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

The bridgeThe bridge | ©Frédérique PANASSAC / CC-BY-SA

The bridge

This bridge was raised between the 12th and the 13th century over a mountain stream…

An arch and a fortified gate are still standing: the rest was destroyed by a water flood in the 18th century.

Three 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, Gaston V, viscount of Béarn married 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, felt like a bad omen…

One night, she learnt her husband death.

She was pregnant. But she had to survive, somehow! For the future child…

The cursed child

But the child wasn’t the spitting image of his parents, young and beautiful persons.

Not at all… he was horribly deformed! Fortunately for him, he died few minutes after his birth.

But the damage was done.

Gossips said a monster was born in the castle!

Everyone told 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. She wore a thin shirt, her bare feet were completely frozen.

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

But… 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.


On 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 would embroider a nice coat she would give to Our-Lady of Rocamadour, to thank Her because she prayed Her and she saved her from death...