The Tanguy Tower of Brest, the oldest monument in Brest

It is indeed the Tanguy Tower, built in the 14th century. Overlooking the Penfeld like a lookout, this building enjoys an exceptional panorama.

Over time and the vagaries of Breton history, this symbol of Brest has changed. However, the Tanguy Tower remains a reference for all residents of Brest and for visitors stopping over on the Right Bank.

A remnant still standing

During the War of the British Succession, in the 14th century, Brest Castle was occupied by an English garrison. In an effort to dislodge these soldiers, the Duke John IV of Brittany organized the siege of the castle. He therefore built two new fortresses. The first, on the left bank of the Penfeld, has not survived.

On the other side, all that remains of the second (the Bastide Quilbignon) is a magnificent circular tower with a pointed roof which bears the name of several men of the Quilbignon family: Tanguy. The arms of the Quilbignons still appear above the lintel of the door. The tower has therefore survived the ages, unlike the rest of contemporary fortresses.

In the 20th century, it was burned down during the Liberation of Brest. Still intact, like the phoenix rising from its ashes, the Tanguy Tower now houses the Old Museum Brest.

A testimonial in pictures

In 1954, the city of Brest inherited the Tower. The need to find a new use for the Tanguy Tower was essential. Following the Second World War which had destroyed the city, the idea of ​​being able to recreate images of the Brest of yesteryear was a choice of resilience: the Tanguy Tower would become the setting for this new kind of Brest gallery!

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In 1962, the Musée du Vieux Brest opened its doors to visitors, with three floors of the tower devoted to the city’s past. From the ground floor, the visitor discovers various aspects of local history through the documents highlighted on site.

A permanent exhibition is devoted to Prison of Bresta penitentiary establishment where 70,000 prisoners were sentenced to hard labor from 1749 to 1858. The ground floor also reveals the map of the City of Ponant from 1636 to the 20th century.

Local artists in the spotlight

The two floors of the Tanguy Tower, also open to the public, present works related to life in Brest. On the first floor, the dioramas of Jim Sevellec – a Breton painter and ceramist (1897-1971) – depict situations from the city’s past.

The attack of the cord by the English navy on August 10, 1512 is one of the significant events represented on site. The details of the famous boat captained by Portzmoguer are rendered to perfection, such as the 200 cannons that equipped the nave.

On the second floor, the space is devoted to the post-revolutionary period. There are more creations of Jim Sevellec, through faithful representations of daily life in Brest over the past centuries. The picturesque sites of Brest like the rue de Siam or the market of the Tower are visible as they were at the time.

Also visit: Explore the seas at Océanopolis

Practical information for a visit

Entrance to the Tanguy Tower is free for all visitors. On the other hand, it is necessary to be attentive to the opening hours which vary according to the periods of the year:
October to May : Wednesday and Thursday from 2 to 5 p.m. and weekends from 2 to 6 p.m.

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During school holidays: the Tanguy Tower is accessible every day from 2 to 6 p.m. from June to Septemberfrom 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The tower is closed on January 1, May 1 and December 25.

Photo credit: Aodhanbzh [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

Read also: Brest, France: What to see and do!

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