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THE ORIGIN OF THE PYRAMID
The pyramid was built shortly before the Chapel was inaugurated. It is made of the remaining stones of the old chapel which had been destroyed during the war. It is a memorial ordered by Ronchamp’s veterans. Its shape evokes the pyramids in Central America, probably because human sacrifices took place there, like the soldiers’ sacrifice in 1944.
A FUNDAMENTAL BUILDING
Visitors are often puzzled by this strange building, abstract and ageless, standing in the north-east angle of the esplanade. The pyramid has eight tiers which can be reached by two stairs, and it offers various viewpoints on the esplanade and on the exterior choir of the Chapel to the visitors. During pilgrimages and outdoor celebrations, the faithful sit there to enjoy a good view of the liturgic space. This building is indeed by Le Corbusier. It is contemporary of the other buildings on the site. At the end of the construction, Maisonnier asked the architect what should be done with the unemployed materials remaining on the building site. Le Corbusier refused to have them taken away : « we will finally find something to do with them”. It must be kept in mind that all the materials from the ruins, which had already been reused during the successive transformations in the past centuries, are hidden inside the exterior walls except for the southern wall.
The request from the military institution of a monument in memory of the violent fights which took place on the hill in 1944, offered the opportunity of using this material. The memorial has the most primitive and archetypical shape of human buildings, a stable shape like a sand pile, calling to mind the Yucatan or Saqqarah. Le Corbusier completed this memorial with a stele topped by a peace dove, from a sculpture by Maisonnier.
The geometric rigour of the 6 meters long square base, 4.50 meters igh, which is orientated according to the four cardinal points, is an outlier. It serves as a reference, and it determines the cosmic position of all the elements of the hill which follow the race of the sun.
The use of tiers by the pilgrims reminds us of the architect’s very first sketches: the large eastern wall of the building opened up on an esplanade like an amphitheater. This disposition in the project had been quickly abandoned in favour of the simple natural plateau at the top of the hill. The different ways of using the pyramid call to mind Le Corbusier’s first intentions of organizing space both visually and acoustically. Like the Chapel, this memorial was listed as a historical monument.