France: Albert – Basilica of Notre-Dame de Brebières

Albert was the central town during the Battle of Somme in WWI. In the heart of town stood the slender Basilica of Notre-Dame de Brebières with a golden statue of Mary and baby Jesus on top of its spire. The church became the symbol of the war when shelling hit the statue in 1915 and it slumped over to one side but didn’t fall. The British believed that whoever destroyed the basilica and completely knocked off the tower would win the war. The Germans on the other hand believed that knocking down the cathedral was the key to victory. For most of the war the town was in British hands and Germans tried to hit the basilica with artillery fire. In 1918, Germany went on offensive and while retreating, the British accidentally hit the church while shooting at Germans and destroyed it. But still won the war eventually… The basilica was fully rebuilt and a new golden statue was put on top (the original one disappeared without a trace). Today, it’s a beautiful mosaic-laden church with fantastic decorations inside and out.