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Visiting Audun-le-Tiche, France, and its Protestant church dating from the former, German Imperial presence
A building's fortunes tied to a German Emperor
The history of France's borderlands is in some ways marked by significant differences from trends and features which characterize the remainder of what is one of Europe's largest countries. One of these places where striking differences may be seen is Audun-le-Tiche, in the Moselle department of eastern France. After the Franco-Prussian War and prior to the Treaty of Versailles, 1919, this area was incorporated into the German Empire, and influences from this presence may still be seen in various ways in the locality.
One of these aspects relates to the religious history of the town. Because of the German presence in the area, a Protestant church building has survived, the tower and spire of which are still a local landmark. There are in fact 'pockets' of Protestantism which have survived — despite much persecution in centuries past — in certain parts of France (particularly in the South); but the Protestant church buildings which exist in the part of Lorraine which was annexed to Germany in the 19th century mainly owe their existence to this period of history (1). Thus, Protestant churches such as this one in rue du Maréchal-Foch in Audun-le-Tiche largely owe their existence to an influx of Germans after the Franco-Prussian War.
Built in 1893 during the reign of German Emperor William II (French: Guillaume II ; German: Wilhelm II ), this building's eventual redundancy was in principle set in motion by the departure of local, German residents, following the abdication of the same Emperor at the end of World War One. Following the significant departure of Germans, some of them Protestants, the church's numbers dwindled and fell into disuse: even funerals and burials were held elsewhere, and the fabric of the building fell into disrepair.
It is thus quite remarkable that this late 19th century church should owe both its very existence and find the seeds of the eventual demise of its religious use to the same person: Emperor William II.
However, more recently this former Protestant church at Audun-le-Tiche has been restored, and interestingly the French authorities, headed by the municipality of Audun-le-Tiche, have been willing to meet substantially the costs of the refurbishment. This restoration process has included a new roof and external masonry work.
Internally, one of the building's noted features is an organ, built between 1902 and 1906, which is said still to be in good working order.
Though now no longer used for religious purposes, the municipality of Audun-le-Tiche has plans to use the restored building as a cultural centre.
(1) The city of Metz, in the same Moselle department, possesses two cathedral-sized edifices, one of them Protestant, dating from the Imperial German annexation period. Interestingly, also, Luxembourg City has a German-speaking Protestant church dating from pre-Imperial times, when Prussia maintained a garrison in Luxembourg prior to 1867.
Also worth seeing
In Audun-le-Tiche itself is a Merovingian necropolis museum.
Esch-sur-Alzette , Luxembourg (distance: 4.1 kilometres) has a Resistance museum, with a focus on opposition to Nazi German occupation in World War Two.
How to get there: The nearest large international airport to Audun-le-Tiche is Luxembourg (Aéroport de Luxembourg ), at Findel, from where car hire is available. For North American travellers making the London, England area their touring base, airlines flying to Luxembourg include Luxair (from London Heathrow Airport and London City Airport) and CityJet (from London City Airport). The French railroad company SNCF maintains a station in Audun-le-Tiche but uniquely in France the service is operated by the Luxembourg railroad company CFL via Esch-sur-Alzette. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
Other of my hubpages may also be of interest
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- Visiting Metz, France: a tale of two distinct types of church architecture
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