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Tonquédec (Municipality, Côtes-d'Armor, France)


Last modified: 2022-03-11 by ivan sache
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Presentation of Tonquédec

The municipality of Tonquédec (1,178 inhabitants in 2016; 1,801 ha) is located in northern Brittany, 10 km south-east of Lannion.

Ivan Sache, 31 July 2016

Flag of the castle of Tonquédec


Flag of the castle of Tonquédec - Image by Ivan Sache, 31 July 2016

The castle of Tonquédec, registered in 1862 as an Historical Monument, is one of the best preserved medieval fortresses in Brittany. It was defended by 11 towers, including two donjons linked to the main building by a drawbridge. The castle is presented as follows on its official website:

The castle was built south of an old feudal place at the end of the rocky outcrop overlooking the Léguer valley, by the lords of Coëtmen. Owned by Prigent, lord of this place from the late 12th century, it goes to the favour of his daughter's wedding in the family Coëtmen who retained ownership until the early sixteenth century. During the wars of succession of the duchy of Brittany, the primitive stone castle was largely destroyed in 1394.
From 1406 and after coming back to the side of the Duke of Brittany, Rolland III of Coëtmen began to rebuild the house north and east wings. Throughout the fifteenth century, his successors will seek to enlarge it, complete it, modernize and adapt to the development of artillery. Most of the buildings we know today date from this period. In the first part of the 16th century until the first half of the 17th century, through the succession, the estate became the property of the family of Acigné then the family of Gouyon de la Moussaye, who will undertake the repair and supplement the enclosure of the forecourt.
In the first half of the seventeenth century, after the dismantling of the building by order of Richelieu, the castle was sold to the family du Quengo. Undergoing a steady decline over the following centuries, all sold in 1879 to a merchant who planned to operate in a stone quarry.
Eugénie de Keroüartz marrying the Count Pierre de Rougé, the Marquis de Keroüartz managed to acquire the ruins of the castle and offered it to her daughter. The family of Coëtmen had extinct in the de Rougé in 1749. The last Baron Coëtmen before the Revolution, was Bonabes Victurnien Louis Alexis (1778-1838), Marquis de Rougé, future peer of France and Field-Marshal, grandfather of the Count Pierre de Rougé (1855-1912).

The castle was acquired in 1637 by René de Quengo, who changed his name to René de Quengo de Tonquédec. His sister, Louise de Quengo, was re-buried in the municipal cemetery of Tonquédec on 23 September 2015, 358 years after her death and a few months after the unexpected discovery of her body (see below), upon request of her descendants, the noted actor Guillaume de Tonquédec (b. 1966) included.
[Le Trégor, 24 September 2015]

In spring 2015, archeologists led by Rozenn Colleter performed "preventive excavations" in the historical downtown of Rennes, where the former Jacobins convent (14th century) should be transformed into a modern Congress Hall, to be inaugurated in 2018. The architect, Jean Guervilly, proposed to keep and restore the aboveground structure of the convent and to "conceal" all the new buildings underground, which gave archeologists an excellent opportunity to excavate the area.
Under the cloister, the garden, the church and the refectory of the former convent, the archeologists excavated more than 800 skeletons and five lead sarcophagi, each of them surmounted by a heart-shaped reliquary, all dated to the 17th century. The first four sarcophagi yielded well-preserved skeletons with sawn skull and thorax, which indicates embalmment, a practice reserved to nobles at the time. The fifth sarcophagus yielded a body completely preserved from putrefaction, which was immediately shipped to Toulouse, where scientists from the laboratory of molecular anthropology, led by Eric Crubézy, and medical examiners from the university hospital, led by Fabrice Dédoult, analyzed it using the most advanced techniques. The undressing of the body and its in-depth investigation with a medical scanner took 16 hours. Over the last three decades, only a dozen of such preserved bodies have been retrieved in Europe; most of them, however, could not be studied in detail in time, before putrefaction occurred. Accordingly, the body of Louise de Quengo is expected to provide hitherto unknown information on the Breton nobility in the 17th century, especially diet, diseases and funerary rites.
The unambiguous identification of the body was permitted by the heart-shaped reliquary placed on the sarcophagus, which was inscribed with "Here lies the heart of Toussaint de Perrien, knight of Breiffeillac, whose body lies in Saint-Sauveur near Carhay [Carhaix] in the convent of the Discalced Carmelites that he founded, who died on 30 August 1649 in Rennes."
Toussaint de Perrien was indeed Louise's husband. A document kept in the Rennes municipal archives, dated 16 March 1656, confirms the identity of the body, recalling the burial in the cemetery of the Jacobins convent of "Louise de Quengo, buried with the heart of her husband". The scan of the body revealed that Louise's heart had been extracted, probably to be placed in a reliquary near her husband's body in Carhaix.
[Télérama, 23 July 2015]

The castle of Tonquédec (photo, photo, photo, photo, photo) flies a square flag, red with three rows of three white rings each and a white border.

