The First World War left indelible traces on the Lorraine landscape. In and around Verdun, monuments help to fulfil the duty of remembrance, at the very place where the famous battle that killed 300,000 was fought.
The sites can be accessed via the Sacred Way, a strategic road from Bar-le-Duc to Verdun that was used for transporting soldiers and equipment, as well as supplies during the battle. Its number is RD1916 and there are bollards topped with helmets along the way.
A tribute to the Veterans, the Verdun Memorial was inaugurated in 1967, on the site of the train station in the village of Fleury-devant-Douaumont. There visitors can see how the battle unfolded with an audiovisual show featuring the military personnel involved, the general staff, artillerymen and airmen, as well as showing what everyday life was like behind the front, where the wounded were treated and evacuated.
Douaumont Fort, built in 1885, played an important role in defence around Verdun. After falling to the Germans, then being recaptured a few months later, it housed 3,000 soldiers living in overcrowded conditions, 700 of whom were the victims of an accidental munition explosion.
Also in Douaumont is the ossuary of the same name, erected to house the remains of 130,000 unidentified soldiers. It adjoins a military cemetery that contains the graves of 15,000 French soldiers.
Not far from there, the Bayonet Trench is where a French infantry section was found buried in June 1916.
A major site in the Battle of Verdun, Fort Vaux put up a heroic fight against the Germany Army's attacks for four months, which would end in hand-to-hand combat inside the fort. After surrendering with the honours of war, the French recaptured it a few months later. After taking Fort Vaux, the Germans attacked Fort Souville and seized the Thiaumont Fortress. The Souville rest area is the start of a marked itinerary that takes you to see the ruins of the fort from the outside.
Evacuated during the fighting, the villages of Beaumont-en-Verdunois, Bezonvaux, Cumières-le-Mort-Homme, Douaumont, Fleury-devant-Douaumont, Haumont-près-Samogneux, Louvemont-Côte-du-Poivre, Ornes and Vaux-devant-Damloup were totally destroyed. Of these nine villages, only three were rebuilt.
The world capital of Peace, the city of Verdun invites visitors to reflect on its history at the underground citadel and at the Memorial.
Commemorations are organised every year in the department of Meuse, as well as many guided tours all year round.