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Title: Rambles in Brittany

Author: M. F. Mansfield

Illustrator: Blanche McManus

Release date: June 3, 2013 [eBook #42866]
Most recently updated: January 25, 2021

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Chuck Greif and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
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Every attempt has been made to replicate the original book as printed.

Some typographical errors have been corrected. No attempt has been made to correct or normalize the printed accentuation or spelling of French names or words.

The images have been moved from the middle of a paragraph to the closest paragraph break.

(etext transcriber’s note)







The following, each 1 vol., library 12mo, cloth, gilt top, profusely illustrated. Net, $2.00; postpaid, $2.16

Rambles in Normandy

Rambles in Brittany

The Cathedrals and Churches of the Rhine

The following, each 1 vol., library 12mo, cloth, gilt top, profusely illustrated. Postpaid, $2.50

The Cathedrals of Northern France

The Cathedrals of Southern France

New England Building, Boston, Mass.

Constable’s Tower, Vannes Constable’s Tower, Vannes (See page 147)

Constable’s Tower, Vannes
(See page 147)


By Francis Miltoun

With Many Illustrations

By Blanche McManus




Copyright, 1905
By L. C. Page & Company
All rights reserved

Published October, 1905

Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds & Co.
Boston, U. S. A.


decorative bar

NO promise given to the hostess of one’s inn is alleged as an excuse for writing this book, but it is true that rosy, busy Madame X of the Soleil d’Or, in the fishing village in which the work received its final collation and revision, watched its growth for many a week, daily declaring her hope of some day receiving a volume containing “your impressions.” And, indeed, her hope shall not be vain, for one of the first copies shall be most speedily despatched to her. Moreover, the author and artist hope that it may be acceptable to her critical mind, for she is not likely to be lenient, though she knows full well that to the many authors and artists who make a refuge of her modest inn for months she owes her livelihood.

The book is a record of many journeys and many rambles by road and rail around the coast, and in no sense is it put forth either as a special or as a complete survey of things and matters Breton.

Many lights and shadows have been thrown upon the screen from various points, but the effort has been made to blend them all into a pleasing whole, which shall supplement the guide-books of convention.

It were not possible to do more than has been attempted within the limits of a volume such as this, and therefore many details of routes, and historical data of a relative sort, and a certain amount of topographical information have been scattered through the volume or placed in the appendix, in the belief that such information is greatly needed in a work attempting to purvey “travel talk” even in small measure.

Some of this knowledge is so little subject to change that it may well stand for all time, and, in these days of well-nigh universal travel, may be not thought out of place in a volume intended both for the armchair traveller and also for him who journeys by road and rail. That only a very limited quantity of such information can be included is a misfortune, inasmuch as such a handbook is often used when no other aid is accessible to the traveller.

Finally, the illustrative material, the large number of drawings of sights and scenes, of great architectural monuments, and of the dress of the people, is offered less as a complete pictorial survey than as a panorama of impressions received on and off the beaten track,—and more satisfying and truthful than the mere snap-shots of hurried travel.

In addition, many maps, plans, and diagrams should give many of the itineraries a lucidity often lacking in the usual railway maps.


I. Introductory3
II. The Province and the People11
III. The Topography of the Province33
IV. Travel Routes in Brittany45
V. The Breton Tongue and Legend59
VI. Manners and Customs70
VII. The Fisheries88
I. The Loire in Brittany99
II. Nantes To Vannes116
III. The Morbihan—Vannes and the “Golfe”140
IV. Auray and the Megalithic Monuments of
V. Morbihan—Lorient and Its Neighbourhood179
VI. Finistère—South187
VII. Finistère—North221
VIII. The Côtes du Nord249
IX. The Emerald Coast271
X. On the Road in Brittany—Mayenne,
Fougères, Laval, and Vitré
XI. Rennes and Beyond329
XII. Religious Festivals and Pardons341
 Index: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, V.373


Constable’s Tower, Vannes (See page 147) Frontispiece
The Loire at Nantesfacing 4
Device of Anne of Brittany17
Anne of Brittany18
Breton Post-card21
St. Brieucfacing 30
Croisicfacing 42
Map of Brittanyfacing 44
The Main Roads of Brittany48
Travel Routes in Brittany55
St. Pol de Léonfacing 60
The Breton Tongue62
Gilles de Laval66
Young Bretons78
From the Artist’s Sketch Book80
La Coiffe Polka81
Ironing Coifs83
Breton Types85
Douarnenezfacing 88
Donjon of Clissonfacing 114
St. Nazaire123
Ancient Fortifications of Guérande (Diagram)126
Châteaubriantfacing 128
Children of Redon133
Tour d’Elvenfacing 138
Market-woman, Vannes142
The Country near Vannes143
Ancient City Walls, Vannes (Diagram)147
Château of Suscinofacing 148
General Plan of Château of Suscino (Diagram)149
Ploërmelfacing 152
Shrine of St. Etienne, Josselin154
Château de Josselinfacing 156
Interior of Market-house, Aurayfacing 160
Shrine of St. Roch, Auray162
The Lines of Carnac168
The Lines of Carnacfacing 168
Map of Carnac and the Surrounding Country170
Quiberonfacing 172
Hennebontfacing 182
Quimperléfacing 188
Market-house, Faouëtfacing 192
Stone Crucifix, Concarneaufacing 198
Pont Avenfacing 202
Environs of Pont Aven (Map)204
From the Museum at Quimper207
Cape de la Chèvrefacing 214
Woman of Chateaulin217
Camaretfacing 220
Landerneaufacing 224
Calvary, Plougastelfacing 228
Lighthouse of Créac’h, Ouessantfacing 236
Ma Douez244
Carved Wood Staircase, Morlaixfacing 246
Procession of Sailors, St. Jean du Doigt247
Old House, Tréguier253
House of Ernest Renan, Tréguier254
Shrine of St. Yves, Tréguier256
A Binou Player261
Ramparts of St. Malofacing 272
House of Duguay-Trouin, St. Malo281
Tower of Solidor, St. Servanfacing 284
Plans of the Tower of Solidor285
The Valley of the Rance (Map)292
Rez-de-Chaussée of Donjon, Dinan (Diagram)295
Coif of Miniac307
Mayennefacing 310
Plan of the Ancient Walls and Towers Of
Beucheresse Gate, Laval319
Plan of Vitré in 1811, Showing City Walls321
Château de Vitréfacing 322
Tower of St. Martin, Vitré323
Château de Rochers325
Arms of Madame de Sévigné327
Monastery of St. Mélaine, Rennes331
Huelgoatfacing 340
Pardon of St. Jean du Doigtfacing 352
The Provinces of France (Map)359
The Ancient Provinces of France (Map)361
Comparative Metric Scale (Diagram)364
Sketch Map of Circular Tour in Brittany366
Architectural Names of the Various Parts Of
A Feudal Château
Tide and Weather Signals in the Ports of



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THE regard which every one has for the old French provinces is by no means inexplicable. Out of them grew the present solidarity of republican France, but in spite of it the old limits of demarcation are not yet expunged. One and all retain to-day their individual characteristics, manners, and customs, and also a certain subconscious atmosphere.

Many are the casual travellers who know Normandy and Brittany, at least know them by name and perhaps something more, but how many of those who annually skim across France, in summer to Switzerland and in winter to the Riviera or to Italy, there to live in seven-franc-a-day pensions, and drink a particularly vile brand of tea, know where Brittany leaves off and Normandy begins, or have more than the vaguest of vague notions as to whether the charming little provincial capital of Nantes, on the Loire, is in Brittany or in Poitou. A recollection of their school-day knowledge of history will help them on the latter point, but geography will come in and puzzle them still more.

There are many French writers, and painters for that matter, who have made these provinces famous. Napoleon, perhaps, set the fashion, when he wrote, in 1786, that eulogy beginning: “It is now six or seven years since I left my native country.” More familiar is the “Native Land” of Lamartine. Camille Flammarion wrote “My Cradle,” meaning Champagne; Dumas wrote of Villers-Cotterets, and Chateaubriand and Renan of Brittany; but head and shoulders above them all stand out Frederic Mistral and his fellows of the Félibres at Avignon and Arles.

The Loire at Nantes

The Loire at Nantes

All this offers a well-nigh irresistible fascination for those who love literary and historic shrines,—and who does not in these days of universal travel, personally conducted or otherwise? Not every one can follow in the footsteps of Sterne with equal facility and grace, or bask in the radiance of a Stevenson or a Gautier. Still, it is given to most of us who know the lay of the land to discover for ourselves the position of these celebrated shrines, whether the pilgrimage be historical, literary, or artistic.

This is what gives a charm to travel, and even where no new thing is actually discovered, no new pathways broken, there is, after all, a certain zest in such an exploration rivalling that to be obtained from an expedition to the uttermost confines of the Dark Continent, to Tibet, or to Tierra del Fuego.

Primarily, the ancient provinces of France have a story of historical and romantic purport not equalled in the chronicles of any other nation. The distinctive types are but vaguely limned, but the Norman and the Breton stand out most distinctly, and such figures as the Norman and Breton dukes of real history live even more vividly in one’s mind than D’Artagnan and his fellows in the great portrait-gallery of Dumas.

One need not be of the antiquary species in order to revel in the great monuments of history abounding in Brittany even as in Normandy. There are many and beautiful shrines elsewhere,—and doubtless some are more popularly famous than any in Brittany,—but none have played greater or more important rôles in the history and development of the France of to-day than those of the two northwestern provinces.

As has been said, each of the great provinces into which France was divided previous to the Revolution possessed characteristics, unmistakable even to-day. As to the topography of any single one, the question is so vast in its detail that more than mention of principal features can hardly be made in a book such as this. It is then perhaps enough that some slight information concerning Brittany and its principal places should be recorded here, and that the chief configurations of its territory should be outlined.

In addition to the principal old-time governments, there were the ancient fiefs and local divisions, and these in many cases had names often encountered in history and literature. Sometimes these were relics of the still earlier day, of Gaul before the Roman conquest, their ancient names having come down through the ages with but little change.

If one would understand the economic or agricultural aspect of France of to-day, he must know these principal provinces by name at least.

When one is at Chartres, he must be aware that he is on the edge of the great plateau of Beauce,—the granary of France,—and that as he crosses into Brittany—perhaps through Perche, whence come the great-footed Percherons—he enters the country of the ancient Veneti. Farther west lies rock-bound Cornouaille, which in every characteristic resembles Cornwall in Britain; Léon on the north, and finally Penthièvre.

The traveller remakes his history where he finds it. If he have a good memory, this is not a difficult process, but, in any case, the French guide-books, that is to say, those written in French, not the English or Anglo-German variety, are sufficiently explicit as to dates and events to set him on the right track.

The armchair traveller usually desires something more. He likes his plain stories garnished with a not too elaborate series of embellishment, both as to text and illustration, giving him some tangible reminder of things as they are in this enlightened twentieth century, when tram-cars have taken the place of the diligence, and the electric light has supplanted the tallow dip, and one may well say with Sterne: “Since France is so near to England, why not go to France?”

Here, in spots all but unknown even in Normandy and Brittany, the traveller finds for himself monuments of a civilization gone before and of a local history not yet completely erased, and as interesting as those of any land made famous by antiquaries whose only claim to fame rests upon their questionable ability in propounding new theories, of which the chief merit is plausibility,—a process of history-making sadly overdone of late in some parts.

Both in Brittany and in Normandy there are innumerable glorious architectural monuments of a past from which history may be builded anew. Character counts for a great deal with cities as with individuals. One can love Rouen as the capital of the ancient Normandy, or Nantes as the capital of Lower Brittany, but he will no more have the same sort of affection for Lyons or for Nice than he will have it for Manchester or for Chicago.

In the days of old, when each little town had its dignitaries, who may have been counts or who may have been bishops, there was perhaps more individuality than in the present age of monotonous prefects and mayors. Nantes had its dukes, and Rouen had its prelates, and both of them, even to-day, overshadow the civic dignitaries of their time; hence it is the memory of the parts played by them which induces an association of ideas prompting a desire to know personally the ground trodden by them.

Normandy and Brittany are supposed to be the happy hunting-grounds of cheap tourists and trippers, but, as a matter of fact, the former do not go beyond Dieppe, or the latter beyond the Channel Islands,—with possibly a day excursion to St. Malo,—so no discomfort need really arise from the fear of their presence. Furthermore, the tourists from across Channel that one does meet in Normandy or Brittany to-day are not so outrageous in their dress and manners as the type pictured by Punch.

It is a generally recognized fact that no special hardship is involved in modern travel; caravansaries have for the most part given way to inns which, if not exactly palatial, at least furnish creature comforts of a quality quite as good or a great deal better than those to which most travellers are accustomed at home. One may, and most likely will, miss his or her particular brand of tea or tobacco, but will find substitutes quite as excellent, and as far as the language question is concerned, why, that lies at one’s own door, unless one wants to go out as a disciple of Esperanto, the modern successor of Volapuk, dead years ago of sheer weight of consonants.

This book, then, is meant to ensure better knowledge on the part of the casual traveller of that delectable land which may be somewhat vaguely described as old France, of which Brittany and Normandy are as representative in their survivals as any other part.



BRITTANY, the ancient province which underwent such a strife of warfare and bloodshed in the struggle against invaders, and finally against France, has become one of the most loyal of all the old-time divisions making up the present republic. Her struggle against a curtailment of her ancient rights and the attempts to conserve her liberties were futile, and when the Duchess Anne took Louis XII. for her second husband, Brittany became a part of the royal domain never to be separated therefrom.

It was Duguesclin who saved it for France, Duchess Anne who enriched it, Chateaubriand, Lamennais, Laennec, and Renan who made it illustrious in letters, and Duguay-Trouin, Jacques Cartier, Surcouf, Du Couëdic, and many besides who added to all this the spirit of adventure and romance with which the chronicles of Brittany have ever abounded.

Commonly it has been called a land of granite, an expression which has been consecrated by the usage of many years, but it is also a land most picturesque, melancholy, and dreamy, with immense horizons of sea and sky, and a climate strictly temperate throughout all the year.

“O landes, O forêts, pierres sombres et hautes,
Bois qui couvrez nos champs, mers qui battez nos côtes,
Villages où les morts errent avec les ventes,
Bretagne! d’où te vient l’amour de tes enfants.”

Brittany in early days had a parliament the most important in France. Armorica was its more ancient name, which in old Breton signified “near to the sea,” or “on the sea.”

From the beginning of the fifth century, for a matter of perhaps a hundred years, the peninsula was known as Armorique, and its people as Armoricans. After this time the name disappeared from general use, and Brittany and Breton came. From the sixth century onward the change became permanent, and such chroniclers as Gregory of Tours, for instance, always referred to Britannia, Britanniœ, Britanni, and Britones, in writing of the peninsula and its people.

When first peopled from Britain across the Channel, Brittany was the most thinly populated part of all Gaul. Each wave of immigration, as the Britons from across the water fled from the invading Saxons, added to the population of the land, until ultimately it became as a hundred Britons against ten Armoricans. At least, this is the way the French historians and antiquaries put it, and so Armorique became Brittany, and such is the origin of French Brittany, quite independent of the etymology of the word Breton itself.

The inhabitants even to-day—more than in any other of the ancient provinces of France—have preserved the ancient nomenclature of the land and its people, and everywhere one finds only Bretons whose home is Brittany.

Mercator, the map-maker, was more of a success than Mercator, the historical chronicler. He said of the Bretons, in 1595, that they were “for the most part avaricious and largely given to making distinctions between glasses and tumblers.” As a matter of record, this is not so true of the Bretons as it is of the Normans, or of the Germans, or of the Spaniards. Up to the time of Cæsar the name Armorica seems to have been applied to all the coast of Northwestern France of to-day, with a little strip running as far south as the mouth of the Garonne, but more particularly it afterward designated the peninsula of Brittany as we know it to-day.

The region was early put under the guardianship of a chieftain, who invariably, here as elsewhere in those days, took advantage of every opportunity to advance his frontiers.

This attempted aggrandizement was not so successful here as in other parts, and by the fifth century Armorica had shrunk to the region lying entirely between the Seine and the Loire. In the life of St. Germain of Auxerre one reads:

“Gens inter geminos notissima clauditur amnes
Armoricana prius veteri cognomine dicta est.”

Finally, at the close of the sixth century, Armorica merged itself in Brittany, but the “Concile de Tours” makes a remarkable distinction between the new settlers and those who had previously been known as Romans. This distinction was also clearly made by St. Samson, who wrote in the seventh century that Britannia was the name given to Armorica by the exiled Britons who had fled from the Saxons and the Angles and had there taken up their home.

Before the Roman conquest there were five tribes in the country, named by Cæsar as the Nannetes, the Veneti, the Osismii, the Curiosolitæ, and the Rhedones,—names which, with but slight evolution, exist even to-day. Things went on quietly under Roman control, but when Clovis became the master of a part of Gaul he was obliged to treat with the Armoricans. Finally the Britons from across the sea came “like a torrent,” and established themselves, changing the names of certain regions to Cornouaille, Léon, Bro-Waroch, etc. Conquered in 799 by a lieutenant of Charlemagne, the Bretons revolted again some little time after, and, at the death of the great emperor, successfully withstood the attacks of the formidable army which Louis the Amiable had sent against them. For a quarter of a century Brittany now suffered attack and pillage by the Normans, relieved only when Alain Barbe-Torte drove the invaders from his territory. Previous to the Norman inroad, the Bretons lived in petty tribes, of which each formed a “plou,” a prefix still often met with in Breton place-names. The chief of a plou was known as a machtiern.

Up to this time no foreign customs had been introduced, but, after the victories of Alain Barbe-Torte, tribal organization was succeeded by that of the fief.

By the tenth century feudalism was thoroughly established throughout most of the ancient provinces of France, and the land was covered with seigniories, great and small, the one more or less dependent upon the other. Dukes, counts, and seigneurs, each in his own territory, played the hereditary sovereign in little, and above them was the suzerain power of which they were vassals.

After the expulsion of the Normans, the ancient Breton kingdoms of Domnonée, Cornouaille, and Bro-Waroch disappeared, and the sovereign of all Brittany bore the title of duke.

Historians write of the nine ancient barons of Brittany, among whom was divided the governmental control of the country, all of them being virtually subject to the reigning duke. They were:

These original baronies expanded into a round hundred by the fifteenth century, and the list of them contains the ancestral names of the Breton nobility.

Henry II. of England dealt severely with Brittany, but his son Geoffrey married Constance, the daughter of Duke Conan IV., and this made the condition of the province more tolerable.

The first step toward the union of Brittany with the kingdom of France came when—through the intrigues of Philip Augustus—the daughter of Geoffrey Plantagenet married Pierre Mauclerc, Count of Dreux, and a prince of the blood royal of France. Joan of Penthièvre also married the Count of Blois, another lieutenant of the King of France.

Device of Anne of Brittany

Device of Anne of Brittany

The war of succession in Brittany between the ducal houses of Blois and Montfort was, up to the fourteenth century, the principal event of the province’s early history. The Montforts achieved final victory at Auray in 1364. Upon the death of Francis II., his daughter Anne, the chief figure in all Breton history, so far as existing memorials of her life are concerned, became duchess.

Anne of Brittany

Anne of Brittany

In 1491, she married Charles VIII. of France, and eight years later his successor, Louis XII. The daughter of this last marriage, the Princess Claude of France, married the Duke of Angoulême, afterward Francis the First, and the fortunes of Brittany and France were thenceforth indissolubly allied, for, upon becoming Queen Claude of France, the inheritor of Brittany ceded the province to her royal spouse and his descendants in perpetuity. Queen Claude died in 1524, which event for ever assured France of this province,—the most beautiful gem in the royal crown. The union of Brittany and France was celebrated with much pomp in 1532.

The ancient county or duchy of Bretagne was bordered on the east by Anjou and Maine, on the west by the Atlantic, on the north by the British Channel and Normandy, and on the south by Poitou. The province had two territorial divisions, Upper and Lower, and Rennes was the parliamentary capital.

Upper Brittany comprised the five episcopal dioceses of Dol, Nantes, Rennes, Saint-Brieuc, and St. Malo, and Lower Brittany counted four similar divisions, Quimper, St. Pol de Léon, Tréguier, and Vannes. Thus the political divisions of a former day corresponded exactly with those of the Church.

To-day Brittany is divided into five departments: Côtes du Nord, Finistère, Ille-et-Vilaine, Loire-Inférieure, and the Morbihan.

The administrative government of Brittany, or rather of its present-day departments, like that of the rest of France, radiates from the capital of the department, which is the residence of the prefect, the tax-collector, the bishop, and, in general, of all heads of departments. The chief town is also the seat of the General Council and (with few exceptions) of the assize court.

The most ancient codified law of Brittany was known as the little book, but the manuscript copy has been lost. The most ancient work which recites the “customs” of this great province dates only from 1330. This curious document is known as the “Very Ancient Law,” and contains 336 articles. “The Ancient Law” was compiled and published at Nantes in 1549, and contains 779 articles.

Brittany has been, and perhaps ever will be, considered by Frenchmen an alien land, where, in its great plains and mountainous regions, in the valleys of its bubbling rivers, and on its rock-bound shores, the people, one and all, “speak a tongue so ancient and so strange that he who hears it dreams of a vanished race.”

Yes, Brittany is a land of menhirs, of legends and superstitions, but all this but makes a roundabout journey the more enjoyable, and one must really cross and recross it to its uttermost confines in order to realize its great variation of manners and customs, to say nothing of speech, for, even though the Breton tongue is dying out as a universal language, one still buys his post-card with a queer legend on its face, which looks like Dutch at first glance, but really is Breton.

In Madame de Sévigné’s time the ladies of Lower Brittany were famous for their beauty. In “Letter XLIV.,” written to her daughter, Madame de Sévigné said: “Many beauties of Lower Brittany were present at the great ball, the brilliant Mademoiselle de L——, a fine girl who dances very well.”

enlarge-image Breton Post-card

Breton Post-card

Things do not seem to have changed greatly to-day, and, although Madame de Sévigné wrote of court beauties only, in the Lower Province one frequently meets such beauty of face as one does not see everywhere in France. It must be owned that the figures, if not exactly found wanting, are often too ample. The sternness of the land, like the bleakness of Holland, has, apparently, added no end of grace to the features of the women, whatever may have been its hardening effect upon the men.

In Cornouaille, Latin Cornu-Galliæ, one finds almost the same name and the same derivation as in English Cornwall, and the topographical aspect is much the same in both instances. “The people of Cornuaille are faithful to tradition, and above all others merit the name of Bretons,” says J. Guillon.

The Province of Léon forms the northern part of the Department of Finistère. The name was a development from Pagus Legionensis, a large military colony having been quartered there in Roman times.

In the south the ancient Breton Province of Bro-Waroch became the county of Vannes, the counts being in reality dependents of the Duke of Brittany; their people spoke, and retain even to-day, a distinct dialect, greatly varying from that of the rest of Brittany.

In the earliest times, both Nantes and Rennes were the seat of important administrative governments, but the Counts of Nantes ceded their fiefs to the Bretons in the eleventh century. Chief of these were the fiefs of the Baron of Retz, the Seigneur de Clisson, who defended the southern frontier against Poitou, and the Baron of Ancenis, who was the bulwark between Brittany and Anjou.

In the north, the ancient Breton kingdom of Domnonée was, in the twelfth century, divided into two counties, that of Penthièvre and Tréguier.

It was Duke Geoffrey who introduced feudalism of the Anglo-Norman and French variety. In earlier times, when a nobleman died, his children divided his lands and goods in equal parts among them, but in Normandy and France the estate went to the eldest of the line.

It was only in the twelfth century that the Bretons went outside their own domain. Previously, they were decidedly an untravelled race, but under Philip the Fair Paris came to know Breton well, though chiefly through the poorer classes.

They went to the schools and seminaries of Orleans to become clerics; sold their cattle and horses in the markets of Paris, and their wheat in Maine and Anjou, and their feudal lords, it is perhaps needless to say, bought their dress in the capital of fashion, and their wines in Gascony. From this time, Brittany may be said to have been opened to the world.

Not always were the Bretons a peaceful, law-abiding race, at least they did not always appear in such a light to their contemporaries. According to Bouchart, Duke Francis II. received a letter wherein his brother-in-law, the Count of Foix, said: “Monseigneur, I declare to God, I would rather be the ruler of a million of wild boars than of such a people as are your Bretons.”

In 1460, Francis II. founded the University of Nantes, thus doing away with the necessity of the young Breton’s going to Paris, Orleans, or Angers for his education.

Printing was discovered in Germany, and all in good time it appeared in Brittany, at Lannion, and at Tréguier. There were establishments devoted to the art even before they existed in such important places as Lyons or Montpellier. One of the first books printed in Brittany was a French-Breton dictionary, published in 1499, and known as the Catholicon of Jean Lagadeuc.

By this time, a remarkable form of government, unique in all the world, was established in Brittany. In some respects it was modelled on the English Parliament, but in no way resembled that of the French legislative body.

The Estates met each year at Rennes, at Vannes, at Nantes, at Redon, at Vitré, or at Dinan, and at last, under Francis II., Parliament came to be a fixture at Rennes.

Even after the union of Brittany with France, the ancient rights, privileges, and liberties were assured to the old province until the Revolution. These sittings of the Estates at Rennes were sumptuous affairs, accompanied by a round of feasting and dancing at which appeared all the aristocracy who could.

Madame de Sévigné wrote to her daughter of one of the grand affairs as follows:

“The good cheer is excessive; the roasts are brought on entire, and the pyramids of fruit are so huge as to make it necessary to take down the doors for their entrance.... After dinner, MM. de Locmaria and Coëtlegon danced with two Breton girls, taking some amazing steps.... Play is continuous, balls endless, and thrice a week there are comedies.”

The relations between the nobility and peasantry in seventeenth-century Brittany were perhaps closer and more affectionate than in any other part of France. The noblemen frequently visited the peasants on their farms, and on Sunday the peasants danced in the courts of the castles and manor-houses.

“Virtually, under the old system, Brittany was peopled by rural nobility,” says Cambry, and indeed this must have been so, for within a small radius of Plougasnou were more than two hundred noblemen’s houses, “so poor,” says the chronicler, “that their inhabitants might well be classed with the labourers themselves.”

Brittany’s part in the Revolution was equivocal. The Republicans really had beaten the Royalists, but they had also aided the Girondins, and at Paris the Girondins were as much hated as the Royalists themselves. The Convention sent its representatives into the province, not to thank the Bretons for their help in the great struggle, but with the idea of still further arousing the passions of the people.

Among these representatives were Geurmer, Prieur de la Marne, Jean-Bon-St.-Andre, and the rascally and heartless Carrier, who drowned his hundreds at Nantes, and guillotined twenty-six Bretons in one day at Brest.

The Breton feeling and sympathy was in the main with the Republicans, though manifestly the majority had no sympathy with the rule of the Terrorists. It is curious to note, however, the change in the nomenclature of places in the endeavour to eliminate the religious and aristocratic prefixes and suffixes with which many of the Breton place-names were endowed.

St. Cast became Havre-Cast.

St. Fiacre became Fiacre-les-Bois.

St. Gildas became Gildas du Chaneau.

St. Gilles-les-Bois became Bellevue.

St. Jacut-de-la-Mer became Isle Jacut and Port Jacut.

Chateaulin became Cité sur Aôn.

Pont l’Abbé became Pont Marat.

Quimper became Montagne sur Odet.

St. Martin des Champs became Unité des Champs.

St. Pol de Léon became Port Pol.

Belle Ile en Mer became Ile de l’Unité.

Château Fouquet became Maison-des-Sans-Culottes.

Isle aux Moins became Isle du Morbihan.

Roche-Bernard became La Roche Sauveur.

Rochefort en Terre became Roche des Trois.

St. Gildas de Rhuis became Abélard.

St. Briac became Port Briac.

St. Lunaire became Port Lunaire.

St. Malo became Port Malo.

St. Servan became Port Solidor.

With the incoming of the Empire, most of these names reverted to their early form.

In our day, while many of the old provinces of France have suffered—if they really do “suffer”—from a decreasing population, Brittany has augmented her numbers continually. It is a well-worn saying among the political economists of France that the “fine and healthy race of Bretons is one of the greatest reserves and hopes of the republic.” Three-quarters of all those who man French ships come from the Breton peninsula.

Hamerton has said that no race, more than the English, had so strong a tendency to form attachments for places outside their native land. There may be many reasons for this, and assuredly the subject is too vast and varied to be more than hinted at here. Brittany, at any rate, has proved, in and out of season, a haven, as safe as a home-port, for the Briton and his family, when they would not wander too far. Possibly it comes after Switzerland, though France as a whole, “the most architectural country in Europe,” has been sadly neglected, for, as has been said before, no Englishman ever loved France as Browning loved Italy.

The native love of the Frenchman for the land of his birth is, to him, above all else. It is almost incomprehensible to an outsider; it is something more than mere patriotism; it is the love of an artist for his picture, as Balzac said of his love of Touraine. This sentiment goes deep. After the province comes the immediate environment of his village, and then the village. “Rien n’est plus beau que mon village, en verité je vous le dis.” Thus has written and spoken many a great Frenchman.

Nowhere in the known world is provincialism so deep and profound a trait as in France; and the Breton is always a Breton, contemptuous of the Norman, God-fearing, and peaceful toward all. There is throughout France always an intense provincial rivalry, though it seldom rises to hatred or even to jealousy.

Probably there is no great amount of truth in the following quatrain, evidently composed by a resident of Finistère, and there first heard by the writer of this book, but it reflects those little rivalries and ambitions which have appeared in the daily life-struggle among the inhabitants of other nations since the world began:

“Voleur comme un Léonard,
Traitre comme un Trégarrais,
Sot comme un Vannetais,
Brutal comme un Cornouaillais.”

Sometimes the love of one’s own country may be carried to an extreme. We read that for long years, and until recently, the inhabitants of Trélaze positively refused to assimilate with outside conditions of life to the least degree, and finding a Breton of this little zone or islet who spoke French was as improbable as to find one who spoke English. At St. Brieuc there is a special quarter where the Breton-speaking folk live to the number of two thousand, and this out of a population of only twenty-two thousand, while at Nantes the Bretons number ten thousand. At Angers there is a large and apparently growing Breton colony; likewise at Havre, in Normandy, where they have a special chapel in which the priest preaches in the Breton tongue. At Paris, too, there are various Breton colonies, and the Church of St. Paul and St. Louis, in St. Anthony’s Street, has a Breton priest. It is the same with the church of Vaugirard. At Havre there are something over three thousand Breton-speaking persons, and in Paris seven thousand.

Perhaps Brittany has produced fewer great painters and sculptors than any other section of France, but all Bretons are artists in no very small way, as witness their wonderfully picturesque dress and their charmingly stage-managed fêtes and ceremonies.

The pioneer painter of Breton subjects was doubtless Adolph Leleux, who, as one of the romantic school in Paris, found in this province what many another of his contemporaries was seeking for elsewhere, and discovered Brittany, as far as making it a popular artists’ sketching-ground is concerned. His first paintings of this region were exhibited in the Salons of 1838-39-40, and Paris raved over them. His peasant folk, with their embroidered waistcoats and broad-brimmed hats, had the very atmosphere of Brittany.

St. Brieuc

St. Brieuc

Leleux’s success was the signal for a throng of artists to follow in his footsteps, and to-day their number is countless, and the very names of even the most famous would form too long a list to catalogue here.

Among Leleux’s most celebrated canvases were “La Karolle, Danse Bretonne” 1843; “Les Faneuses,” 1846; “Le Retour du Marché,” 1847; “Cour de Cabaret,” 1857; “Jour de Fête en Basse Bretagne,” 1865; and successively the “Foire Bretonne,” “Les Braconniers,” “Le Pêcheur de Homards,” “Pèlerinage Breton,” and “Le Cri du Chouan.”

In all these works one finds the true Brittany of Rosporden and Penmarc’h.

Fortin’s “Cahute de Mendicant dans le Finistère” (1857), “La Bénédicité,” and “La Chaumière du Morbihan” follow Leleux as a good second, then Trayers with “Marché Breton and “Marchande de Crepes à Quimperlé.”

Among other noted pictures are Darjours’s “Palaudiers du Bourg de Batz” and the “Fagotiers Bretons”; Guerard’s “Jour de Fête” and “Messe du Matin, Ille-et-Vilaine”; Fischer’s “Chemin du Pardon” and “Auberge à Scaër,” and Roussin’s “Famille Bretonne.”

Gustave Brion, with his “Bretons à la Porte d’une Eglise”; Yan Dargent, with his “Sauvetage à Guisseny,” and Jules Noel, with his “Danse Bretonne,” and various landscapes of Brest, Quimper, Auray, and Douarnenez, are on the list of names of those who made the Breton region famous in the mid-nineteenth century.

Since then, the followers in their footsteps have been almost too many to number.

Most folk call to mind with very slight appreciable effort such masterpieces as Jules Breton’s “Retraite aux Flambeaux” and “Plantation d’un Calvaire,” now in the museum at Lille, and Charles Cottet’s “Bateaux de Pêche à Camaret” in the Luxembourg gallery.

In addition, there have been innumerable “great pictures” painted by English and American artists whose very names form too long a list to catalogue here.



ONE reason for the diversified interests of France and the varying methods of life is the vastly diversified topographical features. “Great plains as large as three Irelands,” said Hamerton, “and yet mountainous districts quite as large as the whole of the British Isles.” This should have served to disabuse British travellers of some false notions regarding France, but many of them still hold to the views which are to be gained by railway journeys across the lowlands of Gaul, forgetting for a moment that well within the confines of France there are fifty mountain peaks above eleven thousand feet high, and that majestic Mont Blanc itself rises on French soil.

Then there are the two thousand miles of seacoast which introduce another element of the population, from the dark-skinned sailor of the Mediterranean to his brother of Finistère, who is brought into the world chiefly to recruit the French navy. The Norman sailorman is a hardy, intrepid navigator even to-day, but he is to a great extent of the longshore and fishing-boat variety, whereas the true Breton is a sailor through and through.

Before now, Brittany has been compared, disparagingly, with Provence, and with some justness perhaps. Provence, however, does not persistently broil under a “fierce, dry heat,” and Brittany is not by any means “a wind and wave swept land, where nothing nourishes itself or grows fat.” Potatoes are even fattening, and Brittany, in all conscience, grows enough of that useful commodity to feed all France. In three things Brittany and Provence more than a little resemble one another. Both preserve, to a very remarkable extent, their ancient language and their old-time manners and customs, though in all three they are quite different one from the other.

The general topographical aspect of the coast of the whole Breton peninsula is stern and wild, whether one encounters the dreary waste of sand, in the midst of which sit Mont St. Michel and Tombelaine, or the cliffs away to the westward, or the bleak and barren Belle Ile en Mer, where Fouquet built his famous stronghold.

On the “Emerald Coast” the sea and sky are often of a true Neapolitan clearness, and, indeed, the climate of the whole peninsula is, even in winter, as mild as many a popularly fashionable Mediterranean resort; but it is not always so bright and sunny; there is a deal of rain in winter, and often a penetrating dampness, whose only brother is the genuine Scotch mist.

Still, in all but four months of the year, there is a brilliancy and softness about the climate of the coast of Brittany which encourages violets, roses, onions, and potatoes to come to maturity at so early a date that the Londoner has ceased to raise the question as to whether or not they may be “best English,” when he sees these products laid out of an early morning in his beloved Covent Garden.

To know a country or its people at its best, one should really take one of its great men for a guide. Hear then what Chateaubriand says of “La Terre Bretonne”:

“This long peninsula, of a wild and savage aspect, has much of singularity about it: its narrow valleys, its non-navigable rivers bathing the feet of its ruined castle-keeps and châteaux, its old abbeys, its thatch-covered houses, and its cattle herded together in its arid pastures. One valley is separated from another by forests of oak, with holly bushes as large as beech-trees, and druidical stones around which sea-birds are for ever circling.

“Of an imagination lively, but nevertheless melancholic, of a humour as flexible as their character is obstinate, the Bretons are distinguished for their piety, and none the less for their bravery, their fidelity, their spirit of independence, and their patriotism. Proud and susceptible, but without ambition and little suited to the affairs of court or state, they care nothing for honours or for rank.”

The picture is not very vivid, but it is wonderfully true, and of this one meets continual evidence in a journey around the coast, from the Bay of St. Michel in the north to Belle Ile or Nantes in the south.

No part of France has a physiognomy more original than Bretagne; none has been marked by nature in a more emphatic manner than this ancient home of the Celts.

“ terre du granit
Et de l’immense et morne lande.”

It is indeed a land of contrasts, where ancient, mystical, and weird menhirs and dolmens, relics of prehistoric times, are mingled with mediæval monuments and modern forts, arsenals, and viaducts.

The country is by no means unlovely, but it partakes of none of the conventional beauties of other parts. It is not sterile, though it is stern; it is not very fertile, but its product is ample; and it stands as the most westerly point of the mainland of Northern Europe, open to all the wild buffetings of the tempestuous Atlantic which has sculptured its coast-line into such fantastic forms that a shipwrecked mariner must think himself fallen upon the most stern and rock-bound of coasts.

The general aspect of Brittany is green and gray. It is, as the Breton himself says, an austere heath,—the country-side half-effaced in demi-tints, and the sea boisterous and wicked.

This, however, is only one of its moods; to-morrow it may be as brilliantly sunlit as the Bay of Naples, and may have a sea and sky of gold and turquoise. But this mood passes quickly, and again it settles down to a misty softness and mildness of climate that has given its name to one of the five great climatic divisions of France, the Armorican.

The sunsets of Brittany are always glorious. Nowhere on the rim of great ocean’s mirror are there more splendid and grandly scenic effects to be observed. An exceedingly realistic Frenchman once described a sunset in the Bay of Douarnenez as a “bloody apotheosis,” the real aspect of which is readily inferred. Of this Breton Cornouaille, Béranger sang:

“Faisons honte aux hirondelles.
Tu croiras, sur nos essieux,
Que la terre a pris des ailes
Pour passer devant les yeux.”

The country inland is as original as the coast, and both the peasant on shore and the sailor on the sea are Breton to the core. Never has Brittany been called charming or gracious, never lovely or sweet, but always cold, though not so in climate, which is always terrible and austere.

But, for all that, it is delightful, and when one has tired of the stupid gaieties of Switzerland or the Rhine, let him rough it a bit among the low hills and valleys of the Côtes du Nord, or the rocky promontories and inlets of Finistère, or, on the south coast between Quimper and Nantes, on one of those little tidal rivers such as the Aven, and let him learn for himself that there is something new under the sun, even on well-trodden ground.

Truth to tell, Brittany is not nearly so well known to English-speaking folk as it should be. There is a fringe of semi-invalid, semi-society loiterers centred around St. Malo, and enlivened in the summer months by the advent of a little world of literary and artistic folk from Paris. Then there is an artist colony or two in Lower Brittany, where the visitors work hard, dress uncouthly, and live cheaply for four or five months of the year. At Nantes there is the overflow of tourists of convention from the châteaux district of Touraine, and up and down the length and breadth of Brittany, from Mont St. Michel to St. Nazaire, and from Dol to Brest, are to be found occasional wanderers on bicycles or in motor-cars.

The great mass, however, is herded around the conventionally “gay” five o’clock resorts of Dinard, Paramé, and St. Malo, and in by far the greater area of the province the seeker for pleasure and true edification is far more rare than is popularly supposed. The occasional rather wretched hotel has hitherto kept the fastidious away, and the terrific hobnails of the Breton wooden shoe have all but driven travellers in motor-cars and bicycle riders to despair. Both these deterrents, real and fancied, are disappearing, however. The hygienic bedrooms of the Touring Club are found here and there, and the peasants, or, at least, some of them, now wear a sort of cast-iron sole apparently clamped or riveted to the wooden shoe; at least there are no big, pointed, mushroom-headed tacks to drop out, point uppermost, in dry weather.

