Interpretation Center in Navarrenx


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The Interpretation Center. Of Navarrenx aims to enhance and make accessible the heritage and specific culture of the city and its surroundings forall audiences. This is achieved by presenting collections, models and plans that establish the history and evolution of the city from its origins to the present day. The scenic landscape paintings are made by local artisans. The different topics below are developped further.


A strategic position : :

The existence of Navarrenx can be traced from the first century of the Christian era, but the history of the city begins with the reign of Visicount Centule IV (1022 — 1058). Located near a ford of the Gave d’Oloron in the border area between Bearn and Soule, the city occupies a strategic position and strong control of a major traffic route. It came under the control of the viscounts de Moncada, becoming important during the reigns of Viscounts Gaston VI in 1180 ordred the construction of a bridge, with a Preceptory of the Hospitallers, a hospital for the reception of pilgrims and a chapel of St Anthony.


Navarrenx Bastide :

In 1316, the medieval walled town was given the status and therefore the benefit of Fors de Morlaàs, the charter capital of Bearn in the eleventh and twelth centuries, giving its residents the freedom and various privileges. This status allowed a municipal organization fortified with Jurats, guards (responsible for public safety) and Claverts (treasurers or gate keepers) selected by the inhabitants. Navarrenx is surrounded by fortifications and so is its urban planning : the fortified house is made !

The Bastide is a new city from the Middle Ages, Navarrenx is one of five fortified towns whose foundation was ordered by Wiscountess Margaret, third dauthter of Gaston VII de Moncade. Ordaining of the foundation charter, dated Auguste 1316.

« Be it known that we all, Margaret, by the Grace of God Countess of Foix, Viscountess of Bearn and Marsan, We grant and give on our behalf and that of our successors with their offspring (the) settiers (poblans) of the walled town of Navarrenx who are or will be present at all times, forever, the tribunals and customs of the city of Morlaas »

The statute provides in part for the fortified city identified as Navarrenx. In addition to the personal freedom, it gives the status as a fortified house and has a real impact on the planning of the city. This results in a central marketplace ans the planning of streets at right angles. The subdivision of the Bastide is still visible in Navarrenx despite development of the city. There is an established market, indeed, the charter of 1289 established a market on Wednesday every two weeks.

Finally, Gaston VII is probably the original creator of the Casterasse, a fortified structure prottecting the bridge and surrounded by a wall — lo Clauson — a room enclosed by walls with towers in which the population could take refuge in times of trouble.


Navarrenx first city bastion of France :

From 1510, the King of France had begun to renovate his strongholds in Aquitaine. It was at this time that the cities of Bayonne, Dax and Bordeaux were refurbished. All these works were inspired ans sometimes directed by architects from Italy, like Anchises of Bologna. A whole generation of experts crossed the Alps, a small but influential band who and remodeled French fortresses between 1535 and 1540. One of them, Fabrizio Siciliano, was chosen by Henri II d’Albret, King of Navarre and ruler of Béarn in 1538. A companion of François 1st in the Italian campaigns, he had understood the importance of modernizing its military equipment. They tasked Siciliano to resume the fortification of the town of Navarrenx because he wanted a stronghold of Béarn facing the Sipanish Navarre and Soule near France. High medieval towers were vulnerable to artillery, engineers preferred the Italian « boulevards » or strongholds. The round shapes gave way to the angles and earthworks compete with the stone and brick. Completed in 1549, Navarrenx, with its « flexible » ramparts, supported by high gradients and its sharp edges protected by bastions, demi-bastion ans siglesided or orillons, althought not revolutionary, was an example of military architecture almost unique in France in the early sixteenth century Although Bearnais has not experienced the horrors of civil war that shook France during almost half a century, they faced the French invasion of 1569.

The conflict was marked by the two-month siege of the fortified town of Navarrenx, a last defense agaainst invasion, and the bloody clashes of Orthez. In 1569 Captain Terride was placed in charge of the troops by the Catholic king of France who wished to annex the sovereign state of Protestant Bearn then governed by Jeanne d’Albret. When he besieged Navarrenx, the high quality of the defenses prevented the town from submitting espite the 1800 artillery shots fired at the walls. This ultimately allowed the Navarrenx Bearnais people of Jeanne d’Albret to maintain their idependence for some years.

Despite the fortifications, which partially destroyed the medieval buildings, Navarrenx can still be recognized as a country town that has been fortified.


In the footsteps of the pilgrims :

In the eleventh century, Navarrenx became the crossroad for major routes from Le Puy en Velapy for pilgrims to Compostela. Located on a road leading to the Pyrenean passes and the great medieval pilgrimage to Santiago, Navarrenx ha a hospital for travelers and for those wanting to crosse the Gave, a bridge, which Gaston VII Moncado (the mide-thirteenth century) laid the foundations like those of Sauveterre and Orthez. Even today the tradition of St Jacques in Navarrenx attracts nearly 11 000 pilgrims a year.


City and military garrisons :

From the sixteenth century, Navarrenx retained its position as a military and garrison town. It underwent new developments with the construction of barracks ans a new arsenal. But, in 1814, the blockade of the city by a Spanish division of Wellington’s army pursuing that of Marshal Soult in this retreat from Spain revealed the weakness of the city basion against the developmnet of techniques of siege and artillery.. Its role in the defense of the Spanish border had become negligible because it was too far away.

Thus the militay decline of the city was delivered in 1868 by imperial order and that the city was emptied of its garrison.

Historical figures :

Among the characters that have marked the history and heritage of the city of Navarrenx in and aroud the region, include Dr. Proper Darralde, physician of the Empress Eugenie de Montijo (1804 -1860) made beautiful reproductions of paintings by the Masters, on display in the Church, and his son bequeathed the fine mansion to the Commune. Other characters of international repute, such as Professor of Sociology Henri Lefebvre, Pierre Hourcastremé scholar and philosopher, Bertrand Dufresne : cagot with an exceptional destiny. Pierre Palassou learned mineralogist and Canon Laborde regional historian from the Ogenne-Camptort area. But it goes without saying that the most famous of Governors of the stronghold, was a D’Artagnan : the brother of the hero of Alexandre Dumas.



Navarrenx main town of salmon fishing :

The valley of the Gave d’Oloron is renowned for the plentyful salmon in its rivers, because of the purity of the highly oxygenated waters from the mountain streams. Throughoud history salmon was a staple diet of local residents. Today it is no longer the case, but it’s sport fishing continues ans brings many enthusiasts, in addition to the local fishermen. This rose gold is the subject of much concern amongst local fischeries officials. Evey year in early July a contest rewards the most successful fishermen, giving rise to a culinary feast. This contest is pompously called « World Championship salmon ».


The « radelage » :

As part of the attraction around the Gave, the Interpretation Centre contains models and materials that evoke the erea of « radelage », tree trunks that were transported by floating them on the waters of the Gave. Under Louis XIV, access to the forests of the Nordic countries were denied him, so he developed the exploitation of forests in the Alps and Pyrenees. These fir tree trunks were in demand to build the masts of ships. The forests of Aspe ans Barétous have been exploited long after the death of Louis XIV, and Navarrenx was a relay for the rews who brought the logs to Rochefort, via the port of Bayonne. The current face of the city of Navarrenx coresponds to the superposition of all these layers of history. The Interpretation Centre covers all aspects of its strong history and development to give a better understanding.




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