1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Sauveterre-de-Béarn is a pretty medieval village perched above the Gave d'Oloron and facing the Pyrennes in south-western France. It is a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department.


Built originally as a walled refuge ("sauveté" hence "Sauveterre") from the turbulent times of the Dark Ages, Sauveterre grew in importance as its old bridge was on one of the main routes to Spain, used by pilgrims on the way to Santiago de Compostela, and others. While the stone portions of the drawbridge remain, the wooden section is no longer there and the terminal of the bridge has been walled. The church and many buildings remain in their original condition.

In the Middle Ages the town was used to keep a watch from its lofty heights on Gascony and the bordering Navarre. The remains of the bridge provide the most impressive view of the town above. In modern times children use the bridge to jump into the deep river.

It was from the bridge that in 1170 Queen Sancie, widow of the recently deceased Gaston V of the Béarn, was submitted to the judgement of God and thrown into the river, hands and feet tied, after being accused of the murder of her newly born and malformed son. She survived and was declared innocent.

The fortifications suffered from the religious wars, but enough remains to fire the imagination of what this once important town must have been.


Sauveterre de Bearn appeared in the Trevanian (aka Rod Whitaker) novel The Summer of Katya under the name Alos. In the book, it is where the Festival of the Drowned Virgin takes place.

See also