Postcard from... Carnoët


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On a barren hilltop in the heart of Brittany, 50 huge granite statues with primitive features dominate the landscape in a project which has become known as the Valley of the Saints. The six latest, installed last month, each weighed 15 tons.

The project, which aims to eventually create 1,000 sculptures on the site in a kind of Breton Easter Island, was the brainchild of the Breton philosopher Philippe Abjean who wanted to promote Breton mythology and the immigration of the region’s seven founder saints. He set up an association which led to nine Breton towns competing to host the giant sculptures. The winner was the village of Carnoët, which according to Mr Abjean was the “most central, the smallest, and the poorest”. The sculptures are hewn at the site outside the village, and have attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors since its opening in 2009. Association spokesman Sofiane Watrin-Belhoul said that an estimated 100,000 people have visited this year.

The only instructions for the sculptors, whose statues are sponsored by businesses or individuals at a cost of €12,000 (£9,500) each, is that each has to be more than 3m high and have a face. One of the monumental saints stands in a boat, filled with recent rainwater. Another clasps two lions. It is a haunting installation in a countryside which is already littered with prehistoric standing stones.

When will all 1,000 statues be completed? “No date has been set,” says Mr Watrin-Belhoul. “Maybe in 50 years’ time.”