St Sauveur Basilica – A superb blend of architectures

Rivallon le Roux, Lord of Dinan built St Sauveur Basilica around 1120, on his return from the first Crusade in order to thank the Lord Saviour-Sauveur for His protection.

St-Sauveur Basilica of Dinan - Facade on Place Saint Sauveur
Facade on Place Saint Sauveur

The church was extensively rebuilt and extended during the 15th and 16th centuries.

However, it boasts a successful blend of architectural styles.

The facade’s lower section dates from the 12th century.

The variety, complexity and beauty of the sculptures that adorn the porch turn it into a masterpiece of Romanesque art.

It also enhances the stunning High Gothic style gable.

The sculptures consist of imaginary beasts, wild and exotic animals the crusaders discovered on their way to the Holy Land.

St Sauveur Basilica sculptures
Imaginary beast

Therefore parrots and lions but also demons tormenting sinners decorate the capitals of the porch’s columns and arches.

The purpose of these sculptures was to frighten parishioners as they enter the church and bring back those who had strayed from the right path!

This type of sculptures is found in many Romanesque churches.

In the 11th-12th century, Christianity was still struggling, especially in the rural areas where people still (unofficially) worshiped ancient pagan deities.

The Church of Rome therefore felt necessary to deter them from this ‘unholy’ worship by scaring them with eternal damnation.

The interior is as impressive as the outside.

Gravestone of Bertrand Du Guesclin

St Sauveur Basilica- Duguesclin' s (heart) tombstone
Duguesclin’ s (heart) tombstone

The superb Gothic Flamboyant nave and chevet date respectively from the 15th and 16th centuries.

The Barillet workshops created the modern stained glass windows that depict the saints of the Catholic calendar.

These windows shed a warm light on the north transept where you’ll find the 14th century tombstone that contains the heart of Bertrand Du Guesclin.

The Du Guesclin’s family was a junior branch of the Lords of Dinan.

So were the Lords of Lanvallay who were all buried in St Sauveur Basilica except for Guillaume de Lanvallay.

Guillaume indeed left for England during the 12th century and was buried in the church of Walkern, North London, where you can see his recumbent statue.

Place St Sauveur

Chestnut trees surround the church square which serves as car-park most of the week except for one day when it accommodates a small flea market.

Place St Sauveur is tucked away from the busy town center and has a unique charm and atmosphere.

Most half-timbered buildings that frame it date from the Middle-Ages.

St Sauveur Basilica - Hotel de Serisay on Place Saint Sauveur
Hotel de Serisay

Some house restaurants and cafes with open air terraces in the summer months.

It’s a friendly place to meet for a coffee or a crêpe.

You’ll also find a couple of exceptional historic buildings that boasts a wealth of architectural features.

The half-timbered Maison Pavie at nos.10-12 was the birth place and family home of Auguste Pavie.

The French explorer and diplomat studied in the nearby Couvent des Bénédictines.

The beautifully restored building is now a guest accommodation.

The Hôtel de Serisay, one of the finest houses in Dinan, dates from 1665; you’ll find it on the opposite side of the square.

St Sauveur Basilica – Jardin Anglais

St Sauveur Basilica medieval cemetery is now a pleasant public garden named Jardin Anglais in memory of the British community.

St Sauveur Basilica - Jardin Anglais
Jardin Anglais

An alley links the Tour Sainte Catherine to the Poterne du Cardinal (towers).

It runs along the upper rampart and boasts stunning views of the port of Lanvallay and the viaduct.

You’ll find several benches among lawns and flower beds.

This is also where you’ll find one of the oldest trees of the city.

The ginkgo biloba is ranked among the Three Remarquables Arbres – Three Remarkable Trees of Dinan by the Conseil Général des Côtes d’Armor.

The other two listed trees are the araucaria in the cemetery and the Magnolia Soulangeana by St-Malo Church.

St Sauveur Basilica was listed Historical Monument in 1862.

Department of Côtes d’Armor – Dinan
Coordinates: Lat 48.453522 – Long -2.041984

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