History and GrowthIn all probability the name of “Malmedy” is derived from the Latin expression “A malo mundarum,” meaning as much as “the place of the bad confluence.” Indeed in those early days, the rivers broke their banks often and the town was regularly flooded, hence not a good place to be.
The city was created in 648, reputedly by Saint Remacle, the Provost of Solignac abbey. It developed from 648 around the area of the Benedictine Monastery that he had established. Between its establishment and 1794, the history of the town of Malmedy can hardly be separated from that of the religious Principality of Stavelot-Malmedy.
For 1146 years, Malmedy and Stavelot together formed the Principality of Stavelot-Malmedy, at the head of which there were 77 successive prince abbots of the Germanic Holy Roman Empire and the County of Logne. However, since the 11th Century there has been a rivalry between the two towns. The abbey in Malmedy never really resigned itself to the supremacy of the abbey of Stavelot.
Starting in the 16th Century various industries began to appear in the area of Malmedy: the cloth industry, leather industry and the production of gunpowder. In the 17th Century, Malmedy and Stavelot became the most important tannery center in Europe. In this period Malmedy also developed a good reputation for some further industries: cotton textile production, the production of games of chess, dominos, gingerbread, and above all the paper making industry that brings considerable wealth to the town.
Despite its neutral status and the protection afforded by the head abbots in Malmedy, in the course of its history the town has been invaded at least fifty times by plundering troops and this has not been without disastrous consequences for the population. In 1689, the town was razed to the ground on orders of Nicolas of Catinat, a general under Louis XVI.
In 1795, following the expansion of the French revolution and the territorial expansion of France, the Principality of Stavelot-Malmedy disappeared and its region was united with France. Malmedy now became a lower prefecture in the ‘département de l'Ourthe,’ capital of the 2nd communal district of the Ourthe and seat of the district court. This expanded its sovereignty to govern over, in particular, the towns of Verviers and Spa. Malmedy maintained this status up to the end of the Napoleonic times.