A dedicated couple from Brittany have spent 30 years carefully recreating scenes from their local town to complement their church’s Christmas crèche.
While most French churches centre their Christmas decorations around a simple nativity scene, the Église Notre-Dame in Lampaul-Guimiliau (Finistère) stands out with its 30 miniature models representing the commune’s sixteenth and seventeenth-century buildings.
The tiny recreations sit next to the church’s nativity scene, and are the result of several hundred hours of work each year from Lampaul-Guimiliau natives Jean and Marie Jo Pouliquen, who began the project in 1993.
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Visitors can roam around miniature versions of some of Lampaul-Guimiliau’s churches, steeples, farms and houses, which are reproduced with a jaw-dropping level of detail, Mr Pouliquen carefully picking up materials including stones, oak tree twigs and slate while hiking in nearby forests.
It took 32 people and eight days to arrange the couple’s creations, which include a 350-kilo granite miniature of the Église Notre-Dame.
More than 50 people out of the town’s 2,000 inhabitants are involved in putting the nativity scene together.
While the couple started to help the church with its crèches in 1983, they gradually took on an increasingly active role in the following years, beginning to create their miniatures in 1993.
“It became a project centred around the search for memory. I wanted to bring our heritage back,” Jean Pouliquen told The Connexion, adding that he combed through historical documents to look for historical buildings that once stood in the town.
Since 1993, Mr Pouliquen has added one more building to his composition each year, putting in an estimated 300 to 600 hours on each. The miniature church steeple was designed in 1999, three years before the church itself was completed.
Mrs Pouliquen works with other contributors to lend fine details to each model, whether it be stained glass windows, tiny wheelbarrows or minuscule cobbles.
Photo provided by Jean Pouliquen
“It has gone beyond what I expected,” said Mr Pouliquen, the project attracting throngs of tourists every year. More than 20,000 were reported to have visited in 2013.
He added that he was moved by some of the messages left in the church guest book, including one which said: “Keep us dreaming.” “Why not?” he said.
Mr and Mrs Pouliquen’s monumental work opened to the public on December 10 this year and will be on display until January 12, 2023.
But this will be Mr Pouliquen’s last year making the models, as age starts to take a toll on his physical ability to carry out such demanding work.
The couple has given the project over to the town hall for future years, enabling the church to continue displaying it and new contributors to create their own miniature buildings if they wish.
Photo provided by Jean Pouliquen
“This project is an endless story,” he said, convinced the project will be passed down through the generations.
As they walked up the church’s aisle, the couple’s grandchildren could not resist telling others that it was their grandfather and grandmother who designed the project for the town. .
“You should have seen their sparkling eyes. This is the most beautiful Christmas gift,” Mr Pouliquen said.
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