Saint-Avold yesterday and today

“Saint-Avold has had a primary role in history of Lorraine, wrote the erudite Benedictine D. CALMET. In this city, the Dukes of Lorraine, some French Kings and some German Emperors found shelter inside her walls.”

According to the legend, an Irish Monk, named Fridolin, coming from Poitiers in 509 AD, created an auditorium named Hilariacum on the site of Saint-Avold before founding the Sickingen’s monastery. Sigibald bishop who reigned for twenty-five years, puts his conservation in 715 and died in 740/741, was a great builder and restorer of churches, he was quite learned and founded at least two monasteries : one at Hilariacum dedicated to St Paul, later called Saint-Avold, a vernacular rendering of the name of St Nabor whose relics Chrodegang of Metz, his successor, after a trip to Rome on 24 August 765 AD. (1-Saint Nabor).

The city developed outside the walls, in the shadow of the monastery famous for its “scriptorium” (2-Abbey-Tower).Saint-Avold was placed under the protection of the bishops of Metz.

In the 10th and 11th centuries, the inhabitants of Saint-Nabor (Saint-Avold) placed themselves under a secular lord, under vows, charged with the protection of the people. Under the protection of the Bishops of Metz, St. Avold expanded. It became politically powerful. A special court of justice was established, becoming a center of civilian administration. The first hospital was built in 1313 by the Abbot Jean de St. Nabor.

The city became an active commercial center, serving as a relay for the French and Lorraine’s merchants going to and from the Rhine, Nancy and Vaudevange. Big co-ops of merchants were created, like tannery, weavers and butchers. They exported their products all over the Rhine land area. Six trade fairs gave life to the local economy in 16th century. They attracted merchants from Holland, France, Germany and Lorraine. Copper, hemp and wool were there traded. But these riches were coveted by other lords, so the bishops of Metz decided to construct a fortification around the city. During the reign of bishop Adhemar of Monteil, the town walls were built around the city in 1360.

The city is then a unique parish. She has a gothic style church dedicated to Saint Pierre and Paul. It is used for worship until 1792, when it was abandoned and replaced by the abbatial church, after the suppression of the benedictine monastery.

The 16 of May 1572, Cardinal Charles 1st, bishop of Metz, sold the Hombourg-Saint-Avold area with about 20 villages to his nephew Henri 1st, duke of Guise for 18,000 gold florins. The duke of Guise then sold it to his cousin Charles 3rd, duke of Lorraine. The city is then a part of the Lorraine’s dukedom which was very rich at that time. The city participates to the growth of the dukedom. It knows a notable economic and demographic expansion.

During the 30 years war, the city is several times occupied and ransacked by French, Swedish, imperials and people from Lorraine. The war causes a big part of the population disappear. The city counts only 18 inhabitants in 1656 against 2000 in 1621. The population then began to increase again.

< 3-New city hall, built 1917 and destroyed by the germans 1944

The population Naborien was reestablished in 1750-1760, fortified by support Tirolian in the years 1700-1720. The economic recovery of 1715-1730 saw the construction of more than two hundred new houses, reestablishment of trade fares. A new city hall was constructed in 1735. A number of pretty fountains constructed by the master mason Melchior Springa enhanced many neighborhoods (4-5-6 fountains). Many beautiful middle class homes with sculptured doors and bay windows, bore witness to the riches of the middle class business people. The “beautiful eighteenth century” left its influence in the city center.

Many dynasties of artists established themselves in Saint-Avold after the reconstruction of the abbey in 1720-1790 such as Metzinger and Melling (7-8 Statues of the Virgin and St John). These last were from the area of Thionville.

The abbey church where a famous school for children of the enlightened middle class was reconstructed from 1754 to 1769 in the classic style, in accordance with the plans of Dom Léopold Durand, the same architect as for Echternacht (9-10-11 Abbey-choir-Statue of St Claus). The organ was constructed by the organ maker Barthelemy Chevreux in 1770-1771 while it was Jacques Gounin, sculpter well known in the counties of Nassau-Sarrebruck and Deux-Ponts, constructed the new organ case in 1769 (12-New organ).


Terror provoked the emigration of sixty three persons in 1793. Saint-Nabor was renamed Rosselgene. The new municipality was faced with a degraded financial situation and the continuous passage of soldiers through the city. Saint-Avold then is the capital and had difficulty in integration into the new department created in 1790, despite the aid of her first congressman, Joseph Becker (1743-1812) the only one of the congressmen of Moselle to have voted against the execution of Louis sixteen. The Council then Empire remained calm in spirit and in peace thanks to the moderation of Jean Nicolas Houllé, archbishop of Saint-Avold. A certain economic prosperity developed up to 1813. The Regime of Napolean I, benefited from great popularity thanks to the actions of General Baron Georges Kister (1755-1832).

