Well-preserved medieval town
See www.brittany-tourisme.fr. One of the best-preserved medieval towns in Brittany, Vitré was a prosperous textile centre in the 16thC, and a Huguenot stronghold. Perched on an outcrop, the Château was founded in the 11thC, and rebuilt in the 13th-15thC in the best traditions of Breton military architecture. With chains still hanging down to the drawbridge and machiolated towers topped with slate witches’ hats, it looks as though it has stepped straight out of a fairytale by the Brothers Grimm. Across the courtyard, you can see a pretty Renaissance loggia attached to the Tour de l’Oratoire, which contains the castle chapel; while the Tour Saint-Laurent houses the local history museum.
Just back from the castle, cobbied rue Beaudrarie contains a fine mixture of picturesque old houses, their half-timbered upper storeys leaning over the street and crowding out the sunlight. Look for the carvings on the fa√ç¬µcades of No.25 and its next door neighbour. Rue d’en Bas is slight’y less cute, but still has some interesting buildings further down. At the centre of the old town, the startlingly cleaned-up Eglise de Notre-Dame features an unusual and decorative row of seven gables flanked by pinnacles lining its south side on rue Notre-Dame, and an outdoor pulpit for al fresco preaching. A short distance beyond the church, the Promenade du Val leads down around the crumbling, ivy-covered ramparts to an esplanade overlooking neat rows of allotments and the River Vilaine.
The celebrated 17thC woman of letters, Madame de Sévigné, was an occasional visitor to Vitré. After her profligate husband and son had frittered away her fortune, the sharp-tongued social commentator was forced to live in straightened circumstances at the 15th-16thC family home, Château de Rochers-Sévigné (7 km S via D88). Literary pilgrims will find personal memorabilia, a Mignard portrait, and a large park with avenues named after various in-jokes.