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map_caption = Historical "pays" of Brittany with their names in Breton
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subdivision_type = Country
subdivision_name = flag|France
parts_type =Largest settlements
population_as_of =July 2006 estimate
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Brittany ( _br. Breizh pronounced|bʁejs; _fr. Bretagne, IPAudio|fr-Bretagne.ogg| [bʁətaɲ] ; Gallo: "Bertaèyn") is a former independent Celtic kingdom and
duchy, now incorporated into France. It is also, more generally, the name of the cultural area whose limits correspond to the historic province and independent duchy. It was at one time called "Lesser Britain".
Brittany occupies a large
peninsulato the north-west of France, lying between the English Channelto the north and the Bay of Biscayto the south. Its land area is 34,034 km² (13,137 sq mi). The historical province of Brittany is divided into five departments: Finistèrein the west, Côtes-d'Armorin the north, Ille-et-Vilainein the north-east, Loire-Atlantiquein the south-east and Morbihanin the south, on the Bay of Biscay.
World War II, the government of Vichy Franceannexed the Nantesregion from Brittany [ [http://www.brittanytourism.com/page/p-227/html-discovering-brittany-history.html Brittany Tourism] ] . Today, 80% of historic Brittany has now become the "région" of Bretagne, while the remaining area, around Nantes (formerly one of the historic capitals of Brittany), forms part of the ( Loire-Atlantique" département". For the current debate regarding reunification, see the Bretagnearticle).
In January 2006 the population of Brittany was estimated at 4,300,500 inhabitants. 72% of these live in the Bretagne "région", while 28% of these live in the Pays-de-la-Loire "région". At the 1999 census, the largest metropolitan areas were
Nantes(711,120 inhabitants) Rennes(521,188 inhabitants), and Brest (303,484 inhabitants).
Brittany's traditional and popular history is equally intertwined with the
Matter of Britainand Matter of France, for the Breton- and Gallo-speaking regions respectively. Although much is remarked of Brittany's ancient Celtic links with Britain, Brittany's modern or political history is stereotyped as merely a French, or " Gallo-Romance" matter. This is a misconception, since the Gallo section (part of Latin Europe) of Brittany reforged links with Britain, albeit as Normandy's "sidekick". The Hundred Years' Warhas obscured these facts, as well as the Romano-Britishnature of the Breton people(both Celtic and Romance.)
While the 1066 conquest of England gave control of that kingdom to Normandy via Normans in
London, Brittany was imbued with junior status in Northern Englandvia Bretons in Richmond. The relative positions of the Norman Dukes in London to Breton Dukes in Richmond during the Mediaeval period, was not unlike the Primacy of Canterburyabove the Province of York, itself formerly superior to Scottish bishops (until cancelling the Treaty of Falaisedisestablished York's control in Scotland, except Whithorn).
As the Normans encroached upon
Wales, Bretons would simultaneously be influential in Scotland. Important Breton personages in Scottish history were Conan IV, Duke of Brittany, John of Brittany, Earl of Richmond, Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray(FitzRandolph of Middleham), Brian FitzAlan, Lord FitzAlan of Bedale(Viceroy of Scotland for Edward I of England). The pro-Bruce Randolph and pro-Balliol Alan families were illegitimate lines of the counts and dukes of Penthièvre, with permanent lodgings and responsibilities at Richmond Castle. Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond (future King Henry VII) spent quite some time living in Brittany (1471 - 1485). The Tudor dynastywas Welsh and Henry incorporated the White Greyhound of Richmondinto his arms, while this animal (or the whippet) is still a favourite pet of Dalesmen to this day. As a result of the Valois Crown incorporating Brittany to France, the Tudors made Brittanys Richmond estate into a permanent appanageof the Royal Family, with Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somersetbeing the first bastard it was conferred upon.
Support from the Vikings
Following the successful example of the
Cornish-Viking alliancein 722 at the Battle of Hehil(modern day Padstow) which helped stop for a time the Anglo-Saxon conquest of Cornwall, the Bretons made friendly overtures to the Danish Vikingsto help contain Frankish expansionist ideas, and in 865 AD the Vikings and Bretons united as one to defeat a Frankish army at the Battle of Brissarthe, near modern day Le Mans. Two Frankish kings, Robert the Strongand Ranulf, were killed by the Vikings and the Franks were forced to acknowledge Brittany's independence from the Frankish kingdoms. As with Cornwallin 722, the Vikings tactically helped their Breton allies by making devastating pillaging raids on the Frankish kingdoms.
Brittany is home to many
megalithic monuments, which are scattered across the peninsula. The largest alignments are near Karnag/ Carnac. The purpose of these monuments is still unknown, and many local people are reluctant to entertain speculation on the subject. The words " dolmen" (from "daol" table and "maen" stone) and " menhir" (from "maen" stone and "hir" long) are Breton and commonly used by either Breton or French people. Brittany is also known for its calvaries, elaborately carved sculptures of crucifixion scenes, to be found at crossroads in villages and small towns, especially in Western Brittany.
