The Moselle (/moʊˈzɛl/, French: [mɔzɛl] (listen); German: Mosel [ˈmoːzl̩] (listen); Luxembourgish: Musel) is a river that flows through France, Luxembourg, and Germany. It is a left tributary of the Rhine, which it joins at Koblenz. A small part of Belgium is also drained by the Moselle through the Sauer and the Our.
The Moselle "twists and turns its way between Trier and Koblenz along one of Germany's most beautiful river valleys." It flows through a region that has been influenced by mankind since it was first cultivated by the Romans. Today, its hillsides are covered by terraced vineyards where "some of the best Rieslings grow", and numerous ruined castles dominate the hilltops above wine villages and towns that line the riverbanks. Traben-Trarbach with its art nouveau architecture and Bernkastel-Kues with its traditional market square are two of the many tourist attractions on the Moselle river.
The name Moselle is derived from the Celtic name form, Mosela, via the Latin Mosella, a diminutive form of Mosa, the Latin description of the Meuse, which used to flow parallel to the Moselle. So the Mosella was the "Little Meuse".
The Roman poet Ausonius made it a literary theme as early as the 4th century. In his poem dated 371, called Mosella, which was published in 483 hexameters, this poet of the Late Antiquity and teacher at the Trier Imperial Court (Kaiserhof) described a journey from Bingen over the Hunsrück hills to the Moselle and then following its course to Trier on the road named after him, the Via Ausonius. Ausonius describes flourishing and rich landscapes along the river and in the valley of the Moselle, thanks to the policies of their Roman rulers.
The source of the Moselle is at 715 m (2,346 ft) above sea level on the Col de Bussang on the western slopes of the Ballon d'Alsace in the Vosges. After 544 km (338 mi) it discharges into the Rhine at the Deutsches Eck in Koblenz at a height of 59 m (194 ft) above NHN sea level. The length of the river in France is 314 km (195 mi), for 39 km (24 mi) it forms the border between Germany and Luxembourg, and 208 km (129 mi) is solely within Germany.
The average flow rate of the Moselle at its mouth is 328 m3/s (11,600 cu ft/s), making it the second largest tributary of the Rhine by volume after the Aare (560 m3/s, 20,000 cu ft/s) and bigger than the Main and Neckar.
The section of the Moselle from the France–Germany–Luxembourg tripoint near Schengen to its confluence with the Saar near Konz shortly before Trier is in Germany known (geographically incorrectly) as the Upper Moselle. The section from Trier to Pünderich is the Middle Moselle, the section between Pünderich and its mouth in Koblenz as the Lower Moselle or Terraced Moselle (Terrassenmosel). Characteristic of the Middle and Lower Moselle are its wide meanders cut deeply into the highlands of the Rhenish Massif, the most striking of which is the Cochemer Krampen between Bremm and Cochem. Also typical are its vineyard terraces.
From the tripoint the Moselle marks the entire Saarland–Luxembourg border.
The catchment area of the Moselle is 28,286 km2 (10,921 sq mi) in area. The French part covers 15,360 km2 (5,930 sq mi), about 54 percent of the entire catchment. The German state of Rhineland-Palatinate has 6,980 km2 (2,690 sq mi), the Saarland 2,569 km2 (992 sq mi), Luxembourg 2,521 km2 (973 sq mi), Wallonia in Belgium 767 km2 (296 sq mi) and North Rhine-Westphalia, 88 km2 (34 sq mi).
The three largest tributaries of the Moselle are, in order, the Meurthe, the Saar and the Sauer. The Meurthe was the old upper course of the Moselle, until the latter captured the former upper reaches of the Meuse and took it over. However, the Meuse only delivered a little more water than the Meurthe at its confluence. The Saar is the biggest of all the tributaries (78.2 m3/s, 2,760 cu ft/s) as well as the longest (246 km, 153 mi). The Sauer is the largest left-hand tributary and drains the region on either side of the German-Luxembourg border. The largest tributary relative to the Moselle at its confluence is the Moselotte, which is about 40% greater by volumetric flow and thus represents the main branch of the Moselle system. At its mouth, the Moselle delivers 328 m3/s (11,600 cu ft/s) of water into the Rhine after flowing for 544 km (338 mi).
Towns along the Moselle are:
- in France: Épinal, Toul, Pont-à-Mousson, Metz and Thionville
- in Luxembourg: Schengen, Remich, Grevenmacher and Wasserbillig
- in Germany: Konz, Trier, Schweich, Bernkastel-Kues, Traben-Trarbach, Zell, Cochem and Koblenz
The Vosges, the present source region of the Moselle, were formed about 50 million years ago. In the Miocene and Pliocene epochs the ancient Moselle (Urmosel) was already a tributary of the ancient Rhine (Ur-Rhein). When, in the Quaternary period, the Rhenish Massif slowly rose, the meanders of the Moselle were formed between the Trier Valley and the Neuwied Basin.
