Study of the wall parameters and analysis
of the buildings
The readings taken by P. Benouville in 1884 clearly
showed up the relative deterioration of the access and flanking
works, as well as of the ramparts themselves. The absence of coverings
over the towers and the outbuildings, prejudicial to preservation
of the ramparts, and the instability of the ramparts themselves,
give a precise idea of the efforts – both technical and financial
– needed to carry out credible restoration of this monumental
structure, which although quite simple, is highly representative
of its period. The fact that no further constructions were built
must be underlined, and this was probably because the structure
itself had become obsolete.
The defensive wall is a quadrilateral shape, oriented north-east/south-west
on the main side. The north-west wall has an internal length of
350 metres, the north-east wall of 222 metres, the south-west wall
of 210 metres, and the south-east side shows a non-linear trace
consisting of four segments of a straight line of unequal dimensions.
Its total length is 363 metres. This layout is justified by the
presence of the Baïse, which the wall approximately follows.
The whole defensive system has a total length of 350 + 222 + 210
+ 363 = 1,145 metres.
In a good state of conservation in spite of the unauthorised use
of a large part of the south-east wall by parasitic but respectful
constructions, holes have been made in Vianne’s ramparts to
make way for a local road which crosses the bastide, over the new
bridge built around the 1850s by a private company. Round a bend,
the local road joins one of the two north-east/south-west routes.
The one which does not lead to the defensive gates, leaves the bastide
through a breach in the ramparts. The detailed survey is a bit imprecise
in the north-east part, where the bridge is.
Although the defensive organisation remains clear all round the
peripheral layout, the original buildings have lost some of their
height to the benefit of the walls and some of their habitability
to the benefit of the towers. The rather romantic appearance of
this deterioration, relating to time rather than to human activity,
can be noted in the lithographs of the 19th century, and in the
surveys made by P. Benouville, a diocesan architect, and which show
where the original height of the ramparts has diminished and the
fact that the tops of all the towers have collapsed.
From these surveys, restoration projects began to take shape from
1884, mainly for the south-west and west gates. The existence of
putlog holes under the crenels crowning the gates, suggested (but
without any proof) the presence of hoardings. Nevertheless, restoration
of the buildings was foreseen using this typical roofing. The plans
were precise, covering the whole vocabulary of defensive architecture.
They included reconstruction of the pole-axe, the folding door,
and even the drawbridge, although there was no proof of the latter’s
existence. The gate keeper’s room, on the upper floor and
accessible by means of an external staircase, was to be restored
Nothing was lacking for the restoration project except financing.
A new study begun by Rapine, an architect of historic monuments,
was only launched at the beginning of the 20th century. The proposal
was simpler and concerned a part of the defence works, the north-west
gate and the north corner tower. Although more moderate, the project
took on its final shape just before the First World War. The ramparts,
the other gates and corner towers were rebuilt as they are seen
today in the period between the First and Second World Wars.