FRANCE PICARDY Albert notre dame WIKIAlbert (pop 10,415) is located between the cities of Amiens and Bapaume. Although this mid-sized town was founded by the Romans way back in 54 BC, it is best known today, for being the opening site of The Battle of Somme, one of the largest and costliest battles to be fought during the First World War. The Battle of Albert was intended to be the first offensive move by the British and the French, in an effort to curb the spread of the German forces. However, the Germans managed to attack this area first. Hence this town is usually the first stop on any tour that traces the path of this event. The seemingly ordinary streets of Albert hide the massive destruction that befell the town in 1916, when the first few German bombs landed.

The current Basilica of Notre-Dame de Brebières was one of the first few buildings to be hit. Its golden statue of the Virgin Mary holding an infant Jesus was almost toppled by one of the shells that struck it. However, the statue amazingly held on to its base, tilting to an angle for some time; earning itself the nickname the Leaning Virgin. Many stories circulated about this statue, with some even believing that the first side that topples the statue would be the one to lose the war. The statue finally fell in 1918, when the British managed to recapture the town. Unfortunately, it was never recovered. However, an exact replica of the original statue was made during the restoration works that took place in the town right after the war. The Basilica Notre-Dame de Brebières still stands today, and now houses the Musée Somme [Rue Anicet Godin, +33 322751617 ad/ch €5/3] – a trench museum that offers an introductory overview of the Battle of Somme, with exhibits that depict the trench life during the war. It also features WWI weapons, as well as uniforms.


ALBERT STREET MAP   1. Tourist Office  2. Train Station  3. Basilica Notre-Dame de Brebières

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