1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Ascain (Basque Azkaine) is a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of south-western France.

The inhabitants of the commune are known as Azkaindar.[1][2]

The commune has been awarded three flowers by the National Council of Towns and Villages in Bloom in the Competition of cities and villages in Bloom.[3]


Bilingual sign at Ascain
Autumn colours on the Nivelle at Ascain
The Roman bridge

Ascain is part of the urban area of Bayonne in the traditional Basque province of Labourd 13 km east of Irun and 7 km (4.3 mi) south of Saint-Jean-de-Luz and the Atlantic Ocean in the western foothills of the Pyrenees. The southern tip of the commune touches the border with Spain at the peak of Larrun mountain. Access to the commune is by the D4 road from Urrugne in the north-west coming into the commune from the west then passing through the town and continuing south-east to Sare. The D918 also comes from Saint-Jean-de-Luz in the north and passes through the north of the commune between two urban areas and continuing east to Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle. Some 30% of the commune is residential with some small forests in the north and farmland mostly in the south with some farms in the north.[4]

The summit of Larrun, a mountain iconic of the Basque country, is situated approximately 6 km (3.7 mi) south of the town at the southern tip of the commune on the border with Spain. The summit can be reached by the Petit train de la Rhune, which commences from the Col de Saint-Ignace, 4 km (2.5 mi) to the east of the town outside the commune on the D4 road to Sare.

The Interurban Network of Pyrénées-Atlantiques bus line has two stops in the commune: one for Route 863 which runs from Hasparren to Saint-Jean-de-Luz; and Route 858 between Sare and Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

The Nivelle river flows through the north of the commune flowing towards the west parallel to the D918 on its way to the Atlantic Ocean. Several tributaries rise in the south of the commune and flow north, gathering many more tributaries, into the Nivelle. These streams include the Aniberreko Erreka, the Galardiko Erreka, and the Arraioko Erreka. The Larrunko Erreka forms the south-western border of the commune as it flows north then west to join the Intsolako Erreka which continues north to join the Aniberreko Erreka.[4]

Places and hamlets[5]

  • Aïra-Harri[6]
  • Aldagarai
  • Ansorlua
  • Apituxenborda
  • Arginenia
  • Arraioa
  • Askubea
  • Biscarzoun[7] or Bizkarzun (redoubt)
  • Bordatxoenia
  • Dorria
  • Errotenea
  • Esnaur (redoubt)[8]
  • Etxegaraia
  • Hiriburua
  • Ihizelaia
  • Indartea
  • Jauregikoborda
  • Kisu Labea
  • Lanzelai (ZA)
  • Larrunzola
  • Lur Eder
  • Manttobaita
  • Martinhaurrenborda
  • Miramar
  • Monségur
  • Morzelai
  • Muga[9]
  • Nausienborda
  • Oihanetxeberria
  • Paxkulinenea
  • Portua
  • Larrun
  • Sabadinenborda
  • Sainte-Hélène
  • Serres
  • Telleriaberria
  • Xakarroko Errota
  • Xeruenborda[10]
  • Xorroetaberria
  • Xuanenborda
  • Zelaia
  • Zelaiakoborda
Labourdine house
View of Larrun
The fronton
Stones from Larrun enclosing a field


The commune name in basque is Azkaine.[2]

The name Ascain probably comes from haitz gain meaning "top of the hill" or "rocky height".[11][12]

The following table details the origins of the commune name and other names in the commune.

Name Spelling Date Source Page Origin Description
Ascain Escan 1125 Goyheneche
Escan 1140 Raymond
Scain 1235 Raymond
Azcayn 1302 Raymond
Scainh 1450 Raymond
Ascaing 1552 Raymond
Sancta Maria d'Ascaing 1691 Raymond
Askaine 19th century Lhande
Harania Harania 1863 Raymond
Olhaberrietta Olhaberrietta 1568 Orpustan
House: "Place of the new hut"
Serres Villa quœ dicitur Asseres 1140 Raymond
Sanctus-Jacobus de Serres 1691 Raymond
Croix d'Urumendy Croix d'Urumendy 1863 Raymond
Place of Pilgrimage
Xeruenborda Chérumborda 1863 Raymond
Place of Pilgrimage




In 1609 Councillor Pierre de Lancre intervened in French Basque Country at the head of a commission of inquiry demanded by Henri IV. The commission was to "purge the country of all sorcerers and sorceresses under the influence of demons". The priest of Ascain was degraded then burned.[19]

The Bishop of Bayonne, Jean VI de Sossiondo, built a large house called "Askunda" here during the middle of the 16th century, which can still be seen.

