The Ankou justiciary

Author : Daniel Giraudon / June 2023

Amongst the representations of the Ankou in Lower-Brittany, there is one that seems to have most marked the spirits than the others, it is the one from Ploumilliau. It is one of the two models sculpted in wood and the only still present today in a church. His fleshless skeleton gave place to a well known saying in Trégor : Treut evel Ankou Plouillioskinny like the Ankou of Ploumilliau. The degree of familiarity maintained not long ago with death in Brittany and the human dimension of the Ankou are verified by the nickname that we still give in this country to his effigy : Erwanig Plouillio, that is to say little Yves from Ploumilliau. It is not a coincidence. The connection is immediately made with a notable homonym, saint Yves of Verity, a character equally represented in statues and formerly present in a small oratory in Trédarzec. In this place far from the town centre there practiced a form of parallel cult of the great saint Yves of Tréguier, patron of men and of laws. We would go to find him to repair great wrong doings. The sentencing request was grave as it consisted of no less no more than to give up your enemy to death, gwestlañ, as we would say in Breton. The guilty knowing thus to be doomed, would waste away. Taken down by a listless illness, he withered from day to day dying slowly. But you had to be careful not to accuse someone wrongly as the punishment would turn against the one who had falsely accused his neighbor. The Ankou of Ploumilliau, he too occupied, this same role of justiciary with the same consequences.


Author : Daniel Giraudon, « The Ankou justiciary », Bécédia [en ligne], ISSN 2968-2576, mis en ligne le 29/06/2023.


Contributed by : Bretagne Culture Diversité