When people talk about "cathedrals of industrial heritage", we sometimes have to take this literally. The huge buildings offered enough space to accommodate factories in the middle of the 18th century. These were the original forms of industrial architecture: a good example is the Benedictine abbey which was turned into a centre of porcelain production by the Boch company. The global company Villeroy & Boch has retained its headquarters here up to the present day. "The House of Villeroy & Boch" now contains a visitor centre with a porcelain museum that relates its history with new media and valuable old exhibits.
In 1809 an iron caster by the name of Jean Francois Boch purchased the abbey that had previously been secularised in 1794. He had begun his career in 1748 with a pottery workshop in the village of Audun-le-Tiche in Lorraine. Competition from the porcelain works of Nicolas Villeroy in nearby Wallerfangen ended in a fusion of the two businesses in 1836. This was sealed when one of Villeroy’s daughters married one of Boch’s sons. The enterprise soon proved a great success and in the second half of the 19th century the abbey was extended with the addition of several manufacturing areas and the range of products accordingly increased. In 1869 the company began to produce ceramic tiles, and in 1905 bathroom ceramics. In 1882 Boch was given a title in recognition of his entrepreneurial services.
The abbey was built to designs drawn up by the baroque architect, Christian Kretschmar. Although it is the most imposing building in Mettlach, it is not the only historical building in the town. The "old tower" was erected around 1000 AD in the abbey park. As the burial place of the founder, Lutwinus, it not only bears witness to the history of the abbey, but is also the oldest building monument in the Saarland. The cast iron fountain at the entrance to the park, based on a design by Schinkel, was erected there in 1838. A brick bridge based on far-east influences bears witness to the art of gardening in the 19th century. Visitors are brought back to the present by the "Living Planet Square" and the "World Map of Life", a ceramic puzzle created by the painter Stephan Szczesny for Expo 2000. Above this looms André Heller’s magical, gigantic ivy-covered "Earth Spirit". A round tour runs from the abbey buildings via the former residence of Herr von Boch, "Schloss Ziegelberg", and the so-called tiled "Mettlach Plates", the gangways and clay pencil mosaics in the Lutwinus church, back to the old mansion, "Schloss Saareck", and the abbey.
"The House of Villeroy und Boch" leads visitors through the past and present history of the company. The official porcelain dishes made for Pope Benedict VI have their place in the porcelain museum, alongside the chamber pots made for emperors and kings, and contemporary tableware complete with fully laid tables for all occasions. The multimedia tour of the museum is spoken by the legendary Sir Peter Ustinov. Visitors can round off the tour in style in the museum café, an authentic replica of a Dresden milk shop. The fixtures and fittings were also manufactured here: Villeroy & Boch made the originals in 1892.