From Aquilonia to Quimper

version française

  1. Civitas Aquilonia
  2. The City of Legend
  3. Medieval times : the two Kemper
  4. The Wars : successions and religions
  5. Quimper towards is stone face
  6. Quimper head of department
  7. The XIXth century completes the picture of Quimper
  8. Quimper in our century
  9. Quimper, capital of France ... for 24 hours !
  10. The present-day Quimper

Civitas Aquilonia

In the first century BC, Roman soldiers built the City from Aquilonia, at the actual localisation of the area of Locmaria, along the river Odet. The river enables boats to come with the rising tide from the sea to the city, but it is nevertheless possible to ford the Odet with the low tide. The local place-names still witness, one of the city'streets is called street from the "Géu‹odet" (Fordodet). Those two assets would be of great importance for the city and the regional trading all along his history.

Archaeological excavations allowed to rediscover many vestiges of the city Aquilonia. It seems that rich Romans built their residences a little outside the city, on the surroundings hillsides. So remains of a house with thermae were discovered at the top of the present street from Rosmadec, revealed by the digging of foundations for a building in the 1970 years. After a few centuries of prosperity , the city declines after the falling of the Roman Empire (beginning of Vth century).

The City of Legend

The Legend of theKing Gradlon and the City of Ys brings back the History of the foundation of the city. It is said that King Gradlon, fleing on the horse Morvarc'h the furious Ocean angry at his daughter's actions Dahut, arrived at the place where two rivers flow together between 7 hills. He decided to settle there and naturally called the city "confluent" (confluence), "Kemper" in Breton.

On the path, near Plomodiern, he has encountered Kaourintin, the hermit from the sacred forest. Gradlon starving, was fed by the hermit, who putting his hand in a fountain caught a fish from which he cut countless slides without injured it. Gradlon kept Kaourintin on his side and decided to create a bishopric, that he offered to Kaourintin. He became the patron saint from the city of Kemper-Corentin.

An inscription, in the past put on the pediment from the Cathedral of Quimper says that :

Grallon, Roy chrestien des Bretons armoriques,
Qui l'an quatre cent cinq, selon des vraies chroniques,
Rendit son ‰me ̀ Dieu, cent et neuf ans ainsçois
Que Clovis premier Roy chrestien des François.

Grallon, christian King from armorican Bretons,
Who in the year four hundreds five, according to his true chronicles,
Gave back his soul to God, one hundred and nine years before
Clovis first christian King of French.

Whatever , the city was erected at the confluence of Odet and Steir, near a kilometer upstream the old Roman city from Aquilonia.

Medieval times : the two Kemper

In medieval time, the city has near 5000 inhabitants and covers 15 hectares. She is the capital from the Dukedom and the Bishopric of Cornwall and so residence of the Duke of Cornwall (Cornouaille) an the Bishop of Cornwall. Those two important persons share the power on Kemper and its region. The Bishop lived on the left bank of Steir. In 1209, the Duke of Cornwall in a attempt to reduce the influence of his opponent built a castle on the right bank of Steir. The Bishop answered by building a ring of stone ramparts around the bishop city in 1230.

Ramparts are composed of ten towers and six gates which give access to the enclosed city. One of the tower is still visible from the crossroad of "la Tourbie", name coming from the breton "tour bihan", the "petite tour" (little tower). The Steir and the ramparts constitue thenceforth and for a long time the limit between the two cities, the one from the Bishop and the one from the Duke of Cornwall. The Medard bridge is the only passage betwenn the fortified city and the one called "Terre au Duc" (land of the Duke), which gave the name to the actual Square Terre au Duc. The Terre au Duc was not fortified, the ducal army being a good dissuasion force against bandits and brigands. She got her own church (Saint Mathieu, restored in XVth century), her own market and an own jurisdiction.

Every third saturday of the month, a great fair was held in Kemper, the most important was the one in December. Kemper was already the centre of trading in Cornwall, place where one must passed at the cross of rivers and roads which

The Wars: successions and religions

The building of the Cathedral of Kemper starts in the XIIIth century. Nevertheless it gains slowly its actual aspect, each century adding its stone to the edifice. In the XIVth century , from 1341 to 1363, the succession war from Brittany is raging, after the death from Jean III le Bon. The fights opposed Jean de Montfort, half brother from Jean III to Charles de Blois, brother from Jean III. In1344, Charles de Blois forms a french army and takes the city of Quimper from Jean de Monfort, himself supported by an english army. Jean de Monfort died soon after, but the city knew a long period of instability and was besieged many times before that Du Guesclin took it again for the King of France. It is evaluated that 1400 inhabitants from Quimper were killed during those wars for the succession of Dukedom of Brittany.

