From his perch on Mont Dol the Devil saw St Samson, an incomer from Wales and one of the seven founding saints of Brittany, busily constructing his cathedral at Dol-de-Bretagne two miles away. Furiously he tore up a huge stone and lobbed it at the offending structure, smashing one of the two towers. But the granite projectile bounced off its target and came to rest upright 3km away. It is better known today as the Menhir du Champ Dolent, a standing-stone of just over 9m in height, raised somewhere around 2500BC. It is solitary now, but actually stands in a straight line with two other large menhirs between the remarkable passage grave at Tressé in the forest of Mesnil and Mont St Michel, where once there were also neolithic monuments.
|Menhir du Champ Dolent|
Below the open plateau dominated by this enormous stone is the rural
the fontaine of St Samson in an little enclave of verdure. He
arrived in this spot from village of Carfantin via the river
Guyoult, and after curing a local nobleman's daughter through exorcism, was
given land here in an idyllic location for a first monastery. This spring might
also have a significant connection with the Arthurian legend, but I digress... Great
|Fontaine de Saint Samson|
Continuing along the river valley, now managed in a series of lakes and ponds as a nature reserve and flood deterrent system, I am soon in the centre of Dol-de-Bretagne, a town of singular historical significance and resplendent architectural remains. The oldest house in
century) still stands in the main street, surrounded by colourful half-timbered
buildings from later centuries. This Grande rue des Stuarts is a reminder that
the Scottish dynasty started here, as Walter Fitzalan, from the local noble
family, was appointed 'steward' in Scotland for King David 1st, a position that
became hereditary. Although the chateau of Dol is long gone, a powerful
stretch of ramparts looms over the flat marshland - somewhat more under
cultivation today but still unmistakably a marais - that
surrounds the city. Brittany
|Oldest house in Brittany|
The Gothic cathedral, rebuilt after destruction by King John in 1203, holds many secrets and oddities. Apart from the single tower, it has the only double well known on such a site: one shaft inside the cathedral, one just outside, the two joined by a flooded underground gallery. A magnificent 13th century window dominates the interior, and the ornate tomb (1507) of bishop Thomas James features a representation of the Holy Grail which is lit by a ray of sun on the summer solstice. It is not impossible that the Grail itself may once have lodged in Dol, but that's another story.
Leaving the town down steps from the ramparts, a little lane leads out north across the marsh, under the expressway and later the railway line, meandering through fields of maize and drainage channels lined by soft reeds and wetland flowers, all the way to Mont Dol, a table-shaped hill curiously rising ahead out of the ubiquitous flatness.
One of the seven sacred hills of