Bastides are fortified towns generally built in medieval Languedoc, Gascony and Aquitaine during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
Some of the first bastides were built under Raymond VII of Toulouse to replace villages destroyed in the Albigensian Crusade. He encouraged the construction of others to colonize the wilderness, especially of southwest France. Almost 700 bastides were built between 1222 (Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn) and 1372 (La Bastide d'Anjou, Tarn).
The Bastide were so successful against their opponents in the Hundred Years War, the English adopted them for themselves, First in France, but later in Wales.
Much debate has taken place over the exact definition of a bastide. They are now generally described as any town planned and built as a single unit, by a single founder. The majority of bastides were developed along the lines of the Roman castrum, which is hardly surprising given the various precedents that survived 500 years of Roman rule. With a grid layout of intersecting streets, dividing the town plan into blocks they included a central market square surrounded by arcades (couverts) and a covered weighing and measuring area.
Except in very rare cases, the church was not on the central square. Usually it was at an angle, and faced the square diagonally.
There were clear rules how houses could be built in the bastide. The front of the houses - the façades - had to line up. Also there had to be a small space between the houses. The different housing lots were all alike, 8m x 24 m was the common size.
The streets were usually 6 m to 10 m wide, to allow a chariot pass through. They ran alongside the façades of the houses with smaller alleys running between streets.
The first bastides had no city walls or fortifications as it was peacetime, and walls were prohibited by the Treaty of Paris (1229). The later fortifications were paid for either through a special tax, or a law that required that the people of the city helped build the walls. However Libourne, ten years after the city was founded, asked for money to build city walls. Once they had received the money, they spent it on making their city prettier, rather than building walls…..
At the beginning of the Hundred Years' War, many of the bastides without city walls were soon destroyed so fortifications were quickly added.
Barran, L'Isle de Noé, Monstesquiou, Bassoues, Beaumarchés, Plaisance, Marciac, Saint Christaud, Tillac, and Mirande are the main bastides in our area and we look forward to showing them to you during your stay with us.
Or, to give it's full name, "La Bastide de Bassoues d'Armagnac" is one of the more dynamic of the local villages.
With an incredible 43 metre high donjon, or keep, overlooking the surrounding countryside; a beautiful timbered covered market and a couple of restaurants this village is always worth visiting - especially on a Sunday morning for the farmer's market.
In addition you have the legend of Saint Fris with the 11th century basilica and miraculous spring that has been attracting pilgrims throughout the ages.
This is Tillac, a stones-throw from our base in Miélan, an 11th century village that was fortified by Bernard VII, Count of Armagnac in the 14th century. Presented as a quadrilateral with each angle facing one of the cardinal points, it was built around a castle. This one, belonging to the Counts of Pardiac, no longer exists, but its remains are still visible in the northeast corner of the village. The defensive system of Tillac has two towers: the Tower of Mirande in the east, and the tower of Rabastens to the west.
The existing houses in the village date from the late seventeenth century and, on the pillars of the presbytery you can see a stone grain measure, sealed to meet a royal decree of 1613. It requires that the Tillacois "take weights bronze or stone so that the public will measure his grain"
Barran remains one of the most intact and charming. Situated along the route South to St Jacques de Compostela, you can still see its tower gate, walls, and market. The Collegiate Church of St. John the Baptist dating from the twelfth century, was rebuilt in 1569, and then underwent further changes in the nineteenth century. It has the distinction of having a helical tower.
The act of paréage sealing the foundation of the Marciac was signed in Toulouse on August 15th, 1298 by the Earl of Monlezun-Pardiac representative of the abbot of the local monastery, and the King of France Philip IV, who was eager to consolidate his power over a region recently acquired by the crown.
At the end of the Gascon wars, Guichard Marciac, Seneschal of Toulouse and representing the king, gave his name to the Bastide. Just one month later, 14 September 1298, the town customs were finalised establishing the rules of life for the inhabitants.
La Bastide de Marciac can therefore be called "Bastide Royale," and his town design was representative of the regular Gascon model 600 meters long by 400 meters wide.
The town was later fortified with a 2 meter thick wall and a surrounding moat with 8 entrance gates. Place de la Bastide de Marciac is the largest in Midi-Pyrenees with dimensions of 130 by 75 meters.
In 1345 a vast Halle was built on 35 carved stone pillars to house shops schools and the council offices. The halle was destroyed in 1871
From the 1960s many plans have been completed to rehabilitate both the town plus the adjacent countryside and lake
In 1978, a group of friends and enthusiasts created what would become one of the largest jazz festivals in Europe with worldwide recognition. The festival, which traditionally runs for the first 2 weeks of August completely takes over the town and surrounds.
But throughout the year Marciac is a thriving community with all amenities.