La Bastide Clairence > Our Village > History

At the beginning of the XIIIth century, the Basques from Guipúzcoa (San Sebastián) blocked the Kingdom of Navarre's access to the Atlantic Ocean. The Kings of Navarre looked for another access to the ocean, through the territories which they owned north of the Pyrenees Mountains, in what is now France. In 1250, they obtained shipping rights through the Adour, the large river which flows into the ocean at Bayonne.

The river Aran - "La Joyeuse" in French, literally "The Happy One" in English! – flows into the Adour, and King Louis Ist of Navarre decided in 1312 to create a new town – Bastida de Clarentza – at a bend in the Aran river where a port could be built to transship export goods (apples, lumber, iron ore, etc.) towards the rest of Europe. Interestingly, this Louis Ist of Navarre briefly reigned as King of France, from 1314 to 1316, as Louis X le Hutin (Hutin means Quarrelsome). This is why La Bastide Clairence's foundational records are found both in Pamplona and in Paris with the other royal archives.

La Bastide Clairence's first inhabitants were about 30% basques and 70% gascons. Gascons came from Gascony, a large non-basque area north / north east of the Adour reaching to Pau and Toulouse (Pau, now in France's Bearn region, was also part of Navarre, but it was never basque). With this mixture of people and languages (basque and gascon have nothing in common), La Bastide Clairence was, from the outset, considered a Xarnégu (Charnegou in gascon) territory, literally "of mixed blood".

Early in the XVIIth century, a large colony of Sephardi Jews settled in La Bastide, with 70 to 80 families. They came from Portugal and Spain and lived in La Bastide in relative autonomy. This colony was a vibrant part of the village for a century. It left the Jewish cemetery, behind the church at the top of the village. Signs point out throughout the village to several houses with Jewish names, and also to the ancient synagogue. In the region, only Bayonne to the west, and Peyrehorade and Bidache to the east, on the Adour, welcomed such Sephardi colonies.

In keeping with its past, La Bastide Clairence has established itself today as a regional center for artists and artisans, with about 15 artisan workshops, and several artisan fairs. The "Marché Potier du Pays Basque" (Pottery Market of the Basque Country) commands in particular a national attendance in mid September each year.

Nestled in the beautiful foothills of the Pyrénées mountains, La Bastide Clairence hosts about thirty farms and agricultural businesses. Several farms, producing specialty local products, are open to visitors. From June to September, you can meet the local farmers, taste and buy their products every Friday evening, from 7pm to 10pm, at the Farmers Market, Place des Arceaux – quite a fun local market with basque music, outside dining, etc. It's all very festive.