The city counted garrisoned within, a regiment of cavalry. A new political change, the city went along with the change in regime without any resistance whatsoever. Besides, Napoleon III was very popular here.

Industrialization developed during the first half of the nineteenth century. Manufacturing of crucibles, foundry, weaving of flannel cloth, ceramic tile making, brewing of beer, making of Prussian blue, ceramic table ware manufacture, 15 tanneries provided jobs for many of the people of Saint-Nabor as well as the other inhabitants of the region. Notwithstanding many Naborians facing the hard living conditions, epidemics and famines of the years 1817-1818, 1849-1866, emigrated to the United States. Certain families such as the Collin and Risse found fortune in the new world.

The situation began to change from 1851. The opening of the rail road Metz-Saint-Avold in 1851, then Saint-Avold-Forbach-Saarbruck (1852) then the discovery of coal at Carling with the opening of the coal mine Max in 1862 came to assure prosperity to the City up to the beginning of 1870, the naborian country experienced some extreme economic changes like the rest of the Moselle eastern country (13-Engraving by Nehr). The City is well integrated in the community of the French nation, such as the birth place of twenty three generals, thus Edouard Hirschauer (1857-1943) future founder of the French Aeronautic industry. Saint-Avold is the birth place of father Eugène Braun (1825-1882), founder of the servants of the sacred heart of Jesus, established in France, England and in Austria (14-Father Braun).


After the 1870 war Saint-Avold became part of the new german empire. The economic integration with the cross or circle of Forbach was made in a manner very slow up to 1885-1890, From 1890 the city found a new vocation with the arrival of the German military and their families and provoked a rapid expansion thanks to the dynamism of the German Empire. (15-Barraks). The protestant religion developed with in 1889, the construction of a church for the military garrison. In 1900 the city reached 5000 inhabitants and passed to 6400 inhabitants in 1910, thus 2500 military people. (16-Tram).


The garrisons introduced the services of supply and stimulated commerce in the region. Adrienne Thomas (1897-1980), writer in the German language, spoke about her youth in Saint-Avold, author of the 1933 best seller “Catherine soldat”, a book anti-military, condemned by the Nazis. She died in Vienna Austria in 1980. She was venerated by her birth city thanks to a prize awarded by the municipality from the young historians working in Saint-Avold (17-Portrait of the writer).

After WWI, 1918 the city conserved her aspect of garrison town. The development of the coal mining made Saint-Avold a bedroom community. In 1928-1930 the mining society Sarre and Moselle constructed for the miners a housing development of six hundred fifty houses called Joan of Arc (
18-Cité Jeanne d’Arc) located near the coal mine Sainte-Fontaine. The new arrivals were Polish, transiting the Westphalia to work in the coal mines in Lorraine. The city suffered from being close to the Maginot line constructed beginning in 1928. Many industrials feared to construct close to a potential front line in war. In 1940-44 the city, as in the rest of Lorraine paid a heavy price to the war, with the evacuation, the pillage of cultural artifacts, the Nazi dictatorship, the bombardment of the city, thus the devastating bombardment of 9 November 1944. The U. S WWII cemetery, the largest in Europe with 10489 graves witness to the sacrifices leading to the liberation of the city of Saint-Avold on 27 November 1944 and from the hard combat in Germany (19-graves).

Thank to the tragic history of Saint-Avold and Moselle during World War II, the relationships between Saint-Avold and the American people got deeper and intensive.
People of Lorraine will never forget all these young soldiers buried in this place steeped in history, our American cemetery, the largest in Europe.
Since 1994, Saint-Avold has been twinned with Fayetteville (NC). This twinning has increased since two years by the will of the Deputy Mayor of Saint-Avold, André Wojciechowski and Tony Chavonne, Mayor of Fayetteville. It resulted in regular visits of small groups of citizens, children exchanges. On both side, all of them made the long trip in order to keep in touch.

Our people who visited Fayetteville were already surprised by the great sense of hospitality, and the warmth welcome of our American friends.


