Saturday, July 5, 2008

Excursion into a fairytale land

Yesterday, we drove westward to visit Christine's brother Lan Mafart at his seaside tavern named Caplan & Co near Lannion.

[Click the photo to visit their French-language website.]

After lunch, we visited the church of St-Jean-du-Doigt, where the term "doigt" (finger) indicates that their treasure is a silver reliquary containing a knuckle of John the Baptist.

Today, it's hard to imagine that fire could break out in such a damp stone church... but this happened (for the third time in the history of the village) last century, and the stained-glass windows had to be replaced. The new non-figurative windows are extraordinary. One has the impression that we're observing the silhouettes of colorful vines and shrubs growing outside the edifice, with maybe the misty sea on the horizon.

In a nearby village, the church is dedicated to an exotic Breton saint named Melar. As you can guess from his golden crown, scepter and blue cowl with fleur-de-lis motifs, Melar was no run-of-the-mill pious villager. In fact, he was a prince. But a jealous and wicked relative cut off Melar's right hand and his left foot, in the hope that this would prevent the young prince from manipulating an épée and riding a horse, thereby making it impossible to accede to the regional throne. But lo and behold, Melar's artificial hand and foot, made of silver, soon functioned magically, even better than his original limbs... and it was obvious to everybody that they had a saint in their presence. I forget the rest of the story, which Christine read out to me while we were crawling around in the underground crypt where Melar was laid to rest at the end of his fabulous life.

I should point out, for readers who don't know so already, that Brittany is a place where all sorts of strange things happen.

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