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16 | living places to visit

The Pont Saint-Martial, constructed in 1215

Heart of The interior soars to 23 metres

In the ancient quarter of a bustling city lies a dazzling medieval masterpiece in tough Limousin granite. WORDS & PHOTOS: ROGER MOSS

elving into the origins of just about any major town or city in France will reveal a lot about how it came to be sited where we see it today. In the case of Limoges it was all down to one of the few viable points to cross the Vienne river, at a spot which was not only generally fordable but which could also be defended from plateaux on either bank. That clearly appealed to the Romans, who around 10BC constructed a multi-arched stone bridge to keep things moving safely and efficiently on the Via Agrippa, a strategic route between Lyon and Saintes. On the western plateau they founded the city of Augustoritum, whose importance grew in response to

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the increasing flow of traded goods, not to mention frequent military movements. The gallo-Roman bridge was clearly built to last, for it remained in use right up until the town was placed under siege by Henri Plantagenet in 1182, and its foundations still underpin its successor, the 85m-long Pont Saint-Martial, constructed in 1215. By then, however, the river had gained a second crossing, in the shape of the nearby Pont Saint-Étienne, completed around 1203 and originally defended by a tower and drawbridge at either end. Almost seven centuries later it was understandably in need of substantial repairs, and was threatened with demolition. Happily a public campaign to preserve it was successful,

Profile for Living Magazine

Living Magazine April/May 19