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Historic remains

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The rich history of South West France has left its mark on the landscape in many ways, from prehistoric caves through to the glories of near-abandoned abbeys. Romans left behind wonderful mosaics and secret treasures while dotted around are old ecclesiastical buildings - some now used as farm buildings - that once welcomed the pilgrims on their way from all over Europe to the mountain passes that lead to Spain and St Jacques de Compostelle.


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Towns - Historic remains

Peyrehorade. Small town at the junction of the Gaves de Pau and d'Oloron
Sorde de l'Abbaye
Sorde de l'Abbaye - Benedictine monastry and Roman villa. In this small village a few kilometres outside Pyrehorade lie the magnificent and imposing remains of a once powerful Benedictine monastry, and the Roman villa that was there before.

The monastry dates from the 12th century. The massive buildings lie along the Gave d'Oloron. The abbey, though crumbling, is still intact and the glory of its stained glass windows can be fully appreciated from inside, where worship still takes place. Some restoration is taking place, largely by well-motivated volunteers, though it needs more substantial resources.
mosaic
During the 1960s the remains of a Roman villa were discovered in and around the monastry buildings. These have been excavated by archaeologists and a fine Roman mosaic is on display, testifying to the importance that this area once had in Roman and medieval times.

Nearby is a salmon ladder.
Abbey of Arthous
Arthous Abbey. Just to the south of Peyrehorade is the Abbey of Arthous, a building with a mixed history that is still in remarkable shape.

It was founded around 1167 by the Premonstrant order, one of many ecclesiastical buildings that mark the old pilgrim routes. The 16th century brought many travails: first it was damaged by the Spanish (in 1523) and then the Protestants (in 1571). It was repaired and renovated in subsequent centuries until it was sold off in 1791.
Arthous abbey - detail
These lovely buildings then became part of a farm for the 19th and most of the 20th century, in effect becoming extremely grand barns! Fortunately the owners gave them to the local council in 1964, since when some restoration has taken place. Note the wonderful carvings high up on the outside walls, depicting the Seven Deadly Sins and other biblical themes. Miraculously untouched by pollution and history, they are well worth a visit.
Sauveterre-de-Béarn. Spectacular walled village overlooking the Gave d'Oloron
Le Vieux Pont de la Legende. Once the main route for pilgrims to Spain, the bridge was destroyed on the far side of the Isle de Glères in 1730 by a flood. It was from here that in 1170 Queen Sancie was thrown into the river, bound hand and foot, after being accused of murder.
Orthez. Market town and one of the old capitals of the Béarn
Old Bridge (13th Century). The old fortified bridge of Orthez is still standing and taking traffic, a tribute to its builders. It was first constructed in the 13th century, and remodelled in its present form by Gaston Fébus around 1370
Auch. Very pleasant city and capital of the Gers
Tour d'Armagnac, 14th century..
Aucun.
Monastery.
Bidache. Small village with spectacular ruins
Chateau of Bidache
Bidache Castle. The castle dates from medieval times, when Bidache was a small port and it controlled traffic on the river Bidouze, although most of the structure which remains dates from the 16th century. After the French Revolution it became a hospital.

Unusually for this area its ruined state is not the result of any magnificent battle, but was the result of a fire set by the director of the hospital in a vain attempt to cover fraudulent dealings.
Bidarray. Basque village on fishing river
Old bridge that, according to legend, was built in one night by gnomes.
Boulogne-sur-Gresse.
Roman ruins, 7 km.
Condom. Known as the small capital of Armagnac
Cloisters. Flamboyant arched cloisters built in the 16th century and restored in the 19th, which gives access to the small chapel of St Catherine.
Templars Tower, 13th Century.
Dax. One of France's most important spa towns, dating from Roman times
Roman crypt. Just opposite the museum of Borda recent digs have uncovered the remains of a second century Roman temple.
Lectoure.
Roman remains.
Montreal.
4 km from Seviac, Roman villa dating from the 4th Century.
Orthez. Market town and one of the old capitals of the Béarn
Tour Moncade - last vestiges of the 13th century castle. The castle of Moncade was built in the 13th century by Gaston VII with money provided by Henry III of Britain after he helped the king by providing 50 knights for the battle of Taillebourg. Only the tower remains
Plaisance.
Arched square with covered walkways typical Central-Gers Roman style.
Saint Bertrand-de-Comminges.
Remains of Roman town.
Saint Gaudens.
Roman Remains.
Saint Jean-de-Luz. Most important Basque fishing port
Maison Louis XIV and Maison de l'Infante (17th Century residences of French King Louis XIV and Spanish Princess Marie-Teresa before their marriage in the church of Saint Jean-Baptiste).
Urdos. Small village at the head of the Aspe valley, close to the Spanish border.
Fort de Portalet.
Vic Fezensac.
Roman remains in town, at Tours (15km) and at Lanne-Pax (6km).

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