Lanterne des Morts in Fenioux (Dennis Aubrey)


The Lanterne des Morts is a medieval structure that is found in cemeteries in western France, areas that were predominantly part of the Duchy of the Aquitaine in the 11th and 12th Centuries. Most of them appear to have been constructed in the 12th Century. They are typically small freestanding circular stone towers with openings at the top.

Lanterne des Morts, Fenioux (Charente-Maritime) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Lights were placed there at night, either carried up a small stairway or hoisted up by ropes and a pulley, which illuminated the cemetery. Folk tradition has it that these lights were placed in the Lanternes as lighthouses to guide lost travelers; as signs indicating a cemetery, so to avoid a dangerous place; and a way of guiding back the souls of the dead who left their graves to haunt the living, enabling them to find their graveyard at dawn.

PJ in the Lanterne at Fenioux

The entrance and stairs at Fenioux are too small for me, but PJ managed a visit, of course. Her verdict? “It’s kind of scary inside because it’s totally dark. You have to feel your way up, low on your hands and knees feeling all of the steps, until you see some light coming in from the top.”

By the way, the first shot in this post, of the Lanterne itself, is a vertical panorama taken with the Canon 24mm tilt shift lens. The vertical dimension of the original composite is over 7000 pixels.

2 responses to “Lanterne des Morts in Fenioux (Dennis Aubrey)

    • Thanks for your kind words, Julie. We have found these Lanternes in several places in France. I loved that PJ was able to climb up into the one in Fenioux. I was very surprised to find that the cemetery in Culhat was actually removed to an adjacent field, which left the Lanterne there standing solitary. It seemed such a strange choice that we wondered why it was done. Next time we go to the area, we’ll try to get an answer.

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