On a hilltop in France, near a Gaulish fountain with waters that can supposedly cure animals, an army of intricate granite figures looks out on the Monts d’Arrée.
Breton philosopher Philippe Abjean started the project in 2008 to preserve the area’s rich Catholic heritage. He was inspired by Egypt’s Valley of the Kings and the moai of Easter Island. The sculptures run the gamut from realistic to completely abstract. His goal is 1,000 saints by the end of the century. Among the first statues created are the seven founder saints: Corentin, Tugdual, Paul Aurélien, Brieuc, Malo, Samson, and Patern were all built in the Valley’s early years.
Vallée des Saints is solely funded by charitable donations which were sparse at first, but have grown alongside the popularity of the attraction. Each monument generally runs about 10,000 euros, and little instruction is given to the artists who take one on: It has to be at least 10 feet (3 meters) tall, and it has to be a Saint that lived in Brittany between the third and tenth century.
Abjean says the project is not so much religious as it is a way to memorialize the legacy of monks who came from Ireland and Wales and to highlight the importance of granite to Brittany’s landscape and economy.
Know Before You Go
Entrance is free, but a guide can greatly improve your visit.