Rennes - Encyclopedia

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RENNES, a town of western France, formerly the capital of Brittany and now the chief town of the department of Ille-etVilaine. Pop. town, 62,024; commune, 75,640.75,640. Rennes is situated at the meeting of the Ille and the Vilaine and at the junction of several lines of railway connecting it with Paris (232(232 m. E.N.E.), St Malo (51 m. N.N.W.), Brest (155 m. W.N.W.). A few narrow winding streets with old houses are left in the vicinity of the cathedral, but the town was for the most part rebuilt on a regular plan after the seven days' fire of 1720. Dark granite was used as building material. The old town or Ville-Haute, where the chief buildings are situated, occupies a hill bounded on the south by the Vilaine, on the west by the canalized Ille. The Vilaine flows in a deep hollow bordered with quays and crossed by six bridges leading to the new town or Ville-Basse on its left bank. The cathedral of Rennes was rebuilt in a pseudo-Ionic style between 1787 and 1844 on the site of two churches dating originally from the 4th century. The west facade with its twin towers was finished in 1700 and is in the Renaissance style. The interior is richly decorated, a German altar-piece of the 15th century being conspicuous for its carving and gilding. The archbishop's palace occupies in part the site of the abbey dedicated to St Melaine, whose church is the sole specimen of 11-13th century architecture among the numerous churches in the town. A colossal statue of the Virgin was placed above its dome in 1867. The Mordelaise Gate, by which the dukes and bishops used to make their state entry into the town, is a curious example of 15th-century architecture, and preserves a Latin inscription of the 3rd century, a dedication by the Redones to the emperor Gordianus. The finest building in Rennes is the old parliament house (now the law-court), designed by Jacques Debrosse in the 17th century, and decorated with statues of legal celebrities, carving, and paintings by Jean Jouvenet and other well-known artists. The town hall was erected in the first half of the 18th century. It contains the library and the municipal archives, which are of great importance for the history of Brittany. In the Palais Universitaire, a modern building occupied by the university, there are scientific collections and important galleries of painting and sculpture, the chief work being the "Perseus delivering Andromeda" of Paul Veronese. About 2 m. from the town is the castle (16th century) of La Prevalaye, a hamlet famous for its butter.

Rennes is the seat of an archbishop and a prefect, headquarters of the X. army corps and centre of an academie (educational division). Its university has faculties of law, science and letters, and a preparatory school of medicine and pharmacy, and there are training colleges, a lycee and schools of agriculture, dairying, music, art, architecture and industry (Ecole pratique). The town is also the seat of a court of appeal, of a court of assizes, of tribunals of first instance and commerce, and of a chamber of commerce, and has a branch of the Bank of France. Tanning, iron-founding, timber-sawing and the production of furniture and wooden goods, flour-milling, flax-spinning and the manufacture of tenting and other coarse fabrics, bleaching and various smaller industries are carried on. Trade is chiefly in butter made in the neighbourhood, and in grain, flour, leather,. poultry, eggs and honey.

Rennes, the chief c.ty of the Redones, was formerly (like some other places in Gaul) called Condate (hence Condat, Conde), probably from its position at the confluence of two streams. Under the Roman empire it was included in Lugdunensis Tertia, and became the centre of various Roman roads still recognizable in the vicinity The name Urbs Rubra given to it on the oldest chronicles is explained by the bands of red brick in the foundations of its first circuit of walls. About the close of the 10th century Conan le Tort, count of Rennes, subdued the whole province, and his son and successor Geoffrey first took the title duke of Brittany. The dukes were crowned at Rennes, and before entering the city by the Mordelaise Gate they had to swear to preserve the privileges of the church, the nobles and the commons of Brittany. During the War of Succession the city more than once suffered siege, notably in 1356-57, when Bertrand du Guesclin saved it from capture by the English under Henry, first duke of Lancaster. The parlement of Brittany, founded in 1551, held its sessions at Rennes from 1561,. they having been previously shared with Nantes. During the troubles of the League Philip Emmanuel, duke of Mercoeur, attempted to make himself independent at Rennes (1589), but his scheme was defeated by the loyalty of the parlement. Henry IV. entered the city in state on the 9th of May 1598. In 1675 an insurrection at Rennes, caused by the taxes imposed by Louis XIV. in spite of the advice of the parlement, was cruelly suppressed by Charles, duke of Chaulnes, governor of the province. The parlement was banished to Vannes till 1689, and the inhabitants crushed with forfeits and put to death in great numbers. The fire of 1720, which destroyed eight hundred houses, completed the ruin of the town. At the beginning of the Revolution Rennes was again the scene of bloodshed, caused by the discussion about doubling the third estate for the convocation of the states-general. In January 1789, Jean Victor Moreau (afterwards general) led the law-students in their demonstrations on behalf of the parlement against the royal government. During the Reign of Terror Rennes suffered less. than Nantes, partly through the courage and uprightness of the mayor, Jean Leperdit. It was soon afterwards the centre of the operations of the Republican army against the Vendeans. The bishopric, founded in the 5th century, in 1859 became an archbishopric, a rank to which it had previously been raised from 1790 to 1802. In 1899 the revision of the sentence of Captain Alfred Dreyfus was carried out at Rennes.

See Orain, Rennes et ses environs (Reims, 1904).

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