Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Photo Post: Cruceiros, or Galician Crossroad Crosses

Galician cruceiros
Cruceiro in Santiago de Compostela
The word cruceiro in the Galician language has a double meaning: on one hand it can simply mean the place where two roads meet, but on the other hand it can also refer to granite stone crosses that often accompany said crossroads. Pronounced “kroo-THAY-EE-roe” [kɾuˈθej.ɾo], these monumental crosses guard intersections but also show up in cathedral cloisters and on residential property in rural Galicia.

Galician cruceiros
Cruceiro in Abanqueiro
My Guía Azul guidebook to Galicia describes how cruceiros came about:
The cruceiros’ origin can be traced back to the lares (laribus vialibus) or gods of the hearth that magically protected the road and to whom the Romans dedicated altars with inscriptions, mainly building them by crossroads. Ancient Galicians would light candles on the altars because they believed they were connected with the underworld. As the Christianization of the region progressed, said altars were torn down and in their place the cruceiros were put up. (Translated from Spanish, p. 47)
Galician cruceiros
(Source: José Antonio Gil Martínez)
Today cruceiros add a nice artistic and religious touch to both urban and rural Galicia. Often you can see small sculptures of Christ on the cross on one side and a Madonna and Child on the other. Although many are plain and simple, quite a few are ornately decorated and several date back to Gothic times.

Have you ever encountered cruceiros in or outside of Galicia? Tell me what you think of these sculptures below in the discussion thread!
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