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Lorraine (région)

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Lorraine (région)

This article is about the French region of Lorraine. For the historical duchy and province, see Lorraine (duchy). For the original territory with this name, see Lotharingia.
Region of France
Official logo of Lorraine
Country  France
Prefecture Metz
 • President Jean-Pierre Masseret (PS)
 • Total 23,547 km2 (9,092 sq mi)
Population (2007-01-01)
 • Total 2,343,000
 • Density 100/km2 (260/sq mi)
Demonym Lorrainer
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
GDP/ Nominal €54 billion (2006)[1]
GDP per capita €23,300 (2006)[1]
NUTS Region FR4

Lorraine (French pronunciation: ​Lothair I, who was Lorraine's first king.

The regional name Lorraine can refer to two entities: one a tradition of cultural, regional, and national identity that came into being in the year 843 A.D., the other an administrative political region of the Republic of France, with the borders it arbitrarily acquired over many separate historical events. As a region in modern France, it consists of the four departments Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, Moselle and Vosges, and contains 2,337 communes. Lorraine maintains nearly half of France's border with Germany, and also borders Belgium and Luxembourg (independent nations of historical Upper Lorraine which still officially speak variants of Lorraine's historical Franconian language, Lorraine Franconian).

Administrative history

The borders of the area called Lorraine changed much in its long history. In 840, Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, died, and the Holy Roman Empire was divided among Charlemagne's three grandsons. One of them was Lothair, and his realm, reaching from Frisia in Northern Germany through Holland, Belgium, Eastern France, Provence, Northern Italy, and all the way down to Rome, was called Lotharingia. Due to the circumstance of Lotharingia being sandwiched between Eastern and Western Frankish kingdoms, it was decided that it should semantically consider itself as a duchy from 870 onward, such that the duchy could ally and align itself nominally as part of either eastern or western Carolingian kingdoms in order to survive and maintain its independence. This artifice allowed it to be a duchy in name and an independent kingdom in reality.

In 870, it allied itself with the kingdom of East Francia as an autonomous duchy thereof. In 962, when Otto the Great restored the Empire (restauratio imperii), Lorraine became an autonomous duchy within the Holy Roman Empire until 1766, after which it became annexed under succession law to France, via derivative aristocratic house alliances. Though the succession within these houses in tandem with other historical events, would have later restored Lorraine's status as its own duchy, a vacuum in leadership was caused by its duke François Stephen de Lorraine (Francis I Holy Roman Emperor) taking the throne of the Holy Roman Empire, and his brother Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine becoming governor of the Austrian Netherlands and deciding for political reasons to hide the heirs not born of his first deceased wife Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria.

This vacuum in leadership, the French Revolution, and the political results and changes issuing from the many nationalistic wars that followed in the next 130 years, ultimately resulted in Lorraine becoming a permanent part of the modern Republic of France, albeit after coming under brief German control several times as the result of later wars. While Lorrainian separatists exist, their political power and influence is considered negligible, with Lorraine independence entailing more of an independent cultural identity rather than one with tangible clout for real political independence.

With enlightened leadership and at a crossroads between French and German cultures, Lotharingia experienced tremendous economic, artistic, and cultural prosperity during the 12th and 13th centuries under the Hohenstaufen emperors. Along with the rest of Europe, this prosperity was terminated in the 14th century by a series of harsh winters, bad harvests, and the Black Death. During the Renaissance, a flourishing prosperity returned to Lotharingia until the Thirty Years' War. From 1766 onward, the whole Lorraine became part of France. The population was mixed, but the north of Lorraine was largely Germanic, speaking Germanic Lorraine Franconian and other Germanic dialects. Strong centralized Nationalism had only begun to replace the feudalist system which had formed the borders. But the insurrection against the French occupation influenced much of the early identity. From 1871, the German Empire regained a part of Lorraine (Bezirk Lothringen/Département de la Lorraine, i.e. Department of Lorraine; corresponding to the current department of Moselle). The department formed part of the new Imperial State of Alsace-Lorraine, which created a revanchist movement in France as well.

The administration strongly discouraged the French language and culture over High German, which became the administrative language (Geschäftssprache[2]), and the only language in schools in those Lorrainese areas considered to be rather Germanophone, an often arbitrary categorisation. Only in municipalities definitely considered Francophone, such as Château-Salins and the surrounding arrondissement, the French language remained in usage in elementary and secondary schools[3] and in local administration.[4] However, after 1877 higher education, such as in state-run colleges, universities and teacher seminaries, was exclusively offered in German language.[5] The prevalence of German and the partial usage of French, restricted though, was guaranteed by the 1911 constitution of Alsace-Lorraine.[6] So while many toponyms of Germanic etymology in Lorraine were adapted in their form to the High German standard (i.e. Germanised[7]) also a number of genuine Francophone toponyms remained untouched, unlike during the Nazi occupation (1940–1944) when more or less arbitrary German translations or new creations replaced original names, such as Château-Salins which was then renamed as Salzburg in Lothringen.

