Last modified: 2011-10-28 by ivan sache
Keywords: haute-marne | colombey-les-deux-eglises | de gaulle (charles) |
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The municipality of Colombey-les-Deux-Églises (678 inhabitants in 2006; 7,363 ha), located in the borders of Champagne, Lorraine and Burgundy, was in the past a stopping place on the road Paris-Basle. The destiny of Colombey changed in 1933 when Charles de Gaulle bought there the estate of La Boisserie, where he retired when he abandoned the power in 1946 and then 1969, and eventually died. Colombey is today a place of pilgrimage, especially since a huge cross of Lorraine was built on the "Mountain" dominating the village.
De Gaulle bought the estate La Boisserie, a former brewery
(brasserie) in May 1934. He selected Colombey because the village was
located half-distance between Paris and Germany, where he was then
posted most the time.
The house was severely damaged during the Second World War: the roof burned down and a wall crashed down.
De Gaulle resigned from the Presidency of the Republic on 20 January 1946; on 30 May, he and his family could come back to the house, to which an angle tower and a porch over the entrance gate had been added. The house was not significantly modified since then. The period from 1946 to 1958 is known as la traversée du désert (the crossing of the desert). De Gaulle mostly stayed in Colombey, where he wrote his Mémoires de Guerre and prepared his return to the power. In the municipal election of 1947, de Gaulle, although not candidate, was elected, but he refused the mandate.
In 1958, de Gaulle invited in Colombey the German Chancellor Konrad
Adenauer, and this visit was the first step of the Franco-German
reconciliation. Adenauer was the only foreign head of state invited in
In 1960, the cyclist Tour de France stopped in Colombey. The race director, Jacques Goddet, was told that de Gaulle was staying in Colombey, crossed by the Tour during the 20th stage Besançon-Troyes. The whole pack stopped for two minutes. De Gaulle first greeted the Champion of France Henri Anglade, then the leader of the race, Gastone Nencini, telling him: Bravo ! Maintenant vous avez gagné ! Paris n'est plus loin ! (Congratulations! Now you've won! Paris is not far!).
On 27 April 1969, de Gaulle resigned a second time from the Presidency
after the negative answer to a referendum, and retired in Colombey.
On 9 November 1970 around 19:00, de Gaulle sat down in order to play
patience; he was hit by an aortic aneuvrismal rupture and died
In his will, written in 1952, de Gaulle refused any public hommage to his body, except from his brother-in-arms members of the Liberation Order and from the people of Colombey. He was buried in the village cemetary of Colombey. In parallel, an official ceremony involving 80 heads of state took place in the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris.
The village of Colombey is dominated by a small hill (397 m), locally
called Montagne. On 18 June 1972, the Memorial made of a huge cross
of Lorraine was inaugurated on the Mountain.
In 1954, de Gaulle said to a journalist: "Look at that hill. It is the highest here. After my death, they will build there a Cross of Lorraine". According to André Malraux, de Gaulle added: "Nobody will come, except rabbits involved in resistance actions".
On 23 March 1971, a National Committee, acknwledged by de Gaulle's family, was set up, presided by Henri Duvillard, Minister of the War Veterans and patroned by President of the Republic Georges Pompidou. The Committee selected the highest place of Colombey as the place for the Memorial. Several millions of French people and donators from 77 foreign countries contributed to the funding of the project. Lebanon offered 1,000 cedars planted on the hill during a separate ceremony. A plot of land of 30 ha was purchased and the Memorial was selected among 12 proposals on 3 November 1971. The selected proposal was made public on 7 January 1972. The building site started on 25 January and the Memorial was inaugurated on 18 June.
The designers of the Memorial are the architects Marc Nebinger and Michel Mosser. The cross weights 1,500 tons and is 43.50 m high. It is made of Breton pink granit blocks and bronze shields. A museum should be build in 2006 near the Memorial.
Ivan Sache, 9 November 2004
Flag of Colombey used in Assens - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 9 November 2004
While there is no municipal flag flying in Colombey, as confirmed by the municipal administration, there is a flag of Colombey flying in the Swiss municipality of Assens (Vaud), which has been twinned with Colombey since 2002. A square banner of the arms of Colombey is hoisted on the Assens town hall.
Nicolas Desprez, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 9 November 2004