Hennebont was buzzing on Thursday – market day! The square between the gateway into the walled old town and the 16C Basilica Notre Dame du Paradis was filled with vans and stalls and every conceivable kind of food.
The old walled town, the Ville Close, is on one side of the River Blavet and has an imposing 15C Gateway, the Porte de Broërec, and walls of 13C-15C. The 17C town faces it on the opposite side of the river, and we did not visit on this occasion. A significant castle guarded the river crossing the first bridge over the river, until 11C, when the castle was dismantled and encircling walls built around the old town to create one of the main fortified towns in Brittany. The town was besieged in 1342 during the French/Breton Wars of Succession and it was Joanna of Flanders, Duchess of Brittany who secured victory for Brittany – an extraordinary story.
The town lies on both sides of the River Blavet which, just a few kilometres outside Hennebont, is canalised and forms part of the Nantes-Brest canal system. At Hennebont today we could only see pleasure boats ,although there is an quay, and so at one time in the past this must have been a trading port. However, I think the main port for the town was Port Blavet at the mouth of the river, renamed Port St Louis after King Louis XIII in the 18C.
All that walking around, and looking at food – refreshment seemed a very attractive, even necessary, option!
The Basilica of Notre Dame de Paradis was built in the 16C but, we are told, never quite completed. It was apparently financed by a private individual, François Michart, together with alms from the congregation. It was ‘under renovation’ when we visited and I felt it was the exterior which was most impressive, with a myriad elaborate gargoyles. Before the Revolution there were apparently many religious establishments in the town, now gone.
The Park de Kerbihan was created in the late 19C and covers 10 hectares near the ‘closed city’. We did a circuit round the park before heading down the river to see the fortifications at Port St Louis which lies about 10 miles away at the mouth of the River Blavet where it joins the sea.
This is an interesting town to visit, particularly on market day, and it will be good to see the church once the renovations are completed. Come with me as we continue on to Port St Louis!