Visiting Metz, France: A Tale of Two Distinct Types of Church Architecture
French and German history intertwined
The city of Metz in eastern France has belonged to both France and Germany within the past 100 years. The historical process of change in jurisdictions can be seen in the styles of church architecture at Metz.
The Medieval cathedral
The cathedral of St. Stephen (Cathédrale Saint-Etienne ) was formed in the 14th century from two already existing church buildings. It was further enlarged in the 15th century and deemed to be completed in the 16th century. Damaged in the 19th century during the German period of the city's government, it was subsequently restored in keeping with its Gothic style.
The stained glass windows of the Cathedral are the work of the 14th century craftsman Hermann von Muenster. These windows are said to the largest stained glass windows in the world.
The Cathedral is situated in the square known as the place d'Armes and thus lies in the heart of the old city.
The German-built 'Temple Neuf'
The cathedral-like, monumental church now known as the Temple Neuf (New Church)(1), situated on Petit-Saulcy island in a channel of the Moselle River , was commenced in 1901, after the French department of Moselle had been annexed by Germany, together with Alsace, following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. It was inaugurated in 1904 in the presence of German Emperor William II.
The style of the spired building is neo-Romanesque, and the architect was Conrad Wahn (1851-1920), who also designed various other buildings in Metz, during the German annexation period. The building material was Vosges stone. Like the large railroad station also built during this period, the Temple Neuf is thus noted for its monumentality and the sense of the supposed permanence of the Imperial German presence in the city. (However, after World War One, the city of Metz, together with the remainder of Alsace-Lorraine, reverted to France.)
(1) The word temple in French is often employed for a church building used by Protestants, whereas the word église is usually employed for the more numerous buildings associated with a Roman Catholic rite.
Also worth seeing
In Metz itself, other noted buildings include:
The 4th century Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains ; the railroad station (Gare de Metz-Ville ), also built under the German Imperial government (see above), interesting also because of its association with Jean Moulin, a leader of the French Resistance in World War Two; Foch Avenue has many attractive Belle Epoque buildings; the Porte des Allemands (Gate of the Germans) is a well preserved former entrance to the city dating from the 13th century.
Nancy (distance: 57 kilometres) has the 18th century place Stanislas (Stanislas square), which is architecturally outstanding and dates from a period when the city did not yet belong to France, but ruled by the Duke of Lorraine.
Lac de Madine (distance: 57 kilometres) is a huge, artificial lake with a surface area of 11 square kilometres, with sizeable sailing and recreational opportunities.
Audun-le-Tiche (distance: 55 kilometres); situated on the border of Luxembourg, this town has a Merovingian necropolis museum.
Luxembourg City ,
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (distance: 64 kilometres); the numerous visitor attractions of this city include the Adolphe bridge over the Pétrusse valley, the Grand Ducal palace and the Cathedral.
How to get there: Continental Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle ), where car rental is available. (Paris-Metz, distance: 332 kilometres). The French railroad company SNCF maintains services from Paris to Metz. 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.