Nouvelle Aquitaine Section

Villefranche du Perigord – Bastide – Dordogne

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Villefranche du Perigord, a French bastide

Villefranche du Perigord is located in Périgord Noir, some 20kms from the towns of Fumel and Belvès.

Alphonse de Poitiers, Count of Toulouse and brother of St. Louis, founded the bastide in 1261.

Villefranche du Perigord is therefore the oldest of the 18 bastides of Périgord.

As all the other bastides of Southern France, it was built on a grid plan.

However, it has a rectangular lay-out in order to adjust to the elongated plateau where it stands.

The small rivers Tourtillou and Cavérieux frame this plateau that overlooks La Lémance Valley, a tributary of the river Lot.

Edward I of England acquired Villefranche in 1287 to enlarge and develop it.

He also erected the ramparts in 1290 at the request of the inhabitants.

Villefranche du Perigord during the various conflicts

Villefranche changed hands several times during the Hundred Years War and suffered degradation.

However, the French Charles V in 1358 and Louis XI in 1463 re-conducted the privileges granted by Edward I after seizing the bastide.

They even rebuilt and restored it.

The Catholic Villefranche du Perigord underwent further degradation when the Protestants besieged it in 1577.

They burnt it, looted it and demolished the ramparts in 1580 after capturing the town.

They, however rebuilt the town!

Despite all this, Villefranche du Perigord boasts an exceptional architectural heritage!

Architectural heritage

It indeed retained many timbered and limestone turreted houses erected between the 13th and 16th centuries.

Narrow lanes, or andrones as they are locally known, delineate these houses.

Their size's initial purpose was to stop fires from spreading.

The central square hosted markets and fairs, hence its name - Place du Marché.

Medieval houses, built above vaulted galleries or cornières, still frame it.

The beautiful covered market or Halle was rebuilt in 1818.

It boasts an impressive wooden frame supported by elegant Tuscan columns.

The frame is made from chestnut wood, a tree introduced in the region in the 19th century.

Chesnut wood has the peculiarity of repelling spiders, therefore you’ll never see any cobweb on chestnut wood rafters!

If you visited Montmartre, you might remember that Paul Abadie built the Sacré-Coeur.

He also built the Eglise Notre-Dame de l’Assomption of Villefranche du Perigord in the early 1860's to replace the 17th century church.

Villefranche du Perigord, a lovely bastide worth discovering!

Department of Dordogne
Coordinates Villefranche du Perigord: Lat 44.629660 - Long 1.080006

Photos Wikimedia Commons: header -  House with arcades - Covered market - House with turret

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