There are so many excellent day trips within an hour from my home – Metz happens to be one of them. Without a real agenda for the day, a friend and I decided to take the hour drive. We enjoyed the day walking the streets of the old town, eating delicious French cuisine, crepes, and taking in the lovely architecture. We didn’t explore the totality of Metz, but plan to revisit it in the future.
Part of the Moselle Region, Metz is cornered by Germany and Luxembourg. The Moselle and Seille Rivers run through it. It’s history is at least 3,000 years long, and according to Wikipedia, it has been the home of the Celts, Romans, was once the Merovingian capital of Austrasia, and birthplace of the Carolingian dynasty.
As a border city with Germany, Metz has been passed back and forth between France and Germany multiple times after it was adopted into France in the 1500’s with the Treaty of Chambord. However, it was an unrecognized trade until the 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia. After the Franco-Prussian War, it became part of Germany and remained so until the end of WWI. During the Second World War, it was taken by the Third Reich. US troops attacked the city in 1944, passing in back to France where it has remained since.
Walking down the sidewalks, my friend Eri noted that each city she’s visited seems to have an architectural color scheme. Metz certainly fulfilled that observation. Its color scheme was creamy, sandy concrete with the occasional splash of the Parisian art nouveau. The store fronts lined the streets like linked dominos, criss-crossing in an uneven grid. There are an exceptional number of stores, boutiques and restaurants. Most of the stores were closed, because much like Germany, just about everything is closed on Sunday’s in France as well. This did not deter us, however, as we appreciated the nearly empty streets and window shopping. We meandered our way towards the cathedral, our main destination.
What is now the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Stephen first broke ground in the early 14th century on what was once an ancient site from the 5th century. The site was a dedication to Saint Stephen that held many of his relics. It’s said that the shrine held there was the only structure that stood after the sacking of the Huns. It was also once a royal residence to the grandsons of Clovis, and later to the Merovingian ruler Theudebert I. (Wikipedia)
The cathedral was finished sometime between 1486 and 1520. According to Wikipedia, the cathedral “has the third-highest nave of cathedrals in France.” It’s only behind the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Amiens in Amiens, and the Cathedral of Saint Peter of Beauvais in Beauvais, Oise. What truly stands out about this beautiful bit of architecture is its glass.
To be fair, I knew nothing coming into Metz other than I’d heard it was delightful… Eri gave me all the deets! (We must travel more together, friend!) I had no idea that this cathedral is known for it’s beautiful stained glass!
Eri said that it had a nickname: la Lanterne du Bon Dieu, which translates to “The Good Lord’s Lantern.” The cathedrals holds the largest amount of stained glass in the world at 69,920 sq ft of breathtaking glass works by Hermann von Münster, Theobald of Lixheim, Valentin Bousch, Charles-Laurent Maréchal, Roger Bissière, Jacques Villon, and Marc Chagall (Wikipedia). From the Gothic to modern, your eyes will marvel at the bold colors, minute details, and absolute massiveness of the windows, arches and doors. We spent quite a bit of time taking in every detail.
We were unable to see the crypt, which is now a museum, as it was only open at certain times throughout the day. Of note, the crypt holds a dragon figure that is carried throughout Metz during religious processions, and has been since the 13th century. Graouilly, the mythical dragon, was slain by Saint Clement around 1000AD.
It was so hard to leave the serenity within the cathedral, but slowly we made our way back out into the chilly autumn air to find some lunch.
After lunch, we walked over to the Porte des Allemands, or Gate of the Germans. This fortified bridge castle is the last of its kind found in France. It’s settled on the Seille river and dates as far back as the 13th century. According to Wikipedia, it played a pivotal role in the defense of the city during the Siege of Metz in 1552-1553. Roman baths were discovered in 1935 which now serves as a museum of antiquities (Britannica.com).
At this point, Eri and I were indecisive about where we wanted to head next, so we aimed to cross back over the old city center and head towards the Temple Neuf, which is on the opposite side of the city. However, we were distracted by crepes, bubble gaufre, and coffee – after which, we decided to head home.
We both decided that Metz was a place to return and finish exploring as it was so close and easy to get to! Enjoy the gallery below!