Welshmen throughout the world rejoice that it was one of their countrymen, a monk of the sixth century, who gave his name as founder to the “walled city of St. Malo by the sea.” With its outlying and contiguous towns of St. Servan, Dinan, and Parame, St. Malo is a paradise for the mere lover of pleasure resorts. Further, with respect to the first three places mentioned, there is present not a little of the romance and history of the past, reflected as it were in a modern mirror. Not but that the old town of St. Malo, within the walls, is ancient and picturesque enough, and dirty, too, if one be speciously critical; but the fact is that the modern Pont Roulant, and the omnific toot of the steam-tram, ever present in one’s sight and hearing, are forcible reminders of the march of time.
St. Servan, so far as its cathedral is concerned, may be dismissed in a word. The ancient see of St. Pierre d’Aleth had, at one time, its dignity vested in a bishop who enthroned himself in a cathedral, the remains of which exist today only as a fragment built into the fortifications. The bishopric was removed in 1142 to St. Malo.
With St. Malo a difference exists. Its cathedral, now degenerated to a parish church, is a Gothic work mainly of the fifteenth century, and, regardless of its unimposing qualities, is one of those fascinating old buildings which, in its environment and surroundings, appeals perhaps more largely to us as a component of a whole than as a feature to be admired by itself. The church, safely sheltered from the ravage of gale and storm, sits amid narrow winding streets, whose buildings are so compressed as to rise to heights unusual in the smaller Continental towns.
The edifice is mainly of the fifteenth century, but has been variously renovated and restored. Gothic, Renaissance, and the transition between the two are plainly discernible throughout. Perhaps the best art to be noted is that found in the interior of the choir, with its fine triforium and clerestory windows above. Here, again, is to be observed the squared east end of the English contemporary church, a further reminder, if it be needed, of the influences which were bound to be more or less exchanged with regard to the arts and customs of the time, on both shores of La Manche.
A few features of passing interest are here, an ivory crucifix, a few tombs, and some indifferent paintings.
The spire is modern, but gives a suggestion, at least, in viewing the city from a distance, of something of what a mediaeval walled seaport, with its population huddled close beneath the shadow of the church, and within the city walls, must have been like. The best example of this which ever existed in mediaeval France, and which exists today in a more than ordinary remarkable state of preservation, is the famous Mount St. Michel, a few miles only to the eastward, and famed of all, historian, ecclesiast, artist, and mere pleasure-seeker, alike. Most writers are pleased to refer to the confiding attitude of mine host, who conducts the principal hostelry on the Mount, and who guilelessly asks the wary traveller (ofttimes they are wary) what he has partaken of during his stay, and makes up the account accordingly. This is, perhaps, not the least of attributive charms, though it should be a minor one where this wonderful and real Mount, which takes its name from legendary St. Michel, is concerned, Indeed, leaving the cathedrals at Rouen, Chartres, and Le Mans out of the question, it is doubtful if the Abbey of Mont St. Michel is not the chief remaining architectural glory of the middle ages, west of Paris.
It is but a short distance from St. Malo to St. Servan, but what a difference! It is called by the French themselves the daughter of St. Malo, -the ” faubourg grown into a city.”
Rabida’s ” Bretagne ” states that there are ” nombreux des Anglais a St. Servan, des jeunes gens vivant dans les pensions brittaniques-des familles venant l’ete faire en Bretagne une cure d’economies pour l’hiver.” Continuing, this discerning author says:
“Bathers, bicyclists, golfists, promenaders, and excursionists abound.” Better then let them hold forth here to their hearts’ content; there is little that the lover of churches will gain from what remains today of the town’s former Cathedral of St. Pierre.