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Crosses of Conciliation
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Crosses of Conciliation 

Cross of ConciliationAmong minor monuments in the countryside a special position is taken by stone crosses which are called the crosses of conciliation in our country. They are made of single massive stones and their form corresponds to the workmanship of the different authors. Sometimes they are just stones formed into a cross shape by several hits of the cutter’s chisel, sometimes they show a high professional level of the stonecutter’s work. Figures of a cross, tools or weapons;or a short text and dates are inscribed on less than half of the crosses.

The cross of conciliation is a stone cross erected most often at the place where a capital offence or an accident took place. When punishing offenders in the Middle Ages it was possible to apply the system of a so-called act of conciliation, when a task was assigned to offenders, by which they atoned for their offence. Besides compensation to the affected family, it could be also carving and erecting a stone cross at the place where the crime had been committed. A similar symbol is a cross stone, which is a cross carved into the stone and thus it does not have a classical ”cross” profile.

Stone crosses can be found all over Europe. On the territory of the Czech Republic they occur at the places of medieval settlements. The landscape that was not settled in the Middle Ages (such as Central Šumava (Bohemian Forest)) does not have stone crosses. Low settlement density of that time also means lower occurrence of the crosses. The exception is Prague and its outer surroundings. In the past, an extensive construction development and vast terrain adaptations in connection with the construction of a road or a railway network took place in this area and it is possible that these memorials (as many others in the last decades) were demolished. Various types of the crosses are represented in the file. Most often a Greek cross occurs, then Latin and wedge-shaped crosses, with the newest objects Maltese, clover-shaped and crosslet types. The cross stones and cross wheels bear crosses of Greek or Latin type, pattée-shaped, cruch-type, Lorraine, Papal, Patriarchal crosses, and only in one case an Orthodox cross.

Allocation of the crosses according to the type is interesting. In 80% of the cases a stone cross occurs in the Cheb (Eger) District, in Northern and Western Bohemia. The cross stones (crosses carved into stone) are concentrated in the surroundings of Plzeň (Pilsen), Tachov (Tachau) and Domažlice (Taus). Another area is formed by the surroundings of Pelhřimov (Pilgram), Jihlava (Iglau) and Třebíč (Trebitsch). Almost all cross wheels are found in the Plzeň-sever (Pilsen-North) District. Outside the above-mentioned places no type prevails and all types occur together.

In post-war Czechoslovakia protection and registration of the crosses of conciliation was problematic, an interest in these monuments was similarly desperate too, which resulted in the fact that their maintenance and protection was neglected. Many crosses were stolen or ruined. Nevertheless, in time a group of people interested in these monuments and began to find contacts between one another early in the 1980s. In 1984 they founded the Společnost pro výzkum kamenných křížů (Society for Research of Stone Crosses) at the Town Museum in Aš (Asch). Their work is aimed at central registration and protection of the monuments. In 1997 they published the collected edition Kamenné kříže Čech a Moravy (Stone Crosses of Bohemia and Moravia). Thanks to this book these monuments have been brought more to the public attention;and before 2001 they managed to find and register about 300 new objects. In 2001 the second edition of the book was issued.

In the Karlovy Vary Region more than 150 crosses of conciliation have survived, the region takes one of the leading positions in this within the Czech Republic. The most frequent occurrence of these monuments is registered by experts in the vicinity of the state boundary.