Wendy Mewes writing about Brittany
Seeing is Believing
The theme of this exhibition was the Parish Closes, a Breton phenomenon of religious architecture.
The texts present a writer’s personal perception of these monuments which are significant in Brittany’s social, economic and emotional history.
CALVARY ‐ a three‐tiered response
The big story in stone. Here is a lesson, a moral, a warning. Pictures for priests to point out the project. No need to read. Suffering is worth it. He did this for you. A template of divine planning. It means walking the walk: we all have our journey. What we lack in annunciation can be made up in redemption.
Biblical figures in Breton clothes, with surprising hair and headgear. The codpiece, those moustaches, lovely fringed boots. What faces! Surely locally sourced: there are no low profiles in village life. This loll tongue thug looks familiar. Some say that Devil was modelled on the rector’s ugly mug. A sore temptation.
And the women: Mary sweetly holds her baby’s foot as they flee. Magdalena grieves at the base of the cross. Mary Stuart’s hat is there. Veronica and the hologram handkerchief. These are the good roles, mothers and mourners. Not like Katell Gollet, dragged down to hell for liking a drink and a dance. Watch out, girls.
Bits about bits
Parish close: city of God, shocking in scale, population more dead than living. Dwarfing the village, far-
Enclosure: determining wall, shaping the truth. Keeps faith in and the ungodly out, likewise dogs, chickens and pigs. Pagans manage to squeeze through. Defining space and temptation, ritual containment. Descendant of cairns and alignments.
Entrance gate: leave the beggars behind, away from profane, another world beckons. Over steps into triumph, crossing the boundary, look both ways for death. The story begins, a birth is announced. God rules OK.
Churchyard: focus of family, here and late, ripe for encounters, folk on parade. Rake up the bones, sell wood and fowl, something squealing in a sack. Meeting a mate, sharing surroundings, gossip machine, show up and off. Time out.
Calvary: lithic strip cartoon, peopled by locals, educational effort, the visuals of faith. Cruel path to glory, kersanton finesse, tangible pain, submit to prevail. Tell it like it was. Be careful. Beware. Pointing that finger. New life up there.
Ossuary: bone depot, sorting of body parts, shaking off flesh. Pile them high, name that skull, bits that last, the rest is dust. Death loves a bit of symmetry. Neat neo-
Sacristy: refinement of the plan, lock up and leave, props of observance, hide treasures and words. Renaissance add-
Porch: transit and passage, martyrs watch the money-
Church: journey from set to rise, all arches and angles, colourful awe, linear route for cyclical trip. Learn by examples larger than life, suffer well or see worlds collide on the beams. Women’s faith and men’s money, the smell of past prayers, organs from England, refulgence and gilding, making death shine. Zoom high for bottom humour, flippant figures and starry vaults. Have a good time.
FAITH is certain. the way that’s known.
FAITH is someone at your shoulder.
FAITH is blind hope against being alone.
FAITH is a form of silent despair, going nowhere.
FAITH is a guide, a compass inside.
FAITH is a dream, a fancy, a trance.
FAITH is love and romance.
FAITH is glue, sticking together.
FAITH is an almost forever.
FAITH is illusion, but one bright and gilded.
FAITH is for the weak and deluded.
FAITH is trust in bones and blood.
FAITH is no protection from flood.
FAITH is ritual, seeing one through.
FAITH is for those who take the long view.
FAITH is triumph, the answer to dying.
FAITH is arcane and mystifying.
FAITH is determined, hopeful, courageous.
FAITH is sometimes sadly contagious.
FAITH is a pivot between inner and outer.
FAITH is the noble scourge of the doubter.
FAITH is full, an absence of nothing.
FAITH is a cover for empty and blank.
FAITH is someone to beg and to thank.
FAITH is standing on the brink.
FAITH is not what people think.
the dead speak
today me, tomorrow you
starts behind walls
under the floor
pouring out bones
too many dead
need a shake-
walking on bones
too many dead
need a shake-
the dead words
talking of bones
© Wendy Mewes -