In north western France, on a peninsula surrounded on three sides by sea, lies Brittany – a region with a most curious past. One of the wonders for me is Brittany’s little-known link to Scotland. But first, here’s a snapshot of the area’s history…
During the fifth and sixth centuries, Celtic settlers emigrated from Britain across the Channel, presumably to escape invaders from northern Europe. The settlers’ language was similar to that spoken in Wales and Cornwall.
By the ninth century, their culture was flourishing and intermarriage occurred between the royal houses of Brittany, England and Scotland. But we’ll explore more of this in a later blog.
Amidst a landscape of misty moors, lush forest and a rugged coastline, legends abound, offering a history rich with the folk lore of spirits and goblins.
Stemming from a Celtic Druidic heritage, the central forests hold a repository of medieval Arthurian tales. It was believed the ancient King Arthur of Britain ruled over the territories of Grande Bretagne (the England of today) and Petit Bretagne (Little Britain – todays’ Brittany). Deep within the Forest of Broceliande, Arthur and his knights experienced heroic adventures and early French bards spread their fame. What was Arthur’s fate? He is believed to be trapped in a cave at a megalithic site called Merlin’s tomb.
Going back even further, the standing stones of Carnac, numbering in their thousands, are an intriguing reminder of this unique period in time, especially since they are believed to predate the pyramids of Egypt
Though the site of these stones is now fenced from the public, don’t be put off by that. To view the extraordinary quantity of stones and their unique placement across three fields is a breathtaking experience which makes you wonder why, and how, this mysterious alignment came about. Located on the south coast of Brittany, the nearby rugged bays and inlets were rich with food, and industries such as fishing and oyster farming would have supported a large community and still flourish today. Though mysterious to our modern view, Carnac repesents a hugely spiritual dimension of life which is beyond our comprehension but worthy of our investigation.
For those seeking more information, the Museum of Pre-History is worth visiting for its displays of found objects.
This part of Brittany was once part of the Roman Empire until the centurions departed for Rome to stave off the pagan hordes whose arrival wrought the decline of powerful empire.
Over the centuries, many thousands of visitors have passed this way – Celtic adventurers, Roman soldiers, Scottish, French and English royalty, WW2 Nazi Germany invaders, and their armies. Many have sought to control this beautiful region with its riches but none have succeeded in wiping out Brittany’s unique culture.
One wonders what those visitors, in times of war and peace, made of the standing stones. Even today, for lovers of history, they continue to amaze and delight.
And the surrounding towns and villages offer todays’ visitors, medieval buildings aplenty to explore as well as the relaxing pleasures of the seaside with a multitude of cafes and restaurants serving up delectable seafood.
Till next time…