Rennes Historical Churches Walking Tour, Rennes

Rennes Historical Churches Walking Tour (Self Guided), Rennes

Historical churches occupy a significant place in the cultural identity of Rennes, France. Travelers with a keen interest in religious history and architecture will find plenty to look at in this town.

Standing out majestically among the local ecclesiastical landmarks is Rennes Cathedral. Built in the 12th century, it underwent a centuries-long transformation from its Gothic origins to its present Neoclassical facade.

Another notable site is the Saint-Yves Chapel, known for its grand Flamboyant Gothic style and association with Saint Yves, the patron saint of lawyers. Today, the building serves as the town's tourism office.

The Church of Saint Sauveur, with its imposing bell tower, has been in place since the turn of the 18th century.

Meanwhile, the Jacobite Convent, also known as the Convent of Bonne-Nouvelle, has held its historical charm since the late 1360s.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Good News is a testament to Rennes' devotion to the Virgin Mary. Among its highlights are the ornate stained glass windows crafted predominantly by local master glassmakers.

Notre-Dame-en-Saint-Melaine, the former cathedral of Rennes, is the 17th-century sanctuary dedicated to Saint Melaine, the bishop of Rennes from 505.

Saint-Germain Church, constructed between the 15th and 17th centuries, showcases Gothic architecture, notably a striking south porch from the Late Renaissance period.

Collectively, these churches embody centuries of Rennes' religious and cultural evolution, which makes them indispensable landmarks. To take a closer look at the intricate details of these sacred sites and let their stories unfold before you, take this self-guided walk.
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Rennes Historical Churches Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Rennes Historical Churches Walking Tour
Guide Location: France » Rennes (See other walking tours in Rennes)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
Author: DanaU
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Rennes Cathedral
  • Saint-Yves Chapel
  • Church of St. Sauveur
  • Jacobite Convent
  • Basilica of Our Lady of Good News
  • Notre-Dame-en-Saint-Melaine
  • Saint-Germain Church
Rennes Cathedral

1) Rennes Cathedral (must see)

The earliest cathedral of Saint-Pierre was replaced by a Gothic-style religious edifice in 1180. This took two centuries to build. The Gothic facade collapsed in 1490. The reconstruction works were started by Yves Mahyeuc, a senior Dominican of the Jacobins Convent and Confessor to Anne of Brittany. This important figure, who became the bishop of Rennes, started a construction site that outlived him.

The present facade of Neoclassical granite towers was built in four sections. The first tower was finished by 1543. Tugal Caris, a French architect, built the second tower in 1564. The third, done by architect Pierre Corbineau, was finished in 1678. The architect François Hoguet completed the towers in 1704, at their present height of 48 meters, and added the escutcheon of King Louis XVI between them.

During all the changes, architects rebuilt the interior as a Roman basilica. The nave and choir, however, had not been restored. After a great stone fell from the roof of the choir, it was decided to demolish all these parts and rebuild them. Reconstruction was done in the same style as the facade, using 44 massive white granite columns throughout. In 1841 Godefroy Brossay-Saint-Marc became bishop of Rennes. He wanted more changes.

Godefroy was wealthy and had powerful connections, including Pope Pius XI and Napoleon III. Changes focused on interior decor. The Tro Breizh, the region's iconic pilgrimage of the Seven Saints of Brittany, is depicted in the nave and the ambulatory by artist Jobbe-Duval. Charles Langlois covered the granite columns with stucco.

Statues of the four Evangelists by sculptor Laurant Esquerre overlook the transept. They were installed in 2019 at the opening of the new Cathedral treasury. The most prized treasure is a Flemish altarpiece dating from 1520. Display cases hold gold and silver crosses, censers, a Papal chalice, and precious liturgical vestments.
Saint-Yves Chapel

2) Saint-Yves Chapel

Located on the corner of Rue Saint-Yves and Rue Le-Bouteiller, Saint-Yves is an old chapel, formerly dedicated to Roman Catholic worship. In 1358, Eudon Le Bouteiller decided to transform his mansion into a hospice dedicated to the holy Virgin and later to Saint Yves. The present chapel was built in 1494 on the site of the old construction.

