Notre-Dame-de-Lorette International Memorial (Photo: Philippe Prost, architect/AAPP©adagp 2014 ©Aitor ORTIZ)

Centenary update: France opens international memorial to the Great War fallen on Armistice Day

Posted on on 14 November 2014
Share |

A new memorial uniting the names of all soldiers who fell in the north of France during the First World War has opened on a site overlooking the former battlefields of Artois.

L'Anneau de la Mémoire, or Ring of Remembrance, was inaugurated by President François Hollande at Notre-Dame-de Lorette on November 11th 2014, the first Armistice Day of the 1914-18 Centenary.

Expressing a message of hope, the French leader said the many Centenary commemorations this year were designed "not simply to honour the dead or highlight the suffering, but also to reconcile people."

The memorial breaks with tradition by listing the 579,606 soldiers of all nationalities killed in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, their names recorded alphabetically on an elliptical ring of 500 golden metal plates.

(Photo: Philippe Prost, architect/AAPP©adagp, 2014 ©Aitor ORTIZ)

Architect Philippe Prost explains: "In order to unite yesterday's enemies, I chose the ring, thinking of the circle formed by people holding hands. The ring is synonymous with unity and eternity. 

"Unity because the names form a sort of human chain, and eternity because the letters are joined without an end in alphabetical order without any distinction of rank, nationality or religion."

The 328-metre ring is a reminder of the global nature of the Great War, President Hollande noted in his speech. Names of individuals from Europe and its former colonies are intermingled, not only soldiers but also nurses who cared for them.

L'Anneau de la Mémoire sits alongside the lantern tower and Basilica of Notre Dame-de-Lorette, built as part of a French national site of remembrance after the First World War.

The plateau, with its commanding views 165 metres above the plains of Northern France, was the scene of fierce fighting for over a year, starting with a German siege in October 1914. 

More than 40,000 soldiers are buried here in France's largest military cemetery; 22,000 of them unknown and commemorated in eight ossuaries.

Notre Dame de Lorette is situated close to the village of Ablain-Saint-Nazaire, near Lens in the Pas-de-Calais Department. The 580,000 names on the Ring of Remembrance can be searched with apps on iOS and Android devices. A database will be accessible from a new visitor centre opening at the foot of Notre Dame de Lorette hill in May 2015.

Source: Nord-Pas-de-Calais Regional Council

Images courtesy of Philippe Prost, architect/AAPP©adagp 2014 ©Aitor ORTIZ

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News