The early years of the Bastide

Molières - La côte du cimetière

Foundation of the Bastide

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A “short” history of Molières, written in 1984 on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of the Bastide’s foundation, by Claire Veaux-Parvieux, professor of history, D.E.A of local life at the Institute of Political Studies of the University of Bordeaux, president of the association “Les Amis de la Bastide de Molières” and passionate about the history of our village.

Her research on the history of Molières is still ongoing. New elements, discovered recently, put in question 1284 as the year of foundation of our Bastide. The foundation would probably date from nearly 10 years earlier. We will see what the future will tell us about the past…

The foundation

On King’s Sunday in 1272, Guillaume de Biron, lord of Monferrand, in his own name and in the name of his brothers and sisters, made an agreement with Prince Edward, represented by Bertrand de Panissal. Guillaume ceded to the English prince the high, medium and low justice of the parish of Molières.

In exchange, Edward gave him four “ayriaux” (plots) in the town of Molières, two of which were intended for “fours francs” (free ovens) and exempted of all rights. He also gave him the justice of Sigoniac (a hamlet then belonging to the parish of Badefols). This is the first stage of our new town.

Molières - Maison du Bayle
Molières - Maison du Bayle

In 1282, the seneschal of Aquitaine, Jean de Grailly, was commissioned to undertake the construction of a bastide called “Bastida Sancti Johannis de Molerii”. The name of the patron saint of the existing parish was used. However, the new construction was carried out away from the old village, which was certainly gradually declining. The new town was built a few yards away from the old one, to the south to be precise, on a limestone slab forming a very flat projection between the forest plateau and the damp valley.

There is not much space here but the protection of the two coombs to the west and east seems to favour this choice. In addition, springs which never dried up surround the site. Another reason could justify the choice of this site: it is the crossroads of two routes of major importance for the region: the road from Limeuil to Beaumont, but above all the Belves – Pontours road, which could be an ancient Roman road leading to the Pontours ford on the Dordogne.

Molières - Place du Village
Molières - Place du Village

The establishment of a well-organised town seemed necessary to pacify this wooded and unsafe area in which robberies, attacks and murders were committed on pilgrims, heading to Cadouin and its Holy Shroud.

The construction

As soon as the contract was signed, it was proclaimed with the sound of trumpets by the heralds of the lord, the Duke-King of Aquitaine, and his seneschal, Jean de Grailly. The boundaries of the new town were drawn as geometrically as possible.

A “pal” was planted in the middle of what will be the square. Town criers were sent throughout the region to publicise the advantages of the new creation and to attract candidates for settlement.

New residents are provided with:

  • the site to be built inside the agglomeration is the “ayralia” (or pleidura “platea” locarium) of 4 by 10 “aunes” (8 by 20 metres in Molières)*,
  • they receive a ‘casalagia’ (casal) garden in or near the city
  • and outside one or more plots of land sufficient to ensure their livelihood (generally meadows and arable land), these are the “arpents or pradals” (Perhaps the place called Les Pradoux is a survival of that).

It was possible for people to sell and buy to increase their assets.

Once they have been sworn in, new concession holders are required to build on their lot within a short period of time: 2 to 3 years**

The stone for the construction was taken from the surrounding area. Perhaps the places called “Les Carrières” and “Les Peyrrières” are the origin of the houses in the new Molières.

The inhabitants were authorized by the lord to use wood from the surrounding forests for construction, but probably also to supply the factories where the tiles, needed to cover houses and public buildings, were produced.

It seems that the new citizens exceeded the limits of this forestry tolerance because in 1292 a transaction with the abbey of Cadouin shows that the inhabitants of Molières cut down too many trees and excessively grazed their herds.

Some pieces of land was left empty and undeveloped so that the poor people could use it for cultivation or grazing: these were the “communaux”. There are still a few examples of this in Molières (the “communal” still existed about twenty years ago).

* The observation of the cadastre shows the existence of this primitive division, many plots of land in the village keep the same dimensions or are multiples or super multiples.
** The first year the inhabitants must build at least 1/3 of the facade and the third part in the second year or they subject to penalty of fine if they don’t.

The administration

The Consuls

The administration of these new cities is innovative.

