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Eleanor's Crosses

Part 4: Function

The precedence for Eleanor’s crosses was sought in Louis IX’s montjoies, erected to mark the passage of his funeral procession from Aigues-Mortes to Paris in 1270 and constructed to aid his canonization process. However, it is doubtful that the English crosses were intended to promote the idea that Eleanor was a saint. Instead they seem to have been designed as cenotaphs or memorials. The queen, portrayed in a slightly swaying pose, her left hand toying with the ribbon of her cloak, and the right holding the sceptre, appears as an elegant, refined and courtly lady.

We also know from the 14th c. chronicle of St Alban’s that the crosses were perceived as cenotaphs designed to stimulate prayers on behalf of Eleanor’s soul. The presence of her image in connection with the phrase "Orate pro anima" on the pedestals and inclusion of text, which conveyed a large amount of information about the deceased, supports this. The bottom tier of the Hardingstone Cross, for instance, features open books, which must have included painted inscriptions, probably providing the spectator with the stories of Eleanor’s life and exemplary prayers for her soul.

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