Friday 28 September
After breakfast and some final farewells, the packing was soon accomplished. The incorrect hotel booking in Amiens was sorted before John went to the car rental office and collected our vehicle to take us to Paris via Amiens.
Met up with Jenny, Robin and Russell, Pam and Martin in the lobby as we were leaving the hotel – it has been lovely to spend time with people with whom it is so easy to hold a conversation. We hope to continue our acquaintance with them when we return home.
We finally left the hotel in Berlin close to 12md and began our trek south. Our rental car is an Opel Station Wagon; not our best rental (not the worst either – the Taurus still holds that place); only short stints became possible in this vehicle to cover the nearly 1000km to Amiens – thank heavens we had planned a couple of overnight stops. Once we are in Amiens the distances will be shorter and I can have a day off in between.
Between the amount of traffic and numerous road works, it seemed to take hours to travel a small distance (260km) for the day and by 4.30pm it was time to stop for the night. Booked a hotel at Jena, just off the highway; a drink, a lovely dinner followed by trying to book accommodation at Triers to see the Roman Ruins, but gave up after an hour of no success and decided on Koblenz instead – that was enough for today.
Saturday 29 September
Another 365km today that seemed to take all day. We chose the “fastest route, but that took us on several forays off major roads as well as lane reductions for numerous roadworks. We drove through some beautiful farmlands, forests of trees that were beginning to change to the autumnal colours – although the colours were not as vibrant as might be expected.
We arrived in Koblenz just after 3pm; following a quick unpack, we headed out to find the shops for supplies.
“Koblenz is an ancient city in central Germany, and a gateway to the terraced vineyards and ruined castles of the Rhine Gorge. In the center, a monumental statue of William the Great marks the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. A cable car connects to the hilltop Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, which hosts museums and cultural events. South along the river is the neo-Gothic Stolzenfels Castle with its gardens.”
We spent the next couple of hours wandering through the old city, eating sorbet and then walking to the junction of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers so John could see if the caravan park was still there (we camped there in 1976).
We walked back to the hotel along the riverbank through beautifully laid out parks and walkways.
A drink and dinner before retiring.
Sunday 30 September
Another day on the road to finish the drive to Amiens with a stop at a roadhouse over the motorway for lunch.
Not a lot of traffic around earlier in the day, but gradually increased to rather busy through Belgium on the road to Paris.
Once we turned off toward Amiens, the traffic reduced considerably and stayed that way until we reached Amiens after 3pm where we ran into a traffic jam outside our hotel. Parked the car and took the luggage into the hotel and unpacked for the last time on this trip.
“Amiens is a city in northern France, divided by the Somme river. It’s known for the Gothic Notre Dame Amiens Cathedral and nearby medieval belfry. Shops and cafes line the Quartier St.-Leu’s narrow streets. Floating market gardens (“hortillonnages”) dot the city’s canals. The Musée de Picardie shows art and antiquities spanning centuries. Nearby, the Maison de Jules Verne is a museum where the science fiction author once lived.”
Being Sunday, the Mercure had no food service so John went walking to see what he could find; the pizza we had was really good. The Mercure in Amiens displays four stars at the entrance but I am not sure it lives up to that rating.
Monday 1 October
A fairly quiet day, some grocery shopping and a walk around the old city centre.
A drink downstairs in the bar watching the sunlight on the Amiens Notre Dame Cathedral before going for a walk to find some dinner – the hotel dining room does not open until 7pm, nor does anything else apparently. We ended up eating crepes at a coffee shop and they were delicious; we then walked back to the hotel via the Cathedral so we could study the outside of the building bathed in the golden light of the fading sun.
Tuesday 2 October
We spent a large part of the day at the The Australian War Memorial Villers-Bretonneux; we began with the new Sir John Monash Centre where we used our mobile phones with headphones connected to their website to watch films and listen to the amazing stories from the Western Front in WWI. The Centre is an amazing, thought-provoking recognition of the resilience of man and the horrors of war. By spending time here, we have a much clearer understanding of those years and what was achieved by those who believed in their cause.
“The Sir John Monash Centre is a museum and interpretive centre that commemorates Australian servicemen and women who served on the Western Front during the First World War. The centre, located near the village of Villers-Bretonneux in northern France, is set behind the Villers-Bretonneux Australian National Memorial and within the military cemetery. The centre opened in April 2018.
The Sir John Monash Centre was commissioned in 2006, and its design was unveiled by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on 26 April 2015, the day after Anzac Day, following an international design competition won by Cox Architecture. The centre is named after General Sir John Monash, who led the Australian Corps on the Western Front in 1918. The A$100 million cost was met by the Australian Government. The centre’s opening was in 2018, the centenary year of the end of the war, with the official opening ceremony held prior to Anzac Day, 25 April.
The centre opened to visitors on 16 April 2018. It was officially opened by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on 24 April 2018, saying “This new centre expresses our gratitude for all our men and women who fought—and continue to fight—for our values and our interests. And in the midst of the stone, and steel, and glass of this serene monument, we know that the best way to honour the diggers of 1918 is to support the servicemen and women, the veterans and the families of today.”
Also in attendance was French Prime Minister, Édouard Philippe, who paid tribute to Australian diggers, “We will never forget that 100 years ago, a young and brave nation on the other side of the world made history by writing our history” and, in recognition of Monash, said his tactics had given the allied forces a critical advantage.
Located behind the Villers-Bretonneux memorial, and built partially underground, with a turf roof, the one thousand square metre centre is designed to be “subservient” to the war memorial and has been described by one of the architects, Joe Agius, as “almost an anti-building, connected to the monument from an abstract and geometric point of view”. Australian war artists Lyndell Brown and Charles Green designed a major tapestry, Morning Star which was created by the Australian Tapestry Workshop and hangs in the museum’s foyer.
The centre tells the Australian story of the Western Front in the First World War. Through a series of interactive media installations visitors are able to use their own mobile device, loaded with the SJMC App as a ‘virtual tour guide’, throughout the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, the Australian National Memorial and the Sir John Monash Centre.
The Sir John Monash Centre forms part of the Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front, which links sites of significance to Australians, including battlefields, cemeteries and other memorials.”
After the time spent in the SJM Centre, we climbed to the top of the tower that overlooks the Cemetery as well as the beautiful countryside.
From here we drove the short distance to the village of Villers-Bretonneux and wander through the Franco-Australian Museum. This museum was set up by the villagers to recognise the contribution made by Australia soldiers as well as the Victorian school children who raised money for the school to be rebuilt. The photographs taken before and after the war gives a small glimpse into the destruction of war and the slow journey to rebuild only to have it all happen again 1942 – 1945; the village today is testament once again to the human spirit.
“After the First World War, a small bureau of the Australian War Graves Commission was set up in Villers-Bretonneux. This once thriving town had been left in ruins and to rebuild it the Australians and French helped one another in an international show of solidarity that was primarily demonstrated by the reconstruction of the school. From that moment onwards, a firm and lasting friendship was established between the people of VB and the people of Australia.
Entirely renovated in 2016 and located on the first floor of Victoria School, the museum is themed not only on the story of an international friendship that developed through war and hardship, but also on remembrance and hope for the future. A large part of its collection was acquired through donations made to the Franco-Australian Association. The museum layout enables visitors to fully comprehend how this friendship between the two countries was formed through four themes: a Place of Memory and Commemoration, Memories of War, a National Memory and Town Memories. Soldiers’ personal effects (uniforms, letters and photographs) and moving accounts themed on Franco-Australian friendship are used to illustrate these topics. Mid-way through the museum, a glass-roofed, chapel-like area enables visitors to see and contemplate the message of thanks displayed in the schoolyard reading “Do not forget Australia”.
The Victoria Hall is on the ground floor. It is a magnificent assembly hall with wooden panelling displaying carvings of Australian wildlife and a permanent exhibition of photographs of the State of Victoria. The carvings are the work of the Australian artist John Grant and his students at the Dayleford Technical College.