Since 1945, Saint-Yves Chapel is considered a historic monument. In 1981, it was restored and refurbished to house the office of tourism for the town on Rennes. Its main façade features an impressive arched entrance door, surmounted by three niches. The facade facing the Rue Saint-Yves has four windows, one of which is huge, and a door surmounted by niches as well. The chapel itself is composed of a rectangular nave, which has a vault embellished by engravings dating from the 15th century.
Church of St. Sauveur

3) Church of St. Sauveur

Located in the heart of the historic city center of Rennes, Church of St. Sauveur is a minor basilica of the Roman Catholic Church, dedicated to Our Lady of Miracles and Virtues. It is said that many miracles have happened within this church. The original construction was in Gothic style, but after its collapse in 1682, it was rebuilt in classical style in 1703. The basilica is particularly noted for its stunning altar canopy, wrought iron pulpit and it's organ. The exterior design of the building recalls, to a lesser extent, that of the Church of the Gesu in Rome or the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires in Paris. The basilica consists of a nave with two aisles, a narrow transept, a choir, and an apse with blunt angles, without ambulatory or aisle.
Jacobite Convent

4) Jacobite Convent

The Jacobite Convent, also known as the convent of Bonne-Nouvelle, is a former place of worship and barracks. It contains an abbey, a cloister and some other structures. Today, the convent belongs to the Rennes Métropole, which has plans to turn it into a convention center by 2016. Pierre Rouxel, a citizen of Rennes who made a donation for the construction in 1367, is considered to be responsible for the building of the convent. However, Duke John IV bears the name of founder, as he laid the first stone.
Basilica of Our Lady of Good News

5) Basilica of Our Lady of Good News

The Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle is a Catholic minor basilica located in the city center of Rennes , Brittany , on Place Sainte-Anne .

The current building, unfinished, replaces an old homonymous church located on the same square. It was erected as a basilica onAugust 6, 1916.

The church is located north of the Center district of Rennes, north of Place Sainte-Anne . Its north and east facades are bordered by the Saint-Aubin contour.

Rue de Saint-Malo to the west separates it from the convent of the Jacobins .

The old church, demolished in 1904, was to the north of the city, outside the ramparts of Rennes and occupied the western part of what is now Place Saint-Anne. Attested to in the 12th century, it dated for the most part from the 17th and 18th centuries, it had hosted from the 19th century the cult of Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle, originally located in the convent of the Jacobins.

The construction of the Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle basilica is part of the broad movement of renovation and replacement of the parish housing stock in France during the concordat period, which was particularly sensitive in the archdiocese of Rennes. The building, erected in the middle of the third republic , replaced the old parish church of Saint-Aubin.

The stained glass windows of the basilica constitute its major ornamental element. Most of the glazing, featuring floral motifs, is the work of master glassmakers Rault and Lignel from Rennes. However, the upper windows of the apse contain representations of the cult of Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle, as do a certain number of roundels. Also depicted in medallions are scenes from the history of Brittany in connection with the Duchess Anne.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

6) Notre-Dame-en-Saint-Melaine

Notre-Dame-en-Saint-Melaine is a French abbey church that served as cathedral during the first half of the 19th century. Between 1803 and 1844, the cathedral of Saint-Pierre de Rennes, demolished in the late 18th century and not yet rebuilt, could no longer be used neither as cathedral nor as sanctuary. Étienne Célestin Enoch, the bishop of Rennes, decided to use the church of Notre-Dame-en-Saint-Melaine as temporary seat of the diocese, which thus became the pro-cathedral. The sanctuary of the church is dedicated to St. Melaine, traditionally regarded as the first bishop of Rennes, who died here in the sixth century. The present building dates from the 17th century and was built in the form of the Latin Cross.
Saint-Germain Church

7) Saint-Germain Church

Saint-Germain Church is a Gothic parish church, located at Rue de Vau Saint-Germain in Rennes. It was built between the 15th and the 17th century, and features the oldest stained glass in Rennes, as well as antique organs. The most spectacular part of the exterior of the church is the south porch, which dates back to the Late Renaissance (1606-1623). It is the work of Germain Gaultier, the first architect of the Parliament of Brittany.

Walking Tours in Rennes, France

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