1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mézières

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MÉZIÈRES, a town of northern France, capital of the department of Ardennes, 55 m. N.E. of Reims by the Eastern railway. Pop. (1906), town, 7007; commune, 9393. The town itself, the streets of which are narrow and irregular, is situated on the neck of a peninsula formed by a loop of the Meuse. The river separates it from its suburb of Arches and the town of Charleville on the north and from the suburb of Pierre on the south. Adjoining Pierre is Mohon (pop. 5874), with metallurgical works. The fortifications of Mézières, as well as the citadel still dominating the town on the east, were built under Vauban's direction, but were dismantled in 1885 and 1886. Immediately to the east of the citadel runs a canal, which provides river-traffic with a short cut across the isthmus. The parish church (16th cent.) contains inscriptions commemorating the raising of the siege of Mézières in 1521 and the marriage of Charles IX. with the daughter of the emperor Maximilian II. (1570). The north and south portals, the Renaissance tower at the west end, and the lofty vaultings, are worthy of remark. The church, which suffered severely in 1870-71, has since been restored. The prefecture and the hôtel de ville, which contains several interesting pictures relating to the history of the town, belong to the 18th century. Mézières is the seat of a prefect and of a court of assizes, and there are manufactures of bicycles, and iron and steel castings for motors, railway-carriages, &c.

Founded in the 9th century, Mézières was at first only a stronghold belonging to the bishops of Reims, which afterwards became the property of the counts of Rethel. The town was increased by successive immigrations of the people of Liége, flying first from the emperor Otto, and afterwards from Charles the Bold; and also by concessions from the counts of Rethel. Walls were built in the 13th century, and in 1521 it was defended against the Imperialists by the Chevalier Bayard, to whom a statue was erected in 1893. The anniversary of the deliverance is still observed yearly on the 27th of September. In 1815 the Germans were kept at bay for six weeks, and in 1871 the town only capitulated after a bombardment during which the greater part of it was destroyed.

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