“Pontivy-Napoleonville”? Why this imperial name in this town in Central Britain? Napoleon Ier did he reside in this city in the 19the century ? Let's go back in time together to discover the history of this city with two faces.

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Pontivy Napoleonville

A city crossed by rivers, with major arteries and administrative buildings.


In 1806, Napoleon Ier launches the construction of Canal from Nantes to Brest. The latter passes through Central Brittany and Pontivy is at the center of this project: equidistant from Nantes and Brest. The Nantes-Brest canal will become navigable in 1842, 36 years after the start of work!

Pontivy was not chosen at random to bear the name of the emperor. It is not only a city ideally located with the presence of water, it is also a revolutionary city, which will please the Emperor.

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Napoleon sought to establish the project of a new town taking his name, renamed “Napoleonville” in 1802.

The town plan for this new town will make it possible to extend the town, without modifying the medieval part. The fashionable hygienist movement of this time will be applied to this part of the city: large boulevards, a grid of streets and homes with space.

Napoleoner never had the opportunity to go to Pontivy and therefore did not see the completion of this new town project. Napoleon III, for his part, made a quick visit there in 1858 and was asked by the inhabitants to finance the Imperial Church of Saint-Joseph, built in his image and that of his wife, Eugénie. Go to Square Lenglier where this atypical church is located which was never finished.

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The Imperial Church of Saint-Joseph

This church was built under Napoleon 3 in the 1860s. Its stained glass windows date from the 1990s.

During the 19e century, Pontivy will alternate names several times. Its name has been modified according to the falls and returns of the empire. It was from 1870 that Pontivy finally kept this name.
Do you know the second French city built under Napoleon I?er ? This is La Roche-sur-Yon, formerly “Napoléon Vendée”! Striking similarities between these two cities will jump out at you.

To find out more about this part of the history of Pontivy, the city of two eras, take part in the guided tour Heart of historic city.

Are you interested in this historic district? Do you want to discover more about this city? Please note that a medieval district borders the Napoleonic part.

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small tip

To find your way around the city, look at the color of the signs:

  • red medieval quarter
  • green Napoleonic district

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