Brittany (administrative region)

This article is about the French administrative region of Brittany. For the historical province of Brittany, as well as the cultural area of Brittany, see Brittany. For the historical duchy, see Duchy of Brittany. For other uses, see Brittany (disambiguation).
Region of Brittany
Région Bretagne / Rannvro Breizh
Region of France


Country  France
Prefecture Rennes
  President Pierrick Massiot (PS)
  Total 27,208 km2 (10,505 sq mi)
Population (2012-01-01)
  Total 3,237,097
  Density 120/km2 (310/sq mi)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
GDP (2012)[1] Ranked 7th
Total €83.4 billion (US$107.3 bn)
Per capita €25,666 (US$33,012)
NUTS Region FR5

Brittany (Breton: Breizh, French: Bretagne, IPA: [bʁətaɲ]) is one of the 18 regions of France. It is named after the historic and geographic region of Brittany, of which it constitutes 80%. The regional capital is Rennes.


Le Diben harbour - Plougasnou (Brittany)
House in Brittany at the Channel Coast (north of Morlaix)

The region of Brittany was created in 1941 on 80% of the territory of traditional Brittany. The remaining 20% is now called the Loire-Atlantique department which is included in the Pays de la Loire region, whose capital, Nantes, was the historical capital of the Duchy of Brittany.

Part of the reason why Brittany was split between two present-day regions was to avoid the rivalry between Rennes and Nantes. Although Nantes was the principal capital of the Duchy of Brittany until the sixteenth century, Rennes had been the seat of the Duchy's supreme court of justice between 1560 and 1789. Rennes had also been the administrative capital of the Intendant of Brittany between 1689 and 1789, and Intendances were the most important administrative units of the kingdom of France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. As for the provincial States of Brittany, a legislative body which had originally met every two years in a different city of Brittany, that had met in Rennes only between 1728 and 1789, although not in the years 1730, 1758, and 1760. Despite that, the Chambre des comptes had remained in Nantes until 1789. However, from 1381 until the end of the fifteenth century Vannes (Gwened in Breton) had served as the administrative capital of the Duchy, remaining the seat of its Chambre des comptes until the 1490s, and also the seat of the its Parlement until 1553 and then again between 1675 and 1689.

Although there were previous plans to create Régions out of the Départements, like the Clémentel plan (1919) or the Vichy regionalisation programme (1941), these plans had no effect or else were abolished in 1945. The current French Regions date from 1956 and were created by gathering Departements together.[2] In Brittany, this led to the creation of the new Region of Brittany, which included only four out of the five historical Breton départements. The term region was officially created by the Law of Decentralisation (2 March 1982), which also gave regions their legal status. The first direct elections for regional representatives took place on 16 March 1986.[3]

A majority of the population in administrative Brittany and in Nantes continue to protest against the division of the traditional territory of Brittany, hoping to see the Loire-Atlantique department reunited with the administrative region of Brittany. However, such a reunification raises other questions: first, what to do with the remainder of the present Pays de la Loire region, and second, which city should be chosen as the capital of such a reunified Brittany.


Brittany, lying in the northwest corner of France, is one of the great historic provinces of France. The most Atlantic of France's regions, Brittany is proud of its Celtic heritage, that sets it apart from the rest of France. It enjoys a mild climate somewhat warmer though not necessarily drier than the climate of the southwest of England. The name "Brittany" derives from the Britons who, back in the Dark Ages, came south across the English Channel to seek refuge from the Anglo Saxon invaders who were pushing them out of a large part of the island of Great Britain.

In this historic past, other Britons fled to the west and south west of their own island, to Wales and Cornwall; and so it is that today, Brittany shares a historic culture with the other Celtic regions of northwest Europe. Today, the French administrative region of Brittany covers four "departments", the Côtes d'Armor (22) in the north, Finistère (29) in the far west, Morbihan (56) in the south, and Ille et Vilaine (35) in the east, bordering on Normandy and the Loire valley area. Another department used to belong to the historic province of Brittany, and this was the Loire Atlantique (44), the area round the city of Nantes which used once to be the Breton capital, but is today no longer in the region. The capital city of the modern Brittany region is Rennes, located in the central eastern part of the region; most of the major lines of communication between Brittany and Paris pass through Rennes, which is a large industrial and university city. Other important cities in the region are Brest, one of the two most important French naval ports, St Malo, an imposing walled city on the north coast, and Vannes, the capital of the Morbihan, with an attractive old town centre. Quimper, the capital of the Finistère, and St. Brieuc, the capital of the Côtes d'Armor, are less important. Lorient, in the Morbihan, was once a major shipping port trading with - as its name suggests - the Orient; but its shipping and shipbuilding industries have largely declined, and like other ports on the south coast of Brittany, is better known today for its yachting and yacht-building industry. It is also the venue for Brittany's annual Interceltiques music and culture festival.

Despite its limited size, Brittany is quite a diverse region; the north and west coasts, open to the force of the North Atlantic, are rugged and rocky, with beautiful sandy coves and beaches. The south coast, facing onto the Bay of Biscay, is flatter, much milder, and graced by a number of large sandy beaches. There are also a lot of inlets on the south coast, such as La Trinité sur Mer, which in the past have been ports and commercial harbours, but today are more popular with yachtsmen and a dwindling fishing industry. The sea here is warmer in summer. The backbone of Brittany is a granite ridge stretching from east to west, peaking in the Monts d'Arrée. But most of inland Brittany is gentle farming country, a region famous for its milk and butter and its early crops. As a holiday region, it is of course Brittany's coasts that attract the greatest number of visitors; the inland regions are on the whole quite tranquil and for this reason have attracted a lot of second-home owners from other parts of France, and from Britain. In cultural terms, Brittany is very distinctive, with its own language and Celtic cultural tradition that set it apart from the rest of France. The Breton language, though not much used in everyday life, and not understood by most of the modern population, has made a comeback in recent years, and is taught in a lot of schools. Celtic traditions are alive or recalled today in Breton folk music, its Celtic festivals, and its many prehistoric monuments.

