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Pau (Municipality, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France)

Last modified: 2019-01-06 by ivan sache
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Flag of Pau, two reported designs - Images by Arnaud Leroy (left) and Ivan Sache (right), 5 February 2004

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Presentation of Pau

The municipality of Pau (90,036 inhabitants in 2012 - Palois; 3,151 ha) is the capital of the traditional province of Béarn.

Pau was originally a fortified post built on the steep right bank of river Gave de Pau. The word gave, from the ancient local word gabe, has been used since the 14th century to designate the torrential rivers of Béarn, often named after the main town they water (Gave de Pau, Gave d'Oloron). The fortified post was protected by a stockade made of pales, locally called paou (French, pal).
At the end of the 14th century, Count of Béarn Gaston Fébus (1331-1391) asked his military architect Sicard de Lordat to build a fortress. Bricks were used for the sake of economy. In 1450, Pau became the new capital of Béarn, succeeding Lescar, Morlaàs and Orthez. The town was then fairly small, with hardly 500 inhabitants; when the States of Béarn gathered in Pau, several representatives had to sleep under the stars.

In 1527, King of Navarra Henri d'Albret (1503-1555), lord of Béarn, married Marguerite d'Angoulême (1492-1549), sister of King of France François I (1494-1547, crowned in 1515). Marguerite transformed the castle into a Renaissance palace, surrounded by beautiful gardens where her own pastorales were played.
Marguerite's grand-son, Henri (1553-1610), was born in the castle of Pau in 1553. His mother was the terrible Jeanne d'Albret (1528-1572). In spite of being pregnant, she fought war in Picardy against Charles of Spain with her husband Antoine de Bourbon (1518-1562). After a 19-day journey, she came back to Pau on 3 December 1553 to gave birth to Henri ten days later. Following her husband's advice, she sang local songs during the birth, to be sure that the child would be "neither coward nor jibbing". The tradition says that Henri's grand-father immediatly rubbed the child's lips with garlic and a drop of the local wine of Jurançon. He then showed the child to the crowd - deliveries were public to give the proof of non-substitution of the Royal heir -, saying: "Here is the lion brought forth by the Navarrese ewe". This was an answer to people who had said after Jeanne's birth: "Surprise, surprise! The [heraldic] cow of Béarn brought forth an ewe". Then he placed child Henri in a tortoise shell from the Galapagos islands, still shown in the castle (of course, as the authentic one!).
After a youth spent in the castle of Coarraze and in La Flèche, Henri studied in Paris. In the meantime, Jeanne d'Albret converted to Protestantism and imposed a religious dictatorhip to Pau. Back to the town in 1579, Henri proclaimed himself in 1589 king of France and Navarra. Henri is of course the famous Henri IV, nicknamed le Béarnais and le Vert-Galant.

In 1620, King of France Louis XIII (1601-1643), Henri IV's son, solemnely entered Pau, where he reestablished the Catholic religion and founded the Parliament of Navarra, definitively incorporating Béarn to France. Pau attracted a lot of lawyers and was nicknamed "the pencil pushers' town". In spite of the opening of a university, Pau remained a relatively small town, with c. 7,000 inhabitants in 1789.

The scenic boulevard des Pyrénées was built during the First Empire, as a terrace-like way facing the Pyrénées mountains. The romantic poet Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869) said that the view on the mountains from Pau could be compared only to the view on the sea from Naples. The view stretches from the Pic du Midi de Bigorre (2,877 m) to the Pic d'Anie (2,504 m), with, in the middle, the emblematic mountain of Pau, the Pic du Midi d'Ossau (2,884 m), which is also shown on the emblem of the Section Paloise rugby club. Shields with the name and elevation of each important mountain are placed along the terrace.

The second most famous citizen of Pau after Henri IV is Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte (1763-1844), better known as king Charles XIV John of Sweden and Norway (1818-1844). The son of a lawyer of Pau, Bernadotte is said to have been born after 7 months of gestation only, because masked people celebrating the carnival had scared his mother. Bernadotte left Pau in 1780 after his father's death and came back to the town only once, in 1782. Made Marshal of Empire in 1804 and Prince of Pontecorvo (1806) in 1806 by Napoléon, Bernadotte was adopted by King of Sweden Charles XIII (1748-1818, crowned in 1814) in 1810, so that he subsequently fought against Napoléon during the French invasion of Russia (1812) and in the Battle of Leipzig (1813). When he became Crown Prince of Sweden, Bernadotte changed his name to Carl Johan (Charles John), Carl for his adoptive father and Johan as the Swedish equivalent of the French name Jean. He was King of Sweden as Carl XIV Johan (Charles XIV John) and King of Norway he was Carl III Johan (Charles III John) or, mostly, simply Carl Johan.
Bernadotte's birth hous in Paue is today a Municipal Museum, whose restoration was partially funded by the Royal House of Sweden.

During the July Monarchy (1830-1848), Pau attracted a lot of British officers, who had faught in the area in 1814. In 1842, the Scottish doctor Alexander Taylor (1802-1879) promoted Pau as a winter resort for people suffering from respiratory diseases. His book was translated into several European languages and launched Pau. The first golf green on the European continent was built in Pau in 1856, whereas fox hunting had started in 1842. A very old-fashioned English Circle has survived until now. In 1889, however, Queen Victoria left Pau for Biarritz, on the Atlantic coast, and the international success of Pau faded away. Pau had 38,000 inhabitants in 1913.

In the 1950s, oil and natural gas were found in Lacq, causing a small industrial revolution that dramatically modified the town of Pau. With the financial support of Elf-Aquitaine (subsequently TotalFinaElf, today Total), a technopole developed in Pau on the campus of the University of Pau and Pays de l'Adour.

