History of the Christian Cross…
Jesus Christ, the messenger on Earth of the Christian’s god , was crucified by the Romans. An instrument of execution reserved to slaves guilty of a crime, the cross has long been refused by the first Christians as a symbol, as they did not want Jesus to be considered as a slave. It started to be used as a symbol for this religion in 312, when the Roman emperor Constantine defeated his rival Maxentius. Before the battle, as the coming victor was praying to his god, a cross of light appeared to him with the words ‘under this sign you will win’. He therefore had this symbol put on his banners. In 326, his mother Saint Helena, had the cross on which Jesus had been crucified excavated and a monumental victory cross erected at the place of his execution (on the Golgotha). Christ is not represented on it, as the church still refused him to be considered as a slave. To invoke Him, other symbols are used like the letters IHS (from the Latin ‘Iesus Humanae Salvator’, Jesus Saviour of Humankind), the heart, the dove and many other symbols.
The Irish monks were the first, in the 7th century, to make the cross a monument in the form of carved steles. Christ was not sculptured on the cross until the 9th century. Crosses multiply from 1095 onwards, a date at which crosses at crossroads start to acquire the double function of guide and protector.
Vandalism (particularly during the French Religious Wars and the Revolution), exposure to the elements and the effects of the years explain their small number today. Moreover, despite the wide expansion of this art in the 19th century, it is now extinct as the last workshops ceased all production at the beginning of the 20th century.
Some of the most common crosses in our area are:
- the ordinary Latin crosses
with arms of a regular thickness and the horizontal arms longer than the upper one.
- the crosses pattées with arms
broadening towards the ends
- the Maltese crosses
which are a particular kind of cross pattée: they have flared arms and angular indents.
- the cross fleury (or flory)
whose ends bear the fleur-de-lis, the symbol of the monarchy
- the Greek crosses
with 4 equal armsMunicipality of Champagnac-la-Prune:
Free-standing stone cross: placed on the church square, this 77 cm Maltese cross has a monstrance sculptured on its front side as well as a date, 1719.
Municipality of Clergoux :- The ‘Croix Grande’ (large cross):
its centre shows a sculptured crown of thorns and its shaft moulded carvings, this cross used to see processions every May 29th and August 15th.
- The cross at ‘le Gounil’:
At the centre of this granite Latin cross, a sculptured crown encircles a host and a ‘solar’ monstrance is represented on the shaft. Moulded carvings are to be seen on the shaft and dado.
- The cross at ‘Le Mas’:
This Latin cross stands between 2 sculptured stones representing a man’s head on the left and a woman’s head on the right.
- The cross at ‘le Jarijou’:
this is a trefoil cross standing at the junction with the old road called ‘route du Jarijou’, at a corner of the camping site ‘La Petite Rivière’.
- The church cross:
this 2.5 m-high free-standing cross pattée, carved on its dado and on the base of its shaft (fleur-de-lis and date), rests on a granite pedestal.
- The cross at ‘La Reille aux Cambuses’:
A cylindrical Latin cross.
- Cross at one end of Coudert
, with the date 1899 sculptured and the initials LR carved on it.
- Cross at the hotel Chammard
: a latin cross.
Municipality of Gros-Chastang:- The church cross:
a high Greek cross with an octagonal shaft resting on a pedestal and stylized human heads adorning the upright bar. Its pedestal consists of two square stones adorned with sculptured animal heads. This cross indicates the site of the old village cemetery and used to be the site of an annual procession on Palm Sunday (hosanna cross).
- The mission cross:
placed at a junction in the village of Gros Chastang, on the road from the church to the cemetery.
- It is adorned with a carved ciborium and rests on a pedestal altar decorated with a rosette.Crosse:
standing alongside the ‘chemin Glizé’ (meaning ‘the church way’), this slightly tilted cross bears a carved solar monstrance.
- Cross at ‘la Coulange’:
this Latin cross is adorned with a medallion representing a six-petal rosette (a crown of thorns at the centre of the crossbar).
- Cross in ‘la Bitarelle’:
this is a cross fleury resting on a base. The letters IHS are carved, inside a crown of thorns, in the centre of its crossbar. This cross is also called ‘de la demoiselle’ (the maiden’s cross), as it is said to have been offered by Marie-Anne Chirac, the village school teacher from 1870 to 1900.
- Cross in Doumail:
small ordinary Latin cross on a low wall.
Municipality of Gumont: - A 2.5 m free-standing cross
right of the church façade. It consists of a base of granite stones, a canted slab and a canted upright bar.
- Cross backing on to a house
in the village of Gumont.
Municipality of La Roche-Canillac:- Presbytery cross:
this is a short-shafted Maltese cross (consisting of 4 triangles united by their summits and with forked ends) resting on a large stone base against the north wall of the presbytery, behind the church. This cross is thought to have belonged to the old cemetery which used to be next to the church.
- Cross on the ‘place Lafond de St-Mür’:
small cross adorned with a crown of thorns in the centre. It used to stand in the centre of the square.
- ‘Croix de la Borie’:
a Maltese cross with a sculpture of Christ on the cross as a child, surrounded by stars. It has no shaft. Its dado bears the date 1867 and the base is decorated with a heart flanked by two flowers, as well as with a solar monstrance between two candelabra.
- Cross in ‘rue de la Poste’:
planted in 1829 by the Lavigne couple in memory of their son Roger. Its sides are adorned with a stone fringe and a heart is sculptured in the centre as a token of love.
Municipality of Saint-Bazile-de-la-Roche:- Iron cross
at the crossroads left of the church. This cross fleury (the ends of the crossbar represent fleur-de-lis) bears a holy figure on its shaft and a heart in the centre of its crossbar.
- Stone cross
below the iron cross, resting on a low wall. This is a short-shafted and unadorned small cross
- Stone cross next to the château;
This is an unadorned Latin cross with a broad shaft resting on a pedestal.
- Stone cross
between Rivière and Saint Bazile: unadorned.
Municipality of Saint-Pardoux-la-Croisille:- The church cross:
Maltese cross (angular indents) which used to stand under a baldaquin resting on four wooden posts. It was placed at the entrance to the cemetery and was the site of an annual procession on Palm Sunday (hosanna cross).
- Cross in the top part of the village:
a Maltese cross with a sculptured monstrance.
- Cross at ‘le Noger’:
it bears the date 1641
- Cross at Theillet:
small unadorned Latin cross.
- Cross at Plaziat:
cross with the letters IHS carved on it (meaning Iesus Humanae Salvator, Jesus Saviour of Humankind) surmounted by a cross.
- Cross at Passier:
small road side cross particularly remarkable because of the holy water stoup.
- Ordinary Latin cross
by Saint Eutrope’s fountain on the right bank of the Doustre.