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Cornouaille's location within Brittany.
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Cornouaille is a historic region in Brittany, in northwest Francemarker. The name is identical to the French name for the Duchy of Cornwallmarker, since the area was settled by migrant princes from Cornwall. At this time, the same language was spoken on both sides of the Channel, which evolved into a dialect, the Cornish language in the island, and into a similar dialect, the Breton language on the continent. However, in French the British Cornwall is referred to as "Les Cornouailles" in the plural to distinguish it from the Breton region.

Origin of name

Cornouaille was established in the early Middle Ages in the southwest of the Breton peninsula. During this same period other British migrants established the region of Dumnonia (in Latin) or Domnonée (in French) in the north of the peninsula (the name of the British county of Devonmarker derived from this same word). We see the case of identical name for two kingdoms: for example, the "Gwened" in south Brittany (Vannes) (this region is called after its iron-age inhabitants, the "Veneti", in Breton "Weneted") and the Welsh "Gwynedd", or the Parisi in the Yorkshire and the Parisii in Paris.

The region was first mentioned by this name between 852 and 857 when the Bishop of Saint-Corentin, Anaweten, took over "Cornugallensis". The Germanic interpretation of the name of Cornwall or (Corn-whealas) has been supposed to mean "the corner of foreigners" [lit. Horn – being a geographic description of the Armorican land mass – of Welsh] in reference to the resettling of the Celts from 'Great Britain' as opposed to 'Lesser Britain', the difference between 'La Grande Bretagne' – Great Britain – and 'La Bretagne', Brittany. However, the basic stem of the name, Cornwall, come from the name of the Celtic British peoples who populated the area after migrating there from other Celtic British areas, the 'Kernow'.


Strong contacts between Armorica (Brittany) and southern Britain had already been noted by Julius Caesar. Native British troops were hired to support the usurpation of Magnus Maximus, who is said to have settled them in Armorica. Settlements expanded when Anglo-Saxons expanded within Britain. Strong links existed in the 6th century between the British and Armorican territories. Arthurian legends make frequent reference to the maritime connections between the peoples of Wales, southern Ireland, southwest Britain and Brittany, cf. the tale of Tristram and Yseult.

The existence of a district of ancient Anjoumarker called "La Cornuaille" has led to the hypothesis that it was a geographical or military label for all of southern Brittany as far as the northern shore of la Domnonée in the 6th or 7th century.

At the origin of this feudal county, the reigning dynasty acceded to a dukedom of the region, which then passed to the bishop of Quimper.

In Breton, Cornouaille, as well as Cornwall, is known as "Kernev" or "Bro-Gernev", and in Latin as "Cornugallia" or "Cornubia". In Cornish, "Kernev" is written "Kernyw", but the pronunciation is the same.


The name Cornouaille signifies the diocese of Quimper which persisted until the French Revolution. The diocese covered more than half of the south of Finistèremarker, and extended over part of Morbihanmarker and the Côtes-d'Armormarker. There were two arch-deacons, one for Cornouaille and one for Poher. There were also a cantor, a treasurer, a theologian and twelve canons. This episcopal division was the poorest in Brittany.

After the French Revolution, the new constitution created a diocese of Finistère, erasing that of the diocese of Kerne (diocese of Cournouaille); most of the old diocese was absorbed into the new.


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