Metz is a city in the northeast of France, capital of the Lorraine région
and préfecture of the département of Moselle.
It is located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille rivers.
Although historically Nancy was the capital of the duchy of Lotharingia,
it was Metz which was chosen as the capital of the newly created région of
Lorraine in the middle of the 20th century, because of its past history as the
capital of the region of Lotharingia - an origin found much more republican-friendly
than the duchy-related theory, pointing to Nancy as the region capital.
read full wikipedia reference about Metz, France
METZ (pronounced "Mess"),
the capital of Lorraine, lies on the east bank of the River Moselle,
close to the Autoroute de l'Est, linking Paris and Strasbourg, and the main train line. Its
origins go back at least to Roman times, when, as now, it stood
astride major trade routes. On the death of Charlemagne it became
the capital of Lothar's portion of his empire, managing to maintain
its prosperity in spite of the dynastic wars that followed. By
the Middle Ages it had sufficient wealth and strength to proclaim
itself an independent republic, which it remained until its absorption
into France in 1552.
A frontier town caught
between warring influences, Metz has endured more than its share
of history's vicissitudes, none more gruesome than those it has
suffered in the last 130 years. In 1870, when Napoléon
III's defeated armies were forced to surrender to Kaiser Bill,
it was ceded to Germany. It recovered its liberty at the end
of World War I in 1918, only to be re-annexed by Hitler in 1940
before being liberated again by American troops in 1944.
Although its only really
important sight is the magnificent cathedral, Metz is not at
all the dour place you might expect from its northern geography
and industrial background. The university founded here in the
1970s is at least partly responsible for its liveliness
Metz in effect is two towns:
the original French quarters , gathered round the cathedral,
and the Ville allemande , undertaken as part of a once-and-for-all
process of Germanification after the Prussian occupation in 1870.
The latter, although unmistakably Teutonic in style, has considerable
elegance and grandeur. The gare SNCF sets the tone, a vast and
splendid granite structure of 1870 in Rhenish Romanesque, which
looks like a bizarre cross between a Scottish laird's hunting
lodge and a dungeon. Its gigantic dimensions reflect the Germans'
long-term strategic intention to use it as the fulcrum of their
military transport system in subsequent wars of conquest against
the French. It is matched by the post office opposite as well
as by some imposing bourgeois apartment buildings in the surrounding
streets. The whole quarter was meant to serve as a model of superior
town planning, in contrast to the squalid Latin hugger-mugger
of the old French neighbourhoods, which begin five minutes' walk
to the north in place de la République.
The place de la République
is a main parking area, bounded on the east side by shops and
cafés, with army barracks to the south and the formal
gardens of the Esplanade , overlooking the Moselle, to the west.
To the right, as you look down the esplanade from the square,
is the handsome classical Palais de Justice in yellow stone.
To the left, a gravel drive leads past the old arsenal, now converted
into a prestigious concert hall by the postmodernist architect
Riccardo Bofill. It continues to the church of St-Pièrre-aux-Nonnains
, not much to look at but claiming to be one of the oldest churches
in France, with elements from the fourth century. Nearby is another
historic church: the octagonal thirteenth-century Chapelle des
From the north side of
place de la République, rue des Clercs cuts through the
attractive, bustling and largely pedestrianized heart of the
old city, where most of the shops are located. Past the place
St-Jacques , with its numerous outdoor cafés, you come
to the eighteenth-century place d'Armes , where the lofty Gothic
Cathedral of St-Étienne towers above the pedimented and
colonnaded classical facade of the Hôtel de Ville. It boasts
the tallest nave in France after Beauvais and Amiens cathedrals,
but its best feature is without doubt the stained glass, both
medieval and modern, including windows by Chagall in the north
transept and ambulatory.
From the cathedral a short
walk up rue des Jardins brings you to the city's best museum,
the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire , 2 rue du Haut-Poirier
(daily 10am-noon & 2-6pm), a treasure house of Gallo-Roman
sculpture, but equally strong on mock-ups of vernacular architecture
from the medieval and Renaissance periods. The art section is
less impressive, although it includes works by Corot and Delacroix.
When the museum was extended in the 1930s, the remains of Roman
baths were discovered, and they are now one of the most interesting
things about the museum.
For the city's most compelling
townscape, as well as the most dramatic view of the cathedral,
you have only to go down to the river bank and cross to the tiny
Île de la Comédie , dominated by its classical eighteenth-century
square and theatre (the oldest in France) and a rather striking
Protestant church erected under the German occupation. An older
and equally beautiful square is the place St-Louis with its Gothic
arcades some ten minutes' walk to the east of the cathedral along
the curiously named rue En-Fournirue. On the way, wander up into
the Italianate streets climbing the hill of Ste-Croix to your
left, the legacy of the Lombard bankers who came to run the city's
finances in the thirteenth century. It's worth continuing east
from the place des Paraiges, at the end of rue En-Fournirue,
down the rue des Allemands to have a look at the Porte des Allemands
- a massive, fortified double gate that once barred the eastern
entrances to the medieval city.
After a long day, you'll
have no trouble finding a nice café or bar to relax in.
Rue des Jardins has some interesting shops - clothes, records
and antiques/junk - and at night, the cathedral and other significant
buildings are lit up, making for a pleasant late stroll.
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