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THE BISHOPS' PALACE

   History of the palace


The former Episcopal Palace, currently occupied by the museum, was  built by Joseph Brousseau between 1766 and 1773 for the Bishop of Limoges, Louis-Charles Duplessis d'Argentré.

However, the residence's interior decoration went on during the following years, beyond the French Revolution in 1789.

After being used as a barracks and then a hospital, the museum's decoration was restored from the Concordat onwards (1802) and completed during the 19th century.

The chapel kept its altar topped with a Suvée painting of Saint Louis venerating the relics of the Passion in a frame carved by Babel (1772), but in the second half of the 19th century it also received a tabernacle in Neo-Romanesque style, tapestries, an Aubusson rug and some stained glass windows.

Following the law separating Church and State, the building, still vacant at the end of 1906, was awarded the status of Monument historique on 16th September 1909.

In 1912, the Episcopal Palace became the Municipal Museum, which would later become the Limoges Fine Arts Museum.

Adopting the aesthetic quality of an urban mansion, built between the courtyard and the gardens, it has an ingenious Neo-Classic design. The cathedral's street, created upon the request of the sleeping partner and his architect, is designed to clear the area surrounding the building's tower entrance and to highlight the new square, which serves as a forecourt for the Episcopal Palace. Entering the monumental gates, the palace's majestic granite face emerges: its huge half moon grand courtyard is delimited by two entrance wings, brighten up with an orangery in the gardens. 

 

   Joseph Brousseau  

The architect Joseph Brousseau was born in Solignac, near Limoges, in around 1733 and died in 1797. Trained as a stone mason, he gradually reached the top of his work becoming a stone trimmer and then an architect, providing him with knowledge of all aspects of the profession. 

In 1765, he was chosen by the Bishop of Limoges, Louis-Charles Duplessis d'Argentré, to build a new Episcopal Palace (the prelate has already obtained funds from King Louis XV to rebuilt it).

The former residence an urban castle commissioned by Bishop Jean de Langeac in 1535 before being interrupted by the prelate's death in 1541 – was no longer occupied from the end of the 17th century, and had a very dilapidated appearance in the mid 18th century.

Though, the reasons for choosing this thirty-two-year-old architect are not clear – perhaps his experience was known enough – it seems obvious that Monseigneur d'Argentré took Brousseau under his wing (he sent him to Paris to study architecture with Victor Louis, the Bordeaux Grand-Théâtre architect) and found contracts for him.

By 1770, his fortune and success were clearly established. In Limoges, his work is visible both in public buildings (main housing  of the college area, today Gay-Lussac school; the General Hospital wing, today part of the Francophone Multimedia Library; the Chapel of the Visitation integrated into the future Department Hall and the Chapel of Providence) and mansions (Bourdeau house, Rue du Consulat). He died in Normandy where he was the creator of the Episcopal Palace in Sées, built for the local bishop, the brother of the Bishop of Limoges.

  

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