St Louis Marie lived in Rennes between 1684 and 1692, while studying at the Jesuit College of St Thomas. His family moved to Rennes in 1686. He also visited Rennes in October 1706 after his pilgrimage to Mont Saint-Michel, when he took a meal with his family, preached a sermon to the Sisters of Calvary, and also at the Grand Séminaire. He visited Rennes again in 1714, when he met M. d'Orville and the Marquis of Magnane and made a retreat at the Jesuits' house.
All the sites associated with St Louis Marie in Rennes can be visited easily on foot. There is a car park in the centre of the town, built over the River Villaine, between the Quai Duguay-Trouin and the Quai Lammenais. If you park there, you are within easy reach of the sites, all of which are on the North side of the river except the Church of Toussaints (St Thomas' College). It is suggested you start with this church. There is a "Syndicat d'Initiative" (Tourist) centre at the East end of this car-park, where you can probably obtain a plan of Rennes. The following is a suggested itinerary.
Leave the car park on the South side, turn left and walk along the Quai Lammenais as far as the P.T.T. (Post Office) and Palais du Commerce, then on to the Rue du Maréchal Joffre. Turn right and walk down the Rue du Maréchal Joffre to the Rue du Pré-Botté (one block). Turn left and walk along the Pré-Botté to the Rue Capitaine Dreyfus. Looking right down this street, you will see on the other side the facade of the Church of Toussaints.
The College no longer exists: its site has been taken by the Lycée Emile Zola. All that remains of the College are the cloisters and the chapel, which is now the Church of Toussaints. A chart in the church recalls, among others, the passage of St Louis Marie through the College. Certainly he must have prayed here often. Nearby is the Rue des Carmes, where the Carmelite Monastery was, containing the shrine of Notre Dame de la Paix, which Louis Marie visited often.
On coming out of Toussaints church, turn right and right again to walk along the Rue Toullier. Passing the side and back of the Church, you may glimpse the ancient cloisters. When you come to the Avenue Jean Janvier, turn left and cross the river by the Pont Pasteur, continuing straight on through the Place Pasteur to the Rue des Francs Bourgeois on the left. Walk along here to the Place Saint Germain. There you will see the Church of Saint-Germain, where Louis Marie was godfather at the age of 16 to his brother Jean- Baptiste. Also here, on the right hand side near the sanctuary, is a plaque commemorating Claude Poullart des Places, Louis Marie's friend at St Thomas' College, and founder of the Holy Ghost Fathers and the Seminary of the Holy Spirit in Paris.
Leaving Saint-Germain church, turn right and walk along the Vau-St-Germain and the Rue Coetquen, cross the Place de la Mairie, keeping straight on and along the Rue F. Buisson, until you come to the Place du Calvaire (or des Calvairiennes). It was here that the Convent of the Sisters of Calvary was, where St Louis Marie said, on arriving to preach during his visit to Rennes in 1706: "I am not going to preach; I am simply going to make my meditation, as I would make it if I were alone in my room."
At the far left corner of the Place du Calvaire, you will see the Rue Saint- Yves. Walk down it. On the left hand side, towards the end, is the ancient chapel of the Hôpital Général Saint-Yves. It was here that Louis Marie first experienced caring for the poor, under the guidance of M. Julien Bellier, while he was a student at St Thomas' College. His own mother, visiting a friend there one day, was told by her, "It was your son, Madame, who obtained a place for me here and had me carried here in a chair." The chapel was built in 1494, and has recently been undergoing restoration.
Cross the street from the Rue Saint-Yves into the Rue des Dames (some very ancient houses here), and walk up it until you come to the Cathedral (Saint- Pierre). This is a 19th century building, but is built on the same site as the one Louis Marie knew, which was demolished in 1757. A number of Montfort Fathers of the French Province and of the Province of Great Britain and Ireland, were ordained here.
On coming out of the Cathedral, turn right and walk along the Rue de la Monnaie until you come to the junction with the Rue Clisson and Rue Rallier du Baty. Turn right down the Rue Clisson and walk down to the Place Saint- Sauveur.
It was here that Louis Marie's uncle, Alain Robert, was a priest and the sacristan. Louis Marie lodged with him (probably somewhere close by) for the first two years of his studies at St Thomas' College. Here also is the statue of Our Lady of Miracles and Virtues, at whose shrine Louis Marie came frequently to pray. The original wooden statue is not normally on display in the shrine; but if you telephone beforehand to the Parish Priest, explaining that you are Montfortian pilgrims, he will almost certainly arrange with the sacristan for you to see and venerate the ancient statue which Louis Marie knew (you can obtain the telephone number at the Maison Natale in Montfort). On the left-hand side of the Church there is a stained- glass window with St Louis Marie, St John Eudes and other devotees of Mary. There is also a plaque commemorating the fire of 1720, thought by some to have been prophesied by Louis Marie in his Canticle No 150.
