Chateau de l’Hermine

Vannes, France | C.1380

Photo Credit: @elfestivalito

Chateau de l’Hermine is the former residence of the Dukes of Brittany in Vannes, France. When the Dukes first arrived in the city in 1380, they didn’t have a proper castle, so Duke Jean IV built the Chateau and raised the city’s surrounding walls.

The Chateau’s ties to honor reflect back to its name. In French, Hermine translates to stoat, which is a small mammal native to Eurasia, also known as the weasel. In folklore, it’s believed that instead of dirtying its white winter coat, the stoat would prefer to die. The region named the stoat the symbol of Brittany in honor of its purity and willingness to die instead of giving in to lower morals.

Surrounded by moats, the original Chateau was made up of a small main building, two big towers, and several turrets. To the north, there was a farmyard and outbuildings where soldiers and horses resided. As legend has it, in the nearby tilt yard, an enclosed courtyard designed for jousting, five Bretons defeated five Englishmen during a tournament.

After centuries of use, the Chateau was eventually abandoned. During the reign of Louis XIV, the structure was demolished and replaced with the current castle. Designed in the Neo-classical style and erected in 1798, the new fortress was soon closed and sold several times before the State acquired it to house the Artillery School of the XIth Army Corps. Today, the Chateau de l’Hermine is used for administrative services.

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