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Huelgoat (Municipality, Finistère, France)

An Uhelgoad

Last modified: 2010-12-03 by ivan sache
Keywords: finistere | huelgoat | an uhelgoad | ermines: 11 (black) | ermine (yellow) | stag (yellow) | fishes: 2 (yellow) |
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[Flag of Huelgoat]

Flag of Huelgoat - Image by Ivan Sache, 19 August 2010

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Presentation of Huelgoat

The municipality of Huelgoat (in Breton, An Uhelgoad; 1,612 inhabitants in 2006; 1,487 ha) is located in central western Brittany, 70 km east of Brest.
Huelgoat means in Breton "the upper forest", from huel, "high", and koat, "a forest"; the village, part of the Armorique Natural Regional Park, is located between the Huelgoat Forest (600 ha), which includes the famous Huelgoat granitic chaos, and a man-made lake (15 ha).

The site of Huelgoat was settled very early, probably for the exploitation of mines of argentiferous lead, mostly located on the territory of the neighbouring municipality of Locmaria-Berrien, once the biggest of that kind in the Kingdom of France and exploited until 1934. The Celtic oppidum known as Artus' Camp (30 ha protected by two concentric walls) was reused after the Roman conquest and until the Middle Ages; remains of a small fort built in the 10th century have been excavated in the north of the oppium.
In the late 16th century, the German miners dig a 15-ha lake to collect the water of two small rivers, which was brought to the mine through the forest by a 3-km long canal; the water also powered the Chaos grain mill, located on a dyke at the entrance of the chaos.

The chaos of Huelgoat is made of piles of huge roundish granitic rocks, progressively (for million years!) cleared away from the surrounding soil layers by water runoff. This romantic site attracted painters, writers and tourists, which boosted in the late 19th century the building of several hotels in Huelgoat, in spite of the small size of the village and its isolation from the main routes of communication. The rocks were given pleasant nicknames, "explained" by convenient legends. Of course, the chaos was built by the giant Gargantua; since the inhabitants of Huelgoat could not manage to feed him, he went to northern - and richer - Léon, where he was eventually fed, and took revenge by throwing rocks rounded by the sea above the Mounts of Arrée down to Huelgoat.
The Artus' Cave, located on the foot of Artus' Camp, is the place where King Arthur hid the treasure he had extracted from the Valley of No Return with the help of Merlin. The Devil's Cave was allegedly used during the French Revolution by a Republican; surrounded by Royalists, he set up a fire, put on his hut decorated with two red feathers and raised a pitchfork, scaring his opponents who mistook him for the devil. The nearby House of the Virgin chaos is made of rocks named for furniture pieces: the Cauldron, the Ladle, the Churn, the Bellows, the Armchairs and the Bed. Located at the upper end of the chaos, the Abyss is a small gorge in which the Argent River, named for the neighbouring mine, rushes down. The spur surmonting the Abyss is the castle where the nefarious Dahut, Princess of Ys, invited her lovers and threw them down to the water after use; the noise made by the water in the gorge is said to be the cheated lovers' sobs. After the flood of Ys, Dahut was transformed into a mermaid and sentenced to come to the rock every night and to sing louder than her unfortunate lovers.

The Navy doctor, ethnologist and writer (Les Immémoriaux, 1907; Stèles, 1912) Victor Ségalen (1878-1919) retired in 1919 in Huelgoat, his "mythical backworld"; a stele placed on the spur surmonting the Abyss recalls that Ségalen was found dead there, still holding his copy of Shakespeare's Hamlet. The Huelgoat chaos has been portrayed by the Nabi ("prophets") painters Paul S´rusier (1864-1927; stayed in Huelgoat in 1892-1894) and Maurice Denis (1870-1943). Oddly enough, S&ecute;rusier and Denis were friends of Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), whose last sketches made in the Marquesas were purchased and saved from trash by Victor Ségalen.

Source: Huelgoat Visitors' Center website

Ivan Sache, 19 August 2010

Flag of Huelgoat

The flag of Huelgoat, as hoisted on the lake shore, is the traditional Breton flag charged at fly with the municipal coat of arms and the name of the village written in white capital letters in the bottom black stripe.

The coat of arms of Huelgoat, as shown in Froger and Pressensé's Armorial des communes du Finistère (2001) (image) is: "De gueules au cerf passant d'or, au chef ondé de sinople soutenu aussi d'or, chargé d'une moucheture d'hermine accostée de deux carpes posées en face et affrontées, le tout aussi d'or" (Gules a stag passant or a chief vert supported wavy or an ermine spot surrounded by two carps all or).
The charges must recall the forest (stag) and the lake (carps); the fimbriation must recall the river, but a fimbriation argent, for the Argent River, could have been expected.

Ivan Sache, 19 August 2010