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The abbey Saint Mathieu de Fine-Terre


The pilars of the roofless nave and the high vaults of the chair conjure up the ancient monks : One day they built the antique monastery on the very spot where the head of Saint-Mathew rested

as the legend goes which attributes to Saint-Tanguy the fondation of the monastery in the VIth century - but this has not been proved.

Stones as well as documents point to the XIth or XIIth century as a date for the building of the roman abbey whose northtern wall, southern transept and western façade with its beautiful trefoiled portal still exist.

Several times ravaged during Franco-English conflicts, several times reshaped or enlarged it turned, between the XIth to the XVth or XVIth century, into the gothic abbey whose majestic ruins stand a few meters from the headland cliffs.

In the absence of documents concerning the exact date of each stage of the building, different architectural influences can be noticed :

- the influence of the "Ile de France" Gothic art for the first tow bays limestonc pilars, ( in the XIIth century )
- a probable "Plantagenêt" influence for the following five bays made of local granite, ( on the end of XIIth century )
- a Norman influence for the soaring chair whose careful construction belongs to the radiant Gothic style, ( second quarter of the XIIIth century )

To those works must be added the enlargement in two steps of the southern aisle and the demolition of the old Roman wall. The gables of the lateral chapels so created received stained glass windows with Gothic mullions.

Benedictine monks lived in the abbey from the XIth century till 1791.The regarded the counts of Leon as their founders and the Du Chatel family as a benefactor of their monastery . The abbey went through many vicissitudes in the course of history : wars, periods of religious decline, etc...

The devotion to Saint Mathew brought numerous pilgrims to the abbey, especially when it was given, circa 1206, a notewarthy relic : a past of the apostle’s skull, and at the time of the renewal brought about by the Mauritsts in the 1656.

During the French Revolution, the abbey was declared "national property", the monks had to leave it. It was left uncared for and deteriorated.

At the end of the Revolution, in 1796, the conventual building of the Middle Ages and the XVIIth century Maurist abbey were used as a quarry. There only remains, in the westerner part of the ruins, adjacent to the church, a piece of the wall of the cellar surmounted by the windows of the medieval dormitory. The massive tower was the same time a donjon, a bell tower and a fire tower. It was reduced by half when the new lighthouse was built in 1835.

The ruins have just been consolidated by the service of Historical Monuments.