A rich historical past
Since ancient times, Limeuil has been valued for its advantageous position at the confluence of the Dordogne and Vézère rivers, and for its limestone outcrop which provided a site for its strategic defences.
The Magdalenians (end of the Upper Paleolithic, about 10,000 BC) were the first to be attracted to this area, its fish-rich rivers and dominant postion. Between 1909 and 1913 the rock shelter in Limeuil was excavated, uncovering numerous engraved panels of animals, of remarkable quality, suggesting to historians that Limeuil may have become the centre of a school (style) of art.
On this same rocky outcrop the first Gallic fortress was built, entrenched behind a strong stockade; but this was seized by the armies of Julius Caesar who in their turn constructed a fortified settlement in order to establish their Pax Romana throughout the region, witnessed today by the remains of several roman villas in the valleys. The rivers were also the reason behind the reconstruction of the fortress to meet the threat of the invading Vikings, who renewed their attacks on the area between the 8th and 11th centuries, pillaging wealthy abbeys like the one in neighbouring Paunat.
Later, having become a feudal stronghold, Limeuil controlled the area thanks to its strategic location, but this also meant that it became the focus of Anglo French conflict in the Hundred Years War. Alternately held by the French, then the English, Limeuil suffered greatly during this conflict, as demonstrated by the murder of its Seigneur, Jean de Beaufort, in 1420, by the people of Limeuil, driven to despair by his acts of violence.
The french victory at Castillon-la-Bataille in 1453, marking the end of the Hundred Years' War, saw the beginning of the revitalisation of Limeuil's economy, particularly its river trading. In one year, 1529, the town held three trade fairs.
However, peace was shortlived. The 16th century Wars of Religion once again saw Limeuil in the role of fortress. The Seigneur at the time, Galiot de la Tour, had the reputation "of being a violent man, desiring to hunt down the Huguenots", under the command of his cousin, Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne (father of the famous military leader Turenne).
Armorial shield "1674"
After so much misery caused by these wars, it is not surprising that Limeuil found itself at the centre of the Croquant peasant revolt of 1594, and of further uprisings in 1636.
Il faudra attendre le XIXe siècle pour que Limeuil se relève et atteigne son apogée économique avec le commerce fluvial. It was not until the 19th century that Limeuil finally reached the peak of its economic success through river trading. Goods and materials were transported by river craft, and delivered to the artisans, in turn creating work for tradesmen and merchants. In 1881, 80 artisans were working in Limeuil (carpenters, coopers, wheelwrights) serving a population of about 800. The Dordogne was a vital artery bringing barges loaded with chestnut wood from the Auvergne down to Bergerac and Bordeaux, where the wood was made into wine vats and barrels. However, the coming of the railways led to a decline in the importance of river traffic and a subsequent loss of Limeuil's artisans and workers. But our beautiful village has once again regained the life and spirit of earlier times with a new generation of artisans and visitors.