Sitting on the ridge of Thiaumont and only a few hundred metres away from the fort, Douaumont Ossuaire contains the remains of 130 000 unknown French and German soldiers who fell on the battlefields of Verdun.
The Ossuary was raised by a committee led by the Bishop of Verdun who collected subscriptions not only throughout France but internationally as well. Around the outside of the building you can see the coats of arms of all the cities which donated money towards the project.
Work was begun on 22 August 1920, by which time there was already a provisional ossuary on the site. The remains of the dead were transferred to their vaults in the new ossuary in 1927 and the monument was finally opened after twelve and a half years on 7 April 1932.
The 46 metre central tower is roughly shaped like a shell and the monument is 137 metres long.
Inside there are 18 Alcoves, each containing a pair of tombs. On the wall above each tomb there is an inscription showing the area of the battlefield from where the bodies were recovered. Each tomb covers an 18 cubic metre vault.
Some areas gave up far more bodies than could be contained in a single vault and these extra bodies are housed in two 150 cubic metre vaults, one at each end of the cloister.
Quick maths check: (18*2*18)+(2*150) = 948 cubic metres.
The equivalent of a box as tall as a man, 3.5 metres wide and running the entire length of the monument.
Around the walls are inscribed the names of the missing.
For a small fee you can climb the tower for an excellent view of the battlefield. The building in the background is the Fleury Memorial Museum.
In front of the Ossuary the French National Cemetery contains the graves of 15 000 French Soldiers. As in other French cemeteries each grave is marked by a white cross with a name plate. Muslim soldiers are buried beneath a suitable gravestone facing towards Mecca.