The day started with gorgeous weather, a theme that fortunately lasted for the duration of our three hour walking tour through downtown Metz. Our group, including special guest Dr. Alasdair Young, met slightly earlier than our designated time for a quick ice cream break, a stop that I’m sure no one had complaints about! I opted for the caramel and chocolate chip which I would HIGHLY recommend!
We met our tour guide, Vivian, in front of the Cathédrale Saint Étienne de Metz and while we were waiting we were lucky enough to get to witness a wedding party outside of the city hall. Vivian explained that in France, the wedding party goes to the city hall to witness the couple legally get married and then they all move to a church or a religious ceremony place, followed by a reception dinner that often lasts until one or two AM! (She recommends bringing comfortable shoes if your are ever invited to a french wedding).
Vivian then took us into the Cathédrale Saint Étienne de Metz, the third tallest cathedral in France, where we were all awestruck by the forty two meter high vaults and the seemingly endless collection of stained glass windows. There are 6,500 meters of stained glass windows in the cathedral, enough to cover the soccer stadium that FC Metz plays in. Some of my favorite pieces were the ones by modern artist Marc Chagall in 1960.
After the cathedral, we made our way down to Rue Taison, the street to visit the legendary Graoully. Legend has it that Graoully terrorized Metz in the third century, so the people of Metz begged Saint Clement to vanquish the dragon. He accepted under one condition — the people of Metz accept Christianity. Desperate to get rid of Graoully, the people accepted and Saint Clement led the dragon to the river where it was never seen again. The gossip of the town is that Graoully drowned because everyone of course knows that dragons are terrible swimmers!
After visiting Graoully we walked over to the Le Fonds régional d’art contemporain de Lorraine, a project funded by the French Minister of Culture that hosts public exhibits and showings of regional contemporary art. It houses many exhibits by local artists in order to promote and education the public about art and culture in the region. One of the artist manipulated the rust on a pipe and created a amazing map that left us all in amazement.
Afterwards, we made a couple more short visits to to the Sainte-Ségolène Church and the Église Saint-Maximin de Metz. The Sainte-Ségolène was a stunning church in the birthplace of Metz that holds the oldest stained glass window in Lorraine. The architecture of the outside was absolutely breathtaking (pictures don’t do it justice!). Vivian said that her favorite church was the Église Saint-Maximin de Metz, a small Romanesque church that houses stained glass windows designed by the famous Jean Cocteau. Jean Cocteau was truly a jack-of-all-trades — a filmmaker, poet, writer, artist, playwright, and designer. You might know him from his famous 1946 film Beauty and the Beast! He was a societal rule breaker and often strayed from societal norms, but ironically people loved him and he proved to be quite famous. The Église Saint-Maximin was gifted to Jean Cocteau as a place to hold his stained glass window designs. He designed the windows from 1960-1961, but unfortunately never got to see his life’s work as he died from illness in 1963.
After touring a street of million-dollar French homes, we ended at our last stop which was the train station. Located in the Imperial Quarter, the train station was built during the German Empire’s annexation of Metz in the early 1900s when the Germans attempted to integrate the region into German culture. The architect, Kaiser Wilhelm, wanted to make the citizens feel more German, so he designed the building with heavy German influence. The station was voted most beautiful train station in France in 2017.
The walking tour was enlightening, but exhausting! We all took a short drink beverage break before heading off to our delicious three course meal at a restaurant not far down. The day left me estatic for rest of the trip — not only because I get to explore more of the gorgeous city of Metz, but also because I get to do it alongside great company!