The present-day region of Lorraine, with its capital Nancy, lies in eastern France in the valleys of the upper Meuse and the Moselle, bounded on the west by Champagne and on the east by the Vosges and extending northward to the Ardennes and southward to the Langres plateau.
It consists of the départements of Meurthe-et-Moselle (chief town Nancy), Moselle (Metz), Meuse (Bar-le-Duc) and Vosges (Epinal) - though the eastern part of the Vosges département is in Alsace. Outside the larger towns and industrial areas Lorraine has preserved its natural beauty almost unspoiled, with the steeply scarped forest-covered hills of the Vosges, its beautiful upland regions, its quiet mountain lakes and attractive holiday resorts.The spas along the fringes of the Vosges have a long tradition behind them, and, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries, such resorts as Bains-les-Bains, Plombières, Vittel and Contrexéville were frequented by the fashionable world of Europe.The population of Lorraine goes back to Celtic and Frankish origins, mixed with Alemannic (Germanic) blood. The region preserves some remains of German language and culture.The treaty of Verdun in 843 brought about a division of the Frankish empire between the sons of Louis the Pious. Under the treaty the western part of the empire fell to Charles the Bald, the middle section to Lothair and the eastern part to Louis (Ludwig) the German. In 855 the central part was again divided, when Lothair I handed over his domains to his sons, Louis, Charles and Lothair II. The last named called his territory "Lotharii Regnum", from which the name Lorraine is derived. In 870, however, Lorraine also passed to Ludwig. In 959 the duchies of Upper and Lower Lorraine (Lotharingia) were created, the latter, with its capital at Nancy, becoming known as Lorraine tout court. In 1552 France acquired the towns of Metz, Toul and Verdun, and in 1776 the Duchy of Lorraine also became French. After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 a large part of Lorraine, mainly German-speaking, including in particular Metz and the surrounding area, was incorporated in the newly established German Empire, becoming part of the province of Alsace- Lorraine. After the First World War it returned to France, and has since then remained French except for a brief interruption in 1940-1944.In addition to its productive agriculture and forestry Lorraine possesses minerals (coal, iron ore) which are important to its industries. A variety of causes (quality of raw materials, competition from cheaper and better foreign products) led to economic stagnation in the region, particularly in heavy industry, and since the early 1960s special efforts have been made to promote development in Lorraine.Another important sector is the textile industry, which was brought into Lorraine from Alsace.Lorraine's rivers and lakes offer facilities for a variety of water sports (diving, sailing, fishing, etc.).There are golf-courses at Nancy, Combles (near Bar-le-Duc), Vittel and Metz.There is plenty of scope for walkers and cyclists, as well as for nature-lovers, in the Vosges Regional Park (area 185,000 hectares/457,000 acres). There is also a considerable network of waymarked footpaths and trails.
Toul (pop. 16,851), in the upper Moselle valley, was a place of considerable importance in the Middle Ages, the see of a bishop and (until 1648) a free imperial city. The town is still surrounded by its 17th C walls, with four gates. The Porte de Metz was designed by Vauban. The Cathedral of St-Etienne (13th-14th centuries) has a Late Gothic facade and two octagonal towers. The cloister, entered through a Renaissance doorway, dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. The Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) occupies the former Bishop's Palace.Southwest of the cathedral is the church of St-Gengoult (13th-16th centuries), a smaller and simpler version of the cathedral. The choir has some fine remains of 13th C stained glass. On the south side of the church is a 16th C cloister, in a light and elegant Flamboyant style. There are a number of old houses, particularly in Rue Général- Gengoult, some of them dating from the 14th C.
Epinal (pop. 38,207), chief town of the département of Vosges, lies on both banks of the Moselle amid extensive forests. Its most famous products are the colored prints known as images d'Epinal which in the 19th C. enjoyed worldwide sales. A printer and publisher named Pellerin set up in business in the town in 1799 and began to produce prints which were not confined, as in the past, to religious subjects but also illustrated contemporary themes and, for children, fairytales. Examples of these prints can be seen in the former printing house, the Vosges Departmental Museum (which also displays pictures and sculpture) and the International Museum of Folk Art. The church of St-Maurice (13th C., with an 11th C. tower) contains in the transept a 14th C. Virgin and a 15th C. "Entombment". In the Parc du Château are the ruins of a castle destroyed in 1670.
