¡CAMPANILE DE LIMOGES!
The tower of the Benedictines Train Station emerges between the buildings of the city, like a lighthouse in the fog. With its 67 m. high, it is the highest station in France. It is also one of the four most beautiful railroad stations in the country, elected by popular vote. The French love to rank, vote and choose the most beautiful villages, the most flowery cities, etc....
This artwork of eclectic architecture is a symbol of the city of Limoges, trend-setting combining Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Neoclassical.
The station is located on the grounds of the former leprosarium, from which the name has been preserved for the square. In turn, the leprosarium adjoined a Benedictine monastery, from which the train station takes its name. With marshy ground, the construction was carried out by filling and using the material residues of the first station. Its construction required 10,000 m3 of concrete, 1,800 tons of steel and 2,800 m3 of limestone, with 200 workers, mostly Italians.
Unique in its genre for being built 7 m. above the rails. In each of the four corners of the hall there are sculptures, allegories to the four provinces originally reached by train. Four pillars rise at 26 m. four immense arches supporting the glazed vault. In a decorative display, 775 m2 of stained glass windows cover its facades.
Although today the "Gare des Benedictins" is Limoges´ landmark, it was not unanimous at the beginning, having more detractors than admirers. Although construction specialists emphasize its technical prowess, as well as its beauty and power. It had unglamorous adjectives, comparing it to a huge pâté, a lard displayed in a showcase, with the hump of a camel as a dome or a religious reminiscence of an outdated past.
Did you know that the advertising spot for Chanel n. 5, performed by French actress Audrey Tautou, was filmed at the station?
Gare des Benedictins
4 Place Maison-Dieu
Limoges is surrounded by a generous land, its gastronomy is varied and based on local products, without great boasts, simple but authentic.
It is always difficult to choose a dish among so much variety, but I’m clear about that and it is one of my favorites, although not easy to find in every restaurant. These are the tender, tasty and exquisite lamb testicles. In France they are known as "Animelles", "Amourettes" or "Roglon Blanc" or white kidneys, they are not kidneys but testicles. I wonder how surprised some of you look, but the offal-lovers are already licking their lips. I can assure you that once you try it, you will love it. If you are still reluctant, try closing your eyes and enjoy its delicate texture.
The lamb is Limousin breed, distinguished with the Protected Geographical Indication. The animal is born, raised and slaughtered in the region. The testicles are peeled and soaked in cold water for 3 hours. They are then marinated in tarragon vinegar and aromatic herbs such as parsley, bay leaf, thyme and chopped garlic, after an hour drain you sprinkle with a few drops of lemon juice. Breaded and fried in butter, they are served in slices and parsley coated.
This dish is one of the main specialties of Limoges´ offal products in its restaurants or in the "Frairie des petits ventres", the annual and traditional gastronomic festival, held every third Friday of October in Limoges. The event was created to save the traditional butcher´s quarter from demolition to become a modern one. During the fair, typical local products are presented, such as chestnut blood sausage, blood, “Zarajo” (tripe) or testicles.
The pastry chefs and bakers sell local specialties such as fritters, "Clafouti" or cherry cake, "Burgou" or chestnut cake and "Trepaïs", a cake with chocolate and chestnut mousse, almond biscuit with brown glacé and almond dough, What els for dessert?!
PORCELAIN...BUT MAKE IT LIMOGES!
What comes to mind when we think of Limoges? Its world-famous porcelain. Created as a luxury item, only available to the nobility and the court.
The discovery of kaolin near Limoges was the trigger for the luxurious production. It is one of the components of porcelain, which gives it its characteristic white color. A type of clay mixed with feldspar to give hardness and quartz translucency, both form a paste and heated at high temperature inside a mold to give it shape, and the colors through metallic glazes.
Each piece was baked in large refractory brick kilns heated with wood extracted from trunks brought down the river from the surrounding forests. The numerous factories located along the river employed the majority of the same household. Wages were paid according to production, so the more members the family had, the more they earned.
The main items produced were tableware bearing the royal seal granted by royal privilege. With the passing of time and the loss of power of the nobility, tableware lost value.
With the advent of electricity, resources have been optimized by mass-producing and drastically reducing labor. Porcelain is transformed as an electrical supply due to its high isolating power. Who does not remember the switches used by our grandparents? Today, they are widely used in surgical and medical applications.
We also find all kinds of objects made with porcelain, some very chic, useful or decorative, such as lamps, chairs, knives or door knobs.
Can you imagine how original and exclusive these pieces would look in your home, a dinnerware set or a simple ashtray with the seal of authenticity to proudly display in front of your guests?
You can find porcelain items in the specialized stores in the center of Limoges, including the Four des Casseaux, a former factory listed as a historical monument.
