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Dordogne Diary: The Sarlat Gherkin

Among history’s mysteries, along with the megalithic structures that dot Europe from Malta to Stonehedge, is the purpose of the Lanternes de la Mort/des Maures, referring either to Lanterns of the Dead or Lanterns of the Moors. There are more than one hundred of them in southwestern France. The one below left is located in Sarlat-la-Canéda in France’s Dordogne region. The XIIth and 13th century structures reputedly had one or several lights showing out the sides of a cone-like tower. Some historians speculate that they indicated a cemetery, but several of the towers are not situated anywhere near funerary sites; other scholars suggest the Lanterns could have been navigational aids or central sources of fire for local inhabitants or occult symbols to keep death at bay. We don’t know. I like that.

Sarlat Gherkin.jpg

In London, the building in the above right photo was named the Swiss Re tower, but it is now called 30 St Mary Axe, though everyone knows it as “the Gherkin.” Designed by Sir Norman Foster, it resembles a Lantern, don’t you think?

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