The Full Wiki

Breton people: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

René Laennec Jacques Cartier Anne de Bretagne
François rené de Chateaubriand Robert Surcouf Jules Verne

René Laennec; Jacques Cartier; Anne de Bretagne;
François-René de Chateaubriand; Robert Surcouf; Jules Verne

Total population
ca. 200,000 speakers of Breton; total 6 million - 7 million
Regions with significant populations
France, Canada (mainly Quebec), United Kingdom, United States and Ireland

French, Breton, Gallo,


Predominantly Roman Catholic

Related ethnic groups

Cornish, Manx, Scottish, Ulster-Scots, Welsh, Irish,

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Breton Brother and Sister.

The Bretons are an ethnic group located in the region of Brittany in France. They trace much of their heritage to groups of Brythonic speakers who settled the area from south western Great Britain in two waves from the 4th to 6th centuries. The traditional language of Brittany is Breton (Breizh) and is spoken by approximately 365,000 people, of whom about 240,000 speak it fluently [1]. Breton is closely related to the Brythonic languages Cornish (closely) and Welsh (more distantly). The region of Brittany is named after them[2]. Brittany and its people are included as one of the six Celtic nations. Another linguistic minority are present in Brittany, namely speakers of the Gallo language. The actual number of ethnic Bretons in Brittany and France as a whole is difficult to assess as the French government do not take account of such statistics. The present day population of Brittany based on a January 2007 estimate is 4,365,500. [3]




Historical origins of the Bretons

In the late 4th century large numbers of British auxiliary troops in the Roman army may have been stationed in Armorica. The 9th century Historia Brittonum states that the emperor Magnus Maximus, who withdrew Roman forces from Britain, settled his troops in the province. Nennius and Gildas mention a second wave of Britons settling in Armorica in the following century to escape the invading Anglo-Saxons and Scoti. Modern archaeology also supports a two-wave migration.[4]

It is generally accepted that the Brythonic speakers who arrived gave the region its current name as well as the Breton language, Brezhoneg, a sister language to Welsh and Cornish.

There are numerous records of Celtic Christian missionaries migrating from Britain during the second wave of Breton colonisation, especially the legendary Seven founder-saints of Brittany as well as Saint Gildas. As in Cornwall, many Breton towns are named after these early saints. The Irish Saint Colombanus was also active in Brittany and is commemorated accordingly at Saint-Columban in Carnac.

In the Early Middle Ages, Brittany was divided into three kingdoms — Domnonia, Cornouaille (Kernev), and Bro Waroc'h (Broërec) — which eventually were incorporated into the Duchy of Brittany. The first two kingdoms seem to derive their names from the homelands of the migrating tribes in Britain, Cornwall (Kernow) and Dumnonia. Bro Waroc'h ("land of Waroch") derives from the name of one of the first known Breton rulers, who dominated the region of Vannes (Gwened). The rulers of Domnonee, such as Conomor, sought to expand their territory, claiming overlordship over all Bretons, though there was constant tension between local lords.

Bretons were the most prominent of the non-Norman forces in the Norman invasion of England. A number of Breton families were of the highest rank in the new society and were tied to the Normans by marriage.[5] The Scottish Clan Stewart and the royal House of Stuart have Breton origins.

Modern Breton identity

Many people throughout France claim Breton ethnicity, including a few French celebrities such as Malik Zidi[6] and Patrick Poivre d'Arvor.

Breton diaspora

Many French Americans and French Canadians are of Breton descent. Jack Kerouac being a notable example.



The Breton people are predominantly Roman Catholic, with Reformed and non-affiliated minorities. Brittany was one of the most staunchly Roman Catholic regions in all of France. Attendance of Sunday mass dropped during the 1970s and the 1980s but other religious practices such as pilgrimages have experienced a revival. This includes the Tro Breizh which takes place in the shrines of the seven founding saints of Breton Christianity. The Christian Tradition is widely respected by both believers and nonbelievers, who see it as a symbol of Breton heritage and culture.

Breton religious tradition places great emphasis on the Seven Founder saints":


A "Pardon" is the patron saint's feast day of the parish. It often begins with a procession followed by mass in honour of the saint. Pardons are often accompanied by small village fairs. The three most famous Pardons are:

Tro Breizh

There is an ancient pilgrimage called the Tro Breizh- (tour of Brittany) which involves pilgrims walking around Brittany from the grave of one of the Seven Founder Saints to another. Nowadays pilgrims complete the circuit over the course of several years. In 2002, the Tro Breizh included a special pilgrimage to Wales, symbolically making the reverse journey of the Welshmen Saint Paul Aurelian, Saint Brioc, and Saint Sampson. According to Breton religious tradition whoever does not make the pilgrimage at least once in his lifetime will be condemned to make it after his death, advancing only by the length of his coffin each seven years.[7]

Folklore and traditional belief

Some old pagan traditions and customs from the old pre-Christian tradition remain the folklore of Brittany. The most powerful folk figure is the Ankou or the "Reaper of Death".


The Breton language is a very important part of Breton identity. Breton itself is a Brythonic Celtic language closely related to Cornish and a bit more distantly to Welsh [8]. The Breton language as such is part of the Insular Celtic language group. In eastern Brittany, a regional langue d'oïl named Gallo developed; it shares certain points of vocabulary, idiom, and pronunciation with Breton. Neither language has official status under French law; however, some still use Breton as an everyday language (particularly those of the older generation) and bilingual road signs are common in the west of Brittany. From 1880 to the mid-20th century Breton was banned from the French school system and children were punished for speaking it in a similar way to the application of the Welsh Not in Wales during the 19th and 20th centuries. The situation changed in 1951 with the Deixonne Law allowing Breton language and culture to be taught 1–3 hours a week in the public school system on the proviso that a teacher was both able and prepared to do so. In modern times a number of schools and colleges have emerged with the aim of providing Breton medium education or bilingual Breton/French education [1].

