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all photographs Peter Evans
peter-evans-photographer.com

 

Bastides

An important part of the history  of the Lot-et-Garonne

 

Bastide - MonflanquinSouth-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).

 

Bastides in GasconyWhilst 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.

Edward I 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.

Bastides served 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.

 

Just a few kms south of Blanchou Cottage, between Damazan and Lavardac, lies Vianne (left), a 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!


Photography and website design by Peter Evans

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