The Three Frontiers in Lorraine is a region that borders on four countries. It’s a terrific mix of rich cultural heritage from the sloping river banks engorged with wine-producing grapes through to the poignant legacy of structures left from the heavy mining industry. This emotionally-charged geographically important area is also packed with military fortifications from the 17th century Vauban to 20th century Maginot.
Lorraine’s geographically strategic position has defined this area of France as an important testing-ground for defence systems. Some of these military fortifications that have been built over the centuries by France’s greatest military engineers can still be seen today. Vauban has left us the Longwy fortifications, now on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Montmédy Citadel, inspired by Vauban, was revised in the 19th century by General Séré de Rivières. Fermont Fort at Longuyon, nicknamed ‘The Unconquered Fort’, was a major work in the Maginot Line defence system. Longwy is equally famous for its faïence work and specialist cloisonné enamel technique. The town continues the tradition today, continuing to create contemporary designs by working in close collaboration with artists from the world over.
Now this is fun! To really appreciate Lorraine cultural diversity, take a round trip of just 50km and you’ll change countries four times! Malbrouck Castle, a listed Historical Monument, offers a programme that includes visits, workshops, festivals, and temporary exhibitions. Nowadays, blast-furnaces and collieries have been transformed into theatrical backdrops and the U4 blast-furnace at Uckange, mighty symbol of the ironworks industry, is transformed each evening into a blaze of light called ‘Tous les soleils’, created by the artist Claude Lévêque. At Neufchef, the open-air museum relates the story of iron ore mining. The history is told by former miners leading visitors through 1km of accessible galleries.
Lorraine marks the point of geographic boundaries between France, Germany and Luxembourg. No formal frontier exists now and Lorraine lives in a friendly, cosmopolitan style with her neighbours.
Sarreguemines, ‘European Destination of Excellence’, is a vibrant city with a beautifully preserved industrial and artistic past linked to the world-renowned Majolica ware. At the confluence of two major rivers, it has a cross-frontier cycle trail of 600km. Nearby, the European Archaeological Park at Bliesbruck-Reinheim displays the well-preserved remains of a Gallo-Romanic villa and the reconstructed tomb of a 4th century BC Reinheim Celtic princess. At Petite-Rosselle, in the heart of the coal-mining basin, the Parc Explor Wendel is a fascinating exploration of colliery life.