Heritage Days. The secrets of the Tanguy Tower

The Tanguy tower is an emblematic building of recovery, which has enormous secrets. You never stop learning new things about this mythical Tower, which remains the most visited in the city, during major events.

The medieval historian Yves Coativy had announced in the introduction to the last special issue of the Iroise notebooks that “The importance (…) of a monument is not always synonymous with long scholarly publications”. This publication is dedicated to the Tanguy Tower. In his editorial before development, the historian was curious to note that nothing was inscribed on the museum, even less on the building that houses it.

A « summary fortification » was first mentioned by the historian in his article. He indicated that before construction, this « summary fortification » was located on the Motte-Tanguy. It was in the 1380s, from a solid bastide. Despite numerous attempts by Duke Guesclin to dislodge them, Brest Castle was occupied by the English. Coativy continues by saying that « two bastilles » were built on either side of the Penfeld, by Jean IV of Brittany, in order to block access to the castle. He said it is a “particularly massive building flanked by seven or eight towers that were where the Tower is today. The vice-president of the Société d’Etude de Brest et du Léon (publisher of the Cahiers de l’Iroise) announced that this element has remained unknown to everyone until now.

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A ruin for several centuries

The historian then continued that the history of the tower was « fragmentary », he specified that it « lost its military quality » after 1491. He also quoted Kernévez, who had written in 1686 in his work  » The medieval fortifications of Finistère », « the castle of the motte Tanguy (is) all ruined and that there is only an old ruined tower.

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The draftsman Patrice Pellerin in « l’Epervier », made a map of Brest from 1762, which showed the « district of La Motte-Tanguy », which had only a few old towers still standing. Yves Coativy recalled that this building in ruins was sold by Rohan-Guéméné to the king in 1786. « Aristocrats no longer need a military symbol to prove their power »

An incomplete “puzzle”

A certain François Cabon bought, in 1807, what would remain only a « platform 3.5 m high ». He « dismembered the remains » and ended up giving it all up to the architect and municipal councilor Victor Eloi Barillé. The new owner transformed it into a dwelling and covered it with a pointed faceted roof. This Tower became the property of D’Thielemans, before the Second World War. He will also be the last occupant of the building as a civilian, a chapter was also devoted to him by the Cahiers. He called himself « the doctor of the poor » because he had found a way to bring patients in by a « curious outside staircase » in 1994, until the fire at the Tower.

This Tower was summarily renovated, because it was bought by the city in 1954. In 1959 the painter Jim-Eugène Sévellec was commissioned to announce the history of the city in the Tower. This story, we remind you, only remains a few vestige. These « dioramas » are still visible. In the end, we remember that several pieces of the puzzle are missing and that many more elements cannot be added, because there is nothing existing that provides information about the past, according to the historian Coativy.

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