Saint-Samson Cathedralin Dol-de-Bretagne
Alexandre Lamoureux - Saint-Samson Cathedral - Dol-de-BretagneAlexandre Lamoureux - Saint-Samson Cathedral - Dol-de-Bretagne
©Alexandre Lamoureux - Saint-Samson Cathedral - Dol-de-Bretagne|©Alexandre Lamoureux -, alexandre lamoureux

Visit the Cathedral of Saint Samson

Go back to the time of the cathedrals to visit one of the must-sees of our Destination: Saint-Samson Cathedral.

Would you like to discover the mysteries of this great lady?

Saint-Samson Cathedral

Majestic, like a queen sitting on her throne overlooking the entire Dol marsh.Imposing, like a medieval sentinel, with its granite power with fortress-like aspects.Mysterious, with its singularities and legends.Arriving in Dol-de-Bretagne, you can’t miss with your eyes this great lady! It is one of the must-see of Dol-de-Bretagne and its country, the Cathedral of Saint-Samson.Here, no Quasimodo or beautiful gypsy like in Paris, but legends, solemnity, silence and curiosities. Here we go for a beautiful discovery!

But why a cathedral in Dol-de-Bretagne?

Dedicated to Saint-Samson, a monk who arrived by the Guyoult on a granite boat to evangelize Brittany. He was the 1st bishop of Dol and built the original cathedral.Saint-Samson is one of the 7 saints who came to evangelize Brittany and who can be honored by doing the Tro Breizh. Pedestrian pilgrimage linking 7 Breton places (Breton cathedrals) dedicated to their 7 founding saints. Our curiosity pushes us to want to pierce its mysteries. When we are in front of it, our eyes are instinctively directed towards the sky! Dating from the Middle Ages, then modified during the following centuries, the Cathedral that we see today is an example of the appearance and evolution of the monumental Gothic style with the technical prowess of the time.We can now begin our quest for mystery: let’s sit in Nominoë Square in front of the square and the monumental door and observe! One question comes directly to mind, the one that everyone asks, the singularity of this cathedral: why is one of the towers not finished?

The Unfinished North Tower

In fact, the North Tower is unfinished. This tower questions, construction defect or mysterious spirit? This peculiarity has given rise to some legends, here are two examples: “Many times, attempts were made to continue the construction of the tower, but a mysterious hand caused the stones added during the day to fall and the flames devoured the work done!”” During the battle between the Archangel St. Michael and the Devil, the Archangel threw a stone that fell on the cathedral, destroyed part of the North Tower, went to plant itself in a field, and now forms the Menhir du Champ Dolent. “But the realities of the time explain that due to lack of financial means, the North Tower could not be finished, quite simply.Facing it, the great South Tower, square and massive, was designed to receive the bells. By its slenderness towards the sky, it was also, for the bishopric, the symbol of an institution, its power and its power.At the back, the square tower, the crossing of the transept and the nave carries a square tower without buttresses and without windows. It is not very high and ends with a low pyramidal roof covered with slates.The whole culminates at 23 meters below the ground and the current high altar.Let’s go around this Cathedral, and facing the northern facade, we can notice that it looks like a fortress. Indeed, the crenellations, its austere aspect and the vestiges of ramparts at the foot of this Cathedral, indicate to us that the monument closed the fortified city, in the 11th century. This explains why this northern facade has this fortress-like appearance.Now that we have toured the Cathedral, let’s go back in front of the entrance and enter to admire the splendor of the interior. But before we enter, watch out for the gargoyles that are here, the guardians of Good. Their mission is to repel any evil spirit or demonic being. Legend has it that the gargoyles would howl at the approach of evil, whether visible or invisible… And the wind would start whistling through the arches of the building.

What do you say to discovering what is hidden inside this imposing granite shell?

When entering the Cathedral, we discover all its splendor, the nave of 39.3 meters long and 17.1 meters wide offers itself to us. We can be dazzled by its elegance, its light, its beautiful proportions and its slenderness. In front of us, the great eastern glass roof, the oldest in Brittany, dates from the 13th century. We discover the last judgment, Christ, angels, heaven, hell, the Old and New Testaments, the first bishops of Dol, the arrival of St. Samson in Dol-de-Bretagne.When the sun repaints the colors of the stained glass windows in the cathedral, the magic works, it is a sweet and eternal alliance between the shadow and light.Above us, the great organ dating from the 16th century was completely renovated in 2015, it has a forest of 2632 pipes. Organ concerts are moreover organized in summer.On our left, in the front nave, at the foot of the North Tower, we can see the remains of the first Romanesque cathedral.Let’s take, in silence, one of the alleys that leads to the choir. At the top of one of the columns, we can see a seated bearded figure who, since the 15th century, has been the guardian of the place. Note that there are no other figures of this type on the other columns. This guardian is still watching over the place and even if he seems to be a little eaten by time, the centuries have not affected what is most precious: his beauty and his mystery…

The peaceful path to the chapels

On our peaceful path to the choir chapels, let’s stop to observe a curiosity unique in France and in Europe, a double well. Indeed, the interior well of the cathedral is connected to the exterior well by an underground gallery. 12 meters deep, they go to the foundations of the Cathedral. The inner well is older, and dates back to the Gallo-Roman period. According to the writings, Saint Samson would have arrived near a well to found a monastery, the interior well would date from this time. The choir has an openwork triforium which gives it a particular elegance, furnished with 77 sculpted stalls dating from the 14th century. Their consoles represent the heads of characters and animals, which, if they could speak, would tell us about the memories of the bishops and canons, the perfumes of wax and incense, the songs, the music, the dramas and the ceremonies.Next to the altar is the episcopal seat, also called Cathedra (hence the name Cathedral). The main altar dates from 1963, in refractory terracotta without molding, the sculptor Claude Gruet worked in direct size on the material. It represents Saint-Samson sailing towards Dol-de-Bretagne and Saint-Magloire parleying with the English.

We leave you to discover serenely through the ambulatory, the ten chapels that surround the choir, including two double chapels, and an apse chapel decorated with painted frescoes representing a celestial vault.On your way back to the exit, you will discover the tomb of Thomas James, bishop in the 15th century. Note that if you plan your visit to the cathedral on the summer solstice, June 21, you will be able to observe an impressive solar phenomenon: a strange light strikes this tomb at the sixth hour after sunrise (at noon by our watch), illuminating the vial of immortality and the dove of the Holy Spirit.As our exploration of the Cathedral of Dol-de-Bretagne comes to an end, we can take the time to sit down and continue our contemplation, while respecting the sacredness of the place. “Silence is golden”.


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