Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Parish closes - a few final thoughts...

Working on talks about and visits to the Parish Closes, as well as contributing to the new permanent exhibition project in Guimiliau has made me focus my thoughts on why these structures are so important. Often the answer is limited to the artistic and architectural heritage value. Of course, there's more: the closes have much to tell us about social and economic history, and everyday life in small rural communities in the 16th and 17th centuries, as I've said in earlier posts. But I think the true significance lies in their essential Bretonness.
They reflect a traditional Brittany open to widespread cultural influences (largely through its well-known maritime prowess), with even tiny country villages wanting the latest style and best craftsmanship to enhance their communities. This also shows the intensity of local pride that is still characteristic of Breton society, and a readiness to create public show and spectacle on a grand scale whilst maintaining distinctly unostentatious private lives. The money, time and effort dedicated to collective causes then is a tendency still apparent today. The closes are testament of intensity of Catholic faith in the years after the Council of Trent, but it is religion combined with vibrant devotion to traditional Breton saints not sanctioned by the Vatican, shot through with decorative detail from a decidedly profane perception of humans and animals (and their many foibles) and an almost tender preoccupation with Death