The fourth biggest town in Meurthe-et-Moselle, Pont-à-Mousson is named after the Mousson hill that overlooks it, where its feudal castle once stood, and the bridge (pont in French) that provided access to it.
Attached to the Duchy of Lorraine in the 15th century, the town developed in the 17th century with the creation of a University that soon became famous across Europe before being transferred to Nancy. Pont-à-Mousson witnessed and was a victim of the great conflicts of the 19th and 20th centuries, several times occupied, damaged and bombed. Today the town is an internationally renowned industrial and commercial centre: it is the world centre for ductile iron piping and halogen lighting.
Close to its historic centre, by the Moselle, stands the Premonstratensian abbey, built in the 18th century. Now a cultural centre, this Baroque building was destroyed several times and became a hospital during the 1870 war. It is now a Historic Monument.
Two beautiful Gothic churches are worth a visit: St. Martin's, from the 12th century, on the right bank of the Moselle, the official church of the University of Lorraine before its transfer, featuring a magnificent 15th-century Entombment; and St. Laurent's on the left bank, with its 16th-century altarpiece of the Passion by Philippe de Gueldre.
To learn about the town's history, especially its university period, head to Au fil du papier, a paper museum in the Monnaie mansion. With its collection of papier mâché objects, this unusual museum has a room devoted to the region's foundries, as well as an area about print-making in Pont-à-Mousson.
Pont-à-Mousson is best explored on foot: unmissable sights include its triangular Place Duroc, with its Renaissance arcade houses, and the landscaped walks in the parks, along the banks of the Moselle and on Esch Island.
The colourful cultural season in Pont-à-Mousson includes major events such as the Estivales with its free concerts; the Médiévales on Esch Island every two years, alternating with a street performance event; the Mousson d'été and Mousson d'hiver, celebrating contemporary creativity, etc.