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Pyrénées-Atlantiques (Department, France)

Last modified: 2013-06-11 by ivan sache
Keywords: pyrenees-atlantiques | aquitaine | pheasants' island |
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Administrative data

Code: 64
Region: Aquitaine
Traditional provinces: Béarn, Guyenne and Gascony
Bordering departments: Gers, Landes, Hautes-Pyrénées
Bordering country: Spain (Autonomous Community of Aragon [Province of Huesca], Autonomous Community of Navarra, and Autonomous Community of Basque Country [Province of Guipuzcoa])

Area: 7,645 km2
Population (1999): 600,018 inhabitants

Préfecture: Pau
Sous-préfectures: Bayonne, Oloron-Sainte-Marie
Subdivisions: 3 arrondissements, 52 cantons, 547 communes.

The department is named after the Pyrenees mountains and the Atlantic Ocean.
Formerly known as Pyrénées-Inférieures (Lower Pyrenees), the department was renamed Pyrénées-Atlantiques on 10 October 1969.
On 1 June 1857, the municipality of Saint-Esprit was transferred from the department of Landes to the department of Pyrénées-Inférieures.

Ivan Sache, 14 November 2009


Pheasants' Island

Pheasants' Island (Île aux Faisans) aka Conference Island (Île de la Conférence) is a small island located in the border town of Hendaye, in the middle of the river Bidassoa, which marks the border between Spain and France. The mouth of Bidassoa is limited in the south by Cabo Higueroa (the Figtree's Cape).
Today a small wooded island threatened by the waves, the island was in the past a famous place of diplomatic meetings between France and Spain. Louis XI met there Henry IV of Castile in 1463; in 1526, Francis I, captured by the Spaniards in Pavia, was exchanged there against his two sons; in 1615, Elisabeth, Louis XIII's sister, to be married with the Infant of Spain (later Philip IV) and Ann of Austria, the Infant's sister, to be married with Louis XIII, met there.

The most famous event involving the island was the Treaty of Pyrenees, signed in 1659 by Mazarin for France and Luis Méndez de Haro for Spain, ending, the Franco-Spanish war that had broken out in 1635. Spain ceded to France the Provinces of Roussillon and Artois, as well as several fortified towns in the north. The Treaty further stated that Louis XIV would marry Maria-Theresia, Philip IV's daughter. She would abandone her rights on the Spanish throne for a dowry of 500,000 golden crowns.
The island was revamped for the marriage, celebrated in spring 1560. The marriage pavilion was decorated by the painter Vélasquez, who caught a cold and died a few weeks later. Since the King of Spain was protocally not allowed to leave the Spanish soil, the pavilion was divided by an imaginary line into a Spanish and a French half. The negociation lasted from 4 to 7 June.

The Border Treaty signed in 1856 by France and Spain stated that the island would belong jointly to the two countries. Since then, the International Commission of the Pyrenees solves all the problems related with this odd status. The rights of fishing on the Bidassoa and in Higueroa Bay are granted in turn to the French and Spanish fishers. Since 1901, police and watch have been exerted in turn by France (1 August - 31 January) and Spain (1 February - 31 July).
Nothing is said about flag hoisting over the island.

Source: Guide Vert Pyrénées Aquitaine Côte Basque

Ivan Sache, 10 January 2006