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Ville de Metz
City flag City coat of arms
(City flag) (City coat of arms)
City motto: Si paix dedans, paix dehors
(French: If peace inside, peace outside)
Location of Metz
City proper
Région Lorraine
Département Moselle (57)
Mayor Jean-Marie Rausch
Area 41.94 km²
Population 123,776 (1999 census)
Density 2951/km² (1999 census)
49° 07 '13" N
06° 10' 40" E
Twin towns

Trier (Germany), in 1957
Yichang (China), in 1991
Hradec Králové (Czech Republic), in 2001
Kansas City (Missouri, USA), in 2003
Rhine watershed
Rhine watershed

Metz is a city in the North-East of France, capital of the Lorraine région and of the département of Moselle (57). It is located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille.

Although historically Nancy was the capital of the duchy of Lorraine and later the French province of Lorraine, it was Metz which was chosen as the capital of the newly created région of Lorraine in the middle of the 20th century.



In ancient times Metz, then known as Divodurum (the town at the holy mountain), was the capital of the Celtic Mediomatrici, and the name of this tribe, contracted into Mettis, formed the origin of the present name. At the beginning of the Common Era, the site was already occupied by the Romans. Metz became one of the principal towns of Gallia, more populated than Lutetia, rich for its wine exports and having one of the vastest amphitheatres of the country. As the junction of several military roads, and as a well-fortified town, it soon became of great importance. One of the last Roman strongholds to surrender to the Germanic tribes, it was captured by Attila in 451, and finally passed, about the end of the fifth century, through peaceful negotiations into the hands of the Franks.

Though the first Christian churches were to be found outside the city, the existence in the fifth century of the oratory of St. Stephen within the city walls has been fully proved. In the beginning of the seventh century the oldest monastic establishments were those of St. Glossinde and St. Peter.

Since King Sigibert I, Metz frequently was the residence of the Merovingian kings of Austrasia and especially the reign of Queen Brunhilda reflected great splendour on the town.

The town preserved the good-will of the rulers, when the Carolingians acceeded to the Frankish throne, as it had long been a base of their family and one of their primal ancestors, Saint Arnulf of Metz, as well as his son Chlodulf, had been bishops of Metz. Charlemagne considered making Metz his chief residence before he finally decided in favour of Aachen.

In the basicilica, Louis the Pious and his son Drogo were buried and Charles the Bald was crowned there.

In 843 Metz became the capital of the Kingdom of Lotharingia, and several diets and councils were held there. Numerous Christian manuscripts, the product of the Metz schools of writing and painting, such as the famous "Trier Ada" manuscript and the Drogo Sacramentary for the personal use of a bishop of the royal house (Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris), are evidence of the active intellectual lives and sumptuous patronage of Carolingian Metz.

After the death of king Lothar II the kingdom of Lotharingia, and with it Metz, was contested and changed back and forth between the Eastern and the Western Frankish kingdom until in 925 it finally became part of the East kingdom and subsequently the Holy Roman Empire.

The increasing influence of the bishops in the city became greater when Adalbert I (928-62) obtained a share of the privileges of the counts; until the twelfth century, therefore, the history of the town is practically identical with that of the bishops (see [1]). In 1039 a splendid edifice was built to take the place of the old church of St. Stephen.

In the twelfth century began the efforts of the burgesses to free themselves from the domination of the bishops. In 1180 the burgesses for the first time formed themselves into a close corporation, and in 1207 the Tredecem jurati were appointed as municipal representatives, but they were still nominated directly by the bishop, who had also a controlling influence in the selection of the presiding officer of the board of aldermen, which first appears in the eleventh century. The twenty-five representatives sent by the various parishes held an independent position; in judicial matters they helped the Tredecem jurati and formed the democratic element of the system of government. The other municipal authorities were chosen by the town aristocracy, the so-called Paraiges, i. e. the five associations whose members were selected from distinguished families to protect the interests of their relatives. The other body of burgesses, called a Commune, also appears as a Paraige from the year 1297; in the individual offices it was represented by double the number of members that each of the older five Paraiges had. Making common cause, the older family unions and the Commune found it advantageous to gradually increase the powers of the city as opposed to the bishops, and also to keep the control of the municipal government fully in their hands and out of that of the powerful growing guilds, so that until the sixteenth century Metz remained a purely aristocratic organization. In 1300 the Paraiges gained the right to fill the office of head-alderman, during the fourteenth century the right to elect the Tredecem jurati, and in 1383 the right of coining. The guilds, which during the fourteenth century had attained great independence, were completely suppressed (1383), and the last revolutionary attempt of the artisans to seize control of the city government (1405) was put down with much bloodshed.

