Unbelievable Pleyben!!!

Yes indeed in a small town and so much architecture and history to take you a day, this is unbelievable Pleyben. I am updating this older post on text and links and well deserving. One of the great off the beaten path missed gems of my lovely Bretagne!! Let me tell you about it a bit more, and hope you enjoy as I.

And continuing with my showcase of my region, I come to something espectacular and historical religious etc you name it. Actually, I came here for the chocolates florentines but end up been amazed by the parish enclosure. This is Pleyben, Finistére dept 29 of the region of Bretagne. This is their story as told by me!

Pleyben is between Mont d’Arrée and montagne Noir , Pleyben is limited to the north by the Douffine river which separates it from Lopérec river and to the south by the Aulne river on meanders that separates Pleyben from Gouézec and Lothey. The town  is part of the Regional Natural Park of Armorique. Pleyben was one of the primitive parishes of the ancient armory in the 6C and first known as Plebs Yben ( “Bourg of Yben”),  which would be a more or less a mythical saint Breton known under the names of Saint Yben or Saint Ethbin, the name being sometimes transcribed in the High Middle Ages under the variants Pleizben or Pleiben . Its Breton name is Pleiben.

Pleyben is at the crossroads of the road N 164, fitted out in the expressway, which is the axis of the central Brittany Rennes-Châteaulin via Loudéac and Carhaix and the road, Morlaix-Quimper. The town is located 27 km from Quimper. The best way for me is by car, taken the free expressway N165, get off on exit Chateaulin/Pleyben after the first roundabout take direction Pleyben on the N164 straight into ave Charles de Gaulle in city center Pleyben, you come upon the enclosure.

This ancient stronghold was inhabited as early as the 11C, certainly, the 9C perhaps, by the powerful feudal family of the Trésiguidy, probably of French origin, the name  Tréséguidy can probably be translated as The House of Sigwin, Sigwin in German meaning  victorious.  At the beginning of the 18C the village of Pleyben was considerable and was inhabited by bourgeois and by a large quantity of craftsmen of all professions and trades. In 1771, archives prove that the Marquis de La Fayette (of USA indépendance fame) possessed  lands of the Lun and Kerguillé in Pleyben.

The construction, begun in 1806 and completed in 1833, then the commissioning of the Nantes-Brest Canal led to a significant economic boom, facilitating, for example, the export of slates by barges. The slates, brought by the canal to Port-Launay, were exported not only to Brittany, but to all the coasts of the Manche  and to Dunkirk. On  August 8, 1896, the President of the Republic Félix Faure coming from Carhaix where he had arrived by train, takes a car escorted by the cavalcade of the blue jacket guards made of naive embroidery and made a short stop of 20 minutes at Pleyben before continuing to Châteaulin where he takes the train in the direction of Quimper as part of a trip to Brittany. This was the only visit of a French head of state in the history of Pleyben.

The Maquis de Penarpont (Pen-AR-Pont)-Beuzit-Keralliou set up operations between 12 October 1943 and 25 October 1944, an FTP hiding  was set up between the locks of  Guillec and Penarpont (the Penarpont lock is located on the Aulne, on the edge of the towns of Pleyben and Lothey).   In retaliation, on 6 August 1944, 15 people were shot in the village of Quimerc’h by the Nazis. A memorial is located at the Penarpont lock.

Things to see and marvel at unbelievable Pleyben!

The typical religious ensemble is made up of four elements, all associated. The cementary, the church, the calvary,and the ossuary . These are surrounded by a wall in stones with a portal or opening of great dimensions. The construction here dates from the 16C to 17C ,and it was completed in the year 1690 by joining the sacristy to a monumental gate called the Porte de la Mort or gate of the dead.  The wall around it the complex signify the separation of the living world from the dead, and serve to stop strays animals  to entered the sacred grounds. The parish enclosure of Pleyben brings together the Church of Saint-Germain, the monumental Calvary, the Ossuary and the Arc de Triomphe . This is one of the Seven wonders of Brittany, and you should see them all, this one is special been to it several times. Magical place! And I only give the basics, these is huge!


The Church of Saint-Germain, whose construction began in 1530, was consecrated in 1583 “to honner of God, Notre-Dame, Saint Germain and St. Catherine” as an inscription says. However, a building prior to the 16C is attested by the archives. The transepts date from 1564 if one relies on a inscription in Gothic letters located at the ´ entrance of the south arm near the door of the sacristy (1719). The windows as well as the South Gate date from 1583 as appears to prove an inscription and a date on the wall of the south aisle. The construction of the porch tower began in 1588, with the date on top of the door key. Interrupted during the wars of the League, the work resumed only  in 1633 to finish in 1642. The Saint-Germain Church is of late Gothic Breton style. The Church has two steeples: the large steeple above the south porch is a Renaissance tower topped by a lantern dome, and another in Cornish style. The bedside is of Beaumanoir style. The main stained glass, dating from the end of the 16C, represents the Passion of Christ. In the interior, the nave is a lambric vault of the 16C with sculpture walls of mythological or sacre personages so about 62 persons and  et 116 keys. It house a Grand Organ from 1688. The Cross of Salt (Croas an holen) is located almost in the middle of the placître.


