Ville Close of Concarneau!

I am taking back into time and a fortified city with ancient walls and full of life now. Lovely and enchanting all around it. This is the Ville Close of Concarneau. Again, written briefly on it on several of my posts on Concarneau but feel deserves a post of its own. Therefore, here it is. Hope you enjoy as we did. Of course it is in the Finistére dept 29 of the region of Brittany.

The walled city of Concarneau is a fortified city of the 15-16C built on an islet. It is the historical heart of the city of Concarneau which has gradually developed around the islet.


According to the legend, it is Concar who would have liberated the site occupied by the current city close (Ville Close) of the Picts to base the city of Concarneau. Around the 10C, a Priory was established by the monks of the Abbey of Landévennec on the basis of some houses already present on the upper part of the islet. Traces of a 13C tower and a 14C wall found near the Tour du Fer à Cheval (Horseshoe Tower) confirm the existence of a medieval enclosure. It was probably Duke John II of Brittany who built this first stone enclosure surrounding the islet around 1285. At that time, a community of bourgeois, traders and fishermen lived in the city.

concarneau ville close entrance jan13

The city now closed becomes a stronghold of Brittany and the stakes of rivalries between English and French, especially during the War of Succession of Brittany during which the Englishmen, who came to help Jean de Montfort, took the city in 1342. In 1373, after thirty years of English occupation, Olivier du Guesclin, took over the city on behalf of the King of France Charles V and chase the English out. In 1488, after the battle of Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier, the closed city (Ville Close) passed into the hands of the King of France Charles VIII, before being taken over by the Bretons. In 1489, John II of Rohan siege the city closed and takes over the islet in the name of the King. Anne of Brittany, to counter the French influence on the Duchy, appealed to the English who occupied the city until 1495.


Concarneau becomes a Royal court with a right of provost and one of the 42 cities of Brittany to send a member to the States General of Brittany. In July 1619, King Louis XIII, dissatisfied with the Governor of Concarneau, ordered the Governor of Brittany to take control of the city. Until the French Revolution, Concarneau, in addition to the garrison, had a population of fishermen who had a few dozen rowboats. The fishing mainly consisting of the pressed ,dried or smoked sardines, is then shipped by boat to Saint-Malo, Nantes, La Rochelle, or even Bordeaux and by cart to the cities of the Interior. During the industrial revolution, the city is transformed with bourgeois houses  built along the docks outside the closed town (ville close).


Between the mid-19C and the middle of the 20C, the closed city (ville close) was also the subject of the attention of the painters known as the “Concarneau group”. The Chapel-Hospital of the Trinity, located in the walled city, is a victim of a fire in 1917, but a wealthy American, Katerine Wylie, finances its reconstruction in 1924 as a hospital-dispensary. The building subsequently became a maternity ward until the construction of the Porzou maternity in the early 1970’s.

See a site in French on the painters of Concarneau as above : Painters of Concarneau

The ramparts, in their contemporary form, girders the walled city over a total length of about 980 meters. The closed city extends from East to West in its largest length over 380 meters and 220 meters in its largest width (North-South) and on a 60 meters in its minimum width. The ramparts made of local granite have an average thickness between 2.5 and 3 meters. Their machicolations date from the 15C. The main entrance of the closed city (ville close) is protected by a first raveling enhanced by a parapet crenate. The latter is connected to the half-moon by a sleeping bridge. These structures are interconnected by a set of six wooden bridges, three drawbridges and three sleeper bridges. The ramparts are drilled by eight towers (nine if you count the Horseshoe). Starting from the tower located close to the main entrance, one counts in the direction of a clockwise rotation.


The Governor’s Tower or tour du Gouverneur (circa 1477-17C) it hosts the House of the captains and the Governor of the city. Vauban strengthens and walks the structure to support an artillery platform. At the beginning of the 18C, a spur was added to the base of the tower. The tower of the Major or tour du Major (14-17C), the primitive structure of the Tower of the major dates from the 14C, the front is of the 17C. It is mainly composed of a low room serving as ammunition depot especially for powder barrels and protected by a lookout corridor. Upstairs is the major’s Firehouse. The New tower or tour Neuve 16C also called the Powder Mills tower or tour du Moulin à Poudre, it is built to protect a section of the ramparts more vulnerable at low tide. The Gate to the Wine tower or  tour de la Porte au Vin dates from the last quarter of the 15C. The Passage tower  or tour du Passage probably dated from the 15C, it is located in a strategic location. The tower of the harbor of the dogs or tour du Port aux Chiens, 16C, also called the “tour de l’essence”. The Horseshoe  or Le Fer à Cheval dated from the 16C, it was block in the 19C. Restoration works uncovered the remains of a 13C tower.  The Tower of the Moors, or tour du Maure,dated from the 15C, it is pierced by three archers gunboats. The tower of Fortune, or tour de la Fortune is one of the oldest towers of the closed city. Pierced by three archers, it is also called the Masson tower or tour du Masson . The door of the Thieves or porte des Larrons, 15C, located near the square of the thieves or carré des Larrons, this door takes its name from the thieves who were driven by barge on the other side of the shore, in the passage, to be hanged there. Walled for several centuries, it was reopened in 1991. The gate to the wine or porte au Vin ,15C, this door opened on the first commercial port. A wharf is built in 1891 in the outside extension of the gate, along the ramparts to satisfy the fishermen. The gate of the passage (19C) or  porte du Passage, the wall is pierced at the end of the 18C to facilitate access to the passage. The door itself dates back to the time of Louis-Philippe (1830-1848). The Governor’s House ,or  maison du Gouverneur, 17C, this building backed by the Governor’s Tower, serves as a house and an annex to the latter with which it communicates on two levels. No Governor actually occupied this dwelling, rented a time to a carpenter. The house of the major or Logis du Major (circa 1730) in the absence of the Governor of the city, the garrison is commanded by a major. The watch room or salle de guet above one of the main gates was reassigned in the middle of the 18C to house the major. The bodyguard, or  corps de garde rebuilt in 1694 in the half-moon to protect the second drawbridge.


The old Church of Saint-Guénolé was built in the 12C and today only remains its façade and its gable-bell. The Chapel of the Hospital (Trinity) from the 16C, the walled city (ville close) has a hospital chapel dedicated to the Trinity, by the French revolution; it is transformed into a decadaire temple. After the revolution the building became successively a parish church, a school, a house closed during WWI, and then a dispensary and finally a place of exhibition. From the primitive building, there is only visible the façade on rue Vauban. Several other remarkable buildings or structures to see as you walk about.

Again a must to see I am telling you. Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

Tourist office of Concarneau on the Ville Close

Tourist office of Finistere on Concarneau

Tourist office of Brittany on Concarneau

You must come, it is really nice and we are so lucky to live close to it. There is lots to do in Concarneau but the Ville Close is definitively my favorite.

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


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