The Douaumont National Necropolis and Ossuary
The Douaumont ossuary contains the unidentified remains of 130,000 French and German soldiers from the Battle of Verdun...
The creation of the Douaumont National Necropolis in the Meuse region is linked to that of the Douaumont Ossuary: indeed there was no cemetery from the front here throughout the First World War.
Once the location was decided upon, in 1923, the War Graves Department, with the help of the Engineering Department in Metz, began preparing several hectares of land where major clearing work had to be carried out in order to recover abandoned equipment and dangerous munitions. Once the land had been levelled, the paths and graves were laid out. Starting in August 1925, remains from the small cemeteries around Verdun were transferred to the right hand section. In November, the Necropolis received the bodies exhumed from the disused cemetery at Fleury. In October 1926, it received those from the cemetery at La Fontaine de Tavannes. In the years that followed, the bodies that continued to be found in the "red zone" - up to 500 per month - were buried here, of which more than half were identified. The Necropolis also received remains from the cemetery at Le Bois Contant.
The inauguration took place on 23rd June 1929, attended by Gaston Doumergue, President of the Republic.
In 1949, after the Second World War, bodies found in the former Batterie de l'Hôpital cemetery were buried here.
Between 1960 and 1965, the Necropolis benefited from major redevelopment and renovation work. In 1984, the Ministry for War Veterans erected a commemorative plaque recalling the meeting between the French President, François Mitterrand, and the German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl symbolising the reconciliation of the two countries, 70 years after the start of the Great War.
A monument to the Muslims who "died for France" in 1914-1918 was erected in 1959 and restored in 1987. Of the 1781 Muslim graves divided between sixteen of the Necropolises where they are arranged in squares or rows, the largest squares are those at Douaumont with 592 graves, Bras with 254 and Dugny where there are 201. Every grave is marked with a Muslim stele bearing the inscription "here lies" in Arabic, followed by the name of the deceased.
After the end of hostilities, it proved impossible to ascribe an identity or even a nationality to hundreds of thousands of remains found scattered over the Verdun area. This is why, in the commune of Fleury, a vast monument was built, containing within its 46 vaults (one for each major sector of the battlefield, from Avocourt to Les Eparges) the mortal remains of some 130,000 unknown French and German soldiers. Its creation was due to a Committee chaired by Mgr Ginisty, Bishop of Verdun, which received donations of funds from France and abroad. The final decision to build it was taken by a decree of President of the Republic, Alexandre Millerand, dated 9th April 1924. The first stone of the edifice was laid on 22nd August 1920. The inauguration took place on 8th August 1932 attended by President of the Republic, Albert Lebrun, and a huge crowd of veterans, pilgrims, and the families of the dead and missing.
The work of architects Azéma, Edrei and Hardy, takes the form of an ambulatory 137 m in length, lined with granite tombs set in alcoves and covering the vaults. There is an adjacent Catholic chapel, and the site is dominated at the centre by a 46-metre tower with a 2.3-tonne great bell, the bourdon de la Victoire, that tolls during ceremonies. The chapel is the resting place of Abbé Noël, former military chaplain and first chaplain of the ossuary, and Mgr Ginisty, who died in 1944 and 1946 respectively. A 120-seat screening room shows the film "L'héroïsme du Combattant de Verdun
5 100 Douaumont
Tel. : +33 22.214.171.124.81
Fax : +33 126.96.36.199.54
Comité départemental du tourisme
Tel. : +33 188.8.131.52.40
Verdun National Necropolis Department
3, rue du 19ème BCP 55100 Verdun
Tel : +33 3.29.86.02.96
Fax : +33 184.108.40.206.06
The Douaumont National Necropolis is open to the public all year round.
The Douaumont is open to the public free of charge - September- November:
9am-12pm and 2pm-5/6pm - December : 2pm-5pm -
Closed from 1st February until February school holidays
- March: 9am-12pm and 2pm-5.30pm - April- August: 9am-6/6.30pm