On June 9, 1660, King Louis XIV – the future “The Sun King” – married a Spanish princess, Maria-Theresa of Austria. The royal wedding in Saint Jean de Luz was part of the Treaty of the Pyrenees, a peace agreement between the kingdoms of France and Spain, aiming to put an end to decades of fighting.

Louis XIV made a triumphal entrance into Saint Jean de Luz in May 1660, weeks before the wedding took place. Maria Theresa arrived a few weeks later, and joined her future mother-in-law, Anne of Austria, in a beautiful home reminiscent of Italian palaces, located by the town’s harbor.

Royal wedding in Saint Jean de Luz Maria Theresa's home

The king stayed in the most opulent house in town, (it belonged to a wealthy sea merchant,) complete with towers and a corbeled façade. It is challenging to take a photo of the house in the summer months, as it overlooks the trees of place Louis XIV.

On June 9, 1660 the King, his Spanish princess and hundreds of French and foreign dignitaries headed over to nearby Saint John the Baptist church. The original building, erected over the centuries, had been destroyed several times by fires during repeated Spanish invasions. By the time the French King arrived into town in 1660, Saint Jean de Luz had turned into a prosperous town, thanks to the maritime trade, whale hunting and cod fishing.

Royal wedding in Saint Jean de Luz Place Louis XIV
St John the Baptist clocktower from la Place Louis XIV

The town had commissioned a new church, designed as early as 1649 by Louis de Milhet, an architect based in nearby Bayonne. The main goal was to double the size of the church to accommodate the growing population. Construction was not completed until 1680: Louis XIV and Maria-Theresa of Austria got married on a construction site! One year later, Louis – probably missing construction dust – tackled his most ambitious project: The construction of a magnificent palace in Versailles.

The church’s main entrance, featuring St John the Baptist, was not yet built when the wedding was celebrated. The actual door the French king and the congregation used that day was walled off years later. Today, a plaque marks the former entrance.

The church is striking. Some unique features include a single nave covered by a remarkable hull-shaped wood-paneled vault, three floors of oak balconies (one can picture the congregation watching the wedding from above!) and a golden altar piece featuring statues. The photos and video below provide a peek into this special place.

The organ is well-known and St John the Baptist church is a popular concert venue in southwestern France.

Notice the beautiful painted ship, an ex-voto, brought back from Newfoundland (where many Saint Jean de Luz sailors and merchants made their fortune) by a local family who donated it to the church in 1865. Its name: “A.S.M. L’IMPERATRICE EUGENIE” a tribute to Empress Eugenia, Napoleon III’s wife, who made her mark on this area.

I hope you have enjoyed joining the royal wedding in Saint Jean de Luz!

A bientôt.



Live-streamed stroll in Saint Jean de Luz REPLAY

Véronique - France with Véro
Véronique of France with Véro

Véronique of France with Véro

Vero shares her homeland weekly on social media with virtual tours, photo essays, live events and other publications at France with Vero. Learn more.

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  1. Terri on August 16, 2020 at 9:19 am

    Merci Véro. I needed a break from doing my homework as well. What a wonderful diversion!

  2. Sands on August 16, 2020 at 9:26 am

    Amazing! You have me in lala land with all this cool history. And le bateau hanging ? soooo awesome!! I love the smell of those churches…calms my nerves every time. Bonne journée V!! 🙂

  3. Jeanne on August 16, 2020 at 10:40 am

    Merci beaucoup for introducing me to this beautiful cathedrale! So lovely! I also enjoyed the gorgeous stroll in Saint Jean du Luz yesterday!! The beach looked so inviting! I enjoy spending my weekends in France with you!!

  4. Janet on August 16, 2020 at 11:32 am

    Magnificent cathedral! Loved this blog post. I had to look up more history of this famous couple. Marie sounds quite sweet and a devoted mother. Merci Véro!

  5. Debbie on August 16, 2020 at 11:49 am

    Wonderful ! I thoroughly enjoyed the history and views, of course. Escaping with yo to France is always a pleasure.

  6. Pam on August 16, 2020 at 6:18 pm

    Merci Véro, I love being able to do some virtual traveling with you!!

    • French Girl in Seattle on August 16, 2020 at 10:35 pm

      I love having you Pam! Hope all is well!

  7. Marrie on August 17, 2020 at 9:42 am

    Merci Véro.
    What a fascinating account of the wedding of Louis IV and Princess Eugenia!
    I appreciate all the research you undertake for all your historical postings plus pictures and videos. I look forward to seeing where you will be traveling next!
    Marrie ?❤️

    • French Girl in Seattle on August 31, 2020 at 12:24 am

      Thank you for all the support, Marrie, and for traveling around France with me this summer.

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