Four des Cessaux Museum
28 rue Donzelot, Limoges
We have always imagined most fountains to be made of stone. If I were to ask you what material would you make it out of? The fountain next to the town hall combines materials that make it really spectacular. Guess what is one of its materials? Porcelain, indeed. You would never have imagined seeing a porcelain, bronze and granite fountain. An ideal combination in an environment of multicolored flowerbeds. The architect of such a brilliant work is the same one who made the dome of the Invalides in Paris.
As striking as the fountain are the pieces of porcelain placed on the grass of the square as decoration, as well as the benches located in the town hall square made of porcelain, by the way, very comfortable.
But what would the square be without the superb building that houses the town hall or Hotel de Ville as the French elegantly call it. Its monumentality has led it to be declared a historical monument. To finance its renovation work, the municipality appealed to popular patronage.
It must be that the inhabitants of the city pay too little taxes for the city council not to have enough for its renovations.
The construction of the building was made possible by a large donation from a wealthy local businessman who died without heirs.
His bust is placed in the center of the staircase in the entrance hall as a tribute to his generous contribution. The inscription reads "I name the city of Limoges as general and universal heir of all my movable and immovable property that I will leave at the time of my death".
The numerous windows covering its neoclassical facade give it slenderness and lightness. Two sculpted gables with allegories represent gold and enamel work, two crafts that would make Limoges universally renowned before porcelain. The building is topped by a chiming clock, holding the coat of arms of the city. Framed by the tower, 4 ceramic medallions hold the portraits of four illustrious citizens of the city.
Hotel de Ville
Place Léon Bétoule
APOSTLE OF GAUL!
St. Martial would have arrived in these lands from Rome, sent by the Pope to evangelize Gaul together with seven other companions, each one destined to a different region.
Saint Martial is the first bishop of Limoges and founder of the Christian church in southwestern Gaul. Among his great feats are the conversion of San Valeria or the resurrection of Aureliano, who, being a pagan priest, would have opposed the missionary activity of St. Martial; struck by lightning, the saint brings him back to life. Aurelian eventually converted to Christianity and became the second bishop of Limoges.
After the death of St. Martial, a crypt was built to guard his tomb and this led to the construction of the Abbey of St. Martial, which became an important place of pilgrimage when one of its monks proclaimed that St. Martial was the thirteenth apostle.
A Council is held in Limoges where the Pope preaches for the first time the First Crusade. The reputation of Limoges reached its peak when the Abbey of Saint-Martial became the largest center of cultural production in the Christian world. His achievements include the beginnings of poetry in the Occitan language, the origin of polyphony and the Limoges Enamels, which created the most beautiful goldsmith works of the Middle Ages. Their technique would be applied centuries later to Limoges Porcelain.
Unfortunately, the abbey fell into decadence, and the great wars dragged the abbey into oblivion and abandonment until its total disappearance.
On the ground of the former abbey, excavations for the construction of the parking lot of a department store, now the Galeries Lafayette, brought to light the crypt with the tomb of St. Martial, along with those of St. Valerie and Duke Stephen.
The remains of the Saint have been moved to a reliquary located on the main altar of St-Michel-des-Lions Church, known for its 4 stone lions, the tallest monument in the city.
Crypt of Saint Martial
Place de la République
To be visited from July 1st to September 30th.
Open every day from 9 am to 7 pm
I suggest an exercise: walk the slopes of the "Cité" district leading to the river bank by crossing its medieval bridge. From there we have a spectacular view of the historic neighborhood wedged at the foot of the cathedral.
Like Paris, Rome or Lisbon, Limoges stretches over 7 hills. From the lowest part of the city, on the river bank, to the highest part of the city, the height ranges from 200 meters. I recommend you to walk only the first part. Don´t worry, the walk is fairly short despite the up hills and it is also very interesting and enjoyable. I suggest going in the evening, perhaps after dinner to reduce the meal.
I have a pleasant memory the first time I did it, I was thrilled. Its narrow and empty streets. The silence and the dim light give a mystical atmosphere, a sense of serenity. After a long day of traveling, it was the best cure.
The starting point is the cathedral. Take the opportunity to visit the botanical gardens feeling the peaceful evening. On the side of the cathedral, opposite the gardens, is the Rue Porte Panet leading down hill. At the end of the street we take Rue Saint-Etienne leading us straight to the medieval bridge bearing the same name. At the beginning, on your right you will find the birth house of the military Marshal Jourdan. The slope gives an interesting perspective, both from above the street and from below. You can choose to walk up or down the street.
One of the streets you cannot miss is the stairway parallel Rue du Rajat with the washerwomen wooden bread houses, a tiny church and one of the few stone fountains still standing in the city.
Washerwomen were sturdy women and well known for not mincing their worlds. The tradition was passed down through generations. They worked on the riverbank as our elders did, on their knees rubbing on a wavy board using soap made from pig fat.
Quartiers de l’Abbes ailles
THEY WENT CRAZY FOR LOVE!
