Sunday, September 28, 2008


This small city, capital of Finistere and the Cornouaille region, has gradually gnawed its way into my heart after our lukewarm first meeting six years ago. It has its quirks in addition to the much-pictured cobbled medieval streets and maisons à pan de bois. The walled medieval ville close was in fact unusually the preserve of the bishop, whilst the duke of Brittany had to content himself with the Terre au Duc, west of the Steir. Each had their own essentials: mills, fishponds, markets and seats of justice. But Quimper has always been a place of clerics, once awash with Franciscans, Jesuits and convents of every persuasion. Standing on the old rempart above the paradisical Jardin de Retraite, the huge Jesuit chapel dwarfs the fortifications that failed to protect this little settlement in the Wars of Succession and Religion. The luminous cathedral is renowned for its crooked axis of choir (13th century) and nave (15th century). Does this symbolically reflect the droop of Jesus' head on the cross? No: some idiot built the bishop's palace alongside inbetween times and there was nowhere else to go. The gleaming spires with their lofty statue of legendary founder King Gradlon are 19th century add-ons.
But if it's symbolism you want: the Max Jacob passerelle, augurated in 1994 for the 150th anniversary of his death in the camp at Drancy, stands almost between the two buildings designed by loathsome Breton nationalist and one time architect Olier Mordrel (born Olivier in Paris, Corsican mother, a late learner of Breton), who was condemned to death as a traitor after the war, and hid out in Argentina before returning to Paris and the same repulsive rhetoric in the 1970s.
The name Quimper means 'confluence' and the fluvial trio of Odet, Steir and Frout has led to some merry flooding, as recently as 2000 when plaques marking the water's highest point suggest that I would have been swimming along the rue René Madec (named for one of lowly Quimperois origins, whose private army in 18th century India won him the title of nabob).

1 comment:

John Smith said...

Nice Pictures...makes me want to travel.