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Gascony's Medieval Towns and Villages

A unique feature of this area is Gascony's medieval towns and villages, some beautiful and all fascinating. Many of these are 'bastides', the fortified 'new towns' built in C13th and C14th.


The Bastide idea was originally conceived by Henry II, King of England and Duke of Aquitaine, and was based on the principles of Roman town-planning. Other feudal land owners followed Henry's example, constructing a central market place (with market hall and church), which was surrounded by commercial buildings fronted by covered arcades. Around the market place there was usually a rectilinear grid layout of streets with standard building plots for houses. In some cases, rudimentary drainage was provided.

The fact of having a single design concept gives these 700-year-old villages a visual harmony that has lasted to the present day, substantially unchanged and unspoilt.

Bastide villages such as Cologne, Monfort and Fources, or towns such as Fleurance and Condom, each with their shops, cafés, restaurants, markets and well-kept public spaces, look like living film sets and are a joy to visit on holiday.

A remarkable feature is that some of these bastides took (or stole!) the name of a well-known European city as a way of promoting themselves and attracting new inhabitants. For example, Fleurance is named after Florence in Italy, and the women of Fleurance are still known today as 'Florentines'!

Perhaps they had PR consultants back in the thirteenth century...

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