Becherel, France. The medieval burg with 700 inhabitants and 15 bookshops.
Bécherel is an ancient medieval village famous in the world for the average bookshops per capita, which reaches the incredible number of a one bookshops for every 44 inhabitants. It officially became a Book Town in 1989 when was held the first Fête du Livre, that now it’s an annual event, which takes place at Easter and is the frame of a series of events throughout all the year including a reading festival in October. And also a book market takes place in the town on the first Sunday of every month. The name “Bécherel” derives from the old Gaulish word “becquerelle”, that mean windmill.
The history of the small village, located in Brittany, France, at Northwest of Rennes, dates back to the Late Middle Ages, when Alain de Dinan, in 1124, built a first stone fortress that dominated the valley, and Bécherel grew up around this castle, but during the following centuries, the village and its fortress were the site of wars between the French and later between the French and the English. In 1419 the fortifications were restored, but from the 16th century onwards the city fell into ruin. The city was known in 16th century for producing Brittany’s finest linen and hemp, much of which was used to make sails.
The crisis of agriculture and the importation of raw materials from abroad putting great pression at the inhabitants of Bécherel, whose economy saw a new era of expansion thanks to the tourism industry during the 20th century. In fact, in the small village have opened over time 15 bookshops (a huge number compared to the inhabitants, about 700), supported by large-scale cultural events that have attracted a growing number of visitors, even from the other nations.
Despite this, some street names, like Rue de la Chanvrerie and Rue de la Filanderie, remind of its textile industry, as do the impressive merchants’ houses in La Place des Anciennes Halles. One of the city’s most beautiful buildings, visited by my brother this year, is the Hostellerie de l’Écu de Laval, an old inn dating from the 16th century, which is all that remains of a set of houses that hosted the old marketplace. Just near Bécherel there is also the Château de Caradeuc, the former home of the Prosecutor of the Breton Parliament.