A Navarrese fortified village of La Bastide-Clairence was founded in 1288 by Claire de Rabastens on a hillside next to the Aran river hence its Gascon name Bastida Clarença.
800 refugees, mainly from Bigorre, were granted a charter in July 1312 by Louis I of Navarre, the future Louis X of France. The birth of the village corresponds to a need for Navarre to create a strong town in the forested frontier area. La Bastide-Clairence, as its name suggests, was a fortified town. The historian Paul Broca could still see the remains of its ancient fortress in 1875.
La Bastide-Clairence slowly accumulated a population of shop-keepers from south-western France then from Spanish refugees fleeing the Inquisition, and also from Basque towns and villages nearby. Another version of the origin of the town exists: it was populated by settlers from diverse backgrounds including pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela called the Francos.
By 1700 the population had reached 2,000. The inhabitants lived on the nail industry, woollen garments and knitwear, and agriculture. 12-day fairs ensured the prosperity of the town. In the 16th century the locals did not speak Basque, but spoke Gascon. Subsequently they gradually adopted the Basque language and customs. The town has 320 houses and mills from the 17th century. From 1575 to 1789, La Bastide-Clairence depended on the lords of Gramont.
The city had a large Jewish community after the expulsion of Portuguese Jews in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Today, the Place des Arceaux and its half-timbered houses attract many art craftsmen. The village is a member of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France ('The most beautiful villages of France') association.References:
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.