- Belle Île
Belle-Île or Belle-Île-en-Mer (ar Gerveur in Modern Breton)—Guedel in Old Breton—is a French
islandoff the coast of Brittanyin the "département" of Morbihan, and the largest of Brittany's islands. It is 14km from the Quiberon peninsula.
Administratively, the island forms a canton: the
canton of Belle-Île. It is divided into four communes:
The island measures 17km by 9 km and has an average
altitudeof 40m. The area is about 84km2. The coasts are a mixture between dangerously sharp cliff edges on the southwest side, the "Côte Sauvage" ("Wild coast"), and calm placid beaches (the largest being "les Grands Sables" ("The great sands")) and navigable harbours on the northeast side. The island's climate is oceanic, having less rain and milder winters than on the mainland.
The two main ports are [http://belleisleenmer.free.fr/English/EPagePGuenCures.htm Le Palais] (accessible by ferry from
Quiberon) and [http://belleisleenmer.free.fr/English/EPageSauzon.htm Sauzon] (accessible by ferry from Quiberon and Lorient).
There used to be forests on the island, but these have long disappeared due to increasing agricultural use of the land.
Belle Île was separated from the mainland about 6000 B.C., earlier than its neighbouring islands
Houatand Hœdic. Archaeological finds from the Bronze Agesuggest that the island enjoyed a large increase in population in this time, probably due to improvements in seafaring.
The Roman name of the island seems to have been "Vindilis", which in the
Middle Agesbecame corrupted to "Guedel". In the 9th century Belle-Île belonged to the county of Cornouaille.In 1572 the monks of the abbey of Ste Croix at Quimperléceded the island to the Retz family, in whose favour it was raised to a marquisate in the following year. It subsequently came into the hands of the family of Fouquet. The island's fortifications were erected by Vaubanon behalf of Nicolas Fouquet, prior to Fouquet incurring the displeasure of Louis XIV; the land was ceded to the crown in 1718.
It was held by English troops from 1761 to 1763 when the French got it in exchange for
Nova Scotia, and a large portion of the modern day population is descended from repatriated Acadian colonists who returned to France after the loss of Acadia (Nova Scotia) to Great Britain during The Great Upheaval("le Grand Dérangement").
Today, its population of about 4,000 predominantly survive on tourism and fishing.
During the summer the island's population increases dramatically, with many people owning a
second homeon the island, because of its secluded location and beaches.
Lyrique en Mer/Festival de Belle Ile is the largest opera festival in western France. Founded in 1998 by American opera singer Richard Cowan, the Festival produces two staged operas every summer, conducted by Music Director Philip Walsh and directed by Mr. Cowan, the Artistic Director. Additionally, there are sacred concerts in all four of the island's historic churches, as well as many smaller concerts and Master Classes. Lyrique en Mer has wide support from the French business community as well as from the Conseil General, the Conseil Regional, and the Paris Senate.
It is the setting for a portion of "
The Man in the Iron Mask", an adventure novel by 19th century French writer Alexandre Dumas, père. It is also where Porthos, one of the characters of Dumas' " The Three Musketeers" dies, close to Locmaria.
During the 1870s and 1880s, French painter
Claude Monetone of the most famous practitioners of Impressionismpainted the French countryside and dramatic scenery such as the rock formations at Belle-Isle. Monet’s series of paintings of the rocks at Belle-Île astounded the Paris art-world when he first showed them in 1887. [ [http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/exhibitions/archived/2002/belle_le Art Gallery of New South Wales: Belle Île ] ] [ [http://www.absolutearts.com/artsnews/2001/11/29/29398.html Belle-Ile: Monet, Russell and Matisse in Brittany - Art Gallery of New South Wales - Absolutearts.com ] ] Most notable are the "Storm, Coast at Belle-Ile" and "Cliffs at Belle-Ile" both rendered in 1886. The first time Auguste Rodinsaw the ocean off the Brittany coast he exclaimed, “It’s a Monet."
* [http://www.belle-ile.com/ Tourist office website]
* [http://belleisleenmer.free.fr/English/Eindex.htm Belle-Ile visit: more than 300 photos of beaches, creeks, coves, rocks, flowers, etc.]
* [http://www.belle-ile-en-mer.de/engl/start.html BELLE ILE en Mer- Guide.Website also in engl]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.