Peninsula (French pronunciation: [kotɑ̃tɛ̃]),
also known as the
Cherbourg Peninsula, is a peninsula in
forms part of the northwest coast of France. It extends north-westward
into the English Channel, towards Great Britain. To its west lie the
Channel Islands and to the southwest lies the
The peninsula lies wholly within the department of Manche, in the
region of Normandy.
2.1 Roman Armorica
2.2 Medieval history
2.3 Modern history
6 Other sources
The Cotentin peninsula is part of the Armorican Massif (with the
exception of the Plain lying in the Paris Basin) and lies between the
estuary of the Vire river and
Mont Saint-Michel Bay. It is divided
into three areas: the headland of Cap de la Hague, the Cotentin Pass
(the Plain), and the valley of the Saire River (Val de Saire). It
forms the bulk of the department of Manche. Its southern part, known
as "le Marais" (the Marshlands), crosses from east to west from just
north west of
Saint Lo and east of
Lessay and marks a natural border
with the rest of Manche.
The largest town in the peninsula is
Cherbourg on the north coast, a
major cross-channel port.
The western coast of the peninsula, known as the Côte des Îles
("Islands Coast") faces the Channel Islands. Ferry links serve
Carteret and the islands of Jersey,
Dielette. Off the east coast of the peninsula lies the island of
Tatihou and the Îles Saint-Marcouf.
The oldest stone in France is found in outcroppings on the coast of
Cap de la Hague, at the tip of the peninsula.
Cotentin was almost an island at one time. Only a small strip of land
in the heath of
Lessay connected the peninsula with the mainland.
Thanks to the so-called portes à flot (fr), which close at flood and
open at ebb and which were built in the west coast and in the Baie
des Veys, on the east coast, the Cotentin has become a peninsula.
The Côte des Havres lies between the Cape of Carteret and the Cape of
Granville. To the northwest, there are two sand dune systems: one
Siouville-Hague and Vauville, the other one
stretching between Cap of Carteret and Baubigny.
The peninsula formed part of the Roman geographical area of Armorica.
The town known today as Coutances, capital of the Unelli, a Gaulish
tribe, acquired the name of Constantia in 298 during the reign of
Roman emperor Constantius Chlorus. The base of the peninsula, called
Latin the pagus Constantinus, joined together with the pagus
Coriovallensis centred upon
Cherbourg to the north, subsequently
became known as the Cotentin. Under the
Carolingians it was
administered by viscounts drawn successively from members of the
Saint-Sauveur family, at their seat Saint-Sauveur on the Douve.
King Alan the Great of
Brittany (d. 907) waged war successfully on the
Norsemen. As the result of his conquests, the Cotentin
included theoretically in the territory of the Duchy of Brittany,
Treaty of Compiègne (867) with the king of the Franks. The
Brittany suffered continuing Norse invasions and Norman
Brittany lost the Cotentin
after only 70 years of political domination.
Meanwhile, Vikings settled on the Cotentin in the ninth and tenth
centuries. There are indications of a whaling industry there dating to
the ninth century, possibly introduced by Norsemen. They were
followed by Anglo-Norse and Anglo-Danish people, who established
themselves as farmers. The Cotentin became part of
Normandy in the
early tenth century. Many placenames there are derived from the Norse
language. Examples include La Hague, from hagi ("meadow" or
"enclosure"), and La Hougue, from haugr ("hill" or "mound"). Other
names are typical: all those ending with -tot (Quettetot..) from topt
"site of a house" (modern -toft), -bec (Bricquebec, Houlbec..) from
bekkr "brook", "stream", etc.
In 1088 Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy, enfeoffed the Cotentin to
his brother Henry, who later became king of England. Henry, as count
of the Cotentin, established his first power base there and in the
adjoining Avranchin, which lay to the south, beyond the River Thar.
During the Hundred Years War, King
Edward III of England
Edward III of England landed in the
bay of La Hogue, and then came to the Church of Quettehou in Val de
Saire. It was there that Edward III knighted his son Edward, the Black
Prince. A remembrance plaque can be seen next to the altar.
D-Day assault map of
Normandy and northwest coastal France
The naval Battle of La Hogue in 1692 was fought off
Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue near Barfleur.
