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  • Writer's pictureKate Woodman

La Vallée des Saints - Valley of the Saints

Quand je vais en Bretagne, je prends le train à Guingamp où un taxi me récupère et m’emmène à La Croix Rouge. C’est le taxi de Fréderique et sa famille. Chaque fois qu’une nièce de Fréderique me récupère, elle me demande si j’ai visité la Vallée des Saints. Chaque fois je dis «non,» et elle me dit que je dois y aller. J’avait vu les photos de cette endroit qui est un site touristique Breton. J’ai pensé que c’est comme Stonehenge en Angleterre…..une site ancienne et mythique. Les photos montrent les sculptures en pierre des saints. Le style est plutôt primitive et monolytique, donc j’ai cru les sculptures étaient anciennes.

When I go to Brittany, I take the train to Guingamp where a taxi picks me up and takes me to my house, La Croix Rouge. It’s always le taxi de St.-Georges, owned by Fréderique. When it’s busy, family members help out. Several times a niece of Fréderique has picked me up. She always asks me if I’ve visited the Valley of the Saints, I always reply “no” and she tells me I must go. I’d seen photos of the place, a popular Breton tourist attraction. I thought it was like Stonehenge in England, an ancient and mythical site. The photos showed stone sculptures in a style somewhat primitive and monolythic….medieval looking, so I assumed the sculptures were old and representative of a Breton historical place, event or period of which I was unaware.


Vallée des Saints

Hier il faisait beau, alors j’ai décidé d’y aller. On peut imaginer ma surprise quand je suis y arrivée et j’ai découvert que la Vallée des Saints n’est pas ancien, mais c’est un parc des sculptures qui est ouvert en 2009 ! Le parc est la création de Philippe Abjean, Sébastien Minguy et Philippe Hajas, trois hommes qui veulent préserver la culture bretonne. Ce projet collectif breton, unique en son genre, vise à sculpter 1000 statues monumentales en granit de la péninsule armoricaine et à l’effige des saints bretons. Les centaines de statues de saints qui prennent vie sur le site de Quénéquillac à Carnoët retracent l’evangélisation crétienne de l’ancienne Armorique dont est héritière la Bretagne d’aujourd’hui. On dit que La Vallée des Saints est l’Île de Pâques de France !

Yesterday was a lovely day, I had nothing else on my agenda, so I decided to finally go see this attraction that Fréderique’s niece thinks is so special. You can imagine my surprise which I arrived and discovered that the Valley of Saints is not an ancient, mythical Breton site, but rather a sculpture park that opened in 2009. The sculptures are not ancient, but are contemporary creations of living Breton artists, and more sculptures are being created and added to the park every day. The park is the brainchild of three men who are passionate about preserving Breton culture: Philippe Abjean, Sébastien Minguy and Patrice Le Guen. The goal is to create 1000 monumental sculptures of Breton saints, using local granite, retracing the Christian evangilization of ancient Armorica, the ancestor of the Brittany of today. It has been said that la Vallée des Saints is the Easter Island of France.

Easter Island

Vallée des Saints

Aujourd’hui on y trouve 150 sculptures qui sont l’ouvre d’une trentaine de sculpteurs contemporaines. Donc c’est vraiment un projet en évolution. C'est un site impressionnant sur la colline de Quénéquillec à 230 m d'altitude avec les belles vues de Carnoët.

Today there are about 150 sculptures, the work of some 30 contemporary artists. It is truly a work in progress. Located in the hills of Quénéquillec (altitude 750 feet), many of the majestic figures are placed to look out over the peaceful Carnoët valley below.

Although there are guides to the site, I didn't purchase one, so I couldn't identify most of the saints depicted (though some had the name carved somewhere on the sculpture itself). I noticed quite a few female saints, though don't know the ratio of male to female represented.

One sculpture in particular fascinated me, as the figure had a hatchet imbedded in its head! Fortunately this was one with the name of the saint carved on the back. Upon retuning home, I researched St. Bieuzy and learned that he was a Welsh missionary who traveled to Brittany in the 6th century. He was renowned for his ability to heal dogs with rabies. Legend has it that when a servant of a local gentryman asked Bieuzy to interrupt mass to accompany him to his master so he could heal the master's rabid dogs, Bieuzy refused. The master was so enraged, he attacked Bieuzy with a hatchet. Nonetheless, Bieuzy completed mass and then walked 80 kilometers to the abby of Rhys where he died, the hatchet still firmly implanted in his head!

St. Bieuzy healing a rapid dog

Although I cannot speak to the quality of the sculptures, I will say that I found walking among the monolithic figures wondering who and what their stories were in such a tranquil and beautiful place, a most pleasant way to spend part of my afternoon. So thank you cousin of Fréderique for insisting that I visit la Vallée des Saints!

Headless saint....possibly Saint Trémeur?

The project's founders wished that the site would reflect the faith of the Breton people.....

I would say they have accomplished their mission.......

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