In Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, the Charles-de-Gaulle Memorial looks back on the personality of de Gaulle (1890-1970) and, through him, on the great historical events of the 20th century.
Inaugurated in 2008 to complete and enrich the cultural offer around the famous general, the Memorial is a must for all those who visit Colombey.
Article produced in partnership with Haute-Marne Tourism
Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises: a village inseparable from Charles de Gaulle
In 1934, Yvonne and Charles de Gaulle bought a property in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises. This family home allowed them to raise their three children in a restful setting and offered Charles proximity to both the garrisons in the East and to Paris, where he frequently had to travel.
The de Gaulle family retained a strong attachment to Colombey. The General would continue to go there at least every other weekend, even when he was President of the Republic. It is also in the Colombey cemetery that Charles and Yvonne de Gaulle are buried, along with their daughter Anne.
The history of Charles de Gaulle in a few key dates
A student at Saint Cyr who became a General and then a Resistance commander, de Gaulle became, after the Second World War, President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic and then the first President of the Fifth Republic.
Explore the highlights of Charles de Gaulle’s life with this interactive timeline:
Visit the Charles de Gaulle Memorial in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises
Inaugurated in 2008, the Charles-de-Gaulle Memorial was born of the desire of the Charles-de-Gaulle Foundation and the Haute-Marne General Council to create a space dedicated to the personality of the General and, more broadly, to the great historical events of the 20th century.
With a particularly immersive scenography, the Memorial invites us to take a leap in time to better understand the life of de Gaulle and the history of France in the last century.
Did you know that? The personal effects of de Gaulle were destroyed
Charles de Gaulle had made the wish that his personal objects be destroyed, thus wanting to avoid any fetishism around his person “One does not collect the buttons of the General!”. On the evening of his death, his wife Yvonne burned most of his personal objects as well as his mail.
As a result, the Memorial is not in a position to present objects that belonged to the General. However, this constraint has a major advantage: without valuable objects, the Memorial’s scenography is free of display cases, offering the visitor a real proximity to the mediation devices.
On three levels, the visit goes back to de Gaulle’s childhood, inhabited from a very young age by the greatness of France and by the desire to reach the highest positions. In a space reconstituting a trench, we discover his journey during the Great War where he was wounded three times before being captured by German troops, a situation that will make him spend two years in prison and that will leave him with the bitter feeling of having been useless for his country.
Between the two wars, de Gaulle militated – in vain – for a mechanical army of movement. In spite of his publications and his insistence to the politicians, he did not manage to change the trajectory of the French generals who stubbornly insisted on reinforcing their defensive strategy with the construction of the Maginot Line. Nevertheless, he was placed at the head of an armored unit and obtained one of the rare French victories at the beginning of the Second World War.
On June 17, 1940, Marshal Pétain asked the Germans for an armistice. Refusing to surrender, de Gaulle flew to London and launched his famous appeal on the radio the next day, urging the French to join the resistance. The Memorial retraces the epic of the Resistance until the Liberation, with a room that gives us (almost) the impression of being at the side of the General on the Champs Élysées.
After the war, he was appointed President of the provisional government of the French Republic before resigning due to disagreement on the conception of the State and the role of the parties. It is only twelve years later that he will return to power, to establish a new Constitution and thus become the first president of the Fifth Republic.
The visit shows us the profound reforms launched by de Gaulle, a resolutely European personality. In the France of the 60’s, it was time for modernization with many large-scale projects: the development of the Concorde, energy independence, the beginning of the TGV… but also societal reforms with the legalization of the contraceptive pill or decolonization. Not everyone was happy with these reforms: de Gaule was the target of several attacks.
The end of the 1960s was a troubled period for France, marked by numerous protests. In one of the Memorial’s rooms, we are faced with a palisade where tracts and tags remind us that de Gaulle did not have unanimous support.
In 1969, following the “No” vote of the French people on a referendum concerning the transfer of certain powers to the regions, de Gaulle resigned, retired to Colombey and devoted himself to writing his Memoirs. When he died in 1970, the whole world paid tribute to him.
Whether one likes the General’s personality or not, one cannot deny that he left his mark on his era and that he is inseparable from the history of 20th century France. Visiting the Memorial offers us a wonderful immersive journey through almost a century of the country’s history. A fascinating visit for those who lived during de Gaulle’s time as well as for the younger generations.
The Lorraine Cross
The last level of the memorial gives access to Lorraine Cross, an impressive monument that dominates the surroundings with its 44 meters high.
De Gaulle did not want any monument to his glory but tolerated a Lorraine Cross “If one day, after me, we want to mark this place, it is here that it should be done, but very simply, no statue … perhaps a Cross of Lorraine”. This monument, built by the architects Nebingen and Mosser, was erected in 1972, two years after his death.
Around the Memorial: what to do in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises?
There is not only the Charles de Gaulle Memorial to see in Colombey! Other activities are waiting for you (visit of the General’s house, gourmet tables or Champagne tasting…). Prepare your getaway to Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises with this complete guide listing the activities to do in this charming village as well as the good addresses:
Mémorial Charles de Gaulle
Schedules vary according to the season, consult the website of the memorial
Full price :€ 13,5
Reduced rate : €11
Less than 13 years old : €8
Free for children under 6 years old
Group ticket with La Boisserie : €16,5 / €15 in reduced rate
Article realized in partnership with Haute-Marne Tourisme