|Location:||Tickets sold at the Cité des Métiers et des Arts and the Office de tourisme de Limoges. Entrance in the Jardins de l'Evêché.|
JUL to Aug daily 15:30, 16:30, 17:30, 18:30.
The open hours are very complicated and change continually. The best is to contact the Office de tourisme de Limoges.
Long tour: Adults EUR 5, Children (6-16) EUR 3, Children (0-5) free, Unemployed, EUR 3, Students EUR 3.
Short tour: Adults EUR 3.
Long tour: D=1h.
Short tour: D=30min.
Office de tourisme de Limoges, 12 bd de Fleurus, 87000 Limoges, Tel: +33-555-344687.
Cité des métiers et des arts, 5 Rue de la Règle, 87000 Limoges, Tel: +33-555-325784.
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|9th cty||Abbaye Féminine de la Règle founded.|
|13th/14th cty||buildings and cellars erected.|
|1993||opened to the public.|
The souterrain de la Règle (underground of the Règle) is a typical urban underground, a combination of the labor of many centuries with different purposes and changing use. Once again the Romans were the first, they constructed underground water tunnels or aqueducts. Most tunnels were built between the 10th and the 13th century. They were needed as storage space, as cellars, for the merchants of a crowded and narrow market town. The fortified city had only limited space, limited by its city walls, and like the skyscrapers in New York, the multilevel cellars were a way to use a different dimension: the vertical dimension. And off course, underground cellars were ideal to store wine, beer, vegetables and so on, because of the lower temperature and humidity. Many goods required those special conditions.
During the centuries, the cellars were continually enlarged. Time after time a second level was constructed, cellar enlarged until they met. After some time there was a second, underground city and it was possible to walk underground for many kilometers. There were up to seven levels of cellars. The cellars were equipped with ventilation shafts, so the air quality was sufficient. There were elevators for goods, water canals, sewer canals, and people living most of their life underground.
The city of Limoges is built on granite, and this crystalline rock is very hard, and extremely difficult to build inside. Granite is demanding for modern gear, it is not workable with Medieval gear. But the granite below Limoges was weathered by acidic water, which destroyed the rock and produced a residual which is called tufa. This is neither volcanic ash, which is called tufa, nor sweet water limestone, deposited by limestone rich water, which is also called tufa or travertine. Tufa is actually a term describing the fact, that the rock is not solid, it is soft and porous. This tufa here is porous because of the weathering. It was easier to dig in this tufa than in solid rock, nevertheless it was rather stable, the cellars did not collapse.
But like always there were drawbacks. The cellars were used for secret meetings, there was theft and the underground had to be fortified and protected like the buildings on the surface. While cellars were connected, others were cut off by massive walls.
And finally the historic development made the walls of the city obsolete. This had enormous impact on the cellars, many of them were not needed any more. The city expanded into its outskirts, storage buildings were erected, goods which do not particularly need the cave climate were stored in dry houses. The storage buildings were accessible by cart, there was no need to transport the goods up and down staircases. And so many cellars were abandoned.
The city is built on a huge labyrinth of passages, which were abandoned long ago. This is actually a big danger to the city, as there is the problem of collapse. Even if the cellars are stable, they may not be stable enough for new building, so every construction work is dangerous. Until now 10 kilometers of passages have been explored and mapped, but most of it is unsafe. This will be a problem for many years to come. And unfortunately the cheapest solution is in most cases, to fill the cellars with concrete and bury the remains of former times.
The only part of the underground which is open to the public is located below the former Abbaye Féminine de la Règle (women's abbey of Règle). The abbey was founded in the 9th century, but much construction work was done during the 13th and 14th century. The abbey was abandoned after the French revolution, the jardins de l'Evéché are located today at its former site. The cellars are reached through a small door in the gardens opposite the museum Cité des métiers et des arts.