Brittany is a historical and cultural region in the north west of France. Former province and duchy, is divided into five departments: Finistère, Côtes-du-Nord, Morbihan and Ille-et-Vilaine. It forms a peninsula of 13,136 sq mi, with 4.500.000 inhabitants. Brittany is washed by the Atlantic Ocean in its western and southern shores, and by the English Channel in its northern coast.
The peninsula, formerly called "Armorica" ("land facing to the sea"), is more than one third of the maritime coasts of France, with 750 miles of coasts.
Bretons are very affectionate people and of generous features, enthusiastic of good food and traditions, dances, folklore, and their regional culture/ They are very religious - it is the most catholic region of France-, and very nationalistic, with a marked separatist tradition. Their dialect, the Breton, which is a language of Celtic origin, is still spoken by more than one million people. One of the Breton's characteristics is to be mysterious, with impenetrable features, like their prehistoric megaliths.
Megaliths; dolmens and menhires:
Menhires, -large upright standing stones-, and dolmens, -two or more upright stones, as a type of megalithic tombs- remain as witnesses of primitive megalithic civilizations. Around 6000 menhires and more than 1000 dolmens were found in Brittany, dating from the early Neolithic period, between 5000 to 10000 years old.
FOLKLORE AND LEGENDS
They are a people full of legends and fantastic stories and tales of family traditions. Fairies' stories, goblins, and spirits of the forests, as the Korrigans, spirits of grotesque and disgusting form destined to guard the treasures of the hills. Inside their mythological stories, they preserve the King Arthur's legend, with Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table.
In the prehistory, the former Bretons - who were not Celtic, but a people of laborious nomad shepherds, found, in their first settlements, the Armorica . About the years 3000 to 1800 B.C. there appear the first sedentary farmers who construct the mysterious dolmens and megaliths. In the Bronze Age, (1800 to 600 B.C.) the armoricans already are prosperous and trade jewels and products of bronze with their neighbors: Scandinavian, German, Iberian, etc. In the 5th century B.C. (Iron Age), the Celts, Germanic people from Central Europe, invade Armorica and there bring with them the iron, precious metals and an important military development, as well as organized armies, and also their language and their customs, giving origin to the Gauls, as they were called by the Romans.
In 56 B.C. Julius Caesar invades the region and it becomes a Roman province, the "Galia Lugdunensis".
At the retreat of the Romans, at the 5th Century, Great Britain, which had been invaded by the Anglo-Saxons, initiates an immense emigration of their Celtic population, crossing the English Channel and coming to the peninsula, named after that invasion "Brittany" (Bretagne) and their inhabitants, Bretons. There are still many similarities between people from the South of England and Bretons, like their ethnical features, their dialects, their music, musical instruments, and even their last names.
At that time begins another political and religious organization, with the insertion of Irish Roman christianity. From that age comes to us the King Arthurs' legend.
In the 7th and 8th century several principalities are formed, until they fall all under the power of the Franks under Charlemagne's reign. In 846, the duke Nominoe obtains, after several battles, the independence of Brittany. During the second half of the 9th century, the Bretons recognized the government of Norman dukes. In 922, Geoffrey, count of Rennes, was proclaimed Duke of Brittany. In 1066 William the Conqueror, Norman duke, invades England, and French Normans will ruleover there for more than 400 years. Around 2000 Bretons came along with him.
In 1171 the duchy of Brittany passed, through a matrimonial alliance, to Geoffrey Plantagenet, Norman prince, son of Henry the 2nd. of England. By then the capital of the duchy was Nantes. The 14th and 15th centuries marked the heighest point of the Breton civilization. After long periods of fights with the Frenchmen, towards the end of the 15th century the Duchess Anne of Brittany agrees to marry the King of France, Charles the VIII.
DUCHESS ANNE OF BRITTANY
By Josette Solan
And here we have the most popular historical character of Brittany.
She is the Duchess Anne of Brittany, born on January 25th, 1477 in Nantes. She was twice Queen of France (with Charles the VIII and then with Louis XII). She was daughter of Francis II, sovereign Duke of Brittany and of Margaret de Foix, Princess of Navarre.
The Duke of Brittany, Francis II, not having male children as inheritors, makes recognize her daughter Anne a heiress of the Duchy in 1486.
She is emphatically placed in the collective memory of the Bretons, on having done a strong defense of the Duchy of Brittany of the neighbor regions. But after her death, in 1514, Brittany was annexed to France.
She had 5 children with the King Charles VIII and 8 children with the King Louis XII (only 2 of all of them survived).
The queen contributed immensely to the progress of the sea-coast of France. Twelve crafts of line were constructed and equipped under her command during the expedition of the Christian princes against the Turkish Empire. On the other hand, she was not only prominent for her political talent and her energy, being in addition one of the most illustrated women of her age.
Saint Malo, picturesque village.
Saint Malo, the Tour Solidor