In 1794, at the height of The Terror and after the desertion of 47 young people from Itxassou, the Committee of Public Safety (Decree of 13 Ventôse Year II - 3 March 1794) arrested and deported some of the men, women, and children from Ainhoa, Ascain, Espelette, Itxassou, Sare, and Souraïde; and declared the commune, as for other communes near the Spanish border, a "Notorious commune".[20] This measure was also extended to Biriatou, Cambo, Larressore, Louhossoa, Mendionde, and Macaye.

The inhabitants were: "gathered in various national houses or in the District of Ustaritz or in those of the Grande Redoubt, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau".[21] In reality they were gathered in the churches then deported in very precarious conditions[22] to Bayonne, Capbreton, Saint-Vincent-de-Tyrosse, and Ondres. Departments where people from the communes were interned were Lot, Lot-et-Garonne, Gers, Landes, Basses-Pyrénées (the Béarnais part), and Hautes-Pyrénées.

The return of the exiles and the recovery of their properties were determined by a series of decrees issued on 29 September and 1 October 1794 - driven in this direction by the Director of Ustaritz: "The former communes of Sare, Itxassou, Ascain, Biriatou, and Serres, whose inhabitants have been interned for eight months as a measure of general security people have not been able to farm. The people who wish to obtain freedom to retire to their homes are clamouring for food without us being able to provide them with the means to fulfil this first human need, hunger".[23] The recovery of property was not done without difficulty: their properties had been sequestered but were not registered and so were looted: "Movable and immovable property of the inhabitants of Sare, were neither legally recognized nor disclosed; all our furniture and household effects were removed and brought confusedly to neighbouring communes. Instead of putting them in safe places, some were sold at auction or to any other party without auction".[24]


Arms of Ascain
The arms were adopted by the commune on 26 June 1988.

Or, an oak Vert terraced in base the same, fruited in Or and trunked proper all debruised by a boar armed Argent bordure of Gules charged with 8 small saltires couped of Or.

These arms were registered for the first time on 5 July 1405 by Juan Martinez de Agorreta y Ascain, Lord of Agorreta and Ascain, who married Princess Leonor Tocco de Acciaioli, from the Florence House of Acciaioli.[25][better source needed][26]


List of Successive Mayors[27]

Mayors from 1808 to 1941
From To Name Party Position
1808 1813 Michel Monségur
1813 1814 Pierre Theillary
1814 1828 Michel Monségur
1828 1837 Jean Pagès
1837 1844 Jean Gracy
1844 1848 Raymond Monségur
1848 1856 Dominique Hirigoyen
1856 1864 Gustave Hillaire Argelliès
1864 1867 Raymond Monségur
1867 1877 Dominique Hirigoyen
1877 1883 Jean called "Ganich" Gracy
1883 1891 Jean Etcheverry
1891 1900 Jean Larralde
1900 1904 Dominique Berho
1904 1906 René Minier
1906 1912 Jean Gracy
1912 1919 Jean Leholaberry
1919 1924 René Minier
1924 1941 Pierre Pinatel
Ascain Town Hall
The Nivelle at Ascain
Mill at Ascain 1835-1841
Mayors from 1941
From To Name Party Position
1941 1945 Jean-Baptiste Gracy
1945 1946 Charles Minier
1946 1953 Jean Baptiste Aspirot
1953 1963 Jean Baptiste Gracy
1963 1971 Robert Minier
1971 1977 Jean Sauvé
1977 2001 André Luberriaga DVD
2001 2014 Jean-Louis Laduche DVD
2014 2020 Jean-Louis Fournier

(Not all data is known)


Ascain from Larrun

The commune is part of eight inter-communal structures:

  • the Agglomeration of Sud Pays Basque;
  • the AEP association of Nive Nivelle;
  • the Energy association of Pyrénées-Atlantiques;
  • the inter-communal association for secondary educational colleges of Saint-Jean-de-Luz;
  • the inter-communal association for the rescue centre in Saint-Jean-de-Luz;
  • the SIED Côte Basque Sud;
  • the association to support Basque culture.
  • the Basque Bayonne - San Sebastián Eurocity.


Ascain has twinning associations with:[28]


In 1670 the commune had 300 fires and in 1718 1,560 inhabitants.

