The name of the town was first mentioned in a document of land donation, an act issued by Otton the First, in the year 960: "Urso dedit praedium in Murici Curte" (Murici Curte = Mirecourt). A new confirmation was found in the same terms on 2 June 965. In all the names of the locality, the suffixes "court", "curia", derived from the Latin "curtis" meaning "court", are found. At the time of the lower Roman Empire (III-V centuries), it refers to a farming operation and its dependences. As for the prefix, it refers most of the time to the owner of the 'curtis'. The forms Moricurtis, Morucocurte and Modoricicurte are the oldest, and throw light on the significance of the prefix. It was undoubtedly derived from the Germanic name 'Moricho'. Thus, Mirecourt in the tenth century would be a small farming operation, or more probably two or three separate farms established over the current territory of the town. Eventually they gathered around a central point, which is today's Saint-Vincent district, the historical Old Town of the current town(1). A small Romance vault was built in the eleventh century, when the village was dependent from Vroville.
From the 10th century on, the town developed on the left bank of the Madon River which was under control (archaeological evidence of posts). A castle and a "castral" settlement were established in the twelfth century. The castle was located at the south end of the high street, while the ramparts surrounded a small town, from the channel up to the covered market, in a plan almost quadrangular; the excavations carried out in 2002 have shown clearly a layout forming a right angle in the lower town(2). The door in the north of the town will become the tower of the clock after the ramparts have been moved. Some handcraft activities were established in this borough. The ramparts were consolidated late thirteenth century. Country seat of a provostry, at least since 1165, Mirecourt had as a lord the Count of Toul, who will grant the burghers of the town a charter in 1234. Then the Duke of Lorraine will take it over gradually(3).
Mirecourt expanded in the fourteenth century, during the Hundred's Year War, with new ramparts extended to the north, along the channel; some new towers were built later. The town had then a market, covered market, ovens, a church and a monetary workshop. It included the new church, some new districts in the low street with new handcraft workshops, tanneries, pottery and glass workshops, forging mill… and in the high street some merchants and notable's homes. The town area of two hectares was extended to six hectares, and remained unchanged until the end of the seventeenth century. Outside of the ramparts, three districts remained of a modest size, including that of the bridge, on the other bank of the Madon River. The status of Mirecourt changed, since it became the chief Town of the bailiwick of the Vosges in the late thirteenth century, and a mayor assisted by aldermen managed the town.
The town expanded in the fifteenth and sixteen centuries, with the establishment of the Convent of the Cordeliers, of an hospital in the low street, and of the beautiful Renaissance style Hotel Errard de Livron … Town's prosperity was due to its important craft industry (drapery, lace, metals) and its local trade with the fairs and, as well as foreign trade with Italy and the Spanish Netherlands. Newly rich merchants and clothiers built some beautiful houses, with courtyards equipped with staircases and galleries decorated with superb railings(4).
The population increased and the number of its chimney ducts (fire, family) of 396 in 1622 increased to 659 in 1578, with approximately 3,000 inhabitants. The new covered stone markets, completed in 1617, were the very symbol of this prosperity. The Hundred Years' War and the other wars conducted by the French King Louis the Fourteenth ruined the town; and the plague (1631-1633, 1636), and the famines resulted in a collapse of the population. The town had only 40 chimney ducts left in 1640. It was besieged on several occasions, and its ramparts were too weak to resist the attacks. They were razed to the ground in 1670, the town suffered military occupation, and was subject to French administration. The population started to increase little by little: 262 chimney ducts in 1667 (for 1,200 residents)(5).
It was not until the peace of Ryswick was established and the Duke of Lorraine came to power that the town came back to life and was rebuilt. The façades of almost all houses were renovated in the style of the eighteenth century with rounded and chamfered windows, and the interior courtyards equipped with ramp-on-ramp staircase. The Poussay district developed with the construction of spacious and sumptuous homes, and of the hospital initiated by Father Germiny. Thanks to a strong demographic growth, and in spite of epidemics and food shortages, the population of the town reached 3,000 early in 1708 and 4,700 in 1780. Economic prosperity was due to the presence of a great number of craftsmen (about half of the working population): spinners, weavers, clothiers and lace makers, shoe-makers, hatter and all the building trades, butchers, bakers and catering professionals; about a hundred unskilled workers worked for them; the ploughmen and the winemakers lived in the outskirts of the town; in the town center, the merchants and the legal professionals dominated the life of the town; the nobles and the ecclesiastics were very few. Stringed instrument making was to become a major activity in this century, the number of stringed instrument makers grew from 4 to more than one hundred, and they were specializing: bow makers, serinette builders and merchants. The influence of the town in the surrounding villages was strong, but the size of the bailiwick was strongly reduced in 1751.
