BREIZH - OUR REGION OF FRANCE
Breizh, (French: Bretagne, Gallo: Bertaèyn, English: Brittany), is a former independent kingdom and duchy, later becoming a province of France. It is also regarded as the name of a cultural area whose limits correspond with the independent duchy.
This historical province was split between two modern-day regions of France by Marshal Pétain in 1941. 80% of Breizh became the région of Bretagne, while the remaining 20% of Breizh (Loire-Atlantique with its préfecture Nantes, one of the former capitals of the Duchy of Brittany) was grouped with other historical provinces (Anjou, Maine, and so on) to create the région of Pays-de-la-Loire. Ever since, no government has called the decision of Vichy into question and the departement of Loire-Atlantique is still administratively attached to the region of the Pays-de-Loire.
Breizh zo our vro d’an douar, anavezet mat he glad dibar a-ziwar ar maze; ur glad liesseurt, ledet ha merkat splann gent ar relijion, an noblañs hag an arz-brezel: chapelioù, kalvarioù ha klozioù-parrez, peulvanoù ha meurvein, tiez-plouz, manerioù, kestell ha kreñvlec’hioù…
Ur vro martoloded zo anezhi ivez, enni un drederenn eus arvor Frañs. Eus an dibab eo glad mor Breizh ha plijout a ra forzh pegement d’ar weladennerien, evel m’en diskouez brud ar gouelioù ar vez aozet evit e enoriñ.
Padal, piv a oar pegen kreñv eo hengoun kêrioù Breizh, lod anezho kozh evel an Impalariezh roman, lod all evel ar Grennamzer, pa mare an dalc’helezh pe c’hoazh mare an Dizoloadennoù Muer.
Ar c’hêrioù savet en-dro da savadurioù keodedel, manatioù pe moudennoùfeodel, puerliesan e-lec’h ma oa bet savet ur pont kentañ hag e lec’hiou difenn, zo ken niverus hag ar c’hornioù-bro disheñvel a vuhezekaont.
Lod o deus treuzet ar c’hantvedoù hep poan ha bremañez int deuet da vezañ kêrioù brasañ Breizh. Lod all n’o deus ket galletderc’hel d’o lufr, kollet ganto o c’harg velestradurel pe armerzhel a-fuer ma cheñche ar politikerezhioù pe da vare an Dispac’h Greantel. Un toullad kêrioù o doa graet berzh gant kenwerzh ar "mezhir" pe al "lien", pe kêrioù-eskopti eus ar Rened Kozh zo deuet evel-se da vezañ bourc’hioù bihan, kêrioù "relegoù".
A land of country folk, Brittany is renowned for the quality and originality of its rural heritage. It is an indigenous heritage, varied, widely spread and deeply influenced by religion, by the nobility and by military art, a fact born out by the number and frequency of chapels, roadside crucifixes, parish closes, stales, standing stones, humble cottages, manor houses and fortresses to be seen across the region.
A country of seafarers, it includes a third of the coastline of France. Brittany also possesses an exceptional maritime heritage, particularly appreciated by its visitors. This is evident from the number of festivals dedicated to it.
Brittany is also, perhaps surprisingly, a region with strong urban traditions, whose origins, for some of its towns, go as far back as the Roman Empire, the early middle ages, the feudal period or the Age of Discovery.
There are many such cities, constructed around civic buildings, monasteries or castle mounds, generally on defensive sites, such as the first bridge or crossing point, each according to its locality, with its own identity.
Some have survived the centuries untarnished and now take their place amongst the major cities of Brittany. Others have not been able to maintain their former glory and have lost their administrative or economic functions due to political changes or as a result of the Industrial Revolution. A good many of the formerly important textile towns and bishoprics of the “Ancien Régime” have thus simply become small rural towns, relics of the past.
