Dol de Bretagne - Saint-Samson Cathedral

This page was updated on: Monday, March 20, 2017 at: 8:30 pm

Bishopric of Dol de Bretagne


Saint-Samson Cathedral - main facade

You'll find Saint-Samson Cathedral in Dol de Bretagne.

This picturesque medieval town is located 7km inland from the superb Baie du Mont Saint-Michel.

It is also one of the seven bishoprics the Celts from Cornwall created when they evangelized Brittany in the 5th century AD.

They left their country during the Angle and Saxon invasions and landed on the Breton shores.

They also changed the name Armor (the country by the sea) into Lesser Britain (as opposed to Great Britain).

The name later evolved into Britannia, Britain and Brittany.

The Celts of Cornwall had already converted to Christianity.

Their leaders, officially recognized by the Church of Rome, were adopted as patron saints throughout Brittany.


Grand Porche

St-Samson, St-Malo, St-Brieuc, St-Tugdal , St-Paul, St-Corentin and St-Patern founded the 7 bishoprics of Brittany:

Dol de Bretagne, St-Malo, St-Brieuc, Tréguier, Léon, Cornouaille and Vannetais.

They brought with them their old Celtic traditions which became anchored in the depth of the Christian beliefs.

They thus gave rise to a unique culture that is still deeply embedded in the Breton identity.

The knew that they wouldn't be able to dethrone overnight the many pagan deities the local folks worshiped.

Instead, they transformed them into local saints who protected, healed and watched over people' in their everyday life.

Many people still invoke these 'hybrid' deities' against diseases, weather conditions…

St-Samson's Well

Saint-Samson Cathedral was dedicated to its first bishop Samson, and was the seat of the bishopric of Dol de Bretagne.

Samson was a Welsh monk who went to Ireland to learn the doctrine of St-Patrick.


Original well

He then embarked for Brittany around 555AD in order to evangelize the local  populations.

He founded the monastery of Dol de Bretagne on a hill, next to a well.

The well was located outside the cathedral.

It fed the district that developed around the old monastery.

This well was in use until the 19th century; it became redundant, was filled in and fell into oblivion.

In 1996 a series of excavations uncovered not only this ancient well, but also a well preserved underground gallery.

This corridor linked it to a second well located underneath the Chapelle du Crucifix, formerly know as Chapelle du Puits (well).

Some believe that this second well is Samson's well.

Saint-Samson Cathedral - Architecture

The monks kept enlarging and improving their monastery until the 12th-13th centuries when they started the construction work of the cathedral.


Main rose

However, Saint-Samson Cathedral was completed three centuries later.

The western facade's severe architecture therefore combines various architectural styles ranging from the 12th to the 15th centuries

The work on the south facade, the cathedral's superb main facade, stretched until the 19th century.

It boasts two stunning features, the 13th century Petit Porche and the 14th century Gothic Grand Porche.

The cathedral's interior boasts impressive volumes and architectural features.

These include the nave's ornate galleries, the glass roof of the apse or the choir's ancient pews.

The building fortunately escaped demolition during the French Revolution as it served as a barn.

Saint-Samson Cathedral is one of the most attractive churches of Brittany and was listed Historical Monument in 1840.

Ille et Vilaine department
Coordinates: Lat 48.550712 - Long -1.756305

Brittany - Latest pages

La Pointe du Grouin - Ile des Landes, Chenal de la Vieille Rivière and lighthouse

Pointe du Grouin, a rocky spur south of the Baie du Mont Saint-Michel

La Pointe du Grouin, a rocky spur and protected natural site on the Emerald Coast in Brittany, marks the south boundary of the Baie du Mont Saint-Michel

Colonne du Guesclin – La Motte-Broons

The Colonne du Guesclin was erected in 1841 on the site of the Château de la Motte-Broons, the castle of Bertrand du Guesclin that was pulled down in 1616

Dol de Bretagne picturesque medieval town

Dol de Bretagne peaks above a former marsh located 8km inland from the Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey, and boasts an exceptional medieval architectural heritage

Baie d’Audierne – Finistère department

Baie d'Audierne, a wild natural area located south of the Pointe du Raz in the department of Finistère in Brittany and listed as a European Site of Interest

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

Please note: We will not sell or distribute your email address to any third party.