Unlike many of the smaller towns which contain cathedral churches, St. Brieuc is a present day bishopric; hence the Cathedral takes on, perhaps, more significance than it would, were it but an example of a Mediaeval church.
In reality it is not a very wonderful structure, and the guide-books will tell one practically nothing about it. The town itself is a dull place, a tidal port, at some little distance from the sea, which flushes in upon it twice during the round of the clock.
A monastery was founded here in the fifth century by St. Brieuc, from whom the town itself and the present cathedral take their name. He was a Celtic monk from Wales, who, upon being expelled from his native land, located his establishment here, on the site of a former Gallo-Roman town. The patronal feast of St. Brieuc is held each year on the first of May and is a curious survival of a mediaeval custom.
Some remains of an early church are built into the choir walls, but in the main this not very grand edifice is of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
The tower, with its loopholes, would supposedly indicate that the church was likewise intended as somewhat of a fortification. The apse is rounded in the usual form, and on either side extend transepts to the width of two bays.
Within, the Cathedral is more attractive than without. The elements of construction and embellishment, while perhaps not ranking with those of the really great churches, are sufficiently vivid and lively to indicate that the work was consciously and enthusiastically undertaken. The lady-chapel is of the thirteenth century, and the transept rose is of the fifteenth, as is also the Chapel of St. Guillaume, named for the monk of Dijon who built so many of the monasteries throughout Brittany and who, it is to be presumed, planned or built the original structure, the remains of which are found in the present choir.
The windows throughout are either of not very good modern glass, or of plain leaded lights, which, in the majority of cases, may be considered as no less an attraction. An elaborate rose is in the western gable.
There are, in the church, various monuments and tombs to former bishops.