Mediaeval corbel on a house in old Vannes
region of Brittany
Brittany is one of the 21 regions of continental France. With 3 million
inhabitants, it is the seventh most populated of the French regions,
and covers a surface area of 27,208 km². The
regional capital is
the city of Rennes.
As it exists today, the
Brittany region only covers about 80% of the historic Duchy of
Brittany. This stretched right down beyond the mouth of the river
Loire, and included an area which is now the "department" of "Loire
Atlantique". Ironically, this department also includes the historic
capital of the duchy of Brittany, the city of Nantes; but when the
modern French regions were created in 1941, it was decided that Nantes
and Rennes should not be in the same region, in order to avoid a
historic rivalry between the two cities.
departments of Brittany.
A French department
is the equivalent of a British county or a Swedish län.
is divided into four departments which are: Finistère (56)
in the west,
Côtes d'Armor (22) in the north, Morbihan (56) in the south,
et Vilaine (35) in the east. Historic Brittany also includes Loire
Atlantique (44) in the south.
capital Quimper, is a rugged department, with a lot of granite
moorland; but thanks to its mild climate, it is also has a thriving
agriculture, growing early vegetables. The coast has a number of very
picturesque fishing ports such as Douarnenez and Concarneau. The
largest city in this department however is Brest (urban area population
about 300,000), one of France's most important naval ports.
capital Saint Brieuc. Previously known as "Côtes du Nord",
department is mainly low lying, and characterised by a very pretty
rocky coastline with many small islands. The most attractive parts of
the coast are the Emerald coast, and the Pink Granite coast. The
department is strongly agricultural, with pig-farming and cereals among
the main activities.
capital Vannes. This department on the south coast of Brittany is
famous for its mild climate. The coast offers many sandy beaches and
small fishing ports. Fishing, boat-building and agriculture are among
the department's major industries, along with tourism.
capital Rennes. The most easterly of the four departments in today's
Brittany, Ille & Vilaine is a heavily agricultural department,
cereals, apple orchards and dairy farming. In the past, the people in
this eastern part of Brittany did not speak the celtic Breton language,
but a form of French.
Atlantique, capital Nantes. No longer officially part of
the Loire Atlantique is a department surrounding the mouth of the river
Loire. It is today part of the Pays de Loire administrative region.
This region has two major seaports, Nantes and Saint Nazaire, with
petrochemicals and ship-building among the major industries. As with
much of the Loire valley, this department also has vineyards, producing
mostly dry white wines, and is the only wine-growing area in Brittany.
towns in Brittany
with over 200,000 inhabitants, is the regional capital and the largest
city in Brittany. It is a major industrial centre, with two
universities, and is also the cultural capital of the region. Situated
in the east of the region, it is the hub through which all main lines
of communication between Brittany and the rest of France pass. It is
not one of the great historic cities of France, since most of the city
burned down in 1720; but the centre was largely rebuilt in the
eighteenth century, and retains plenty of narrow streets and old
population 150,000 is home to the French Atlantic fleet and is a major
naval port. It has a modern university. The old walled city was
fortified in the seventeenth century by the great military engineer
Vauban, though much of the old town was destroyed in 1944. Today the
city is an industrial centre and a popular sailing port. The city is
sited at the end of a large sea inlet, the Rade de Brest.
west of Vannes in the Morbihan department, now a fishing port
about 60,000 inhabitants, was founded as a company town by the French
East India company in 1664 - hence its name, which means The Orient....
or the port from which ships set sail for the Orient. Today Lorient is
most famous for its sailing and its annual Celtic festival.
population about 50,000, is a magnificent island walled city on the
north coast of Brittany. Heavily damaged in World War II, it has since
been rebuilt virtually as it was, and is an architectural gem. In a
way, it is France's equivalent of Plymouth, the seaport from which many
merchants and adventurers set out in centuries gone by, to seek their
fortunes trading and privateering in distant waters. The wealth that
they brought back is reflected in the city's magnificent architectural
population 50,000, is a port on Brittany's southern coast, with a
population about 280,000, would be the largest city in Brittany if it
were still officially in the region. In the past it was the seat of the
Dukes of Brittany, located at the top of the tidal reaches of the
Loire. It is France's fourth largest port, and is a major economic and
cultural hub for the west of France. Its airport is convenient for
people travelling to the south of Brittany.