Abruptly turning the steering wheel, he directed the van along an ever-climbing and sharply twisting road until we arrived at the top and I saw the sign. Mark had decided to surprise me with a visit to La Petite Chapelle (the little chapel) perched high on an overlook above Mortain in Normandy, France.
Walking down a gravel path through the fragrant pines, we reached the tiny stone chapel, built in the late 1700s and then reconstructed in the 1850s, which is now dedicated to the American forces who lost their lives defending this strategic position from the advancing German troops and tanks during World War II.
Two marble memorial plaques stand in commemoration of their sacrifice.
The 30th Infantry is particularly highlighted and honoured for their role in the staggeringly intense Battle of Mortain as related in this historical report.
When you pass through the outcropping of boulders that snug the sides of the tiny chapel and venture out to the back, a steep set of stone stairs is set into that shallow bit of remaining land behind the chapel and those stairs lead to a viewing platform.
The chapel itself is perched rather close to the end of the summit and you only realise that when you stand on the viewing platform and look back.
As long as you are not afraid of heights, the view from the top is breathtaking. On a clear day you are able to see for miles around including the seacoast beyond and Mont St. Michel in the distance. It’s obvious from the panoramic view that the American forces which were holding this position knew how vital it was to keep this high ground so that they could not only see any German troops on the way, they could maintain an ability to rain their weapons fire down onto the Germans who were struggling up the steep terrain.
Today the land around the chapel in the woods is a silent place, a peaceful place — but still filled with memories and echoes of the past.
©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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20/11/2011 at 12:59 PM Comments (2)