Ploërmel: Saint Armel !!

Here I am winding my road warrior trip to the outskirts of my beautiful Morbihan towards Rennes in my lovely Bretagne and my belle France. Again, this is a town been a while back, and thought it was time to revisit with new text and photos; talking about Ploërmel.

The town of Ploërmel is one of those that passing by the N24 or N166 roads do not seems much to stop by. However, once you do, you will see a vibrant city center and wonderful monuments to see as in previous posts. For now will tell you a bit on the Church of Saint Armel full of history I like!


The Church of Saint-Armel, founded in the 15C, was rebuilt between 1511 and 1602. The north portal, about 1530, presents scenes from the Gospel, and popular scenes. Inside, there is a wooden vault adorned with richly carved sand pits, stained glass including a Tree of Jesse , 1552, ornamentation, the tomb stone of the Dukes Jean II and Jean III and that of Philip of Montauban, Chancellor of Anne of Brittany. Originally the tombs of the two Dukes were placed in the Church of the Carmes. As the Church was destroyed by the League, the two tombs were moved to the Church of the Priory of St. Nicholas in 1591. Resettled in the new Church of the Carmes, they remained there until the French revolution. In 1790, the walls of the tombs were destroyed and the tomb was open. It was the General Council of Morbihan that restored the two tombs, in 1820, which were then deposited on a new and unique tomb placed in the Church of Saint-Armel.


The Church of Saint-Armel is the most emblematic and important monument of Ploërmel.  Now holding the tomb of the Dukes Jean II and Jean III of Brittany!  In the 13C, duke Jean II installed a Carmelite convent there where the dukes were buried. During the famous War of the Succession in Brittany (1341-1379), Ploërmel sided with the Montfort, who would be the ally of the English. In the 15C, Jean V made it one of the eight ducal bailiffs and increased patronage actions in Ploërmel, Tréguier, Le Folgoat, Kernascléden, etc. Still in the 15C, the city benefited from a general demographic boom, then, at the beginning of the 16C from the boom in Breton trade favored by political stability: Anne, Duchess of Brittany, was first of all the wife of kings of France Charles VIII , then Louis XII.   It is undoubtedly for this reason that one took pretext of the collapse of the median bell-tower of the church, in 1508, to undertake an almost complete reconstruction of the building. This was done from 1511 and in a Gothic style, punctuated with Renaissance touches. As such, the north portal, associated with its famous west buttress, is a masterpiece of 16C sculpture. The massive bell tower, meanwhile, saw its upper half rebuilt in the 18C. As is often the case among Breton churches, Saint-Armel was built with granite for the elevations and wood for the vaults. Indeed, its large stained glass allows light to flood a nave punctuated by high arcades. The stained glass, which was among the most beautiful in Brittany, suffered greatly in 1944 (WWII), whether in the Renaissance stained glass windows or those of the 19C.



The most interesting outer part is to the north. It is there that the famous north portal stands, shining with bas-reliefs because it is there that the church opened on the commercial district and its stalls. There is now a large open space: the Place Saint-Armel .The tower, which rises to 33 meters, has a lower part that dates back to the 16C. An arrow once topped it. At the beginning of the 18C, the bell tower threatened to ruin and, in 1727, lightning finished it. The upper part is therefore demolished, which was rebuilt from 1733 to 1741. The north portal is the masterpiece of the external architecture of the church. Covered with sculptures on two levels, it is the illustration of artistic conception in the 16C. The two low-arched wooden doors are decorated with Apostles to which Saint Armel is added. On the upper level, on the pier and on the outside of the windows, you see a fairyland of sibyls, saints and prophets. Remember that the sibyls are the only pagan elements integrated into the Christian world. They received the power of prophecy from Apollo. The presence of all these characters indicates that the north portal encompasses all the times of human history: pagan with the sibyls, Old Covenant with the prophets, New Covenant with the Apostles and the saints.



The tree of Jesse in the Church of Saint-Armel is interesting in more ways than one. It shines above a door, in the south aisle 6.50 meters high and around 2.10 meters wide, it is often presented in tourist brochures as one of the most beautiful Trees of Jesse in Brittany – and of course it is guaranteed 16C. The vaults ceilings of the Church of Saint-Armel are one of the marvels of the church. The large paneled barrel vault of the central aisle, built in the 16C, has three interesting elements: beams, sandpits and figurines. Awesome church indeed!



The tourist office of Broceliande on the Church of Saint Armel

The tourist office of Broceliande on things to do and see in and around Ploërmel

And there you go a masterpiece of architecture and Breton history to visit, recommended. The Church of Saint Armel was worth coming back and will return. Hope you enjoy the post as much as us

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

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