The Knights Templar were known, here in Brittany, as the Red Monks. Their evil deeds and cruel reputation survived in the popular imagination long after their medieval heyday; cruel ghosts, condemned to forever wander the lonely places to atone for their terrible crimes.
Sacred plant of the ancient druids, mistletoe has, for centuries, been highly prized for its supposed medicinal virtues. Here in Brittany, this pretty parasitic evergreen has traditionally been associated with love, luck and the promise of the New Year.
With over 800 islands and islets, Brittany boasts almost 70 per cent of the island bodies of metropolitan France. Some support thriving local communities while others are home to only seabirds and the intrepid traveller. This is a brief sketch of just some of the main inhabited islands of Brittany.
The druids of antiquity remain an enigmatic source of speculation. Their roles in Celtic society were as broad as they were integral to daily life; story-teller, sage, teacher, priest, judge, sorcerer and keeper of the tribe’s laws. Yet, little is known about them; they did not share their knowledge and kept no records of their own but their influence lingered longest in the remotest regions of the Celts such as in Brittany.
The small French province of Brittany played a modest but crucial role in the battle for American independence.
One of the strongest claims to be the source for the legend of Bluebeard is the 6th century Breton warlord Conomor, popularly remembered as Conomor the Accursed; a tyrant who is reputed to have murdered all his many wives.
Once common throughout Europe, the arrival of midsummer was celebrated from time immemorial by the lighting of massive communal bonfires, covering the countryside with a multitude of glowing points of light; an ancient practice that continued in Brittany well into living memory.
Brittany has been a great source of inspiration for artists from across the world drawn to the beauty of its natural landscapes and unique quality of light. The women artists who came to draw inspiration from the rich colours and distinctive landscapes of the region have sometimes been overlooked and I highlight some of these pioneering painters here.
Popular belief in the power of witchcraft survived in Brittany, as elsewhere in France, deep into the last century but the spells and curses of the witch were often as benign as they were malignant.
It is not only artists that have taken inspiration from the rich landscapes and unique culture of Brittany; generations of writers and poets have also been stimulated by this enchanting region of France.