Monpazier is located in the Dordogne département in Aquitaine in southwest France. The village is listed as one of France’s most beautiful villages.
A bit of history
Monpazier is considered the most typical example of a bastide in the South of France with its grid of streets and alleyways within its ramparts.
The foundations of bastides in southwestern France date back to the Hundred Years War between England and France. The new towns were fortified towns centred around a market square with houses built along narrow streets organised in a grid layout. As the bastides were mainly set up on frontier and disputed lands, its inhabitants needed to be protected from outside attack by ramparts.
The bastide of Monpazier shows perfect dimensions: a quadrilateral of 400 metres by 220 metres. The streets run parallel to the longest sides from one end of the bastide to the other. Four transversal streets divide Monpazier into rectangular blocks.
The houses were originally of the same size and separated from one another by narrow side alleys called “androns” to prevent the spread of fire.
The bastide was founded in 1284 by Edward I, king of England with the assistance of Pierre de Gontaut, Lord of Biron. Monpazier became definitively French during the reign of King Charles V of France (1366-1380).
In 1574, during the Wars of Religion, the Huguenot captain, Geoffroi de Vivans seized Monpazier by treachery. In 1594 the bastide was one of the sites of the Peasant’s Revolt (la révolte des Croquants).
Remarkably, Monpazier has remained almost unchanged during its 700 years of existence despite the ravages of two great wars: the Hundred Years War and the Wars of Religions. However, only three of the original six fortified gates still stand. More than 30 buildings in Monpazier are listed as “Monuments Historiques” by the French state.
Place des Cornières
Monpazier is famous for its central square “Place des Cornières” which is lined with medieval and 17th century houses whose ground floor form the arches of an arcade filled with shops.
On a square stands the intact 16th century covered market which still features some antique grain measures. Its timber roof frame is supported by wooden pillars which stands on blocks of stone.
St. Dominique Church
The parish church of Monpazier is devoted to St. Dominique. The Romanesque church was built in the 13th century. Its bell tower overlooks Place des Cornières. When building the bell tower, the façade needed a full restoration which included a small rose window and a gable.
The interior of the church features fine vaulting whose support ribs meet at central bosses. The carved pulpit and canons seats behind the altar were added later.
Films shot in Monpazier
Monpazier has been often used as a medieval setting for French films: Le Capitan by André Hunebelle (1960) with Jean Marais and Bourvil, The Musketeer by Peter Hyams (2001) with Catherine Deneuve and Justin Chambers, Fanfan la Tulipe by Gérard Krawczyk (2002) with Vincent Perez and Penélope Cruz.
Featured image: Place des Cornières, Monpazier © French Moments