In the schoolyard, a large sign reads “Do Not Forget Australia” and an Australian fresco was created by the staff and children of the school and inaugurated on Anzac Day 2009. Due to the strong bond of friendship between the Australian population and the inhabitants of Villers-Bretonneux, this message expresses the need to remember. The French translation: “N’oublions jamais l’Australie” can be found in each of the classrooms.”
By this time it was after 4pm, so enough for one day and we returned to Amiens intending to stop at the British Pub for a drink and a meal. We had seen the Pub on the town map and when I looked at their website, it said it opened 5pm to 3am; however, when we walked in at 5.10 we were told in no uncertain terms that they don’t open till 7pm!
Wednesday 3 October
A chilly morning that gradually changed to a bright, warm day for a journey around the various cemeteries to place poppies on particular graves.
We began with the St Pierre Cemetery in Amiens where we found the grave of James Beck of Springvale.
From there it was east to Harbonnieres to visit the grave of James Beck of Garfield.
We then journeyed to Prospect Hill to visit Bernard Joseph Heffernan’s grave on the Centenary of his death. John had had a plaque made for today that was a sepia photo of Bernard’s home at Buckajo onto a metal disk for us to leave against his headstone along with the poppies I had made for him. When you look around this cemetery, so many graves carried the dates of 3rd, 4th and 5th October; from what we saw at the SJM Centre this was one of the last big battles of the Western Front before Germany capitulated and the war ended.
We sat in the sunshine at Prospect Hill and had a picnic lunch gazing out over the ploughed fields and green hills that surround the cemetery. To pay our respects to Bernard today was the prime motive for the trip this year – the Russia and Baltic Tours were serendipitous.
Following lunch, we headed north-west to Mont Saint Quentin just north of Peronne; another significant battle to end the hostilities and declare peace in 1918.
Our final visit for the day proved to be a challenge to locate the Guards Cemetery; confusing information was gathered in our research, but despite the long drive and detours around blocked roads we finally located the cemetery and we were able to visit the grave of Harold Beck, Garfield and place a poppy on his grave.
By this time it was 5pm, enough for today. It was after 6pm when we reached the parking garage; as we walked toward the hotel we could hear bagpipes skirl. By following the sound, we found the Combined RSL Pipe Band playing outside the Cathedral – is there anything more stirring than listening to “Amazing Grace” played magnificently on pipes and drums?
Thursday 4 October
A cooler start for quieter day – washing, newsletter and then wander up the hill to spend time at the Cathedral. From the outside it is majestic – all that stonework, some showing the darker colour that is a reflection of its age while large sections are much lighter, showing the restoration that continues.The range of carvings and gargoyles that adorn the outside are testament to the artisans who applied their skills to the building over hundreds of years. All of this giving small indication of the immensity of the inside as we entered through a small, solid wooden door onto stone flooring that was worn smooth and dips significantly through the small porch. To better understand our tour of the Cathedral we used the self-guided audio device, listening to the history and gaining insights to the decisions that were made for its construction.
It is hard to comprehend this building’s age – plans were developed after 1206 to house the relic of the Head of St John the Baptist’s head. Just wandering throughout this Cathedral while listening, gazing and sitting in silent contemplating was a wonderful way of spending a couple of hours. I did not accompany John when he climbed the spire – the 300+ steps to be climbed was enough of a deterrent.
“The Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Amiens (French: Basilique Cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens), or simply Amiens Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic church. The Cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Amiens and is situated on a slight ridge overlooking the River Somme in Amiens, the administrative capital of the Picardy region of France, some 120 km north of Paris.
Medieval cathedral builders were trying to maximise the internal dimensions in order to reach for the heavens and bring in more light. In that regard, the Amiens cathedral is the tallest complete cathedral in France, its stone-vaulted nave reaching an internal height of 42.30 metres (surpassed only by the incomplete Beauvais Cathedral). It also has the greatest interior volume of any French cathedral, estimated at 200,000 cubic metres. The cathedral was built between 1220 and c.1270 and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981. Although it has lost most of its original stained glass, Amiens Cathedral is renowned for the quality and quantity of early 13th-century Gothic sculpture in the main west façade and the south transept portal, and a large quantity of polychrome sculpture from later periods inside the building.
The lack of documentation concerning the construction of the Gothic cathedral may be in part the result of fires that destroyed the chapter archives in 1218 and again in 1258—a fire that damaged the cathedral itself. Bishop Evrard de Fouilly initiated work on the cathedral in 1220. Robert de Luzarches was the architect until 1228, and was followed by Thomas de Cormont until 1258. His son, Renaud de Cormont, acted as the architect until 1288. The chronicle of Corbie gives a completion date for the cathedral of 1266. Finishing works continued, however. Its floors are covered with a number of designs, such as the bent cross (to symbolize Jesus’ triumph over death). The labyrinth was installed in 1288. The cathedral contains the alleged head of John the Baptist, a relic brought from Constantinople by Wallon de Sarton as he was returning from the Fourth Crusade.
The construction of the cathedral at this period can be seen as resulting from a coming together of necessity and opportunity. The destruction of earlier buildings by fire, and failed attempts at rebuilding forced the fairly rapid construction of a building that, consequently, has a good deal of artistic unity. The long and relatively peaceful reign of Louis IX of France brought prosperity to the region, based on thriving agriculture and a booming cloth trade, that made the investment possible. The great cathedrals of Reims and Chartres are roughly contemporary.
The original design of the flying buttresses around the choir had them placed too high to counteract the force of the ceiling arch pushing outwards resulting in excessive lateral forces being placed on the vertical columns. The structure was only saved when, centuries later, masons placed a second row of more robust flying buttresses that connected lower down on the outer wall. This fix failed to counteract similar issues with the lower wall which began to develop large cracks around the late Middle Ages. This was solved by another patch by the master mason, Pierre Tarisel, that consisted of a wrought iron bar chain being installed around the mezzanine level to resist the forces pushing the stone columns outward. The chain was installed red hot to act as a cinch, tightening as it cooled.
The west front of the cathedral, built in a single campaign from 1220 to 1236, shows an unusual degree of artistic unity: its lower tier with three vast deep porches is capped with the gallery of twenty-two over life-size kings, which stretches across the entire façade beneath the rose window. Above the rose window there is an open arcade, the galerie des sonneurs. Flanking the nave, the two towers were built without close regard to the former design, the south tower being finished in 1366, the north one, reaching higher, in 1406.
The western portals of the cathedral are famous for their elaborate sculpture, featuring a gallery of locally-important saints and large eschatological scenes. Statues of saints in the portal of the cathedral have been identified as including the locally venerated Saints Victoricus and Gentian, Saint Domitius, Saint Ulphia, and Saint Fermin.
The spire over the central crossing was added between 1529 and 1533. The surface area is 7,700 square meters; the largest in France.
The façade in colour
During the process of laser cleaning in the 1990s, it was discovered that the western façade of the cathedral was originally painted in multiple colours. A technique was perfected to determine the exact make-up of the colours as they were applied in the 13th century. Then, in conjunction with the laboratories of EDF and the expertise of the Society Skertzo, elaborate lighting techniques were developed to project these colours directly on the façade with precision, recreating the polychromatic appearance of the 13th century. When projected on the statues around the portals, the result is a stunning display that brings the figures to life. The projected colours are faint to photograph, but a good quality DSLR camera provides excellent results.
The full effect of the colour may be best appreciated by direct viewing, with musical accompaniment, which can be done at the Son et lumière shows which are held on Summer evenings, during the Christmas Fair, and over the New Year.”
After we left the Cathedral we walked through to the main shopping area for a browse / some retail therapy. As it was after 5pm, we decided to have something to eat; after consultation with the waiter (as well as a bystander who spoke English) the decision was made on what to eat, only to be told some time later it was no longer possible to have the crepes, but we could have Leek Tart – apparently you cannot have dinner before 7pm! John and I sat having a drink while the wait staff were sitting outside / smoking until they were reminded we were waiting (by the observer*). The food was lovely when we finally had it.
• Observer: we have noticed there appears to be a practice of a person sitting in a strategic spot, keeping an eye on the happenings in the business and giving direction when warranted. Are they the owner / investor?
