Combourg, a town classified as a “Petite Cité de Caractère”® (A Little Town of Character), “Station Verte” (A Green Resort) and a “Ville Vélotouristique” (Cycle-tourism Town) can quite rightly pride itself as being the cradle of Romanticism.
Combourg is the result of the fusion of three different entities – still visible today and which structure the town.
According to tradition, St Lunaire, who came from Ireland, had a church built on its present site, thus giving rise to the first parish town. In the Middle Ages, Ginguené, bishop of Dol, built a castle with a motte to protect Combourg. With this, the stately village between the castle and the church was born. Later, Riwallon, Ginguené’s younger brother, would decide to reorganise the country socially, religiously and economically. He called upon the Benedictine monks of Marmoutiers, who founded the priory around which the priory town to the west of the castle would develop.
Architecturally speaking, the oldest buildings in Combourg are no older than the 16th century. Indeed, the lords of Combourg were embroiled in many conflicts, which caused much destruction to the town and the castle, in particular with the fire of 1234.
Originally dependent on the bishopric of Dol, Combourg was later established as a barony, then as an earldom in 1575, depending directly on the Duke of Brittany. It then belonged to various owners before being sold to the Chateaubriand family in 1761.
During the Renaissance, the economy revolved around the cloth trade and tanning, but was also dependent on butter and cheese-making, granite-polishing and brick-making. The mill on the Chaussée de Durfort, which spans the lake, serves as proof of this.
The village kept its original appearance until the beginning of the 19th century, and the arrival of the train. The location of the station would give rise to lengthy discussions between the town council and the local bourgeoisie. For the latter, a railway station located too close to the town centre would seriously harm common decency. The train station was therefore located two kilometres from the town centre.
A new district and a suburban, industrial zone then developed around the station. At the same time, new hygiene standards led to renovation work in the central market town: this included the widening of the streets, the transformation of the Place des Halles and the construction of schools. Throughout the 20th century, this development would continue, gradually eroding the space between the station and the old town centre.
Three pedestrian routes are available to ensure you don’t miss a single one of the town’s highlights: The Heritage Interpretation Tour allows you to discover the architectural wealth of Combourg, the Chateaubriand Tour leads you in the footsteps of the famous romantic writer, while the Literary Tour takes you on a tour of the famous Lac Tranquille.
Not to be missed: the Château de Combourg
Let yourself be guided here by François-René himself:
The visit begins with the 25-hectare park. This is an unguided, open visit, but the author highly recommends getting lost in the alleys and giving oneself up to quiet contemplation during a stroll through the grounds.
There, we are invited to recall Memoirs from Beyond the Grave as you sit on the porch and look towards the Green Court, and the alleys of chestnut and lime trees, just as François-René once did. Why not indulge in a moment of solitude, like he used to do?
Here, you can see the almost 250-year-old false cypress tree, which has quite rightly held the “Remarkable Tree” label since 2012. Then, stroll among the Chateaubriand and Sweet Delight roses that dominate this park, designed in the English style by Denis and Eugène Bühler in the 19th century. They were inspired by the Memoirs from Beyond the Grave as they recreated the Green Courtyard, the large and small malls, and the alleys of oak, lime and chestnut trees.
The spirit of the writer still lives on in this place. Today, you can still pass before Lucile’s cross and feel yourself immersed in that atmosphere that made her say, as Francis-Rene evoked her solitude: “you should paint all of this”.
We continue our visit by exploring the castle, allowing ourselves to be guided through its rooms.
The tour begins from the outside, along the ramparts, then continues through certain rooms of the castle marked by its history: furniture, period objects, hangings, and even some of Chateaubriand’s personal objects. You’re sure to be enchanted by the mysterious atmosphere of the place, imagining him as a little 8-year-old boy, walking along the corridors to find his way back to his little bed and overcome his fear of meeting the ghost with the wooden leg, accompanied by the black cat that haunts the grand staircase of the turret.
Then we have the pleasure of ending our visit by the castle’s curtain wall, which offers a breath-taking view of the quiet lake and the countryside of Combourg. Here, our spirits become enveloped by the romanticism that surrounds us.
The castle is still inhabited today by the descendants of the Chateaubriand family (descendants of Chateaubriand’s older brother Jean-Baptiste). The facades and roofs of the castle, as well as the guard room and the vestibule, are classified as “historical monuments”.
If you have any question, please contact the Tourist Office Saint-Malo Baie du Mont Saint-Michel
+33 (0) 825 135 200 (0.15€ per min)