The Romans, during the time of Julius Caesar, conquered the area in 56 BC and called it Armorica (a Latinisation of a Celtic word meaning "coastal region"), within the larger province of Gallia Lugdunensis. The modern département of Côtes-d'Armor has taken up the ancient name. An uprising by the Bagaudae (distant cousins of the Basques) in the 3rd century led to the destruction of many towns and villages and to depopulation of the area.By the 4th century tribes from across the English Channel started to settle in the area. This flow of Britons increased when Roman troops and authority were withdrawn from Britain, and raiding and settling by Anglo-Saxons and Scotti into Britain increased. The immigrant Britons gave the region its current name and contributed to the Breton language, Brezhoneg, a sister language to Welsh and Cornish. The French speaking peoples surrounding the region gave the name "Bretagne" (Brittany in English) to the area where Britons fleeing the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britannia settled, hence they gave the name "Grande Bretagne" (Great Britain) to the island from whence these people came.
This region of France is unique, protruding as it does into the Atlantic Ocean; it is the Celtic heartland of France. With its strong links to Wales, Ireland, the Western Isles and Cornwall, there are reminders of its history are everywhere - lonely Celtic crosses by the road, huge standing stones, the Celtic names and that wonderful language spoken by the old folk in tiny village bars, it makes us feel so at home. The Bretons do not consider themselves to be truly French, rather a nation within a nation.The warmth and friendliness of the people seem inexhaustible, as we have found in the time we have lived here, their little kindnesses, long conversations and simple generosity make us feel at home. Perhaps the most graphic example of this being that crime in Brittany is practically unknown. Everybody watches over everybody else in a casual sort of way. We have left our car unlocked for hours and when we return it’s just as we left it.
The Breton flag: The "Gwenn ha Du" (black and white) that can be seen flying almost everywhere in Brittany was designed in 1925 by Morvan Marchal. It comprises 9 stripes, five black stripes symbolising the ancient regions or bishoprics of High-Brittany: Dol, Nantes, Rennes, Saint-Brieuc and Saint-Malo, and four white stripes symbolising the four ancient regions or bishoprics of Low-Brittany: Cornouaille, Léon, Trégor and Vannetais. The top left of the flag is a quarter of ermine on a white background.
The Ermine: This is a small carnivorous mammal, a stoat, also known as the ermine on account of its winter coat and was used from an early date in heraldry, resembles a cross, generally with three lower points. The heraldic ermine is used in many European countries. Adopted in Brittany by the line of the Dukes of Montfort, it is now considered almost everywhere as the symbol of Brittany and is found in the Coats of Arms of many Breton towns today, on signboards and on many products
The Triskell:This symbol originates from the Greek "triskeles" meaning with three legs, this decorative motif only reappeared in Brittany from the 1920s but was widely used by the ancient Celts. The Triskell can evoke the sun or perpetual motion. Very common today in the six Celtic countries, this decorative motif is used as the label of "Celticness".
These have been handed down from generation to generation, and were once worn at all family and public celebrations. The
clothing served as a sign, identifying the different parishes and traditional country areas. Today, traditional costumes are worn only during the Pardons celebrations (This is expression of devotion
to a particular Saint, from whom a grace or pardon is requested) or folklore festivals. The original feature of the women’s costume is the “coiffe” or bonnet, previously worn throughout Finistère and
Morbihan. Decorated with ribbons and lace, its form and size differs from region to region and was frequently the symbol of a region. The Bigoudène region coiffe is certainly the best known
Traditional Breton music is symbolised by the Breton bagpipes/organ combination (equivalent to the bagpipe/oboe duo).
Played by musicians accompanied by singers or storytellers, this instrumental duo enlivens popular fetes and events. Other instruments may join in, such as the violin, the hurdy-gurdy, the harp or the clarinet, etc.
This musical tradition lives on thanks to creation of the “bagadou” that is the Breton form of the Scottish pipe bands. Today, the players animate all the “festou noz” (night time festivals) encouraging both young and old to dance. Breton dances are performed in the round, in line or in pairs.
