When the main street was covered

The medieval market from 15th century to 1773

Oldest remember the market by the cathedral which were destroyed in 1968, but little know where the medieval market was located.

It was established until 1773 in the current General-Leclerc street, from the street Rozière down to the Kreisker chapel.

It was a market-street like often in the medieval times. In small towns of low dimension around a main street, a simple and functional architecture was essential. It was a vast building of rectangular plan composed of lines of wood pillars supporting a covered slate roof and leaving the free passage the days without market.

Christel Douard made an enthralling study on the medieval market of Saint Pol...

In the 15th century...

In the absence of precise archive files, it is difficult to fix with certainty the date of construction of the medieval market of Saint Pol de Léon. Because of its structure, it seems to go back to the 15th century, time to which the city knew an economic advancement without precedent, both towards the sea, with the ports of Pempoul and Roscoff and towards the agricultural back-country with the rich and fertile grounds.

The axis formed by the main street occupied by this market was located halfway between two strong and competitor urban poles : the city of the bishop dominated by the cathedral Saint- Paul-Aurélien, and the limits of the trading suburb on which reigned the immense tower of Notre Dame du Kreisker. Feudal property, the market is marked, in 1614, with the armorial bearings of the marquis de Kerman.

14 spans of pillars

JPEGThe building had fourteen spans of pillars. Between 1767 and 1773, the building was always regarded as an economic instrument impossible to circumvent, but its site obstructed the developers ; one decided its demolition and a rebuilding elsewhere. Pierre-Joachim Besnard, engineer of the Bridge-and-Roadways, raised a plan of the city which considered, at least on paper, to transform Saint-Pol-de-Léon, strongly marked by its medieval inheritance, into a town of classical scheme with a more regular plan. The market, as a medieval vestige which blocked a very attended passage, embarrassed the developer trained with the concepts of the « Lumières ».

In 1773, Besnard also drew the cut of a rise which informs us about the aspect of the open building : it was 50 meters long and 8 meters broad ; a frame with rafter-bearing close and curved braces carried a roof to long sides, whereas stone bases avoided moisture.

A shelter for the criminals

During deliberations of the city community, the agreement for the displacement of the market was easily acquired. « The renewal of the city, the convenience of its inhabitants and public safety » were for the notable ones as well as for the engineer, sufficient reasons to impose the destruction of the building.

The security concerns were quite present to judge by the relation of the debates :« M. the count de Poulpiquet de Coatiez, owner of this market, authorises that it is demolished and that the community uses the materials to rebuild a new market ; the displacement of which is all the more advantageous as, on a side, the open market today denotes the most beautiful sight of the city, and that on the other side, it is used as a shelter (...) by the criminals who hide there in darkness, for from there insulting and maltreating the passers which complaint daily to the police ». (Departmental records of Finistère, Series 2E 1522)

Market or mob ?

The old texts use before all the word « cohue » (mob), of Breton Koc’ hu, such as for example, in 1306 in Guingamp, Roche-Derrien, Lamballe and Quimperlé, in 1429 in Josselin, in 1541 in Bain de Bretagne or in the 16th century in Rennes or Carhaix.

At the same time, the term « halle » (market) is used as of the 15th century, that of mob falling gradually in disuse, meaning then in French and by metonymy, large assembly or noisy crowd. But were not the large markets and fairs, just like the religious demonstrations - both were often dependent - noisy and agitated ? In fact, there were mob, crowd and hullabaloo at the medieval market.

MAJ 12 septembre 2014