Musée Départemental du Sel

Useful Information

Location: Porte de France, 57630 Marsal.
(48.788330, 6.605730)
Open: All year daily 9:30-12:30, 13:30-18.
Closed 01-MAY, 12-DEC.
Classification: SubterraneaMining Museum MineSalt Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: self guided Français - French
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Musée Départemental du Sel, Porte de France, 57630 Marsal, Tel: +33-387-35-01-50. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1973 museum inaugurated by the Prime Minister Pierre Messmer.
2004 museum taken over by the Département de la Moselle government.
DEC-2019 reopened after massive renovation.



Musée Départemental du Sel (Departmental Salt Museum) is located in the Porte de France in the barracks designed by Vauban. It is one of the sites, which are advertised as Moselle Passion. The topic is the history of salt in Lorraine. The different exhibitions are about its role in food preservation, physiological needs, geology, its exploitation during the centuries. It was created by the Parc Naturel Régional de Lorraine and named Maison du Sel (Salt House). After it was taken over by the Département de la Moselle in 2004 it was renamed Musée Départemental du Sel. It is located in the Porte de France, one of the

The visit begins with a display of several hundred salt shakers, each more curious and fascinating than the last. Then the development of salt production is presented in a chronological order. FRoom 1 is dedicated to Bronze Age, room 2 to the Gallo-Roman times, room 3 to the Middle Ages and the salt production by bishops and duke, and finally room 4 shows the time between duchy and kingdom. The last need some explanation. In 1662, by the treaty of Montmartre, Charles IV was forced to yield Marsal to Louis XIV who saw this ducal enclave as an obstacle on the route de France leading from Metz to Strasbourg. With the Duke demonstrating a reluctance to fulfil his duties, the king was to take a hard line with him the following year, besieging the place that he was to quickly take possession of.

Marsal is located on a marshy alluvial plain at the river Seille. This muddy plan was famous for being a Mares salées (salt marsh), where salt water springs made the marshes salty and changed the vegetation completely. Halophilic plants are plants that love salt, a certain salt content is necessary for their proper growth. The term halophile comes from the Greek halos (salt) and philos (friend). They are also called halotolerant plants, and withstand a limited concentration of salt. The salt spring produced the salt pond which is very salty, while the nearby Seille river is sweet water. The salt content in the soil is highest at the pond and becomes lower towards the river. As a result, different plant species grow depending on their proximity to the salt pond. In the ponds, there are species adapted to the high salinity of the water, such as brackish water-crowfoot. In the dry bottoms of the ponds the presence of marsh samphire, sandspurry, as well as sea aster can be observed. Further away, the saltmarsh rush is the most common.

But soon man started to collect the brine and evaporate the water with fire to get salt. It was the only way to conserve food, and it was a physical necessity, and it was rare, so it was called the l'or blanc (white gold). Actually, salt was used as a sort of second currency, and it was common to pay with salt. The area got the name Saulnois, the village existed at least since Roman times, when it was named Marosallum. It's the combination of the Gallic maro (big) and the Latin sallum (saltworks), which is interpreted as great salt works. Today the city is surrounded by the river, as the natural course is on the northern side and a channel on the southern. Additionally, the Vauban fortification has a water moat through which another branch of the river flows.

While the site is actually not underground, the topic is nevertheless salt mining. Also, the brine spring with the salt ponds and the strange vegetation is worth a visit. And of course there is the spectacular fortification by Vauban.