The Parlement de Bretagne

Justice and culture, the symbol of Brittany

After being conquered by the Romans, then later the Francs, the Grand Dukedom of Brittany was officially integrated into France in 1532. At this crucial time, the city of Rennes came forward to serve as the administrative center and the head office of the Parlement de Bretagne (Parliament of Brittany). This ruling city has suffered two losses by fire, but the spirit of Bretagne survived and thrives.

The first flames in December 1720 ravaged houses in the city center. On the north side of the Vilaine, only a few buildings and half-timbered private mansions survived the devastating fire. Amidst the ashes, the Parlement de Bretagne stood strong as a symbol of the Breton identity.

The building had been constructed in 1618 and was designed by Salomon de Brosse, architect of the Luxembourg Palace in Paris. After the fire of 1720, the building was adapted by Jacques V Gabriel in a style which complimented the new Place du Parlement dedicated to Louis XV. The building quickly emerged as a cornerstone and key monument of Rennes.

The second fire attempted once more to destroy the Parlement de Bretagne, now the palatial home of the Rennes law courts. On February 4, 1994, masses of Breton fishermen gathered in the center of Rennes in a demonstration demanding state subsidies. A flare fired during the manifestation lodged itself in the attic of the building. The fire was not immediately perceived because the distress signal often malfunctioned, and this time the ringing was ignored as just another false alarm. The hungry flames devoured the centuries-old timbers of the roof, then moved on throughout the building, fueled by wooden decorations, files, and a light breeze.

Firefighters arrived to find the entire Parlement de Bretagne building engulfed in flames. Nearly 180 firefighters fought the raging fire, many of them sustaining injuries. Thanks to them, much of the artwork was saved from complete ruination. Sadly, the charred shell of the Parlement de Bretagne did not fare as well.

The Parlement de Bretagne building was restored and fully renovated under the direction of Alain-Charles Perrot and Jean-Loup Roubert, both of whom completed the work within the set limits of both cost and scheduling in time for the grand reopening on October 4, 1999.

The guardian of region’s heritage, the Parlement de Bretagne continues to play an important role in the Breton legacy and history. The city of Rennes is focused in design and structure around two important 18th century sites, the Hôtel de Ville and its beloved Parlement de Bretagne. It is once again a monument open to all its citizens, holding both justice and culture for all who enter within its walls.

Plan your visit

The Palais du Pu Parlement de Bretagne is located on the Place du Parlement. Guided tours available from the Office of Tourism on rue St Yves.
Tel: +33 (0)2 99 67 11 11
Website: www.parlement-bretagne.com 

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By Kari Masson, a freelance writer for travel, cross-cultural, and expatriate-focused publications. More than 50 of her articles have appeared in North America, Europe, and Africa. If you are looking to add dynamic creativity to your publication, contact Kari at
www.jkmassonprint.blogspot.com 

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