1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Vitré

VITRÉ, a town of north-western France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Ille-et-Vilaine, situated on a hill rising from the left bank of the Vilaine, 24 m. E. of Rennes by rail. Pop. (1906) town, 7106; commune, 10,092. The town largely retains its feudal aspect. The ramparts on the north side and on the west, consisting of a machicolated wall with towers at intervals, are still standing. Only one gateway remains of the original castle, founded towards the end of the 11th century; the rest was rebuilt in the 14th and 15th centuries (the best period of Breton military architecture) and restored in recent times. It is now occupied by a prison, a museum of natural history and painting and the town library. The church of Notre-Dame, formerly a priory of the abbey of St Mélaine of Rennes, dates from the 15th and 16th centuries. An outside stone pulpit is a fine example of 16th-century sculpture. The church possesses a fine enamelled triptych of the 16th century. A tower of the 16th century is all that remains of the church of St Martin. The château of Les Rochers 3 m. from Vitré was the residence of Madame de Sévigné.

Vitré was formerly a Breton barony, and belonged in the 10th century to the younger branch of the counts of Rennes. In 1295 it passed to Guy IX., baron of Laval, on his marriage with the heiress, and afterwards successively belonged to the families of Rieux, Coligny and La Trémoille. The town was seized by Charles VIII. in 1488. Protestantism spread under the rule of the houses of Rieux and Coligny; Vitré became a Huguenot stronghold; and a Protestant church was established, which was not suppressed till the revocation of the edict of Nantes in 1683. Philip Emmanuel, duke of Mercœur, the head of the members of the League in Brittany, besieged the town in vain for five months in 1589. The estates of Brittany, over which the barons of Vitré and of Leon alternately presided, met here several times.