© Donatienne Guillaudeau


Fighting over a very pretty hilltop

Atop its hill surveying two valleys south of Saint-Brieuc, the little historic town of Moncontour looks perfectly picturesque now, crowned by its highly decorative church, but its strategic location made it the focus for many battles, until business won out. Today, tourism is the victor.

Discover Moncontour

In medieval times, Moncontour became an important defensive position for the powerful north Breton lords of Penthièvre. As such, the place proved a magnet for fighting down the centuries: in the 14th-century Breton War of Succession, in the 15th-century final conflict between Breton duchy and French state, and in the 16th-century Wars of Religion. When the ruling lord in the early 17th century sided against Louis XIII, the king ordered the dismantling of his fortified holdings. However, some of Moncontour’s ramparts have survived to this day. Then came the time of mercantile prosperity, as linen merchants from here managed to sell their wares far and wide, even to the Spanish. They were able to build fine town houses, and to embellish the church.

Walks with views

Take Route des Granges, then the small dirt track on your right and you will reach the mound in the trees. It is a unique observation point for discovering the town and the north side of this remarkable architectural site. In summer, a little tour in the medieval-inspired Hildegarde garden will give you an amazing view of the outskirts of the town. Before leaving, go inside Saint-Mathurin church. It has an 18th-century façade and a curious 20th-century bell tower, but the true beauty lies within. Its 16th-century stained glass windows are among the most beautiful in Brittany!

Did you know

Moncontour regularly hosts a major medieval festival, which includes spectacular street entertainments.

Bringing history back to life

The locals like to recall their history and the main museum focuses on the drama in these parts during the Revolution. While Moncontour’s inhabitants mainly sided with the new Republic, many in the outlying districts, including the charismatic leader Boishardy, remained staunchly pro-royalist and pro-Catholic, prepared to fight a bitter guerrilla war, known as the Chouannerie. On a lighter note, there’s also an amusing costumes museum set up by a woman devoted to theatrical creations.

Main points of interest

  • The church of Saint-Mathurin (16th century)
  • The 13th century ramparts and towers, remains of the castle
  • The narrow streets and alleys lined with granite or half-timbered mansions
Official website of tourism in Brittany