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Brittany (French: Bretagne; Breton: Breiz) is a region and former province of northwestern France corresponding with the departments of Finistere, Cotes-d'Armor, Ille-et-Vilaine, and Morbihan. A peninsula projecting into the Atlantic Ocean, the region is bordered on the north by the English Channel and on the south by the Bay of Biscay.

Brittany portBrittany is distinct from other French regions because of its Celtic heritage. About one-quarter of its population of 2,815,900 (1992 est.) are able to speak Breton, a Celtic language similar to Cornish and Welsh. The language, customs, and costumes are preserved mainly in the more isolated west. RENNES (1990 pop., 203,533) is Brittany's route focus, traditional capital, and cultural center. Its university is a center of Celtic studies.

Brittany's rugged indented coast, called Armor (Breton for "country of the sea"), has only about a dozen frost days a year--no more than the Riviera. Early vegetables, soft fruit, and flowers are grown for the Parisian and British markets. Traditionally, Bretons have been sailors and fishermen. Their catch includes cod from the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, oysters, lobsters, sardines, and tuna.

The interior is a relatively barren, often misty, plateau called Argoat ("country of the woods"); only two woodland ridges rise above 245 m (800 ft). Hedgerows surround small fields, resulting in a picturesque landscape called bocage.

Between 3500 and 1800 BC early inhabitants built stone monuments at CARNAC and other sites. Celts later settled in the area, and in 56 BC they were conquered by Julius Caesar. The Anglo-Saxon invasions of Britain in the 5th and 6th centuries drove Celtic refugees to settle in Brittany. In the 9th century, under the leadership of Nomenoe, Brittany was united, winning independence from Carolingian rule. In the 10th century, Brittany became a duchy with its capital at Rennes. For the next 4 centuries it sought to retain its independence amid French and British rivalries. In the 15th century the duchy became closely linked to France with the marriage of ANNE OF BRITTANY to two successive kings of France. In 1532, it was formally incorporated into France.

Timothy J. Rickard
Source: The New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, Release #8, ©1996


Brittany & Normandy

Brittany & Normandy : The Rough Guide (5th Ed.)
by Greg Ward

Usually ships within 24 hours.
Paperback - 400 pages, 5th edition
Published January 1997 by Rough Guides
List Price: $16.95
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ISBN: 1858282241

Travelers to the Brittany and Normandy sections of France will find wild coastal areas, sheltered beaches, dense forest, sparse heathlands, as well as medieval and pre-historic landmarks that help define the area. This Rough Guide gives the complete low-down on great sights like Mont-Saint-Michel, Carnac, the Bayeux Tapestry, and more. Encourages rambling on side roads to discover the hidden charms of rural France at its most pristine. 40 maps and plans.

FRANCE: Culture, History, Language, Travel


Rennes is the municipal capital of Brittany, in northwestern France, located about 300 km (190 mi) southwest of Paris. The population is 203,533 (1990). Wide city streets and canals radiate from the central hub of the city, long a regional center rich in customs and historical monuments. Rennes is an agricultural market and industrial center producing railroad and farm equipment and automobiles. Historic landmarks include the Jardin du Thabor and the 17th-century Palais de Justice. The University of Rennes is there.

The principal town of the Celtic Redones tribe, Rennes was subsequently taken by the Romans and by the 10th century had emerged as the capital of Brittany. The city was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1720 and suffered heavy bombing during World War II.

Source: The New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, Release #8, ©1996

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