One can give only little information on the area before the VII°
century. It is only known that all the slope of the Western Vosges had
been colonised by Francs.
Towards 640 arrived a monk, named Gondelbert in the area of Senones. He founded there a monastery which was the first of the area. The abbey of Étival goes back to 663, that of Saint-Dié of 669, and that of Moyenmoutier of 671.
The monastery developed quickly and became one of most important of the area, so that in 661, Childeric II, King d'Austrasie granted a vast wide ground for the needs for this abbey. This territory had the form of a quadrilateral. It was separated from the Alsace, in the North by the brook which runs from the Donon (drop of the Hammer), in the East, by the Bruche, and was bounded in the South by the brooks that pass above Chatas and Ménil. In the West the boundary extended from the valley of Rabodeau to the river of the Plain.
After 23 years of work, Gondelbert died in Moyenvic (?). His memory remained in the memory of the inhabitants of the County, mainly in "La Broque", where Saint Gondelbert is represented on a stained glass window of the parish church.
The Abbey of Senones thrived thereafter, since, with the nomination of Angelramme as seventh abbot of Senones (770-791), it counted 200 monks.
The second abbot of Senones, Vicpode, founded towards 810, a priory which, thereafter took the name of Vipucelle (Vicpodis cella).
In 1090 Hémiran, bishop of Metz, temporal chief of the monastery, appointed Antoine lst as head of the abbey of Senones. It is under its government that the lords of Salm appear (name of a small city of Belgian Luxembourg which exists still today on the river of Salm.)
The bishop of Metz (probably a cousin) had called these Lords in order to defend the abbey against its enemies (the emperor of Germany, for example). They were named "dedicated" (voués) and at that time they did not have yet any territory in the area, but had the right to receive part of the taxes on the grounds of the abbey.
The first of those that occupies us, Hermann, married Agnès of Langstein, (later Pierre Percée) and remained in this castle which was regarded as the cradle of the house of Salm. His son, Henri Ist de Salm had two children of which the elder Henri II inherited the "vouery" of Senones and built (1190) on the territory of the abbey, the castle of Salm (commune of La Broque) of which still remain some ruins today.
This Henri II was obliged as a simple tenant, to pay a yearly rent to
the abbey of 2 "sols of Strasbourg". (the count and his wife Judith de
Lorraine died in Senones and were buried in 1244 in the church).
His son, Henri III, left a deplorable memory because he didn't live a long time. Dom Calmet reports that following a serious disease, one believed he died and he was buried. The night which followed his burial, one heard great cries coming from his tomb and, the following day, when his coffin was opened he was found dead, but reversed in his case, because of which it was concluded that he had been buried alive. He was in complete disharmony with the abbots of Senones and particularly with abbot Vidric who had come to repair the order of the goods of the abbey.
Henri III arrested even gentlemen of the abbey. The monks, as a protest, left Senones and asked for the arbitration of the bishops of Metz and Toul, who restored peace.
Ferry I, brother of Henri III, succeeded him around 1240. His first act was to drive his 90 years old father out of his castle. He did not treat the abbots of Senones better. Fortunately for them... he died very young in 1248.
His successor was Henri IV, count de Ribeaupierre, who took malicious pleasure in imposing overpowering taxes on the inhabitants of the country. It was under its reign that iron was discovered in Framont, not far from Grandfontaine. This count built forging mills as if the ground belonged to him, from which new quarrels arose with the owner of the ground, the abbot of Senones, through which the bishop of Metz had to intervene. The mines were destroyed around 1260, but were rebuilt the following year.
The counts de Salm thus got along rather badly with the abbots of Senones. That can be explained easily because the abbots defended their property which the counts endeavoured to remove from them by force. Henri IV de Salm continuing in this way, carried on a merciless war with the abbey. He stole the cattle, and part of the furniture, which obliged the monks to move to the abbey of Moyenmoutier, which did not depend any more on this count; the monastery was even occupied militarily. The abbots requested the help of the bishop of Toul. He excommunicated the count while sending troops against him. The count yielded and the abbots returned to their monastery (1262).
