The Grant Atour of Metz (1405): denouncing the past, shaping the future
Dominique Adrian (Université de Lorraine)
Paper presented at the European Urban History Association conference, Lisbon, September 5 (2014)
In the late middle ages, the Imperial free city of Metz is firmly in the hands of the patricians: they control its entire government through associations called paraiges – and as the wealth of the city has been relying heavily on their rural possessions since the decline of the commercial role of the city, their leadership is not seriously at risk. Nevertheless, on a few occasions, popular discontent arises, stemming from other groups of inhabitants, probably not so much the poor as the merchants who advocate a policy change to support commerce rather than the interests of the wealthy patrician landowners.
One of these Communes occured in 1405, after the patrician government decided to pay – once more – a large tribute to obtain peace from the surrounding knights and lords who are a constant threat to their domains. The 1405 Commune didn’t last long, just as the previous ones, and the punishment was as harsh as ever; what stands out in this case is that we have a long, detailed text where the leaders of the Commune expose the reasons of the uprising and announce a vast reform of the city’s judiciary and political institutions: as one source names it, “Latour de la Rebellion fait par la Commune”.