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Gouesnach (Municipality, Finistère, France)


Last modified: 2024-04-27 by olivier touzeau
Keywords: gouesnach | ram | ermine |
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Flag of Gouesnach - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 2 December 2021

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Presentation of Gouesnach

Gouesnach - locally Gouesnac'h, in Breton Gouenac'h - (2,781 inhabitants in 2020; 1,707 ha) is a commune in the Finistère department.

There was there Celtic presence before the Roman invasion. It became a roman defensive place. It is undoubtedly the high density of the Gallic population which, in the 500s, attracted there evangelizers from Wales or Ireland, whose miraculous exploits quickly converted the crowds:
- Maudez, who came from Ireland, landed at Lanhuron from a triangular stone trough still visible in the grounds of the property.
- Cadou, a Welsh monk made pear trees bloom and bear fruit in the middle of winter while his horse imprinted the mark of his hoof on a stone still preserved in the chapel.
The Normans themselves, around 900, launched their longships on this supposedly rich estuary... but turned back, thinking that the river did not go further: Quimper was avoided thanks to this error of appreciation.
The parish was named Goumenech in the 14th century (the parish of the monks), Gouvenech in the 15th century, Gounech in the 16th century, Gouënach in the 17th century, Goueznach, then Gouesnac'h in the 18th century.

Several lordships shared this parish, which then depended on the jurisdiction of Concarneau, and some “noble lands” (Kervern - Keroreden - Kersaluden) were found under external supervision. The communes owes to this long period a good number of buildings spared by time (manors, chapels, fountains…).

Olivier Touzeau, 2 December 2021

Flag of Gouesnach

The flag of Gouesnach is white with the coat of arms and the name of the commune (photo, 2013).

The arms of Gouesnac'h are blazonned: Argent, an ermine spot sable, a bordure azure ; on a chief argent two ermine spots sable; overall a ram's head caboshed or.
This coat of arms was chosen on September 24, 1987 by the municipal council between 2 sketches by Mr. Bernard LE BRUN, heraldist, presented by Mr. Claude FAGNEN, Director of the Departmental Archives of Finistère. “The blue symbolizes the Odet which borders the town of Gouesnac'h. The ram's head recalls the fights which each year oppose the elite of the Breton struggle against Saint-Cadou” [source : municipal website].

Olivier Touzeau, 2 December 2021

This elusive report alludes to the Wrestlers' Festival organized the first Sunday of August in front of the chapel dedicated to St. Cadou. The St. Cadou tournament is organized according to "old rules" of gouren (Breton wrestling). To win the trophy, a wrestler shall defeat three opponents in a row. The wrestlers are dressed with a modernized version of the traditional clothing of Breton farmers, composed of a white shirt ("roched") and black trousers ("bragou") knot beneath the knees. To win by "lamm" a wrestler had to project his opponent's shoulders to the ground, using his own arms and legs. Violence, either physical or verbal, is strictly prohibited.
The winner of the openweight category is awarded the St. Cadou's "maout" (sheep), which he has to carry over his shoulders. [Source: Gouesnac'h Village, 2 August 2014. See also : video]

St. Cadou, the wrestlers' patron saint, was a Scottish hermit. Riding in Gouesnac'h, he asked the local farmers to offer him a plot to erect an oratory. Answered "Came later, if my apple and pear harvest is good, I'll offer you a plot". The saint prayed and the orchard was quickly covered with flowers, and then, with fruits bigger than ever seen. In the meantime, the impatient horse hit a rock with a hoof, leaving a print still visible on the chapel's lateral side. The sanctuary became so popular that St Cadou left to a more isolated place where he could live as an hermit.
The present-day's chapel was erected in 1578, being the site of three pilgrimages ("pardons"). Around 1865, the ill-inspired parish priest attempted to suppress the Wrestlers' Festival. Upset, St. Cadou brought the next night a big army of ghost wrestlers, who can still be heard fighting near the chapel on some nights. [Source: Le Télégramme, 28 August 2001]

Ivan Sache, 19 May 2022