The topographical aspect of Brittany is largely due to the two great zones of granite formation which come together at their western extremities,—the mountains of Alençon and the jutting rocks that come to the surface from Poitou northward.

In general, the whole aspect of Brittany echoes the words of Brizeaux, the Lorient poet:

“O terre de granit, recouverte de chênes.”

One would hardly call Brittany mountainous, but its elevations are notable, nevertheless, in that they rise, for the most part, abruptly from the dead level of the ocean. Inland, the topography takes on more of the nature of a rolling moorland, with granite cropping out here and there in the elevations. The following quatrain describes it exactly:

“O ma chère Bretagne,
Que j’aime tes halliers,
Tes verdoyants graniers,
Et ta noire montagne.”

The greatest altitudes in Brittany are: The Sillon de Bretagne (near Savenay), eighty-nine metres; La Motte (Montagnes Noires between Quimper and Brest), 289 metres; Menez Hom (Montagnes Noires), 330 metres; Mont St. Michel (Montagne d’Arrée), 391 metres.

The Breton rivers are not great rivers as the waterways of the world go, although they are important indeed to the country which they irrigate. Chief among them are the Vilaine, navigable to Rennes, the Rance, the Odet, the Aulne, and of course the Loire, which flanks the southern boundary of the old province nearly up to its juncture with the Mayenne, and continues its navigable length in Brittany up to, and a trifle beyond, the town of the same name. The Couesnon, flowing northward into the vast Bay of Mont St. Michel, forms the northeastern boundary separating Brittany from Normandy.

The great length of irregular coast-line accounts for the continuation of the generally severe and stern aspect of the interior, the sombre granite cliffs jutting far out into the open, half-enclosing great bays and forming promontories and headlands which are characteristically Breton and nothing else. They might resemble those of the Greek mainland and archipelago were they but environed with the life and languor of the South, but, as it is, they are Breton through and through, and their people have all their hopes and sympathies wrapped up in the occupations of a colder clime.

The old territorial limits of the Province of Brittany embraced a small tract south of the Loire, known as Le Rais, or the Retz country.

Here is Clisson, the feudal castle and estate so constantly recurring in French history. Pornic, Paimbœuf, and the Lac de Grande Lieu also lie southward of the Loire in this old appanage, but, in the main, Breton history was played on the Armorican peninsula north of the Loire.

The height of the tides on the Breton coast varies considerably. All this is caused by the flow of the North Sea and the Straits of Calais meeting the current coming directly from the Atlantic, so that in some instances the flood-tide rises to a height of from fifty to sixty feet above “dead water,” as the French call it.

The immense Bay of Mont St. Michel, at low water, is a stretch of bare sand more than three hundred square kilometres in extent, but it is completely covered and converted into a great tranquil gulf by the rising tide.



At Croisic, at the mouth of the Loire, there is a 5.16 metre rise of the tide, which around the Breton coast-line varies as follows:

Port Navalo, Morbihan4.72
Ile Brehat9.90
St. Malo11.44
Iles Chausey11.74
Mont St. Michel12.30

The aspect of the region round about Dol, in the north, is that of a little Holland, with its flats and windmills and its cultivated ground protected from the sea by a rim of downs and dikes. It is not so very great an expanse that follows these outlines, but the likeness is one to be remarked. To the westward lie the jutting rocks and capes, beyond which are the isolated islands of Ouessant and its fellows, and all around the coast extend landlocked bays and harbours sheltering the great fishing ports of Douarnenez and Concarneau and the commercial ports of St. Malo, Morlaix, Brest, Lorient, and Vannes.

From a military and strategic point of view the whole northwest coast of France, from the mouth of the Loire through Brittany and Normandy, is exceedingly well protected, with a great port and base of supplies both at Brest in Brittany and at Cherbourg in Normandy.

Forts Minden, Ville Martin, and Penthièvre, Port Louis, Lorient, and Brest, and the Forts du Pilier, Le Palais, Lacroix, Cezon, and Château du Taureau, with St. Malo and Fort des Rimains, protect the whole Breton seashore in practically unassailable fashion, though there are still the sea fights at Ouessant, in 1778 and 1794, and The Hogue in 1692, to say nothing of the land engagements at Quiberon in 1795, to remember.

Map of Bretagne



TOURISTS are commonly supposed to belong to the pleasure-seeking or invalid class, and so they mostly do, still one may travel for instruction (which is pleasure, also) and be mindful of the conditions of life around him, and profit accordingly, unless he absolutely demands the life of the boulevards of Paris or the homœopathic excitements of the little horses in some popular watering-place.

It is undoubtedly true that most tourists are of limited interests, which may be pleasure, or art, or architecture, or worshipping at historical shrines. All this is well enough in its way, but if one could combine a modicum of each he would profit much more largely, to say nothing of being amused and instructed, too.

The time has long since passed when travellers reviled Brittany as a province where “husbandry was no further advanced than among the Hurons,” as a writer of the eighteenth century said within twenty-four hours after he had crossed the boundary between Normandy and Brittany, at Pontorson, where the causeway road branches off to Mont St. Michel. Evidences of husbandry are still very much to the fore, but it is more advanced in the interior, at least; on the coast the harvest of the sea takes its place.

Brittany, in husbandry, may not be so advanced as some other parts. There are no such elaborate operations going on here as in the regions where high farming is practised—in Beauce, or Normandy, or Anjou. Neither are such numbers of mechanical farming-tools in operation, but in spite of all this there is a very considerable and prosperous industry born of the soil of which most strangers to Brittany, and some who have travelled there, are entirely ignorant. All along the great highways crossing and recrossing Brittany one sees the little roadside farms with their attendant small flocks of live stock, sheep, cattle, geese, ducks, and fowls, which point, at any rate, to the fact that the peasant need not be as ill-nourished as he is generally supposed to be; and really he is not.

The charm of journeying by road in France is indescribable, perhaps, to its fullest degree. Natural beauties count for much, but in a land peopled with historic castles, churches, and abbeys, as Normandy and Brittany are, it is found doubly enjoyable even though one professes no expert architectural knowledge, or no profound aptitude for historical research. These, however, are but side-lights, which make the actual pilgrimage among such shrines greatly to be cherished among one’s personal experiences.

It is the whole which pleases, and not fragmentary and piecemeal beauties and charms; and never was this more true than of a well-beloved land, be it one’s own or an alien shore.

Brittany and its travel routes, whether by road or rail, offer as full a measure of all these attractions as it is possible for one to conceive.

The great highways of Brittany have not the same favour with travellers by road as those of other parts of France. They are equally important and equally well cared for by a paternal government, but their inclines are steeper—sometimes suicidal—and certainly more frequent than elsewhere in France, and distances stretch out interminably.

The Main Roads of Brittany

The Main Roads of Brittany

The great national road which stretches from Paris to Brest covers a distance nearly equal to that from Paris to Turin, or from Paris to Amsterdam.

There are, however, in Brittany no long stretches of unrolled road surface, and for the most part the roadways are as smooth as can anywhere be found. Were it not for the eternal switchbacks, and the aforementioned hobnail, with its pointed end usually upmost, Brittany would be a far more popular touring-ground for the automobile than it is. The hooded cart of Normandy and Brittany, such as one meets going to and from the market-towns, is another real dread to the man in the motor-car.

It is not that the occupant is unwilling to hear one’s horn, but it is almost impossible that he should against a head-wind, until you are close upon him. It is useless to point to your ear as you whisk by and ask him—in a shout—if he is deaf, or to say: “Well, now, you sleep well.” He will pay little or no attention to you, and anyway, most likely, he was not asleep, as are so many of his fellows that one meets on English roads.

In Brittany the traveller by road often meets an obstruction in the shape of a flock of sheep slowly making its way toward one, or in the opposite direction, or even a flock of ducks or geese, which are even more dreadful. Sheep are stupid, hens and chickens are silly, but geese are arrogant and obstinate.

It is very disconcerting, of course, for the motor-car driver at full speed to have to draw in his ten, or twenty, or thirty horses in order to avoid decapitating a whole goose and gosling family, but it lends a charm to the travel, which a badly paved stretch of roadway—in Picardy, for instance—wholly lacks.

Here when one does actually run into a flock of geese, such as one sees on the high-coloured posters advertising a certain make of car, and in the comic journals, it is one of the real humours of life. The amount of curiosity an old goose or gander can show in a death-dealing motor-car as it rushes by, and the chances they take of sudden death, are enough to give an ordinarily careful driver innumerable heart-leaps.

This is about all the trouble one is likely to meet on Breton roads, except, of course, the always present grazing cows, which here, though they are always attended,—generally by a small boy or girl, who often is not able to keep them in line as one would wish,—are allowed to stray freely, and are not tethered as they are throughout Normandy.

It is not for the aforesaid reasons alone that motor-cars are scarce in Brittany, for, after all, they form but minor troubles as compared with the eccentricities of the machinery itself, and the tourist in a motor-car is usually prepared for most things which are likely to happen to him en route. So really if one likes a hilly country—and it is not without its charms—Brittany offers much in the way of varied and natural beauties that certain other provinces lack. Touraine, for instance, delightful as it is as a touring-ground, is as proverbially flat as a billiard-table.

There are, in the first place, not nearly so many motor-cars owned in Brittany, and accordingly there are astonishingly few shelters and repairers. Apparently, the Breton does not care for the new-fangled means of locomotion, not recognizing, perhaps, that it has come to stay. Still less does the Breton peasant’s brother, the Breton sailor or fisherman, care for the motor-boat, which ought to have a great vogue in such great inland seas as Morbihan, the Bay of Douarnenez, or the Goulet or the roadstead of Brest.

The sailor of Brest or Lorient and the little fishing villages of the west will tell you: “I like my boat better, with my sail and my arms for motors.”

Often these great stretches of Breton roadway show an aspect of human nature that is probably the same the world over; a peasant man or woman is leading a cow,—always on the wrong side of the road, of course,—or a sleepy farm-hand is drawing his cart to or from market,—still on the wrong side of the road,—when the whirr and snort of a motor-car does something more than awaken echoes.

The cows entangle themselves in their leading ropes, and the usually placid horses bolt with the cart into the ditch. The native, of course, reviles the car and its occupants, not because he hates them,—for they are one of the mainstays of the inns of the countryside,—but merely to display that untamable spirit of independence, which every mother’s son of a French peasant has developed to a high degree.

In Brittany, as in most other lands,—in summer,—the traveller by road gathers in a fine crop of wingy, stingy things, which project themselves into one’s eyes with a formidable force when one goes at them with a swift-moving car.

Occasionally one thinks he has come upon a vast convention of them, so many are they in numbers and variety—flies, wasps, bees, and what not, with a peculiar Gallic species of fly so infinitesimal that one only stops to clear them out when he feels that his eyes are so full of them that they may be uncomfortably crowded. The real or fabled Jersey mosquito would go out of business with his Breton brother as a competitor. Truly this is a new terror, and one that certainly was not apparent, to anything like the present extent, before the advent of the motor-car.

One comes upon a dull week in Brittany often, even in summer, when the sky remains overcast, and great clouds roll up from out of the western ocean. Often it is not cold, but it is bitterly damp and sticky, even though it does not rain, but the native does not seem to mind it, at least, he never complains.

The only objector ever met with by the writer was a Gascon who kept a pharmacy at Quimper. He discussed it as follows: “Hideous country! The wind blows here every day in the year, and the rest of the time it rains,” he continued, enigmatically. “Yes, that abominable wind always plays the same trick on me! What a country!” He was probably thinking of his own bright and sunny home in the South, where seldom, if ever, are conditions other than brilliantly tranquil.

There are three great highroads which cross Brittany from east to west, the main road of Brittany from Alençon in Normandy, through Mayenne, Fougères, Dol, Dinan, Guingamp, and Morlaix to Brest; the southern road from Paris via Le Mans, or even following the Loire valley down from Orleans to Nantes, and thence westward via Vannes, Lorient, and Quimper to Brest, thus making the complete circuit of the Breton coast. A midway course lies in almost a direct line east and west through Laval, Vitré, Rennes, Ploërmel, Pontivy, and Carhaix.

These three highroads cover completely the itinerary of Brittany, in so far as they follow the north and south coast and the country-side lying between.

Cross country, from the Bay of Mont St. Michel to the mouth of the Loire, one “route nationale” lies directly through Rennes, and another ends at Vannes, in Morbihan.

These cover practically all the regular lines of traffic, and include all the chief points of historical and topographical instances.

Travel Routes in Brittany

Travel Routes in Brittany

Distances of themselves are not great in Brittany. From St. Malo to Nantes is but 180 kilometres; from Laval to Brest but 337 kilometres; and from Nantes to Brest is but 324 kilometres.

In these days of motor-cars and even bicycles, these distances are not great, and so long as they are not taken at a rush,—which forbids enjoyment,—they form no drawback to the pleasures of travel by road in Brittany. One has only to add two or three hundred kilometres more, in order to reach the starting-points of Nantes, Laval, or St. Malo from Paris. Then the tour may seem a lengthy one; but even this is nothing to find fault with; the intermediate country is in itself delightful, whether one journeys down through the Orleanais, Touraine, and Anjou, or westward through the heart of Normandy.

The railways in Brittany, except on some of the cross-country routes, are developed to a high stage of efficiency. The great express lines of the Western Railroad to St. Malo and to Brest run due west from Paris, straight almost as the crow flies. Again, one may make his entry via Nantes and the Loire valley through Touraine and Anjou by the Orleans line, and have the satisfaction of setting out from Paris by the world’s finest and most modern railway station, that wonderfully convenient and artistic structure on the Quay of Orsay.

Rennes is the great railway centre of Brittany, and accordingly all roads lead to Rennes. Here one may make up his itinerary at a price which will include nearly every place west of that point for a matter of frcs. 65 for first-class, and frcs. 50, second-class, and if he tell the clerk of the booking-office at his point of departure for Rennes that he intends doing this (and agrees with the formalities) he will get a discount of forty per cent, on the price of first or second class tickets up to that point. A plan of this itinerary and further particulars are given in the appendix.

Third-class railway travel in Brittany ought to form one of the long-remembered experiences of one’s visit to that province.

There is much amusement to be got out of a journey across Brittany from St. Malo to Nantes, with mob-capped peasant-folk and blue-bloused and picturesque farmers, all laden with huge baskets and bundles, and an occasional live fowl, or perhaps a rabbit, or even a guinea-pig, though one must not believe that Frenchmen eat guinea-pigs. The writer, at least, never saw one being eaten, though what use they are really put to is an open question.

Occasionally there will be a want of elbow-room in a third-class carriage, but this is no great inconvenience, as the Breton mostly travels short distances only, and at the next station one may be left alone with only a drowsy Breton sailor—off on a furlough from a man-of-war—to keep him company, with his red-knobbed tam-o’-shanter rakishly over one ear.

Often a foreigner will throw himself into one’s compartment,—an American or an English artist, with his sketching paraphernalia, white umbrella and all,—for artist-folk are mostly of the genus who travel third-class. Good-naturedly enough, if his journey be a long one, he will tell you much of the country round about, for your artist is one who knows the byways as well as the highways—and perhaps a little better. By this procedure, one stands a chance of gathering information as well as being edified and amused.



THE speech of Brittany, like its legend and folk-lore, has ever been a prolific subject with many writers of many opinions.

The comparison of the speech of the Welshman with that of the Breton has often been made, but by no one so successfully as by Henri Martin, the historian, who, in writing of his travels in Wales, told how he had chatted with the Celtic population there and made himself thoroughly understood through his knowledge of Breton speech.

In its earliest phases, the Breton tongue had a literature of its own, at least a spoken literature, coming from the mouths of its bards and popular poets. In our own day, too, Brittany has its own songs and verses, which, though many of them have not known the medium of printer’s ink, have come down from past generations.

The three ancient Armorican kingdoms or states, Domnonée, Cornouaille, and the Bro-Waroch, had their own distinct dialects.

There is and was a considerable variation in the speech throughout Brittany, though it is and was all Breton. The dialects of Vannes, Quimper, and Tréguier are the least known outside their own immediate neighbourhood; the Léonais of St. Pol de Léon is the regular and common tongue of all Bas Bretons.

The old-time limits of the Breton tongue are wavering to-day, and from time to time have drawn appreciably toward the west, so that the boundary-line, which once ran from the mouth of the Loire to Mont St. Michel, now starts at the mouth of the Vilaine, and finishes at a point on the northern coast, a little to the westward of St. Brieuc.

It was during the decadence of the Breton tongue—known to philologists as the third period—that the monk Abelard cried out: “The Breton tongue makes me blush with shame.”

The nearer one comes to Finistère, the less liable he is to meet the French tongue unadulterated. The numbers knowing the Breton tongue alone more than equal those who know French and Breton, leaving those who know French alone vastly in the minority. The figures seem astonishing to one who does not know the country, but they are unassailable, nevertheless.

St. Pol de Léon

St. Pol de Léon

Here in this department at least, and to a lesser degree in the Côtes du Nord and the Morbihan provinces, one is likely enough to hear lisped out, as if it were the effort of an Englishman: “Je na sais pas ce que vous dîtes,” or “Je n’entend rien.” No great hardship or inconvenience is inflicted upon one by all this, but now and again one wishes he were a Welshman, for the only foreigners who can understand the lingo are Taffy’s fellow country-men.

Breton legend is as weird and varied as that of any land. It is astonishingly convincing, too, from the story of King Grollo and his wicked daughter, who came from the Britain across the seas, the Bluebeard legend, the Arthurian legend, which Bretons claim as their own, as do Britons, to those less incredible tales of the Corsairs of St. Malo and the exploits of Duguesclin and Surcouf.

The Breton Tongue

There is a quaint Breton saying referring to little worries, which runs thus: “When the wind blows up from the sea, I turn my barrel to the north; when it blows down from the hills, I turn my barrel to the south.” “And when it blows all four ways at once?” “Why, then I crawl under the barrel.”

This is exactly the Breton’s attitude toward life to-day, but he finds a deal of consolation in his legends and songs of the past, and in his ruffled moments they serve to put him in a good humour again. This is something more than mere superstition, it is a philosophical turn of mind, and that is good for a man. The heroes of legend are frequently those of history. One may cite Joan of Arc with relation to old France, and Duguesclin in Brittany. There is a difference, of course, and it is wide, but the comparison will serve, as there is no other character in all the history of Brittany—unless it be that of Duguay-Trouin, the Corsair of St. Malo—who stands out so distinctly in the popular mind as does Duguesclin, “the real Breton.”

There is none in his own country, however illiterate he may be, and the Breton peasant, in some parts, is notoriously illiterate, who knows not this hero’s name and glory. Still more deeply rooted are the old folk-lore superstitions which have come down through the ages by word of mouth, no doubt with the accruing additions of time.

Morlaix is the very centre of a land of mystery, tradition, and superstition. Among these superstitious legends, “Jan Gant y tan,” as it is known by its Breton title, stands out grimly.

Jan, it seems, is a species of demon who carries by night five candles on the five fingers of each hand, and waves them wildly about, calling down wrath upon those who may have offended him.

Another is to the effect that hobgoblins eat the cream which rises on milk at night.

Yet another superstition is that the call of the cuckoo announces the year of one’s marriage or death.

Another, and perhaps the most curious of all, is that, if an infant by any chance gets his clothes wet at certain pools or fountains, he will die within a year, but he will live long years if he fall in, yet is able to preserve his garments from all dampness.

When one drinks of the Fountain of De Krignac three times within the hour, says the peasant of Plougasnou, and is not cured of the fever, let him abandon all thoughts of a remedy and prepare for death.

There are two legends associated with Brittany which are little known. Both relate to Bluebeard. This legend is of Eastern origin, as far as concerns the story of the man who slew his wives by dragging them about by the hair, ultimately decapitating them; but the French Academy of Inscriptions and Polite Learning evolves a sort of modern parallel as another setting for the same apocryphal story. It concerns a certain Trophime, the daughter of a Duke of Vannes, in the sixth century. She was married to the Lord of Gonord, whose castle was situated on Mont Castanes, and was the eighth wife of her husband. He killed her because she discovered the bodies of her seven predecessors; but her sister Anne prayed to St. Gildas, who came with her two brothers to the rescue. St. Gildas restored Trophime to life, and the Bluebeard of Gonord and his castle were swallowed up by the earth.

The origin of the story has always been in doubt, but the generally accepted theory is that Perrault founded the tale on the history of Gilles de Laval, Seigneur de Rais.

The Academy, however, destroys all this early conjecture in favour of the Gilles de Laval affair. Since Gilles de Laval was a kinsman of the Dukes of Brittany, the following is given as his claim to having played the part, though, as the report of the Academy goes on to say, De Laval proved himself to be but a fanatical sorcerer.

Gilles de Laval, after an engraving of the fifteenth century in the Bibliothèque Nationale.

Gilles de Laval, after an
engraving of the fifteenth century in the
Bibliothèque Nationale.

Gilles de Laval was born in 1404, and was a member of the family of Laval-Montmorency. He was handsome, well born, rich, and a most valiant soldier, and one of the warmest supporters of Joan of Arc, whom he defended against all who spoke ill of her, constituting himself her personal champion. He fought valiantly with the “Maid,” and was made a marshal of France when twenty-six years of age. He was very wealthy, and he doubled his possessions when he married at the early age of sixteen. His extravagances, however, were greater than his riches. He had a refined taste, and loved illuminated manuscripts, stamped Spanish leather, Flemish tapestries, Oriental carpets, gold and silver plate, music, and mystery plays. After peace was made, he and his wife retired to their castles and lands in the Vendée, where Gilles soon found himself hopelessly in debt. He had to find money somehow, for he was of a fine, open-handed disposition, and had never denied himself anything. It was only natural in that century that he should turn his thoughts toward alchemy and the philosopher’s stone.

Francesco Prelati, an Italian with a reputation as a magician and a maker of gold, was installed, with all his alchemist’s apparatus, in Gilles’s castle; but when he was asked to make gold, he confided to his patron that it would be necessary to summon the aid of the devil, and that for this purpose the blood of young children was absolutely required. The two then scoured the country round for children, whom they murdered with horrible rites, until at last their crimes became so notorious that they were arrested and tried at Nantes. Gilles de Laval and his accomplice were accused of murdering no fewer than twelve hundred children, and were tried for sorcery and found guilty. The Lord of Laval was strangled, and his body was burned; but Francesco Prelati, as a mere vulgar sorcerer, was burned alive.

At Saint Cast in the Côtes du Nord, one hears vague and fabulous reports from the natives, even to-day, of a pirate ship—a veritable sister ship to those of Duguay-Trouin of St. Malo—named the Perillon and commanded by one Besnard, known as the terror of the seas. Like other songs of seafarers of the days gone by, that concerning the terror of the seas is good enough to incorporate into the text of some rattling story of pirates and corsairs, such as boys—and some grown-ups—the world over like. Another popular Breton air was known as “Biron ha D’Estin” (“Byron and D’Estaing”), and had to do with the war in America. Another was the “Chant du Pilote,” and had for its subject the combat of the Surveillante and the forts at Quebec in 1780.

Of the same period was the “Corsairs’ Song,” which is very well known throughout Upper Brittany even to-day, beginning thus:

“Le trente-un du mois d’août.”

Throughout Upper Brittany also one hears the old housewives still mumbling the old words and air of the song current in the times of Francis the First.

It was when the prince was treating for his release from captivity that the words first took shape and form:

“Quand le roi départit de France,
Vive le roi!
À la male heure il départit,
Vive Louis!
À la male heure il départit (bis).
. . . . . . . . . .
Il départit jour de dimanche.
. . . . . . . . . .
Je ne suis pas le roi de France.
. . . . . . . . . .
Je suis un pauvre gentilhomme
Qui va de pays en pays.
. . . . . . . . . .
Retourne-t-en vite à Paris.”



TO-DAY the Bretons are the most loyal of all the citizens of the great republic of France. In reality they are a most democratic people, though they often affect a devotion for old institutions now defunct. They may be a superstitious race, but they are not suspicious, although they have marked prejudices. When thoroughly understood, they are both likable and lovable, though their aspect be one of a certain sternness and aloofness toward the stranger. Their weapons are all in plain view, however, like the hedgehog’s; there is nothing concealed to thwart one’s desires for relations with them.

Their country, their climate, and their environment have much to do with their character, manners, and customs; and environment—as some one may have said before—is the greatest influence at work in shaping the attitude of a people toward an outsider, and every one is still an outsider to a Breton, be he French, English, or American.

The Breton is really a gayer person than his expression leads one to suppose. Madame de Sévigné wrote, with some assurance, as was her wont: “You make me prefer the gamesomeness of our Bretons to the perfumed idleness of the Provençals.”

Certainly, to one who knows both races, the comparison was well made. It is a case of doing mischief against doing nothing.

Brittany has not Normandy’s general air of prosperity, and indeed at times there is a very near approach to poverty and distress, and then it is bruited abroad in the public prints that the fisheries have proved a failure.

The Breton farming peasant, however, is not the poverty-stricken wretch that he has sometimes been painted. He lives humbly, and eats vast quantities of potatoes and bread, little meat, some fish, always a salad, and, usually, a morsel of cheese, but he eats it off a cleanly scrubbed bare board and from clean and unchipped plates.

In his stable, such few belongings in the form of live stock as he has are well fed and contented, and his chickens and ducks and pigs and cows are as much a pride and profit to him as to the peasant of other parts; but, after all, Brittany is not a land of milk and honey. The peasant lives in the atmosphere of dogged, obstinate labour, but he draws a competence from it, and it is mostly those who live in the seacoast villages, and those who will huddle themselves in and about the large towns and ports, such as Quimper and Brest, that are ever in want, and then only because of some untoward, unexpected circumstance.

Agriculture and the business of the sea are closely allied in Brittany. Hundreds upon hundreds of young men work in the winter upon farms far inland, and come down to the sea with the coming of February and March, to ship in some longshore fishing-smack, or even to go as far away as Newfoundland, the Orkneys, or to Iceland.

This gives not only a peculiar blend of character, but also a peculiar cast of countenance to the Breton; he is a sort of half-land and half-sea specimen of humanity, and handy at the business of either.

In many ports, the Breton struggles continually against shifting sand,—sand which is constantly shifting when piled in banks on the seashore, and becomes of the nature of quicksand when lying beneath the water where the Breton moors his lobster-pots. Between the two, he is constantly harassed, and until the off season comes has little of that gaiety into which he periodically relaxes. Every one will remark that the aspect of both men and women is sombre and dark, even though their spontaneous gaiety and dress on the feast of a patron saint or at a great pardon gives one the impression of gladness.

One sees this when on the great holidays the Breton peasant is moved to song, and chants such lines as the following, which more nearly correspond in sentiment to “We won’t go home till morning” than anything else that can be thought of.

“J’ai deux grands bœufs dans mon étable,
J’ai deux grands bœufs marqués de rouge;
Ils gagnent plus dans une semaine
Qu’ils n’en ont couté, qu’ils n’en ont couté.
J’aime Jeanne ma femme!
J’aime Jeanne ma femme!
Eh bien! j’aimerais mieux la voir mourir,
Que de voir mourir mes bœufs.”

Doubtless there is not so much hard-heartedness about the sentiment as is expressed by the words, which, to say the least and the most, are not wholly up to the standard of “love, cherish, and protect.

Once in awhile one sees the type of man who is known among his fellows as Breton des plus Bretons. Like his Norman brother, the Breton in the off season works hard playing dominoes or cards in the taverns, where one reads on a sign over the door that Jean X donne à boire et à manger, that is, if the sign be not in Breton, which more often than not it is.

The landlord does not exactly “give” his fare; he exchanges it for copper sous, but he caters for the inner man at absurdly small prices, and accordingly is well patronized, in spite of his refusal of credit.

Bowls is the national game of Brittany, having a greater hold upon the simple-minded Breton, particularly in the neighbourhood of the Lannion, than any other amusement. No respectably ambitious inn in all Brittany is without its bowling-alley. As a distraction, it is mild and harmless, and withal good exercise, as we all know.

The religious fervour of the Breton folk has been remarked of all who know them howsoever slightly. It is universal, and, if it be more apparent in one place than any other, it is in the Department of Finistère, and it is not in the cities and towns that it reaches its greatest height, but mostly in the country-side, or on the seacoast among the labourers and the fisher-folk.

The religion of Brittany to-day is of the people and for the people. It is one of the great questions of the world to-day, but from a dogmatic point of view it shall have no discussion here. Suffice it to say that throughout France, with the numerous great, and nearly always empty, churches ever before one, one can but realize that the power of the Church is not what it once was.

The churchgoers are chiefly women; seldom, if ever, except on a great feast-day, are the churches filled with a congregation at all representative of the population of the parish, and even in the great cathedrals the same impression nearly always holds good.

In Brittany, the case is somewhat different, in the country districts at least, and even at Roscoff, Quimper, Vannes, and Rennes, where there are great cathedrals. In Brittany, in every parish church and at every wayside shrine, is almost always to be found not only a little knot of devoutly kneeling peasants, but, on all occasions of mark, a congregation overflowing beyond the doors. What this all signifies, as before said, is no concern of the writer of this book. It is simply a recorded state of affairs, and, judging from the attitude of the people themselves—when seen on the spot—toward the subject of religion, the most liberal thinker would hardly consider that here in Brittany religion was anything else than spontaneous devotion on the part of the people.

Of religion and priests, Brittany is full, but the people are not by any means priest-ridden, as many uncharitable and slack observers have asserted before now. No priest bids a Breton worship at any shrine. They do it of their own free will, and, though a churchman always officiates at the great pardons and festivals, the worshippers themselves are as much the performers of the ceremony as the priest.

In Brittany to-day the piece of money which passes current in most transactions, though in numbers it is infrequently handled by the traveller, is la pièce, the half-franc or ten-sous coin.

It is confusing when you are bargaining for a carriage to drive to some wayside shrine, to be told the price will be “deux pièces,” when—in Normandy—you have just formed the habit of realizing offhand that deux cent sous is the same thing as ten francs. It’s all very simple, when one knows what they are talking about, and the Breton likes still to think his institutions are different from those of the rest of France, and so he goes on bargaining in pièces, when in other parts they are counting in sous, which is even more confusing, or in francs.

Most of the farmhouses of Brittany are constructed of stone and wood, with their roofs covered with a straw thatch. Of course this is a dangerous style of building to-day, as the authorities admit. Indeed a decree has gone forth in some parts forbidding the erection of any new straw-thatched building, and again in other parts against using any structure so built as a dwelling-house. The law is not absolutely observed, but it is by no means a dead letter, and the homely and picturesque thatched roof has now all but disappeared, except from the open country.

To enter the Breton peasant’s farmhouse, one almost invariably descends a step. The interior is badly lighted, and worse ventilated, but, as it is mostly the open-air life that the peasant and his family lead, perhaps this does not so much matter. Usually the house is composed of but one room, with a floor of hard-trodden earth. This is the dining-room, kitchen, and bedroom of all the family. The ceiling is composed of great rough-hewn rafters, sometimes even of trunks left with the bark on, and from it are hung the knives and forks and dishes, as in a ship’s cabin.


Furniture has been reduced to the most simple formula. Two or three great closed and panelled beds or bunks line one side of the wall, with perhaps a wardrobe, where the “Sunday-best” of the whole household is kept. Beneath the great beds is a series of oaken chests, and there the household linen is stored. These, with a long table, with a bench and a wide passage on either side, the great, yawning fireplace, with its crane and the inevitable highly polished pots and pans, form the furnishings of this remarkable apartment. All this is homely and strange, but it is comfortable enough for the occupants, if one does not mind being crowded, and it is the typical dwelling throughout Brittany.

Everywhere in the Breton country one sees oxen, cattle, and, above all, the horses of the indefatigable Breton race, “ready and willing to work and full of spirit in warfare.” So said Eugene Sue, and the same observation holds true to-day. None of the animals are so large or so fat as in the neighbouring provinces, but this is not because of malnutrition or because they are ill-tended. The cows of Brittany are by no means such plump, dainty animals as the cows of the Cotentin, and the Breton horses are certainly undersized when compared to the Norman sires and the great-footed Percherons, but one and all possess good qualities purely their own, and one thing above all should be noted,—Brittany is exceedingly rich grazing country, if not agricultural.


Much of the local character is shown in the dress of the people, and throughout the country-side and the seacoast villages alike both men and women show that remarkable attention to dress which marks the strong individuality of the race,—individuality which has come down through the ages, and endures to this day in very nearly, if not quite all, its original aspect. One knows this dress through photographic reproductions, and from having occasionally seen it on the comic opera stage, but actually to live among such picturesquely dressed folk is like a step back into the past.

LA COIFFE POLKA—The Smallest Coiffe in Brittany  B. McM. 1905

The costumes of Brittany are greatly varied, but all look theatrical, and many of them are remarkably embroidered in multicoloured braid. On all great occasions, feast-days and fairs, on Sundays and on the days of the pardons, many ancient costumes, not modern reproductions, are seen. Particularly is this to be noted at Pont l’Abbé, Pont Aven, and elsewhere in the far west. The coifs of the women and the embroidered waistcoats and velvet-ribboned hats of the men mark them as a species of Frenchmen different from their Norman brethren; lovers of fanciful dress and customs quite Southern in gorgeousness, and not the least like the colder fashions of other dwellers in the same latitude.

At Quimper is an interesting Ethnological Museum, where one may study the subject at length, and in the town one may buy fabrics and stuffs and articles of wearing apparel fashioned in the genuine Breton manner.

The greatest activity of life in Brittany is in the coast towns, for there the populace has for the longest time been in touch with the ideas of an advanced civilization.

Ironing Coifs

Ironing Coifs

By the very geographic position of Brittany this was inevitable, as the country was not in the direct path of any great current of commerce, and had no great navigable river, except the Loire, which bordered it upon the south. There had been malicious critics of things Breton before him, but there could have been no real justification for the lament of Paul St. Victor, who must have had an exceedingly bad dinner at his inn when he delivered himself of the following:

“Breton dialect is full of barbarisms, and Brittany is not even a healthy country for painters. It is a land of monasteries and dull routine; the same types and the same costumes; no men, no women, all Bretons, all of Brittany.”

As a race, the Breton may well be summed up as follows: They are the descendants of the men of a primitive epoch, from whom they inherit traits which even time has not entirely eradicated. Their intuitions are correct, and their convictions profound; their will tenacious, and their energies equal to all that may be demanded of them. They are proud, truthful, courageous, intrepid, hospitable, and religious.

The manufacturing industry throughout Brittany is practically null, if one except the work of the great arsenals and ship-building ports, and the production of such articles of local consumption as sail-cloth.

Flax and hemp are grown in considerable quantities, but the ordinary crops of cereals rise to nothing like the proportions of those reared in Normandy or Perche. The Breton is strong on bee-keeping, however, and keenly watches the busy workers of his hives as they gather their harvest from the abundant crop of wild flowers covering the hillsides.

Breton Types

Breton Types

The Breton communes are of vast extent compared with those of other parts of France, but the population is scattered. Gathered around the parish church are the dwellings of the market-towns of three, four, or five hundred inhabitants or more. Upon the whole, Brittany is not thinly peopled, the mean of its population exceeding that of most of the other provinces of France. Whatever the aborigines were, whether of Indo-Germanique type or of a species hitherto unplaced, the present Breton population has been developed along lines close to those of Britain. And the Bretons are not far behind, and herein undoubtedly lies the charm of Brittany for the English-speaking traveller.

Writing of his stay at Guingamp,—which is about the dividing line where one passes from the zone of the French tongue to that of the Breton, where one is frequently to hear the short exclamation, “I do not understand you,”—Arthur Young tells us of putting up at a roadside inn “where the hangings over his bed were full of cobwebs and spiders.” The inn-keeper remarked to him that he had “a superb English mare,” and wished to buy it from him. “I gave him half a dozen flowers of French eloquence for his impertinence,” said the witty traveller, “when he thought proper to leave me and my spiders in peace.” “Apropos of the breed of horses in Lower Brittany,” he continues, “they are capital hunters, and yet my ordinary little English mare was much admired, while every stable round about is filled with a pack of these little pony stallions sufficient to perpetuate the local breed for long to come.”

To the humble inn—one of the regular posting-houses on the great highroad from Paris to Brest—he is not so complimentary. “This villainous hole,” said he, “which calls itself a great house, is the best inn of the town, at which marshals of France, dukes, peers, countesses, and so forth, must now and then, by the accidents to which long journeys are subject, have found themselves. What are we to think of a country that has made, in the eighteenth century, no better provision for its travellers?” In this our author was clearly a faultfinder, or at least he was unfortunate in not living at a later day, for the above is certainly not true of the inns of France to-day, though it may truthfully be said that, even to-day, the inns of Brittany are a little backward, but it is not true of the Hôtel de France at Guingamp, which has even a dark room for the kodaker, and a fossé for the motor-car traveller.



WHAT the cider-apple crop is to Normandy, that the fisheries are to Brittany, and more, for the fisheries turn over more money by far than the cider of Normandy, which is grown purely for home consumption. The Breton young person of the male sex takes to the sea in the little pilchard-boats, the three-masters of the deep-sea fishery, or the whalers, for the purpose of earning his livelihood, and also to secure a prescribed term of exemption from military or naval service. With such an object, it is no wonder that the industry employs so many hands, and has become so important and considerable in its returns. Of course the geographical position of the country has more than a little to do with this, and also the stony soil of the country-side, suggesting the harvest of the sea as a more ample crop.

In Brittany, the sea nourishes the land, though perhaps but meagrely.



From the mouth of the Loire, around Finistère to Lannion, thousands upon thousands of the inhabitants live by the harvest of the sea, whereas, if it were not for this, they might be forced to emigrate, or to hie themselves to the large towns, there to herd in unsanitary quarters, which is worse.

The pilchard fishery is practically at its best directly off the Quiberon peninsula, opposite Lorient and Concarneau. It is important also just offshore from Audierne, Douarnenez, and Camaret.

It is well to recall just what the sardine really is, inasmuch as we mostly buy any “little fishes boiled in oil,” which a pushful grocer may thrust upon us. The “corporal’s stripe,” or the “cavalry corporal,” as the sardine is known in France, is quite a different species from the “armed policeman,” or common sea-garden herring. The Atlantic, the North Sea, the Baltic, and some parts of the Mediterranean are its home. It winters between 50 degrees and 60 degrees north latitude, in a zone where the temperature is constant, but from March to October it emigrates toward the north. Sometimes the future sardines are known as pilchards; on the coasts of Normandy and Picardy as hareng de Bergues; as sardines in Brittany; as royan in Charente; and as sarda and sardinyola in the Pyrénées Orientales.

The best and most common method of preserving the sardine is by slightly heating the oil before placing it with the fish in those little tin boxes known the world over; then the boxes are soldered and put into a double boiler and boiled for the better part of an hour, when the exceedingly simple process is finished. So simple is it, and so readily accomplished without a great capital investment, that the wonder is that imitations of the “real Brittany sardines” are not more successful elsewhere. Up to this time, however, nothing rivals the Breton product.

Each year, at the feast of St. Jean, the barques set out from the various ports, all richly decorated, and often sped on their way by a religious ceremony, at which a priest officiates and gives his blessing.

The profits vary considerably one year from another, as may be supposed. The catch is by no means constant. Its ordinary receipts approximate twelve million francs, and, when it drops below this figure, distress is likely to ensue, particularly if a hard winter falls upon Brittany, which in truth it seldom does.

The little fish return each year, their feeding-ground scarcely varying thirty miles in any direction. Thus, in season, the boats with their red sails and blue and brown nets put off for the same spots where they took their catches last year, only to find that the habits of the sardines have not in the least changed. Five or six men to a boat is the average crew, and, if the wind be contrary, their speed is much the same by means of oars. Once arrived on the ground, the skipper of the boat throws overboard at intervals some handfuls of rogue as a bait; this is a paste composed of the roe of the cod, and the only drawback is that its cost is great. It comes mostly from Norway, and, after passing through many intermediate hands, finally reaches the Breton fisherman, who pays from sixty to seventy francs per hundred kilos. When the price rises above this figure, the ingenious skipper fabricates a substitute, a mixture of the real article and a local vegetable product known as farine d’arachides. Its results are not so good as those from the real article, and the local fishermen have a saying which is doubtless so true as to have become a proverb: “One must bait with fish to catch a fish.” Moreover, the fish caught by this means do not rank as a first quality product in the markets of the Breton fishing ports, owing to the after-effects on the fish, which shall be undefined here. It may be well to recall the fact, however, and, if you get a sardine which is not what you think it ought to be, and is too much like a bad oyster, you may depend upon it that it was caught with farine d’arachides.

