Rabelais, Schuman, Verlaine, and even Cocteau and Chagall are some of the famous names who have left their mark in Metz Métropole. Discover some of the people who have shaped the area...
Saint-Clément (3rd century) founded the Metz church, one of the oldest churches in France. He was venerated for having hunted the Graoully, a frightening dragon that lived in Divodorum and terrorised the population. He wrapped his stole around the Graoully’s neck and threw it into the Seille.
Saint Arnould was the Bishop of Metz in the 7th century, and also comes from the Carolingian dynasty. He is therefore an ancestor of Charlemagne. He performed a miracle after his death in 641, and became the patron saint of brewers in Lorraine.
Chrodegang was the Bishop of Metz in the 8th century. He founded the first Benedictine abbey in Gorze and introduced Roman liturgical chant into the Metz church. The first school was called Scola cantorum Metensis, and was established in Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains church at the time. It is believed that this is where Gregorian chant first originated.
He was the 46th Bishop of Metz, as well as one of Charlemagne’s illegitimate sons. A famous sacramentary, written around 830 and kept in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and an ivory binding plate which is exhibited in the Musée du Louvre, have been preserved from his episcopate.
Metz 960 – Mayence 1028. He was a Grand Yeshiva master in Mainz, and a major figure in the study and teaching of the Torah and the Talmud. Known as “our master Guershom, luminary of exile”, Rashi said that “all members of the Ashkenazi Jewish Disapora are his students”. Three prohibitions that he initiated are considered as the cement of Ashkenazi Judaism, even to this day.
He was the Bishop of Metz at the end of the 12th century, and is credited with establishing the annual election of master aldermen. The Counseil des Treize (Council of Thirteen) was created under his episcopate, and progressively became the main form of municipal government and the supreme institution of the Metz Republic after the 1234 revolution.
Dijon 1627 - Paris 1704. He began his studies at the age of 10 at Saint-Clément college in Metz, where his father was a member of the Parlement Royal (Royal Parliament). At the age of thirteen, he was already a member of the Chapitre de la Cathédrale (cathedral’s chapter). He was distinguished by his remarkable eloquence, giving one of his first eulogies in Saint-Maximin church in Metz.
1591 – 1669. Pastor, theologist and author of many publications, he was an important figure in Metz religious life. He was especially known for his controversial conversations with Bossuet following the conversion of a young Protestant lawyer to Catholicism. He dedicated the rest of his life to researching how to unite Lutherans and Calvinists.
Rennes 1804 – Metz 1886. He was the Sacred Bishop of Metz in 1843, and the only authority figure still working in Moselle during the German annexation. Spiritually opposed to the German authorities, he was elected as a Protestant deputy to the Reichstag in 1874. A monument dedicated to him and created by Emmanuel Hannaux (Metz 1855 – Paris 1934) can be seen in Saint-Etienne Cathedral in Metz.
1891 – 1944. Hélène Studler entered the order as Sœur Hélène. She was French and was exiled during the First World War. In November 1918, she came back to Metz and worked at Saint-Nicolas hospice. As early as 1939, Sœur Hélène helped the French stretcher bearers tend to the injured on the front line. During the second annexation, she organised an escape network which allowed the evacuation of nearly 2000 soldiers, officers and resistance fighters, including François Mitterrand, to the free zone
Charlemagne (742-814), the Emperor with the Flowery Beard, occassionally stayed in his villa in Metz. Metz was the capital of the Austrasian kingdom during the Frank period from 511 to 751, and was the birthplace of the Carolingian dynasty. Various members of Charlemagne’s family are buried in Saint-Arnould Abbey, which bears the name of his four-times-great-grandfather.
In 1545 François Rabelais, writer, doctor, and Renaissance humanist, lived in Metz for two years, and practised medicine there. He was a lover of good food, and found inspiration to write the “Quart Livre” (Fourth Book) in Metz, where he tells the legend of the Graoully and uses typical Metz expressions.
Luxembourg 1886 – Metz 1963. Robert Schuman lived in Scy-Chazelles, a small village 5 km from Metz. Nowadays Robert Schuman’s House is open to the public and is the site of the Conseil Départemental de la Moselle (Moselle Departmental Council). It can be found opposite the 13th century fortified church where he is buried.
Charles de Gaulle lived at n°1 Rue de la Vacquinière in Montigny-lès-Metz when he was appointed Colonel in 1937. He stayed there until 1939. He then took charge of the 507th tank regiment in the Lizé district, under the authority of General Delestraint.
Rue de la Vacquinière was renamed Rue Charles de Gaulle upon his death in November 1970. Since then he became a citizen of honour in Montigny.
Jacques Bénigne Bossuet entered into the Metz Chapitre de la Cathédrale (cathedral chapter) at the age of 13, and is famous for his eloquence. He was the leader of the counter-reform in Metz, and left the city in 1669 to become the Bishop of Condom.
Paul Verlaine was born in Metz on 30th March 1844. The 34 months of his childhood, spent in the city with such a brilliant military past, left a lasting impression on the poet. Two prose works testify to these Metz origins, all the more so since the city was annexed after the defeat in the 1870-1871 war: “Souvenir d’un messin” and “Confession”.
Metz also inspired his large lyrical poem known as “Ode à metz”, an excerpt from the “Invectives” collection. His childhood home at 2 Rue Haute-Pierre was transformed into the Maison d’Écrivian et de Patrimione Littéraire (House of Writers and Literary Heritage), and it can be visited by the public.
