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Lanterns of the Dead (French: lanternes des morts) is the architectural name for the small towers in stone found chiefly in the centre and west of France, pierced with small openings at the top, where a light was exhibited at night to indicate the position of a cemetery.

These towers were usually circular, with a small entrance in the lower part giving access to the interior, so as to raise the lamps by a pulley to the required height. One of the most perfect in France is that at Cellefrouin (Charente), which consists of a series of eight attached semicircular shafts, raised on a pedestal, and is crowned with a conical roof decorated with fir cones; it has only one aperture, towards the main road. Other examples exist at Ciron (Indre) and Antigny (Vienne).

The origin and use of such lanterns are controversial. Some of those lanterns are said to be "lanterns of the Moors" instead of "lanterns of the Dead". The illiteracy of most of the population in the past can easily explain this folk etymology: in French, the Moors (French: les Maures) and the Dead (French: les Morts) are homophones. Moreover, some of those lanterns don't indicate any cemetery and their architecture has strong oriental influences. The proximity of Al-Andalus, Crusaders coming back to France, or trade in the Mediterranean may explain such monuments. For instance, the "lantern of the Moors". One example is the "lantern of the Moors" to be found in Sarlat-la-Canéda and pictured here.

(Source: Wikipedea)

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Additional Photos by Stephen Nunney (snunney) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6031 W: 61 N: 17495] (78751)
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