Thirty minutes by car from Saint-Brieuc, Bretagne (Brittany), France, Montcontour is a medieval city surrounded by thick granite ramparts from the 13th and 14th centuries.
I have visited countless medieval villages in France and never have come across one with so many beautiful gardens. Usually hidden behind private walls, this town boasts a massive variety of container, parcel, and public gardens.
The small town, surrounded by narrow moats, served as an outpost for the city of Lamballe, the capital of Penthièvre. You will see part of the moat towards the end of the video.
Unlike many French medieval villages, this is not a tourist destination. Strolling her quiet streets, shops are primarily for residents. Montcontour is the perfect respite for a mix of history, culture, and wandering amongst the flower-laden narrow streets.
In some ways, she seems almost frozen in time.
The ramparts (12th-13th century) were restored by Geoffroy Botterel II, Count of Penthièvre, in 1137. The fortress underwent reconstructions and alterations imposed by various needs and by progress. Significant works were carried out in the second half of the 14th century under Charles de Blois, then under Olivier de Clisson, which made Moncontour one of the strongest places in Brittany.
From the 12th century, the Templars had an important chaplaincy located on the passage of the road linking Saint-Brieuc to Moncontour, named “Eleemosina de Kessoë” (in Quessoy) in a charter dating from 1160. In 1217, Duke Pierre Mauclerc conceded to the Templars the Saint-Jean de Moncontour hospice and the adjoining chapel (in this act, the town is called Monscontoris). At the beginning of the 14th century, ownership of the hospices of Moncontour was taken from the Templars. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the hospice nevertheless retained the name of Saint-Jean hospital and was the object of the care of the successive lords of Moncontour.
Moncontour was famous for its church, dedicated to Saint-Mathurin, which became the object of many pilgrimages from the 16th century.
The bell tower was demolished in 1584 and rebuilt from 1584 to 1587. One of the aisles was built in 1620, and the apse was repaired in 1719. But the church was largely rebuilt in the 18th century. The facade, in particular, was rebuilt in 1786.
The church has six windows made between 1520 and 1540.
Here is a brief evaluation of Montcontour:
Who should visit – This is a perfect spot for those looking to see a medieval French village not overrun with tourists, photographers looking for an authentic village experience, those who love gardens, French history & culture, or hikers.
What to consider – This village would be difficult to navigate with a stroller or for those with mobility issues. Wear comfortable shoes.
When to visit – May through October, Tuesday through Saturday. Avoid the Sunday and Monday closures typical to rural France.
Where – Montcontour, Cotes d’Armor, Bretagne, France
Why this village is so unique – I have yet to visit a medieval town like this so well preserved AND boasting this many gardens.
How to get there – By car. The closest TGV train station is Saint-Brieuc. Bus might be another option but please check in advance.
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