Suscinio castle in Brittany: a magical medieval residence

The Suscinio castle is a superbly restored medieval castle nested between sea and marshlands on the peninsula of Rhuys. Come along for a visit of one of the favorite and most prestigious residence of the Dukes’ of Brittany!

On our little road trip in Brittany, driving to our hotel located on the peninsula of Rhuys, I couldn’t help but notice the signs for the Suscinio castle. Since the last past weeks had been exhausting, we had planned to only relax, sleep and enjoy the spa. But of course the signs on the road awaken in me an urge to see this castle and the next day, we did!! I just can’t resist medieval castle, but you already knew that!! 😉

And what a marvelous surprise!!

The Duke of Brittany favorite hunding castle Suscinio

 

Suscinio castle: history and renovation

The Suscinio castle was built between the 13th and 15th century. It was one of the preferred residence of the Dukes of Brittany who came there to practice hunting and display their power. What is most impressive in Suscinio is the tremendous renovation work that have been conducted in the last past decades. When bought by the Department of Morbihan in 1965, the castle, was in pretty bad shape, like a lot of medieval castle, at some point, it was partially dismantled and felt in ruin. But Suscinio was and is still being rebuilt and the work done is impressive.

Suscinio - Brittany - France - view from the outside

Suscinio - Brittany - France - view from the curtain wall

The north curtain wall with it’s flanking tower and a view on the country side

Suscinio - Brittany - France - the western dwelling

The Western dwelling which is still being renovated

There is a video you can view in the castle which shows the craftsmanships involved in the reconstruction. From the carpenters work, to the stone carving, the roofs tiling in handmade slates, the detailed work of the artisans involved in the creation of the windows, the shutters and the iron work involved… It took a lot of craftsmanship and love to bring Suscinio back to life!

Suscinio castle - Brittany - France

Suscinio castle: a few words to the ranters

When touring the castle, it seems that some people are a bit disappointed by 2 things.

1 – That concrete has been used in parts of the castle.

Since you’ve read my post on Vianden, one of my favorites medieval castle, you already know about the Venice charter and the recommendation that:

“The process of restoration…. must stop at the point where conjecture begins, and in this case moreover any extra work which is indispensable must be distinct from the architectural composition and must bear a contemporary stamp.”

So indeed, the Suscinio castle, displays a fair amount of concrete, but this shows the incredible amount of work that has been conducted.

Suscinio - Brittany - France - outer chamber

Concrete floor and ceiling in the bed chamber and outer chamber

Suscinio - Brittany - France - bed chamber and coussiege

This little nook is called a coussiège. Cover with pillows, it must have been a very comfy place

2 – That the Suscinio castle is a bit dull, and empty.

Indeed, as you can see on the pictures, the Suscinio castle doesn’t display much furniture. But what it lacks in decorum, it makes up in information! In each room, you will find information boards with explanations of the life of the Duke and his court in medieval times and the information provided are often more detailed than in most castles I’ve visited.

Suscinio - Brittany - France - the Duke's hall

The Duke’s Hall or banqueting hall

Suscinio - Brittany - France - 1st floor great Hall

The first floor Hall with displays of archeological findings

Suscinio - Brittany - France - medieval clay cups

Suscinio - Brittany - France - a beautiful glass

 

Suscinio - Brittany - France - quatrefoils windows

The steps in front of the quatrefoils windows were used to display the most precious items owned by the Duke. 

Located in the Duke’s hall of course

Suscinio - Brittany - France - Duke's hall - banquetting hall

 

Did you know for example that a sommelier in medieval times, wasn’t just in charge of the wine like nowadays, but rather of the whole household from the bed to the the bed linens, from the candles to the table clothes and the tableware and pretty much everything the court was travelling with? I didn’t!!

The details provided on the various roles and responsibilities of the huge household, the Duke was travelling with, is incredible! Composed of 90 people in the early 14th century, the household grew to 665 in the late 15th century! 665 people!! From the Grandmaster of the household, to the cooks, saucers, spicery, chandlery, bakery, the valets, the laundresses, the secretaries, surgeons, astrologers, musicians and bodyguards, to the grooms and all the positions related to hunting like veneurs, leurreurs, valets de chiens, kennel men, falconers… almost every type of trade was represented to serve the Duke!

