Bastide facts for kids
A bastide is a fortified town. They were built mainly in the south of France in the Middle Ages. Most bastides were built between 1229 and 1373, between the Albigensian Crusade and the Hundred Years' War. Today, there are about 400 bastides. They all have a central square, and a rectangular street layout. On the market square, the houses have arcades. They were usually built in places that were easy to defend, such as the top of a hill or on a plain.
- Builders of Bastides
- Structural elements
- Layout of a bastide
- Making a bastide
- Legal foundations for bastides
- Later developments
- Other pages
- Reading material
- Images for kids
Bastides are medieval cities. There is an act of foundation (a law made to start them). There are often historic documents written about them. Some times they are planned cities and are usually only one architect (or one lord) designs it. They were often built where there was already a village, or at a place of historical importance. They were sometimes also built where people bought and sold things a lot (for example where trading routes crossed).
The Treaty of Paris (1229) is sometimes seen as the foundation act which made the construction of modern cities and bastides possible. The treaty itself ended the Albigensian Crusade. One of the first bastides built was Montauban. Montauban became a city in 1144. However some consider Mont-de-Marsan which was founded in 1133 to be a bastide.
Most bastides were built in the countryside. They were basically to serve the needs of local trade (usually, agriculture). A few of them were built in places which were very easy to defend. Others were built where it was possible to defend them, but most bastides were simply built where they were needed. The time when they were built was a peaceful one in the region.
Builders of Bastides
Bastides were built by people who had a high social status, such as:
- The counts of Toulouse, Raymond VII and Alphonse of Poitiers.
- The kings of France, Louis IX, Philippe III, and Philippe IV.
- The kings of England, Edward I, Edward II and Edward III.
- High-ranking seneschals, Doat Alaman, Eustache of Beaumarchès and Jean of Grailly. They did this in the name of their lords.
- Local lords, namely the counts of Foix, of Comminges and Astarac.
- Religious authorities, such as monasteries and abbeys.
The main feature of all bastides is a central, open place, or square. It was used for markets, but also used for political and social gatherings. A typical square, (which was probably a model for other bastides), can be found in Montauban.
- completely closed: The square does not touch any street. These are very rare; there is one example at Tournay with a size of 70 metres (230 ft) by 72 m (236 ft)).
- single-axis: These happen because of the single-axis design of the bastide. All roads run in one direction and are parallel. Here and there there are alleys cut between the roads. The square is placed between two roads. These squares are usually 50 m (164 ft) to 55 m (180 ft) on each side.
- grid-layout; usually based on the square in Montauban.
Generally the flattest place in the bastide was used for the square.
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, 8 m (26 ft) by 24 m (79 ft) was a common size. There were only a limited number of lots. This varied between 10, and several thousand (3,000 in Grenade-sur-Garonne)
The streets were usually 6 m (20 ft) – 10 m (33 ft) wide, so a chariot could pass through. They ran alongside the façades of the houses. Alleys run between streets, these are usually only 5 m (16 ft) – 6 m (20 ft) wide. Sometimes they are only 2 m (7 ft) – 2.5 m (8 ft) wide. In a bastide there were usually between one and eight streets.
When bastides were founded most had no city walls or fortifications. This was because it was a peaceful time in history. Such things were added later. This was done either through a special tax, or through a law that required that the people of the city helped build the walls. A good example is Libourne. Ten years after the city was founded, the people 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 bastides that had no city walls were destroyed. Some of the others quickly built stone walls, to protect the city.
Layout of a bastide
There are different base layouts for bastides. Often for each type of layout, there was a bastide that was an example for other bastides. The most common layout started from two perpendicular streets. New streets were made parallel to the two original streets. This led to a (usually rectangular grid layout.
There seems to have been no plan when these bastides were built. This may have been for the following reasons:
- They were built in a place where there already was a hamlet or village and the bastide had to allow for the buildings.
- There were very few people who lived in the bastide, (which means the reason for the bastide failed).
- The lords who built them had little or no authority to put their ideas into practice.
An example of such a bastide is La Bastide-de-Bousignac.
Enclosing bastides were built around an existing small village or hamlet. There already was a church or a small group of houses. When new houses were built, they were added around the original buildings.
One axis design
There is one main street that links the two gates. This makes the axis around which the bastide was built. These are quite common, with about 30—40% of all bastides using this design. Very often they are found on flat land. The square is often made by making the main street bigger. Very often there are alleys which run perpendicular to the main street. This layout is very easy to change to fit in with the local landscape.
An example of a one axis bastide is Gimont. Gimont is 1,000 metres (1,094 yd) long, and only 300 m (328 yd) wide. Sometimes, there is another street which runs parallel to the main axis. The city square is made between the two streets.
Two axis design
There are two main streets, axes, which are perpendicular (make a right angle). All other streets are at a right angle, or parallel to one of the two main streets. The city square is very often in the centre, or very near the centre. The whole city is either rectangular, square, hexagonal or oval shaped. This layout was the plan used at the height of the bastide movement.
Making a bastide
A few steps are necessary to make a new bastide, these are:
- Choosing a place where the baside can be built.