The monumental Calvary placed in front of the Church is the most massive of all Brittany. Its Kersanton stone construction took place in three campaigns. It started with the Church in 1555. In 1650, three additional scenes were ordered ;the Calvary was then moved in 1738 from about 30 meters to the south, to facilitate the´ access to the Church. It used to be attached to the porch. The base of Calvary is built in the form of Tetra pylon buttressed at angles. Indeed, it consists of four large piles supporting an inner vault, under which one penetrates by four arches in full hanger. It is of granite stone. It shows on its four sides high reliefs on two levels: a frieze and 28 sculpted groups overcoming the Calvary the whole relate  the Passion of Christ. The reading begins at the southwest corner by the lower frieze in the opposite direction of the of a watch. It continues on the second level by the southeast corner, then the ´ angle, the north side, the crosses (south side), the south side, the east side and finally the west side of the Calvary.


The Ossuary, dating from the 16C (c. 1560), is of flamboyant Gothic architecture. It is one of the oldest in Brittany. The façade is adorned with twin berries surmounted by curly and flower-hugging braces that rest on honeycomb balusters. The bones of the departed were piled up to make room in the cemetery. Dubbed  ,the Chapel of the Departed, it was dedicated to St. Jude and S,aint Simon. Restored in 1733, date inscribed on the building, it was used from 1736, as the Chapel of the Departed or mortuary, then,at a time, a school, this was the case for example in 1838 and even of post office in 1850. It now serves as a museum and houses, among others, a statue of the breastfeeding virgin dating from the third quarter of the 16C which was found in 1988 during works near the church. She represents a crowned virgin, in the nude, bearing the child Jesus; It is not excluded that it was buried because of its perceived too realistic aspect at the time.


Finally, the sacristy seen from outside or inside is one of the most beautiful of the ensemble ,and can go back to its construction in the period  1680-1690. It has a quadripode configuration, and the central dome and chapters ionics ressort a real showcase of the new French renaissance  in the parochial ensemble of buildings.

The Arc de Triomphe or “Triumphal gate” (in Breton Porz ar Maro) is a monumental gate dated 1725 and nicknamed “Gate of Death” because it supplement  by the wall of the enclosure surrounding the cemetery, it separated the world from the dead from the world of the living. The monumental arch is in full hanger with a niche on each of its faces. On the east side, one can admire a virgin of pity or a framed Pietà of two angels, and on the west side, a Holy Trinity whose Holy Spirit has vanished. The bow is surmounted by  a cross that presents on its east face, a Christ on the Cross, and on its western face, a Virgin of Pity.


Other things to see that I like here are

The new chapel or Chapel of the Congregation: founded by the lords of the  Boissière, probably by the end of the 17C by the confrérie de la Congrégation , its first mention goes back to the year 1700, but the present chapel dates from 1889; It is located in the parvis parking area just to the right of the Parish enclosure. It was recently enriched with a remarkable fresco called “from the Apocalypse”. It is ,also, known as the Chapelle Neuve  or new chapel as its recontruction was done in 1889, and its last one was done again in 1994. It is a place today for meetings, gatherings and communions of the catechism Catholic.


The Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Lannélec, former Chapel of the Truce of Trefnescop, dates from the 15C (an inscription bears the date of 1490). In the form of Tau, its nave has four bays and aisles and two chapels complete it. The carved panels of the altarpiece of the altar represent the Annunciation, the Sleep (Death of the Virgin) and the Assumption. The chapel houses statues of the breastfeeding Virgin Mother, Saint Barbara, Saint Corentin, Saint Germain, Saint Andrew, Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Sorrows, etc. The sacristy dates from 1741 and the spire of the bell tower from 1883.

The Chapel of the Trinity  from the 17C is in the form of a Latin cross, originally built in the 16C for the Lords of Pennault , but restored in 1675 and 1726, it has a unique vessel illuminated to the south by a door in full hanger, as well as through a window. It has several statues including one of Saint Michael, one of St. Catherine of Alexandria, one of Saint Charles Borromeo, one of St. Anne reading a scroll of the Holy Scriptures, and a statuary group in kersantite stone representing the Holy Trinity. In his placître remains only the cask of its Calvary, with at its foot a Pietà

The Chapel of the Madeleine late 16C already mentioned in 1500 and then dependent on the seigneury of Quillien (also called Treffléau), the Chapel, in the form of a Latin cross, has known since several restorations, in particular in 1731 and 1858. Her ordeal dates back to the end of the 19C. Its soil is covered with very large schist slabs. A fountain is embedded in its facade. It has a statue, as well as a stained glass window, representing Saint Mary Magdalene. The Arms of the lords of Quillien are represented on a window, as well as their motto in Breton: Tevel ha gober (Shut Up and act).

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here which is worth the detour me think are:

The town of Pleyben on its heritage in French: https://www.mairiepleyben.fr/index.php/fr/decouvrir-bouger/histoire-et-patrimoine/patrimoine-naturel

The Finistére dept 29 tourist office on the enclosures including Pleyben: https://www.toutcommenceenfinistere.com/article/les-enclos-paroissiaux-en-finistere-nord

The Bretagne region tourist board on Pleyben: https://www.brittanytourism.com/destinations/the-10-destinations/pink-granite-coast-morlaix-bay/pleyben-saint-thegonnec/

The principal Calvaries of Brittany on Pleyben: http://www.7calvaires.fr/en/pleyben/

Now go and see this, it is worth the ride even walking to it. This is Pleyben, enclosed parish, heaven on earth. Worth teh detour in Finistére of my lovely Bretagne.

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

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