Friday 5 October
Up earlier today for our trip to Reims. The trip took just over two hours (including a short stop for a cup of tea). Finding the parking garage indicated on the map proved too much of a challenge, so we opted for one on the street. Trying to work out how to put money into the parking metre for the ticket was proving difficult until the Parking Inspectors happened to walk past and helped – they assisted us to put 4 hours on the ticket instead of the 2 the signs told us was maximum. While this transaction was in progress, another Inspector saw our car without a ticket and was in the process of booking it until she was alerted by her colleagues that it was OK.
We walked along to the Cathedral (another imposing structure) to start our sightseeing. John asked about an audio-guide and was directed to the Museum and we began our tour there – The Palace of Tau (Archiepiscopal and Royal Residence). Once again, a fascinating hour going through the Museum; although not large, this museum holds a vast array of treasures. The vaults held glass cabinets showing an array of gold, silver, ivory items as well as a jewelled replica of the crown Louis VX wore for his coronation along with his grey velvet and ermine cloak. The numerous tapestries were magnificent – the muted tones seen in such items, but awe-inspiring to see closely enough to study the detail and admire their needle craftsmanship.
“The Palace of Tau (French: Palais du Tau) in Reims, France, was the palace of the Archbishop of Reims. It is associated with the kings of France, whose coronation was held in the nearby cathedral of Notre-Dame de Reims and the following coronation banquet in the palace itself.
Hall of the Tau
A large Gallo-Roman villa still occupied the site of the palace in the 6th and 7th centuries, and later became a Carolingian palace. The first documented use of the name dates to 1131, and derives from the plan of the building, which resembles the letter Τ (tau, in the Greek alphabet). Most of the early building has disappeared: the oldest part remaining is the chapel, from 1207. The building was largely rebuilt in Gothic style between 1498 and 1509, and modified to its present Baroque appearance between 1671 and 1710 by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Robert de Cotte. It was damaged by a fire on 19 September 1914, and not repaired until after the Second World War.
The Palace was the residence of the kings of France before their coronation in Notre-Dame de Reims. The king was dressed for the coronation at the palace before proceeding to the cathedral; afterwards, a banquet was held at the palace. The first recorded coronation banquet was held at the palace in 990, and the most recent in 1825.
The palace has housed the Musée de l’Œuvre since 1972, displaying statuary and tapestries from the cathedral, together with the remains of the cathedral treasury and other objects associated with the coronation of the French kings.
The Palace of Tau, together with the Cathedral of Notre-Dame and the former Abbey of Saint-Remi, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. It attracts around 100,000 visitors each year.”
From the Museum, we went back to the Cathedral and spent the next hour once again being lost in the history and beauty of this beautiful building; reminiscent of Amiens, but a much darker interior because of the number and colour of the stained glass windows.
Our Lady of Reims (French: Notre-Dame de Reims) is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Reims, France, built in the High Gothic style. The cathedral replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis I was baptised by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims in 496. That original structure had itself been erected on the site of some Roman baths.
The seat of the Archdiocese of Reims, the cathedral was where the kings of France were crowned is a major tourist destination and receives about one million visitors annually.
According to Flodoard, Saint Nicasius founded the first church on the site of the current cathedral at the beginning of the 5th century, probably in 401, on the site of a Gallo-Roman bath. The site is not far from the basilica built by Bishop Betause, where Saint Nicasius would be martyred by beheading either by the Vandals in 407 or by the Huns in 451. The dedication of the church to the Virgin Mary suggests that the latter of the two dates is the correct one, given that the first church to be named after the Virgin Mary was the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in the 430s. This building, measuring approximately 20 m by 55m,would be where Clovis, King of the Franks, would be baptised by Saint Remigius on Christmas Day some time between 496 and 499. A baptistery was built in the 6th century to the north of the current site to a plan of a square exterior and a circular interior.
The cathedral in the time of Archbishop Hincmar.
In 816, the Frankish emperor Louis the Pious was crowned in Reims by Pope Stephen IV. The coronation and ensuing celebrations highlighted the poor condition of the church, then the seat of an archbishop. Over the next decade, Archbishop Ebbo of Reims rebuilt much of the church under the direction of the royal architect Rumaud, only ceasing in 846, under the episcopate of Archbishop Hincmar, who would adorn the church’s interior with gilding, mosaics, paintings, sculptures and tapestries. On 18 October 862, in the presence of King Charles the Bald, Hincmar dedicated the new church, which measured 86 m and had two transepts. At the beginning of the 10th century, an ancient crypt underneath the original church was rediscovered. Under Archbishop Hervé, the crypt (which had been the initial centre of the previous churches above it) was cleared, renovated, and then rededicated to Saint Remi. The altar has been located above the crypt for 15 centuries.
Beginning in 976, Archbishop Adalbero began to enlarge and illuminate the Carolingian cathedral. The historian Richerus, a pupil of Adalbero, gives a very precise description of the work carried out by the Archbishop: ‘He completely destroyed the arcades which, extending from the entrance to nearly a quarter of the basilica, up to the top, so that the whole church, embellished, acquired more extent and a more suitable form. He decorated the main altar of the golden cross and enveloped it with a resplendent trellis. He lit up the same church with windows in which various stories were represented and endowed it with bells roaring like thunder.’ Richerus of Reims.
Whilst conducting the Council of Reims in 1131, Pope Innocent II anointed and crowned the future Louis VII in the cathedral.
In the middle of the 12th century, Archbishop Samson demolished the facade and adjoining tower in order to build a new cathedral with two flanking towers, likely in imitation of the Abbey of Saint Denis in Paris, whose choir dedication Samson himself had attended a few years earlier. In addition to these works to the west of the building, a new choir and chapels began to be built east of the cathedral, which measured 110m. At the end of the century, the nave and transept were of the Carolingian style while the chevet (an apse, as of a Gothic cathedral) and facade were early Gothic.
Our Lady of Reims
On 6 May 1210, the Carolingian-early Gothic cathedral was destroyed by fire on the Feast day of Saint John Before the Latin Gate (discontinued in the Catholic church in 1960) allegedly due to “carelessness.”[b] Exactly one year later, construction began when Archbishop Aubrey laid the first stone of the new cathedral’s chevet. In July 1221, the chapel of this axially radiating chevet entered use. Four architects would succeed each other until the completion of the cathedral’s structural work in 1275: Jean d’Orbais, Jean-le-Loup, Gaucher of Reims and Bernard de Soissons.
Documentary records show the acquisition of land to the west of the site in 1218, suggesting the new cathedral was substantially larger than its predecessors, the lengthening of the nave presumably being an adaptation to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations. In 1233 a long-running dispute between the cathedral chapter and the townsfolk (regarding issues of taxation and legal jurisdiction) boiled over into open revolt. Several clerics were killed or injured during the resulting violence and the entire cathedral chapter fled the city, leaving it under an interdict (effectively banning all public worship and sacraments). Work on the new cathedral was suspended for three years, only resuming in 1236 after the clergy returned to the city and the interdict was lifted following mediation by the King and the Pope. Construction then continued more slowly. The area from the crossing eastwards was in use by 1241 but the nave was not roofed until 1299 (when the French King lifted the tax on lead used for that purpose). Work on the west facade took place in several phases, which is reflected in the very different styles of some of the sculptures. The upper parts of the facade were completed in the 14th century, but apparently following 13th century designs, giving Reims an unusual unity of style.
Coronation of Charles VII in 1429
Unusually the names of the cathedral’s original architects are known. A labyrinth built into floor of the nave at the time of construction or shortly after (similar to examples at Chartres and Amiens) included the names of four master masons (Jean d’Orbais, Jean-Le-Loup, Gaucher de Reims and Bernard de Soissons) and the number of years they worked there, though art historians still disagree over who was responsible for which parts of the building. The labyrinth itself was destroyed in 1779 but its details and inscriptions are known from 18th century drawings. The clear association here between a labyrinth and master masons adds weight to the argument that such patterns were an allusion to the emerging status of the architect (through their association with the mythical artificer Daedalus, who built the Labyrinth of King Minos). The cathedral also contains further evidence of the rising status of the architect in the tomb of Hugues Libergier (d.1268, architect of the now-destroyed Reims church of St-Nicaise). Not only is he given the honour of an engraved slab; he is shown holding a miniature model of his church (an honour formerly reserved for noble donors) and wearing the academic garb befitting an intellectual.
