Page:A book of the Pyrenees.djvu/76

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54
THE PYRENEES

The Basques, it may be noticed, do not give their names to houses and farms, but assume as surnames those place names from which they came.

From Itxasson the Pas de Roland is reached in half an hour on foot. It is an archway bored in the crag beside the river. Road and railway have so maltreated the rock that the Pas is now hardly worth a special visit. It was through this arch that the Roman road passed, and through it Roland the Paladin went to his death at Roncevaux. According to local legend Roland set his foot against the rock and burst a way through it by pressure. Road and rail now enter the mountains following the river.

At Bidarray, on the mountain-side, is a grotto, about thirty feet deep. In one corner a ladder conducts to a cavity, at the back of which is a stalagmitic incrustation three feet high, of a livid hue, rudely representing a human torso. This is held in high veneration by the peasantry, and is called "the Saint of Bidarry," though who the saint was whom it is supposed to represent nobody can say. A very similar incrustation occupies a niche in the Gorge of the Ardèche, and is there held to be a lively presentation of Charlemagne. Sick people seek this cave and soak rags in the water that dribbles from the figure, and which has in fact built it up. They apply the rags to the suffering parts of their bodies, and depart believing themselves to be healed, but the rags are left behind as ex votos.

S. Jean-Pied-de-Port was the key to the port or pass into Spain, and especially to the communication between Upper and Lower Navarre. It occupies a point where three streams fall into the Nive. There had been a Gallo-Roman town three miles distant at S. Jean-le-Vieux, but it had been destroyed by the Saracens. The present town was founded