Rich in history and heritage, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port boasts several architectural treasures that are protected by law.
The Porte Saint-Jacques gate: awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1998.
Traditional entrance way for pilgrims on their way to Santiago. Pilgrims coming from Saint-Jean-le-Vieux and the la Madeleine district entered Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port through this gate, crossing the town by the rue de la Citadelle and la rue d'Espagne towards the Pyrenees and Roncesvalles.
The Citadelle and the Gastelumendy redoubt: awarded listed building status (Monument Historique) by a decree dated 22/01/1963
On the site of the old medieval castle, the Citadelle stands on top of the hill of Mendiguren. Towering nearly 80 metres over the town and the Nive de Béhérobie, it was constructed around 1625-1627 and strengthened during the 1640s. It is a rare and very fine example of a star-style fort as designed by pre-Vauban military engineers. From the castle of the Kings of Navarre, to the Citadelle, (redesigned after Vauban’s 1685 inspection), it’s easy to understand the strategic importance of this stronghold, located on the main road to the Ports de Cize mountain passes, the principal crossing point over the Pyrenees and into Spain...
Guided tours in July and August.
Mondays at 2.30pm and Wednesdays at 2.30pm.
Information and tour tickets from the Tourist Office, 0033 (0)5.59.37.03.57
Price: 3 euros for the over 10s. Free for the under 10s.
The walls of the Upper town: awarded listed building status (Monument Historique) by a decree dated 02/12/1986
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port’s Upper town is protected by an impressive town wall. Constructed in fine pink Arradoy sandstone masonry-work in the 13th century, it has four ogival arch gateways. Its upper half was altered in the 19th century, with the construction of a wall-walk and a wall featuring multiple loop holes for firearms. Thanks to the recent restoration of the wall-walk by the town’s department of public works, you may now walk along the wall from the porte de Navarre to the porte Saint-Jacques gateways, thus literally following in the footsteps of the soldiers whose job it was to defend the Citadelle.
The wall around the faubourg d'Espagne district: awarded listed building status (Monument Historique) by a decree dated 02/12/1986
This area was left unwalled during the Middle Ages. It was left to Vauban, after his 1685 visit, to suggest a stone wall be erected to protect this area. Work began in 1690, only to be halted in 1713, before finally being finished between 1842 and 1848. Flanked by bastion towers, equipped with loop holes for rifles and featuring three gates, this girdle of stone enclosed the quartier d'Espagne district, from the watermill to the Place du jeu de paume up to the Pont de la manutention bridge.
The Eglise Notre Dame church: lesser legal protection than listed building status by a decree dated 19/05/1925
After Bayonne Cathedral, this is the most important gothic structure in the French Basque Country. It is traditionally thought to have been built by the King of Navarre, Sancho the Strong, to commemorate the victory of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. Some stones used in its construction have been carved with mason’s marks. Its pink Arradoy sandstone façade is adorned with a gothic portal and columns from the 14th century. In the 19th century, galleries were added, which, as was the tradition in the Basque Country were used by men only.
The Bishops’ Prison: lesser legal protection than listed building status by a decree dated 14/01/1941
Why not explore this building, with its fascinating and unusual past? Even today, an aura of mystery surrounds this evocatively-named place, enabling us to really give free rein to our imagination. Its current, more recent name blends two different historical elements, the town’s role as the Episcopal see of the Bishops of the Diocese of Bayonne during the Western Schism, and its role as a prison, as recorded at the end of the 18th century. The entrance way opens out onto a guardhouse, followed by the punishment cells. A narrow staircase leads to an enormous underground medieval-era rib-vaulted room. An exhibition on the pilgrimage to Santiago is currently being held here, giving you a chance to whisk yourself back to the Middle Ages and to see that ever since those far-off times, the town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port has been and remains a wonderfully welcoming stop-over along the St James’ Way.
Open Saturday 23rd April to Tuesday 1st November inclusive
Every day except Tuesdays, 11am to 12.30pm and 2.30pm to 6.30pm
July and August, every day, 10.30am to 7pm
Entry charge: 3 euros for the over 14s. Free for the under 14s.
Maison dite Mansart (the Mansart House): lesser legal protection than listed building status by a decree dated 27/06/1934
Located outside the town’s walls, the Mansart House is to be found on the market place. Constructed at the start of the 17th century, it belonged to a wealthy wool dealer, David de Fourré. This very fine Louis XIV-style townhouse has an architecturally harmonious façade in pink Arradoy sandstone, which gives it a very special character. It gets its name from the mansard windows atop the large slate roof. In 1935, the Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port town council purchased the house, which was to become the town hall in the 1950s.