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Webmatters : The Chapel de Notre-Dame-de-Lorette—Ablain-Saint-Nazaire
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Notre Dame de Lorette

The Basilica

The exterior altar and lantern tower

Between the lantern and chapel is an eternal flame

Immediately before entering the chapel is an exterior altar used on those occasions when the congregation is too large to be contained within.

The quotation comes from the Second Book of Samuel: 1-19

Considera Israel pro his mortui sunt super excella vulneratis.

The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!

Constructed in a Byzantine style the outward appearance of the chapel is one of sobriety. 46 metres long and 14 metres wide, the cross faces west whilst the entrance is aligned towards the east. It is sited about 100m from the location of the chapel destroyed during the war and is approximately central to the cemetery.

The altar

The construction was inspired by Monseigneur Eugène Julien, Bishop of Arras, who wanted it dedicated to the memory of those who had fallen in this particularly bloody corner of France. He laid the founding stone on 19th June 1921 (the same day as that for the ossuary) after the design had been drawn up by the Lille Architect, Louis-Marie Cordonnier.

The construction site was beset with numerous problems—it was isolated from transport routes; the ground had served as a battlefield with trenches and dugouts; the weather can be foul. The soil is clay with large deposits of flint; when wet it becomes a tenacious mire.

The solution was to use reinforced concrete as a foundation. Much of the stone that was used in building the chapel came from the rubble of Béthune and the dismantled walls of Lille.

Notre Dame de Lorette

The Chapel and Lantern Tower

The chapel was blessed in the presence of Maréchal Pétain on 26th May 1927 and consecrated on 5th September 1937.

The interior is marked by the colourful mosaic work culminating in the four apostles under the dome and the figure of Christ resurrected over the altar.

All around you on the walls are hundreds of memorial plaques to units, organisations and individuals alike.

One in particular is dedicated to François Faber, a Luxembourger, who won the Tour de France in 1909 and died near Carency in 1915 whilst serving with the 1st Infantry Regiment of the French Foreign Legion.

Monseigneur Julien's tomb

Monseigneur Julien’s desire to be buried here was honoured following his death on 14th March 1930. The memorial by Félix Desruelle—portraying the Bishop looking down on the grave of a soldier—stands above his tomb.


The Windows

Apart from those in the north and south transept walls the windows were all created by Charles Lorin from designs by Henri Pinta.

Along the nave are three windows showing the coats of arms of Arras, Boulogne-sur-Mer and Saint-Omer, forming the three episcopal towns.

Emperor Charlemagne Philippe II Saint Louis IX Godefroy de Bouillon Charles Martel Saint Clotilde

Click on the thumbnail for a larger version

The historical personages portrayed are : the Emperor Charlemagne; Philippe II (the battle scene is that of Bouvines against the English King John); Saint Louis IX winning against Henry III at Taillebourg; Godefroy de Bouillon (who won Jerusalem in 1099 and became the first ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem); Charles Martel the man who drove the Muslims from France; finally, Saint Clotilde who brought Christianity to France.

France at war

On the western side of the transept is France at War wearing an Adrian helmet and, below her, soldiers charging forward with the tricolore. On the eastern side is France Triumphant now wearing a laurel wreath. Underneath the Victory parade under the Arc de Triomphe is portrayed.

Some consider that the finest windows are the six donated by the British Empire in thanks for the land given by France for British Cemeteries. Created by Henry Payne at the instigation of British Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin they were unveiled on 4th August 1929. They would be destroyed in 1940 and restored in 1947.

The supreme sacrifice The phoenix risen


The Carency Calvaire

The original niche for the Carency Calvaire

A niche on the outer southern side of the chapel used to contain the broken calvaire of Carency.

The Carency Calvaire

The Carency calvaire

This calvaire, damaged in the war, and erected before 1914 at the entrance to Carency was originally placed here for pilgrims to visit (11th November 1948). It has since been moved within the chapel to save it from the elements.

During the war it was placed in a hut near the station at Villers-au-Bois. The station is now a house but can still be seen as you turn off into the CWGC Cemetery in the village.


Louise de Bettignies

You will also notice a number of references to a woman called Louise de Bettignies. She was born on 15th July 1880 to an aristocratic but penniless family, studied English at Oxford, and almost became the Governess for the children of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

In October 1914 she was back home at Lille then under German occupation. She managed to reach her mother (via England) at St Omer (Which also happened to be the British GHQ) carrying hundreds of letters for others written with lemon juice.

Louise de Bettignies

Louise de Bettignies

Once there she became Alice Dubois a British Agent working under Major Cecil Aylmer-Cameron. She also worked for the French Intelligence Services under the name of Pauline, but it was really to the British that she addressed all her efforts, facing as they did the Lille Sector.

One of her assignments was to sit relaxing in a café frequented by German soldiers—who had no realisation that she understood every word that they said.

Soon her unit had expanded to eighty people and was helping Allied soldiers escape to Holland. On 20th October 1915 she was arrested at Tournai and sent before a Military Tribunal in Bruxelles. In March 1916 she was condemned to death, but perhaps as the result of the international reaction to the execution of Nurse Edith Cavell, her sentence was commuted.

She was transferred to the prison at Sieburg where she was confined to a cell for inciting the others to refuse to work for the Germans. Her health deteriorated and she was transferred to a hospital in Cologne. On 27th September 1918 she died of pneumonia.

Her body was brought back to France in February 1920 and she was shortly afterwards buried in her home town of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux (just north of Valenciennes). Here in the Basilica you can see the original wooden cross placed over her grave by the Germans in the Cologne Cemetery.

She was posthumously awarded the Croix de la Légion d’honneur, la Croix de guerre 1914-1918 with palm, the British Military Medal and was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.


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