ille et vilaine


Ille-et-Vilaine (Il-ha-Gwilen) is a department of France, located in the region of Bretagne in the northwest of France.


Ille-et-Vilaine is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. It was created from part of the province of Brittany.


Ille-et-Vilaine is a part of the current region of Bretagne and is bordered by the departments of Manche to the north-east, Mayenne to the west, Maine-et-Loire to the south-west, Loire-Atlantique to the south, Morbihan to the south-west, and Côtes-d'Armor to the west and north-west. Also the English Channel (locally named la Manche in French) borders the department to the north.

The department is named after its two main rivers, the Ille and the Vilaine, whose confluent is in Rennes, the capital of the department and of the region; other important rivers include :

  • the Rance, that borders the department in the north-west and flows to the north, creating a deep fjord before reaching the English Channel on the western part of the coast (named Côte d’Émeraude) between the cities of Dinard and Saint-Malo); the Rance river is connected from the west of the department to the Ille river in the north-west suburbs of Rennes with a navigatable channel (then the Ille river is channelized to join the Vilaine up to the center of the city of Rennes) ;
  • and the Couesnon that borders the eastern part of the department and which reaches the eastern part of the coast of the English Channel, in the flat Bay of the Mont Saint-Michel.

The department is moderately elevated above the level of the sea, with many hills; however the central part has a dense network of many small rivers connecting to the Ille or the Vilaine from all around the large bassin of Rennes. The elevated hills bordering this bassin are covered by several old forests now exploited by men for the production of wood. The bassin itself is a rich agriculture area, as well as the north-west of the department near the Rance.

In the extreme south of the department the flows of the Vilaine are going through slow decrease of elevation in a small corridor in the area of the city of Redon; in this area, the Vilaine is known for its frequent floodings during its recent history, often because of too intensive draining of agricultural areas around Rennes (some floodings have also affected some quarters of Rennes up to the 1980's due to incorrect management of old equipments of the artificial channel of Ille-et-Rance). To avoid these hazards within inhabited cities, some natural fields bordering the Vilaine in the south of the department are now left floodable, and works for regulating the level have been done including, small articicial lakes with derivation channels, replanting trees in the bassin, better management of forests, and regulating the articifial drains made for agriculture.


The population has grown over the last few decades and was estimated at 903,400 in January 2003.


Gallo is a historic minority language spoken in eastern Brittany. Gallo and Breton are both studied at the University of Rennes.


Historically, the Breton language was little spoken in the eastern part of Brittany, and was one of the first regions where the language was disappeared, so Breton wasn't being spoken for many centuries.

Today, Breton is again spoken due to schools teaching Breton, and due to a small immigration from Western Brittany to Eastern Brittany, where there are more cities, so where there's more work. A recent study shows that the Breton speakers in this region represent 3,3% of the total number of Breton speakers. Interestingly, the Breton speakers aged 18-30 in this region represent 12,7% of the total number of Breton speakers of that age group. This is because there are relatively little elder speakers, but many people are learning the language. The study says that about 1.800 people are learning it (this includes one Diwan school in Rennes, some bilingual public and catholic schools, and evening courses).

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