Art and gardens


Hauts-de-France was left deeply scarred by the Great War. For the centenary of the conflict, a landscaping project was born to reaffirm the message of peace which today emanates from the region’s remembrance sites and cemeteries. 

The Armistice Clearing, Compiègne: Gilles Brusset, Marc Blume and Francesca Liggieri, Le Jardin du Troisième Train, Franco-German Garden of Peace, 2018. © Pierre-Yves Brunaud

The first records of gardens date back more than 4 000 years. Gardens have a long history, as does war. Little is known about the wonderful Hanging Gardens of Babylon or the paradisiacal gardens of Cyrus the Great, in Pasargadae, described poetically by travellers of Antiquity. For a garden to be created, and to take shape as the designer imagined it, takes time. First, it is designed and built; then, year after year, it must be maintained, with care and perseverance, for it to blossom. It was in this spirit that the Gardens of Peace came into being in Hauts-de-France.

For centuries, the region has suffered invasions and battles, and the First World War was a truly traumatic experience, whose scars remain palpable to visitors who come here. As part of the First World War centenary, the association Art & Jardins Hauts-de-France and the French centenary commission, the Mission du Centenaire, with support from the Hauts-de-France regional authority, came up with a unique landscaping project for the emblematic remembrance sites and devised an innovative and creative trail in the colours of the nations that fought in the conflict. The creation of Gardens of Peace, at or near the remembrance sites, was considered imperative.

Fifteen of them are already complete, from Passchendaele in Belgium to the Armistice Clearing in Compiègne, Le Quesnoy, Flesquières, Arras, Vimy, Notre Dame de Lorette, La Targette (Neuville-Saint-Vaast), Péronne, Thiepval or Craonne on the Chemin des Dames. All offer a different approach, sensitive and complementary, to the remembrance sites. For example, the Franco-German Garden of Peace in the forest of Compiègne, which takes you on a symbolic trail through the undergrowth before you enter the remembrance site, or the Scottish garden at Arras which, with its plants reminiscent of the Scottish landscape and its sculptures of bagpipes, pays tribute to the Scottish troops who fought in the Great War. By 2023, a further 20 gardens are to be created.

To ensure the heritage, landscape and tourism development of the military cemeteries under its responsibility, and as part of its biodiversity strategy, the Ministry of the Armed Forces, through the Directorate for Heritage, Remembrance and Archives (DPMA), has supported the association since 2018. It has provided us with an area of the cemetery of La Targette (Neuville-Saint-Vaast) for the creation of a Czech and Slovak garden, and contributed to funding the French garden at Passchendaele. Since 2020, the DPMA has also contributed to the upkeep of the French garden in the cemetery of Notre Dame de Lorette, Building on the success of these gardens and on their tourist appeal, attracting to remembrance sites visitors not necessarily aware of remembrance issues, the DPMA is keen to go on supporting the association to create other Gardens of Peace across the military cemeteries of Hauts-de-France and other French regions.

Through its gardens, designed and built by landscape architects from the different countries that fought in the First World War (Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Morocco, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Slovakia, Wales), the association seeks to offer a fresh look at the future and to create places of reflection and questioning about peace, places of rest and inner contemplation.

Gilbert Fillinger, Director, Art & Jardins Hauts-de-France

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