Sunday, September 02, 2012

An oddity

The tiny oratory of St Gelvest in the commune of Plougasnou is something of an oddity. It is only accessible on foot (and before that a track your car will not appreciate), sitting in a deeply silent isolated spot by a source. It is said that a farmer found a statue near the spring, built the oratory on his land and established a pardon for the saint. But because he kept the money donated at such times rather than offering it to the church, the oratory was never consecrated and no priest - to this day - takes part in the pardon.
This celebration takes place on the third Sunday in May, because St Gelvest, the Cornouaille version of St Servais, is a 'saint de glace' to be invoked against late frosts damaging the crops. In this case it is the flax crop, once so important in the economy of the Trégor (and Léon), so St Gelvest is also a 'saint de lin', and the only one as far as I'm aware. At the time of the lucrative cloth trade with England, flax seeds were imported into Brittany from the Baltic via Roscoff, as local crops did not produce sufficiently strong seed to ensure a healthy yield.

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