The flag is derived from the arms of the Coëtmen lineage, whose historical genealogy was established in 1865 by the historian, archivist and numismatist Anatole de Barthélemy (1821-1904) (Généalogie historique des sires de Coëtmen, vicomtes de Tonquédec en Bretagne. Revue Nobiliaire, 1865, 3, 1-15.)
At the end of the 15th century, the House of Coëtmen was deemed "the highest and first in seniority, nobility, and birth in the bishoprics of Cornouaille, Léon and Tréguier, stemming from the Barony of Avaulgour and part of it". This fame did not prevent the origin of the lineage to have been lost, as recognized in 1516 by Gillette de Coëtmen. The genealogy was obscured by fanciful connections with the Counts of Cornouaille and Audran, an alleged "King of Armorica" in the 5th century.
The oldest known lord of Tonquédec is Geslin de Coëtmen, son of Henri, Count of Brittany (d. 1164), and of Mathilde de Vendôme, mentioned until 1235. His son Alain bore in 1231 the title of Viscount of Tonquédec and was still alive in 1260. Alain's sons succeeded him, Prigent, as the Viscount of Coëtmen, and Pierre, as the Viscount of Tonquédec. Rolland de Coëtmen, son of Prigent and of Anne de Laval, was Viscount of Tonquédec and Coëtmen; he died before 1311. He was succeeded by his sons, Gui, Viscount of Coëtmen, who died in 1330 without heirs, and Rolland II, who was captured during the battle of Auray (1364).
Rolland III (d. in 1423) supported the House of Penthièvre against the Duke of Brittany and joined the rebellion set up by Constable Olivier de Clisson (1336-1407). Captured, he was eventually released, without paying a ransom, in 1395. Pardoned, he recovered the castle of Tonquédec and reconciled with the duke, serving him as his chamberlain. Rolland III eventually opposed to the Penthièvre party after they had captured the Duke of Brittany by treachery. His grandson, Jean (d. 1496), revolted with most Breton barons against Pierre Landais (1430-1485), the main councillor of Duke François II; the rebels met in Ancenis in 1484, taking the French party against the independence of Brittany. After Landais' disgrace and execution, Jean de Coëtmen reconciled with François II and was made Baron of Coëtmen in September 1487. His son, Louis, Viscount of Tonquédec, supported François II against another baron's revolt, defending the town of Guingamp and capturing several rebels in the abbey of Bégard.
Louis' sister, Gillette, inherited the barony of Coëtmen and married in 1495 Jean d'Acigné. The subsequent Viscounts of Tonquédec and Barons of Coëtmen stayed away from Brittany, abandoning their seat at the State General of Brittany.
In 1737, the Barony of Coëtmen was acquired from the lord of Talhouet by Alexis René de Coëtmen, from the Boisguezennac branch, allegedly stemming to Rolland II de Coëtmen. His daughter, Julie, married in 1748 Pierre François, Marquis de Rougé, whose descendants still own the castle of Tonquédec.

The arms of the Coëtmen lineage are represented on two of the oldest known Breton rolls of arms.
The roll of arms of the ost of Ploërmel was designed in 1294, when Duke John II gathered the troops of his vassals (ost) in the town of Ploërmel. Among the 30 represented arms, Rolland I de Coëtmen is assigned "Gules seven annulets argent 3, 3 and 1".
The roll of arms of the second Treaty of Guérande (1381) refers to the treaty that reestablished the power of Duke John IV, who had to recognize the suzerainty of King of France Charles VI and to expel his English councillors. Among the some 200 represented arms, Rolland III de Coëtmen is assigned "Gules seven annulets argent 3, 3 and 1". So is his younger brother, Geoffroy de Coëtmen.
[Michel Pastoureau. L'héraldique bretonne. Des origines à la guerre de succession de Bretagne. Bulletin de la Société d’Archéologie du Finistère, 1973, 101, 121-147; Le rôle d'armes du second traité de Guérande (1381). Une photographie de l'héraldique bretonne à la fin du XIVe siècle. Bulletin de la Société d’Archéologie du Finistère, 1976, 104, 103-152.]

The arms of the Coëtmen are represented in different panels on the main window of the St. Peter church of Tonquédec, as "Gules nine annulets argent 3, 3 and 3"; these arms, designed during the restoration performed in 1954-1955 by Hubert de Sainte-Marie to replace panels broken long ago, should be considered as "Coëtmen modern". They are also sculpted on the facade of the church and widely used by the municipality of Tonquédec.
The local tradition says that the annulets represent Byzantine coins, recalling a knight from the Coëtmen lineage who went on a crusade; Prigent de Coëtmen indeed went to Palestine, with a loan of 400 pounds granted by the Duke of Brittany, whom he reimbursed in 1274. Another tradition relies on a medieval equestrian game, in which riders had to catch rings with their lance. Anatole de Barthélemy writes that the annulets represent the towers of the castle seen from above.
[Jean-Yves Cordier. La maîtresse vitre de l'église Saint-Pierre de Tonquédec]

Ivan Sache, 31 July 2016