La Caverne du Dragon, Chemin des Dames Museum
On the Chemin des Dames isthmus, at the narrowest point of the plateau, below the front lines, is the Caverne du Dragon, the Chemin des Dames museum.
The site was an old stone quarry, in operation from the 16th to the 19th century, which became an underground barracks in the Great War.
From 1915 it was taken over by German troops who installed electricity, gun positions and dressing stations. The French recaptured it in June 1917 but did not long remain its sole occupants. Both sides occupied it, separated by internal walls.
Visitors to the Caverne du Dragon can explore the many tunnels which bear witness to the presence of soldiers. The names and dates carved on the walls remind us that this now empty place was once ‘home’ to many men.
The Caverne du Dragon was so named by German soldiers who saw in it something of the seven-headed dragon of the Nibelungen myth. Indeed the seven openings carved into the old quarry for machine gun fire were often compared to the mouths of the fabulous beast.
The Caverne museum also holds temporary themed exhibitions. In light of the up and coming centenary, the existing reception building for the Caverne du Dragon will be rearranged to provide visitors with more information on the battlefields of the Chemin des Dames.