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 - shown right.
An important part of the history of the Lot-et-Garonne
King Edward I of England (1239-1307), visited Gascony (which he had inherited from his father Henry III) and so discovered the concept of the Bastide. He subsequently continued the concept across the area (many Bastides were founded and built by the English) and also introduced it into the design of the castles he built in England and Wales. Indeed, the concept of 'les Bastides' quickly spread across most of Europe.
Bastides served four principle functions: Military, Economic, Administrative, 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 'Halles' is just a few kilometres from us at Gontaud de Nogaret (above) founded in 1135
(both photos - le Conseil Régional d'Aquitaine)
Whilst these villages and towns are scattered all over Aquitaine, the historic area known as Gascony, and particularly the department of the Lot-et-Garonne, has by far and away the greatest number; the map below shows the principal Bastides in the Lot-et-Garonne (note: we are close to Tonneins).
The most complete Bastide in the region is Vianne (below) which still has most of its walls and all four of its original gate towers. Vianne is just thirty minutes from us and is one of our photo opportunity stops.
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