The photographic project “Days of Mercy” attempts to decode the practice of ancient religious rituals deeply buried in the heart of the region of Brittany, France and equally in Bretons’ psyche. Each summer the peninsula sees the celebrations of the life of their local saints in an eclectic mix of superstition, religion and pagan rites. With a Breton population number on the decline and a church congregation decreasing it is feared the next generations might not be able to perpetuate these centuries old practices.
Brittany in France is a land of many beliefs, cults and traditions. Successively the territory of the Celts, Gaulois, Romans, Bretons and then Francs the peninsula boasts a particularly important cultural heritage. With thousands of churches, chapels or crosses known as “calvaires” disseminated across the region Christian Catholicism is the de facto religion in Brittany. Buried under hundred of years of pagans practices and religious beliefs the Celtic peninsula offers a very pious face to visitors. One of the most prominent illustrations of this fact can be seen during the ceremonies of the Pardons (French for Forgiveness).
Every year between May and September, Catholics saints are celebrated across the peninsula. Brittany boasts a high concentration of many saints’ relics of the Christian empire: Saint Yves’s head in Treguier, Saint Ronan’s ribs in Locronan, Saint John’s finger in Saint jean du doigt, etc. Every year, on the same Sunday for the last hundred of years, relics of saints are paraded around the town, in a procession, which goes on sometimes for most of the day. Every pardon is unique but the general aim is to ask forgiveness and redemption for committed sins from a specific saint. Every saint is a patron for a specific profession (lawyers, sailors), an activity (travellers/pilgrims or more recently motorcycle riders) and even for some animals.
The bulk of the season is between May and September. Each Sunday in between see the celebrations of a saint culminating in the most frantic moment around the 26th July, when many pardons are dedicated to the Ste Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary. Christian Catholics celebrate their religion in many different display of faith. This particular mix of superstition, tradition, religion and paganism seen in pardons ceremonies remains an unique occurrence within the Christian empire still do date and only visible in Brittany.