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The picture postcard village of Locronan.

village de LocronanPhoto Rolf E. Staerk / Shutterstock.com

Locronan lies between Quimper and Douarnenez in the far south west corner of Brittany, and has been awarded the prestigious title ‘one of the most beautiful villages in France’! I’d like to tell you a little about this deservedly popular place.

place de LocronanPhoto PRILL / Shutterstock.com

Quintessentially Breton in its architecture, Locronan is also home to the most famous religious procession in Brittany, the ‘Troménie’. The oldest granite dwellings are gathered around a wide paved square, with a well as a pretty centrepiece, and the Renaissance buildings surrounding the square bear testament to the town’s prosperity in that era from weaving linen and making canvas for sails. Locronan is the most impressive and preserved architectural whole in western Brittany, with a beautiful 15th century church and fine stone houses dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, and delightful alleyways all leading to this lovely square with its attractive well.

maison Renaissance à LocronanPhoto Inna Bruzhyenye / Shutterstock.com

The village has been the backdrop to numerous movies, notably Philippe de Broca’s film ‘Les Chouans’ which was shot here in 1988, starring Sophie Marceau, Lambert Wilson and Philippe Noiret. Also Roman Polanski’s film ‘Tess’ in 1979 starring Nastassja Kinski. Locronan’s popularity as a film location is down to its yesteryear charm and because the traces of our modern era are largely hidden – electric cables are buried underground for example – giving visitors the impression they have gone back in time.

place de LocronanPhoto PRILL / Shutterstock.com

Lying on the western slope of a peak of 298 metres, and dominating the plain of Porzay as well as the bay of Douarnenez, it is not surprising that this spot was occupied by the Romans. Locronan rapidly became an important crossroads linking Carhaix, the Pointe du Raz, Quimper, and the Crozon peninsula, and this ideal location midway between the coast and inland Brittany gave it strategic importance.

place de LocronanPhoto Claudio Giovanni Colombo / Shutterstock.com

The origins of the town are linked to a Benedictine priory founded by the Count of Cornouaille at the beginning of the 11th century. But by the 13th century, Locronan had become the capital of weaving, notably of sail canvas, working with flax and hemp. At that time, there was a weaver in every household and the town exported across Europe and even to the New World, with the goods leaving from Port-Rhu.

village de LocronanPhoto Liane M / Shutterstock.com

Then, in the 18th century, Locronan became the first and main supplier to the famous Compagnie des Indes – France’s rival to the British and Dutch East India companies, which was established in 1719 and based in Port-Louis and Lorient – making sails for the trade ships and the royal navy. Later, there was competition from sail makers in Brest and Angers, as they were better represented at the royal court.


La Troménie

Locronan has also always been well-known in Brittany for its ‘pardon’, a religious event revolving around a procession. This type of event is held throughout the region, but Locronan’s is the most recognised of them all, and has its own special name, ‘la Troménie’.

The event sees pilgrims bearing religious banners walking in procession to the sound of tambourines. Every 6 years, between the second and third Sundays in July, the ‘Grande Troménie’ takes place, without doubt the most magnificent procession in Brittany. The route is 12km long, dotted with 12 ‘stations’ and frequent resting places, leading to the chapel on top of the hill. Also here is the ‘Chair of St Ronan’, a granite boulder thought to have healing powers. In the intervening years, ‘la Petite Troménie’ still attracts hundreds of pilgrims from all over Brittany, who walk a shorter route of 6km.

Pardon de KergoatPhoto Massimo Santi / Shutterstock.com

Saint Ronan was an Irish monk who found refuge in Armorique (the ancient name for the Breton peninsula) and who, according to legend, lived here in the 6th century and ended his days as a hermit. He is known for bringing Christianity to the region, though often it remained mingled with ancient Celtic druidic rites.

Indeed the very route of the Troménie procession was followed long before by those earlier ancestors, the Celts, lending a timeless and mystical air to the event.

The village:

The main square is dominated by the 15th century church of St Ronan and the 16th century Penity chapel, which together form a beautiful architectural ensemble. These places of worship are decorated with some superb statues, the carved wooden pulpit in the church tells the story of the life of Ronan. One can also admire the stone vaulting. In the chapel, there is an effigy of St Ronan, a tomb in kersantite stone supported by 6 angels with a statue of St Michael overhead, and a brightly painted wooden pietà featuring 4 figures.

Eglise St Ronan à Locronan
Photo André Quinou / Shutterstock.com

In front of the church, the large square is surrounded by 14 residences, formerly inhabited by officers of the king, notables and rich canvas merchants. The Hôtel Gautier is the oldest building in the square, and you will also find here the Hôtel de la Companie des Indes as well as the Bureau des Toiles (where the canvas makers’ goods were certified).

maison médiévale à LocronanPhoto Rolf E. Staerk / Shutterstock.com

This attractive little town is also notable nowadays for its art and crafts shops and artisanal workshops – including glass making and sculpture – which are a delight to discover on a walk through the old streets, or visitors can find out more about the art and history of Locronan at its very own museum.