The Breton custom is to fish with buoyed nets, disdaining the drag-net, though occasionally the latter is used.

The buoyed nets merely scoop the surface of the water, but the drag-nets are sunk to a depth of from forty to fifty metres. When the skipper estimates that the net is full, or, at least, that he shall have a haul worthy of his trouble, all hands, singing as all sailor-folk do, pull the net inboard, and, with a clever turn, empty it of its freight of silver-scaled fish, which are forthwith scooped up and placed in great baskets. On the return to port, the fishermen still in harbour, the factory hands, and all the inhabitants who are not otherwise employed, even though they ought to be, to say nothing of curious peasant-folk from the inland towns, and always a generous sprinkling of tourists, and the inevitable American artist, are in waiting, curious as to the luck.

Here the dealers come and bargain for the catch. Thirty to thirty-five francs a thousand is usually the market price, and the choicest fish naturally sell first. Speculation comes in now and then, and a scare as to the prospect of the catch being too abundant is as common and as disastrous as the fear that it may not be large enough. Sometimes the price will fall as low as a franc and a half, and then come “trials without number for the sailors,” as an old fisherman told the writer. Certainly, if thirty francs a thousand be only a paying wage, a franc and a half must mean about the same as utter failure to the crew, who generally work the boat on shares.

The pilchard fishers have not forgotten the crisis of 1903, to combat the recurrence of which it was proposed to establish special schools for fishermen apprentices, and to forbid the use of the drag-net, and they are seeking a rearrangement of conditions whereby the returns may be more equally distributed among the workers than now. At the present time the owner—who fits out the boat—claims a third, and the skipper a third, the hands dividing the other third. According to this arrangement, the novice or apprentice receives an infinitesimal share.

As a Frenchman, a Breton of Quimper who was not in the sardine business, said to us:Ces pauvres diables! Ils mériteraient mieux.” All of which is true, so let all well-wishers, who are fond of the “little fishes boiled in oil” at their picnic dinners, give a thought now and again to the Breton fisherman.

Besides the sardine fisheries, there is a considerable traffic from such ports as Tréguier, St. Malo, and Morlaix in the deep-sea fishery, and elsewhere in the mackerel and herring fishery in Icelandic waters and the North Sea, and these give a prosperity that would otherwise be wanting.

Statistics are dry reading, and so they are not given here, but there are some curious things with regard to the laws regulating the offshore and deep-sea fisheries of France, just as there are with respect to the line fishing, by which method one can legally take fish only if he actually hold his rod or line in his hand: he may not lay it on the ground beside him and doze until an unusually frisky gudgeon wakes him up.

On all of the French fishing-craft, which sail to the Banks or to Iceland for cod, French salt must be used, and all masters of fishing-craft must keep a supplementary log or diary relating to the takings of fish alone.

In deep-sea fishing the law prescribes that a vessel which is fitted out for the fishing-banks must remain on the ground a certain length of time. This is to preclude the possibility of a decreasing catch, it is to be presumed, as many a fisherman has been known, before now, to give up the labour with holds half-filled simply because he had come upon a meagre feeding-ground. It seems a wise precaution, and is another of those parental acts which the French government is always undertaking on behalf of its children. There is still the whalebone catch to reckon with, for the French government specializes this industry, and offers a bonus of seventy francs a ton displacement on leaving port for all French equipments, and fifty francs per ton displacement upon returning after the term prescribed.




AT Ancenis, the Loire, that mighty river which rises near the frontier of Garde, a Mediterranean department, enters Brittany on its way to the Atlantic. For more than nine hundred kilometres above this point, the Loire has been navigable for such fresh-water craft as usually are found upon great waterways, and, having passed Orleans, Blois, and Tours, and broadened out into a great, wide, shallow stream, it is to be reckoned as one of the world’s great rivers. Mostly its appearance is that of a broad, tranquil, docile stream, with scarce enough depth of water to make a respectable current, leaving its bed with its bars of sand and pebbles bare to the sky. This lack of depth, except at occasional flood, is the principal and obvious reason for the comparative absence of water-borne traffic.

At the times of the great freshets there are twenty-three feet or more registered on the huge black and white scale of the bridge at Ancenis, and again it falls to less than a fourth of that height, and then there is a mere rivulet of water trickling through the broad channel at Chaumont, at Blois, or at Orleans.

In the olden time, as one passed from Anjou into Brittany, by way of the valley of the Loire, he came to a great barrier across the road,—a veritable frontier post, with a custom-house and examiners, as if one were passing into a foreign country. The Revolution changed all this, and now nothing but another of that vast family of great, white departmental boundary-posts marks the dividing line between the Maine et Loire and the Loire-Inférieure, the border departments between the old province of the Counts of Anjou and that of the Breton dukes.

Just above Ancenis, one passes vineyard after vineyard, and château after château follows rapidly in turn,—all very delightful, as Pepys would have said. Not so the bridge at Ancenis, quite the ugliest wire-rope affair to be seen on the Loire, and one is only too glad to leave it behind, though it is with a real regret that he parts from Ancenis itself.

Ancenis is one of those blessed spots possessing a château; it is endowed with a wonderfully picturesque situation, and, moreover, is capable of catering for the inner man in so satisfactory a manner that one can but put it down in his books as one of the spots to be favoured. The Barons of Ancenis were a long and picturesque line, and their local fame has by no means perished. The old-time château, constructed in the fifteenth century, was the masterwork of a famous Angevin architect, Jean Lespine by name. To-day this fine building, or what is left of it, has become an Ursuline boarding-house. Much is still left to tell the story of its former greatness, but it is not so accessible as one would like.

The most that can be remarked is a great doorway flanked by two towers, with overpowering machicolations, another smaller tower,—a tourelle, the French themselves would call it,—and a ruined pavilion, where, in 1468, Francis, Duke of Brittany, signed a treaty with Louis XI. On the market-house of Ancenis is superimposed a sort of a belfry which, seen in conjunction with the low-lying river-bank, imparts a low-country aspect to the town. The old streets of Ancenis give shelter to many fine mediæval houses, of which the most notable is perhaps the old “house of the Croix de Lorraine.”

Below Ancenis, navigation is not so difficult, but the river current is more strong. For a long distance, on the right bank, extends a dike, carrying the roadway beside the river for a matter of a hundred kilometres. This is one of the charms of travel by the Loire. When you see any animation on its bosom, save an occasional fishing-punt, neither it nor its occupant usually very animated, it is one of those great flat-bottomed ferry-boats, with a square sail hung on a yard amidships, such as Turner always made an accompaniment to his Loire landscapes.

Conditions of traffic thereon have not changed much since those days. Whenever one sees a barge or a boat worthy of classification with those on the rivers of the east or north, or of the canals, it is only about a quarter of the usual size, so, altogether, in spite of its great navigable length, the waterway of the Loire is more valuable as a picturesque and healthful element of the landscape than as a commercial artery. Below Nantes is the “section maritime,” which from Nantes to the sea is a matter of some sixty kilometres. Here the boats increase in number and size. They are known as lighters, barges, and tenders, and go down with the river current and return on the incoming ebb, for here the river is tidal.

From this one gathers that the Loire, so noble and magnificent, is the most aristocratic river of France, and so, too, it is with respect to its associations of the past.

It has not the grandeur of the Rhône when the spring freshets from the Jura and the Swiss lakes have filled it to its banks; and it has not the burning activity of the Seine, as it bears its thousands of boat-loads of produce and merchandise to and from market; it has not the prettiness of the Thames, or the legendary aspect of the Rhine; but, in a way, it combines something of the features of all, and has, in addition, a tone that is all its own, as it sweeps the horizon through its countless miles of ample curves, and holds within its embrace all that is best of mediæval and Renascence France, the period which built up the later monarchy and—who shall say not?—the present prosperous nation.

The Loire is essentially a river of other days. Truly, as Mr. James has said, “it is the very model of a generous, beneficent stream.... A wide river which you may follow by a wide road is excellent company.” The Frenchman himself is more flowery. “It is the noblest river of France. Its basin is immense, magnificent.” All of which is true, too. For a good bit of local colour of this region, one should read Chapter V. of “The Regent’s Daughter,” by Dumas, wherein the willing Gaston, in the midday sunshine of a winter’s day, made his way from Nantes to Paris, “travelling slowly as far as Oudon opposite Champtoceaux.” “At Oudon he halted and put up at the Char-Couronne, an inn with windows overlooking the highroad.” Some stirring events took place here, but the reader is referred to the pages of Dumas for the details.

Oudon, however, will not detain the cursory traveller of to-day, even if he deigns to visit it at all.

Champtoceaux, on the other hand, though only a small town of thirteen hundred inhabitants, does awaken interest. Formerly it belonged to the Counts of Anjou, and then to the Dukes of Brittany.

Its site is most picturesque; it stands on a mound some two hundred feet above the Loire. There are two fine mediæval churches, and an old château, which, with the ruins of the ancient fortified castle, now forms a part of the domain of a M. de la Touche, who will kindly permit the visitor to inspect the details of this ancient feudal stronghold.

The dismantled old walls are covered with moss and lichens, and their picturesqueness is of that quality that painters love to put on canvas. The wonder is that Champtoceaux has not become a new artists’ sketching-ground, such as are so often discovered—or rediscovered—throughout France. Perhaps it is because of its distance from Paris, for your artist-painter, be he French, English, or American, dearly loves the streets of the Latin Quarter, and, as a rule, prefers Fontainebleau and its circle of artist colonies to going farther afield.

At last one beholds what a Frenchman has called the “tumultuous vision of Nantes.” To-day the very ancient and historic city which grew up from the Portus Nannetum and the Condivientum of the Romans is indeed a veritable tumult of chimneys, masts and smokestacks, and locomotives. But all this will not detract one jot from its reputation of being one of the most delightful of provincial capitals, and the smoke and activity of its port only tend to accentuate the note of colour, which in the whole itinerary of the Loire has been but pale.

The former reputation of Nantes as a little capital where gaiety and wealth came in abundance is correct for to-day, but a comparison is interesting. Here is a reminiscence of old stage-coaching days, when the post took four days to make the journey from Paris:

“The neighbourhood of the theatre is magnificent, all the streets being at right angles and of white stone. One is in doubt as to whether the Hôtel Henri IV. is not the finest inn in Europe.” (It must have disappeared since those days, but really its reputation still lives in any one of the three leading hotels.) “Dessein’s” (also disappeared) “at Calais is larger, but is not built, fitted up, or furnished like this, which is new. It cost nearly five hundred thousand francs, and contains sixty bedrooms. It is without comparison the first inn of France, and very cheap withal.

“The theatre must have cost a like sum, and, when its seats are full, holds 120 louis d’or. The ground that the inn is built upon cost nine francs a foot, and elsewhere in the city one may pay as much as fifteen francs. This ground value induces them to build so high as to be destructive of beauty.” Unquestionably this last observation was quite true then, as it is now, but Nantes nevertheless fills very nearly every qualification of a well-laid-out and attractive city.

To some Nantes will be reminiscent of Venice, or at least some Dutch city, for its five river branches are continually crossing and recrossing one’s path in most bewildering fashion, and bridges confront one at every turn.

The city’s attractions are many, from its great cathedral and its château-fortress, enclosing a beautiful edifice wherein once lived the Duchess Anne, to its great hotels, cafés, and shops of modern times.

Five great events of history stand forth prominent in the memory of the very name of Nantes: the struggle of John of Montfort against Charles of Blois for the ducal power; the affairs of the League; the famous Edict; the Cellamare conspiracy; and the rising of the Vendeans and the rascally Carrier’s retaliation in Revolutionary days.

Each and every one of these were vivid and bloody enough to furnish inexhaustible material for a novelist of the Dumas school, should he rise in the future, for the half has not yet been used. It was in the Place of Bouffay that that execution of the Breton conspirators took place, of which we read in the graphic pages of Dumas. Gaston, who sought to deliver his former companions, was posting along the road to Nantes with their reprieve safely guarded. Before the age of steam and electricity, news travelled slowly, and Sèvres, Versailles, Rambouillet, Chartres, Mans, and Angers were then far apart. But the faithful Gaston travelled fast, one of the bystanders at Rambouillet calling to him: “If you go at that pace, you will kill more than one team between here and Nantes.”

Gradually he learned that a “courier of the minister’s” had passed that way. This was the beginning of what Dumas called the “tragedy of Nantes.” The event was historical, and Dumas’s account was most dramatic, yet did not differ greatly from the facts. Gaston arrived too late. Talhouet was dead, and the Place of Bouffay reeked with the blood of the conspirators, who, guilty though they were, had received the pardon of the Regent. The cry of De Conedic, as he bent his head to the block, still echoes down through history: “See how they recompense the services of faithful soldiers! Ye cowards of Bretagne,” he cried, as the sword of the executioner fell upon him. Ten minutes afterward the square was empty. One of the corpses still held a crumpled paper in his hand,—it was the pardon of the other four, for the bearer had arrived too late. Thus finished “the tragedy of Nantes.”

Though this part of Brittany has the reputation of being the least illiterate of any, as late as the beginning of the last quarter of the nineteenth century might be seen at Nantes the sign of the public scrivener, which read:

10 centimes par lettre

Below Nantes the Loire basin has turned the surrounding country into a little Holland, where fisherfolk and their boats, with sails of red and blue, form charming symphonies of dull colour. In the drinking-places along its shores there is a strange medley of peasants, seafarers, and fisher men and women. Not so cosmopolitan a crew as one sees in the harbour-side drinking-places at Marseilles, or even at Havre, but sufficiently strange to be a fascination to one who has just come down from the headwaters.

Gray and green is the aspect at the Loire’s source, and green and gray it still is, though of a decidedly different colour value, at St. Nazaire, below Nantes, the real deep-water port of the Loire. By this time the river has amplified itself into a broad estuary, and is lost in the incoming and outgoing tides of the Bay of Biscay. From its source the Loire has wound its way gently, broadly, and with placid grandeur through rocky escarpments, fertile plains, populous and luxurious towns, all historic ground, by stately châteaux and through vineyards and fruit-orchards. Now it becomes more or less prosaic and matter of fact, though, in a way, no less interesting, as it takes on some of the attributes of the outside world.

Here one gives the last glance to the Loire, as an inland waterway, for, by the time Nantes is passed, it is of the sea salty. Here the Sèvre Nantaise comes from the Department Deux-Sèvres and numerous other streams broaden the lower river until it meets the bay at St. Nazaire, where coasters and deep-sea fishermen take the place of boat-haulers and vineyard-workers as picturesque accessories to the landscape.

Jacobites and their sympathizers will take pleasure in noting that it was in the early days of St. Nazaire’s importance as a port that the Young Pretender set sail thence in 1745, in a frigate provided by a Mr. Walsh of Nantes.

It is only now that one realizes to the full the gamut through which run the varying moods of the Loire, from the hard, sterile lands around Le Puy through the pleasant Nivernais, the Orleanais, the vineyards of Saumur, to the Sardinières and the salt works of the marshes of Bourg de Batz and Croisic.

It was from Croisic that Talhouet, one of the Breton conspirators of “The Regent’s Daughter,” threatened to set sail if discovered in their dastardly plot against the Regent.

“I shall be off to St. Nazaire,” said he, “and from thence to Croisic; take my advice and come with me. I know a brig about to start for Newfoundland, and the captain is a servant of mine. If the air on shore become too bad, we will embark, set sail, and adieu to the galleys.” “Well, I for one,” said his companion, “am a Breton, and Bretons trust only in God.”

South of the Loire, in that small fragment of territory which formerly belonged to the old province, is a wonderful collection of old-time and gone-to-seed towns hardly ever visited by the general run of tourists.

Paimbœuf and Pornic and Clisson are the three places which appeal most strongly, and this chiefly by their accessibility to Nantes. To the southwest is the Lake of Grand Lieu, which, according to an ancient Armorican legend, was the former site of a city “flourishing, but dissolute,” which was submerged for its sins by the command of God. This sounds apocryphal, but the moral is plain.

Anciently the Retz country, lying just southward of the Loire, formed a part of the ancient Breton province, and, although before the Revolution and the rearrangement of provinces and departments anew this member had been shorn away, yet Paimbœuf, on the south bank of the Loire, just beyond Nantes, is of Breton nomenclature, known in French as Tête de Bœuf. To-day it is but a relic of a former great port, now deserted; St. Nazaire, its younger relative, with much more ample commercial resources, has drawn its trade away, and its quays and docks are now unoccupied, except by coasters and fishing-boats.

Paimbœuf has already become depopulated, and the former little fishing port of Pornic daily takes on more and more importance.

Pornic itself has a charm which Paimbœuf entirely lacks. It is a lively little fishing village of perhaps two thousand inhabitants. The port, the bay, and the canal which empties into the salt waters of the Atlantic form a delightful setting for artists’ foregrounds, let the backgrounds be what they may. At present, it has taken on somewhat of the aspect of a watering-place, but it is safe to say that it will never become popular as such, in spite of the fact that a casino has already made its appearance.



In addition to the charm of its situation, the chief attraction of Pornic is its thirteenth and fourteenth century château, with its fine towers and machicolations. Its history, like that of most others of its kind, has been romantic, and by no means has it always had the placid aspect which it has to-day. It was taken from Gilles de Retz by the Dukes of Brittany during the civil wars, and to-day belongs to a M. de Bourquency, who has restored it admirably.

At the foot of the château is a great cross of stone, called the Croix of the Huguenots, erected, it is said, by converted Calvinists. At the foot of this cross are buried the bones of over two hundred Vendeans killed at Pornic.

Clisson is a small town of something less than three thousand inhabitants, whose very name will conjure up memories of the great Constable Olivier de Clisson. There is much here of interest, but the history of the town, the château, and of De Clisson himself are so interwoven with the affairs of state and warfare of the nation that the outline even may not be given here. The ruins of the old-time château are a wonderfully impressive reminder of other days, other ways. As a whole, it is a grand ruin only, although an architect or archaeologist may build up somewhat of an approach to the former glorious fabric. The great central tower has not even preserved its walls entire, but what is left stands to-day as one of the most imposing examples of a great feudal keep yet extant. Clisson has some right to be considered up to date, in that some enterprising inhabitant has introduced an electric light plant. In spite of this, however, the donjon is one of those architectural splendours of the world which, like the Coliseum at Rome and Melrose Abbey, should be seen by moonlight in order to be rightly appreciated.

Donjon of Clisson

Donjon of Clisson

The chapel, in which was celebrated the marriage of Duke Francis II. and Margaret of Foix, the keep, the dungeons, the ramparts, and the chief apartments occupied by the constable himself have been preserved, and make Clisson well worth the half-day it will take to go there from Nantes.



NEXT to Marseilles, Nantes is the finest provincial capital of France. This may be disputed, but it is the opinion of the writer.

Perhaps it is because of the glorious part that the city played in the past to preserve its independence, and the independence of Brittany, succumbing only with the second marriage of Queen Anne; but, for some reason, the links that bind it with the past have never grown rusty, nor have modern cosmopolitan characteristics destroyed the individuality of the Breton.

The situation doubtless has much to do with the air of geniality which pervades the city. When the Loire glistens under the caressing rays of the setting sun, and the roof-tops of the town are all of a reddened gold, Nantes might indeed be even now the mediæval capital that it was before the age of steam and electricity, which sound the only modern notes to be heard here. At night the spectacle is far more dramatic, with the streets and quays lit by countless lamps; the subdued murmur of the workaday world, now all but gone to rest; for an occasional shriek from a locomotive or a wail from the siren of some great steamer dropping down-river with the tide is all that one hears.

There is a forest of masts of shipping, scores upon scores of great chimney-stacks, of ship-houses, of sugar and oil refineries, and along the quay-side streets there are yet sailors and longshoremen hanging about and smoking a finishing pipe, or drinking a last drop of spirit or glass of beer. But all is “drawing in,” and soon all will be hushed in silence, and only the walls and towers of the great castle and the cathedral will keep watch, as they have for five centuries past. This is Nantes, the great trading port. Up in the town blaze forth the great hotels that would do credit to Paris, and yet are so different, and coffee-rooms as splendid and brilliant as any in the capital itself, with the prices of the portions twenty per cent. less.

They keep late hours in this part of Nantes, and night does not actually fall until midnight, when, one by one, up go the coffee-room shutters,—to come down again in the same order between six and seven in the morning. This is not bad for a climate which on the Loire approaches almost Mediterranean mildness. It is a pity that cold and austere England does not rise a little earlier in the morning. London, it is true, sits up late enough, but she makes up for it by dawdling away all the morning up to half-past ten or eleven.

In spite of all its loveliness and gaiety, Nantes is a city more ancient than modern,—this antique Namnêtes, the capital, by preference, of the Dukes of Brittany, and the political rival of Rennes.

The old lanes and crossways of the middle ages have disappeared in making the spacious great streets of our own time, but there is much left to remind one of other days in the old houses and in the ever dominant cathedral and castle.

The Cathedral of St. Pierre is not a masterpiece of itself, but it encloses a treasure that may well be included in that category,—the tomb of Duke Francis II. and Margaret of Foix. The great harmony of this composition, under the half-light of the stained-glass windows, reveals a charm that most mausoleums altogether lack. On a tablet of white marble lie the effigies of the duke and duchess, with two angels kneeling at their heads, and, crouched at their feet, a greyhound, supporting the escutcheon of Brittany. Four statues, at the corners of the pedestal, symbolize Justice, Strength, Temperance, and Prudence. This magnificent tomb is justly counted as Michel Colombe’s finest work.

The castle of Nantes, like that of Angers, is now an arsenal, and accordingly is less interesting than if it were even a shattered ruin. It was the castle of the dukes, and the great lodge, a dainty Renaissance building, with delicately sculptured window-frames and balconies capriciously disposed, gives an idea of the comfort and luxury with which pervasive Duchess Anne surrounded herself in the vivid days when she lived at Nantes. Within the walls of the castle, one might yet see—were one allowed to ramble over it at will—the chambers where the odious Gilles of Laval, the Maréchal de Raiz, Fouquet, the Cardinal de Retz, and the Duchess de Berri were imprisoned during the long years that it served as a cage for the political prisoners of France. Madame de Sévigné sojourned here in 1675, so the sombre and yet gay castle, besides having entertained many of the Kings of France, from Louis XI. onward, has also somewhat of the aspect of a literary shrine.

In the courtyard is a great well with an admirably worked decorative railing in wrought iron, quite worthy to rank with Quintin Matsys’s famous well at Antwerp. The museums of painting and of archaeology, abounding in rare Breton antiquities, give the town prominence among the artistic centres of provincial France. The former contains some fine examples of the work of Philippe de Champaigne, Lancret, Watteau, and Théodore Rousseau among others.

The environs of Nantes are wonderfully picturesque for the artist, but offer little for the amusement of the 125,000 inhabitants of this city of affairs.

To the north, the Erdre winds its way through flat banks, and widens out here and there into a veritable lake.

From Nantes to the ocean the wind blows more strongly and the horizon widens; the great waterway of the Loire has already become practically an arm of the sea, and one breathes its salt air. The aspect of nature now grows more and more melancholy for the seeker after gaiety and life; only the artist will revel in these dull brown and gray riverside and seaside towns, which follow the coast-line from St. Nazaire to Batz, Croisic, and Guérande. It is what the French themselves call a land of grayish twilight, with vast stretches of marsh-land and pebble-strewn sands.

At the extremity of the north bank of the Loire, at the apex of a bend of the coast-line, is the Bay of Croisic and the Batz country.

Like a needle pricking the horizon, the tip of the tower of Croisic marks the location of this sleepy little port in the flat and saline marsh-land round about. South lie the lighthouse and the tower of the ruined church of Bourg de Batz, that little Breton village all but isolated from the mainland itself.

It is the true borderland or frontier between the sea and the land, the one almost imperceptibly mingling with the other. Of it Jean Richepin sang:

“Mirage! Sahara! les Bédouins! Un Émir
Est venu planter là ses innombrables tentes
Dont les cônes dressés en blancheurs éclatantes
Resplendissent parmi les tons bariolés
De tapis d’Orient sur le sol étalés;
Ses cônes dont les tas de sel sur les ladures,
Et ses riches tapis aux brillantes bordures
Ne sont que les Gabiers, les Fares, les Œillets.
On l’évaporement laisse de gros feuillets
Métalliques, moirés flottant d’or et de soir.
Par l’étier et le tour qu’un paludier fossoil
La mer entre, s’épand, s’éparpille en circuits,
Puis arrive aux bassins....”

“The sea sells cheap” say the natives, who are mostly engaged in the salt industry, as one would infer from the foregoing. Competition has cut considerably into the industry of recovering salt from the sea-water, but it is still kept up, and these little Breton coast villages depend upon it, and on fishing, for their sustenance.

St. Nazaire, where the sea first meets the waters of the Loire, is quite new, created but yesterday by the march of progress. Tradition connects the site of this busy port—the seventh in rank among the ports of France—with the ancient Gallo-Roman port of Corbilon. No trace of its former appellation exists since the sixth century, when Gregory of Tours, in the first history of France, mentions the settlement as having been pillaged by a Breton chief, and refers to it as Vic-Saint-Nazaire, which nearly approaches its present name.

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the market-town was called Port Nazaire, and was defended by a castle erected by the Dukes of Brittany.

St. Nazaire

St. Nazaire

Modern navigation has replaced the old sailing-vessels, and to-day, with its coastwise and foreign trade and its great shipyards, St. Nazaire is a busy, bustling town. The blemish it has, in the eyes of most, will be its general aspect of modernity and its uncompromising, right-angled, straight streets, laid out on a plan which suggests that of Chicago, if one make an allowance for the difference in magnitude. St. Nazaire surpasses Chicago, however, in having a sea front, instead of a lake front, and its hotels are better and cost less. What more should a passing traveller want of a modern city?

Between Nantes and St. Nazaire, on the granite flank of Sillon de Bretagne, sits Savenay, as if its houses were ranged around the steps of an amphitheatre. It has fallen considerably from its proud position of having been the flourishing capital of the district. It still is the largest town, but none of the honours go with its size; decay has fallen upon it, and the hotels are dull, sad places, and even the omnibus from the railway has stopped its journeys.

The town was the site of a terrific conflict in the Vendean wars, and was well-nigh destroyed, and its inhabitants were massacred. Now vineyards grow upon the very soil that a hundred or more years ago covered thousands of corpses. Altogether it is a gruesome memory which Savenay conjures up, if one dare even to think of it.

Between Savenay and Guérande, at an equal distance between the two, are the peat-bogs of Grand Brière. They are the great resources of the country. Would you see them worked? Then come in August, when you are making your way to some seacoast resort of Lower Brittany. For nine days only in the year do the authorities permit the sods to be cut, but everybody takes part therein, you will be told; and enough peat will be gathered, and dried, and pressed into “loaves,” as the Brièrons call them, to warm Nantes for a year.

Guérande is a capital not quite so dead and alive as Savenay; it is the possessor of a past of a most momentous and vivid character in its relation to the history of Brittany and of France. To-day, as in other days, the town is avowedly Breton, as characteristically so as any of its size in the province. Much has been sacrificed to the god of progress, but enough of the ancient aspect of the place remains to recall its features of the time of Duguesclin and Clisson, and the Counts of Montfort and of Blois, who proclaimed peace here in 1365. The enormous Saint Michael Gate is a great fortress-gateway, flanked with two cylindrical and conical roofed towers of the time when feudalism ruled Brittany.

Ancient Fortifications of Guérande

Ancient Fortifications of Guérande

“Guérande,” says a Frenchman, “has not unlaced its corselet of stone since the fifteenth century.” To-day, even, it is surrounded by its mediæval ramparts in a manner like no other northern city in France, reminding one of those great walled cities of Aigues Mortes and Carcassonne in Southern Gaul.

This proud belt of machicolated ramparts, ten towers, and four great gates, and its deep, though now herbage-grown, moat is indeed one of the few monuments of the middle ages that remain to us in all their undisturbed splendour.

Guérande is not exactly a deserted village, but its streets are, at midday, as lone and silent as though its population had not been in residence for many months. This is a notable feature in many small French towns during the hour and a half of the midday meal, but nowhere else is it more to be remarked.

The old parish Church of St. Aubin of Guérande has a collection of strangely carved capitals depicting horrible chimerical beasts, and the Chapel of Notre Dame de la Blanche—a fine work of the thirteenth century—is occasionally the scene of a marriage wherein the participants dress themselves in the old-time resplendent costumes. Such an occasion is rare, but should one be fortunate enough to meet with it, he will carry away still another memory of the mediæval flavour still lingering about this somnolent little Breton city.

Seaward beyond Guérande are only Bourg de Batz and Croisic, a gay little maritime city with a fine Gothic church of the highly ornamented species, and many old, high-gabled houses of the variety which one sees frequently in stage settings. There are the local watering-places, too, of the Nantais, Ste. Marguerite and Baule, which have nothing of interest, however, for the traveller who seeks to improve his mind and amuse himself simultaneously. They are undoubtedly of great healthful and economic value to Nantes and St. Nazaire, however, and they do not differ greatly from others of their class elsewhere.

Again returning to the highroad, if one be travelling by road, “Vous prenez le chemin de Vennes” (Vannes) “par la Roche Bernard qui est aussy celuy de Rhennes et de Rhedon,” wrote a sixteenth-century chronicler, and the direct road to-day lies the same way. It is known as “National Road” No. 165.

Straight as the crow flies, but now up and now down, like all Breton roadways, this highway runs from Nantes to Quimper, 232 kilometres.

The aspect of the country changes perceptibly as one leaves Savenay on the way to the real Brittany. One crosses the Vilaine by the suspension bridge of La Roche-Bernard, hung so perilously high that the great three-masted coasters may pass beneath. It is unlovely, but convenient, and saves a round of fifty kilometres on the journey, as one goes from Nantes to Vannes, so it may be pardoned.



Northward lies the very ancient town of Châteaubriant, once the centre and life of Breton warfare and political strife. It was an ancient barony of the county of Nantes, and owes its name to the compounding of the word château with that of its original lord, who was named Brient.

The ancient feudal fortress is now a ruin, but the castle built by John of Laval, governor of Brittany under Francis I., still serves the gendarmerie and the sous-préfecture offices. Above the portal of the colonnade one reads this inscription, which gives the date of the completion of the new castle:


Each is most interesting, and so abundantly supplied with the lore of romance and reality, that one can only get his fill of studying it on the spot.

The Church of St. Jean de Béré is a historical monument of almost the first rank, and the remains of the ancient Benedictine convent of St. Saveur date originally from a foundation of Brient I.

On the thirteenth and fourteenth of September of each year, on the plain behind the town, is held the celebrated fair of Béré, one of those great combinations of marketing and merrymaking for which old France was noted, and which have so largely disappeared that to be a part and parcel of one is to have a most agreeable experience. Guibray, near Falaise, in Normandy, the “horse-fair” at Bernay, and the Fair de Béré are the most celebrated in these parts.

It was in the neighbouring forest, as Pontcalec recites in the pages of “The Regent’s Daughter” of Dumas, that he met his adventure with the “sorceress of Savenay.”

“I saw an enormous faggot walking along,” said Pontcalec to his three Breton friends. “This did not surprise me, for our peasants carry such enormous faggots that they quite disappear under their load, but this faggot appeared from behind to move alone.”

A very good description this of what one may see even to-day, not only in this particular forest, but in any other in France. French frugality burns small sticks and twigs that in other lands would be made into a brushwood fire, and who shall not say that this trait, along with many others, does not contribute to the contentment of the French peasant? for he is content, if not amply endowed with this world’s goods; marvellously so as compared with his English, Irish, or Italian brethren. There may be other reasons, but his thrift is the principal one.

Any one seeking change and rest will certainly find what he is looking for at Châteaubriant. It is somnolently dull all through the week and doubly so on Sundays, but, in spite of all this, it is delightful, and a romantic novelist—or even a writer of romantic novels—could hardly find a more inspiring background than the country round about.

There is a legend, too, in connection with the old château that might be worked up into a first-class romance, either for the stage or as a sword and cloak novel. After all, it is not exactly legend either, though it is almost too horrible to appear true. The reader may judge for himself, for here it is:

In the old château lived for a time that unfortunate Frances de Foix whom Francis I. had created Countess de Châteaubriant. To-day much of the luxury with which this mistress of the royal lover had surrounded herself has disappeared, though enough remains, through restoration and preservation, to suggest the very splendid appointments of a former time. The young Frances de Foix, herself of the house that once possessed the crown of Navarre, married the old Count of Laval, who soon brooded himself into a passion of jealousy over the affair of his wife and her princely lover, particularly as it was said that she had gone to visit Francis while he was in prison after his capture at Pavia. “The countess found the king’s prison very dismal,” said the chroniclers of the time. This last act proved too much for the elderly spouse, who speedily “shut up his young wife in a darkened and padded cell, and finally had her cut into pieces by two surgeons,” as the story goes. After this horrible event the murderer fled the country, as might have been expected, in order, say the chroniclers again, “to escape the vengeance of the king.”

Redon, just to the north, is an unattractive place. Most folk know it only as the railway official calls out: “Forty-five minutes’ stop for luncheon, refreshments, and all the rest.”

Very amusing are these railway lunch-rooms seen throughout France. But withal they are most excellently appointed, although the passengers, like their kind the world over, eat as though they had not a minute to lose, and have a good fifteen left on their hands when they have finished their repast.

The meals are usually divided into three categories: the public table at a set price, the table for the aristocracy at three francs, the table with set portions, the frugal repast at half as much, and the service “to order,” which is the most costly of all.

Pan du menage

Nothing is of an inferior quality, however, and, as all is served from the same kitchen, it is merely a question as to whether one will have more or less, or whether he will eat it off linen napery, with a napkin to tuck under his right ear,—as is the French commercial traveller’s custom,—or whether he will be satisfied with an oilcloth table-covering. The difference is more apparent than real, for the “frugal repast” at a franc and a half is the three franc meal shorn of its trimmings; you get the same dishes and the same service.

As if to ease the process, a stentorian railway hand puts his head in the door and shouts: “Ten minutes before the Vannes express starts!” and returns again at the end of the allotted time to give a final call: “Into the carriages, gentlemen!” It is much the same the world over, of course, but they are more polite in France, and the food is better of its kind, and much better served, two very appreciable differences.

Redon itself and its great open square, on which are the railway station, the hotels, and the gaunt, lone, dismembered tower of the Church of St. Sauveur, is by no means attractive. The square is bare of trees, and in the summer the sun beats down upon the frequenters of the terrace coffee-rooms of the hotels in a manner which makes one wonder why they do not move off and seek a shady spot elsewhere.

The indifference shown by the natives of certain localities for the pelting sunlight, which makes some of us think of cabbage leaves for our hats and “gin rickeys” for our stomachs, is curious. The Neapolitan prefers to loll about in the blazing Italian sun, and says that no one but an Englishman or a dog ever seeks the shade. The citizen of Redon is like him, and does not care who knows it, and his sunlight, though it comes to earth some hundreds of miles farther north, appears to be of the same caloric value.

Redon was an old monastic foundation of St. Convoïon’s, of the Vannes church. He built the Abbey of St. Sauveur, of which the present church and its lone tower are later additions. The main body of the present edifice dates in part from the time of the foundation, though its fabric was frequently added to and restored up to the twelfth century, from which period it may really be said to date. The central tower of this church is said to be the only Romanesque feature of its class in all Brittany, and is certainly one of the most sturdy anywhere to be seen.

Another remarkable feature is a chapel, the walls loopholed and machicolated, and built by the Abbé Yves in the fifteenth century; to-day it serves as the sacristy.

The high altar, a rich and imposing affair, was the gift of the great Richelieu when he was in possession of the revenues of the abbey. The city was surrounded by a fortification or wall by the Abbot John of Treal in 1364, and in 1422 John V., Count of Brittany, established a mint here.

Questembert, westward toward Vannes, is a town of four thousand or so inhabitants, and has many interesting old houses, but otherwise is devoid of attractions either for the lover of architectural monuments or for worshippers at religious or other shrines. It is, however, the place for holding many local fairs or markets of considerable magnitude, where one may make practically his first acquaintance with the Breton peasant, becoiffed and beribboned as he, or she, only is on native heath.

Rochefort-en-Terre is also a chief place; as its population numbers less than seven hundred souls, it cannot be considered as even a local metropolis. Its situation and its fine, though not stupendously remarkable, architectural glories make up for what it lacks in the way of population. It sits high on a hillside dominating the little river Arz, a confluent of the Vilaine. Its name is due to the founder of a château built here in the thirteenth century and destroyed by the Catholic Leaguers in 1594, though it was afterwards rebuilt and again destroyed, this time by Revolutionary firebrands, in 1793. The ruins of this château are to-day very satisfactory indeed as ruins, though they include few or none of the architectural details with which the work must once have been endowed. The lower courses of the walls are there, remains of five towers, and an ancient well, with a curb of sculptured granite.

The ancient collegiate Church of Notre Dame de la Tronchaye is an ecclesiastical monument of high rank, for a town like Rochefort-en-Terre, and is an altogether lovable old shrine, with admirable sculptures in stone and some curious wooden statues, in the interior, said originally to have been those of Claude of Rieux and Suzanne of Bourbon, Lord and Lady de Rochefort. These statues are now converted into a St. Joseph and a Virgin. This may or may not have been a sacrilege; it certainly was a desecration. The ancient city gates remain, and there are numerous fifteenth and sixteenth century houses.

The country round about Rochefort-en-Terre was brought into vogue by the landscape-painter, Pelouze, some years ago, and other artists have followed in his wake, making an over growing artist colony in the summer-time. Studies and sketches decorate the dining-room of the Hôtel Lecadre in a surprising number; at least surprising to one who comes upon this unassuming little town and its excellent, before named, little hotel while journeying to Finistère.

Still going toward Vannes one passes Elven, near which is the Manoir of Kerlean, the family estate of the Descartes. The birth certificate of the Descartes is in the records in the mayor’s office.

Three kilometres to the north are the remains of the ancient fortress of Largoet, whose tower, known as the Tour d’Elven, dates from the fifteenth century. This tower has been called the most beautiful castle keep in all Brittany, and so it is if one take into consideration its moss-and-ivy-grown walls and its general eerie aspect heightened perceptibly if seen by moonlight. This high, majestic tower of a feudal castle, whose other members have practically disappeared, is also a literary shrine of high rank, inasmuch as Octave Feuillet has placed here some of the most moving scenes in his “Story of a Poor Young Man.” Perhaps this true romance is not so well known to the present generation as to a former, but it should be, and accordingly the clue is here given, and it should have a double significance so far as travellers in Brittany are concerned.

Tour d’Elven

Tour d’Elven

One enters Vannes, if it be a holiday or a Sunday, amid a gaiety and uproar that is apparently inexplicable. To be sure Vannes is the metropolis of the Morbihan, but one does not look for such continuous gaiety on the part of a people supposed to be wholly devout and not very rich, as possessors of this world’s goods count their gains. Devoutness need not necessarily mean glumness, and so as it all seems, around Vannes at least, to be for the general good, one is not sorry to have his first introduction to a great Breton town in a way so pleasant.

Really it is a sort of small gaiety, and strictly local, which goes on here. There is nothing of the riotous order, but it is all very gay, nevertheless.

The simple folk of the Morbihan, who have crowded into Vannes for the day, are as interested and amused with a hurdy-gurdy Punch and Judy show, a travelling circus, or a merry-go-round as if they were the latest distractions of Paris. Meanwhile one seeks his hotel, and there comes another surprise.