The towers, 81m tall, were originally designed to rise 120m. The south tower holds just two great bells; one of them, named “Charlotte” by Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine in 1570, weighs more than 10,000kg.
Following the death of the infant King John I, his uncle Philip would be hurriedly crowned at Reims, 9 January 1317.
During the Hundred Years’ War (1337 to 1453) the cathedral and city were under siege by the English from 1359 to 1360, but the siege failed. In 1380, Reims cathedral would be centre of Charles VI’s coronation and eight years later Charles would call a council at Reims in 1388 to take personal rule from the control of his uncles. After Henry V, King of England, defeated Charles VI’s army at Agincourt, Reims along with most of northern France fell to the English. The English would hold Reims and the Cathedral until 1429 when it was liberated by Joan of Arc which allowed the Dauphin Charles to be crowned king on 17 July 1429. Following the death of Francis I of France, Henry II was crowned King of France on 25 July 1547 in Reims cathedral.
On 24 July 1481, a new fire caused by the negligence of workers on the roof took hold in the attic, causing the destruction of the framework, central bell tower, and the galleries at the base of the roof, and caused the lead of the roof to melt, causing further damage. However, recovery was quick with Kings Charles VIII and Louis XII making donations to the Cathedral’s reconstruction. In particular, they granted the Cathedral an octroi in regards to the unpopular Gabelle tax. In gratitude, the new roof was adorned by fleur-de-lis and the royal coat of arms “affixed to the top of the facade”. However, this work was suspended before the arrows were completed in 1516.
Although Reims was an important symbol of the French monarchy, the chaos of the French Revolution did not damage it to the same extent as at Chartres Cathedral, where the structure of the cathedral itself was threatened. Some statues were broken, the gates were torn down, and the royal Hand of Justice was burned.
In 1860, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc directed the restoration of Reims Cathedral. In 1875, the French National Assembly voted to allocate £80,000 for repairs of the façade and balustrades.
First World War
On the outbreak of the First World War, the cathedral was commissioned as a hospital, and troops and arms were removed from its immediate vicinity. On 4 September, the XII Saxon corps arrived at the city and later that day the Imperial German Army began shelling the city. The guns, located 7 kilometers away in Les Mesneux, ceased firing when the XII Saxon Corps sent two officers and a city employee to ask them to stop shelling the city. The bombardment damaged the cathedral considerably, blowing out many windows, and damaging several statues and elements of the upper facade. On 12 September, the German Army decided to place their wounded in the cathedral against the protests of Maurice Landrieux and spread 15,000 bales of straw on the floor of the cathedral for this purpose. That day, however, the town was evacuated of German soldiers before French General Franchet d’Esperey entered the city. Six days later, a shell exploded in the bishop’s palace, killing three and injuring 15.
Scaffolding around the north tower caught fire, spreading the blaze to all parts of the timber frame superstructure. The lead in the roofing melted and poured through the stone gargoyles, destroying in turn the bishop’s palace. Images of the cathedral in ruins were shown during the war by the indignant French, accusing the Germans of the deliberate destruction of buildings rich in national and cultural heritage.
Restoration work began in 1919, under the direction of architect Henri Deneux, a native of Reims; the cathedral was fully reopened in 1938, thanks in part to financial support from the Rockefellers, but work has been steadily going on since.
The Franco-German reconciliation was symbolically formalised in July 1962 by French president Charles de Gaulle and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, where in 1914 the Imperial German Army deliberately shelled the cathedral in order to shake French morale.
The cathedral, former Abbey of Saint-Remi, and the Palace of Tau were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1991.
On his 74th Pastoral Visit, Pope John Paul II visited Reims on 26 September 1996 for the 1500th anniversary of the baptism of Clovis. While there, the Pope prayed at the same chapel where Jean-Baptiste de La Salle celebrated his first Mass in 1678.
On 8 October 2016, a plaque bearing the names of the 31 kings crowned in Reims was placed in the Cathedral in the presence of Archbishop Thierry Jordan and Prince Louis Alphonse, Duke of Anjou, one of many pretenders to the French throne.
Equestrian statue by Paul Duboi
The prestige of the Holy Ampulla and the political power of the Archbishop of Reims resulted from King Henry I of France, who was crowned here in 1027 and permanently established Reims Cathedral as the location of the coronation of the French monarch. All future Kings of France with the exception of seven[d] would be crowned at Reims.
Of particular importance is the coronation of Charles VII in 1429 as it marked the reversal of the course of the Hundred Years’ War, thanks in large part to the tenacity of Joan of Arc. Today, she is memorialised at Reims Cathedral with two statues: an equestrian statue outside the church and another within the church.
Kings crowned at Reims
Henry I, 1027 by Ebles I of Roucy
Philip I, 1059 by Gervais de Château-du-Loir
Philip of France, 1129 by Renaud de Martigné
Louis VII, 1131 by Pope Innocent II
Philip II, 1179 by William of the White Hands
Louis VIII, 1223 by William of Joinville
Louis IX, 1226 by Jacques de Bazoches
Philip III, 1271 by Milon de Bazoches
Philip IV, 1286 by Pierre Barbet
Louis X, 1315 by Robert de Courtenay-Champignelles
Philip V, 1317 by Robert de Courtenay-Champignelles
Charles IV, 1322 by Robert de Courtenay-Champignelles
Philip VI, 1328 by Guillaume de Trie
John II, 1350 by Jean de Vienne
Charles V, 1364 by Jean III de Craon
Charles VI, 1380 by Richard Picque
Charles VII, 1429 by Regnault de Chartres
Louis XI, 1461 by Jean Juvénal des Ursins
Charles VIII, 1484 by Pierre de Laval
Louis XII, 1498 by Guillaume Briçonnet
Francis I, 1515 by Robert de Lenoncourt
Henry II, 1547 by Charles of Lorraine
Francis II, 1559 by Charles of Lorraine
Charles IX, 1561 by Charles of Lorraine
Henry III, 1575 by Louis I of Guise
Louis XIII, 1610 by François de Joyeuse
Louis XIV, 1654 by Simon Legras
Louis XV, 1722 by Armand Jules de Rohan-Guéméné
Louis XVI, 1775 by Charles Antoine de La Roche-Aymon
Charles X, 1825 by Jean-Baptiste de Latil
Gallery of Kings
The cathedral’s exterior glorifies royalty. In the centre of the front facade and above the rose window is the Gallery of Kings, composed of 56 statues with a height of 4.5meters, with Clovis I in the centre mid-baptism, Clotilde to his right, and Saint Remigius to his left.
The three portals are laden with statues and statuettes; among European cathedrals, only Chartres has more sculpted figures. The central portal, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is surmounted by a rose window framed in an arch itself decorated with statuary, in place of the usual sculptured tympanum. The “gallery of the kings” above shows the baptism of Clovis in the centre flanked by statues of his successors.
The facades of the transepts are also decorated with sculptures. That on the North has statues of bishops of Reims, a representation of the Last Judgment and a figure of Jesus (le Beau Dieu), while that on the south side has a modern rose window with the prophets and apostles. Fire destroyed the roof and the spires in 1481: of the four towers that flanked the transepts, nothing remains above the height of the roof. Above the choir rises an elegant lead-covered timber bell tower that is 18m tall, reconstructed in the 15th century and in the 1920s. The total exterior length is 149.17m and its surface area is 6,650 square metres.
The interior of the cathedral is 138.75m long, 30m wide in the nave, and 38m high in the centre. It comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. It has interesting stained glass ranging from the 13th to the 20th century. The rose window over the main portal and the gallery beneath are of rare magnificence.
