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Heart of Béarn & Vic Bilh

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The " Heart of Béarn ", land of values and traditions, is discovered through the country villages built of stones and pebbles from the Gave. To the northeast of the department is Vic-Bilh, this ancient region of Gascony, linked to Madiran and Pacherenc, two products of viticulture.

Map of Orthez and the heart of Béarn

Here, the Jurançon vineyards and the Béarn hills offer unique views of the slender peaks of the Pyrenees. A stop is essential in Monein to discover the Church of St Girons, the largest Gothic church in Béarn which houses a framework unique in France in the form of the double hull of an overturned ship. Around the village, facing the Pyrenees, the Jurançon vineyard extends its rows of vines on the summits of the hills. At the bend of a path you will inevitably come across one of these large Béarnese buildings made of pebbles and covered with slates which characterize so well the traditional Béarnais habitat. Blow of heart for the village of Lac Order, located on the Arles way of the ways of Compostelle, whose commandery was founded by Gaston IV the Crusader in the XIIth century. Its Romanesque church is surrounded by a cemetery dotted with discoidal stelae unique in Béarn. You can take the direction of Lucq de Béarn, a typical Bearn village, whose St Vincent church houses a white marble sarcophagus dating from the 4th century. Further north on the heights, Arthez de Béarn is a stage on the Puy route. Winding through the small paths, three chapels illustrate the glorious past of the village, including the Chapelle de Caubin, a former Commandery built by order of Gaston IV in the 12th century. The abbey of Sauvelade, the picon tiles of Maslacq, dovecotes, washhouses...

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Orthez, the former capital of Béarn

Orthez from the Tour Moncade
Orthez, the city from the Moncade Tower © rysan34 / Adobe Stock

Orthez is located on the Chemins de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle, like Pau, its big sister. It first experienced its development under Gaston Fébus, again him! In the 13th and 14th centuries which made it Capital after having taken it from the Gascons. Jeanne d'Albert, mother of Henri IV, built a Protestant college there which would later become a University, itself abolished when Béarn was attached to France under Louis XIII. It was in the 18th century that the city took shape as it still appears today, bourgeois houses and mansions with typically black roofs and other remarkable buildings.

The medieval Orthez Bridge Photo © AdobeStock_milosk50

You will visit the medieval bridge which spans the Gave de Pau and its astonishing keep-door, The Tour du Château Moncade which is even more than 33m high and dominates the whole city, The Jeanne d'Albret Museum which will tell you about the history of Protestantism Béarnais. This part of Béarn is dotted with pretty villages and bastides either facing the nearby Chalosse such as Arzacq or towards the Gers further east such as Lembeye, Capital of the Vic-Bilh region, and close to the famous Madiran vineyard, which with this Jurançon, is the other vineyard
remarkable in the region.

The Vic-Bilh

Discover this wine-growing territory of character, where many activities and charming villages await the traveler. Rolling landscapes with the Pyrenees as a backdrop, gastronomy, entertainment, the outdoors and... vineyards! Border with Armagnac, Landes and Bigorre, the region of Vic-Bilh is the cradle of many Béarn traditions and customs. Observe the characteristic architecture, with these steeply pitched roofs (so that the snow slides there better, without accumulating!). Set off to storm the Bastide de Garlin, its boulevard des remparts and the Capucines convent. Or choose Lembeye, the rue de la Tour, a vestige of the original town, the massive Notre-Dame de l'Assomption church and in its continuity, the chemin des Hautes Promenades. In summer, take yourself for a lord with a visit to the Château de Mascaraàs and its 12 rooms with reconstructions of life from the time. In another style and above all for another purpose... discover the wine châteaux! The Château de Crouseilles and its cooperative cellar, the Château de Gayon. Do not miss the discovery of other producers in the region, through our selection.

Read our beautiful report on Vic Bilh, to organize your stay in this very natural territory, still quite unknown, but which really deserves to stop there to appreciate the landscape!

Question of activities :
In Lannecaube, the Ferme aux Escargots will appeal to gourmets as well as to the curious. In Garlin, you will discover the Museum of Old Tools, a fascinating exhibition of many agricultural and other machines! You will not fail to go fishing in one of the many lakes, unless you prefer to stop for a picnic or a walk in these shady and cool spaces in summer? The Vic-Bilh welcomes you, for nature, relaxation and gastronomic holidays, it is a well located place that will delight the whole family.

Chateau de Marascaas
Landscapes of Béarn   Vineyards of Vic Bilh
The landscapes of Vic Bilh, against a mountain backdrop and feet rooted in the vines!

Learn more Visit the website of the Cœur de Béarn Tourist Office

Monein and St Girons church

“Le petit Paris” is the nickname given to Monein by Henri IV. A village full of history which experienced a real economic boom in the 16th century with more than 5000 inhabitants. In the center of the village, the large square and its market hall, dating from the 16th century, bear witness to this glorious past and known to many unmissable fairs at the time. Nearby, the Saint-Girons church (in Ariège), in southern Gothic style, imposes its extraordinary dimensions and proudly dominates the village with its 40m high bell tower. Built in the 16th century and symbol of the power of the village of Monein at that time, it shelters a framework unique in France with its double hull shape of an overturned ship. A titanic project that lasted 70 years and required more than 1000 trees.

Visits to castles in Béarn, it's in our article!

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Lac commande, a stage on the Arles route

To go to Lacômé, you have to cross the Jurançon vineyard and enter the forest. In the center of the village, a Commandery founded by Gaston IV in the 12th century to welcome pilgrims walking on the Arles route. Today the church of St Blaise, whose Romanesque sculptures of the capitals representing in particular biblical scenes are admirable, and the old hospital are classified Historical Monuments. Outside, the old cemetery and its discoidal stelae from the 17th century will arouse your curiosity, their origin has not been elucidated. Visiting Lacoût also means stopping at the Maison des Vins et du terroir du Jurançon, the stronghold of independent winegrowers which is located just in front of the church.

The command
The Lac command hospital complex; Photo @ Capbourrut CC BY SA 4.0

Lucq-de-Béarn, a typical Béarn village

Located in the hollow of the valleys, strolling around Lucq-de-Béarn is above all a discovery of the traditional Béarn habitat. In this typical village, houses made of Gave pebbles are organized around narrow alleys. Not far from the central square and its fountain, the St Vincent abbey church bears witness to the medieval life of the village with capitals, an apse dating from the 12th century and a bell tower close to the 16th century. This church houses a unique object : a white marble sarcophagus from the 4th century which serves as an altar.

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Arthez-de-Béarn and its three chapels

It is by climbing the ridges that you will arrive at Arthez-de-Béarn, a high point of passage for pilgrims on the Puy route to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. It was in 1180 that the Knights of the Order of Malta founded a commandery there which will be devastated in the 16th century. But today three chapels can be found at the bend of a path, through the countryside : N'Haux, Cagnes and Caubin. Undoubtedly the Chapel of Caubin is the most beautiful building to discover with, in its nave, a Gothic chamber housing a recumbent figure from the 14th century.

Traditional Béarnaise house