Cultural connections between Brittany and Aquitaine in the Middle Ages (10th – 13th centuries) : ‘The Matter of Britain’ and the ‘Chansons de Geste
Patrice Marquand (European University of Brittany)
Published Online (2009)
This paper is a summary, an overview of my thesis in progress which deals particularly with the spreading of the Matter of Britain to Aquitaine in the Middle Ages, and with the Breton characters, historical or not, mentioned in the ‘chansons de geste’ written in Occitan or linked with the Occitan area.
The Occitan troubadours were very familiar with the Matter of Britain, most probably before the poets of northern France. This leads us to suspect that this Matter spread directly from the Celtic countries to Aquitaine. Is this because in the 12th century the British Isles, Brittany and Aquitaine were in the same political area, ruled over by the Plantagenet family whose part in the promotion of the Matter of Britain is well known? However, the links between the Armorican peninsula (called Brittany since the sixth century) and Aquitaine are very old. During the Metal Ages they were part of a larger contact network which archaeologists refer to as ‘the Atlantic Complex’. In this Complex, which extended from Ireland to the Iberian Peninsula, the Armorican peninsula sometimes played a pivotal role between the British Isles and the continent.