A moving visit at the Mont-Valérien

This Sunday morning, I decided to go to the Mont-Valérien Fortress,on the edge of Rueil-Malmaison, Suresnes and Nanterre and overlooking the business district of La Défense and Paris. Although living nearby, I had never passed through the doors of this memorial before, only remembering it every year when Emmanuel Macron comes to commemorate General de Gaulle's June 18 call to the French resistance. Now that I’ve accomplished this duty, I feel everyone should know about it and definitively check it out !

The Mont-Valérien, a hill with an unusual History

Did you know that long before it became the Memorial of the French Resistance, the entire hill now part of the Mont Valérien park (even hosting an American military cemetary) was a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages? Legend has it that Saint Geneviève (patron saint of Paris) brought her sheep there to graze. As for the origin of the name, "Mons Valerianus" could mean "military position" or even designate a "Gallo-Roman villa". Like the world-famous Montmartre, the lesser known Mont Valerien became a place of pilgrimage populated by hermits. It enjoyed great popularity thanks to Cardinal Richelieu… (who had his castle in Rueil, but that's another story!). After the French Revolution, Mont Valérien gradually took on a military function. Our guide explained to us that most of the fortifications around Paris are located to the East of Paris, for fear of invasions, but that in the west, the Seine was already serving as a rampart to defend the capital.

Mont-Valérien chapel
Mont-Valérien chapel

Why is Mont-Valérien associated with the French Resistance ?

Before this guided tour, I wondered why General de Gaulle's June 18th ceremony was being commemorated here or why this place was associated with the French Resistance. In truth, it is the story of more than a thousand people, both French and foreign, sometimes resistance fighters or simply hostages, who were taken by truckload to the Mont Valérien. I thought I was going to be seeing cells, but in reality, the prisoners spent very little time there. They passed through a chapel with barred windows, before being executed, sometimes by the dozen in the center of the Mont Valérien fortress, in a place called "the clearing". The silence of the place and the graffiti of the convicts that can still be seen on the walls are truly moving. A French person visiting with me distinctly remembered seeing these trucks pass under her windows. She told me that coming back here years later allowed her to exorcise this vivid memory of her childhood. Like her, I came out not sad, but ultimately full of hope, the one undoubtedly wanted by General de Gaulle :

"The flame of French resistance must not be extinguished"

Mont Valérien reminds us that even though we are all very different, we can sometimes unite to resist in the face of adversity. Even if it is not as visited by tourist, Mont Valérien is a place which I definitively found as interesting as the landing beaches of Normandy (much less far from Paris, but further from the ocean!).

Do not miss

Mont-Valérien memorial

Mont Valerien : the memorial of fighting France