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Churches

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Basque church on road to Mauleon
Religion has always been an important part of life in South West France. Nearly every village has its church, and usually it is quite old. The rival traditions of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches - Pau provided France's Protestant king, Henri IV, of which the area is still very proud, the converging of all the important routes for the pilgrims going to St Jacques de Compostelle in Spain, and the fiercely independent cultures of the various areas, provide a rich variety of architecture to discover. Right, the three points of the steeple on a Basque church dominate the rural landscape

Some ecclesiastical buildings date from Roman times. Some played an important part in the defence of their villages or towns in those perilous centuries when blood was so easily spilt. Thus the church at Sauveterre de Bearn formed part of the fortifications of the town, while in isolated villages lookout posts were built into church steeples to provide warnings of impending danger.

As every commune has its churches, we try to list here the most interesting ones, though every building has its own little history. Abbeys and cathedrals still in full operation are listed separately, while old ecclesiastical buildings no longer being used - or where only a small part remains in use (as in Sorde de l'Abbaye) are detailed on the Historic Remains page.


In certain towns - particularly the cosmopolitan Basque coast - there are churches, temples and mosques of many denominations and religions.


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Towns - Churches

Ainhoa. A fine example of a typical Basque village
14th Century church.
Biarritz. Major tourist centre on the Basque coast with English connections
Russian othodox church.
Bielle. Ancient capital of the Ossau Valley
Church of St-Vivien 15th and 16th century. No trace is left of a monastry or a priory which is believed to have been once built here, but there is the fine church of St Vivien, built in the 15th and 16th centuries in the typical Béarnais gothic style. Note the impressive roof and also marble pillars believed to have come from an old Roman villa
Boulogne-sur-Gresse.
Gothic Church.
Dax. One of France's most important spa towns, dating from Roman times
Church of St Paul-les-Dax. 11th century church with interesting exterior relief carvings of dragons and all sorts of beasts and people.
Notre-Dame de Buglose. This church has become the centre of pilgrimage since the discovery, in 1620, of a statue of the Virgin in multi-coloured stone.
Eauze. A capital of the Armagnac area
Church, 15th and 16th Centuries.
Fleurance. Old but busy bastide town
Church of Notre Dame and St-Jean-Baptiste. One survival from medieval times is this fine and imposing church in brick and stone. Good stained glass windows.
Gimont. Old bastide town and foie gras centre
Church of Notre Dame. Characteristic example of southern Gothic style, the church was built in the 14th century, though the clock tower dates from a later century. Fine tryptych to be seen inside.
Las. Small but dynamic village on the Gave d'Oloron
Chapel of St Barthelemy. 12th century Roman chapel is being restored by the Commune.
Marciac. Vibrant bastide town with major jazz festival and large lake
17th Century church.
Montreal.
13th Century church.
Nogaro.
11th century church.
Oloron-Sainte-Marie. Important old town close to the Pyrénées on the juction of two rivers
Sainte Croix Church 11th and 12th centuries.
Riscle.
Eglise Saint Pierre. Dates from 13th century
Saint Bertrand-de-Comminges.
Church.
Saint Jean-de-Luz. Most important Basque fishing port
Large Basque-style church, Saint Jean-Baptiste.
Sauveterre-de-Béarn. Spectacular walled village overlooking the Gave d'Oloron
Saint André 12th Century church.
Valance-sur-Baise.
14th Century Church.
Vic Fezensac.
Church.

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