THE “Golfe” or Bay of Morbihan is one of those great landlocked havens in which the whole Breton coast abounds; its islands are as many as the days of the year, as the natives have it.

Morbihan itself is as much sea as land. The tides rise to a great height along this whole southern coast of Brittany, and in the Bay of Morbihan they have full play.

The metropolis of Lower Morbihan is Vannes, which the railway porters shout out at you, as you descend from the train, as Va-a-a-nnes.

Leaving the station, one threads his way through whole batteries of laundresses, their gull-winged head-dress nodding in rhythm with the beating of their paddles, a most picturesque sight, but a process which works disaster to one’s clothes, destroying pearl buttons, and causing mysterious small holes to appear in the most inconvenient places. An accompaniment of song always goes with these shattering and battering exercises. At Vannes, according to Theodore Botrel, it runs like this:

“Pan! pan! pan!
Ma Doué!
Comme la langue maudite
Marche bien au vieux lavoit.
Pan! pan! pan!
Vite! vite!
Plus vite que le battoir!”

It is the day of the local fair, the chief article of commerce being, it would seem, pigs, as at Limerick. At any rate, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of little porkers, who have just put foot to earth, as their venders tell one; their own voices, too, strident and high pitched, announce the same thing.

Vannes, truth to tell, is not much of a capital, but it is a highly interesting and picturesque old town, with manners and customs quite different from those of any of its neighbours.

The chief characteristics of the place seem to be pointed roofs of red and moss-grown tiles and walls of blue granite. One can almost imagine that Botrel chose it as the scene of the stanza:

“Qui donc chante sous nos fenêtres
Ces mystérieuses chansons?
Ce sont les âmes des ancêtres
Qui reconnaissent leurs maisons!”

Market-woman, Vannes

Market-woman, Vannes

There is a blending of the seashore and the open country here which is scarcely found in any other part of France. In some respects it is like Holland, and again it is not, for it lacks the web of canals with which that country is interwoven.

The whole bay—“Le Golfe”—forms a dooryard for Vannes, and a yacht or a boat is as much an appendage of the Vannes household of the better class as a dog or cat.

The Country near Vannes

The Country near Vannes

Vannes, the capital of the Morbihan, is a city of 23,000 souls, and has two great modern, up-to-date hotels. Choose one, and you will “like the other best,” as Rubinstein said to the young pianist, who was to play two of his compositions to the master. He said this, be it recalled, after he had heard only the first one. Not that Vannes hotels are really bad. Oh, no. Truth to tell, they are excellent in their way, but they are unconvincing.

When one is here, in the midst of a new, strange set of conditions of life, he looks for something characteristic about his inn. If he find it, he is content; if he do not, all the smugness and propriety of imported manners and customs in the dinner service will not make him so. The true traveller prefers taking his chances with the native dishes to trifling with Paris culinary fashions at the hands of a Breton peasant-chef,—if that is the exact classification one ought to give the cooks of Vannes.

To enter Vannes by road, one has come down a precipitous descent to the sea-level, and accordingly rises again to an equal height when he leaves, for Vannes is the great tidewater port for the whole of the south coast of Brittany between Lorient and St. Nazaire. The traffic of the bays of Morbihan and Quiberon is considerable, and the ceaseless coming and going of many small steamers and sailing-craft is unlike traffic elsewhere.

The great bay is an inland sea almost surrounded by the jutting peninsulas which terminate on either side of the narrow channel in Pointe de Kerpenhir and Port Navalo. The name is compounded of two Breton words, mor (sea) and bihan (little). The flat tree-grown islands of this little sea make vistas and groups of a unique character, and to learn the bay well by a voyage among them in a flat-bottomed skimming-dish of a craft, or by the more facile motor-launch, is a thoroughly agreeable experience.

The chief of the islands are the Monks Isle and the Ile d’Arz, but the enfolding shores of the mainland, with its little seaside-farmyard villages, have the same characteristics.

On the little passenger steamers, which ply between the islands and the mainland, one meets a queer company of peasant-folk in coifs and round velvet or straw caps, fowls, sheep, goats, and an occasional overgrown calf.

Such of the islands of the bay as are populated, and many of them are, were colonized from the neighbouring country, and the women in particular are physically admirable. They still wear the distinctive costume of the country in a spirit uncontaminated by the electric lights and railways of Vannes. Custom in these isles allows the young women to demand the hand of a likely swain in marriage, and the plan seems to work well. The population seems generally happy, prosperous, and contented. What better is expected as the outcome of marriage?

The climate of all the Morbihan shore is mild and tranquil at all seasons of the year, and one may sit beside the open window of his hotel dining-room throughout the year. The mimosa flowers in winter, and palms, rose-trees, camellias, and fig-trees prosper exceedingly in the open air.

Vannes was the ancient capital of the Veneti, a strong coast tribe of other days which resisted the invasion of Cæsar and triumphed against his fleet a half-century or more before the Christian era.

When finally the Romans came, they made Vannes the centre of six great highways which radiated to Corseul, to Angers, to Hennebont, to Locmariaquer, to Rennes, and to Nantes. From this its importance may be inferred.

Christianity came to Vannes in 465, when St. Perpetus, Metropolitan of Tours, consecrated St. Patern as first bishop. By the sixth century it had become an independent county, but was joined again to the duchy of Brittany in 990. John IV. established his habitual residence at Vannes, and constructed the celebrated Château de l’Hermine, with its constable’s tower so famous in the history of Brittany as the place in which he imprisoned Clisson, releasing him only after the payment of a heavy ransom.

The history of Vannes and the Morbihan is too long and stormy to be even outlined here, but there are still many remains and memories which will serve as a foundation upon which to build the fabric anew.

Ancient City Walls, Vannes

Ancient City Walls, Vannes

The port is most interesting, with its varied traffic and its great ships of nearly a thousand tons which thread their way up through the islands of the gulf, bringing lumber, coals, and all the small cargoes of a great coasting port.

At Vannes one may see a huge parti-coloured handkerchief of the bandanna variety waving before a narrow doorway. It is the “shawl,” the sign of the hair-cutter, who will exchange its fellow for your hair, if you be a Breton girl with dark brown tresses, or even an elderly person whose hair is iron-gray. In Lower Brittany, on summer fair-days, the dealer in hair makes a round exceedingly profitable to his establishment, though at each stopping-place it leaves a hundred or more young girls shorn of their crowning glory,—a loss which they successfully cover with their daintily ironed head-dress.

The chief of the sights and shrines of the neighbourhood of Vannes are St. Gildas de Rhuis and the Château of Suscino. The former is revered for its sixth-century monastic foundation of St. Gildas, called the wise, and for some time in the twelfth century governed by the famous Abelard. The ancient abbatial church is now the parish church. It dates from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries, and is an unusual work in many respects, and rising to a height of grandeur seldom seen outside the larger Breton cities and towns.

Château of Suscino

Château of Suscino

The castle of Suscino—or more properly the ruin—is a wonderful thirteenth-century structure on the water’s edge, built by John the Red-haired. It follows the best Gothic traditions of its time, and its crenelated walls and towers, the latter now unroofed, are perfect of their kind. It was captured by Charles of Blois, and retaken by his Montfort rival in 1364. An English garrison occupied it in 1373. Finally it was given by Anne of Brittany to John of Chalons, Prince of Orange, from whom it was taken by Francis I., and he presented it to Frances of Foix, Lady of Châteaubriant, as she then was. The rest of its history is equally varied, and as important as becomes so magnificent a mediæval fortress.

Ground plan Chateau of Suscino Morbihan

In form the château is an irregular pentagon, perhaps modified from its original plan in 1420. Its orchid machicolations are remarkable both for their beauty and their utility. Seven towers, of which six remain, originally flanked its gates and walls. The new tower is a fine cylindrical keep of the fifteenth century. Over the entrance one still reads a tablet inscription as follows:

Ici est né
Le duc Arthur III.
le 24 Août, 1393

North of Vannes are Ploërmel and Josselin, two places which no one should leave out of the itinerary of Brittany. Neither is easily accessible by rail, but both are conveniently reached by road.

Ploërmel has a railway connection with the line to Brest by way of Rennes, and another with the line to Brest by way of Vannes, but Josselin is off the beaten track, and one makes his way from Ploërmel by omnibus or in a carriage.

Ploërmel and its “pardon” have inspired an opera, one of Meyerbeer’s most celebrated scores, known to English music lovers as “Dinorah,” but in French called “The Pardon of Ploërmel.” The town owes its name to an anchorite who, in the sixth century, retired here to a hermitage.

The history of Ploërmel during the middle ages was stormy. It was here that the edict expelling the Jews from Brittany was issued in 1240. In 1273 the Comte de Richemont—upon his return from the Crusades—founded at Ploërmel the first Carmelite convent known to France. This ancient convent, situated without the walls, escaped from the disasters which caused the city to be burned in 1347. The Calvinists came in time to have a temple here, in which they held two synods of their church.

To-day Ploërmel is a sleepy, old-world town, with two good inns, and not much except the fragmentary reminders of old walls and buildings to remind one of the parts played in other days.

The Church of St. Armel, a reconstruction of 1511-1602, is in parts highly decorated with stone sculptures and strange images, recalling, says an ingenious, but profane, Frenchman, the “pleasantries of Rabelais.” Of course he refers to the players on the bagpipes, the man sewing up the mouth of his wife, and the wife tearing off her husband’s cap. Certainly these quaint figures are not born of religious symbolism, unless, by chance, that the symbolism of the religious builders of Ploërmel differs greatly from that of others elsewhere.

There are still remains of Ploërmel’s old city walls dating from the fifteenth century, and also a fragment of a tower.

Near by, on the road to Josselin, is a simple granite shaft perpetuating the famous “Battle of the Thirty,” celebrated in history.

According to Froissart, Robert of Beaumanoir, chatelain of Josselin, one day provoked an English captain—Bromborough—who was encamped at Ploërmel, and challenged him to battle; thirty of his men against thirty Frenchmen. At the first attack four Frenchmen and two English fell. Then the combat began again with swords, battle-axes, and lances. Eight English only finally remained, including Bromborough himself; all the others were killed or taken prisoners and led away to the dungeons of the Château de Josselin.

Froissart writes elsewhere of this same engagement: “Twenty-two years after the battle of the thirty, I saw at the table of King Charles of France one of the combatants, a knight called Yvain Charnel. His face showed that the battle had been hot, for it was scarred all over.”

This wayside column or pyramid just off the route bears the following inscription:



À la Memoire Perpetuelle
de la Bataille des Trante
que Mgr le Maréchal de Beau Manoir
a Gaignée dans ce Lieu l’An 1530

Josselin is now chief town of a commune of 2,500 inhabitants; it has a fine mediæval château yet inhabitable, two ecclesiastical monuments of more than unusual excellence, and a rather shaky and ill-situated inn (Hôtel de France), which makes up in the abundance and excellence of its fare for what it lacks in the way of electric lights and modern sanitary arrangements.

The first houses of Josselin were grouped around a miraculous effigy of the Virgin, known as Notre Dame du Roncier, because it was found beneath a blackberry-bush. To-day Notre Dame du Roncier, the church and the chapel and its statue of the Virgin, are venerated highly by the faithful who make the pilgrimage to the shrine on the Monday and Tuesday of Pentecost and on the eighth of September, the birthday of the Virgin, when the remains of her ancient statue are shown. This effigy was broken and burned in the Revolutionary fury of 1793, but a modern replica was crowned, in the Chapel Notre Dame du Roncier, in 1868. The settlement which grew up around the shrine was surrounded by a protecting wall by the Count of Guéthénoc in 1008, and in 1030 it was given the name of Josselin, after his son.

Shrine of St. Etienne, Josselin

Shrine of St. Etienne, Josselin

In the thirteenth century, the county of Porhoet, in which Josselin was situated, passed to the house of Fougères, and its affairs were varied and involved until Peter of Valois, Count of Alençon, sold it to the Constable Oliver of Clisson, whose daughter brought it in marriage to the Rohans, to whose descendants it still belongs.

In the Church of Our Lady of the Blackberry-bush is a remarkable tomb placed in the Chapel of St. Marguerite—the former oratory of the constable—to Oliver of Clisson and Marguerite of Rohan.

The castle rests on a rocky foundation beside the river Oust, and its front is most imposing. Three towers with conical roofs flank the riverside, and are an expression of the best fortress-château building of its era (twelfth century), severe and gaunt in every line, and yet beautifully planned. The interior court takes on quite a different aspect, that of the “architecture civile” of the third ogival period, when Renaissance forms and details had crept in, almost destroying Gothic lines.

The window openings of the two stories have an admirable decorative effect, as beautiful as those of Blois and very nearly equalling those of Chambord.

An open gallery above the windows is a charming additional interpolation, and between each window is carved “A Plus,” the device of the distinguished family of the Rohans, who built this part of the structure. A keep and some later walls and parapets were added by Clisson somewhere about the year 1400, but most of them disappeared in 1629, when the château ceased to be a stronghold of the League.

In the main it is a twelfth and thirteenth century structure which is so admirably preserved to-day. One may visit the interior, through the courtesy of the family in residence, and, though it may be somewhat disconcerting to walk through these historic apartments of another day and see such modern innovations as electric bells and other appurtenances of a late civilization, the experience is, after all, a peep behind the curtain, and this the up-to-date motor-car tourist always appreciates highly.

The great hall, the library, with its magnificent chimneypiece and its cipher, “A Plus,” carved in stone, and the dining-room ornamented with a modern equestrian statue of Clisson, by Fremiet, are the chief apartments shown.

Château de Josselin

Château de Josselin

In the court within the walls is an ancient well surrounded by an elaborate forged iron railing.

One takes the road again, by the way of Locminé and Baud, for Auray, the most dainty and charming of all Breton market-towns, passing through a delightfully picturesque country of rolling hills and deep valleys and fir forests, studded here and there with lakelets.

Locminé, which derives its name from Locmenec’h (monk’s cell), was the site of a monastery founded in the sixth century by St. Colomban. It was burned by the Normans in the ninth century, after the pleasant custom of these invaders, and reëstablished in 1006 by Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany, as a priory attached to the Abbey of St. Gildas of Rhuis.

In the present church of Locminé is a chapel dedicated to St. Colomban, containing a painting representing scenes from the life of the saint; others are carried out in the coloured glass of the windows.

One reads the following,—a supplication on behalf of the dangerous madmen who at one time occupied two cells beneath the pavement:

“St. Colomban, patron of Locminé, pray for us!
St. Colomban, help of idiots, pray for us!”

Behind the church is an elaborate ossuary dating from Renaissance times, when these adjuncts to burial-grounds were so plentifully scattered over Brittany.

Baud has an enormous parish church of the time of Louis XIV., with a fine Gothic arcade and a great crucifix standing beside the outer wall. Aside from this, there is not much else here to attract one, unless he be a pilgrim affected with disease of the eye. If he be, and if he bathe in the “Fontaine de la clarté,” and the fates be propitious, and he be not too far gone otherwise, and everything else be as it should, he will be cured forthwith—perhaps.

It is unkind to scoff at these miraculous fountains scattered here and there over the world, of course, but one has seen so many individual cases that were not benefited, and heard of so many that were, that one may be justified in a little skepticism.

To Auray is twenty kilometres by a road which gently rolls down a matter of 150 metres of elevation until it reaches sea-level at the little market-town seaport known in Breton as Alre.



AURAY is the real centre from which to make the round of the vast collection of relics of the long lost civilization of Morbihan.

Many have attempted to explain the significance of these rude stone monuments. Some have said that the famous avenues of Carnac were the streets of one of Cæsar’s camps, its roofs having fallen and mouldered away, and that the famous “Merchants’ Table” at Locmariaquer was an ancient druidical altar, to which the helpless were led to be sacrificed.

All this and much more is for the antiquary alone, and a nodding acquaintance with the history of these curious stone formations or erections is about all for which most travellers will care.

He who arrives at Auray on a market-day will seem to himself to come into a region where every one speaks the Breton tongue. Not all, of course, for French is now compulsory with the school-children, but the frequency of it here in the booths and stalls in and around Auray’s lovely old timbered market-house is greatly to be remarked.

It is a question if this same market-house be not quite the most theatrical-looking thing of its kind in all France. It is for all the world like a successful piece of stage carpentry, with a great spectacular stairway running up into its garret above, quite in the manner that one has seen upon the stage over and over again, when the heroine or the villain—it does not much matter which—escapes from his, or her, pursuers. Low built, heavily raftered, and with a leaky roof allowing rays of sunlight to dribble through into the gloom within in a most entrancing manner, this old market-house is the centre of the life and activity of the place for fifty-two Mondays in each year.

Within and without the walls of the market-house is gathered the most varied conglomeration of wares imaginable. Beside the draper’s counter are baskets of vegetables, eggs, or fish. A poor little calf, tied by the legs and lying at full length on the ground, keeps company with his former farmyard neighbours, the ducks and geese, but on either side is a second-hand collection of ironmongery and old shoes, and it should be the envy of the provident, for two sous buy anything in the collection.

Interior of Market-house, Auray

Interior of Market-house, Auray

The country-side Breton peasant who comes to Auray on a market-day is the glass of fashion of his race, his jacket embroidered in braid of gay colours, and velvet bands on his sleeves and collar. His shirt is high and stiffly starched, and his felt hat or cap heavily hung with velvet ribbons. The womenfolk are clad in equally spectacular fashion, with high white caps and full-sleeved bodices, each with a black velvet band around the sleeve, and full gathered skirts, spoiling all symmetry of form as nature made it.

The history of Auray, from the days when it belonged to John of Auray, grand huntsman of Brittany, has left its mark in the annals of the country in no indefinite manner. John of Montfort, the Counts of Blois, Duguesclin, and many others stalk through its pages of history until finally, in the wars of religions, it was held by the Catholic army and the Spaniards in turn. Its old château, whose foundations now form the fine Promenade du Loc, dates from the eleventh century; and it was reconstructed and enlarged two centuries later, finally to disappear, as the result of an order for its demolition given by the castle destroyer, Henry II., in 1558.

Shrine of St. Roch, Auray

Shrine of St. Roch, Auray

The port of Auray is more daintily and charmingly environed than most seaports. As it lies between the wooded, deep-cut banks of the little river, its intermingling of ships and salt water, and country-side, and sailor lads and rustic maidens, and all the motley population of the little town, is a marvellous thing to see.

The smack of antiquity is about it all, and the historic legend of its shrine of St. Anne—which lives as vividly to-day as ever it lived—most touchingly connects the present with the past.

One of the most celebrated, and certainly the most largely attended, of all the “pardons” of Brittany is that held at St. Anne of Auray, though Auray itself is something more than a mere place of religious pilgrimage, and a good deal more than a wayside station on the railway line where one leaves the train and hires a carriage for Carnac and Quiberon, though apparently not many tourists know it. In the first place, it is one of the largest and most characteristic of all the little Breton market-towns, is a deep-water port of a considerable size, and has a hotel which supplies one with the most ample and delightful meals that the traveller will find westward of Nantes.

This may be a mundane standard by which to judge of an old-world town’s appeal to interest, but it is all-sufficient, and the most marvellous attractions the world may have to offer will hardly be appreciated by a travel-worn and hungry traveller, and such should plan to arrive in town for the Monday dinner at the Golden Lion; also he should not hurry through the town merely for the sake of visiting the shrine of St. Anne, which is tawdry enough in its general aspect, except when it is thronged on the great days of the “pardon,” March seventh and July twenty-fifth.

The great festival of the Pardon of St. Anne of Auray is held in July, on the birthday of St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary. Its origin dates back to 1623, when a peasant of the country-side, one Yves Nicolazic, was commanded by St. Anne, who appeared to him in a vision, to found a chapel in her honour in the fields of Bocenno, where, she said, an ancient shrine had existed nearly a thousand years earlier. Guided by explicit directions and a mysterious star, Yves found a precious image, which ultimately was transported and set up anew in the church built at Auray. This miraculous statue was lost during the Revolution, but a fragment was preserved and is included in the present shrine, which is surrounded by a modern edifice dating from the mid-nineteenth century.

Near by is the miraculous fountain, which, like others of its kind elsewhere, is exceedingly erratic as to the miracles it performs. It was beside this fountain, then but a humble little rock-gushing spring, but now neatly set about with a concrete basin, that St. Anne first appeared to Yves.

Each year, by train, by boat, by country cart, and on foot, pilgrims come from miles around, many of them camping out the night by the roadside, all, in spite of the solemn purport of their pilgrimage, in the gayest spirits. There is always a certain amount of discord to be encountered at all these great festivals,—beggars, deformed or ill with incurable disease, crippled or what not, all expectant of reaping a thriving harvest from the simple-minded frequenters of the shrine. Whether deserving or not, all of them appear to receive liberal alms, for the custom of giving alms is as much a component part of the event as any of the other observances, nor is it ever frowned upon or curtailed by the religious or civic authorities.

The order of the day includes the massing of the pilgrims at open-air services, the placing of candles before the shrine, the inspection of the relics of the saint, the drinking of, or bathing in, the miraculous fountain, and sermons and admonitions uncounted, all in the Breton tongue, incomprehensible to outsiders, but to be taken as salutary. The great feature is the procession of priests and pilgrims, the former in their brilliant vestments, many of the latter bearing tall, gaudily coloured candles and gay silken banners. Grouped around each banner will be found the Breton men and women from a particular section, each group differently clad from those of other sections, but all gay with brilliant colouring.

“Saint Anne, pray for us!” is the cry one would hear were it in English, or “Sainte Anne, priez pour nous” in French; in Breton, its sadness is indescribable, more like the wail of a banshee than anything else.

Usually the Bishop of Vannes delivers an exhortation, in the Breton tongue, of course, from the top of the Holy Steps, after which the throng—or, at least, such as are truly and sincerely devout—climb to the top on their knees. According to the printed notice at the foot, each step mounted on the bended knee, accompanied of course by a prayer, is good for a nine years’ absolution of a soul in purgatory. In the cloister behind the church is a great crucifix, in which the peasant pilgrims stick pins, each recording a prayer said or a vow made.

On the night of July twenty-sixth, St. Anne’s Day, a grand torchlight procession marches. The “Marche aux Flambeaux,” a celebrated painting by Jules Breton, now owned in America, well shows the effect of one of these great demonstrations, except that it lacks the weirdness of the sombre background of night itself.

This ends the great days of the pardon, but throughout the year pilgrims make their way to the shrine to say a prayer, or to drink or bathe in the waters of the fountain, or perhaps to carry a jugful home to some bedridden member of their families.

Among the offerings in fulfilment of vows made at the shrine of Ste. Anne d’Auray are a number of very ancient inscriptions, such as the following best illustrate:

“William Genin, bitten by a mad dog, vowed himself to St. Anne and obtained a perfect cure in 1631.”

“Helen Sausse, abandoned by her mother, vomited a two-headed snake and recovered her health.”

On the way from Auray to Plouharnel, Carnac, Quiberon, and Locmariaquer are worth one day or three, accordingly as one may feel inclined. The distance is not great; a dozen kilometres will cover the journey out, and a little more circuitous return route will take in a half-dozen or more old centres of a civilization of which all knowledge is lost in the night of time.

Whatsoever the great megalithic monuments of Carnac may mean, certain it is that they tell—or could tell if one could feel sure he understood it correctly—a story quite out of keeping with the manners and customs of to-day. Like the tall, gaunt windmills plentifully besprinkled hereabouts, these great stones rear their heads skyward in fashion most strange. Long rows of them, like files of soldiers, or like the trees of the forest, stand to-day for the curious to marvel at, as they stood so long ago that their origin is not to be definitely traced.

The Lines of Carnac

The Lines of Carnac

The Lines of Carnac

The Lines of Carnac

Of the Lines of Carnac, as the strange population of tombstone-looking monoliths is known, much has been written by antiquaries, archæologists, and geologists ever since the tide of travel set this way. What these stones actually mean—some thousands of them in all, set out in regular rows—only a vain, presumptuous person could answer. They offer a prospect of a strange grandeur, for they really are grand, if not stupendous, and, as they stretch away in long, silent lines almost to the horizon, they are as phantoms looming to-day out of the mysterious past to which they belong.

There are three great companies of these menhirs here. Those of Ménec, composed of 1,169 members in eleven ranks; of Kermario, 1,120 members in ten rows; and of Kerlescan, thirteen rows made up of 579 individual stones.

Carnac has another ancient monument in the tumulus of Mont St. Michel, which, like other elevations bearing the same name, is a sky-nearing little peak of land which supposedly formed a firm earthly foothold for the archangel.

The parish church of Carnac is dedicated to St. Cornély, who, according to legend, lived in the neighbourhood and was many times saved from an untimely death by the oxen of the region. Just how this was accomplished no one seems to know, but enough of the tradition still lives to inspire a grand celebration on the saint’s day, the thirteenth of September, when many animals are offered up to him, as one learns from the kindly, tall-coifed guardian of the church.

Map of Carnac and the Surrounding Country

Map of Carnac and the Surrounding Country

The painted ceilings of the Church of St. Cornély are remarkable works of art, if not for their excellence, at least for their ingenuity. The north porch is an astonishing Renaissance addition, which, from its curves and curls, would seem to be the precursor of “l’art nouveau.”

To the westward of Carnac, at the shore-end of the peninsula of Quiberon, is Plouharnel, another centre around which are grouped many curious stone monuments.

The Chapel of Our Lady of the Flowers is a singularly beautiful small church built of the granite of the country. It contains a notable bas-relief in alabaster in the form of what is known in ecclesiastical art as a “Jesse Tree.”

Just why the promoters of a railway had the temerity to push it to the very end of the snake-like peninsula of Quiberon is a problem which will ever remain unsolved so far as the general public is concerned. Stendhal has written some gloomy views of scenes enacted at Fort Penthièvre, half-way down the peninsula, and Victor Hugo wrote of the same times (now a hundred years ago):

Mourir plus d’un soldat à son prince fidèle, un prêtre fidèle à son Dieu.

The aspect of this long, narrow peninsula is everywhere the same, from its juncture with the mainland to the sandy point fifteen kilometres away, from which one sees the flash of the twinkling light on Belle Ile.

Quiberon has what may almost be called an ideal hotel, except that it is unworldly and not the least new. A travelling salesman, whom we met at Auray, told us that it was kept by an old cook, one of the Vatels of the stove. Simple and modest, but clean withal as the proverbial door-step of Holland, it is one of those inns that the traveller loves out of sheer inability to find fault with it.

Quiberon has two ports, Port Haliguen and Port Maria, both in danger of becoming popular seaside resorts, for the guide-books are already describing them as places where the sojourn will be agreeable for persons of simple habits.

The fish-market of Quiberon is one, if not the chief, of its sights for the student of manners and customs. “Cinq lubines pour douze francs et deux cent quarante maquereaux pour trente-un francs” was the way the market ran on the occasion of the visit of the author, all of which argues that Quiberon is a good place for the fish to come.



The lobsters, too, are a great feature of the trade here, and are sold by their length, measuring from the eye up to the first scale of their tails. An average price is rather over four sous, and Paris takes the best of the lot. They travel first-class and by express, the lobsters of Quiberon, when they take their first and last voyage to the “shining city,” and there are plenty of friends awaiting them at the station. They invariably arrive at the fish-market for the earliest sales, and at noon the epicure may eat them at Marguery’s, which sounds like a French version of the “Alice in Wonderland” tale.

One hour from Quiberon, by a tiny steamboat, and one finds himself skirting the cliff walls surrounding and sheltering the little port and town of Palais on Belle Ile, overlooked by the powerful citadel built by Vauban, who, as the fortress-builder of France, stood in his profession where Napoleon did in his.

This “plus belle île de l’ocean” has forty-eight kilometres of coast-line, and every one of them has been so cut and serrated by the action of the waves that the island would form a veritable ocean graveyard were it situated on the direct line of travel by sea.

For the most part, visitors content themselves with making an excursion to the northerly end of the island, a visit to the apothecary’s grotto, and another to the lantern of the great lighthouse, which at night sends its electric rays far out to sea.

What tourists may not do is to roam over the old citadel now occupied as a national fort, and this is a pity, for there they might conjure up a reminder of other days that would be like a chapter out of Dumas.

The citadel was built by Marshal de Retz in 1572, and was the refuge of the cardinal of the same name when he fled from Nantes in 1653. Not far away is the Château Fouquet. Nicholas Fouquet, Marquis of Belle Ile, was Superintendent of Finance under the regency of Anne of Austria, and continued the important office after the accession of Louis XIV. The consensus of opinion is that Fouquet was insinuating, specious, hypocritical, and sensual. It was at the great fête given by Fouquet at Vaux that the king planned his arrest, “fearing he would escape to Belle Ile,” then thought to be an impregnable fortress. Both in the pages of the historians and in the romances of Dumas one may read the story.

Belle-Ile-en-Mer, also, was made the home of Aramis after Dumas had given him episcopal rank. The minute details given in “Le Vicomte de Bragelonne” would form an admirable supplement to any guide-book.

The great Sara Bernhardt has of recent years made her home on this barren and desolate isle. It is not altogether desolate, however, for there are hotels at Palais and Sauzon, and tourists, solitary and in droves, are continually making excursions thither in the season from the neighbouring Breton coast, from Vannes, Quiberon, or Lorient.

Although Belle Ile is only a pin-head on most maps of France, it has a considerable population. Palais is a town of five thousand souls, and Sauzon counts something over sixteen hundred, and so Belle Ile, being only about 21,000 acres in extent, is a very thickly populated part of the globe.

Returning to the mainland, a call at Locmariaquer is inevitable, if one be a true and genuine traveller, even if it be “out of the world,” which virtually it is, being at the tip end of another peninsula like that of Quiberon.

The town itself owns to fifteen hundred or more souls, and all of them look prosperous and contented. Where all of them get their livelihood, it is difficult to see, for there is not much intercourse with the outside world.

Locmariaquer has not even a railway, as Quiberon has, but lies twenty kilometres or so south of Auray, almost at the mouth of Morbihan Bay. The church of Locmariaquer is a fine twelfth-century work, but the foundation of the little town lies much farther back in antiquity than this. It was the ancient Doriorigum of the Romans.

The Chapel of St. Michel is built up from the Roman remains of a structure known as er c’hastel.

The great celebrities of Locmariaquer are, however, those members of the great family of menhirs, dolmens, and cromlechs with which this part of Morbihan is so thickly strewn. The chief of these are the dolmen known as Mané-Lud, Mountain of Ashes, of vast dimensions and having a grotto beneath it. Not far off is a tumulus and another dolmen known as Dol-er-Groh, an enormous stone table or altar. Another is known as Mané-er-H’roeck, the stone of the fairies; it is quite seventy feet long, or was, for it now lies full length on the ground broken into four pieces. The finest and best preserved of all is the Dol-ar-Marc’hadouiren, the Merchants’ Table. It is hard to see just the significance of the name given to these three huge stones, but they form a wonderfully impressive monument of days gone by, nevertheless.

The most beautiful dolmen known, whatever that description may really mean (the local renter of boats calls it such: “le plus beau dolmen connu”), can be visited only by boat. It is on an island in the gulf, and is known as the Gavr’inis.

La Trinité, “a little village on the very edge of the sea”! This is a description which exactly fits what the natives and the railway powers like to think is a watering-place. It is something like one, to be sure, but the influx of strangers during the summer months has never been so great as to obliterate or even to deaden the local colour. Its little harbour is lively with fishing-boats, and occasionally gay, when the boats are “dressed” for some great festival, but nothing of blatant bands and riotous crowds mars the quietness and sweetness of La Trinité, and accordingly it is a place to be remembered.

Sometimes the sterility of the soil round about causes real distress among the small farming peasants; “one cannot live on fish alone,” they say.

There is a local benefactress who, when crops are poor and meagre, gives the whole of her own harvest gathered from an unusually ample holding to her more distressed neighbours. This is a true and practical charity that does not smack of smugness or pretence as do many acts questionably classed under that head. It is a singularly expressive exemplification of what the French know as “good socialism,” and one hears much of it at La Trinité and in its neighbourhood.

Taking to the road again, on the way to Auray, one passes another of those curious granitic formations. This time it comes down more near our own day, and is called the “St. Tiviro’s hat.” It does not look the least like the saint’s hat, any more than the “devil’s seats” and the “old men of the mountains,” scattered about the world, look like what they are called—but let that pass. Legend connects this rock with a certain St. Tiviro, who one day lost his hat, which ultimately turned to stone. It does not seem plausible, and it is a pointless story indeed, but it gives a small child the opportunity to point it out for a penny, which most folk will not grudge.



THREE towns of Morbihan little known, still less visited by travellers in Brittany, lie within a comparatively small area just north of the coast, and their names are Lorient, Hennebont, and Pont Scorff.

The very name Lorient will appeal to many. It suggests the great trade with the East, in full swing in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the town grew up as a necessary part of a vast commerce. Some of the old-time romantic picturesqueness of the shipping has disappeared, and the Hotels “Royal Sword” and “White Horse” have given way to the Hotels “Modern” and “of France,” with electric lights and sheds for motor-cars, but there is still a distinguishing excellence to be remarked which makes Lorient a place well worth visiting.

It was in the seventeenth century that an association of Breton merchants, who were carrying on the trade with the East Indies, first built their warehouses here. The traffic grew to proportions so considerable that Louis XIV. ultimately gave letters patent for the foundation of a new and grander East India Company.

The company erected ship-houses here, and the name Lorient was given to the settlement, which was fast growing to a prime importance among the ports of France. An English fleet, under Admiral Lestock, landed some six or seven thousand men in the bay of Poldu, at twelve kilometres west of Lorient, and marched upon the town as a revenge for certain attacks upon British interests in the East.

The English met with no great triumph here, but Louis XV. was indifferent enough to allow many of the French settlements in the Indies to be taken, and this led to the rapid decadence of the great East India Company and its port. Napoleon resuscitated it, as he did many another decaying institution in France, and developed the industry of the port to such an extent that Lorient became one of the principal maritime towns of France. Its past history sounds romantic enough, but there is little of romance about the life of its streets and wharves to-day; instead, there is activity not admitting even the thought of romance. Jangling gongs of tram-cars, the puffing of locomotives, and the shrieks of the sirens, to say nothing of the accompaniment of belching chimney-stacks and the sound of the riveting hammers in the great shipyards, all testify that Lorient is living in the age of progress.

Local sights, outside this marvellous exposition of modern spirit, are few. There is a municipal museum, containing some good modern pictures, many of them of Breton subjects, but there are no ecclesiastical or architectural monuments worthy of remark. The commercial harbour and the dockyard are decidedly the most interesting features. Within the walls of the latter is the parade-ground, which serves as a fine promenade for the population of Lorient when the military band plays on summer evenings.

The roadstead of Lorient is a great deep-water harbour, which can shelter the largest ships afloat. It is guarded by six great lights, one of them in the cupola of the Church of St. Louis. This is one of the very few instances where a great city church is a mariner’s beacon, besides performing its other functions on behalf of lost souls.

Opposite Lorient is Port Louis, founded a century before its bigger sister. Anciently it was known as Blavet, but took its present name in honour of Louis XIII. Its walls were begun in 1652.

In the immediate neighbourhood of Lorient and Port Louis are many delightful little seaside places, hardly popular resorts in any sense of the word, but all the better for that, where one may get such views of sea and shore and shipping of all ranks as is hardly to be found elsewhere on the Breton coast.

Up the little river Blavet, at the head of deep-sea navigation, is Hennebont, a most delightfully disposed little place, which has been called the pearl of the Blavet. Like most of the tidal rivers of France, the Blavet, on its lower reaches, offers about the most paintable of all landscapes imaginable. This, with the Auray, the Aven, the Scorff, and the Elle, would prove a sketching-ground quite inexhaustible, in the variety of its moods, to the artist of an average length of life.



Hennebont, which has eight thousand or more inhabitants and a delightful inn, electric-lighted though it be, is divided into the new town and the fortified town. It sits beside the river’s bank, and crosses on a bridge of three arches. Above, the river dwindles to a mere rivulet, but below the incoming tides will bring craft of a tonnage of three hundred or more straight to the heart of the town. A tonnage of three hundred does not mean much to the travellers by twenty-thousand-ton steamships, but assuredly when one sees one of these little craft, with their three slender square-rigged masts, by the soft light of the full moon, in the little Breton port of Hennebont, it looks like the phantom ship, whose masts and spars “cross the moon like prison bars.”

Hennebont derives its name from the Breton words for old bridge. The first lord of the place, Huelin of Hennebont, lived in 1037. The fortified town was, of course, the earlier foundation, the new town only coming into existence in the sixteenth century, when the great Church of Our Lady of Paradise was still in the open country.

Trade follows the flag, but habitations follow the church, and so, when this great Gothic edifice was built in 1513-30, it began to draw the houses of the city dwellers around it, and now the fortified town is practically non-existent except as a quarter.

This church is a wonder-work of its kind, considering its great size, its graceful lines, and its ornamental Gothic spire, rising to a height which must approximate three hundred feet.

The ancient ramparts of the old fortified town appear here and there along the river-bank, in the well-preserved gateway which one passes on the left after leaving the river on the way to the church, and in yet another fragment—a great circular tower—in the courtyard of the aforesaid excellent Hôtel de France.

The old castle of Hennebont, of which something more than fragments still remain, saw the death of Comte Charles of Blois, who, escaping from his dungeon in one of the towers of the old Louvre at Paris, came here in 1345. One may read in Froissart of the defence of Hennebont by Jeanne of Montfort in 1342.

There are many old gabled houses at Hennebont, most fantastic in form, one of which, bearing the inscription, “Le Levic, 1600,” is perhaps the most ancient of any built without the walls of the fortified town.

The great fortified gateway, which gives access to the old citadel, is a fine ogival work flanked by two massive machicolated towers. This old district is quite the most curious and unworldly feature of this little city by the Blavet.

It is a veritable town of the middle ages, yet unspoiled and quite as it was in the olden days, when its sturdy walls gave protection against the invader, and its great gates opened only upon the orders of the governor.

In suburban Hennebont, scarce a kilometre away, on the left bank of the Blavet, are to be seen the remains of the old Abbaye de la Joie, a famous establishment of the monks of the Cistercian order. It was founded in the thirteenth century by Blanche of Champagne, wife of John the Red-haired. One still sees her statue in wood and bronze, but the conventual buildings themselves have come to base uses, and are now a horse-breeding establishment.

Pont Scorff, so far as its situation is concerned, resembles Hennebont. It spans the tiny river Scorff, and the views along the banks are in every way equally delightful with those on the Blavet. Pont Scorff, however, has not the magnitude or the antiquity of Hennebont, and its two parts are known as the upper town and the lower town.

The most ancient building here is the Chapel of St. John of the old commandery of St. John du Faouët; it dates at least from the thirteenth century. There is a fine Renaissance house in the little public square, called the House of the Princes. It is richly decorated and has a fine series of dormer windows and a row of pilasters bearing the symbols of the Rohan family. There is another ancient house, formerly belonging, it is believed, to the Templars. The parish Church of St. Albin dates only from 1610, and is in no way a remarkable work.

The Chapel of Notre Dame de Kergornet, a fifteenth-century edifice near by, is a place of pilgrimage for the Breton nurses, that great race of foster-mothers who care for the thousands of Parisian children in the Bois, or the gardens of the Tuileries, or the Luxembourg.

From this point, as one journeys westward, he leaves pretty much all France behind him. The modern Department of Finistère, the “Land’s End” of the French, is all that lies between him and the vast heaving Atlantic.



AT Quimperlé one makes his first acquaintance with that part of the Armorican peninsula known to-day on the maps of France as the Department of Finistère. This charming little town is of itself of great importance, as marking the dividing-line between the dialect of Vannes and that of the western peninsula. There is no great difference to be noted by the casual traveller, since all of the younger population speak the French tongue,—sometimes exclusively,—but there is an unmistakable modification of manners and customs toward the more theatrical aspect which one best sees at Pont Aven, Pont l’Abbé, and the little fishing villages around the Bay of Douarnenez.

