Saturday, November 2, 2013


From potter's clay
We were awed by the endearing simplicity of these late 19th-century terra cotta headstones in a small protestant cemetery tucked away under trees on a hillside in Montaren, a sunny village in the Gard. A number of the twenty or so markers were for youthful people whose time of demise often coincided with cholera epidemics in the region. We learned that the headstones, crafted by family members who worked in a local brickyard, were put in place between 1877 and 1905, well after most of the dates of death.

Up until the 19th century French protestants, victimized as heretics, were not allowed to be buried alongside Catholics in parish cemeteries, so their dead were usually buried in family gardens or out in the countryside. Napoleonic laws, however, allowed the creation of large protestant-dedicated cemeteries, or as here, the allotment of a parcel of land separated from but adjoining the Catholic lots in the communal cemetery. 

ci-gît:  here lies
une stèle:  a funerary monument
une pierre tombale:  a tombstone
la terre cuite:  terra cotta
un cimetière:  a cemetery
une briqueterie:  a brickyard

©2013 P.B. Lecron

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