Ruins of the church of Ablain-Saint-Nazaire © Matthieu Béquart APATRuins of the church of Ablain-Saint-Nazaire © Matthieu Béquart APAT
©Ruins of the church of Ablain-Saint-Nazaire © Matthieu Béquart APAT|Matthieu Bequart

The Church of Ablain-Saint-Nazaire

Ablain-Saint-Nazaire has two churches. In the center of this village of nearly 2,000 inhabitants, the New Church, the usual place of worship, dates from the interwar period. At the eastern entrance, the Old Church is only a ruin. It was built in the 16th century by Charles de Bourbon-Carency, lord of the manor, who wished to show his gratitude to Saint Nazaire who had contributed to the healing of his daughter. It was built by Jacques Le Caron, architect of the upper part of the belfry of Arras.

The horrors of war

Ablain occupies a strategic position, at the foot of the Notre-Dame de Lorette plateau. In October 1914, the Germans seized it. The French troops did not stop trying to reconquer the Notre-Dame de Lorette spur which, with Vimy, dominated Arras on one side and Lens and its coal mines on the other. On May 9, 1915, the French went on the attack after six days of bombardment. They succeeded in breaking through the German lines but could not exploit this initial success. After 15 days of savage fighting and the loss of 102,000 men, Vimy Ridge remained beyond their reach. Carency and Ablain, reconquered at the same time as Lorette, were in ruins, including the church of Saint-Nazaire.

The hazards of Reconstruction

At the end of the conflict, the Commission des Monuments Historiques, which classified this church in 1908, decided not to rebuild it: “These moving ruins must be preserved as a witness to German vandalism.” The people of Ablain pointed out that it was the French cannons that had brought down the building; they understood that the State did not want to bear the cost of restoring the ruined church. In 1922, the municipality decided to build a new church on a piece of land opposite the town hall. Until its completion in 1932, it is a barrack offered by the Canadians which will be used as a temporary place of worship.
As for the Old Church, which threatened to collapse, the Historic Monuments consolidated its ruins in 1983. Thus, they continue to bear witness to the horrors of war and the hazards of reconstruction.