Utter Destruction In World War One: "Old Church" in Ablain St-Nazaire

There are battlefield tour sights you visit that resonate with you for days after your see them for the first time.  One of these spots for me is the ruins of the "Old Chruch" in Ablain St-Nazaire outside Arras, near Vimy Ridge. The majesty of the original architecture of the church is felt as I wandered around on the grass and gazed up at the spaces where glass would have been.  Intricate and bold stonework remain from the church stonemasons of 1505. The French army destroyed it in 1914, to prevent the Germans from using it as an observation point.  The French Council for historic buildings in 1923 decided to leave the ruins as they were as a reminder of the physical destruction suffered in war - the plaque states the church ruins stands as a "symbolic sign against war's abonimations".  It took the lives of 100,000 men to reconquest the ground from the Germans in 1915.  The village Ablain St-Nazaire has been totally rebuilt around these ruins.  When we drove through all the neighbouring villages and farms for the rest of the trip, I couldn't stop imagining the whole area being destroyed right down to the mud.  The reconstruction effort after the war must have been gargantuan.

 Originally built in 1505, the remaining ruins that resisted shelling in May, 1915 by the French.  They stand as a testimony of the destruction of war.

Originally built in 1505, the remaining ruins that resisted shelling in May, 1915 by the French.  They stand as a testimony of the destruction of war.

 Some Canadian soldiers who were advancing to the front lines took the time to carve their names into the limestone blocks here; the effects of time and weather slowly eroding these personalized stories and signatures to visitors.

Some Canadian soldiers who were advancing to the front lines took the time to carve their names into the limestone blocks here; the effects of time and weather slowly eroding these personalized stories and signatures to visitors.

 A photo from the collection of Major Mathews, Vancouver City Archive, 1916.

A photo from the collection of Major Mathews, Vancouver City Archive, 1916.

 Ablain St-Nazaire, 1918, painting by John William Beatty, empoyed as an official war artist; image in Canadian War Museum Collection, Ottawa, Canada.

Ablain St-Nazaire, 1918, painting by John William Beatty, empoyed as an official war artist; image in Canadian War Museum Collection, Ottawa, Canada.