Quimperlé, Abbey of

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Former Benedictine monastery in the Diocese of Quimper and the department of Finistere, France (Abbey of the Holy Cross; Kemperlegiense ). A monastery may have been founded on this site as early as 550 by St. Gunthiern with the aid of Grallon, the legendary king of Brittany. In any case, in 1029, Alain, Count of Cornuailles, installed, at the junction of the Ellé and the Isole, a group of Benedictines whose first abbot was St. Gurloès (d.1057). St. Vigonien was superior of the monastery from 1059 to 1066. His successor, Benedict (d. 1115), son of Count Alain, enriched the abbey with numerous endowments and in 1083 had the church consecrated. The 13th century saw the monks embroiled in protracted conflict with the bishops of Quimper. Then came a period of decadence, until in the 16th century, the monastery had as abbot the infamous Odet de Coligny, Cardinal of Châtillon (d. 1571), who was divested of his benefices on becoming a Calvinist. At the end of the century only three monks remained at the abbey, assisted by three secular priests. In 1665 the maurists took possession of the abbey and held it until the revolution. The abbey church of the Holy Cross, dating from the 11th century, had a curious rood screen from the Renaissance period framing the main door; it collapsed in 1862, but has been restored according to the original plan. Circular in form, the church imitates the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and is one of the rare specimens of this style in Brittany. The rotunda is flanked on four sides by Semi-domes: that on the east is the apse, that on the west is the nave, while the other two form the transept. The 11th-century romanesque crypt under the circular choir contains many tombs, notably that of St. Gurloès. In addition to the church, the cloisters and the 18th-century monastery still survive; the cloisters now serve as the town hall.

Bibliography: l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 193539) 2:239091. j. mabillon, Annales Ordinis S. Benedicti, 6 v. (Lucca 173945) v.1, 46. Gallia Christiana, v.113 (Paris 171585),v.1416 (Paris 185665) 14:900905. Histoire Littéraire de la France, ed. Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (Paris 18141941) 21:745. a. de blois, Notice historique sur la ville de Quimperlé suivie d'une histoire particulière de l'abbaye de Sainte-Croix (Quimperlé 1881). p. le duc, Histoire de l'abbaye de Sainte-Croix de Quimperlé (Quimperlé 1881). l. maÎre and p. de berthou, Cartulaire de l'abbaye de Sainte-Croix de Quimperlé (Paris 1896; 2d ed. Rennes 1904).

[j. daoust]