Friday, March 26, 2010


For an afternoon's excursion, Susie and I drove to the town of Pont-a-Mousson, which is about 30 kilometers south--that is to say upstream on the Moselle--of Metz. The city was founded in 1250, and there has been a bridge across the river at this point since the Middle Ages, although the present bridge is a replacement after heavy damage in World War II.

The center of town is the Place Duroc. The Hotel de Ville, seen at right, anchors this triangular space of Renaissance buildings, almost all of which have conserved their arcades.

The best-known of the Renaissance buildings in Pont-a-Mousson is the Maison des Sept Péchés Capitau, at the right.

You can see the Seven Deadly Sins on the story above the arcade.

Many places in Lorraine have memorials dedicated to American forces that liberated the region in World War II. A building around the corner from the Place Duroc has a plaque that commemorates the liberation of Pont-a-Mousson by the U.S. Army's 80th Infantry Division.

As explained in a nice French/English bilingual pamphlet, the Hotel de Ville was built just before the French revolution, replacing a structure from around 1580 that had been destroyed by fire. While the exterior is in the relatively simple style of Louis XVI, the interior has some highly ornate rooms. Foremost among these is the Grand Salon, with decoration on Greek mythological themes.

The adjacent, much smaller Marriage Hall, where the town's civil marriages are performed, has elaborate woodwork and, in particular, three Aubusson tapestries depicting the life of Alexander the Great, based on sketches by Lebrun.

In the part of Pont-a-Mousson on the other side of the Moselle is the Abbaye de Prémontrés, an extensive 18th-Century monastery that now serves as a cultural and conference center.

The abbey's neoclassical buildings include a church whose facade faces the street. The church's interior, in keeping with religious thought of the period, is luminous, thanks to its enormous windows of lightly colored glass.

The church forms one side of the abbey's cloister; the other three sides are arcaded wings of the abbey's main building.

The arcades have been glassed in, which makes them habitable in winter while still promoting a sensation of light.

The abbey has three noted staircases, of which this one, the Square Staircase, is the grandest.

The Abbaye de Prémontrés stands right along the east bank of the Moselle, with colonnaded wings and gardens that border the river, affording beautiful views back to the center of Pont-a-Mousson.

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