All are citizens or “communiers” or bourgeois, all heads of family resident in the bastide who have taken the oath of bourgeoisie, nobles, clerics and others, all have the same rights and duties within the communal association.

Each year, on the occasion of the feast of the beheading of St John, they elect six Catholic consuls (a kind of municipal councillors) who form a college responsible for municipal affairs. Their responsabilities are :

  • have the streets, fountains and public places maintained,
  • to ensure the healthiness of the city, its security and to organise its defence.
  • They can make town rules and ensure that they are properly implemented.
  • They collect municipal taxes.
Molières - Carreyrou
Molières - Carreyrou

If a bigger problem arises, they can convene the general assembly of the burghers, who thus participate in public affairs through their advice.

The consuls were also invested with the “low justice” (day to day routine) and the municipal police, they only have the right to inflict penalties of 60 “sous” to 1 “denier”. The court of the consuls sat on a fixed day once a week, presided over by one of the consuls, assisted by jurors and sergeants responsible for the execution of decisions.

The Bayle (or Bailli)

He combines the roles of mayor, judge and police commissioner. The Bayle was placed under the authority of the seneschal of Périgord, himself dependant on the seneschal of Guyenne. The Bayle was generally a Gascon appointed by the seneschal. He was the sole representative of the English administration at local level.

Baylies (the office of a Bayle) are most often accompanied by a lease. The Bayle-fermier, in return for payment of a sum due to the English crown, collected all the taxes and revenues of the bastide. Indeed, we find evidence of the exceptional lease to Henry the Welshman (Wallois) in 1284 of six bastides, including Molières, for ten years in return for the annual payment of 170 pounds sterling. This person was mayor of Bordeaux in 1274, then of London from 1281 to 1284. He was a rich merchant. As for Bertrand de Panissal, a contract of 2 April 1288, ratified by the king on 9 June 1289, entrusted him with the baylie of Molières. (There is no trace of Henry the Welshman being called to higher office).

Château de Molières
Château de Molières
Château de Molières
Château de Molières

After the war of 1294, the same Bertrand de Panissal, ruined, received help from the king who gave him 50 pounds of the revenues of Molières (act of 1 April 1304). We find him bayle in 1303 and 1304 when the territory becomes English again.

It is understandable that the baylies are coveted posts because the revenue corresponds to all the fees paid by the inhabitants of the entire territory covered by the bastide.

It should be noted that the founder, in the charter, renounced all the dues of the feudal system: sizes, quests, housing of the people of war etc… . The inhabitants of Molières did not owe military service or the “fouage” (tax per household) as in Beaumont.

These innovations lend the new foundation an air of freedom, but the inhabitants are far from being exempt from all charges. The “cens” or “oublies” is an annual land rent of six denarii per lot paid on the nativity of the Virgin Mary on houses and land. In addition, there were personal fees, taxes on goods brought to the market, legal fees, fines, and the ‘acapte’ or tax paid when the lord changed. In addition, for each sale of a concession, the purchaser had to pay a sum representing 1/12 of the total price (similar to our current registration fee) and the inhabitants who wanted to sell bread or bake bread for their neighbour had to pay five “sous” each year on the Nativity of the Virgin.

Château de Molières
Château de Molières

People freedoms

The originality of the bastides lies in their charter, granted by the sovereign. It is a document on parchment, written in Latin, signed by the king and marked with his seal. Whether they are French or English, they are all written on the same model. The principle of the charter has been known since the 11th century, when some were granted by kings or abbeys. But it was Alphonse de Poitiers, brother of Louis IX, who gave them the rigour and definitive form known at the end of the 13th century.

Molières is no exception to the rule. Edward I granted it its charter on 20 November 1286, when the bastide was already built. This text is not exceptional, it is similar to that of other bastides. It was confirmed by François I and Henri II by letters patent in 1533 and 1551.

The boldness of these documents is an originality of the time: they are true municipal codes marking a return to the written law of the Romans. It was feudalism that was being undermined. The serf bound to the lord was gradually replaced by the citizen belonging to a semi-urban, semi-rural community. The members of this community are united by the same duties and rights defined in this document. This official text is a guarantee of freedoms and privileges, but it also precisely determines the fees and duties required of the new citizens.

