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Houses along the 'gave d'Aspe', before its junction with the 'gave d'Ossau' to make the 'gave d'Oloron'
Houses along the 'gave d'Aspe', before its junction with the 'gave d'Ossau' to make the 'gave d'Oloron'
Coat of arms of Oloron-Sainte-Marie
Coat of arms
Oloron-Sainte-Marie is located in France
Coordinates: 43°11′41″N 0°36′20″W / 43.1947°N 0.6056°W / 43.1947; -0.6056Coordinates: 43°11′41″N 0°36′20″W / 43.1947°N 0.6056°W / 43.1947; -0.6056
Country France
Region Aquitaine
Department Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Arrondissement Oloron-Sainte-Marie
Intercommunality Piémont Oloronais
 • Mayor (2014–2020) Hervé Lucbereilh
Area1 68.31 km2 (26.37 sq mi)
Population (2012)2 10,678
 • Density 160/km2 (400/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 64422 / 64400
Elevation 194–1,280 m (636–4,199 ft)
(avg. 220 m or 720 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.

Oloron-Sainte-Marie is a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in the region of Béarn in south-western France. The parents of American fitness guru Jack LaLanne emigrated from the town.

  • Capital of the "Haut Béarn".
  • Speciality: "le russe" (a flat cake).
  • Flag: two red cows on a yellow background.


The town was founded by the Romans in the 1st century, then known as Illoronensium.[1] Situated on the Roman way between the important towns of Dax and Saragossa, its position was strategic. Today known as Saint-Grat, Gratus of Oloron became in 506 the first known archbishop of the Ancient Diocese of Oloron then known as "Iluro".

The history of the town during the Migration Period is little known. In 1080, the viscount Centule V, Viscount of Béarn built the new city of "Oloron" (medieval version of the Roman name Iluro) on the opposite side of the river from the diocese center. Centulle V restored the Roman walls and founded the strong city of Oloron that was to be used as a base to retake the Aragon held by the Maures. The Oloron Cathedral was built at the beginning of the 12th century. The viscountal town of Oloron and the episcopal town of Sainte-Marie were then rival, but Oloron strived on its textile industry and commerce with neighbouring Spain. Sainte-Marie became economically dependent upon Oloron.

The 18th century was the beginning of revival for Sainte-Marie as the end of French Wars of Religion allowed for restorations and new religious constructions in the town : cathedral, seminary, church Saint-Pierre. Morever, the continued boom of commerce with Spain accelerated the construction of better communication and transportation ways to Oloron and Sainte-Marie.

With the French Revolution Oloron lost its diocese to Bayonne but gained administrative importance by becoming one of the sous-préfectures of the new Republic. In the 1858, the regent Impress Eugénie imposed the reunification of the towns of Oloron and Sainte-Marie.



Situated at the feet of the Pyrénées, 50km from the Spanish border and 100km from the Atlantic ocean, Oloron-Sainte-Marie is at the confluence of two gave (placement elements (mountain rivers), the gaves d'Aspe and the Ossau that merge to form the gave d'Oloron. Capital of the Haut-Béarn, Oloron-Sainte-Marie is also at the birthing point of the three Haut-Béarn valleys : the Aspe valley, the Ossau valley and the Barétous valley.

Neighboring communes: Esquiule, Moumour, Ledeuix, Estos, Cardesse, Monein, Goès, Précilhon, Escout, Herrère, Ogeu-les-Bains, Buziet, Arudy, Escot, Asasp-Arros, Lurbe-Saint-Christau, Eysus, Gurmençon, Bidos, Agnos, Ance and Féas.


The town has an oceanic climate, with mild and humid winters and cool or moderately warm summers. Rain is quite abundant (above 900 mm per year) and is mostly concentrated during cold season.


The Oloron economy is dominated by two well known manufacturing businesses:

* Lindt & Sprüngli have a chocolate factory in Oloron.
* Messier-Bugatti-Dowty have a plant in the adjacent commune of Bidos which manufactures landing gear for aircraft.

Oloron is also famous, among hat enthusiasts, as the capital of the basque beret, although the beret business has fallen victim to the widespread collapse of the European textile business as well as changing fashions. Today only one beret business survives in Oloron. This is the Béatex company which employs appropximately 80 people.

The area also benefits from an active agriculture sector, involving animal rearing and general agriculture as well as maize production. It is also part of the AOC defined districts entitled to produce the ewes' cheese, Ossau-Iraty.

Culture and heritage[edit]

The local vernacular language is the Béarnese dialect, a dialect of Gascon language. The town received the label French Towns and Lands of Art and History in November 2006.

The association Jazz à Oloron organises on every first weekend of July the jazz festival Des Rives & Notes.

The "Amateur web film festival" is also organised every spring season to showcase the best short films published on the internet and the talent and creativity of their young directors.

The second weekend of June, the "Book without borders" fair welcomes literary novelties.

Oloron-Sainte-Marie has a theatre and concert venue (espace Pierre Jéliote).

Notable people[edit]

Oloron-Sainte-Marie was the birthplace of:

See also[edit]