The cathedral of Limoges is certainly one of the main architectural symbols of the city. Of Gothic design, it took six centuries to complete the temple dedicated to the first martyr. Lack of funds, wars, fire, delayed its completion, but the wait was worth it and the result is great.
The door of San Juan is located in the north transept. The main door is facing west so the chancel is facing east where the light enters and our prayer is directed, the place of Christ´s martyrdom. The fourth side door faces south, where St. Martial converted the virgin martyr, St. Valeria to Christianity.
According to legend, Valeria was the daughter of the Roman governor of the city of Limoges. She had taken a vow of chastity to dedicate herself to a contemplative life. His father had engaged her to his successor, before his death. In fear, she gave all her wealth to the poor for the love of God. When the new governor, a large landowner, asks her to marry him and Valeria refuses, he gives the order to behead her. After the executioner told the governor how he saw angels carry away the soul of the deceased, he was struck by lightning. The new governor decides to convert to Christianity with the name of Stephen, like the cathedral.
A miracle makes Valeria pick up her head from the ground and walk to meet St. Martial who is celebrating mass at that moment. All these scenes can be seen depicted on the Saint John´s Gate.
Richard the Lionheart wore the ring of Saint Valeria when he was invested Duke of Aquitaine in the crypt of the Cathedral. Richard I is best known for holding the crown of England, although he hardly ever set foot on English land. Favorite of his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, he was raised by her in Aquitaine lands and he ered the duchy. His incumbents were crowned in the Cathedral of St. Stephen.
Cathedral of Saint-Etienne
Place de la Cathédral
Open every day except Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
BUTCHER´S SHOP NEIGHBORHOOD!
As soon as you step onto the Rue de la Boucherie, it is like walking back in time to the Middle Ages. Very picturesque street, its small alleys and wooden bread houses draw a picture of a fairy tale. The city´s butcher shops were gathered along the street. Previously the butcher was considered a vile, dirty and disreputable man. Because of their fame and for hygiene reasons, they were located far from the wealthy neighborhoods.
Our tour starts at no. 19 rue des Bucherie at the corner of rue Saint-Aurelien, at no. 2 of this street is the Chapel of Saint Aurelian where the remains of Saint Aurelian were found. Because of the proximity of the chapel, the butchers chose him as their patron saint.
The next stop is n. 36 where the traditional butcher´s house is located. It has been transformed into a small eco-museum. It is one of the 52 houses built at early s. XIII.
At the end of the street, in Place de la Motte we find the Halles, an original covered market made of brick, zinc, metal and glass with a frieze on its facade of Limoges porcelain.
We then continue along rue des Frereies and rue du Temple to stop at n.21 and discover one of the highlights of the city. It is a square surrounded by wooden houses supported by columns and connected by an open gallery in the Italian style and is covered with refractory bricks used in the baking of porcelain.
At the end of the street, continue on rue Jean Jaures. The third corner with rue Rafilhoux leads us to the Place Saint-Pierre where our tour ends with the Pavillon du Verdurier. It is an Art Deco building with an octagonal floor plan in reinforced concrete and decorated with mosaics and stoneware built by the same architect as the Benedictine Railway Station. Originally built as a meat packing plant to store meat imported from Argentina, today it is a trolleybus stop.
GARDENS AND MORE GARDENS!
In the heart of the historic district, other terraced gardens have been created in the former bishopric gardens, taking advantage of the slope on the river bank. After the law of church-state separation, the gardens are acquired by the city to become public gardens. It is the largest garden in the city with an area of 5 hectares where we can find more than 3000 plants.
As we walk through them, we are enchanted by the peace of the place, and we discover the different environments while gaining new knowledge.
The Bishopric gardens entering from the cathedral street are divided into 2 large areas:
-A French-style garden stretches along a vast esplanade, in the center a pond with a set of water jets, around it the flowerbeds are arranged in symmetrical layouts and geometric designs. An avenue lined with linden trees borders the former bishop´s palace converted into the Museum of Fine Arts.
-A large botanical garden, created as a place of observation for the students of the faculty of pharmacy. It is divided into 3 different spaces and themes:
Historical garden, it is the oldest of them all with about 1500 plants presented according to their classification; from ferns to conifers, from grasses to compositae, passing through aquatic plants, while learning about the history of each plant. The garden adjoins the chapel of the former abbey of Santa Maria della Règle, home of the Resistance Museum.
Practical or theme garden, located on the middle terrace, medicinal plants with their therapeutic properties used since ancient times, as well as aromatic plants, spices, odoriferous, industrial and coloring plants.
Ecological or natural environment garden, arranged on the lower terrace, represented by the plants of the region through five characteristic natural environments: oak, beech, moor, wetland and peat bog. From this garden you can access the abbey of Santa María de la Regla through a subway passage.
Jardín de l´ Evêché
Place de l ´ Evêché
Open 24 hours a day
Subway: Rue de la Règle
Open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm from Monday to Thursday.
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