The Bassoues donjon

Thirty-five minutes from Trapeharde, west of Auch, is the pretty and unspoiled (pas déparé) village of Bassoues. Bassoues is dominated by an extremely well-preserved (bien conservé) tower, one which puzzles (rendre perplexe) us and encourages our students to think critically — in English!

Completed in 1371 by Cardinal Arnaud Aubert, the nephew (neveu) of pope Innocent VI, the tower is 43 metres high. The tower is entirely accessible and consists of five levels, each of which is solidly square with one room per floor. There’s a basement dungeon, two beautifully-crafted floors with fine vaulted ceilings, then two further floors which are in need of repair.

Bassoues in the Gers has a magnificent medieval tower
The donjon de Bassoues in the Gers
The dungeon's fourth floor seen from the third floor.
Inside the donjon de Bassoues
The fourth floor of the tower looking up from the third floor.
Inside the donjon de Bassoues
The fine vaulted ceiling of the second floor.
The donjon de Bassoues in the Gers
Fine oak leaf detailing on a capital.
Inside the donjon de Bassoues
One of the tower's many latrines.
Inside the donjon de Bassoues

Above the fourth (open) floor is the tower’s solid roof, the views from which are superb.

The roof of the tower with superb views across the Gers and beyond.
The roof of the tower with superb views across the Gers and beyond
The roof of the tower with superb views onto the bastide village of Bassoues.
The roof of the tower with superb views onto the bastide village of Bassoues
Superb views across the Gers and beyond from the roof's top
The roof of the tower with superb views across the Gers and beyond
Looking down one of the defensive machicolations at the top of the donjon.
Looking down one of the defensive machicolations at the top of the donjon
One of the rows of defensive machicolations at the top of the donjon.
One of the rows of defensive machicolations at the top of the donjon

There is one feature of the donjon that we think is interesting: it’s spiral staircase (un escalier à vis) is not typical. It turns in the opposite direction to the majority of spiral staircases and favours attackers (les attaquants) rather than defenders (les défenseurs).

We think that this peculiarity (particularité) could be explained by the tower originally not having an entrance on the ground floor (rez-de-chaussée). Instead, the tower’s occupants entered the building through a window on the first floor (premier étage), using a ladder (échelle). It was, therefore, perhaps not necessary to defend the tower’s staircase.

(This article was updated on 20th November 2012.)