Ancient and medieval history
Scarce remains of pre-urban settlements have been found in the area of Limoges. The capital of the Gaulish people of the Lemovices, who lived in the area, was probably some kilometres south-east of Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat.
The city proper was founded as Augustoritum by the Romans, around 10 BC: "rito-" is Gaulish for "ford". The foundation was part of the reorganization of the province by the emperor Augustus, hence the new name. The Roman city included an amphitheatre measuring 136 x 115 metres, a theatre, a forum, baths and several sanctuaries. According to tradition, a temple consecrated to Venus, Diana, Minerva and Jupiter was located near the modern cathedral. The city was on the typical Roman square plan, with two main streets crossing in the centre. It had a Senate and a currency of its own, a sign of its importance in the imperial age. Later, like many towns and cities in Gaul, it was renamed after the tribe (here the Lemovices) whose chief town it was; "Lemovices" changed into "Limoges", and "Lemovicinus" for the area around changed into "Limousin".
Limoges was evangelized by Saint Martial, who came to the city around 250 with two companions, Alpinianus and Austriclinienus. However, in the late 3rd century it was increasingly abandoned, due to unsafe conditions created by the invasions of various Germanic tribes. The population was concentrated instead in a more easily fortifiable site, the modern Puy Saint-Étienne, which is the centre of the modern Limoges. Starting from the construction of the Abbey of St. Martial (9th century), another settlement grew around the tomb of the saint, while a third area, next to the residence of the viscount (the future Castle of Saint Martial), seems to have been populated from the 10th century.
Starting from the 11th century, thanks to the presence of the Abbey of St. Martial and its large library, Limoges became a flourishing artistic centre. It also was home to an important school of medieval music composition, which is usually called the St. Martial School; its most famous member was the 13th-century troubadour Bertran de Born.
In the 13th century, at the peak of its splendour, central Limoges consisted of two fortified settlements.
In 1370, Limoges was occupied by Edward, the Black Prince, who massacred some 3,000 residents, according to Froissart. See Massacre of Limoges. However, Froissart's account is described in Jonathan Sumption's account of the war as "exaggerated and embroidered with much imaginary detail." Citing a monk of St. Martial's Abbey, Sumption posits that a more reliable figure for the number killed is around 300 people, "perhaps a sixth of the normal population," with another 60 members of the garrison of 140 dead as well.
The city and castle were united in 1792 to form the single city of Limoges. During the French Revolution several religious edifices, considered symbols of the Ancien Régime, were destroyed by the population: these included the Abbey of St. Martial itself.
Some years later the porcelain industry started to develop, favoured by the presence of kaolinite which was discovered near Limoges in 1768. Many of the inhabitants became employed in the new sector or in connected activities (including the lumbering of wood needed for firing the porcelain) in manufacture and exporting needed for European distribution of Limoges Boxes, dinnerware, and other porcelain wares.
In the 19th century Limoges saw strong construction activity, which included the destruction and rebuilding of much of the city centre. This was necessary, as the town was regarded as unhealthy because of prostitution. The unsafe conditions of the poorer population is highlighted by the outbreak of several riots, including that of July–November 1830; April 1848 and early 1905. The first French confederation of workers, Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) (General Confederation of Labour), was created in Limoges in 1895.
The city is known for its basketball team CSP Limoges which became European champion in 1993. It was the first French club team to become European champion in a collective sport. The team currently plays in Pro A, the French first basketball professional division.