Under A Breton Sun, Anciently

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Breton Banner, Stone Face, Tréguier, France

Breton Banner, Stone Face, Tréguier, France

Over many centuries, on September mornings, a narrow band of sunlight has shown through stained glass windows onto this small sculpted stone face; unless it is cloudy.

On partly cloudy days the sunlight entering this ancient cathedral is intermittent. As the Earth turns and the clouds float overhead, it is only luck if the Sun shines brightly inside the cathedral and highlights interesting objects. The tall, colorful windows pass under the Sun, and with each opening in the clouds the sunlight enters a different window, at a different angle. Each bright few moments cast different colors on the stone from the varying scenes depicted in the stained glass. And the light comes to rest on different parts of the interior.

Sometimes a previously dark, stone column is bathed in rich red, purple, and gold. When the sunlight is bright it is hard to look at the windows because it hurts the eyes. But when the clouds close, the cathedral is dark enough to make it difficult to read. Sometimes because of the angle of the window to the Sun only a narrow shaft of light hits the stone. The arches, columns, alcoves, and ornamental sculpture make intricate shapes for the light to move across.

On this morning in Tréguier, France when I entered the cathedral there were several women working with cut flowers decorating for a wedding. Otherwise the beautiful old stone building was empty. I had practiced my rudimentary French in order to ask permission to photograph inside the cathedral. They smiled in response and said yes. My French probably was humorous and they seemed warm and friendly.

I spent a couple hours inside photographing different scenes and trying different lenses. The changing light was remarkable and challenging. I had wandered toward the back of the building when the clouds opened up and a small patch of light flooded in through a clear portion of a window. I took about six photos of the light on this red Breton banner and a small sculpture face on a column. During the minute or so that I photographed the light moved across the face from top to bottom and then the clouds closed again. In this photo the smiling face is highlighted against a very dark background in the archway behind. That night when I looked at the day’s photos I was surprised by this small happy face. It is beautifully sculpted.

The white shield on the red banner is filled with the Breton emblem. The small black emblem depicts an ermine. Two versions of the origin of the ermine emblem are that either: a 10th century duke witnessed an ermine being chased by a fox and the ermine turned and attacked the larger animal so the duke was inspired by his bravery, or Ann Duchess of Brittany saw an ermine chased by hunters, and the ermine stopped and refused to cross a pool, preferring to die. Ann saw this as an act of bravery. Which perhaps led to the motto of the Duchy of Brittany, which translates as ‘Rather dead than spoiled’  (http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/Flags/fr-bz-du.html).

Over the centuries this beautiful, smiling stone face has been sunlit many times. I am very thankful to have been there for the bright few moments it was in the Sun on that September morning. Photo: 1/100 s at f/4

You can view other photos of Brittany in the Photo Gallery at my website: www.earthmapphoto.com




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