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bastide:
beaumont-du-périgord


featuring the unusual and impressive fortified church

 

Eglise de st Front - interior
 

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introductory
the bastide town
the fortified church of Saints Laurent and Front
chronology of fortified church
some chronology of Beaumont-du-Périgord
background facts
end notes

From the 13th to 14th centuries new towns arose in the south-west of France - the bastides.

Constructed at the initiative of the king of France or the king of England, the bastides were intended to make homes for the local populations, creating commercial exchanges through fairs and markets and, for the sovereigns, the bastides marked their territories. The region had been owned by the English and it was in the name of King Edward I that Lucas de Thaney, Seneschal of Guyenne founded Beaumont-du-Périgord in 1272. Beaumont was the first royal bastide.

Bastides are designed with, at the centre, the square surrounded by arcaded houses [maisons à cornières] towards which everything converges, and a regular framework of alleys [careyous] composed of similar islets [aryals] of housing. In a bastide, the church and the chateau [castle] are close, the ensemble being protected by the town ramparts.

Arial view of Beaumont-du-Perigord
Aerial view of Beaumont-du-Perigord

At Beaumont, however, no chateau was never built, the fortified church taking its place and, because of its size, capable of sheltering all of the bastide’s population.

To populate the new town, criers travelled the countryside. In the name of the king of England, they proclaimed at the sound of trumpets, the creation of the bastide. They promised inhabitants advantages, sealed by a charter, which assured that they would have liberty for themselves and their family, would have a house, would cultivate their fields, would no longer have to submit to to their former lord, and would control their own property. Thus, in a short time, there were 1,800 people in the bastide.

 

the bastide town

The plan of the bastide township is shaped like an H, with the central square serving as the cross-bar.

The square is small as compared to say Monpazier,and filled with vehicles when it is not being used for fairs or markets.

The market square at Beaumont
The market square at Beaumont

The Beaumontais leave the roof of garlands festooned over the square after the fêtes are over.

Street plan of Beaumont
Street plan of Beaumont,
before eastern block of arcaded houses was demolished

There are still several vestiges of the double ring of fortifications surrounding the town. Of the sixteen gates of the town, only one in the west remains, the Luzier Gate. In the streets that intersect at right angles, one can find houses of the thirteenth and fourteenth century. In the early eighteenth century, the current Mairie had been the convent of the Dames de la Foy.

Porte de Luzier
Porte de Luzier, looking towards the careyous in the central square

But the jewel in the bastide is undoubtedly the church of Saint-Front, one of the finest military Gothic churches in Périgord. Large, austere, it was designed from the outset for defensive purposes because, unlike most other bastides, Beaumont has no chateau [castle]. The church of Saint-Front is a fine example of military architecture and religion.


Looking towards the fortified church from the south.

Beaumont still has remnants of its fortified walls, some houses à cornières and a medieval door recently restored - the Luzier or Lusies Gate.

 

the fortified church of Saints Laurent and Front

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Plan of the fortified church of Saints Front and Laurent
Plan of the fortified church of Saints Front and Laurent
 

Constructed at the end of the 13th century to the beginning of the 14th century, this is a rare fortified church in the English Gothic style with a flat chevet [east end of a church].

The east end of the fortified church
The east end of the fortified church

The west doorway is framed by two defensive towers. The north tower holds the primitive bell and was also used as a dungeon. The south tower was used for defence, having wide battlements, a 30-metre donjon crowned by machicolations and lit by a mullioned window. There are two other towers at the eastern end of the church.

The church's west door and fortified towers
The church's west door and fortified towers
Naming defensive components
Naming defensive components

The west doorway is composed of arches and sculpted capitals of vine and ivy leaves. Above, just below the rose window and the balustrade, is a frieze of 24 juxtaposed panels. In the centre are the symbols of the four evangelists. These are supported by everyday scenes and embellished by fantastic animals. The facade and part of the rose window were restored in 1899, but as so often in France, the maintenance of the church since then has been substandard.

