ALBERT BASILICA, ALBERT
Albert was founded by the Romans as Encre around 54 BC. It is only a small town and would not have come to most peoples attention were it not for World War I.
The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Brebières was built between 1885 and 1895. The tower was topped by the famous Albert Roze statue known as the Golden Virgin a Madonna and child statue.
Early in World War I, January 15, 1915 to be precise, the Basilica was hit by a shell. The statue of the Golden Virgin toppled and fell to a near horizontal position, but it did not drop from the tower.
For the rest of the War legends became associated with the statue which soon was dubbed The Leaning Virgin. The Germans considered that whoever made the statue fall would loose the War. The Leaning Virgin became a popular sight for the British soldiers who headed through Albert on their way to the butchery of the Somme, only three miles away.
In 1918 the Germans took Albert and the British, in order to stop the Germans using the tower as a look out, bombed the Basilica. In April 1918 the statue finally fell. The legends were not true though as the British eventually won World War I. The statue was never recovered.
After the War the town of Albert was rebuilt from scratch. The Basilica was also rebuilt but entirely as it was before. The original architects son, Eduoard Duthoit, oversaw its construction. A replica of the Golden Virgin was erected on top of the tower in its original upright position.
Albert is now one of the centres for World War I trail visitors and has a museum about the fighting here.
Photo - Andrew J. Müller
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