The Cathedral Saint Samson, exteriors !!!

Now, again, passed by this town several times and always on my way to other places never stop. This time in my road warrior trip on my way back from the Manche dept 50 (see posts) , I decided to come to Dol de Bretagne, and voilà saw the masterpiece hugely beautiful Cathedral Saint Samson. On this post will concentrate on the exteriors with another post for the interiors, excuse me if some text is repeated but like to give it continuity. Hope you enjoy it as I.

Dol de Bretagne Cathedral St Samson front jul22

The Saint-Samson Cathedral in Dol-de-Bretagne is Gothic in style. It is located in the department 35 of Ille-et-Vilaine, region of my lovely Bretagne. It has been the seat of the bishopric of Dol-de-Bretagne since the year 555, one of the nine ancient bishoprics of Brittany. In 848, Nominoë erected Dol into an archdiocese, a status that would last until 1199. During the French revolution, the cathedral successively became Temple of Reason, stable and warehouse. During the restoration of the religious function, Dol did not recover its title of bishopric. It was indeed abolished by the Concordat of 1801, and its territory divided between the dioceses of Rennes, Saint-Brieuc, Quimper and Évreux. It should be noted that it was under Napoleon III that Brittany regained its status as an archdiocese, with Rennes as its seat. It was in 548 that Saint Samson of Dol, monk bishop of Cardiff, Wales, arrived in Dol and founded a monastery there. Shortly after, in 555, Judual, king of Brittany, transformed the monastery into a bishopric. After the coronation of Nominoë, sovereign of the Bretons, in 848, the city became the religious capital of Brittany. Soon a pre-Romanesque cathedral replaced the original church, but this was destroyed by the Vikings in 1014. A Romanesque cathedral was then built. In the middle of the 11C.

Dol de Bretagne Cathedral St Samson side from odrome site jul22

In 1203, the King of England, John the Landless, burnt down the Romanesque cathedral. Fearing for his soul, he will contribute to the financing of its reconstruction which starts in September of the same year , In 1231, the nave is completed ,and the transept and the choir with a flat apse are built. The relics of Saint Samson de Dol attract many pilgrims, which necessitates the construction of an ambulatory The new construction is done on the Romanesque foundations of the previous sanctuary, but in the so-called Anglo-Norman Gothic style and continues throughout the 13C. The last stage, the choir, with its ambulatory and its ten side chapels, was completed in 1279. The large southern porch, located at the end of the southern transept, was added in the 14-15C. At the same time, built on both sides of the latter, to the west, the chapter house, to the east the treasury. During the same campaign, the construction of the very large axial chapel of the bedside took place.

Dol de Bretagne Cathedral St Samson left side ext jul22

The western facade of the Cathédrale Saint-Samson de Dol-de-Bretagne does not bode well for the building that it precedes so much its austerity and its heterogeneous character contrast with the scale and the relative homogeneity of the main nave that we discover, once you cross the threshold of the cathedral. The western massif has only been the main facade of the cathedral since the 19C, this role having previously been assigned to the southern side of the cathedral throughout the Middle Ages and the old regime (monarchy). The almost blind north tower looks more like a dungeon than a cathedral tower, having served as a prison for the officers of the lower choir in modern times. Dating mainly from the 16C, it nevertheless retains vestiges of the original Romanesque tower, which had already been partially remodeled during the construction of the Gothic work in the 13C, It developed over four floors, in addition to the ground floor, the last showing the beginning of two twin windows. Built between the 13C and 17C, the southern tower has a total of four floors, including the ground floor, for a total height of 52 meters , The first two levels are however contemporary with the central section of the western facade. They date from the 13C. The upper floor, from the 15C, only has decoration on its south face, two strongly splayed bays finding accommodation in a network of four ogival arches. The top floor, more homogeneous, contains the belfry where are placed the three large bells of the cathedral, blessed in 1849: Samson, Anne and Magloire.

Dol de Bretagne Cathedral St Samson back jul22

You see the southern tower, six bays of the southern aisle in front of the gutter wall of the great nave, the southern transept preceded by the great porch, the six chapels bordering the right aisle of the choir, the large sacristy partially concealing the apsidal chapel. The small porch or Bishop’s door, with a triangular pediment, opens onto two ogival arcades resting on small columns, of which the middle one is octagonal, loaded with hearts (remains). Inside, it is decorated with ogival arcades, rosettes and foliage sculpted in white stone. Bishop Coeuret’s arms are on the vault. It dates from the 13C and was modified in the 15C. The Great Porch dates from the 14C. In the 15C, it was Bishop Cœuret who had the ribbed vault launched, the key of which bears the arms. Two very beautiful trefoil doors allow access to the building. The wooden doors are from the 14C. On the three outer sides of the porch, the spandrels are carved with beautiful scenes from the New Testament. The northern facade is austere and impressive. The side chapels of the choir are surmounted by a crenellated parapet with arrow slits; one sees in the angle of the cross a loophole. The interior is made up of seven bays on three floors: large arcades, triforium and high windows ,The pillars are formed of a main shaft, probable remains of the old building and four secondary columns which served to consolidate the arches by adding new arches. The ribbed vaults all have their keys decorated with foliage. In the south aisle, the last two bays open onto the chapter house, now transformed into a weekday chapel and dating from the 14C. It is dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament, as well as to Saint Magloire. It was restored in 1966. The vast choir with a straight apse is surrounded by a rectangular ambulatory on which ten side chapels, also rectangular, open. This plan, quite exceptional in France, denotes an important English influence. The five-bay choir ends with a flat apse.

Dol de Bretagne Cathedral St Samson side chapel entr jul22

Dol de Bretagne Cathedral St Samson side chapel entr renov jul22

The official Cathédraloscope museum on the Cathedral Saint Samson of Dol de Bretagne

The city of Dol de Bretagne and its heritage

The Ille et Vilaine dept 35 tourist office on Dol de Bretagne

The official Mont Saint Michel tourist office on Dol de Bretagne

There you go folks, a wonderful masterpiece and finally visited just 2h15 from my house! The Cathedral of Saint Samson ,exteriors are superbe and a must to be seen. I will be back, and hope you take the time to see it. Hope this post will bring you closer to it.

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

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