Last year while traveling Normandy and Brittany, we visited the so-called enclos (in English enclosure) in Saint-Thégonnec. Although it was mid-July, the weather was quite rainy. I woke up with a headache. I was not in a mood that day to make many photos and was barely listening to our guide’s explanations. But somehow, in my memories, I strongly associated this place with Easter, and in particular with Good Friday.
I remembered a true size monument presenting the entombment of Christ that was located in the basement of a small chapel (that turned to be an ossuary, that means a burial-place) next to the main church. Hence the association with Good Friday. For readers that are not acquainted with religious practices around Christianity – the Good Friday is the day commemorating the death of Christ. The following days, the Holy Saturday otherwise called Easter Eve and Easter on a Sunday early morning are about the Resurrection. The whole Holy Week, beginning on the Palm Sunday and ending with the Easter Sunday is the major religious event in its importance preceding even Christmas.
The entombment of Christ in the Saint Thegonnac ossuary.
The Entombment, Mise au Tombeau in French, made of oak, depicts the body of Jesus being prepared for burial. It was sculpted by Lespagnol between 1699 and 1702. The sculpture portrays eleven individuals expressing their emotions when confronted with death. Among the figures depicted are Mary Salome, Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus, Saint Veronica, the Virgin Mary, John the Evangelist, an angel holding a chalice, and Joseph of Arimathea.
I also noticed another monument located in the main square inside the enclosure (the ring-fenced church area) between the entrance to the church and the ossuary. There were many figures all around the Holy Week at its top and at its base. These were scenes of judgment, passion, crucifixion, and death of Christ. I photographed it only from one side. But in fact, the figures and single scenes were at each side.
Today, looking through internet resources, I realized that this kind of structure (monument, sculpture) is called Calvary. It is typical only for Northern France, Belgium, and Spanish Galicia. It typically consists of a stone or wooden structure featuring sculptures or reliefs depicting the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, along with other biblical scenes and figures related to the Passion of Christ. Calvaries are often situated outdoors, either as standalone monuments or as part of a larger religious complex, such as a church or pilgrimage site. They serve as devotional sites and reminders of Christ’s sacrifice, inviting visitors to reflect on the significance of the Crucifixion and engage in prayer and contemplation. The design and composition of Calvaries can vary depending on the region and historical period. They can range from simple structures with a single cross and minimal sculptures to more elaborate and ornate installations featuring multiple crosses, statues, and intricate architectural elements.
Calvaries often include representations of the Crucifixion, including a central crucifix or cross with a sculpted figure of Jesus Christ. Surrounding the central crucifix, additional sculptures may depict the Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist, Mary Magdalene, and other figures associated with the events of the Crucifixion. In some cases, Calvaries also incorporate other scenes from the Passion of Christ, such as the Last Supper, the Carrying of the Cross, and the Deposition from the Cross. These additional sculptures or reliefs create a narrative of Christ’s suffering and death. Calvaries can be found in various regions of France, particularly in Brittany, Normandy, and other areas with a strong religious and cultural heritage. They are often situated in prominent locations, such as hilltops, town squares, or near churches, allowing them to be easily visible and accessible to both locals and pilgrims.
The Calvary in Saint-Thégonnec enclose was erected in the early XVII thcentury, some of its figures were hidden by the locals in times of the French revolution, some got lost. It was reconstructed in the XXth century.
The Saint-Thégonnec Calvary.
The Parish Enclosure (Enclos Paroissial) in Saint-Thégonnec is considered one of the finest in Brittany. The Parish Enclosure consists of several buildings and structures, including a church, a calvary, an ossuary, and an elaborate triumphal arch. They date back to the XVIth and XVIIth centuries.
The Saint-Thégonnec enclosure is probably not a mass tourist attraction. But it is a particular and symbolic place, worth to stop for a while. The church (with the name Notre Dame) interior is totally different from the Gothic-style cathedrals and churches that one usually visits in Northern France. It is full of smaller and bigger figures. Of things I found interesting was the wooden ceiling. It was already the second time during our trip that we saw a ceiling like that. (The first time it was the day before in the Mount St. Michel main church and chapels). Below some other of the few photos, I made that day in the Saint-Thégonnec enclosure.