Sauveterre-de-Béarn, the medieval city

Sauveterre, a little city that packs a punch



Sauveterre is a “sauveté castrale”. From its origins in the 11th century, the city was a place of refuge and shelter, its people directly protected by the Viscount of Béarn.

It wasn’t until the 13th and 14th centuries, and the reign of two great Viscounts (Gaston VII Moncade and Gaston Febus), that the city became one of four key towns in the Béarn. From the year 1000, pilgrims travelling to Compostela via Vézelay brought more prosperity.

As the gateway to the Béarn, the town was endowed with impressive ramparts and defensive features. The bridge, the Monréal Tower, the church, the arsenal are for the most part built on the rocky hilltop. Who would dare attack Sauveterre?

But times changed. By the 16th century, attacks from Spain and France’s wars of religion got the better of the town despite its impressive ramparts. The strategic importance of Sauveterre came to an end.



With its rich military history, Sauveterre isn’t just impressive for the defensive architecture of its monuments, but also for the anecdotes and legends that surround it.

As you stand on the Bridge of the Legend, reflect on that terrible day when Queen Sancie, bound hand and foot, was thrown into the rapids of the Gave….

On the outskirts of the barbican, picture the bustle in the castle as Febus returned from the hunt – the banquets, the festivities, the jugglers, the ladies of the court…

Fast-forward to the washerwomen who used to scrub their laundry on the banks of the Gave. What laughter, what banter, what gossip was shared by these women as they performed their chores!



It’s no secret that folk in the South West know how to eat well and live well – and Sauveterre is no exception!

Throughout August each year, gorgeous Blondes (d’Aquitaine) adorn the walls of the town – the same bovine beauties you see grazing in the surrounding meadows.
The excitement builds as the 3rd weekend in August approaches. Come the big day, the town throws itself heart and soul into the Blonde d’Aquitaine Fair, which includes an art exhibition (cattle-themed, of course!), a contest for the best borit (a beef stew), cattle shows, lunch and finally the supper of the Blonde.
An endangered race, the Blonde d’Aquitaine has successfully held its own here, and our farmers are committed to promoting it to the general public.


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