Metz Cathedral

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Metz Cathedral
Cathedral of Saint Stephen, Metz
Cathédrale Saint Étienne de Metz
Metz centre ville crop.jpg
Metz Cathedral from the south
AffiliationRoman Catholic Church
DistrictDiocese of Metz
Ecclesiastical or organizational statusCathedral
LeadershipPierre Raffin
Year consecrated1552
LocationMetz, France
Geographic coordinates49°07′12″N 6°10′31″E / 49.12°N 6.1754°E / 49.12; 6.1754Coordinates: 49°07′12″N 6°10′31″E / 49.12°N 6.1754°E / 49.12; 6.1754
StyleFrench Gothic; Gothic Revival
Groundbreaking1220 (1220)
Completed1550 (1550)
Direction of façadeWest
Length136 metres (446 ft)
Height (max)88 metres (289 ft) (Mutte tower)
MaterialsJaumont Stone
Official name: Cathédrale Saint Étienne de Metz
Reference no.PA00106817[1]
Drawing of the cathedral in 1905 by Albert Robida

Metz Cathedral, otherwise the Cathedral of Saint Stephen, Metz (French: Cathédrale Saint Étienne de Metz), is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Metz, capital of Lorraine, France.[2] Dedicated to Saint Stephen, it is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Metz as the seat of the bishops of Metz.[3] The cathedral treasury displays the collection, assembled over 1,000 years, of the bishopric of Metz, including paraments and items used for the Eucharist.[2][4][5]

Metz Cathedral has one of the highest naves in the world. It is nicknamed la Lanterne du Bon Dieu ("the Good Lord's lantern"), displaying the largest expanse of stained glass in the world with 6,496 m2 (69,920 sq ft).[6] The stained glass windows include works by Gothic and Renaissance master glass makers Hermann von Münster, Theobald of Lixheim, and Valentin Bousch. Later artistic styles are represented by Charles-Laurent Maréchal (Romanticism), Roger Bissière (tachisme), Jacques Villon (Cubism), and Marc Chagall (modernism).[6]


Cathedral all in volute where the wind sings as in a flute, and responding to it via the Mutte, this big voice of the Good Lord![7]

Paul Verlaine, Ode to Metz, Invectives, 1896.

The cathedral at night under a full moon

Metz Cathedral is a Rayonnant Gothic edifice built of the local yellow Jaumont limestone. As in French Gothic architecture, the building is compact, with slight projection of the transepts and subsidiary chapels. However, it displays singular, distinctive characteristics in both its ground plan and architecture compared to most other cathedrals. Because of the topography of the Moselle valley in Metz, the common west–east axis of the ground plan could not be applied and the church is oriented north-northeast. Moreover, unlike the French and German Gothic cathedrals having three portals surmounted by a rose window and two large towers, this one has a single porch at its western front. The entrance is to the side of the building through another portal placed at the south-western side of the narthex, avoiding the usual alignment of the entrance with the choir.

The nave is supported by flying buttresses and culminates at 41.41 metres (135.9 ft) high, making it one of the highest naves in the world. The height of the nave is contrasted by the relatively low height of the aisles at 14.3 metres (47 ft) high, reinforcing the sensation of height of the nave. This feature permitted the architects to create large, tall expanses of stained glass. Through its history the cathedral has been subjected to architectural and ornamental modifications with successive additions of Neoclassical and Neogothic elements.

Construction history[edit]

The cathedral was built on an ancient site from the 5th century dedicated to Saint Stephen the Protomartyr.[8] According to Gregory of Tours, the shrine of Saint Stephen was the sole structure spared during the sack of 451 by Attila's Huns.[9] The construction of the present Gothic cathedral began in 1220 within the walls of an Ottonian basilica dating from the 10th century.[10][11] The integration into the cathedral's ground plan of a Gothic chapel from the 12th century at the western end resulted in the absence of a main western portal, the south-western porch of the cathedral being the entrance of the former chapel.[11][12] The work was completed around 1520 and the new cathedral was consecrated on 11 April 1552.[13]

In 1755, French architect Jacques-François Blondel was commissioned by the Royal Academy of Architecture to build a Neoclassical portal at the west end of the cathedral. He separated the cathedral's façade by razing an adjacent cloister and three attached churches, and completed the westwork in 1764.[14][15]

In 1877, the cathedral was heavily damaged after a conflagration caused by fireworks. After this incident, it was decided to refurbish the cathedral and its adornments in a Neogothic style. The western front was completely rebuilt between 1898 and 1903; Blondel's portal was demolished and a new Neogothic portal was added.[15]

Timeline of construction[edit]

  • 984–c.1040 Construction of an Ottonian basilica over an ancient shrine dedicated to Saint Stephen[11]
  • c.1180–1207 Construction of a chapel in Early Gothic style on the west side of the basilica[11]
  • 1220 Beginning of the construction of the Gothic cathedral within the foundations of the Ottonian basilica, construction of the aisles[11]
  • 1265–1285 Construction of the triforia and the two bell towers[11]
  • 1285–c.1290 Elevation of the westwork within the foundations of a Gothic chapel from the 12th century[11]
  • 1290s Construction of the vaults of the nave and the supporting flying buttresses[11]
  • c.1300–1330s Construction of the Lady Chapel[13]
  • 1380 Junction between the former Gothic chapel and the nave[13]
  • 1384 Creation of the stained glass tympanum of the west facade and the rose window by master glass maker Hermann von Münster
  • 1478–1483 Elevation of the spire[13]
  • 1486–1490s Construction of the northern transept[13]
  • 1504 Creation of the stained glass tympanum of the northern transept by master glass maker Theobald of Lixheim
  • c.1490–1500s Construction of the Gothic choir and east end[13]
  • 1504–1520s Construction of the southern transept[13]
  • 1518-1539 Stained glass by master glass maker Valentin Bousch, including the tympanum on the southern transept[16]
  • 1761–1764 Neoclassical refurbishment conducted by Jacques-François Blondel[15]
  • c.1850–1880s Destruction of the ornaments of Jacques-François Blondel[15]
  • 1889–1903 Construction of a Neogothic portal on the west front[15]
  • 1958–1960 Stained glass windows of Marc Chagall

