Bretons - Settlements



Small hamlets and dispersed farmsteads characterized the settlement pattern in rural Brittany for centuries. Larger agglomerations of population were found in the parish headquarters—the plous (in Latin, plebs, "people"), which, although based on a church, were by no means limited to religious activities, but served economic and social functions as well. The area covered by a plou could vary widely—between roughly 10 and 100 square kilometers. As the population grew, the plous were subdivided into segments ( trevioù ), which in turn would grow into new parishes. The inheritance of this settlement and naming system is still very much in evidence in modern Brittany, where place names beginning in "Plou-" and "Tre-" are abundant (especially in the northwestern regions). The traditional rural house is rectangular, constructed of granite, with a roof of thatch or slate whose gables at each end are topped by a chimney; older houses have but one or two rooms, and appended structures, such as a stable (which would share a wall with the house), add to the impression of size. The traditional style is evident in many new houses throughout Brittany, though today they may be of cement, are whitewashed, and are far more spacious. Most of the major urban agglomerations in Brittany are found strung along or with access to the coast, the most important of which are (proceeding counterclockwise from the northeast) Saint Malo, Saint Brieuc, Morlaix, Brest, Concarneau, Quimper, Lorient, and Vannes. All of these support commercial maritime activities. The only major interior city is Rennes, historically the capital of the province; nowadays it is an industrial center (for the Citroën automobile, printing, and communications industries) and home to one of the two major universities located within Brittany (the other being in the coastal city of Brest).


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