Of the women of Quimperlé much has been remarked by all who have ever lingered within its walls. They are “superb in type, elegant and gracious,” we were told by a French artist who had set up his easel on the quay. But there is no need to tell anybody; even a woman-hater would remark it. Certainly this is as good an entrance to a new and strange land as heart could desire.

Quimperlé lies on both sides of the little river Elle, which, like the other streams of the South Breton coast, is a special variety of waterway quite unlike their more pretentious brothers and sisters elsewhere. The country round about has been called the “Arcadia of Lower Brittany,” and so it will strike even the least observant of travellers—after he has recovered from the effects of the glances of those elegant and gracious females.

The most ancient part of the little city is that known as the walled town, grouped around the ancient Abbey of Holy Cross, on that tongue of land which separates the Isole and the Elle. The escarpment is badly built up, but withal it is ruggedly picturesque, abounding in old houses, some of which have stood since the thirteenth century.



The site of the old Abbey of Holy Cross was known in the sixth century as Anaurot, and became the refuge of one of the Breton Kings of Cambria, who, abdicating, came here and built a hermitage, which in time was converted into an abbey of Benedictines. This old Abbey of Holy Cross, as it exists to-day, has a ground-plan which more nearly follows that of a four-armed cross than any other extant in Christendom. The same motive doubtless inspired its builders as that which induced the architects of Charlemagne to erect that famous round church at Aix-la-Chapelle, which in reality it greatly resembles in general features; both went back to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem for their initial idea.

This church at Quimperlé is one of the three or four in all Brittany having a crypt, and it is more amply endowed with interior furnishings and fitments than many a grander edifice. Altogether it is an ecclesiastical monument of the first importance.

It has a companion, moreover, of no mean rank, either, in the Church of St. Michael, which sits high on the hilltop and dominates nearly every vista of the town.

After a tempestuous past extending from the monastic foundation of the sixth century, Anaurot, or Quimperlé as it had become meantime, surrendered to Duguesclin in 1373. Finally, when a treaty had been signed with the League as to future neutrality, the city walls were demolished (in 1680), and Quimperlé settled down to a peaceful existence, which is only broken on the year’s great feast-days, or on the days of the pardons,—that of the Passion in March, the Pardon of the Birds on Whit-Monday, the second day of May, or the last Sunday of July.

One or the other of these dates should be made to correspond with one’s itinerary, when one will see the real Lower Breton as he seldom appears outside a picture. Near Quimperlé is the little coast station of Pouldu, where figtrees, the hydrangea, and other plants of the Midi bloom throughout the year.

Needless to say that it may some day become a really popular and populous seaside resort, with casinos and alleged Hungarian bands, but that day may be far distant, and any one looking for an unspoiled seaside resting-place need not hesitate to go out of his way to give a glance to this altogether delightful little port of Pouldu. There is nothing like it, nothing so unaffected and unspoiled, on the whole Breton coast. On the way to Pouldu one passes the important ruins of the ancient Abbey of St. Maurice, founded in 1170 by the Duke Conan IV., and the place where Maurice—a monk of Langonnet since become sainted—was buried in 1191. In part, this fine ruin dates from the thirteenth century, to which period belong the chapter-room and the chapel, the principal features still remaining intact.

Near Quimperlé is St. Fiacre, whom some unknowing person has called the patron saint of the Paris cabman, an individual who has not much regard for anything saintly.

There is a beautiful fifteenth-century chapel at St. Fiacre, though to-day it is greatly marred by wind, weather, and barbarous customs. Each year, in June, there is an important fair held at St. Fiacre, at which the young men from round about offer themselves for employment. Each of them carries a rod or switch. To engage one who seems a likely person for your purpose, you, or the young man before your eyes,—after a parley,—break the rod, and he immediately becomes a member of your domestic establishment.

There seems something rather uncertain about all this, but surely the “matter of form” augurs as well for good and faithful service as the average written “character” with which one engages a servant in England.

The hair-cutter appears at St. Fiacre as at all Breton fairs. He is known as Gerard, and since the age of ten years he has been learned in the art of hair-cutting. For a long time he was the chief barber of a regiment of the line, and he will tell you (or he may not) that he has cut many hundreds of thousands of heads in his time, and has garnered enough of a crop to carpet the whole of the village of St. Fiacre a metre deep.

Faouët, not to be confounded with the place of the same name in the Côtes du Nord, is a small town with a great square, and a still more important old market-house, which, like that at Auray, strikes the stranger as being a marvellous construction of wooden beams, and quite impossible to duplicate to-day, whereas the construction is doubtless far less complex than the modern market-houses that one sometimes meets,—mere ugly sheds of brick and iron.

There is a never ceasing ebb and flow of peasant-folk at the Faouët market, the busiest of which come the Saturday of Holy Week, the Friday after Pentecost, the twentieth of June, and the sixth and twenty-sixth of July.

Market-house, Faouët

Market-house, Faouët

The scene is too dazzling to describe, and too active to snap-shot, and one can only feel its real significance by personal participation. The transactions are not of the stupendous order, and there is much good-natured chaffing and bartering, and it offers a scene as lively as if the fate of a nation were depending on the outcome.



The Breton peasant is not always the sad and superstitious individual he has been pictured, though both men and women think nothing of embracing the opportunity of saying a “Hail Mary” in the Chapel of St. Barbara, or before the great cross of stone beside the main road, as they go into town, taking to market a small calf or a brace or two of ducks, led at the end of a cord by their sides.

The Chapel of St. Barbara occupies an extraordinary position three hundred metres or more above the bed of the Elle, which bathes the lower walls of the town.

After tradition, the Sieur de Toulbodon was one day hunting in the valley of the Elle, when a terrific storm broke overhead, and a rock falling at his feet barred the way. He made a vow to St. Barbara to erect a chapel here, because of his merciful preservation from death. The rock exists to-day, and is shown to the credulous,—at least, a rock is shown which the credulous believe is the identical one, and accordingly it is venerated; though why it is not reviled, no one seems to know.

Near Faouët is the Abbey of Our Lady of Langonnet, founded in 1136 by Conan III. of Brittany. Its fortunes have been various; in Revolutionary times it served as quarters for a stud, but has since been turned over to religious uses again, and is now occupied by a congregation of the Fathers of the Holy Ghost.

The church, the chapter-room, and some other details still remain, admirably preserved, to illustrate the excellence of the early Gothic period of the buildings.

On the way to Rosporden, one passes the principal town of Bannalec, whose original name was Balaneck, meaning the place for planting the broom. It has not much interest for the stranger, unless perchance he happens to pass through it on the day of some local feast or celebration, when he will most likely see the young peasant-folk, men and women, dancing in the middle of the roadway, as they do in the operas. Brittany indeed is about the only place where one is likely to see such a phenomenon, and, if by chance it happen to be a wedding celebration, the diversion will be doubly interesting.

On the particular occasion when the builders of this book passed that way, a wedding dance was actually in progress, and so edifying was the ceremony that the bride and groom were invited into the tonneau of our motor-car, and whirled away to Rosporden for a little excursion, which was unpremeditated and unexpected to all concerned, and was probably also a unique experience.

Rosporden, on the shore of the great lake of Rosporden, as it was described to us, proved a disappointment. Not that so very much was expected of it, but that so little was found in it. The lake is a misnomer, though the water-weedy pond near the church serves the innumerable artists who flock to the region as a highly interesting foreground. The women of Rosporden wear the most immense bonnets and coifs to be seen in all Brittany, and wimples like those of the Sisters of Charity.



The church dates from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries, and is in every way an admirably preserved monument.

To Concarneau and the smell of the sea is a dozen or fourteen kilometres over a gently rising and falling road, with a tendency always to descend until finally one coasts down the long main street of the celebrated fishing port and artists’ sketching-ground (it would be hard to tell in which aspect it is the more famous), until one comes to that famous Great Travellers’ Hotel, where one eats of oysters, lobster, and fresh sardines and many other kinds of sea food to such an extent that one feels decidedly fishy, or at least thirsty.

This should make little difference, as the coffee-room of that most excellent hostelry is likewise excellent, and has a charming outlook upon the wharfs and fishing-boats, thus affording as delightful a method of accustoming oneself to strange sights as could be imagined.

The fishing-boats of Concarneau are one and all great brown-winged gulls that flit slowly over the great bay, going in and out with the rise and fall of the tide all through the round of the clock, depositing their cargoes on the wharfs, shifting crews, and starting off again in a continuous performance of coming and going which never ceases until their timbers, from some untoward cause, fall apart.

As the boats lie at the landing, sails come down and the delicate brown and blue nets go up for drying, for not all of the boats have so great a supply that they can shift to another set. The most curious effect is given by these blue and brown nets swinging masthead high, as if they were spider-web sails.

The picturesqueness of the Concarneau fishing-boats is undeniable. Nothing like them exists elsewhere, and when the sardine boats set out for the west, as the sun goes down, there are as wonderful combinations of golden yellow-browns, reds, and purples as the most imaginative painter could possibly conjure on his canvas.

On shore, the nets, spread for drying on the wharfs and on the racks beside the little fisherman’s chapel and the great stone crucifix which faces seawards, are of the deepest blues and purple-browns in a bewitching mixture.

Not a white-sailed boat is to be seen, unless it is an occasional yacht drifting in because its owner has tired of making the fashionable harbours where his guests can spend the night on shore dancing to the questionable music of a red or blue coated band.

Stone Crucifix, Concarneau

Stone Crucifix, Concarneau

It is a question as to whether Concarneau, were it not the centre of the sardine fishery, might not be the first seaside resort of the world. As it is, there are not a few who evidently think it far preferable to those pseudo-society watering-places, whose chief attractions are big casinos and little horses.



The hotels of the place are in no sense resort hotels, though they are fitted with a marvellous convenience and comfort, and feed one most bountifully and excellently on sea food, wherein fresh sardines and lobsters predominate,—those two great delicacies of the Paris restaurant which here are the common food of the people, for Concarneau is one of the few fishing centres of the world which keeps some of its products for the supply of its own table.

To-day the town is composed of two quarters, the new town, otherwise the faubourg Ste. Croix, modern, prosperous, and animated, and the walled town, the island fort of the middle ages.

In 1373, Concarneau was occupied by an English garrison, who fled before Duguesclin. In 1488, the Viscount of Rohan reduced it by order of Charles VIII., but the Marshal de Rieux retook it from the French the following year, and repaired and strengthened the old fortifications.

The religious wars played their part here most vividly, until finally it fell to the hands of Henry IV.

The walled town to-day is a remarkable example of an isolated fort or citadel, the islet upon which it is situated being of a confined area and wholly surrounded by a thick granite rampart, which, however invulnerable it may have been in a former day, would stand no chance against modern guns.

In part, these fortifications date from the fourteenth century, and at high water are entirely surrounded by the sea. The great bastion attributed to the former Duchess Anne—after she had become a queen of France—is a stupendous work of its time. For the most part, the other parts of the walls have been restored and built up anew in modern times.

Concarneau is the Ploudenec of Blanche Willis Howard’s charming Breton tale of “Guenn,” and Nevin, where the great pardon dance was held, may have been Pont Aven or Rosporden.

There is a wealth of charming colour in this sad tale, and not a little truth with regard to some of the characters, to which Americans, before now, have attempted to attach the names of real persons in the world of art and literature.

Opposite Concarneau is Beg-Meil, which in more respects than one is an anomaly. It has some pretence at being a watering-place, but there is no town there, save such as is built up around a few country-houses and hotels, catering only to summer folk; besides this, a few scattered and isolated farms form the sum total of the habitations of this little jutting point of land running out into the billowy Atlantic. For four-fifths of the year, the population of this salt meadow is composed only of sea-birds, which, like their fellows elsewhere, form an interesting colony of themselves.

The sea-birds of Brittany, like those of other rock-bound shores, are ever interesting to the traveller. Like the gulls of London Bridge, those near the great bay of Concarneau are wonderfully tame and singularly ravenous, and apparently eat all day. That is, when they are not sleeping or billing and cooing, as is the sea-birds’ way, for in this they would seem to rival the turtle-dove. When they are not courting or sleeping, they go a-fishing, and the seaweed-strewn rocks about Concarneau are their happy hunting-grounds. They will eat, say the fisherfolk of the sardine fleet, five pounds or more of fish in a day, which is considerably more than the weight of an individual bird.

From Concarneau one must perforce follow back along the coast-line to Pont Aven, for a trip to Brittany without having known the delights of this colony of artist-folk, in which Americans predominate, would be like the tragedy without Hamlet, or the circus without the elephant or the pink lemonade.

Pont Aven, the Barbison of Bretagne! chosen home of the painters of all nations and all schools, with Americans predominating.” This is a faithful translation of the remark of an appreciative travelling salesman, one “who loved art,” if the description be credible. You will hear tales at Pont Aven of the time when artists found their accommodation at a roadside inn outside the town—now apparently vanished—for fifty-five francs per month, and paid a sou for a litre of milk, and four sous for a litre of cider.

Pont Aven

Pont Aven

These days have gone, and at Pont Aven, as elsewhere throughout the world, the prices of all things are apparently rising. Really, Pont Aven and its environs are delightful; its little river is busy and chattering with many mill-wheels, and the Lovers’ Wood—as many know—is well named.

Because of its many riverside mill-wheels, Pont Aven has been named Millers’ Town by the natives, and also “The famous town with fourteen mills and fifteen houses.”

Unquestionably, the fame of Pont Aven has been made, or, at least, furthered, by Mlle. Julia, the most capable landlady of the Travellers’ Hotel. The modest little country-house which formed the original hotel has now a more magnificent neighbour, built up with a steel frame,—like a Chicago skyscraper,—and resplendent with modern furniture, with chairs and sofas of the saddle-bag variety, electric lights, electric bells which actually do ring, ice-water, afternoon tea, Scotch whiskey, and all the super-refinements of a twentieth-century civilization.

It is all very comfortable,—too comfortable the artists will tell you,—but the eagle eye and strong will of Mlle. Julia still hover over all, and nothing of deterioration is to be noted in the fare, which is excellent, and served in the charmingly quaint and beautifully decorated dining-hall of the little old inn, the precursor of the more splendid addition.


All this is as it should be, of course, but the price has of late gone up, though it is still thought exceedingly modest by guests who have spent most of their time in big city or seaside hotels.

Painters are perhaps fewer here to-day than some years ago, and there are more of the questionable pleasures of society, such as bridge and ping-pong, which is a pity.

Another appendage to the Hotel Julia is found at the St. Nicolas Beach on the coast. St. Nicolas is hardly more than a bathing-place, but it is delightfully empty, and altogether Pont Aven, with its environs, is a charming centre from which to make a week’s, a month’s, or a summer’s excursion.

Of the young girls of Pont Aven, Anatole France has uttered many truthful phrases. Very gracious they are indeed with their great white quilled collars, their windmill coifs, and their black skirts plaited like an accordion.

Here at Pont Aven—as elsewhere—fashion reigns, and the costume as it is known to-day is quite different from that of fifty years ago, which was not so picturesque, one would say, judging from old prints.

The metropolis of these parts and the ecclesiastical capital, for it is a cathedral city, is Quimper, twenty odd kilometres west of Concarneau.

Quimper is a real city, though it owns to a trifle less than twenty thousand inhabitants, and was the ancient capital of the county of Cornouaille. From all points the marvellously beautiful spires of its Cathedral of St. Corentin dominate the place. It is one of the most characteristically Breton towns in the manners and customs of the people, the general aspect of its wharfs and streets, its shops and its markets.

The first establishment of a settlement here was in Roman times, when, in the eleventh century, it was known as the Civitas Aquilonia. After the expulsion of the Romans from the land, it became the capital and the home of the kings or hereditary Counts of Cornouaille, one of whom, Grollon, has left a legend of great vitality, telling of his emigration here from Britain across the seas, and the founding of the first bishopric.

The cathedral, dedicated to St. Corentin, was built between 1239 and 1515, and shows the marks of the best workmanship of its time. Its fine spires rival those of St. Pol de Léon and Tréguier in the north. The ground-plan of this fine church is not truly orientated, a detail which is supposed to indicate the inclining of the head of Christ on the cross. It is not unique, but the arrangement is so rarely found as to warrant remark.

The town hall encloses a library of some thirty-four thousand volumes, among them a copy of the first dictionary in the Breton tongue, published at Tréguier in 1499.

The museum contains some interesting archæological treasures and some good modern paintings, including examples of the work of Yan d’Argent, Joubert Lansyer, Dagnan, and Abram Duvau, mostly depicting Breton subjects. It also has an admirable collection of old Breton costumes, etc.

From the Museum at Quimper

From the Museum at Quimper

The Rue Kéréon is the chief street of the town, and, like the Kalverstraat of Amsterdam, is one of those narrow thoroughfares so overflowing with life that to observe and study the passing throng is to master the manners and customs of the people.

There are many quaint old houses scattered here and there, and like those old lean-to and tumble-down structures of Rouen and Lisieux, they continually reappear on the canvases shown in Paris each year at the two great exhibitions.

The Allées Locmaria form a series of magnificently shaded promenades; this is frequently a feature of French towns above a population of ten thousand, and a feature which might be imitated in America and England with considerable accruing advantage.

South from Quimper lie Pont l’Abbé and Penmarc’h, as characteristically Breton as anything to be seen in the whole province; the former has something over six thousand inhabitants, and the latter over four, and each has its own distinct characteristics.

Pont l’Abbé is a town of embroiderers. Everywhere one finds shops whose sole business it is to sell those fine braid embroideries—yellow on a black ground—which have made this part of Brittany famous.

The costumes of Pont l’Abbé are famous throughout all Brittany. The coif recalls those seen in the pictures of the ancient Gauls. It is virtually a little black velvet hood, and the coif itself is a “pignon de couleur,” as the hostess of the hotel described it, and then, man-fashion, the author felt he was wallowing in a strange subject. Locally this confection, taken entire, it is inferred, is known as a bigouden,—a picturesque but not precisely instructive word.

The men wear a hat with three great buckles, and some of them—though their numbers are few—may yet be seen in the culotte bouffante, that peculiarly Breton species of breeches known in their own tongue as “bragou-braz.”

With such an introduction, one might expect almost any fantastic costume to step out from a doorway, but, to realize the quaintness of it all to the full, one should see the inhabitants at the Fêtes de la Tréminou, held on the twenty-fifth of March, Whit-Monday, the third Sunday in July, and the fourth Sunday in September.

The dances of Pont l’Abbé are famous and are indescribable by any one but a dancing-master. Inasmuch as they invariably take place in the open air, they may be accepted as the free and spontaneous expression of an emotion, which stuffy ballroom cotillons most decidedly are not.

The church of Pont l’Abbé dates from a Carmelite foundation of the fourteenth century, and is a fine work of its era, though surmounted by a curious and modern bell-tower in wood. Within the church are the tombs of many of the ancient barons of Pont l’Abbé. The magnificent rose window is of modern glass, but so admirable that one stands before it with a certain respectful awe, as before that old thirteenth-century glass in Chartres cathedral. The ancient cloisters are still preserved and surround a fine garden.

Pont l’Abbé is only five kilometres from the coast, and Loctudy, also the possessor of a fine mediæval church, and Penmarc’h form a trio of Breton coast towns quite as worthy of one’s attention as many better known resorts.

Penmarc’h—which for some inexplicable reason is pronounced Penmar—is situated in the midst of a great bare peninsula terminating in the Pointe de Penmarc’h. Instead of a high cliff sheared off at the water’s edge, as one so frequently sees on the north coast, the point sinks gently into the blue waters of the Atlantic until it is swallowed up, with never so much as a line of breakers to indicate its presence from seaward. Penmarc’h in Breton signifies the “head of a horse,” and Benzec Capcaval, a village not far distant, means the same. An ingenious person will have no difficulty in following the etymology of the latter word, but the former is quite incomprehensible except to a Welshman.

Penmarc’h was for four centuries a city which kept pace with Nantes. Its early riches came from the traffic in “lenten meat,” which is simply codfish.

The Church of St. Nonna is a late Gothic edifice, with a great square tower which will be remarked by all who come near it. Its interior has two baptismal fonts, strangely decorated with stone carvings of fantastic shapes, depicting the history of Penmarc’h.

Three kilometres away is the town of St. Guénolé, a tiny fishing port with fine panoramic view of the Bay of Audierne. The chapel of St. Guénolé occupies the base of a great tower, now ruinous, but looking as though in a former day it must have belonged to some pretentious church.

“The Handle of the Torch” is one of the local sights. It is formed of a series of great rocks at some little distance from the mainland. That bearing the name of “The Torch” is separated from the mainland by the Monk’s Leap, which, according to legend, was the landing-place of St. Viaud, when he migrated from Hibernia to Brittany ages ago.

From Quimper to the Point of Raz is one long up and down hill pull of fifty kilometres, until one finally reaches Point or Cape Sizun, known to Ptolemy as the promontory of Gabœum. It is the extreme westerly point of the peninsula of Cornouaille, and, reckoning from the meridian of Paris,—for the French do not use the meridian of Greenwich,—is just on the line of the seventh degree of west longitude. The Léon country northward of Brest actually extends a trifle farther westward, at Point St. Mathieu, but most maps do not show it.

North of the Point of Raz is the great Bay of Douarnenez, with its sardine fisheries rivalling those of Concarneau, and southward lies the shallow bay of the Audierne, whose shores, in their own way, are quite as characteristically wild as those of any part of Northwestern France.

At the extreme end of the Point of Raz are two unpretentious hotels, which will please only those of simple tastes and lovers of the solitary; both are connected with more ambitious establishments at Audierne.

The Bay of the Dead, the Hell of Plogaff, and the rocky point itself, form the tourist attractions, but it will be enough for most lovers of solitude to bask in the sunlight amid the gentle breezes from the Gulf Stream, and to leave rock-climbing to those agile spirits who affect that sort of exercise.

Near Audierne is the Church of St. Tuglan, a fine fifteenth and sixteenth century edifice, with many a legend clinging to the name of its patron saint. It is all very vague, but there is hidden superstition in abundance, if one only had the patience to work it out. All that can be learned is, that the holy man was the Abbé of Primelin, near by, and that his feast is celebrated throughout all the Point of Raz. His statue represents him with a key in the hand, and there is a great iron key preserved in the church said to have once belonged to him. On the day of the pardon great quantities of little loaves are stamped with this key and, according to a popular belief, they will cure a mad dog of his madness, if he be given a morsel to eat, and possess many other virtues of a similar nature. In the sacristy of the church are preserved the teeth of St. Tuglan. The inhabitants of Primelin are known as paotret ar alc’houez, or servants of the key.

Audierne is a busy little Breton port of perhaps four thousand inhabitants, and opposite is the fishing village of Poulgoazec, with sardine factories and all the equipment of the trade. Up to the sixteenth century, Audierne was even more flourishing than it is to-day, for the codfish, which were its riches, had not left for other shores.

The vast Bay of Audierne has a wild and deeply embayed coast-line, with nothing but a population of sea-birds to add to the gaiety of the landscape.

Northward, toward Douarnenez, is Pont Croix, built in the form of an amphitheatre on the bank of the river Goayen.

Our Lady of Roscudon is an ancient collegiate church now turned into a little seminary. The peasant folk round about call it only the Virgin’s church. It is in many respects a remarkable fifteenth-century work.

Cape de la Chèvre

Cape de la Chèvre

From the Point of Raz in the south to Cape de la Chèvre in the north extends the great gulf known as the Bay of Douarnenez. Along its shores are innumerable little fishing villages, which seem almost of another world. Certainly they have not much in common with other sections of Brittany, to say nothing of the rest of Europe.

Douarnenez disputes with Concarneau the privilege of being considered the centre of the sardine industry, and, like it, has all the picturesque attributes of brown-sailed boats and of blue and brown nets hung masthead high for drying, as the craft lie at the quayside, after having unloaded their catch.

The delicate blues and purple-browns of these nets are irresistible to the artist, but few have caught the real tone; indeed, more than one painter of repute has given it up as a bad job, saying that it was impossible to transfer it to canvas.

The beauty of the Bay of Douarnenez has a fascination for artists and holds one spellbound under certain aspects of the westering sun, when lights and shadows intermingle in truly heavenly fashion.

During the civil wars of the sixteenth centuries, Douarnenez was taken by Jacques de Guengat, but was retaken by Fontenelle in 1595 and its houses for the most part demolished, and used to build up the fortifications of the Ile Tristan.

Douarnenez signifies, literally, the land of the isle. The Ile Tristan once contained a priory dedicated to St. Tutarn, but now the chief sights are the lighthouse and a sardine factory. An ancient tradition recounts that the Ile Tristan received its name from the valiant Tristan of Léonais, one of the knights of the Round Table.

Except for the view from the gallery of the great lighthouse, the trip to the island is hardly worth the making. The view from this vantage-point is, however, remarkable; indeed, it is unique, the writer is inclined to think, in all the world. Suffice to say of it that it is unworldly, and yet gay with the workaday coming and going of the sardine fleets, as such a paradoxical description will permit one to imagine. All is peaceful, and yet there is a steady inflow of industry that is in no wise detrimental to its unspoiled tranquillity. Perhaps if an artist lived by the shores of the deep blue and purple waters of this bay for a matter of two score of years, he might do it justice; until then—never.

Concarneau as a port is more interesting than Douarnenez, but the bay of Concarneau, delightful as it is, has not a tithe of the variations that are played upon the gently flowing waters of the bay of Douarnenez by the setting sun.

The peninsula of Crozon shelters the bay of Douarnenez on the north. At one pronged extremity is Roscanvel, jutting out into the roads of Brest, and at the other is Cape de la Chèvre. Between the two is a wonderful country of rock-strewn coast-line and poppy-covered inland fields.

Woman of Chateaulin

Woman of Chateaulin

Chateaulin, situated on the river Aulne, a little beyond the head of the peninsula, is the metropolis of these parts. It owes its name to an ancient hermitage of St. Idunet. Its present name grew from Nin or Castel Nin, then Castelin, and finally Chateaulin. The hermitage, in time, was succeeded by the priory of Locquidunet, and that in its turn became the parish church of the present town.

Hoël, Count of Cornouaille, who became Duke of Brittany, incorporated the town with the ducal domain, from which time on its history was one of partisan strife.

The Revolution elevated it to the rank of a market-town, and changed its name to “Cité sur Aulne” in an attempt to suppress the supposedly aristocratic prefix of Château. Ultimately, it reverted to its former name.

Near by are the Black Mountains, of which Mené Hom is the chief eminence, its summit rising to a height of 330 metres, with other peaks at the height of 299, 272, and 248 metres. The heights are not so very considerable, but their proximity to the sea exaggerates them, and travellers by road—bicycle riders and travellers in motor-cars—will think the process of crossing the Black Mountains, on the way from North to South Finistère, as formidable as the task of Hannibal.

Crozon is a much larger place than Chateaulin, isolated though it is from all direct communication with other parts. It is situated some 250 feet above the sea, on what the French call a wild table-land, and dominates the Bay of Douarnenez from the north. All around Crozon are innumerable grottoes and rock-cut caves and excavations, which always have a certain fascination for some folk, but will hardly interest the devotee to the beauties of landscape.

Camaret, at the very tip of the peninsula, is another safe port for artists. Here are fishing-boats and all the accessories, like those seen at Douarnenez and Concarneau, and with a landscape background and a foreground of blue water that many whose names are great in the world of art have painted and many more will paint. Cottets’s “Fishing-boats at Camaret,” in the Luxembourg Gallery, is perhaps the best known of these pictures, but the composition is always the same. The background never changes,—the tiny chapel with its dwindling spire, the beacon, and the tall, gaunt stone house on the little mole running seaward and protecting the port, group themselves willingly enough into the most charming view in all the town.

The fishing-boats of the foreground change their positions, but kaleidoscopically only, and one may return year after year and see practically the same groupings, with only trifling differences.

One makes his way from Camaret to the great military port and trading town of Brest—if one need to go there at all, which is doubtful—either by boat across the Goulet and the roads of Brest, some sixteen kilometres by a puffy little excursion-boat, which, on a Sunday or a feast-day, is anything but comfortable, or by road by way of Faou, which is a great fruit and vegetable market for Brest, and not much more.

There is a considerable display of costume here on market-days,—which appear to be every day,—and the town is picturesque enough of itself, though, strange to say, it smacks of suburbia,—a place where one gets his news second-hand from some neighbouring city.





THE northernmost part of the peninsula of Finistère has not the abounding or varied interests of the south. Its monuments of other days are not so many or so remarkable, and the sterner conditions of life seem to have had a sobering effect upon manners and customs.

Brest and its wonderfully ample harbour has by no means the attractions of Vannes or of Nantes for the bird of passage, though its commercial and strategic value is great, and its history vivid and eventful. In spite of all this, there is little that is interesting to-day in its straight streets and rectangular blocks.

This fortified and exceedingly animated town owns to eighty odd thousand inhabitants, and is so pervaded by military and naval organization that there is very little local colour, very little atmosphere of the past hanging about it to-day. To find this, one has to go back to Faou, to Plougastel or Landerneau or Landivisiau, all within a radius of twenty kilometres or so.

The great bay of Brest is a swarming waterway, upon which the little excursion steamers, tugboats, great cruisers and battle-ships, torpedo-boats and torpedo-boat destroyers, and yet other craft built to catch torpedo-boat destroyers, are all apparently entangled inexplicably each in the wakes of all the others.

The entrance to this harbour is known as the Goulet, and is lighted by five lighthouses, which at night send out their twinkling rays of red, green, and white in most kaleidoscopic fashion,—all Greek to a landsman, but as clear as day to the Breton pilots who bring the great ships in and out of this narrow waterway. In the ninth century, Brest was already in existence, in spite of its modern aspect to-day, and belonged to the Counts of Léon. Its future was as varied as the history of Brittany.

It opened its ports to the army of Charles VIII. in 1489, in spite of the efforts of Duchess Anne to prevent such a proceeding. How far she succumbed will be recalled when one realizes that two years later her marriage with this prince was the first step which united the province of Brittany for ever with France. Brest from this time took on a new importance, until Cardinal Richelieu came to designate it as one of the principal arsenals of France, and then, in 1631, came the creation of the great dockyards.

Of architectural monuments, Brest still has the Church of St. Louis (1688-1778) and the twelfth and thirteenth century castle. As an ecclesiastical monument, the church is quite unworthy of attention, though it has some interesting tombs and monuments.

The castle is an admirable example of mediæval fortification, with some remarkable accessory details in its construction. The isolated donjon tower was in other days a sort of independent citadel, and formed a last refuge for the besieged occupants of the castle, should its outer walls give way to the invaders. The Tower of Azenor and the Tower of Anne of Brittany, so named for the respective princesses, are admirably preserved parts.

The local museum and library have fine collections. There are fifty-six thousand volumes in the library, and the collection of paintings contains many Breton subjects by modern masters.

The dockyard—navy-yard in the language of the United States, port militaire in French—is closed to the general public, but a marvellous detailed bird’s-eye view of the city, the docks, and the roads is obtained from the platform of the Pont Tournant.

Nineteen kilometres from Brest is Landerneau, and the junction of the railway lines to Kerlouan and Folgoët in the north, and to Quimper and Concarneau in the south. Landerneau from the twelfth to sixteenth centuries had a distinct feudal administration.

The folk of Landerneau have opinions of their own, as witness the remark, made at Versailles under the regency by a Breton noble hailing from this place: “The Landerneau moon is larger than that at Versailles.”

Again there is a Breton proverb which runs thus: “There will always be something to talk about in Landerneau.” Mostly this is used when a widow marries again, which may be taken to mean much or little, as one chooses.

Landerneau has a fine little tidal harbour, and its streets and wharfs are busy with the hum of coastwise traffic and river life, and, with its Church of St. Thomas of Canterbury and its “best and cleanest inn in the bishopric” (Hôtel de l’Univers), as a traveller of a century or more ago once wrote, it has no lack of interest for travellers.



One is not likely to be met with a statement by his host, as was the century-old traveller, that a respectable man begs to know if he may eat at the same table, and accordingly one will not have to reply, “With all my heart,” for most likely there will be twenty at the common table, and all will sit down to a meal of all the good things of life, “sea food” and golden cider and apple sweetmeats predominating.

It is all excellent, however, and the abundance of deliciously cooked fish will make one think it were no hardship to make a lenten sojourn here. A great church and a good hotel are indeed all-sufficient attractions for a market-town of perhaps eight thousand souls.

The town borders upon a picturesque little river, the Elorn, which finally flows into the harbour of Brest. From the fifth century until the sixteenth, it was far and away a more important place than its now more opulent neighbour at the river’s mouth. Then it was the chief town of Léon, the domain of the De Rohans, one of the ancient Breton baronies.

At the entrance of one of the principal streets—Rue Plouedern—are two curious ancient pieces of sculpture,—a lion and a man armed with a sword, bearing the inscription “Tire Tve.” They came from an old house which existed here in the sixteen hundreds, and are fitting examples of that curious mediæval symbolism which so often crops out in domestic and religious architecture. Although the chief of Landerneau’s ecclesiastical monuments is the sixteenth-century edifice dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury, the Church of St. Houardon is a contemporary work of some pretension; its base Renaissance portico was added at a later time. The arms and emblems of the De Rohans are conspicuous in both edifices.

July fifteenth is the great fête-day hereabout, when the horse-races, boat-races, and illuminations attract the peasantry from the inland country and the workmen from the dockyards at Brest.

Five kilometres away is the Chapel of St. Eloi of the sixteenth century. This sainted personage is represented throughout Finistère with the attributes of a bishop and of a horseshoer. Horses are placed under his protection, and the Pardon of St. Eloi is celebrated in various parts with much merrymaking, and always with much firing of guns. A motor-car is not beloved here, and if one incidentally or accidentally come upon a festival of St. Eloi, he had best forthwith make tracks in retreat. The actual religious ceremony consists of a mounted cavalier riding up to the chapel door and making a sort of salute or obeisance three times from the saddle without putting foot to the ground, after which he deposits on the altar a packet of horse-hair, or even the tail of a horse.

In the Forest of Landerneau, six kilometres southwest, is the Château of “La Joyeuse Garde,” celebrated in the romance of the chivalry of King Arthur’s time, wherein King Arthur, Lancelot of the Lake, and Tristan of Lyonnesse played so great a part.

Landivisiau, on the main railway line from Paris to Brest, has a remarkable church under the protection of St. Turiaff,—which in Breton is Tivisian,—who was Archbishop of Dol in the eighth century.

This fine church is a sixteenth-century work, and exhibits all the notes of the early period of the Renaissance, but, in spite of this, the richness of its portal, its bell-tower, its fine spire, and its nave and choir rebuilt in the best of late Gothic, make it a building to be remarked among the churches of Brittany, which, as a rule, have not the ornateness and luxuriance of ornament of those of Normandy and other parts of France.

The cemetery of Landivisiau has a remarkable ossuary, supported by most fantastic shapes, among them a skeleton armed with two arrows, a woman in an unmistakably Spanish costume, and a most diabolical Satan.

The fair-day at Landivisiau is the great celebration of these parts. It is not so ambitious as many of those held elsewhere, but it will give the visitor the opportunity of making an intimate acquaintance with the Bas Bretons in a manner not possible in the larger towns.

The dress of the people is peculiar, with the great baggy trousers of the men, the coifs of the women, and the general display and love of the finery of bright colours which seem inherent with a people living upon the seacoast.

In general, their features are heavy and their expression more or less sullen, although this does not often indicate bad temper. Unquestionably their carriage indicates hard labour, and the furrows and ridges of their countenances come only from continuous contact with the open air. Still, their bodies are stout and broad, and men and women alike have none of the softness and languor of the southern provinces, albeit the Armorican climate is mild throughout the year.

Calvary, Plougastel

Calvary, Plougastel

Opposite Brest, just across the estuary of the Elorn, is Plougastel, famous for its melons and its green peas, and, above all, for its picturesque calvary.

The whole peninsula of Plougastel-Daoulas is a vast market-garden for Brest, and, for that matter, for the hotels at Paris. The verdure and vegetable growth is in striking contrast to the barren fringe of rocky coast-line, and therein lies one of the charms of the whole aspect of nature as it is seen here.

Nothing in Brittany is more picturesque than the little villages of Kerérault, Roc’hquérezen, Roc’huivlen, and Roc’hquillion. This is a commonplace perhaps to those who know the region well, but it will not be to strangers, and so it is reiterated here.

The Chapel St. John of Plougastel is perhaps two kilometres away. It is here, on the twenty-fourth of June of each year, that its pardon brings so great a throng of visitors that they really have to bring their eatables with them or starve, thus making a fast-day of a feast.

In the cemetery is that great calvary which has so often been pictured, the most considerable work of its kind in existence.

It was erected 1602-04, in memory of a plague which fell upon the land in 1598.

In recent times it has been restored. On the front is an altar ornamented with statues of St. Sebastien, St. Pierre, and St. Roch. The frieze shows a multitude of bas-reliefs, illustrating the life of Jesus, and the risers of the steps are a series of quaintly carved little people, over two hundred in number. On the plinth is a risen Christ and a tablet bearing the date of erection of the work. It is a marvellous expression of religious devotion, and far surpasses other wayside shrines in Brittany, and indeed in all the world.

The inhabitants of Plougastel have preserved their ancient costumes with little or no modern interpolation. Particularly is this to be noted among the young girls, on a Sunday, as they come from the mass, and also on the fifteenth of August, when there is a great religious procession. The “Pardon of Plougastel” is known also as the “Birds’ Pardon,” for a great bird fair is opened St. John’s Day.

On the same side of the Goulet of Brest, that narrow inlet which is the entrance from the sea to the bay, is Le Conquet. It sits at the very tip of Finistère, just above the Pte. St. Mathieu, and its great lighthouse, which, with a thirty-second eclipse, sends its rays some twenty miles out to sea.

Le Conquet has but fifteen hundred inhabitants, and its isolated population apparently has not many friends, else the place would be filled to overflowing in the summer months, which it is not. Its two hotels, St. Barbara and Hôtel de Bretagne, are all that could be expected, and more, hence the paucity of visitors to this charming bit of “land’s end” is the more remarkable.

Anciently Le Conquet was a strong fortified place, and it underwent a great number of sieges, and was burned by the English in 1558. Eight houses alone of the present habitations of the town survived the flames.

The port is frequented only by the fishing-smacks, which land vast quantities of lobsters and shrimps.

There is also an ancient pottery here, the most ancient in all Finistère. Its pots and pans are found in all the homesteads hereabouts, and such tourists from all parts as actually do come here carry numberless specimens away with them.

The modern church, after the ogival manner, is far more satisfactory than most modern ecclesiastical monuments. There is a fifteenth-century portal, however, and some contemporary statues, which save it from being wholly a modern work.

The coast-line round about is the rough, abrupt ending of the Léon plateau, jagged and deeply serrated like the jaws of a shark, as the native tells one with respect to about all of the Breton coast-line. Fine beaches do exist here and there, but in the main it is a stern and rock-bound shore that buffets the Atlantic’s waves in Finistère.

Three times a week one can make the journey by steamboat to Ouessant, which English sailor-folk—those who go down to the sea in great liners—know as Ushant. The Île Molène and the Île Ouessant are the principal members of the group, and are even more stern and rock-bound than the mainland.

“Very little comfort on the boat,” you will be told at the port-office, where you make inquiry as to the hour of departure. Any but good sailors and true vagabond travellers had best leave the journey out of their itinerary, although it has unique interest.

There are numerous isles and islets to pass on the way, and the Chaussée des Pierres Noires is a roughly strewn ledge which breathes danger in the very spray continually flying over it. Molène is a kilometre long and rather more than half as wide. If ever the population of a sea-girt isle had to take in one another’s washing in order to make a living, this is the place, for nearly six hundred men, women, and children make their habitation upon the isle.

