River port in the French département of Pyrénées-Atlantique in southwest France, situated at the confluence of the Adour and Nive rivers, 5 km/3 mi from the sea; population (2005 est) 44,200. Historically a centre for the making of swords and knives, the town claims the invention of the bayonet. Bayonne is a centre of Basque culture, and lies in an important tourist area. Industries include the manufacture of leather, fertilizers, steel, and aircraft. It also has distilleries and ham-curing factories, and trades in timber.
Bayonne is the seat of a bishopric and has a cathedral, Ste Marie, part of which was built in the 13th century, and a citadel built by the 17th-century military engineer Vauban. The painter Leon Bonnat was born here in 1833, and left his art collection to the city when he died in 1922.
History Bayonne was a town in Roman times, named Lapurdum. It was in English hands from 1154 to 1451, when it was reclaimed by France. The town then went into decline and the channel to the sea silted up, to be reopened over 100 years later when prosperity slowly returned. In the 18th century it became a free port, and its international trade flourished. During the Napoleonic Wars the English blockaded it and brought its trade to a standstill. The building of a breakwater extending over 1 km/0.6 mi into the Atlantic finally stopped the sanding-up of the channel and allowed deep-draught ships to enter. After World War II, the exploitation of natural gas in the foothills of the Pyrenees brought increased prosperity to the region.