Saint Malo

Aerial photo of Saint Malo

Saint Malo is a medieval port city that still preserved its medieval appearance.


Location: Brittany Map


Description of Saint Malo

Saint Malo 

Saint Malo is located on the island in the mouth of Rance River. The name of the town comes from Saint Malo (Maclou) who settled these area in the 6th century with Saint Brendan and Saint Aaron establishing a small secluded monastic community. Home to many French pirates it has a long proud history of autonomy. In 1490 it even proclaimed an independence from basically everyone and established a motto "not French, not Breton, but Malouins". Malouins are residents of Saint Malo.


Travel Destinations in Saint Malo

Chateau de Saint Malo

Cathedral of Saint Vincent

Tour Solidor

Chateaubriand's Tomb

Tomb of the famous French writer, historian and politician François-René, vicomte de Chateaubriand (1768- 1848).



Prehistory and Antiquity
The history of Saint-Malo goes back to the Gallic era: the Coriosolites first occupied the place. Under Roman influence, the city of Corseul (inland) developed at the expense of the city of Alet, but Alet remained an important port to the point that at the end of the 3rd century the Romans chose to fortify it. At that time, facing Alet, the island of the future Saint-Malo was still uninhabited.

During the withdrawal of the Roman army (January 16, 423), Alet suffered numerous attacks from the north. It was then that Saint Malo, coming from what is now Wales, settled on the rock which would take the name of Saint-Malo rock in 541.

Middle Ages
Alet continues to develop until the end of the first millennium when, after several attacks by the Normans, the city is permanently weakened. In the middle of the 12th century, the episcopal seat of Alet was moved to the rock of Saint-Malo, but it is not known whether the arrival of the bishop preceded or followed the first urbanization of Saint-Malo. This event nevertheless marks the end of the greatness of Alet. From now on, the strategic position of the port is the object of conflicts between the dukes of Brittany and the kings of France. Saint-Malo will thus be temporarily attached to the royal domain from 1395 to 1415, taken over by the Duke of Brittany in 1415 on the return of the ducal army from the battle of Agincourt, then again integrated into the royal domain in 1488.


Modern era
On March 11, 1590, Saint-Malo proclaimed its independence from the kingdom of France and became the Republic of Saint-Malo. The four-year episode will end on December 5, 1594 with the conversion to Catholicism of King Henry IV, the city returning at the end of this period to the fold of the kings of France.

It was with the discovery of the Americas and the development of trade with the Indies (first armed slave ship in Saint-Malo in 1669) that Saint-Malo took off economically and grew considerably bolder. Shipowners became more numerous and people from this period made the town famous, a fame whose peak coincided with the South Sea trade, which brought silver from the Peruvian mines back to Europe. Jacques Cartier discovers and explores Canada, privateers harass enemy merchant and military navies, such as Duguay-Trouin, then a little later Surcouf.

Others distinguished themselves in science, like Maupertuis, or in literature and politics, like Chateaubriand. Modification of the lifestyle, the shipowners built beautiful private residences called malouinières.

The rise of Saint-Malo was affected by the French Revolution, which did not spare it. The most dramatic episode was the shooting in the dunes of Talard of 60 “counter-revolutionaries” from the Vendée army in December 1793. The youngest was 16, the oldest 19.

Wandering fishing, Big Fishing, on the banks of Newfoundland is developing. Seaside tourism began very early (first bathhouse in 1838) as well as literary and artistic tourism with the establishment of the Chateaubriand tomb on the islet of Grand Bé.

Saint-Malo was the fifth French slave port with the departure of approximately 250 expeditions until 1824. It is estimated that 80,000 the number of slaves transported by armed ships in Saint-Malo. One of the last shipowners to practice triangular trade was Robert Surcouf, even though this activity was banned in 1815.