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Picture of the outside of the Ring of Remembrance memorial, Ablain-Saint-Nazaire

The Ring of Remembrance – Ablain-Saint- Nazaire

This is the only international monument built in France for the centenary of the Great War. The Ring of Remembrance was born of the desire to bring together posthumously the names of almost 600,000 soldiers who fell during the first World War in Nord-Pas de Calais, without making any distinction by nationality, gender, or religion. This architectural achievement is the work of architect Philippe Prost. It is situated in the middle of the largest cemeteries and international memorials on the hills of the Artois

The Ring of Remembrance, Lorette - a unique symbol

The Ring of Remembrance at the Notre-Dame de Lorette Memorial is a monument that is unique in its genre. 579, 606 names are engraved there one after another on a series of 500 steel plaques arranged in an ellipse and presented as something somewhere between an open book and a circle of memory. The result is powerful. “This monument is the culmination of Daniel Percheron’s determination”, explains Edouard Roose, advisor for Remembrance Tourism at ‘Nord Tourisme’. “It refers back to Washington; such a focal point for families. It also acknowledges that the rich World War heritage in Nord-Pas de Calais needs to be displayed, re-evaluated and known to all.” 

The Ring of Remembrance
  • The Ring of Remembrance
  • © Jérôme POUILLE, Philippe PROST
People from about forty nations united in a symbol of posthumous brotherhood.

The Ring of Remembrance - a compelling project

The architect, Philippe Prost, chosen for his Ring of Remembrance design, has succeeded in creating a structure that brings together nature, the landscape, art and history in the name of remembrance and also, therefore, in the name of the future. This memorial, located between the basilica at Notre-Dame de Lorette and the village of Ablain-Saint-Nazair, carries a strong message. The overwhelming list of names are presented in alphabetical order, without any distinction of nationality, gender, rank or religion, unifying all the dead in a kind of eternal brotherhood and giving a message of universal peace. It is a tangible yet fragile peace, symbolised by the 500 metal plaques forming a vast ellipse poised in a previously shattered landscape.

Picture of the outside of the Ring of Remembrance memorial, Ablain-Saint-Nazaire
  • The Ring of Remembrance
  • © Jérôme Pouille

Lorette guards, soldiers of peace and remembrance

The Lorette guards are easy to spot in their black berets, tricolour armbands and badges. Jean Pierre Inghels, Emmanuel Risselin and Bernard Vandoore are on duty today. “We are part of the Noyelles-Godault company. Each group (about twenty in all, making a total of over 4,000 volunteers united by the association) sends people to stand guard for one day each year.” Standing guard has taken place since 1927 and is a commitment to paying homage to all the soldiers who fell during the Battle for Artois. “We open and close the site, and also welcome and inform visitors and show them around. It is a voluntary commitment, motivated by the deep duty to remember. We have sworn an oath! And whatever the weather - we will be here!” 

Jean Pierre Inghels, Emmanuel Risselin and Bernard Vandooren, Lorette guards
  • Jean Pierre Inghels, Emmanuel Risselin and Bernard Vandooren, Lorette guards
  • © Claire Decraene
Aerial view of Notre-Dame de Lorette, National Necropolis of France
  • Notre-Dame de Lorette, National Necropolis of France
  • © Philippe FRUTIER

Panorama of the Lorette ridge and countryside

A 165 ridge with stunning views - the Loos-en-Gohelle slag heaps and Mont-Saint-Eloi abbey’s towers.

A font specially created for the memorial

The font used to engrave the names on the Ring of Remembrance was specially designed by Pierre di Sciullo - a graphic artist, typographer and French type designer. It is officially called ‘Lorette’. The first engraved name is that of a Nepalese serving for the British in the merchant navy. The last is of a German. There are so many personal stories here, including those of  Katherine Maud McDonald, a Canadian nursing sister killed in an air attack on the Etaples hospital in 1918, and further on there is the famous young English poet, Wilfred Owen, who fell in at Ors in the Avesnois (see ‘la Maison des Illustres’ below, which recounts this tale).

The font on the Lorette Memorial
  • A font specially created for the memorial
  • © Claire Decraene

Things to discover in Notre-Dame de Lorette

History and a place of pilgrimage

Pilgrimages to Notre-Dame de Lorette date back to 1727. The ruins of a chapel from 1870 have been uncovered. The Romano-Byzantine basilica was built after the war by the architect Cordonnier. 

The war and the Battle of Artois

French and German troops fought over this 6 km patch of land from October 1914 to September 1915. The hill was captured by the Germans at the start of the war, and liberated in May 1915. 200,000 died. 

Things to do in Lorette

Immerse yourself in the site and its history, explore the basilica, ossuary and the Ring of Remembrance. Enjoy the countryside, go walking. Visit the 14/18 Living Museum and the heritage in Lens-Liévin.