In France, Brittany’s Celtic Roots Run Deep
The historical province of Brittany is a region in Northwest France, and is comprised of five departments. Sometimes referred to as “Less”, “Lesser” or “Little Britain”, what Brittany is most known for is its deep Celtic roots. In fact, this region is considered to boast the largest stronghold of Celtic heritage in all of Europe. For anyone who hails from this heritage or is seeking the experience of it firsthand, Celtic Brittany is sure to offer everything you’re looking for and more, in one magnificently beautiful location.
The culture and language of Brittany is known as Breton, and shares many similarities with the Celtic areas of the UK. The Bretons are fiercely proud of their heritage. In fact, most consider themselves Breton before French, even though France is where they technically live. The area also happens to boast an incredibly rich history, with a long, sordid past that reaches back as far as prehistoric times. Ancient Bretons left behind a number of fascinating testaments to the past, including the most noteworthy Carnac stones, which continues to delight and intrigue visitors to this day.
The Carnac stones of Brittany are a collection of megalithic sites that are often referred to as France’s version of Stonehenge. This incredible historic site features some 3,000 prehistoric stones that were carved and erected by ancient ancestors of the area. Historians date the stones as having been placed there around 4500 BC, but over the centuries there have been many a myth surrounding their actual purpose and age, including several scenarios involving different cultures turning men to stone, where they remain frozen in time as the Carnac stones that still stand today.
There are three major types of alignments of the Carnac stones, although it is theorized that they were once all a part of one complete group:
- Ménec Alignment – Consists of 11 converging rows that cover an area of 3,822 by 330 feet.
- Kermario Alignment – Made up of 1029 stones situated into 10 columns and is about 4,300 feet in length.
- Kerlescan Alignment – Smaller group consisting of 555 stones of varying heights which form 13 lines and stretch a length of about 2,600 feet.
There are other less notable alignments found throughout the area as well as several tumuli, which are small mounds in the earth that were built over graves. The most famous tumulus in the area is that of Saint Michael, which was constructed sometime between 5000 BC and 3400 BC. It is essentially a tomb, not unlike the notorious pyramids of Egypt, in which the famous saint was laid to rest, along with a variety of funeral items such as pottery and jewelry. Many of these items can be seen today in the Museum of Prehistory of Carnac. Atop the tumulus of Saint Michael sits a small chapel, which was built in 1926 as an exact replica of the original from 1663.
From the dual-language road signs to Brittany’s black and white striped flag seemingly everywhere you turn to the mesmerizing sounds of traditional Celtic music, the region of Brittany is the epitome of the Celtic heritage. Whether you’re a distant descendent of the ancient Bretons, or you simply find this beautiful culture fascinating, a visit to Celtic Brittany should inevitably be on your list of must-visit places, and sooner rather than later! It’s sure to be an authentic experience you won’t soon forget.