Inside the Church
On entering the church it is the light and colour that immediately impresses.
After the dark stone of the Calvary figures on the arch and the strange and weird symbolism of the external granite and stone decoration this polychrome effect is quite breathtaking.
The church brochure advises that you take a seat to read carefully the small leaflet describing the numerous works of religious art to be found here but there is really too much to take in on one visit.
I liked the quotation Saint-Exupéry from the Little Prince on the front of the brochure :-
"On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur, l'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux."
(You can only see with your heart, what is essetial is invisible to the eye.)
what is essential
English Organ Builders in Brittany
We first came across the English Dallam Family of organ builders in the Cathedral at St Pol -de-Léon a couple of years ago where the organ was built by Thomas Dallam.
On this most recent trip we discovered the nearest village church to where we were staying in Crozon had an organ built by Thomas' father Robert Dallam .
In Sizun the organ was originally built ibetween 1682 1686 which was when Thomas Dallam lived in the area.
In 1750 the organ was struck by lightning but apparently suffered as much damaged from poor repair work carried out by Sieur Tribuot, the royal organ builder - against whom legal proceedings were taken.
Further restoration was undertaken in 1850. But 100 years later the organ was in a very poor state but the Parish Priest raised the funds to have it expertly repaired by Jean Renaud of Nantes in 1971.
On Thursdays throughout July and August concerts are given in the church on this rather magnificent organ which is said to have a tone equal to its appearance.
I do wish we could have heard it but - we did the next best thing and bought a CD of one of the concerts with organ,bombarde and bassoon.
Around the Church Enclosure
This interesting, and rather elegant building, may be the Sacristy but there was nothing to identify it as such in our guide leaflet.
The plain and austere War Memorial, standing directly in front of both the Arch and the Porch is seen in Picture 2.
Yew trees seem to be a speciality of British Church yards but in Picture 3 there is an ancient beach with a fern growing vigourously from its trunk.
I thought this granite sculpture which - according to something we later read in th Museum - dates from the 15th century, was one of the most beautiful things we saw in Sizun.
It seemed to combine the simplicity of mediaeval art with a much more modern expression of its subject.
Rather a forbidding history for a very beautiful building.
This is the place to which, in ancient times, the remains of people removed from graves to make room for new burials were brought.
More recently it served as the final resting place of the dead before burial.
There is nothing now of that sombre history. Externally the building offers much in the way of 16th century ecclesiastcal architecture - including a series of 12 niches separated by fluted Doric columns between which staues of the 12 Apostles are mounted.
Above the pediment over the entrance door the inscription 1588 can be seen. There are two more Inscriptions :-
" Memento Mori -Remember that you have to die" and
"You, our children, who go past this place, remember that we departed this life".
But inside the building today is a jolly little museum.
The museum, housed in the old Ossuary, is more to do with a celebration of Breton life with baby's cribs, lace Christening gowns and tiny shoes.
With models in traditional costume, an example of an old cottagers bed and household domestic and agricultural tools it is crammed full.
But there is still room for a display of local lace work, other souvenirs typical of the area and CD's of the concerts performed in the church.
Admission is free.
Sizun Annual Festival July 13th
Once a year a festival of Breton life , dance and music takes place in the main street. There are dancers in Breton costumes, traditional music and an open air dance for everyone to join in. The days events are rounded off by a grand firework display.
Catch it if you can - we were a couple of weeks too early this time.
Inside the Church - 2. The windows
The art of the glassmaker makes an important contribution to the beauty of so many churches - as here - and I was surprised that there was no reference in the leaflet to the who, how and when of these windows.
Inside the Church - 1
When entering the Church the first thing that impresses is the beautiful effect of light and colour.
After the dark stone of the Calvary figures on top of the Arch, and the weird symbolism of the almost mediaeval stone and granite iconography that decorates the exterior, the polychrome interior is quite breathtaking.
The small leaflet that describes the numerous art treasures from the 14th, 15th and 17th centuries advises that you first take a seat at the back of the church and read carefully the descriptions of the most important works to be seen here.
There was for me far to much to take in on one short visit - it was enough to wander quietly around and admire.
I like the quotation from Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince printed on the leaflet :-
“O ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur, L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux”.
(You can only really see with your heart, what is essential is invisible to the eyes”.
The Parish of Sizun & its Enclosure (1)
The 16th Century, and later, Parish Closes of Brittany, and particularly of Finistere, are renowned. The granite built walls with elaborate, triumphal arches and Calvaries seem to have been erected as an outward sign of the prosperity the area enjoyed in the period when these seaboard communities reaped the benefit of both trade and warfare.
Ports needed supplies and no doubt, the ships chandlers were those to benefit most from the sale of food and clothing - and the materials to rig out the ships, like linen for sails, and hemp for ropes.
Architecturally these symbols of Christianity seem to owe more to the Celtic connection with those early Christian refugees from Wales and Ireland.
The Arch at Sizun was erected abouy 1588
Later the churches they enclosed were embellished in a style akin to the European Baroque - in which decorative sculpture and luminous polychrome art predominated.
At the same time some of Europe’s greatest organ builders began to build church organs in Finistere. Amongst them were members of the famous English family of organ builders - Robert and Thomas Dallam.
The most famous of the enclosed parishes are at Guimiliau, Lampaul-Guimiliau and Saint- Thégonnec. We have yet to see these, but of those we saw on this trip Sizun was the most impressive.
The Parish Church - Spire and Porch
The unusal octagonal spire stands slightly off-centre on the Tower and is one of the last examples its kind dating from 1728 -1735.
The porch is decorated with fine stone carvings and bears the. inscription 1514