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The city of Metz is grey? Baliverne! OK, I admit that the sunshine in Moselle is not equivalent to that in Colmar or Marseille. But from there to give Metz an unflattering term… Because although the sun may be lacking in Metz, the assets of the Moselle city are largely visible to the naked eye. If only for the colour of its facades. Have you heard of the “Soleil de Metz”? It refers to the Jaumont stone, the characteristic building stone of the city that gives it such an elegant appearance. So, follow me in my exploration of the famous golden stone that makes the city so beautiful… and let’s twist the conceived ideas along the way!

 

What is the Jaumont stone?

According to Wikipedia, the Jaumont stone is an oolitic limestone (spheres of 1 mm in diameter). It is a semi-tender stone with a medium-density (2.5 to 2.7), which makes it relatively easy to cut.

The golden Jaumont Stone in Metz © French Moments
The golden Jaumont Stone in Metz © French Moments

 

Why the name ‘Jaumont’?

Unlike Euville stone, Jaumont stone does not bear the name of a village or locality.

Jaumont is in fact a contraction of “Jaune Mont” (Galbinus Mons in Latin – the yellow mountain), a name that is naturally due to the yellow colour of the stone.

Jaumont stone is mined in quarries in the Moselle region, some fifteen kilometres northwest of Metz.

It is a deposit located above former disused iron ore mines and covers about 200 hectares in one piece. These are the banks of the following localities:

  • Malancourt-la-Montagne,
  • Montois-la-Montagne,
  • Moyeuvre-Grande,
  • Roncourt and
  • Saint-Privat-la-Montagne.

 

Why is Jaumont stone yellow?

It is the iron oxide present in the mines that gives Jaumont stone its “golden yellow” colour. The chromatic term for the colour is “yellowish ochre”.

My childhood memories of Metz (1980s) are of yellow stone facades blackened by time. The cathedral portal with its statues was an unattractive yellow-black colour. The delightful Place Saint-Louis was not particularly attractive with its yellow-brown facades. I learned much later that the blackening of the stone was due to atmospheric pollution, which had been occurring since the beginning of the 20th century. Restoration and refurbishment campaigns undertaken in the early 1990s have returned the stone to its golden shine.

Metz - Place Saint-Louis in the 1980s © Pierre Guernier
Metz – Place Saint-Louis in the 1980s © Pierre Guernier

 

The history of Jaumont stone in Lorraine

It is known that the Gallo-Romans exploited the Jaumont quarries at least from the 2nd century AD. This is evidenced by the sarcophagi and funerary steles discovered in the archaeological sites in Metz.

The golden age of stone dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. It was used to build Metz Cathedral and large churches in the region.

Jaumont stone - Metz Cathedral © French Moments
Jaumont stone in Metz Cathedral © French Moments

 

Jaumont stone in Metz

Jaumont stone is THE emblematic stone of Metz. It is found in many buildings, including the city’s most famous monuments:

 

The cathedral Saint-Etienne de Metz

One of the most beautiful cathedrals in France. Nicknamed the “Lantern of God”, it has the largest surface area of stained glass in France.

Metz Cathedral © French Moments
Metz Cathedral © French Moments
Metz Cathedral © French Moments
The west front, Metz Cathedral © French Moments
Metz Cathedral © French Moments
The west front of the cathedral – the clock © French Moments
Metz Cathedral © French Moments
Metz Cathedral © French Moments
Metz Cathedral © French Moments
Jaumont Stone at the cathedral of Metz © French Moments

 

Place d’Armes

The cathedral square is called the Place d’Armes. Designed in the 18th century by the architect Jacques-François Blondel, it is lined with neo-classical buildings in Jaumont stone:

  • the town hall
  • the guardhouse, which today houses the Metz tourist board
  • the Hôtel du Parlement

On the direct outskirts of the Place d’Armes stands the covered market, which in the 18th century was destined to become the bishop’s palace.

Place d'Armes, Metz © French Moments
City-Hall – Place d’Armes, Metz © French Moments
Metz Covered Market © French Moments
Metz Covered Market © French Moments

 

The Palais de Justice

(1777) with its three imposing U-shaped buildings.

Court House of Metz © French Moments
Court House of Metz © French Moments

 

The Porte des Allemands

A medieval castle spanning the Seille on the road to Germany.

Metz French Moments 83
The Germans’ Gate, Metz © French Moments
Metz Old Town: the Germans' Gate © French Moments
The Germans’ gate at the entrance to Metz old town © French Moments

 

The Metz opera theatre 

Situated on the Place de la Comédie, is one of the first theatres built in France (1752) and the oldest theatre still in operation.

Place de la Comédie © French Moments
Place de la Comédie © French Moments

 

Place Saint-Louis

The medieval Place Saint-Louis and its arcades houses.

