The Abbey Church Sainte Croix of Quimperlé!

We have come here often and always glad to be back. I like to update this older post of pretty old Quimperlé, not far from me and always a pleasant visit. I have done several posts on the city but feel some monuments deserves a post of their own. Therefore, let me present to you the Abbey Church of the Holy Cross (Sainte Croix). Hope you enjoy it as I!


The one you must and I won’t mind seeing again, it alone is worth the trip to Quimperlé is the Abbey Church of the Holy Cross or Eglise Abbatiale de Sainte Croix.  It’s a  jewel and in  splendid conditions. It is here that all started… It the most prestigious monument of the city of  Quimperlé, an abbey founded in the 11C by the Count de Cornouaille, Alain Canhiart following a miraculous cure. This Abbey Church along with the abbey of Lanleff, is the only church in Brittany to have a circular plan copied as the one in the Saint Sepulcre of  Jérusalem.  It forms a Greek cross, and has equally a form of a clover drawn as in the Saint-Sépulcre of Jérusalem. From the 11C it has preserved its interior a wonderful museum of works of arts. The choir of monks is a one of the best realizations of Roman art, the crypt from the 11C is still preserved, a entombment of Christ sculpture in about 1500 ,a retable from the 16C, a  Christ en robe (dressed Christ)  ,and a pulpit from the 17C are ,also, remarkable here!!! A must to see!!!


The Abbaye Sainte-Croix is in the town of Quimperlé in the Finistère Dept 29 of the lovely region of Bretagne. Founded in 1029 by Saint Gunthiern thanks to a donation from the Count of Cornouaille Alain Canhiart, it is one of the powerful abbeys of Brittany, comprising many dependencies. Its centered plan nave inspired by the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is a quasi-unique example in Brittany. The Abbey was closed during the French revolution, of course,,. The Church of the Holy Cross is preserved for worship but the Abbey buildings are converted into public buildings such as a courthouse and gendarmerie police barracks. The steeple collapsed in 1862, leading to the destruction of the greater part of the Church. This will be largely rebuilt at the end of the 19C.


A bit of history I like

The Abbey was the origin of the creation of the city of Quimperlé thanks to the protection that the walls surrounding the Abbey, to the island artificially created of a moat joining the Ellé and Isole rivers, and Papal protection. But the Abbey was the true feudal Lord of the city whose Abbot was both the administrator, the judge and the Seer, assuring the levying of taxes. The Abbey of Sainte-Croix was founded in the year 1029 at the site of a place named Villa Anaurot giving birth to the city of Quimperlé!   The Counts dynasty of the Cornouaille, who became Counts of Nantes in 1054 and having received by marriage the Duchy of Brittany in 1066, increased the richness of the Abbey by numerous donations from Nantes to Locronan, by various privileges such as lordships, rights on the city of Quimperlé, the right of episcopal jurisdiction over all the possessions of the Abbey, etc. , and made it their Necropolis.  The Abbey became parish Church in 1802. It was rebuilt between 1864 and 1868. A steeple-comb 1880 is high above the gable of the façade.  An isolated Bell Tower was erected in 1903. It has the form of a Greek cross, consisting of a central rotunda of 26 meters in diameter, three rounded apses and a nave with a square shape. Its dome by its dimensions is the largest rotunda of France. The central dome rises 19 meters above the ground and is supported by 4 huge pillars. The aisle is covered with a barrel vault. Sainte-Croix is the first fully vaulted Breton Romanesque Church.


Inside, a jewel !!  As said, the monks ‘ choir, spared during the collapse, is a masterpiece of Romanesque art ,and rare in Brittany. It is vaulted in the cul-de-furnace and 13 meters long.  Inside, the wall of the choir is organized on two levels. The lower part presents a series of blind armatures. At the top, a row of triple-roll full-bar windows with engaged balusters. On the sides of the apse, the windows alternate with double blind single-roll arches resting in the center on a baluster.

The 11C Crypt, located under the monks ‘ choir, is very well preserved and contains two tombs, including that of Saint Gurthiern, the founder of the first Abbey. It consists of a three-nave rectangle ending in apse. The vaulted vaults are based on six columns with carved bases and capitals and twelve balusters engaged on the edge. The two columns of the apse are a bundle of four balusters connected by a central column that stops before the marquee, sparing a void. It is illuminated by seven small windows that brings light outside at the street level.  The Abbey Church of Sainte Croix (Holy Cross) presents a beautiful series of Romanesque carved capitals, notably in the Choir and the Crypt. The capitals of the Crypt and the Interior of the Choir, the oldest, are a declension of very stylized vegetal motifs of Corinth inspiration, located at the bottom of the chapel, the beautiful limestone altarpiece of the 16C is themed the Church Teacher. In the center, Christ in Majesty is surrounded by four angels in adoration. Around it are organized eight Biblical figures, the four evangelists, the twelve apostles and the seven theological and cardinal virtues, in the midst of an extremely worked architectural décor. The burial, in limestone of Saintonge, carved around 1500 is remarkable even if it totally lost its original paintings because it was inadvertently stored in a precarious way in the garden of the Abbey for several decades. It is a group of ten characters of about 2 meters high. It is considered the oldest entombment of Brittany. A beautiful 17C pulpit is also visible.


Some webpages to help you plan your visit, and you must are:

The city of Quimperlé on its heritage

The Quimperlé Terre Océane tourist office on Quimperlé

The Finistére dept 29 tourist office on Quimperlé

The Bretagne region tourist board on Quimperlé

There you go folks another gem of my lovely Bretagne and my belle France, and quant nice Quimperlé , a must to visit while in the area or just come on over! This is the Church of the Holy Cross you will see today, or Sainte Croix. Hope you enjoy the post as I,

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

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