Montmedy’s history

Protected by Chiers, Montmédy-Bas (lower town) has been inhabited since the Gallo-Roman era. This sparsely populated territory, shifted around over the course of fights, marriages, etc. became property of the County of Chiny (941). The rock summit enticed Arnold III to build a castle surrounded by defensive walls and to establish Montmédy the capital of Chiny County (1221). Enjoying a period of glory, the population grew, attracted by the municipal laws of the town!

Citadelle de Montmédy

The citadel of Montmédy
© City of Montmédy

Sold to the Duke of Luxembourg (1364), it became territory of the Duke of Burgundy in succession, later becoming part of the the House of Austria (1478), owing to the marriage of Mary of Burgundy to Maximilian of Austria. The hostility between France and the Holy Roman Germanic Empire led Charles V to decide to construct a modern citadel, knocking down the medieval towers, and replacing them with a triangular bastioned outer wall. Following his abdication (1555), his son Philip II became king of Spain and the Spanish Netherlands. Montmédy was now dominated by Spain under a statute endorsed by the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559). Its governor, Antoine D’Allamont, and his successors reinforced the fortifications, after which the citadel enjoyed 100 years of peace.

1657, Louis XIV laid siege. The soldiers of John V of Allamont, urged on by his extreme courage, stood up to and frightened off the French who far outweighed them in terms of numbers. John V was fatally injured, leading to its surrender.

1659, signing of the Treaty of the Pyrenees, Montmédy came under French domination. Louis XIV, aware of its unique geographical position, demolished all the surrounding citadels and entrusted Vauban to reinforce this strategic point. He built a bastioned outer wall to protect the lower town, and elevated the defensive walls of the citadel, modifying the covered walkway and reinforced all of the fortifications.

During the Revolution, it was a stop off for Louis XVI.

1792 and 1815 saw two sieges take place without major damage, but 1870 was a disaster, the Prussian bombing the interior, which was devastated by a fire.

After 1872, General Séré de Rivière converted many barracks that were sunken over several floors.

Montmédy-Bas, benefiting from the railway system, developed its outer walls. The seventeenth century gates were destroyed; many beautifully architected buildings were erected, and all public services left the upper town.

No longer under siege by 1914, the garrison had to leave the citadel before the Germans arrived and settled in Montmédy for four years. .

Small businesses rather than large industries flourished over the twentieth century.

Current renewed interest in and activity around promoting the citadel could generate significant tourism development.

Montmédy’s citadel

Whether you are coming from Belgium, the Ardennes, Stenay or Verdun, the high walls of Montmédy’s Citadel mark the skyline.

Its foundations and its shape are the legacy of Charles V, built on the site of the medieval castle of the Counts of Chiny during the sixteenth century and later perfected and reinforced by the Spanish governors until it was taken by Louis XIV (1657), later undergoing modernisation by Vauban. Following the bombing of 1870, Général Séré de Rivières had to build casements to cater for the day-to-day life of the soldiers.

A visit here is a must.

Pass two drawbridges preceded by a demi-lune (half moon), connected by a bridge which runs over a large dry ditch. The second drawbridge is protected by the only round bastion (defence work) on the left and a curtain wall (long straight wall) on the right. Cross over the gorge between two high walls, the tunnel and you’ have arrived at the citadel.

Vue sur les remparts de la citadelle  ©Réseau VF7

View from the ramparts of the citadel
© Réseau VF7

A gate opens onto the ditches, but access to the ramparts is only possible through the tourist office entrance as well as via the Fortification Museum and the Bastien-Lepage Museum.

If you do not have a guide, follow the plan that takes you towards the drawbridge into the keeper’s lodging and the Boulevard curtain wall. Enjoy an impressive view of Chiers, Thonne-les-prés, its castle, and its viaduct!

You will notice that the entrance is like a cross-section of the fortifications: detached structures, demi-lunes / ditches and covered walkways at the bottom of the walls / very thick walls with interior rooms. These elements are visible everywhere.

Bandeau Rempart Montmédy Christian Mésières

Ramparts of the citadel
© Christian Mésières

Stop near the apse of the eighteenth-century church; look down at the lower town that Vauban enclosed with a bastion wall whose gates were destroyed for urban expansion. A postern provides access to the cliffs for climbing.

A viewpoint indicator at the Notre Dame Bastion shows you the extent of the area you are looking at. You will come across the Séré de Rivières casemates, before arriving at the Saint-André Bastion, the most well-known of all due to the fact that this is the location where Jean V D’Allamont, the Spanish governor, was mortally wounded by the French prior to surrender.

Feel free to keep going up the summit of the ramparts or go down to the ditches via one of the underground paths.

Stroll through the upper part of the town: where you will find many old restored houses, not forgetting the church, or the Museums, where many artists welcome you in the casemates. Read the Lorraine Gaumaise board in the car park to discover other nearby sites.

Multiple energies are yet to be unleashed in the years to come; you will see a big difference on your return.

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