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Mondorf-les-Bains (Municipality, Luxembourg)

Last modified: 2007-03-31 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Mondorf]

Flag of Mondorf-les-Bains - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 17 April 2006

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Presentation of Mondorf

The municipality of Mondorf-les-Bains (2,878 inhabitants) is located 20 km south-east of the town of Luxembourg, on the border with France. It is one of the most famous spa cities in Europe.

The site of Mondorf was settled by the Celts and later by the Romans, who built an oppidum, locally known as Castel, to watch the Lyon-Coblence road. The name of Mondorf comes from the Frankish Muomendorph, referring to Muomina, a niece of Charlemagne, who offerred all her goods to the abbey of Echternach, including the small village named after her. Charlemagne married Hildegarde de Thionville and built a small palace midway between his capital city, Aix-la-Chapelle, and Thionville, located 35 km south of Mondorf.
Mondorf was located on the border between France and Germany, and was often trashed and burnt down following battles that had taken place nearby. The St. Michel church, built in 1065, was destroyed and rebuilt four time, the last time in 1764-1766 by priest Ungeschick.
In 1769, the treaty of Versailles placed a border in the middle of the original parish of Mondorff, so that there is now Mondorf-les-Bains (renamed so by Royal and Grand Ducal Decree of 28 August 1878) in Luxembourg and Mondorff in France. The village in Luxembourg lost the second f of its name in 1872, when postmarks with the erroneous graphy "Mondorf" were made for the inauguration of the new post office. The two villages are linked by an international bridge rebuilt in 1949.

The village remained until the XIXth century a farmers and winegrowers' village. In the beginning of the XIXth century, King of the Netherlands William I imposed a huge tax of the salt used in Luxembourg, which was a Dutch monopoly. The price of the salt was so high that the local cattle breeders could no longer salt beef and pork meat. In order to bypass the Dutch monopoly, the Société pour la Recherche de Ressources Naturelles was founded with the aim of finding rock salt. After a few unsuccessful test-drills in Cessange and Ehnen, notary Ledure suggested to drill near Mondorf, where a salty brook seeped from the Galgenberg hill. Ledure used to take waters in Aix-la-Chapelle and noticed that the Mondorf water tasted similarly to the water used in Aix. Karl Gotthelf Kind, then famous for having found salt in Thuringia and Saxony, was hired in 1841 to conduct drillings in Mondorf; he invented the free falling trepan known as Kind-Chaudron process.
In 1846, the trepan broke at a depth of 736 m and no salt was found; however, a strongly mineralized, warm source gushed forth, which was named Kind source. Attempts to get salt by evaporation of the source water failed because the iron included in the water made the salt nearly black. The Mondorf drilling, with a cost of 76,800 francs, remained for long the deepest in Europe.
Notary Ledure immediatly proposed to transform Mondorf into a spa town. The Société des Bains de Mondorf commissionned architect Charles Eydt to build a spa, which was inaugurated on 20 June 1847; the first bath was taken by Ledure's daughter Amélie, aged 20, in a big tub. The family Didirrich transformed the drilling workers' cafeteria into the Grand Hôtel de l'Europe, which became famous among gastronomes. Nearby, Hippolyth Trottyane built the Hôtel du Grand Chef. The spa hired famous doctors in order to attract French top-rank customers, for instance Dr. Fleury, the doctor of the French Imperial court. Most of the customers came from neighbouring Alsace and Lorraine, so that the Franco-Prussian war and the incorporation of these provinces to Germany caused the decline of the spa in 1871. Wellenstein, a manufacturer from Remich, proposed to purchase the spa and to transfer it to Remich, with the building of a pipe-line to bring there the water from Mondorf. Fortunately, notary Gustave Lessel, Ledure's son-in-law, was President of the Chamber of Deputees whereas the State Minister Paul Eyschen was a regular customer of the spa. They convinced the Chamber that the spa of Mondorf was part of the national heritage and should be purchased by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The Chamber agreed on 16 April 1886 and the purchase was signed five days later for 100,000 francs. The State called back Dr. Klein, who had moved to Antwerp in the 1870s, so that Belgian customers were attracted.

The State spent a lot of money to increase and modernize the spa, building new pavilions, ballrooms and the first indoor swimming pool in Luxemblourg. The park was also increased, partially in French territory. In the beginning of the XXth century, Mondorf was the cultural and social center of Luxembourg. The Mondorf-Thionville railway was inaugurated in 1903. In 1910, more than 100,000 spectators gathered in Mondorf for the Great Flying Meeting.
The flow of the Kind source started to decrease, so that a new source was drilled at a depth of 464 m and named Marie-Adélaïde source after the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg. Mondorf declined again during the First World War and the spa was damaged by a blaze in 1919. The State purchased Hôtel de l'Europe and replaced it by a new spa designed by architect Paul Wigreux and inaugurated in 1926. The same year was opened the Palace Hôtel, then the biggest hotel in Luxembourg. Following the 1930 economical crisis, the spa nearly stopped its activity and most of the hotels were used to house refugees from the Nazi Germany, including the famous pianist Arthur Rubinstein. During the Second World War, the spa, known as Staatsbad-Mondorf was used by privileged Germans.

After the Liberation, the 59 surviving members of the IIIrd Reich government were jailed at the Palace Hôtel, where the Nuremberg trial was prepared.
The Kind source was re-drilled in 1947-1948, the State purchased the Palace Hôtel and carried on the modernization of the spa town. On 12 April 1979, the Chamber allowed the building of a new spa in Mondorf, linked to the newly drilled Michel Lucius source, at a depth of 760 m. A casino was built, more than 100 years after the earliest request of that kind (1852); this was not possible before since gambling was not allowed in Luxembourg.

Source: Mondorf Spa website

Ivan Sache, 17 April 2006

Municipal flag of Mondorf

The flag of Mondorf, as seen locally, is white with the municipal coat of arms.
The municipal arms of Mondorf were adopted by the Municipal Council on 3 April 1980 and confirmed by Ministerial Decree on 27 June 1980, published in the Luxembourg official gazette (Mémorial) 1980, p. 866:

D'or, au sautoir de gueules, cantonné de quatre quintefeuilles de gueules feuillées et boutonnées de sinople.
These arms are shown in the Armorial communal du Grand Duché de Luxembourg by J.C. Loutsch et al. (1989).
It is probable that the flowers recall the famous rose garden of the parc of Mondorf and its also famous flower show (Floralies).

Dominique Cureau & Ivan Sache, 17 April 2006