The eyes of anyone coming to Villeroy & Boch in Mettlach are inevitably drawn to the view of the Old Abbey. Situated in a historic park right on the banks of the Saar, it is now recognized as something of a symbol for the company founded in 1748 as it bears witness to a history rich in tradition. Hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world have seen this remarkable example of architecture and have fallen under its spell. Today, it houses the central administration of Villeroy & Boch within its historic walls and also functions as the seat of the Management Board.
So how did it come about that an 18th-century Benedictine Abbey in a small community in Saarland became the headquarters of an internationally operating branded company? Following is a brief outline of the history:
The design for the Benedictine cloister, to which the Old Abbey can be traced back, originates from the famous saxony architect Christian Kretzschmar. Construction started in 1727 but the building was not finished until the second half of the 18th century. However, when the French revolutionary army penetrated the Saar in the latter part of the 18th century, the end of life in the monastery was already looming ahead and around 1792 the monks fled to Trier.
In 1802, in the course of secularizing the nation, the French declared the cloister building property of the state. One year later, it was sold to a paper manufacturer. In 1809, Jean François Boch, a third-generation Boch, acquired the badly damaged building from him and completely renovated it. In the process, he had part of it converted directly into a factory. The Boch family themselves took up residence in several of the rooms, while others were used for administrative purposes.
These days, in addition to the central administration, the Old Abbey houses the Museum of Ceramics with the Museum Café, the Keravision exhibition, the Tableware Discovery Center and the Information Center – the specialist showroom for dream bathrooms and home interiors. For this reason, the former cloister building plays an important role in industrial tourism in the lower Saar region. Events such as the Music Days in Mettlach, which take place here on a regular basis, attract even more visitors to the tranquil town.
Even today, there is a piece of Villeroy & Boch history concealed in almost every corner of the Old Abbey. For example, the floors of the abbey cloister are laid out with Mettlach tiles from the 19th century – high-quality, elaborately decorated tiles, which were being exported at that time to many countries and as far away as Russia and China. An especially beautiful specimen is found at the entrance to the Museum of Ceramics: This ‘carpet of tiles’ in an exquisitely detailed design once adorned an old villa in Merzig, which was torn down at the end of the 20th century. An employee of the sanitaryware factory discovered the rare piece during excavation work and saved it from destruction. It was restored in the Villeroy & Boch workshop, where it regained its original beauty.
Irrespective of whether you are interested in the historical building itself, in the history of the company, in art and ceramics or in the latest products manufactured by Villeroy & Boch – the Old Abbey in Mettlach is certainly worth a visit!