In the 1919 Versailles treaty, the Empire suffered severe territorial (and other) losses including the captured Lorraine territory it had included in its Alsace-Lorraine. With the exception of a period of German occupation and unilateral de facto annexation in the Second World War 1940-1944, the area has since remained a part of France.

Development of the borders of Lorraine in modern history

The administrative region of Lorraine is larger than the historical duchy of Lorraine, which gradually came under French sovereignty between 1737 and 1766. The modern region includes provinces and areas that were historically separate from the duchy of Lorraine proper. These are:

Some people consider the traditional province of Lorraine as limited to the duchy of Lorraine proper, while other people consider that it includes Barrois and the Three Bishoprics. The problem is that this duchy of Lorraine was originally the duchy of upper Lorraine, and did not include the entire area called Lorraine.

The case of Barrois is the most complicated: the western part of Barrois (west of the Meuse River), known as Barrois mouvant, was detached from the rest of Barrois in the early 14th century and passed under French sovereignty. On the other hand, the largest part of Barrois (east of the Meuse River) was the Duchy of Bar, part of the Holy Roman Empire, which was united with the duchy of Lorraine in the 15th century by the marriage of the Duke of Bar, René I of Naples, with the daughter of the Duke of Lorraine, Isabella. Thus the duchies of Bar and Lorraine were united in personal union under the same duke, although formally they maintained separate existences until their incorporation into France in 1766.

During the French Revolution, four departments were created on the main parts of the territories of Barrois, Three Bishoprics and the Duchy of Lorraine: Meuse, Meurthe, Moselle and Vosges. After 1870 some parts of Moselle and Meurthe became German and the parts that stayed French formed the new Meurthe et Moselle. After 1918 Moselle became French again. When the French regions were created in the middle of the 20th century, it was decided to gather Meurthe et Moselle, Meuse, Moselle and Vosges into a single region known as Lorraine.


Lorraine is the only French region to have borders with three other countries: Belgium (Wallonia), Luxembourg, and Germany (Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate). It also borders the French regions of Franche-Comté, Champagne-Ardenne, which were at times part of historical Lorraine Lotharingia, and Alsace, which, while still part of Lorraine's identity, is now a separate administrative region. The location of Lorraine led to it being a paramount strategic asset as the crossroads of four nations. This, along with its political alliances, marriage alliances, and the ability over the centuries to choose sides between East and West, gave it a tremendously powerful and important role in transforming all of European history, and indeed breed with royal families over all of Europe, play kingmaker, and seat rulers on the thrones of the Holy-Roman Empire and Austro-Hungarian Empire Austria-Hungary, and others.

Most of the region forms part of the Paris Basin, with a plateau relief cut by river valleys presenting cuestas in the north-south direction. The eastern part is sharper with the Vosges Mountains. Many rivers run through Lorraine, including Moselle, Meurthe, and Meuse. Most of them are on the Rhine drainage basin.

Lorraine has an oceanic climate with continental influences.

Language and culture

Most of Lorraine has a clear French identity except for the northeastern part of the region, today known as Moselle, which was historically German-speaking. In 1871, Bismarck annexed about a third of today's Lorraine to the German Empire following the Franco-Prussian War. The disputed third, Moselle, had a culture not easily classifiable as either French or German, where both Romance and Germanic dialects were spoken. Like many border regions, Lorraine was a patchwork of ethnicities and dialects which were not mutually intelligible with either French or standard German.

Lorrain is a Romance dialect spoken by a minority in the southern part of the region.

Despite the French government's "single language" policy, local Franconian dialects independently survive in the region's northern part. They are known collectively as Plàtt in Franconian, Lorraine Franconian in English, and francique or platt (lorrain) in French (not to be confused with lorrain, the Romance dialect from the same region). Now somewhat rural and isolated, these dialects gradually differ as one travels, though are intelligible. Lorraine Franconian is somewhat distinct from neighbouring Alsatian, to the south, although the two are often confused. Neither has official status where they are spoken. Technically, Lorraine Franconian is a catch-all term for historically three dialects—Luxemburgish, Mosel Franconian, and Rhine Franconian. They are similar to the dialects native to the neighboring west central Germanc Franconian dialects spoken in Luxembourg and far western Germany (which was also part of historical Lotharingia).

