The legend of Graoully and Saint Clément, bishop of Metz

Legend has it that in the 3rd century, a terrible dragon terrorized the city of Metz, devouring the careless children who approached it and putting the entire city under its yoke.

His terrible reign could have lasted for centuries if a hero had not come to destroy him. Saint Clement in fact managed to overcome the beast, thereby liberating the city and its inhabitants.

Known under the name of “Graoully”, it is this legendary creature which will constitute our subject of the day.

Together, let's uncover its secrets and try to understand the symbolic messages hidden behind this folkloric figure well known to the Messins.

Contents :

Historical context

Description of Graoully de Metz

Explanation of the legend of Graoully

The place of the dragon in the Christian imagination

A fight between good and evil

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Historical context

Metz is an absolutely remarkable city. Its history is rich and was marked by different eras, each more exciting than the last. Its architectural style makes it one of the most beautiful cities in France. Its folklore and customs make it a cultural center that is still very much alive.

In short, the city of Metz has something to interest you.

Far from being purely historical, the various information that we will see here will all be important for understanding the legend of Graoully...

An influential city from Antiquity!

If we go back several centuries in the past, to the time of the Romans to be exact, we see that the city of Metz was built on an ancient oppidum of the Gallic tribe of Mediomatrics. The site was in fact located at the crossroads of the Trêves-Lyon and Strasbourg-Reims routes. To put it simply, the territory of this Celtic people includes part of the Grand Est, the Metz region stuck between the Rhine and the Moselle.

Metz quickly became an economic crossroads in the region, welcoming up to 40,000 inhabitants and thus becoming one of the largest cities in Gaul.

Due to its character as a crossroads in the heart of the country, Metz was particularly influenced by a whole host of new ideas...

Saint Clement and the Christianization of Metz

One idea in particular would change the face of Europe forever: Christianity. Metz was in fact home to one of the first Christian communities in the region at the time.

A well-known man also helped convert the city. We are talking here about Bishop Saint-Clément, the legendary hero who managed to defeat Graoully.

Between historical facts and popular legends, it is quite difficult to discern the truth from the falsehood about this character who has become semi-legendary.

In short, later in the 5th century, the city was taken by the Franks who installed part of their political authorities there following their annexation.

Germanic influence of the medieval period

When Charlemagne's empire broke up between his three sons, the kingdom of Lotharingia (one of the three Frankish kingdoms) made Metz its capital, thereby marking the influence of the city during the centuries that were to come.

Throughout the medieval period, Metz belonged to the Holy Roman Empire under the special status of “free city”. This particular form of organization allowed the city to prosper while retaining its cultural and political particularities.

The Germanic influence was in fact so important at the time that the very name of the creature that interests us today was marked with it: "Graoully" would seem to derive from "gräulich", which means "terrifying" in German.

Wrought iron decoration from Graoully.

Description of Graoully de Metz

The most beautiful description of Graoully is undoubtedly found in the writings of François Rabelais, a famous French author who visited Metz in 1546:

“It was a monstrous effigy, ridiculous, hideous and terrible to little children, having eyes larger than the stomach, and a head larger than the rest of the body, with ample, broad and horrible jaws, well jagged, both on the - above and below, which, with the device of a small rope hidden inside the golden stick, were made against each other terribly rattling, as in Metz they do the dragon of Saint Clement. » - Quarter pound, François Rabelais

Tradition gives us more precision as to the appearance and nature of Graoully.

Already, this giant dragon was short on legs, to the point that it could not move and remained lying in the same place all the time (in the legend, it is the amphitheater of Metz).

However, this did not make it any less dangerous, the beast being able to spit large flames and swirls of toxic sulfur emanating from its body covered in impenetrable scales.

The Graoully of Metz also possessed the gift of communicating with certain animals, in particular venomous snakes which lived near him in large numbers, spitting their deadly venom in the face of anyone who dared to approach.

Stained glass window representing Saint Clement, the hero who defeated Graoully.

Explanation of the legend of Graoully

The legend of Graoully as such follows a rather classic narrative pattern.

During the 3rd century, a monstrous creature appeared overnight in the middle of the amphitheater of the city of Metz.

