In the 6th century, Druidism gave
way to rising Christianity without any
real friction: the Celts also believed in
the immortality of the soul, and they recognised the reality of a single god,
an enigmatic absolute.
“the one we do not
name”, acted in the
human world by
way of divinities.
The Celts easily
found the equivalent
of goddess Ana,
of all”, in Saint
Anne, the Virgin
This sheds light
on the particular
fondness the Bretons have for Saint
Towns like Sainte-Anne-d’Auray
or Sainte-Anne-la-Palud illustrate this
One of the most original Breton
characteristics is the number of
extraordinary fountains they have,
which can be found everywhere. They
bear witness to the ancient worship of
water, the primordial feminine element.
These simply sculpted fountains are
examples of pagan water sources
converted for Christian uses. They
were once dedicated to divinities, we
dedicated them to saints! But they are
still just as miraculous.
If you prefer to worship the sun, climb
the Breton heights, at Mont Saint-
Michel de Brasparts for example: all
the chapels dedicated to the archangel
Michael were built in the same place the
ancients used to worship Belenos, the
But this superimposition
is not surprising: the old god and the
Christian archangel both symbolise the
triumph of light. We find the symbol
of the sun in Celtic crosses: their main
pattern is inscribed in a circle, evoking
the sun or a wheel.
possesses much less of this than Ireland.
Another circle that represents life is the triskell, the symbol of Ireland and Celtic
people in general.
Its harmonious design
can be seen on the small stained-glass
windows of many chapels, such as the
one in Trémorvezen in Nevez, in South
A fondness for
The Celtic influence in Brittany can
be seen in its fondness for abstract
ornamentation: the large cloister
basin in Daoulas Abbey, engraved
with mysterious drawings, is one of
the most beautiful examples of Celtic
art in Armorica.
You can also find
abstract drawings on the converted
Christian standing stones as well as
the capitals of church columns: the
interlacing, rings and spirals are a
strong reminder of Celtic ancestors. The
free curvilinear designs are associated
with highly ornate animal motifs.
columns of the ancient Landevennec
abbey church provide a very beautiful
example: animals, a donkey, ram heads
and contortionists mix their figurative
expressions in extraordinarily rich,
voluted abstract designs.
for geometrical art can also be found in
furniture designs and in the embroidery
on Breton costumes.
Traditional instruments are what give
Breton music its unique appeal: the
Celtic harp, smaller than a classical harp,
has Irish origins, but the bombarde is
This wind instrument,
a relative of the oboe, is traditionally
played with the biniou kozh, the small
The bagadou, large
groups playing bagpipes, bombardes
and drums, are extremely popular in
Brittany: each town has its own bagad
group. The many bagad contests create
such competition that the proficiency
of new generations of players has
impressed many Scottish bagpipers!
Bretons love a party.
Any occasion is
reason enough for music and song, so
long as everybody joins in the fun: not a
week goes by without a festou noz, the
night parties where people dance hand
in hand accompanied by kan ha diskan
No one can resist the rhythm
of this unbroken circle and everyone,
even outsiders, are invited to dance.
This dancing communion of energy is a
Breton tradition that is very much alive
For a long time, Celtic music and cultures
have been crossing paths in Brittany
at the main festivals. In Quimper, the
Cornouaille festival is celebrating its
84th anniversary this year! The Lorient
interceltic festival, staging 4,500 artists
each year, is approaching its 37th year.
In Dinan, the international harp festival
gathers rivals from all over the world
The major advance that these
cultural and festive exchanges have
made over the past few years is that they
have opened their doors to creativity, all
the while remaining loyal to tradition.
These special Celtic inspired music
festivals are also meeting places for
dance, art and traditional games, such
as Breton wrestling, the oldest of Breton
Aside from the key festivals,
Brittany hosts a wide range of lively
interceltic events of various sizes. They
also provide an opportunity to discover
the true warmth of inner Brittany.