A merchants’ bastide
In the 13th century Sauveterre de Rouergue was a new town that met a real urbanisation policy of the time.
Under the supervision of the Juge royale, the bastide was built in the same way as a housing development: a central square, 8 building areas each with a garden equipped with a well, 4 main streets crossed by other streets leading to the gardens.
Essentially of agricultural origins, the bastide’s population were faced with the lack of cultivable land: agricultural development became impossible.
The bastide was therefore one of commerce and administration, helped by the fiscal privileges granted by the King. Little by little diverse activities appeared: forge, knife makers, hat makers, drapery, butchers… arcades, shops and boutiques are the proof of the town’s thriving economy.
But plague and famine made the richest inhabitants flee towards safer places. Isolated on a plateau surrounded by ravines, Sauveterre became a backwater from the 18th century and remains well off the beaten track.
From the middle of the 20th century, supported by the inhabitants who wanted to see their high quality architectural heritage restored, successive local councils have aimed at Sauveterre’s progressive integration into the tourist circuits.