The cathedral possesses fine tapestries. Of these the most important series is that presented by Robert de Lenoncourt, archbishop under François I (1515-1547), representing the life of the Virgin. They are now to be seen in the former bishop’s palace, the Palace of Tau. The north transept contains a fine organ in a flamboyant Gothic case. The choir clock is ornamented with curious mechanical figures. Marc Chagall designed the stained glass installed in 1974 in the axis of the apse.
The treasury, kept in the Palace of Tau, includes many precious objects, among which is the Sainte Ampoule, or holy flask, the successor of the ancient one that contained the oil with which French kings were anointed, which was broken during the French Revolution, a fragment of which the present Ampoule contains.
In 2011, the city of Reims celebrated the cathedral’s 800th anniversary. The celebrations ran from 6 May to 23 October. Concerts, street performances, exhibitions, conferences, and a series of evening light shows highlighted the cathedral and its 800th anniversary. In addition, six new stained glass windows designed by Imi Knoebel, a German artist, were inaugurated on June 25, 2011. The six windows cover an area of 128 square metres and are positioned on both sides of the Chagall windows in the apse of the cathedral.”
Following our time exploring inside, we walked out to bright sunshine so decided on a picnic while sitting in the paved area at the back of the Cathedral followed by a walk through the old city area and back to car ready for the drive to Amiens.
Our return journey to Amiens was a pleasure, enjoying beautiful farming country over the whole distance even though I had to keep up the pace at 130kpm to stay with the traffic.
Saturday 6 October
After a long day yesterday, it was time for a slower start today – late breakfast, a rest and then a walk in the sunshine along through the old streets to the canals, down through the parks, stopping along the way for a rest or two before walking up to a different shopping centre for some teabags. Finally it was back to the hotel via the main shopping area and the Cathedral. By this time I was ready for a cup of tea and a rest.
Sunday 7 October
To complete our latest tour of the 1914 – 1918 Battles Fields we decided to spend a couple of days in Belgium. Once again, it is hard to come to terms with the immensity of loss reflected by the number of War Cemeteries there are in this region; as you drive along nearly every road, you will come across one, or more – all beautifully set out and maintained. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certainly fulfils their brief to respectfully honour those who were prepared to sacrifice their life to protect a way of life.
“The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
In 1918, three of the most eminent architects of their day, Sir Herbert Baker, Sir Reginald Blomfield, and Sir Edwin Lutyens were appointed as the organization’s initial Principal Architects. Rudyard Kipling was appointed literary advisor for the language used for memorial inscriptions.
In 1920, the Commission built three experimental cemeteries at Le Treport, Forceville and Louvencourt, following the principles outlined in the Kenyon report. Of these, the Forceville Communal Cemetery and Extension was agreed as the most successful. Having consulted with garden designer Gertrude Jekyll, the architects created a walled cemetery with uniform headstones in a garden setting, augmented by Blomfield’s Cross of Sacrifice and Lutyens’ Stone of Remembrance. After some adjustments, Forceville became the template for the Commission’s building programme. Cost overruns at all three experimental cemeteries necessitated some adjustments. To ensure future cemeteries remained within their budget the Commission decided to not build shelters in cemeteries that contained less than 200 graves, to not place a Stone of Remembrance in any cemetery with less than 400 graves and to limit the height of cemetery walls to 1 metre.
At the end of 1919, the Commission had spent £7,500, and this figure rose to £250,000 in 1920 as construction of cemeteries and memorials increased. By 1921, the Commission had established 1,000 cemeteries which were ready for headstone erections, and burials. Between 1920 and 1923, the Commission was shipping 4,000 headstones a week to France. In many cases, the Commission closed small cemeteries and concentrated the graves into larger ones. By 1927, when the majority of construction had been completed, over 500 cemeteries had been built, with 400,000 headstones, a thousand Crosses of Sacrifice, and 400 Stones of Remembrance.
The Menin Gate at night
The Commission had also been mandated to individually commemorate each soldier who had no known grave, which amounted to 315,000 in France and Belgium alone. The Commission initially decided to build 12 monuments on which to commemorate the missing; each memorial being located at the site of an important battle along the Western Front. After resistance from the French committee responsible for the approvals of memorials on French territory, the Commission revised their plan and reduced the number of memorials, and in some cases built memorials to the missing in existing cemeteries rather than as separate structures.
Reginald Blomfield’s Menin Gate was the first memorial to the missing located in Europe to be completed and was unveiled on 24 July 1927. The Menin Gate (Menenpoort) was found to have insufficient space to contain all the names as originally planned and 34,984 names of the missing were instead inscribed on Herbert Baker’s Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing. Other memorials followed: the Helles Memorial in Gallipoli designed by John James Burnet; the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme and the Arras Memorial designed by Edwin Lutyens. The Dominions and India also erected memorials on which they commemorated their missing: the Neuve-Chapelle Memorial for the forces of India, the Vimy Memorial by Canada, the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial by Australia, the Delville Wood Memorial by South Africa and the Beaumont-Hamel Memorial by Newfoundland. The programme of commemorating the dead of the Great War was considered essentially complete with the inauguration of the Thiepval Memorial in 1932, though the Vimy Memorial would not be finished until 1936, the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial until 1938 and stonemasons were still conducting work on the Menin Gate when Germany invaded Belgium in 1940.”
Our road trip to the Belgian War Cemeteries started early and our first stop was at Pheasant Wood Cemetery, Fromelles to visit the grave of Raymond Bishop of Moruya as well as spend time in their museum.
“The Museum of the Battle of Fromelles, a new chapter of a story that began there nearly a hundred years ago. This Museum was officially opened on 18 July 2014 in the presence of Australia’s Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Michael Ronaldson, and senior French officials. It was built to assist visitors to understand Australia’s role and the great sacrifice of Allied soldiers during the Battle of Fromelles. The museum is home to the collection that was formerly housed in the Fromelles town hall. It not only tells the story of the battle, but also the story of the recovery of the Fromelles Missing nearly 100 years later.
The Battle of Fromelles took place on 19th and 20th July 1916 and opposed British and Australian divisions to a Bavarian division. The shock was terrible, within 24 hours, there were nearly 8,500 victims. Many of the soldiers who died on the battlefield could not be found.
In 2009, a team of archaeologists uncovered the bodies of 250 British and Australian soldiers missing at Fromelles. A serious campaign of identification began, and with each restored identity, it is the story of one soldier that rises to the surface.
Follow the battle, the archaeological research and the history of fallen soldiers through the permanent exhibition. Discover a story that keeps on being written.
The Battle of Fromelles Museum is located adjacent to the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery in the hamlet of Fromelles which is situated in the Nord/Pas de Calais region of Northern France.”
The next stop was a short distance away at the VC Corner Australia Cemetery and Memorial, Fromelles and then on to Brewery Orchard Cemetery at Bois-Grenier to visit the grave of Samuel Beck of Springvale.
A short time later as we drove into Ypres Market Square we were delighted to see such a charming old city centre – rebuilt twice after the two world wars had decimated most of the structures. First stop lunch overlooking the square and then spent the afternoon making our way through the In Flanders Fields Museum.
“In Flanders Fields Museum is located in the famous Cloth Hall (called the Lakenhalle in Flemish) in the centre of Ypres (Ieper). In 1998 the original Ypres Salient Memorial Museum was refurbished and renamed In Flanders Fields Museum; it is an award winning museum which has undergone a major refurbishment for the centenary of 1914-1918.
In Flanders Fields museum features the latest technological museum applications, providing visitors with touch screens, video projections, soundscapes and an interactive Poppy Bracelet.
The consequences of war is the major theme of the In Flanders Fields Museum. The theme of a mirror is used to inspire visitors to examine how we look into our past; how and why we remember and how we look at the many other nations which were involved in the Great War of 1914-1918.
Visitors, young and old, are invited to reflect on both the major historical events and the personal stories of individuals, and how the First World War affected the lives of the thousands of people of many different nationalities who were involved in it. Most specifically the museum reflects on the consequences of war for the region of West Flanders and the City of Ypres.
