Top Historic Sights in Metz, France

Explore the historic highlights of Metz

Metz Cathedral

Saint-√Čtienne de Metz, also known as Metz Cathedral, is built on the site of an ancient the 5th century church dedicated to Saint Stephen protomartyr. According to Gregory of Tours, the shrine of Saint Stephen was the sole structure spared during the sack of 451 by Attila's Huns. The construction of the Gothic cathedral began in 1220 within the walls of an Ottonian basilica dating from the 10th century. The integration i ...
Founded: 1220 | Location: Metz, France

Museums of Metz

The Museums of Metz were founded in 1839. They are also known as the Golden Courtyard Museums, in reference to the palace of Austrasia"s kings in Metz, whose buildings they occupy. The collections in this museum(s) are distributed through a 3,500 m² labyrinthal organization of rooms, incorporating the ancient Petites Carmes Abbey, the Chèvremont granary, and the Trinitaires church. The institution is orga ...
Founded: 1839 | Location: Metz, France

Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains

The Basilica of Saint-Pierre-Aux-Nonnains is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world still standing. Erected sometime in the 4th century AD, it was originally part of a Roman-era spa when Divodurum, the former name of Metz, was a major military and trade center along the Germanic frontier. Specifically it was used as a pagan gymnasium when Christianity in Western Europe was still in its infancy. It was one of th ...
Founded: 4th century AD | Location: Metz, France

Templars' Chapel

The first date known of the settlement of Templars in Metz is 1133. Between 1180 and 1220 the Templars built an octagonal chapel in Roman style outside. The inside presented a ribbed vault and the nave opens on a square choir and on a little apse. In 1312, as happened for the large majority of Templar places, the preceptory of Metz fell to the hands of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. In 1556, the chapel was converted ...
Founded: 1180-1220 | Location: Metz, France

Saint-Vincent Abbey

The former Benedictine abbey of Saint-Vincent was founded in the 10th century. The abbey church, rebuilt in 1248 and consecrated in 1376, is a superb example of Gothic architecture. After the Revolution, which marked the end of the abbey, the church became a parish church and then a basilica in 1933.
Founded: 1248 | Location: Metz, France

Fort de Queuleu

Fort de Queuleu construction began while part of Lorraine was under French rule in 1868. After the interruption of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, the fort was improved between 1872 and 1875 by the German Empire, which had annexed the area as a result of the war. Renamed Fort Goeben, it formed part of the first ring of the fortifications of Metz. Functionally obsolete by the First World War, it saw no military action, ...
Founded: 1868 | Location: Metz, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.