St-Lô, perched dramatically on a rocky spur above the Vire Valley, was a key communications center that suffered so badly in World War II it became known as the "capital of ruins." The medieval Église Notre-Dame bears mournful witness to those dark days: its imposing, spire-top west front was never rebuilt, merely shored up with a wall of greenish stone. Reconstruction elsewhere, though, was wholesale. Some of it was spectacular, like the slender, spiral-staircase tower outside the Mairie (Town Hall); the circular theater; or the openwork belfry of the church of Ste-Croix. The town was freed by American troops, and its rebuilding was financed with U.S. support, notably from the city of Baltimore. The Hôpital Mémorial France–États-Unis (France–United States Memorial Hospital), designed by Paul Nelson and featuring a giant mosaic by Fernand Léger, was named to honor those links.
When there was every reason in the world to stay away and see the ruins, one woman traveled to Greece to get to work.More