South-west France contains
around 350 to 400 'Bastides', fortified communities
which were created in the 12th and 13th centuries to
accommodate the demographic and commercial expansion
into the area (mediaeval 'New Towns' in fact!)
A Bastide usually
has a square at its centre and
from here the village reaches out to its fortified
boundary usually using a rectangular grid street layout, much like Monflanquin
- an aerial view of which is shown right.
Often the square will contain a market hall and
sometimes it will also have arcades around its sides (as
at Damazan). Sometimes it will have arcades and no
market hall (as at Villeneuve-sur-Lot) and sometimes it
will have neither market hall nor arcades (as at Vianne).
Whilst these villages and towns are scattered all over Aquitaine, the
Lot-et-Garonne has by far and away the greatest number; the
map shows the principal Bastides in the department.
discovered Bastides during his visits to Gascogne (the
area containing the Lot-et-Garonne), and subsequently had the
concept introduced into the design of the castles he built
in North Wales. Indeed,
the concept of 'les Bastides' quickly spread
across most of Europe.
four principle functions: Economic, Administrative,
Military and Religious.
Depending on their position
(hilltop, riverside, etc) they have some seven different,
but typical layouts, and many still have the original wooden
'Halle' at their centre.
One of the most beautiful of these is at Gontaud de Nogaret founded in 1135.
a few kms south of Blanchou Cottage, between Damazan and Lavardac, lies Vianne
beautiful mediaeval village with an old single-track toll
bridge and mill which sits on the banks of the lovely River Baiise.
Vianne is famous for being one of the very few bastide villages left in France to
have all four of its original gates still intact and is a
'must have' on your list of places to visit!