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Wendy Mewes writing about Brittany

Seeing is Believing

The theme of this exhibition was the Parish Closes, a Breton phenomenon of religious architecture.

The texts present a writer’s personal perception of these monuments which are significant in Brittany’s social, economic and emotional history.


CALVARY ‐ a three‐tiered response

The big story in stone. Here is a lesson, a moral, a warning. Pictures for priests to point out the project. No need to read. Suffering is worth it. He did this for you. A template of divine planning. It means walking the walk: we all have our journey. What we lack in annunciation can be made up in redemption.

Biblical figures in Breton clothes, with surprising hair and headgear. The codpiece, those moustaches, lovely fringed boots. What faces! Surely locally sourced: there are no low profiles in village life. This loll tongue thug looks familiar. Some say that Devil was modelled on the rector’s ugly mug. A sore temptation.

And the women: Mary sweetly holds her baby’s foot as they flee. Magdalena grieves at the base of the cross. Mary Stuart’s hat is there. Veronica and the hologram handkerchief. These are the good roles, mothers and mourners. Not like Katell Gollet, dragged down to hell for liking a drink and a dance. Watch out, girls.

Bits about bits

Parish close: city of God, shocking in scale, population more dead than living. Dwarfing the village, far-reaching spire, sketching contours of existence, indelible marker from birth to bones. World of marvels, source of wonder and pride. A pattern of worth in rules and reminders, affection for death, the ultimate myth. Decade on decade of noisy creation.

Enclosure: determining wall, shaping the truth. Keeps faith in and the ungodly out, likewise dogs, chickens and pigs. Pagans manage to squeeze through. Defining space and temptation, ritual containment. Descendant of cairns and alignments.

Entrance gate: leave the beggars behind, away from profane, another world beckons. Over steps into triumph, crossing the boundary, look both ways for death. The story begins, a birth is announced. God rules OK.

Churchyard: focus of family, here and late, ripe for encounters, folk on parade. Rake up the bones, sell wood and fowl, something squealing in a sack. Meeting a mate, sharing surroundings, gossip machine, show up and off. Time out.

Calvary: lithic strip cartoon, peopled by locals, educational effort, the visuals of faith. Cruel path to glory, kersanton finesse, tangible pain, submit to prevail. Tell it like it was. Be careful. Beware. Pointing that finger. New life up there.

Ossuary: bone depot, sorting of body parts, shaking off flesh. Pile them high, name that skull, bits that last, the rest is dust. Death loves a bit of symmetry. Neat neo-classic, sell postcards and a little dated guide. Ankou was here.

Sacristy: refinement of the plan, lock up and leave, props of observance, hide treasures and words. Renaissance add-on, opulent robes and intricate banners, silver safe, den of secret talk. Like little shrines to styles of the time.

Porch: transit and passage, martyrs watch the money-men, stone bench calculation, decisions, decisions, with public to eavesdrop. Fantastical playground, grimaces and games. Dip and flick, don’t drink the water. Damp starts here.

Church: journey from set to rise, all arches and angles, colourful awe, linear route for cyclical trip. Learn by examples larger than life, suffer well or see worlds collide on the beams. Women’s faith and men’s money, the smell of past prayers, organs from England, refulgence and gilding, making death shine. Zoom high for bottom humour, flippant figures and starry vaults. Have a good time.


FAITH is certain. the way that’s known.
FAITH is someone at your shoulder.

FAITH is blind hope against being alone.
FAITH is a form of silent despair, going nowhere.

FAITH is a guide, a compass inside.
FAITH is a dream, a fancy, a trance.

FAITH is love and romance.

FAITH is glue, sticking together.
FAITH is an almost forever.

FAITH is illusion, but one bright and gilded.
FAITH is for the weak and deluded.

FAITH is trust in bones and blood.
FAITH is no protection from flood.

FAITH is ritual, seeing one through.
FAITH is for those who take the long view.

FAITH is triumph, the answer to dying.
FAITH is arcane and mystifying.

FAITH is determined, hopeful, courageous.
FAITH is sometimes sadly contagious.

FAITH is a pivot between inner and outer.
FAITH is the noble scourge of the doubter.

FAITH is full, an absence of nothing.
FAITH is a cover for empty and blank.

FAITH is someone to beg and to thank.

FAITH is standing on the brink.
FAITH is not what people think.



the dead speak

through bones:

today me, tomorrow you

ancestral story

starts behind walls

under the floor

pouring out bones

too many dead

need a shake-up

make room

outside, underground


walking on bones

too many dead

need a shake-up

make room

dug up

stacked up

boxed up

skulls, housed

end flakes

darling dust

not so


stone speaks

the dead words

memento mori

talking of bones

gate Pleyben

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