The old city of Vannes was once completely surrounded by a high stone wall, affording protection to the people of the city and the many beautiful buildings within. This wall is no longer complete, but a large area of the ramparts does still remain, covering the entire eastern side of the city.
Vannes is located on the Gulf of Morbihan at the mouth of two rivers, the Marle and the Vincin. It is around 100 km northwest of Nantes and 450 km south west of Paris. Vannes is a market town and often linked to the sea.
The name Vannes comes from the Veneti, a seafaring Celtic people who lived in the south-western part of Armorica in Gaul before the Roman invasions. The Veneti were defeated by Julius Caesar’s fleet in 56 BC in front of Locmariaquer; all the Veneti were then either slaughtered or sold into slavery. The Romans settled a town called Darioritum (the romanized Gaulish name of Vannes) in a location previously belonging to the Veneti.
The diocese of Vannes was erected in the 5th century. The Council of Vannes was held there in 461.
The first historical ruler of Vannes was Waroch.
In 1759 Vannes was used as the staging point for a planned French invasion of Britain. A large army was assembled there, but it was never able to sail following the French naval defeat at the Battle of Quiberon Bay in November 1759.
In 1795, during the French Revolution, French forces based in Vannes successfully repelled a planned British-Royalist invasion.