The heir to very ancient melodic traditions, Breton music is today combining with Celtic and modern influences. It is manifested by the presence of many Breton groups and artists such as Alan Stivell, Gilles Servat, Tri Yann, Dan Ar Braz and Le Bagad Kemper during fetes and festivals. Finally you should certainly make an effort to visit the InterCeltic festival in Lorient during July, but make sure you book your accommodation early.
There is so much to offer, our home is on the southern coast; quiet, unspoilt, with few tourists and a rural landscape little changed in the past 50 years. Here the fields are small with tall hedges full of mature trees. As the farming is less intensive than in most of Europe there is wildlife in abundance, and we have even seen such rarities as wild boar. The area is not particularly flat, but is a rolling landscape with tiny country lanes that make the area very quiet; you are more likely to meet a tractor than a car. These lanes link ancient villages; each with its own bar and usually a baker where you can buy bread baked that morning, or the most mouth-watering cakes. For those who like peace and tranquillity, we have the Nantes-Brest canal at our doorstep, with its tow-path beside it running for over 100 miles.
The rest of Brittany is within easy reach of our home, bustling market towns, wide lakes, and beautiful river valleys. Along the southern coast are sandy beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see and Megalithic standing stones dominate the landscape. This is a more commercial area, if you fancy a quieter less touristy area; the dramatic north coast beckons with its sandy bays and steep cliffs. Perhaps you'd like a tour to one of the offshore islands on the north or south coast - anything is possible. One thing is for sure; everyone who comes here falls in love with the place.
Being on the west coast of France the summers are warm and temperate. It does rain sometimes, which is one of the reasons its countryside is so green and wooded, but it would be an unusual week if there were not more sun that cloud.
Spring is the time that the countryside is brightly coloured and alive with birdsong. The Breton summer can get pretty hot, up to about 35 degrees, but unlike France south of the Loire, you are unlikely to get scorched to the tarmac, believe us we've been in the Dordogne in July and it can be blistering! There again you do get a bracing sea breeze and the occasional shower and the really hot spells are normally preceded by light winds from the east. A unique feature of the climate in this region is the hazy light that gives the visitor a different perspective of the landscape. Autumn is a time of russet tints and spectacular photographic opportunities, especially at sunset. For those that like to watch rough seas, this is the season as north-westerly and south-westerly gales a frequent. As for winter, this is pretty mild the average temperature being about the same as the Mediterranean coast although occasionally there are ferocious easterly winds that are bitterly cold. During these "Dark Months" we sometimes get north-westerly and south-westerly winds that unleash their fury as sudden storms.
"Tro Breiz" - The Tour of Brittany
Tradition has it that is was the duty of all Bretons should make a pilgrimage to the seven cathedrals of Brittany at least once in their lifetime, at least that was the case until the 16th century. During the 12th to 16th centuries it was estimated that 30 to 40 thousand people took to the roads each year. This pilgrimage covered some 700 kilometres and allowed the faithful to pay homage to the relics of the founding saints of Brittany: St.Brieuc and St.Malo at the towns of the same name, St.Samson at Dol-De-Bretagne, St.Pattern at Vannes, St.Corentine at Quimper, St.Paul the Aurelian at St.Pol-De-Léon and St.Tugduel at Tréguier. Folklore has it that those who failed to make this pilgrimage during their lifetime had to make it after their death, moving onward by the length of their coffin every seven years. The hell!!
The road to paradise:
* Stage 1 St Pol - Tréguier
* Stage 2 Tréguier - St-Brieuc
* Stage 3 St Brieuc - St Malo
* Stage 4 St Malo - Dol
* Stage 5 Dol - Vannes
* Stage 6 Vannes - Quimper
* Stage 7 Quimper - St Pol
Today ramblers and believers unite in every increasing numbers to follow in the footsteps of these pilgrims.