On "Pen and Pencil Sketches in Brittany": A Lecture Given by Dr. John Phené

Print

On "Pen and Pencil Sketches in Brittany": A Lecture Given by Dr. John Phené

by: Cuthbert Bede (Author)
from: Notes and Queries (P. 513)  June 29, 1878

In the British Architect and Northern Engineer, May 17 and 24, is an illustrated report of "Pen and Pencil Sketches in Brittany," a lecture given before the Society for Encouragement of the Fine Arts, Conduit Street, Regent Street, by J. S. Phené, L.L.D., F.S.A., &c., May 16th, 1878; and in the Building News, May 17, is a briefer report of the same lecture, with a sheet of sketches by Dr. Phené. One of these represents an enormous menhir, commanding a view of the Island of Aval, or Avalon, the burial-place of King Arthur, for the full and very interesting particulars concerning which, and Dr. Phené's discoveries there, readers are referred to the published reports of the lecture. The face of this menhir, ten feet wide and twenty-five feet high, is entirely covered with sculptured emblems of the Passion, surmounted by the sun and moon, and a figure (possibly) of the Deity. Dr. Phené says:—
"The quaintest of all is the great menhir which commands the way to the Grand Island, now literally covered with sculptured masonic emblems, in juxtaposition with such florid Christian exhibitions as the reed and sponge, hammer and nails, dice and lot-cast garment, and in the the centre a life-size representation of the great death on Calvary, all in supposed proper colours."
In addition to the emblems above mentioned I can make out (on the sketch) the lantern, ladder, cock on a pillar, spear, pincers, and ewer (for vinegar?). There are also other implements, an open hand, a face, and two cross-bones. Dr. Phené says that
"in Brittany each place has its special emblems, illustrating its special traditions. Penmarc'h means 'horse head,' and the parish church is decorated with horses' heads. 'La Torche,' at Penmarc'h, 'La Clarté,' near Tregastel, &c., are evidently places of Phœnician lighthouses, and perpetuated by modern lighthouses and modern names. Arthur was the great light—the great Christian warrior; and here we have La Clarté. Avalon is the place of his tomb, and here we have the grand menhir sculptured with the emblems of the great Christian death, and with the sun, or sun-myth, adapted to the true light which Arthur (as a warrior) represented. This is the great tombstone of Arthur, though not on the island, but commanding it and all the Avalonian district."
The estate on which stands Arthur's tomb was purchased by Dr. Phené, who, after several years' exploration, has succeeded in tracing the ancient Avalon. A large stone, used in former times for pressing the apples that were once grown on the island, has been brought to England by Dr. Phené, and is now in his grounds at Chelsea.