Like most of France's regional languages (e.g. Breton, West Flemish, Catalan, Provençal and Alsatian), Lorraine Franconian has been largely replaced by French in the 19th and 20th centuries as a direct result of nationalistic policies that public schooling be in French only. However, there are efforts underway for resurgence of Lorraine Franconian, and many people still speak it. Recent efforts include the use of bilingual signage in Franconian areas, and Franconian language classes for young children whose parents do not speak it.

Cross of Lorraine

Main article: Cross of Lorraine

During World War II, the cross was adopted as the official symbol of the Free French Forces (French: Forces Françaises Libres, or FFL) under Charles de Gaulle.

The capitaine de corvette Thierry d'Argenlieu suggested the adoption of the Cross of Lorraine as the symbol of the Free French.

In his General Order n° 2 of 3 July 1940, vice-admiral Émile Muselier, then chief of the naval and air forces of the Free French for only two days, created the bow flag displaying the French colours with a red Cross of Lorraine, and a cockade also featuring the Cross of Lorraine.

De Gaulle is memorialised by a gigantic 44.3-meter (145 feet) high Cross of Lorraine at his home village of Colombey-les-Deux-Églises.


The use of the potato in Lorraine can be traced back to 1665 and it is used in various traditional dishes of the region such as the potée lorraine. The Breux potato, which takes its name from the village of Breux in the north of the Meuse, is considered to be excellent by experts due to the perfect conditions of the area. Smoked bacon is also a traditional ingredient of the cuisine of Lorraine. It is used in various traditional dishes of the region, including the famous quiche lorraine. The mirabelle plum of Lorraine is the emblematic fruit of Lorraine. It is used in pies and other desserts, as well as in alcoholic beverages.

Traditional dishes in the region include:

  • Quiche Lorraine
  • Pâté lorrain (chopped pork and veal flavoured with white wine and baked in puff pastry)
  • Potée lorraine (a stew of smoked meats and sausages, with cabbage and root vegetables)
  • Andouille (tripe sausage)

Some cheeses come from Lorraine: Carré de l'Est, Brouère, Munster-géromé...

Desserts include: Madeleine, Macaron, Rum baba, Plombières ice-cream, various pie recipes (brimbelles bilberry, mirabelle plum, rhubarb, quark...)


  • Wine: The most well-known wine of the region is the Côtes de Toul. There are vineyards in the valley of the Moselle, the valley of Seille, the valley of Metz, and the valley of Sierck.
  • Beer: Historically, Lorraine was the location of many breweries, including the Champigneulles founded on June 20, 1897.


Lorraine has an old Catholic heritage and almost every village has its church, even if many don't have a dedicated priest anymore. Church bells, which announce Angelus time (and often toll the hours), stop tolling during the Holy Week. They are replaced by children who use ratchet while saying C'est l'Angélus !. After Easter, they go from house to house and receive some little presents.

Sinterklaas is celebrated in Lorraine.


Except for dispersed settlement in the Vosges mountains, traditional farms display linked houses, forming linear village.

They are built quite far from the road, the area between the house and the road is called l'usoir (fr). Until the 1970s, the usoir was used to store farming tools, firewood or even manure. Today they are generally used as a garden or for car parking.

Furniture developed a specific identity after the Thirty Years' War: the "Lorrain style".


At 44 billion euros (in 2000), Lorraine generates 3.4% of France's GDP. Despite ranking 11th in population, it ranks 8th in GDP out of the 26 regions of France, making it per capita among the top economic producing regions in the country, along with Alsace and Île-de-France (Paris). The logistics and service sectors have experienced the strongest growth in recent years, while the traditional industries (textiles, mining, metallurgy) have experienced a decline. Consequently the region has experienced major difficulty with rising unemployment, although it is still below the national average. In 1997 the last iron ore mine in Lorraine, which once produced over 50 million tonnes of iron, was closed.[8]

Lorraine France
GDP 2000 44.3 Billion Euros 1.816 Trillion Euros
Agriculture 2.5% 2.8%
Industry 30.7% 25.6%
Service 66.8% 71.6%
Unemployment June 2002 8.4% 9%

Major communities

Fauna and flora



Notable Lorrainers

Art and literature

Economy and industry

  • Albert Bergeret (1859–1932)
  • Antonin (1864–1930)
  • Auguste (1853–1909)


Musicians and actors






See also


Further reading

  • Putnam, Ruth. Alsace and Lorraine: From Cæsar to Kaiser, 58 B.C.-1871 A.D. New York: 1915.

External links

  • Lorraine : Between war and art: memories Lorraine - Official French website (in English)
  • Site of the Regional Council
  • A short guide to the Lorraine region and its main attractions
  • - Share your Lorraine
  • Business in Lorraine

Coordinates: 49°00′N 6°00′E / 49.000°N 6.000°E / 49.000; 6.000

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