(Lantern of the Dead at Cellefrouin in the Charente department, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cellefrouin_lanterne3.JPG)
A lantern of the dead is a masonry building, variable in shape, often slender, round-shaped, usually hollow and topped by an openwork pavilion (three openings), in which at dusk was hoisted often with a system of pulleys, a lighted lamp, assumed to be a guide to the deceased.
The lantern of the dead therefore differs from the Hosanna Cross, monument whose column is full and always with a cross.
The most diverse assumptions are made as to their function: headlights to guide lost travelers; signs indicating a cemetery, so a dangerous place to avoid; lantern for the dead leaving their graves to haunt the living to find their graveyard at dawn …
However, it is likely that the lanterns were funeral lanterns. Since ancient times, it is traditional to maintain a flame at the tombs. This custom was taken over by the early Christians for whom death is only a passage from the earth’s light to the celestial light. The tombs are decorated with candles. They are then replaced by a stone candle, more solid, weatherproof: the lantern of the dead.
After World War II, the lanterns of the dead are built on military cemeteries. The memorial of La Châtre is a woman standing in front of a lantern of the dead.
In France, most of these buildings were built around the twelfth century. They are mainly concentrated in central-western area of France. In the East of France it is reported rare old single monuments as the round tower of the thirteenth century within the cemetery in Farschviller (Moselle) or the beautiful late Gothic style building called “La Recevresse” of the Basilica of Our Lady of Avioth (Meuse).
Lantern of the dead exist in Ireland, a single copy in England at Bisley, Gloucestershire, and several in Central European countries.