Limoges

FRANCE LIMOUSIN CREUSE Limoges

The capital of the Haute-Vienne department, Limoges (pop 135,100) has always been an important centre of central-west France. The city has functioned as a Roman capital, an evangelized town and as an artistic centre. Throughout this period, Limoges was divided into two settlements- town and the castle quarters, until its union in 1792 (well after the French Revolution). Traces of the old segregating walls and its artistic lineage can still be found in Limoges, as the city is still well-known for its medieval enamels and 19th century china. Although these crafts boosted the region’s economy in the past, they are currently a dying trade and are mainly used as tourist attractions. A visit to Limoges involves lots of historical buildings, museums and craft stores. 

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The old city partitions still loosely apply, as the château quarter marks the beginning of the commercial centre, bordered by Bd Gambetta and Av de la Libération. The medieval quarter lies east of it, at La Cité. You can arrive via train or bus at the station, northeast of this quarter, past place Jourdon. You can also fly in at the Limoges International Airport, located 10km west of the city.

 

 

 

FRANCE LIMOUSIN HAUTE-VIENNE Four à PorcelaineLimoges’ pride and joy are their local enamel and porcelain works. The city’s name has been synonymous with these works of art for almost 3 centuries! Between the 12th and 13th centuries, Limoges was solely known for its decorative enamels (otherwise known as champlevé). These enamels were produced on a large scale until the city switched to producing painted enamels in the 15th century. These works were a great success with the public, as they had good preservation potential due to the quality base that was used; mainly copper, otherwise silver or gold. The enamel-making industry upheld the city’s economy well enough until the late 18th century, when another economic boost occurred. In 1768, the locals discovered koalin, a rock rich in fine, white clay, used in porcelain production, in the nearby St-Yrieix-La-Perche. Prior to this discovery, Koalin was generally imported from the East at a great price. After the ingredient was found locally, the porcelain production sector took off in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Since then, Limoges has produced so much china, that over half of France’s porcelain comes from this city!

 

FRANCE LIMOUSIN CREUSE Limoges Musée National Adrien Dubouché
These renowned porcelain works are displayed in the Musée National Adrien Dubouché [8bis, place Winston Churchill, +33 555330850 ad/ch €4.50/Free] named after the museum’s first curator in 1865. Situated in the town centre, the museum holds a wide collection of artefacts ranging from earthenware, glass to Limoges porcelain (of course). The displays document the development of the industry and feature special pieces that were ordered by various French royals as well as foreign personalities such as Abraham Lincoln and Queen

In the 20th century, however, the porcelain-making industry declined and although many factories have closed down since, a number of the traditional porcelain brands still exist in Limoges. Namely the Haviland [Pavillion de la Porcelaine- 40, Avenue du Président John Kennedy +33 555047300] and Bernardaud [27 avenue Albert Thomas, +33 555105591] factories, still run their business here, expanding into other crafts as well. They have opened their factory shops to visitors who wish purchase their products and explore their production methods. While these factories have moved on to using modern machinery, Limoges still has one factory- Porcelaine Royal Limoges which houses the Four des Casseux [54 rue Victor Duruy +33 555332730] a traditional brick kiln, which is used to fire the porcelain (call to reserve a tour).

If you would like to know more about Limoges’ enamels instead, all you would need to do is walkabout the town area. Many of Limoges buildings are decorated with enamel tiles- you’ll just have to be observant. However, if you would like to focus specifically on these crafts, you can head on to the Galerie du Canal [15, rue du Canal, +33 555331411] – a local gallery run by the cooperative effort of the local enamellers. This gallery stands in an old building, along a cobbled street, displaying the handcrafted ceramic and enamel works of its local artisans.


FRANCE LIMOUSIN CREUSE Limoges limoges st etienneGothic Cathédrale Saint-Étienne [rue de la Cathédrale] is remarkable in that construction began in 1273, but then it took over 600 years to complete. It picked up a notable Renaissance rood loft in 1534, and a Renaissance rood screen now in the western end of the nave.  You should be able to find the tomb of Bishop Jean de Langeac with sculpted scenes of the Apcolapse, inspired by Dürer.

 
Speaking of old buildings, Limoges has many, as its old city area spans from rue de la Boucherie, an old butcher street lined with half-timbered houses, to the end of the La Cité. The butcher’ street is home to the Maison de la Boucherie – a small history museum that documents the lives of the guild of butchers who owned most of the houses in the street. These families also own the small Chapelle Saint-Aurélien [rue Saint-Aurélien] which stands nearby.

 

 

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LIMOGES:   1. Tourism Office 2. Musée National Adrien Dubouché  3. Haviland (south-east of map limits)  4. Bernardaud (north-east of map limits)  5. Porcelaine Royal Limoges 6. Galerie du Canal  7. Maison de la Boucherie  8. Chapelle Saint-Aurélien  9. Cathédrale Saint-Étienne  10. Train station