Crosses

Cultural Heritage
Principal

All along the route, crosses are landmarks for the pilgrims. These crosses, made of wood, stone or metal, attest the impact of christianisation and the religious fervour in these areas. There is a ide diversity of crosses, which have often a specific function.

There are, of course, devotional crosses: these are pilgrim crosses which are often located on heights near villages.

The are also directional crosses in the crossing of the ways or along the route. They were built in large number in the Middle Ages to christianize the places: they guide and protect travelers along the road of pilgrimage.

Other crosses located along the road may also be crosses in memory of an event which has occured in this place or in memory of someone – sometimes a deceased person. Crosses may also be joined to war memorials.

Since the beginning of the 17th century (after the Edict of Nantes was signed), mission crosses have been planted. Many others were planted after the French Revolution: after this troubled period, the representatives of the Catholic Church wanted to give a new birth to religious involvement. Other mission crosses dateto the 19th or 20th centuries.

Boundary crosses can be found at the entrance of a village or are used to delimit cultivated fields.

There are also many other sorts of crosses, in various areas, such as squares, churches, graveyards, bridges, houses, springs, fountains…

Some wrought-iron crosses are adorned with symbols of the Crucifixion, especially the spear used by the soldier to hit the Christ in the flank, the words attributed to Pontius Pilatus “INRI” (Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”), or the rooster which reminds the denial of Peter (Jesus had tod Peter that before the rooster crows, he would disown him three times).

Among other noticeable crosses along the way to Saint Guilhem, one can mention the cross of La Rode, in the Aubrac region; the cross on the Bridge of the Pilgrims at Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac, at the bottom of which we can see a pilgrim; on the Causse Méjean, the cross of Le Buffre can be admired. At Saint-Pierre-des-Tripiers, a cross depicts a shepherd with his herd. The ewes and the rye sheaf remind of the way of life on the Causse. Surprinsingly, crosses can sometimes also be seen at the top of menhirs, as it is the case in the hamlet of Les Lavagnes – a way for the Christians of the 4th and 5th centuries to make theirs these old sacred stones.

La croix de la Rode doit son nom à sa forme cylindrique, la « rode » désignant la roue.

The cross of La Rode is so called because of its shape: “rode” means “wheel”.

Datant du XIIe siècle, la croix du Buffre, sculptée dans le calcaire local, est la plus vieille croix de Lozère. Les personnages représentés sur le socle, de part et d’autre d’un bénitier en forme de tête humaine, ont été interprétés différemment. Il pourrait s’agir de pèlerins portant un bâton cruciforme, insigne des pèlerins. Toutefois, les personnages portant, outre la croix, un autre objet – probablement une clé pour l’un, une sorte de globe pour l’autre – on a également pensé qu’il pouvait s’agir de saint Pierre et saint Paul, ou saint Jean.

The 13th-century cross of Le Buffre is the oldest cross in Lozère. It has be sculpted from local limestone. On the pedestal, two characters are depicted on both sides of a stoup shaped like a human head. They may be pilgrims holding in their hand a cross-shaped staff (which is the emblem of pilgrims). However, as the characters hold not only the cross but also another objet – probably a key for one of them, a sort of globe for the other), they also may be Saint Peter and Saint Paul, or Saint John the Apostle.

Photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saint-Pierre-des-Tripiers_croix.JPG

Photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saint-Pierre-des-Tripiers_croix.JPG

Si les croix en pierre sont nombreuses le long du chemin, plus rares sont les croix en fer forgé, souvent récupérées au fil du temps pour réutiliser le métal. La croix du Bac, à Champerboux, qui date de la fin du Moyen Age (XVe siècle), est l’une des plus anciennes survivantes. Elle présente cependant un décor malheureusement incomplet. Des feuillages ornent la tige et les bras de la croix. Sur chacune des faces, un petit personnage a été exécuté dans une même pièce de métal : le Christ d’un côté, la Vierge à l’Enfant de l’autre. Cette dernière avait été volée dans les années 1970 et retrouvée dans les années 1990. Pour des raisons de sécurité, elle n’a pas été réinstallée. Sur la base de la croix est gravée une inscription en lettres gothiques, difficilement lisible et sans signification connue.

If there is a lot of crosses along the route, wrought-iron crosses are more unusual: they have often been recycled overtime to reuse the metal. The 15-century cross of Le Bac, at Champerboux, is one of the oldest of this type to be found. It has unfortunately lost a part of its decoration. We can see leaves and, on each side of the cross, a little character: the Christ on one side, the Virgin and Child on the other. This last one had been stolen in the 1970’s and recovered in the 1990’s, but has not been put back on the cross. At the bottom of the cross, an inscription in gothic letters is engraved but it is hard to decipher it and its meaning remains mysterious.