Metz, France Walking Tour (with Subtitles) Summer 2021
Thanks for joining us for our walk through Metz. A historic garrison town, Metz is the prefecture of the Moselle department and the seat of the parliament of the Grand Est region. The city is also the economic heart of the Lorraine region, specialising in information technology and automotive industries. The historic city centre is one of the largest commercial pedestrian areas in France. A three thousand year old city that is renowned for its beautiful gardens, Metz is today a very green city. The Metz metropolitan area is home to some 390,000 inhabitants.
We now walk to the large covered fresh market, opposite the cathedral, that was historically the bishops' palace. Today the market hosts stalls selling fruits, meats, cheeses, local alcohols and other regional specialties. Metz Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Stephen. First begun in the early 14th century, it was joined together with the collegiate church of Notre-Dame in the mid-14th century, and finished between 1486 and 1520. Metz Cathedral has the third-highest nave of cathedrals in France (41.41 meters (135.9 ft)), behind Amiens Cathedral and Beauvais Cathedral. It is nicknamed la Lanterne du Bon Dieu ("the Good Lord's lantern"), displaying the largest expanse of stained glass in the world with 6,496 m2 (69,920 sq ft).
The stained glass windows include works by Gothic and Renaissance master glass makers Hermann von Münster, Theobald of Lixheim, and Valentin Bousch. Later artistic styles are represented by Charles-Laurent Maréchal (Romanticism), Roger Bissière (tachisme), Jacques Villon (Cubism), and Marc Chagall (modernism). In the years before the French Revolution in 1789, many of the Gothic tombs and monuments of the cathedral were removed, or put into lower aisles to accommodate the new classical taste.
The Revolution greatly accelerated the destruction. The cathedral chapter was formally abolished in 1790, and the cathedral was declared a simple parish and episcopal church. From 1793 to 1794, the cathedral was officially termed a "Temple of Reason". It was returned into a legal church in 1795, and services resumed, but it was not formally returned to the Catholic Church until 1802. Just outside the cathedral is the Place d’Armes and the Hôtel de Ville, the municipal town hall. The tourism office is located just behind the statue of Marshal Fabert, who in 1658 became the first commoner to attain that rank. The Cour d'Or Museum is all about Metz history, from the prehistory to contemporary ages, built on still visible roman thermal bathes.
The museum was founded in 1839. The Cour d’Or Museum displays a rich collection of Gallo-Roman and medieval finds and the remains of the Gallo-Roman baths of Divodurum Mediomatricum, revealed by the extension works to the museums in the 1930s. The Altar of the oriental god Mithra is perhaps the most famous object in the museum. It was found in 1895 at the nearby Sarrebourg mithraeum. It strongly testifies to the implantation of the sanctuaries devoted to this god (the mithraea) during Roman times.
Roman glass was also unearthed in Metz. The museum incorporates the building of the former Chèvremont Granary, built in 1457. Metz was at that time, with around 30,000 inhabitants, a prosperous city, the most important one in Lorraine. This part of the museum now houses a collection of regional religious sculpture.
Arts of the 19th Century We now walk along the river Moselle which rises in the Vosges mountains and flows through north-eastern France, Luxembourg, and western Germany. The littles tourist train is a convenient way to see all major sites around town. The 750-seat Opera House and theatre is located on the Petit-Saulcy island. It is the oldest opera house working in France and one of the oldest in Europe. It is also one of the last possessing its own costume ateliers in France.
The construction of the opera house extended from 1732 to 1752, the War of the Austrian Succession interrupting the works during 8 years. The Tuscany-influenced neo-Classical building is finally inaugurated with a public ball on February 3, 1752, seating 1,382 people. In the few years after its inauguration it staged several plays from the classic repertoire of the time, including those by Racine, Pierre Corneille, and Molière, whereas towards the end of the ancien regime more contemporary plays by Voltaire, Marivaux, Diderot, and Beaumarchais. During the French Revolution, the guillotine for the executions was erected on the parvise of the opera house, the Comedy Square. The “Temple Neuf” (New Temple) was built when Metz was a part of the German Empire.
It was inaugurated as the “Neue Evangelische Kirche” on 14 May 1904 in the presence of Wilhelm II, German Emperor, and his wife Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein. The New Temple is an example of Romanesque Revival architecture, and has been a historical monument of France since 1930. Several well-known figures have been linked to the city of Metz throughout its history. Renowned Messins include poet Paul Verlaine, composer Ambroise Thomas and mathematician Jean-Victor Poncelet. Numerous well-known German figures were also born in Metz notably during the annexation period (1871-1918). Moreover, the city has been the residence of people such as writer François Rabelais, Cardinal Mazarin, political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville, French patriot and American Revolutionary War hero La Fayette, and Luxembourg-born German-French statesman Robert Schuman. Beside the Galeries Lafayette, there is also a Printemps department store and the Fnac entertainment retail chain in the city.
The Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains basilica is one of the oldest churches in the world and cradle of the Gregorian Chant. This pre-medieval church building began life as a Roman "gymnasium", or secondary school, in the 4th century AD, making it one of the oldest churches in Europe. In the 7th century, the structure was converted into a church, becoming the chapel of a Benedictine nunnery. A new nave was constructed in the 11th century with further interior renovations. The Ney barracks were formerly known as Kaiser Wilhelm barracks, during the German annexation. The gate sculptures have been protected as historical heritage since 1929.
The Imperial Quarter of Metz was initially built between 1902 and 1914 by the government of the ruling German Wilhelmine Empire, during the period of annexation of Alsace-Lorraine. The main post office was built between 1905 to 1911. The railway station was a central point of plans for a new urban area in Metz, now called the Imperial Quarter. In order to "Germanify" the city, Kaiser Wilhelm II decided upon the creation of a new district shaped by a distinctive blend of Germanic architecture. The railway station constitutes the cornerstone of this district, not far from the historic downtown. Its first aim was military usage.
We walk through the station to the other side where the new part of town is located, including the Centre Pompidou-Metz, a museum of modern and contemporary art. The Centre Pompidou-Metz is a branch of Pompidou arts centre of Paris, and features semi-permanent and temporary exhibitions from the large collection of the French National Museum of Modern Art, the largest European collection of 20th and 21st century arts. The first piece of the monument designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban was laid on November 7, 2006, and the building was inaugurated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on May 12, 2010.
The building is remarkable for its roof structure, one of the largest and most complex built to date, which was inspired by a Chinese hat found in Paris by Shigeru Ban. The museum is the largest temporary exhibition space outside Paris in France with 5,000 m2 (54,000 sq ft) divided between 3 galleries, a theatre, and an auditorium.