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.
Montparnasse Cemetery was created from three farms in 1824. Cemeteries had been banned from Paris since the closure, owing to health concerns, of the Cimetière des Innocents in 1786. Several new cemeteries outside the precincts of the capital replaced all the internal Parisian ones in the early 19th century: Montmartre Cemetery in the north, Père Lachaise Cemetery in the east, and Montparnasse Cemetery in the south. At the heart of the city, and today sitting in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, is Passy Cemetery.
Montparnasse cemetery is the burial place of many of France's intellectual and artistic elite as well as publishers and others who promoted the works of authors and artists. There are also many graves of foreigners who have made France their home, as well as monuments to police and firefighters killed in the line of duty in the city of Paris.
The cemetery is divided by Rue Émile Richard. The small section is usually referred to as the small cemetery (petit cimetière) and the large section as the big cemetery (grand cimetière).
Although Baudelaire is buried in this cemetery (division 6), there is also a cenotaph to him (between division 26 and 27). Because of the many notable people buried there, it is a highly popular tourist attraction.