Frieze above the west door
Frieze above the west door

enlargement of frieze - left
enlargement of frieze - left

enlargement of frieze - right
enlargement of frieze - right
 

The ribbed vault interior consists of six bays resting on ten pillars, with as many buttresses and corner tours. The brick vaulted ceiling, completely rebuilt in 1869, reproduces the original stone vault.

Inside the church, showing the vaulting
Inside the church, showing the vaulting

Inside the church, near to the west entrance there is a well in the floor, which now has a heavy glass cover so you can look down into the well. The well provided a water supply in times when the church was being used as a refuge for the town's population.

The sunken well
The sunken well

The bastide was only fully freed from the English in 1453 after the Battle of Castillon. As a faithful catholic stronghold, Beaumont was besieged, taken, and later retaken, twice during the Hundred Years Wars of religion.

There is fortified cathedral at Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges - the cathedral of the Pyrenees.

chronology of the fortified church

1272
Lucas de Thaney, seneschal of Guyenne, seneschal of Edward, King of England and duke of Aquitaine, founded the bastide.
1286, 15th November
Charter of Beaumont given by Edward, King of England and duke of Aquitaine
between 1330 to 1350
west doorway constructed.
end 13th century to mid-14th century
construction of the church, except the Saint Joseph chapel - to north and middle of the nave, and appears to be older than the actual church.
1585
During the fourth siege, the town is taken by Protestants commanded by Captain Panissaut. The inhabitants resit in the church.
1810
Part of the vault collapses.
1833
A wooden and plaster cradle is constructed and the windows are filled.
1869
top of walls reconstructed, new roof woodwork placed and brick ribbed vaults installed.
1877
Choir stained glass made by Joseph Villiet, master glazier at Bordeaux
1899
West facade repaired.

some chronology of Beaumont-du-Périgord

1442 Beaumont taken by Pierre de Beaufort, Vicomte de Turenne .

1461 Louis XI confirms charter to the inhabitants of the bastide.

1561 First siege of the bastide by the Huguenots.

1575 Second siege of the bastide by the Protestants.

1576 Third siege of the bastide. The town was finally taken on the 5th February by the Protestants, led by Captain Camppagnac of Rufen. Following the signing of a peace treaty, the town is returned to the Catholics.

18th century: the town lost its ramparts. The enclosing walls were sold to residents, who knocked them down or else added the land beneath to their homes. All that remains is the Porte of Luzier, some bits of the wall and a tower.

1585 Fourth siege and the town’s capture by the Huguenot captain Panissaut.

 

Background facts

Beaumont-
du-Périgord

Beaumont coat of arms

approximate population : 1,130
average altitude/elevation : 144 m
church dimensions
length : 52.50 m
width : 13.80 m
vault height : 24 m
nave height : 23 m
towers : 30 m

tower base dimensions : 5.0 m x 5.5 m
wall thickness : 1.15 m

 

end notes

  1. The name of Beaumont-du-Périgord [in Occitan, Bèlmont de Perigòrd] is sometimes encountered as Beaumont-en-Périgord.

    The town officially changed its name to Beaumont in 2001.

  2. The concept of the flat chevet is characteristic of buildings obeying requirements of the Cistercian order, which renounced curves on the outside of the church. Also, churches of modest size include a flat chevet because the construction of buildings with a single nave and a flat chevet is cheaper.

  3. donjon
    The donjon is the highest tower of a castle, serving as an observation point, a firing post, and as the last refuge if the rest of the fortification is about to be taken by the enemy. The donjon also serves as the residence of the castle’s lord [seigneur].

  4. chateau
    Castle. In French, the word chateau can be a very irritating word, because it can mean both what is usually thought of as a castle - a stone fortress with crenellations and so on, and what the French so often mean - a great and grand mansion, with nothing defensive at all.
5. Matthew = Human/Angel Luke = Ox Mark = Lion John = Eagle

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Luzier Gate