The Sea, Image of a Perfect Brittany

By Le Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

La Pointe des Pois, vue de Veryarc'h La Pointe des Pois, vue de Veryarc'h by LE DOARELe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

A Landscape

Morgat , Retour des Grottes Morgat , Retour des GrottesLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

Brittany and its coastline go hand in hand in the collective imagination. Tourists in search of some fresh air and attracted by the sea and its spray descended upon the wild coast of Brittany.

ILE D'OUESSANT (Finistère) ILE D'OUESSANT (Finistère) by HOMUALK CharlesLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

The postcard was no exception to the rule, turning the Breton landscape into a magnificent image. It highlighted the moors, devoid of any living souls, and bordering jagged rocks being struck by a wild sea.

La Plage et le Casino La Plage et le CasinoLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

These "postcard images" met the expectations of holidaymakers who wanted to share the change of scenery they experienced at the "ends of the Earth" in Finistère. Publishers preferred coastal views and ports, as well as beaches, casinos, and other tourist attractions. The first seaside resorts found an excellent advertising medium through the postcard, which travelers used to spread news of their vacation to friends and family back home.

A l'Abri-Du-Marin (Sainte-Marine) A l'Abri-Du-Marin (Sainte-Marine)Le Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

Men

Un pêcheur de langouste Un pêcheur de langousteLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

Seasoned sailors, brave mariners, ship boys and their bosses, Icelandic sailors, and other seafarers…there are plenty of portraits of fishermen posing proudly for posterity or being photographed on the spot in their daily lives.

Deux bons vieux Deux bons vieuxLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

With their chiseled faces and callous hands shaped by a rough life, these Breton sailors were perfect models for photographers looking for real faces.

Débarquement de thons frais destinée à la maison ROULLAND Fils, Frères pour la fabrication du thon 'L'Admirable'. Débarquement de thons frais destinée à la maison ROULLAND Fils, Frères pour la fabrication du thon 'L'Admirable'.Le Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

Far from home for more than half of the year, in search of sardines, tuna, and cod, these men personified the hard life at sea from which they bravely earned a livelihood for themselves and their families.

La levée des filets La levée des filetsLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

They were often shown holding wicker creel baskets or lines, preparing a Cotriade fish stew, or simply with a pipe in their mouths.

Un Brave - Le patron Autret du canot de Sauvetage d'Audierne Un Brave - Le patron Autret du canot de Sauvetage d'AudierneLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

They could even be seen adorned with medals for the many rescues they carried out. Take, for example, René Autret, the captain of the Amiral Roze, who saved the lives of 233 people in 141 sorties at the helm of a 32-foot canoe. He was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor (Légion d'Honneur) in 1891.

AUDIERNE (Finistère) AUDIERNE (Finistère) by HOMUALK CharlesLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

The famous striped sweater made popular by Coco Chanel and then Jean-Paul Gaultier cannot overshadow the numerous varieties of work clothes worn by Breton sailors.
Consisting of clothes that were, above all, practical and preferably durable, they had to survive the huge waves and storms endured by the fisherman, as well as everyday erosion.
The colors were similar to those of their boats: ocher like sails tanned by a mixture of lard, sea water, and pine bark, or blue like the sardine nets that were soaked in a bath of iron sulfate.

Un loup de mer Port-Louisien Un loup de mer Port-LouisienLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

In his pants, jacket, and oilcloth hat, the seasoned sailor could perfectly withstand stormy weather.
They were often depicted wearing a beret (fishermen from Le Léon in northern Finistère wore unusual hats known as "calaboussens").

Une Veuve de Marin Une Veuve de MarinLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

The Difficulty of Daily Life

30 novembre journée nationale pour les victimes de la mer, République française - Ministère de la marine marchande 30 novembre journée nationale pour les victimes de la mer, République française - Ministère de la marine marchandeLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

The postcard reflected the image of a difficult maritime world where people were required to show courage and humility. Publishers particularly reinforced this feature by highlighting certain figures, such as worried spouses waiting for their husbands to return home, along with experienced sailors, and apprentices who were still very young.

Le Guetteur d'épaves Le Guetteur d'épavesLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

In the absence of archived documents proving their existence, the legend of shipwreckers—those frightening boat looters pushed back onto land—will go down in history.

Le bureau de la Marine à Tréguier, les veuves Le bureau de la Marine à Tréguier, les veuvesLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

The postcard also conveyed the misery of these seafarers. During sardine shortages, large families and widows, who had to assume the family burden alone, often experienced poverty, which became a permanent feature.

