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Webmatters : The Battle of Verdun 1916 : Douaumont Ossuaire

Douaumont Ossuary


The French Military Cemetery and its Ossuary lie at the very hear of the Verdun battlefield.

Clearly sign posted from all directions the two major routes from Verdun are via the D 112 which brings you directly up through the forest to the Memorial Museum or, alternatively by remaining on the D 630 and turning left on to the D 913 (which passes by the route leading to Fort Vaux). From the Memorial Museum the ossuary is visible and parking can be found alongside.

Decimal49.207975.42253 Map
The ossuary from the cemetery

Historical Information

Sitting on the ridge of Thiaumont and only a few hundred metres away from the fort, the Ossuaire de Douaumont contains the remains of 130,000 unknown French and German soldiers who fell on the battlefields of Verdun.

Town coats of arms

Coats of arms from various towns

The Ossuary was raised by a committee led by Monseigneur Ginisty, the Bishop of Verdun who collected subscriptions not only throughout France but internationally as well. Around the outside of the building you can see the coats of arms of all the cities which donated money towards the project.

Work was begun on 22 August 1920, by which time there was already a provisional ossuary on the site. The remains of the dead were transferred to their vaults in the new ossuary in 1927 and the monument was finally officially inaugurated after twelve and a half years on 7 April 1932 by President Albert Lebrun.

The ossuary and tower at Douaumont

The forty-six metre central tower is roughly shaped like a shell and the monument is 137 metres long.

Inside there are twenty-two alcoves, each containing a pair of tombs. They represent the forty-six sectors of the Verdun Battlefield. On the wall above each tomb there is an inscription showing the area of the battlefield from where the bodies were recovered. Each tomb covers an eighteen cubic metre vault.

Some areas gave up far more bodies than could be contained in a single vault and these extra bodies are housed in two 150 cubic metre vaults, one at each end of the cloister.

Quick maths check: (18*2*18)+(2*150) = 948 cubic metres.

The equivalent of a box as tall as a man, 3.5 metres wide and running the entire length of the monument.

Around the walls are inscribed the names of missing soldiers from both armies.

It is still possible to have the name of a fallen grandparent inscribed on one of the plaques.

Within the Roman-Byzantine styled chapel you will find the tomb of Monseigneur Ginisty. The fine stained glass windows are the work of Georges Desvalliers.

The tower was one of the first parts of the ensemble to be built and was a gift of Americans. For a small fee you can climb the 204 steps for an excellent view of the battlefield.

Looking across the cemetery towards the Memorial Museum

Looking across towards the Memorial Museum

Immediately opposite the ossuary is the Nécropole nationale de Fleury-devant-Douaumont, French Military Cemetery.

Visiting hours

Last entry times to the tower are one hour before closing time.

Opening TimesHoraires
February and March Février et Mars
09:00 to 12:00 hours
14:00 to 17:00 hours
9h00 à 12h00
14h00 à 17h00
April, May & June Avril, Mai et Juin
09:00 to 18:00 hours 9h00 à 18h00
July & August Juillet et Août
0910:00 to 18:30 hours 9h00 à 18h30
September Septembre
09:00 to 18:00 hours 9h00 à 18h00
October & November Octobre et Novembre
09:00 to 17:30 hours 09h00 à 17h30
December Décembre
14:00 to 17:00 hours 14h00 à 17h00
Open Public Holidays except
25th December
Ouvert les jours fériés sauf
le 25 décembre
January Janvier
Entrance FeeTarifs
6.50€ Adult
3€ Child/enfant (8—16)
4.50€ Students/étudiant

The above is a basic guide but I strongly recommend that visitors check with the Ossuary itself because there are a few complicated exceptions.