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Bayonne ( ; Gascon Occitan and Basque: Baiona) is a city and commune in south-western Francemarker at the confluence of the Nivemarker and Adourmarker rivers, in the Pyrénées-Atlantiquesmarker department, of which it is a sub-prefecture.

Together with nearby Angletmarker, Biarritzmarker, Saint-Jean-de-Luzmarker, and several smaller communes, Bayonne forms an urban area with 178,965 inhabitants at the 1999 census, 40,078 of whom lived in the city of Bayonne proper (44,300 as of 2004 estimates).

The communes of Bayonne, Biarritz, and Anglet have joined into an intercommunal entity called the Communauté d'agglomération de Bayonne-Anglet-Biarritz.

Bayonne is the main town of Labourd and it is part of the French Basque Country.


In the 3rd century AD, the area was the site of a Roman castrum, named Lapurdum. It was a military site, but not a port.In 840, the Vikings appeared before Lapurdum. In 842, with their chieftain Björn Ironside they launched a large-scale inland offensive and settled outside the city on the river bank. Lapurdum was an oppidum and they needed a port. Bayonne (from Basque ibai "river") became a key place on the route between the Adour and Ebro Rivers, which served as a kind of link between the Atlantic Oceanmarker and the Mediterranean Seamarker. This commercial route was the main goal of Danish invaders in France. By this route, they could easily reach Tortosamarker, which was the main marketplace in Europe dealing with slaves.

By the 12th century, the city was an important port, with a mixed Basque and Gasconmarker population. As part of Aquitainemarker, it was ruled by Englandmarker between 1151 to 1452 and was a key commercial centre at the southern end of the English kingdom.

Its importance waned somewhat when the French king, Charles VII, took the city at the end of the Hundred Years' War and the Adour changed course shortly afterwards, leaving Bayonne without its access to the sea. The French, however, realised Bayonne's strategic site near the Spanishmarker border and in 1578 dug a canal to redirect the river through the city once again.

Bayonne endured numerous sieges from Plantagenet times until the end of the First French Empire in 1814. In the 17th century, Vauban built large fortifications and the Citadelle in and around the city. These proved crucial in 1813 and 1814, when Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington's army besieged the city in the Napoleonic Wars, only taking it when they used a bridge of ships across the Adour to position artillery around the city.

Bayonne's location close to the border, but also within the Basque Country straddling both France and Spain, gave it an often privileged position in commerce. Basque sailors travelled the world, bringing back products such as cinnamon and riches from piracy and the whaling and cod trades. An armaments industry developed, giving the world the "bayonet". Jewish refugees from the Spanish Inquisition from 1560 brought new trades, most notably chocolate-making, which is still important in Bayonne. Spanish Basques also sought refuge in Bayonne in the 20th century during Francisco Franco's repression, with Petit Bayonne still a centre of Basque nationalism.
View from the other side
By the mid-19th century, Bayonne had declined somewhat with the centralisation of power to Parismarker and to the new département capital, non-Basque Paumarker, after the 1789 French Revolution, and with Wellington's bombardment. However, rail links with Parismarker from 1854 and the growing touristic importance of nearby Biarritz brought industrialisation and development. Bayonne is now part of 'BAB' (Bayonne-Anglet-Biarritz), a metropolitan area of almost 200,000 people.


The Nive divides Bayonne into Grand Bayonne and Petit Bayonne, with five bridges between the two, both quarters still backed by Vauban's walls. Indeed the Nive is more like a main street, with many restaurants, squares and the covered market on its quays. The houses lining the Nive are picturesque examples of Basque architecture, with half-timbering and shutters in the national colours of red and green. The much wider Adour is to the north. The Pont St-Esprit connects Petit Bayonne with the Quartier St-Esprit across the Adour, where the massive Citadelle and the railway station are located.

Grand Bayonne is the commercial and civic hub, with small pedestrianised streets packed with shops, plus the cathedral and Hôtel de Ville.The Cathédrale Sainte-Mariemarker is an imposing, elegant Gothic building, rising over the houses, glimpsed along the narrow streets. It was constructed in the 12th and 13th centuries. The south tower was completed in the 16th century but the cathedral was only completed in the 19th century with the north tower.The cathedral is noted for its charming cloisters. There are other details and sculptures of note, although much was destroyed in the Revolution.Nearby is the Château-Vieux, some of which dates back to the 12th century, where the governors of the city were based, including the English Black Prince.
Sainte-Marie Cathedral

Petit Bayonne is lively with Basque bars and restaurants more reminiscent of cities the other side of the Pyrenees. There are two important museums here.The Musée Basque is the finest ethnographic museum of the entire Basque Country. It opened in 1922 but has been closed for a decade recently for refurbishment. It now has special exhibitions on Basque agriculture, seafaring and pelota, handicrafts and Basque history and way of life.The Musée Bonnat began with a large collection bequeathed by the local-born painter Léon Bonnat. The museum is one of the best galleries in south west France and has paintings by Degas, El Greco, Botticelli and Goya among others.At the back of Petit-Bayonne is the Château-Neuf, among the ramparts. Now an exhibition space, it was started by the newly-arrived French in 1460 to control the city. The walls nearby have been opened to visitors. They are important for plant life now and Bayonne's botanic gardens adjoin the walls on both sides of the Nive.