On coming out of Saint-Sauveur, turn left and walk back up the Rue Clisson, then continue straight on along the Rue Rallier du Baty, across the Place Saint-Michel, and up the Rue Saint-Michel into the Place Sainte-Anne. On the left-hand corner of the street on the opposite side of the square is the old Couvent des Jacobins, the house of the Dominicans. It was here that St Louis Marie often went to venerate and pray before the shrine of Notre Dame de Bonne Nouvelle. The image of Our Lady is no longer here, but in the church of Saint-Aubin in the square. The street between the Dominican Convent and Saint-Aubin is the Rue Saint-Malo, which in St Louis Marie's day was the Rue Haute. It was in this street that, in October 1714, following the advice of St Louis Marie, M. d'Orville placed a statue of Our Lady over his doorway and knelt in the street to say the Rosary, to put an end to scandalous behaviour in the street. Today there is an old statue of Our Lady on an ancient house at No 30; it may be that this is the site of the incident.
The street which runs West from the corner of the Dominican Convent is the Rue d'Echange. If you walk along here to the Rue de Dinan, and (?) turn right here, you will find the Vieux St-Etienne church. Louis Marie's mother, who died in 1718, was buried in this church.
To get back to the car-park, walk back to the Place Saint-Anne, then back down the Rue St-Michel, the Rue Rallier du Baty, and the Rue Clisson. Opposite Saint-Sauveur, take the Rue du Guesclin, then turn right down the Rue de l'Horloge and the Rue de Rohan. This will bring you back to the river, with the Quay Duguay-Trouin on your right.
To get to Cesson, which is five kilometres (3 miles) from the centre of Rennes towards the East, drive East along the Quai Lammenais, through the Place de la République, and along the Quai Emile Zola and the Quai Richemont, then follow the signs towards Chateaubourg, Vitré and Paris, avoiding Motorway routes. As you reach Cesson-Sévigny, a park has been created on the river banks on your left, and there is a car park which is reached by turning left off the main road at traffic lights. You then walk across two small bridges over branches of the river to the main bridge of Cesson.
When Louis Marie set out for Paris at the end of 1692, he was accompanied as far as the Pont de Cesson by his uncle Alain Robert, his brother Joseph and possibly Jean-Baptiste Blain. They would have come to the river from the North side, following the old Paris road, which crossed the river at this point. A horse was offered to Louis Marie to ride at least half of the 300 km to Paris, but he refused it, and said good-bye to everyone. Having crossed the bridge, and when his relations and friends had disappeared, he promptly gave away all his money (10 écus), exchanged his clothes with those of a beggar, and knelt down to make a vow never to possess anything from then on. It was a moment of total abandonment to Providence, which he lived for the rest of his life.
Bécherel is about 20 km North of Montfort-sur-Meu. Leave Montfort by the Bédée road (left after crossing the railway bridge), passing through Bédée and across the main N12 road.
In 1705, a retreat house had been founded in Bécherel by four ladies of the area, where closed retreats were held (a novelty at the time) for men and women, the preachers being designated by the Bishop of Saint-Malo. St Louis Marie was one of those chosen towards the end of 1706 to preach. According to Grandet, there were more than two hundred Franciscan and Dominican tertiaries who attended this retreat in the house in the Rue Faubourg Berthault, which today is a home for the aged. The chapel where St Louis Marie celebrated Mass and preached, still exists.
If you are continuing on from Bécherel to Mont Saint-Michel, it is suggested you take the road to Tinténiac and Combourg (the château here was the home of the writer Châteaubriand), then by way of Trémeheuc, Trans and Pleine- Fougères (not Fougères) to Pontorson, where you will pick up clear signs to Mont Saint-Michel.
The Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel was founded in 966, and was occupied by Benedictine monks until the French Revolution. Later, it served as a prison for many years. A small group of Benedictine monks returned in 1966 (the Millenary), and celebrate the office there every day except during the month of November - the Mass is at 12-15.
We do not know exactly where Louis Marie, accompanied by Brother Mathurin, stayed in Mont Saint-Michel. They arrived on the eve of the feast of St Michael, 28th September, 1706, after his return from Rome, and Louis Marie made a retreat there. The biographies relate the incident of the penance which he inflicted on himself for the blasphemies uttered by some men in the next room. No doubt he celebrated Mass in the parish church of St-Pierre, halfway up the street leading to the Abbey.
Note: the village street and the entrance to the Abbey provide a very steep climb! Anyone suffering from a bad heart might be well-advised not to attempt the visit to the Abbey.
The easiest way to get from Mont Saint-Michel to Dinan is to return to Pontorson, then simply follow the signs to Dinan - very straight-forward.
