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A village fort

The name La Sauvetat evokes an image of a village of relatively recent origin and privileged status, comparable to the fortified towns, or bastides, of south-west France. The creation of a new town in the parish of Authézat before 1293 should probably be attributed to Alfonse de Poitiers, a town likely favoured by the Dauphin counts, lords of the neighbouring village of Plauzat. It was successful thanks to the establishment of a commandery of hospitallers, which became really important during the first half of the 14th century, particularly under the government of Odon de Montaigut, who acquired most of the seigneurial rights over the new village between 1324 and 1329 and undertook some major developments. From the 14th century, the Hospitallers took over the organisation of collective defence and, prior to 1465, built a fort on the outskirts of the commandery, which was open to the inhabitants of La Sauvetat and had a profound effect on the topography of the village, which was built on streets that were parallel and equidistant to each other, suggesting that the land was carefully and evenly divided and spaced out. Despite the regularity of the land, there is an irregular polygonal quarter, separated from the rest of the village by the outlying streets (where the old ditches are located), and this features the buildings of the former commandery and a village fort within a rampart flanked by towers. The commandery formed a quadrilateral shape around a square keep, a chapel and a bailey; a large circular keep (unfinished in 1373) was added to the complex. The fort was made up of regular, contiguous loggias arranged in a halo around the inner peripheral streets, some of which were built against the inner face of a rampart. Reference to an « old wall » along with the cadastral plan both suggest that the fort was built in two stages, involving moving the rampart then adding new rows of loggias. In the 17th and 18th centuries, a large part of the fort, which is listed in numerous terriers, was abandoned. According to Gabriel Fournier, Honorary Professor at the University of Clermont-Ferrand

The site and its development over the centuries

We have very little information about the buildings in the fortified area before the cadastral map was drawn up in 1819. The large fortress that was La Sauvetat had already lost many of its defensive features: the moats had been filled in and some of the towers had disappeared along with part of the ramparts. The castle and square tower were in a very poor state of repair and the loggias had been extensively modified.
So what took place between 1819 and 1985? A large part of the castle was demolished and the chapel was divided in two to create the present-day church, which significantly reduced the size of the bailey and resulted in major losses to the ramparts and the ruin or disappearance of 30% of the loggias.
But why in 1985? That was the year the association « Les Amis de la Commanderie » was founded, which would put a stop to the deterioration. The volunteers worked hard to reverse the situation and were joined by the local town council and private citizens. Thanks to everyone’s commitment, by 2023 there were no more ruined buildings, and the areas that were not rebuilt were transformed into public roads or green spaces.

Image captions

  • On the cadastral map of 1819, most of the loggias have been preserved. The chapel (no. 379), the former château (nos. 381 and 384) and its outbuildings (nos. 335 and 382-83) can be seen around the former bailey (no. 380). The construction of the church, which began in 1845, disrupted this part of the fort, which was the original medieval core of La Sauvetat.
  • Cadastral map of 2022
  • Changes made between 1819 and the present day.
    – in yellow: loggias converted into green spaces or roads;
    – in blue: loggias partially or totally rebuilt;
    – white dotted line: footprint of the church built in the late 19th century.
  • Aerial view of the former medieval fort at La Sauvetat

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