Conciliation crosses

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Rudawy Janowickie Mountains
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The cross in Miedzianka

 Carved out of stone, this mediaeval cross bears the word “MEMENTO” – “remember”. In the Middle Ages and during the early Renaissance monastic congregations used the greeting “MEMENTO MORI” – “remember that you’ll die” – the meaning of which was intended to remind one of the earthliness of life.

Man is born naked and in this manner departs, and as such aspiring to gain material goods does not provide anything. After all, when you leave this world, you leave it all behind anyway.
The cross stands in solitude on a boundary between fields. For a while, because of attempts to steal it, the cross was moved to a nearby farm in Miedzianka. However, it was later reinstated in its rightful place.
You can reach the cross along the road from Janowice Wielkie towards Miedzianka. It stands to the left of the road (about 50 – 60 m) before the first buildings of Miedzianka, on a small escarpment. A good point of orientation is the electricity pylon standing in the field. When the greenery is lush the cross may be hard to see because of the surrounding grass and corn.


Conciliation crosses are monolithic objects carved from a single block of stone, and were mainly made using local material (granite, basalt, conglomerate or sandstone). They were erected by murderers at the site of their crimes (most often secluded places in forests, by the roadside).

Sometimes such a cross was erected by the victim’s family using the murderer’s money, next to churches, or at crossroads. They were intended to induce reflection and prayer for the souls of the murdered and murderer.
The custom of erecting conciliation crosses or chapels most probably lasted from the 13th to the 19th century.
Apart from erecting the cross, the murderer was usually also obliged to:
•    cover the funeral costs
•    pay for the trial
•    provide for the keep of the victim’s family
•    order a mass
•    purchase candles for the church
•    go on a pilgrimage to a holy location (such as Rome, Jerusalem or Aachen)
      

 Sometimes other punishments were also meted out to the murderer:
•    made to stand at a whipping post
•    walking naked through the village
•    kneeling over the open grave with the tools of the crime
•    crawling around the cemetery a few times on their knees, holding a candle
•    cleaning the town
In their early days, these crosses were of simple stone form, without any engravings, while in later periods the form changed. Some had sculpted likenesses of the tool of the crime – a knife, crossbow, pitchfork, axe or sword, etc. – and some crosses gave information regarding the murder’s location, time, perpetrator and tool.
Three such conciliation crosses are to be found within the Rudawy Landscape Park: in Bukowiec, Janowice Wielkie and Miedzianka.


Translation Jonathan Weber

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