The highest navigable water level (HSW) is 6.95 m (22 ft 10 in) and normal level (NSt) is 2.00 m (6 ft 7 in) at the Trier Gauge (Pegel Trier).
- 11.28 m (37 ft 0 in), Trier Gauge on 21 December 1993
- 10.56 m (34 ft 8 in), Trier Gauge on 28 May 1983
- 10.33 m (33 ft 11 in), Trier Gauge on 23 January 1995
- 10.26 m (33 ft 8 in), Trier Gauge on 12 April 1983
- 9.92 m (32 ft 7 in), Trier Gauge on 27 February 1997
- 0.47 m (1 ft 7 in) in Bernkastel on 28 July 1921
The Moselle was known to the Romans by the name of Flumen Musalla (in the Tabula Peutingeriana), and the river was romanticised by the poet Ausonius around 371. From 1815, the Moselle formed the border between the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and Prussia (German Empire in 1871).
In the act of 10 April 1952 ratifying the treaty instituted by the ECSC, Article 2 charged the French Government "to initiate, before the establishment of the Common Market, negotiations with the governments concerned in order to achieve a rapid implementation of the canalisation of the Moselle between Thionville and Koblenz.
The River was canalised between Metz and Thionville, via a canal opened in 1964 by the Grand Duchess, Charlotte of Luxembourg, the Federal Chancellor of Germany, Konrad Adenauer and their host, Charles de Gaulle, President of France.
It is on the Moselle, at the site of the France–Germany–Luxembourg tripoint, that the Schengen Agreement was signed in 1992, establishing the free movement of goods and people in the European Community.
The Moselle valley is famous for its scenery and wine. Most well-known is the German Mosel wine region, while the Luxembourg winegrowing region is called Moselle Luxembourgeoise and the French region is called AOC Moselle. Most notable among the wines produced here are Riesling, Elbling, Müller-Thurgau, Kerner, and Auxerrois. The German part of the Moselle is a tourist destination.
After the Second World War, France pressed to be able to ply the Moselle with larger ships in order to be able to link the industrial regions of Lorraine. When, in 1955, the population on the Saar voted to belong to West Germany, France demanded as "compensation" an upgrade of the Moselle. On 27 October 1956 they concluded the Moselle Treaty with Germany and Luxembourg for a canalisation of the Moselle and conceded to Germany in return the extension of the Grand Canal d'Alsace on the Upper Rhine instead of an extension of the canal via Breisach. In 1958 work began and by 26 May 1964 the Moselle could be officially opened from Metz to Koblenz as a major waterway for shipping with 14 locks. France extended it by 1979 as far as Neuves-Maisons. With that, 394 km (245 mi) of the Moselle have been upgraded with a total of 28 locks. In the years 1992 to 1999 the navigable channel was deepened from 2.7 m (8 ft 10 in) to 3.0 m (9 ft 10 in), which enables 1,500-tonne freighters to use the river, a 20% increase in capacity. The channel has a width of 40 m (130 ft), more on the bends. The International Moselle Commission (IMK), founded in 1962 with its head office in Trier, is responsible for navigation. The Moselle Shipping Police Act which it has produced is valid in all three participant states from Metz to Koblenz.
In 1921 the Moselle (Mo) became a Reich waterway, today it is a federal waterway (Bundeswasserstraße) from Apach at the tripoint to its mouth on the Rhine at kilometre point 592.29 in Koblenz. The waterway is 242 km (150 mi) long and managed by the Trier and Koblenz Water and Shipping Offices (Wasser- und Schifffahrtsämtern Trier und Koblenz). It is categorized as a European waterway of Class Vb. Its kilometrage begins at its mouth at kilometre point 0 and runs upstream. Since 1816 it has formed a 36 km (22 mi) long condominium from Apach, a common Germany–Luxembourg sovereign area with a division of responsibilities set out in a 1976 agreement. The International Moselle Company, initially set up in 1957 to finance the construction of the river's upgrade, manages the shipping charges and the operation and maintenance of the waterway which they are used to fund.
Today the Moselle is navigable for large cargo ships up to 110 metres (360 ft) long from the Rhine in Koblenz up to Neuves-Maisons, south of Nancy. For smaller ships it is connected to other parts of France through the Canal de l'Est and the Canal de la Marne au Rhin. There are locks in Koblenz, Lehmen, Müden, Fankel, Sankt Aldegund, Enkirch, Zeltingen, Wintrich, Detzem, Trier, Grevenmacher, Palzem, Apach, Kœnigsmacker, Thionville, Richemont, Talange, Metz, Ars-sur-Moselle, Pagny-sur-Moselle, Blénod-lès-Pont-à-Mousson, Custines, Pompey, Aingeray, Fontenoy-sur-Moselle, Toul, Villey-le-Sec, and Neuves-Maisons.
