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Saint-Corentin in Quimper's legends and little histories

Gradlon | Thesupermat / CC-BY-SA
Cathedral Festivities Miracle Relic Legend St-Corentin cathedral in Quimper

Corentin from Quimper

The 7 Breton saints

Who was Corentin? The first bishop of Quimper, one of the 7 saints founders of Brittany who lived in the 6th century. We had:

  • saint Maclou (founder of Saint-Malo)
  • saint Samson (founder of Dol-de-Bretagne)
  • saint Brieuc (founder of Saint-Brieuc)
  • saint Tugdual (founder of Tréguier)
  • saint Pol Aurélien (founder of Saint-Pol-de-Léon)
  • saint Paterne (founder of Vannes).

The legend of saint Corentin

The legendary king Gradlon has his own statue at the top of the cathedral.

That’s pretty normal: Quimper, with the city of Ys, was his favourite city. And Gradlon was Corentin’s buddy!

The legend says they met while the king was hunting, in the forest near Plomodiern (Finistère).

He lost himself, wandered several days and finally arrived, starving, in front of Corentin’s house. This one gave him a piece of fish.

Not a common fish! A magical animal: you could take a piece on it, put the fish in the water and it magically pieced together!

Gradlon thanked Corentin and appointed him bishop of Quimper…

If you want to know more about the legend, just have a look on the low-reliefs, left to the choir.

The cathedral

The leaning head

Now we've met Corentin and company, let's visit the cathedral, began in 1239 by French bishop Rainaud.

The choir dates back to the beginning of the 15th century. The portal and the two towers of the western façade were began in 1424. The nave was begun in 1460.

Did you notice a thing? The axis of the choir seems to swerve and doesn't line up with the axis of the nave!

Error, or architect's wish? Maybe the symbol of Jesus Christ’s leaning head on the Cross?

A symbol used in churches of Saint-Pierre of Preuilly-sur-Claise (Indre-et-Loire) and Saint-Génitour of Le Blanc (Indre)...

Gradlon and the bagpipes

At the end of the 15th century, spires on bell-towers were raised... They began the building site in 1450... which was finished in 1855!

Oh, by the way, did you notice? Between the towers, there's a little equestrian statue of king Gradlon, destroyed during the Revolution and replaced in the 19th century.

In the past, bagpipers came here to offer cider to the king, on Saint Cécile’s day. They put a table napkin around his neck and made him drink!

Then they threw the glass among the crowd. The one who get the glass before it fell on the ground won golden crowns…

The Santig-Du of Quimper

In the cathedral, we are here in front of the “little black saint”, the Santig-Du in Breton: his name was Jean Discalcéat (“John Barefoot”), born in the area in 1280.

They keep a piece of his skull in a reliquary below his statue.

Living under the rule of saint Francis of Assisi, he was barefoot, wearing rags, doing good around him: people used to put a bread below the statue, a bread poor people and beggars could take…

Because Jean always did good, always listened to sick people and poorest one…

He died in 1349 of the black plague.

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!