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Around the 10th century, the viscounts of Béarn built a motte with wooden fortifications on the rocky spur formed by the confluence of the Gave de Pau and the Hédas. Over the 12th and 13th centuries, it was reinforced with stone structures, of which 3 towers still stand today. A small town, or castelnau, developed to the east of these fortifications along a main street, today’s rue du Château.
During the Hundred Years’ War, the viscount of Béarn, Gaston Fébus, wished to conquer this strategic position. He had a brick dungeon built, which bears his name to this day, as well as the Tour de la Monnaie located below. He also ordered the town to be closed off, which was still quite small at the time, with a stone wall.
After it became the official seat of the Kingdom of Navarre in 1512, the castle was completely renovated in the Renaissance style by the royal couple Marguerite d’Angoulême and Henri d’Albret. A grand ceremonial staircase, skylights and sculpted details adorn the palace.
It was here that Jeanne d’Albret gave birth to the future king of France, Henry IV, on 13 December 1553. As the “Prince of the blood”, he was raised in the French court, but he remained attached to his native Béarn. His sister, Catherine de Bourbon, kept the Court of Navarre alive and continued to embellish the castle and its gardens. Later, the governors in charge of the castle struggled to maintain the building, which continued to fall into disarray until the French Revolution.
In 1840, after being listed in the first French official register of historical monuments, the castle underwent extensive restoration works. Most of the furniture and drapery dates from this period. Everything within is designed as a tribute to Henry IV.
A tour of the castle will tell you much more about its history...
All informations about the visit : Musée national et domaine du château de Pau