The church in Villefranche-du-Périgord
|Intercommunality||Pays du Châtaignier|
|• Mayor (2008–2014)||Vincent Deltreuil|
|24.5 km2 (9.5 sq mi)|
|• Density||29/km2 (76/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+01:00 (CET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+02:00 (CEST)|
|Elevation||155–301 m (509–988 ft) |
(avg. 223 m or 732 ft)
|1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.|
Villefranche du Périgord, a French bastide is located in Périgord Noir, some 20 km from the towns of Fumel and Belvès. It is in the Black Dordogne on the border of the Dordogne and the Lot and Lot-et-Garonne. The village is a centre for chestnuts and also cèpes in season. The main street boasts lovely small shops which avoid the need for supermarkets.
Alphonse de Poitiers, Count of Toulouse and brother of St. Louis, founded the bastide in 1261. Villefranche du Perigord is therefore the oldest of the 18 bastides of Périgord. As all the other bastides of Southern France, it was built on a grid plan. However, it has a rectangular lay-out in order to adjust to the elongated plateau where it stands. The small rivers Tourtillou and Cavérieux frame this plateau that overlooks La Lémance Valley, a tributary of the Lot. Edward I of England acquired Villefranche in 1287 in order to enlarge and develop it. He also erected the ramparts in 1290 at the request of the inhabitants. Villefranche du Périgord during the various conflicts changed hands several times during the Hundred Years War and suffered degradation. However, the French Charles V in 1358 and Louis XI in 1463 re-conducted the privileges granted by Edward I after seizing the bastide. They even rebuilt and restored it.
The Catholic Villefranche du Périgord underwent further degradation when the Protestants besieged it in 1577. They burnt it, looted it and demolished the ramparts in 1580 after capturing the town. They, however, rebuilt the town!
Architectural heritage: Many timbered and limestone turreted houses erected between the 13th and 16th centuries were retained. Narrow lanes, or andrones as they are locally known, delineate these houses. Their size's initial purpose was to stop fires from spreading. The central square hosted markets and fairs, hence its name - Place du Marché. Medieval houses, built above vaulted galleries or cornières, still frame it. The beautiful covered market or Halle was rebuilt in 1818. It boasts an impressive wooden frame supported by elegant Tuscan columns. The frame is made from chestnut wood, a tree introduced in the region in the 19th century. Chestnut wood has the peculiarity of repelling spiders, therefore you’ll never see any cobweb on chestnut wood rafters!
The Church: Paul Abadie built the Sacré-Coeur in Paris. He also built the Eglise Notre-Dame de l’Assomption of Villefranche du Perigord in the early 1860's in order to replace the 17th century church after a fire - not his best architectural achievement sadly, failing to use limestone. It also does not therefore have the fortifications of many bastide churches.
But the village is a notable bastide, with lovely warm stone houses. Nearby is Chateau Bonaguil - magnificent - while the chateaux at Biron and Gavaudun are worth visits.
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