Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Engulfed Cathedral of Ys

According to an old Breton legend, the Cathedral of Ys was engulfed in the fourth or fifth century, but could be seen, emerging from the sea, just at sunrise.  It is a strange & terrible legend.  Though little known.
     Claude Debussy composed his La Cathedral Engloutie, upon the legend of the wicked princess, Dahut, of Ys & the destruction she wreaked on her father's land.  It was said, as her punishment, that when Dahut was thrown into the boiling seas that she was cursed with the flicker of scales upon a tail & turned mermaid.
     Debussy said, "Music is the expression of the movement of the waters, the play of curves described by changing breezes...  Of all the arts, music is the closest to nature---offers her the most subtle attraction..."  And so, Debussy's "Engulfed Cathedral", describes Dahut's seas; the slow roll & thunder.

A summation of the Lengend of Ys from Wikipedia:
     Ys was the most beautiful and impressive city in the world, but quickly became a city of sin under the influence of Dahut. She organized orgies and had the habit of killing her lovers when morning broke. Saint Winwaloe decried the corruption of Ys and warned of God's wrath and punishment, but was ignored by Dahut and the populace.
One day, a knight dressed in red came to Ys. Dahut asked him to come with her, and one night, he agreed. A storm broke out in the middle of the night and the waves could be heard smashing against the gate and the bronze walls. Dahut said to the knight: "Let the storm rage. The gates of the city are strong, and it is King Gradlon, my father, who owns the only key, attached to his neck." The knight replied: "Your father the king sleeps. You can now easily take his key." Dahut stole the key from her father and gave it to the knight, who was none other than the devil. The devil, or, in another version of the story, a wine-besotted Dahut herself, then opened the gate.
Because the gate was open during storm and at high tide, a wave as high as a mountain collapsed on Ys. King Gradlon and his daughter climbed on Morvarc'h, his magical horse. Saint Winwaloe approached them and told Gradlon: "Push back the demon sitting behind you!" Gradlon initially refused, but he finally gave in and pushed his daughter into the sea. The sea swallowed Dahut, who became a mermaid or morgen.
Gradlon took refuge in Quimper, which became his new capital. An equestrian statue of Gradlon still stands between the spires of the Cathedral of Saint Corentin in Quimper. It is said that the bells of the churches of Ys can still be heard in the sea calm.

Two paintings by, Evariste Vital Luminais, of Dahut as she is cast off, after the warnings of the saint, by King Gradlon.


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