Architectural elements and ground plan[edit]

Exterior architecture of Saint-Stephen of Metz
Facade of the cathedral
Metz Cathedral from the south-west. The bell tower is 69 metres (226 ft) high.
The cathedral from the south-east showing the side and Lady chapels, and the portal of the Virgin. The spire is 88 metres (289 ft) high.
The choir of the cathedral from the north.
Interior architecture of Saint-Stephen of Metz
The cathedral interior is 123.2 metres (404 ft) long.
The nave has quadripartite vaults and is 41.41 metres (135.9 ft) high and 15.60 metres (51.2 ft) wide.
The crossing of the transept. The transept is 46.80 metres (153.5 ft) high and 16.34 metres (53.6 ft) wide.
Interior of the choir.
The choir of the cathedral from the aisle

The following picture presents the ground plan of Saint-Stephen of Metz and the position of the architectural elements:

Number Architectural element Plan of Metz Cathedral
1 Westwork
2 Porch
3 Portal Portal of the Virgin
4 Narthex
5 Side chapel Blessed Sacrament chapel
6 Spire Mutte tower
7 Lady Chapel
8 Aisle
9 Organ
10 Southern transept
11 Entrance of the crypt
12 Apse chapel
13 Ambulatory
14 Apse (Chevet)
15 East end
16 Apse chapel
17 Northern transept
18 Aisle
19 Bell tower Capitulum tower
20 Altar candle
21 Nave
22 Crossing of the transept
23 Altar
24 Lectern
25 Choir (choirstalls)
26 Axis The elements 1, 2, 4, 13, 14, 15, 19, 21, 22, 23, and 25 constitute the axis (south-southwest/north-northeast, respectively). On its exterior, the cathedral is 136 metres (446 ft) long.

Stained glass[edit]

The stained glass windows, which together constitute the largest expanse of ancient stained glass in a single building, were made by the master craftsmen Hermann von Münster in the fourteenth century, and Valentin Bousch in the sixteenth. In the twentieth century the artist Marc Chagall created three stained glass windows for the cathedral between 1958 and 1968. Roger Bissière and Jacques Villon provided designs for further windows, including the complete chapel of the Holy Sacrament.

Number Master glass maker Plan of Saint-Stephen of Metz
1 Hermann von Münster's windows
2 Jacques Villon's windows
3 Valentin Bousch's windows
4 Valentin Bousch's windows
5 Marc Chagall's windows
6 Theobald of Lixheim's windows
7 Marc Chagall's windows
8 Roger Bissière's windows
Stained glass windows of Saint-Stephen of Metz
Stained glass from the 13th century, the oldest set of the cathedral. Located on one side of the southern transept, they recount the life of Saint Paul.
Stained glass window of the west facade by Hermann von Münster, 14th century. The Rose Window has a diameter of 11.25 metres (36.9 ft).
Garden of Eden Window by Marc Chagall

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Merimee Data Base". Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Official website of the Saint-Stephen Cathedral" (in French). Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  3. ^ "Official website of the Bishopric of Metz" (in French). Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  4. ^ "INA Archive (1969) Trésor de la cathédrale de Metz, Lorraine soir, ORTF" (VIDEO) (in French). Retrieved 2 July 2012.
  5. ^ "INA Archive (1980) Patrimoine: trésor de la cathédrale de Metz, Lorraine soir, France 3 régions" (VIDEO) (in French). Retrieved 2 July 2012.
  6. ^ a b Jolin J.L. (2001) La lanterne du Bon Dieu. Eds. Serpnoise. ISBN 2-87692-495-1. (in French)
  7. ^ The Mutte is the name of the large bell of Metz Cathedral.
  8. ^ Vallery-Radot J. (1931): La cathédrale de Metz, description archéologique. Eds A. Picard, Paris. (in French)
  9. ^ "Gregory of Tours (c. 538-594 A.D.) Historiae, Libri X. The Latin Library" (in Latin). Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  10. ^ Marot P. (1931): La cathédrale de Metz, histoire de la construction. Eds A. Picard, Paris. (in French)
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h "Timeline of the construction of Metz Cathedral, from 10th to 13th century" (VIDEO). Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  12. ^ Villes A. (2004): Remarques sur les campagnes de construction de la cathédrale de Metz au XIIieme siecle. Bulletin Monumental 162, Paris (in French)
  13. ^ a b c d e f g "Timeline of the construction of Metz Cathedral, from 14th to 16th century" (VIDEO). Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  14. ^ Lejeaux J. (1931): La cathédrale de Metz, L'œuvre de Blondel à Metz. Eds A. Picard, Paris. (in French)
  15. ^ a b c d e "Timeline of the construction of Metz Cathedral, from 17th to 20th century" (VIDEO). Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  16. ^ Ariane Isler-de Jongh: A Stained-Glass Window from Flavigny-sur-Moselle, Metropolitan Museum Journal, 33, 1998. Online, (p. 155).

External links[edit]