Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saint-Lô, France - June 8, 2008

In June 1940, less than a year after the start of WWII, the German army occupied Saint-Lô, a town of 20,000 located on a strategic crossroad in Normandy. Following massive bombing by the American Air Force during the Normandy landings in 1944, the town was estimated to have been 95% destroyed, earning it the dubious title The Capital of Ruins. The damage was so severe by the end of the war, that it was debated whether to rebuild, or simply abandon the place as a memorial.
In the event, reconstruction
won out and was begun in 1948. Saint-Lô is now restored to a quiet market town, the capital of the Manche department in Normandy, and surrounded by farms specializing in the breeding of Thoroughbred race horses.One beneficial side effect of the 1944 bombardment was the unearthing of long since buried medieval ramparts overlooking the river Vire, which were also restored. As partial reparations for the destruction of the city, America established the Memorial Hospital in Saint-Lô, which at the time, was the largest hospital in Europe.
Some of the few standing structures at the close of hostilities were the remnants of the 13th to the 15th century Notre-Dame church, its roof and facade destroyed, as well as one and a half of its two towers. The church was patched up during the post-war restoration but remains something of a kludge to this day. An unusual feature of the church that escaped significant damage, is an outdoor pulpit that had been previously saved from demolition in the 19th century, by Victor Hugo. Brief slideshow here.

1 comment:

Vicki and Don said...

Have I told you lately how much I love reading your blog and looking at your beautiful pictures? I'll probably never get to Europe so I'm living vicariously through you!