Finally, time off in Brittany! The overnight ferry from Portsmouth delivers us to St Malo early in the morning. I haven’t finished writing about the Parish Enclosures, but I will be returning to those in the weeks ahead.
At the end of the 17C Vauban built four forts on the rocks outside St Malo to protect the port from pirates, or invasion by the British. This is the Petit Bé which has been restored privately.
Every arrival at a French port is exciting – perhaps I remain a child at heart! We drove off the Ferry, stopped the car to adjust the speedometer for kms, switch off the camera alarm, changed the dipping direction of the headlamps, and set off for Redon. I wanted to see the Abbey of Saint Sauveur which was on one of the many Pilgrim Routes to Santiago do Compostela, but the town proved to be much more interesting than anticipated. And I had a new compact camera with which to experiment – unfortunately I hadn’t had time to read the manual (BIG mistake) and couldn’t find the controls for low light – and yes, the camera was set to automatic! Even so, I am quite pleased.
The town grew up around a Benedictine Abbey founded by St Conwoïon in 873, at the point where the rivers of the Oust and Vilaine meet, on land gifted to him by a local nobleman. By the 11C-12C the Abbey’s domain was far-reaching and over the centuries it amassed a considerable Library. However many of the books were lost during the time the Abbey was suppressed in the French Revolution. There was also a disastrous fire in 1780 which destroyed parts of the Abbey, resulting in the separation of the tower from the church which was rebuilt much shorter, and so separated from the tower – there were intended to be two towers.
We walked down the High Street, past timber-framed houses, to find the Nantes-Brest Canal which crosses the Vilaine River in the middle of the town.
This was once a thriving port in its own right, but also the port for Rennes. Goods offloaded here were moved on to Rennes via the Canal. In 1740 trade was brisk – 788 boats passed through the port and one of the main goods was salt – the Abbey owned the salt marshes at Guérande and exported, including to England. Today it is a Marina.
And then it was time to carry on to Nantes.