Twilight on the Towers of Mont-Saint-EloiTwilight on the Towers of Mont-Saint-Eloi
©Twilight on the Towers of Mont-Saint-Eloi|Cituation et Ensemble
The Two TowersMont-Saint-Eloi

Ruins of the Towers of the Abbey of Mont-Saint-Eloi

On a hill overlooking Arras, the two mutilated towers of Mont Saint-Eloi bear witness to both the grandeur of an abbey that spread throughout the Artois region, and to the violence of the Great War battles in this area.

Medieval origins

According to legend, the abbey was founded in the 7th century by Saint Vindicien, a disciple of Saint Eloi. During the Revolution, the church was transformed into a quarry. Only the white stone towers and the porch of the western facade are preserved.

Nest of spies

Beginning in 1914, these towers served as observation posts for French troops watching the Germans on the hills of Lorette and Vimy. As the enemy fired at every movement of the French soldiers, the latter looked for the spy before discovering that the Germans were in fact relying on the flight of the birds that nested on the building.

Two mutilated towers, as a call for peace

In 1915, the cannonade shells the top floor of the towers, reduced from 53 to 44 meters high. They will be classified as historical monuments in 1921. Following their acquisition by the General Council of Pas-de-Calais in 2004, important and indispensable consolidation work was undertaken there. For these ruins constitute a kind of “living” monument, both an illustration of the misfortunes of war and a call for peace.

In early 1916, the British army relieved the French troops in the area. In the cemetery in the hamlet of Ecoivres, at the foot of the hill, the latter opened a military plot to bury 786 of their dead, including those from the 1915 fighting. If the nearby railroad allowed supplies to be transported to the combat zones, it was also used to bring back the men who had fallen. This explains the particular organization of Ecoivres Military Cemetery: from the French plot towards the Cross of Sacrifice, the soldiers, mostly British and Canadian, were buried in chronological order. To the soldiers of the 46th (North Midland) Division who relieved in March 1916, thus succeed the men of the 25th Division who suffered the German attack at the foot of Vimy in May 1916, then those of the 47th London Division who fell between July and October 1916, and finally the Canadians who perished during their assault on Vimy Ridge in April 1917.