1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bayonne (France)

BAYONNE, a town of south-western France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Basses-Pyrénées, 66 m. W.N.W. of Pau on the Southern railway. Pop. (1906) 21,779. Bayonne, a first-class fortified place, is situated at the confluence of the Adour and its left-hand tributary, the Nive, about 3 m. from the sea. The two rivers divide the town into three nearly equal parts, communicating with each other by bridges. Grand Bayonne lies on the left bank of the Nive; the two squares which lie close together at the mouth of that river constitute the most animated quarter of the town. Petit Bayonne lies between the right bank of the Nive and the Adour; Saint Esprit, dominated by a citadel which is one of the finest works of Vauban, occupies the right bank of the Adour. The last is inhabited partly by a colony of Jews dating at least from the early 16th century. To the north-west of the town are the Allées Marines, fine promenades which border the Adour for a mile and a quarter, and the Allées Paulmy, skirting the fortifications. The cathedral of Ste Marie in Grand Bayonne is an imposing Gothic structure of the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. It consists of a choir with deambulatory and apsidal chapels (the oldest part of the church), a transept, nave and aisles. The towers at the west end were only completed during the general restoration which took place in the latter half of the 19th century. A fine cloister of the 13th century adjoins the south side of the church. Ste Marie contains glass windows of the 15th and 16th centuries and other rich decoration. The Vieux-Château, also in Grand Bayonne, dates from the 12th and 15th centuries and is built upon a portion of the old Roman fortifications; it is used for military purposes. The Château Neuf (15th and 16th centuries) serves as barracks and prison. Bayonne is the seat of a bishopric and of a sub-prefect; it has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a chamber of commerce, a lycée, a school of music, a library, an art museum with a large collection of the works of the painter Léon Bonnat, and a branch of the Bank of France. There are consulates of the chief nations of Europe, of the United States of America and of several Central and South American republics. The town also possesses an important military arsenal and military hospital. The commerce of Bayonne is much more important than its industries, which include the manufacture of leather and of chocolate. The port consists of an outer harbour, the so-called “rade” (roadstead) and the port proper, and occupies the course of the Adour from its mouth, which is obstructed by a shifting bar, to the Pont St Esprit, and the course of the Nive as far as the Pont Mayou. Above these two bridges the rivers are accessible only to river navigation. Vessels drawing from 16 to 22 ft. can make the port in normal weather. In the five years 1901–1905 the average value of the imports was £502,000, of the exports £572,000; for the five years 1896–1900 the average value of imports was £637,000, of exports £634,000. Exports include timber, mine-props, turpentine, resinous material from the Pyrénées and Landes and zinc ore; leading imports are the coal and Spanish minerals which supply the large metallurgical works of Le Boucau at the mouth of the river, the raw material necessary for the chemical works of the same town, wine, and the cereals destined for the flour mills of Pau, Peyrehorade and Orthez. During the early years of the 20th century the shipping of the port increased considerably in tonnage. In 1900 there entered 741 vessels, tonnage 277,959; and cleared 743, tonnage 276,992. In 1907 there entered 661 vessels, tonnage, 336,773; cleared 650, tonnage 335,849.

In the 3rd century Bayonne (Lapurdum) was a Roman military post and the principal port of Novempopulana. In the middle ages it belonged to the dukes of Aquitaine and then to the kings of England, one of whom, John, granted it full communal rights in 1216. In 1451 it offered a strenuous opposition to the French, by whom it was eventually occupied. By this time its maritime commerce had suffered disaster owing to the silting up of its port and the deflection of the Adour. New fortifications were constructed under Louis XII. and Francis I., and in 1523 the town was able to hold out against a Spanish army. In 1565 it was the scene of an interview between Charles IX. and Catherine de’ Medici on the one hand and Elizabeth, queen of Spain, and the duke of Alva on the other. It is thought that on this occasion the plans were formed for the massacres of St Bartholomew, a crime in which Bayonne took no part, in 1572. In 1808 Napoleon met Charles IV., king of Spain, and his son Ferdinand at the Château de Marrac, near the town, and induced them to renounce their rights to the crown of Spain, which fell to Napoleon’s brother Joseph. In 1814, after a severe siege, Bayonne was occupied by the English (see Peninsular War).

See J. Balasque and E. Dulaurens, Études historiques sur la ville de Bayonne (3 vols., Bayonne, 1862–1875); E. Ducéré, Bayonne historique et pittoresque (Bayonne, 1893), Histoire topographique et anecdotique des rues de Bayonne (Bayonne, 1894); H. Léon, Histoire des juifs de Bayonne (Paris, 1893).