Needless to say there are some things of the twentieth-century civilization of which they know not, such as automobiles, tram-cars, or locomotives. There is not even a donkey engine on the island, and there are no bicycles or perambulators, hence there is something for which to be thankful. Considerable quantities of vegetables are exported, the population living apparently on fish, and the “farms” are divided into plots so small as to be almost infinitesimal.

The island is sadly remembered for the part it played in the wreck of the great South African liner, the Drummond Castle, in recent years. The inhabitants of the isle, poor in this world’s goods though they were, did much to succour the survivors, an act which is writ large in the history of life-saving.

The isle of Ouessant itself has nearly three thousand population, and boasts a market and a hotel, besides numerous hamlets or suburbs. The isle is eight kilometres long, and perhaps three and a half wide, and is known to the government authorities both as a canton and as a commune.

Pliny knew of this rock-bound isle, the foremost outpost of France, and called it Uxantos, though it was known to the ancient Bretons as Enez Heussa. Practically, the island is a table-land with an abundance of pure water, and the soil very productive so far as new potatoes and an early crop of barley go. The cultivation is mostly in the hands of the women, the men being nearly all engaged in the fisheries, or as sailors. Ouessant is a little land of windmills, though in no way does it resemble Holland. For the most part, they are sturdy stone buildings, and work but lazily, many of them being dismantled, as if there were not enough for them to do. Some years ago a fort was erected here, and a garrison of colonial troops billeted upon the island. It is a sad job at best to be a soldier in a colonial outpost such as this, and whether the observation is just or not, it is made, nevertheless, that the appearance of the garrison of Ouessant is as though it were made up, literally, of the scum of the earth.

As for history, the Île d’Ouessant is by no means entirely lacking. It was evangelized in the sixth century by St. Pol Aurelian, who built a chapel here at a spot known as Portz Pol.

In 1388, the English ravaged the island, and the former seigniory was made a marquisate in 1597, in favour of Réné de Rieux, the governor of Brest, whose descendants sold their birthright to the king in 1764.

The glorious battle of Ouessant—at least, the French call it “la glorieuse bataille,” and so it really was—took place in 1778 in the neighbouring waters between a French fleet under the Comte d’Orvilliers and the English Admiral Keppel.

As may be supposed, these far-jutting, rocky islands have been the scene of many shipwrecks. There is a proverb known to mariners which classes these Breton isles as follows:

“Who sights Belle Île sights his refuge,
Who sights Île Groix sights joy,
Who sights Ouessant sights blood.”

When a sailorman of Ouessant is lost at sea, his parents or friends bring to his former dwelling a little cross of wood, which serves the purpose of a corpse, and the clergy officiate over it, and his friends weep over it as if it were his true body.

Finally a procession forms, and, with much solemnity, this little cross of wood, after having been placed in a casket, is deposited at the foot of a statue of St. Pol, a sad and glorious symbol of grief and also of hope.

The women of Ouessant, whether in mourning or not—and they mostly are in mourning—wear a costume of black cloth, cut their hair short and wear a square sort of cap. For the most part, the inhabitants—all those, in fact, who are natives, and there are but few mainlanders here—speak only Breton.

The Lighthouse de Créac’h, a white and black painted tower, with a magnificent light flashing its rays twenty-four miles out at sea, is a monument to the parental French government, which neglects nothing in the way of guarding its coasts by modern search-lights, quite the best of their kind in all the known world. There is another light here known as the Stiff Lighthouse, which carries eighteen miles.

Near the lighthouse is the tiny chapel of Our Lady of Farewells, a place of pilgrimage on the day of the local pardon (1st September).

On the mainland, just north of Brest and Le Conquet, on the way to the Channel, is St. Rénan, the site of an ancient hermitage founded by an anchorite who came from Ireland some time in the eighth century. There are many quaint sixteenth-century houses here, and a large market-house of the spectacular order.

Lighthouse of Créac’h, Ouessant

Lighthouse of Créac’h, Ouessant

Ploudalmézeau is an important town of Lower Léon with a Hôtel Bretagne—as might be expected—also most excellent—also as might be expected—except for its sanitary conveniences, which, to say nothing of not being up to date, are practically non-existent. It is very disconcerting of a rainy autumn morning to have to go down to the back yard puits—as a pump or well is variously known—in order to perform one’s ablutions.

The comparatively modern church is far more magnificent than one would expect to find in so small a town. It contains a curious statue of the Virgin with a Breton coif, and also a fine modern fresco by Yan d’Argent. A thirteenth-century sculptured cross is to be seen in the churchyard.

Folgoët has an important local fair, and is celebrated throughout all Brittany for the pilgrimage to its magnificent shrine of Our Lady of Folgoët, one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical monuments of the province.

Toward the middle of the fourteenth century there lived in the neighbouring forest a poor idiot named Salaun, better known as the forest fool; in Breton, Folgoët. After his death, there appeared written on the leaves of a great white lily, in letters of gold, the admonition to the people to build a great church here to the glory of Our Lady, and this was begun in 1409, and consecrated in 1419; it became a collegiate church in 1423. It has neither transepts nor apse, but is in every other particular a remarkably beautiful work. There are many interior furnishings of great value.

Folgoët is at its best on the great day of the pardon, on the eighth of September.

St. Pol de Léon, Roscoff, and Morlaix call the hurried tourist off to the northward, though why a tourist ever should be hurried is something the true vagabond never can understand.

Roscoff has much to endear it to any one. It has not the loneliness or even the quaintness of some of the daintily set seacoast towns of the South, but its unique attractions are so many and varied that one loves it for itself alone, quite as much as if it were a celebrated artists’ sketching-ground, and far more than one would were it a really “popular” resort.

First of all, it is celebrated for its early vegetables, due principally to the excellence of its soil, and secondly to the mildness of its climate.

Because of its temperate climate, Roscoff might be called the Mentone of the North, though it is not yet overrun by invalids and bath-chairs. Summer and winter, it is a watering-place, with fir-trees replacing the palms of the South. The visitor should remark the enormous fig-tree in the Capuchins’ enclosure, the grounds of an ancient convent (1621), which is now private property, and costs the sum of twenty-five centimes to see.

The Church of Our Lady of Croaz-Baz, with its fine domed tower dating from 1550, is one of the chief ecclesiastical monuments of Brittany.



Among the many quaint and curious houses of the town is one known as the house of Mary Stuart. In its interior court are seven arcades supported by columns, quite like a convent cloister, a disposition of parts which must be purely local, as other examples are to be seen elsewhere in the town. Another memory of the Scottish queen, whose last, long, sad adieu to France is one of the links that never breaks, is the Chapel of St. Ninian, built in 1548 as a souvenir of her landing when she first came to France as the betrothed of the Dauphin. It is a most romantically disposed structure, though with no architectural details of worth except a small turret at an angle jutting over the lapping waves.

Roscoff has a Chapel des Adieux, where the wives and mothers of the fishermen go to pray as the men embark for the fishing.

Offshore, a quarter-hour distant by boat, is the Isle of Batz, separated from Roscoff only by a narrow strait, with a current so swift that the passage is only possible in the best of weather. It does not look so very perilous an undertaking at other times, but the Roscoff sailorman certainly does know how to handle a boat, and when he says “No,” it’s best not to attempt to persuade him to the contrary. He will not mind a wetting himself,—if you pay him a fair price for the undertaking,—but he will probably want, and be entitled to, a good, fat fee for rescuing his passenger from drowning.

The Isle of Batz, like most places in Brittany, has its own legend. It is to the effect that St. Pol, coming in 530 from Britain to this low, gray, melancholy islet, met a dragon, which, having ravaged the neighbouring mainland country, had fled hither in order to escape the fury of the peasant-folk.

St. Pol, as became one who had the interests of his fellow men at heart, forthwith killed the monster, and conveyed the news to the people awaiting his return by rapping on the ground with his baton (batz).

The rise and fall of the tide at the Isle of Batz shows remarkable fluctuations, ten metres, something more than thirty feet, being noted between high and low water.

Its coast-line has great banks of sand, a delight to the bather in salt water, but the rock formations are by no means so remarkable as those on most of the Breton isles. The soil is arid and there is not much luxuriant vegetation. There is a population of over twelve hundred souls, but few apparently have any ambition to migrate to the mainland, scarce a rifle-shot distant. In the island church is preserved the stole of St. Pol, of Byzantine silk. If genuine, it has attained a greater age than most confections of its class. An ancient Roman chapel or temple existed here in former times, and was succeeded by a monastery founded by St. Pol, now in ruins and mostly buried in the sands.

St. Pol’s renown became such that a Breton king made him Archbishop of Léon, giving him special care and control of the city bearing his name. These rights came down to the holy man’s successors, and the place became more religious than politic, as one reads in the old-time chronicles. The riches which had been acquired attracted the Normans, who devastated the cathedral church in 875. In the fourteenth century, Duguesclin occupied the town in the name of Charles V. The religious wars of the sixteenth century diminished the prosperity of the town, and a bloody submission was forced upon the Revolutionary rebels here in 1793.

St. Pol is somewhat doubtfully claimed as the native place of the celebrated sixteenth-century sculptor, Michel Colomb (1512).

The Chapel of Creizker or Creis-ker, with its astonishing bell-tower piercing the sky at a height of nearly 250 feet, owes its origin to a young girl of Léon, whom St. Kirec, Archdeacon of Léon in the sixth century, had cured of paralysis. The present structure is, of course, more modern. Albert le Grand fixes the date in the fourteenth century, and this is probably correct. There are innumerable evidences of the best of Gothic workmen, and there is much decorative embellishment which, though not according to the accepted Gothic forms, is certainly not Renaissance.

The ancient cathedral merits rank with the Chapel of Creizker, and is perhaps even a more consistent piece of work, though it represents three distinct epochs. The two towers are considerably less in height than that of the Creizker, but they are beautifully spired. The interior contains innumerable decorative accessories, making it rank with those cathedrals of France making up that third series, of which Nantes, Coutances, Narbonne, and Angers are the best examples.

In the choir is the tomb of St. Pol, and his skull, an arm bone, and a finger are encased in a little coffer for the veneration of the devout.

There is a series of sixty-nine delicately sculptured choir-stalls dating from 1512, and, although not rivalling such great works of their kind as one sees at their best at Amiens, Albi, or Rodez, they are sufficiently elaborate to deserve attention.

Innumerable tombs are set about the choir, many of them curiously and characteristically sculptured.

There is also a tiny bell which passes for having belonged to St. Pol. On the days of pardon the notes of this ancient bell still ring out over the heads of the faithful, who believe that they will cure any malady of the head or hearing.


In one of the chapels of the Cathedral of St. Pol de Léon is an ancient painting. It depicts a head with three visages, with the legend in Gothic-Breton characters, “Ma Douez” (Mon Dieu). It represents, of course, the Trinity, but, like many religious symbols, is more grotesque than devout.

Morlaix, the ancient Mons Relaxus of Roman times, is the metropolis of the northwestern Breton coast. It achieved no great importance, until it came under the sway of the Breton dukes, and became one of their principal residences. The inhabitants of Morlaix declared for the League in the period of the religious wars, and the castle was besieged and carried by the troops of the king under Marshal d’Aumont, in 1594.

Being at the head of the great bay of Morlaix, or, rather, just above it, at the juncture of the rivers Jarlot and Quefflent, the city enjoys a novel situation, and contains many curious contrasting effects of the old and new order of things.

The Viaduct of Morlaix, by which the railway traverses the town, is really an imposing sight, and is reckoned as the chief of its class in all France. The natives show an astonishing vagueness or ignorance with regard thereto. You will be told that it was the work of the Romans,—“very ancient, look you,”—and again that it was one of the works of the indefatigable Vauban, who must really have worked in his sleep, or through understudies, if all the works attributed to him throughout France be genuine. Vauban must have been to France what Michelangelo was to the universe,—according to the genial, though skeptical, Mark Twain.

The Church of St. Martin in the Fields is the chief ecclesiastical monument of Morlaix, in point of antiquity at least, as it dates from the ancient priory foundation of 1128, by Hervé, Count of Léon.

The Church of St. Melaine originated also in the fifteenth-century priory of the same name, founded by Guyormarc’h de Léon.

The local museum, which is an unusually splendid establishment for a town the size of Morlaix, possesses a collection of modern paintings, including a great number of Breton scenes, forming a wonderfully interesting exposition of Breton manners and customs.

There are innumerable old houses in wood and stone here, and they put Morlaix in the rank with Lisieux, in Normandy, for its picturesque and tumble-down effects of the domestic architecture of other days.

One of the finest examples of a great house of its time is that called Pouliguen, which has a fine carved wood staircase that no one can afford to miss seeing.

Carved Wood Staircase, Morlaix

Carved Wood Staircase, Morlaix

The harbour of Morlaix opens out widely into the channel, and is commanded by the Château du Taureau, in reality a granite fortress, one of the military defences of the north coast. St. Jean du Doigt and the Point of Primel lie some twenty kilometres north of Morlaix, directly on the coast. The former is the scene of one of the most picturesque of pardons and is celebrated throughout Brittany.

Procession of Sailors, St. Jean du Doigt

Procession of Sailors, St. Jean du Doigt

Its name comes from its church (1440-1513), in which the index finger of the right hand of St. John the Baptist is kept. The churchyard has a fine Gothic entrance gateway and a funeral chapel of the sixteenth century. Within the same enclosure is also an elaborate fountain surrounded by a Renaissance construction of much beauty. It was planned by Anne of Brittany, who brought an artist from Italy to design the work. The Pardon of St. Jean du Doigt takes place on the twenty-fourth of June of each year. Decidedly it is not to be omitted from one’s itinerary, if it be possible to include it.

It is one of the strangest survivals of the belief in an ancient holy relique yet existing in France, and annually attracts great hordes of the devout from all parts of Brittany and France, to say nothing of strangers from oversea.

A good motor-car is indispensable to enable one to flee from the throng after it is all over, for the railway lies at least a dozen miles away, and local conveyances are scarce, poor, and expensive.



THE north coast of Brittany, the present-day Department of the Côtes du Nord, is the great stretch of coast-line between Morlaix on the west to the Bay of Mont St. Michel at Dol. Its large towns are few in number, but the whole region is unusually prolific in the memory of deeds of a historic past, and accordingly it has become the favourite touring-ground of a great number of French and English summer visitors who, it is regretfully stated, have become responsible for a good deal of the claptrap and many of the catchpenny devices.

It is possible to avoid casinos, tea-rooms, and golf-links, but they are more abundant here in the neighbourhood of Dinan, St. Malo, and Dinard than in most other parts of Continental Europe. This is a pity, for the region is one of the most delightfully picturesque anywhere, although there is little of the grandeur of desolation about it.

A great national road runs northwesterly from Guingamp to Lannion and Tréguier, two outposts of the Côtes du Nord so far off the beaten track that they are not as yet overrun with the conventional tourists. There is little at either place to amuse one, except the local manners and customs, but they are quaint and interesting beyond belief, and the wonderful combinations of sea and sky, which will make the artist’s heart leap for joy.

Lannion boasts of six thousand inhabitants, most of whom play at bowls on Sunday or a feast-day, and other days engage in the sundry humble pursuits of the usual Breton large town.

The name Lannion first appeared in the twelfth century, when the seigniory of Lannion formed a part of the domain of the house of Penthièvre, which was united with that of Brittany in 1199.

There are three quaint and charming hotels at Lannion, at any of which you will get the best of local fare at prices ranging from 120 to 220 francs per month—all found. One will not go wrong at any of them, and one does not differ greatly from another, in spite of the difference in price. There is an abundance of what is commonly known as good cheer, by which is really meant good fare, and there are comfortable beds, a sound roof over one’s head, and genial hosts, of course.

This estimable person is literally everywhere at once, showing the guests to their rooms, presiding at the table, or, at least, at the serving of it, and generally overseeing everything that goes on.

Allons, messieurs, à table,” is called, in a melodious voice, instead of the ringing of the usual brain-racking bell, and one by one travelling salesmen, the permanent guests, and the mere tourists seat themselves at the long table, which literally groans—like those in the historical novels—with the best of country cookery. There is nothing Parisian about it; there are no ices, no forced fruit, and no savoury messes with mushrooms and truffles, but there is the abundant and excellent local fare of sea food, hung mutton, new potatoes and asparagus, and little wood strawberries in heaps, and that delightful golden cider, which, if it be not an improvement on the Norman variety, is just as good, and a delightful summer drink.

The fine location of Lannion, on the right bank of the estuary of the little river Leguer, accounts for much of the local charm, and the habit that the population has of grouping itself picturesquely about the quay-side—without the least provocation—accounts for a good deal more.

There are many old houses in the town, and other more pretentious architectural monuments, offering enough variety to the artist or lover of architecture to occupy him a long time.

The port is a harbour of refuge, of which there are not many on the north coast of Brittany, and the traffic in salmon and sardines is considerable, though not rivalling in bulk that of the greater ports in the southwest.

Tréguier has much the same attractions as Lannion, though its population is but half as large. Its origin was some huts which anciently grouped themselves around the monastery of Trecar, founded by St. Tugdal in the sixth century. It has an imposing cathedral, a really great religious edifice, and one which for the beauty of its parts is scarcely excelled by that of Quimper itself.

The history of Tréguier was very lively, from the time of the Norman invasion of Brittany down through the troublous days of the Revolution.

The men of Tréguier, one learns from history, accepted the law of the “rights of man” but coldly, and indeed M. le Mintier, Bishop of Tréguier, was one of those churchmen barred from the National Assembly by the manifesto. He fled to Jersey.


Tréguier is the native place of Ernest Renan (1823-92), and his quaint, timbered house may well be considered a literary shrine of the very first rank.

House of Ernest Renan, Tréguier

House of Ernest Renan, Tréguier

Convents, where women may find a quiet refuge away from the world, are not so numerous as they once were in France. “Boarding-houses kept for unprotected women by nuns, with a supposed Christian devotion and a profound appreciation of ready money,” was the way in which an English writer once spoke of them, and it was most unfair. Certainly, the writer of those lines never knew—and she professed to know France—the Convent of the Cross at Tréguier, where women can live in quiet seclusion, “all found,” for a matter of seventy-five francs a month. To those interested, the above may be worth investigation.

Not far off is the Manor of Kermartin, where, in 1255, St. Yves, the patron saint of advocates, was born.

On the nineteenth of May a procession sets out from the Tréguier cathedral for this shrine, to render homage to the patron of the men of law. On the eve of the nineteenth all mendicants and vagabonds presenting themselves at the manor are fed and lodged, which makes the perpetuation of the ceremony one of real benefit to humanity, though its endurance is brief.

St. Yves is the only canonized Breton saint. He was born on the seventh of October, 1253, and accompanied Peter of Dreux, reigning duke, to the seventh crusade.

In the Breton tongue his praises are sung as follows:

“N’hen eus ket en Breiz, n’hen eus ket unan,
N’hen eus ket eur Zant evel Sant Erwan.”

This in French comes to the following:

“Il n’y a pas en Bretagne, il n’y en a pas un,
Il n’y a pas un Saint comme St. Yves.”

The last will and testament of St. Yves is preserved in the sacristy of the Church de Minihy, and also his breviary. His tomb is in the cemetery, surmounted by an arcade through which the faithful pass, crawling upon their knees when they seek his aid.

Shrine of St. Yves, Tréguier

Shrine of St. Yves, Tréguier

Not many travellers in France have ever even heard of Seven Isles, situated five kilometres or more off the coast near Tréguier. The corsairs of Jersey and Guernsey took refuge upon this little archipelago in the olden time, and long maintained a form of government quite of their own making, and even erected fortifications, of which that on the Île aux Moines has still some suggestion of strength.

Usually quite deserted, there are two seasons of the year when the isles take on a population of residents from the mainland entirely out of keeping with their size and number: in February for seaweed gathering, and from June to September for the gathering of sea-mosses, or jargot, as the natives call it. One who would experience something out of the ordinary could not do better than make this little excursion. The passage from the mainland does not look so very terrible to the stranger, but not even the hardy fishermen will attempt it if the sky is the least threatening. He says simply, “Only go out in very fine weather,” and sits tight and prays and whistles for that same fine weather, though he evidently does not expect it to come very soon, for with every bit of fleecy cloud that crosses his vision, he exclaims: “Big storm soon!”

Paimpol is situated at the head of a well-sheltered bay on the banks of an infinitesimal little river known as Quinic. There is nothing to mark Paimpol as a tourist resort, and accordingly it is almost an ideal resting-place for one wearied with the onrush of the world. It is not even a bathing-place, as it well might be. Its long Rue de l’Église is its principal thoroughfare, and through it all the small traffic of the town circulates at a most sedate pace.

The church dates from the thirteenth century, and is a lovely old structure with admirable Gothic pillars and arches in its nave, and a fine fourteenth-century rose window.

The port of Paimpol has a most interesting rise and fall of life, particularly at the season of the setting out and the return of the Iceland fishermen. In the trade in codfish caught off the Icelandic coasts, this place occupies the first rank, being the home port of those who fish in Icelandic waters, and all along the quays of the sad little town of Paimpol (sad, because there are so many widows there,—the lone partners of those who have lost their lives at sea) are to be seen the Iceland schooners. Everything in the town smacks of the memory of Iceland: the schooners, the ex-votos in the churches, the widows, the sturdy but gloomy fisherfolk themselves, and the stones in the churchyard. “The Iceland fog enshrouds everything,” the native tells you, but still the work goes on, and each year, with the coming of the spring days, the exodus begins, after a winter’s hard work at refurbishing and refitting of the little two-masters and three-masters of the fishers. It is here that one may hear that Breton sailor’s prayer, which is so devout and full of faith: “Mon Dieu protège nous, car la mer est si grand et nos bateaux si petits.

Cod, whale, mackerel, and herring are all marketable products to the nets of the Paimpolans.

The Isle of Bréhat is near Paimpol, lying just off the coast. If one seek to arrange a passage, thereto, he goes by public carriage, and not by boat, until he gets to the tip of the Pointe Arcouest, when he transfers himself and his luggage to a sailboat, and travels as one did before the age of steam.

The Isle of Bréhat is another of those rocky islets which dot the coast of Brittany, and look not only as if they were barren and uncultivated, but as if they were also uninhabited. All the same, their appearance from a distance is misleading. There are close upon a thousand inhabitants on the parent isle and the attendant flock of little islets sheltered under its wing. In the olden time, the island was a strong place of war, with batteries and fortifications against which the English, the Leaguers, and the Royalists tried their strength in turn.

The isle is what the sailor-folk roundabout call “a good port of refuge,” for there are divers little sheltered harbours to which ships of all classes can run from the storms of the open sea.

The principal town is known as Bréhat, and possesses a church dating from 1700, a tiny hotel, and an inn or two, mostly catering to local customers. If one would leave the mainland, and its questionable attractions of civilization behind, and live the simple life to the full, he can do it here to the most exquisite degree,—if he does not mind the sea-fogs of the winter.

Guingamp, lying inland in the rich valley of the Trieux, is the market-town of the arrondissement of the same name. It is of feudal origin, and was the ancient capital of the countship, later the duchy, of Penthièvre, and of the ancient Goëllo land.

Guingamp Castle is a great square building, flanked by four massive towers, of which one has been practically destroyed.

The Church of Our Lady of Good Help, of the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries, is a magnificent work of its era, with an elaborately furnished interior.


The Pardon of Bon Secours is Guingamp’s gayest event of all the year. In numbers, it is one of the largest in Brittany, and is held on the Saturday before the first Sunday in July. On this occasion the statue of Our Lady, within the porch of the church, is clad in a silken robe, and receives the pilgrims, who refresh themselves with water previously consecrated at its source. With the fall of the sun commences a continual round of national dances, inspired by the lonesome, sharp, shrill wail of the binious, played in much the same way as are the Scotch bagpipes, except that their music is even more shrill and heartrending—if possible. At nine o’clock the statue of the Virgin is brought to the public square, solemnly conveyed by an immense procession, and three great bonfires are lighted. At midnight a high mass terminates the celebration, and some of the pilgrims depart, and others remain for the banquet which invariably follows.

On the eighth of September, 1857, the Madonna of Guingamp received the crown of gold from the chapter of St. Peter’s at Rome, on behalf of the Pope, a distinction offered to images of the Virgin uniting the three traits of antiquity, popularity, and miracle-working.

“La Pompe,” or the Fontaine, in hammered lead, is one of the chief artistic curiosities of Guingamp. It is a remarkable work in every way, and dates from 1588, since which time it has only been repaired—not reconstructed. Its preservation is wonderful, and it is an embellishment of which even a greater town might well be proud.

Aside from the fragment of the castle, there are no mediæval gateways or walls to remind one of the military importance of the place in former days. A century and a quarter ago, a traveller wrote: “Enter Guingamp by gateways, towers, and battlements of the oldest military architecture, every part denoting antiquity, and in the best preservation.” All this, unhappily, has disappeared, and one has to go to Vitré and Fougères to see military architecture in Brittany.

Eastward from Guingamp toward St. Brieuc, one passes—the traveller by road or rail seldom stops—Chatelaudren. It is a conventional Breton small town, but it is a market-town, nevertheless. It has not much of interest for any one unless he be a keen observer of manners and customs, hence it is but a way station between the two larger towns.

St. Brieuc is a city, although it has no tram-cars to dodge and no restaurants or Hôtels Étrangers, which is a good thing for the native and the tourist alike.

In reality its half-dozen hotels rise to the distinction of being known as “establishments,” yet they have lost none of their local flavour. St. Brieuc is the metropolis where the summer visitors—Parisians all—of the beaches come to buy the little necessaries and luxuries which a mere watering-place fails to supply. Then, too, one who is rusticating, even in a delightful spot like Val André, lacks notably the inspiration coming from a more or less frequent contact with a large centre, and so he hies himself to a market-town, gets the fare of the country at a hotel for travelling salesmen, and has a bit of the transmitted gossip of the capital over a bock at the principal café; after this—voilà! the seaside again for a time.

This may not be the Anglo-Saxon way of treating a similar situation, but it is exactly after the French method.

St. Brieuc is the seat of a bishopric, suffragan of the metropolitan see of Brittany at Rennes. Its origin is due to a missionary who came with eight disciples at the end of the fifth century to evangelize Armorica. As a place of pilgrimage,—the tomb of St. Brieuc having become a shrine,—it soon began to draw throngs from all parts, and the importance of the city which grew up around the memory of the missionary was soon assured.

The cathedral of St. Brieuc was begun by St. William Pinchon before the middle of the thirteenth century, and was soon finished.

Its exterior presents the severe and austere, though beautiful, Gothic of its time, but the accessories of its interior arrangements show plainly the debasement of the later interpolations, although there are some really excellent details hidden away amid a profusion of mediocrities, notably the tomb of St. William, a fine Way of the Cross by a local sculptor, and a low, hanging gallery at the base of the choir, which is a remarkably beautiful and effective adjunct to a great church. The exterior is more impressive, though its two principal doorways have been badly restored or rebuilt at some time since the completion of the edifice. The great, gaunt, donjon-like towers are the chief features of beauty and distinction, and tell the story of the whole fabric in quite an unassailable manner.

At the town hall is a museum which has some good modern art works, including a fragment of Rodin’s Portes de l’Enfer and some notable paintings of Breton subjects.

In the Rue St. Jacques and the Rue Fardel are many old houses, one of the most notable being the hotel of the Dukes of Brittany, begun in 1572 by Yvon Collou. James II. of England lodged here when he came to St. Brieuc in 1689.

The carved and decorated fronts of these old wooden houses lend a quaintness and charm to the streets of St. Brieuc, in strong contrast to the modernity of its hotels and cafés. There is considerable and varied local industry at St. Brieuc, and this gives the city some importance as a manufacturing centre, but the chief events of its commercial life are the great fairs held in July and September, the latter founded in the fifteenth century by Marguerite of Clisson.

The environs of St. Brieuc are charmingly diversified, from the wide open stretches of farming country at the south to the wastes of rock and sand flanking the great Bay of St. Brieuc.

Le Légué is the port of St. Brieuc, and the coastwise traffic is considerable. The quays and docks, ship-houses and careening wharfs lend a novel and interesting aspect to a background of thickly wooded river-banks. The seaward entrance of the channel is protected by a fifth-class light. The port is the first in rank in the Côtes du Nord for the fitting out of the Newfoundland and Iceland fishing-boats.

The Tower of Cesson, three kilometres or more from St. Brieuc, is a simple circular tower, surrounded by a double protecting fosse cut perpendicularly into the rock. The walls are quite twelve feet in thickness on the lower of its four floors. It was built by Duke Jean IV. in 1395, and, after much strife and bloodshed, extending over two centuries, was laid in ruins by Henry IV. in 1598.

On the shores of the Bay of St. Brieuc are innumerable little beaches which are healthful breathing-spots for large numbers of Parisian folk, who come thither between June and September of each year.

These are not exactly riotous resorts of fashion, but still there are some evidences of the distractions of the world that make most of them appear as little parochial Parises. There are two spots on the western shore of the bay to which this does not apply, however, Etables and Binic.



Binic, a small fishing port of Brittany, has all the attractions of an unworldly seaside village, for it is not much more even to-day. After Binic, Etables, and after Etables, Binic. Each is much the same as the other. Binic has been a great-little port for the fitting out of ships for the Newfoundland fisheries ever since the beginning of the seventeenth century, and things go on in much the same way as of old, except that the master of the craft now has a megaphone and a patent log in his equipment, whereas formerly he went without these refinements of navigation. To the Newfoundland fishermen of Binic is due a special preparation of the codfish known as bénicasser, of which the dictionaries will tell one nothing, but which is simply a species of cured codfish.

The high altar of Binic church was bought with funds contributed as a result of the Sunday fishing on the Newfoundland banks. It can, therefore, be said to have a real reason for being, and, as it is an unusually ornate affair, one infers that the Sunday haul must be of goodly proportions.

From St. Brieuc eastward, until one actually comes within the confines of that delectable land known as the Emerald Coast,—the summer rival of that winter paradise, the Blue Coast,—is a verdant land of crops and cultures which would quite change the opinions of any who thought Brittany a sterile, rock-bound land, where nothing could grow but onions and new potatoes.

Lamballe is a sort of a faint shadow of St. Brieuc. It was founded in feudal times, and from 1134 to 1420 was the capital of the county of Penthièvre. As late as the eighteenth century, the oldest son of the Duc de Penthièvre bore the title of Prince of Lamballe.

The town is divided into the upper and lower towns. In the latter are found those old settlers of ducal times, the houses of wood and stone still standing to delight the eye of the artist and to arouse the wonder of the general tourist.

There is a fine Gothic Church of Our Lady, its foundations cut in the very rock itself, and bearing, from more than one point of view, the aspect of a fortified edifice, which has a battlemented roof that is nothing if not an indication that the church of Dol was a truly militant edifice. As the chapel of the old château, this church grew up from a foundation of St. William Pinchon, Bishop of St. Brieuc in 1220.

St. Martin’s is the church of an ancient priory belonging to the parent house of Marmoutier. It was founded in 1083 by Geoffrey I., Count of Lamballe. Its primitive nave shows a remarkable series of horseshoe arches, and in every way, not excepting the great sixteenth-century towers, St. Martin’s is quite the most interesting architectural monument of Lamballe.

North of Lamballe lies Val André. A charming watering-place much frequented by families, is the way the all-powerful Western Railway advertises this little seaside beach and its attractions, with the added few lines to the effect that there is a large hotel with a casino, regattas, nautical celebrations, concerts, etc., which are supposed to amuse the fastidious summer visitors.

It is all very delightful, particularly as the coast-line near by is charming of itself, but Val André, with all its attractions, has not half the charm of the little fishing port of Binic on the opposite shore of the Bay of St. Brieuc.



THE Emerald Coast is the passion chiefly of those who come to live during the three summer months of rustication, but the sister cities of St. Servan, Paramé and St. Malo, Dinard and Dinan, are lovely spots and attractive of themselves, were one forced to camp out on one of the barren, jagged rocks with which the coast hereabouts is strewn, instead of living at the Hotel of France and Chateaubriand, which encloses the ancient maison of Chateaubriand, at St. Malo. Starting thence, one explores the wonderful country round about, and nourishes himself and makes himself comfortable with all the modern refinements. This hotel is about the only modern thing in St. Malo, however, for, while highly interesting to the antiquary or to the student of architecture or of art, it is commonly thought to be a vile, dirty hole, with a few shops convenient for the inhabitants of the more aristocratic suburbs of Paramé and St. Servan.

St. Malo is a curious little city, with its ever apparent past not in the least disturbed by the steamboats and electric trams, which bring visitors to the base of its ancient fortifications and gateways. Among its chief reminders of the past are its proud château, redolent of the memory of the beautiful Duchess Anne, its fine cathedral, its quaint old houses and narrow streets, and its wonderful encircling ramparts.

Not only is St. Malo a city of the past, but it is above all, to-day, a resort, as that elastic term is known which covers any place where tourists congregate for pleasure.

Kiosks, coffee-rooms, and bathing-cabins have taken the place of whatever may have gone before, and to-day, truly, one may be as comfortably up to date—if there is any real comfort in being up to date—as if he were in Budapest, Paris, or San Francisco. St. Malo is considerably more than this; it is the actual, if not the geographical, centre of the whole Emerald Coast.

Ramparts of St. Malo

Ramparts of St. Malo

The praises of the Emerald Coast have been sung by many poets, and pictured by many painters. Jean Richepin, that rare vagabond, comes frequently for his inspiration to St. Jacut-de-la-Mer, and in his “Honest Folk” there are superb descriptions of this entrancing combination of sea and shore, which in all France is not elsewhere equalled, unless it be on the Riviera.

The Emerald Coast must indeed be the paradise for jaded literary workers, when work makes its inroads on their holiday, for it may enable them to accomplish as much as Ferdinand Brunetière admitted during a recent stay at Dinard-St. Énogat:

“What do I read?” said he. “These:

“1. The 240 pages which make up the Revue des deux Mondes every fortnight.

“2. The manuscripts which may become future pages of the Review, and even some which may not.

“3. Works which have not appeared in the Review, whose authors I may find it worth while to know and cultivate.

“4. Journals in which the Review is interested.

“5. The Official Journal, from which one may always pick up something.

“6. The other papers.

“7. Works submitted for the approval of the French Academy.

“8. Proof-sheets of my own works.

“9. The books necessary for the preparation of my discourses, lectures, and articles.”

The puzzle is what a man like M. Brunetière will find to do in the next world. Probably he will go about to all the celebrated writers to see what they thought of his criticisms in his dearly loved Review; and then perhaps he will regret, as Herbert Spencer is said to have regretted, that he had not gone fishing oftener.

The charms of St. Malo’s suburban social colony of Paramé, such as they are, though they differ greatly from the mere attractions of nature,—for which society folk really care for only as an accessory to their more futile pleasures,—are best set forth in the following stanzas of Jehan Valter:

“Quel est de Biarritz à Calais
Le seul bain de mer, qui jamais,
Faute de baigneurs, n’a chômé?
C’est Paramé!
“Où le soleil à l’horizon
Montre-t-il en chaque saison
Son disque toujours enflammé?
A Paramé!
“Où le froid est-il inconnu,
Où peut-on se promener nu
Sans avoir peur d’être enrhumé?
A Paramé!
“Le soir, on danse au Casino,
Non aux sons d’un mauvais piano,
Mais d’un orchestre renommé
A Paramé!
“Sur la plage on rêve d’amour,
La nuit aussi bien que le jour
Que de baigneuses ont aimé!
A Paramé!
“Est-ce l’air qui porte à la peau;
Est-ce le soleil, est-ce l’eau?
Chacun sort du bain ranimé
A Paramé!
“Et c’est un miracle constant,
Le plus chétif, en un instant,
Est en athlète transformé
A Paramé!
“Du reste, miracle plus fort,
Jamais personne ici n’est mort,
On ne connaît pas d’inhumé
A Paramé!
“A vous tous, gandins rabougris
Qui dépérissez à Paris,
Venez humer l’air embaumé
De Paramé!
“Vous ne le regretterez pas:
On y fait d’excellents repas,
Et le cidre est fort estimé
A Paramé!
“Donc, sur l’honneur, je vous le dis,
A défaut du vrai paradis,
Il n’est sur terre, en résumé,
Que Paramé!”

That is about the sort of round that one gets at Paramé, with motor-cars, golf, and bridge parties thrown in, but a wonderful aspect of nature to be seen at every turn, and it is perhaps small wonder that the little summer colony has now grown to huge proportions.

Americans should have a special interest in, and a fondness for, St. Malo, “the city of the corsairs.”

St. Malo is the chief town of the province of Jacques Cartier, the discoverer of Canada. “It is a city of great men and the chief place of the Breton middle class,” said the Abbé Jalobert in his curious work on St. Malo and St. Servan.

There is some truth in calling St. Malo the “corsair stronghold,” for it was the cradle of Mahé de la Bourdonnais, Duguay-Trouin, Surcouf, and their followers, all “sea-rovers” if they were not something more.

To-day St. Malo’s “sea-rovers” are the sailors of the Newfoundland fishing-fleet, the humble “terre-neuvas,” as they are known, who go in large numbers to fish for cod on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

“I’s sont partis de Saint-Malo,
I’s sont partis de Saint-Malo,
Tous ben portants, vaillants et biaux.
In’ troun’ dérin tra lonlaire!
In’ troun’ dérin’ tra lonla!”

sings Yann Nibor in his “Sea Songs and Stories.”

The city’s older reputation as the city of the corsairs gave quite a different interpretation, however:

“Si dans son aire, aujourd’hui tombe,
Elle ouit de rudes chansons!
Dont le souvenir donne au monde
Des frissons.
“La gothique flêche de pierre
De son clocher audacieux
S’élance comme un rapière
Vers les cieux.”

Duguay-Trouin is an almost mythical character, but many of his legendary exploits sound plausible. He took an English ship mounting forty guns when he owned to but sixteen years, and in a following campaign—practically on his own account it would seem—he captured two vessels of war and twelve merchant-ships from under the guns of a British squadron. This, at least, is the French version, and since all of us, in our agile days, love a daring hero,—even if he be a bloodthirsty one,—it seems a pity to probe the assertion too deeply.

Such a man as Duguay-Trouin was, of course, popular, and his sailors sang his praises in the street in lines which came to be taken up by the “stay-at-homes” and incorporated into a kind of folk-lore. Indeed, gentle mothers sang their infants to sleep with them, much as did old Mother Goose of the nursery rhymes:

“Monsieur Duguay t’envoyé
Un tambour de l’Achille
Pour demander à ces braves guerriers
S’ils veulent capituler.
“Les dames du château
S’sont mis à la fenêtre,
Monsieur Duguay apaisez vos canons,
Avec vous je composerez.”

Not always does the stranger to St. Malo hear exactly this offhand, but invariably he is met with a singsong of sailors’ chanteys which at once call up memories of seafarers of other days.

One enters St. Malo, whether by boat or train, through the city walls. The boat lands you directly under the frowning ramparts, and a worthy porter will take your portmanteau and carry it twenty steps to the door of your hotel, just within the gateway of the city—and charge you twenty sous for the job. “A franc, really,” the man with the brass badge tied on his right arm will reply to your query as to whether you have heard aright.

“Twenty cents for twenty steps is a little high,” says the hostess of your hotel, but it is the tariff from outside.

St. Malo is still a walled city, much as it was in the days when Francis I., in 1518, and Charles IX., in 1570, held court here.

Charles IX., his mother Catharine, and his sister Margaret spent a part of the month of May here in this city by the sea. The Malouins gave the court a spectacle of an imitation naval combat, in which a galleon was sunk; too realistically, one thinks, for its occupants were drowned.

At one time, it is said by the chronicles, St. Malo was guarded by fierce mastiffs, the descendants, it is to be presumed, of the Gallic dogs of war. These municipal watch-dogs were suppressed in 1770, because of their having bitten the “calves of gentlemen.” Presumably there was a complaint of some sort, but the only record of the incident is one in verse sung by Désaugiers as follows:

“Bon voyage,
  Cher du Mollet,
A Saint-Malo débarquez sans naufrage,
Et revenez si ce pays vous plait.”

