YOU ARE HERE > Tourism > Guerande
Guérande is open to the east, towards Nantes, at Saint Michael’s Gate, which is the main entrance to the medieval town.
Its impressive architecture, dating from the 15th century, testifies to the town’s prestige and power during the Middle Ages. The two towers frame the carriage and pedestrian gateways, which once constituted a fortified garrison. Portcullis, portals and drawbridge have since disappeared. The moat was filled up as a measure for public health during the 18th century, by the Duke of Aiguillon, commander and governor of Brittany.
Initially, an official residence of the town’s garrison commander, the apartments were then allocated to the governor of Guérande with the incorporation of Brittany into France in 1532.
The mullioned and transomed windows situated at the rear of the ediface show its residential aspect. During the French Revolution the gate became a jail and remained so until the beginning of the 20th century.
During the Restoration, Saint Michael’s Gate became the Town Hall after its renovation.
In 1878, Paul Boeswillwald, an architect of historical monuments, proposed an ambitious project for the reconstruction of the ramparts and towers. But the venture was abandoned. It wasn’t until between 1898 and 1907 that a true programme of restoration was put in place.
In 1928, the committee of the "Amis de Guérande" (friends of Guérande) turned the attic of Saint Michael’s Gate into a museum.
Today, the monument houses the local museum’s collections : the "Pays Blanc" kingdom of the salt-panners and the “Pays Noir” the mysterious marshlands of the Brière peasant farmers.
You enter the monument via a single narrow tower staircase which gives you access to the three floors.
This has kept its original interior architecture, with a chimney in each room and a window "à coussièges". The various signs carved in the walls identified the stonecutters, who were paid according to their contribution.
(1) The museum's reception is in the former portcullis room.
(2) On the right, the first room represents a traditional 18th and 20th century thatched cottage on the marshes of the Brière. Boxes, cupboards, and a box bed made up the typical furnishings of the main living area, which was heated from peat extracted from the marsh.
It was probably this room that was used as a prison during the Revolution.
In the next room (3), a weapons collection is displayed. A pulley crossbow from the 16th century is the centrepiece of the collection.
(4) On the left side of this floor, after recrossing the reception area, one finds traditional furniture used by the salt-marsh worker, painted in "ox blood" or in the "Guérande red".
This furniture, in Louis XIII style, is painted in order to decorate and to protect the wood, and is typical of that found in the homes of the paludiers (saltmarsh workers).
An inventory after the death of its occupant in the year 1692, describes precisely this floor as the private apartments of the governor’s wife.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the municipality decided to move into the Gatehouse involving a change of decoration with wooden floors, painted ceilings and neo-Gothic woodwork. On the left are displayed the most magnificent pieces from the treasure of the Collegiate Saint-Aubin of Guérande: pieces of worked gold from the 18th and 19th centuries, rood doors, priestly vestments, the uniform of a beadle...
(6) In the tower, a former telegraph office, some archaeological objects testify to the varied history of the prehistoric past of the peninsula and also to the large colletion of ceramics from HERBIGNAC, dating from the 19th century.
(7) On the right, the portrait of the Earl of Boisgeslin, governor of Guérande who died on the scaffold in 1794, dominates the old council chamber of the city hall. Now the room offers a collection of paintings and contains glass cases containing a collection of wedding globes, local headdress and earthenware.
PARAPET WALK AND SAINT JEAN’S TOWER
(8) A passage leads on to a curtain wall situated between the gate and the Saint Jean’s tower. The parapet walk is broadened by the consoles of the machicolations, dominating the old boulevard.
The earth embankment bordering the road was built in the 15th century in order to protect the fortifications from being bombarded. The people from Guérande used this wall as a location for their artillery.
Having lost this defensive importance, the moat was filled up, and the embankment was changed into a boardwalk at the end of the 18th century. Since then it has been known as "Le Mail".
Within the ramparts, the layers of slate lead the eye to the spire of the collegiate church showing the large variety of habitations: thatched cottages, bourgous houses, mansions and manors.
Saint Jean’s Tower dates from the first quarter of the 15th century. The parapet walk is interrupted at this tower by a door. With the disappearance of the floors, it is possible to view the staggered arrangement of the archer ports, an early adaptation to the use of artillery. The inverted pyramid consoles of the machicolations seen on this tower are an example of an architectural innovation.
To get to the last floor, which is the attic of Saint Michael’s Gate, we have to use the tower staircase.
A big oak frame covers the towers, probably dating back to the beginning to the 17th century.
The small window in the wall, facing south, offers a panoramic and rare view of the salt marshes, due to the growth of urbanization and vegetation. These marshes are fed by the Traict of Le Croisic, the inflow of the ocean. The strategic position of the fortified town can be immediately understood :
Guerande became rich during the Middle Ages thanks to its raised position (54 m), dominating the salines and commercial ports.
A sizeable collection of traditional dress is on show in the attic. The costumes reflect the life in the "peninsula" at the end of the 19th and the beginning of 20th century.
GPS Locate : 47.327138,-2.426412