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Migrations heritage route, Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg

european institute of cultural routes

Sorina Capp

26 June 2007

The european continent is in permanent movement. Migrations have shaped Europe over time leading slowly to how it looks today. With this itinerary, we offer you the chance to discover a different Europe.

Cities: Dudelange
Department: Dudelange
Region: Dudelange
Country: Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg

  Where is Dudelange

Here is a chance to spend a weekend discovering the migration heritage route in Dudelange (Grand Duchy of Luxembourg). This opportunity is offered by an incredible exhibition organised by the Documentation Centre for Human Migrations (CDMH) and the C.L.A.E.: “Return of Babel”.

The CDMH is the coordinator for the European route of migration heritage, recently awarded by the Council of Europe. In Dudelange, migration heritage is directly linked to the industrial heritage route.

The south-west of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is known as “Red Rocks” due to the ferruginous rocks which make up its landscape. The region has contributed greatly to the richness of the Grand Duchy thanks to flourishing mining and iron-working industries which expanded rapidly in the 19th century. Although mining has now completely stopped and nature has taken over, the region still has traces of its industrial past.

Dudelange is situated in the South of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, on the French-Luxembourg border and near the motorway linking Luxembourg to France, Belgium and Germany.

The second town of the Red Rocks after Esch-sur-Alzette, Dudelange, known as the Forge of the South, is situated at the foot of a mountain, Mont Saint Jean.

Around the Station and Factory

The origin of Dudelange can be traced back to the Celts and Romans, more than 2.000 years ago. During the Middle Ages, the village had less than 250 inhabitants, most of whom were farmers and craftsmen. To better protect themselves against assailants and assure the protection of their subjects, the lords of Gymnich had a stronghold built on Mont St Jean (around 1464). It wasn’t until the mid 18th century that small industries were set-up, including a brasserie, a tannery, distilleries and oil-mills. The discovery of iron ore deposits in 1881 and the installation of a steel-manufacturing factory were the determining factors in developing the region.

On 4th August 1907, Dudelange’s status was changed to town, its population having passed from 1.500 to 10.000 in three decades. Following a crisis in the steel-manufacturing sector in the mid 1970s and the closure of the Dudelange Laminoir (Rolling Mill) in 2005, urgent and fundamental redevelopment was carried out.

In 2007, Dudelange celebrated its centenary and proved its dynamism can be shown daily by all the positive changes made on a social, cultural and economic level.

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  In the labyrinth of citizenship

ReTour de Babel

Coming from everywhere and entering

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  The Route in Dudelange

You can get to Dudelange by train from the city of Luxembourg, or by car (see the links to the right). We recommend that you start the route by visiting the Centre de Documentation sur les Migrations Humaines (Documentation Centre on Human Migrations) which is located in the former train station (Gare Usines), next to an area known as Little Italy (la Petite Italie). At the CDMH you can consult books, documents, magazines or watch films and documentaries on the theme of migrations. The CDMH also holds temporary exhibitions.

The visit continues with la Little Italy, an area born towards the end of the 19th century and which developed during the 20th century with the industrialisation of Luxembourg.

Little Italy has been inhabited for decades by a population of Italian immigrants who came to work in the factories and mines. In this small area, the workers and their families have recreated an ambiance, customs and even living solutions directly influenced by the Mediterranean culture.

Since the start of the 1970s, the area has gradually received more Portuguese inhabitants. In parallel, Italian families have gradually left the area – a prosperity gained over 50 years of labour allowed them to buy more luxurious housing in the less ‘working-class’ areas. Little Italy has quickly found itself inhabited mainly by Portuguese. Therefore through one area we can see the different migrations which have left their marks on the buildings and the vicinity.

To continue on a discovery of the migration history of Dudelange, another region not far from Little Italy is less known but just as important in understanding the coherence of the town, the “Quartier Schmelz” which has mainly been inhabited by Belgian and German immigrants.

Dudelange’s steel-manufacturing factory sparked the migratory flow and since the means of transport were not great, the workers wanted to stay close to their work, explaining the proximity of Little Italy and Quartier Schmelz to the factory.

An exhibition on Quartier Schmelz is being held in addition to “Retour de Babel”, in the Hall Fondouq (an exhibition room within “Retour de Babel”), with pictures and texts by Daniela Dario.

In this area you can discover the church Saint Eloi, a unique church with its iron tower.

Little Italy

Sergio Rodriguez - Retour de Babel

After the CDMH, Little Italy and the Quartier Schmelz, visit the “Retour de Babel” exhibition which has been organised as part of “Luxembourg and the Greater Region, European capital of culture 2007”.

This exhibition presents the portraits and routes of numerous people and their journeys through life, shares memories and questions the idea of citizenship.

The biblical myth of the Tower of Babel shows diversity as a divine punishment against the arrogance of humans who wanted to build a tower reaching up to the sky. A crossroads of roads and cultures, Luxembourg and the Greater Region have long been marked by diversity through old, rich and complex migratory phenomena. The exhibition offers the chance to question the Babylonian punishment by showing the fundamental role of migrations in the economic, social and cultural development of this trans-border region. By looking back at history from the mid 18th century, it tries to explain how migrations link the region to the four corners of the earth and make it part of a world which is constantly changing.

From immigration to Luxembourg to emigration from Luxembourg, the global phenomenon of migrations is shown on a personal level using portraits and life stories of individuals and families.

