Saint-Jean-de-Luz

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Saint-Jean-de-Luz
Waterfront
Waterfront
Saint-Jean-de-Luz is located in France
Saint-Jean-de-Luz
Saint-Jean-de-Luz
Coordinates: 43°23′N 1°40′W / 43.39°N 1.66°W / 43.39; -1.66Coordinates: 43°23′N 1°40′W / 43.39°N 1.66°W / 43.39; -1.66
Country France
Region Aquitaine
Department Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Arrondissement Bayonne
Canton Saint-Jean-de-Luz
Government
 • Mayor (2008–2014) Pierre Duhart
Area
 • Land1 19 km2 (7 sq mi)
Population (2007)
 • Population2 13,728
 • Population2 density 720/km2 (1,900/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 64483 / 64500
Elevation 0–84 m (0–276 ft)
(avg. 6 m or 20 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-de-Luz (Basque: Donibane Lohizune) is a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in south-western France. Saint-Jean-de-Luz is part of the Basque province of Labourd.

Geography[edit]

Saint-Jean-de-Luz bay is situated to the east of the Bay of Biscay. It is the only sheltered bay between Arcachon and Spain. Thanks to its strong sea walls or dykes that protect the town from the full savagery of the Atlantic ocean, it has become a favourite for bathers across the Basque Coast. The seaside resort itself is relatively recent, however the port is old.[citation needed]

Fishermen from St Jean de Luz

Water from the area flows into the town[1] from the Nivelle and its smaller tributaries, the Etxeberri, Isaka and Xantako streams. There is also the Basarun, and its smaller tributary the Mendi, which passes directly through Saint-Jean-de-Luz. The river has been made accessible to boats and it joins the sea by the Erromardia beach. A branch of the Uhabia, an emblematic river in the neighbouring Bidart district, and its smaller Amisola tributary, also pass to the sea through St Jean de Luz.[citation needed]

Transportation[edit]

Saint-Jean-de-Luz straddles Route départementale D810, the old Route nationale 10. The town can be reached from the A63 motorway, Exit 3 (Saint-Jean-de-Luz Nord) and Exit 2 (Saint-Jean-de-Luz Sud). The Saint-Jean-de-Luz-Ciboure railway station is served by the SNCF Bordeaux to Irun route. Biarritz Airport is the closest airport to Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

History[edit]

Saint-Jean-de-Luz is located on the Atlantic coast of France, just a few kilometres from the border with Spain. Its wealth stems from its port and its past, with the town being associated with both fishing, and with the capture of vessels by its own Basque corsaires, or pirates. This prosperity reached its height during the 17th Century, which is still considered as the town's "Golden Age." During this period, Saint-Jean-De-Luz became the second largest town in the Labourd region with a population or around 12,000, just behind Bayonne.

Saint-Jean-de-Luz is known for its royal wedding connection. In 1659, Cardinal Mazarin spent several months in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, from where he would embark on almost daily trips to the island of Bidassoa (near modern-day Hendaye) for Franco-Spanish meetings that resulted in the Treaty of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, one clause of which was the marriage of Louis XIV to Maria Theresa, the Infanta of Spain. Saint-Jean-de-Luz and its church were chosen to host the royal wedding on 9 June 1660.

Evacuation of the Polish army by sea in June 1940[edit]

A few weeks after the invasion of France by Germany during the Second World War, Saint-Jean-de-Luz was the scene of dramatic events. Polish soldiers who were unable to sail for England from Saint-Nazaire flocked onto the beach and the pier in the fishing port where large ships were able to dock. The ship M / S Batory and M / S Sobieski anchored in the harbour. Local fishermen volunteered to carry soldiers back and forth between the coast and each of these two big boats. The sea was rough and the fishing boats had difficulty approaching the side of these ships to enable the men who wanted to leave to board the ship without falling into the water. It is reported that women and children were helped aboard by sailors. Diplomats and officials of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also embarked on these ships and some French who had been inspired by the call to continue the struggle against the Germans made by General De Gaulle a few days earlier, on June 18. We know in detail the various movements of ships through the logs that have been preserved. The M / S Sobieski was at the mouth of the Gironde river on June 20, and arrived in Saint-Jean-de-Luz harbour on the night of June 20 to 21.

Infanta of Spain's House

The boarding of the ship immediately took place. As for the M / S Batory, on June 21 at 7:00 am it was located at the mouth of the Adour and then began an approach to enter the port of Bayonne without anchor. However, on the recommendation of a British liaison officer, the ship set sail for Saint-Jean-de-Luz, where the soldiers’ units were gathered along with Polish civilian refugees. Maurice Schumann embarked on the M/S Batory. Bad weather and low clouds prevented a Luftwaffe attack and hence another disaster along the lines of the one that had happened a few days earlier, on June 17, in Saint-Nazaire, with the sinking of the British liner Lancastria which was attempting to evacuate UK soldiers and civilians.

St-Jean-de Luz Town Hall

Post War[edit]

After 1945, some of the traditional fishing-based industries of the Fargeot district gradually disappeared, mainly as a result of overfishing and competition from elsewhere. This change strengthened the transformation of the town towards more luxury and tourism industries. In Saint-Jean-de-Luz over 40% of dwellings of the town are second homes.

