Prelude: A Sentimental Journey to Metz, Lorraine

About the only memorial to Joan of Arc in Metz was a little “Place Jeanne d’Arc” and a Bar of the same name. Metz was an autonomous Republic within the Holy Roman Empire during the One Hundred Years War  and the Joan of Arc era. It remained as a trade and finance center removed from warfare or occubation by the English or the Burgundians.

Metz France does not have much to do with Joan of Arc even though Domremy is also in Lorraine. The only connection may be that Jean de Metz, a minor noble who accompanied her to see the Dauphin at Chinon and then fought at her side till the end, was from this city. We are here because we met here in 1954. (Joan was seven years old and Arch was thirteen so he did not pay much attention to her at that time.) We were in Metz because our fathers were in the RCAF Air Division HQ at the Chateau de Mercy just outside the city.

Metz is steeped in “History”. It was founded some 3000 years ago by our Celtic ancestors, the “Mettis” who gave Metz its name. It was a center of the Roman Empire. It has the oldest church in France. It was a major trade and financial center throughout the Middle Ages. For some 300 years until 1552 it was a Republic within the Holy Roman Empire, ruled by the major families of the city. In the Middle Ages, it was larger than Paris, and much of the old town has changed little since Joan of Arc’s era. While the 100 years war was raging, it seems to have been busy as a trade and money-making center of a large area from Troyes to Trier.

Place St. Louis, heart of the Medieval financial and trade activities of Metz and of the Republique Messine 

It was captured by the Germans in the Franco-German War in 1870 and held until 1918, so that much of the Belle Epoque architecture and the innumerable military barracks and installations date from this era. Returned to France after WW I, it continued as a major military center before and after WW II.

 The Chateau de Mercy, RCAF HQ, Metz, 1955

Reviewing a “March-Past”, 1955 or so

The Chateau, 2012; fallen into disrepair, all other buildings replaced by a new regional hospital.

Joan at the Chateau de Mercy, 2012

The PMQs (Permanent Married Quarters), 1955, Anne Ritter buying groceries. The whole region of Fort Bellecroix, at the edge of Metz, is now a major residential area.

Above, the Globe Hotel, August 1954, the Ritter family; below, Joan in front of the the Globe which is now derelict and awaiting renovation


Jessie and Anne Ritter at the Roman aqueduct at Jouey aux Arches, 1955.

By the Moselle River, St. Etienne Cathedral in the Background

Our parents, Arch and Anne Ritter with Marg and Al Gamble, at the PMQs, Metz, 1955    

Joan at the Porte des Allemands, one of the entry gates to the city in Joan’s time

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6 Responses to Prelude: A Sentimental Journey to Metz, Lorraine

  1. Jim Eakins says:

    Hi Joan,

    I just this instant (16 Mar 2016) discovered your wonderful blog, and most particularly your Sentimental Journey to Metz. Your history with Arch in Metz (when he was failing to notice the beautiful young lady in front of him ) was fun to read and brought back a flood of my own memories of Metz.

    I was a young lad of eight when we lived in Ancy-sur-Moselle (first family overseas): just a short time before you arrived on scene. We were still in Metz when you were there in (stuck in the trailer park in Peltre) and we shipped out for home on the SS Homeric in July of 55.

    Did you know there is a reunion gathering being planned for Metz in April of 2017? Info is available on the General Navereau School web site (

    • Arch Ritter says:

      Thank you very much for your message. My apologies for not replying long ago, but the Blog has been on the back burner for quite a while.
      We overlapped with you in Metz for the year 1954-1955. I left in July ’56 and Joan left in July ’57.
      I remember Peltre very well as the School bus went by there every day. I remember some snowy winter days when it looked pretty cold in the Trailer Camp.
      Thanks for the info re the reunion. We will look into it, though I teach until the latter part of April.
      Very best wishes,
      Arch Ritter.

  2. Rino Manarin says:

    Emma and I were married in the chaple at chateau mercy in Sept 1956. From looking at a few photo of both the Chateau and the chaple, it looks like soon there will only be memories of both.Maybe somwhere someplace a person or persons with the financial resources will restore these places as they do form part of the history of the area.I do believe the RCAF left the places in good order when they left when asked by General DeGaulle.
    anyway it was nice to look at the photos.
    Rino & Emma Manarin
    hune 3, 2016

    • Arch Ritter says:

      Good Afternoon:
      Sorry for not replying for so long. The Blog and your message slipped onto the back burner.
      I hope that your live in Metz was as interesting as was ours, though we were just Air Force brats at the time.
      Best wishes.
      Arch Ritter.

  3. Gail Miller says:

    I’m sure you would want your information to be accurate and coming from one who lived in the PMQ’s , A block, PMQ does NOT stand for permanent. The P stands for Private

  4. Rick Wilm says:

    Although I was never stationed in Metz while with the RCAF, I did stop there on Feb 3 on my way to 4 Wing and also on my way back to Canada from 4 Wing in Feb 1967.
    I also stopped there in 19782 & 1989 with my wife and several different in-laws.

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