- Choosing a name for it; there are different options:
- Telling about the privileges of citizenship: Villefranche, La Bastide.
- Telling about the site where it is built; Monségur or Montastruc tell about the fact the place was easy to defend or a pleasant one to live in.
- The name tells about foreign cities the lord has visited when he went abroad, like for a crusade or for a war: Pavie, Fleurance (for Florence), Grenade, Cordes (for Cordoba), Tournay (for Tournai in Flanders ), but also Bruges (Bruges, also in Flanders) and Gan (Ghent, in Belgium).
- Name of the founding nobleman, for example Libourne is named after Leyburn.
- The authority of a king: Montréal (means: mountain of the king).
- A contract is made between the noblemen who owned the land, and who (co-)founded the city.
- A plan of what the city should look like is drawn.
Once all this steps are done, the bastide is not yet founded. The next step is to attract people to come live in the new city. This is done by making a Charta of customs. This Charta does not tell so much about customs, but rather about the privileges those that live there (the citizens) get. These privileges can be of different kinds:
- Based on taxes: Those that live in the city have to pay less taxes.
- Based on a given legal status.
- Based on honorifics.
Bastides wanted to attract people who should come to live there. They therefore offered equality to those who came to live there. They made it look like citizens had equal rights, and were free.
Legal foundations for bastides
The social system was very fixed and unchanging during the Middle Ages. The system of laws of the Middle Ages was built on the fact that society did not change. Everyone had their place in the system and they stayed there. The lords who built the bastide did not want to change the social system. All they wanted was small local improvements. Usually, the land where the bastide was built was not developed. The lords that owned the land were not making much money from it. They built the bastide because they hoped they would get more profits from the land.
For these reasons, people who already had a social status, (serfs, noblemen and priests) could not settle in the bastide. A few poor noblemen gave their land to the city and started a career as a trader, because that way they could earn more money than before.
The people who lived in the city looked free, but this freedom had limits:
- When they came to the city, they had equal chances of being able to live there, and being made a citizen (Not all people who lived in the bastide were citizens).
- On paper, all citizens had equal rights and duties.
Men and women did not have equal rights. Women are often mentioned in the Charter, and have some rights:
- In most of the bastides, husbands did not have the right to beat their wives.
- There are special rules regarding dowry. Sometimes even men have to pay it.
Lepers were usually not welcome in the city. Certain bastides had special places which would treat them, but they were generally excluded from social life. They had to wear special badges to show they were ill, and they could not come close to normal people.
Another group of people that was generally not welcome were the Jews. In the beginning there was no problem, but later Jews were persecuted. Philip IV of France did not allow any Jews to live in France, in 1306. He confiscated their belongings and sold them.
A number of bastides were successful and still exist today. Many others have failed, and most of their population left them.
The bastides had three stages of development or change:
- Many bastides failed to take off, and disappeared, as new people did not come to live there. Those that are left see an economic growth that changes the way south-eastern France is organised.
- During the Hundred Years' War the bastides that are left, are forced to build city walls to defend themselves. Those that do not disappear from the map during the war. After the end of the war, there is prosperity again. The position of the bourgeoisie is strengthened. Long-distance roads are built and the bastides along these roads profit enormously.
- In the 19th and 20th centuries people left the countryside to move to the cities. During this time bastides are tested again, and some disappear.
- BERESFORD, Maurice, "Les villes nouvelles du Moyen Age", Cahiers du CEB, Villefranche-de-Rouergue, Éd. du Centre d’Étude des Bastides, Imp. Grapho 12, 1994, n°2, p. 35 ; 1996, n°3, p. 41, 1998, n°4, p. 60, 2000, n°5, p. 79.
- BERNARD, Gilles, "Géographie des bastides", Cahiers du CEB, Villefranche-de-Rouergue, Éd. du Centre d’Étude des Bastides, Imp. Grapho 12, 1992, n°1, p. 16-30.
- BERNARD, Gilles, L'aventure des bastides du Sud Ouest, Toulouse, Privat, 1993, 160 p.
- BERNARD, Gilles, Les bastides du Sud-Ouest, Toulouse, Diagram, Impr. Bouquet, 1990, 40 p. : ill. coul., couv. ill. coul., 23 cm.
- Bastides méridionales, Actes du stage de Grenade (17-19 mars 1986) animé par Claude Rivals de l’Université de Toulouse-le Mirail, publié avec le concours des Amis des Archives de la Haute-Garonne, Archives Vivantes, Mémoires des Pays d’Oc, 1986, pp. 9–16.
- BERTHE Maurice, "Quelle a été la première des bastides ? ", Sempre los camps auràn segadas resurrgantas. Mélanges offerts à Xavier Ravier, Études réunies par Jean-Claude Bouvier, Jacques Gourc et François Pic, Toulouse, Université de Toulouse-le Mirail, coll. Méridiennes, p. 599-608.
- BERTHE, Maurice, "Les territoires des Bastides : terroirs d'occupation ancienne ou terroirs de colonisation nouvelle", Annales du Midi (Cadres de vie et société dans le Midi médiéval. Hommage à Charles Higounet), 1990, vol. 102, n°189-190, p. 97-108.
