Church of San Pietro Silki complex was buil between 1065 and 1082. It is part of the abbeys built at the behest of the Pope in Rome, contrasting orthodoxy. No trace of the establishment now remains: evidence of the life and activities that took place in the monastery between the 11th and 13th centuries come from the condaghe (a type of administrative document) of San Pietro di Silki.
The building was rebuilt in Romanesque style in the 13th century: still remaining of the thirteenth century building are the bell tower and some parts of the wall of the main hall. In 1467, the monastic complex was conceded to the Franciscans by the archbishop and the town Authorities.
Between the 15th and 17th centuries, various renovations gave the church its current appearance. The Neoclassical façade dates back to 1675: it is horizontally in three parts and divided vertically by pilasters. In the resulting sections, three arches open up down below and there are three windows high up, two of which are gabled.
By going through a rounded arch, on top of which there is the coat of arms of Antonio Mereu (who funded the renovation of the façade in 1677), you will come to the portico, with the choir on its upper floor. Inside, there is a single, spacious nave, with a barrel-vaulted ceiling (that replaced the original wooden trusses in 1672). On the left-hand side, there are four chapels. The monastery, which is now a charity home for the elderly, was once on the right-hand one. The chapel of the Madonna delle Grazie (Our Lady of Graces) (1475) is in Gothic-Catalan style: it has a pointed arch supported by pillars and a cross-vault with a hanging keystone. During the refurbishment that took place in the 17th century, two new spaces were added, one with a ribbed vault and the other with a barrel vault. In 1657, the chapel belonged to the gremio dei massai (ancient corporation of farmers) and a nineteenth-century candlestick is kept inside it, which is carried in a procession on 14 August, along with the symbols of the other corporations, in the Descent of the Candlesticks.
In the middle of the sixteenth century, another two chapels were built - one with a barrel vault and the other with a cross vault. A fourth chapel opens up in the presbytery: inside it, there is a seventeenth-century wooden altar with an ancient statue of the Virgin Mary. The magnificent golden wood main altar (18th century) is located in the presbytery, in which the many-coloured ceramic simulacrum of the Madonna delle Grazie col Bambino (Our Lady of Graces with Child) can be found and is the most important object of worship in the sanctuary. The church is a treasure chest filled with art from different periods. You can admire a nineteenth-century pipe organ, two seventeenth-century paintings, one of which attributed to Baccio Gorini, a 16th-century wooden crucifix, a statue of Saint Peter, an eighteenth-century gilded wooden altar dedicated to Saint Salvador of Horta and the statue of the Madonna del Fico (Virgin Mary of the Fig Tree), a fourteenth-century Catalan work.References:
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.