The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Click to see full size Photo © John East
Photo © John East
Photo © John East

War memorials

France: Mémorial des batailles de la Marne, Dormans

Architect: M. Marcel & Georges Alexandre Closson
Location: Dormans, France

This dominating and elaborate building is ecclesiastical in both style and form and was built at the initiative of the Catholics of France in reaction to the secular, republican character of other memorials – the conflict between church and state in France having been particularly bitter in the years before 1914. The moving force was Madame de la Rochefoucauld, Duchesse d’Estissac, who convened a committee in 1919 consisting of Cardinal Luçon, Archbishop of Reims, cardinal Tissier, Bishop of Châlons, and Marshal Foch – who suggested the site, in the grounds of the château of Dormans, as being “le point synthétique des deux batailles de la Marne”. Work began on the ‘Chapelle de la Reconnaissance’ in 1921 and it was completed ten years later. The original competition-winning design was by the architect M. Marcel but it was Georges Alexandre Closson who carried the project through. The main chapel is lit from above by a square lantern supporting a spire. There are stained glass windows by Lorin of Chartres and the whole building is rich in sculpture. Below is a crypt and ossuary containing the bones of some 1,500 unidentified soldiers of various nationalities.

Gavin Stamp

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