Curious at first, some children who lived nearby decided to go see what it was all about. It cost them their lives: the terrible beast blew out an immense spray of fire, cooking the little ones on the spot, then crunched them with a powerful blow from its scaly jaws.

Numerous venomous snakes were added to the presence of Graoully, no more inhabitants dared to pass through the neighborhood, and some even began to entertain the idea of ​​abandoning the city.

Touched by the distress in the city, a Christian bishop living in Rome decided to come and lend a helping hand to the inhabitants : as you can imagine, we are talking here about Saint Clement.

He then met a delegation from the city and offered them this simple deal: if the inhabitants agreed to be baptized, he would find a way to rid Metz of the threat weighing on them.

When he arrived in front of the Graoully, the courageous man stared the dragon straight in the eyes. The monster was so surprised that a simple man could stand up to him that he was stunned for a few moments.

This gave the courageous bishop the opportunity to throw his shawl around his neck, holding the head of the beast which, roaring with fiery flames, could not, however, touch the hero.

Saint Clement then dragged the beast to the Seille (a river which crosses the city of Metz). By reaction of the Graoully's skin or by divine action, the fact is that the water began to boil.

Being too big to escape (remember, the Graoully cannot walk), he slowly sank to the bottom of the Seille, so that the Messins would never hear of him again.

To celebrate its disappearance, an emblematic building was erected where the monster once stood: the Metz cathedral had found its home.

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The place of the dragon in the Christian imagination

The dragon is a very complex symbol that has long fascinated Christians.

Halfway between a snake, a bird and a lion, the dragon is generally associated with evil. This is verified in our case with the figure of Graoully de Metz.

In fact, there are dozens and dozens of knightly stories in all that feature pious heroes in prey with evil dragons.

For historians, this undoubtedly stems from the place these beasts occupy in the Bible. Most notably, there are two creatures in the description that fit our idea of ​​dragons.

The first, known as " Leviathan ", serves to express the power of God and to remind men that they are far from being the most powerful:

Flames burst from his mouth, sparks of fire escaped. 12 Smoke comes out of his nostrils, like a boiling pot or an overheated cauldron. 13 His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes out of his mouth. 14 Strength is in his neck. Before him we jumped in terror. » - Job 41: 11-14

The second is found in the Book of Revelation and constitutes neither more nor less than a representation of the great accuser. More specifically, the dragon of Revelation will show the material power of violence of the devil:

Another sign appeared in the sky; it was a great fiery red dragon, which had seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads seven diadems. Its tail dragged a third of the stars from the sky and threw them to the earth. The dragon placed itself in front of the woman who was about to give birth, in order to devour her child as soon as it was born. » - Revelation 12:3-4

Mosaic of a dragon breathing flames.

A fight between good and evil

This idea can be guessed when we see the place of dragons (and a fortiori of Graoully) in the Bible: the fight of the hero against the beast symbolizes that of good against evil.

By “slaying the dragon,” the ideal knight simply kills the sins that lived within him.

Sometimes also, the fight against dragons will serve as an allegory for the conquest of new territories, or the acquisition of treasures (whether material or spiritual).

As a general rule, however, the correct interpretation will be that of the fight against evil.

If we place ourselves in the historical context of the city, we can go further and connect the legend of Graoully de Metz to its evangelization.

Before the arrival of Saint-Clement, the inhabitants indeed followed ancient pagan religions (whether Gallic or Roman), therefore living a form of sin.

From a Christian point of view, and particularly for medieval authors, this can quite be seen as an evil worthy of being represented by a dragon.

By overcoming Graoully, the hero of our story would thus achieve victory over the beliefs of the past.

When we also know that our monster resided in the middle of a building emblematic of Roman power (the amphitheater) and that he could not move (allegory of immobility and the weight of habits), everything becomes clearer and the deep meaning of the legend seems to be revealed.

For further

Thionville, Briey, Boulay, Chateau-Salins Pont-à-Mousson: many towns in Lorraine recognize our terrible dragon. Myths and folklore may see local variations, but the animal remains emblematic of the region.

In short, here are some links which should interest you if you liked this article and the legend of Graoully:

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author picture(Cyril Gendarme)

Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.