Bishop's Palace of Verdun
Better known for its battlefields, Verdun also boasts an invaluable architectural heritage, to which the Episcopal Palace is a magnificent testimony. In his memoirs, the Duke of Saint-Simon (the first Bishop of Verdun) describes the building as the biggest and most splendid episcopal palace in France. It stands next to the Cathedral of Verdun with its cloister which, reminiscent of an acropolis, dominate the cityscape. In 1724, the Bishop of Verdun, Charles-François d'Hallencourt (also nicknamed the mitred mason by chroniclers at the time), commissioned Robert de Cotte, court architect to Louis XV and co-creator of the opulent Rocaille style, to build a new palace. It was built on the site of the former Episcopal Palace of Nicolas Psaume (16th century). The new and splendid residence, perfectly in accordance with the prevailing taste of the time, was to symbolise above all the power of a great prelate, the Bishop and Count of Verdun, Prince of the Holy Empire. The construction works extended to the French Revolution. After 1789, the palace was used for a myriad of purposes. In 1801, Verdun sufferd the consequences of the Concordat which reduced the number of districts under episcopal supervision: the diocese of Verdun was combined with that of Nancy-Toul and, consequently, Verdun had no bishop at the time. In 1823, however, the episcopal residence was once again established in the palace. In 1906, following the French Law on the Separation of Church and State, the bishop was evicted from his residence, and the palace remained unoccupied for the next 4 years. The Great War caused considerable damages to the building. In 1920, it was classified as a historical monument and subjected to extensive restoration works which lasted until 1935. For the first time in 30 years, a Bishop of Verdun returned to the Episcopal Palace. Monseigneur Ginisty, at whose initiative the Ossuary of Douaumont had been created (a memorial containing the skeletal remains of 130.000 unidentified soldiers) was rewarded for his wartime commitment with a very favourable rental agreement and, consequently, the Episcopal Palace could again fulfill its original function without interruption for the next 58 years. In 1993, Monseigneur Herriot agreed to move the Bishop's Seat to the Hôtel d'Anglemont, across from the Cathedral, thus allowing for the setting up of the World Centre of Peace in the former Bishops Palace.