Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (literally "Saint John [at the] Foot of [the] Pass"; Basque: Donibane Garazi; Spanish: San Juan Pie de Puerto) is a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in south-western France.[3] It is close to Ostabat in the Pyrenean foothills. The town is also the old capital of the traditional Basque province of Lower Navarre. Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is also a starting point for the French Way Camino Francés, the most popular option for travelling the Camino de Santiago.[4]

Donibane Garazi
Old bridge over river Nive
Old bridge over river Nive
Coat of arms of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
Location of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is located in France
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is located in Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Coordinates: 43°09′54″N 1°14′08″W / 43.165°N 1.2356°W / 43.165; -1.2356
CantonMontagne Basque
IntercommunalityCA Pays Basque
 • Mayor (2020–2026) Laurent Inchauspé[1]
2.73 km2 (1.05 sq mi)
 (Jan. 2020)[2]
 • Density550/km2 (1,400/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
64485 /64220
Elevation159–320 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.

Geography Edit

The town lies on the river Nive, 8 km (5.0 mi) from the Spanish border, and is the head town of the region of Basse-Navarre (Lower Navarre in English) and was classified among the Most Beautiful Villages of France in 2016.[5] The Pays de Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, also called Pays de Cize (Garazi in Basque), is the region surrounding Saint-Jean-Pied-Port. The town's layout is essentially one main street with sandstone walls encircling. It is about 50 kilometres (31 mi) by air and 75 kilometres (47 mi) on road away from Pamplona (Basque: Iruña), the capital of Upper Navarre, across the Spanish border.

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port old town

Neighbouring towns and villages Edit

History Edit

Bridge at Saint-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 remained as such 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 [6] (city gate) was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites as part of the sites along the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.[7]

Porte Saint-Jacques (Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port)

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, built 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,[8] 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.[9] The town is now an important tourist centre for the Pyrenees and the French Basque country and there are shops, restaurants and hotels.

St-Jean-Pied-de-Port specializes in goat cheese, like the Ossau-Iraty AOP cheese, artisanal trout breeding and piperade 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 station is the southern terminus of 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

  1. ^ "Répertoire national des élus: les maires" (in French)., Plateforme ouverte des données publiques françaises. 4 May 2022.
  2. ^ "Populations légales 2020". The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. 29 December 2022.
  3. ^ INSEE commune file
  4. ^ Camino de Santiago Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port - Santiago de Compostela (in Spanish). Michelin et Cie, Manufacture Française des Pneumatiques Michelin, Paris, 2009. ISBN 978-2-06-714805-5.
  5. ^ IDIART, Alphonse (2016). "Site de la mairie de Saint Jean Pied de Port". Site de la mairie de Saint Jean Pied de Port.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "Porte Saint-Jacques (Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port)", Wikipédia (in French), 2022-01-09, retrieved 2022-10-12
  7. ^ "St Jean Pied-de-Port, France | Tourism Basque Country". Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  8. ^ "Église Notre-Dame du Bout-du-Pont", Wikipédia (in French), 2022-09-24, retrieved 2022-10-12
  9. ^ Béziat, Bruno (2013-08-14). "Les artisans de la Bami". Sud Ouest (in French). ISSN 1760-6454. Retrieved 2022-10-12.

External links Edit