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


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 with a market hall at its centre and from here the village reaches out to its fortified boundary using a rectangular grid street layout, much like Monflanquin (right). Sometimes a Bastide's outer ring of fortification no longer exists as, for example, at Damazan.

Bastide - Monflanquin

Whilst 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 (note: we are just north of Aiguillon)

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 in Gascony

Gontaud de Nogaret

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 (left) founded in 1135.

Apx. 20 kms south west of "la Maison Pijot", between Damazan and Lavardac, lies Vianne (right), 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"!


Nerac night market

During the months of July and August,  many local bastide towns and villages like Vianne, Nerac, Laparade, Prayssas and Damazan,  hold fabulous night-markets  which often play host to up to 2,000 local people dining and/or picnicking in their streets - a wonderful experience which is definitely not to be missed.

Edward I, Henry II, Eleanor, Henri IV (who was born in Nerac) - with names like these, you can see why a visit to Gascony and the Lot-et-Garonne is a step back in time, a step that is truly worth taking.