chapter  4
26 Pages

The Counter Reformation and the Parish Church in Western Brittany (France) 1500–1700

ByElizabeth Tingle

Inscribed on the front of the south porch of Commana church in Finistère, completed between 1645 and 1653, is a reference to the communion antiphon, derived from the gospel of St Matthew: ‘My house shall be called the house of prayer says the Lord … For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.’1 Although the Breton-speaking peasantry of the parish could not read the Latin text, they concurred with its meaning. They had paid for the embellishment of their parish church and they understood it to lie at the heart of their community’s spiritual and social life. As such, the parishioners of Commana, like thousands of other communities in early modern France, participated in the spiritual aspirations of the Catholic and Counter Reformations, manifested physically in the stonework of their parish churches.