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MORBIHAN

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V18, Page 820 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MORBIHAN, a department of western France on the Atlantic seaboard, formed of part of Lower Brittany, and bounded S.E. by the department of Loire-Inferieure, E. by that of Ille-et-Vilaine, N. by Cotes-du-Nord, and W. by Firistere. Area, 2738 sq. m. Pop. (1906), 573,152. From the Montagnes Noires on the northern frontier the western portion of Morbihan slopes southward towards the Atlantic, being watered by the Elie, the Blavet with its affluent the Scorff, and the Auray; the eastern portion, on the other hand, dips towards the south-east in the direction of the course of the Oust and its feeders, which fall into the Vilaine. Though the Montagnes Noires contain the highest point (974 ft.) in the department, the most striking orographic feature of Morbihan is the dreary, treeless, streamless tract of moorland and marsh known as the Landes of Lanvaux, which extends (W.N.W. to E.S.E.) with a width of from 1 to 3 miles for a distance of 31 miles between the valley of the Claie and that of the Arz (affluents of the Oust). A striking contrast to this district is afforded by the various inlets of the sea, whose shores are clothed with vegetation of exceptional richness, large fig-trees, rose-laurels, and aloes growing as if in Algeria. The coast-line is exceedingly irregular: the mouth of the Vilaine, the peninsular of Ruis, the great gulf of Morbihan (Inner Sea), from which the department takes its name, and the mouth of the Auray, the long Quiberon peninsula attached to the mainland by the narrow isthmus of Fort Penthievre, the deep-branching estuary of Etel, the mouths of the Blavet and the Scorff uniting to form the port of Lorient, and, finally, on the borders of Finistere the mouth of the Laita, follow each other in rapid succession. Off the coast lie the islands of Groix, Belle-Ile (q.v.), Houat and Hoedik. Vessels drawing 13 ft. can ascend the Vilaine as far as Redon; the Blavet is canalized throughout its course through the department; and the Oust, as part of the canal from Nantes to Brest, forms a great waterway by Redon, Josselin, Rohan and Pontivy. The climate of Morbihan is characterized by great moisture and mildness. Unproductive heath occupies more than a quarter of the department, about a third of which is arable land. Rye, buckwheat and wheat, potatoes and mangels are the chief crops; hemp and flax are also grown. Horned cattle are the chief livestock and bee-keeping is extensively practised. The sea-ware gathered along the coast helps greatly to improve the soil of the region bordering thereon. Outside of Lorient (q.v.), a centre for naval construction, there is little industrial activity in Morbihan. The catching and curing of sardines and the breeding of oysters (Auray, St Armel, &c.) form the business of many of the inhabitants of the coast, who also fish for anchovies, lobsters, &c., for tinning. The forges of Hennebont are of some importance for the production of sheet-tin. The department is served by the Orleans railway. It is divided into four arrondissements—Vannes, Lorient, Ploermel and Pontivy—with 37 cantons and 256 communes. The capital Vannes is the seat of a bishopric of the province of Rennes. The department belongs to the region of the XIth army corps and to the academie (educational division) of Rennes, where also is its court of appeal. The principal places are Vannes, Lorient, Ploermel, Pontivy, Au'ray, Hennebont, Carnac and Locmariaquer, the last two famous for the megalithic monuments in their vicinity. Other places of interest are Erdeven and Plouharnel, also well known for their megalithic remains; Elven, with two towers of the 15th century, remains of an old stronghold; Josselin which has the fine chateau of the Rohan family and a church containing the tomb (15th century) of Olivier de Clisson and his wife; Guern with a chapel of the 15th and 16th centuries and le Faouet with a chapel of the 15th century; Quiberon, which is associated with the disaster of the French emigres in 1745; Sarzeau, near which is the fortress of Sucinio (13th and 15th centuries); Ste Barbe with a chapel, dating from about the end of the 15th century, finely situated, overlooking the Elie; St Gildas-de-Ruis, with a ruined Romanesque church and other remains of a Benedictine abbey of which Abelard was for a time abbot. The principal pardons (religious festivals) of the department are those of Ste Anne-d'Auray and St Nicolas-des-Eaux.
End of Article: MORBIHAN
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