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What does the slant mean?

(Puzzle 036)

What is the generally-accepted significance of the sloping beam?

Mystery cross

This cross was discovered on a gravestone by an investigator in France.

A fleur de lis cross with a circle made of poppies has a commonly accepted interpretation, but the diagonal beam is less common.

When a diagonal beam appears on a cross, it's usually on a cross with multiple beams, with the diagonal beam at the top (as a sign board) or the bottom (as a suppedaneum). But here we have just one crossbeam. Does it have the same meaning as that of multi-beamed crosses?

Other possibilities include compass points or a three-dimensional aspect. But we suspect there is a better explanation.

  1. Same meaning as on multiple-beamed cross?

    Facing the cross, the left arm points upwards and the right arm downwards. But the reverse is the case for the person hanging on the cross.

    Most people associate the cross with the Crucifixion of Christ, so for this cross Christ's right would point upwards to Heaven and his left arm point downwards to Hell.

    "Right = good" and "left = not good", occur frequently in language and customs, from making the sign of the cross, to raising the right hand when swearing an oath.


  2. Photo © by J Telford
    (Click photo to enlarge)

    Suggesting a 3-D aspect?

    This is a possibility, but unlikely. A sloping cross, common on gravestones, is known as a Portate Cross. This is usually to suggest that the deceased has carried (French: porté) the cross and has now laid it to rest. But it's invariably the upright post that's leaning, rather than the crossbeam.

    A cross with a right-angled (90°) crossbeam viewed obliquely from below would appear as a sloping crossbeam, but the length of the arms would differ and the fleur-de-lis would also be mis-shapen, unlike we see in this grave's cross.

  3. Compass points?

    Anything is possible.

    Looking at Google's satellite images, the layout of the cemetery's paths means that the upright post of the cross is pointing 18° northeast, and the crossbeam is pointing 48° northwest. Given that Google satellite images were not available in the XIXth century, 48° is close enough to ordinal northwest.

    If that was the intention, what could it mean?

    A northwesterly wind is called Mistral or Maestro, meaning 'master'. The head of the household for this particular grave was a stonemason. Could this have been his stonemason's mark?


  4. Photo © by J Telford
    (Click photo to enlarge)

    Something else?

    A different explanation is quite likely, and your input would be welcome.

    This cross was found on a grave slab in a cemetery in the northwest of Pontlevoy village, Loir et Cher, central France.

    We know that at least two people are buried in the grave; a mother (d. 1875 aged 23), and her child (d. 1876 aged 17 months). As a stonemason, the father would have been familiar with symbols in cemeteries; for example, the broken column, a style popular in England from about 1815, denoting the burial a child or young person whose life was cut short.

    Being an artisan, it's more than reasonable to suspect the cross design is related to the father's pain and loss. The sloping crossbeam could have been his way of honouring his family with a Christian burial, yet tainted with a measure of revolt or damaged faith.

    All conjecture, and we'll never know for sure.

So we're hoping there's a more general interpretation. If you can suggest an explanation for the slant on this crossbeam, please contact us at enquiry@seiyaku.com with your thoughts.

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