Brittany; is one of the 27 regions of France. It occupies a large peninsula in the northwest of the country, lying between the English Channel to the north and the Bay of Biscay to the south. Its capital is Rennes.
The region of Brittany is made up of 80% of the former Duchy and Province of Brittany. The remaining 20% of the province is the Loire-Atlantique department which now lies inside 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. 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.
Some people in Brittany and Nantes continue to protest against the division of the ancient territory of Brittany, hoping to see the Loire-Atlantique department added to the region of Brittany, in order to reunify the historic Duchy 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.
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.