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The church and the cenetery at Alçabéhéty
The church and the cenetery at Alçabéhéty
Alçay-Alçabéhéty-Sunharette is located in France
Coordinates: 43°05′46″N 0°54′27″W / 43.0961°N 0.9075°W / 43.0961; -0.9075Coordinates: 43°05′46″N 0°54′27″W / 43.0961°N 0.9075°W / 43.0961; -0.9075
Country France
Region Aquitaine
Department Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Arrondissement Oloron-Sainte-Marie
Canton Tardets-Sorholus
Intercommunality Soule-Xiberoa
 • Mayor (2008–2014) Anicet Erreçarret
 • Land1 34.40 km2 (13.28 sq mi)
Population (2009)
 • Population2 228
 • Population2 density 6.6/km2 (17/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 64015 / 64470
Elevation 217–1,535 m (712–5,036 ft)
(avg. 344 m or 1,129 ft)

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Alçay-Alçabéhéty-Sunharette (Basque: Altzai-Altzabeheti-Zunharreta) is a French commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in the Aquitaine region of southwestern France.



Alçay-Alçabéhéty-Sunharette is located in the former province of Soule. It is located some 35 km west by south-west of Oloron-Sainte-Marie and 10 km north of Larrau.


The commune can be accessed by the small D247 road from the village to Tardets-Sorholus in the north-east. The D149 branches off this road in the commune and goes north to Camou-Cihigue. There is also the D117 road which goes west from the village to Mendive.[1]


Located in the watershed of the Adour, most of the southern border of the commune is formed by the Alphoura river (18 km long) which also flows through the village and continues north-east to join the Saison near Alos-Sibas-Abense. The Alphoura is fed by many tributaries rising in the commune including the Azaléguy and Ardounc. The Escalérako erreka rises in the south and flows west with its many tributaries.[1]

Paul Raymond[2] mentioned the Arangaïxa a brook that rises at Alçay and flows into the Alphoura.

Localities and hamlets[3][edit]

  • Aguer (Barn)
  • Albinzé (cayolar)
  • Alçabéhéty
  • Alçay
  • Ampo
  • Andoche (cayolar)
  • Arangaitz (Pass)
  • Arhansus (cayolar)
  • Arhex Borde
  • Atheis
  • Azaléguy
  • Azaléguiko Karbia (Cave)
  • Bagadoya
  • Bagazaguita (cayolar)
  • Bagothusta
  • Belhy
  • Berrayde
  • Bethalia
  • Bidalunia
  • Bordagagna
  • Borda Iribarneko
  • Bordapia
  • Burdin Olatzé (cayolar)
  • Burgance
  • Çaro
  • Chaldupia
  • Chuburu
  • Croix Garat (la)
  • Elichabeborda
  • Eltzegagnia (cayolar)
  • Erbinia
  • Espoulapia
  • Esquirassy (district)[4][5]
  • Etcheberri Borda
  • Etcheverry[2]
  • Etchecopar Borda
  • Eyhéraber
  • Ezpalako Larria
  • Goyheneix Borde
  • Gutux Borde
  • Habrague (cayolar)
  • Handia (Borda)
  • Haquits (Mill)
  • Harizmendy
  • Harristolatzia
  • Houretaborda
  • Ibarburia (Pass)
  • Ibarria
  • Illaberria
  • Inharchoury
  • Irriko Borda
  • Kamitchel
  • Kharalda
  • Lapistoy
  • Larramendia
  • Laxunia
  • Laze
  • Lechardoy
  • Lecharria (cayolar)
  • Lekayborda
  • Leziague (fountain)
  • Lomendi
  • Luchiloa
  • Lucu
  • Lutogagne
  • Maraizolatzé
  • Méthola
  • Miranda
  • Néquézaurborda
  • Ourdanberhartia
  • Oxapuria
  • Oxibar (Pass)
  • Pista Uthurria
  • Poyuko Borda
  • Sallaberriko borda
  • Sobieta (Grange)
  • Sunharette
  • Thipinka
  • Ursoy (cayolar)
  • Utzidoy
  • Uztarila (cayolar)
  • Uztubulia

Neighbouring communes and villages[1][edit]


View of Alçay village
Saint Peter's Church and the cemetery at Alçay
Old Hilarri at Alçabéhéty
The Church at Sunharette

The commune name in Basque is Altzai-Altzabeheti Zünharreta.[6]

The name Alçay appears in the forms:

  • Aucet Suzon (1337[7])
  • Alsay (1385,[2] Duchesne collection volume 114[8])
  • Ausset-Suson (1479,[2] Contracts of Ohix[9])
  • Alçay (1520[7])
  • Aucet Suson and Auset Suson (1690[7])
  • Alsai (17th century,[2] Chronicles of Arthez-Lassalle[10]).

