“We couldn’t see anything because of the smoke. We had to approach her to see that she had been spared. I suspected that she was still standing but I needed to see her, to touch her”. Mickaël Louédec was one of the first to approach the Saint-Michel de Brasparts chapel. In the midst of a desolate setting, the journalist fromWest France took some photos of the intact building. With a tight throat, his nose saturated with smoke, the native of Finistère admits having experienced “a big shock” when he approached the survivor.
There, in the middle of charred vegetation, the religious building remained standing, not even blackened by the flames which came to lick it. “It was striking to see her when all the Monts d’Arrée were charred. When you come here, normally it’s to breathe, get oxygen. And there, we could barely breathe, ”adds the journalist.
Some dare to speak of a miracle. When we observe the photos taken by the drones that have flown over the area, we can say that we are not far from it. Surrounded by a fire that would probably be of human origin – perhaps even criminal – the chapel built in 1674 held firm.
For Father Le Borgne, “she risked nothing”
Do Christians believe in the famous miracle? “Absolutely not,” says the very believing Father Christian Le Borgne. The parish priest of Châteaulin is “not surprised” that she was spared. “It is erected at the very top, on a stone base without any vegetation, there was no risk of it”, he assures. The man of the Church perhaps forgets that a simple blown ember could have ravaged the wooden frame. Stunned by the disappearance of the moors of the Armorican massif, the priest recognizes that since Monday, he cries every day to the sound of the voice of Youenn Gwernig, Breton singer who praised the glory of Sant-Mikael (Saint-Michel in Breton).
Protected by the firefighters, spared by the winds, the Saint-Michel chapel remained perched on its mount at more than 380 meters high. Braving the fire, the one that was already an emblem became the symbol of the resistance of a territory ravaged by flames. “It is one of the iconic properties of Brittany, one of the best-known chapels due to its geographical location. It is dominant, out of all modernity. Saint-Michel occupies a special place in the Breton imagination and its location is not chosen by chance. Saint-Michel is known to be the first of the angels, the one who fights evil,” says Ronan Le Baccon, Heritage Director for the Brittany region. Legend has it that the Archangel drove out the demon several times here.
Known to tourists, the place saw at least 150,000 visitors last year come to admire it according to the counter installed by the department of Finistère, owner of the stones and the land that surrounds it. “It is a pole of attraction because it is located along the GR34. It has always had this central role, erected at the top of the moor. During the war, the Germans even set up a bomber radio guidance station there,” recalls Catherine Sparta, director of the Monts d’Arrée ecomuseum. The aerial views of the charred area clearly show the circle of concrete on which the device was implanted. Intact, too.
A spiritual place that brings together all beliefs
Although it only receives one pardon (that of the shepherds) each year, the chapel of Saint-Michel de Brasparts remains an important spiritual place where all sorts of cults mingle. “It is regularly used as a shelter because it is open all the time. There are often objects that serve as offerings,” continues Catherine Sparta.
Ashtrays, cigarettes, more or less sensible messages, poems are regularly placed there. “It’s always open so you can find anything and everything there,” admits Father Le Borgne. The priest says that eight days ago, a funerary urn was placed there. And that an old damaged kora (string instrument from West Africa) even hangs from the ceiling. A mystical space that attracts all kinds of beliefs. And visibly took a vow of resistance, well helped by the firefighters and their lances. In the midst of a charred setting, Saint-Michel still watches over the Monts d’Arrée.