If you are approaching Dinan from Mont Saint-Michel, Rennes or Montfort, you will almost certainly enter the town by way of the viaduct over the Rance. At the far end of the viaduct, follow the main road round to the left and under the walls into the town centre. Except on market-day, there is plenty of parking in the Place du Guesclin or its continuation in the Place du Champ-Clos; from there it is easy to walk to all the Montfortian sites in the town.
After his retreat at Mont Saint-Michel, Louis Marie visited Rennes, then set out to find M. Leuduger in Dinan, perhaps passing through Montfort on the way. On his arrival in Dinan, he lodged with the missionaries who were then preparing a mission in the town. It is thought that they were lodged at Nos 7-9 Rue de la Croix. To get there from the parking place in the Place du Guesclin, continue on down the main road until you come to the Hôtel de Ville (which used to be the Hôpital). Cross over the Grande Rue which joins here on the right, and continue on for a few yards; the narrow Rue de la Croix opens on the right-hand side. If this was indeed the lodging place of the missionaries, then it is probably the site of the famous incident of "Ouvrez à Jésus-Christ" (Open up for Jesus Christ): Louis Marie, having found a leper lying in the street, carried him on his shoulders to the house of the missionaries, where, finding the door locked, he hammered on the door crying several times, "Ouvrez à Jésus Christ!"
Return to the main road, and turn left, following the Grande Rue up to the church of Saint-Malo on the left. Inside, on the right-hand side, is a beautiful stained-glass window depicting St Louis Marie encouraging the Comte and Comtesse de la Garaye in their work for the poor (see below).
At the East end of the church of St Malo, on the left, is the Rue de la Garaye, where you will find the Clinique de la Sagesse, with a certain number of memories of Louis Marie and the Comte and Comtesse de la Garaye: it was the Comte who later asked for a foundation of the Daughters of Wisdom in Dinan, which was founded at his château and later moved to this street. It is thought that this is also the site of the "soupe populaire" (soup-kitchen for the poor) started by St Louis Marie and perhaps the Comte and Comtesse.
Continuing on along the Grande Rue, past the Place des Cordeliers, you will come to the top end of the Rue du Jerzual, a beautiful mediaeval street which leads down to the Porte du Jerzual and the old bridge over the Rance. Louis Marie would probably have entered Dinan by this way.
Turning right at the top of the Rue du Jerzual, you pass by the ancient streets of old Dinan, to the Tour de l'Horloge. Turn left here to visit the Basilica of Saint-Sauveur, where there is a window on the left which commemorates, among others, St Louis Marie. If you go past the Basilica into the Jardin Anglais, you will have a good view down into the valley of the Rance, with the old bridge on the left.
Return to the Tour de l'Horloge, and turn left. A little further along, on the left-hand side, immediately after the Tourist Office (Syndicat d'Initiative), is the Théatre des Jacobins. This is the old Dominican convent and Church where Louis Marie's brother Joseph-Pierre was a member of the community when he arrived in Dinan. He was the priest in charge of the sacristy. When Louis Marie went to visit him, Joseph-Pierre did not recognise his brother, who asked him, "My dear brother, please give me some Mass vestments; I would like to celebrate Mass at the altar of Blessed Alain de la Roche." Joseph-Pierre was angry at being called "Brother" instead of "Father". It was Brother Mathurin who at length enlightened him as to the identity of this priest, who, on being taken to task for his failure to make himself known, replied, smiling, "What are you complaining about? Didn't I call you my dear brother?"
To return to the car-park in the Place du Guesclin, take the street almost opposite the Théatre des Jacobins.
The Château de la Garaye is just outside Dinan on the road to Ploubalay (i.e. towards the North West). Coming out of the car-park in the Place du Guesclin, turn right, and follow the main road to the big roundabout in the Place Duclos, shortly after the Hôtel de Ville. Here there should be signs for Ploubalay - you turn right at the roundabout, then left shortly after: keep following the signs, until you find yourself obviously on the way out of Dinan. After a couple of kilometres, the N176 passes over the road you are on; immediately after this bridge, there is a little lane on the right- hand side, with a sign indicating the Château de la Garaye. Drive right up this lane to the farm at the top; there you will see the ruins of the old château.
The Château de la Garaye was the home of the Comte and Comtesse de la Garaye, a young married couple who had lived a relatively free-and-easy life until, not long before the arrival of Louis Marie in 1706, a series of misfortunes had led to their conversion. They had already begun to welcome the poor into certain buildings belonging to the château. Encouraged by Louis Marie, they converted their stables into a hospital, and there took care of the poor with their own skills: he was a celebrated chemist, and she a well-known oculist. In 1751, they invited the Daughters of Wisdom to come to take charge of this hospital, and this beginning was the origin of the Clinique de la Sagesse in Dinan. Today one can see the ruins of the old château and the stables which became the hospital.
