Top Historic Sights in Nancy, France

Explore the historic highlights of Nancy

Place Stanislas

Nancy, the temporary residence of a king without a kingdom – Stanislaw I Leszczynski, later to become Duke of Lorraine – is paradoxically the oldest and most typical example of a modern capital where an enlightened monarch proved to be sensitive to the needs of the public. Built between 1752 and 1756 by a brilliant team led by the architect Héré, this was a carefully conceived project that succee ...
Founded: 1756 | Location: Nancy, France

Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts of Nancy is one of the oldest museums in France. Established in 1793, the museum is housed in one of the four large pavilions on the Place Stanislas. In 1930, the town council decided to convert the building into a museum in order to host the fine art collection hitherto held in the city hall. In 1999, the art historian Jacques Thuillier donated a huge collection of drawings (2,000) and engravings ...
Founded: 1793 | Location: Nancy, France

St. Epvre Basilica

Built in the 19th century in gothic revival style by Prosper Morey, Saint-Epvre’s Basilica is decorated with stained glass and wood panelling and was in-part made in Bavaria. It was richly endowed by Napoleon III, Emperor Franz-Joseph, Ludwig II of Bavaria and Pope Pius who donated the beautiful stone paving in the choir that came from the Appian Way. The market square and general trading centre in the Middle Ages, ...
Founded: 1864-1874 | Location: Nancy, France

Palace of the Dukes of Lorraine

The Ducal Palace of Nancy was built in the 15th century for René II, Duke of Lorraine. In the 18th century the palace was extended by Baroque architects. Under the rule of Leopold, Duke of Lorraine parts of the building were pulled down, in preparation of greater projects, he intended. After the House of Habsburg had ceded Lorraine to French control in exchange for Tuscany, the ducal palace in Nancy became the home ...
Founded: 1502 | Location: Nancy, France

Nancy Cathedral

Nancy Cathedral was built at the beginning of the 18th century by architects Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Germain Boffrand. Several paintings by local artists from the 17th and 18th century are exhibited. The great organ of the cathedral of Nancy has been built from 1756 by Nicolas Dupont. One century later (1861), Aristide Cavaillé-Coll signed here its biggest work in France outside of Paris.
Founded: 1703 | Location: Nancy, France

Church of Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours

The Church of Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours is the resting place of the Polish king Stanislaw I Leszczynski, who was the last duke of Lorraine. A large stone relief of the coat of arms of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is located on the clock tower on the main front.
Founded: 1737-1741 | Location: Nancy, 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.