Ivan Sache & Elias Granqvist, 5 February 2004

Flag of Pau

The flag of Pau, as communicated by the municipal administration, is vertically divided white-blue with the municipal coat of arms in the middle.

The students' music band Tuna de Distrito de Pau uses a white flag with the municipal coat of arms in the middle (photo), officialy awarded to the association in July 2003 by André Labarrère, Senator and Mayor of Pau.
On the flag, the municipal arms are surmounted by a scroll bearing the municipal motto, Urbis palladium et gentis, in Latin,"Safeguarding of the Town and of the Nation".

The municipal coat of arms of Pau is "Azure a fence of three pallets fitchy between the pallets two cows passant affronty crowned argent in chief a peacock displayed or a chief or a tortoise shell proper ensigned by a crown azure lined or between the capital letter H and the Roman figures IV also azure".

Brian Timms (website) writes that the modern arms of Pau were granted to the town in 1829, by the addition of the chief to a preexisting coat of arms. The oldest known municipal seals, dating from the end of the 15th century, show four shields arranged in a quarterly fashion, with the arms of Foix ("Or four pallets gules") and Béarn ("Or two cows gules horned and belled azure").
The pallets of Foix became a gate during the 17th century, as a reference to the name of Pau. A seal dated 1680 shows arms similar to the modern ones (without the chief).
The peacock (French, paon) is a symbol of power and a second play on the name of Pau. The tortoise shell and the monogram "H IV" appeared at the end of the 19th century: after the Bourbon Restoration, the locals, to show their allegiance to the Bourbon dynasty, placed the symbols of Henri IV, the founder of the dynasty, on their arms.
The arrangement of the canting pales and peacock makes of the arms of Pau un rébus surmonté d'un calembour (a rebus surmounted by a play of words).

Arnaud Leroy & Ivan Sache, 5 February 2004

Sports clubs in Pau

Elan Béarnais Pau-Lacq-Orthez

[Flag of EBPLO]       [Flag of EBPLO]       [Flag of EBPLO]

EBPLO supporter's flags - Images by Ivan Sache, 6 July 2012

Élan Béarnais Pau-Lacq-Orthez (EBPLO - website) was originally founded in 1931, as the basketball section of the Élan Béarnais (EB) sports club, established on 13 December 1908 in Orthez. In 1967, Pierre Seillant, the son of one of the first players of the club, was elected president of EB. The club joined the First League in 1973 and played for the first time in the Korać Cup in 1978, which EB would win in 1984 (97-74 to Belgrade Red Star). The club also won two national championships in 1986 and 1987, with a 3rd rank in the Champion's League the latter year. At the time, the club played on the legendary Moutète market hall, whose main use was as a huge poultry market.
In 1989, the club was relocated to Pau and renamed Élan Béarnais Pau- Orthez (EBPO). The municipality of Orthez, then with some 12,000 inhabitants, could not afford the increasing budgets required by professional basketball. Seillant preferred moving to Pau rather to Bordeaux to keep the Béarn identity of the club. An arrangement was found with André Labarrère, the Mayor of Pau, although the two associates belonged to opposite political camps. A brand new sports hall was inaugurated in 1991. Pau-Orthez won seven more national championships (1992,1996,1998, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004). The club still holds the European records of successive appearances in a European cup, 30 (1978-2008).
In 2008, the club got bankrupted. Pierre Seillant had to leave the presidency. The club, partially refunded by the Lacq Intermunicipal Authority and the players Boris Diaw and Mickaël Pietrus, was renamed Élan Béarnais Pau-Lacq-Orthez (EBPLO). Another two emblematic former members of the club, the player Didier Gadou and the coach Claude Bergeaud, were appointed President and Executive Director, respectively. This did not prevent EBPLO to join the Second League after a 33-year tenure in the First League. The club won the Second League, defeating in the final CSP Limoges, another legendary club, coming back to the First League in 2010.

The club's supporters use (at least) three flags (excluding the flags conveniently tagged by local sponsors):
- a vertically divided green-white flag;
- a square, quartered green-white flag;
- a horizontally divided green-white flag (photo, 9 May 2010).

The original Élan Béarnais sports club founded in 1912 a football section, whose original flag is shown (photos of the obverse and reverse of the flag) on the website of the football club.
The flag is a French tricolore. The obverse of the flag is charged with the writing "PATRONAGE ST JOSEPH / ELAN BEARNAIS". The reverse of the flag is charged with "PAROISSE ST PIERRE / ORTHEZ". A patronage was a sports association managed by a local parish (paroisse) priest. On the reverse is also shown a blue shield with a representation of the Orthez fortified bridge, whose modernized version was originally used by the basketball club.

Ivan Sache, 6 July 2012

Section Paloise

[Flag of Section Paloise]         [Flag of Section Paloise]

Flag of Section Paloise, left, flag of the professional section, right, flag of the former, amateur club - Images by Christian Gout, 4 February 2004

The rugby club of Pau, founded in 1902 as the Section Paloise de la Ligue Girondine, became rapidly known as the Section Paloise.
Section Paloise won the French championship in 1928, 1946, 1964; the French Cup in 1939 and 1952 (then called Challenge Yves du Manoir), and 1997; and the European Shield in 2000.

In 1998, professionalism was officially recognized by the French Rugby Federation. The professional section of Section Paloise (website) adopted a flag featuring the Pic du Midi d'Ossau.
Beforehand, the amateur club used a flag with a slightly different emeblem in the middle.
The green and white colours of the club were adopted in 1912.

Ivan Sache, 4 February 2004