I think we all need a break from The Thing That Broke the World.* Join me, won’t you? Stick your fingers in your ears and say, la la la, I can’t hear you to the news and join me in Metz. It was one thousand years ago that we were there, otherwise known as last October. We didn’t know much about Metz, just that French people we met kept mentioning it, so we gambled and went there for a few days. It’s in the Lorraine region, as in quiche Lorraine (yum). Its history is 3000 years old, running the gamut of highlights of European history from the Celts to the Roman empire to Atilla the Hun, the Merigovians, Lotharingians, Carolingians, etc… you know, the usual sieges, wars, plagues. It was an independent republic in the 12th century, then annexed to Germany after the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 and was tossed back and forth a bit after that. Nothing is permanent, and certainly not your country.
So what’s to love about Metz? It’s a river town (always appealing), with terrific parks and green spaces. It has one of the most extensive pedestrianized centers in Europe.
Always a warm welcome at the House of Heads, built in 1529. Take a look at the bas- relief over the door.
Metz retains a large portion of its medieval walls, and a smaller section of Roman. The walls are interrupted by lookout towers and each section is named for the guild that would be responsible for its upkeep.
The responsible guild needs to step up its game.
It’s cathedral time!
The cathedral of Metz has the world’s largest expanse of stained glass, some by Chagall, but my favorites were the ones by the cubist Jacques Villon.
The swallow’s nest organ
But truly, the best part is the crypt. The legend of Metz holds that Saint Clement vanquished a dragon in the local Roman amphitheater in the 4th century. Holy pagan slayer! The fine people of Metz would celebrate that blessed event each year by parading an effigy of the dragon called the Graoully though the streets to frighten the children. This one is from the 16th century. As the bible says, suffer the little children to come unto me so that I may scare the crap out of them. Or something like that. I may be paraphrasing.
Other crypt treasures
We’ve all felt this way
This guy is Le Gueulard, or loudmouth. It’s a 15th century sculpture that was attached to the organ. Its mouth would move when the organist hit the lowest notes. Who says church isn’t fun?
Churches abound. This is St. Pierre aux Nonnains, which is the oldest church in France. Originally a Roman building of unknown use, this is where Gregorian chants were first sung.
St. Maximin’s is a rather unremarkable church with origins in the 12th century, or it would be unremarkable save for its stained glass windows by Jean Cocteau. If you know anything about Jean Cocteau you’ll know why I think it’s so fabulous and funny that he did church windows.
Lest you think Metz is all religion and history, here’s a spaceship. It’s the Centre Pompidou, a branch of the Paris contemporary art museum.
Love the landscaping!
This isn’t even half of what Metz has to offer. There’s a Knights Templar chapel, scads of Roman ruins, and the usual delights of French travel, food and wine. Let’s pretend we’ll all be able to travel in the not too distant future. Add Metz to your Strasbourg/Colmar itinerary and we’ll meet you there!
* Can’t take credit for this phrase, it’s from Dan Piraro who writes the fabulous Bizarro comic.