Over the centuries, Breton Spirituality has venerated Breton personalities known for their exemplary life from a Christian point of view. Few of them have been recognized as saints by the Church’s canonization procedure, but they have been honoured by the people, their very existence not always being historically attested. From 2021 another statuette has been added to this demonstration of ancient popular spirituality, that of our Venerable Mother Marie Salomé, who was carried on the pilgrimage by Danielle Burthier and 3 lay people from the Lavigerie family.
An article by Danielle will follow on Sharing Trenta Aprile with details of this experience.
According to a late literary and hagiographic construction forged from the eleventh century, the seven founding saints are traditionally reputed to have founded the seven bishoprics that existed in the late Middle Ages. Because of their precedence to any canonical procedure, these saints have not been officially recognized by the Catholic Church but are celebrated each year in the Tro Breiz (which in Breton means “tour of Brittany”). This is a Catholic pilgrimage that links the towns of the seven founding saints of Brittany. The other Bretons are saints by the vox populi. Most of these saints would have been forgotten if the persistence of the cult of the
fountains had not linked their memory to the beneficent virtue of the waters or if tradition had not made them miracle workers or healers. Legendary tales have also contributed to perpetuate their memory.
In this spiritual tradition the parish of Plouguerneau, which gave rise to a hundred ordinations of priests between 1803 and 1964, preserves the Little Saints, polychrome wooden statuettes mounted on a wooden pole. They date from the 17th century and are carried during processions.
Canon Paul Peyron describes this tradition in 1912 as follows: “The saints (…) are pretty wooden statuettes one foot high Each one is supported by a pedestal fitted into a wooden pole, which allows one person to carry the saint. The Sunday which precedes the procession, during the high mass, the honour of carrying the saints is put on auction. When the harvest is threatened, Saint Fiacre and Saint Isidore are the most in demand, in times of epidemic it is Saint Sebastian or Saint Roch. Most often, it is our patron saint that we want to honour, and this privilege is allowed through an offering made to the church in this original form.”
According to tradition, the custom of the Little Saints dates back to a plague epidemic which raged in the Country around 1640. The vow made on this occasion included three annual processions following different routes: the day of Ascension, the Sunday following this feast and Whit Monday. Since 1996, the procession of the Little Saints has found a new lease of life and takes place on August 15. After mass at 10:30 a.m. on the front lawn of the Church of Notre-Dame du Grouanec, a march starts towards the Saint-Claude chapel, passes through Sainte-Anne, Saint-Laurent, the medieval site of Iliz Coz and arrives in Saint-Michel around 5 p.m.