When searching for our dovecotes we came to understand the Celtic-Norman weave, and why this section of France is called Brittany. Sure we read our history books about the area before the trip and even though we understood the depth and length of cultural homogenization, we did not really feel it until our exploration of Brittany’s dovecotes commenced. We then experienced firsthand the intermixing of two cultures, exemplified in names, such as the two spellings and pronunciations for the town, Kemper-Quimper. While most of the dovecotes were constructed after the period of constant flux and migration and well after the successful Norman invasion of England, the rules and roles of dovecotes were known alike and by all. Although still being disputed among scholars, the very Norman-Breton understanding of dovecotes was probably presented to the English with that 1066 invasion. The Bayeuax tapestry, the most famous antiquatal portrayal of that conflict, displays a dovecote. The dovecote shown was owned by nobles, and is proudly displayed, with its round tower, checkerboard nestholes, and even the required rat ledge.
This goes far in explaining why English dovecotes had rat courses, even though they did not have that particular breed of predatory rats in England at the time. Culturally, this was a shared view of the world. Proper noblemen had dovecotes and proper dovecotes had rat courses. This is also part and parcel of why dovecotes where such an iconic symbol of privilege and abuse, seething until the French revolution.
Of course, there are differences, but there is greater difference between individual dovecotes than difference between English and Breton dovecotes. They would most certainly be, from the casual observer’s view, identical. Anyone who had noticed and found dovecotes in England, would be successful in finding dovecotes in France as well. They would know what to look for, but more importantly where to look
Without much further ado, we’ll get rolling. Much like Cooke was our guide when we hunted the dovecotes in England, Dr. Jean Auffret is our guide in Brittany. This expedition started with his book, Colombiers et Pigeonniers en Bretagne Profonde. While not as simple as with Cooke’s book The Book Of Dovecotes, because I neither speak nor read French, it was the most valuable guide. It told us of many chateaus, towns, villages, that had dovecotes and pictures of how they looked. Auffret also provides a rich and specific history of many of the dovecotes, most of which I was unable to translate, but will pass along pertinent pieces where appropriate. While the book is out of print, it is readily available from used book dealers in France, and worth every penny and trouble that it takes to acquire a copy. Other locations and information were found through the internet and from local tourist offices. And of course, since we know what to look for and where to look, some we just found.
Another wonderful book about dovecotes in the south of France is in publication and available. It was recently published by M. Lucien and is full of colored pictures of many dovecotes located there. We highly recommend this book and would use it ourselves when visiting the area. You can learn more about this book at http://www.pigeonniers-en-midipyrenees.fr
The web pages are laid out as a day by day road trip, which more than coincidentally, is how it actually played out. Clicking on the pictures and map icons throughout the site nearly always will present you with a large scale image in a new window for a really good look and to compare with other dovecote pictures on the site. . The in line links also present you with expanded photographs covered in the text, but rather than opening in a new page or tab are in line, so using your back button will bring you back to where you left off. This is a rather long and rewarding trip circumnavigating Brittany, with a few other parts of France thrown in, since we started and ended at the airport in Paris. To whet one’s appetite, we will construct a quick trip of our favorite finds within the main site that provides the rich full flavor and variation without the calories. This quick tour set will be developed concomitantly with the site as we proceed on our journey over the next few weeks. When it becomes available just use the quick step icon to take you to the next site along the way or just follow the day calendar along for the full course.. So now, off we go to day one visiting environs around the DeGaulle Airport.
The map displays the path to the all the dovecotes found during our traveling adventure. There are really only three things that needs some explanation.
One: The dovecote symbol denotes the location of every dovecote we were fortunate enough to locate. Placing your mouse over this icon for a second or two will display the dovecote's name, and, of course, clicking it flies you directly there.
Two: The pigeon quick step icon indicates where one of our favorite dovecotes is located. Nearly all of these quick step sites are fully open to the public for a thorough inspection. A few, however, are on private property, but the salient exterior features can be seen from the public way. As with the dovecote icon, hovering your mouse over the pigeon will display the dovecote's name.
Three: The table on top of the map shows each days travel and hovering over them will display more information. Of Course, clicking on it takes you directly there.