top of page

Rue Martin Luther King: Les rues de Labastide du Vert

Updated: Jun 3

Driving along the D811 through Labastide-du-Vert, a village (and commune) in the Lot Département of southwestern France, you might spot this brown enamel street name sign: ‘Rue Martin Luther King’. Did Martin Luther King have anything to do with this village? The quick answer in no.

Park up and walk around this bastide village and you will find more streets named after famous people. Some had connections with the village, others were of international prominence. Chemin Simone Veil, for example, is named after an Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen survivor who forged an outstanding career as a magistrate, Minister of Health, and the first female president of the European Parliament. A biographical film, Simone: le voyage du siècle was released in October 2022.  

The South-African anti-apartheid activist and politician Nelson Mandela is celebrated with Route Nelson Mandela, whilst rue Jean Jaurès honours the Socialist leader and co-founder of the radical newspaper L’Humanité. Jaurès was assassinated in July 1914 by a young fanatic who believed his pacifism was playing into the hands of Imperial Germany. He is well-remembered with streets named after him all over France.

Rue Joachim [Joaquim] Maradennes and Passage Massabié are named after Labastide du Vert WW1 fallen heroes. Their names are on the 1914-1918 monument amongst 20 fellow villagers.

The reason behind this Labastide du Vert initiative relates to a recent French law which decreed that house numbers and street names must now appear on standardised addresses.

The Mairie of Labistide-du-Vert appears to have been pretty smart. It came up with its own scheme by asking its residents to suggest names for its streets. A selection committee was formed and the longlist was whittled down to 38. In addition, one peculiarity of the law dictates that homes are given a number which accords to the distance in metres from the nearest road intersection. On entering Labastide du Vert on Avenue Henri Martin, the numbering of houses begins at around 2500 (being 2500 metres from the junction of the D660).

Avenue Henri Martin honours the village’s most celebrated one-time resident, the artist Henri Jean Guillaume Martin (1880-1943).

Born in Toulouse, Henri Martin studied art first at the Institut Supérieur des Arts de Toulouse and later in the studio of Jean-Paul Laurens in Paris. Here he gained a considerable reputation as a Neo-Impressionist artist, but at the end of the nineteenth century he decided to look for a country residence in rural France, finally finding the Domaine de Marquayrol, a typical Quercy Maison de Maître, high above the village of Labastide-du-Vert and surrounded by thirty hectares of grounds. Inspired by Claude Monet's Giverny Henri Martin created a garden along similar lines to use as inspiration for his paintings. He died in 1943 - his garden then abandoned. It is currently being restored by group of enthusiastic volunteers.

Henri Martin

View of Labastide du Vert from Marquayrol terrace, 1935

By 1st June 2024, all streets in communes of less than 2,000 people must have names and the houses on them numbered. The system will bring an end to centuries of tradition in France, where many rural addresses were simply known as lieux-dits (small geographical areas -  such as hamlets).


bottom of page