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Published: September 19th 2015
Street scene - Flemish style
ARRAS - Monumental Rebuild after WW1
The city of Arras – a bit further north towards Belgium from the Somme area in France – provides us with a nice area to camp in.
The city has a lively vibe. Its Saturday afternoon and we pass by huge outdoor market plazas and notice a very different type of architecture.
We enjoy central France with their cobbled pavement, old buildings ( 17th
century etc) and narrow streets (even though many are impossible to drive a motor home through and we have interesting situations – buts that’s for another blog).
As we moved through the Champagne region the streets become wider, the houses more decorative and more generously proportioned- even though they are centuries old.
Then as we reach the Somme area we notice the houses are detached, being situated on separate pieces of land with cartilage and much more modern – similar vintage to many Australian cold climate houses – but the roof is France always has a steep pitch.
Now in Arras we see very few older buildings and find out that the city was almost totally flattened in WW1.
AARAS WW1 SITES 1
Arras cathedral after WW1
Should they rebuild??
as I said its Saturday afternoon and we walk amongst the Flemish style buildings, and into the main city square where there are 2 bands playing. one finishes a tune. The band on the other side of the square fires up with a new rendition. The music puts everyone in a happy mood.
As we get to the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) we see wedding parties. The marriages are scheduled 20 minutes apart and the fully frocked and be-suited are coming and going with their respective entourages, gathered friends and camp followers. We ask an assistant at the Mairie ( city/ mayor’s office) what’s on. She says that there is nothing in particular on – it just happens like this.
So after enjoying the atmosphere for a bit we take a look at the Cathedral next door.
Its a strikingly large and stylish building. Quite astonishing to look at and a feeling of humungously generous proportions from the inside. Its style is very different to any other cathedral we have visited. There is a plain simplicity about it but with that French flair for style. Withing the main
After the rebuild
body of the church my eyes were guided by rows of columns that converge toward the altar so as to focus towards the altar - and then drawn to a rear altar of Our Lady some 40 or so meters behind the main altar. Architects have used the structure and natural lighting through high stained glass windows to highlight the main altar and Our lady’s Chapel beyond the main altar. ( It was raining outside so ambient light was not strong, yet the effect was powerful.)
But that’s not what’s amazing about Arras’ St Vaast Abbey and Cathedral.
What i see as truly amazing is how this magnificent structure was rebuilt from 1920 to 1934 after being three quarters destroyed by German forces in WW1.
That rebuilding must have taken enormous commitment as there was considerable debate in favour of leaving the pile of rubble as a monument to the war.
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