In his mémoires, Saint-Simon (first bishop of Verdun) regarded it as “the most vast and splendid Episcopal Palace that there is in France.” It was Charles François d’Hallencourt, Bishop of Verdun, nicknamed “The Mitred Mason” by the writers of the era, who summoned Robert de Cotte in 1724 to reconstruct it; the first architect of Louis XV, renowned as one of the creators of the “Rocaille”style, the popular rockwork of the Rococo period.
The Palace rises up in the proximity of the cathedral and cloister, on a veritable religious acropolis which dominates over the lower town. It is built on the site of the former Episcopal Palace of Nicolas Psaume (16th Century).
This residence, in accordance with the tastes of the day, symbolises, above all, the power of an important Prelate, Bishop and Count of Verdun. The work continued until the French Revolution.
After the Revolution, the Palace was used for various purposes.. In 1801, Verdun dealt with the expenses of the Concordat which reduced the number of dioceses (the territorial jurisdiction of a Bishop). Until 1823, the diocese of Verdun was attached to that of Nancy-Toul.
It was at this time that the Bishop regained possession of the site. In 1906, after the law which separated Church and State, he was evicted from the Palace which rested unoccupied until 1910.
The Great War brought serious material damages to the Palace. Classed as a historical monument in 1920, it was the focus of a large restoration which started in the winter of 1926-7 and finished in 1935.
It was at this time after a thirty year absence that a bishop returned to the Episcopal Palace, thanks to a favourable lease of hire. Monseigneur Ginisty, Bishop of Verdun, thus found himself rewarded for his works in favour of the soldiers of the World War One (the Ossuary of Douaumont), and the return of the original function to the prestigious episcopal residence was permitted. His successors occupied it without interruption until 1993, the date when Monseigneur Herriot agreed to join the Hôtel d’Anglemont, situated opposite the cathedral, to allow the installation of the Centre Mondial de la Paix (World Centre for Peace).
This exhibition shows pictures of conflicts of the recent thirty years from all over the globe: Afghanistan, Chechnya, Haiti, Lebanon, Vietnam… from all the places where Patrick Chauvel “witness among people” has travelled for getting hold of evidence.
His pictures have already been published in Paris-Match, Times Magazine, Life, Newsweek… The exhibition, which has arisen out of an exclusive selection, allows different views of the wars: it tells stories of history, the life of the anonyms in the middle of combats. In the majority of cases “the fragments of humanity escape the historians” but also “the survival instincts” or the everyday moments. Faces laughing, frightened or full of hatred…