Le grand port et le môle. Bénédiction d'un bateau sardinier Le grand port et le môle. Bénédiction d'un bateau sardinierLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

Beliefs

Pardon de Notre- Dame des Naufragés Pardon de Notre- Dame des NaufragésLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

"To know how to pray, you have to have been a sailor."
Confronted by a huge, stormy sea, mechanisms were put in place to attract the good grace of Providence.
Risking shipwreck and drowning, crews turned to prayer by making a vow that involved fulfilling a promise if they ever saw land again. As such, maritime votive offerings could include paintings, engraved plaques, or models of boats that the sailors carried in procession each year, and that they offered in thanks to the Virgin.

La Bénédiction des Thoniers La Bénédiction des ThoniersLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

At the time of its launch, each new boat was baptized during a religious ceremony, which allowed sailors to have God onboard with them. Each year before the start of the fishing season, decorated ships and boats were blessed by the priest to protect the men leaving for long months at sea.

PLOUBAZLANEC (Côtes-du-Nord).- Le Cimetière, le mur des Disparus en mer PLOUBAZLANEC (Côtes-du-Nord).- Le Cimetière, le mur des Disparus en merLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

In Brittany, numerous mysterious signs announced impending death. In the region of Plouézec, the sailors' wives who went for a long time with no news lit a candle by the statue of Saint Lupus, which revealed the fate of their absent spouse: if the flame burned clear and straight, then he was well; but beware, if it flickered or extinguished suddenly, then he was sure to be dead.

And so the husband's memory remained, engraved on the memorial for those lost at sea in Ploubazlanec cemetery. In Ouessant, the "proëlla" tradition was practiced (a funerary ceremony for somebody lost at sea). This involved holding a vigil with a small wax cross, which was buried instead of the body that had never been found.

POUR LE CHRIST ET LA BRETAGNE , Les Kernevel dans Que chantes-tu bon Matelot ! de Jac Pohier POUR LE CHRIST ET LA BRETAGNE , Les Kernevel dans Que chantes-tu bon Matelot ! de Jac Pohier by AucunLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

The Sea, a Source of Inspiration

Les Sardinières dansant la Ridée Les Sardinières dansant la RidéeLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

The sea shanty told a haphazard story of the fortunes of the sea, the beauty of girls, and the courage of sailors. Singing also provided a rhythm for repetitive tasks, restored courage to failing hearts, and replenished strength when energy was draining. It worked in the same way as dancing helped female workers unwind after long hours spent at work.

Goélands et Goélettes 2 Goélands et Goélettes 2 by Théodore BotrelLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

The sea has been an inexhaustible source of inspiration for hundreds of lyricists and performers. Among the best known are Théodore Botrel and his famous Paimpolaise; the singer Fréhel, whose real name was Marguerite Boulc'h and who took her stage name from Cap Fréhel in Brittany; and Suzy Solidor, whose real name was Suzanne Rocher and who was rebaptised after the Solidor Tower in Saint Malo, singing of the sea and the girls of Saint-Malo…

Botrel's songs were sold per verse to Bretons as postcards.

La Grève des Dockers , Soupes communistes La Grève des Dockers , Soupes communistesLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

The Sea, Part of Brittany's Strong Identity

confrontations à Rennes entre marins-pêcheurs et C.R.S: 80 blessés... , PECHE-HEURTS confrontations à Rennes entre marins-pêcheurs et C.R.S: 80 blessés... , PECHE-HEURTS by SAVONLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

Stubborn, easily aggravated, and even ready to rise up at times to defend their profession, Breton fishermen were also very attached to their land.

STOP, TOREY-CANYON 18 MARS 1967 30.000 Tonnes OLYMPIC-BRAVERY 24 JANVIER 1976 800 Tonnes BOHLEN 15 OCTOBRE 1976 9.000 Tonnes STOP, TOREY-CANYON 18 MARS 1967 30.000 Tonnes OLYMPIC-BRAVERY 24 JANVIER 1976 800 Tonnes BOHLEN 15 OCTOBRE 1976 9.000 Tonnes by COUPE 80Le Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

The dedication of the fishermen was not simply bonded to their geographical identity; it was also rooted, in a broader sense, of belonging to a culture. Whether they were sailing on the world's seas or returning to their home port. Just like music, dance, and the language, the sea has forged the Breton identity.

Credits: Story

Thanks to:
The town of Baud
Le Carton Voyageur - Postcard Museum

Credits: All media
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