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The 18th century Archbishop’s Palace

living places to visit | 27 The flamboyant Gothic Saint-Jean transept, c1530

construction would continue sporadically right up until 1888, the final phase being to extend the nave to reach the bell tower which had survived from the Romanesque church. No doubt the decision to incorporate it was seen as a less costly alternative to the monumental twin-towered western façades which commonly adorn French cathedrals elsewhere. If it was a compromise, there’s no denying the visual impact of the 62m-high tower in its present form. During the 14th century two of the original square Romanesque storeys were reinforced massively to support three octagonal

A symphony of sunlight and medieval stained glass

and we can still have the great pleasure of strolling across it to gaze from the opposite bank at the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne, peering back enticingly from an elevated site known as ‘La Cité ’. Today the bustling heart of Limoges lies a little further south, replacing a fortified town built on the original Roman city, an area still sometimes referred to as ‘Le Château’. That takes the pressure off the old streets

The gargoyles’ silent vigil

around the cathedral, which are worth exploring, as are the Jardins de l’Évêché, 2 hectares of lovingly tended landscaped parkland and themed botanical areas. From the large medieval-style garden recreated beside the southern flanks of the cathedral you can understand why all France was in awe of the great Gothic showpieces which appeared in the Paris basin during the 12th century. Few southern towns, though, could contemplate such costly undertakings but Limoges was prosperous, and on 1 June, 1273 laid the foundation stone of the elegant creation we see today, on the site of an 11th century Romanesque church (the crypt survives, hidden beneath the choir). By around 1327 the apse and choir had been completed, although thereafter things slowed, to say the least. In fact,

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Living Magazine April/May 19