Breizh Poellrezh SF - Douarañ Santel
Breizh Poellrezh SF - Douarañ Santel

Pays de Dol

Dol de Bretagne, once the capital of the traditional Breton province of Pays de Dol, is the first town (city) of note when travelling from Normandy, probably founded during the Celtic era although there are vestiges of an earlier civilization, probably Neolithic, in the form of Menhir du Champ Dolent - (standing-stone) that is one of the tallest and most impressive in Brittany. It can be found on the road out of the city if you are heading for Combourg. Situated on a cliff edge 20 metres high, which was been beaten by the sea until the 10th century. Its name may come from the pre-Latin word tull, "elevated place". The city now "dominates" the cultivated area known as the Dol marsh.

During the 6th century it became one of the first dioceses of Brittany, being a Bishopric and the site of one of the seven Breton cathedrals, it became was an important religious centre. Every Breton has a duty to complete the pilgrimage of the seven cathedrals (St. Brieuc in St. Brieuc, St. Malo in St. Malo, St. Samson in Dol, St. Patern in Vannes, St. Corentin in Quimper, St. Pol-Aurélien in St. Pol-de-Léon, and St. Tugdual in Tréguier) during their lifetime, known as the Tro-Breizh. Anyone failing to complete or refuses to accomplish the pilgrimage during their life is sentenced to finish it after their death, by moving forward the length of their coffin every seven years.

Nominoé, the first Duke of Brittany, later King of the Bretons after defeating the Frankish King at Redon, was crowned here in 848. About a century after his death the city was overrun and pillaged by Viking marauders, who eventually occupied it until they were ejected by Alain Barbetorte, a Breton chieftain in AD 930, who was eventually elected Duc de Bretagne in AD 937. The majority of the Vikings were hunted down and exterminated by the Breton hoards. However, the threat from the Scandinavians continued to weigh heavily on the city while Viking more or less settled in Basse Normandie. The Normans also threatened the city and eventually seized it in AD 944.

In 996, the Viking king, Olaf Lagman, a Norwegian who reigned over the Hebrides and parts of Ireland, seized the city from the Normans. Again Dol is pillaged, devastated, and burned for a second time. In 1014 at the request of the Norman lord, Richard L’Irascible, Duke of Normandy, Olaf Haraldsson says "Le Gros", the young king of Norway, sails from Scandinavia, lands and promptly starts fighting with the Vikings living around Dol, then, named "Hollar" by the Scandinavians.

According to Sigvat the Scalde [the poet] in the Viking Sagas, the following exploits are recounted:
"During the third year of the Viking occupation King Ethelred died and his sons Edmund and Edward took power. Then King Olaf sailed south and fought a battle in the Hringsfjord [Old norse name of the bay of the Mont-St-Michel] and took to Hollar [Dol] a fjord that the Vikings occupied, burning the fjord in the process.”

In 1064, the Norman Duke, Guillaume le Bâtard besieges the city. In 1076, the same duke Guillaume de Normandie, henceforth known as "The Conqueror” after his conquest of England, launches a new military campaign in Brittany and invades Dol. In the same year Philippe 1st France inflicts a defeat on Guillaume in a battle at the foot of Mont Dol. Guillaume relinquishes control of Brittany and makes peace with Philippe.

Dol is quoted to have participated in Révolte du Papier Timbré during the reign of Louis 14th (April-September 1675). Also known as the Red Bonnets Revolt, it was triggered by an increase in taxes, including Stamp Duty, The Bretons wearing bonnets blue or red depending on the region, and also "revolt torreben" ("breakout her head “ only one author translated it as "headache" a battle cry that can also be used as the signature of the Farmers Code.

During the revolution of 1789, Dol again becomes the object of a siege and the cathedral is transformed into stables.
The parish of Dol was part of the deanship of Dol, diocese of Dol and was in the care of Saint - Samson de Notre-Dame.

• 1772: The parish absorbed the parish of the Crucifix.
• 1790: became a town.
• 1792: absorbed the town of L’Abbaye
• May 7 1794: absorbed the town of Carfantain.
• 1924: took the name of Dol-de-Bretagne.

Today, this very attractive medieval town, having had a history of being captured and pillaged by the Vikings, by the Normans, the Francs, the French, and the Revolutionary Troops, this town has reinvented itself recently, adapting quietly to being a tourist destination and is a good base for exploring the countryside, forest and historic towns nearby.

The 800 year old Cathédrale Saint Samson, a fortified granite edifice, perched on the edge of a cliff, is a bit of a mish-mash of styles externally but inside there is a simple harmony with superb 13th-century stained glass in the choir and a surprising three-tier nave. On the outside the crenulated parapet is linked to the old fortification of the town, giving it a fortress like appearance from the north side.

The centre of the 'old-town' is focussed around the 12th-century Cathédrale Saint-Samson, Grande Rue des Stuarts and Rue Le-Jamptel is where you will see the best of the old architecture and some fine medieval houses. In Rue Le-Jamptel take particular notice of No.27, a hardware store; it dates from the 12th – 13th century. In Grande Rue des Stuarts, a monument in itself, the oldest houses, now shops and bars, date from the 12th century with tiny arcades and facades. Of particular interest is No.18, a former “Templers Inn”, now a bar-crêperie, ask to see the vaulted cellar and the 16th-century courtyard.

The public park at 'Promenade des Douves', also known as “Promenade Jules Revert” has been traced along the northern part of the old ramparts. Of the former towers, only Tour des Carmes is visible, from here there splendid views across the Dol marshes and out to the sea now several kilometres away. Tour de la Motte, Tour de la Prison and Tour du Château are hidden by the perception of the modern buildings. Tour des Bourgeois is behind the post office.

The historic museum, Musée Historique de Dol, in the old 16th century treasury is devoted, in the most part, to the history of Dol; dioramas, wax statues, models and arms. There are also some interesting artefacts rescued from various churches in the region as well as 17-18th century glazed earthenware from different Breton Schools 9in particular rare statues of Virgins.

12 kilometres south-east of the town, in the village of Broualan, is Landal Castle a beautifully restored and maintained 14th-15th century castle where eagles are bred. If the weather is good, you can watch a display of the flight of these magnificent creatures.

2 kilometres north of the town is Le Mont Dol, a dome like lump of granite which rises out of the marshland to 65 metres, formerly an island. The remains of many prehistoric animals - elephant, mammoth, reindeer, rhinoceros – and flint tools have been unearthed on the slopes. Said to be an ancient Druid ritual site but its summit is now popular for picnics. It is the place of several legends describing the fight between Archangel Michael and Satan. Satan is said to have thrown down so violently he made an impression in the rock and scratched it with his claw. With a single blow of his word, the Archangel made a hole in the mountain into which he hurled his enemy. But Satan reappeared on Mont-Saint-Michel to taunt St.Michel. In one bound St.Michel leapt from Dol to Mont-Saint-Michel leaving his footprint in the rock. At the summit is a small chapel, Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-l’Espérance, climb the snaking road of the Pilgrims to reach it and don’t miss the giant chestnut tree on the right of the path on the way up. Don’t rush it’s a pleasant stroll, after your visit you deserve a coffee. The café is at the back of the car park.


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