Tag Archives: St. Etienne Cathedral

At St. Etienne Cathedral, Metz

By Joan Gamble

Today, October 21, we went to the Metz Cathedral to start our day. I lit a candle for my niece Jenny who died 13 years ago today. The cathedral is quite spectacular, with an incredibly high vaulted ceiling, beautiful stained glass windows, including several by Chagal. The sun was streaming through the windows as we entered and a visiting choir made the mass feel special, allowing the sacredness of the space to come alive.
This cathedral was built in the 12th and 13th centuries so was here in Joan of Arc’s time and though she never came to Metz, it is a mere 150 km from her birth place of Domremy. I think of her and her incredible devotion from an early age, born seemingly with the purpose of liberating France from the English and thereby bringing an end to the oppression of the 100 years war.
The priest spoke today of humility and surrender as the way to divine union. I wonder what humility means and get a sense as I focus inward and feel connected to Jenny, my brother Bob, his wife Loretta, sister Kuluk and brother Alastair. Our Joan of Arc tour has begun on this appropriately sacred note.

The Nave, St. Etienne Cathedral

West Entrance

Chagal Stained Glass Windows

Flying Butresses

Angel Playing the Organ, South Entrance

 St. Etienne Cathedral, Metz, France

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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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