Conciliation crosses
Rudawy Janowickie Mountains
tourism, mystery, dreams...

The cross in Janowice Wielkie

This cross remained out of sight for a long time as it was built into the wall of the Church of the Assumption from the 15th century, and had been covered in a layer of plaster.

It was moved during the church’s renovation, and today can be seen on the church roof.

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