A hidden gem of Breton heritage, Pontivy is a wonderful surprise for art and history lovers who venture into the centre of Brittany.
Between the 14th and 18th centuries, the town was the county seat of one of the most powerful families in the region : the Rohans. The castle which they had built at the entrance to the town proudly reminds us of the splendour of that time. Under their protection the old town developed and the charming little streets like la Rue du Fil and la Rue du Pont were the economic heart of the town. The half-timbered houses recall the lives of the cloth merchants. Among them, small hotels in the renaissance style remind us that the nobility also wished its power to be visible to all.
A few steps further on, on the way into the southern quarter of the town centre, a wholly unexpected chapter of history becomes apparent: the Napoleonic town. The narrow streets dating back to the Middle Ages give way to grand imperial streets showcasing the Emperor’s grand designs. Making Pontivy a military headquarters in war time and a major economic centre in time of peace, such were the designs of Napoleon 1st in 1802. Around the Place d’Arme, in the centre of the new town, nothing was left to chance. The massive barracks embody the power of the great military strategist that Bonaparte was. Built to an antique style with clean and sobre lines, the local tribunal stands out like a small version of a courthouse. To complete his architectural and political programme, one single building houses both the town Hall and the Sous-Préfecture, showing to all those who looked upon it that Napoleon 1st was master of his Empire in every way. One man's vision resulted in a century of history.
The beautiful bourgeois town houses are arranged around walkways and gardens. The ancient trees on Lenglier Square act as a screen to the imperial church of Saint Joseph, whose neo-Gothic style will certainly gives passers-by the desire to go back and re-read the famous novels of Victor Hugo.