Mirecourt people supported the Revolution right from the start, but the town was not chosen as the administrative center of the Department (French Administrative Unit) of Vosges. It got the departmental court however, a commercial court and the administration of one district, then a sub-division headed by a sub-prefect. As in the rest of France, the Girondists and the Mountain competed for power and the implementation of Public salvation measures(6). The look of the town changed as the monastic buildings disappeared and the properties of the clergy became national properties; the buildings of the congregation Notre Dame housed the gendarmerie, the college, and a theatre, and they are the only buildings to remain today.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, Mirecourt had a population of 5,000 inhabitants, and had become famous for its stringed instrument making: craftsmen and companies employed more than 600 stringed instrument makers in 1906, including the establishments of the nearby villages of Mattaincourt, Poussay and Juvaincourt(7). The products were sold in all over France and the best stringed instrument makers moved to Paris, whereas their wives developed the art of lace(8). The town experienced a great expansion in the west, with the construction of public buildings, the sub-prefecture, the normal school, the rail station and the girls' college, linked by new streets, 'Avenue de la Gare', 'Avenue Graillet, 'Rue Estivant'. The Republicans, then the Radicals dominated the political life of the town and confronted their conservative opponents; the local press was split between the moderates and the radicals(9).
Later on after the Second World War, Mirecourt population increased very strongly (8,800 people in 1968), in connection with the establishment of the psychiatric hospital of Ravenel. Some new popular districts were developed on the other side of the railway, to the north near Poussay, in the area of the textile factory, and to the south at the junction with the village of Mattaincourt. But industrial stringed instrument making was in crisis and disappeared in the years after 1970, and the "Cotonnière" (the textile factory) closed down in 1967. The economic decline of the town resulted in a decrease of the population which was of 5,772 in 2011
President of "Amis duVieux Mirecourt-Regain"
(1) For further information, see: Moulis (C), De la campagne à la ville, Mirecourt au Moyen Age, Master thesis, Nancy, 1997, 180 pages. And Bulletin No. 1 of the AVMR.
(2) See the article by Philippe Kuchler, "Les excavations de la rue du Docteur Joyeux à Mirecourt: une archéologie des enceintes urbaines et de leurs abords", in "Mirecourt la ville, son architecture et son histoire.
(3) See the article by Cédric Moulis, "Mirecourt au Moyen Âge. La naissance d’une ville", dans Mirecourt la ville, son architecture et son histoire, Nancy, FSSV and AVMR, 2013.
(4) See Bulletin No. 12 of the AVMR on the Renaissance period in Mirecourt.
(5) Guy Cabourdin, "La population de Mirecourt, 1580-1740", in Mirecourt et Poussay, actes de Journées d'études vosgiennes, Nancy, PUN, 1984, p. 9-16.
(6) Jean-Paul Rothiot, "Jean-Baptiste Salle et l’affaire des Cloches", in Figures de la Révolution et de l’Empire, PUN, 1992
(7) See Eric Tisserand, "Entre art et industrie: la lutherie de Mirecourt (Années 1850-1939), in Mirecourt, une ville et ses métiers, Nancy, FSSV and AVMR, 2013.
(8) See Claire Prévot, "Dentelle, dentellières et marchands à Mirecourt", in Mirecourt, une ville et ses métiers, Nancy, FSSV and AVMR, 2013.
(9) See Gilles Grivel, "Droites et gauches à Mirecourt et dans son canton, de 1830 à 1914" and Philippe Alexandre, "La presse d’information politique et générale à Mirecourt, 1847-1940", in Mirecourt la ville, son architecture et son histoire, Nancy, FSSV and AVMR, 2013.