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During the 12th century, people in the central and western parts of France erected small towers in their villages with windows at the top, in which lamps were placed like in a lighthouse, although none of them were near the sea. These structures are known as “Lanterns of the dead” and are thought to indicate the position of a cemetery. But this might not be true, considering that some of these towers are located nowhere near a cemetery.

The towers come in all shapes and sizes, but usually, they take the form of a column or a small turret with a conical cap and a cross at the top. A small entrance in the lower part gives access to the tower’s interior, so that a lamp could be raised by a pulley to the required height at dusk. One of the most perfect examples is located in the commune of Cellefrouin, where there is a series of eight attached semicircular shafts, raised on a pedestal, and crowned with a conical roof decorated with fir cones. The window through which the lamp shines out faces the main road.

lanterns-of-the-dead-6

Lanterns of the Dead. Photo credit (from left to right): Johann Jaritz, Benutzer:Griensteidl, Jebulon

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© Amusing Planet, 2017.


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