This two-day festival takes place in mid-June.
The attractively situated little town of Vittel (pop. 6,171) has been one of the best known spas in Lorraine since the mid 19th century, with a reputation which goes back to Roman times. Its water, from four cold mineral springs, is used in the treatment of disorders of the stomach, liver and intestines, and enjoys a wide market in bottled form as table water. It has the Late Gothic church of St-Rémy. The leisure needs of visitors are catered for by beautiful parks, a golf-course, and a racecourse. Vittel is also a good base from which to explore the beautiful surrounding area.
St Mihel or St Michel grew up around a Benedictine abbey founded in 709, and in the 14th C. was one of the principal towns of the Barrois district. The sculptor Ligier Richier (C.1500-1567) was born in the town, and some of his works are to be seen in the local churches. One of his finest works, the "Pâmoison de la Vierge" (the Virgin fainting, supported by St John), is in a chapel in the church of St-Michel (12th C., much altered in the late 17th C.). Another, an "Entombment", is in the 16th C. church of St-Etienne.
The popular holiday resort of Gérardmer (alt. 666-1,100 m/2,185-3,610ft; pop. 9,573) lies below the Col de la Schlucht in a picturesque lake district in the High Vosges. In winter there is skiing in this area, and in summer the Lac de Gérardmer, with a perimeter of 5.5km/3.5mi, offers facilities for a variety of water sports. Nearby are the lakes of Longemer and Retournemer.There is excellent walking in the surrounding area.
Bar-le Duc, France
Bar-le-Duc (pop. 16,939), the old capital of the duchy of Bar and now an industrial town, lies on the Rhine-Marne Canal and the river Ornain, with the upper town reaching on to the slopes above the valley.
Bar-le-Duc - Upper Town
In the upper town is the 14th C church of St-Etienne, with another masterwork by Ligier Richier, the tomb of Prince René de Châlon (d. 1544), known as the "Squelette" (Skeleton). The Rue du Bourg, Rue de Bar and Place St-Pierre are lined with handsome old houses. The Château Ducal contains a museum.
At the southeast end of the Boulevard de la Rochelle, in the lower town, is the handsome church of St-Jean, in neo- Romanesque/Byzantine style. The Pont Notre-Dame with its chapel leads to the church of Notre-Dame (13th- 14th C, restored in 17th C), which contains a wooden figure of Christ by Ligier Richier, a pupil of Michelangelo, and a beautiful 15th C bas-relief. To the southeast, beyond the narrow Canal de l'Ornain, is the 14th C church of St-Antoine, with frescoes of the same period.
St Maurice sur Moselle, France
St-Maurice (pop. 1,449), lying below the Ballon d'Alsace and the Rouge Gazon, is a popular summer resort which also offers facilities for winter sports in the surrounding hills.
Thillot (pop. 3,745), a popular holiday resort throughout the year, lies on the Moselle below the Ballon d'Alsace (1,250m/4,101ft), the most southerly peak in the Vosges.
Remiremont (pop. 9,180), beautifully situated at the foot of Mt Parmont (613 m/2,011ft), grew up around a famous convent founded on the Saint Mont in the 11th C. for ladies of good family. The church of St-Pierre (13th-16th C.) contains the tombs of some of these noble ladies. Other buildings associated with the convent are the 18th C. Abbess's Palace and houses of the same period. The Grande Rue is lined by handsome 13th C. arcades. There are two regional museums illustrating the history and way of life of the area.The former conventual church of Notre-Dame was much altered in the 18th C. Notable features of the interior are the marble cladding of the choir (17th C.) and an 11th C. figure of the Virgin. Under the choir is an 11th C. crypt.
St Die, France
The old episcopal city of St-Dié (pop. 23,699) was largely destroyed during World War II, and accordingly most of the town has a modern aspect. The first geographical work referring to the land discovered by Columbus as America was published in St-Dié in 1507. The Romanesque cathedral (12th-13th C.; rebuilt after suffering heavy damage in 1944) has a Gothic choir; the towers date only from 1711. There is a fine 14th C. cloister. The Romanesque church of Notre-Dame-de- Galilée is a fine example of 12th C. Rhineland architecture. The Municipal Museum displays archeological finds from the area, a collection of birds and mementos of Jules Ferry (1832-1893) and his family. In the north of the town is a hosiery factory designed by Le Corbusier.
