The relationships between Hercynian deformation and contact metamorphism in the aureole of the Aneto unit, a constituent pluton of the Maladeta granite complex (Spanish Pyrenees), provide new data relevant to the controversy between the syn- and post-tectonic models of emplacement for the Pyrenean granites. The deformation in the Aneto aureole is related to two superimposed Hercynian episodes. The first was a ‘top to the SW’ thrusting which induced SW-verging recumbent folds. The second, which was essentially compressive in the Aneto area, is represented by E–W-trending subvertical cleavage and folds with subhorizontal axes. This second episode can be assigned to the D2 main Hercynian tectonic event of the Pyrenees. The contact metamorphic assemblages grew during the D2 event and were deformed by it close to the contact. The conclusion that the pluton was emplaced during D2 is strengthened by the structural and kinematic similarities between the magmatic deformation in the southern rim of the pluton and the D2 deformation in the country rocks. This syntectonic timing is supported by new geochronological data that conflict with an existing Rb–Sr post-tectonic Permian whole-rock age for the Maladeta granite. More generally, in accordance with some very recent structural and U–Pb zircon studies, our results contradict the geodynamical models of the Pyrenees which relate the granite intrusions to a late extensional event.