Château de l’Hermine of Vannes!

Well, heck yes Vannes has its castles too, they are all over us !!! All beautiful and this one with enough history for a book but I will keep it short, promise. Again, I have mentioned it in bits in previous posts, but darn, do not know why not done a single post on it, very nice and cultural looking today.  Therefore, let me tell you a whole lot more on the Castle of the Hermine by the ramparts of Vannes!Oh yes that is Château de l’Hermine.


The Château de l’Hermine  (later Hôtel Lagorce but still call by locals Hermine ) at 12 Rue Alexandre le Pontois in Vannes, was a small castle built in the ramparts of Vannes . The castle was the main residence of the Dukes of Brittany between the end of the 14C and the 15C. Ruined and then dismantled in the 17C, it was replaced during the 18C by a special hotel, the Hôtel Lagorce which took the name of its owner. It is however commonly known as the Château de L’Hermine, the memory of the ancient fortress of the Dukes being well anchored in the memories of the local Vannetais.  The Château de l’Hermine was a defensive and residential building, intended by Duke Jean IV of Bretagne, who wished to benefit from a residence in a city which had been favorable to him during the War of Succession of Bretagne.


A bit (huh!) of history I like

The construction of this Castle of the Hermine (ermine) ranged between 1380 and 1385, the construction site continuing until the middle of the 15C. The services of the Hôtel du Duke found place in the farmyard such as the chamber of accounts, the workshop of the Mint, the House of the Oven, the game of Palm (tennis) as well as the ducal stables built in the years 1440. The construction of the Moulin des Lices, and the Chapel of the Lices  between 1420 and 1425, completes the ensemble.

King François I of France stayed at the castle for the vote of the States for the Union of the Duchy in 1532. The passage of the Duchy into the French mantle in 1532 left it without maintenance. Under king Louis XIII, the abandoned Castle threatened ruin and at the request of the bourgeois of Vannes ,king Louis XIV made a donation to the city in 1697. Under this donation, the city repaired its walls, rebuilt the bridge of St. Vincent, built the docks of Calmont, and provided some materials to the Hôtel-Dieu and the retreat house for men in 1750. The Lagorce purchase it in 1784, built a large hotel, and reputable restaurant under the Consulate , which he sold to Mr. Castelot  in 1802. This castle  restored and raised, was acquired in 1876, the stones of the Castle were used for the construction of the port of Vannes and the repairs of the buildings of which the city was responsible.

The current Castle of the Ermine dates from 1785 and has nothing to do with the medieval castle of the Hermine which resembled more to a fortress than to a leisure Castle. The remains of the Castle-two towers were completely destroyed in 1798. Acquired by the State in 1876 to install the Artillery School of the 11th Army Corps, the castle undergoes modifications. From 1926 to 1974, the Château de l’Hermine hosted the General Treasury of the Morbihan Department. In 1976, it became the property of the city of Vannes which assigned it to the School of Law of Morbihan and then to various associative and cultural activities including the Cultural Institute of Brittany. In recent years, the Law School has joined the University of Brittany campus and the City/Town Hall has arranged two large exhibition halls on the ground floor of the Castle. This I have attended several times.


A bit (huh?) of a description of the Château de l’Hermine

The fortress is an adjunct to large outbuildings where it creates a park, the terrain stretched from the Garenne to the pond or lake of the Duke (Duc).  It is a small castle for a Prince, which consists of a single body of dwelling and forces small towers and there are besides two big towers by the outside. In neoclassical style, the elongated built castle is built on a elevated terrain, the level of the basement on the garden being counteracted by a terrace. The elevation in the 19C altered the initial neoclassical structure of elevations. The Château de l’Hermine had as its dependence a farm yard, which extended to the Constable Tower (tour du Connetable); There were buildings to house the people of arms and the troops of the Duke, and stables to receive the horses. Next to it was the field of maneuvering, which kept up to the present day the meaningful name of Place of the Lices, and which was then more, wide than it is today. There was finally a miniature park, which stretched from the city to the pond or lake of the Duke.


Stories from the wonderful history of Vannes and the Château de l’Hermine.

The Castle was the scene of a considerable event of the reign of Duke Jean IV: the arrest of Olivier V de Clisson, a mighty Breton Lord and Constable of France, descended from the barons of Clisson and hero of the War of Succession of Bretagne. Companion of the Duke, he changed camp in 1369, joining the enemy party, that of the Duchess Jeanne de Penthièvre. In 1370 he bought the County of Porhoët, in 1380 he was appointed Constable of France, in 1484 he paid the ransom of the count of Penthièvre Jean de Blois and offered him his daughter in marriage, thus becoming the stepfather of a possible Duke of Brittany. Becoming a dangerous rival in the eyes of Duke Jean IV, he decided to eliminate him. The occasion was presented in 1387, following the States of Brittany held in Vannes. As he entered the Tower of the Dungeon, the armed soldiers of Jean IV seized him and was shackled on his feet. The Duke instructed Jean de Bazvalan, Captain of the Castle, to execute the prisoner. Alarmed, however, of the consequences of this execution and following the advice of the master of the Castle who had not followed the orders of his sovereign, he spared the Constable. The two men reconciled a few years later.  The Constables ‘ Tower,(see post)  which is in a courting of the first enclosure of the ramparts, and which has nothing to do with one of the towers of the Château de l’Hermine, would bear this name in memory of Olivier V de Clisson.


In 1455, Duke Pierre II and his wife, blessed Françoise d’Amboise, could not have any offspring. With the health problems of Pierre II arises the question of his succession. To prevent the throne of Brittany from falling into foreign hands, the Duke decided to marry his niece, Marguerite de Bretagne, daughter of his elder brother François I, to his cousin, François de Bretagne, Count of Etampes. To seal this Union, the Duke summoned the States of Brittany to Vannes, which met in 1455, in the upper room of the La Cohue (see post). Gather together the main Breton Lords, as well as the bishops, the Abbots and the representatives of the cities. They all endorse the marriage Union desired by Pierre II. Banquets and dances followed at the Château de l’Hermine!

It was at the Château de l’Hermine that Duke Jean V remained when he received at Vannes in 1418 Saint Vincent Ferrier and that he saw him preach in the place des Lices. This is where the pious Duchess Jeanne de France died in 1433. This is where the Dukes François I and Isabeau of Scotland, Pierre II and the Blessed Françoise D’Amboise often stayed.  In 1463, the nine Carmelite nuns from Liège, to found a house in Bondon, were taken to the Château de l’Hermine by Blessed Françoise d’Amboise and presented to the Duke. They were housed in the superior apartments of the Castle of the Ermine, and erected an oratory to sing their offices of the day and night. They came out to settle in the Bondon.  Under Duke François II, Chancellor Chauvin, pursued by the Dutch, was imprisoned at the Château de l’Hermine and died of misery in 1483.  Abandoned to the Captains where Governors of Vannes, to serve them as a dwelling, the Castle was visited in 1518 and 1532 by King François I.

The city of Vannes on the Château de l’Hermine in French:

There you go folks ,another nice monument and very much into the history of Bretagne/Brittany and France, another gem to see while walking around Vannes. The best way to see it is from outside the garden of Garenne on rue Alexandre le Pontois! Sublime!

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

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