Easter morning feast over, we headed for Metz. It is the capital of the Lorraine region and home of many beautiful and interesting sights, which we were eager to see.
We drove through the outskirts of the city, catching glimpses of the amazingly beautiful train station and the new home for modern art they are almost finished with. After so recently viewing the thatched roofs of Holland, I could not help but be forcefully reminded of them when confronting this canvas roof. It had the same sweeping lines and flowing shape – minus the straw!
We parked and got out near the center of the city. We were headed for a reportedly amazing cathedral. Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Metz is located in the heart of the city and is the seat of the bishop. It did not, in any way, disappoint. The narthex was particularly noteworthy from overall impression to the smallest details.
The inside was no less noteworthy. This is the 3rd highest nave in France; it is simply immense and also features incredible stained glass. We were there during Easter services and it was really awesome to hear the Catholic service I grew up with, flowing out of the pulpit in French. We didn’t wander around much out of respect for the service and soon left to experience the exterior further.
Zander’s pants were the victims of an unfortunate nighttime event and he was stuck wearing shorts (since that’s what I had in the bag for him. We were tight on space and shorts are smaller than pants) So, his little legs were freezing on this day. I was carrying him to keep them a bit warmer and I don’t think I’ve done that for a long time. He was saying he was scared up there!
A neat feature of Metz is that they have brass plaques that show the way to local points of interest. We just had to follow the ones marked with a dragon. Unfortunately, after an interesting 15 minute walk or so, we ended up at the end of a circle, never having seen a dragon at all. Is it under renovation or is this some kind of a cruel joke they like to play on the tourists? Of course, I couldn’t let this mystery lie forever unanswered and looked it up. It turns out there is a famous dragon legend attached to Metz and St. Clement. It is called: The Legend of the Graoully.
“The legend states that the Graoully, along with countless snakes, inhabited the local amphitheater. The snakes’ breath had so poisoned the area that the inhabitants of the town were effectively trapped. Clement arrived on the scene and agreed to rid the town of the dragon if the local inhabitants would convert to Christianity. He went into the amphitheater and quickly made the sign of the cross at the attacking snakes. They immediately were tamed by this gesture. Clement led the Graoully to the edge of the Seille (river), and ordered him to disappear into a place where there were no men or beasts. Orius (the ruler of Metz) did not convert to Christianity after Clement tamed the dragon. However, when the king’s daughter died, Clement brought her back from the dead, thereby resulting in the king’s conversion.
In the Middle Ages, a large effigy of the Graoully was carried during processions in the town. By the 18th century, the Graoully was a large canvas figure stuffed with hay and twelve feet high. Various traditions were associated with the effigy. During the 18th century, bakers gave the dragon a small loaf of white bread, while on the last of the Rogation days, children whipped the effigy in the courtyard of the abbey of Saint Arnould, which was the last stage of the procession.”
I can’t believe they don’t let kids whip the effigy any longer. I mean, it sounds like yet another cultural experience I’d like to share with my crew. There is a statue on one of the streets (shown above from Wikipedia) but we missed it!
The kids handled the disappointment with their usual aplomb and had fun chasing pigeons and window shopping for baby Julia’s newest onsies. Unfortunately, the store selling these jewels was closed for Easter Sunday. Sorry Julia!
I will close with this lovely shot (left) of an old advertisement for insecticide – I loved the old graphic! Also the Hotel de Ville is at right, it is common in these European squares for the Hotel de Ville to be on a main place (with the cathedral) and to be flying 3 flags, France, EU and the city flag. That’s because the Hotel de Ville is the mayor’s office. (So don’t try to check in.) This one also had the motto of France: Liberty, Fraternity, Equality.
Some cities have mottos as well. Metz’s is: Si paix dedans, paix dehors or Peace within, peace without. So mote it be…..