Lettre d'information

Notre-Dame de Lorette

General view. Photo by Jean-Pierre Le Padellec

The impressive Necropolis of the First World War and its basilica.

The necropolis is located in the commune of ABLAIN-SAINT NAZAIRE. It is built on the site of an old oratory founded by a village painter in the 18th century, after returning from his pilgrimage to Lorette, Italy. It is found on the 165 m high hill, where the battles that started in October 1914 and ended in October 1915 took place and resulting in 100,000 dead and as many wounded.

As early as 1919, this site was the obvious choice for the commemoration of the ultimate sacrifice made by hundreds of thousands of soldiers. The little cemetery begun in 1915 was enlarged little by little and in the following years received the bodies of French soldiers from 150 cemeteries on the Artois, Yser and Belgian fronts. It was by a presidential decree of 16 January 1924 that this, the largest French military cemetery was created; 40,058 bodies lie inhumed there in individual tombs and seven ossuaries on a site measuring 25 hectares. Two long aisles bordered by rows of individual tombs cross to form a large green intended for ceremonies. On either side two imposing monuments rise up. The lantern tower (52 metres high, with a light visible from several kilometres away), which houses a crypt for the remains of several thousand unidentified soldiers lies on one side, and on the other side is the chapel, the work of Louis Cordonnier.
The Lantern Tower, as well as the nearby chapel, is work of the architect Louis Cordonnier, a native of Lille and his son, who massively contributed to the reconstruction of the cities of Flandres, destroyed during the Great War. The chapel with its Romano-Byzantine style includes, in particular, religious frescos and stained-glass windows depicting events of the Great War and the religious and patriotic history of France. The walls are covered with commemorative plaques in memory of the soldiers. It also includes a triptych dedicated to the Polish patron saint Notre Dame de Czestochowa. Outside, an orientation board allows visitors to orient themselves in relation to the battle sites on the hills in the Artois region, in the direction of Béthune-Arras. It was a gift from the members of the association of the survivors of the Loos deportation train, near Lille. From this spot, visitors can see over the rolling hills to the Mont-Saint-Eloi, the ruined abbey on the hill, and the Vimy hillside. Closer by, a monument pays homage to General Maistre who commanded the 21st Army Corps.
On 16 July 1950 the burial of the "Unknown Soldier of 1939-1945" was performed in the presence of Guy Mollet and Louis Jacquinot, Minister of Retired Soldiers. This ceremony was in large part organised by the association of "Sons of the War Dead". In 1955, the ashes of prisoners deported to the concentration camps joined those already resting in the tomb. The crypt also houses the body of the unknown soldier from the Algerian war and soldiers from Morocco and Tunisia (transferred in 1977) along with, since 1980, the Unknown Soldier from the war in Indochina. The Association of the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette Monument, founded in 1920 by Mgr Julien, bishop of Arras, plays an important role in the work carried out every day at the cemetery. Volunteers make up the association's honour guard, which welcomes visitors to the site and staffs the Lantern-Tower (from March to November), and which plays a particular role during ceremonies. The volunteers also light the flame every Sunday (contact: +33(0) The cemetery is maintained by the technical teams of the interdépartemental association of veterans of Lille. Major renovations are planned for the cemetery, beginning in 2004.
The museum is situated on the hill 200 metres away from the chapel. More then 2000 pieces of the permanent collection are on display, but more importantly it reconstitutes the every day life of the soldiers of the Great War: here you can admire the reconstructions of air-raid shelters with telephone installations, rescue stations and other specific stations. Visitors can see audio-visual exhibits in the museum, and outside reconstitutions of trenches and battlefields are shown. Open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m.

  • La basilique au coeur de la nécropole. Source : Photo Jean-Pierre Le Padellec

  • Vitrail de la chapelle. Source : Photo Jean-Pierre Le Padellec

  • La chapelle en rénovation. Source : Photo Jean-Pierre Le Padellec

  • Détail du fronton de la chapelle. Source : Photo Jean-Pierre Le Padellec

  • L'intérieur de la chapelle. Source : Photo Jean-Pierre Le Padellec

  • Monument du général Maistre. Source : Photo Jean-Pierre Le Padellec

  • Panneau. Source : Photo G. Pichard - SGA/DMPA

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