Then, all became again calm until 1284, under abbot Simon, who accepted that the goods of the monastery, 80.000 arpents of forests, became the property of the counts, who only had 2.000 arpents of ground until then. (An "arpent" is between 42 and 51 m2)
It is Henri V who obtained from abbot Simon considerable advantages, without using force. This Count was the first who was interested in literature and arts. It should be noted that towards the beginning of the XIIIth century, the influence of the French language was so large that certain nobles even translated their names into French, the baillifs de Hunolstein took the name of Haneaupierre, and the counts de Salm are called counts de Saumes. (One sees in their coat of arms 2 salmon, which one now finds still in the armorial bearings of Senones and La Broque).
Until now the history of the monastery had been told to us by a monk of Senones named Richer. After he disappeared, we do not know anything anymore until 1328, when Simon I count de Salm wants to build the "castle-fortress" in Puid, 7 kilometers from the abbey. The monks opposed this plan with the utmost rigour. Then, more nothing; the abbey had in 1420 no more that 6 monks... the power of the counts was growing.
In 1482 there is only minor news, as we would call it today, when a certain Idatte, wife of Colin Paternostre, of Ménil, was burned for magic and sorcery...
At the abbey in 1501, Jean de Borville, abbot of Senones, obtained certain episcopal prerogatives : the use of the pontifical ornaments, the right to administer the tonsure and four minor orders.
A catastrophe occurred the night of Monday of Quasimodo 1534 between ten and eleven o'clock, when the monks were just in their first hours of sleep. Fire engulfed all the abbey, melting the bells, burning certain houses in the vicinity. The Thirion abbot was obliged to borrow 200 francs currency of Lorraine to rebuild the church and the monastery.
Then we find information again thanks to the quarrels which started again between the count and the abbot. In 1556, abbot Padoux , originally from Rambervillers sees him and his monks, treated without any respect by the count Frederique, who had embraced the Lutheran religion in 1540. The soldiers of the count took over all kinds of rights, cancelling privileges of the abbey, in order to create incidents which would bring the abbots to recognise the sovereignty of the count.
Abbot Padoux addressed the duke of Lorraine, Charles III, who finds the count in the wrong, the count appeals to his Master, the emperor of Germany, who does not answer. Towards 1550, the counts decided not to pay the royalties anymore of hiring (2 sols of Strasbourg each year) and thus expressed their right of ownership.
After the death of this abbot, the count strikes resolutely a great blow before the new abbot, Claude Raville, could prepare his answer. Once again the abbey was occupied by troops. The abbot complained to the emperor who returned it to the baillif de Haguenau... The abbot had offended the count who required the tender of the monks: which was done under the condition: that the counts were the only lords temporal, i.e. of all the goods located in the Valley of Senones and around the castle of Salm.
29 September 1571, Jean Count de Salm, Marshal of Lorraine, Governor of Nancy, Baron de Niviers, of Fénétrange and Brandebourg... and Frederic, Count Sauvage of the Rhine and Salm, baron de Fénétrange, gathered in the abbey the majority of the inhabitants of the villages and boroughs of Vipucelle, Albet, Quevelles,Fréconrupt, Vaquenoux, Grandfontaine, Framont, Plaine, Champenay, Diespach, Poutay, Saulxures, Senones, Ménil, Moussey, Chatas, the Smallone, Saint-Jean, Belval, Vermont, Puid, Saulcy, and asked them whether they wanted to accept them their kingly lords and their sovereigns and to swear an oath of obedience to them (the inhabitants would continue to profit from all their rights). The inhabitants accepted, raised their hands and swore an oath of obedience and fidelity to the said counts.
Neither the abbot nor the monks witnessed this ceremony. Quite to the contrary, they continued to appeal to the emperor Maximilien II, who ordered the counts to return what they had taken. The counts refused and the two parties were forced to come to a compromise. The abbot continued to ensure land justice in the territories which depended on him, the counts only enjoyed the taxes and tolls, had the right to establish furnaces and communal mills; they only got the property of the forging mills of Framont, the sawmills of the Valley de Celles and Allarmont...
A new treaty took place on 4 October 1574. The abbot obtained the jurisdiction of the monks of the abbey, he could like previously choose eight men (of which l'"aerantour", le "cuit", le "lavendier", le "corkesier", les deux "paxours"et les deux "charpeintiers"; he would have his own "bangards" (remained in patois under the rules of ban-west). "Le bangard", the guard of the ban, is the county police.
We saw that two counts, Jean IX, count de Salm and Frederic, count Sauvage of the Rhine, had become together owners of the ground of Salm. In 1598, this ground was divided between them while the whole remained undivided.
