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Moselle is a department in the east of Francemarker named after the river Mosellemarker.


Moselle is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. It was created from the former province of Lorraine.

In 1793, the foreign enclaves of Manderenmarker, Lixing-lès-Rouhlingmarker, Momerstroffmarker, and Créhangemarker (Kriechingen), all possessions of princes of the German Holy Roman Empire, were annexed by France and incorporated into the Moselle departement.

By the Treaty of Paris of 1814 following the first defeat and abdication of Napoleon, France had to surrender almost all its conquests since 1792. On the northeastern border, France was not restored to its 1792 borders, but a new border was established to put an end to the convoluted nature of the border, with all its enclaves and exclaves. As a result, the French exclave of Tholeymarker (now in Saarlandmarker, Germanymarker) as well as a few communes near Sierck-les-Bainsmarker (both territories until then part of the Moselle departement) were ceded to Austria. On the other hand, the French annexations of 1793 were confirmed, and furthermore, the south of the Napoleonic departement of Sarre was ceded to France, including the town of Lebachmarker, the city of Saarbrückenmarker, and the rich coal basin nearby. France was thus a net beneficiary of the Treaty of Paris, all the new territories ceded to her being far larger and more strategic than the few territories ceded to Austria. All these new territories were incorporated into the Moselle department, and so Moselle had now a larger territory than ever since 1790.

However, with the return of Napoleon and his final defeat at the Battle of Waterloomarker, the Congress of Vienna in 1815 imposed much harsher conditions on France. Tholey and the communes around Sierck-les-Bains were still to be ceded as agreed in 1814, but the south of the Sarre department with Saarbrücken was withdrawn from France. In addition, France had to cede to Austriamarker the area of Rehlingenmarker (now in Saarland) as well as the strategic fort-town of Saarlouismarker and the territory around it, all territories and towns which had been French since the 17th century, and which were part of the Moselle department since 1790. In the end of 1815, Austria gave all these territories to Prussia, and it is from them that Prussia invaded France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.

Thus, by the end of 1815, the Moselle department had finally the limits that it would keep until 1871. It was slightly smaller than at its creation in 1790, the incorporation of the Austrian enclaves not compensating for the loss of Saarlouis, Rehlingen, Tholey, and the communes around Sierck-les-Bains. Between 1815 and 1871, the department had an area of 5,387 km² (2,080 sq. miles). Its prefecture (capital) was Metzmarker. It had four arrondissements: Metz, Brieymarker, Sarregueminesmarker, and Thionvillemarker.

After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, almost all of the Moselle department, along with Alsacemarker and portions of the Meurthemarker and Vosgesmarker departments, were returned to the German Empiremarker by the Treaty of Frankfurt on the ground that the population in those areas spoke German dialects. Only one-fifth of Moselle (arrondissement of Briey in the extreme west of the department) was spared annexation by Bismarck, as it was a French-speaking area. Bismarck later bitterly regretted his decision when it was discovered that the region of Briey and Longwymarker was rich with iron ore. The Moselle department ceased to exist on May 18, 1871, and the territories returned to Germany became part of the Reichsland of Elsaß-Lothringenmarker. The remaining area of Briey was merged with the truncated Meurthe department to create the new Meurthe-et-Mosellemarker department (a new name chosen on purpose to remind people of the lost Moselle department) with its préfecture at Nancymarker.

In 1919, with the French victory in the First World War, Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France by Germany at the Treaty of Versailles. However, it was not decided to recreate the old departments of Meurthe and Moselle by reverting to the old department borders of before 1871. Instead, Meurthe-et-Moselle was left untouched, and the four-fifths of Moselle that had been annexed by Germany in 1871 were merged with the one-third of Meurthe also annexed in 1871 to create a new department of Moselle. Thus, the Moselle department was reborn, but its borders were quite different from those before 1871. Having lost the area of Briey, it had now gained the areas of Château-Salinsmarker and Sarrebourgmarker which before 1871 were in the Meurthe department (being one-third of it) and which had been part of the Reichsland of Elsaß-Lothringen since 1871.

The new Moselle department now had its current area of 6,216 km² (2,400 sq. miles), larger than the old Moselle because the areas of Château-Salins and Sarrebourg were far larger than the area of Briey and Longwy.

During World War II Moselle was again stripped from France and became part of the Gau - Westmark according to the armistice of June 22, 1940. Adolf Hitler considered Moselle and Alsace part of Germany and as a result the inhabitants were drafted into the German Wehrmacht.

Moselle was liberated by the Americanmarker army in 1944 and returned to France, within the same frontiers that it had had in 1919. As a result of the war and German aggression that led up to it, the Germanic heritage of the region was shunned by the French government and the local population as well. The dialect more or less fell into disuse in the public realm. Recently, efforts have been made to revive the dialect and distinct culture of the region as with the onset of open borders and cordial Franco-German relations the language no longer is associated with the war.


Moselle is part of the current region of Lorrainemarker and is surrounded by the French departments of Meurthe-et-Mosellemarker and Bas-Rhin, as well as Germanymarker (states of Saarlandmarker and Rhineland-Palatinatemarker) and Luxembourgmarker in the north.

The following are the most important rivers:


The inhabitants of the department are called Mosellans in French.

The population has remained relatively stable since World War II and now exceeds 1 million, located mostly in the urban area around Metzmarker and along the river Mosellemarker.

If the Moselle department still existed in its limits of between 1815-1871, its population at the 1999 French census would have been 1,089,804 inhabitants. The current Moselle department, whose limits were set in 1919, had less population, with only 1,023,447 inhabitants. This is because the industrial area of Briey and Longwy lost in 1871 is more populated than the rural areas of Château-Salins and Sarrebourg gained in 1919.

A significant minority of inhabitants of the department (fewer than 100,000) speak a Germanic dialect known as platt lorrain or Lothringer Platt (see Lorraine Franconian). Linguistically, Platt can be further subdivided into three varieties, going from east to west: Rhenish Franconian, Moselle Franconian, and Luxembourgish.

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