Un bol d’air frais – A breath of fresh air

When you need to get away from the city, it is best to chose a place that is as easy on the eyes as it is on your lung capacity. A place that brings lots of fresh air and plenty of old-world charm.

If Brittany were a palette, it would be green, blue and soft-gray.

If Brittany were a music it would be a mixture of the harp and the fiddle. If Brittany were an idea it would be wedged somewhere in between two countries, two languages, two peoples, two seats of power. For centuries she was defined as one or the other : Frankish or British. And in the middle of it all nestled in between the deep blue-hued sea and the vibrant green fields, this gem of the sweet life, prosperity, calm and savoir. All that remains of the Abbaye de Beaufort is it’s grandiose and picturesque ruins and only enough rooftop to make an entry hall for visitors. The rest of the salt-sprayed stone has been claimed by vegetation, crows and bumblebees.

It was founded in the 13 th century by Alain the 1 st of Avaugour count of Penthièvre and Goëlo who went to the Prémontré order of monks for help in creating an abbey. A multi-national order, they stretched from Ireland to Cypress and from Sweden to Italy. The count gave the Prémontré monks a parcel of land and with other donations they received they were able to create their place of study, reflection and work.

The prosperity of the abbey over the centuries induced the monks to be somewhat lackadaisical in the normally strict rules of monk-hood, and they splurged on delicacies delivered to their « beau port » such as spices and chocolates from Italy and wine from Bordeaux. Life there was not bad at all.

The second half of the 18 th century this beautiful structure saw it’s decline. A divine punishment for frivolous monks? Or a determined destiny to become something else? I like to think it’s the latter. During the Romantic movement in France, the site, which was already in ruins, became a hide-away and a utopian place to dream, for certain philosophers, with its fantastic views on the ocean and remnants of another era. And it is easy to see what pleased them so much. This place is a photographer’s dream. Intact, this place would merely be yet another ancient structure like the myriad of abbeys, cathedrales and castles we see scattered along the roadside in France. But broken down to ruins, this place has an immense amount of grace and beauty. It is a thing from ages past sitting quietly among the green and the blue as the air de Bretagne swirls over the walls and through the vacant window frames.

Paimpol, France. Bretagne.

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3 Comments

  1. Oh this is such a beautiful blog post. I WANT to go there. Some of the arches almost look Moorish (2nd photo). I just know I was a princess there in a different life…don’t laugh, I was!

  2. I don’t think there were princesses there in the abbey with the monks… Maybe you were a philosopher! 😉

  3. What a lovely sanctuary … beautiful photos!

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