Sunday, September 15, 2013

4. The Greater Germany continued in Metz

In between our concert weekends, we looked for nearby places to visit, and Metz, the leading city of Lorraine in Carolingian times popped up on Bob's music radar when he chanced on a mention that Gregorian chant was invented in Metz . . . which by the way, and emphasized in every guidebook, is pronounced "Mess" in French. My German pronunciation is adequate thanks to four years with Fräulein Phillip in high school. My French pronunciation is dismal, but I am totally lost when every place name seems to be spelled in German, but pronounced in French.

So how could we not leave Alsace for two days to see the birthplace of Gregorian chant.
When Alsace was passed to Germany in the 1870s parts of Lorraine went with it, including the city of Metz. The location of Metz would have made the city the border gateway to the New Germany, so a monumental railway station was constructed during the first decade of the 20th century . . .

. . . heavily decorated with Teutonic symbolism. And built at the same time, Haut-Koenigsburg was being reconstructed.

The city is lovely, lying on the Moselle River where this folly, the Temple Neuf, was built in 1904 undoubtedly to emulate the site of Notre Dame in Paris. Greater Germany would have to wait a few decades to capture the real thing, if only for a brief time.

The beautifully landscaped promenade along the Moselle was a lovely walk on a hot summer day. 

Metz's most famous attraction is the Cathedral of St Etienne, begun in the early 13th century, within the walls of a 10th-11th century basilica style church. Construction continued for 300 years. 

The cathedral is noted for the towering height of its nave, the third highest in France . .  .

. . . and its curtain walls that are nearly all glass. I was too overwhelmed by the richness of the glass on such a sunny day to take a decent photograph, so Bob took this one of the 14th century Rose Window by Hermann von Münster.  

Those flying buttresses of Gothic engineering created a new sort of spiritual space very different from the  small windows and fortress like walls of the Romanesque churches of the previous century. Metz has the most window surface of any medieval cathedral.

The windows span the centuries with the original 14th and 16th century glass, but includes modern windows too.  These are two of the three windows designed by Chagall in the 1950s and 1960s . . .

. . . depicting Old Testament stories.

The Cathedral's crypt was a bit of a disappointment since the earlier Romanesque features had been buried under the Gothic rebuilding. But it did have this wonderful sculpture of the Graoully, the local dragon terrorizing the people of Metz in the 1st century. The legend is that St Peter sent Clement to convert the people of Metz, who agreed if he would take care of their dragon problem. Clement was a successful slayer, Metz became a Christian city, and Clement became the Bishop of Metz and a saint too.

Walking to the museum, we passed under a modern day Graoully which still serves as Metz's mascot.
The Musée de la Cour d'Or is a fantastic museum that chronicles the history of Metz beginning with the archaeological remains of a Roman bath beneath the building. This exquisite ivory carved casket depicts Charlemagne's son Louis the Pious being crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Stephen IV in 813.

Metz also has one of the oldest Christian churches in Europe.  St-Pierre-aux-Nonnains was built by the Romans in the late 4th century, probably as a gymnasium. Fifty years later, Attila and the Huns attacked and burned the town . . .

. . . but the walls with their distinctive Roman brick course between stone and mortar courses were left standing, and used to build a convent chapel in 615. The chapel was enlarged and modified with an early chancel by Bishop Chrodegang of Metz . . .  

. . . with a Romanesque nave . . .

. . . and with Gothic vaulting over the next 900 years.  

Nearby stands another unique building, a Templar's Chapel dated to the early 13th century. The Templars, the Pope's Army always ready for another Crusade in the Holy Land was established in 1133 in Metz, and became a command centre for troops leaving for the Second Crusade in 1145. The chapel was probably built around 1200 . . .

. . . the Templars were dissolved in 1312, and the chapel was passed to other  religious orders  who would have been responsible for the frescoes that decorate the interior. Metz was a Free City of the Holy Roman Empire until 1552 when Henri II annexed the city to his expanding kingdom of France. When Henri fortified the city, St-Pierre-aux-Nonnains became an arsenal and the Templars Chapel became a gunpowder store. The restoration of the two buildings were part of the early 20th century plan to emphasize the German history of the region.

And what about Gregorian Chant, the foundation of Western music? It has been known for a long time that Gregory the Great, Pope from 540 to 604, had nothing to do with Gregorian Chant although it was named after him as an honorific. Recent scholarship has indicated that Chrodegang, Bishop of Metz from c.740 to 766, had a great deal to do with establishing Gregorian Chant. Until the 8th century there was no core liturgical rite, but rather regional rites were in use across Christian practice. When Pope Stephen II travelled to Merovingian Gaul in the 750s, he said mass using his preferred Roman Rite chant. King Pepin liked  it so much, he abolished the local Gallic chant, a move not popular in Gaul. When Charlemagne became king, he asked Bishop Chrodegang of Metz to promote the new Roman Rite. What Chrodegang did was join the Roman and Gallic Rites into a new system that included eight modes and neumes to indicate melody. The new Rite was originally named Messin, to honor  Chrodegang of Metz.
In 748, Bishop Chrodegang founded an Abbey in Gorze a few miles outside of Metz. The 13th century parish church is all that remains of the Abbey where Chrodegang introduced his Messin Chant.

The Last Judgement
Perhaps he is not a fan of the new chanting?

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