St Peter’s Cathedral of Rennes!

Well of course Rennes has a Cathedral! I had written briefly on it in my previous blog posts but looking back definitively needs a post of its own. The Cathérale Saint Pierre de Rennes is worth a detour indeed.

I like to tell you a bit more on it, and hope you enjoy the tour. The Cathédrale de Saint-Pierre or St Peter’s Cathedral is located in the heart of the city of Rennes, Ille et Vilaine dept. 35 in the region of Brittany. It is the seat of the Archdiocese of Rennes, Dol and Saint-Malo. Classically styled, it is one of the nine historic Cathedrals of Brittany.

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A bit of history I like

The current site of the Cathedral St Pierre, has been used as the seat of a bishopric since the 6C. It is likely that it was built instead of an older sanctuary. The old Church was completely replaced by a Gothic Church in the 12C. It is within its walls that on December 25, 1483, Henri Tudor, future Henry VII of England, then in exile in Brittany promises to marry Elizabeth of York to join the army that remained loyal to the late Edward IV of England. This effective marriage in 1486 sealed the end of the war of the Roses and initiated the Tudor dynasty, which would give five sovereigns to England, including the first two reigning queens, successively Mary I of England and Elizabeth I of England.

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In 1490, the tower and the western façade of the Gothic Church collapsed. A long-term reconstruction of the western massif, which lasted 163 years, culminated in the granite façade we know today, which is largely classical in style. It appeared then that to avoid a total collapse, it was necessary to rebuild the entire building, with the exception of the facade of recent and solid construction was approved by king Louis XV in Council meeting of 1762.  The demolition took place from 1756 to 1768. The reconstruction began in 1787, but the French Revolution stopped the work. These resumed in 1816. The now neoclassical Cathedral St Pierre with classic façade was completed in 1845. During the works, from 1803 and 1844, the former abbey Church of Saint-Melaine (see other churches of Rennes post) was the pro-Cathedral of Rennes.

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A bit on the construction and architecture features I like

The facade and its two classical granite towers of 48 meters high were built in several stages throughout the 16C and 17C.  The towers have four levels. The first level was built from 1541 to 1543, the second as well as the third from 1640 to 1654 and the fourth and last from 1654 to 1678. Finally the coronation of the towers between 1679 and 1704, bearing them at their present height of 48 meters and added on the pediment to the top of the façade the motto of Louis XIV.

Besides the front, the façade has five coats of arms of tufa , showing from top to bottom, from right to left we have that of the Beaumanoir, that of Charles Albert of d’Ailly, 3rd Duke of Chaulnes, governor of Brittany, that of Jean-Baptiste de Beaumanoir de Lavardin, Bishop of Rennes from 1676 to 1711. that of Henri de La Mothe-Houdancourt, Bishop of Rennes from 1642 to 1662.  And that of Duke Charles de la Porte. To underline the strength and solidity of the new ensemble as opposed to the fragility of the previous construction, the architects have endowed the facade with 22 granite columns.  The pediment is to the arms of Louis XIV.

The nave has forty-four ionic columns. It was the most austere part of the Church. In order to alleviate this austerity, in the 19C, the columns and part of the walls (this is a mixture of marble dust, lime and chalk) were made into stucco, giving the building a greater brightness. The vault on the other hand is decorated with gold leaves. The vault contains crests to the arms of Brittany and the dioceses of the Archdiocese of Rennes.

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The floor covering of the Choir is made up of austere slabs of granite. These offer a violent contrast to the high altar made with marbles offered by Pope Pius IX and from the Roman Forum (Rome). The cul-de-furnace of the apse is adorned with a painting depicting the giving by Christ of the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to Saint Peter, made circa 1871 by the 19C painter Alphonse le Hénaff. The Choir is surrounded by an ambulatory whose walls are decorated with representations of the various Saints of Brittany grouped according to their diocese (Rennes, Dol-de-Bretagne, Saint-Malo, Saint-Brieuc, Tréguier, Saint-Pol-de-Leon, Quimper, Vannes). They are also due to Alphonse Le Hénaff.

The two crosses of the transept each have a sumptuous chapel adorned with remarkable frescoes. Those of the southern Chapel are consecrated to St. Anne, patron Saint of Brittany. There is also the painting of Saint Peter by the painter Henri-Joseph de Forestier given by king Charles X. The work dates from 1827 and represents Saint Peter delivered from his prison by an angel. The northern Chapel has a series of frescoes dedicated to Mary. They thus participate in the Marian cult widespread in Brittany.

Above the crossing of the transept, an artistic project for the development of the four pendants was chosen; consisting in the installation of four statues of three meters in height each, in the four pendants under the dome which will represent the symbolic tetramorphous of the four Evangelists, associated with scenes from the Gospels, such as the Man for Saint Matthew, the Lion for St. Mark, the Bull for St. Luke, and the Eagle for Saint John. The crypt entrance is under the heavy slab engraved with the names of the buried bishops, in the middle of the Cathedral’s central aisle. This crypt is only open during burials. You can go down only upon the burial of a bishop or archbishop.

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The Cathedral St Pierre, houses a great Flemish Altarpiece masterpiece from the 16C adorned with 80 characters, which was restored in 1984. In the Chapel dedicated to Saint Malo is the painting of Sainte Marguerite, dating from the 17C. This painting is a copy of that of Raphael who is currently in the Department of paintings of the Louvre museum. In the Saint-Michel Chapel, you can admire the statue of St. Anne, a copy of a 15C work.

The towers of the Cathedral St Pierre of Rennes house a ringing of five bells. The bourdon, named Godefroy, is housed in the North tower and weighs about 7 900 kg. Its beating of 240 kg was changed on December 12, 2011. The other four bells, located in the South Tower, bear the names of Mary, Pierre, Amand and Melaine. They weigh 3 950 kg, 1 467 kg, 1 155 kg and 475 kg. Pierre is the only preserved bell of 1843, which had three sound vases. The bourdon, named after the first Cardinal-Archbishop of Rennes, Mgr. Brossay-Saint-Marc, is the biggest hidden bell in Brittany. The names of its sisters evoke the holy patron of the cathedral, Peter, that of the Archdiocese of Rennes, Dol and Saint-Malo, Melaine, and his predecessor on the Episcopal throne, Amand.

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The Grand organs of the Cathedral St Pierre date from 1874 and is housed in a buffet, rebuilt in 1970 in a neo-classical style. A dorsal is then added, the pipes finding place in a buffet. Today, the main organs of the Cathedral of St Pierre constitute the most important instrument of the Department 35 of Ille-et-Vilaine.

The Choir organ, it is housed in a neo-classical oak buffet and occupies the central section of the ambulatory , at the bottom of the apse of the Cathedral. Carried by a high base, partially in corbelled, its piping is masked by false pipes in painted and gilded wood. Grouped by seven, in two platforms framed by pilasters summoned by Corinthian capitals for the lateral facades, these canons are numbered twenty-nine for the main façade, two plates-faces of seven false pipes framing a central section of fifteen. Dating back to 1867, the instrument will only be installed current 1869.

A webpage on music concerts in the Cathedral St Pierre: Music in Rennes on concerts at the Cathedral St Pierre

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and it should be a must are

Catholic Rennes on the Cathedral St Pierre

Tourist office of Rennes on the Cathedral St Pierre

Tourist office dept 35 Ille et Vilaine on the Cathedral in French

There you go another jewel in my Brittany and wonderful capital city of Rennes. The St Peter’s Cathedral is worth the detour and lovely area for walks and sightseeing in the city too. Hope you have enjoy it.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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