Language and culture

Bilingual road signs in Quimper (French on top)

The name of Brittany derives from settlers from Great Britain, who fled that island in the wake of the Anglo-Saxon conquest of England between the fifth and seventh centuries. Unlike the rest of France and Brittany, Lower Brittany (roughly, west of a boundary from Saint Brieuc to Vannes) has maintained a distinctly Celtic language, Breton, which is related to Cornish and Welsh. It was the dominant language in Lower, or western, Brittany until the mid-20th century. It has been granted regional language status and revival efforts are underway. In Upper, or eastern, Brittany, the traditional language is Gallo, an Oïl language, which has also received regional recognition and is in the process of being revived.

The French administration now allows for some Breton or Gallo to be used by the region and its communes, in road signs and names of towns and cities, alongside the official French version. The two regional languages are also taught in some schools, and many folklore associations and clubs are trying to revive them.

Brittany has historically been a stronghold of the Roman Catholic Church, and its rates of church attendance have tended to be considerably higher than the national average. However, in recent years the influence of the church has declined.


Presidential runoff elections results
Year National winner Runner-up
2007 47.38% 921,256 52.62% 1,023,056
2002 88.56% 1,523,388 11.44% 196,712
1995 50.44% 858,100 49.56% 843,169
1988 55.10% 929,363 44.90% 757,417
1981 48.95% 796,769 51.05% 831,034
1974 56.54% 781,563 43.46% 600,678
1969 63.95% 692,280 36.05% 390,240
1965 63.15% 806,958 36.85% 470,839

The Region of Brittany is administered by the Regional Council of Brittany.

The region was a traditionally conservative and Christian democratic region, with the notable exception of the department of Côtes-d'Armor, a longtime stronghold of the political left. However, the whole of Brittany has recently been moving towards the left, in 2004 electing Jean-Yves Le Drian as its first Socialist regional president, and in the 2007 presidential election voting for Socialist Ségolène Royal. The centrist candidate François Bayrou also polled relatively highly in the region and Fougères elected a MoDem deputy to the National Assembly (he has since joined the pro-UMP New Centre. The French Communist Party's support is largely concentrated in the south-west of the Côtes-d'Armor and north-west of Morbihan. The Greens and other environmentalist parties have traditionally been strong in the region, especially in urban areas such as Rennes or Quimper. The region was one of the few which voted "Yes" to the European constitution in the 2005 referendum, and Brittany continues, along with Alsace, to be a strongly pro-European region.

The Socialist Party controls three general councils (Ille-et-Vilaine, Côtes-d'Armor, and Finistère), while the centrist MoDem controls that of Morbihan, in a coalition with the right.



There are several airports in Brittany serving destinations in Europe. TGV train services link the region with cities such as Paris, Lyon, Marseille, and Lille in other regions of France. In addition there are ferry services that take passengers, vehicles and freight to the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the Channel Islands.

Major communities

The following table is the list of towns in Brittany with a population over 15,000 inhabitants. Rennes is situated in the east of Brittany, being the capital of the region, the capital of the Ille-et-Vilaine department, as well as the most populous metropolitan area in Brittany with 700 000 inhabitants (2013).

Town Breton name Population
Rennes Roazhon 207,922 Ille-et-Vilaine
Brest Brest 142,722 Finistère
Quimper Kemper 63,961 Finistère
Lorient An Oriant 58,135 Morbihan
Vannes Gwened 52,984 Morbihan
Saint-Malo Sant-Maloù 48,563 Ille-et-Vilaine
Saint-Brieuc Sant-Brieg 46,178 Côtes-d'Armor
Lanester Lannarstêr 22,598 Morbihan
Fougères Felger 20,678 Ille-et-Vilaine
Concarneau Konk Kerne 20,280 Finistère
Lannion Lannuon 19,773 Côtes-d'Armor
Plœmeur Plañvour 18,509 Morbihan
Vitré Gwitreg 16,691 Ille-et-Vilaine
Morlaix Montroulez 15,605 Finistère
Douarnenez Douarnenez 15,436 Finistère
Cesson-Sévigné Saozon-Sevigneg 15,261 Ille-et-Vilaine
Bruz Bruz 15,031 Ille-et-Vilaine


Three Breton clubs play in Ligue 1, the top flight of French football: En Avant Guingamp, Stade Rennais and FC Lorient. Another historical club, Stade Brestois, plays in Ligue 2. And Vannes OC plays in the third tier Championnat National.

Notes and references

  1. INSEE. "Produits intérieurs bruts régionaux et valeurs ajoutées régionales de 1990 à 2012". Retrieved 2014-03-04.
  2. Michèle Cointet, op. cit., pp. 183-216 (p. 216 pour la citation)
  3. Jean-Marie Miossec (2009), Géohistoire de la régionalisation en France, Paris: Presses universitaires de France ISBN 978-2-13-056665-6.
  4. (French) INSEE: 2007 Legal population

See also

External links

Coordinates: 48°00′N 3°00′W / 48.000°N 3.000°W / 48.000; -3.000

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