The justice

It is in the field of criminal law that the most significant innovations can be observed. Except in extreme cases, the law of retaliation, inherited from our Germanic invaders, tortures and mutilations disappear in favour of a system of fines. These fines are specified in the charter:

  • Hitting someone without bloodshed: 5 sols to the victim.
  • Hitting someone with bloodshed: 20 sol
  • Insulting someone: 2 1/2 sols to the bailiff – breaking the royal banner: 20 sols to the bailiff.
  • Stealing an object: running around the city with the object of crime around your neck.
  • Entering the gardens during the day to take the harvest: 2 sols 1/2 to the consuls for the needs of the city.
  • If an animal enters a garden, the owner of the animal must pay 3 deniers to the consuls.

This leaves serious offences or those treated in a special way, such as adultery. The authorities of the time had a curious way of dealing with this age-old crime: people accused of adultery by public rumour or on the complaint of their spouse or caught in the act were punished with a fine of 100 sols or forced to run naked through the town (I bet the choice must have been difficult for the greedy).

As for the recidivist thieves, they were hanged, yes! hanged on the gallows situated “aux Justices” on the edge of the main road from Molières to Cadouin. Murderers ended their career buried alive under the corpse of their victim.

As elsewhere, heretics were subjected to the inquisition.

A turbulent start

The bastide was granted a territory comprising several parishes by its charter. The jurisdiction of the royal Bayles extends over these parishes, usurping the rights of the neighbouring lords. This situation did not fail to lead to disputes between the representatives of the bastide and those of the lords.

The people of Molières appear to be quite restless. A conflict arose very quickly between the consuls of Molières and the prior of Saint Avit Senieur, complaining that the Bayle and the sergeants brought disorder in their parishes, agents of Molières making seizures and executing people. They committed illicit acts and brought unauthorised innovations to the formerly established regime. The king of England was obliged to intervene on 3 July 1289 with the consuls, Bayle and sergeants of Molières, who had to provide repairs. A similar situation arose between the agents of the bastide and the convent of Cadouin. In 1289 the king was obliged to order that the abbots of Cadouin should be protected against “insults, violence and molestation” by the people of Molières! Moreover, the people of Molières (always them) plundered the forests of Cadouin (in 1287 and 1292).

Vitrail de l'église de Molières
Vitrail de l'église de Molières
Eglise de Molières
Eglise de Molières

A series of conflicts arose between Gaston de Gontaud, lord of Badefols, and the consuls of the bastide, each wanting to exercise their authority and jurisdiction over the other’s territory.  The struggle with this lord appears to be lively, and we have traces of three transactions.

  • 23 May 1284: conflict between Gaston de Gontaud and Jean de Grailly, seneschal of Périgord and founder of Molières.
  • In 1284, the consuls of Molières and Beaumont disputed jurisdiction over the parish of Pontours.
  • 8 July 1288 and 15 August 1316: between Gaston de Gontaud and the consuls.

An agreement (renewed in 1356) was then made to strictly delimit the territories subject to the jurisdiction of Molières and that of the lord of Badefols. Each one must render justice in his own area! Thus Badefols forms an enclave which corresponds more or less to the current commune with the addition of the place called “Leyride”. It was only with time that the Bayles and consuls of Molières increased their rights.

All these conflicts are manifestations of the youth of our bastide. We can think that it became more moderate with time, but above all, that the vicissitudes of history between the French and the English reminded them that there were more important concerns. In 1316 Edward II united Molières, Beaumont, Lalinde and Villefranche definitively to his crown. By the laws of war, Molières was ceded as a bailiwick to Gaillard de Durfort by Edward III in 1348, taken back by the French and given by Charles VII in 1442 to Pierre de Beaufort, Lord of Limeuil.

Molières - Eglise
Molières - Eglise

Our bastide is coming of age and its history stops momentarily here.

History of Molières

Entrée du château de Molières

Introduction to our history

Let's discover together the history of Molières.

Molières - rue Notre Dame 1912

The Early Modern Period

Traces of the evolution of the village from the 16th to the 19th century.

Molières - épicerie - station-service

The village in the 20th century.

Our recent history as it lives in the memory of the elders.

Vue à partis de la place de Molières

What about Molières today?

Today, Molières is a pleasant and peaceful place to live.