|The area of Limoges in central France has an ancient history, much of
which is lost in the mists of time. We know that the city proper was
founded as Augustoritum in approximately 10 B.C., part of a regional
reorganization by the emperor Augustus. The Roman city included a theater,
a forum, and amphitheater. There were temples dedicated to Venus, Diana,
Minerva and Jupiter in the area that is now near a modern cathedral. It
was an important city in the imperial age and the capital of Gaul.
In c. 251 A.D., Pope Fabian sent seven bishops to spread the gospel
throughout Gaul. Bishop Martial was sent to Limoges. Bishop Martial
was buried just outside the Roman city and his tomb became an important
pilgrimage site. The site became the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Martial in
the 9th century, and was considered one of the greatest pilgrimage churches of
Western Christianity, housing a library that was among the greatest in all of
Europe. The presence of the abbey and library led to the development of
Limoges as a flourishing artistic centre throughout medieval times.
During the 17th century, the first French source of kaolin, a white clay
material similar to that used to make highly prized Chinese porcelain, was
discovered at Saint-Yrieix, near Limoges. The discovery of kaolin in
France made possible the manufacture of hard-paste porcelain, a material far
superior in strength and longevity than the soft-paste porcelain that was
Throughout the 18th century, hinged boxes became increasingly popular,
containing everything from jewelry to tobacco. Elegant ladies and
gentlemen were enchanted by the detailed decorations that the artists of Limoges
produced. Each box was hand painted and included an element of whimsy that
delighted and enchanted everyone. Madame de Pompadour was an early
collector, among others. Louis XVI purchased the first factory
manufacturing the hard-paste porcelain just before the revolution, in 1784.
After the French Revolution, private factories producing the white porcelain
began to emerge. Today, there are a number of factories producing the
famous Limoges Porcelain.
See all Limoges Boxes