Last updated

Flag of Bearn.svg
Arms of Bearn.svg
Coat of arms
Localisation Bearn.svg
Béarn in Europe.
CountryFlag of France.svg  France
Time zone UTC+1 (CET)
  Summer (DST) UTC+2 (CEST)
French Basque Country (left side) and the Bearn (right side) Pays basque nord-Bearn.png
French Basque Country (left side) and the Béarn (right side)

The Béarn ( US: /bˈɑːrn/ ; [1] [2] French:  [beaʁn] ; Occitan : Bearn [beˈaɾ] or Biarn; Basque : Bearno or Biarno; Latin : Benearnia or Bearnia) is one of the traditional provinces of France, located in the Pyrenees mountains and in the plain at their feet, in southwest France. Along with the three Basque provinces of Soule, Lower Navarre, and Labourd, the principality of Bidache, as well as small parts of Gascony, it forms in the southwest the current département of Pyrénées-Atlantiques (64). The capitals of Béarn were Beneharnum (until 841), Morlaàs (from ca. 1100), Orthez (from the second half of the 13th century), and then Pau (beginning in the mid-15th century). [3]


Béarn is bordered by Basque provinces Soule and Lower Navarre to the west, by Gascony (Landes and Armagnac) to the north, by Bigorre to the east, and by Spain (Aragon) to the south.

Today, the mainstays of the Béarn area are the petroleum industry, the aerospace industry through the helicopter turboshaft engine manufacturer Turbomeca, tourism and agriculture (much of which involves maize (corn) grown for seed). Pau was the birthplace of Elf Aquitaine, which has now become a part of the Total S.A. petroleum company.

In Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers series, the protagonist d'Artagnan came from Béarn (he mentions having attended his father's funeral there in the second book, Twenty Years After ). That d'Artagnan is usually referred to as a Gascon is neither surprising nor incorrect, as Béarn forms part of Gascony.

In the eastern part of the province are two small exclaves belonging to Bigorre. They are the result of how early Béarn grew to its traditional boundaries: some old lesser viscounties were added by marriage, and absorbed into Béarn: Oloron to the south/southwest ca. 1050, Montanérès in the east in 1085, and Dax in the west in 1194. [4] When Montanérès was added, five communities or parishes (Villenave-Près-Béarn, Escaunets, Séron, Gardères, and Luquet) did not form part of the dowry; they remained, or became, part of Bigorre. Their attachment to Bigorre continues to the present, as they followed it into Hautes-Pyrénées, rather than being incorporated into the surrounding Pyrénées-Atlantiques.



The name Béarn derives from Beneharnum, the capital city of the ancient Venarni people, which was destroyed by Vikings by 840. [5] The modern town of Lescar is built on the site of Beneharnum.


Agriculture and metallurgy were first practiced in the region around 4,000 years ago. Many dolmens, tumuli and megaliths have been found in Béarn dating to this era, suggesting that ancestor worship was an important religious activity in neolithic Béarn. [6] Construction of cromlêhs in Béarn continued into the Bronze Age.

Fortified villages were also constructed in Neolithic Béarn, and remains of these have been found near Asson, Bougarber and Lacq.


Béarn was occupied by Ligurians around 3000 years ago. By 500 BC, Iberians appear to have replaced the Ligurians. The names of several towns in Béarn end in -os (e.g. Gelos, Urdos and Arros) which suggests an Iberian origin.

The region became part of the Roman Empire in the first century BC. Diocletian included Bearn in the Roman province of Novempopulania. Roman influence in the region waned in the fifth century AD, and Béarn experienced multiple barbarian invasions. Béarn was successively conquered by the Vandals, the Visigoths, the Merovingians and finally the Carolingians.

The fifth century AD also saw the arrival of Christianity in Béarn. The rural character of Béarn meant that Christianity took longer to become established there than elsewhere in France.



Béarn is served by two autoroutes. The A64 (l'autoroute pyrénéenne, European designation E80) was built in 1977 and links Pau, Toulouse and Bayonne. In Béarn, the A64 has junctions serving the towns of Salies-de-Béarn, Orthez, Artix, Pau and Soumoulou.

The A65 (l'autoroute de Gascogne, European designation E7) links Pau with Langon. It serves the Béarnese towns of Lescar, Thèze and Garlin. At Langon, the A65 joins on to the A62, which continues to Bordeaux. The A65 was opened in 2010, and was at the time France's most expensive autoroute.