Individuals and their Stories
The museum has always focused on the stories of individuals within the larger picture of the Great War. These personal stories are told through many and varied objects on display, interactive installations and life-like characters.
On entry, each visitor receives a “Poppy Bracelet” that contains a microchip which activates the chosen language for the visitor. It also activates the personal story of four individuals as the visitor makes his or her way around the exhibitions.
The building was largely destroyed by artillery during the war, but was afterwards reconstructed. In 1998 the original Ypres Salient Memorial Museum was refurbished and renamed In Flanders Fields Museum after the famous poem by Canadian John McCrae:
‘In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead, short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.’
The In Flanders’ Fields Museum is dedicated to the study of the First World War; it does not set out to glorify war, but to suggest its futility, particularly as seen in the West Flanders front region in World War I
The exhibit tells the story of the invasion of Belgium, the first months of mobilisation, the four years trench war in the Westhoek (from the beach of Nieuwpoort to the Leie in Armentieres), the end of the war, and the permanent remembrance ever since. The Bell Tower (Belfry) at the Cloth Hall, offers a view over the city, Saint George’s Memorial Church, St Martin’s Cathedral, the market place, surrounding battlefields and the Menin Gate. The museum presents a general introduction to World War I in Flanders with reference to other Allied museums and sites, such as Sanctuary Wood Museum Hill 62, Museum Godshuis Belle, and Canadian Hill 62 Memorial; whereas the Lange Max Museum focuses on the occupied German side. The museum is intended to encourage the visitor to view the actual sites for themselves.
The personal stories of how the First World War affected the lives of individuals of many nationalities are told through the many objects on display, interactive installations and lifelike characters within the larger picture of the Great War. The displays include medical equipment, gas masks, and a mule and munitions wagon exhibit. Themes of the consequences of war, how we look into our past, and how and why we remember are explored.”
I must admit, by the time we had finished at this museum, I felt totally enervated – how can we begin to understand what was endured; the suffering, desolation, futility, loss and horror of it all. The unbelievable sacrifice and suffering when one nation or person has illusions of domination throughout history. When is enough, enough?
Our accommodation in Ypres was a pleasant experience; another old building that has been totally renovated to reflect the former building while providing modern amenities and life’s little luxuries.
That evening we walked to the Menin Gate for the nightly playing of the Last Post. A large crowd gathered within the Gate area as well as both ends after the road had been blocked off for the Ceremony which began with the Ghent Scottish Highlanders Pipes and Drums marching from the market Square to Menin Gate, three buglers played the Last Post, the Ode was recited and then several people laid wreaths at the wall.
“Last Post Ceremony
Following the Menin Gate Memorial opening in 1927, the citizens of Ypres wanted to express their gratitude towards those who had given their lives for Belgium’s freedom. Every evening at 20:00, buglers from the Last Post Association close the road which passes under the memorial and sound the “Last Post”. Except for the occupation by the Germans in World War II when the daily ceremony was conducted at Brookwood Military Cemetery, in Surrey, England, this ceremony has been carried on uninterrupted since 2 July 1928. On the evening that Polish forces liberated Ypres in the Second World War, the ceremony was resumed at the Menin Gate despite the heavy fighting still taking place in other parts of the town.”
Monday 8 October
The day began with a walk to Menin Gate to have a good look at the detail of the Memorial in daylight as well as no people jostling their way through crowds.
“The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is a war memorial in Ypres, Belgium, dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown. The memorial is located at the eastern exit of the town and marks the starting point for one of the main roads out of the town that led Allied soldiers to the front line. Designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield and built and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Menin Gate Memorial was unveiled on 24 July 1927.
In medieval times, the original narrow gateway on the eastern side of the city of Ypres was called the Hangoartpoort, “poort” being the Dutch word for gate. In order to prosper and maintain its wealth, the city of Ypres had to be fortified, to keep out potential invaders. During the 17th and 18th centuries, while under the occupation of the Habsburgs and the French, the city was increasingly fortified. Major works were completed at the end of the 17th century by the French military engineer Sebastien Le Prestre, Seigneur de Vauban. At the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, the eastern exit simply cut through the remains of the ramparts and crossed a moat. The gateway was by this time known as the Menenpoort, or Menin Gate in English, because the road leading through the gateway led to the small town of Menen.
Ypres occupied a strategic position during the First World War because it stood in the path of Germany’s planned sweep across the rest of Belgium, as had been called for in the Schlieffen Plan. By October 1914, the much battered Belgian Army broke the dykes on the Yser River to the north of the City to keep the western tip of Belgium out of German hands. Ypres, being the centre of a road network, anchored one end of this defensive feature and was also essential for the Germans if they wanted to take the Channel Ports through which British support was flooding into France. For the Allies, Ypres was also important because it eventually became the last major Belgian town that was not under German control.
The importance of the town is reflected in the five major battles that occurred around it during the war. During the First Battle of Ypres the Allies halted the German Army’s advance to the east of the city. The German army eventually surrounded the city on three sides, bombarding it throughout much of the war. The Second Battle of Ypres marked a second German attempt to take the city in April 1915. The third battle is more commonly referred to as Passchendaele, but this 1917 battle was a complex five-month engagement. The fourth and fifth battles occurred during 1918.
British and Commonwealth soldiers often passed through the Menenpoort on their way to the front lines with some 300,000 of them being killed in the Ypres Salient. 90,000 of these soldiers have no known graves.
From September to November 1915, the British 177th Tunnelling Company built tunnelled dugouts in the city ramparts near the Menin Gate. These were the first British tunnelled dugouts in the Ypres Salient.
The carved limestone lions adorning the original gate were damaged by shellfire, and were donated to the Australian War Memorial by the Mayor of Ypres in 1936. They were restored in 1987, and currently reside at the entrance to that Memorial, so that all visitors to the Memorial pass between them.
Reginald Blomfield’s triumphal arch, designed in 1921, is the entry to the barrel-vaulted passage for traffic through the mausoleum that honours the Missing, who have no known graves. The patient lion on the top is the lion of Britain but also the lion of Flanders. It was chosen to be a memorial as it was the closest gate of the town to the fighting, and so Allied Troops would have marched past it on their way to fight. Actually, most troops passed out of the other gates of Ypres, as the Menin Gate was too dangerous due to shellfire.
Its large Hall of Memory contains names on stone panels of 54,395 Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Salient but whose bodies have never been identified or found. On completion of the memorial, it was discovered to be too small to contain all the names as originally planned. An arbitrary cut-off point of 15 August 1917 was chosen and the names of 34,984 UK missing after this date were inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing instead. The Menin Gate Memorial does not list the names of the missing of New Zealand and Newfoundland soldiers, who are instead honoured on separate memorials.
Interior, Menin Gate
The inscription inside the archway is similar to the one at Tyne Cot, with the addition of a prefatory Latin phrase: “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam – Here are recorded names of officers and men who fell in Ypres Salient, but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death”. The Latin phrase means ‘To the greater glory of God’. Both this inscription, and the main overhead inscription on both the east- and west-facing façades of the arch, were composed by Rudyard Kipling. On the opposite side of the archway to that inscription is the shorter dedication: “They shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away”. There are also Latin inscriptions set in circular panels either side of the archway, on both the east and west sides: “Pro Patria” and “Pro Rege” (‘For Country’ and ‘For King’). A French inscription mentions the citizens of Ypres: “Erigé par les nations de l’Empire Britannique en l’honneur de leurs morts ce monument est offert aux citoyens d’Ypres pour l’ornement de leur cité et en commémoration des jours où l’Armée Britannique l’a défendue contre l’envahisseur”, which translated into English means: “Erected by the nations of the British Empire in honour of their dead this monument is offered to the citizens of Ypres for the ornament of their city and in commemoration of the days where the British Army defended it against the invader.”
