Discovering the Breton Beach Cross at Plestin les Grèves

Lieue en Greve in Northern Brittany is the most enornmous sandy beach at low tide a Breton Beach Cross is revealed.  Properly known as Croix de Mi-Lieue is looks utterly mystical.  How did it come to be there?  

Croix de Mi-Lieue, St Michel En Greve, Breton Beach Cross

Lieue en Gréve: some facts and figures

When I say the bay is bay is vast, I mean three miles across.  When the tide goes out it leaves at least a mile of sand behind in its wake. Way back in the mists of time the Roman road left dry land at St Michel en Grève to continue across the sands.  For ancient  travellers heading to and from Morlaix you could either head across the treacherous sands or go the long way round by land. 

Cross of Lieue en Grève some history

Nobody knows when the first cross arrived or why.  Is it all that remains of a submerged City?  Just the very top of the church spire poking up above the sand.  Or maybe it marked a cross roads on the Roman road.  Or maybe the cross marks the spot where Saint Efflam landed in Brittany?  Most plausible is that acted as a visual indicator of the safety of making a crossing of the bay. If you could see the base of the cross it was safe to start crossing, if not you needed to wait 12 hours for the tide to turn or go the long way round by land.

Who was Saint Efflam and did he know King Arthur?

Saint Efflum started life as the son of an Irish King.  He married young but then took a vow of Chasity.  In order to resist the temptation of his bride he set sail away from Ireland and made landfall at Plestin les Grèves.  Or his father wanted him to marry a Saxon Princess as part of peace treaty, they married but never consummated the marriage and headed off for Brittany to dedicate themselves to God.  Either way Efflam ended up in Plestin les Grèves.  The huge red rocks which can still be seen today were at the time home to a dragon, their red colour coming from the blood of the dragon’s victims.  The dragon used to feast on Royal blood every Christmas Eve, so King Arthur was keen to be rid of the dragon.  St Efflam prayed by the entrance to the dragon’s lair, which caused the dragon to rush out toward the sea where it drowned.  

Is the cross of Lieue en Grève ancient?

No.  The original cross dated back to the Middle Ages but it was destroyed at some point during the Second World War.  There are a number of theories about how the cross met its end.  Either German soldiers destroyed it or it was crushed by American troops as they disembarked on the beach.  

Replacing the Mi-Lieue de Grève

Replacing the Mi-Lieue cross was far from straightforward.  Bitter negotiations flew back and forth.  Eventually money was raised, local craftsman Ernest Moreau carved a faithful reproduction of the original cross from Guerlesquin granite.  It is 2 metres tall and stands on two millstones that were all that remained of the old cross.  Ever since 1993 the cross has been standing where its predecessor did for centuries.

How to get to the Breton Beach Cross

First of all make sure that the tide is heading out.  Set off from either the Grand Rocher (at Plestin les Gréves), Tréduder or St Michel en Gréve carpark.  Head toward what looks like a black blob in the middle of the bay.  As you approach it will begin to look at bit more cross like.  After 30 minutes or so when you arrive you will wonder how a stone cross two metres high could ever be indistinct.

Whilst you are exploring the North Brittany coast be sure to visit incredible red rocks of the Rose Granite Coast

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9 Comments

  1. August 2, 2015 / 7:35 pm

    I agree with Darren, such a peaceful shot. I’d print that for my wall, I think. #MySundayzphoto

  2. nikkifrankhamilton
    August 4, 2015 / 3:58 am

    I love this, it is beautiful, calm, peaceful, I would love to make the cross over.

  3. annette @afrenchcollection
    November 4, 2017 / 10:18 am

    The seaweed has such a vibrant green, adding so much colour to this shot. #AllAboutFrance

  4. November 6, 2017 / 6:53 pm

    I hadn’t heard about this beach, thanks for sharing it with #AllAboutFrance

  5. November 8, 2017 / 8:34 am

    What an interesting story and a simple yet effective way to help travellers from days gone by. #AllAboutFrance

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