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:
The Kalozha church of Saints Boris and Gleb is the oldest extant structure in Hrodna. It is the only surviving monument of ancient Black Ruthenian architecture, distinguished from other Orthodox churches by prolific use of polychrome faceted stones of blue, green or red tint which could be arranged to form crosses or other figures on the wall.
The church is a cross-domed building supported by six circular pillars. The outside is articulated with projecting pilasters, which have rounded corners, as does the building itself. The ante-nave contains the choir loft, accessed by a narrow gradatory in the western wall. Two other stairs were discovered in the walls of the side apses; their purpose is not clear. The floor is lined with ceramic tiles forming decorative patterns. The interior was lined with innumerable built-in pitchers, which usually serve in Eastern Orthodox churches as resonators but in this case were scored to produce decorative effects. For this reason, the central nave has never been painted.
The church was built before 1183 and survived intact, depicted in the 1840s by Michał Kulesza, until 1853, when the south wall collapsed, due to its perilous location on the high bank of the Neman. During restoration works, some fragments of 12th-century frescoes were discovered in the apses. Remains of four other churches in the same style, decorated with pitchers and coloured stones instead of frescoes, were discovered in Hrodna and Vaŭkavysk. They all date back to the turn of the 13th century, as do remains of the first stone palace in the Old Hrodna Castle.
In 2004, the church was included in the Tentative List of UNESCO"s World Heritage Sites.