Cornell University

John Reps Bastides Collection

Selected Bastides

Monpazier

Browse Monpazier

Founded during the reign of Edward I in 1284 by Jean de Grailly, his senechal, Monpazier is perhaps the best known and frequently visited of all of the bastides. Its appeal lies in its well-preserved stone buildings, many of which date from the thirteenth century, its old halle sheltering ancient grain measures, a street system of major arteries, minor cross streets, and narrow lanes, extensive remnants of the town wall, and the presence of several of the bastide gates.

Most of all, perhaps, it is the town's fine marketplace and the nearly complete set of arcades facing this central open space that for more than seven centuries has provided the location for both commercial and civic functions. Remarkable, too, is the existence of cornières, the diagonal arched openings providing direct access to the marketplace at its corners.

The views through the broad arches of the arcades along what are now pedestrian ways or, from inside the arcades, looking out to the marketplace are surely among the most photographed of the region. Those images record the appearance of simple but handsome stone houses whose upper walls above the arcade arches display pointed arched windows or later and larger rectangular openings bordered by carved moldings. Between several of the buildings one can see also the narrow slots of the andrones that served as firebreaks, a channel to receive runoff from gabled roofs, and a place to dispose of household waste.

The church is located, as in so many others, on its own rectangular parcel in a block whose corner adjoins one corner of the marketplace. Begun only five years after the contract of pariage was signed, the church has been modified from time to time over the intervening years. Thus, the apse was added in the fifteenth century, and the choir was believed to have been completed in 1506, the same century when the square tower was erected.

Three of the four tower-gates that guarded the entrances at either end of the two main north-south streets still exist and mark the boundary between town and country. Outside the south wall owners of houses backing up to and incorporating the old wall have created doorways out to what have become their rear yards. Other surviving parts of the wall can best be seen from the road on the west side of Monpazier running parallel and close to the line of fortifications on that side of the bastide.

A small entrance through the north city wall leads one into the system of narrow carreyroues or ruelles providing service lanes to the rear gardens and outbuildings of each building lot. These follow the north-south alignment of the major streets except in the center, where shorter east-west ruelles offer rear access to houses and shops fronting the marketplace on its north and south sides. Some landowners, needing additional space, have built rooms on pontets (“little bridges”) that cross the ruelles here and there.

Modern scholars continue to emphasize that Monpazier's geometrically ordered plan was not typical. However, when in the town, one cannot help but feel that this orthogonal composition must have been regarded as a kind of ideal design that later bastide planners sought to emulate. Be that as it may, Monpazier demonstrates the wonderful utility of a grid plan that is of modest size, interrupted by a planned open space, and defined by a variety of street sizes and types.