“Lorient before World War II” by S.M. O’Connor

Louis Nail was a lawyer active in Lorient who was elected to the Council of Morbihan in 1898 and served as Mayor of Lorient from 1904 to 1912.  A bronze sculpture, the Statue of the Republic, was unveiled in the Place de la République in New Town on July 14, 1904.  It still exists, and resembles the Statue of Liberty, but now stands in a different place.

While much of the rest of Brittany was genuinely conservative, the municipal government of Lorient fell into the hands of socialists in the late 19th Century, and they enacted anti-clerical laws.  In 1898, they prohibited religious processions. Their policies dovetailed with anticlerical measures undertaken by leftists in the national government. [1]  Émile Combes (1835-1910), Minister of the Interior and Cults and President of the Council of Ministers, who had risen to power as leader of the Radical Left in the Senate, compelled priests across France to deliver sermons in French (back when the rest of the Mass was in Latin), which is to say he prohibited the use of other languages such as Breton in sermons.  The municipal government of Plabennec in the départment of Finistère objected that many Bretons did not speak French, but he, of course, did not care.

In a particularly outrageous move, the municipal government of Lorient destroyed the expiatory monument that had been erected in 1711 on September 22, 1906.  It stood on private land and the owner did not want it destroyed, and thus the destruction of a religious monument on private land at public expense resulted in a lawsuit.  In 1917, the expiatory monument was rebuilt in a new location a few hundred meters from its original site.  On April 14, 1944, it legally became a historical monument and is one of four historical monuments in Lorient.  Following a study conducted in May, 2011, the perimeter of protection around it was reduced.  [The perimeter of protection around a monument is not a fence, but a legal zone within which new construction is prohibited, lest the monument suffer damage.] It stands on the Avenue de la Perrière and is sometimes identified as La Croix de la Perrière or the expiatory calvary on the Avenue de la Perrière.

Nail was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1910 and served in that capacity until his death in 1920.  For part of that time, he was also Under-Secretary of State for the Merchant Marine.  Nail was an advocate for the construction of the Keroman fishing port.  A granite monument dedicate to Louis Nail was erected in 1923 and is now in front of the Keroman fishing port.

In 1917, during the First Great World War, as the German and Austro-Hungarian Imperial Navies used U-boats to sink Allied surface ships, Raymond Poincaré (1860-1934), the President of the Third Republic of France (1913-1920), and the Minister of the Navy moved temporarily to the Quai du Peristyle to decorate the sailors of the Kleber, they resided in the Préfecture Maritime (Maritime Prefecture).  The Chambre de Commerce (Chamber of Commerce had been housed in a building on the quai Rohan (Quay Rohan) but it moved into an Art Deco building with a granite façade erected in 1927 on the quai des Indes (Quay of India) by the firm Caro, Dutarte and Ramonatxo.  Construction of the Keroman fishing port began in 1920.  [Keroman is a neighborhood of Lorient.] Until the Second Great World War, the Hotel Gabriel was where soldiers paraded and families went on Sunday walks.

[1] In 1902, the French Government closed 3,000 “unauthorized” Catholic schools.  Two years later, the Third Republic of France broke off diplomatic relations with the papacy.  The Law Concerning Churches and the State (1905), which went into effect on January 1, 1906, ended the relationship between the French state and the Roman Catholic Church embodied in the Concordat of 1808, which Napoleon I had negotiated with the papacy, to end the depredations of the French Revolutionaries on the Catholic Church and mollify French Catholics. The French Government would retain Church properties seized in 1789.  The State claimed ownership of eighty-seven of the Church’s cathedrals and churches built before 1905.  Parish churches built after 1905 belonged to “religious associations” which the State mandated come into existence which did not correspond with how the Church is organized.  The law was not promulgated in Alsace and Moselle after France regained them from the German Empire after the First Great World War.

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