Frederic obtained half of Badonviller , chief town of the county, half of the village of Celles, the castle and the village of Pierre-Percée, Pexonne, Vexaincourt and Allarmont, part of Luviguy, Albet, Grandfontaine and Vacquenoux, half of the borough of Broque, castle of Salm and his dependences: Diespach, Champenay and Plaine, Puid, Vermont, Saulcy and the Mount; half of the borough of Senones, Ménil, Saint-Stail and Grandrupt.
Rhingrave Frederic died in 1608 and his son, Philippe-Othon, inherited his batch. He had given up the catholic faith when the reformed religion had made its appearance in the county, but the emperor agreed to make him prince of the empire when he abjured it, which he did on January 8 1623. Thus part of the county of Salm was set up as a Principality and the other remained a county. The latter, which included among other possessions half of Senones, La Broque, the castle of Salm, Vipucelle, Fréconrupt and Quevelles, Saulxures, Bénaville and Moussey, inherited in1600 on the death of the count Jean, by his niece Christine de Salm who had married, in 1597, François de Lorraine, count de Vaudémont, son of duke Charles III of Lorraine, with the result that this territory, the county, belonged to the House of Lorraine.
Therefore you will not be surprised, when making a visit to the church of La Broque, that you find under the pulpit a tombstone with this inscription: Jean-Henry Francois, native of Strasbourg, 2 years old, son of Lord Henry Hersen, dear Seigneur of Bissbach, lieutenant with the regiment of Navarre... 1719, La Brocen - Lorraine. (Vipucelle and its church belonged to Lorraine).
The son of Prince de Salm, Louis, reigned from 1634 to 1636; he was
killed at the battle of Saint Omer, without leaving any inheritors. His
brother, Léopold-Philippe-Charles succeeded him. He died in 1663.
His brother succeeded to the throne. Several princes still succeeded them,
but nothing important enough to announce happened. The abbey was also flourishing
only, there were no funds and abbot Vivien was obliged to borrow 15 guilders
"barrois" to repair the buildings of the abbey. He died in 1684. Under
his successor, new quarrels broke out between counts and him (abbot Alliot).
His successor was Mathieu Petitdidier, native of Saint-Nicolas, who was
appointed bishop and took the title of count. He made improvements in the
abbey and increased the number of volumes of the library!
His successor was the celebrated Dom Calmet known by all the world. He wrote among other works the history of the abbey of Senones which informs us so well about the events which passed at Senones. (It is clear now why only the counts are the bad boys)
December 21, 1751 is a very important date in the history of the Principality
and the county de Salm. On this date a new division of the territory was
decided between prince Nicolas-Léopold de Salm-Salm and king Stanislas,
duke of Lorraine who had inherited the rights of the former dukes.
Under the terms of this agreement, the prince obtained, from all property, the part of the old county located on the left of the river Plaine namely around thirty localities: Senones which was to become the capital, Ménil and Saint Maurice-the-Senones, Vieux-Moulin and les Frénot, Allarmont, Albet, La Broque, Grandfontaine, the forging mills of Framont, Fréconrupt, Vipucelles and Quevelles, Plaine, Champenay, Diespach, Saulxures, Bénaville and le Palais, La Petite-Raon, Paulay, Raon-sur-Plain, Celles, Moussey, Belval, Saint-Stail, Grandrupt, Le Vermont, Vexaincourt, a population of approximately 10 000 inhabitants. The income increased just before the Revolution to 350.000 livres, the expenditure to 235.000 of which a sum of 22.000 livres for the Empire, was all that attached the principality to the Empire.
In the principality they grew rye, buckwheat, barley, potatoes and a little wheat, hemp and flax. There were forests of fir trees and thus sawmills, there were hares, roe-deer and partridges; in the rivers, trout, burbots and shades. Many fruit trees, cherry trees in quantity. There were also mines where worked more than 400 workmen.
The princes showed themselves very good for their "children" and nobody had reason to complain any more as in the previous centuries.
In 1793 the situation of the principality became intolerable and here is why: The princes left the principality (probably a good idea with a revolution nearby) for their castle of Anhold in Westphalia (and currently their descendants still live there). The food situation worsened for the food products coming from France could longer be exported to the principality. The inhabitants of Senones appealed then to the Convention which refused to deliver the provisioning necessary and the only solution which was offered was to require the union to the country of France. The meeting in France took place on March 17th 1793. The monks had to leave the abbey, which was sold by auction and transformed into a factory a few years afterwards.