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The fortified watermills of Gironde

Walks, Culture and heritage, Secret Gironde

Built in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries in Entre-Deux-Mers and on the left bank of the Garonne, the fortified water mills of Gironde are remarkable for their architectural characteristics. Built in cut stone, with very thick walls, they are accompanied by defensive elements to protect themselves from the assaults of regular troops, but also from the hordes of brigands who raged in the countryside during the Hundred Years War..

These mills, as well as the land and the water, belonged to secular lords, monastic orders and military religious orders by virtue of the right of ban or banality, feudal servitude imposing on the peasants to come and grind their grain in the seigniorial mills.

The abbey of Saint-Ferme and especially that of the Save-Major (listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO) had many mills. The latter held the Moulin Neuf in Espiet, on the Camiac stream and the Daignac mill, on the Canaudonne stream. The mill of La Borie, on the course of the Gamage, built in the middle of the XNUMXth century, depended in the Middle Ages on the abbey of Blasimon, very close. It is now owned by the Department of Gironde.

Moulin de Bagas
Bagas Mill

A dozen mills still exist today. Having lost for the most part their original function, those of grinding grains, they have become for the most part private property. Some are in ruins, others have been restored and look great. On the Drot, the Bagas mill is certainly the most spectacular! Recently, the Labarthe mill in Blasimon, built on a derivation of the Gamage, regained its mechanism.

These mills are visible only from the outside. They are exceptionally open to the public during the Days of the Mills in May and during the European Heritage Days in September, each year. They are just waiting for your visit!

Le Moulin de Piis (Bassanne), stopover on the Saint James way of Vézelay

Located near La Réole, between the Garonne and the canal of the same name, Bassanne is home to the Piis mill, one of the oldest fortified mills in Gironde, just like its precious counterparts in Bagas and Blasimon. Archival documents date it back to 1319, when a deed of sale was concluded between two members of the Piis family, long lords of the place. Léo Drouyn, the great archaeologist and author of the military guide, even think that its construction was undertaken at the end of the XNUMXth century.

A rectangular building with imposing dimensions, the Piis mill has retained its defensive aspect. A square tower anchored in its northern corner, pierced with cruciform arrow slits with a cross pattée typical of the XNUMXth century, a development of the XNUMXth-XNUMXth centuries with battlements on the western flank and finally a masonry bretèche in its southern corner confirm this vocation of protection. .

Moulin de Piis à Bassanne
Moulin de Piis in Bassanne © Gironde Tourisme H.Sion

The mill is also a place of residence as evidenced by the many windows and doors pierced in the walls and the chimneys of the floor. Its main activity is of course milling. In the 1850th century, two pipes crossing the basement of the building each fed a horizontal water wheel equipped with blades and buckets. The movement obtained by the rotation of this wheel was transmitted by a vertical shaft to the rest of the mechanism located on the ground floor of the mill. The axis terminated by an anille fitting into the current grinding wheel caused the rotation of the latter on the dormant grinding wheel which remained fixed. The very hard limestone millstones, grooved, were frequently retouched to cope with the wear of the material, even replaced two or three times per century. The medieval system was used very late, until 1930, when the commissioning of the canal lateral to the Garonne, now the Canal de Garonne, disrupted the flow of the river (the Bassanne), thus making the outdated old system. The mill remained in operation until around XNUMX, then lost its primary purpose and became a tobacco dryer, then a barn.

The municipality of Bassanne bought the mill in 1999 when it was in ruins and the “Les Amis du Moulin de Piis” conservation association was created the same year. Since that date, the combined efforts of the latter with the support of local authorities, Europe, private sponsorship, the Girondine Association of Friends of the Mills, have saved this remarkable testimony to Gironde architecture.

This remarkable site has become a privileged stage on the way to Saint James of Vézelay, since it has a lodging for the pilgrims of Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle; it also lends its enchanting setting to many cultural and festive events.

The Piis mill can be visited by appointment, and you can picnic on site.

Association of Friends of the Moulin de Piis

  • Tel. 05 56 71 06 36