Bayonne Fortifications - Grand Bayonne
UNESCO Heritage List
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Bayonne is a fairly large city, a "sous-prefecture" of the department of Pyrenees Atlantiques.
It was already a fortified city during the roman occupation of the Aquitaine.
During the reign of Francois I the city’s fortifications were overhauled (between 1520 and 1528) according to the new principles of the artillery of the time.
Begining from 1680 Vauban starts the reorganization of the defense system of the Spanish border and modernizes the Bayonne fortress and builds on the right bank of the river Adour a citadel called Chateau Neuf (it can be visited only on special occasions like the National Day of the Patrimony on the third weekend of September).
Nowadays the interior of the fortification walls on the left side of the river - known as Grand Bayonne - includes numerous interesting places. The most prominent are probably the Notre Dame Cathedral and its adjacent cloister.
The cathedral was built between the 12th and the 15th centuries in Romanesque and then Gothic style. During the 19th century extensive restoration work is done and the two "flamboyant" arrow like towers were built.
Adjacent to the cathedral is the cloister built between the 13th and the 14th centuries in Gothic style. It is one of the largest cloisters in France.
Inside the Grand Bayonne one can still see the oldest structure of Bayonne - the so called "La Tour Vieille Boucherie" (translated as the tower of the old meat shop!), the only part that remains from the Roman built defensive system of the town.
Located on the "Quai des corsairs" on the left bank of the River Nive and housed in an old merchant's house dating from the 17th century - house that later became a monastery and then a hospital - is the Basque History Museum a must see for anybody interested in the traditions of the Basque Country.
And as a footnote: the city of Bayonne is the birth place of ...bayonets! During the armed conflicts on the 17th century the soldiers of Bayonne running out of projectiles were shoving their knives in the barrels of their muskets inventing thus the bayonets!
Bayonne and Biarritz are one big confusing town. Very difficult to find your way while drving without a GPS....
Bayonne is more interesting than Biarritz. More historic sites, more Basque architecture, more traditions!