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Pardon (Religious observance in Brittany)

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Pardon, from the Latin perdonare, — assimilated in form to donum, a gift, middle English, to the old French perdun and pardun, and modern French pardonner — signifies in Brittany the feast of the patron saint of a church or chapel, at which an indulgence is granted. Hence the origin of the word "Pardon" as used in Brittany. The Pardons do not extend farther east in Brittany than Guingamp, the date of whose celebration occurs on the first Sunday in July. There are five distinct kinds of Pardons in Brittany: St. Yves at Tréguier — the Pardon of the poor; Our Lady of Rumengol — the Pardon of the singers; St. Jean-du-Doigt — the Pardon of fire; St. Ronan — the Pardon of the mountain; and St. Anne de la Palude — the Pardon of the sea. The Pardons begin in March and end in October, but the majority of them are between Easter and Michaelmas. Two Breton Pardons, to which very large pilgrimages are annually made, are that of St. Jean-du-Doigt near Morlaix, and that of Ste-Anne d'Auray in Morbihan. The former occurs on 24 June, and that of Ste Anne d'Auray on 24 July, the anniversary of the finding of the statue of Saint Anne by the peasant Nicolazic. The latter is regarded as the most famous pilgrimage in all Brittany, and attracts pilgrims from Tréguier, Léonnais, Cornouaille, and especially from Morbihan.

To these Breton Pardons come pilgrims from every side, clad in their best costumes, distinctive for each diocese and parish, which are only to be seen there and at a wedding. It is a pilgrimage of devotion and piety. The greater part of the day is spent in prayer, and the Pardon begins with early Mass at 4 AM. Its observance, however, has actually commenced earlier, for the preceding evening is devoted to confession, and the rosary is generally recited by the pilgrims, the whole way to the place of the Pardon. After the religious service, the great procession takes place around the church. This is the most picturesque part of the Pardon and may be regarded as its mice en scène. At Ste-Anne d'Auray, this procession is especially striking and impressive. In the procession join all those whom the intercession of Ste Anne has saved front peril and danger. The sailors are there with fragments of the vessel, upon which they escaped in the shipwreck; the lame are there carrying on their shoulders the crutches, for which they have no longer need; and those rescued from fire are also in the procession, carrying the rope or ladder, by means of which they escaped from the flames. The Pardon in Brittany has practically remained unchanged for over two hundred years. It is not a pretext for feasting or revel, but a reverent and religious gathering where young and old commune with God and His saints in prayer. There is indeed a social side to the Breton Pardon, but it is purely incidental. Its true import is religious.

This article incorporates text from the entry Pardons of Brittany in Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.

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