On a slightly grey, overcast day we all pile into the cars for a day trip from Loctudy to Camaret. On route we stop at a traditional stone church.
Here we can see some of the archetypal religious architecture that is prevalent in Brittany.
There are several regional features that mark out the Breton country church – one of them is a delicate openwork steeple.
Another detail that sets rural Breton churches apart are the forests of very ornate, carved stone crosses that are found in the church yards – an example of these are pictured above.
These are calvary (calvaire in French) – a type of monumental public crucifix, sometimes encased in an open shrine.
The Breton calvaire is distinguished from a simple crucifix cross by the inclusion of three-dimensional figures surrounding the Crucifixion itself, typically representing Mary and the apostles of Jesus, though later saints and symbolic figures may also be depicted.
Inside we can see colourful stained glass and carved icons glore.
Moving one from old churches we briefly stop off at some truly ancient relics. Below are a selection of the mysterious, ancient, menhir that can be found in Brittany.
A menhir is a Breton term for a standing stone; it can be on its own, part of an alignment, or part of a circle.
The nippers are not so enchanted with a load of old rocks so we don’t dally for long!
On-route back to Cascais we take a flying visit to the Palace of Mafra, a monumental Baroque and Italianized Neoclassical palace-monastery.
*Wikipedia alert* The imposing façade, built of local limestone, is 220 m long and faces the town of Mafra.
At each end of the façade stands a square tower with a bulbous dome, such as found in Central Europe.
The church, built in white marble, is located in the centre of the main façade, symmetrically flanked on both sides by the royal palace.
Construction began in 1717 and was completely concluded in 1755. Construction lasted 13 years and utilised a vast army of workers from the entire country -a daily average of 15,000 but at the end climbing to 30,000 and a maximum of 45,000.
The palace was classified as a National Monument in 1910, and was also one of the finalists of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
The two church towers (68 m high) are inspired by the towers of Sant’Agnese in Agone
Their two carillons (a type of musical instrument consisting of at least 23 bells) contain a total of 92 church bells.
The story goes that the Flemish bell-founders were so astonished by the size of their commission, that they asked to be paid in advance.
These carillons constitute the largest historical collection in the world.