Villeneuve d'Aveyron Bastide
Bastides in Aveyron
The count of Toulouse wanted to take advantage of the unprecedented demographic expansion that marked the beginning of the second millennium in order to develop local economy.
The word Bastide - Batista in Occitan language - evolved from Bastir meaning to build.
These fortified new towns or villes franches, villes neuves were built on a grid plan.
A thick rampart, opened by several gates and flanked by watchtowers, enclosed the houses and the church.
Streets crossed at right angles and were laid out around a central square adjacent to the church and the cemetery.
Covered arcades or cornières supported the houses that surrounded the square and accommodated a multitude of shops and stalls on market days.
Bastides were also divided into equal plots allocated to new settlers.
These were also granted special rights, privileges and franchises recorded in charters (duty and military service exemptions, right of inheritance etc…)
Bastide of Villeneuve d'Aveyron
The bastide of Villeneuve d'Aveyron, however, began as a sauveté in 1053.
During the 11th and 12th centuries, religious communities cleared entire forests in order to found their fortified monasteries or Sauveté, Salvetat, Sauveterre.
These sauvetés were encompassed within high walls and delineated by boundary stones.
They were therefore safe havens and offered 'God's Peace' and refuge to anyone who entered them.
However, their purpose was also to permanently attract rural populations in order to develop deserted regions and therefore develop local economy.
Sauvetés, Salvetat, Sauveterre are much representative of the south of France, where they've left their names to countless towns.
In 1231 Raymond VII upgraded the sauveté of Villeneuve d'Aveyron into a bastide.
The newly founded bastide thrived, attracting countless merchants and craftsmen.
The booming trade generated wealth for the County, as both those buying and selling goods had to pay taxes.
Villeneuve d'Aveyron, as all other bastides, was eventually granted the right to self-govern.
Each tiny quarter or neighborhood therefore elected a consul.
These represented the inhabitants in matters of administration, law, trade, taxes, safety, public health, and took also care of road maintenance, much like our governments today.
Villeneuve d'Aveyron today
Four fortified tower-entrances allow cars and pedestrians access the bastide.
Arcaded galleries or cornières, frame Place des Conques, and accommodate restaurants, flower shops, art galleries and book stores.
They offer good view of Saint-Sépulchre Church and the Maison du Roi , where the King or his emissary sojourned when they visited Villeneuve d'Aveyron.
The mansion today accommodates the town hall.
Department of Aveyron
Coordinates: Lat 44.437081 - Long 2.029552
Credits: Photos atelier434 and Text Melanged Magic by Evelyn Jackson - Edited by and for Travel France Online - Photo via Wikimedia Commons: medieval gate - Medieval building