© Place Claude Arnoult et Autel de la Patrie | STEPHANE THEVENIN

Altar of the Fatherland

SYMBOL OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

What about discovering an obelisk several centuries old with a unique appearance which makes it stand out from its neighbours? The Municipality built its Altar of the Fatherland in 1792. Today, it is the only one still remaining. All the other towns lost their valuable altars in attacks by Napoleonic soldiers. Its blazing eye, a masonic symbol sculpted into the top of the obelisk, watches. The inhabitants of Thionville are celebrating. Yet, the altar was built during the Revolution. However, these inhabitants are happy.

 

LAST SYMBOL

OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

Thionville can be proud of having the only Altar to the Homeland in stone still intact in France. These monuments, often built in wood, date back to the Revolution and provided a central location for patriotic events. The one in Thionville dates from 1st Vendémiaire, Year V, namely 22 September 1796. Built in yellow limestone, the same as many local buildings, it is in a neo-classical style with a cubic base serving as an altar surmounted by a pyramidal column.

PRESERVED

AT SAINT-FRANÇOIS CEMETERY

Under the Napoleonic Consulate, the Altars to the Homeland disappeared and most of them were destroyed. The monolith was dismantled by order of the First Consul in 1799. However, the Altar to the Homeland in Thionville was saved after being transferred to Saint-François Cemetery where it served as a war memorial. After the war, the municipal councillors of Thionville wanted this monument to be returned to the city centre so as to avoid the long and recurrent processions to the cemetery for commemorative ceremonies.

TRIUMPHANT RETURN

TO THE CITY CENTRE

In 1948, the Altar to the Homeland was brought back to Place Claude Arnoult in the city centre on the occasion of the visit to Thionville by President Vincent Auriol. It proudly bears the Légion d’honneur and the Croix de Guerre, two decorations awarded to Thionville in 1920 and 1948 for its resistance and its bravery, as can be seen in the quote from 1792 “Thionville and its garrison are deserving of the Homeland”.