Place Saint-Louis Metz © French Moments
Place Saint-Louis, Metz © French Moments
Place Saint-Louis Metz © French Moments
Place Saint-Louis © French Moments

 

The Palais du Gouverneur of Metz

Inaugurated in 1905, it is a neo-Renaissance palace built during the German annexation.

Palais du Gouverneur, Metz German Imperial District © French Moments
Palais du Gouverneur, Metz German Imperial District © French Moments

 

The Garrison Church

The church dates from 1881 and was intended for the German Lutheran soldiers based in Metz. The church was built in the same style (Rayonnant Gothic) and material (Jaumont stone) as the Cathedral. The supreme affront was the bell tower, whose spire (97 m) is one metre higher than that of the cathedral… The church was severely damaged during the bombings of the Second World War. The church was severely damaged during the bombings of the Second World War and only the spire was preserved after it was destroyed in 1952.

Place de Chambre Metz © French Moments
Place de Chambre and the spire of the Garrison church © French Moments
The spire of the Garrison Temple in Metz © French Moments
The spire of the Garrison Temple in Metz © French Moments

 

Metz Railway Station

Parts of the interior of Metz railway station are made of Jaumont stone. The station as a whole is built of pale grey Niderviller sandstone.

Inside the railway station of Metz © French Moments
Inside the railway station of Metz © French Moments

 

The bridges of Metz

Moyen-Pont and Grand pont des Morts…

Moyen Pont Metz © French Moments
Moyen Pont © French Moments

 

The churches of Metz

Notre-Dame, Saint-Martin, Sainte-Ségolène…

St. Martin church © French Moments
St. Martin church – the chevet © French Moments
Sainte-Ségolène church Metz © French Moments
Sainte-Ségolène church © French Moments
Notre-Dame church, Metz © French Moments
Notre-Dame church © French Moments

 

Buildings in the old town

Many buildings in the old town are covered with beige or brown rendering. Jaumont stone appears in contrast in the ochre-yellow frames of doors and windows. This characteristic feature can be found in several communes in the Metz region and in the Thionville area.

Rue de la Fontaine Metz © French Moments
Rue de la Fontaine © French Moments
Rue d'enfer Metz © French Moments
Rue d’enfer © French Moments
Place Sainte-Croix Metz © French Moments
Place Sainte-Croix © French Moments

 

It is interesting to note that the imperial quarter created by the Germans during the annexation of the city (1871-1918) includes other building materials. Some of these are not in continuity with the traditional Metz stone (that of Jaumont); the objective was to “Germanise” the Lorraine city. Thus, pink Vosges sandstone (Central Post Office) and grey Niderviller sandstone (railway station) appeared in Metz.

The central Post Office of Metz © French Moments
The central Post Office of Metz © French Moments
Metz Railway Station © French Moments
Metz Railway Station, built during the German era © French Moments

 

Jaumont stone in the Pays messin

Beyond the city, the houses in most of the villages of the Pays messin (region of Metz) are made of Jaumont stone. This is visible when you take the train from Nancy to Metz. From Ars-sur-Moselle onwards, the colour of the facades of the towns you pass through adopts the “Pierre de soleil”!

Jaumont stone in the village of Vaux in the Pays messin. Photo Aimelaime [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]
The village of Vaux in the Pays messin. Photo Aimelaime [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

 

Jaumont stone beyond the Metz area

The golden stone can be found in several sites in northern Lorraine, as well as in neighbouring regions and countries. A few examples:

 

Thionville

As the Jaumont quarries are located between Metz and Thionville, it is not surprising to find several buildings made of Jaumont stone in the second-largest city in Moselle. Amongst others, we can mention the Thionville belfry, the Tour aux Puces, the castle of Volkrange,the former lords’ residence of Créhange-Pittange, the southern lock bridge of the Couronné d’Yutz and the Sarrelouis gate.

The Créhange hotel in Thionville. Photo: Aimelaime [Public Domain]
The Créhange hotel in Thionville. Photo: Aimelaime [Public Domain]
The castle of Volkrange in Thionville. Photo: Aimelaime [Public Domain]
The castle of Volkrange in Thionville. Photo: Aimelaime [Public Domain]
The Belfry of Thionville. Photo: Aimelaime [Public Domain]
The Belfry of Thionville. Photo: Aimelaime [Public Domain]

Thionville lock bridge. Photo Public Domain
Thionville lock bridge. Photo Public Domain

 

The castle of Malbrouck

The castle built on a rocky spur in the 15th century dominates the Manderen region on the borders of Lorraine. The General Council of Moselle restored it in the 1990s to make it one of the department’s stars attractions.

