Chateaux of Brittany

Château de Pontivy

According to legend, Pontivy was founded in 685 AD by an English monk called Ivy who built a wooden bridge across the Blavet, giving the town its name – Pont d’Ivy. The town really began to develop in the 12th century when Viscount Rohan settled there and in the 14th century it became the political and administrative capital of the viscounty. The main site in Pontivy is its château, which overlooks the ...
Founded: 1485 | Location: Pontivy, France

Château de la Briantais

The first manor on the site was built in 1666 by the Pointel family. Today the ruins of this original manor are still visible. The current Château de la Briantais was built by Eugene Sully-Brunet between 1850-1864. Today it is owned by the city of Saint-Malo and used for concerts and other events. The 27-hectares park is worth of seeing, including a chapel from 1778.
Founded: 1850-1864 | Location: Saint-Malo, France

Château de Tonquédec

The Château de Tonquédec is one of the most visited monuments in the département of the Côtes d'Armor. The castle ruins with its several towers and a closed curtain wall is one of the most impressive French medieval sites. From the height of a rocky cliff it dominates the valley of the Léguer. It is a genuine vestige of feudal Brittany. The present castle was built in the 15th century, on the site of an earlier 12th- ...
Founded: 1406 | Location: Tonquédec, France

Château de la Ballue

The current Château de la Ballue was built by Gilles de Ruellan in 1620 and renovated in 1705. In the 19th century there was a glass factory. The highlight of any stay at the castle will be tea and a guided tour of those magnificent gardens.
Founded: 1620 | Location: Bazouges-la-Pérouse, France

Château de Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier

The ruins of the castle of Saint-Aubin-of-Cormier point out a significant event of Breton history. Affected by the catch of Saint-Aubin, François II, Duke of Brittany, an army of 11000 men constitutes to take again the places. During the famous battle of July 28, 1488, the French troops embank their adversaries. This event announces the end of independence of Brittany which will concretize itself with the marriage ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier, France

Château de Ranrouët

Château de Ranrouët was built in the 13th century and extended until the 17th century. It was destroyed in 1593 and became a shelter of bandits. Louis XIII ordered to demolish it in 1639.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Herbignac, France

Château du Nessay

Château du Nessay was built on an emplacement of a castle originating form the 12th century. The original castle was destroyed in mid-1600s. During the French Revolution, it was used as a prison, to hold political prisoners. The current castle was built by Count Maurice de Villebresme in 1886.
Founded: 1886 | Location: Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, France

Château de la Roche-Maurice Ruins

According a legend, the original castle in Roche-Maurice was built by lord Élorn in the 5th century. However the first Château de la Roche-Maurice was built in the 11th century. It was demolished due the royal order in 1490.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Roche-Maurice, France

Château de Montmarin

Château de Montmarin was built in 1760 by Aaron Magon, Squire of the Château du Bosq. It is the only 'Malouiniè' (the typical 18th century summer résidence of rich ship-owners and merchants from Saint-Malo) to be located on th left bank of the Rance, with a magnificent panoramic view across the estuary. An Imposing classic gateway opens on to the Court of Honor ornemented by a splendid ...
Founded: 1760 | Location: Pleurtuit, France

Château de Bienassis

Château de Bienassis was built in the 15h and 17th centuries to the site of 13th century wooden house. The castle, first built in 1434, was partially destroyed in the Wars of Religion in 1590 and it was rebuilt by Gilles Visdelou from 1620.
Founded: 1434 | Location: Erquy, France

Château de Comper

The Château de Comper is medieval castle, which has been rebuilt as a château. The first owner of Comper is supposed have been Salomon, king of Brittany in the 9th century. However the castle has entered in recorded history with the baron Raoul de Gaël-Monfort, who was a companion of William of Normandy during the Battle of Hastings. During the 13th century, Comper was considered one of the strongest cas ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Concoret, France

Château de Châteaugiron

Châteaugiron developed around its château from the 13th century onwards, becoming more prosperous towards the end of the Middle Ages as the canvas sail industry expanded. The town’s unique historic town centre is very well-preserved and features significant remains of the medieval fortress, renovated between 1450 and 1470 by Jean de Derval. Of the six original towers, four are still standing: the 38 metr ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Châteaugiron, France

Château de Trécesson

The imposing reddish schist walls of Château de Trécesson are reflected in the waters of the lake which surrounds it. The front gate is reached by a bridge which spans the moat. The entry is guarded by an imposing gatehouse flanked by two narrow towers on corbelling, joined together by an old gallery with machicolations. On the right, a long almost windowless frontage, covered with a steep slate roof, ends in ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Trécesson, France

Château de la Bretesche

Château de la Bretesche was built in the 14th century and rebuilt a century later. It was besieged in the Wars of Religion and destroyed during the French Revolution. The castle was rebuilt again in the 19th century. Today it is a hotel and golf resort.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Missillac, France

Château de Châteaulin

Château de Châteaulin was built in the 10th century by Earl of Cornouaille. In 1373 it was burned down by English army. The castle was never built again and today only ruins remain.
Founded: 10th century | Location: Châteaulin, France

Château de Kérouzéré

The Château de Kérouzéré is a Breton manor castle built in granite in the first half of the 15th century for Jean and Yves de Kérouzéré, seneschal of Morlaix, and followers of the dukes of Brittany. Visible from the sea, Kérouzéré was dangerously exposed and was particularly vulnerable to English attacks. As such the duke permitted him to erect a single ...
Founded: 1425-1458 | Location: Sibiril, France

Château de Bonnefontaine

Château de Bonnefontaine was built at the end of the 15th century and modified over time. Today the fortress is inhabited but its owners let down their guard for visitors longing to explore the 25 ha of landscaped grounds and gardens. Designed and created by well-known landscape gardeners Denis Bülher and Édouard André, the grounds are a typical example of late 19th century English gardens. Stroll ...
Founded: 1488 | Location: Antrain, France

Château des Rochers-Sévigné

Les Rochers was the estate of the Mathefelon family from the 12th century, before being passed by marriage to the Sévigné family in 1410. The family rebuilt the château in the early 16th century. Between 1644 and 1690, Madame de Sévigné stayed here and refurnished the house. She gave names to the paths through the gardens and in 1689 her son commis-sioned the French Gardens from Le N&ocir ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Vitré, France

Château de Montafilan

Château de Montafilan was built in the 12-13th centuries. The history of castle origins is quite unknown. It was however demolished already in the 16th century and stones were used to other buildings. Montafilan was a mighty castle on a steep hill. There were eight tower, today two of them and some walls remain.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Corseul, France

Château du Taureau

The town of Morlaix, on the north coast of Brittany, was once an important trading centre in the late Middle Ages. This made its surrounding lands a tempting target for hostile neighbours like the English. In 1522 the English attacked and pillaged the town in revenge for an attack on Bristol by pirates from Morlaix. After this attack the local authorities decided that the town needed to be protected against attacks from t ...
Founded: 1542-1745 | Location: Plouezoc'h, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.