St Stephen’s Cathedral at Metz!

And I have gone East and find treasures galore of my belle France. We even been here at Christmas time in one of the best markets of France and less known than others. On a sunny cold day in my neck of the woods 0C 32F I will bring you back to a colder region.

I would like to tell you about the Cathédrale Saint Etienne de Metz or St Stephen’s Cathedral of Metz.  The Cathedral of Saint-Étienne (St Stephen) in Metz in the department of the Moselle no 57 ,region of the Grand Est. . If its construction spans three centuries, from 1240, the Cathedral presents a beautiful homogeneity of style since the stylistic criteria were respected in each construction campaign. The Cathedral of Metz is not only the Cathedral of France having the largest glazed surface, nearly 6 500 m2, but also the one that presents the largest Gothic glass windows in Europe. It is colloquially dubbed the “lantern of the Good God”. Even though it is one of the ten most visited Cathedrals in France it does not have the recognition of many still. Its vault, which culminates 41 meters above the ground at the nave level, also makes the Cathedral of Saint Stephen of  Metz one of the highest cathedrals in France.

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A bit of history I like

At the beginning of the 5C, Saint Etienne (Saint Stephen) was popular and was celebrated throughout the empire. The rise of the cult of the first martyr Stephen in the West follows the invention of relics of the Saint in Jerusalem  by 415. Old Gaulish city, Metz became the seat of a bishopric in the 3C; written around 576, a sanctuary dedicated to Étienne (Oratorium beati Stephani), which was at the present location of the Cathedral, was the only monument spared by the Huns during the sack of the city in  451. The Oratory of St. Stephen is in the Divine graces and then becomes very popular. We’re talking about miracles. It welcomes the seat of the bishop and becomes, in a way, the first Cathedral of Metz, inside it. It can be assumed that the sanctuary of St. Stephen was relatively recent during the sack of Metz by Attila the Hun.

Between 965 and 984, Bishop Thierry I undertook to rebuild the primitive sanctuary with the financial assistance of Emperors Otto I and Otto II. The new cathedral, or basilica because of its plan, was completed under his successor Thierry II and consecrated by him in 1040 in the presence of Bishop Gérard I of Cambrai. The nave, flanked by low-sided, about 20 meters high, opened on a protruding transept of the same height, 42 meters long, for 12 meters wide. Two bedside towers were erected on either side of the central apse, and chapels overlooking the transept adjoined them. Only the construction of the facade is unknown to us, the presence of a porch tower is envisaged however for its popularity in the Ottonian buildings. The parallel reconstruction of the Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame-la-Ronde and the Cathedral begins around 1240 or probably as early as 1235. In the second half of the 14C, the daring construction of the vaults was 42 meters from the ground. The construction will be spread over three centuries to finish at 1525.

The construction of the present Cathedral was perhaps desired by Bishop Conrad of Scharfenberg, at the same time as the cathedrals of Reims (1207) and the nearby Cathedral of Toul (1210-1220), Le Mans (1217), and Amiens (1221). Only the nave Ottonian was destroyed at that time, up to the level of the foundations, the bedside and the transept, as well as Notre Dame-la-Ronde, being spared. From this first construction campaign date the lower parts of the walls of the nave and the bases of the arcade supports. In 1356, Emperor Charles IV came to Metz to promulgate the Golden bull and was received in Metz Cathedral. This first construction campaign ends with the vaulting of the nave, between 1360 and 1380. The height of its vaults 42 meters, places the Cathedral of Metz behind that of Beauvais (48 m before collapse), and that of Amiens (42.3 m) in the race to the Gothic records.

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Undertaken in 1762, the layout of the Place d’Armes, the Place de Chambre and the Place du Marché exudes the medieval urban fabric on three sides around the Cathedral. The building of the town hall, side Place d’Armes, and the palace of the Bishops of Metz (today, the covered market), side place du Marché and  Place de Chambre contributes to constitute an architectural ensemble dominated by the work of the Masons of the Middle Ages. On this occasion, and in the interests of harmonization of this urban ensemble, it was  built on the three sides of the Cathedral thus cleared, a classicists envelope and in particular, a sober and majestic main portal (side Place du Marché , it will be Replaced by a neo-Gothic portal in 1904)

From 1871 to 1918, Alsace-Moselle was an integral part of the German Empire with the status of Empire territory. The last additions whose style disagrees with the romantic ideal of the time, are destroyed in 1898, to make way for a portal of Gothic style inaugurated in 1903 by the Emperor William II;  from 1908 to 1919 the interior of the cathedral was restored and furnished.

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Something unique from my dear late wife Martine, town of Meaux (77), the Eagle of Meaux was here too.

