Tomb of Francis II, Duke of Brittany

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The tomb Nantes - cathedrale - tombeau de Francois II ter.jpg
The tomb

The tomb of Francis II, Duke of Brittany is a monument located in Nantes, in the Cathedral of St. Peter. The project was commissioned by Anne of Brittany, Queen of France, who was the daughter of Francis and his second wife Margaret of Foix, who is also depicted beside Francis. The tomb was originally located in the chapel of the Carmelites in Nantes. Francis II had wished that his body rest there, to join the remains of his first wife Margaret of Brittany. The tomb eventually received the body of Francis and both his wives, though only his second wife (Anne's mother) is depicted.


It was executed in Carrara marble in the early sixteenth century by the sculptor Michel Colombe based on a design by the royal artist Jean Perréal. It is the first major work of art in the Renaissance style in Brittany and is considered a masterpiece of French sculpture.

History of the tomb

18th century illustration of the tomb Franta2Bretan MarketaFoix.jpg
18th century illustration of the tomb

The project was commissioned by Anne to honour the memory of her parents. Originally known as the "tomb of the Carmelites", the monument was named from its location. It was completed in 1507.

During the French Revolution, it managed to avoid the revolutionary vandalism that affected many royal and aristocratic monuments. The architect Mathurin Crucy organised its removal when the chapel of the Carmelites was destroyed. It was dismantled and hidden. It was later restored to completion, and finally found a place at the cathedral in the early nineteenth century. Bones believed to be those of Arthur III, Duke of Brittany were also reinterred within it.


The monument consists of a rectangular sarcophagus, 3.90 by 2.33 m high and 1.27. [1] The gisants (recumbent effigies) of the deceased couple are lying prostrate with hands raised in prayer. Their heads rest on thick pillows held up by three angels. Margaret's feet are on a greyhound, a symbol of fidelity; Francis' feet rest on a lion, representing strength. At the four corners of the tomb stand four statues, each representing one of the cardinal virtues: Courage, Justice, Temperance and Prudence.

Around the tomb are other delicate sculptures in small niches of pink marble. These represent in turn the twelve apostles; the patron saints of the two deceased persons (Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Margaret); Charlemagne and Saint Louis.

Under these statues, huddled in small shell-shaped medallions, we see penitent mourners draped in black.

The tomb is a classified historical monument. [1]

The recumbent figures

Francois II, detail DSCN2051.JPG
François II, detail
Recumbent figures Gisant de Francois II, cathedrale de Nantes (France).jpg
Recumbent figures

The statues at the corners

The allegorical figures of women represent the four cardinal virtues, indicators of the virtuous path that the prince and that all men are called to follow:

The cardinal virtues
Courage DSCN2037.JPG
Temperance DSCN2041.JPG
Justice DSCN2045.JPG
Prudence DSCN2046.JPG


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  1. 1 2 Monuments historiques, tombeau : de François II et marguerite de Foix.
  2. Geneviève-Morgane Tanguy, Les jardins secrets d'Anne de Bretagne, 1991, p.36. In the Généalogie by Disarvoez Penguern, published when Anne is recognized as the duchess and in order to justify his choice for a queen, we find, after the death of Francis II:
    Ces deux filles faisaient grande douleur
    Dame Anne étoit la successeresse
    Et commença à penser en son coeur
    De ses affaires comme une vraie duchesse
    Tout le monde parloit de sa sagesse
    Nul ne pouvoit, à droit, apercevoir
    Sa grande vertu, prudence, noblesse
    C'est un abysme que de le concevoir.
    (Translation- modern English: Her two daughters were greatly suffering/ Dame Anne was the successor/ And started to think in her heart/ About her business like a true duchess/ Everybody spoke of her wisdom/ Nobody could, in his own right, see/ Her great virtue, prudence and nobility/ Is an abyss to conceive of.)

Coordinates: 47°13′5.61″N1°33′0.42″W / 47.2182250°N 1.5501167°W / 47.2182250; -1.5501167