Also known as Ablain Saint-Nazaire French Military Cemetery, Notre Dame de Lorette contains the remains of 40,000 soldiers, as well as the ashes of many concentration camp victims. Located in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, this is the world’s largest French military cemetery, and its location isn’t a coincidence — the focal point of the three deadly battles of Artois, the ground was strategically important during World War I and was bitterly contested in a series of long and bloody engagements between the French and German armies over the course of a year.
The 25-hectare cemetery is located atop the 165-meter-high Notre Dame de Lorette hill and comprises 20,000 individual graves, laid out with no regards to rank or military training – hence why General Ernest Barbot, commander of the French 77th Mountain Division, is buried alongside one of his privates. The cemetery’s mission goes far beyond commemorating French soldiers: it is a living homage to every victim of every war. The site also contains a basilica, a lantern-tower, a museum, an east-facing Muslim cemetery and several ossuaries.
To mark the 100th anniversary of World War I on Nov. 11, 2014, President François Hollande unveiled a memorial named “Memory Ring;” the circular 300-ton monument features the names of the 600,000 soldiers who were killed in action between 1914 and 1918 in Nord-Pas-de-Calais.