Basilica Church Notre Dame de la Joie of Pontivy!

Ah this is a dandy and very close to home. It is an inland Morbihan town of a very long history especially link to Napoléon! I like to update this older post on the Basilica Church Notre Dame de la Joie of Pontivy! Hope you enjoy it as I.

So here is another gem that I have often written on it in previous posts but never a post of its own, which I think it deserves.  Again right up the alley on my area on the Napoleonic town of Pontivy (read my posts to know why) we have the Basilica Church of Notre Dame de la Joie. TheBasilica is located at the place Bourdonnay-du-Clézio, and the place Anne de Bretagne, it is in the center of the medieval town of Pontivy (Pondi in Breton language)


A bit of history I like

The commemorative stone placed between the two flagstones dominating the western portal, recalls that the first stone was laid on April 29, 1533. The local Pontivyens, whose Church of St. Ivy was too small and falls from dilapidated, are obliged to raise in the 1530’s a new sanctuary in the form of a Latin cross, partly thanks to the financial assistance of the Bishop of Cornouaille Claude de Rohan. The arms of the family of Rohan are also listed above the double door of the tower and their faces are recalled on the columns.  According to local tradition, an epidemic of dysentery was rampant in the city in 1695 and 1696. On September 11, 1696, the inhabitants would have made the vow, if the scourge ceases, to offer to the Virgin an eternal silver lamp in the Chapel dedicated to St. Ivy. The invocation of Mary having made the scourge disappears, the lamp would have been lit the next day and a first procession organized in her honor. The Church is then placed under the term of Notre Dame de la Joie or Our Lady of Joy. In reality, the cult of the Virgin is more ancient in the region and that of Pontivy dates back at least to the previous century. Since then, the tradition lasts, a pardon (penitence procession) being organized on the 12th of September or the following Sunday, now every second Sunday of September.  The Church of Notre Dame de la Joie was transformed at the end of the 18C, in particular thanks to the liberalities of the Dukes of Rohan, as well as at the end of the19C such as the Spire, the aisles of the choir and the vaults of the nave date from 1886 in order to respond to the increase of the population of faithful. On January 10, 1959, Pope John XXIII granted the Church the title of minor Basilica.

A bit of architecture I like

The Basilica Church of Notre Dame de la Joie makes a large appeal to the granites stones of  with grey-green brick schists and eroded sandstone. Successive additions have made the Church lose its primitive plan in the Latin cross, but among the gables that cut the southern façade one still recognizes, at its elevation, the old cross brace. The broken-arch windows are lined with networks restored in the 19C and are topped with gables to the creeping hills decorated with sticks and cabbage. The western gate is made up of two twin bays in a basket-loop, underlined by a double-glazed window of gorges and carved with vine and oak leaves. These berries are topped with ornate curly braces and framed with three balusters fashioned in fine granite. Above their marquee stand out on slight pinnacles the repeated rhombuses on the three fretted columns,  these rhombuses represent the faces of the coat of arms of the House of Rohan.  The two upper floors are pierced on each side of a long window and crowned by a flaming gallery. This railing is loaded with animal gargoyles and corner pinnacles. On this basis was built an octagonal dome from which rises the stone Spire which succeeded, in 1886, to a slate frame. The three-nave main nave consists of four spans and communicates with the aisles through broken arcades to several archivolts that penetrate into columns engaged in square pillars. These pillars are done in granite coarse grain.


A bit more on the interior

The Basilica Church Notre Dame de la Joie preserves several altarpieces in the Interior, including that of the high altar. This altar, in polished grey marble and polychrome stone, done in 1782 in Rennes while the architectural altarpiece in marble and taffeta stone, dates from 1725. The Louis XV style, altarpiece adopts a concave plan with a central body in advance which houses in a huge niche, in the shape of arch in basket, the carved group of the Holy Family in terracotta. In the center, depicts Christ as an adult, summoned from the dove of the Holy Spirit and which shows the figure of God the Father. The columns of black marble, arranged on either side of this niche, support an entablature, embellished with rondeaux, dominated by an imposing semicircular pediment on which rests a crowning niche. In this niche, accosted with inverted columns and consoles, throne St. Ivy (Patron Saint of the parish) as a Bishop wearing monograms crowned with Christ and the Virgin, accompanied by two musicians Angels. The wings, curved, are flanked by columns lined with pilasters with Corinthian capitals and finished by inverted consoles with vegetal décor. They shelter, under red draperies forming a canopy, the statues of the parents of Virgin Mary, St. Joseph on the left and Ste. Anne on the right. Each statue is topped with an entablature decorated with crisscrossed palms and a cornice with dentelles and modillions. The upper level ends with two small ailerons, adorned with medallions probably illustrating the portraits of the donors carved in bas-relief and the statues of St. Peter and St. Paul draped in antique style.



The front of the high Altar bears the name of Jehovah in Hebrew characters, with the sun and the beams of stylized rays. It is topped by a marble Tabernacle with a wrought-in mosaic gold and enamel door over mounted. It was on this Altar that the Federation volunteers of the French revolution  signed their act of Union on January 19, 1790. This is the first time that the term living free or dying is used.


The Basilica Church Notre Dame de la Joie ,also, presents a series of statues from the 16-17-18C. The most notable, backed by the pillars  are Our Lady of Joy carved in an oak trunk, Our Lady of Deliverance revered by pregnant women, a polychrome wooden statues of St. Catherine and St. Barbara are likely to come from the former convent of the Recollects of Pontivy, now destroyed. The Church has a 17C wooden eagle-lectern, donated by the Duke of Rohan. The Louis XV style desk is adorned with a raptor whose greenhouses cling to a large bronze sphere that symbolizes the Earth’s globe.


An oil on canvas with the subject of the descent of the Cross, dated 1635 and restored in 1974, is a work of the Flemish school.  The Chapel Our Lady of Joy, has an altarpiece where the revered statue sits. The seated Virgin holds, on the right, a scepter and, standing on her knee the child Jesus. On the other side of the Choir, the altarpiece of the carved wooden Calvary is a typical 17C work.  The perpetual lamp is suspended from the vault. From the 19C, the Church preserved a series of stained glass windows and a Cavaillé-Coll organ made in 1836. Other stained glass windows were added in the 20C.


Some webpages to help you plan your visit here are:

The Pontivy tourist office on its heritage

The Morbihan dept 56 Tourist Office on the Basilica Church ND de la Joie

There you go folks, another gem near me and worth the detour, wonderful city center and great walks by the river. This is the Rohan territory of the Morbihan breton. Enjoy the Basilica Church Notre Dame de la Joie or Our Lady of Joy

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

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: