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The most powerful marvelous being

Dragon Guéhenno chapelle St Michel

Represented as a kind of gigantic scaly reptile, the dragon is adapted to the four fundamental elements: water, earth, air and fire. Its scales allow it to swim, it lives underground, flies and spits fire. Apart from its gigantic size, it can have several heads, several legs, bat wings, horns, feline claws...

Dragon of chapel st Michel © photo Ph.Gauthier

The creative principle

For the Celts, the dragon has a magical function. It is a symbol of power and fertility. It also serves as an intermediary between the living and the dead. From an aesthetic point of view, the shape of the dragon lends itself well to Celtic art which favours curves, interlacing and the transfiguration of reality.

In the Middle Ages, dragons lived in rivers or swamps. Their anger provoked natural disasters and deadly epidemics. They are the mysterious and powerful nature that must be fought.

The battle of Good against Evil

Dragon Chapelle St Michel GUEHENNO©Ph.Gauthier

Little by little, the church appropriated the ancient and pagan representations of the dragon. It then loses its ambivalent character to symbolize only sin. It becomes the incarnation of Satan. In the form of a gargoyle, it frequently adorns churches. Protector of the sacred threshold or demon?

Stemming from the collective imagination, it is favoured by local artists, who appreciate its aesthetic dimension, far from religious Manichaeism. Inside churches, on the other hand, it always submits to a saint . Saint Michael is one of the most famous dragonslayer saints  In Greek, "lizard killers", in other words, dragon exterminators. The fight of the archangel St. Michael against the dragon is a very old legend, recounted in the Apocalypse. He appears as a warrior in armour, brandishing a sword that will fall on the dragon.

Polychrome statue of the 16th in the chapel st Michel of Guéhenno © Ph.Gauthier

Did you know that? Saint Michael is always represented with wings because he is an archangel. Saint George, the other dragon-destroying saint is  represented on horseback.

Knights and dragons

Saint Michael is also the patron saint of knights. In Brittany, the dragon is the specific enemy of the knights and popular or literary traditions have handed down to us some figures of dragon-slaying knights. King Arthur himself is famous for having fought dragons. Merlin, one of the most famous characters of the Arthurian legend does not fight the dragon but uses his power to protect the Breton army.

The fight between the red dragon and the white dragon

The tyrant Vortigern, the same one who had exiled Uther Pendragon to usurp his throne, wanted to build an impregnable fortress. But the building had barely risen from the ground when it collapsed. "There are two huge dragons under the ground, just at the point where the construction must be supported. When they begin to feel the weight of the building on them, they shake, and the walls collapse," proclaims Merlin. As soon as they were exposed, they clashed in a terrible battle, which the red dragon won.

"King, I tell you that these dragons represent the red, the Breton nation, the white, you, Vortigern. ...You wrongly possess this land. But the red dragon is on his way. The white dragon Is cursed and on his way to ruin. " The red dragon represents the Welsh led by Uther Pendragon, the white dragon represents the Saxons, defeated by Uther, back from exile.

In Guéhenno, the bell tower of the church collapsed as soon as it was built in 1859... Did you notice how many dragons were present in Guéhenno !!

In Guéhenno, the bell tower of the church collapsed as soon as it was built in 1859... Did you notice how many dragons were present in Guéhenno !!

Maison aux chimères in Guéhenno / Chapel ste Suzanne in Bignan / Manoir de Lemay in Guéhenno © photos Ph.Gauthier

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