Locronan, in Finistère, is a community somewhat set in aspic, or at least firmly rooted in granite and times past.
The village gets its name from Saint Ronan, the hermit who founded the town in the 10th century. This was formerly a major centre for woven linen, of the type required for sails by the French, Spanish and English navies; its biggest customer is said to have been the East India Company. As a result, the centre of the village is endowed with splendid examples of Breton architecture that mostly date from the 18th century, and was largely built at the behest of wealthy sail merchants. In the 19th century, competition from Vitré and Rennes, coupled with the general economic downturn of the period brought ruin and stagnation. Just how wealthy a place this must have been is self-evident if you study the quality of the opulent architecture, especially in the place de l’Église.
It takes a while to register, but there is something not quite right about the setting of the village. And then you notice that there are no spaghetti tangles of telephone cables festooned from building to building, no television aerials or satellite dishes, no road markings, no permanent road signs; in fact, nothing that visually places the setting in the 21st century; even the main street is as pedestrianised as the French driver’s mentality will comprehend. And this means that film makers and television dramatists love Locronan for its authenticity: Thomas Hardy’s 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles', for example, was filmed here.
Such an un-modernised appearance has to have been a conscious decision, not just happenstance. Either way, it’s a very attractive village, and worthy of such detour as it requires. It is one of three 'Most Beautiful Villages in France' found in Finistère.
Place de la Mairie, 29180 LOCRONAN
Tel: 02 98 91 70 14