The very bastions of power
In regions like this with their wealth of history, it’s so good to see how they have also been instrumental in creating it. Béarn has experienced a host of remarkable people who have helped mould our identity over the centuries. Gaston Fébus for example... Let’s meet up with him in some of those strongholds that he built to demonstrate and emphasise his power. And we’ll finish with a château that is dedicated not to power but to... art.
Gaston III de Foix Béarn inherited from his father (the comte de Foix, vicomte de Béarn) at the age of 12. He was to be called Fébus which means in ancient Greek (phoebus) “ the radiant one”! Which must mean that he had a high opinion of himself ! It must be said in his support that he came from a line which managed to free itself from control by the Dukes of Gascony. And the family’s ambition was confirmed with Gaston life, made up not only of challenges and conquests but also Châteaux. During his reign he conquered Soule and Bigorre which meant that he controlled most of the trading routes. He built what might have become a real Pyrenean State! His most decisive action was to declare the Béarn as being a sovereign independent state.
Castles and fortresses
Whilst Béarn was completely independent from its powerful neighbours, Gaston Fébus built new fortresses and restored others including those at Morlanne and Montaner. The castle of Morlanne was built in the Middle Ages (1373) in stone and brick which made it unusual for a fortress at that time. It has been remarkably restored thanks to the work of the Ritters who devoted their fortune to its restoration in the 20th century.
At the top of the ridge dominating the Lys valley is the Montaner Keep. From its 40 m heights there is a magnificent view of the hills and Pyrénées. We should remind ourselves that at this time this site was strategic, situated within Béarn, Armagnac, English Gascony and the Bigorre. It’s an ideal place to survey our surroundings!
And after all of this fighting and power, let’s have a touch of art...
After our visit into the very depths of Mediaeval conquest let’s have a bit of rest in the Domaine de Laàs! This gentleman’s residence offers a collection of art and a superb park a real living exhibition of plants inspired by the tropics and the Mediterranean.