By 1970 more than 10 million tonnes of goods were being transported on the Moselle, the majority on towed barges. Upstream freight mainly comprised fuel and ores; downstream the main goods were steel products, gravel and rocks. There is an inland port at Trier, a transshipment site in Zell (Mosel); and there are other ports in Mertert, Thionville, Metz and Frouard. In addition to freighters there are also pleasure boats for tourists between the very busy wine villages and small towns of the Middle and Lower Moselle. There are also yachting or sports marinas in the following places: Koblenz, Winningen, Brodenbach, Burgen, Löf, Hatzenport, Senheim, Treis, Traben-Trarbach, Kues, Neumagen, Pölich, Schweich, Trier and Konz. The Moselle is linked near Toul via the Canal de la Marne au Rhin with inter alia the Meuse, the Saône and the Rhône. Other canals link the river to the North Sea and even the Mediterranean.
There is a total of 28 changes of level on the Moselle:
- 16 in France near Neuves-Maisons, Villey-le-Sec, Toul, Fontenoy-sur-Moselle, Aingeray, Frouard-Pompey, Custines, Blénod-lès-Pont-à-Mousson, Pagny-sur-Moselle, Ars-sur-Moselle, Metz, Talange, Richemont, Thionville, Kœnigsmacker and Apach
- 2 between Luxembourg and Germany near Stadtbredimus-Palzem and Grevenmacher-Wellen
- 10 in Germany near Trier, Detzem, Wintrich, Zeltingen, Enkirch, St. Aldegund, Fankel, Müden, Lehmen and Koblenz. Detzem is the highest lock – 9 m (30 ft) – and at 29 km (18 mi) the upstream reach is the longest on the river; it is the only lock to be built on a canal of some length excavated outside the river bed.
With the exception of Detzem, all the structures at each change in level are laid out side by side; the lock is by one riverbank, the weir in the middle and the hydropower plant on the other bank. Between the lock and weir are a boat slipway and channel and boat lock, while between the weir and the power station is the fish ladder. The structures have been blended into the landscape through their low-level design; this was achieved by the choice of sector gates for the weir, vertically lowering upper gates and mitred lower lock gates. The water levels and hydropower works are controlled by the Fankel Central Control Station (Zentralwarte Fankel) of the RWE Power Company at Fankel.
Through the Moselle valley run the Moselle Wine Route and the Moselle Cycleway, which may be cycled from Metz in France via Trier to Koblenz on the River Rhine, a distance of 311 km (193 mi). Between Koblenz and Trier, large sections run on the trackbed of the old Moselle Valley Railway, far from the noise and fumes of motor vehicles. Every year on the Sunday after Pentecost, the 140 km (87 mi) of road between Schweich and Cochem is also car-free as part of Happy Moselle Day.
A number of notable castles and ruins adorn the heights above the Moselle valley and many are visible on a boat trip on the Moselle.
In 1910, a hiking trail, the Moselle Ridgeway, was established which runs for 185 km (115 mi) on the Eifel side and 262 km (163 mi) on the Hunsrück side. Another unusual trail runs from Ediger-Eller via the Calmont Trail to Bremm through the steepest vineyard in Europe.
Before the construction of barrages the Moselle was a popular route for folding kayaks which is why many of the weirs have boat channels. The river is still used today by canoeists, especially during the annual week-long lock closures when no commercial shipping is permitted.
In April 2014 the Moselle Trail was opened, a path running for 365 km (227 mi) from Perl on the Upper Moselle to Koblenz. Numerous Moselle Trail "partner trails", the so-called side branches (Seitensprünge) and "dream paths" (Traumpfade) enhance the hiking network in the Moselle Valley.
At Koblenz Locks the Mosellum offers exhibitions about the migration of fish in the Moselle as well as water ecology, navigation and power generation. With the construction of the visitor and information centre the most modern fish ladder along the Moselle was opened.
The Moselle winegrowing region lies along the Moselle with a cultivated area of about 10,540 ha (26,000 acres). The largest part, currently just under 9,000 ha (22,000 acres), is on German soil in the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland; the Luxembourg part has an area of about 1,300 ha (3,200 acres) (see Wine in Luxembourg). Upstream on the Moselle the vineyards extend into France as far as Seille in the region of Côtes de Moselle with an area of 130 ha (320 acres) and to the region around Toul (Côtes de Toul) covering 110 ha (270 acres).
