Mediæval patrimony : the Dropt "bastides"
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France, the celebration of the Middle Age times is in fashion (exhibitions,
guided tours, “medieval” shows…).
The Dropt valley is fortunate to be endowed with its XIIIth century “bastides” ; it can take advantage of this fancy to promote its history.
Contents of the page : Foundation of a "bastide" - Plan of a "bastide" - The "bastides" today
“bastides” of the South-West of France (there are around 300) were built
between the XIIth and the XIVth
One characteristic of the Dropt “bastides” is that they were established over a very short period : second half of the XIIIth century, from Castillonnès (1259) to Monpazier (1284). They are the result of an original policy designed to control the space and bring populations together : voluntarist policy, egalitarian and encouraging freedom.
Foundation of a "bastide" :
The decision to found a “bastide” was the result of
contract settled between a lord or an ecclesiastical establishment, owner of the
land, and an authority – king, seneschal, lord – in charge of setting up the
new town, populating it and protecting it ; its administration and the profits
derived from its exploitation were shared according to various methods.
- the forests that covered the Dropt banks were zones of insecurity, that harboured gangs of pillagers who devastated the country. The creation of a city under royal protection was supposed to restore order and safety in the area.
- the new inhabitants had to clear the surroundings of the “bastides” ; the land became a source of income for all : sovereign, doners and donees
- some of the people who settled down in the “bastide” came from neighbouring domains ; this led to weaken these unruly and predatory lords.
- some “bastides”, conceived to serve as fortified towns, could command the Dropt valley, easy zone for enemy invasion.
charter was added to the “paréage” contract, a set of privileges designed
to attract as many new inhabitants as possible.
The newcomers had to build according to a given plan and in a limited time (or else they were fined) and to take part in collective interest works (church, marketplace, if needed ramparts and fortified gates).
Top of the page
Plan of a "bastide" :
Once the location chosen, expert-jurors drew the limits of the city to be, and structured it on a plan as regular as possible, based on an orthogonal pattern (except in case of topographic necessity) : the main “charretières” streets for carts (8 metres wide) and the secondary orthogonal “traversières” streets (6 metres wide) cut out rectangular blocks, each allotted in originally identical (egalitarianism) 8 metres wide parcels (length of a beam taken from a whole tree). On the “charretières” streets, houses face each other, the back of the allotments open onto an alley parallel to the main street, the “carreyrou” (word still used today).
the heart of the “bastide”, the square, also square in shape, lined
by houses with arcades which form a covered street (“les couverts”) ; the
square is a forum and the market place. The “charretières” and the
“traversières” streets lead to the square by its corners ; the access to
the square takes place through a slanted passage, the “cornières” (today,
the “cornières” often refer to the “couverts” themselves). At the
centre of the square, a hall accommodates the consular house on the first
In one of the corners, outside the square, is the church.Top of the page
The "bastides" today :
The Dropt “bastides” have generally kept in great part the original
orthogonal pattern of the streets layout, the squares lined with “couverts”
and sometimes remains of fortifications (ramparts, gates). The market has, most
of the time, disappeared (fire or destruction) with one exception : the
beautiful market of Villeréal. The Monpazier “bastide” is the best
preserved architectural scheme.
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Périgord. J.P Leray Ed.P.Fanlac -
Connaître les bastides du Périgord. J.Dubourg. Ed.Sud-Ouest
Connaître les bastides du Lot-et-Garonne. J.Dubourg.Ed.Sud-Ouest
Notice historique sur Castillonnès. J.J Oscar Bouyssy. Ed.du Roc de Bourzac