640px-LBC_Place_de_la_mairie

Town Council Square in Bastida-Arberoa/La Bastide-Clairence. Photo by Asp, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Bastides are a particular urban feature of South-West France: new fortified towns built in the medieval era, between 1230 and 1350, which were located on or near sensitive border areas and which served as more robust defensive mechanisms against potential attackers.

These were planned towns, with a central square and church surrounded by a well organized street layout. People were encouraged to settle in  these new towns and cultivate the land around them with incentives such as being granted a “free” status, meaning they would no longer be considered vassals of local lords. Today, they are a special feature of the region and an important destination for architecture enthusiasts as well as visitors more generally.

Bastides64 is an association of these bastides in the département of the Atlantic Pyrenees, incorporating Iparralde. It was established to protect and promote these historic sites. To date, Bastida-Arberoa (La Bastide-Clairence in French; La Bastida de Clarença in Gascon) in Lower Navarre has been the only Basque member of the association. As Philippe Veyrin comments in The Basques of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, and Lower Navarre, “Bastida (Labastide-Clairence) and Izura (Ostabat) are a case—here exceptional, though very widespread in Gascony—of towns created all of a piece to a preconceived plan. Baiona and Donibane Garazi were almost from the start fortified towns built on a key position.”

It has, however, just been announced that Atharratze (Tardets) in Zuberoa will also join as a full member in 2017.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A panoramic view of Bastida, Araba. Photo by Imamon, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Interestingly, there is also a Bastida, (Labastida in Spanish) in Araba, which is also a fortified medieval town.

In his classic study The Basques, Julio Caro Baroja also discusses the history and architecture of Basque settlements.