It is situated on a plain, on both sides of the river Nive or Errobia. The town centre was first configured on the right bank of the river. This first site was formed by the districts of Villa Alta and Ciudadela, with Saint-Jacques dating back to the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago, and Villa Baja to the right of the river. On the left bank is the most modern district of Saint-Michel, now Calle de España. Located around a prehistoric route that later became a Roman road and given its location at the foot of the Ports of Cize and along the great route through the Pyrenees through Roncesvalles, Saint Jean Pied de Port lived an important destination since the Middle Ages as a border city, stronghold, place of garrison, center of passage of pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela and commercial crossroads. From its foundation at the end of the 12th century, on the initiative of the King of Navarre, it became the key city of the kingdom in its lands on the northern face of the Pyrenees. Its inhabitants were granted a charter, which was confirmed and renewed by the successive kings of Navarre, in which the rights, customs, duties and privileges of the local people were set out. Charles II of Navarre described the city as the key to his kingdom and in 1367 he granted a letter of ennoblement and postage to its inhabitants.
The 15th century was marked by a long civil war that weakened the kingdom of Navarre. The Catholic Monarchs ordered the Duke of Alba, in July 1512, to invade Navarre. This lightning campaign resulted in the conquest of Pamplona, the crossing of the port of Roncesvalles and the conquest of the fortress of Saint Jean Pied de Port in August. It remained under Castilian rule until 1529, when Charles I left all of Lower Navarre for logistical and military reasons. During the religious wars, in the 16th century, it suffered attacks and serious fires. In the 17th century, Louis XIII of France united the crowns of France and Navarre. During the Convention War, at the end of the 18th century, it was the centre from which the French attacks against the south of the Pyrenees started. The twentieth century is, above all, that of technological progress and in Saint Jean Pied de Port was undertaken a major refurbishment in improving comfort and convenience for its inhabitants being today a modern town but has not lost its medieval charm.
Rich in its historical heritage, Saint Jean Pied de Port today continues to warmly welcome both pilgrims and the many tourists who enjoy the bucolic and photogenic combination of the river with the old Navarrese style houses that flank it and the bridges that cross it. The historic entrance of pilgrims from Saint Jean le Vieux and the district of Magdalena, is the Gate of Santiago, then cross the city through the streets of the Citadel and Spain to continue in the direction of Santiago not before contemplating the most remarkable buildings that tell us, with their presence, history and past. The Prison of the Bishops of the XIII century that communicates with the neighboring House of the Bishops and that must not have been properly such, but a municipal prison between the XVIII-XIX centuries The church of Notre Dame du Bout du Pont, of the XII century, the head is oriented towards the hill of the Citadel and the feet to the free space of the old medieval market, is constructed in pink stone of Arradoy. The Citadel stands at the top of the hill of Mendiguren, on the site of the ancient medieval castle, constitutes a rare example of walled fortification. The wall of the Spanish quarter was finally completed between 1842 and 1848.
The bridge of Eyheraberry over the river Nive is a romantic Roman bridge and one of the highlights of San Juan Pie de Puerto. The inscriptions on the doors of almost all their houses are also famous, one of them is from a bakery and you can still read the price of wheat in 1789. Outside the walled enclosure, in the market square is located the Casa Mansard, from the eighteenth century, where the town hall has been installed since 1935. From there, we can enjoy the beautiful views of the village with the mountains in the background, reaching the Mirador de la Media Luna Real by a path of interior round with 269 stairs, or by the Way of the schoolchildren, which is to the left between the two bastions, in the form of a staircase in the forest that communicates with the Way of Santiago.
The patron saint festivals are held on 15 August, and every Monday there is a market for livestock and various products. On Tuesday of Easter and Pentecost and the 6th of December there are fairs.
Saint Jean Pied de Port is the starting point of the mythical mountain stage, known as the Ports of Cize, which crosses the Pyrenees and leads to the collegiate church of Roncesvalles, in it converge three of the four major pilgrimage routes through French lands Tours, Puy and Vézelay, the fourth goes through Somport. In the Middle Ages, numerous pilgrims from all over Europe gathered in Saint Jean to face together the dangerous crossing of the Pyrenees, which they used to do through Valcarlos and the port of Ibañeta, at a lower altitude.
In this town during the 14th century there were several trials for witchcraft. Jurdana de Irissarry, of herbal profession, Alamana de Méharin accused of committing spells and sent to Pamplona to be judged by the Royal Council and even a Countess is accused of witchcraft and after having her for 35 days in a cell in the castle they manage to extract her confession. In other words, healer, sorceress and witch confesses, all of them condemned to the bonfire as a consequence of the superstition of an era.
The main access roads to Saint Jean Pied de Port are the D-918 which, together with the D-932, links it to the coastal towns of Saint Jean de Luz and Bayonne respectively and the D-933 which links it from Guinarthe Parenties, in all cases with direct communication with the A-64 La Pyrénéenne motorway. We can also arrive from the nearby Roncesvalles/Oreaga following the N-135 until the border crossing of Arnéguy and from there on the D-933 that crosses Saint Jean Pied de Port in the direction of the A-64.
From March to November there is a daily bus service from Pamplona that covers the Pamplona-Saint Jean Pied de Port route. For further information, the telephone number of the company providing the service is 902 422 242. In France, a bus shuttle service is available all year round on the Saint Palais-Saint Jean Pied de Port-Saint Etienne de Baïgorry route.
Saint Jean Pied de Port SNCF station.
Daily connections with Bayonne station.
Avenue Renaud 64220 Saint Jean Pied de Port.
Ticket office open Monday to Saturday from 6 am to 12.15 pm and from 1 pm to 6.30 pm, Sunday and public holidays from 9 am to 12.30 pm and from 1 pm to 7 pm.
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