‘To see one of the few Gothic towns still left entire, complete, homogeneous, such as Nuremburg in Bavaria, Vittoria in Spain, or even smaller specimens, provided they are still in good preservation, as Vitré in Bretagne, and Nordhausen in Prussia’. Victor Hugo in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.
In 1999, the town of Vitré received the national Town of Art and History label, a prestigious label recognised for the quality of the work it carries out. This label engages its holders in an ambitious programme whose objectives are determined by the Town of Art and History agreement. What are the objectives?
Vitré, first the fortified town of the Marches de Bretagne, then an overseas traders’ town, boasts a remarkable heritage. In the shadow of the château, fortress then residence of the barons of Vitré, then the counts of Laval, half-timbered houses and private townhouses dating from the Middle Ages to the second half of the 17th century. They paint a picture of the riches brought to the town by the trade in hemp linen, or “canvas” which was used to wrap goods and create sails for boats.
Close to the château in the heart of the old town, Notre-Dame church, which closely resembles a cathedral, is a gem of Vitré’s Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Dormant for almost two centuries, Vitré awoke from its slumber during the Second French Empire and was revived with the construction of three buildings: the neo-Gothic Chemins de Fer de l’Ouest railway station, and the neo-Romanesque Trémoïlle barracks and Saint-Martin church.
With this rich historic and architectural heritage, Vitré has been pursuing a development policy since 1960. As a Town of Art and History, in 1969 it became the first town, after Rouen, to offer guided tours and, in 1977, to mark out a listed area in which all development, conversion, restoration and construction work must be carried out in keeping with the existing architecture.
Conferences, guided tours, youth events, exhibitions, museums, free brochures, sales fairs, concerts and other festivities... Welcome to a town of Art and History, discovery awaits...