Suscinio - Brittany - France - medieval costume in display

Those costumes are on display but there are in this room lots of other costumes that you can use to dress up like a knight or a princess! 

As you can tell, the Suscinio castle didn’t disappoint me! and I enjoyed and savored the time we spent there.

Suscinio - Brittany - France - the chapelThe chapel on the 2nd floor and the entrance to the Duke’s private oratory. The window is called a hagioscope. The Duchess sat on the left of the hotel in the same oratory. The other faithful stayed in the middle part of the chapel. 

The Suscinio castle interesting architectural features

I also have to tell you that the Suscinio castle has several very interesting architectural features:

1 – The serving hatch

In the great hall which was used for banquets, there is still a small room on the side which was used as a serving hatch and scullery. It communicated directly with the kitchen (which no longer exist). This small room was used to keep the food warm before serving it “à la française” meaning serving several dishes at the same time. It was also used by the cupbearers to prepare the jug of wines to be served, as next to the serving hatch, there is also a staircase with a direct access to the cellar.

Suscinio - Brittany - France - the serving hatch

 

2 – The steam room

Hygiene was far more important at Medieval time than what is commonly thought. Of course the latrines that you have seen in castles, may make you doubt this and the fact that they used moss and leaves to clean their royal behinds probably didn’t help.

Despite this, there are several features commonly found in castles which can make you rethink this opinion and the steam room in Suscinio is surely one of them.

Steam room were usually present in high status residences during the 14th and 15th century but I had never seen one before so I was thrilled!

Located next to the wardroom, it is made of 2 rooms: the steam room, with the seating area and the heating room, a paved stone floor heated by a hypocaust (think of Roman baths) and a furnace where wood was burned (the 2nd floor is missing).

Suscinio - Brittany - France - the steam room

3 – The vaulted ceiling of the 3rd floor

Whao! When walking up the stairs to the 3rd floor, I was expecting to find such a magnificent and warm room. The outer chamber and great hall boast an impressive paneled vaulted ceiling which gives a warms and cosiness to the rooms despite their size.

Suscinio - Brittany - France - the third floor great hall

Suscinio - Brittany - France - vaulted ceiling of the 3rd floor

There remains a bit of a mystery. Let me explain: the map given at the entrance and the signs in the castle says these rooms were the Duchess’ apartment, however the little guide I bought, explains that these were the Duc’s apartments as “they dominate everyone but are still lower than God“. I assume the later option is probably be the most appropriate answer although some architectural signs on the 2nd floor do not make sense anymore…. a mystery I tell you!!!

 

4 – The Chapel floor 

In 1975, groundworks carried around the castle, revealed the remains of a chapel build outside the castle walls. A fantastic discovery was made, as 30,000, amazingly preserved, terra-cotta tiles were excavated. They are now displayed on the 3rd floor.

Inlayed tiles and colorful faience tiles made respectively in the 13th and 14th century covered the circa 300 sum floor of the chapel. The inspiration for the decoration of these tiles varied from the usual coat of arms, alphabet and geometrical patterns, to medieval bestiary including lions, dromedaries, legendary beasts and fantastic creatures like mermaids.

Suscinio - Brittany - France - the chapel floor made of terracotta tiles

Suscinio - Brittany - France - the terracotta tiles in display

Suscinio - Brittany - France - terracotta tiles from the chapel

Suscinio - Brittany - France - mermaid on terracotta tile

Suscinio - Brittany - France - pattern - terracotta tiles

 

A delightful visit indeed!


 

Need some help with the medieval castle vocabulary?

Download and print my mini guide!! 


 

The Technical bits: 

The official website of the Suscinio castle: suscinio.fr although there doesn’t seem to be an English version.

There are loads of activities organized at Suscinio, from guided tours, to quests and those are not just for kids! To photography or bird watching tours in the marshland, it’s a lively place!

Suscinio castle - kids playing kings, knights and princesses


 

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