Saint-Milliau church in Ploumilliau: a bugler and an Ankou

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The church - ©GO69 / CC-BY-SA The church - ©GO69 / CC-BY-SA
Saint-Milliau church in Ploumilliau Parish church Legend

Milliau’s church

A murdered king

The small church of Ploumilliau dates back to the beginning of the 17th century. They dedicated it to saint Milliau, king of Armorique murdered by his brother Rivod. The primitive church was destroyed during war of Religion, in 1590, then re-raised in 1602. From the 15th century, the church kept the first 3 bays of the nave and the square bell-tower with its granite spire.

The bugler’s grave

In the neighbouring cemetery, we notice the unusual grave of Milliau Cainec, the bugler who rang the beginning of the battle of Malakoff, in Sébastopol (Crimea), September 1855!

Ploumilliau’s Ankou

Now, let me introduce the Ankou! The Breton Reaper, if you want… This wooden statue is about 1 metre high and dates back to the 17th century. A unique piece! With the Ankou displaying in the musée des Jacobins in Morlaix, this one is the oldest representation of death in Brittany.

In the church, we had two similar statues, put from each side of the catafalque, during burials. He holds here his scythe in one hand, a spade in the other…

In the past, people came to give him donations. Here, they called him Ploumilliau Erwanig Plouillio (″little Yves from Ploumilliau″). Hey, Breton people were not afraid of death: death had a face, a name! It was pretty familiar…

The Breton writer Anatole Le Braz knew well the Ankou and its legend, since he spent his childhood in Ploumilliau. He wrote in his book Légende de la mort (″Legends of Death″), chapter II:

″In the church of Ploumilliau, we have a strange statue, now covered with dust but which used to be daub with paint. This Ankou was my only childhood’s terror. He seems to be with me, always. Old ladies often kneeled in front of him. People coming in Ploumilliau always visited him.″


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