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 squarel 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).

Sometimes there is no longer any trace of the outer ring of fortification (e.g. Damazan), sometimes you can see one or two entrance towers and/or the places where the walled fortifications were (as at Villeneuve-sur-Lot), rarely however do you see all the walls and all the towers as you can in Vianne (see foot of page)..

 

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 right 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 wooden halles is at Gontaud de Nogaret, founded in 1135.

 

Just a few kms south of Les Peupliers, 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.

As explained above, Vianne is famous for being one of the very few bastide villages left in France to have all four of its original gate towers and (one still with portcullis) still intact and is therefore a 'must have' on your list of places to visit!

 

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