Notre Dame de Lorette, also known as Ablain St.-Nazaire French Military Cemetery, is the world's largest French military cemetery. It is the name of a ridge, basilica, and French national cemetery northwest of Arras at the village of Ablain-Saint-Nazaire. The high point of the hump-backed ridge stands 165 metres high and - with Vimy Ridge - utterly dominates the otherwise flat Douai plain and the town of Arras.

The ground was strategically important during the First World War and was bitterly contested in a series of long and bloody engagements between the opposing French and German armies. It was the focal point of three battles of Artois (1914-1915). The Battles of Artois were as costly in French lives as the better-known Battle of Verdun. As with numerous other sites across France, Notre Dame de Lorette became a national necropolis, sacred ground containing the graves of French and Colonial fallen, as well as an ossuary, containing the bones of those whose names were not marked.

In total, the cemetery and ossuary hold the remains of more than 40,000 soldiers, as well as the ashes of many concentration camp victims. The basilica and memorial buildings were designed by the architect Louis-Marie Cordonnier and his son Jacques Cordonnier, and built between 1921 and 1927. The first small building was raised in 1727 by the painter Nicolas Florent Guilbert, who had made a successful pilgrimage to Loreto (Italy), to shelter a statue of the Virgin Mary. It was destroyed in 1794, rebuilt in 1816 and transformed in 1880.

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Founded: 1914
Category: Cemeteries, mausoleums and burial places in France

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4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Cyril Garbé (15 months ago)
Parfait pour le Devoir de Mémoire, des visites sont organisées gratuitement par les gardes
M V (2 years ago)
A part le gigantesque cimetière, il y a un petit musée intéressant mais il a vraiment besoin de rénovations. Il faudrait au moins passer la poussière sur les objets exposés. C'est un témoignage important . Il est necessaire de lui consacrer plus d'attention. Actuellement ça fait un peu négligé.
Alyssa Becker (3 years ago)
Notre Dame de Lorette is a large, beautiful, and moving French Military Cemetery. The number of graves is immense, and somewhat overwhelming. In the middle of the cemetery is the church of the same name, with beautiful stained class windows. There is also a tomb to the unknown soldier, with coffins inside, as well as a box of ashes from victims of concentration camps, and most major French wars of recent. There is an honour guard that stands watch, so the dead are never alone - over 3000 volunteers take on this task, many of who were present at the front gate, and in the tomb. Across from the cemetery is the ring of names or ring of remembrance - and immense and powerful list of all those who died in WWI, regardless of country, rank, religion, nationality, or which side of the war they were on, as the memorial was constructed in a time of peace. It is beautiful and so incredibly moving. We are so glad that we stopped to spend time time here and pay our respects and remember those who fought so that others may live. Without a doubt, highly recommend.
Jeremy Bezant (6 years ago)
A quiet but moving reminder, a little out of the way but worth the visit.
Sylvie Desrosiers (8 years ago)
Beautiful, sad, site. Drive there from Vimy, Mont Saint-Éloi.
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