History has made Pays de Bitche a land of traditions. The Glass Country, Lemberg, Meisenthal and Saint-Louis-Lès-Bitche are villages which are associated with glass and crystal.
Their industry’s finial is incontestably the Crystal factory of Saint-Louis, one of the oldest crystal factories in France.
The origin of Saint Louis Crystal factory dates back more than four centuries. It was in 1586 that glass was first fabricated here. It became a “Royal Glass factory” privileged by King Louis XV in 1767 and the manufacture gained fame in 1782 when it was the first in continental Europe to make a new glass known as crystal which became renowned for its exceptional sound and sparkle.
The purity and shine of the Saint-Louis crystal, the refined beauty of its decor, and the exquisite mastery of the engravers enforced the reputation of this lustrous “House.” Saint Louis crystal became royal crystal and today the crystal of connoisseurs.
Thanks to its museum devoted to glass and crystal, Meisenthal contributes without doubt to the preservation of centuries of old glass making tradition. In this village where glassmaking is a culture, a glass factory existed from 1704 to 1969. It is in the old factory walls that the International Art and Glass Centre continues the techniques of its land, mixing tradition with innovation (artists and designers, workshops for students from the European School of Arts, editorial lines of objects “made in Meisenthal”, publications…).
Every winter, in front of an ever growing public, the CIAV continues the ancestral ritual and honours the local tradition, making thousands of Christmas balls.
Today the “Halle verrière”, one of the old factory halls, is used for cultural and creative activities.
It has a superficial of 3200m2 and an immense volume which enables the most ambitious and diverse cultural events.
Pays de Bitche is more than just a geographical situation, but a place where both men and women work together in harmony to enhance the customs and recreate the old rural traditions.
The canton of Volmunster knows how to keep their quality of life and have a strong secular tradition. For centuries, the land brought work and food. Today Agriculture and breeding is clearly present. This tradition is enhanced by the Eschviller Mill Museum and its big solid waterwheel that was put back into service to revive the millers’ life in this valley. It goes to the rhythm of the Schwalb River and its mechanism turns a heavy mill stone that grinds the grain to make flour.
Throughout the museum the visitor can see the saws that cut blanks, and other techniques that could be used by turning the waterwheel.
A detour to the new educational apiary is a must at the end of the visit. It presents the secrets and stages of honey making, the social life of bees and their ecological role.
The tradition is also respected at Soucht, a little village nestled in the heart of a magnificent forest where a contemporary museum has just opened made entirely of wood. Crossing the threshold, the smell of spruce lures the visitor to the heart of the clog workshop where all the artisan and mechanical techniques for making the shoes of our ancestors, are demonstrated. More than 260 kinds of clogs were used in France and Europe; varnished, sculptured, painted…real museum pieces.