Bezonvaux: A window into No Man's Land

By Durham University

The Battle of Verdun in 1916 claimed 300,000 lives. Over 1,000,000 were wounded. Entire villages were so completely devastated, they would never be rebuilt - forever displacing communities from their homes. In the destroyed village of Bezonvaux, 15 km from Verdun, a small chapel is now a memorial to the displaced. The chapel's stained glass offers a striking window into the tragedy of Bezonvaux, and of life and death in the No Man's Land of the Great War.

The village of Bezonvaux was a victim of the 'Grand Guerre'. It was one of nine villages destroyed during the Battle of Verdun (1916), and one of six that was never re-inhabited.

A memorial chapel built within the cratered remains of Bezonvaux marks the sacrifice of the village community.

Stained Glass, Bezonvaux Village Détruit (July 2018) by Elliot GravesDurham University

The chapel's stained-glass window, designed by the famed French glass-maker Jacques Gruber (1870-1943), depicts a fictional scene inspired by the very real liberation of Bezovnaux by French troops on 15-16 December 1916.

It provides a lasting window into the devastating effects of No Man's Land on those who fought and those who were displaced during WW1.

In the foreground, a priest blesses the advancing French forces - Bezonvaux's liberators - iconic in their cobalt blue tunics and helmets.

Four figures in khaki uniforms represent the 2nd and 3rd 'Zouaves' and 3rd Algerian infantry - soldiers from French colonies in North Africa who were instrumental in recapturing Bezonvaux in 1916.

Looming over the scene—visible through the shattered walls of the church—is a glimpse of the devastated No Man's Land. The earth is visibly fractured and the trees splintered into ghoulish stumps.

This is also an allegorical image.

Christ's crucified body represents the death and bodily-destruction of war, but also the resurrection and rebirth of a community – albeit one, in the case of the villagers of Bezonvaux, now displaced and dispersed from from the place they once called home.

Credits: Story

Photography and Post Production: Elliot Graves

Producers: Noam Leshem and Alasdair Pinkerton

With Thanks to: Maurice Michelet

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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