Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

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Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
Old bridge over river Nive
Old bridge over river Nive
Coat of arms of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
Coat of arms
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is located in France
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
Coordinates: 43°09′54″N 1°14′08″W / 43.165°N 1.2356°W / 43.165; -1.2356Coordinates: 43°09′54″N 1°14′08″W / 43.165°N 1.2356°W / 43.165; -1.2356
Country France
Region Aquitaine
Department Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Arrondissement Bayonne
Canton Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
Intercommunality Garazi-Baïgorri
Government
 • Mayor (2001–2008) Alphonse Idiart
Area
 • Land1 2.73 km2 (1.05 sq mi)
Population (2006)
 • Population2 1,754
 • Population2 density 640/km2 (1,700/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 64485 / 64220
Elevation 159–320 m (522–1,050 ft)
(avg. 180 m or 590 ft)

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (literally meaning "Saint John at the foot of the mountain pass" in French) (Basque: Donibane Garazi) is a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in south-western France close to Ostabat in the Pyrenean foothills. The town is also the old capital of the traditional Basque province of Lower Navarre. This is also the starting point for the Camino Frances, the most popular option for travelling the Camino de Santiago, and appeared in the movie The Way.

Geography[edit]

The town lies on the river Nive, 8 km (5.0 mi) from the Spanish border, and it is the head town of the region of Cize (Garazi in Basque). It is made up essentially of one main street with sandstone walls encircling.

Neighboring municipalities[edit]

History[edit]

Bridge at St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, 1940
by Louis Dewis

The original town at nearby Saint-Jean-le-Vieux was razed to the ground in 1177 by the troops of Richard the Lionheart after a siege. The Kings of Navarre refounded the town on its present site shortly afterwards.

The town was thereafter a town of the Kingdom of Navarre, and the seat of the sheriff of the Lower Navarre district ("merindad" of Ultrapuertos or Deça-Ports). It stack to that category up to the period of the Spanish conquest (1512-1528), when King Henry II of Navarre decided to transfer the seat of the royal institutions to Saint Palais (Donapaleu) on safety grounds.

The town has traditionally been an important point on the Way of St. James, the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, as it stands at the base of the Roncevaux Pass across the Pyrenees. Pied-de-Port means 'foot of the pass' in Pyrenean French. The routes from Paris, Vézelay and Le Puy-en-Velay meet at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and it was the pilgrims' last stop before the arduous mountain crossing.

In 1998, the Porte St-Jacques (city gate) was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites as part of the sites along the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.


Main sights[edit]

The cobbled rue de la Citadelle runs down hill and over the river from the fifteenth century Porte St-Jacques to the Porte d'Espagne by the bridge. From the bridge, there are views of the old houses with balconies overlooking the Nive. Many of the buildings are very old, of pink and grey schist, and retain distinctive features, including inscriptions over their doors. One, a bakery, lists the price of wheat in 1789.

A panorama view of St Jean as seen from the Citadelle in 2010.

The 14th century red schist Gothic church, Notre-Dame-du-Bout-du-Pont, stands by the Porte d'Espagne. The original was built by Sancho the Strong of Navarre to commemorate the 1212 Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa where Moorish dominance of Spain was undermined.

Above the town at the top of the hill is the citadel, remodelled by Vauban in the 17th century.

Outside the walls is a new town, with the Hôtel de Ville and a pelota fronton.

Economy[edit]

Traditional crafts and foods remain in the town, including Basque linen from the Inchauspé family since 1848. The town is now an important tourist centre for the Pyrenees and the French Basque country and there are shops, restaurants and hotels.

The Basque cuisine is one of the finest cuisines around. St-Jean-Pied-de-Port specializes in fromage de brebis or OssauIraty, sheep's cheese, local trout and pipérade, omelette with peppers and Bayonne ham.

Mondays see a large market, with sheep and cattle driven into the town. At 5pm, there is a communal game of bare-handed pelote at the fronton. There are large fairs four times a year.

Transportation[edit]

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is the terminus on the railway line from Bayonne through the French Basque Country, along the valley of the river Nive, with several services each day. It is 1 km from the centre of the town. Biarritz Airport is the closest airport to Saint Jean Pied de Port.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]