The name Alçabéhéty appears in the forms:

  • Aucet Juson (1337[7])
  • Auser-Juson (1385,[2] Duchesne collection volume 114[8])
  • Auset Juson and Auzat Juzon (1385[7])
  • Aucet Juzon (1690[7])
  • Alcabehety (1793[11] or Year II)
  • Alçabehety (1801,[11] Bulletin des lois)

According to Jean-Baptiste Orpustan,[7] the base (h)altz ('aulne') was used for the two toponyms Alcay and Alçabéhéty. beheti means "at the bottom".

The name Sunharette appears in the forms:

  • Sunarte (1337[7])
  • Sunharrete (around 1475,[2] Contracts of Ohix[9])
  • Sunharrette and Sunarrette (1690[7] for the two forms)
  • Sonharette (1793[12])
  • Sunharrette (1801,[12] Bulletin des lois)

This name comes from the Basque zunharr (Name from Soule meaining "elm" or "poplar") using the romanized locative suffix ette meaning the "place of elm".[7]

The col d'Arangaitz owes its name to the Arangaïxa stream[2] which rises in Alçay and empties into the Aphoura.

The name Burunolatxé refers jointly to the communes of Alçay-Alçabéhéty-Sunharette and Aussurucq.

The Arhansus forest is mentioned in the dictionary of 1863.[2]

Paul Raymond reported in 1863 that a farm named Athaguy in the village of Alçay a part of the province of Soule[13] was mentioned in 1520[2] with the spelling Athagui and Atagui.

Belhy along with Handiague and Esquirassy designated mountains located in the commune.[2]

Couhourre in 1863 was[2] a forest in the commune.

Etcheverry was a former fief of the commune under the Viscounty of Soule and mentioned in the 17th century[2] in the Titles of Arthez-Lassalle.[10]


In 1790 Sunharette was the chief town of a canton which was part of the District of Mauleon. The canton included the communes of Alçay-Alçabéhéty-Sunharette, Alos-Sibas-Abense, Camou-Cihigue, Etchebar, Lacarry-Arhan-Charritte-de-Haut, Lichans-Sunhar, and Ossas-Suhare.

In 1833, the three communes of Alçay, Alçabéhéty, and Sunharette merged to form a single joint commune.


Arms of Alçay-Alçabéhéty-Sunharette

Azure, a wolf argent passant at dexter in front of a beehive of Or to sinister and accompanied by 6 bees at dexter chief, 3 bees at sinister chief, one bee at sinister, and 4 bees in base the same.[14]


List of Successive Mayors[15]

From To Name Party Position
1983 2001 Arnaud Dascon
2001 2014 Anicet Erreçarret

(Not all data is known)


The town is part of seven intercommunal organisations:[16]

  • the Community of communes of Soule-Xiberoa
  • the association to support Basque culture;
  • the SIVOM of the canton of Tardets;
  • the intercommunal association of the gaves d'Oloron and Mauléon
  • the SIVU for Tourism in Haute-Soule and Barétous;
  • the AEP association for Soule Country
  • the association for remediation of Soule Country


Before 1833[edit]

Population split between 3 Communes

1793 1800 1806 1821 1831
Alçay[17] 312 352 318 276 266
Alçabéhéty[11] 161 157 162 164
Sunharette[12] 121 118 112 140
Total 594 627 592 580 266

From 1793 to present[edit]

In 2009, the commune had 228 inhabitants. The evolution of the number of inhabitants is known through the population censuses conducted in the commune since 1793. From the 21st century, a census of communes with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants is held every five years, unlike larger towns that have a sample survey every year.[Note 1]

Evolution of the Population (See database)
1793 1800 1806 1821 1831 1836 1841 1846 1851
594 627 592 580 266 802 804 754 766
1856 1861 1866 1872 1876 1881 1886 1891 1896
710 688 702 665 626 591 582 553 584
1901 1906 1911 1921 1926 1931 1936 1946 1954
571 553 520 507 477 503 512 487 407
1962 1968 1975 1982 1990 1999 2006 2009 -
354 298 262 283 273 246 233 228 -

Sources : Ldh/EHESS/Cassini until 1962, INSEE database from 1968 (population without double counting and municipal population from 2006)

Population of Alçay-Alçabéhéty-Sunharette


Activity is mainly focused on agriculture (livestock and pasture). The town is part of the Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) zone of Ossau-iraty.