The religion wars took place after those of succession, 250 years later. Those wars called "wars of the Ligue", opposed the Catholic and the Protestant, then after to the King Henri IV. The Cornwall inhabitants were and (are still) very catholic and of course support The Ligue. The revolt was leaded by the church and the people who keep back from the influence of Henri IV. He did not admit being vanquished and send the Sire from Lezonnet, governor of Concarneau, who after having defended the Ligue, became an allied of the King, at the assault of Quimper. The Marshal of Aumont, Earl of Chateauroux, is called to help Lezonnet. In 1594, the city is bombarded from the heights of Mount Frugy; the Quimper inhabitants inspite of their determination must capitulate. The most fearsome from the breton Leaguers Guy Edern de la Fontenelle, half-brigand, half-gentleman, tryed two times with his partisans to take back the city (1595 and 1597), without success.

Quimper towards his stone face

Quimper reaches the XVIIIth century without problem. In 1762, a great fire devastated the city during two weeks, destroying the main part of the cathedral area. After it was forbidden to build back the burnt houses according to the technique of wood and clay which was used before, the deleted houses were built in stones. This material is not missing, the essential part of the region has a ground of solid granite.During this century and mainly the following, Quimper takes the aspect of a middle-class city. The medieval houses which have survived the great fire from 1762 are destroyed one after another and replaced by strong houses of stones. Nice residences and private mansions are built which are still visible today. A few wooden houses, so characteristic with their corbelled front are preserved. They recall even in the today Quimper, the medieval heritage of the city.

Quimper head of department

The Revolution from 1789 reorganises the administrative french landscape and the Constituant Assembly must chose an head for the department of Finistere. The Assembly chose Quimper, to the detriment of Landerneau, the other candidate. Three years later, the same Assembly deposed Quimper for Landerneau, the Quimper inhabitants being said to be too near from the Girondins. However, in 1794, Quimper recovers his title of head of department, title kept by the city since that year.

In 1793 the revolutionaries, who did not like the saints and all what was linked to religion, decided to rename Quimper- Corentin in ..... Montagne-sur-Odet. It is true that the Frugy Hill dominates the river by near 70 meters... This modification was not liked by Quimper inhabitants and Revolution or not the city kept the name of Quimper. The suffix "-Corentin" having disappeared. At the same period, revolutionary ideas lead Quimper inhabitants to divest the cathedral from the essential of its inside ornament in wood in 1793, it is burnt on the actual square of the Resistance. The only saved are the statues from Saint Anne and from Santik Du.

The XIXth century completes the picture of Quimper

In theXIXth century, under Empire, Quimper is a prosperous city and sees it population doubled. The diocese gets through a collect enough money to build on the cathedral two spires of stone of 80 meters height, still present today. The railroad reached Quimper in 1863, with important consequences on the economy of the region. The city must adapt to those changes and its map is deeply affected so as to accommodate in the best way the supplementary traffic and to allow business to develop. Many hotels are built, the Odet is channelled, the main streets are rebuilt straight , a great part of ramparts is deleted. Those works lead to continue to delete corbelled medieval houses, engineers putting forward the nuisance to the traffic: their action plan reduced, by example the street Obscure (dark street) (now Elie Freron) from 3 meters large on the ground floor to a size of 50 centimetres at the height of roofs.... The ring of corbelled houses which sheltered the small shops and surrounded the cathedral is deleted without pity. The oldest chapel of the city, which arised on the corner of the street du Gueodet and the street of Boucheries, is deleted. Its bell is nevertheless kept and put in the cathedral and always rings today for Quimper inhabitants. Many bridges are built on Odet and the harbour, which was before at the location of the first city, at the confluence of Steir and Odet, is moved from one km downstream, at the level of the Cap Horn. This place is named according to the cafe bar which was there at that time and survived until nowadays. In 1847, the colonel Astor, mayor of Quimper, decided to clean the ruins from the old Coventry of Cordeliers and have there halls built market halls.

Quimper in our century

The theatre is inaugurated in 1904, the building of the actual prefecture in 1909, both along the quays of Odet, on the left shore.

Quimper, capital of France ... for 24 hours !

During the hard times of the second World War, the french government had to move its administration to be out of reach from Germans. Many heads of prefectures were proposed and Quimper was elected! The preparations for the move began but the same evening the government modified its decision and left to go toVichy...

The present-day Quimper

Quimper has for a long time been embarrassed by the small size of its territory. The city, builds at the confluence of Steir and Odet, is thus "jammed" through the hills which line the rivers and on which are installed the small cities of Ergue Armel, Kerfeunteun and Penhars. In 1960 the three cities have decided to gather to their great sister Quimper to form a unique district borough, the "Great Quimper".

The halls are destroyed by a fire in 1976 and replaced by a modern building. In october 1987, a exceptional and dreadful tempest knocks down all the trees which adorned the city of Quimper, some were many- centuries old. The Mount Frugy is particulary devastated but the schools of the city mobilize the year after and establish a programme during which each child plants a new tree so as to give back to Frugy its foliage of long ago.