The Cross of Lorraine at Colombey-les-deux-Eglise
History of the contruction of the Cross of Lorraine
On the very day following the death of General de Gaulle, a number of initiatives were suggested for monuments to perpetuate his memory.
Towns large and small, villages and associations all expressed a wish to mark in stone their respect for the memory of the nation's liberator and the founder of the new Republic. Some, however, felt that there could be no more fitting memorial to the man and his achievements than a massive cross of Lorraine, erected by popular enthusiasm in the very spot chosen by the General himself for his meditations: at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises.
On 23 March 1971, with the agreement of the General's family, a National Committee was set up for this purpose, chaired – at the family's request – by Henri Duvillard, then Minister for Ex-Servicemen and War Victims.
Mr. Duvillard still chairs the National Committee, which has since become the "Institut Charles de Gaulle, Commission for the Memorial to General de Gaulle".
The Committee, which operates under the esteemed patronage of the President of the Republic, is an assembly of figures most representative of the Resistance and of the achievements of the founder of the Fifth Republic on behalf of the nation.
The site chosen was the highest hill in the commune.
The Committee's first task was to call upon the French people, and the generosity of their response is a matter of record. Millions of subscribers contributed to this expression of a nation's gratitude. Sixty seven foreign countries expressed a wish to be associated with the memorial.
Once the necessary resources were thus guaranteed, the project moved into the realisation phase. The first stage was to purchase the land, a site of some 30 hectares, a process simplified by the goodwill of its owners. The next was the choice of monument. Twelve architects were invited to take part in a private competition and the selection was made, with the approval of the families, on 3 November 1971. The project was presented to the press on 7 January 1972.
Only six months remained for the architects, working entirely without payment, to complete the monument before the date of 18 June 1972 set for the inauguration.
The Committee placed great importance on the preservation of the village of Colombey and its environment. The Cross of Lorraine now stands on a site that has been preserved unaltered.
The first ground was broken on 25 January 1972 and the Memorial was inaugurated on the following 18 June by the President of the Republic Georges Pompidou, in the presence of Madame de Gaulle, her family - in particular Admiral Philippe de Gaulle, Elisabeth de Boissieu, General de Boissieu, the Vendroux family, and Henri Duvillard, Minister for Ex-Servicemen and War Victims – in a ceremony also witnessed by a vast crowd and supported by the colours of the regiments in which the illustrious statesman served in the course of his military career.
From as far away as the eye can see, the monument stands in the landscape like a mighty oak. The visitor climbs the hill along forest tracks until suddenly there appears, in the midst of the trees, a paved esplanade from which the great granite symbol rises towards the sky.
Technical aspects of the Cross of Lorraine
- The design of the Memorial is the work of architects Marc Nebinger and Michel Mosser.
- The Cross weighs some 1 500 tonnes in all.
- It is 43.50 metres in height.
- It is made up of blocks of pink granite from Brittany and a bronze plaque.
Visiting the Cross of Lorraine
The Cross of Lorraine may be visited all year long as part of the visit of the Charles de Gaulle Memorial and La Boisserie, the family home of General de Gaulle.