Hopital des Pelerins, Pons, France (1/2)

The Pilgrims Hospital in Pons, in the departement of Charente-Maritime in France, dates back to the 12th century. It was built as a rest stop on the pilgrimage route to Santiago di Compostella in Spain. A church and a hostel were attached to each other by a porch over one of the roads into the town. The site was made a World Heritage site in 1998. The porch and the hospital are open for visitors.

Over the centuries many pilgrims have left their mark in the form of graffiti on the columns and walls. The graffiti in the porch and archway to the hospital will be the subject of this first post, with the graffiti inside the hospital following in a subsequent post.

Porch/Archway Graffiti

The overwhelming impression left by the graffiti in the archway is the number of horse-shoes. They are mostly anonymous, but they occasionally come with initials and with religious symbols. In France, the general convention is for the horseshoe to be hung with the open part of the U hanging downwards to bring good fortune.

After the horse-shoes the next major category of graffiti is that of crosses. They take several shapes, not just in size, but of type.

There are not many examples of what could be called protective graffiti, but there was one compass circle, one clear Marian mark and some pentagrams.

Of the other symbols, the most notable are some fleurs de lys and the crossed keys of St Peter. There is another curious crossed symbol that is repeated a few times. In addition, there are some mason’s marks.

The rest of the graffiti takes the form of names, initials and dates. Noteably, the few dates are of modern origin.

Report by Anthea Hawdon and Linda Wilson

Hopital des Pelerins
70 Rue Georges Clemenceau

Search terms:horse-shoe, horsehoe, cross, GR, circle (compass drawn), graffiti, medieval graffiti, butterfly cross, auseklis cross, RDell, shield, saltire, sun cross, banner, pentagram, marian mark, M, axe head, mason’s mark, fleur de lys, O, rectangle, LB, PS, BD, BR, AV, 1918, Potier, Courvre, MM, 1966, La Miche, Remy, Marie, Mercier, Norman Blont, P, R, 1910s, 1960s