interested again in this monastery which today leaves one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches of Brittany!.

Saint Gildas de Rhuys

Sarzeau

Three periods can be distinguished in the history of the Saint Gildas de Rhuys Abbey (bear with me as this is history I like).

Originally, from the 10C, there is a Breton Abbey, founded according to the hagiographic legend, around 538 by Saint Gildas who would have directed it until his death in 565. It is more likely that it was founded by monks claiming to be him and possessing, or claiming to possess, his relics. The foundation of this Abbey leaves almost no trace in the archives, rare for this period, nor in the Chronicles. Three facts plead for the reality of the Abbey before the 10C. First, because the monks fleeing the Normans around 919, who obtained protection and settled near the castle of Raoul Prince de Déols (now Châteauroux), founded a Saint-Gildas Abbey and claimed to come from Rhuys. Then ,because the monks who came from the Abbey of Fleury in 1008 have always claimed to have picked up the ruins of a previous Saint Gildas Abbey in Rhuys. Finally because we still possess a document, the inventory of the books of this first Abbey. It is a parchment, probably dating from the 10C, which is kept at the Sainte-Geneviève library in Paris. It contains a list of books whose latest authors are contemporaries of the departure of the monks from Brittany around 920. A long time ago in this list was a Textum Gildasii, a Gospel of Gildas, and two antiphonies (singing books) qualified as Britons.

Saint Gildas de Rhuys

The second period extends from 1008 to the end of the 15C. It is best known by the Romanesque church, its tombs, some archives saved from destruction, and various testimonies. The monastery was restored from 1008 to the request of the Duke of Brittany Geoffroy I. The 11C is marked by the presence of other Saints, first Saint Goustan, then a poorly known Abbot, Saint Rioc. The Abbey then developed the cult of Saint Gildas and other related Saints, such as Saint Colomban, St. Brigitte and St. Armel. In 1189, the Duchess Constance of Brittany attended an office and gave a charter to the Abbey, with a donation. The children of the dead Dukes in Suscinio are buried in the Abbey. But the historical gaps remain numerous, due to the destruction or dispersion of the Abbey’s archives during the Hundred Years War.

Saint Gildas de Rhuys

Finally, from the end of the 15C to the French revolution, the archives of the Abbey are practically all preserve. The Saint Gildas de Rhuys Abbey was taken into management by the Congregation of Saint-Maur in 1649. The nave was done in Néo-Classique style, the bell tower transfer to the western facade and finished in 1705. At the French révolution, the monks were chase out and the buildings sold as national property in 1796. They were purchased back in 1804,by Mother  Saint-Louis,founder of the Sisters of Charity of Saint-Louis. The abbey found its religious vocation and again renovated. The Sisters found a school and then an orphanage.  By 1960,the Sisters of the Charity of Saint-Louis founded a space speciliased in handicapped persons. This center was later transferred to Vannes in 1993, and they renovated and enlarged the buildings to developed a hotel to answer to the new needs of the abbey to become a cultural and spiritual center.

Saint Gildas de Rhuys

The present Saint Gildas de Rhuys Abbey  still preserves beautiful elements of the Romanesque Abbey  such as the Choir, north transept, 32 capitals with geometric decorations and several tombs. The monumental altarpiece of the south cross brace dates from the first third of the 17C. By their sobriety, the nave and the crossroads of neo-classical transept harmonize well with the surviving Romanesque parts. The treasure of the Abbey, saved during the French revolution by the Rector Le Duin, whose tomb is still in the cemetery of Saint Gildas, is one of the most important reliquary treasures of Brittany. Preserved in the sacristy, it includes in particular a lame wooden shrine of copper 14C, another in silver 15C, the Chief-reliquary in silver said of Saint Gildas  16C, members-reliquaries in silver and vermeil ; they would hold according to tradition an arm, a knee and a leg of Saint Gildas, a chalice in gold 16C, a silk mitre embroidered with gold and silver (attributed by tradition to Abelard, it dates in fact from the 16C), a processional cross in silver 18C, etc., etc.

Saint Gildas de Rhuys

The reception center of the Saint Gildas de Rhuys Abbey is open all year round to accommodate individual stays, groups, trainings, spiritual retreats. At your disposal, 80 rooms for a capacity of 140 people. However, it’s the visit to the relics that is a must to any visitor to the area.

Some webpages to help you plan your visit here, and me think is a must are

Official St Gildas Abbey on history in French

City of Saint Gildas on the Abbey

Tourist office of the Gulf of Morbihan on the Abbey

Tourist office of dept 56 Morbihan on the Abbey

There you go another gem in my neck of the woods waiting to show its history, architecture, and good deeds. The Saint Gildas de Rhuys Abbey Church should be visited.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

 

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