Besides its numerous intact manors and
châteaux, Brittany also has several old fortified towns. The walled city of Saint-Malo("Sant-Maloù"), a popular tourist attraction, is also an important port linking Brittany with Englandand the Channel Islands. It also was the birthplace of the historian Louis Duchesne, acclaimed author Chateaubriand, famous corsair Surcouf and explorer Jacques Cartier. The town of Roscoff("Rosko") is served by ferrylinks with England and Ireland.
Significant urban centres include:
The island of Ushant (Breton: "Enez Eusa", French: "Ouessant") is the north-westernmost point of Brittany and France, and marks the entrance of the English Channel. Other islands off the coast of Brittany include::*
Bréhat"enez Vriad":* Batz"enez Vaz":* Molène"Molenez":* Sein"enez Sun":* Glénan islands"inizi Glenan":* Groix"enez Groe":* Belle Île"ar Gerveur":* Houat"Houad":* Hoëdic"Edig":* Île-aux-Moines"Enizenac'h":* Île-d'Arz"an Arzh"
French, the only
official languageof the French Republic, is today spoken throughout Brittany. The two regional languages have no official status with regards to the state, although they are supported by the regional authorities within the strict constitutional limits: Breton, strongest in the west but to be seen all over Brittany, is a Celtic languagemost closely related to Cornish, and Gallo, which is spoken in the east, is one of the Oïl languages.
From the very beginning of its history and despite the end of the independence of Brittany, Breton remained the language of the entire population of western Brittany, except for bishops and French administrators or officers. French laws and economic pressure led people to abandon their language to that of the ruler, but until the 1960s, Breton was spoken and understood by the majority of the western inhabitants. Since the beginning of the 20th century, it has been very efficiently fought by the French administration and educational system ("It is forbidden to spit on the ground and to speak Breton") in the process of promoting French as the sole language of the country. According to an interview with Erwan Le Coadic, the development officer of the Breton Language Service, "Over the course of the twentieth century, the policies of the government in Paris were calculated to eradicate the use of Breton completely". While he says that there are signs that the "situation has now stabilized", he points to the "almost catastrophic decline" in the Breton language: "Fifty years ago, there were 1,300,000 people who spoke Breton; today there are just 300,000". ["Central Brittany Journal", March 2007]
Breton was traditionally spoken in the west (the "
Breizh-Izel" or " Basse-Bretagne"), and Gallo in the east (the "pays Gallo", "Breizh-Uhzel" or " Haute-Bretagne"). The dividing line stretched from Plouha on the north coast to a point to the south-east of Vannes. French had, however, long been the main language of the towns. The Breton-speaking area formerly covered territory much further east than its current distribution.In the Middle Ages, Gallo expanded into formerly Breton-speaking areas. Now restricted to a much reduced territory in the east of Brittany, Gallo finds itself under pressure from the dominant Francophone culture. It is also felt by some to be threatened by the Breton language revivalwhich is gaining ground in territories that were never part of the main Breton-speaking area.
Privately funded "Diwan" ("Seed") schools, where classes are taught in Breton by the immersion method, play an important part in the revival of the Breton language. They are denied State funding by the French government. The issue of whether they should be funded by the State has long been, and remains, controversial. Some bilingual classes are also provided in ordinary schools.
Despite the resistance of French administration, bilingual (Breton and French) road signs may be seen in some areas, especially in the traditional Breton-speaking area. Signage in Gallo is much rarer.
A large influx of English-speaking immigrants and
second-homeowners in some villages sometimes adds to linguistic diversity.
The first Christian missionaries came to the region from
Irelandand Great Britain. With more than 300 " saints" (only a few recognized by the Catholic Church), the region is strongly Catholic. Since the nineteenth century at least, Brittany has been known as one of the most devoutly Catholic regions in France, in contrast to many other more secularised areas (see "Bl. Julien Maunoir"). The proportion of students attending Catholic private schools is the highest in France. As in other Celtic regions, the legacy of Celtic Christianityhas left a rich tradition of local saints and monastic communities, often commemorated in place names beginning "Lan", "Lam", "Plou" or "Lok". The patron saintof Brittany is Saint Anne, the Virgin's mother. But the most famous saint is Saint Ivo of Kermartin('saint Yves' in French, 'sant Erwan' in Breton), a 13th century priest who devoted his life to the poor.
Once a year, believers go on a "Pardon", the saint's
feast dayof the parish. It often begins with a procession followed by a mass in honour of the saint. There is always a secular side, with some food and craft stalls. The three most famous Pardons are:
* from Sainte-Anne d'Auray/Santez-Anna-Wened, where a poor farmer in the 17th century explained how the saint had ordered him to build a chapel in her honour.
Tréguier/Landreger, in honour of St Yves, the patron saint of the judges, advocates, and any profession involved in justice.
