Saint Conogan Stone Boat



The stone ship of Saint Conogan (Bag sant Konogan in Breton language) or vessel / stone boat is a megalith, or according to the versions a granite block (natural formation), to which is attached a legend. It is located in the town of Beuzec-Cap-Sizun, in the department of Finistere, Brittany. This stone is listed as a dolmen in the general inventory of the cultural heritage of 1983. This stone and the cultural practices associated with it are also listed in the Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in France.

The stone ship of Saint Conogan is a granite block lying on the moor. Seen from a certain angle, this monumental rock “completely detached from the ground and resting only by a few points on a flat stone” (Paul Sébillot 1904-1906) evokes the bow of a boat directed towards the sea located a few hundred meters away. Nearby, another smaller stone is presented as an annex of the boat. According to other versions, she is related to a marine animal, dolphin or shark. The stone vessel, arriving on the shore, would have struck a rock called the Garreg-Toull (rock hole in Breton) that we see in front of the beach of Porz-Peron and bounced until then, at the top of the cliff . The vessel is located on the Pointe du Millier, one of the protected natural areas of Cape Sizun, at the southwestern end of Finistère. It is located on the moor about 500 meters from the cliff on a coastal footpath joining the water mill Keriolet and the lighthouse Millier. This heritage complex is partly owned by the Conservatoire du Littoral. The ship lying on the moor, 8 meters long, 2.20 meters high and 3 meters wide, is resting on a transverse stone that has been used without success. Its weight is around 20 tons. No signage is present around the stone.

The legend of the ship of Saint Conogan is the fruit of a collective elaboration to be attached to the arrival of the evangelizers on the Armorican territory around the. St. Conogan also known as St. Guenegan or St. Guenoc is a monk emigrated from Wales, who crossed the English Channel in this stone boat. The only proven historical fact is his election as second bishop of Quimper following Saint Corentin. He died in 456. In the commune of Beuzec-Cap-Sizun, the place called Lescogan owes its name to this monk, as well as the fountain and the chapel dedicated to him. Today, the concern to make the narrative rational is recurrent. We try to justify this belief by recalling the arrival of clergymen on curraghs or coracles (Irish leather boats) weighted with stones; others say that these boats contained a stone trough at their center, to hold the mast or to keep the fire safe. The population of the time would have found these troughs of stone on the Armorican shores and associated with boats. An amalgam would explain the origin of the legend. In reality, the key to it is certainly more in representations and symbolism than in a down-to-earth explanation. This current speech can be considered as a sequel, a reappropriation of the legend of stone boats. These arguments give a new dimension to these stones which become the object of a new legend, a “scholarly legend”.

The transmission of this legend is done at the articulation of the oral and the written. Different modes coexist. The first is an oral mode that could be described as “traditional” mode: the majority of the inhabitants of the town knows this wonderful stone, by the mouth to ears of the ancients. The legendary stones are often the place to walk in a family or school setting. It is on these occasions that these oral traditions can be transmitted in situ. These walks give the impression to the inhabitants to know these stones and their legends since always, they are part of the landscape not only natural but also cultural. Folklorist collections also play a role in spreading this legend. Writing the legendary stories from the oral tradition helps to transmit them. The reference made to the stone boat of Saint Conogan by Paul Sébillot in one of his collections is one of the modes of knowledge of the legend. Following the acquisition of the Pointe du Millier site by the Conservatoire du Littoral from 1984, the initiative was taken to upgrade the stone boat by freeing it from the vegetation that invaded it, thus making it visible and accessible to the public. The vessel has since been part of a heritage complex (with the mill and lighthouse) connected by a hiking trail. Tourism enhancement of the site and its legende is a new transmission tool. Guided and storytelling walks showcase them, while flyers, book guides and websites are a written record.

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