Sauveterre-de-Béarn bridge and its legend: the cruel destiny of poor Sancie

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The bridge - ©Frédérique PANASSAC / CC-BY-SA The bridge - ©Frédérique PANASSAC / CC-BY-SA
Sauveterre-de-Béarn bridge Bridge Tragic destiny Legend

The bridge

Oh, it only remain an arch and a fortified gate, from this bridge raised between the 12th and the 13th century over a mountain stream… The rest was destroyed by a water flood in the 18th century. 3 bridges used to lead to the city, in the past. The Legend’s bridge (pont de la Légende in French) is the only one remaining. But do you know this tragic legend?

The legend

A wedding!

Sauveterre means ″safe place″ in French. Counts of Béarn settled in this rough and wild land, in the Middle Ages. They raised a fortress. In this place, in 1169 took place the wedding of Gaston V, viscount of Béarn with Sancie of Navarre.

Oh, they were only teenagers, but they truly loved each other.! They lived a happy life, together, for several months.

Bad omen

But Gaston had to leave her, to wage war. Sancie, worried, saw her love going away… She felt like a bad omen…

Until one night, she learned that her husband was dead. She was pregnant, and that horrible news was a terrible shock. But she had to survive, somehow! For the future kid… who was born few months later.

The cursed child

But this son wasn’t the spitting image of his parents, young and beautiful persons. No… he was horribly deformed! Fortunately for him, he died few minutes after his birth. But the damage was done, now.

Gossips said that a monster was born in the castle! That Sancie was cursed, and… that she slept with the Devil! People started to accuse her: she killed the diabolic child! Soon, all the area wanted to bump her off!

The crowd chanting ″kill her, kill her″ at the bottom of the castle, day and night… Sancie’s own brother, to calm down people, took her in court. Oh, a Medieval trial, with God’s judgment! Ordeal waited for her…

Death and fear

So, one morning, 3000 persons came in the bridge of Sauveterre and on the river’s bank to attend to the execution. Sancie arrived. We were in winter. Snow. Frost. Icy wind. After a long prayer, Sancie tottered towards the middle of the bridge, wearing a thin shirt, her bare feet completely frozen.

Hangmen tied her with cords and throw her in the icy water. Now, two options: either she went under the water, because God punished her, or she survived, proof of her innocence.

But… no… wait… Sancie didn’t want to die! No… she wanted to shout, but not a single word came from her mouth, when her body touched the water, when thousands of little cold daggers pierced her through.

Saved?

Since the river’s bank, people didn’t miss a single scrap of the scene! Then, after long minutes, Sancie’s body re-surfaced. God spoke: she was innocent! The poor one came back in the castle, completely exhausted.

Exhausted, but alive! And cleared of all suspicions. She will embroider a nice coat she will give to Our-Lady of Rocamadour, to thank her because she prayed her and she saved her from death...


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