The city had often to fight for its freedom; from 1324-27 against the Dukes of Luxembourg and Lorraine, as well as against the Archbishop of Trier; in 1363 and 1365 against the band of English mercenaries under Arnold of Cervola, in the fifteenth century against France and the Dukes of Burgundy, who sought to annex Metz to their lands or at least wanted to exercise a protectorate. Nevertheless it maintained its independence, even though at great cost, and remained, outwardly at least, part of the German Empire, whose ruler, however, concerned himself very little with this important frontier stronghold. Charles IV in 1354 and 1356 held brilliant diets here, at the latter of which was promulgated the famous statute known as the "Golden Bull". The town therefore felt that it occupied an almost independent position between France and Germany, and wanted most of all to evade the obligation of imperial taxes and attendance at the diet. The estrangement between it and the German States daily became wider, and finally affairs came to such a pass that in the religious and political troubles of 1552 Metz found itself in the middle of the war between Charles V and the rebellious princes. By an agreement of the German princes, Moritz of Saxony, William of Hesse, John Albrecht of Mecklenburg, and George Frederick of Brandenburg, with Henry II of France, ratified by the French king at Chambord (15 January), Metz was formally transferred to France, the gates of the city were opened (10 April), and Henry took possession as vicarius sacri imperii et urbis protector (18 April). The Duke of Guise, commander of the garrison, restored the old fortifications and added new ones, and successfully resisted the attacks of the emperor from October to December, 1552; Metz remained French. The recognition by the empire of the surrender of Metz to France came at the conclusion of the Peace of Westphalia. By the construction of the citadel (1555-62) the new government secured itself against the citizens, who were discontented with the turn of events. Important internal changes soon took place. In place of the Paraiges stood the authority of the French king, whose representative was the governor. The head-alderman, now appointed by the governor, was replaced (1640) by a Royalist Mayor. The aldermen were also appointed by the governor and henceforth drawn from the whole body of burgesses; in 1633 the judgeship passed to the Parliament. The powers of the Tredecem jurati were also restricted, in 1634 totally abolished, and replaced by the Bailliage royal.

Among the cities of Lorraine, Metz held a prominent position during the French possession for two reasons: In the first place it became one of the most important fortresses through the work of Vauban (1674) and Cormontaigne (1730); secondly, it became the capital of the temporal province of the three bishoprics of Metz, Toul, and Verdun, which France had seized (1552) and, by the Peace of Westphalia, retained. In 1633 there was created for this "Province des trois évêchés" (also called "Généralité des trois évêchés" or "Intendance de Metz") a supreme court of justice and court of administration, the Metz Parliament. In 1681 the Chambre Royale, the notorious Assembly chamber, whose business it was to decide what fiefs belonged to the three bishoprics which Louis XIV claimed for France, was made a part of this Parliament, which lasted, after a temporary dissolution (1771-75), until the final settlement by the National Assembly in 1789, whereupon the division of the land into departments and districts followed. Metz became the capital of the Department of Moselle, created in 1790. The revolution brought great calamities upon the city. In the campaigns of 1814 and 1815 the allied armies twice besieged the city, but were unable to take it. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 Metz was the headquarters and rendezvous of the third French Army Corps under Bazaine. Through the operations of the German army, Bazaine, after the battles of Colombey, Mars-la-Tour, and Gravelotte (14-18 August) was besieged in Metz. The German army of investment was commanded by Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia; as the few sorties of the garrison were unable to break the German lines, Metz was forced to surrender (27 October), with the result that 6000 French officers and 170,000 men were taken prisoners.

By the Treaty of Frankfurt of 1871, Metz became a German city, and was made a most important garrison and a strong fortress. Despite the departure of many inhabitants who fled to France to avoid living under German rule, Metz nonetheless expanded and transformed during the period of German rule. The fortifications on the south and east were levelled in 1898, securing space for growth and development. Some large neo-Romanesque buildings typical of the German empire appeared in the city.

Following the armistice with Germany ending the First World War, the French army entered Metz in November 1918 to great cheering from the population, which had always remained attached to France, and the city was returned to France at the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.

Metz was again annexed by Germany between 1940 and 1944 during the Second World War, and was liberated in November 1944 by the French and American armies.

Nowadays, the military importance of Metz has decreased, and the city has diversified its economic base. Expansion has continued in the recent decades despite the economic crisis that besets the rest of Lorraine.


Cathedral St. Etienne in Metz
Cathedral St. Etienne in Metz

The city is famous for its yellow lime stone architecture: la Pierre de Jaumont and for its nickname "The Green City" (25m2 - 270sqft of park/garden/playground per inhabitant)

  • the gothic cathedral St. Etienne (features stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall)
  • St-Pierre-aux-Nonnains - the oldest church in France, built between 380 and 395AD as a roman gymnasium, and 'recycled' as a christian church during the 7th century.
  • Ste-Segolene church which dated back to 13th-14th century
  • St-Martin church
  • St-Vincente church
  • St-Pierre-de-la-Citadelle
  • St-Euchaire
  • St-Maximin
  • ruins of city walls
  • City gates: Porte Serpenoise, Porte des Allemands
  • Jewish Cemetery


It is represented in the Ligue Nationale, the French premier football division, by F.C. Metz.


Metz was the birthplace of:

Twin towns

Metz is twinned with:

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