Several more minor routes also serve Béarn. The Route Nationale 134 links the south of Pau with Somport in the Aspe Valley. Several mountain roads link Somport with Spain.


Three railway lines serve Béarn. The first of these is the Toulouse to Bayonne railway, which was opened in stages between 1861 and 1867. Several rail stations are located on this line, including those of Coarraze-Nay, Assat, Pau, Artix, Orthez and Puyoô. The Puyoô to Dax railway line enables trains to run from Béarn to Bordeaux. Both these railway lines are served by TGV, Intercités and TER.

The third railway line, the Pau to Canfranc line, serves the south of Béarn. It was put into service between 1883 and 1928. However, the railway line been partially closed since 1970. This is because in 1970, a bridge carrying this rail line over the Gave d'Aspe was destroyed by a train derailment; SNCF consequently closed the line south of the Gare d'Oloron-Sainte-Marie. An additional section of the line, between Oloron-Sainte-Marie and Bedous, was reopened by SNCF in 2016.

Canfranc Railway Station is located within Spain and is also served by the Spanish Jaca to Canfranc railway. International rail transport between Béarn and Aragon was thus previously possible using this route. In 2013, the regional governments of Aragon and Aquitaine agreed to take steps to further the economic links between their two regions, including possibly reopening the Pau-Canfranc railway line all the way to Canfranc Station. [7] The two governments hope to have the line fully reopened by 2020.

A fourth railway line once linked Puyoô rail station to that of Mauléon-Licharre. This line opened in two stages between 1884 and 1887; it was closed to passengers in 1968 and to freight in 1989. The line was officially abandoned in 1991. A branch of this line ran from Autevielle to Saint-Palais. This branch is also now closed.


Monument to the world's first aviation school at Pau Pyrenees Airport. Issartier-Pau-01.jpg
Monument to the world's first aviation school at Pau Pyrénées Airport.

Pau Pyrénées Airport, situated near Uzein, has direct flights to Charles de Gaulle Airport and Orly Airport (9 flights in total to Paris daily), Lyon–Saint-Exupéry Airport (3 flights daily) and Marseille Provence Airport. During summer, it also has flights to Bastia – Poretta Airport, Ajaccio Napoleon Bonaparte Airport, Naples International Airport and Bari Karol Wojtyła Airport. 634,000 passengers used Pau Pyrénées Airport in 2015, making it the third busiest airport in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine région of France, after Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport and Biarritz Pays Basque Airport.

Béarn has a long association with aviation. The meteorological conditions of Béarn were convenient for early aviators, and the Wright brothers made several flights in Pont-Long, a flat marshy area north of Pau from 1908 onwards. Wilbur Wright helped set up the world's first aviation school, which opened outside Pau in 1908. Pau Pyrénées Airport is located on the site of this aviation school. The French military trains its paratroopers at the School of Airborne Troops, which has been located near Pau since 1946.

People from Béarn

See also

Related Research Articles

Pyrénées-Atlantiques Department of France

Pyrénées-Atlantiques is a department in the southwest corner of France and of the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Named after the Pyrenees mountain range and the Atlantic Ocean, it covers the French Basque Country and the Béarn. Its prefecture is Pau. In 2017, it had a population of 677,309.

Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques Prefecture and commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Pau is a commune overlooking the Pyrenees, and capital of the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France. Pau had 77,130 inhabitants as of 2017.

Lower Navarre Province in Pays Basque, France

Lower Navarre is a traditional region of the present-day French département of Pyrénées-Atlantiques. It corresponds to the northernmost merindad of the Kingdom of Navarre during the Middle Ages. After the Spanish conquest of Iberian Navarre (1512–24), this merindad was restored to the rule of the native king, Henry II. Its capitals were Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and Saint-Palais. In the extreme north there was the little sovereign Principality of Bidache, with an area of 1,284 km2 (496 sq mi) and a decreasing population of 44,450, 25,356.

Soule Province in Pays Basque, France

Soule is a former viscounty and French province and part of the present day Pyrénées-Atlantiques département. It is divided into two cantons of the arrondissement (district) of Oloron-Sainte-Marie, and a part of the canton of Saint Palais.

County of Foix Place in France

The County of Foix was an independent medieval fief in southern France, and later a province of France, whose territory corresponded roughly the eastern part of the modern département of Ariège.