- CALMETTES Claude (Agence), Le bâti ancien en bastide, coll. Connaissance de l’habitat existent, E.D.F., 1986, 134 p.
- CALMETTES, Claude, "L’importance des bastides aujourd’hui", In Cahiers du CEB, Villefranche-de-Rouergue, Éd. du Centre d’Étude des Bastides, Imp. Grapho 12, 1992, N°1, p. 52 et suiv.
- CALMETTES, Claude, "Les bastides en question : l'heure de vérité", Permanences et actualités des bastides, Colloque de Montauban, 14-16 mai 1987, Cahiers de la Section française de l’ICOMOS, Paris, Copédith, oct. 1988, pp. 37–45.
- COSTE Michel, Afin de planter des vignes … Essai sur la floraison des bastides et autres petites villes médiévales du bassin aquitain (XIIIe –XIVe siècles), Coll. Méridienne, Université de Toulouse II-le Mirail, 2006, 143 p.
- CURIE-SEIMBRES, A., Essai sur les villes fondées dans le sud-ouest de la France aux XIIIe et XIVe siècles sous le nom générique de bastides, Toulouse, 1880, 424 p.
- DIVORNE F., GENDRE B., PANERAI Ph., Les bastides d’Aquitaine, du Bas-Languedoc et du Béarn : essai sur la régularité, Bruxelles, Éd. AAM, 1985, 128 p.
- HAUTEFEUILLE Florent, "La fondation des villes neuves dans le sud-ouest de la France au 12e siècle : du bourg central au bourg mercadier", Les petites villes du sud-ouest de l’antiquité à nos jours, Actes du colloque d’Aiguillon –mai 200-, Revue de l’Agenais, 131e année, n°1, janv-mars 2004, p. 69-87.
- HIGOUNET Charles, "Les anciennes bastides du Sud-Ouest de la France", L’Information Historique, 1946, p. 28-35.
- HIGOUNET Charles, "Bastides et frontières", Le Moyen Age, 1948, t. LIV.
- HIGOUNET, Charles, "Les bastides du Sud-Ouest", Le Moyen Age, 1948.
- HIGOUNET Charles, "La frange orientale des bastides", Annales du Midi, Toulouse, Privat, 1948-1949, t. LXI, p. 359-367.
- HIGOUNET Charles, "Villeneuves et bastides désertées", Villages désertés et histoire économique (XI-XVIIIe siècle), Les hommes et la terre-IX- École pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, S.E.V.P.E.N., 1965, p. 253-265.
- HIGOUNET Charles, "Nouvelle approche sur les bastides du Sud-Ouest aquitain", Revue Urbanisme, Paris, 1967, n°101, p. 32-35.
- HIGOUNET Charles, "Les villeneuves du Piémont et les bastides de Gascogne (XIIe-XIVe siècles)", Compte-Rendus de l'Acad. des Inscr. et Belles Lettres, Paris, 1970, p. 130-139.
- HIGOUNET Charles, "Paysages et Villages neufs du Moyen Age", recueil d'articles, Bordeaux, 1975, 492 p.
- HIGOUNET Charles, "Les bastides en question ", Revue Urbanisme, Paris, n°173-174, Paris, 1979, p. 6-10.
- HIGOUNET Charles, "La place dans les bastides médiévales", Plazas et sociabilité en Europe et Amérique latine, Publications de la Case de Velázquez, sér. Recherches en Sciences Sociales, Paris, fasc. VI, 1982, p. 119
- HIGOUNET, Charles. Villes, sociétés et économies médiévales / Recueil d'articles de Charles Higounet, Talence, Institut d'histoire, Université de Bordeaux III, Fédération historique du Sud-Ouest, 1992, 600 p. : ill., couv. ill. en coul., 28 cm + addendum.
- LAURET, Alain, MALEBRANCHE, Raymond, SERAPHIN, Gilles, Bastides, villes nouvelles du Moyen Age, Cahors, Éd. Études et Communication, 1988, 296 p.
- PUJOL, Florence, « L'élaboration de l'image symbolique de la bastide », Annales du Midi, vol. 103, n° 195, juil-sept 1991, pp. 345–367, 3 ill.
- SAINT-BLANQUAT, Odon (de), "Qu’est-ce qu’une bastide ? ", Cahiers du C.E.B., Villefranche-de-Rouergue, Éd. du Centre d’Étude des Bastides, Imp. Grapho 12, 1992, n°1, p. 6-15.
- SAINT-BLANQUAT, Odon de, « Comment se sont créées les bastides du Sud-Ouest de la France ? », Annales Economies, sociétés, civilisations, 1949, p. 278-289.
- VERNEILH PUYRAZEA, Baron G. de, "Sur les bastides du Midi de la France", Congrès Scientifique de France, Bordeaux, 1861, t. II.
- Les Cahiers du Centre d'Étude des Bastides, Info bastide et La Gazette des Bastides, Publications du Centre d'Étude des Bastides, association loi 1901, 12200 Villefranche de Rouergue.
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