The disappearance of the watch-dogs in 1770 made necessary the adoption of a new coat of arms for the town, when the blazoning of argent, a dog gules, gave way to a “portcullis surmounted by an ermine passant.”

One has heard before now the phrase, “I like St. Malo in spite of its smell,” and, in spite of the truth of it,—and there is a very apparent justification of the word,—the old city is one of the most lovable in all Brittany.

The House of Duguay-Trouin at St. Malo is one of its chief romantic shrines before which strangers are wont to linger. It is simply an old wooden-fronted house, sombre and austere in its upper stories, but resplendent in white paint below. A shoe-shop and a coffee-room occupy the lower floor, and if one would conjure up the days of the past, when pirates bold discussed their venturesome plans in the very same room, let him enter and drink his after-dinner coffee by the pale light of a guttering candle in this old abode of romance. There is nothing of luxury about it; in fact, most worshippers are content to bow before the shrine from without; but to awaken the liveliest emotions, one must really enter and see it from the inside.

House of Duguay-Trouin, St. Malo

House of Duguay-Trouin, St. Malo

St. Malo, besides its stock sights of romance and history situated within the city itself, has a literary shrine of the first rank in the island of Grand Bé just offshore. Here is the tomb of Chateaubriand, ambassador, minister, journalist, and author. One need not inscribe the dates and titles of his works here; it is enough to mention his name. Suffice to recall that, as a conclusion to his labours, he wrote the “Mémoires d’Outre-Tomb,” which, like the simple, rough-hewn cross which crowns the summit of Grand Bé, is a fitting monument to the genius of the man whose theories, it is to be feared, have now become somewhat out of date.

Chateaubriand’s verses on his native land give an ample proof of his love for her, and, moreover, so well express the regard which nearly every one has for the Emerald Coast, that it is certainly pardonable to quote them here:

“Combien j’ai douce souvenance
Du joli lieu de ma naissance!
Ma sœur, qu’ils étaient beaux, les jours
De France!
O mon pays, sois mes amours,
“Te souvient-il que notre mère,
Au foyer de notre chaumière,
Nous pressait sur son cœur joyeux,
Ma chère,
Et nous baisions ses blancs cheveux
Tous deux?
“Ma sœur, te souvient-il encore
Du château que baignait la Dore?
Et de cette tant vieille tour
Du Maure,
Ou l’airain sonnait le retour
Du jour?
“Te souvient-il du lac tranquille
Qu’effleurait l’hirondelle agile,
Du vent qui courbait le roseau
Et du soleil couchant sur l’eau,
Si beau?
“Oh! qui me rendra mon Hélène,
Et ma montagne et le grand chêne?
Leur souvenir fait tous les jours
Ma peine:
Mon pays sera mes amours

St. Servan, like St. Malo, is steeped in antiquity; practically they form one town, although separated by the narrow strait which forms an entrance to the outer harbour of St. Malo. St. Servan registers over a hundred St. Malo craft engaged in fishing and in the coast trade. As the ancient Gallo-Roman town of Alethum, St. Servan, from very early times an archbishopric, was ravaged by barbarians and by floods and had a varied career, but at last the steady growth of the comparatively modern St. Servan made it a prosperous town of perhaps twelve thousand souls.

The chief of St. Servan’s architectural monuments is the great Tower of Solidor, built far out upon the rocks at the mouth of the Rance. It was built in 1384 by Duke John IV., at the epoch when he was combating the pretensions of Josselin of Rohan, Bishop of St. Malo, for the sovereignty of the town.

It is a great triangular hold with a cylindrical tower at each corner. Within is a stone staircase winding spirally upward and giving access to various vaulted chambers. It could oppose no great strength to modern artillery, and even in the olden time could not have been very secure, could the besiegers but get to the base of its walls. At the same time, from its isolated position, it served admirably as an outpost which at least offered a superior vantage against an attacking force, and it is unlikely that it could have been taken except by siege or by the fall of the supporting city at its back.

Tower of Solidor, St. Servan

Tower of Solidor, St. Servan

The Chapel St. Peter of Aleth has built into its fabric some fragments of the ancient ninth and tenth century cathedral of the same name.

Plans of the Tower of Solidor

Plans of the Tower of Solidor

There are many remains of the old city walls, and St. Servan ranks with St. Malo as a vivid reminder of other days.

There is one popular sight of Brittany near St. Malo, which cannot be ignored,—the rock-carved tomb of St. Budoc. This holy man lived in the days when Celtic was a living tongue, and Irish, Scots, Welshmen, and Bretons, one and all, used the same speech.

Many a year has passed, and St. Budoc has been all but forgotten. Besides his religious fervour, the memory of which exists but vaguely, there is left as a reminder of his existence his tomb and a prophecy which has come down by word of mouth through the natives.

To-day there is a modern hermit who lives near the tomb of the saint, and carves a sort of symbolical prophecy in stone for his own amusement and the marvel of tourists.

It is rather a cheap sort of a shrine, and one that is wholly visionary so far as its real significance goes, but it is a very satisfying one to most who view it, like the “Blarney Stone” and St. Patrick’s grave, which are frauds of the first water.

One comes to Rothéneuf—a little Breton coast village—by road, tramway, or carriage from Paramé, if he comes at all. Here just beyond the village itself the cliffs are curiously carved into all manner of human shapes,—the work of the aforesaid hermit, who, although he be not a young man, certainly is not so old as to have carved all the stones which here exist; at least they look much older, though the stress of weather may account for that.

Evidently there is a devotion for St. Budoc, and belief in his prophecy of the downfall of France is one day or another to become true. The old monk or priest—for in reality this hermit of to-day is a churchman—is evidently the chief disciple of the cult, for he perpetuates his version of this long-lost legend in his modern carvings.

The text of this old prophecy was vague and visionary, but enough has come down to place definitely the fact that a Napoleon was to rise and fall in the beginning of the nineteenth century, and that the Church was to be parted from its children,—referring presumably to the Concordat of 1802.

No version of the prophecy exists in Celtic literature, but the monk Olivarius published, in Luxembourg in 1544, a version which was supposed to have been handed down from the old Celtic monk himself. Since that time contemporary literature has had various references thereto, the last apparently in 1904, when one appeared in Gaston Medy’s “Echo of the Marvellous.”

This last version, or promulgation, of the Celt’s prophecy carries us even into the future, 432 moons from the foundation of the present French republic, i. e. thirty-six years, which would be in 1906. “Woe to thee, great city,” is a phrase which is supposed to refer to the fall of Paris; whether as Rome fell, from an excess of glory, or into the hands of the invader, is not stated. At any rate, the event is to come to pass in the year of our Lord 1906, 432 moons from the beginning of the great Republique Française. Let all who will be mindful.

On the opposite bank of the Rance from St. Malo is Dinard-St. Énogat, occupying a magnificent site known in part as the Bec de la Valle. The country-houses of Dinard are famous, though they are built in that vague architectural style accepted the world over as being something appropriate to a species of residence less sumptuous than a palace or a château.

It is a pity that the word is not better understood by the people, and a pity, too, that most villas in France—and in England, for that matter—are abominable, queer chicken-coops, with names like Villa Napoli, Villa Saint Germain, Villa la Belle-Issue, Villa Belle-Rive, and Villa Bric-à-Brac. All these are found at Dinard, and more, and, as may be imagined, the summer life of this town of country-houses is in many respects as gay and bizarre as the architecture and names of the villas themselves.

The aspect of the waterside of the charming little place—for Dinard is charming, in spite of it all—belies these strictures somewhat, with the warm glow of the sinking sun gilding the roof-tops, as the emerald waters of the great bay ebb and flow beneath their feet.

Dinard has another and more interesting side in an admirable architectural monument,—the ruins of an ancient priory, founded in 1324 by Olivier and Geoffroy de Montfort. The fine Gothic chapel is now ruined and moss-grown, but there are still to be seen the tombs of the Chevaliers de Montfort, who were mighty chieftains in their day. Within the grounds also is a curious statue of the Virgin placed beneath the enormous fig-tree.

The beach is of course the great attraction of the summer resident, when he is not drinking cool drinks at the casino or eating at the café restaurant on the terrace.

St. Énogat, which is usually linked with the mention of Dinard by a hyphen, has much the same aspect as its partner,—villas, Swiss châlets, and cottages. St. Énogat bears the name of one of the first bishops of Aleth, and its proximity to the great cliffs fringing the coast, and the high rocks just offshore, make its location even more beautiful than that of Dinard itself. Westward of St. Énogat are St. Jacut, St. Cast, and Cap Fréhel, and nearer St. Lunaire and St. Briac.

All are very popular resorts during the summer months, and are attractive spots—or would be but that accommodation in all is limited, and what there is is sadly overcrowded for the three fine months of the year.

St. Lunaire has an ancient eleventh-century church, placing it somewhat on the plane of an artistic shrine. Practically, the edifice is abandoned to-day, but it contains the tomb of St. Lunaire, a work of the thirteenth or fourteenth century, made up of some fragmentary sculptures thought to have come from the primitive church.

St. Briac has much the same characteristics, though of itself it counts an all-the-year-round population of two thousand or more souls.

It owes its name to a Celtic hermit-saint, who came from Ireland in the early days of the evangelizing missions of the Irish monks, and has the ruined Château of Pontbriant for an attraction. It has not the misfortune to have become as fashionable as Dinard-St. Énogat, and is therefore the more enjoyable. Truly is it a delightful little corner of the world, where those who are town-weary may take their ease and ruminate on the futility of attempting to put order into the universe.

This whole region is a wonderful galaxy of natural beauties, to be discovered and appreciated only by oneself. They shall be nameless here that that pleasure may not be curtailed.

The route to Dinan from St. Malo by the tidal river Rance is one of those enjoyable journeys which impress the mind in an indelible fashion. It is a matter of twenty-four kilometres as the crow flies, and about the same by the water route of the fishes.

Dinan is a real mediæval town, with a wall or rampart something over a mile in length. It is a most interesting centre for the charming country round about, and is in itself a typical feudal relic of the days when cities were enclosed by walls and only entered through fortified gates.

Originally the thirteenth-century ramparts were defended by twenty-four towers, of which a dozen, perhaps, still remain. Three great gateways, the gates of Jerzual, of St. Malo, and St. Louis, still remain in all their fortified splendour; the fourth, the Porte de Brest, has been demolished.

The Valley of the Rance

The Valley of the Rance

The old streets of the mediæval city still exist, too, much in the same state as they were in mediæval times.

The porches or covered passages are a feature of many of the old-time houses, and are most quaint and artistic.

The church of St. Malo dates from 1490, and that of St. Sauveur from the twelfth to the fifteenth century. The chief historical figure of Dinan’s past was Bertrand Duguesclin, the young Breton noble who so distinguished himself in the fourteenth century on the side of France against the English.

Duguesclin, from his statue in the Abbey of St. Denis.

Duguesclin, from his statue in the Abbey of St. Denis.

He was born at Motte-Broons, near Dinan, toward 1320. “He had a sunburned face, with a snub nose, and green eyes, an awkward gait, and a rough and untractable nature,” one reads in the words of Simeon Luce; and from the existing portraits of him, all this is true.

He was a warrior, from his earliest days, of the most thoroughgoing type. He was the sort of small boy whom mothers find looking for trouble. He would lead on the village lads to fight, and, when victory had all but appeared, on one side or the other, he would throw himself into the breach to start the fight again, just like a wolf, after which he would lead both sides to a tavern to drink, and heal old sores.

On the ninth of July, 1812, the heart of the redoubtable Duguesclin was brought to Dinan and placed in the north transept of the Church of St. Sauveur amid an imposing assemblage.

The sarcophagus bears the following inscription, which shows that the warrior who really was responsible for the banishment of the English from France “ranked in company with kings,” as his French admirers put it.


The great clock-tower, a fine fifteenth-century building with a massive spire, is found in the Rue de l’Horloge. It was given to the town by Anne of Brittany in 1507.

The Château of Dinan was built by the Breton dukes (1382-87). Its history was varied and vivid, as one reads in the pages of M. Gaultier de Mottay.

Rez-de-Chausée of Donjon—DINAN

Oliver Clisson, Gilles of Brittany, Viscount Rohan, Duchess Anne, Laurent Hamon, and many others whose names are famous in the history of Brittany have walked through these halls, of which only the hold to-day remains as a tourist “sight.

The Tower of Coëtquen, one of the ancient towers of the city wall, forms practically a part of the old castle, but the keep, or the Queen Anne’s Tower, a hundred or more feet in height and of four stories,—the topmost reached by a spiral stairway of 148 steps,—is the most distinct feature still standing.

In the interior are a number of obscure cells which were, and indeed are still, terrible dungeons. The guard-room is on the second floor, with also a little room, which served as an oratory for the Duchess Anne. The third floor is occupied by the Constable’s Hall, and the fourth by a Hall of Arms, a fine vaulted apartment.

To-day the castle is a prison, and the rank and file of visitors may not enter this fine mediæval monument, but, if one have a proper appreciation of the architectural delights of a mediæval fortress, and be diplomatic in his request, very likely his wish to enter will be gratified.

One of the principal industries of Dinan is the fabrication of sail-cloth. It is an admirably placed industry, with its market close at hand, and most of the Breton and Norman fishing-boats of these parts sport a full suit of Dinan manufacture.

In the environs of Dinan are innumerable charming excursions mostly neglected. One such must surely be included in one’s itinerary,—a visit to the old Priory of Lehon, a dependency of the Abbey of Marmoutier.

It was founded in 850 by Nominoë, in honour of St. Magloire, whose relics were brought from the Isle of Jersey to Dinan. The ruins, as seen to-day, are most ample and beautiful, showing the best of thirteenth-century Gothic.

Besides this, Lehon has the picturesque ruins of a twelfth and thirteenth century castle perched high upon the summit of an eminence overlooking the headwaters of the Rance. The castle came to the hands of the Dukes of Brittany; Charles of Blois stayed there in 1356 after his return from England, and Raoul Coëtquen was made captain in 1402, since which time its history has been lost or hidden in the pages of the untranslated chroniclers.

In 1624 the priory monks robbed the castle for material with which to construct their beautiful cloister, but enough remains to-day, hidden away among a mass of ivy and lichen-grown ruins, to indicate its former prominence.

Altogether Lehon and its two romantic memories of other days is a “sight” not to be missed.

An old custom formerly prevailed here at Pentecost, when the newly married were supposed to present themselves before the prior of the monastery for a sort of last blessing, as it would seem.

They sang the following refrain, and went back to their home, or to the festival in the neighbouring village, with never a care beyond to-day:

“Si je suis mariée vous le savez bien;
Si je suis mal à l’aise vous n’en savez rien.
Ma chanson est dite, je ne vous dois plus rien.”

This seems a philosophical way of looking at things, and shows an easy conscience and open mind on the part of all concerned.

Seated upon the western shore of the great Bay of Mont St. Michel is Cancale, whence come the oysters. The six thousand inhabitants of this quaintly rock-environed place have a physiognomy so distinctly their own as to mark them for a type. Feyen-Perrin and his brother have painted the Cancale people in a manner never to be forgotten by those who are familiar with their work.

Anciently Cancale was known as Cancaven, and is a survival among neighbouring settlements which have succumbed to the encroachments of the ocean.

In 1032, it became a dependency of the Abbey of Mont St. Michel. In 1758, it was pillaged by the English under the Duke of Marlborough, and the English fleet again bombarded it in 1779.

La Houle is the real port of Cancale, and the centre for the oyster industry. At low tide the boats of the fishers are drawn up on the yellow sands, there to remain until the return of the tide. At low tide all the village comes from the town above and repairs to the oyster-beds. The general outgoing, which seems to the stranger the emigration of the whole population, has been described by a Frenchman as: “Un défile, interminable, bruyant, cadencé, le bruit des pas coupé de paroles et de rires.

This great outpouring continues until quite all the available help of the female persuasion has departed, leaving practically only the old and infirm to guard the houses and shops until the return of the tide.

Cancale is one of the most celebrated oyster-rearing districts of the world, but, if the tourist arrive there during the summer months which lack the “R,” he will eat not of them; the natives look upon it as downright crime even to think of serving them to you; the mussel will have to be your substitute. It is always in season, though it looks about as perishable in hot weather as the oyster, and probably is so. Tradition and superstition account for the upholding of many institutions in this world, and the oyster season appears to be one of them.

The celebrated Rocks of Cancale lie just below the town,—a black mass of rocks, about which the waves of the ocean fawn and growl like a parcel of wolves.

The Point of Grouin is simply an exaggeration of the same rocky formation as that of Cancale, and the same which unrolls itself all around the coast up to Cape Fréhel. To the west is the Bay of St. Malo, and to the east the Bay of Mont St. Michel.

Michelet wrote of this famous mount off the Breton coast as follows:

“The gigantic rock is an abbey, a cloister, a fortress, and a prison, with exquisite sublimity and true dignity. It rises like a titanic tower, rock upon rock, keep upon keep, and century upon century. Below the monks; higher the iron cage of Louis XI. (who, it seems, left these details rather numerously about his domain); higher yet the cell of Louis XIV.; higher yet the prison of to-day. All is in a whirlwind; Mont St. Michel is a very sepulchre of peace.”

Michelet’s was not wholly a cheerful view. He was rather a gloomy man, it would seem, but it is perhaps proper enough to record his views here, as most of us will praise this wonderful work to the limit of our imagination.

Really Mont St. Michel is not of Brittany. To-day the changing of the boundary westward to the little river Couesnon brings it just over the line into Normandy, though both ramblers in Normandy and ramblers in Brittany may properly enough include it in their itineraries, and should do so.

To such spirits as like that sort of thing, there is a way open to the landing, high up in the tower of the abbey, whence there is a wonderful view. Michelet wrote of it, on the occasion of a visit, that it was a place for fools; that he knew no spot more suitable to bring on an attack of vertigo.

Michelet’s description of the quicksands which surround the mount is distinctly good. The native will tell you that you must not venture upon them, but he himself does so, and nothing happens. In spite of this, let the visitor so much as leave the causeway a dozen yards—to focus his camera—and a half-dozen burly fellows will hurl themselves upon him and drag him back, declaring they have saved his life, which means that one ultimately pays them something; a franc each is about the price that they apparently consider a life worth. Sometimes some poor soul is engulfed, but it is a first-class scare in most instances. Michelet says of these quicksands (“cendre blanche”), “It is not land; it is not sea; I myself only just escaped being engulfed.”

As a sort of side-show to the wonderful Abbey of Mont St. Michel is the stern and barren Isle of Tombelaine.

It lies, also amid its own desert of sand or water, according to the state of the tide, about a mile, or perhaps a little more, to the north-east of the mount.

It is a simple islet of granite, uncultivated, and as wild as it always has been. It rises perhaps 125 feet above the sea-level, like a giant stepping-stone, between the mount and the neighbouring coast before Avranches in Normandy.

Its history is intimately bound with that of the mount itself, but to-day it has few, if any, visitors. It played a certain minor part in the war of the Hundred Years, when it served as a sturdy buttress for the English fleet.

From the tenth to the seventeenth century it was occupied by a religious colony from the abbey of the mount, and held a diminutive priory bearing the vocable of Our Lady la Gisant; “a gentle Madonna,” says an imaginative Frenchman, “standing beside the archangel with the sword.”

In the midst of the Marsh of Dol—the great Bay of Mont St. Michel—is a granite eminence some two hundred feet above the surrounding plain, at the summit of which is built the little village of Mont Dol. It is supposed to be the site of an ancient shrine consecrated to the druids.

Two kilometres from Mont Dol is the great menhir of Champ Dolent, a relic of the stone age which was pagan, but is to-day surmounted by a Christian cross, which seems paradoxical. It has no pretence to beauty or architectural grandeur, and is to be regarded only as a mysterious curiosity.

When one first comes to Dol in Brittany he is in a quandary. Which is it, city or village? The writer does not know even yet. It has all the quaintness and rustic picturesqueness of a mere hamlet, and again, in its station, its hotels, and its tree-lined boulevard, it takes on the aspect of a city. At any rate, if it belongs to the latter classification, it is somnolent, and accordingly delightful.

“Here, my good fellow, can you direct me to the Hôtel de la Poste,” one says to the first native he meets after leaving the station. “Certainly, my good man,” he replies in an equally patronizing tone, “I will take you there.” He declines all remuneration, of course, and will not be patronized in any way. Decidedly he is a most independent individual, but polite withal.

Stendhal, in his “Traveller’s Memories,” said of the great frowning cathedral of the episcopal city of Dol: “It is the most beautiful example of a Gothic edifice which I have seen.” It is not difficult to follow his reasoning, for the grim walls of its façade, in the simplest and severest style, are indeed magnificent examples of the undecorated Gothic of a very early period. Most folk, however, will not call it beautiful when Chartres, Rheims, Beauvais, or even Sées are in mind.

Dol, at any rate, forming the gateway to Brittany, from Normandy through the Cotentin, was a most important centre of Christianity in the sixth century.

The foundation of Dol dates from 548, when a colony of Britons coming from Ireland settled here under the leadership of St. Samson, from whom the present cathedral is named. This is but another of those links which bind the history of Brittany with that of the Celts from overseas. Legend continues the story thus: “Thou goest by the sea” (St. Samson was told), “and where thou wilt disembark, thou shalt find a well. Over this thou wilt build a church, and around it will group the houses forming the city, of which thou wilt be bishop.”

All this came to pass, and for long ages the town has been known as the episcopal city of Dol. William the Conqueror besieged Dol in 1075, but retired after forty days, having failed to sustain his attack. Henry II. of England invaded the city, and Jean Lackland fortified himself here in 1203, but it was retaken by Guy de Thouars in the year following.

Up to Revolutionary times the career of Dol was unceasingly riotous and bloody, but little evidences of a part so played remain visible to-day. All that reminds one of its antiquity is the charmingly severe and simply outlined Cathedral of St. Samson, and the numerous timbered houses with their street-front galleries, always a most interesting feature of a mediæval town.

Sixteen kilometres south of Dol is Combourg, not an important town in many ways, and yet very important, if one demands a sixteenth-century or earlier label on all he admires.

As a French visitor to Combourg has said, “La gare de Combourg is not Combourg; you have yet fifteen hundred metres to go.” This is not a great distance, but, as the town is so completely hidden from the railway, the sensation is that of alighting far from a centre of civilization.

The Château of Combourg is one of those indescribable picturesque fourteenth and fifteenth century structures which owe much to situation and environment. It has a picturesquely disposed market clustered about it, so that the cries of porkers and their venders mingle with the stately pealing of the bell of the great clock, which rings out not only the hour, but the “quarters” in a most sonorous note.

The costumes of both the men and women of the region around Combourg are exceedingly picturesque and novel; the men with blouse and jacket, and the women in black and the coifs of Becherel, Hédé, Tentêniac, and Miniac; all somewhat resembling one another, and that of Miniac looking more like a great white-winged bishop’s mitre than anything else.

Coif of Miniac

Coif of Miniac

More anciently Combourg Château was a feudal fortress, in an old building of which, now swallowed up in the surrounding structures, the infancy of René Chateaubriand was spent. There is also an old tower dating from 1016, built by Gingoneus, a bishop of Dol. The present château belongs to the Countess of Chateaubriand, and is visible to the curious public on Wednesday afternoons.

The hall, the library, which contains the writing-table of the author of the “Genius of Christianity,” and his bedroom, where is the little iron bed on which he died in Paris,—all go to make of this a literary shrine of prime importance.

The Château of Combourg has a legend, too, but since it concerns only the skeleton of a cat, which in life was supposed to be the reincarnation of a former Count of Combourg, it seems unworthy of repetition here.



IN general aspect a Breton country-side differs widely from those of Normandy. Here one comes upon hedgerows and an occasional bit of stone wall, quite as one sees them in England.

The towns and communities of Brittany are less numerous and less populous, too, than those of Normandy, and paving is uncommon in the towns, and were it not for the steep ascents and descents, by which one leaves such places as Mayenne, Fougères, Josselin, Auray, or Quimperlé, this would prove quite a blessing to the automobilist. As it is, while they give variety to one’s journey by road, they do not by any means permit of “plain sailing” at all times.

The great national road from Paris to Brest crosses mid-Brittany, after leaving Normandy, at Pré-en-Pail just beyond Alençon. It passes through the great towns of Mayenne, Fougères, and Rennes, where it joins the highway from Paris by way of Chartres, Le Mans, Laval, and Vitré.

From Rennes this road, No. 24, runs straight, almost as the crow flies, to the tip of Finistère, by Montfort-sur-Meu, Loudéac, Carhaix, Huelgoat, and Landerneau to Brest.

This takes one through the very heart of Brittany, though by no means is it the most interesting or the most prosperous. Mayenne, Fougères, Vitré, and Laval form a quartette of Breton towns which, taken as a whole, have characteristics quite similar, and yet different from those in other parts. Virtually, they are all hill-towns, and therein lies their resemblance, though their careers have been varied indeed.

The run down into the valley of the river Mayenne, as one comes into the town of the same name, is a wonderfully delightful and gentle descent of perhaps a dozen kilometres. There is nothing very terrific about it, nor is it of the frankly mountainous order, still the eminence to the eastward is sufficiently elevated to give a singularly spacious appearance to the landscape above the river valley itself; indeed, next to that magnificent run down into Rouen—from the height of Bon Secours—it is one of the most splendidly scenic roads in all North France.



At the bottom flows the Mayenne, joining the Loire at Angers, and on its banks is nestled snugly the town of Mayenne itself, with a truly delightful riverside hotel and church.

Just below it is the ancient castle built on a rocky escarpment overhanging the river. There are five great towers on the riverside, and three others on the north, of which one alone has preserved its conical roof. To-day it serves as a prison, but there are yet to be seen in its interior some fragments of the ornamentation of the thirteenth century. The terrace of the château forms a delightful promenade overlooking the river.

William the Conqueror besieged Geoffrey III. here in 1064, but the most celebrated siege which the château underwent was that by the Count of Salisbury in 1424.

The Hôtel de Ville is an admirable relic of other days, though by no means pretentious. It is a small, rectangular structure, its front ornamented with two enormous solar devices, and the whole surmounted by a graceful bell-tower. Behind the Hôtel de Ville stands a bronze statue of Cardinal Cheverus, first Bishop of Boston. The Church of Notre Dame is really a grand structure, with its fine showing of splayed buttresses. Its foundation dates from 1110, and it admirably exhibits the best traditions of its time.

Five kilometres away are the remains of the old Cistercian Abbey of Fontaine-Daniel, founded in 1204 by Juhel III. There are some remarkable fragments of its old foundation still remaining, but a large part of the present edifice is of the seventeenth century. From Mayenne to Fougères, still on the highroad to the west, one passes Ernée, whose name is not known to many travellers and which is not marked on every map, though it is a bustling town of five thousand inhabitants.

The origin of this place is due to the foundation of a château—on the site of the present quaint church—by the Lords of Mayenne, who were, in the sixteenth century, of the house of Lorraine.

Henri of Lorraine was killed by a musket-shot at the siege of Montaubon, and was brought here to die in 1654.

Some years later the Seigneury of Mayenne and Ernée passed to the hands of Cardinal Mazarin, who transmitted it to his niece, and gave the old château for transformation into the present church.

Javron, also on the way to Fougères, is a small town of two thousand inhabitants, and the former site of a monastery, founded by Clotaire for an anchorite named Constantin. The present church is built over the tomb of this saint.

The situation of Fougères is truly remarkable. It is, moreover, a remarkable place in itself, and is to be reckoned as one of these delightful spots to visit, which, if not exactly popular tourist resorts, are at least as satisfying to the curiously inclined.

Fougères in all ways is this, and more. It is almost the best example of a walled and fortified town of the middle ages existing in all North France. Its situation, on a great hill, with its tower-flanked walls and gates, is one of surpassing impressiveness, although to-day the general aspect of the little city of twenty thousand inhabitants is modern enough.

Fougères was one of the original nine baronies of Brittany, and owes its origin to a château which Méen, the son of Juhel Béranger, Count of Rennes, constructed at the beginning of the ninth century.

To-day the city walls, the remains of the château, and the gates and watch-towers are admirably preserved. The castle itself is nothing more than a vast ruin, whose entrance, formed by three towers, plainly shows it to date from the twelfth century.

Plan of the Ancient Walls and Towers of Fougères

Plan of the Ancient Walls and Towers of Fougères

There is a great tower yet remaining—one of a twin pair—known as the Tower of Coigny, from a former governor, and within this tower is an ancient chapel.

There are three other celebrated towers, well-nigh as perfect as they were in the middle ages as far as their general outlines are concerned. The keep was razed in 1630, but the inner wall which surrounded it, with its three angular towers, is still to be seen. The Tower of Melusine encloses a museum in which are many relics and curiosities of a period contemporary with the castle itself. The ramparts of the town are more or less ruinous, but are still to be seen throughout its whole circumference. No part of this feature, however, dates from before the fifteenth century.

There are two admirable churches,—relics of the middle ages,—St. Sulpice and St. Leonard, also the ancient convent of the Urbanists, dating from 1689, now barracks.

There are many fine old houses in wood and stone scattered about the city, and an octagonal tower, in which is a great clock whose bell was cast in 1304 by Rolland Chaussière.

North of the town is the Forest of Fougères, composed principally of great beeches. Within the forest are the ruins of an ancient convent of the Franciscans, and near the little hamlet of Landeau are the famous “Caverns of Landeau,” constructed, it is said, in 1173 by Raoul II. of Fougères, to hide his riches and those of his vassals from the rapacity of the troops of Henry II. of England.

Dropping down again to the main route from Paris, which joins with that by the way of Mayenne and Fougères at Rennes, one enters Laval, the first Breton town of any magnitude on this route, as one comes westward.

It is a veritable local metropolis, and, like Mayenne, farther up the river, it spreads itself amply on both sides of the stream which flows southward to join the Loire at Angers, just below the country.

The first Château of Laval was built by the Count Guidon or Guy to protect the Bretons from the invasion of Charlemagne or his successors. The second Guy received a charter from the Bishop of Mans, dated in the fifth year of the reign of King Robert (1002), and this designates him as the real founder of the Château of Laval. The town became the seat of a barony, afterward a county, of which the possessors were ever famous for their personal valour and their high lineage. Among them were the Montmorencys, the Montforts, and the Colignys.

When, in the fifteenth century, the English had become virtual masters of Maine, Laval alone resisted their efforts, thanks to the energy of a certain Anne of Laval.

The historical records of the town and the château are ample and eventful, even down to as late a day as 1871, when, after the battle of Mans, General Chanzy retreated upon Laval.

It was in the environs of Laval that the four ancient smugglers, the brothers Jean, François, Pierre, and René Cottereau, known as the Chouans (because of their owl signal, as the French give it), first rallied and organized the bands of partisans which gradually adopted the name.

The keep of the château is a great cylindrical tower of the twelfth century, remarkable for its height, its size, and the wonderful carpentry of its roof. The great interior court is bordered on two sides with a magnificent Renaissance structure attributed to Guy XVI., Count of Laval and Governor of Brittany in 1525. The chapel has now been given up to the prisoners sheltered within the castle. It is the masterpiece of the whole work, and dates from the eleventh century.

The Church of the Trinity, made a cathedral in 1855, was in 1790 the seat of the Assemblée, but in its most ancient parts dates from the episcopate of Hildebert of Lavardin (1110).

There are some remains of the town’s ancient fortifications yet to be seen, such as the Renaise Tower and the Spur Tower, which are in every way as suggestive of former importance as the remains of the castle itself. The Beucheresse Gate is another fragment of these same fortifications.

In Laval are ten thousand workmen engaged in the production of tent and awning cloth. Laval is a great wheat market for the prolific wheat-growing region round about, so its commercial importance of to-day is quite as firmly established as is its historic past.

Laval was the birthplace of Ambroise Paré, the founder of French surgery. It was he who drew the spear-head from the cheek of Balafré, and he who declared the malady of Francis I. to be incurable.

His statue bears the following inscription, “I dressed the wound, and God healed it.”

One cannot say too much in praise of Vitré, though it does smack of the popular tourist resort, with hotels whose runners tout for your patronage, and picture post-card sellers, who seem to think that you prefer their wares to viewing the sights themselves; but the hotels are amply endowed with those creature comforts that most of us value highly, and, if you wish, you will be put to sleep in a hygienic bedroom, which is something like a prison-cell, but which must truly be hygienic, judging from its get-up.

Beucheresse Gate, Laval

Beucheresse Gate, Laval

These rooms, installed by the “Touring Club of France,” are now to be found sprinkled here and there throughout the land, and, if white lacquered walls and ceilings and iron beds, and simple draperies and no carpets,—but highly waxed floors instead,—can ensure a superlative cleanliness and airiness, why, so much the more welcome they are; and surely the weary tourist ought not to mind whether he sleeps in a cubicle or not. Again, the fare of this particular hotel (the Travellers’) is so excellent that he ought to be willing to sleep on the proverbial plank.

Vitré, in spite of all novelty, is a true city of the past, and one literally walks the by-paths of history when he traverses its streets. All at once one comes to the ancient and theatrical-looking Château of the Tremoilles, Vitré’s most noble family of other days.

The town has undergone many sieges. Charles VIII. captured it, and in 1488 sojourned in it for some days. During the wars of the League, the Rieux and the Colignys led the revolt, and it served for some years as a strong place of resort for the Huguenots. Within the two hundred years following, the Breton Parliament, alternately presided over by the Dukes of Vitré and of Rohan, met here many times, always amid a great and joyous festival given by the town.

Plan of Vitré in 1811 Showing City Walls

Plan of Vitré in 1811 Showing City Walls

All the activity in the past has worked for the preservation of many ancient memorials.

The aspect of the town is not so ruinously picturesque as Fougères, nor again so trim and neat as Mayenne or Laval, but more than either of these it preserves to-day its ancient outlook at every turn.

II n’est plus que Vitré en Bretagne, Avignon dans le Midi, qui conservent au milieu de notre époque leur intacte configuration du moyen-âge” (Victor Hugo).

The château itself has been recently restored, and ranks as one of the most perfectly preserved specimens of military architecture in all Brittany. One may visit the interior of this old fortress-château in the care of a painstaking porter.

The principal mass, known as the châtelet, is the best preserved, and, flanking it on both sides, are series of crenelated towers and machicolated walls. In the courtyard is the eleventh-century château, now incorporated in the later work.

On the same side is a charming Renaissance tower, built by Guy XVI., and known as the “Tribune of Tremoille.” The five sides of this admirable architectural detail are charmingly decorated in sculptured stone, and on one is the inscription taken from the Book of Job: “Post Tenebras Spero Lucem,” the Tremoille motto.

Château de Vitré

Château de Vitré

Within is a museum with divers collections of many things of an era contemporary with the structure itself.

Tower of St. Martin, Vitré

Tower of St. Martin, Vitré

Opposite the great entrance gateway to the castle is a modest little house, once the residence (or temporary abode) of Madame de Sévigné, and now occupied by the “Cercle Militaire.”

In the environs—five kilometres to the south—is the Château of Rochers, better known as the domicile of Madame de Sévigné, and one of the stock “sights.” It was from the Château of Rochers that she dated so large a number of her letters in 1670-71.

In a letter bearing date of the twenty-second of July, 1671, she writes thus to Madame de Grignan:

“Madame de Chaulnes arrived on Sunday, but in what manner think you? On her beautiful feet, between eleven and twelve at night. One might think that Vitré was in Bohemia.

“She made no ceremony of her coming.... She had come from Nantes by La Guerche, and her carriage stuck fast between two rocks half a league from Vitré.”


It was from the Château of Rochers that Madame de Sévigné wrote to her daughter: “On Sunday last, just as I had sealed my former letter, I saw enter our courtyard four chariots with six horses, with fifty mounted guards, many led horses, and many mounted pages.”

These were gallant days at Madame de Sévigné’s Breton home, and to read all of her letters from Rochers—mainly to her daughter—is to get a wonderful epitome of the seventeenth-century social life in this part of France.

On the above occasion the company included M. de Chaulnes, M. de Rohan, M. de Lavardin, M. de Coëtlegon, and M. de Locmaria, the Baron de Guais, the Bishops of Rennes and St. Malo, “and eight or ten I knew not,” she continued.

Throughout the château and its dependencies, the illusion of Madame de Sévigné’s time has been well kept up unto to-day. One learns that the château became the property of the Sévignés upon the marriage of Anne of Mathefelon, “Lady of Rochers,” with William of Sévigné, chamberlain to the Duke of Brittany.

The kindly and well-meaning concierge, or cicerone, or whatever one chooses to call him or her who conducts him over the château and its grounds, is somewhat of a bore, though one has not the courage to cut off the prattle for fear he may lose something which may not have been offered to others.

Arms of Madame de Sévigné

Arms of Madame de Sévigné

It is somewhat disconcerting and even annoying to be told, however,—when about to stroll down a tree-alleyed path,—that “the marchioness never went there.” Of course it’s pure conjecture on the part of this twentieth-century guide, since the noble marchioness has been dead some two hundred years or more, but, as aforesaid, the interruption fascinates one with its coolness.

At the right of the château are the gardens traced by the famous Lenôtre. In the “Letters” one reads frequent references to these great gardens with their vast and ancient forests of tall timber.



RENNES was once a great provincial capital, as great politically, perhaps, as Rouen, but it has not a tithe of the fascination or wealth of attraction of the Norman metropolis, and never had. Its Cathedral of St. Pierre is a cold, unfeeling thing, and its eighteenth-century town hall, its great military barracks, and its palace of a university are in no way great or lovable architectural monuments. As an offset against the mediocrity, is the somewhat bare exterior of the court-house, built in 1618 for the Breton Parliament, and furnished now, as then, in most luxurious fashion.

The Salle des Pas-Perdus is a vast apartment, most delightfully planned and decorated, and of the Grand Parliamentary Chamber the same may be said. Above the floor of this chamber are still to be seen the tribunes where the dames of other days, of the days of Madame de Sévigné, assisted at the sessions.

The town hall contains a library of eighty thousand volumes, of which one hundred or more are first editions, and six hundred manuscripts.

The museums of the university palace are exceedingly rich in treasure, and are in every way worthy of a great provincial capital.

For the rest, Rennes is a most ordinary, uninteresting town, though it does possess two mediæval monuments of remark: the Porte Mordelaise, a historic souvenir of the military architecture of the middle ages, and Church of Our Lady, the ancient chapel and cloister of an eleventh-century monastery founded by the Bishop St. Mélaine.

There are many fine old Renaissance houses scattered here and there about the town, but the general aspect is modern, and mediocre at that. Rennes would have been called by century-ago travellers “a well-built town,” and such it certainly is, as becomes the ancient capital of the duchy of Brittany.

In later days it is mostly known to the general reader as the scene of the famous Dreyfus trial, and its only liveliness comes from the officers of the tenth army corps, who, of a summer’s night, frequent the coffee-rooms opposite the court-house or the theatre, or promenade in the Thabor and the flower-garden, the old gardens of the Benedictine convent.

Monastery of St. Melaine, Rennes

Monastery of St. Melaine, Rennes

Just previous to the Revolution, there were stirring times in Rennes, when a marshal of France commanded the troops camped within the city. The discontent of the people had arisen from two distinct causes, the price of bread and the abolition of its ancient parliament. The former seems a good enough excuse, but the latter is inexplicable, except, perhaps, as the snuffing out of an ancient source of local pride. It was to Rennes that Père Caussin, the father confessor of Louis XIII., was sent by Richelieu, when he proved himself incapable of becoming the tool of the cardinal. The prison of state at Rennes was a terrible place in those days, but the true churchman preferred it to exile as a missionary in the wilds.

All this and much more of political history made Rennes a famous centre in times past, but to-day it is so much like a bad imitation of Paris, that in desperation the stranger within the gates finally takes his departure for more idyllic parts, with the vow that never again will he seek to learn of present-day Brittany from the cafés and boulevards of Rennes.

