Parlement of Brittany

Last updated
Façade of the palace of Parliament of Brittany

The Parlement of Brittany (French : Parlement de Bretagne, Breton : Breujoù Breizh) was a court of justice under the Ancien Régime in France, with its seat at Rennes. The last building to house the Parlement still stands and now houses the Rennes Court of Appeal, the natural successor of the Parlement.


Parlements under the Ancien Régime

As with all the Parlements before they were abolished in 1789, that of Brittany was a sovereign court of justice, principally listening to appeals of sentences issued by lower jurisdictions.

The Parlement also possessed limited legislative powers and asserted some autonomy with respect to the royal prerogative. The nobles of Brittany were keen to defend the rights of the province, known as the "Breton liberties", maintained under the treaty of union with France. They were determined to exercise these powers, and to play a big part in the life of the Parlement and consequently in the life of the whole province. This resistance to royal powers, involving the defending of its institutions and the privileges of the nobility, was widespread. Composed of similar members with many interests in common, the Estates of Brittany were invariably united with the Parlement of Brittany in defence of their rights.


Judicial Competence

The foremost responsibilities of the Parlement of Brittany were the processing of appeals against judgements in civil matters rather than criminal matters. It had to instruct and to judge across wide-ranging areas of litigation, and question all that which may have escaped the attention, for various reasons, of the lower provincial jurisdictions.

Main responsibilities


Civil Process

According to a sample of the Parlement's judgments compiled by Séverine Debordes-Lissillour, its judgments (excluding those in a few trials that lasted more than ten years) had an average delay between the initial sentence and the decision of two or three years at the beginning of the 18th century, but this increased steadily until it was more than five years at the end of the century. [1] Within that same sample of judgments, the Parlement confirmed the judgment in 60 per cent of cases, but was divided in 30 per cent of cases, some being the object of an "evocation before the court," while the remaining 10 per cent of judgements were left unfinished as “having to be done right”). More than half of the procedures concerned questions of succession, of property and of obligations. [2]

Administrative Competence

The Parlement of Brittany possessed many administrative prerogatives, such as guardianship of parishes and control of policing. The contentions and complaints that it processed allowed it to be fairly well informed about general difficulties justifying the sentences passed or overriding the strict judicial framework. All the same, royal orders and edicts could require implementation more or less immediately.

Parishes had to ask for the Parlement’s agreement when they wanted to raise money for their own needs (repairs, for example). Forty parishes asked for such decisions during a single term in the year 1693. The parish rector had to publicise any judgments.

One of the innovations of the laws of August 16 and August 24, 1790, following the abolition of the Parlements, was the separation of the judicial and the administrative courts.

The Parlement Building

Plans were drawn by the city architect of Rennes, German Gaultier and reviewed by Salomon de Brosse (designer of the facades). The Parlement of Brittany decided to site the palace in the heart of the city, where it had sat ever since 1655.

The building was restored following severe fire damage on February 5, 1994, an event linked to violent demonstrations by local fishermen. The building was adapted to the requirements of the 21st century, and the Court of Appeal of Rennes was able to resume its activities there within five years.

See also

Notes and references

  1. Séverine Debordes-Lissillour, The Royal Sénéchaussées of Brittany, University Press of Rennes, 2006.
  2. Séverine Debordes-Lissillour, The Royal Sénéchaussées of Brittany, University Press of Rennes, 2006.


In French

Coordinates: 48°06′46″N1°40′40″W / 48.1128°N 1.6778°W / 48.1128; -1.6778