There are four main Breton dialects, Gwenedeg (Vannetais), Kerneveg (Cornouaille), Leoneg (Leon) and Tregerieg (Trégor), with varying degreees of mutual intelligibility. In 1908 a standard orthography was devised. The fourth dialect Gwenedeg, was not included in this reform, but was included in the later orthographic reform of 1941 [1].

Breton language media

Newspapers, magazines and online journals available in Breton include, Al Lanv [1], based in Quimper, Al Liamm [2], Louarnig-Rouzig, and Bremañ.

There are a number of radio stations with broadcasts in the Breton language, namely Arvorig FM, France Bleu Armorique, France Bleu Breizh-Izel, Radio Bro Gwened, Radio Kerne, and Radio Kreiz Breizh.

Television programmes in Breton are also available on France 3 Breizh, France 2 Iroise, TV Breizh and TV Rennes. There are also a number of Breton language weekly and monthly magazines available to Breton speakers [1].


A fest noz in the Pays Gallo in September 2007 as part of the Mill Góll festival


A fest-noz is a traditional festival (essentially a dance) in Brittany. Many festoù-noz are held outside Brittany, taking regional Breton culture outside Britanny. Although the traditional dances of the fest-Noz are old, some dating back to the Middle Ages, the fest-noz tradition is itself more recent, dating back to the 1950s.

Traditional dance

There are many traditional Breton dances, the most well-known are gavottes, the an dro, the "hanter dro", and the plinn. During the fest-noz, most dances are practised in a chain or in a circle (holding hands), however there are also dances in pairs and "choreographed" dances" with sequences and figures.

Traditonal Breton music

Two main types of Breton music are chorala cappella (kan ha diskan-accompanied with music or purely instrumental music. Traditional instruments includethe bombarde (similar to an oboe) and the Breton bagpipes (biniou kozh). Other instruments often found are the diatonic accordion, the clarinet, and occasionally violin as well as the hurdy-gurdy. After the Second World War, Scottish bagpipes (and biniou bras) became commonplace in Brittany owing to the bagadoù (musical groups) and thus often replaced the biniou-kozh. The basic clarinet (treujenn-gaol) had all but disappeared but has regained popularity over the past few years.

Modern Breton Music

Nowadays groups with many different styles of music may be found, ranging from rock to jazz such as Diwall and Skeduz as well as punk. Some modern fest-noz groups also use electronic keyboards and synthesisers, for example Strobinell, Sonerien Du, Les Baragouineurs, and Plantec.

Breton cuisine

Breton cuisine conatins many elements from the wider French culinary tradition. Local specialities include:

Symbols of Brittany

Flag Of Britanny : Gwenn Ha Du (White and Black)

Traditional Breton symbols and/or symbols of Britanny include the "national" anthem Bro Gozh ma Zadoù based on the Welsh Land of My Fathers. The traditional motto of the former Dukes of Brittany is Kentoc'h mervel eget bezañ saotret in Breton, or Potius mori quam fœdari in Latin. The "national Day" is 19 May, the Feast of Saint Erwann (Saint Yves). The ermine is an important symbol of Britanny reflected in the ancient blazons of the Duchy of Britanny and also in the chivalric order, L'Ordre de l'Hermine (The Order of the Ermine).

Images of Brittany


  1. ^ a b c d
  2. ^ Breton language
  3. ^| In 1914 it is said that over 1 million spoke Breton west of the border between Breton and Gallo-speaking regions - roughly 90% of the population of the western half of Brittany. In 1945 it was about 75%, and today, in all of Brittany the most optimistic estimate would be that 20% of Bretons can speak Breton. Brittany has a population of roughly 4 million -- if you include the department of Loire-Atlantique which the Vichy government chopped off from "official" Brittany in 1941. Three-quarters of the estimated 200 to 250,000 Breton speakers using Breton as an everyday language today are over the age of 65.
  4. ^ Léon Fleuriot, Les origines de la Bretagne: l’émigration, Paris, Payot, 1980.
  5. ^ Keats-Rohan 1991, The Bretons and Normans of England 1066-1154
  6. ^
  7. ^ Bretagne: poems (in French), by Amand Guérin, Published by P. Masgana, 1842: page 238
  8. ^
  • Léon Fleuriot, Les origines de la Bretagne, Bibliothèque historique Payot, 1980, Paris, (ISBN 2-228-12711-6)
  • Christian Y. M. Kerboul, Les royaumes brittoniques au Très Haut Moyen Âge, Éditions du Pontig/Coop Breizh, Sautron - Spézet, 1997,(ISBN 2-84346-030-1)
  • Morvan Lebesque, Comment peut-on être Breton ? Essai sur la démocratie française, Éditions du Seuil, coll. « Points », Paris, 1983,(ISBN 2-02-006697-1)
  • Myles Dillon, Nora Kershaw Chadwick, Christian-J. Guyonvarc'h et Françoise Le Roux, Les Royaumes celtiques, Éditions Armeline, Crozon, 2001, (ISBN 2-910878-13-9).

Links - a non-profit association dedicated to the promotion of Brittany and the Breton language on the Internet [3]

  • Bremañ- Breton language magazine [4]
  • Ofis ar Brezhoneg (l'Office de la langue bretonne)[5]

See also


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address