Luxembourg: Lëtzebuerg City Museum, the history

(continuer en français) – Published: November 07, 2021

Over 1000 years of urban history, Lëtzebuerg City Museum

The museum

The Lëtzebuerg City Museum is located in the heart of the old town, grouping together several houses whose ancient foundations were built on the rock and which served as a basis for more recent constructions.

Visitors are first invited to go to the lowest level to discover the foundations where the oldest artefacts are presented. Then the journey upwards is gradual as time goes by.

The museum tour extends over six levels, the highest of which are devoted to temporary exhibitions. Back at street level, the decor of the ceremonial rooms has been preserved but the space is used outside of this context.

The museum occupies several houses on the ridge of the cornice which plunges into the Grund, crossed by the Alzette valley. From the terrace, there is a beautiful view of the roofs of houses once occupied by tanners.

The early days of Luxembourg

The existence of Luxembourg is attested in 963, when Count Siegfried took possession of it. He strengthened the existing fortified tower, wishing to make it the stronghold of his various lands scattered between the Meuse and Moselle rivers.

Gradually, a town gathered around the castle, traces of which can be found in archaeological excavations.

In 1244, the inhabitants of the town were freed from the constraints of serfdom, which subjected them to their feudal lord. From then on, craftsmanship developed with the production of cloth, leather and wool weaving.

In 1340 an annual fair was created, the Schueberfouer, which still exists in August. This increased the city’s influence and its financial resources, which were used to strengthen the fortifications.

Several religious orders established themselves in Luxembourg. They promoted education and care for the population. They also encouraged artistic production with their commissions to adorn churches and monasteries.

During the periods of religious unrest with the development of the Reformation in the region, Luxembourg remained faithful to Catholicism. The numerous religious establishments were a factor of stability.

The tribulations of Luxembourg

Through marriages and inheritances, Luxembourg joined the numerous possessions of the dukes of Burgundy and then the Habsburgs. Thus Charles V (1500-1558) held Burgundy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands including Belgium, Spain, part of Italy and received the title of Emperor of Germany. Not to mention the colonial empire in America, which financed this great ensemble.

Luxembourg was then administered by a governor, and Pierre de Mansfeld was in place from 1545 to 1604.

Later on, Luxembourg was permanently associated with the fate of the Netherlands and Belgium. It was controlled by the Spanish, then by the Austrians and finally by the Prussians. But on several occasions the French took it over temporarily with Louis XIV (1684) then the Revolutionaries (1795) and finally Napoleon.

Luxembourg lies on the dividing line between the French and German speaking influences, but the reasons for the wars were mainly due to the strength of the city’s fortifications. In addition to the naturally protected site, Vauban applied the best of his knowledge in the time of Louis XIV. The Prussians further strengthened the system. In order to reduce the risk of conflict, the great powers decided in 1867 to make Luxembourg a neutral country and consequently to dismantle the defensive works protecting it.

The time of the Grand Dukes

In 1815, at the time of the Congress of Vienna, which restored order to Europe after the Napoleonic epic, Luxembourg and Belgium were placed under the control of the Netherlands, whose king was also Grand Duke of Luxembourg.

In 1830, when Belgium rebelled against the Netherlands and gained its independence, Luxembourg joined the rebellion. When the borders were established in 1839, the French-speaking part of Luxembourg became a Belgian province, while the German-speaking part became independent and retained the Dutch king as its sovereign. In 1848 the constitution established a parliamentary regime.

In 1890 the King of the Netherlands died, leaving only a daughter who became Queen of the Netherlands. However, as the Salic law continued to apply in Luxembourg, the Grand Duchy reverted to his cousin the Grand Duke Adolphe, the ancestor of the present Grand Duke.

The time of the wars

In 1914, Germany militarily occupied Luxembourg, a neutral country deprived of the means to defend itself. However, the authorities remained in place, continuing to administer the country. There was little damage from the war, mainly a sharp economic slowdown and social difficulties due to rationing. The Germans evacuated after the armistice signed in November 1918.

In 1940, the German invasion was repeated, again in violation of the country’s neutrality. This time the Nazis annexed Luxembourg and the authorities went into exile in London and Canada. They did not return until after the liberation by American troops in September 1944, fighting and destruction plagued this sad period.

The consequence of these conflicts was to push the European countries to achieve a better harmony. Luxembourg was the first to take an interest in this, participating in the Benelux countries as early as 1944, in NATO in 1948, in the ECSC in 1952 and of course in the European Economic Community in 1957, with the city hoping to become its capital.

These international agreements would encourage the expansion of the economy.

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    • Thank you; during the visit I appreciated the fact that I was in the presence of objects representative of an era, allowing me to better perceive it. Like tombstones summarizing a man’s life, or the throne granting the one who has the right to sit on it different powers from the others.


    • Thank you for your interest. Actually most European cities have passed through all these historical strata, from antiquity to the present states. It is not easy to summarise it and even less easy to identify what made the difference, apart from chance.

      Liked by 1 person

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