Friday, July 03, 2015

Devil always in the detail

Recently spent a few days walking near the south coast of Finistere, checking routes for the new book. My first stop in a grey early morning was at the Roches du Diable near Locunolé. These rocks form a granite chaos in the bed of the Ellé through a low wooded gorge. After passing along the bank on a level with the spectacle, I followed a long circuit to arrive high up on the opposite bank looking down.
There is of course a legend. The Devil was jealous of the success of St Guenolé in converting the locals and determined to be rid of his rival. As the saint walked by the river in contemplation, rocks rained down on his head, but, by the grace of God, fell harmlessly into the water. A great hand to hand fight then ensued between the two adversaries and Guenolé hauled the Devil down into the river where to this day a bottomless hole lies beneath the waters.
So the landscape was claimed by the church, here as so often elsewhere. The legend does more than trumpet a moral victory over evil: it is a statement of power and possession, the superiority of God to the powers of nature once worshipped by man, an ever-lasting reminder before the eyes of the locals of the supposed might that backs up the earthly dominion of the church.

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