Bigorre is a region in southwest France, historically an independent county and later a French province, located in the upper watershed of the Adour, on the northern slopes of the Pyrenees, part of the larger region known as Gascony. Today Bigorre comprises the centre and west of the département of Hautes-Pyrénées, with two small exclaves in the neighbouring Pyrénées Atlantiques. Its inhabitants are called Bigourdans.

Orthez Commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Orthez is a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department and Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of south-western France.

Oloron-Sainte-Marie Subprefecture of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Oloron-Sainte-Marie is a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in the region of Béarn in south-western France.

Viscounts of Béarn

The viscounts of Béarn were the rulers of the viscounty of Béarn, located in the Pyrenees mountains and in the plain at their feet, in southwest France. Along with the three Basque provinces of Soule, Lower Navarre, and Labourd, as well as small parts of Gascony, it forms the current département of Pyrénées-Atlantiques (64).

Centule V, Viscount of Béarn

Centule V, called the Young, was the Viscount of Béarn from 1058 to his death. Centule increased the autonomy of the viscounts of Béarn and distanced them from the dukes of Aquitaine, to whom they owed theoretical vassalage. Centule was also Count of Bigorre jure uxoris as Centule I.

Gaston V was the Viscount of Béarn, Gabardan, and Brulhois from 1153 to his death.

Gaston VI, Viscount of Béarn

Gaston VI (1173–1214), called the Good, was the Viscount of Béarn, Gabardan, and Brulhois from 1173. He was also Count of Bigorre and Viscount of Marsan through his marriage in 1196 to Petronilla, the daughter of Countess Stephanie-Beatrice of Bigorre.

Viscounty of Béarn

The Viscounty, later Principalityof Béarn was a medieval lordship in the far south of France, part of the Duchy of Gascony from the late ninth century. In 1347, the viscount refused to acknowledge the suzerainty of the French king and declared Béarn an independent principality. It later entered a personal union with the Kingdom of Navarre in 1479 and with France in 1589. In 1620, the prince formally incorporated Béarn as a province of France.

Argagnon Commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Argagnon is a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of south-western France.

Araujuzon Commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Araujuzon is a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of southwestern France.

Baigts-de-Béarn Commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Baigts-de-Béarn is a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of south-western France.

Église Saint-Girons

L'église Saint-Girons is a Roman Catholic church located in the commune of Monein in Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aquitaine. The edifice is in the Gothic architectural style. It was classified as a monument historique of France on 7 August 1913. Its grand size made it the largest Gothic church in Béarn in the 15th century. It is most famous for its heart of oak frame which represents the Medieval architecture style.

Pau–Canfranc railway

The Pau–Canfranc railway is a partially-closed 93 km (58 mi) long international single-track standard gauge railway line connecting Pau in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques region of France, climbing via the Gave d'Aspe valley and tunneling under the Pyrenees, to Canfranc in Spain. The line is part of transport infrastructure between Bordeaux and Zaragoza and is now named the Goya Line, after the painter Francisco de Goya who was born near Zaragoza and died in Bordeaux.

Forcade (de), also written Fourcade (de), Forcada (de), Forquade (de), Forquada (de), Forcade , Fourcade , Laforcade (de) and Lafourcade (de) belongs to the nobility of Guyenne and Gascony, in France, and of the Kingdom of Prussia. The family traces its roots to Béarn and the Kingdom of Navarre.

The Estates of Béarn are the former Provincial Estates of Béarn. It was formed following the death of Gaston III/X of Foix-Béarn, alias Gaston Phoebus, on 1 August 1391, as a sort of Extraordinary Assembly, regrouping the representatives of the various courts of Béarn, most notably those of the "Cour des Communautés" and of the "fr:Cour majour" that had been disbanded by Gaston Phoebus.


  1. "Béarn". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt . Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  2. "Béarn". Merriam-Webster Dictionary . Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  3. Bidot-Germa, Grosclaude, Duchon, Histoire de Béarn, 1986
  4. Bidot-Germa, Grosclaude, Duchon, Histoire de Béarn, 1986, p. 23
  5. Pliny the Elder. Natural History.
  6. Laborde, Jean Baptiste (1943). Le Béarn aux temps préhistoriques. p. 378.
  8. Bourrousse de Laffore (1860), Tome 3, p. 171
  9. Rebecca J. Scott and Jean M. Hébrard, Freedom Papers An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation, Harvard University Press, 2014

Coordinates: 43°18′00″N0°22′00″W / 43.3000°N 0.3667°W / 43.3000; -0.3667