Parish enclosures and Paris-Brest
Trip Start Apr 10, 2012
64Trip End Jul 13, 2012
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So to the churches. We have seen many on this trip. Sometimes we are taken aback by the scale or the workmanship or the beauty, and sometimes we are dismayed by how so much wealth was used in these structures.
But then a new aspect comes along to whet our appetite for viewing churches. In this case it was parish enclosures, and their unusual link to a particular trade.
We were new to parish enclosures, which are enclosed areas around a church that may include the church yard and a number of other features such as a calvary or ossuary. So although the church may not be big, the effect of the various structures make it seem larger and elaborate.
These structures were built partly as a result of competion between the various towns in this area of Brittany. The towns were relatively wealthy because the towns supplied linen needed for sails and rigging for ships that were involved in the profitable maritime trade in the 16th century. Farmers here had for centuries cultivated flax which was then transformed in areas with springs into linen fabrics. The wash houses we have seen in this area are a remainder of this industry.
There are usually many figures on the various monuments in the enclosure. What is interestingis that while the scenes are biblical, the characters are given contemporary clothes and local faces. So with 16th century clothing, and beards and moustaches of the day, the figures look quite different to many church monuments.
We travelled around and saw a number of these churches, and as we were buying bread I saw the pastry which brought back memories of my first cook book. This book was a speech night prize I had chosen (my interest in recipe books so back a long way). In it was a pastry called 'Paris Brest'. It is a circular ring of choux pastry with a praline cream inside and slivered almonds on top.
Apparently it was created in 1891 to commemorate a Paris-Brest bicycle race - therefore the circular shape. It is a high kilojoule treat, so we shared two of them between the seven of us, and that was enough to give us a taste. Delicious!