Saarland: The Modern Skyline

Elizabeth Wiskemann recounts the story of one of Europe’s richest and most hotly-disputed industrial territories

The Saarland, with which the powers of Europe are much concerned today, descends from the Grafschaft or “County” of Saarbrücken, an ancient fortress which lay on the river Saar. The Saar, rising in the Vosges, flows northwards towards the Moselle, which it joins near Trier: for cen­turies the city of Saarbrücken also commanded the road between Metz and Mainz. The land around belonged, according to the fortunes of war and the favours of the Emperor, to the Counts of Saarbrücken, the Bishops of Metz and the Dukes of Lorraine. For over 400 years, that is from 1381 to 1793, Saarbr ücken was ruled by the same family, the Counts of Nassau-Saarbrücken. In 1574 Count Philip III officially introduced Protestantism: later, the Catholics regained ground, but had no overwhelming majority until the industrial developments of the late nineteenth century. In the period leading up to the Thirty Years War, the scene was one of great prosperity. The Saar was particularly well-forested and could boast of iron deposits. It was traditional to smelt the iron by means of charcoal from the woods, but coal was worked, too, and transported by river.

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