Top Historic Sights in Bayonne, France

Explore the historic highlights of Bayonne

Bayonne Cathedral

The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Bayonne is the seat of the former Bishops of Bayonne, now the Bishops of Bayonne, Lescar, and Oloron. The cathedral is in the Gothic architectural tradition. The site was previously occupied by a Romanesque cathedral that was destroyed by two fires in 1258 and 1310. Construction of the present cathedral began in the 13th century and was completed at the beginning of the 17th, exce ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bayonne, France

Château-Vieux

The Château-Vieux ('Old castle') in Bayonne is built on the site of an ancient Roman castrum which housed the garrison and administration of the region. From the end of the 11th century the viscounts of Labourd built the fortress based on three existing Roman towers strengthened. The castle was refortified in the 17th century by Vauban plans.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Bayonne, France

Bayonne Citadel

Bayonne has been inhabited since roman times, when it was known as Lapurdum. Its medieval fortifications were improved by Louis XII, and Francois I, enabling the town to defend itself against a Spanish army in 1523. Vauban visited Bayonne sometime in the 1670"s, and planned more improvements to the fortifications, including the construction of additional demi-lunes and a large, quadrangular citadel to the north ...
Founded: 1670s | Location: Bayonne, France

Château-Neuf

Sitting in the highest point of Petit Bayonne you will find the  Château-Neuf (“new castle”) built in the 15th century by Charles IV. This massive building now belongs to the university and is unfortunately closed to the public.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Bayonne, France

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Beersel Castle

The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.

The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.

After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.

The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.

Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.

The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.