Locronan/Lokorn, in honour of St Ronan, with a " troménie" (a procession, 12 km-long) and numerous people in traditional costume,In Brittany, there is a very old pilgrimagecalled the " Tro Breizh" (tour of Brittany), where the pilgrims walk around Brittany from the grave of one founder saint to another. The seven founder saints of Brittany are:
Pol Aurelian, at Saint-Pol-de-Leon/Kastell-Paol,
* St Tudual ("sant Tudwal"), at Tréguier/Landreger,
* St Brieuc, at Saint-Brieuc/S-Brieg,
* St Malo, at Saint-Malo/S-Maloù,
Samson of Dol, at Dol,
Patern, at Vannes/Gwened
* St Corentin ("sant Kaourintin"), at Quimper/Kemper
Historically, the pilgrimage was made in one trip (a total distance of around 600 km). Nowadays, however, pilgrims complete the circuit over the course of several years. In 2002, the Tro Breizh included a special pilgrimage to
Wales, symbolically making the reverse journey of the Welshmen Sant Paol, Sant Brieg, and Sant Samzun. Whoever does not make the pilgrimage at least once in his lifetime will be condemned to make it after his death, advancing only by the length of his coffin each seven years.
Some old pagan traditions and customs from the old Celtic religion have also been preserved in Brittany. The most powerful folk figure is the
Ankouor the "Reaper of Death". Sometimes a skeleton wrapped in a shroud with the Breton flat hat, sometimes described as a real human being (the last dead of the year, devoted to bring the dead to Death), he makes his journeys by night carrying an upturned scythe which he throws before him to reap his harvest. Sometimes he is on foot but mostly he travels with a cart, the "Karrig an Ankou", drawn by two oxen and a lean horse. Two servants dressed in the same shroud and hat as the Ankou pile the dead into the cart, and to hear it creaking at night means you have little time left to live.
Brittany is a Celtic province, rich in its cultural heritage. Though long under the control of France and influenced by French traditions, Brittany has retained and, since the early seventies, revived its own folk music, modernizing and adapting it into folk rock and other fusion genres.
Although some white
wineis produced near the Loire, the traditional drinks of Brittany are:
cider( _br. sistr) - Brittany is the second largest cider-producing region in France; Traditionally served in a ceramic cup resembling an English Tea cup.
* a sort of
meadmade from wild honey called " chouchen";
* an apple
eau de viecalled "lambig".
hogdys are also produced. Historically Brittany was a beer-producing region. However, as wine was increasingly imported from other regions of France, beer drinking and production slowly came to an end in the early to mid 20th century. In the 1970s, due to a regional comeback, new breweries started to open and there are now about 20 of them. Whiskyis also produced by a handful of distilleries with excellent results. Another recent drink is " kirBreton" (crème de cassis and cider) which may be served as an apéritif.
Tourists often try a mix of bread and red wine.
Very thin, wide
pancakesmade from buckwheatflour are eaten with ham, eggs and other savoury fillings. They are usually called " galettes" (Breton "galetes"), except in the western parts of Brittany where they are called " crêpes" (Breton "krampouezh"). Thin crêpes made from wheat flour are eaten for dessertor for breakfast they may be served cold with local butter. Other pastries, such as " kouign amann" ("butter cake" in Breton) made from bread dough, butter and sugar, or "far", a sort of sweet Yorkshire pudding, or " clafoutis" with prunes, are traditional.
Surrounded by the sea, Brittany offers a wide range of fresh sea food and fish, especially
mussels and oysters. Among the sea food specialities is cotriade.
Located on the west coast of France, Brittany has a warm, temperate climate. Rainfall occurs regularly - which has helped keep its
countrysidegreen and wooded, but sunny, cloudless days are also common.
In the summer months, temperatures in the region can reach 30 degrees
Celsius, but remain comfortable compared to parts of France south of the Loire. Brittany generally has a moderate climate during both summer [http://www.discover-brittany.info/pics/climatesummer.gif] and winter, [http://www.discover-brittany.info/pics/climatewinter.gif] and rain is not uncomfortably common or rare.
Brittany's most popular summer resorts are on the south coast (La Baule,
Belle Île, Gulf of Morbihan), although the wilder and more exposed north coast also attracts summer tourists.
There are several airports in Brittany serving destinations in France and England.
TGVtrain services link the region with cities such as Paris, Lyon, Marseille, and Lillein France. In addition there are ferry services that take passengers, vehicles and freight to Ireland, England and the Channel Islands. Brittany Ferriesoperates the following regular services:
Plymouth- Roscoff("Pont-L'Abbé", "Pont-Aven", certain winter sailings operated by "Bretagne")
Portsmouth- St Malo("Bretagne" with winter service operated by "Pont-Aven")
Roscoff-Cork ("Pont-Aven", occasionally "Bretagne")
Irish Ferries operates the following routes:
Battle for Brest
*Twinning/Jumelage between Breton and Cornish towns
* [http://www.breizh.net/identity/ Personelezh Breizh e saozneg - Breton identity]
* [http://brittany.wikidot.com Regional Information site]
* [http://www4.culture.fr/patrimoines/patrimoine_architectural_et_mobilier/sribzh/main.xsp?execute=parsed_query&query=region:|Bretagne|&tri=region&tri=dpt&tri=com&tri=adrstri&tri=lieu&tri=edif&tri=tico Cultural Heritage]
* [http://www.micimmo.co.uk/article-4.html Brittany presentation]
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