|Notre Dame de Lorette is the name of a ridge, basilica, and cemetery northwest of Arras at the village of Ablain-Saint-Nazaire. The high point of the hump-backed ridge stands 165 metres high and - with Vimy Ridge - utterly dominates the otherwise flat Douai plain and the town of Arras.|
The ground was strategically important during the First World War and was bitterly contested in a series of long and bloody engagements between the opposing French and German armies. It was the focal point of three battles:
First Battle of Artois (27 September–10 October 1914) - an encounter battle during the Race to the Sea.
Second Battle of Artois (9 May–15 May 1915) - French attack towards Vimy Ridge.
Third Battle of Artois (25 September–15 October 1915) - also known as the Artois-Loos Offensive.
The Battles of Artois were as costly in French lives as the better-known Battle of Verdun. With Verdun, Notre Dame de Lorette became a national necropolis, sacred ground containing the graves of thousands of French and Colonial fallen, as well as an ossuary, containing the bones of those whose names were not marked. In total, the site contains the remains of nearly 40,000 soldiers, as well as the ashes of many concentration camp victims.