Reaction to the Menin Gate, the first of the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission’s Memorials to the Missing, ranged from its condemnation by the war poet Siegfried Sassoon, to praise by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. Sassoon described the Menin Gate in his poem ‘On Passing the New Menin Gate’, saying that the dead of the Ypres Salient would “deride this sepulchre of crime”. Zweig, in contrast, praised the simplicity of the memorial, and lack of overt triumphalism, and said that it was “more impressive than any triumphal arch or monument to victory that I have ever seen”. Blomfield himself said that this work of his was one of three that he wanted to be remembered by.
To this day, the remains of missing soldiers are still found in the countryside around the town of Ypres. Typically, such finds are made during building work or road-mending activities. Any human remains discovered receive a proper burial in one of the war cemeteries in the region. If the remains can be identified, the relevant name is removed from the Menin Gate.“
On the way back to the car, John bought a pair of shoes; he had seen a pair he liked in the window as we walk past last night – unfortunately they did not have that pair in his size, but they did have a different pair that fitted perfectly.
On the drive back to Amiens, our first stop for the day was at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.
We then moved on to Tyne Cot Cemetery.
“Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) burial ground for the dead of the First World War in the Ypres Salient on the Western Front. It is the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, for any war. The cemetery and its surrounding memorial are located outside of Passchendale, near Zonnebeke in Belgium.
The name “Tyne Cot” is said to come from the Northumberland Fusiliers, seeing a resemblance between the many German concrete pill boxes on this site and typical Tyneside workers’ cottages (Tyne cots). Tyne Cot CWGC Cemetery lies on a broad rise in the landscape which overlooks the surrounding countryside. As such, the location was strategically important to both sides fighting in the area. The concrete shelters which still stand in various parts of the cemetery were part of a fortified position of the German Flandern I Stellung, which played an important tactical role during the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917.
The inscription on the cross built upon the largest of the three pillboxes: THIS WAS THE TYNE COT BLOCKHOUSE CAPTURED BY THE 3RD AUSTRALIAN DIVISION 4 October 1917 It originally read “2nd Division” until corrected in the 1990s.
On 4 October 1917, the area where Tyne Cot CWGC Cemetery is now located was captured by the 3rd Australian Division and the New Zealand Division and two days later a cemetery for British and Canadian war dead was begun. The cemetery was recaptured by German forces on 13 April 1918 and was finally liberated by Belgian forces on 28 September.
After the Armistice in November 1918, the cemetery was greatly enlarged from its original 343 graves by concentrating graves from the battlefields, smaller cemeteries nearby and from Langemark.
The cemetery grounds were assigned to the United Kingdom in perpetuity by King Albert I of Belgium in recognition of the sacrifices made by the British Empire in the defence and liberation of Belgium during the war. The cemetery was designed by Sir Herbert Baker.
The Cross of Sacrifice that marks many CWGC cemeteries was built on top of a German pill box in the centre of the cemetery, purportedly at the suggestion of King George V, who visited the cemetery in 1922 as it neared completion. The King’s visit, described in the poem The King’s Pilgrimage, included a speech in which he said: “We can truly say that the whole circuit of the Earth is girdled with the graves of our dead. In the course of my pilgrimage, I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon Earth through the years to come, than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.” King George V, 11 May 1922”
A sobering sight standing inside the curved wall at the top of the cemetery and looking out across so many headstones bathed in the sunshine to the peaceful valley below.
After a picnic on the roadside we moved on to Passchendaele Cemetery before heading back toward Amiens with one more stop at The Lochnagar Mine Crater.
”The Lochnagar mine south of the village of La Boisselle in the Somme Département was an underground explosive charge, secretly planted by the British during the First World War, ready for 1 July 1916, the first day on the Somme. The mine was dug by the Tunnelling Companies of the Royal Engineers under a German field fortification known as Schwabenhöhe (Swabian Height).
An officer wrote: At one place in particular our men swore they thought he [the German enemy] was coming through, so we stopped driving forward and commenced to chamber in double shifts. We did not expect to complete it before he blew, but we did. A chamber 12′ × 6′ × 6′ in 24 hours. The Germans worked for a shift more than we did and then stopped. They knew we had chambered and were afraid we should blow and no more work was done there. I used to hate going to listen in that chamber more than any other place in the mine. Half an hour, sometimes once sometimes three times a day, in deadly silence with the geophone to your ears, wondering whether the sound you heard was the Boche working silently or your own heart beating. God knows how we kept our nerves and judgement. After the Somme attack when we surveyed the German mines and connected up to our own system, with the theodolite we found that we were five feet apart, and that he had only started his chamber and then stopped. Captain Stanley Bullock, 179th Tunnelling Company
The British named the mine after Lochnagar Street, the British trench from which the gallery was driven. The charge at Lochnagar was one of 19 mines that were placed beneath the German lines on the British section of the Somme front, to assist the infantry advance at the start of the battle.
The mine was sprung at 7:28 a.m. on 1 July 1916 and left a crater 30m deep and 100m wide, which was captured and held by British troops. The attack on either flank was defeated by German small-arms and artillery fire, except on the extreme right flank and just south of La Boisselle, north of the Lochnagar Crater. The crater has been preserved as a memorial and a religious service is held each 1 July.
The Lochnagar mine consisted of two chambers with a shared access tunnel. The shaft was sunk in the communication trench called “Lochnagar Street”. After the Black Watch had arrived at La Boissselle at the end of July 1915, many fortifications, originally dug by the French, had been given Scottish names. The Lochnagar mine probably had the first deep incline shaft, which sloped from 1:2 to 1:3 to a depth of about 29metres. It was begun 91metres behind the British front line and 270 metres away from the German front line. Starting from the inclined shaft, about 15metres below ground, a gallery was driven towards the German lines. For silence, the tunnellers used bayonets with spliced handles and worked barefoot on a floor covered with sandbags. Flints were carefully prised out of the chalk and laid on the floor; if the bayonet was manipulated two-handed, an assistant caught the dislodged material. Spoil was placed in sandbags and passed hand-by-hand along a row of miners sitting on the floor and stored along the side of the tunnel, later to be used to tamp the charge.
When about 41metres from the Schwabenhöhe, the tunnel was branched and the end of each branch was enlarged to form a chamber for the explosives, the chambers being about 18m apart and 16metres deep. When finished, the access tunnel for the Lochnagar mine was 1.37 by 0.76m and had been excavated at a rate of about 46cm per day, until about 310m long, with the galleries ending beneath the Schwabenhöhe. The mine was loaded with 27,000kg; of ammonal in two charges of 16,000 kg and 11,000 kg. As the chambers were not big enough to hold all the explosive, the tunnels that branched to form the ‘Y’ were also filled with ammonal. One branch was 18m long and the other 12m long. The tunnels did not quite reach the German front line but the blast would dislodge enough material to form a 4.6 m high rim and bury nearby trenches. The Lochnagar and the Y Sap mines were “overcharged” to ensure that large rims were formed from the disturbed ground. Communication tunnels were also dug for use immediately after the first attack, including a tunnel across no man’s land to a point close to the Lochnagar mine, ready to extend to the crater after the detonation as a covered route. The mines were laid without interference by German miners but as the explosives were placed, German miners could be heard below Lochnagar and above the Y Sap mine.
The blowing of the Y Sap and Lochnagar mines was witnessed by pilots who were flying over the battlefield to report back on British troop movements. It had been arranged that continuous overlapping patrols would fly throughout the day. 2nd Lieutenant Cecil Lewis’ patrol of 3 Squadron was warned against flying too close to La Boisselle, where two mines were due to go up, but would be able to watch from a safe distance. Flying up and down the line in a Morane Parasol, he watched from above Thiepval, almost two miles from La Boisselle, and later described the early morning scene in his book Sagittarius Rising (1936): “We were over Thiepval and turned south to watch the mines. As we sailed down above all, came the final moment. Zero! At Boisselle the earth heaved and flashed, a tremendous and magnificent column rose up into the sky. There was an ear-splitting roar, drowning all the guns, flinging the machine sideways in the repercussing air. The earthly column rose, higher and higher to almost four thousand feet. There it hung, or seemed to hang, for a moment in the air, like a silhouette of some great cypress tree, then fell away in a widening cone of dust and debris. A moment later came the second mine. Again the roar, the upflung machine, the strange gaunt silhouette invading the sky. Then the dust cleared and we saw the two white eyes of the craters. The barrage had lifted to the second-line trenches, the infantry were over the top, the attack had begun.’ Cecil Lewis, whose aircraft was hit by lumps of mud thrown up by the explosion.
