LIMOGES, a town of west-central France, capital of the department of Haute-Vienne, formerly capital of the old province of Limousin, 176 m. S. by W. of Orleans on the railway to Toulouse. Pop. (1906) town, 75,906; commune, 88,597. The station is a junction for Poitiers, Angoulême, Périgueux and Clermont-Ferrand. The town occupies a hill on the right bank of the Vienne, and comprises two parts originally distinct, the Cité with narrow streets and old houses occupying the lower slope, and the town proper the summit. In the latter a street known as the Rue de la Boucherie is occupied by a powerful and ancient corporation of butchers. The site of the fortifications which formerly surrounded both quarters is occupied by boulevards, outside which are suburbs with wide streets and spacious squares. The cathedral, the most remarkable building in the Limousin, was begun in 1273. In 1327 the choir was completed, and before the middle of the 16th century the transept, with its fine north portal and the first two bays of the nave; from 1875 to 1890 the construction of the nave was continued, and it was united with the west tower (203 ft. high), the base of which belongs to a previous Romanesque church. In the interior there are a magnificent rood loft of the Renaissance, and the tombs of Jean de Langeac (d. 1541) and other bishops. Of the other churches of Limoges, St Michel des Lions (14th and 15th centuries) and St Pierre du Queyroix (12th and 13th centuries) both contain interesting stained glass. The principal modern buildings are the town hall and the law-courts. The Vienne is crossed by a railway viaduct and four bridges, two of which, the Pont St Étienne and the Pont St Martial, date from the 13th century. Among the chief squares are the Place d’Orsay on the site of a Roman amphitheatre, the Place Jourdan with the statue of Marshal J. B. Jourdan, born at Limoges, and the Place d’Aine with the statue of J. L. Gay-Lussac. President Carnot and Denis Dussoubs, both of whom have statues, were also natives of the town. The museum has a rich ceramic collection and art, numismatic and natural history collections.

Limoges is the headquarters of the XII. army corps and the seat of a bishop, a prefect, a court of appeal and a court of assizes, and has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a board of trade arbitration, a chamber of commerce and a branch of the Bank of France. The educational institutions include a lycée for boys, a preparatory school of medicine and pharmacy, a higher theological seminary, a training college, a national school of decorative art and a commercial and industrial school. The manufacture and decoration of porcelain give employment to about 13,000 persons in the town and its vicinity. Shoe-making and the manufacture of clogs occupy over 2000. Other industries are liqueur-distilling, the spinning of wool and cloth-weaving, printing and the manufacture of paper from straw. Enamelling, which flourished at Limoges in the middle ages and during the Renaissance (see Enamel), but subsequently died out, was revived at the end of the 19th century. There is an extensive trade in wine and spirits, cattle, cereals and wood. The Vienne is navigable for rafts above Limoges, and the logs brought down by the current are stopped at the entrance of the town by the inhabitants of the Naveix quarter, who form a special gild for this purpose.

Limoges was a place of importance at the time of the Roman conquest, and sent a large force to the defence of Alesia. In 11 B.C. it took the name of Augustus (Augustoritum); but in the 4th century it was anew called by the name of the Lemovices, whose capital it was. It then contained palaces and baths, had its own senate and the right of coinage. Christianity was introduced by St Martial. In the 5th century Limoges was devastated by the Vandals and the Visigoths, and afterwards suffered in the wars between the Franks and Aquitanians and in the invasions of the Normans. Under the Merovingian kings Limoges was celebrated for its mints and its goldsmiths’ work. In the middle ages the town was divided into two distinct parts, each surrounded by walls, forming separate fiefs with a separate system of administration, an arrangement which survived till 1792. Of these the more important, known as the Château, which grew up round the tomb of St Martial in the 9th century, and was surrounded with walls in the 10th and again in the 12th, was under the jurisdiction of the viscounts of Limoges, and contained their castle and the monastery of St Martial; the other, the Cité, which was under the jurisdiction of the bishop, had but a sparse population, the habitable ground being practically covered by the cathedral, the episcopal palace and other churches and religious buildings. In the Hundred Years’ War the bishops sided with the French, while the viscounts were unwilling vassals of the English. In 1370 the Cité, which had opened its gates to the French, was taken by the Black Prince and given over to fire and sword.

The religious wars, pestilence and famine desolated Limoges in turn, and the plague of 1630–1631 carried off more than 20,000 persons. The wise administrations of Henri d’Aguesseau, father of the chancellor, and of Turgot enabled Limoges to recover its former prosperity. There have been several great fires, destroying whole quarters of the city, built, as it then was, of wood. That of 1790 lasted for two months, and destroyed 192 houses; and that of 1864 laid under ashes a large area. Limoges celebrates every seven years a curious religious festival (Fête d’Ostension), during which the relics of St Martial are exposed for seven weeks, attracting large numbers of visitors. It dates from the 10th century, and commemorates a pestilence (mal des ardents) which, after destroying 40,000 persons, is believed to have been stayed by the intercession of the saint.

Limoges was the scene of two ecclesiastical councils, in 1029 and 1031. The first proclaimed the title of St Martial as “apostle of Aquitaine”; the second insisted on the observance of the “truce of God.” In 1095 Pope Urban II. held a synod of bishops here in connexion with his efforts to organize a crusade, and on this occasion consecrated the basilica of St Martial (pulled down after 1794).

See Célestin Poré, Limoges, in Joanne’s guides, De Paris à Ager (1867); Ducourtieux, Limoges d’après ses anciens plans (1884) and Limoges et ses environs (3rd ed., 1894). A very full list of works on Limoges, the town, viscounty, bishopric, &c., is given by U. Chevalier in Répertoire des sources hist. du moyen âge. Topo-bibliogr. (Mont Céliard, 1903), t. ii. s.v.