Paysage Périgord Dordogne

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A land, a world

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A land, a world

A land, a world

Pays des bastides

Times to revival

An economic revolution. Medieval France looked somewhat like an unfinished puzzle. It was a sprinkling of scattered territories over which warlords clashed swords and waged war to claim them as their own. The goal, of course, was to subdue an entire province. The bastides or fortified towns are found in the south of the department, a part of the country that would have witnessed the emergence of new towns, new opportunities and even new currencies.

These towns were ahead of their time by way of their architecture and political organisation. Here, trade was fostered to attract people from the country, who helped to increase the population and wealth of a city from which they also benefited. . In the second half of the 13th century, the English monarchs took control over Aquitaine and built many fortified and above all prosperous towns. This area’s most distinctive and remarkable fortified town is Monpazier, which Edward I built in 1284. Biron château, the 12th-century keep overlooking the whole area, blends gracefully into the 15th-century main building and the 16th-century chapel and stands just a few kilometres south, overlooking the entire region.

The fortified church in St-Avit-Sénieur also bears witness to the fierce clashes and economic revolution that once took place in this area. Eymet, in the Dropt river valley, is a serene and beautifully-preserved medieval town. Cadouin village is home to a Cistercian abbey whose 15th-century sculptures in the cloister depict biblical scenes – and, less predictably, a handful of satirical and indeed downright Rabelaisian scenes. If horses are the noblest conquest man ever made, fine food arguably comes a close second – at least in this area. Villefranche-du-Périgord is as far south as you can go in this department, and home to the indoor market that mushroom lovers flock to from near and far when the porcini mushroom season comes around.