Last modified: 2011-07-16 by ivan sache
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Flag of Plestin-les-Grèves - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 25 September 2006
The municipality of Plestin-les-Grèves (in Breton, Plistin; 3,413
inhabitants in 1999) is located 20 km south-west of Lannion, on the part of the coast of Brittany known as Côte des Bruyères (Heathers' Coast).
In French, a grève (from Latin grava, gravel) is the strand of the sea or of a river. In the Encyclopédie, Denis Diderot described place de Grève in Paris as "a former unused large plot, on which the river [Seine] accumulated a lot of gravel, probably the origin of its name". The site of place de Grève is the today's city hall of Paris. The place was very important in the past: the capital executions took place here and the unnemployed workers waited here for a job, which is the probable origin of the word grève, a strike. (Grand Robert de la Langue Française).
In Plestin, the grèves, also known as Grève Saint-Michel or Lieue [League] de Grève, stretch on 4 km between Saint-Michel-en-Grève and the St. Efflam chapel.
The thermae of Hogolo, located on Pointe de l'Armorique, were built by the early Roman settlers of the place. Such buildings were probably common in Brittany, especially near the bays where the galleys could moor, but very few of them have been preserved until now. In 1892, a farmer ploughing his field excavated the foundations and parts of the walls of the thermae. The scientific study of the site started in 1938 but was stopped two years later. A villager of Plestin later rediscovered the hot bath building (caldarium), restored it and used it as his house until his death, in the late 1970s. The site was then purchased by the Department of Côtes-d'Armor, which revamped it completely and opened it to public visit in 1993.
The Irish prince and monk Efflam landed on the strand of Plestin in the
5th century. He was welcomed by the local ermit Jestin, said to be the
origin of the name of the village: Plou [parish] Jestin. The ermit lived
in an oratory built on the Grand Rocher (the Big Rock, in Breton,
Roc'h Hirglas), a 84-m high rocky spur dominating the bay. Jestin and
Efflam built a monastery, whose chapel housed the tomb of Efflam after
the death of the saint in 512. The tomb was transferred in 994 in the
early church of Plestin and later in the parish church, where Efflam's
recumbent statue (1576) portrays him dressed like a king. In the past,
crossing the bay was very hazardous because of the tides and the
rascals who lived on the Big Rock, which was also known as Roc'h Ar
Laz, the Murder's Rock.
The small port of Toul-an-Hery, located in the last curve of river Douron, was of significant importance in the Middle Ages, when up to 15 ships were used for inshore fishing. The port was increased during the Ducal era but the first true landing stage, made in local granite, was built in 1847 only. Each year, some 100 ships moored in the port, shipping crop products and fuels, but also flaxware. Flax cultivation was very popular from the 17th century to the late 18th century; the products were shipped to England and Spain, which allowed the emergence of a local aristocracy made of landlords and shipowners. Flax cultivation was abandoned in the middle of the 20th century and the port progressively silted up, being used today only for yachting.
Plestin lives today mostly from summer tourism, but is unfortunately often in the headlines in the papers because of the infamous green tides. Due to the increase in farming and pig-breeding, encouraged in Brittany in the 1980s without any thought about the environmental consequences, the quantity of nitrates released in the rivers has reached extreme levels. When temperature increases in spring, the nitrates accumulated in the bay trigger the proliferation of green algae, which constitute thick, stinky banks, making walking and resting on the beaches impossible. In 2003, the municipality collected and trashed more than 25,000 tons of algae from the beaches.
Source: Les côtes du nord de l'Armorique website
Ivan Sache, 25 September 2006
The flag of Plestin-les-Grèves, as photographied by Hervé Prat, is white with the municipal coat of arms, surmonted by the name of the municipality in black
The coat of arms of Plestin is (Brian Timms) D'argent au chevron de sable accompagné de trois étoiles du même (Argent a chevron between three mullets sable). The arms were borne in the 15th century by Jehan of Porzou, the oldest known lord of Plestin. Acording to Bulletin d'Information des Mairies, quoted by Timms, the official arms of Plestin are "Gules seven annulets argent 3 + 3 + 1".
Arnaud Leroy & Ivan Sache, 23 October 2005