The Calvary of Plougastel-Daoulas

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Place du Calvaire
29470 Plougastel - Daoulas

Email : plougastel@brest-metropole-tourisme.fr

POPULAR WISH

 The plague (weakened - depopulated) Plougastel at the end of the 16th century. Among the victims is "le sieur de Kérérault" whose schist tombstone  is as simple as it is eloquent :

CY GIST LE FEU DE KERAULT /MORT /DE LA PEST LE DIMANCHE 24 A 1587

Fifteen years later, in 1602, the "Calvary" was being built in the Parish close. Behind the table of offerings, the presence of  two Saints linked to plague, Roch and Sebastien, reminds us of the tragedy.

The Calvary is born from a common wish. Thus we could qualify it as a "folk work". "Folk" because it is rooted in faith. "Folk" because it can give way to imagination. "Folk" because it is timeless.

In short, Plougastel's Calvary Cross offers levels of interpretation which are as interesting as different.

 

 LITTERAL INTERPRETATION

THE FIRST INTERPRETATION

The simplest one, can be done by looking for the 28 scenes displaying Jesus' life, the one after the other.

The Calvary could be considered as a mineral comic strip as we have to realise (notify) that it was polychrome at its (the) origin. Jesus' life, chiselled in kersanton grey stone, starts at the Annunciation, then his life is mingled with Marie's, the Mother; the Visitation, the Nativity, the circumcision, the Adoration of the Magi, the Flights to (in) Egypt... After that, we can see the scene of Jesus with the doctors and lastly, we observe (attend to) the baptism in (of) the Jordan river followed by the Temptation in (of) the desert.

This literal and chronological reading gives us the opportunity of  turning eight times around the Calvary, starting a ninth trip. Eight revolutions that we can associate to the eight sides of the core of the monument which is an octagon. In the Christian symbolic, the number eight alludes to eternity; to the seven days of the week a eighth one is added, an ideal day.

 A SECOND INTERPRETATION (SYMBOLIC)

Through this second reading, the monument, in spite of the disorder of the different scenes, appears to be organized and highly worked out. For those that choose to consider the Calvary in four masterly pictures, even though the juxtaposed scenes are chronologically quite far, it appears that the monument is full of significance.

 

FIRST PICTURE

The early (young) rising sun lights the scenes of Jesus' first hours called by Christmas liturgy the Sol Oriens which means "the rising sun". At the same time, we can look at the Interment that gives life through death. Close to the Interment is Jesus' baptism called by St Maxim from Turin, the Nativity feast. Physically born one day in the time scale, Jesus' birth is endless in the sacraments of the Church that he established. On the back of the cross in itself the Christ, who is risen, looks out over these apparently antinomian scenes. 

 

SECOND PICTURE

Lit by the zenith light, two long friezes display on the side of the Calvary the two important moments of the salvation. The Last Supper  and the washing of the feet with the twelve apostles. Above is the ascent of the Calvary by the thirteen characters. Ascent which maintains the link between the eucharistic sacrifice and the sacrifice of the cross; theological views dear to the French school of spirituality.

 

THIRD PICTURE

At the North of the monument, sunless side of the monument, (which is) cold and nocturnal, (in the shade,) are  the painful scenes of the night of the Thursday and Good Friday. Jesus' death throes, Pierre cutting Malchus' ear, the appearance in front of (Caïphe) Caiaphas, the flogging, the crowning of thorns, the sentence to death.

 

FOURTH PICTURE

Turned towards the West, as all Calvaries built in a "good" way, lit by the setting sun, the Christ dies. Job an Irien recently underlined in our newspapers that the West is the location where the Celts located their heaven with the table of offerings, on the main side of the Calvary. Here the variety of the scenes is summarized thanks to the title JESUS ROI which resolves the apparent inconsistency. Indeed, each of the nine evangelical scenes of this last picture is related to the Christ's kingship.

The adoration of the Magi with the regal presents : the gold, the incense and the myrrh. The regal coming in in Jerusalem on the Palm Sunday with, at the same time, the hosanna "O David's son", the Temptation of the desert : "I give you all these lands if you bow low before me".

The appearance in front of Pilate and the last word of the Roman public prosecutor  "Will I crucify your king?". The way down to hell and the Resurrection which symbolize kingship on hell and death. Jesus amongst the doctors would be the least regal scene, even if the way the child behaves would link him to the kingship of the masters of wisdom.

 

MAIN SCENE

The titulus announces the motive of the condamnation "Jesus king of Jews" we can also quote the good thief's supplication "Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom". At last but not least, we can also refer to the Angels who flutter to collect the divine blood. (Some of them have disappeared).

Some other calvaries as the one which is in Argol or in Châteaulin (built at the same period) clearly maintain through inscriptions that the Christ is the absolute king.

 

THE PLACE OF IMAGINATION

Strangely, Plougastel's Calvary, which is considered by a lot of people as the most solemn monument of the genre, lists some frivolities not missed in guides commentaries.

The most remarkable one is when Katell Gollet, a prostitute punished for her sins, is sent to hell as if she was put in a oven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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