The area across the Adour is largely residential and industrial, with much demolished to make way for the railway. The St-Esprit church was part of a bigger complex built by Louis XI to care for pilgrims to Santiago de Compostelamarker. It has an attractive wooden Flight into Egypt sculpture.Overlooking the quarter is Vauban's 1680 Citadelle. The soldiers of Wellington's army who died besieging the citadelle in 1813 are buried in the nearby English Cemetery, visited by Queen Victoria and other British dignitaries when staying in Biarritz.The distillery of the famous local liqueur, Izarra, is on the northern bank of the Adour and is open to visitors.

Culture and sport

Bayonne has the longest tradition of bull-fighting in France and there is a ring beyond the walls of Grand Bayonne. The season runs between July and September.Bull-fighting is a major part of the five-day Fêtes de Bayonne which starts on the first Wednesday of August and attracts people from across the Basque Country and beyond. Parades, music, dance, fireworks, food and drink all feature in the celebrations. Soon after the Assumption festival of 15 August heralds a few more days of bull-fights.

There are also important festivals of Jazz (July), Bayonne ham (Holy Week), theatre and pelota (the Basque sport).

Aviron Bayonnais is the city's rugby union club, founded in 1904 and French champions three times, in 1913, 1934 and 1943. The local football team is Aviron Bayonnais FC.

Economy and products

Bayonne is known for its fine chocolates, produced in the town for 500 years, and Bayonne ham, a cured ham seasoned with peppers from nearby Espelettemarker. Izarra, the liqueur made in bright green or yellow colours, is distilled locally. It is said by some that Bayonne is the birthplace of mayonnaise, supposedly a corruption of Bayonnaise, the French adjective describing the city's people and produce. Now bayonnaise can refer to a particular mayonnaise flavoured with the Espelette chillis.

Bayonne is now the centre of certain craft industries that were once widespread, including the manufacture of makilas, traditional Basque walking-sticks. The Fabrique Alza just outside the city is known for its palas, bats used in pelota, the traditional Basque sport.

As of 1935, its chief industries were shipbuilding, tanning, and pottery.In the late 20th century, the processing of by-products from the Lacqmarker natural gas field near Pau became important, although Bayonne has had higher-than-average unemployment. Metallurgy also provides local jobs.


Bayonne is on the high-speed TGV line between Paris and Hendayemarker for connections with Spain. In practice, the line slows considerably beyond Bordeauxmarker although there are plans to improve the service. There are regional rail services along the Basque coast, to Pau and through the Landesmarker to Daxmarker and Bordeaux. There is a line along the Nive valley through Labourd and Lower Navarre to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Portmarker, used principally by tourists and hikers.

There are extensive bus connections with Biarritz, Anglet and surrounding villages.The city is near the intersection between the A63 autoroute between Bordeaux and the Spanish border and the A64 from Bayonne to Toulousemarker.

Bayonne has airport Aéroport de Biarritz-Anglet-Bayonnemarker, its away from the city towards Angletmarker .Its just opposite of N10 road. It's a joined airport with Biarritzmarker and Angletmarker with flights to destinations across Francemarker as well Europe.

Points of interest

Famous residents

Bayonne was the birthplace of:

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Civic information

The Mayor of Bayonne (1995-2007) is Jean Grenet of the centre-right UMP. The 39-strong town council is also dominated by the UMP, who hold 31 of the seats. The centre-left group has five seats, the Basque nationalist Baiona Berria have two and the communist LCR one.

Bayonne's Sister cities are:

Bayonne in literature

In Wyndham Lewis's The Wild Body (1927) the protagonist, Ker-Orr, in the first story, 'A Soldier of Humour', takes the train from Paris and stays in the town of Bayonne before passing through into Spain.

In Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, three of the characters visit the town en route to Pamplonamarker, Spain.

In Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt (2002), Bayonne is the first city recolonized by the Muslims after the total depopulation of Europe by the Black Death. Named "Baraka", its earliest colonizers are later driven out by rivals from Al-Andalusmarker and flee to the Loire Valleymarker, where they found the city of Nsara.

See also


Paris, Armand Durlacher, 1893. in-4 : xvj, 436 pp. ; illustré de 4 planches hors-texte.

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