Place du Bayaà, 64270 Salies-de-Béarn.
19-APR to 01-JUL Wed 14:30, 15:30, Sat 10:30, 11:30, 14:30, 15:30.
02-JUL to SEP Tue-Thu 14:30, 15:30, Sat 10:30, 11:30, 14:30, 15:30.
OCT Wed 14:30, 15:30, Sat 10:30, 11:30, 14:30, 15:30.
Reservation strongly recommended.
Adults EUR 4.50, Children (0-11) free.
|Classification:||Salt Mine Cistern|
|Light:||Incandescent Electric Light System|
|Address:||Crypte du Bayaà, Place du Bayaà, 64270 Salies-de-Béarn, Tel: +33-559-38-00-33. E-mail:|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
Crypte du Bayaà was the original brine spring which is described in the following legend:
The Salt of Salies-de-Béarn owes its discovery to a wild boar hunting trip.
The injured boar took refuge in a muddy swamp and was found there covered in salt crystals.
Before dying, the said these last words, in Béarnais: “Se you nou eri mourt, ares n'y bibere” (If I hadn't died there, no one would live here).
The town of Salies-de-Béarn then developed around this salt spring, which over time became the Crypt of Bayaà.
17th century legend.
The spring was originally in the open air. The basin was covered with a vault in the 19th century. Similar to a cistern, it is a huge chamber with many pilars supporting a vaulted ceiling. However, this was never drinking water, it was the brine for the local salt production. But the reason why it was covered was the same: to avoid any kind of contamination.
The spring was an economic place, and not a tourist destination. It was of great economic value, and there was greed by foreigners and by the authorities. The inhabitants of Salies-de-Béarn established collective ownership and wrote in 1587 the Regulations for the Fontaine Salée to protect their precious spring. This regulation organizes the distribution of salt water, the withdrawal of water is only authorized to Salisian families and transmitted from generation to generation. The basic principles were land law and blood law: it was necessary to live here or to inherit from someone who lived here. The brine was exploited in a family manner, each family was entitled to a defined quantity of salt water to make their own salt. The brine was harvested on distribution days, according to a very specific ritual.
The family salt exploitation came to an end in 1840 with the salt law, which required the manufacture of salt on sites producing at least 500 tonnes of salt per year. As a result, the first saltwork was built in Salies-de-Béarn in 1842. The one which exists until today was the second, built in 1899.
Several years ago the salt water was pumped out and the whole cistern was renovated. Wooden plankways were installed and so it is now possible to visit the subterranean salt water spring