Metz station, is a French train station, located near the city center of Metz, prefecture of the department of Moselle, in the Grand Est region.
Inaugurated in 1908 by the Imperial General Directorate of Railways of Alsace-Lorraine, it replaces the old Metz station put into service in 1878. The passenger building, for its facades and roofs (except glass roof), its lounge honor, the decor of the buffet and its departure hall, has been listed as a historic monument since January 15, 1975.
Metz station, along with Strasbourg and Colmar stations, is one of the main stations in the Reichsland Alsace-Lorraine, the new province of the German Empire. The Metz station building has been listed as a historic monument since January 15, 1975. The facade – with the exception of the glass roof – and the roof on the square, the departures hall, the lounge of honor and the old buffet with interior decor.
Built in pale gray Niderviller sandstone, it is distinguished from the old buildings of the city center, made of Jaumont stone, a very characteristic ocher yellow limestone. The project was carried out by the Lorraine construction company, from Metz.
Jürgen Kröger’s winning architectural project, “Licht und Luft”, “Light and Air”, initially expressed a frankly art nouveau invoice. Deemed “clear, precise and functional”, his project had to evolve to conform to a Rhenish Romanesque style that met with William II’s approval, drawing its legitimacy from the past glory of the Holy Empire; the formal kinship with a church (departure part), seen from the outside, is most striking for a station. For the right side (buffet and arrivals hall), an imperial palace is mentioned. The station reinterprets the symbolism of the emperor’s religious and temporal powers in the Middle Ages. William II, who liked to go to the city of Messina – the Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen was under his direct authority – would have sketched the bell tower of the clock according to the press of the time. The project however retained the organization and the spatial and functional arrangement of the volumes.
Adjoining the main lounge, the station buffet is used for decorating woodwork and painted friezes. Food scenes where the social representation of the characters responds with emphasis to the tripartition in classes of travelers, are added to the bas-reliefs illustrating the themes of travel, means of communication and transport, with oriental references. The characters emerge from the curved interlacing of foliage on which they sometimes hang, step over them and go so far as to join hands between two neighboring capitals.
A profusion of carved details, the statuary, or the stained glass windows evoking the protection of Charlemagne, echoing the local origins of the Carolingian dynasty, underline the symbolic dimension injected into the building. The stained glass window next to that said “Charlemagne” representing the German imperial eagle, visible from the forecourt in front of the arrivals hall, disappears on the return from Metz to France given the strength of the symbol. This did not fail to give rise to enemy mutilations in 1918, then during the second annexation. Thus, the monumental statue placed at the corner of the station tower represented, until 1919, Count Haeseler as a knight Roland. This monumental sculpture was also taken up by imperial propaganda during the First World War for its highly symbolic value.
Initially two metal halls housed the quays, a third will be added after the inauguration of 1908. The thin concrete sails they supported having weakened and the steam from the locomotives causing the corrosion of the metal, the awnings were gradually dismantled in 1955 A reinforced concrete slab replaced it in 1974. According to the urban planning concerns of the time, it was thus converted into an air parking lot accessible by a helical ramp.
For a long time, the demonstrative aesthetic of the station, with an asserted architectural party, earned it the disaffection of a part of the French population. From its inauguration, in line with revengeful pre-war writings, the French nationalist writer Maurice Barrès will use an outrageous vocabulary to make fun of it, thus betraying the revengeful and Germanophobic spirit, widespread in France during the Belle Époque.
Nevertheless, the town planning of the entire district, of which the station is the confluence, is very innovative and of high quality. This urban composition is organized, with the dismantling of the bastioned enclosure, on either side of a circular boulevard (current avenue Foch) planted with trees, ensuring a smooth junction (graduation of the built templates) with the districts preexisting.