The German Moselle wine region, including its tributaries, bears the growing and manufacturing name of "Mosel". For marketing reasons the agricultural authorities of the region have divided it into six winegrowing areas. The wine literature and specialist press, by contrast, divide the region into four areas based on geomorphological, micro-climatic and also historical reasons:
The wine industry on the German Moselle has been declining for decades. In 2005, statistics showed there were 10,375 ha (25,640 acres) of vineyard; by 2012 this had fallen to just 8,491 ha (20,980 acres). The vineyards that have fallen fallow are mostly those on extremely steep hillsides. There has been a major decline in the number of so-called Nebenerwerbswinzer (vintners for whom it is a secondary occupation), and the small, family farming operations that, until the end of the 1960s formed the majority of wine businesses. Comparative figures by the Chamber of Agriculture for Rhineland-Palatinate for several wine villages on the Lower Moselle show that there were still 797 wine businesses in the early 1960s, but by the early 2000s there were only just under 100.
There has been the opposite trend amongst the established traditional wine estates and more recent vintners with a sound education in oenology and business management, who have increased their business through the reclamation of once renowned, but long forgotten sites. The end of the 20th century saw the rediscovery of the use of special terroir in order to improve quality and value, which has led to a more nuanced view of Moselle wine that, a few years before, had been characterised by overproduction, label scandals and cheap offers.
On 10 November 2006 in Burg, the Moselle Regional Initiative was founded. The introduction of the Moselle as an umbrella brand was based on that of the Eifel region and covers products and services from the areas of agriculture, forestry, tourism, handicrafts and nature.
Moselle slate (Moselschiefer) is a manufacturing and trade description for slate from the municipalities of Mayen, Polch, Müllenbach, Trier and its surrounding area. Today only products from the roofing slate mines of Katzenberg in Mayen and Margareta in Polch bear the name Moselle Slate. The name is derived from the historical transport route for this slate along the Moselle to the Lower Rhine.
The Moselle was celebrated in Mosella, a Latin poem by Ausonius (4th century). In the 20th century, the river and the folklore and local history of the towns along its banks were described by British travel writer Roger Pilkington. In the tale, "The Seven Swabians" of the Brothers Grimm, the eponymous Swabians drown trying to cross the Moselle.
- Château de Meinsberg (dit de Malbrouck): near Manderen, this castle was built in the 15th century but rebuilt in the 1990s. Today it is used for numerous cultural events.
- Château Fort de Sierck-les-Bains: situated just on the French-German border at Sierck-les-Bains, this fortress of the Duke of Lorraine dates back to the 11th century. Most of today's castle was constructed in the 18th century, following plans from Vauban.
- Schloss Berg: a Renaissance castle at Nennig, today a hotel and a casino.
- Alte Burg: a manor house built in 1360 at Longuich. One of the few surviving manor houses in rural Rhineland-Palatinate.
- Schloss Lieser: a palace at Lieser built from 1884 to 1887 in historistic style.
- Landshut Castle: a castle built by the Electorate of Trier in the 13th century at Bernkastel-Kues.
- Grevenburg: ruins of a castle at Traben-Trarbach built by Johann III of Sponheim-Starkenburg about 1350, destroyed, after many sieges, in 1734.
- Marienburg: a 12th-century castle and later monastery near Pünderich and Alf.
- Arras Castle: a 12th-century castle in Alf.
- Metternich Castle: a castle built around 1120 at Beilstein, today partly in ruins.
- Cochem Castle: The castle in Cochem was originally built in the 11th century, but was completely destroyed by French soldiers in 1689. The present castle was rebuilt later in the 19th century.
- Thurant Castle: Above the town of Alken is Thurant Castle, built in the 13th century. It is the only twin-towered castle along the Moselle. The fortress was built by the Count Palatine Henry of the house of Guelph between 1198 and 1206. From 1246 to 1248, it was the two archbishops of Cologne and Trier. Following conquest, it was divided by a partition wall into two halves, each with a keep (tower). During the 19th century, Thurant disintegrated, becoming a ruin; and in 1911 was acquired by Privy Councilor, Dr. Robert Allmers, who had it rebuilt. Since 1973, the castle has been owned by the Allmers and Wulf families.
- Ehrenburg: a 12th-century castle built by the Electorate of Trier at Brodenbach.
- Eltz Castle: The von Eltz family castle, whose history dates back to the 12th century. It remains in private hands to this day but it is open to visitors.
- Lower and Upper Castle, Kobern-Gondorf: two 11th-century castles, today mostly in ruins.
- Pyrmont Castle: This 13th-century castle near Roes was remodelled and extended several times during the Baroque era.
- Bischofstein Castle: Across the river from the municipality of Burgen is this 13th-century castle, which was destroyed during the Nine Years' War, but was reconstructed and now serves as a retreat centre for the Fichte Gymnasium in Krefeld.
See also: Wikimedia Commons – Castles in Rhineland-Palatinate