It was the ancient capital of the Celtic tribe of the Veneti, its inhabitants being put to rout by Caesar in 57 B.C. Afterward it became the Roman town of Duriorigum, and later reverted back to a corruption of its former name. Christianity having made some progress, a council was held, and a bishop appointed to the city, and from that time onward its position in the Christian world appears to have been assured. For centuries afterward, however, it was the centre of a maelstrom of internal strife, in which Armoricans, Britons, Franks, and Romans appear to have been inextricably involved. Then came the Northmen, who burned the former Cathedral of St. Peter. This was rebuilt in the eleventh century, and in no small measure forms the foundation of the present structure, which today is the seat of a bishop, suffragan of Rennes. From this early architectural foundation, to the most florid and flamboyant of late Gothic, is pretty much the whole range of Mediaeval architectural style. By no means has a grand or even fine structure resulted. The old choir, suffering from the stress of time, was pulled down and rebuilt as late as 1770. Thus, this usually excellently appointed and constructed detail is here of no worthy rank whatever. The nave and transepts were completed within the hundred years following 1452, and show the last flights of Gothic toward the heights from which it afterward fell. Transformation and restoration have frequently been undertaken, with the result that nowhere is to be seen perhaps greater inconsistencies. The latest of these examples of a perverted industry is seen in the nineteenth-century additions to the tower and the west facade. The result is not, be it said, to the credit of its projectors.
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