In 2010 the commune had 4,001 inhabitants. The evolution of the number of inhabitants is known from the population censuses conducted in the commune since 1793. From the 21st century, a census of communes with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants is held every five years, unlike larger towns that have a sample survey every year.[Note 1]

Population change (See database)
1793 1800 1806 1821 1831 1836 1841 1846 1851
688 766 820 833 1,014 1,041 1,132 1,297 1,272
1856 1861 1866 1872 1876 1881 1886 1891 1896
1,113 1,162 1,116 1,171 1,173 1,212 1,225 1,150 1,128
1901 1906 1911 1921 1926 1931 1936 1946 1954
1,157 1,178 1,240 1,216 1,354 1,510 1,460 1,376 1,474
1962 1968 1975 1982 1990 1999 2006 2010 -
1,605 1,683 1,876 2,159 2,653 3,097 - 4,001 -

Sources : Ldh/EHESS/Cassini until 1962, INSEE database from 1968 (population without double counting and municipal population from 2006)

Population of Ascain


Economic activity is mainly agricultural and also tourism. There is a sandstone quarry in the commune.

Ascain is part of the Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) zone of Ossau-iraty.

There are two breweries (Akerbeltz and Oldarki) in the commune.

Culture and heritage

According to the Map of the Seven Basque Provinces edited in 1863 by Prince Louis-Lucien Bonaparte, the basque dialect spoken in Ascain is Labourdin.

The film La Danseuse Orchidée by Léonce Perret was partly filmed in Ascain in 1928 with Chiquito de Cambo.

Civil heritage

There are several buildings and structures in Ascain that are registered as historical monuments. These are:

  • House of Ferdinand Pinney Earle (20th century)Logo monument historique - rouge sans texte.svg[9]
  • Redoubt of Biscarzoun (partly in Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle) (19th century)Logo monument historique - rouge sans texte.svg[7]
  • Redoubt of Esnaur (1813)Logo monument historique - rouge sans texte.svg[8]
  • Roman bridge on the Nivelle (5th century)Logo monument historique - rouge sans texte.svg.[29] It was rebuilt after the collapse of the central pier caused by flooding of the Nivelle in December 1994.
  • Group of nine Stone circles at Aïra-Harri (Protohistoric)Logo monument historique - rouge sans texte.svg[6]

The two redoubts were part of the defence by Marshal Soult of the Franco-Spanish border against the British Army under Wellington in 1813.

In 1947 the village erected the first Stèle des évadés de France (Stele of escapees of France) in memory of the resistance fighters who left France to join the Free French Forces via Spain during the Second World War.

Bilingual signs
Lintel on a House
The fronton in the square
The Lavoir (public laundry)

Religious heritage

The Church of the AssumptionLogo monument historique - rouge sans texte.svg[30] has some medieval remains. It was enlarged in the 16th and 17th centuries and was inaugurated under Louis XIII in 1626. In 1605 Monseigneur Bertrand d'Etchaux, Bishop of Bayonne, visited the parish of Ascain and permitted "the said parishioners of the said parish to sell or dispose of the tombs that seem good in favour of the proceeds of the sale"... (be used for) ..."the keeping, repair, and completion of the work on the church".[31]

Inside the church is a Statue of the Virgin and ChildLogo monument historique - noir sans texte.svg[32] which is a cast of a statue from the 14th century: the original in marble, called the Virgin of Longchamp, is preserved in the Musée national du Moyen Âge (National Museum of the Middle Ages) in Paris. Tombstones in pink sandstone from Larrun cover the grounds.

The Chapel of Serres, dedicated to Saint Jacques and recently restored was, in the Middle Ages, a waystation on the Way of St. James.[33]



The commune has three primary schools: one public, one private catholic (Sainte-Marie school), and one Ikastola (Basque language school).[34]

A Music school (Kornelio), in the form of an associatrion offers classic and traditional training.[35]

The Larrundarrak drum band, the Larrun Kanta choir, and the Martintxo-Altxalili association complete the musical offerings of the commune.[35]

Sports and Sports facilities

There are several sports associations in the commune including associations for athletics, basketball, cycling, traditional dance, gymnastics, basque pelota, hiking, rugby union, and tennis.[35]

