The 'Tributo de las Tres Vacas'
Fiestas and traditions / Historical event
Zone: The Pyrenees
Valle de Roncal
Type: Historical event
Declaration of Interest: Festival of Regional Tourist Interest
Date of event: 13/07/2013
Every year on July 13th this centuries-old tribute, the oldest in Europe, is re-enacted. The stone of San Martin, located in a scenic natural enclave between the Pyrenean valleys of Roncal and Baretous (France), is the scene of a meeting of people from both sides of the border. In 1375, an arbitrator's ruling imposed the perpetual payment of three cows a year on the Béarnais for the use of pastureland in the Roncal valleys.
It is the vet of Isaba who chooses the three best cows; they should have the same teeth, coat, and horns. Just before the animals are handed over, the Béarnais, draped in the French flag, and the Roncaleses, dressed in the typical costume of the valley, renew their vow of peace. This is symbolically sealed by both parties putting their hands on each other's and shouting "pax avant, pax avant, pax avant", repeated in unison by all. Following the appointment of the rangers who will keep a watch over the pasture areas a lively open-air lunch takes place.
The origin of this ceremony is unknown, with some sources saying it began in the year 125 BC. The tribute was paid over the centuries until the 14th century, when it was discontinued. As a result, several disputes led to skirmishes between the inhabitants of the two valleys that caused a large number of deaths and injuries. This situation eventually led to the arbitrator's ruling ordering the ceremony, which has been held uninterruptedly since 1375. Since then, both valleys have renewed their vow every year in an event that has become a festivity of fraternity.
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