It is a case of demonstrating that the people who migrated into or out of the country are not constant voyagers without attachments, but beings who carry with them the memory and the culture of their native country while being limited by the demands of their new country.

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  Plans for the gardens in Dudelange

The documentation centre for human migrations is collaborating with the architecture department of Miami University to find the migration gardens.

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  Art and heritage

From religious heritage to art galleries, Dudelange offers many jewels which can be discovered at any cost.

Firstly there is The parish church of Saint Martin of Dudelange, the biggest church in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg after the cathedral.

In church Saint Martin you can see the organ Stahlhuth / Jann.

The organ in church Saint Martin was constructed in 1912 by the organ maker Georg Stahlhuth (1830-1913) and his son Eduard Stahlhuth (1862-1916), disciples of Joseph Merklin.

Of German origin and living in Germany (near Aix-la-Chapelle), Georg and Eduard Stahlhuth had an in-depth knowledge of Romantic German organ-making. Trained in Belgium and France, they closely followed French symphonic organ-making. Commissions in England and Ireland allowed them to work with the Romantic English style. Thus, they were amongst the few organ-makers of the time able to integrate elements of the French and English styles in German organs.

As upholders of “European” ideas in organ-making, they were given the responsibility to construct the organ in 1912.

Also in church Saint Martin, you will find “le chemin de croix” (the route of the cross), by a local painter who is little-known aboad: Dominique Lang.

In the centre of Dudelange, do not hesitate to enter the Town Hall (open during office hours) where you can admire the centenary fresco by artist Jean Biwer (2006) and the staircase with friezes by Marc Henri Reckinger (see link to the right with the municipality website).

Fresco Jean-Marie Biwer - 2007 - Photo Raphael Maass

Born in Dudelange in 1957, creator Jean-Marie Biwer has always worked in the Grand
Duchy of Luxembourg.

Self-educated and a surprising artist, Jean-Marie Biwer carries out a sort of daily quest. Many journeys have elargened his European horizon: France, Holland, Germany, Spain and Italy. He has participated in numerous exhibitions in Europe and Asia. The most memorable was “Eighty – the European painters of the 80s” (1987-1989), a touring exhibition shown in the main European capitals.

“In 1993, he represented Luxembourg, alongside Bertrand Ney, at the Venice Biennale with series of nudes, still life and landscapes, pictural genres developed in history and art and which are for Biwer “mirrors of the world as I see it”. Finally, the paintings of Biwer oppose images used by the media: reflexion, complexity and subtility.” (extract from the site of the Musée d'Art Moderne Grand Duc Jean).

For people interested in art, some of the galleries are holding interesting exhibitions throughout 2007, on the theme of migrations (see link to the right).

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  Gastronomic heritage and migrations

Cafes and restaurants linked to the theme of migrations offer an unusual taste in Dudelange with flavours from Portugal, Italy, France and Belgium…

If you stay overnight in Dudelange, try the Cottage hotel (see link to right) which offers Italian cuisine as the owner is originally from Lake Maggiore. The dish of the day is 10 euros during the week with Italian specialities, a buffet of antipasti, fish, pasta and pizza. Excellent quality at a low price.

Or if you have lunch in Little Italy, don’t hesitate to try “Gigi l’amoroso”, (rue Tattenberg) which offers pizza and pasta from the South of Italy.

There are also small Portuguese cafes and restaurants, such as Café Inês (rue Gare Usines, Little Italy). If you pay attention while visiting the “Retour de Babel” exhibition, you will discover that one of the migrant portraits is that of the café’s owner.

A chance to see real-life impressions of a Portuguese in Luxembourg.

In Quartier Schmeltz, café Benfica (rue Volmerange) is special in that it is a former ballroom then theatre, an interesting place full of life and stories.

An exhibition called "Sushi mat Gaardebounen an bacalhau" organised by Bruno Balzer, photographer and Paca Rimbau, texts, following a public commission in 2003, shows migrant chefs and their meetings.

The migrant garden - ReTour de Babel

However, if you want to eat Spanish food, go to Café Paella (rue des Minières) in Little Italy.

But if you want to eat French food, an excellent gastronomic restaurant near Dudelange is well worth a detour. It is located in Zoufftgen (on the French side of the border) and is called “La Lorraine”. Good quality food, regional specialities.

For the first time in Luxembourg? To try traditional gastronomy from Luxembourg, you need to start with some vocabulary in order to know what to order:

Judd mat Gaardebounen : Smoked pork with broadbeans from marshland.

Bouneschlupp : Soup with green beans, to which can be added carrots, onions, leeks, celery, potatoes, milk or cream and also smoked bacon.
Kuddelfleck : Tripe served coated in breadcrumbs or with a spicy tomato sauce.

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  Pasta or pizza

Photo Bruno Balzer

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other websites
City Hall of Dudelange

Your itinerary by car

Art galleries in Dudelange

Hotel in Dudelange

Editorial content
industrial heritage

memory of migrations : dudelange

Frank Girard in Dudelange

Retour de Babel Towering Babel

The South of Luxembourg

Les cahiers du CDMH, n°1, Sept.2004
Dudelange 1979-2004, les mutations d'une ville et de son quartier emblématique
Memory of Dudelange

Map of the city center of Dudelange
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