According to the 2006 classification of INSEE, showing the median household incomes for all communes with more than 50 households (30,687 communes out of the 36,681 communes identified)[18] Alçay-Alçabéhéty-Sunharette is ranked 20,901th with an average income of €14,927 per year.

Culture and heritage[edit]

Civil heritage[edit]

Ten tumuli, called Ibarletta[4] are located in the Esquirassy area and have been historical monuments since 1960.

In the same area there are seven other tumuli, called Ibarnaba[5] which have also been listed as historical monuments since 1960.

The gaztelu zahar (Basque meaning "fortified place") of Maide korralea meaning "the enclosure of Maide" is attributed to Maidé, mythological beings incorporating some of the traits of Jentils and Laminak.

Religious Heritage[edit]

The commune has a Romanesque church (Saint Peter's Church[19]), which originated in the middle of the Middle Ages, with a bell tower built in the 17th century. The church was restored in the 19th century. The church houses a processional cross[20] from the beginning of the 16th century classified as an object under historical monuments.

Environmental heritage[edit]

The Belhygagne peaks (also called the peak of Vultures) and Gaztelia are the highest points in the commune at, respectively, 1,072 and 1,345 metres.[3]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ At the beginning of the 21st century, the methods of identification have been modified by law No. 2002-276 of 27 February 2002 [1], the so-called "law of local democracy" and in particular Title V "census operations" which allow, after a transitional period running from 2004 to 2008, the annual publication of the legal population of the different French administrative districts. For municipalities with a population greater than 10,000 inhabitants, a sample survey is conducted annually, the entire territory of these municipalities is taken into account at the end of the period of five years. The first "legal population" after 1999 under this new law came into force in 1 January 2009 and was based on the census of 2006.


  1. ^ a b c Google Maps
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Topographic Dictionary Béarn-Pays basque - Paul Raymond (French)
  3. ^ a b Géoportail, Géoportail (IGN) France, consulted on 28 October 2011 (French)
  4. ^ a b French Ministry of Culture Notice PA00084309 The ten tumuli of Ibarletta (French)
  5. ^ a b French Ministry of Culture Notice PA00084308 The seven tumuli of Ibarnaba (French)
  6. ^ Brigitte Jobbé-Duval, Dictionary of placenames - Pyrénées-Atlantiques, 2009, Archives and Culture, ISBN 978-2-35077-151-9 (French)
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Jean-Baptiste Orpustan, New Basque Toponymy, Presses universitaires de Bordeaux, 2006, ISBN 2 86781 396 4, pages 196 and 197 (French)
  8. ^ a b Duchesne Collection, volumes 99 to 114, a collection of the papers of Oihenart, former Imperial librarian - Bibliothèque nationale de France (French)
  9. ^ a b Contracts retained by Ohix, the Notary of Soule - Manuscript of the 15th century - Departmental Archives of Pyrénées-Atlantiques (French)
  10. ^ a b Titles of the family of Arthez-Lassalle at Tardets (French)
  11. ^ a b c Alçabéhéty page on the Cassini Project of EHESS website
  12. ^ a b c Sunharette page on the Cassini Project of l'EHESS website
  13. ^ Customs of Soule in 1520, printed at Pau in 1760 (French)
  14. ^ Guy Ascarat
  15. ^ List of Mayors of France
  16. ^ Intercommunality in Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Cellule informatique préfecture 64, consulted on 9 November 2011 (French)
  17. ^ Alçay page on the Cassini Project of EHESS website
  18. ^ Statistical Summary by commune, department, and employment sector, INSEE website, consulted on 9 September 2009 (French)
  19. ^ French Ministry of Culture Notice IA64000703 Church of St. Peter (French)
  20. ^ French Ministry of Culture Notice PM64000026 Processional cross in the Church of St. Peter (French)