Notable people linked to the commune

Commemorative plaque for Joseph Ladouche
  • Johannes de Sossiondo, born at Ascain, Bishop of Bayonne from 1566 to 1578;[36]
  • Edmé-Martin Vandermaesen, born in 1766 at Versailles and died in 1813 at Ascain, was a Divisional general, mortally wounded at Saint-Jean-de-Luz;
  • Nicolas François Conroux, born in 1770 at Douai (Nord) and died in 1813 at St Esprit), was a French General, Baron of Pépinville, mortally wounded at Ascain;
  • Jean Hirigoyen Larroque, born at Ascain in 1788, father of Martin Hirigoyen Dolagaray (1821-1888) who emigrated to Argentina and was the father of Hipólito Yrigoyen Alem, twice president of Argentina.
  • José Revilla Haya, born at Madrid of a basque family in 1864 and died at Ascain in 1955, Mining engineer and geologist.
  • Jean-Pierre Borda, called Otharré, born at Ascain in 1866 and died in 1922, was a basque pelota player in rebot and bare hands. Friend of Pierre Loti, he was inspired by one of the characters in the novel Ramuntcho, which was written at the Hotel de la Rhune.
  • Ernest Fourneau, born at Biarritz in 1872, died at Ascain in 1949, was the founder of French Medicinal chemistry.
  • Ferdinand Pinney Earle (1878-1951) was a famous Hollywood cinema decorator in the 1910s and 1920s. In 1930 he moved to Ascain and built a house shaped like a revolver reminiscent of adobe houses built in Santa Fe around 1920.
  • Jean Élissalde, born at Ascain in 1883 and died at Gréciette in 1961, was a writer, Catholic priest, poet, and basque academic.
  • Prince Feodor Alexandrovich of Russia, born on 23 December 1898 at Saint-Petersburg (Russia), and died on 30 November 1968 at Ascain. He was buried in the cemetery at Urrugne.
  • Marie-Louise Osorio, from Ascain, was a bertsolari, famous for her duet with Pierre Ibarrart in 1869.[37]
  • Joseph Laduche, born at Ascain in 1919, father of Jean, Philippe, Jean Michel, Marie Jo, Pampi, and Martine Laduche, who became Champion of France in basque pelota in 1941;
  • Maurice Abeberry born at Biarritz in 1926 and died at Ascain in 1988, was a doctor of law, lawyer, sports administrator, and music-lover;
  • Léon Berho born on 4 June 1932 at Ascain and died at Dax in October 2011, was a rugby union player, finalist in the championship of France in 1961, 1963, and 1966 with US Dax;
  • Philippe Laduche, born at Ascain in 1946, played basque pelota and became world champion in Basque trinquete in 1970 at Saint-Sébastian;
  • Pampi Laduche, born in 1955 at Ascain, was a basque pelota player, world champion in Basque trinquete in 1974 at Montevideo (Uruguay).
  • Martine Laduche, born in 1960 at Ascain, was a basque pelota player of panla ancha and bare hands, champion of France.
  • Jacques Chaban-Delmas, born in 1915 at Paris and died in 2000 at Paris, was Mayor of Bordeaux, Prime Minister, Honorary President of the National Assembly, General of the Resistance, buried in the cemetery at Ascain where he had a second home.

See also

External links

Notes and references


  1. ^ At the beginning of the 21st century, the methods of identification have been modified by Law No. 2002-276 of 27 February 2002 Archived 6 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine., the so-called "law of local democracy" and in particular Title V "census operations" allows, after a transitional period running from 2004 to 2008, the annual publication of the legal population of the different French administrative districts. For communes with a population greater than 10,000 inhabitants, a sample survey is conducted annually, the entire territory of these communes is taken into account at the end of the period of five years. The first "legal population" after 1999 under this new law came into force on 1 January 2009 and was based on the census of 2006.


