The history of silk in Touraine dates back to 1470 when French king Louis XI decided to create the first royal silk manufacture in Tours.
The presence of the royal court in the Loire Valley and the frequent royal parties organised in the region boosted the need for precious fabrics. Within a century silk production provided a source of income to half of the population and Tours became as important as some of its Italian rival towns.
A combination of events forced the decline of this flourishing industry : the tough competition of Lyon's weavers, the fading presence of the royal court in Touraine and the French wars of religion. The final blow was given by the French revolution.
The development of the Jacquard mechanical loom gave a new life to the silk industry in the 1830s when the region started specialising in the production of furnishing fabrics. Two companies are still active in Touraine today : "Le Manach" and "Roze". Both provide high quality materials to decorators and designers all around the world.
The French word "magnanerie" indicates a place where silkworms are reared. Sericulture, the practice of breeding silkworms for the production of raw silk, has been underway at La Magnanerie since the 17th century.
Today, we still use the same alcoves sculpted in the rock hundreds of years ago and your host will go through the various stages of production with you.
"Tuffeau" is our regional marine limestone. We call it the "stone of light" or "the stone of kings". The best quality of this stone is to be found in Bourré. No building material is more noble than the "white tuffeau of Bourré" and many Loire valley castles or aristocratic residences used it extensively during the Renaissance period.
Our "tuffeau" was formed a long long time ago from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as corals and shells and many fossils were found in the galleries created to quarry the precious stones.
The inhabitants of our traditional cave dwellings are called "troglodytes". Although in historical times living in a cave was more a matter of necessity than choice, today many people around the world choose to live in caves. It is estimated that twenty-five thousand people live in caves and rock dwellings in France.
"Cave dwellings are very much like wombs, because they seem to closely embrace us in a protective shield of stillness, sheltering us from harm, soothing our spirits. Since we all spent the first nine months of our lives in our mother's womb, the womblike enclosure and curvaceous structure of a cave feels natural to us" (Celeste Adams, The Magic of Living in the Earth).