As aircraft from 3 Squadron flew over the III Corps area, observers reported that the 34th Division had reached Peake Wood on the right flank, increasing the size of the salient which had been driven into the German lines north of Fricourt but that the villages of La Boisselle and Ovillers had not fallen. On 3 July, air observers noted flares lit in the village during the evening, which were used to plot the positions reached by British infantry.
The Memorial Cross
William Orpen, an official war artist, saw the mine crater in 1916 while touring the Somme battlefield, collecting subjects for paintings and described a wilderness of chalk dotted with shrapnel. John Masefield also visited the Somme, while preparing The Old Front Line (1917), in which he also described the area around the crater as dazzlingly white and painful to look at. After the war the Café de la Grand Mine was built nearby; after the Second World War, many of the smaller craters were filled but the Lochnagar mine crater remained. Attempts to fill it in were resisted and the land was eventually purchased by an Englishman, Richard Dunning to ensure its preservation, after he read The Old Front Line and was inspired to buy a section of the former front line.
Dunning made more than 200 enquiries about land sales in the 1970s and was sold the crater and he erected a memorial cross on the rim of the crater in 1986, using reclaimed timber from a Gateshead church; the cross was struck by lightning shortly after its installation and was repaired with metal banding. The site attracts about 200,000 visitors a year and there is an annual memorial service on 1 July, to commemorate the detonation of the mine and the British, French and German war dead, when poppy petals are scattered into the crater.
Richard Dunning, owner of the crater, has been awarded an MBE in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to First World War remembrance.”
On the way back to Amiens I took a few more photos as a reminder of the rich farming area.
We have finished our tour of the area and now it is time to think about the next part of our journey.
Wednesday 10 October
On the way south we estimated we had about three hours to spare, so Gae looked on the web for somewhere to stop off and enjoy some French countryside. She came up with a Chateau on the edge of the village of Chantilly.
Chantilly was famous last century for the lacework which was produced in the village. As we turned left at the village roundabout we approached an archway on the cobble stone roadway to enter the 115 hectare estate and headed to the car park past the Chateaus main entrance.
The Château de Chantilly is an historic château located in the town of Chantilly, France, about 50 kilometres north of Paris.
The site comprises two attached buildings: the Petit Château built around 1560 for Anne de Montmorency, and the Grand Château, which was destroyed during the French Revolution and rebuilt in the 1870s.
Owned by the Institut de France, the château houses the Musée Condé. It is said to be one of the finest art galleries in France and is open to the public.
The Hall of Honour
The estate’s connection with the Montmorency family began in 1484. The first mansion (no longer in existence, now replaced by the Grand Château) was built, between 1528 and 1531, for Anne de Montmorency by Pierre Chambiges. The Petit Château was also built for him, around 1560, probably by Jean Bullant. In 1632, after the death of Henri II de Montmorency, it passed to his nephew, the Grand Condé, who inherited it through his mother, Charlotte Marguerite de Montmorency.
Some interesting pieces of history are associated with the château during the 17th century. Molière’s play, Les Précieuses ridicules, received its first performance here in 1659. Madame de Sévigné relates in her memoirs that when King Louis XIV of France visited there in 1671, François Vatel, the maître d’hôtel to the Grand Condé, committed suicide when he feared the fish would be served late.
The collection includes important works of the cabinetmaker André-Charles Boulle.
The original mansion was destroyed in the French Revolution. It was repaired in a modest way by Louis Henri II, Prince of Condé, but the entire property was confiscated from the Orléans family, between 1853 and 1872, during which interval it was owned by Coutts, an English bank. Chantilly was entirely rebuilt, between 1875 and 1882, by Henri d’Orléans, duc d’Aumale (1822–1897) to the designs of Honore Daumet. The new château met with mixed reviews. Boni de Castellane summed up one line of thought: “What is today styled a marvel is one of the saddest specimens of the architecture of our era — one enters at the second floor and descends to the salons”. In the end, the Duc d’Aumale bequeathed the property to the Institut de France upon his death in 1897.
The château’s art gallery, the Musée Condé, houses one of the finest collections of paintings in France (after the Louvre). It specialises in French paintings and book illuminations of the 15th and 16th centuries.
Works in the art gallery (many of them are in the Tribune Room) include:
• Sassetta’s Mystic Marriage of St. Francis,
• Botticelli’s Autumn,
• Piero di Cosimo’s Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci,
• Raphael’s Three Graces and Madonna of Loreto,
• Guercino’s Pietà,
• Pierre Mignard’s Portrait of Molière
• four of Antoine Watteau’s paintings
• Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s Le concert champêtre.
Other paintings in the collection include works by Fra Angelico, Filippino Lippi, Hans Memling, 260 paintings and drawings by François and Jean Clouet, Veronese, Barocci, Annibale Carracci, Domenichino, Salvator Rosa, Nicolas Poussin, Philippe de Champaigne, Van Dyck, Guido Reni, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Joshua Reynolds, Eugène Delacroix, Ingres, Géricault.
The library of the Petit Château contains over 1500 manuscripts and 17,500 printed volumes, that is part of the collection of over 700 incunabula, and some 300 medieval manuscripts, including one page of the Registrum Gregorii (c. 983), the Les très riches heures du Duc de Berry, the Ingeborg Psalter and 40 miniatures from Jean Fouquet’s Book of Hours of Etienne Chevalier.
Park and Chantilly Racecourse
The main French formal garden, featuring extensive parterres and water features, was laid out principally by André Le Nôtre for the Grand Condé. The park also contains a French landscape garden with a cascade, pavilions, and a rustic ersatz village, the Hameau de Chantilly. The latter inspired the Hameau de la reine of Marie Antoinette in the Gardens of Versailles.
The estate overlooks the Chantilly Racecourse and the Grandes Écuries (Great Stables) which contains the Living Museum of the Horse. According to legend, Louis Henri, Duc de Bourbon, Prince of Condé believed that he would be reincarnated as a horse after his death. In 1719, he asked the architect, Jean Aubert to build stables suitable to his rank.
The World Monuments Fund included the site in the 1998 World Monuments Watch to call attention to water infiltration and high humidity in the Galerie des Actions de Monsieur le Prince, and again in the 2002 World Monuments Watch due to the precarious condition of the entire estate.
Funding for restoration work was provided from various sources, including American Express and the Generali Group. Subsequently, in response to an appeal for the restoration of the château, The Aga Khan donated €40m, accounting for more than half of a €70m needed by the Institut de France to complete the project. In 2008 the World Monuments Fund completed the restoration of the Grande Singerie, a salon with paintings on the walls of monkeys engaged in human activities, once a fashionable salon motif, but with few examples surviving today.
• The château and the Great Stables were featured in the 1985 James Bond movie A View to a Kill, as the home of villainous Max Zorin (played by Christopher Walken) which was being infiltrated by Bond (played for the last time by Roger Moore) in his quest to find out more about Zorin, who had already aroused suspicions of MI6 with various business activities, and ultimately eliminate him.
• Pink Floyd performed, on two consecutive nights, at the château during their The Division Bell tour on July 30–31, 1994.
• Every two years, in June, the “Nuits de Feu” international fireworks competition is held in the château’s garden.
• Ronaldo married model and MTV VJ Daniela Cicarelli in the château in 2005. The ceremony reportedly cost €700,000.
• Every May, a rowing regatta, the Trophee des Rois, is held in the grounds. French university crews compete in the 750m race for a trophy.
• David Gilmour, guitarist and singer of Pink Floyd performed at the venue on 16 July 2016 as part of his Rattle That Lock world tour.
• The video game Battlefield 1 features a level that is based around the Château called “Ballroom Blitz”.