One other comment may be made on the unloveliness of Rennes as a place of temporary sojourn; and that is on its cab-drivers. The driver of a fiacre in the average Breton large town is like his fellows of Paris. He drives with a loose rein, and rushes helter-skelter down narrow streets with never a care for other traffic, or for foot-passengers, save a shouted, “He, la-bas!” which is so sudden and unforeseen that it is quite useless as a warning. There have been those who have said that the hoot of an automobile’s horn would drive even the “sense of traffic”—a new sense recently discovered by the Parisian medical journals—from out of the brain of even the most careful of persons! This is as naught compared to the Breton cab-driver’s stentorian “He, la-bas!

As one comes to the open country again, he leaves all these distractions behind, and revels in nature, and if he be travelling by road, in the stubbornness of cows and sheep and the aggressiveness of geese and ducks, all road-users like himself.

Westward of Rennes, twenty kilometres by road, is Montfort-sur-Meu, a charming small town, situated upon the banks of two tiny rivers. Its origin dates back to an ancient eleventh-century fortress, which remains to-day in the form of a great cylindrical machicolated tower. The Seigneury of Montfort, since the fifteenth century, has passed successively, by marriage or by heritage, through the houses of Laval, Rieux, Coligny, and La Trémouille.

Next is Montauban, with a fine, moss-grown ruin of a château, dating from the fifteenth century; the town itself numbers three thousand inhabitants, but it does not look it.

St. Méen, a dozen kilometres farther on, was born of a monastery founded in the tenth century by a holy man of its name. It was destroyed and rebuilt many times in the years to follow, but its old abbatial church still exists, one tower coifed by a dome, and another smaller and flat. But no one comes here to see this fine old monkish relic but the farming folk from round about, though St. Méen is a town of three thousand souls and an idyllic artists’ sketching-ground. No colony of painters has yet settled here, leaving it a wholly new field to exploit by any painter looking for new worlds to conquer.

Loudéac and Pontivy, the one in the Côtes du Nord, and the other in the Morbihan, are two characteristically Breton towns bearing no relation whatever to the outside world. It seems doubtful indeed if the inhabitants of these two centres are aware that there is any outside world, so taken up are they with their own little affairs.

Loudéac has some six thousand inhabitants, but it has no apparent industries to hold all these people together, and it seems as if they had simply grouped themselves at the crossing of five great routes and built a town. Its foundation does not go very far back into antiquity; its parish church is only 150 years old, but the Chapel of Notre Dame Vertus dates from the thirteenth century.

In October, November, and December are held great cider-apple markets, which, from their magnitude, would seem to be the chief source of income of the population.

The ancient slogan of Pontivy, born of Revolutionary times, was “Freedom or Death,” which is not far different from the battle-cry of socialists the world over to-day. The condition of the inhabitants of Pontivy, however, does not differ from most folk elsewhere, and the frowning walls of its old castle ironically point to the fact that the time has not yet come when a successful social revolution can be steered through the breakers ahead—not even in France, where indeed there are even more advanced ideas on the subject than in Germany itself.

The memory of this event, though the “Treaty of Pontivy” was sent broadcast through all the communes of France, has quite died out, and the serenity of a little Breton market-town long ago settled upon Pontivy, with nothing but a dim memory existing to neutralize the admiration one is bound to have for the town’s wonderfully picturesque castle. It is a grand ruin with crumbled roof and walls, but its outlines are as clear as ever they were, and if it has not the magnitude or magnificence of many others of its class, it looks far more imposing, and forms an exquisite stage setting for any mediæval romance one is able to conjure up. The history of Pontivy and its castle is this:

The town owes its origin to a monastery built here in the seventh century by St. Ivy, an English monk. The castle, however, was a foundation of seven hundred years later, by John of Rohan, in 1485. At the creation of the duchy of Rohan, in 1663, Pontivy became the first seat of this jurisdiction.

At the Revolution the famous Pontivy treaty mentioned came into being, with the result that in 1802 a consuls’ decree prescribed the construction of a vast barrack at Pontivy, and the canalization of the river Blavet, upon which it sits, down to the sea.

Napoleon, however, by a decree given at Milan, sought to create a new town south of the present city, whose name should be Napoleonville. All this because Pontivy had declared for the rights of man. When the Revolutionists sought power Pontivy had every chance, but with Napoleon his desire was to efface it.

Pontivy is distinctly Breton in every aspect; its manners, customs, and above all its costumes. Decidedly one’s itinerary in Brittany should be made to include it.

Rostrenen is a delightful old town banked high upon a hillside some six hundred feet above the valley. The old-time collegiate church is a thirteenth-century foundation, which, though restored in our day, has all the loveliness of the era of its foundation well preserved.

Like the church at Josselin it is called Our Lady of the Blackberry-bush, from a miraculous Virgin found beneath a blackberry-bush. The great day of pilgrimage to this shrine is the fifteenth of August.

Carhaix is a little Breton town now all but shorn of its former importance, though its breed of cattle is prized above all others in Brittany,—as if that were enough to keep its memory alive. Anciently Carhaix was the capital of the Vorganium, whose peoples took an active part in the wars against Cæsar. Seven Roman ways centred here, and there are yet to be seen the remains of an ancient Roman aqueduct.

Vorganium ultimately lost its rank, and was made a part of the realm of Cornouaille founded by King Grollo, who gave Carhaix its present name—then Ker-Ahès.

Carhaix is the birthplace of La Tour d’Auvergne, “the first Grenadier of France.” His career was almost legendary, and after his famous infernal column which went up against the Spaniards in the Pyrenees, he retired to the city of his birth, and took up the study of the Celtic tongue. In 1796, when the Terror broke out, at the age of fifty-two, he took the haversack and cartridge-box of a simple soldier, to replace the son of an old friend who had been drawn by conscription. He would never advance a single grade, but remained in the ranks from this time forward, and was killed at the battle of Oberhausen in Bavaria. His heart is enshrined in the Hôtel des Invalides at Paris, having been brought there and buried with great pomp in 1904.

Carhaix has a real novelty in its horse-market, held before the Church of St. Trémeur. There is nothing actually profane or sacrilegious about this perhaps; but yet again, perhaps there is. Certainly it is incongruous to see a long string of horses tethered to the very church door-knob itself, with the breeders seated back against the church wall smoking tobacco and eating and drinking.

Huelgoat is in the very heart of Finistère. It is as typical in the manners and customs of these parts as is Pont l’Abbé in Cornouaille or Auray in Morbihan. It has one of the finest sites given to a town in all Brittany, and abounds in quaintness and beauty.

There are various ecclesiastical monuments and religious shrines in and near the town, of which the guide-books tell, and all are well worth visiting.

The market-place of Huelgoat does not differ greatly from other market-places in Brittany. The costumes are brilliant in magpie colours,—if white coifs flashing in the sunlight can be said to make colour,—and the little life and the little affairs of the peasant people scintillate and fluctuate from day to day as if they were the most serious and momentous things in all the world.

Above, on the right, rises the quaint bell-tower of the sixteenth-century church, not beautiful of itself, perhaps, but grouping wonderfully with the moving foreground.

Huelgoat is a great place for ducks, evidently, for ducks big, little, and of all colours of the rainbow are apparently the chief and staple article of trade. What the value may be to-day, as compared with what it was last market-day, no one can prognosticate. Two francs is certainly not much for a nice fat duck, just waiting to be plucked and garnished with green peas, but two francs for a brace is cheaper still, and two francs for a whole flock or bevy, or whatever formation ducks group themselves in, is a still better bargain, and on occasions you may buy a whole duck and drake family—father and mother and two or three youngsters—for a matter of une pièce, which is the Breton’s way of counting a hundred sous or five francs.

From Huelgoat the highroad branches to Morlaix in the northwest, and Landerneau, directly to the west, when one comes once more on the national road, running westward from Alençon by way of Fougères and the north to Brest.





BRITTANY has been called “the Land of Calvaries and Pardons.” This does not mean much to one who has never come under the spell of these strange sights and survivals, but it means a great deal to those who realize to the full the real significance of the devoutness and religious motives which inspire the Breton folk to worship God in a manner which, in the present age of disregard for the Christian religion of our forefathers, seems to be playing less and less a foremost part.

“Venez donc un tour au Pays de St. Yves.
. . . . . . . . . .
Au pays du Creizker finement dentelé.
Venez donc faire un tour au Pays de Calvaires,
Au Pays des Pardons mystiques et joyeux.”

So sang Theodore Botrèl in a charming series of verses written as an invitation to his fellow Frenchmen to know more of the ancient province of Brittany. Since Brittany is so very religious, the most devout of all the provinces of the France of to-day, the following account of the disposition of certain observances under the care of the state is apropos.

France is said to be Catholic, because the majority of the people profess Catholicism, which apparently answers their wants better than any other. As a matter of fact, however, there is the coëstablishment of four religions, all of which are recognized by the state and their ministers paid by the state. So, virtually, there are four state religions, if they can be so called. In truth, there is no religious head in France; neither the chief of state, the Archbishop of Paris (there are three other heads of religions, so manifestly one could not be chosen), nor the minister of public worship can be called upon to fill the office, hence there is no national religion, though the Roman Catholic faith predominates to-day as in the past.

Since we are concerned herein with Brittany alone, and since the Breton is accounted the most devoutly Catholic of all Frenchmen, it is enough to define the organization of the Roman Catholic religion alone, leaving the question of the Calvinists, the Lutherans, and the Israelites quite apart, as they exist not at all in Brittany as a factor of the local conditions of life.

The parish is the unit in the Catholic Church organization in France, as the commune is the unit in civil administration; the parishes are divided into curés and succursales.

The first class, which number forty-five hundred throughout France, have for their pastor a priest who is immovable, nominated by the bishop with the approval of the government. The second class have a pastor who is nominated by the bishop, but who can be removed or replaced. The parish priest may have one or more assistants. Above the parish priest in rank is the bishop.

In general the bishoprics correspond with the departments, though there are eighty-four dioceses and but sixty-seven bishops, the archbishops of the “ecclesiastical provinces”—which often include several departments and dioceses—making up the number.

In Brittany the Departments of Ille-et-Vilaine, Côtes du Nord, Finistère, Morbihan, and Loire-Inférieure have a bishopric, with an archbishopric at Rennes.

The bishops are nominated by the chief of the state, but are invested canonically by the Pope. They are assisted by vicars-general, who undertake the administrative functions of the diocese. The canonical chapter of the cathedral, the diocesan seminary, and all other seminaries are under the authority of the vicar-general.

Above the bishops are the archbishops, who administer to the wants of their diocese in the same way as the bishops, and, in addition, preside at all provincial councils, ordain the bishops, and in general have a certain jurisdiction over the bishoprics of their sees.

The ecclesiastical provinces, as the great administrative districts of the Church are known, correspond to-day, in a great part, to the ancient provinces of the Roman epoch in Gaul, as the bishoprics themselves correspond with the ancient cities and towns.

Higher up even than the archbishops are the cardinals, nominated by the Pope with the concurrence of the head of the French nation. To-day there are five cardinals in France, all being titularies of one of the Roman churches and members of the Sacred College which elects the Pope.

Those who know Brittany will recognize as the foremost trait and characteristic of the people their devotion to religious forms and ceremonies.

It has been said that by nature the Bretons are conservative. This is indeed true enough, but they are something more, they are superstitious, not only with regard to certain phases of their religion, but also with respect to many of their local customs, which have naught to do with religion. It is said that belief in witchcraft still endures, and certain it is that folk-lore and fairy-lore are, in some parts, quite as much of the life of the people as is the case in the bogs of Ireland. The Celtic imagination, which is the same in both instances, doubtless accounts for this. What the Bretons really are, or have been, though they have not often been accused of it, is pagan,—at least some of them are. It was only in the seventeenth century that the pagan cult—as a body of magnitude—was suppressed. This again was a survival, of course, from the barbarous rites and practices of the druids, which indeed were the same elsewhere, so it need not be laid up against the Bretons alone.

Probably those vast colonies of megalithic monuments at Carnac, and their orphaned brothers and sisters scattered elsewhere throughout Brittany, did much to keep the flames aglow on pagan altars, and even to-day it is easy to perceive with what awe and veneration the simple-minded Breton peasant regards these weird survivals of other days. At any rate, Breton religion to-day is a devotion to many forms and ceremonies.

Brittany has been called the land of pardons (pays des pardons). Every one knows of these great Breton festivals and of their significance. If one travel between May and October, scarcely a week will pass without his falling unawares upon one or another of these great sacred fêtes.

All Bretons do not give to these rites the sacred regard with which they were originally intended to be endowed. Decidedly they have been profaned only too often, and at times there is a little too much license. The Breton pardon is by no means to be thought of in the same manner as the kermess of Flanders, which is a merrymaking pure and simple, with not even a side-light of religion thrown upon it.

The five great pardons of Brittany are held each year as follows:

“The Pardon of the Poor,” at St. Yves; “The Pardon of the Singers,” at Rumengol; “The Pardon of the Fire,” at St. Jean du Doigt; “The Pardon of the Mountain,” at Troménie de St. Ronan; “The Pardon of the Sea,” at Ste. Anne de la Palude.

It is a moot question as to just how much of romance is in the make-up of the Breton character. Emotional the people are, but the emotion that leads them into the enthusiasm which they exhibit at their great religious festivals and pardons is more superstitious than romantic.

The druidism, or paganism, or whatever the religion (sic) of the ancient peoples of the Armorican peninsula may have been, bears not the least traditional resemblance to the fervour of the devotees of the pardons of to-day, but one can readily believe that the same spirit, if with a different motive, does exist even now.

The blessing of the boats, the birds, the cows, and what not, which takes place periodically at different points along the Breton coast,—for it is mostly along the coast that these observances take place,—smacks not a little of something that is of more psychological purport than mere religious devotion.

From whatever tradition these great religious observances have descended, there is no question of the sincerity of the participants, though there is a wide difference between the “sacred” and “profane” elements which meet on these occasions.

Brittany, perhaps as much as any other of the ancient provinces of France, has preserved its local customs and traditions, unblushingly indifferent to the changing conditions round about them. Of course there is no reason why religion and its observances should change with the march of time, but they do, nevertheless, in France as much as in any other land. Only in Brittany, apparently, do the congregations of men and women—for elsewhere the congregations are mostly women—of great churches approach to anything like the numbers that the churches were built to contain.

Throughout this land of calvaries, too, there will be found at all times of the day, and often at night, a tiny congregation of one, two, or perhaps a half a dozen, peasant or fisher folk kneeling before one of these wayside crosses, and invoking their God after the manner they have been taught, in a truly devout and sincere fashion, which is more than can be said of some parts, where the peasant, when on a visit to town on the market-day, rushes in and out of a church with hardly time enough devoted to the whole process even to have used the holy water.

Brittany may be a poor and impoverished province, and in many respects it has not the abundance of the good things of life which one finds in Touraine, Burgundy, or the Midi, but there is a general air of prosperity in the gay accoutrements of the men and women who shine forth on the occasions of the great pardons, showing a snug wardrobe stowed away somewhere.

As one leaves Normandy, at Pontorson, he enters Brittany—the land of calvaries. These fine monuments are not the calvaries which have made the old province famous,—the great stone crosses of Finistère,—but are for the most part unpretentious pieces of wood put together in the form of a cross, or a like symbol, rudely hammered out of a piece of iron by the local blacksmith.

One notes many of these simple crosses throughout Brittany; simple as compared with the more elaborate calvaries, though they may have one, two, or even more sculptured figures in the arms or branches of the cross. One of the most ancient of these, dating from the fourteenth or fifteenth century, is at Scaër in Finistère.

It is a question as to whether any of the great monumental calvaries of Brittany can be considered really artistic. They are imposing,—some of them even terrifying in their strange grandeur,—but all of them seem theatrical, however sincere and devout the motive for their erection may have been. The chief and most elaborate examples are those at Plougastel, near Brest, and St. Thégonnec in Finistère (dating from 1610).

Besides these really great and celebrated functions are many others of minor purport, such as the “Benediction of the Boats” and the “Benediction of the Fields.” The latter occurs when the caterpillars and earthworms fall upon and ravage the land. The local curé, with the permission of the bishop, then blesses the fields. In the midst of the fields the curé takes up his position on some slight eminence, clad in a white surplice, with a violet stole, and begs God to exterminate the noxious insects, the prayers meanwhile being accompanied with the sprinkling of holy water and burning of incense.

The Pardon of St. Jean du Doigt, on the twenty-second of June, is perhaps the most solemn of all its species, and for that reason is described here.

The Pardon of St. Yves, in the Tregarris, of Rumengol and Ste. Anne de la Palude, in Finistère, are especially religious and severe, while that of Notre Dame de la Clarté, in the Morbihan, has the double purpose of homage to Our Lady and the facilitating of marriage.

Here the young peasants in search of a spouse promenade around the church, and when they have made their choice they address the young lady and ask her if she will accept the gift; the boy having meanwhile bought a large round cake. “Will mademoiselle break the cake with me?” says he. If she accept, they consider themselves as engaged, after which their families meet together and discuss the conditions of the marriage.

At Creac’higuel, near Rosporden, the pardon endures for three days, and here one sees the wonderful ’broidered waistcoats and collarettes and beribboned hats of the young men of Pont Aven, Quimperlé, and Scaër, unique in all Brittany.

In July, at Guingamp, is the procession to Our Lady of Good Help, with the inevitable salute of firearms, and a torchlight procession of ten or twelve thousand pilgrims—and some others who are merely profane lookers-on.

The “Benediction of the Sea” at Concarneau, Douarnenez, Trébone, and many other seacoast villages and hamlets, is another religious manifestation which is always attractive to the curious.

At the pardon of St. Jean du Doigt the precious relic of the saint is guarded before the high altar of the church by an abbé clad in his surplice and holding in his hand the precious finger enveloped in fine linen. One by one the faithful pass before the abbé and touch, for an instant, the sainted relic.

Near the choir, another cleric holds aloft the skull of St. Mériadec, before which the pilgrims bow their heads as they pass. Before leaving the church, in response to the call, “Dour ar bis! Dour ar bis!” sung in a strident Celtic voice, the pilgrims repair to a fountain attached to the side wall, in which the finger has previously been bathed at the end of a gold chain. Immediately this operation is over, the devout plunge their palms deep into the sanctified water and vehemently rub their eyes. Then the pardon is finished, and the profane festivity begins.

“Whence come you?” was asked of a happy family of three at St. Jean du Doigt. “From St. Jean-Brevelay,” they replied, mentioning a village a hundred kilometres away, in Morbihan. “We have walked three suns and three moons,”—which sounds like the American Indian’s method of reckoning by moons, but which in this case meant merely that they had been on the road three days and three nights.

Pardon of St. Jean du Doigt

Pardon of St. Jean du Doigt

The little Church of St. Jean du Doigt offers complete and perfect example of what a village church should be. The building itself is surrounded by the churchyard, with its monumental portal, or triumphal arch, as it is always called hereabouts, its sacred fountain, its calvary, its ossuary, and its open-air oratory for the celebration of the mass for the pilgrims.

The triumphal arch is a great fifteenth-century gateway surmounted by two niches containing two ancient Gothic statues, one of St. John the Baptist, and the other of St. Roch.

With the coming of twilight, when the mists roll in from the sea, the silhouetted couples (lovers), following the ancient custom, promenade arm in arm, or rather hand in hand, each holding the other by the little finger, in deference to the finger of St. John.

When the darkness has actually fallen, the bonfires flame out on the far-away sands, the light reflected in the waves in truly eerie fashion, and so the great day of pardon and festival departs into the past.

Chant and song play a great part in all these religious festivals, not only the officiating priests, but the public singing. These religious chants seem to give rise to others less devout, of which the two following are typical.

If one is in South Finistère on the occasion of the celebration of the “Pardon of the Singers,” he will hear the following lines sung tumultuously by the local swains:

“Entre Brest et Lorient
Leste, leste,
Entre Brest et Lorient
“Les gabiers de la misaine
Sont des filles de quinze ans.
Entre Brest et Lorient
Leste, leste.”

At the “Pardon of the Sea,” in the Paimpol country, one hears these sombre words:

“Tais-toi! tais-toi! maîtresse exquise!
Je vois ma mort dans l’eau.”

The great extent to which the Breton people carry their respect and devotion to religious ceremony of all sorts is no better exemplified than in the observance of the Miz-dus (the black months, or the mourning months) by those who have banded themselves together and formed a sort of “cult of the dead.” In reality, however, it is merely a mourning for the departed, by the widows or mothers of the fishermen and sailors.

In November, when the Miz-dus begin, widows in most picturesque, though sombre, costumes are continually met with in the Morbihan, and such seacoast towns as Ploubazlanec, Portz—even (where there is a “widows’ cross,” quite the most frequented shrine of all) Saint Cast, on the coast of the Channel, or at Pontivy.

Anatole le Braz, in the “Legend of the Dead,” has written a complete history of the funeral superstitions which obtain in Brittany at this season.

The “Cult of the Dead,” as it is known, is unique among similar observances in all France. Virtually it is a display of devotion and respect for one’s ancestors. In the rural and seacoast parishes of Morbihan, Finistère, and the Côtes du Nord the custom is found most highly developed.

The little cemeteries of Brittany are better than mere formal gardens with rectangular walks and well-clipt trees and hedges. Mostly, they have winding little alleys, and are set out with apple-trees and wild-flowers.

In downright bad taste, these cemeteries, in common with most others in France, have an abundance of wire and bead memorial wreaths and crowns. Why it is that the French, with their usually highly developed artistic sense, affect these artificialities, is a question to which no one has had the temerity to devise an answer.

At Ploubazlanec, a tiny village settled upon a cliff overlooking the Bay of Paimpol, are the funeral monuments of many who have lost their lives by drowning in a frozen sea, as you will be told.

In 1901, three ships from these parts disappeared, crew and cargo, following the sinister local expression, in the cold waters off Iceland, whither the little fleet had gone for the fishing. In the cemetery, in the side of the mortuary chapel, is a section known as “the wall of those who disappeared,” and here you may read, many times repeated, such inscriptions as the following:

“En Mémoire de Gilles Brézellec, 17 ans, décédé à Islande.
En Mémoire de Jean-Marie Brézellec, 16 ans, décédé à Islande.
En Mémoire de Yves Brézellec, 37 ans, décédé à Islande.
Priez Dieu pour eux!”

A whole family shattered and broken up, leaving perhaps a wife and an old mother dependent upon charity, or such a scanty living as can be picked up intermittently.

At Kérity, also, is an Icelanders’ cemetery, and here one may read the names, beginning with that of the captain, of the crew of twenty, all hailing from the home port of Kérity, who were lost in the white fiords of Iceland in another catastrophe.

Nowhere in the known world is there anything like the wholesale risk of life which goes on yearly from the ports of Finistère and the Côtes du Nord, unless it be that among the American fishermen on the Grand Banks, hailing from Gloucester, on Massachusetts Bay.

If the visitor to Brittany has not yet made the acquaintance of the heroes of Loti’s “Iceland Fishermen,” he should do so forthwith, for it was at Ploubazlanec that the great Yann Gaos was interred, and near him reposed his father and little Sylvestre.

The Celtic spirit of the modern Breton has preserved the legend or superstition of “An-Ankou,” the spirit of death. In many villages one may interrogate a peasant or a fisherman, who will affirm that it is “Ankou” who leads the way for the funeral-car and who waits at the grave to carry the soul of the departed away with him after the others have left.

Among the superstitious signs which presage the coming of the “Ankou” are, a ball of fire, which rests upon the tiles of the roof over the stricken one,—a most unlikely thing, one would think,—the theft of grain by crows, the tapping of a window-pane by the beak of a sea-bird, the prolonged bellowing of cattle by the light of the moon, a candle which will not light, or for a peasant to split or cleave two pairs of wooden shoes in one week.






UP to 1789, there were thirty-three great governments making up modern France, the twelve governments created by Francis I. being the chief, and seven petits gouvernements as well.

The Provinces of France

The Provinces of France

In the following table the grands gouvernements of the first foundation are indicated in heavy-faced type, those which were taken from the first in italics, and those which were acquired by conquest in ordinary characters.

5.Champagne et BrieTroyes.
7.Maine et PercheLe Mans.
13.AunisLa Rochelle.
14.Bourgogne (duché de)Dijon.
15.Lyonnais, Forez et BeaujolaisLyon.
19.Guyenne et GascogneBordeaux.
20.Saintonge et Angoumois[A]Saintes.
22.Béarn et Basse NavarrePau.
24.Comté de FoixFoix.
27.Flandre et HainautLille.
29.Lorraine et BarroisNancy.
31.Franche-Comté ou Comté de BourgogneBesançon.

[A] Under Francis I. the Angoumois was comprised in the Orléanais.

The seven petits gouvernements were:



map of France divided into provinces


Pays d’AletIlle et Vilaine
Pays de BriereLoire Infr.
Le DesertIlle et Vilaine.
DinannoisCôtes du Nord.
Pays de DolCôtes du Nord.
Pays de GrèveCôtes du Nord.
NantaisLoire Infr.
RennoisIlle et Vilaine.
Pays de VannesMorbihan.


Pasqueten and Gurvaud874
Alain I.877
Juhael Béranger930
Alain II. (Barbe Torte)937
Hoël I.953
Conan I.987
Geoffroy I.992
Alain III.1008
Conan II.1040
Hoël II.1066
Alain Fergent1084
Conan III.1112
Eudes and Hoël III.1148
Geoffroy II.1156
Constance and Arthur1171
Pierre Mauclerc and Alix1186
Jean I.1213
Jean II.1237
Arthur II.1286
Jean III.1305
Charles de Blois1312
Jean IV. de Montfort1341
Jean V.1365
François I.1399
Pierre II.1450
Arthur III.1457
François II.1458
Duchess Anne, who
    married Charles
    VIII. and afterward
    Louis XI. of France,




Comparative Metric Scale

Comparative Metric Scale



Sketch Map of Circular Tour in Brittany. Fares from Rennes, 65 francs, 1st class; 50 francs, 2d class.

Map of Brittany showing routes

Itinerary: Rennes, Saint-Malo-Saint-Servan, Dinard, Saint-Brieuc, Guingamp, Lannion, Morlaix, Roscoff, Brest, Quimper, Douarnenez, Pont-l’Abbé, Concarneau, Lorient, Auray, Quiberon, Vannes, Savenay, Le Croisic, Guérande, Saint-Nazaire, Pont-Château, Redon, Rennes.


Architectural Names of the Various Parts of a Feudal Château

Architectural Names of the Various Parts of a Feudal Château


Tide and Weather Signals in the Ports of Brittany

Tide and Weather Signals in the Ports of Brittany

By day the signals showing the depth of water—in mètres—at the harbour entrance are shown by balls or small balloons; at night these are replaced by lanterns. (See top diagram.) The flag signals of the other diagrams explain themselves.




Plougastel-Daoulas.—Easter Monday, the Monday of Pentecôte, 29th June, and 15th August.

Pont l’Abbé.—25th March, Monday of Pentecôte, 3d Sunday of July, 4th Sunday of September.

Concarneau.—(Ste. Guénolé) First Sunday in May, (Sainte Croix) 14th September, (Pardon du Rosaire) First Sunday in October.

Bannalec.—Ascension Day.

Quimperlé.—Trinity Sunday, second Sunday of May, last Sunday of July, third Sunday in September.

Quimperlé.—Easter Monday.

Rumengal.—Trinity Sunday.

Loctudy.—Sunday following 11th May, and 2d Sunday of August.

Pont Aven.—Second Sunday of May and third Sunday of September.

Saint Jean du Doigt.—23d and 24th June.

Roscoff.—Mid-June and 15th August.

Camaret (Fête de la Pêche et Bénédiction de la Mer).—Third Sunday in June.

Locronan (Petite Troménie every year; Grande Troménie every six years).—Second Sunday of July.

Rosporden.—Second Sunday in July.

Le Folgoët.—15th August, and 7th and 8th September.

Quimper.—15th, 16th, and 17th August.

Huelgoat.—Three days—first Sunday of August.

Ste. Anne de la Palude.—Saturday evening and last Sunday of August.

Scaër.—Last Sunday of August.

Audierne.—Last Sunday of August.

Penmarc’h (Pardon du Rosaire).—First Sunday of October.


St. Gildas de Rhuis.—29th of January.

Auray.—(Ouverture du Pardon de St. Anne) 7th March, (Principal Pardon) 25th and 26th of July.

Locminé.—Three days from the Sunday nearest 27th June.

Ste. Barbe en Faouët.—Last Sunday of June.

St. Fiacre près le Faouët.—Fourth Sunday in July.

Locmariaquer.—Second Sunday in September.

Pontivy.—Second Sunday in September.

Carnac.—Third Sunday in September, (Pardon of St. Cornely) the Sunday nearest the 14th September.

Pont Scorff.—Third Sunday in September.

Le Faouët.—First Sunday in October.



Bod, Bot.—A place surrounded by a wood. Bodilis, Botsorhel.

Bras, Bré.—High, elevated. Braspart, Brelevené.

Conc.—A harbour or bay. Concarneau, le Conquet.

Car.—A manor or château. Carhaix.

Coat.—A wood or forest. Coatascorn, Coatreven.

Crug.—Amid the rocks. Cruguel.

Faou.—A place planted with oaks. Le Faouët.

Guic.—Bourg. Guichen (old bourg).

Hen.—Old. Henvie, Henpont.

Ker or Kaer.—Manor, château. Kerlouan, Kervignac.

Lan.—Church or consecrated spot. Lannion, Lanildut.

Les, Lis.—Court or jurisdiction. Lesneven, Lezardrieux.

Loc.—Oratoire or hermitage. Locmaria.

Méné.—Mountain. Méné Bré.

Mor.—The sea. Morbihan (la petite mer).

Pen.—Promontory summit or extremity. Penmarc’h, Paimbœuf (par corruption).

Plé, Pleu, Plo, Plou, Plu.—Parish. Pléhédel, Pleudihen, Plouha.

Poul.—Hole or basin. Pouldergat.

Ros.—Hill or slope. Roscoff, Rosporden.

Tref, Tré.—Part of a parish. Trégastel, Trémelior.



Côtes du Nord 145,000 150,000
Finistère 352,000 302,000
Morbihan 182,700 190,000

[B] This table takes no cognizance of those speaking French only and not Breton, whilst the three departments given are those only in which the knowledge of the Breton tongue is in excess of that in other parts.

It is a regrettable fact that the Morbihan has the greatest number of illiterates of any of the departments of France. Among a hundred conscripts for the army, often thirty or forty are classed as illiterate, while in Finistère and the Côtes du Nord, the number falls to thirty or less, and in Ille et Vilaine to less than twenty.


A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, V.

Alre, 158.
Ancenis (and château), 99-101.
Angers (and castle), 24, 30, 108, 119, 146, 243, 311, 316.
Audierne, 89, 212, 213-214, 370.
Auray, 32, 157, 158, 159-167, 172, 175, 178, 192, 309, 370.

Bannelec, 194-195, 369.
Batz, Isle of, 121, 240-242.
Baud, 157, 158.
Baule, 127.
Becherel, 306.
Beg-Meil, 201.
Belle Ile en Mer, 27, 34, 36, 171, 173-175.
Benzec Capcaval, 211.
Béré, Fair of, 129-130.
Binic, 267-268, 270.
Black Mountains, 218.
Bourg de Batz, 111, 121, 127.
Bréhat, 43, 259-260.
Brest, 26, 32, 39, 41, 43, 44, 47, 51, 54, 56, 72, 87, 150, 212, 220, 221-224, 225, 227, 228, 229, 230, 236, 309, 310, 340, 350.

Camaret, 89, 219-220, 369.
Cancale, 298-300.
Cape de la Chèvre, 214, 217.
Cap Fréhel, 290.
Carhaix, 54, 310, 337-339.
Carnac, 159, 163, 167, 168-171, 345, 370.
Cesson, Tower of, 266.
Cezon, 44.
Champ Dolent, 303.
Champtoceaux (and château), 104-105.
Châteaubriant (and château), 128-132.
Chateaulin, 27, 217-218, 219.
Chatelaudren, 263.
Clisson (and château), 42, 111, 114-115.
Combourg (and château), 305-308.
Concarneau, 43, 89, 197-201, 202, 205, 212, 215, 216, 219, 224, 351, 369.
Corseul, 146.
Creac’higuel, 351.
Croisic, 42, 111, 121, 127.
Crozon, 217, 219.

Daoulas, 229, 369.
Dinan (and château), 24, 54, 249, 271, 291-297.
Dinard, 39, 249, 271, 273, 288-289, 290.
Dol, 19, 39, 43, 54, 249, 303-305.
Douarnenez (and bay), 32, 38, 43, 51, 89, 187, 212, 214-216, 217, 219, 351.

Elven, 138.
Ernée (and château), 312.
Etables, 267.

Falaise, 130.
Faou, 220, 221.
Faouët (Finistère), 192-194.
Folgoët, 224, 237-238, 369.
Fontaine-Daniel, Abbey of, 312.
Fougères (and forest), 54, 262, 309, 310, 312, 313-315, 316, 321, 340.
Fouquet, Château, 27, 174.

Grand Brière, 125.
Guérande, 121, 125-127.
Guibray, Fair of, 130.
Guingamp (and castle), 54, 86, 87, 250, 260-262, 351.

Hédé, 306.
Hennebont, 146, 179, 182-185.
Huelgoat, 310, 339-340, 370.

Javron, 313.
Joie, Abbaye de la, 185.
Josselin (and château), 150, 152-157, 309, 337.

Kerérault, 229.
Kérity, 357.
Kerlean, Manoir of, 138.
Kerlescan, 169.
Kerlouan, 224.
Kermario, 169.
Kermartin, Manor of, 255.

Lacroix, 44.
La Houle, 299.
“La Joyeuse Garde,” Château of, 227.
Lamballe, 268-269.
Landeau, 315-316.
Landerneau, 221, 224-227, 310, 340.
Landivisiau, 221, 227-228.
Lannion, 24, 74, 89, 250-252.
Largoet, Fortress of, 138.
La Roche-Bernard, 128.
La Trinité, 177-178.
Laval (and château), 54, 56, 310, 316-318, 322.
Le Conquet, 230-231, 236.
Lehon, 297-298.
Le Légué, 266.
Le Mans, 54, 310.
Locmariaquer, 146, 159, 167, 175-176, 370.
Locminé, 157-158, 370.
Lorient, 43, 44, 54, 89, 144, 175, 179-181, 182.
Loudéac, 310, 334-335.

Mayenne (and château), 54, 309, 310, 311-312, 316, 322.
Ménac, 169.
Minden, Fort, 44.
Miniac, 306.
Molène, Ile, 232-233.
Montauban, 334.
Mont Dol, 303.
Montfort-sur-Meu, 310, 333-334.
Mont St. Michel (and bay), 34, 39, 43, 46, 54, 60, 249, 298, 300-302, 303.
Morlaix, 43, 54, 63, 94, 238, 244-247, 249, 340.
Motte-Broons, 293.

Nantes (and castle), 4, 7, 19, 22, 24, 26, 30, 36, 38, 39, 54, 56, 57, 67, 102, 104, 105-110, 111, 112, 115, 116-121, 124, 127, 146, 174, 211, 221, 243.
Notre Dame de la Clarté, 350-351.

Oudon, 104.
Ouessant, Ile, 43, 44, 232, 233-236.
Our Lady of Langonnet, Abbey of, 194.

Paimbœuf, 42, 111, 112.
Paimpol, 257-259.
Palais, 44, 173, 175.
Paramé, 39, 271, 272, 274-276.
Penmarc’h, 31, 208, 210-211, 370.
Penthièvre, 7, 44, 171.
Pilier, 44.
Ploërmel, 54, 150-152.
Ploubazlanec, 355, 356, 357.
Ploudalmézeau, 236-237.
Plougasnou, 25, 64.
Plougastel, 221, 228-230, 350, 369.
Plouharnel, 167, 171.
Pointe de Kerpenhir, 145.
Point of Primel, 247.
Point of Raz, 212, 213, 214.
Point Sizun, 212.
Point St. Mathieu, 212.
Pont Aven, 82, 187, 201, 202-205, 351, 369.
Pont Croix, 214.
Pontivy (and castle), 54, 334-337, 355, 370.
Pont l’Abbé, 27, 82, 187, 208-210, 369.
Pont Scorff, 179, 185-186, 370.
Pornic (and château), 42, 111, 112-114.
Port Haliguen, 172.
Port Louis, 44, 181-182.
Port Maria, 172.
Port Navalo, 43, 145.
Portz, 355.
Pouldu, 190.
Poulgoazec, 214.
Pré-en-Pail, 309.
Primelin, 214.

Questembert, 136.
Quiberon, 44, 163, 167, 170, 171-173, 175.
Quimper, 19, 27, 32, 38, 41, 53, 54, 60, 72, 75, 82, 93, 128, 205-208, 212, 224, 370.
Quimperlé, 187-190, 191, 309, 351, 369.

Redon, 24, 128, 132-136.
Rennes, 19, 22, 24, 25, 41, 54, 57, 75, 118, 128, 146, 150, 310, 316, 329-333, 343.
Rimains, Fort des, 44.
Rochefort-en-Terre (and château), 27, 136-138.
Rochers, Château of, 324-328.
Roc’hquérezen, 229.
Roc’hquillion, 229.
Roc’huivlen, 229.
Roscanvel, 217.
Roscoff, 43, 75, 238-240, 369.
Rosporden, 31, 194, 195-196, 201, 351, 369.
Rostrenen, 337.
Rothéneuf, 286-287.
Rumengal, 346, 350, 369.

Sauzon, 175.
Savenay, 41, 124-125, 128, 130.
Scaër, 349, 351, 370.
Seven Isles, 256-257.
St. Briac, 27, 290-291.
St. Brieuc, 19, 29, 60, 262, 263-266, 268, 270.
St. Cast, 26, 67, 290, 355.
Ste. Anne de la Palude, 346, 350, 370.
Ste. Marguerite, 127.
St. Énogat, 273, 288, 289-290.
St. Fiacre, 26, 191-192, 370.
St. Gildas de Rhuis, 27, 148, 370.
St. Guénolé, 211.
St. Jacut, 27, 272-273, 290.
St. Jean-Brevelay, 352.
St. Jean du Doigt, 247-248, 346, 350, 352-353, 369.
St. Lunaire, 27, 290.
St. Malo (and bay), 9, 19, 27, 39, 43, 44, 54, 56, 57, 61, 63, 67, 94, 249, 271-274, 276-283, 285, 288, 291, 300.
St. Maurice, Abbey of, 190-191.
St. Méen, 334.
St. Nazaire, 39, 109-111, 112, 121, 122-124, 128, 144.
St. Nicolas, 205.
St. Pol de Léon, 19, 27, 60, 206, 238, 242-244.
St. Rénan, 236.
St. Servan, 27, 271, 272, 276, 283-285.
St. Thégonnec, 350.
St. Yves, 346, 350.
Suscino, Château of, 148-150.

Taureau, Château du, 44.
Tentêniac, 306.
Tombelaine, Isle of, 34, 302-303.
Trébone, 351.
Tréguier, 19, 24, 60, 94, 206, 250, 252-256.
Trélaze, 29.
Tristan, Ile, 215-216.
Troménie de St. Ronan, 346.

Val André, 263, 269-270.
Vannes, 19, 24, 43, 54, 60, 75, 128, 134, 136, 138, 139, 140-148, 150, 175, 187, 221.
Ville Martin, 44.
Vitré (and château), 24, 54, 262, 310, 318-324.

Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:
Le trente-un du mois d’aôut=> Le trente-un du mois d’août {pg 68}
is by no mean inexplicable=> is by no means inexplicable {pg 3}
must known these principal provinces by name=> must know these principal provinces by name {pg 7}
general eerie espect=> general eerie aspect {pg 138}
busy litle Breton port=> busy little Breton port {pg 214}
religious architecure.=> religious architecture. {pg 226}
in the sixth entury=> in the sixth century {pg 304}