The retable of Sainte-Croix, between Brittany and Italy

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Moses and Samuel - ©GO69 / CC-BY-SA Moses and Samuel - ©GO69 / CC-BY-SA
Sainte-Croix church in Quimperlé Abbot church

The church of a Breton abbey


We found here a first monastery raised in 550 by the Welshman Gurthiern, destroyed by Normans in 878. But we have to wait 1029: the current Benedictine Sainte-Croix abbey was founded by count Alain Cainart. Just imagine how powerful this abbey was! In fact, it was, in the Middle Ages, the richest one in Brittany! Alas, later in 1790, the abbey declined and disappeared, when it left only 5 monks...

Oh, this church looks very massive, for such a small square, isn't it? It was built as the same shape as Jerusalem's Saint-Sepulchre, even if the former bell-tower was replaced by a new one, too heavy, which collapsed in 1862... The architect Bigot replaced it in 1864 and in 1903, the current tower was raised.

The retable


Now, let's see inside! Here's the retable: a nice Renaissance masterpiece, put up in the middle of the 16th century in front of the church entrance. It's the sculptor from Rennes, Julien Morillon, who moved it at its current place, between December 1731 and May 1732. Some anonymous artists (maybe from Italy) worked on this retable, made in limestone from Taillebourg (Charente). Well, let's examine those characters, ok?

First, we see characters from the Old Testament, with prophets, four Evangelist, 12 apostles, Vertus and Antiquity doctors.

From bottom to top, we have:
• Plato, Aristotle, saint Gregory the Great, saint Jérôme, saint Ambroise, saint Augustin, Socrates, Xenophon
• below, Virgin Mary, Faith, Hope, Charity, Wisdom, Justice, Strength
• below, saint Peter, saint Bartholomew, saint Paul, saint Thomas
• below, saint Andrew, saint Simon, saint James the Greater and James the Minor, saint Jude
• saint Matthew (the angel), saint Mark (lion), saint Luke (bull), saint John (eagle)
• finally, Moses, David, Nathan, Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremy.