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Jean Grenet (Radical-UMP)

Points of interest
Musee Bonnat, Bayonne Cathedral, Stade Jean Dauger

Bayonne ( Gascon Baiona Basque: Spanish: ) is a city and commune in southwestern France at the confluence of the Nive and Adour rivers, in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques department, of which it is a sub-prefecture. It belongs to both vernacular cultural regions of Basque Country and Gascony.


Map of Bayonne

Together with nearby Anglet, Biarritz, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, 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 biggest flash mob ever of lady gaga in the bayonnes festivals in france 2011

The communes of Bayonne, Biarritz, and Anglet have joined into an intercommunal entity called the Agglomeration Cote Basque-Adour (formerly Communaute dagglomeration de Bayonne-Anglet-Biarritz (BAB) prior to 2010).

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In the 3rd century AD, the area was the site of a Roman castrum called Lapurdum, which was a military site, but not a port. In 840 the Vikings appeared before Lapurdum; in 842, Viking chieftain Bjorn Ironside and his troops 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 Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. This commercial route was the main goal of Danish invaders in France. By this route, they could easily reach Muslim-controlled Tortosa, which was the main marketplace in Europe dealing with slaves.

Bayonne in the past, History of Bayonne

By the 13th century, the city was an important port, with a Gascon and Basque population. As part of Aquitaine, it was ruled by England between 1151 to 1452 and was a key commercial center 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 Bayonnes strategic site near the Spanish border and in 1578 dug a canal to again redirect the river through the city.

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 during the siege of Bayonne, when Wellingtons 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.

Bayonnes 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 Francos repression, with Petit Bayonne still a centre of Basque nationalism.

By the mid-19th century, Bayonne had declined somewhat with the centralisation of power to Paris and to the new departement capital, non-Basque Pau, after the 1789 French Revolution, and with Wellingtons bombardment. However, rail links with Paris from 1854 and the growing importance of nearby Biarritz as a tourist centre brought industrialisation and development. Bayonne is now part of BAB (Bayonne-Anglet-Biarritz), a metropolitan area of almost 200,000 people.

Bayonne was part of the Zone occupee in the German occupation of France during World War II.

Main sights

The Nive divides Bayonne into Grand Bayonne and Petit Bayonne, with five bridges between the two, both quarters still backed by Vaubans walls. The houses lining the Nive are 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 Saint-Esprit connects Petit Bayonne with the Quartier Saint-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 Hotel de Ville.

The Cathedrale Sainte-Marie 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 Chateau Vieux, some of which dates back to the 12th century, where the governors of the city were based, including the English Black Prince.

The Musee 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 Musee Bonnat began with a large collection bequeathed by the local-born painter Leon Bonnat. The museum is one of the best galleries in south west France and has paintings by Edgar Degas, El Greco, Sandro Botticelli, and Francisco Goya, among others.

At the back of Petit Bayonne is the Chateau 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 Bayonnes 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 Saint-Esprit church was part of a bigger complex built by Louis XI to care for pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela. It is home to a wooden Flight into Egypt sculpture.

Overlooking the quarter is Vaubans 1680 Citadelle. The soldiers of Wellingtons 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 located on the northern bank of the Adour and is open to visitors.

Culture and sport

Bayonne Culture of Bayonne

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 part of the five-day Fetes 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.

Bayonne Culture of Bayonne

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

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

Basque is the main language spoken in this city, together with French.

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 Espelette. 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 citys people and produce. Now bayonnaise can refer to a particular mayonnaise flavoured with the Espelette chillis.

  • In Wyndham Lewiss novel The Wild Body (1927) the protagonist, Ker-Orr, in the first story, "A Soldier of Humour", takes the train from Paris and stays in Bayonne before going to Spain.
  • In Ernest Hemingways novel The Sun Also Rises, three of the characters visit Bayonne en route to Pamplona, Spain.
  • In Kim Stanley Robinsons novel 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 were later driven out by rivals from Al-Andalus and flee to the Loire Valley, where they found the city of Nsara.
  • The seventh track of Joe Bonamassas album Dust Bowl is entitled The Last Matador of Bayonne.
  • In Henry Millers semi-autobiographic novel Tropic of Capricorn, the narrator describes a period of time selling the Encyclopaedia Britannica door by door in Bayonne.
  • In the summer of 2008, Manu Chaos live album Baionarena was recorded in the Arena of Bayonne.
  • The album Life is Elsewhere, by English band Little Comets, features a song titled Bayonne.
  • Chris corner restaurant italian food bayonne nj


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