You can approach this area in two different ways from Montfort-sur-Meu.
1. Take the road for Bédée (through the town to the Station and the railway bridge, then turn left). At Bédée, turn left onto the main N12 road, and follow this past Montauban. Two kilometres further on, take the slip road right onto the N164 (the Brest road, probably signposted for St Méen-le-Grand and Merdrignac). Continue on the N164, through St Méen-le-Grand, to Merdrignac. Leave the main road here, to go through Merdrignac to find the D793 to Ménéac and La Trinité-Porhoët. (This is probably the easiest and fastest route).
2. Take the road to Iffendic (see directions above), and there continue on through the village towards Muel and Gaël (the D30). On arriving in Gaël, watch for signs to Mauron and Ploërmel. These will bring you, just outside Gaël, to a junction with a fairly major road (the D166), signposted left to Mauron and Ploërmel, and right to St Méen-le-Grand. Ahead of you should be a road signposted for St Brieuc-de-Mauron. Take this road, and when you arrive in St Brieuc-de-Mauron, watch for the signs to La Trinité-Porhoët (the D2).
In 1707, the mission team of M. Leuduger, including St Louis Marie, came to La Chèze to preach a mission, almost three centuries after St Vincent Ferrier, seeing the ruins of the little chapel of Notre Dame de Pitié, had prophesied that a man sent by God, a man unknown and contradicted, would rebuild the chapel. During the mission of La Chèze, St Louis Marie declared that he was that man, and set about rallying the people of the area to help him in this great enterprise. The work continued when the mission team moved on to the next parish at Plumieux. Statues were ordered from Nantes and delivered to La Trinité-Porhoët. At the end of the mission of Plumieux, all was ready, and a great procession, with participants from twenty or thirty surrounding parishes, escorted the statues the ten kilometres from La Trinité-Porhoët, through Plumieux, to Notre Dame de Pitié at La Chèze. St Louis Marie returned to La Chèze twice more during that year, at the feasts of Ascension and Pentecost, and the devotion he had aroused in the people of the area continued for many years afterwards.
It is not sure that St Louis Marie preached a mission here, but it is known that the statues for La Chèze were delivered here and carried in procession to La Chèze. Also about this time, Louis Marie was passing through La Trinité-Porhoët one evening with Brother Mathurin, when he found a group of parishioners singing the Litany of Our Lady before the ancient statue of Notre Dame de la Clarté in the church porch. When they had finished, he encouraged them to continue their daily devotions to Mary, and the practice continued for many years afterwards. Today the old statue is kept inside the church, at the left hand side of the sanctuary arch. In the church there is also, as a reredos, a magnificent "Tree of Jesse", and, in the left-hand wall of the nave, a stained-glass window representing Louis Marie's meeting with the parishioners in the porch.
Take the road out of La Trinité-Porhoët towards Plumieux and La Chèze. The missionaries lodged in Plumieux at the Inn of the Four Winds (l'Auberge des Quatre Vents), which has since disappeared, but stood where the "self- service" (take-away shop) now stands near the church. The church itself has been replaced since the time of St Louis Marie.
Continue on the road through Plumieux, a further 7 kilometres, to La Chèze. At the entrance to the town, at a little roundabout, on the right-hand side, stands the Chapel of Notre Dame de Pitié, restored by St Louis Marie during the course of the missions in La Chèze and Plumieux in 1707. Behind the altar, at the foot of the crucifix, is the statue of Our Lady of Pity, with the dead Christ in her lap, which was presented to the chapel by St Louis Marie; the other statues, it seems, have since disappeared. On the right- hand side of the sanctuary hangs a painting of Mary sheltering the sick and the lame, with St Louis Marie himself kneeling at the left-hand side. It is said that this painting was made by Louis Marie himself. If you can find the parish priest, he will be very happy to talk to you about the chapel, and he has some leaflets describing it further.
Drive into the town and up the main street. Immediately after crossing the river, the main road bends right. There is a road straight ahead, which you should now take. After a couple of hundred yards, turn right along a little lane which may be signposted "La Grange". Do a couple of left turns within a few yards, and you will see an old building, looking like a farm, on the right (you are pointing back towards the road you left a few moments ago). There is a sort of lane parallel with the little road you are on, separated from it by a hedge, which passes under an archway. This is the former hunting lodge of the Duc de Rohan, and it was here that Louis Marie stayed while he was in La Chèze. Park, and go in under the archway, where there is a little wooden door set into the right-hand wall. Enter and go up the spiral staircase (mind your head!) to the room above the archway, Louis Marie's room, converted into a small chapel by Father Thomas de la Penthière.