Mémorial des batailles de la Marne 1914-1918 - English | Dormans

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Accueil Construction of the Memorial

Construction of the Memorial

How the Memorial came into being

The Memorial was erected in a 26-hectare (64-acre) park with magnificent trees. It was built thanks to a committee which was set up in 1919 and which was formed by Mrs de la Rochefoucauld, the Duchess of Estissac, and whose members were Monsignor Tissier, the Bishop of Châlons and Marshal Foch.

Monsignor Tissier, the Bishop of Châlons

Monsignor Tissier, the Bishop of Châlons

Marshal Foch by Louis Bombled, 1920

Marshal Foch by Louis Bombled, 1920

The location of the Memorial, which was chosen by Marshal Foch, was, according to him, the central point of the two Battles of the Marne. It symbolically marks the crossing of the River Marne by German troops in 1914 and in 1918.

The Memorial to the Battles of the Marne was constructed in memory of the soldiers who fell during the Great War, in general, and in particular to those who died or who were mutilated on the banks of the Marne.

Description of the monument

The monument was inspired by both Gothic and Romanesque architecture.

The imposing architecture of the structure is evocative of the fervent determination of soldiers at their last line of defence.

The location chosen — at the highest point in the château’s grounds, on one side of the valley of the River Marne, because of the commanding view over the valley, the place where the fighting took place — justified the construction of a crypt within the structure.

The crypt

The crypt || Dormans Memorial

It is lit up by means of light which comes through a stained-glass window and which depicts Saint Michael slaying a dragon.

It is made from cut stone quarried in the Meuse and the Nord departments (counties) of France.

The names of soldiers who died for France are engraved in red letters on white stones.

La Lanterne des Morts

Lanterne des morts (the lantern of the dead) +  The cloister | Dormans memorial

After you have climbed the 52 steps which lead up to the esplanade and to the upper part of the Memorial, you will come to La Lanterne des Morts (literally « the lantern of the dead »), which is a hollow pillar with an opening at the top where a fanal (a large lantern) was placed in the Middle Ages in certain cemeteries.

The ossuary

Inside the funeral chamber, in 130 coffins, rest the bones of 1,500 soldiers, only 11 of which have been identified.

Since 1993, every 11 November, an official ceremony takes place at the ossuary which consists of a senior officer laying a wreath sent by the President of the French Republic to honour those who died in the Great War.

The cloister

Connecting the ossuary and the upper chapel, a covered gallery with the appearance of a cloister has the following in store for visitors: firstly, effigies, in the form of medallions, of Marshal Joffre and of Marshal Foch, the two marshals who won the Battles of the Marne; and, secondly, the names of the armed corps and divisions who fought at and won the two battles.

The cloister | Dormans memorial
The cloister | Dormans memorial

The upper chapel

The upper chapel | Dormans memorial

The tympanum of the entrance door portrays two angels laying a soldier at the foot of a cross.

As soon as you cross the threshold of the chapel, the large stained-glass window in the choir attracts your gaze.

The stained-glass windows on one side and the other of the choir are adorned with each of the coats of arms of the provinces of France which existed at the end of the war, along with their patron saint, since all contributed to the erection of the monument.

The tower

The monument is topped off with a square tower and a chemin de ronde (a raised protected walkway behind a castle battlement), which is reminiscent of the defensive ramparts used in the Middle Ages. Visitors are allowed up to the tower and it is well worth a visit — it provides an uninterrupted view of the valley of the River Marne.