The town of
Valognes was, until the French Revolution, a provincial
social resort for the aristocracy, nicknamed the Versailles of
Normandy. The social scene was described in the novels of Jules Barbey
d'Aurevilly (himself from the Cotentin). Little now remains of the
grand houses and châteaux; they were destroyed by combat there during
the Battle of
Normandy in World War II.
During World War II, part of the 1944 Battle of
Normandy was fought in
the Cotentin. The westernmost part of the
D-Day landings was at Utah
Beach, on the southeastern coast of the peninsula, and was followed by
a campaign to occupy the peninsula and take Cherbourg.
The peninsula's main economic resource is agriculture. Dairy and
vegetable farming are prominent activities. Along the coast,
aquaculture of oysters is a growing industry. Cider and calvados
are produced from locally grown apples and pears.
The region hosts two important nuclear power facilities. At
Flamanville there is a nuclear power plant, where the second European
Pressurized Reactor in the world is being constructed, with
commissioning delayed to 2016 or later. COGEMA
La Hague site, a large
nuclear waste reprocessing and storage complex operated by Areva NC,
is located a few miles to the north, at Beaumont-Hague. The facility
stores all high level waste from the French nuclear power program in
one large vault. Nuclear industry provides a substantial portion of
jobs in the region. The roads used for transport of nuclear waste have
been blocked many times in the past by environmental action group
Greenpeace. Local environmental groups have voiced concerns about the
radioactivity levels of the cooling water of both these nuclear sites,
which is being flushed into the bay of Vauville; however, the emitted
radioactivity is several orders of magnitude below natural background
levels and does not pose any hazard.
There are two important naval shipyards in Cherbourg. The state-owned
shipyard DCNS has built French nuclear submarines since the 1960s.
Privately owned CMN builds frigates and patrol vessels for various
states, mostly from the Middle East.
Tourism is also an important economic activity in this region. Many
tourists visit the
D-Day invasion beaches, including
Utah Beach in the
Sainte-Mère-Église a few miles away from the beach,
there is a museum commemorating the action of the 82nd Airborne
Division and 101st Airborne Division. The Cité de la Mer in Cherbourg
is a museum of oceanic and underseas subjects. The main attraction is
Redoutable, the first French nuclear submarine, launched in 1967.
After quitting political life, the political thinker Alexis de
Tocqueville (1805-1859) retreated to the family estate of Tocqueville
where he wrote much of his work.
Due to its comparative isolation, the peninsula is one of the
remaining strongholds of the Norman language, and the local dialect is
known as Cotentinais. The
Norman language poet Côtis-Capel
(1915-1986) described the environment of the peninsula, while French
Jacques Prévert made his home at Omonville-la-Petite.
Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) was also born on the
Norman language writer Alfred Rossel, native of Cherbourg,
composed many songs which form part of the heritage of the region.
Rossel's song Sus la mé ("on the sea") is often sung as a regional
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^ Rolet, J.; Jegouzo, P.; Ledru, P.; Wyns, R. (1994).
"Intracontinental Hercynian Events in the Armorican Massif".
Pre-Mesozoic Geology in France and Related Areas IGCP-Project 233:
^ Bay of Écalgrain and Bay of Cul-Rond Website "Lithothèque de
^ Les Parcs Naturels Régionaux. Editions Gallimard. Page 176.
^ hydraulic heritage : les portes à flot (französisch)
^ P. Chesnel, Le Cotentin et l'
Avranchin sous les ducs de Normandie,
911-1204, 1912, noted in C. Warren Hollister, Henry I (Yale English
Monarchs), 2001:51ff and map, xviii; there were two brief interludes
when it was declared a countship.
^ DeSmet, W.M.A. (1981). "Mammals in the Seas: General papers and
large cetaceans. Whaling During the Middle Ages".
^ Twelve essential old Scandinavian words (old Norse) in placenames of
Normandy (R. Lepelley. Caen University) Archived 2011-07-21 at the
^ Hollister 2001: ff.
^ Catherine Berra (29 May 2013). "Basse-Normandie : le
développement de l'aquaculture à l'étude". France 3 Normandie.
FranceInfo. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
Middle Ages portal
Renaud, Jean: Les Vikings et la Normandie (Ouest-France. 2002)
Renaud, Jean: Les dieux des Vikings (Ouest-France. 2002)
Coordinates: 49°30′N 1°30′W / 49.500°N 1.500°W /