Château de Pau

The Château de Pau (English: Pau Castle, Basque: Paueko gaztelua) is a castle in the centre of the city of Pau, the capital of Pyrénées-Atlantiques and Béarn. It dominates that quarter of the city.

The château seen from the banks of the Gave de Pau
The Château de Pau

Henry IV of France and Navarre was born here on December 13, 1553 and it was once used by Napoleon as a holiday home during his period of power.

The château has been classified as a Monument historique since 1840 by the French Ministry of Culture.[1] Nowadays, as the Musée national du Château de Pau, it contains a collection of tapestries.



Pau Castle was founded in the Middle Ages. First and foremost a military structure, it is a typical fortified castle built on top of the hill overlooking the Gave bounded by the Hédas ravine.

Since its construction, the castle has taken on a symbolic importance: possessing a stockade of piles (pau, in Béarnese), it designates, by metonymy, the city itself. These piles, symbolizing loyalty and righteousness, are each like axis mundi in a Béarnese version. In the twelfth century Gaston IV of Béarn built three towers at the fortress. They are called Mazères Billère and Montauser.

Gaston PhoebusEdit

The fourteenth century will see a figure emblematic of Bearn, who leaves his mark on the Chateau de Pau: Gaston III of Foix-Béarn, better known as Gaston Phoebus. This warlord, in a difficult position because, by their possessions, under the leadership of the enemy kingdoms of France and England, makes the Bearn, "gift of God," a united and autonomous region. Phoebus built the tower of brick, thirty-three meters high, that bears the inscription: "Febus me fe" (Phoebus made me, in Béarnese).

The Kings of NavarreEdit

During the Renaissance, the installation of the court of Navarre in 1512 significantly altered the appearance of the castle. Originally a fortress, it now became a pleasure residence. Henri d'Albret resided with his wife Marguerite d'Angoulême, sister of François I, best known as Marguerite de Navarre, author of The Heptaméron. They marked the place with their initials, still present on the walls and ceilings, and great care was taken to maintain and reproduce the initials even over the subsequent restorations.

Henri IVEdit

But their grand-son who gives the famous castle it is today: not by any architectural endeavor, nor even by his own will. The future Henri IV takes the trouble to be born December 13, 1553, and the story did the rest. The fame of the king, baby boy cradled in a turtle shell preserved by the Béarn through the vicissitudes of revolutions, gives the castle, which did not see him grow up or die, a particular taste, and the right to claim honors those who give birth supermen. But the real recognition of the king is posthumous, and we soon forgot the castle that he was born, except to gather Navarre and Bearn in the kingdom of France (Louis XIII signed the treaty in 1620).

The restorationEdit

Louis-Philippe, which would combine the ideals of the Revolution and those of the monarchy, had the idea of restoring the castle of the man who reconciled Catholic and Protestant into a royal residence. Reside there, however.

The castle was mostly gilded prison in 1848 the emir Abd El-Kader, conquered by France Algeria. As might be that this castle should retain its character Henricians, placed there many objects neo-Renaissance and neo-Gothic and a collection of tapestries (16th - 19th century), to recall the halcyon days of good King. Louis-Philippe, in exile in England, could never stay at this place which was visited by Napoleon III. He is the Renaissance portal through which one enters and who bears the initials of the royal couple of Navarre, founder of the modern castle.

The national museumEdit

Then the castle became a presidential residence in the Republic. It is currently a national museum which houses the works preserved from the days of Henry IV and especially during the restoration made by Louis-Philippe. The collections are increasing every year around the theme Henricians. It currently hosts over 100,000 visitors annually, making it the most visited heritage site of the French department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Base Mérimée: PA00084483, Ministère français de la Culture. (in French)

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 43°17′41″N 0°22′30″W / 43.29472°N 0.37500°W / 43.29472; -0.37500