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Pau, a historic city

Pau, second city of Aquitaine, capital of Béarn since 1464, is a royal city where was born the “good” King Henry in 1553. Parliamentarian, English, cosmopolitan, contemporary, splendid terrace on the Pyrénées, Pau is all that at once.

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The Béarn a historically independent state.

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The name of Béarn comes from Benearnum, small territory which brought together the cities of Lescar and Morlaàs at the time Roman. In the middle of the 11th century, the Viscounts spread this territory to the regions of Oloron, Montaner, then Orthez. In two centuries (11th and 12th centuries), Béarn becomes an important country where villages develop around their castles, as in Pau. Very quickly, the Béarn becomes a viscount, owning its own currency, its own laws, the Fors and its coat of arms composed of two cows.

Gaston Fébus, will reign on Béarn and the country of Foix and proclaim the independence of Béarn in 1347 with respect to the King of France and the King of England. He ensures his neutrality during the 100 years war. In the 14th century, the state of Béarn will be one of the few in Europe not to know war, famine or plague.

Pau Pyrenees across the ages

Pau Béarn Pyrénées and its castle

The city of Pau and its castle is needed in the sixteenth century becoming the seat of the kings of Navarre. Pau becomes a center of political and intellectual foreground under the reign of Henri d’Albret and his wife Marguerite.

Pau Béarn Pyrénées and its rois

The history of Pau is durably marked by the birth of their grandson, Henri de Bourbon, on December 13, 1553 in their castle. He reached the throne of France in 1589 under the title of Henri IV. The image of the city has since been largely associated with that of this Monarch made famous for his willingness to end the endless wars of religion. Another famous Pau, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, who became Marshal of the Empire and then King of Sweden and Norway from 1818 to his death in 1844, was born in the seventeenth century. His birthplace has become a museum. If we go back a few centuries, Gaston Fébus nicknamed “the lion of the Pyrenees” accesses the head of the current Pyrénées-Atlantiques in the mid-14th century. He imprints the history of Béarn with his military actions, politics, castles and literary work. Gaston III would have taken the name of “Fébus” because of its physical beauty evoking a Greek god.

Pau Béarn Pyrénées and its international community

The 1st golf of the European continent is created in 1856.
The international community practices hunting, meets at the English circle and attends horse races at the long bridge. It was at this same time that Pau became one of the world capitals of emerging Aeronautics under the influence of the Wright brothers, in 1909 the crowned heads then pressed to observe the flights of the first flying school organized in the world.

Pau Béarn Pyrénées and its industry

With the end of resort tourism during the twentieth century, the paloise economy — and that of its agglomeration — gradually shifted to the aeronautics industry and then to the petrochemicals sector with the major discovery of the Lacq gas deposit in 1951.

Pau Béarn Pyrénées, architecture and history

Today, the Pau heritage spans several centuries, its diversity and quality have earned it the label of city of art and history in 2011.
In Béarn des gaves, life is organized around four cities, Navarrenx, Orthez, Salies-de-Béarn and Sauveterre-de-Béarn which each possess an important architectural and historical identity. The Béarn des Gaves is rich with monuments that reflect the struggles of power and the high personalities that constituted it.

The Bearnese Pyrénées have a wide variety of heritage, pastoral buildings with shepherds ‘ huts, lintels doors or the Cathedral of Oloron Sainte-Marie, the typical mountain villages or the Fort of portalet.

We must stroll to Oloron Sainte-Marie, this historic city, in the episcopal city, the medieval village or Notre-Dame district. Jewel of the city, the cathedral is classified World Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Pau Béarn Pyrénées, cradle of democracy

Béarn reinvented modern democracy between the 11th and 14th centuries. At the time the “Fors”, legislation written in Béarnais, organized the equality between the nobles and the villagers in order to attract new inhabitants by giving them many advantages.


Villagers could elect a community council that defined political, economic regulations by organising trade, pastoral and agricultural life. These Fors limited the powers of the viscount and the lords-all men were equal in law-and guaranteed a minimum of individual rights : no prison without judgement, and protection in public places, the annulment of the salic law for Women (inheritance and access to the Throne). These first laws of Béarn made this territory a forerunner in matters of justice and democracy.

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