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Albert (Municipality, Somme, France)

Last modified: 2021-06-27 by ivan sache
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Flag of Albert - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 19 July 2020

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Presentation of Albert

The municipality of Albert (9,951 inhabitants in 2016, therefore the 3rd most populous municipality in the department; 1,380 ha; municipal website) is located 30 km north-east of Amiens.

Albert was built around a bridge that allowed the Chaussée Brunehaut, once the main Roman road in the north of Gaul, to cross river Ancre. Chartered in 1178, the town was named for the river, Ancre, until 1620, when Louis XIII renamed it to Albert, for his favorite and Grand Falconer, Charles d'Albert, Duke of Luynes.
Due to its strategic location, the town was completely destroyed eight times during its history, the last time during the First World War.

During the First World War, Albert was a key place of the Battle of the Somme, the area being known as Pays du Coquelicot (Poppy Land), a straightforward reference to the remembrance poppy.
The German army entered Albert on 29 August 1914; after the reconquest of the town by the allied forces on 13 September, the frontline stabilized 3km away from the town. From October 1914 to end 1915, the town was heavily bombed, which caused the destruction of most the downtown, the factories, the railway station and the cupola of the basilica. In the aftermath of the bloody British attack of 1 July 1916, the situation calmed down until March 1918. Recaptured on 26 March 1918 by the German troops, Albert was bombed again until its liberation on 23 August. A field of ruins, the town was completely rebuilt from 1920 to 1930 in a very homogeneous, Flemish style.
Albert is surrounded by several emblematic sites of the Battle of the Somme, such as the Lochnagar Crater in La Boisselle, the Monument of the 1st Australian Division and remains of two German blockhaus in Pozières, the British Memorial and Museum in Thiepval, the Ulster Tower and the Newfoundland Park in Beaumont-Hamel.

Albert is self-styled the Northern Lourdes. The Marian cult dates back to the 11th century, when a shepherd found a miraculous statue of the Virgin. Fallen in oblivion, the cult was re-activated in the late 19th century; the parish priest Anicet Godin initiated the building of the Notre-Dame de Berbières basilica in 1884. The basilica was the only building of Albert that was rebuilt exactly as it was before the Great War. Designed in neo-Byzantine style by the architect Edmond Duthoit, the basilica is topped by a 70 m high bell tower crowned by a gilded statue of the Virgin, of 5 m in height, designed in 1897 by the sculptor Albert Roze. When the cupola was hit by a German bomb, the statue bent down and remained in an horizontal position for the rest of the war; the "bent Virgin" became an internationally know symbol of the violence of the war.
The Town Hall, inaugurated in 1932 by President Albert Lebrun, is surmounted by a 64 m high belfry; the Westminster peal rings every quarter of hour.
The tower of the railway station forms the third of the lined Albert bell towers. Its main hall is decorated with a Potez 36 aircraft, recalling the factory established in 1924 in Méaulte by the pioneer of Aviation Henry Potez, and more generally, the industrial motto of Albert, whose Latin motto is "Vis Mea Ferrum", "My Force is in Iron".

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 19 July 2020

Flag of Albert

The flag of Albert (photo) is white with the municipal logo.
The red stripe must represent river Ancre crossing the town, represented by the gray square, from north-east to south-west. The colored stripes form an anchor, in French, ancre, undoubtedly recalling the town's former name, Ancre.

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 19 July 2020