In medieval times Peyrehorade was just a small fishing village, protected by a castle rebuilt at the end of the 13th century by the Viscounts of Orthe. Once, however, the course of the river Adour was fixed, and the Landes drained, conditions were ripe for it to develop. With the growth of trade between Bayonne and Toulouse - in English cloth and dies from Toulouse - it became an important commercial centre on the route.
The 19th century, however, brought a period of slow decline as local industries faded. Today, however, it has been rescued by certain agricultural industries and, of course, tourisme.
Nearby are several remarkable old abbeys that bear striking testament to the riches that were brought by the pilgrims on the St Jacques de Compostelle route. These buildings, which would be major tourist attractions in other countries, are well worth discovering (see below).
|Gaves Reunis - the Gave de Pau and Gave d'Oloron ||Fishing|
|Sorde de l'Abbaye - Benedictine monastry and Roman villa ||Historic remains|
|In this small village a few kilometres outside Pyrehorade lie the magnificent and imposing remains of a once powerful Benedictine monastry, and the Roman villa that was there before.|
The monastry dates from the 12th century. The massive buildings lie along the Gave d'Oloron. The abbey, though crumbling, is still intact and the glory of its stained glass windows can be fully appreciated from inside, where worship still takes place. Some restoration is taking place, largely by well-motivated volunteers, though it needs more substantial resources.
During the 1960s the remains of a Roman villa were discovered in and around the monastry buildings. These have been excavated by archaeologists and a fine Roman mosaic is on display, testifying to the importance that this area once had in Roman and medieval times.
Nearby is a salmon ladder.
|Arthous Abbey ||Historic remains|
|Just to the south of Peyrehorade is the Abbey of Arthous, a building with a mixed history that is still in remarkable shape.|
It was founded around 1167 by the Premonstrant order, one of many ecclesiastical buildings that mark the old pilgrim routes. The 16th century brought many travails: first it was damaged by the Spanish (in 1523) and then the Protestants (in 1571). It was repaired and renovated in subsequent centuries until it was sold off in 1791.
These lovely buildings then became part of a farm for the 19th and most of the 20th century, in effect becoming extremely grand barns! Fortunately the owners gave them to the local council in 1964, since when some restoration has taken place. Note the wonderful carvings high up on the outside walls, depicting the Seven Deadly Sins and other biblical themes. Miraculously untouched by pollution and history, they are well worth a visit.
|The chateau at Peyrehorade lies on the Gave de Pau|
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