Fortifications of Metz

Fortifications of Metz

Fortifications of Metz

The fortifications of Metz, Lorraine, dating back to the third century AD, ending at XX century. The last fortifications are particularly neat because of the strategic position of the city between France and Germany.


Divodurum is a walled city since ancient times. The Médiomatriques erected a dominating oppidum Moselle, probably on the Sainte-Croix hill. When the Romans arrived in 52 BC, they built a military post, which grows gradually. The Third and Fourth centuries, the city councilors are building the first stone ramparts, to deal with the first onslaught of barbarians. The city is surrounded by an enclosure pierced by several gates where the reused architectural blocks and stelae of Roman monuments. The city and had only one enclosed length 1200 meters and a width of 600 meters and its area was reduced to 70 hectares. At the fall of the Roman Empire, the fortifications are crumbling or are integrated into the urban habitat. The arcaded houses of the Place Saint-Louis or the Church of St. Martin are built on the foundations of the Roman walls.


The ninth and tenth centuries, the city fortifications were strengthened, including Bishop Robert. The walls are reinforced for the first time in 1235. The enclosure of more than 6000 meters long, has no less then thirty-eight square or round towers. Most are named after corporations responsible for their maintenance. A portion of the enclosure is still visible along the Pail. In 1324, the chamber has more than eighteen or postern doors: the door Serpenoise, the Saint-Thiébaut door , the door Chandellerue the door repented the gate Saint-Nicolas, Mazelle the door (to Maizelle), the German door, the door of St. Barbara, the door of Lady Colette Bridge, High Champé door, the door of France , Bridge Remond (or Renmont) of Saux-en- Rhimport of Chambière, Hôtel-lambert, Overseas pail of Pontiffroy the Bridge of Death, of Anglemur Patar and. The medieval wall was reinforced again around 1445, as recalled by the door of the Germans.

Modern era

The sixteenth century to the eighteenth century, the fortifications of the city of Metz know several revisions, which radically transform the medieval walled city in a truly modern fortress, adapted to the new artillery and siege techniques. Metz became a stronghold in the sixteenth century, with the construction of the citadel, shortly after the siege of Charles V in 1552. The food storehouse, built in 1559, is part of the military citadel and the rational organization demonstrates stewardship of military garrisons in the Old Regime.

Louis XIV recognized the military importance of the city and it sends the engineer Vauban fortifications to consider. This last visit the place in 1675 and concludes: “The other places of the kingdom cover the province, Metz covers the state.”  His plans are partly followed in 1676, then again in the early eighteenth century by his pupil Louis Cormontaigne. At that time, some of the medieval walls and gates was demolished and replaced by new fortifications. Building a double crown fortification is entrusted to the military engineer Louis Cormontaigne , in his capacity as director of the strongholds of the bishoprics, a position he retained from 1728 to 1749. The construction of the fort Bellecroix must protect the front of the lower Seille, while strong Moselle protects the front of the Moselle northwest. Cormontaigne designs double crowns mirror.

Until the early eighteenth century, the soldiers were staying with a host, which did not fail to create problems between the civilian population and the garrison. From 1726 to 1731, Bishop Henry of Cambout of Coislin built at his own expense a huge barracks on the field to Seille to accommodate infantry. The strong Moselle, we built a royal military hospital for 2 000 patients and a body of artillery barracks. A body of cavalry barracks is built Chambière from 1732 to 1736. From the Middle Ages until the late nineteenth century, the area of the amphitheater serves as a glaze for fortifications south of the city. Cormontaigne had built the fort in 1737 of the Pail as Vauban: a strong bastion in front of the fortifications at the site of the ancient amphitheater Gallo-Roman. The south of the city also receives a line of ramparts in 1739. The new military buildings can receive 10,000 men and 2,000 horses. The whole city was bastions, making his improbable taken.


Metz found its role as a stronghold border, in the early years of the Restoration. The fortifications required by Marshal Belle-Isle are strengthened and developed. Drawbridges to replace counterweight variables dormant bridges over rivers, doors and walls of the room are completely rebuilt. The bezel of the Cheneau or strong Gisors, is constructed from 1822 to 1831. Before the invention of rifled artillery, instead of Metz was considered impregnable. During the nineteenth century, advances in artillery forced the French engineers to design a new defensive system around the fortress of Metz, the first fortified belt. The Marshal Niel affects a twelve million gold francs to build these forts, which begins in the emergency in 1868. This device is the source of four advanced and detached forts, the forts of Saint-Quentin and Plappeville west, and Fort Saint-Julien and Queuleu east. This device, designed especially by Colonel Sere de Rivieres, was unfinished in 1870. At first, it was completed by the construction of seven forts, by the German military engineers between 1871 and 1898. In a second step, the first ring of forts was doubled by a second fortified belt, composed of nine fortified groups, between 1899 and 1916.

The boxes are usually made of large barracks surrounded by several smaller bunkers. Barracks, buried on three sides, turning their backs to enemy fire, not giving a facade looks paired for older or concrete for the latest. The barracks walls usually have more than two meters thick and cover several feet of compacted soil, often reinforced by a layer of concrete from one to two meters thick. Underground tunnels connect most of these structures. The older boxes are surrounded by wide trenches, real dry moat which sometimes reaches a depth of ten meters. These forts were also surrounded by a dense network of barbed wire.

Today, in addition to the advanced forts, many barracks and military sites in the Greater Messina and surrounding towns are reminders of the military past of the city of Metz. Among these, we must mention the old barracks Cloister of Chambière, the strong Moselle, or engineering. In 1890, Metz became the largest fortress in Europe. While Metz sheds its shackles inherited bastion of the eighteenth century, a new military hospital and many barracks are built to meet the needs of the new German garrison, between 15 000 and 20 000 men at the beginning of the period, and more than 25,000 men before the First World War. Among these, it is worth mentioning the barracks Ney, Barbot, de Lattre


Victor Simon, “Report on the memory of Mr. Soleirol, on an antique door in Metz” BSAHM, 1859, p. 207-208.

Auguste Begin, on the fortifications of Metz (fifteenth and sixteenth centuries).

Thiriot Jean René Schamber, the last door of the place de Metz, Even, 1937, 131 p.

Jean Thiriot, doors, walls and towers of the city of Metz: an evocation of the city walls in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Cooperative Publishing, 1970, 85 p.

Christian Dropsy, The fortifications of Metz and Thionville, Brussels, 1995.

Alain Hohnadel, Battle Forts – Verdun against Metz, 1995 (ISBN 2-84048-087-5).

G. Benoit (General), “Comparative Study of the fortifications of Metz and Verdun,” Journal of Military Engineering, Paris, Berger-Levrault, 1921, p. 8-41 and 113-137 (ISSN 0035-2586)  , available at Gallica.

Faye, George, Thionville, “Fortifications of Tene in Metz” in Trierer Zeitschrift, No. 53, 1990, p. 55-126.

Claude Turrell, Metz. Two thousand years of military architecture, Editions Serpenoise, Metz, 1986, 176 p.

JJ Barbé Barracks Metz and surrounding Almanac Lorrain, 1949.

C. Tritz, construction of barracks in Metz in the eighteenth century, thesis, Metz, 1987.

FM Chabert, “Construction in the city of Metz raw barracks for housing the troops of the garrison (1731)” in the Australasia, Rousseau-Pallez, 1856, 19 p.

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