  1. ^ Inhabitants of Pyrénées-Atlantiques (in French)
  2. ^ a b Euskaltzaindia - Academy of the Basque language (Basque)
  3. ^ Ascain in the Competition for Towns and Villages in Bloom Archived December 10, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. (in French)
  4. ^ a b c Google Maps
  5. ^ Géoportail, IGN (in French)
  6. ^ a b Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00084321 Group of nine Stone circles (in French)
  7. ^ a b Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00084570 Redoubt of Biscarzoun (in French)
  8. ^ a b Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00084563 Redoubt of Esnaur (in French)
  9. ^ a b Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA64000037 House of Ferdinand Pinney Earle (in French)
  10. ^ a b Topographic Dictionary of the Department of Basses-Pyrenees, Paul Raymond, Imprimerie nationale, 1863, Digitised from Lyon Public Library 15 June 2011 (in French)
  11. ^ a b Jean-Baptiste Orpustan, New Basque Toponymy, Presses universitaires de Bordeaux, 2006, ISBN 2 86781 396 4 (in French)
  12. ^ Brigitte Jobbé-Duval, Dictionary of place names - Pyrénées-Atlantiques, 2009, Archives and Culture, ISBN 978-2-35077-151-9 (in French)
  13. ^ Eugène Goyheneche, Basque Country: Soule, Labourd, Basse-Navarre, Société nouvelle d’éditions régionales et de diffusion, Pau, 1979, bnf FRBNF34647711, p. 583 (in French)
  14. ^ Pierre Lhande, Dictionnaire basque-français, 1926. (in French)
  15. ^ Manuscript from the 14th century in the Departmental Archives of Pyrénées-Atlantiques (in French)
  16. ^ Chapter of Bayonne in the Departmental Archives of Pyrénées-Atlantiques (in French)
  17. ^ Titles of Labourd in the Departmental Archives of Pyrénées-Atlantiques (in French)
  18. ^ Manuscripts from the 17th and 18th centuries in the Departmental Archives of Pyrénées-Atlantiques (in French)
  19. ^ Philippe Veyrin, The Basques, Arthaud, 1975, ISBN 2 7003 0038 6, page 249 (in French)
  20. ^ Philippe Veyrin, The Basques, Arthaud, 1975, ISBN 2 7003 0038 6, page 187 (in French)
  21. ^ National Archives, AF II 133/1014, cited by Manex Goyhenetche in General History of Basque Country, Vol. 4, Elkarlanean, 2002, ISBN 2 9131 5646 0, page 300 (in French)
  22. ^ The Mayor and the Municipal Officer of Capbreton demanded the consignment by courier of the letter shown below (text transcribed by P. Haristoy, The Parishes of Basque Country during the Revolutionary period, Pau, Vignancour, 1895-1901, pages 256-257 (in French)) on 24 ventôse Year II (14 March 1794) for the 229 detainees under their protection:

    1) How much bread to give to each man (we have no bread so it does not matter)?
    2) Can we allow them to purchase wine or other provisions?
    3) We note that we have no meat;
    4) Can we allow them to have a light at night from a lantern?
    5) Can we allow them to have mats or mattresses? We have provided them with straw to sleep;
    6) Can we allow them out two-by-two to wash their clothes?
    7) If they are sick, are we authorised to take them out of the detention house to show the others that they are to be treated?

  23. ^ National Archives, F11/394, 18 vendémiaire Year III (9 October 1794), cited by Manex Goyhenetche in General History of Basque Country, Vol. 4, Elkarlanean, 2002, ISBN 2 9131 5646 0, page 309 (in French)
  24. ^ Bulletin of the Society of sciences, letters and arts of Bayonne, 1935, pages 67 to 70, and The Parishes of Basque Country, page 263, Gure Herria, 1930-1932: Sources cited by Manex Goyhenetche in General History of Basque Country, Vol. 4, Elkarlanean, 2002, ISBN 2 9131 5646 0, page 310 (in French)
  25. ^ Acciaioli family
  26. ^ the History page on the commune website Archived 2014-05-12 at the Wayback Machine. (in French)
  27. ^ List of Mayors of France (in French)
  28. ^ National Commission for Decentralised cooperation (in French)
  29. ^ Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00084323 Roman bridge (in French)
  30. ^ Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00084322 Church of the Assumption (in French)
  31. ^ Departmental Archives of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, III E 9744, cited by Manex Goyhenetche in his General History of Basque Country, Vol. 3, Elkarlanean, 2001, ISBN 2 9131 5634 7, page 116 (in French)
  32. ^ Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM64000048 Statue: Virgin and child (in French)
  33. ^ Fascicule, Ascain-Azkaine prefaced by Léon Labayen
  34. ^ Education page on the commune website (in French)
  35. ^ a b c Presentation of the main associations in Ascain from the commune website Archived 2014-05-12 at the Wayback Machine. (in French)
  36. ^ Philippe Veyrin, The Basques, Arthaud, 1975, ISBN 2 7003 0038 6, page 113 (in French)
  37. ^ Gérard Moutche, What do Basque houses say?, Atlantica, 2010, Paris, ISBN 978-2-7588-0177-1, pages 58-59. (in French)