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Capital of the Veneti Gaulish tribe

2000 years of history...

Vannes is the old Darioritum, capital of the Veneti Gaulish tribe, conquered by Julius Caesar in 57 BC. An old city full of history and a strategic point at the end of the Morbihan Gulf, “Venetis” has surrounded itself in defensive walls since the Gallo-Roman period.

In 1532, the union between the Duchy of Brittany and the French crown was proclaimed in Vannes by king Francis Ist. During the 17th century, the Rabine is created and the port grows, while in 1675, the exile in Vannes of Brittany’s Parliment, formaly based in Rennes, by order of king Louis XIVth leads to the construction of many hotels and streets, which give a new life to the city, whose trading and administrative importance will grow during the following centuries.

Saint Peter’s Cathedral

Saint Peter’s Cathedral - Vannes © alexandre lamoureux

At the top of Méné Hill, Saint Peter’s Cathedral towers ower the old town of which it is must see monument. With 110 meters long, it is the longest cathedral in Brittany.

It was during the 15th century that the construction of this romanesque cathedral started. The cathedral is at first too small and too old-fashioned to host the pilgrimage that was developping around the tomb of Saint Vincent Ferrier, who died in Vannes in 1419 and was burried at the heart of the cathedral.

Between 1450 and 1520 Entre 1450 et 1520, the large nave flanked by side chapels arranged in between the big buttresses is built, as is the western façade (the northen tower on the romanesque façade is preserved) and the transept. A few years later, north of the cathedral, the chapelle du Saint-Sacrement, a jewel of Renaissance architecture, is built.

During the Counter-Reform, the church is given new new liturgical furniture like the baroque altarpiece dedicated to Saint Vincent. But it’s during the second half of the 18th century that the vaulting and the new chancel are built.

During the 19th century, the bad state the building is in requieres that the western façade be rebuilt in a neo-gothic style.

The ramparts

The ramparts - Vannes © alexandre lamoureux

The Ramparts, a major element in the urban scenery, are witnesses to 1500 years of military history.

At the end of the 3rd century, while the Roman Empire wavers, Vannes, then callled Darioritum, is authorised to fortify itself. A castrum (or fortified site) is built to the west of the Gallo-Roman town, on the Méné Hill. The triangular defensive wall protects a surface of around 12.5 acres.

During the early Middle-Ages, the castrum becomes the heart of the medieval town. Restorated during the 13th century, the fortifications are made bigger between 1370 and 1390 by the duke of Brittany Jean IVth ; the inner town doubles in size. On the south-western flank of the new wall, is the château de l’Hermine (now gone), near the porte de Calmont. Battlements, gunports and towers complete the defensive system during the 15th century.

At the end of the 16th century, the medieval walls are reinforced with bastions to answer the needs of modern artillery. The “éperon de la Garenne”, built between 1626 and 1628 by the architect Augereau, is the last defensive structure built in Vannes.

The Saint Patern district

The Saint Patern district - Vannes © d. herbreteau

The site of the antique Darioritum, it’s the oldest district in Vannes ; the ground contains the ruins of the forum, public baths, villas…
In the early Middle-Ages, the city center moves on the neighbooring Méné hill, around the cathedral. In the old Antiquity city, a first church dedicated to Saint Patern is built (probably during the 7th century).

During the 11th century, the parish of Saint-Patern covers all the rural part of the town. Around the church, a very actif district develops during the Middle-Ages and later : tanners, craftmen…, live in the timbered houses that can still be admired in Rue de la Fontaine or Rue Saint-Patern. Inns wolcomed travellers coming from Nantes or Rennes.
It’s in this district that the Morbihan prefecture is built between 1863 and 1865.

Streets and squares of old town

Henri IV place - vannes © alexandre lamoureux
  • The rue Thiers and its well preserved 17th century façades.
  • The place Gambetta surrounding Saint-Vincent Port and gives access to the old town when you come from the port.
  • The rue Saint Vincent lined with beautiful 17th and 18th century buildings.
  • The place du Poids Public and its « Hôtel de Francheville ».
  • The place des Lices which gets its name from the jousting and the Breton wrestling games organised in 1532 during the celebrations due to the union of Brittany and France.
  • The rue Saint Gwénael typical of the old medieval Vannes.
  • The rue de la Bienfaisance and the rue des Vierges, that lead into the city through the Prison Gate.

Week of the Gulfe of Morbihan

The gulf of Morbihan traditionally welcomes the edition of the "Semaine du Golfe", a famous festival of classic sailing boats coming not only from France, but also Great Britain, Ireland, Scandinavian and Mediterranean countries...

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