Quimper is a commune of Brittany in northwestern France.
Population (1999): 67,127. Its inhabitants are called Quimpérois.
read full wikipedia reference about Quimper, France
QUIMPER , capital of the ancient diocese,
kingdom and later duchy of Cornouaille, is the oldest Breton
city. According to legend, the first bishop of Quimper, St Corentin,
came with the first Bretons across the Channel some time between
the fourth and seventh centuries to the place they named Little
Britain. He lived by eating a regenerating and immortal fish
all his life, and was made bishop by one King Gradlon, whose
life he later saved when the sea-bed city of Ys was destroyed.
According to one version, Gradlon built Ys in the Baie de Douarnenez,
protected from the water by gates and locks to which only he
and his daughter had keys. But St Corentin suspected her of evil
doings, and was proven right: the princess's keys unlocked the
gates, the city flooded and Gradlon escaped only by obeying Corentin
and throwing his daughter into the sea. Back on dry land and
in need of a new capital, Gradlon founded Quimper.
Modern Quimper is very
relaxed, active enough to have the bars - and the atmosphere
- to make it worth going out café-crawling. Still "the
charming little place" known to Flaubert, it takes at most
half an hour to cross it on foot. The word "kemper"
denotes the junction of the two rivers, the Steir and the Odet,
around which are the cobbled streets (now mainly pedestrianized)
of the medieval quarter, dominated by the cathedral towering
nearby. As the Odet curves from east to southwest, it is crossed
by numerous low, flat bridges, bedecked with geraniums, and chrysanthemums
in the autumn. You can stroll along the boulevards on both banks
of the river, where several ultramodern edifices blend in a surprisingly
harmonious way with their ancient - and attractive - surroundings.
Overlooking all are the wooded slopes of Mont Frugy . There is
no great pressure in Quimper to rush around monuments or museums,
and the most enjoyable option may be to take a boat and drift
down "the prettiest river in France" to the open sea
The enormous Cathédrale
St-Corentin , the focal point of Quimper, is said to be the most
complete Gothic cathedral in Brittany, though its neo-Gothic
spires date from 1856. When the nave was being added to the old
chancel in the fifteenth century, the extension would either
have hit existing buildings or the swampy edge of the then-unchannelled
river. The masons eventually found a solution and placed the
nave at a slight angle - a peculiarity which, once noticed, makes
it hard to concentrate on the other Gothic splendours within.
The exterior, however, gives no hint of the deviation, with King
Gradlon now mounted in perfect symmetry between the spires.
On the opposite side of
rue de Frout from the cathedral, the Musée des Beaux-Arts
, 4 place St-Corentin (July & Aug daily 10am-7pm; Sept &
April-May daily except Tues 10am-noon & 2-6pm; Oct-March
Mon & Wed-Sat 10am-noon & 2-6pm, Sun 2-6pm), houses amazing
collections of drawings by Cocteau, Gustave Doré and Max
Jacob (who was born in Quimper), paintings of the Pont-Aven school
and Breton scenes by the likes of Eugène Boudin. Only
the old Dutch oils upstairs let the collection down.
The heart of old Quimper
lies west of place St-Corentin, in front of the cathedral. This
is where you'll find the liveliest shops and cafés, housed
in the old half-timbered buildings, such as the Breton Keltia-Musique
record shop in place au Beurre and the Celtic shop, Ar Bed Keltiek,
at 2 rue Grallon. The old market hall burnt down in 1976, but
the light and spacious new Halles St-Francis in rue Astor, built
to replace it, are quite a delight, not just for the food but
for the view past the upturned boat rafters through the roof
to the cathedral's twin spires.
South of the covered market,
on the opposite bank of the Odet at 14 rue Jean-Baptiste-Bosquet,
is the excellent Musée de la Faïence Jules Verlinque
(mid-April to Oct Mon-Sat 10am-6pm). The museum tells the story
of Quimper's long association with faïence - tin-glazed
earthenware - which has been made in and around the town since
1690, and demonstrates that little has changed in the Breton
pottery business since some unknown artisan hit on the idea of
painting ceramic ware with naive "folk" designs. That
was in around 1875, as the coming of the railways brought the
first influx of tourists, and a consequent demand for souvenirs.
Highlights of the collection include pieces commemorating such
events as the Great War, the first automobile accident and the
death of Zola, but there are also some fascinating specimens
produced by fine artists in the 1920s.
As you walk through the
town, it is impossible to ignore faïence - you are invited
to look and to buy on every corner. On weekdays, it's also possible
to visit the major atelier H.-B.
Henriot , in the
allées de Locmarion just behind the museum (March to mid-July
& Sept Mon-Fri 9am-11.15am & 1.30-4.15pm; mid-July to
Aug Mon-Fri 9am-11.15am & 1.30-4.45pm; Oct-Feb tours only
Mon-Thurs 11am & 3.45pm; tel 02.98.90.09.36). H.-B. Henriot
maintain a bright, modern gift shop alongside; the prices, even
for the seconds, are similar to those on offer everywhere else,
but the selection is superb.
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