is a typically Breton
form of pilgrimage
and one of the most traditional demonstrations of popular Catholicism
. Of very ancient origin, probably dating back to the conversion of the country by the Celtic monks
, it is comparable to the parades associated with Saint Patrick's Day
or New York
As its name indicates a Pardon is a penitential ceremony
. The faithful go on a pilgrimage either to the tomb of a saint
or a place dedicated to a saint. The locations may be associated with miraculous appearances, as in Querrien
, or holy relics
travel as a group in parishes
, fraternities or other corporate bodies, bringing banners, crosses and other insignia in procession, each group competing with the others for grandeur.
The dispersal of the pilgrims until meeting at the appointed place, like the procession, symbolises the desire to obtain intercession from the celebrated saint by offering the effort of the journey as an act of faith. This reflects the Christian view that the human condition on this earth is a journey towards the Kingdom of heaven or the new promised land. Following this logic, the pilgrims are invited to confess their sins to their priests before taking part in the mass, which is often followed by solemn vespers. Once they are granted absolution, the groups engage in communal festivities to express the joy of Christian redemption. This can take the form of a village fair or even resemble a funfair.
The leader of the Pardon, typically a high ranking ecclesiastic, has the title of "pardonnor". If relics are involved, he will normally carry them during part of the procession. For most of the pilgrimage, however, this honour falls to those who were considered to be worthiest by it by the various social groups represented.
Some Pardons are held during notable religious festivals, such as the Feast of the Assumption
on August 15. The Pardons dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God, are usually followed by those dedicated to Mary's own mother, Saint Anne
, patron saint of Brittany. However, the majority honour local saints because of their patronage role to protect specific categories of people or activities. Thus there are Pardons dedicated to Saint Gildas
at the beginning of June in Trégor, to Saint Guirec
, patron of girls about to marry, and to the patron saints of individual parishes.
The Pardon of Saint Yves in Tréguier honours, though him, the legal profession, of which he is patron. Its influence is now international, since thousands of pilgrims, official or anonymous, from all the countries of the world, meet at his tomb in the parish of his birthplace, in fraternities of lawyers, judges and other legal professionals.
Other notable Pardons are:
- Sainte Anne d'Auray, where a poor farmer in the 17th century insisted that Saint Anne ordered him to build a chapel in her honour.
- Locronan, in honour of Saint Ronan, with a troménie (a 12 km-long procession) at which it is the custom to wear traditional Breton costume.
Pardons in art
Pardons were a popular subject in 19th century French art, since the local people dressed in their elaborate traditional Breton costume for the ceremonies, which also involved open-air public festivities. Many artists came to Brittany to portray Pardons. Jules Breton
and Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret painted a number of such scenes. Paintings by members of the Pont-Aven School
such as Paul Serusier
and Paul Gauguin
's Vision after the Sermon
are inspired by this aspect of Breton culture.
Breton Religious Heritage
Catholic Encyclopedia: Pardons in Brittany
Anatole Le Braz
, Au pays des pardons