Tuesday, 15 April 2008

What is a Bastide Town?

Monpazier_2 monpazier-centreadomme 2

I had another question from the ladies of the St Vincent de Paul Opportunity Shop in Timaru. They asked me to explain what a Bastide town is? 

Our local Villefranche and it's rival Monpazier are just two of roughly seven hundred similar towns scattered across the south west of France.

A Bastide town is generally described as "any town planned and built as a single unit, by a single founder".  They first appeared in 1222 and the last Bastide was built in 1372.  They symbolised (and assisted with) the demise of the feudal system as farmers who moved their families to bastide's were no longer vassals of the local lord: they became free men.  These towns attracted trade which in turn attracted more people and the communities thrived.

The bastide towns were usually built to a strict grid layout, with equal space allocated to each house. The grid centred on a square, which often contained a market hall and sheltered arcades around the edges. There was usually a church, often fortified, built adjacent to the main square.

Really these bastide towns were just large sub-divisions built on borrowed money by greedy property developers chasing real estate riches back in 13th Century.

It is quite interesting, today most small villages still have two of everything (at least). It seems to solve the problem that if you fall out with your baker then you can still get bread from the other boulangerie in town.

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