Château de Tonquédec

Tonquédec, France

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-century castle (built by the Coëtmen-Penthièvre family). It was partially dismantled by order of Jean IV, Duke of Brittany, in 1395 because of a conflict between him and the Penthièvres. Indeed, Rolland II and Rolland III of Coëtmen, Viscounts of Tonquédec, had allied themselves to the rebellion of Olivier de Clisson.

Reconstruction began in 1406 by Rolland IV of Coëtmen. The castle subsequently changed owners several times, before becoming an artillery base in 1577. At this time, the owning family (Goyon de La Moussaye), being Protestant, was therefore in disagreement with the king, Henri IV. During the War of the League, the castle was a hiding place for Huguenots. It was finally dismantled around 1622 on the orders of the powerful Cardinal Richelieu.

The castle currently belongs to descendants of the original builders, House of Coëtmen-Penthièvre. The entrance gate leads to an outer fortified courtyard or basse-cour. Two towers, joined by a curtain wall, frame the entrance to the inner courtyard which is reached by a postern, once protected by a moat and drawbridge. The keep with walls 4m thick, stands detached from the curtain walls, at the rear of the ensemble. The ruins may be visited from April to October.

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Address

D113, Tonquédec, France
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Details

Founded: 1406
Category: Castles and fortifications in France

Rating

4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Eoin Kelly (3 years ago)
Great ruined chateau visit, complete with resident goats that can be seen wandering the highest points looking for the tastiest grass. Good guide pamphlet given at start. Kids loved climbing on the ruins and finding secret passageways. Well worth a visit.
Anne Botten (3 years ago)
A proper ruined castle in the heart of Brittany. It sits by a river in a wooded valley. We visited the creperie opposite which gives the chance for a unrushed lunch and a lovely calm view.
Gareth Roberts (3 years ago)
Brilliant but no ideal for young children
Bart Van den Bosch (3 years ago)
It's a ruin and not so well preserved but it's an interesting one since it has quite a complex architecture and layout. €5 entrance fee. You get a map with a plan and some comments and that's it. No markers or information boards on the buildings itself.
robin ward (3 years ago)
Sometimes it's nice to go to see a historic building without being ushered round like cattle . I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and look forward to returning to see the progress as it is slowly rebuilt . That doesn't happen in the UK now does it. Beautiful forest setting
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Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.