Thanks to an agreeable area, to her cross roads situation, her proximity to an industrial zone, the city became the residential center of the coal mining basin. From 1945 to 1956 the coal mining corporation constructed more than 1300 housing units and the population grew from 7054 to 18000 inhabitants, mostly in the developments of Wenheck, La Carrière, Emile Huchet and Arcadia. The development of the electrical power generating plant of Emile Huchet provided much employment between 1949 and 1960. A coke plant was developed after the discovery of the process of carbonization of coal. This industry gave rise to diverse other industrial installations representing one of the most important chemical plants in France.

Beginning in the 1960s the city expanded north and east. This expansion was accelerated by the construction of the freeway Metz-Saarbrücken. The city followed a plan for industrial diversification with the creation of the light industrial park of Gros-Hêtre in 1968-69, as well as the industrial park of Hollerloch in 1975 on an area of 113 acres, occupied by 47 enterprises.

This powerful economic development is favorable for the expansion of the city. By 1969-1970 the city is blessed with a modern infrastructure: two high schools, three primary schools, convention center, Theatre, municipal swimming pool with a complete athletic complex as is to be expected of the cultural and trade center of the area. Population growth in the years 1968 to 1975 was, 1.42% higher than the French average. On 28 June 1964 the reconciliation French-German was effected by the Sister cities agreement with Dudweiler in the Saarland, the first since the war (
20-21-Wenheck Carrière).

At the edge of the new century now starting, after coal and the petro-chemical industry everything is favorable for new economic development. With 18,000 inhabitants, the city has realized and average growth rate superior to other cities in this coal mining area. After having the measures oriented henceforth necessary to the quantities and urgencies for the strategy of development. In the nineteen nineties was created a regional center for experimentation and application for plastics, inaugurated on 29 June 1990, enlarged due to it’s successful growth in 1998 to a floor space of 1740 square meters (16,000 square feet) with more than 1200 square meters (10800 square feet) of technical work space and 540 square meters (4860 square feet) of office space. More than 150 satellite enterprises are supported by the petro-chemical plant. The 5 November 1994 the university of Metz inaugurated a technological university. Sarrebruck has created a syndicate for inter-community cooperation. The industrial park Europort, specializing in logistics and transport, in an area of 250 acres was created (22-Technical university-23-High schools ).

This industrial diversification doesn’t go without the research into improving living standards. The city has important wooded areas. On the Felsberg hill, an international meeting center with a hotel, a restaurant and a camping area was constructed. The Felsberg is visited by Dutch and the German tourist. The large forested area of Saint-Avold permitted the creation of a summer camp and horse back riding center with walking/ jogging trails. There are plans to recreate the Oderfang lake which disappeared in 1957 after the pumping of massive amounts of water from the water table by the electrical generating plant at Carling. The city is developing also her cultural infrastructures. In January 1986, the city inaugurated a cultural center. This cultural center offers cultural shows of high quality. A certain number of artists such as Jean Marie Wallaster (1927-2000), Jean Schouler (1927-1984), Gabrielle Bouffay bears witness to the cultural reputation of Saint-Avold. All this is turned toward the challenges of the future and endows the city with the industrial infrastructure capable of facing up to our modern world.

Since the first of September 2004, Saint-Avold has created an inter-communal organization uniting the Naborien area in the cooperating of ten communities called SIVOM (Altviller-Carling-Diesen-Folschviller-Lachambre-L’Hopital-Marcheren-Porcellette-Saint-Avold and Valmont) with a population total of 42,076 inhabitants. The creation of this inter-communal public establishment located in a cross border area of more than one million inhabitants, offers a real view toward the future for the citizens of the Naborien region. A view of the challenges to economic development, one of principal priorities of this territory of 27,200 acres. More than one hundred enterprises share the four industrial zones managed and appreciated by the united communities of the Naborien area, these are: Industrial zone Europort of Saint-Avold, Industrial zone Actival in Valmont, the industrial zone Furst in Folschviller and the industrial zone of Grundhof of Porcelette.


Saint Avold has always been a cross-roads city, welcoming, proud of it’s historical past and by the prestigious role it had. She has all the trump cards in her hand:
- First class cultural center
- Economical infrastructures, an important transportation grid, the proximity of the West German market as a stimulus to the local economy.
- The knowledge and can-do spirit of its population, most bilingual, thus, opened to Europe.
We wager that one must have confidence in the dynamism of Saint Avold in the coming years.

Texte réalisé par Pascal FLAUS en partenariat avec l’équipe administrative du Cimetière américain
et madame BOUR MAS, professeur d’anglais, que nous remercions chaleureusement.