In 1642, Jacques-Benign Bossuet became, at the age of thirteen, canon of the Cathedral thanks to the interpersonal skills of his father, magistrate of the city. It was in Metz Cathedral in 1652, that he pronounced his first sermon. It is still in Metz, without any certainty that he was pronounced in the Cathedral, which he gives, in 1655, his first funeral eulogy for Yolande de Monterby, Abbess of Petit Clairvaux in Metz. In 1657, he preached a panegyric of St. Teresa, before Queen Anne of Austria, after which he was appointed an extraordinary adviser and preacher of the king.. From there he split his time between Metz and the court, in Paris and Versailles.

A bit on the construction style

The Cathedral of Metz has the peculiarity of not having a harmonious façade  in the manner of the other great Gothic cathedrals of France. It is thanks to this singular façade that was possible the realization of the large canopy. So the cathedral has only one gate on its main façade. The first three bays of the nave of the cathedral are those of Notre-Dame-la-Ronde whose axis is perpendicular to that of Saint-Étienne and the attentive visitor will note, according to Gothic architectural canons, the main portal of this church in North of the second Bay, its apse and its high altar to the south of the second span, while the first and third spans serve as aisles to this curious Church in the Church (ND Ronde). The other Church (Notre-Dame-la-Ronde), included the rest of the surface of the Cathedral, its choir and transept had been preserved until 1440, its nave had been destroyed at the beginning of the construction of the Cathedral in the 13C. You can still admire the crypt of the Ottonian building, under the Cathedral choir. The tower of the Mutte which served as a municipal belfry rises to  80 meters in height, the top of the arrow reaching 93 meters.

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In 1412, it was decided to install a bell, on the south tower of the Cathedral, then under construction. The bell named the Mutte as per the Tour de Mutte weighs 11 tons and measures 2.32 meters in diameter. It sounds in F sharp 2. Finally, the last overhaul took place in 1605. The Mutte only sounded in the event of enemy attacks, fires, very big festivals. It rang on the fly for the last time in 1918 during the victory of the French in WWI. However, a work campaign between 2009 and 2015 enabled the Belfry and the bell to be rehabilitated and it could ring again on the fly since 26 June 2015.

The Tour du Châpitre or tower of the chapter, located on the north façade opposite the Mutte tower, rises to 69 meters just above the Saint-Étienne gate. Unlike the Mutte tower, it does not have an arrow. The lower part was built in the 13C and the upper part from 1840 to 1843. A monumental crucifix   measuring 5.20 meters was done in 1894.Inside the tower are five bells including my favorites the Grosse Marie, dating from the 17C, the Catherine, dating from the Renaissance but recast in 1890.

In the south transept, to the left of the great Organ, small blue stained glass windows dating back to the 13C, the oldest of the Cathedral, are six scenes of Saint Paul’s life. They were probably from St. Paul’s Church, which was part of the Cathedral group and was demolished in the 18C. Several 13C roses adorn the last spans of the south and north aisles of the nave. The Rose of the third northern bay of the nave comes from the central stained glass of the choir of Notre-Dame-la-Ronde. Its central medallion is the coronation, angels with clasped hands, bearing crowns or censers occupy the six medallions of the perimeter. The Renaissance organ, restored in 1981, is suspended at mid-height in the nave of the Cathedral. Currently the main organ is located at the bottom of the south transept. The third organ is concealed at the back of the choir, and is visible from behind from the ambulatory.

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The Episcopal treasure, which contains remarkable pieces, such as the ivory bishops of the 12C and 13C, the episcopal ring of Saint Arnoul, pieces of goldsmith from the 12C to the 19C. The equestrian statuette known as Charlemagne and kept at the Louvre museum , comes from the treasure of the Cathedral. This gilded bronze statue, dating largely from the 9C, is probably the grandson of Charlemagne, Charles the Bald. Several outstanding manuscripts are also from the Treasury: the Sacramentary of Drogon, the Bible of Charles the Bald, the Psalter of Charles the Bald as well as various precious Khitrovo, including the Gospels of Metz and the Gospels of Drogon.

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Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

Official Cathedral of Metz

Official Metz Catholic diocese

Offiical city of Metz on Cathedral

Official tourist office of Lorraine on the Cathedral

In all, a splendid Cathedral that is a must to be seen by all; just alone worth the trip to Metz; and of course ,plenty more there. Hope you enjoy the history of it

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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2 Comments to “St Stephen’s Cathedral at Metz!”

  1. What a beauty! I would love to see those windows! Another architectural marvel to put on my list. 👍

    Liked by 1 person

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