Saint-Jean-de-Luz

In the 1960s the town expanded northwards (Avenue de l’Ocean) and also southwards in the direction of (the Urdazuri district). Since the 1970s, St Jean de Luz has been connected to Bordeaux to the north and Spain to the south by the motorway, and more recently by the TGV railway. St-Jean-de-Luz boasts extensive and attractive land and scenery, as well as a well-preserved coastline which has so far escaped urbanisation. Indeed, some of the Basque coast has seen a degree of development, but the area between Fort Socoa and the Abbadia nature reserve and castle remains well protected.

Today[edit]

Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a fishing port on the Basque coast and now a famous resort, known for its architecture, sandy bay, the quality of the light and the cuisine. The town is located south of Biarritz, on the right bank of the river Nivelle (French for Urdazuri) opposite to Ciboure. The port lies on the estuary just before the river joins the ocean. The summit of Larrun is situated approximately 8 km (5.0 mi) to the south-east of the town. The summit can be reached by the Petit train de la Rhune, which commences from the Col de Saint-Ignace, 10.6 km (6.6 mi) to the east of the town on the D4 road to Sare. It is in the traditional province of Lapurdi of the Basque Country.

Cultural heritage[edit]

The town features a large number of residences built in the 17th and 18th centuries along the Quai de L'Infante, Rue Mazarin, Rue Gambetta and at the Place Louis XIV. In some respects this is testament to the families, shipowners and Basque merchants from this period. One of these, built alongside the Quai de L'Infante around 1640, is called the "Maison Joanoenea," and it is here that the Queen Mother, Anne of Austria, stayed before the marriage of Louis XIV to Maria Theresa, the Infanta of Spain on 8 May 1660. The Infanta stayed there on 7 June. Locally this house is referred to as the "Maison de l'Infante", and it has become a popular tourist attraction and museum. A monument in the Verdun Square honours the memory of the fallen soldiers from World War I and World War II, and another monument on the Quai L’Infante is dedicated to the resistance movement Orion. This second plaque commemorates the importance of the work of French escape networks which helped people evade capture in Occupied France during World War II. Finally, there are some bunkers still visible along the coast. These formed part of the infamous Atlantic Wall, German defences against the anticipated Allied invasion of Westen France. Some remains are still visible on the Santa-Barbe promenade.

Tourism[edit]

Nowadays, St-Jean-de-Luz depends strongly on tourism with safe clean beaches, notable high quality hotels and a thalassotherapie spa, swimming pools, a casino, golf courses and a new conference centre that is under construction. The town also benefits from regional tourism, with many attracted by the pedestrian area full of shops open all year round. It also attracts a large number of visitors from Basque Country, Spain, or Gipuzkoa along with many from nearby Bayonne and the rest of southwestern France. The city is particularly attractive to retired people, many of whom come to settle there from other areas across France.

Church of St. John the Baptist

Many cultural and sporting events are held throughout the year. There are internships and public concerts of classical music organized by the Académie Ravel, usually in the auditorium of the same name. There is a film festival dedicated to young filmmakers, a surfing film festival and Basque Pelota championships.

The tradition of the Basque ‘Trials of Strength’[edit]

The origin of Basque Trials of Strength is found in the daily tasks carried out across the region. For centuries, young Basque farmers pitted themselves against each other in physical challenges. Labouring in the forests of the Basque Country gave rise to the challenge known as aizkolariak (based on lumberjacks working with an ax or arpanariak), as well as athletic sawing of tree stumps and wood. The construction of buildings, often based on large stones for the cathedrals and monasteries led to the development of the challenge known as arrijasotzaileak - literally those who lift stones.

Several events originate from working in the fields, the best known of which is lastoaltxatzea, the lifting of straw bales. This is done either using a pitchfork or a pulley, and is often organized in tandem with joko (cart-lifting), zakulasterka (individual relay or sack races), and untziketariak, a race involving pitchers of milk. Also well-known is soka-shot, or tug-of-war, which is an internationally recognised discipline celebrated in no less than fourteen countries. During the summer, demonstrations of Force Basque are organised by the local Xiste organization, often at the main municipal arena in Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

Carnivals, Festivals and Events[edit]

  • Basque carnival of Ihauteriak held in February
  • Weekend Andalusian festival of Pentecost
  • Festival of Saint Jean, patron saint of the city, held end of June
  • Tuna Festival held 2nd Saturday of July along with the Amateur Tuna Festival
  • Sardine Night Festival - end of July and into August
  • Since 1953, the local Basque Yacht Club has organised an international Amateur Tuna Fishing Championship in August
  • Classical Music of the Basque Coast Festival in September with concerts and free master classes
  • Maurice Ravel International Academy of Music holds classes in first half of September
  • Rue de la République Festival organised by local merchants, 3rd weekend in September
  • Young International Film Directors Festival each October
  • International Basque Choral Singing Festival Festival around Halloween (1 November)

Well known personalities connected to the town[edit]

18th century
19th century
20th century

Points of interest[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]