GPS : 48°20'45.3 N 4°45'43.6 W
From Le Conquet, take the D 85 tourist coastal road towards Plougonvelin and St-Mathieu Headland. After about 1.2 km, leave this road at Porzliogan beach and turn left into Surcouf street towards Lochrist. At the top of this street, turn left again and park right at the cemetery parking lot.
From Plougonvelin, follow the D 85 towards Le Conquet. After St-Mathieu Headland, continue for 2 km, and turn right towards Lochrist. At the top of this street, turn left and park right at the cemetery parking lot.
The small village of Lochrist was once the heart of Le Conquet. This is where the Sainte-Croix church was located, which was moved 2 km further, to the centre of Le Conquet, in 1856. 1.
It is also where the Le Conquet cemetery and the Saint-Michel chapel are still located. So you have to enter this cemetery to discover it.
This small building, probably dating from the XVIIth century, underwent restoration during the XIXth when the church of Lochrist was moved. It is made of granite and a bell tower overlooks the gable of the old entrance. This element is dampened2 by a pyramidal column on which the rooster's weathervane sits. It is probable that its function was not only decorative but that it also served as landmark to the navigators.
Today, the chapel is entered through the side door overhanging a finely worked arch in the centre of which a coat of arms has been erased. At the foot of the door, a slab of schist decorated with a cross could well come from an ancient tomb.
Under a barrel vault, the interior is sober but functional.
One is surprised to note here the presence of a balustrade separating from the public the space reserved to the religious services. One can see there the survival of a partitioning in force under the Monarchy in order to reserve privileged sites to the nobles or perhaps to the monks of St-Mathieu.
Behind the altar, a large stained-glass window draws attention. It is neither signed nor dated. However, from its style, it can be assumed that it was probably made at the beginning of the 20th century.
To the left is Saint Corentin, represented as a bishop, at whose feet is a fish. The tradition indeed wants that this saint of the Vth century had the characteristic to make come to him every day fishes which took again life after having been consumed. It is said that he offered this kind of miraculous dinner to King Gradlon who, both amazed and delighted, appointed him Bishop of Quimper.
In the centre, Saint Peter is recognizable by the key to paradise that he holds in his right hand.
On the right is Saint Pol Aurélien. Originating from Wales and accompanied by 24 other monks, he landed, according to legend, around 480 AD in Ushant, then in Lampaul-Plouarzel. He allegedly founded a monastery in Lamber en Ploumoguer, stayed in Lampaul-Ploudalmézeau and then moved to Batz's island where a dragon was terrorizing the population. Saint Pol Aurelian would have forced the beast to throw himself into the sea. King Childebert I, son of Clovis, would have appointed him bishop and entrusted him with the diocese of Occismor, now St-Pol-de-Léon, whose cathedral preserves his relics. Look closely: at its feet, the defeated dragon symbolizes paganism.
But look more closely at this curious stained glass window where a strange hand stands outside the fabrics at the level of the saint's knees.
Riddle : Can you find out what this outstretched finger means? ( The answer is at the bottom of this page).
Now let's take a look at the statues that frame this glass master.
On the left, the Archangel Saint-Michel armed with his spear doesn't knock down a dragon as at Mont Saint-Michel, but a demon with a human face. Saint Michael gave his name to the chapel.
On the right, we see another winged character. He is also an angel, the guardian angel who is supposed to protect everyone. For a long time the chapel was called "Chapelle de l'Ange Gardien", the Guardian Angel Chapel. But this old name is no longer used today.
Another character, in prayer, appears against the left wall.
It concerns Saint Jerome. This very erudite Croatian monk lived in the IVth century. It is mainly remembered that he translated the Bible into Latin : The Old Testament from the Hebrew text, the New Testament from the Greek text. Only its translation, called Vulgate, is officially recognized by the Church and was printed by Gutenberg a thousand years later. Saint Jerome was also secretary to Pope Damasus Ist.
Our Lady of Bon Secours is placed against the right wall. The Virgin is invoked in case of grave danger, mainly by sailors.
A series of modern stained-glass windows adorns the various openings. We recognize successively Saint Hervé and his wolf, Saint Benoît, Saint Michel knocking down a dragon, Saint Jacques and finally Saint Simon who was executed with a saw.
As we leave the chapel, we will not fail to take a look with the stele erected in memory of Jean-François Le Gonidec ( 1775-1838) in the cemetery . This inhabitant of Le Conquet made himself famous by writing a Breton grammar and translating the Bible into Breton. A Breton Saint Jerome, in a way, whose work also benefits other Celtic languages.
-1- See on this website the page dedicated to the church Sainte-Croix of Le Conquet ( Le Conquet's church ).
-2- In architecture we use the verb 'amortir' to say that one element vertically extends another to finish it.
The answer to our little riddle :
Saint Pol Aurelian's finger points to the sea towards which he orders the dragon lying at his feet to throw himself.
Yes, although this finger is pointing upwards, it is the bottom of the image it points to. The stained glass window has three horizontal parts. And when it was installed, or later during a repair, the large central part was placed upside down !
A saint precursor of the good King Dagobert:
A visitor to Lochrist, intrigued by the curious position of the saint's hand, discovered it in 2013. Using his computer he straightened the image and communicated it to us. Here is the surprising result he achieved :
The current inverted stained glass window
The original stained glass window returned
© Raymond Lapôtre
Cette étonnante inversion, longtemps restée méconnue, fait de ce vitrail une curiosité absolument unique qui mérite d'être conservée ainsi et préservée.