1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pau

PAU, a city of south-western France, chief town of the department of Basses-Pyrénées, 66 m. E.S.E. of Bayonne on the southern railway to Toulouse. Pop. (1906), 30,315. It is situated on the border of a plateau 130 ft. above the right bank of the Gave de Pau (a left-hand affluent of the Adour), at a height of about 620 ft. above the sea. A small stream, the Hedas, flowing in a deep ravine and crossed by several bridges, divides the city into two parts. The modern importance of Pau is due to its climate, which makes it a great winter health-resort. The most striking characteristic is the stillness of the air, resulting from the peculiarly sheltered situation. The average rainfall is about 33 in., and the mean winter temperature is 43°, the mean for the year being 56°.

The town is built on a sandy soil, with the streets running east and west. The Place Royale (in the centre of which stands Nicolas Bernard Raggi’s statue of Henry IV., with bas-reliefs by Antoine Etex) is admired for the view over the valley of the Gave and the Pyrenees; it is connected by the magnificent Boulevard des Pyrénées with the castle gardens. Beyond the castle a park of thirty acres planted with beech trees stretches along the high bank of the Gave. Access to the castle is obtained by a stone bridge built under Louis XV.; this leads to the entrance, which gives into a courtyard. On the left of the entrance is the donjon or tour de Gaston Phœbus. On the right are the tour neuve, a modern erection, and the Tour de Montauzet (Monte-Oiseau), the higher storeys of which were reached by ladders; the Tour de Bilhères faces north-west, the Tours de Mazeres south-west. Another tower between the castle and the Gave, the Tour de la Monnaie, is in ruins.

In the gardens to the west of the castle stand a statue of Gaston Phœbus, count of Foix, and two porphyry vases presented by Bernadotte king of Sweden, who was born at Pau. On the ground-floor is the old hall of the estates of Béarn, 85 ft. long and 36 ft. wide, adorned with a white marble statue of Henry IV., and magnificent Flemish tapestries ordered by Francis I. Several of the upper chambers are adorned with Flemish, Brussels or Gobelins tapestry, but the most interesting room is that in which Henry IV. is said to have been born, containing his cradle made of a tortoise-shell, and a magnificent carved bed of the time of Louis XII. The churches of St Jacques and St Martin in the Gothic style are both modern. The lycée occupies a portion of the buildings of a Jesuit college founded in 1622. The prefecture, the law-court and the hôtel de ville present no remarkable features. Pau is the seat of a court of appeal and a court of assizes and has a tribunal of first instance, a tribunal of commerce and a chamber of arts and manufactures. There are training colleges for both sexes, a library, an art museum and several learned societies. Pau owes most of its prosperity to its visitors. The golf club, established 1856, has a course of 18 holes, on the Plaine de Billère, about a mile from the town. Among the industrial establishments are flour-mills, cloth factories and tanneries, and there is trade in wine, hams, horses and cloth.

Pau derives its name from the word pal, in allusion to the stakes which were set up on the site chosen for the town. It was founded probably at the beginning of the 11th century by the viscounts of Béarn. By the erection of the present castle in the latter half of the 14th century, Gaston Phœbus made the town a place of importance and after his death the viscounts of Béarn visited it frequently. Gaston IV. granted a charter to the town in 1464. François Phœbus, grandson and successor of Gaston, became king of Navarre in 1479, and it was not until 151 2 that the loss of Spanish Navarre caused the rulers of Béarn to transfer their residence from Pampeluna to Pau, which till 1589 was their seat of government. Margaret of Valois, who married Henri d’Albret, made her court one of the most brilliant of the time. In 1553 her daughter Jeanne d’Albret gave birth to Henry IV. at Pau. It was the residence of Catherine, sister of Henry IV., who governed Béarn in the name of her brother. In 1620 when French Navarre and Béarn were reduced to the rank of province, the intend ants took up their quarters there. In the 19th century Abd-el-Kader, during part of his captivity, resided in the castle.