With the growth of commerce, written agreements became more commonplace. Simple scribes already existed, but following the example set in Italy, France too introduced specialists in law, veritable jurists in the service of the landlords. By the end of the 12th Century, it was the notary who ensured fides publica, that is to say the authenticity of a deed.
To found a bastide, the essential is to own the land. But mediaeval law was complex. Often the paréage contract was drawn up between two authorities, civil and ecclesiastic. This contract, signed before a notary, fixed the legal and fiscal status of the bastide. It also contained what would happen if the bastide failed or if it grew. The notary represented the authority of the viscounty to carry out the law and collect taxes.
Taxes were calculated according to the area of plots of land, which were equal within the a bastide and this attribution can still be seen on bastide plans showing the succession of equal plots of land. Taxes were also collected on the land outside the bastide walls, given to and cultivated by the citizens.
Notaries existed in Roman times: the notarii were public officers whose job was to draw up minutely handwritten deeds, then sent to the tabelliones who transferredthem on to tablets, these tabularii, authentic copies in bigger writing and given to the concerned parties. Charlemagne’s Capitulary undertook, between 803 and 805 to make the notariat uniform and notaries afterwards had to be appointed by the courts.
In the Middle Ages there was still a distinction between the notary who compiled minutes and the tabellion who drew up authentic deeds known as «grosses» or «expéditions». The notariat was diverse depending on the regions and the jurisdictions: notary to the King, to the Landlord, to the Church.
In 1270, Saint Louis chose sixty clerks with knowledge of the law from among the members of the Notre-Dame Brotherhood. He set up these 60 royal notaries at the headquarters of the military police at Le Chatelet in Paris.
In 1302, Philippe Le Bel extended the notariat over the whole of the kingdom.
THE BASTIDE’S SECRET
The notary : « When the plots around the village square were attributed, a certain … agreement was reached. Not at ground level, no, but let’s say that whatever is underneath is no longer subject to my authority. » Word 5/11 : riddle.
The sentry’s waiting for you by La Porte de l’Hérisson...