Malbrouck Castle © Cornischong - license [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Malbrouck Castle © Cornischong – license [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

 

The Basilica of Avioth

Nicknamed “the cathedral of the fields”, the Basilica of Notre-Dame d’Avioth (14th century) is a remarkable structure located in the village of Avioth, in the former county of Chiny. The church is known for “La Recevresse”, a unique flamboyant gothic building.

Avioth © Ketounette - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons
The basilica of Avioth © Ketounette – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

 

The Vauban ramparts

The Vauban fortifications in Longwy-Haut and Luxembourg-City are also made of Jaumont stone.

Longwy: the Vauban rampart and Porte de France © Initsogan - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Longwy: the Vauban rampart and Porte de France © Initsogan – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Luxembourg © Cayambe - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
The ramparts of Luxembourg © Cayambe – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
 

The castle of Cons-la-Grandville

A few steps from Longwy, the castle of Cons-la-Grandville represents an architectural synthesis of the Romanesque and classical periods. Jaumont stone has been used since the Renaissance. Other monuments in the village are also made of Jaumont stone: the church of Saint-Hubert, the Benedictine priory of Saint-Michel and the old blast furnace.

Cons-la-Grandville in Jaumont Stone © Targa54 (thierry caland) - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
The castle of Cons-la-Grandville © Targa54 (thierry caland) – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

 

The Place Ducale in Charleville-Mézières

The magnificent main square of Charleville-Mézières was built between 1606 and 1624 by the architect Clément Métezeau, brother of the architect who designed his Parisian sister, the famous Place des Vosges.

Place ducale Charleville © Ad Meskens - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Place ducale in Charleville © Ad Meskens – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Charleville-Mézières Place Ducale © Dietmar Rabich - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Charleville-Mézières: Place Ducale © Dietmar Rabich – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Charleville-Mézières Place Ducale © François GOGLINS - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Charleville-Mézières: Place Ducale © François GOGLINS – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons
 

Lyon

Number 3 rue Juiverie in the Old Lyon looks like a Metz facade. The reason? The Jaumont stone is used in the door and window frames.

Jaumont stone in Lyon © French Moments
3 rue Juiverie, Vieux-Lyon: window frames in Jaumont stone © French Moments

I suspect that other window frames in Vieux-Lyon are also made of Jaumont stone.

Old Town of Lyon © French Moments
Are these window frames in Old Lyon made of Jaumont stone? © French Moments

 

Jaumont stone in Nancy

Nancy made extensive use of Euville stone in the construction of its 18th-century Unesco-listed district (Place Stanislas, Place d’Alliance, Triumphal Arch, city gates). Meuse stone is also found in the Art Nouveau houses built by the Ecole de Nancy.

So, are there any buildings in Nancy made of Jaumont stone?

Yes, and not the least!

The Nancy railway station, built in 1856 by the architect Charles-François Chatelain.

Ibis Hotel Nancy Gare © French Moments
The railway station of Nancy © French Moments

The former Nancy Tobacco Factory (manufacture des tabacs), built to the plans of Eugène Rolland between 1864 and 1870, just in time before the annexation of the Jaumont stone quarries by Germany!

 

Manufacture des Tabacs, Nancy © French Moments
Manufacture des Tabacs, Nancy © French Moments

 

The statue of Duke Antoine nestled in the magnificent doorway of the Ducal Palace is made of Jaumont stone. It is a reproduction by Giorné Viard from 1851.

Things to see in Nancy: Ducal Palace © French Moments
The great portal of the Ducal Palace, Nancy © French Moments

 

A stone of international prestige

Nowadays, the Jaumont quarries are still in operation! Each year, more than 2 million tons of limestone are extracted to produce limestone crushed stone and steel fillers. As for the extraction of dimension stone, it is concentrated on prestigious, rare and expensive products (more expensive than marble!)

Jaumont stone is still used for the restoration of Moselle monuments and for prestigious, high-end building sites.

St. Livier townhouse Metz © French Moments
Gate of St. Livier townhouse, Metz © French Moments

The “Pierre de soleil” can be found in Luxembourg, Belgium, Japan (façade of the Louis Vuitton shop in Osaka), the United States, Great Britain (Sainsbury’s Laboratory in Cambridge) and China (Macao Casino).

 

Find out more

The examples of constructions using Jaumont stone represent only a tiny fraction of the existing buildings and structures in Metz and Lorraine. If you know of any others that deserve to be mentioned in this article, please write their name in the comments below!

 

Jaumont stone on Pinterest

Pin it on Pinterest so you don’t forget the Jaumont stone!

Jaumont Stone Pinterest © French Moments

About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of the Discovery Course on the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas book "Voyage au Pays de Noël".

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