FINISTERE, or Finisterre, the most western department of France, formed from part of the old province of Brittany. Pop. (1906) 795,103. Area, 2713 sq. m. It is bounded W. and S. by the Atlantic Ocean, E. by the departments of Côtes-du-Nord and Morbihan, and N. by the English Channel. Two converging chains of hills run from the west towards the east of the department and divide it into three zones conveying the waters in three different directions. North of the Arrée, or more northern of the two chains, the waters of the Douron, Penzé and Flèche flow northward to the sea. The Elorn, however, after a short northerly course, turns westward and empties into the Brest roads. South of the Montagnes Noires, the Odet, Aven, Isole and Ellé flow southward; while the waters of the Aulne, flowing through a region enclosed by the two chains with a westward declination, discharge into the Brest roads. The rivers are all small, and none of the hills attain a height of 1300 ft. The coast is generally steep and rocky and at some points dangerous, notably off Cape Raz and the Ile de Sein; it is indented with numerous bays and inlets, the chief of which - the roadstead of Brest and the Bays of Douarnenez and Audierne - are on the west. The principal harbours are those of Brest, Concarneau, Morlaix, Landerneau, Quimper and Douarnenez. Off the coast lie a number of islands and rocks, the principal of which are Ushant (q.v.) N.W. of Cape St Mathieu, and Batz off Roscoff. The climate is temperate and equable, but humid; the prevailing winds are the W., S.W. and N.W. Though more than a third of the department is covered by heath, waste land and forest, it produces oats, wheat, buckwheat, rye and barley in quantities more than sufficient for its population. In the extreme north the neighbourhood of Roscoff, and farther south the borders of the Brest roadstead, are extremely fertile and yield large quantities of asparagus, artichokes and onions, besides melons and other fruits. The cider apple is abundant and furnishes the chief drink of the inhabitants. Hemp and flax are also grown. The farm and dairy produce is plentiful, and great attention is paid to the breeding and feeding of cattle and horses. The production of honey and wax is considerable. The fisheries of the coast, particularly the pilchard fishery, employ a great many hands and render this department an excellent nursery of seamen for the French navy. Coal, though found in Finistère, is not mined; there are quarries of granite, slate, potter's clay, etc. The lead mines of Poullaouen and Huelgoat, which for several centuries yielded a considerable quantity of silver, are no longer worked. The preparation of sardines is carried on on a large scale at several of the coast-towns. The manufactures include linens, woollens, sail-cloth, ropes, agricultural implements, paper, leather, earthenware, soda, soap, candles, and fertilizers and chemicals derived from seaweed. Brest has important foundries and engineering works; and shipbuilding is carried on there and at other seaports. Brest and Morlaix are the most important commercial ports. Trade is in fish, vegetables and fruit. Coal is the chief import. The department is served by the Orleans and Western railways. The canal from Nantes to Brest has 51 m. of its length in the department. The Aulne is navigable for 17 m., and many of the smaller rivers for short distances.
Finistère is divided into the arrondissements of Quimperlé, Brest, Châteaulin, Morlaix and Quimper (43 cantons, 294 communes), the town of Quimper being the capital of the department and the seat of a bishopric. The department belongs to the region of the XI. army corps and to the archiepiscopal province and académie (educational division) of Rennes, where its court of appeal is also situated.
The more important places are Quimper, Brest, Morlaix, Quimperlé, St Pol-de-Léon, Douarnenez, Concarneau, Roscoff, Penmarc'h and Pont-l'Abbé. Finistère abounds in menhirs and other megalithic monuments, of which those of Penmarc'h, Plouarzal and Crozon are noted. The two religious structures characteristic of Brittany - calvaries and charnel-houses - are frequently met with. The calvaries of Plougastel-Daoulas, Pleyben, St Thégonnec, Lampaul-Guimiliau, which date from the 17th century, and that of Guimiliau (16th century), and the charnel-houses of Sizun and St Thégonnec (16th century) and of Guimiliau (17th century) may be instanced as the most remarkable. Daoulas has the remains of a fine church and cloister in the Romanesque style. The chapel of St Herbot (16th century) near Loqueffret, the churches of St Jean-du-Doigt and Locronan, which belong to the 15th and 16th centuries, those of Ploaré, Roscoff, Penmarc'h and Pleyben of the 16th century, that of Le Folgoët (14th and 16th centuries), and the huge château of Kerjean (16th century) are of architectural interest. Religious festivals, and processions known as "pardons," are held in many places, notably at Locronan, St Jean-du-Doigt, St Herbot and Le Faou.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)