Top Historic Sights in Saint-Pol-de-Léon, France

Explore the historic highlights of Saint-Pol-de-Léon

Saint-Pol-de-Léon Cathedral

Saint-Pol-de-Léon Cathedral was formerly the seat of the Bishop of Saint-Pol-de-Léon, a bishopric established in the 6th century and abolished under the Concordat of 1801, when its territory was transferred to the Diocese of Quimper. It is dedicated to its 6th-century founder, the first bishop Saint Paul Aurelian. He was originally from Wales and he is considered to have been the first bishop of the L&eacut ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Saint-Pol-de-Léon, France

Kreisker Chapel

The Notre-Dame du Kreisker chapel is a former Roman Catholic chapel. With its 78 meters rising up in the sky, the church tower is the highest in Brittany. The word Kreisker means the downtown. Built in 14th and 15th centuries on the site of an ancient place of worship, it’s one of the major works of Breton religious architecture and a testimony of the flourishing economy of the town in 15th century with the highest ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Saint-Pol-de-Léon, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Abbey of Saint-Étienne

The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.

Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.

The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.

As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).