Lunéville (pop. 21,112) was the residence of the Dukes of Lorraine between 1702 and 1737. The handsome 18th century château was designed by Boffrand, a pupil of Mansart's. In the courtyard is an equestrian statue of General Lasalle. The Château now houses a museum of art. The twin-towered Baroque church of St-Jacques (1730-1747) has fine paneling in the interior.There is a small Cycle and Motorcycle Museum, with over 200 pre-1939 models.It was on this site that the Marquise de Châtelet translated Newton's Principia. She was the mistress of Voltaire at the time and had been offered refuge from debt collectors by Stanislas Leczinsky, Duke of Lorraine.
The old town of Sarrebourg (pop. 14,044) lies on the fringe of the Vosges on the river Sarre (Saar). The Eglise des Cordeliers, a former Franciscan church (13th C., rebuilt in 17th C.) has a stained glass west window by Marc Chagall; it now houses a museum. The Musée du Pays de Sarrebourg has a fine ceramic collection and also displays archeological finds from the surrounding area. On the outskirts of the town is a First World War military cemetery with 13,000 graves.Outside the town, at St-Ulrich, is a large Gallo-Roman villa.
Bitche (pop. 5,752), a garrison town, lies amid extensive forests, dominated by a Vauban fortress (1680). Bliesbruck, near the German frontier, was the site of a Gallo-Roman settlement which has been under excavation for many years. The remains of a large cult building and various workshops have been brought to light. It is planned to establish an open-air archeological museum.
La Bresse, France
La Bresse (alt. 630-1,366 m/2,095-4,480ft; pop. 5,092) lies on the Moselotte, a tributary of the Moselle. It is one of the leading winter sports resorts in the Vosges and is also a popular summer resort. At Colombey visitors can see General de Gaulle's residence, La Boisserie, in which he lived between 1946 and 1958 and to which he finally retired in 1969.
Phalsbourg (pop. 5,000) was built about 1570 as a fortified town and is still a garrison town. It fell to France in 1662, and its defenses were considerably strengthened by Vauban in 1680. The Porte de France and Porte d'Allemagne, both richly decorated, are remains of the old fortifications. There is a museum on the history of the town in the Town Hall.
The much frequented spa of Bains-les-Bains (pop. 1,415), with 11 springs which were already being used in Roman times, lies in the middle of the forest. It is recommended for the treatment of cardiac and nervous conditions and high blood pressure.
The little town of Dabo (pop. 2,893) lies in a beautiful setting. On the Rocher de Dabo (664 m/2,179ft) is the chapel of St-Léon (1890), on the site of a legendary castle of the Frankish king Dagobert. From the top of the lookout tower there are fine views of the surrounding country.
Neufchâteau (pop. 7,533), situated above the Meuse, was a place of some consequence in the Middle Ages, a free city within the Duchy of Lorraine. It has two notable churches, St-Nicolas (12th- 15th C.), which has a 15th C. "Entombment", and St-Christophe (13th-14th C.), and a Renaissance Town Hall with a fine staircase.
Plombières (pop. 1,906) is a spa, with 28 thermal springs (13-81 C/55-178 F) which were in use in Roman times, set in a beautiful park. The local museum displays works by the Plombières-born painter Louis Français and his artist friends (Corot, Courbet, Diaz, etc.).
Domrémy (pop. 200) was the birthplace in 1412 of Joan of Arc, the Maid (Pucelle) of Orléans. The house in which she was born, near the church, is open to visitors; opposite it is a small museum.
A few dozen hectares make up the region of Lorraine. They are split between two small VDQS districts: Côtes de Toul, and Vins de Moselle, an area of villages in the Moselle Valley.
Sarreguemines (pop. 23,774) lies in eastern Lorraine. The former Town Hall, now a museum, displays a fine ceramic collection. There are fine views from the ruined castle on the Schlossberg.
Rambervillers (pop. 5,999), in the western Vosges, is a picturesque little town with a 16th C. Town Hall, old houses of the same period and remains of town walls.
World Festival of 1000 Balloons, Chambley, France
This 10-day festival runs from late July to early August.
Festival, Gorze, France
This month-long festival takes place in May.