François de Curel was a playwright. He was born in Metz in 1874, and elected to the Académie Française (French Academy) in 1918. He now rests in the crypt of Saint-Laurent chapel in Coin-sur-Seille.
Saint-Avold 1897 – Vienne 1980. She wrote the novel “Katrin becomes a soldier”, which takes place in Metz during the First World War. This book, translated into more than 30 languages, inspired a German television series. A passage in Metz Train Station is dedicated to Adrienne Thomas.
Bernard-Marie Koltès (1948-1989) was born in Metz, and studied there at Saint-Clément college. He implicitly recalls his birthplace in “Retour au Désert” (Return to the desert), and is one of the most translated authors and playwrights in the world.
Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier was born in Metz in 1754 and took part in the first hot air balloon flight. He died on 15th June 1785 during his attempt to fly to England in his experimental gas balloon.
At 19 years old, during a dinner in Metz given in honour of the King of England’s brother, the young Marquis de la Fayette decided to support the American rebels, going against his family’s views and the King's orders. He returned to Metz crowned with glory and fame, and was nicknamed “the hero of two worlds”.
In the fifth volume of his “Mémoires” (Memoirs) he told the story of his romantic adventure in Metz with a young Opera actress called Raton. He describes Metz as a “belle ville” (beautiful city) and says he stayed in the “excellent Roi-Dagobert inn”.
Camille Durutte (1803-1881) was a talented composer whose “Luthier de Crémone” was a great success at the Metz Theatre in 1864. He was also the author of two works, “l’Esthétique musicale” (Metz, 1855) and the “Technique Harmonique” (Paris, 1876), where he detailed his theories “concerning the mathematical laws of chord generation and sequencing”, which were met with the admiring approval of Meyer-Beer, Rossini and Gounod.
He was a painter and glass maker, and one of the founders of the École de Metz in 1834. He is responsible for many stained-glass windows created for all of the Metz churches and the Town Hall, as well as for hundreds of other churches in France.
He was a painter and a member of the École de Metz. He created many paintings and historic sketches of Metz, including ones of monuments that are no longer with us today, which has facilitated historical and archaeological research.
He was a well-known sculptor in the Second Empire, and was one of the artists from the École de Metz who participated in the 1861 Universal Exhibition. He also created, the statue of Maréchal Ney, La Source and the Opera-Theatre's sculpted pediment, among other things.
He was a sculptor from the École de Metz in the 19th century. His sculptures now decorate the parks and gardens in Metz, like the Cheval (Horse) on the Esplanade.
Charles-Louis Ambroise Thomas was born in Metz on 5th August 1811, and was a renowned composer. His operas, “Mignon” in 1866 and “Hamlet” in 1868, gave him an international reputation. He died in Paris on 12th February 1896.
Gabriel Constant Pierné was born in Metz on 16th August 1863, and was an organist, conductor and composer. His musical works were very diverse (chamber music, comic operas, oratorios...).
He was a French sculptor who contributed to the restoration of several Metz churches during the first German annexation. He is notably responsible for the cathedral’s the western portal, which was opened in 1903 in the presence of Emperor Wilhelm II.
Nicolas Untersteller was a Lorraine-born painter and Prix de Rome laureate in 1928. He created many fresco murals and mosaics for both private and administrative buildings, as well as stained-glass windows for Saint-Thérèse church in Metz.
Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) was an eclectic artist. During his career he created a unique work in Metz by designing stained-glass windows for the medieval Saint-Maximin church in 1962. The Brière studio finished his work by installing the completed stained-glass windows after his death.
In 1957 Jacques Villon (1875-1963) came to decorate Metz cathedral with his stained-glass windows. The artist, Marchel Duchamp’s half brother, belonged to the cubist movement. His stained-glass windows marked a major work for the cathedral.
Roger Bissière was a French painter. In 1960 he created two stained-glass windows for Saint-Etienne Cathedral in Metz.
From 1959, Marc Chagall created four large collections of stained-glass windows for Metz cathedral, taking inspiration from the stories in the Old Testament. He also created stained-glass windows for other French cities such as Reims, Nice, Sarrebourg (in Moselle, 1 hour 20 minutes from Metz) and Saillant.
Of all the architects of Metz Cathedral, only Pierre Perrat is known through a legend. It was he who finalised the construction of the 42m high vault, for which he is famous. He died on 25th July 1400 and was laid to rest in the nave of the cathedral.
Jacques-François Blondel (1705-1774) was a professor and architectural theorist in the 18 th century. He was at the forefront of the development plan for the Place d’Armes and all the buildings adjacent to the square that was carried out between 1761 and 1771.
Paul Tornow (1848-1921) was responsible for the restoration of Metz Cathedral from 1874, to which he devoted 30 years of his life. He strengthened the vaults, restored the columns and flying buttresses, and built the new neo-Gothic portal on the west side between 1898 and 1902.
Conrad Wahn (1851-1920) was the architect for Metz city from 1877 onwards, and was strongly influenced by the planning theories of his time. He worked on many buildings in the city. He also designed the plans for the Nouvelle Ville (New Town).
Jürgen Kröger was a German architect and was the project designer for Metz Train Station built in 1908.
The Pompidou-Metz Centre was designed by Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines, with Philip Gumuchdijan for the design of the competition’s winning project. It is considered as one the 10 most spectacular cultural institutions in the world (Nouvel Observateur, 24.05.2013)