Politicians, citizens try to save the monument after a court ordered its destruction before February 5 next, upholding a claim by a secular humanist group.

The Calvary of Plorec-sur-Arguenon (from Twitter)

In Brittany, Northern France, many villages have their own Calvaries. A Calvary is a monumental public crucifix reminding the passers-by of the crucifixion of Jesus. Plorec-sur-Arguenon is a commune in the Côtes-d’Armor Department, in Brittany, with a population of 400. Its Calvary was built in 1946, and restored in 2017 by a coalition of private citizens, the Association pour la Conservation du Patrimoine de Plorec-sur-Arguenon, which obtained the prescribed authorizations by both the Department and the Municipality. The restored Calvary, with two additional small crosses surrounding the main one, was inaugurated in 2018.

The Calvary pleased the citizens of Plorec-sur-Arguenon, but not the National Federation of Free Thought (Fédération nationale de la libre pensée), a venerable secular humanist anticlerical association that still maintains on its Web site the slogan “À bas la calotte” (Down with the Zucchetto!), somewhat anachronistic since few priests today wear a zucchetto.

Calotte or not, the Federation does not like priests, nor does it like Calvaries. It filed a court case with the Administrative Court of Rennes, claiming that the Plorec-sur-Arguenon Calvary was illegal under the French principle of Church-State separation, since it was on land belonging to the Department.

On November 18, the Court accepted the petition by the Free Thought Federation, and decided that the Calvary should be destroyed or removed on or before February 5, 2021.

The Calvary had become a local landmark, and most villagers are against its destruction. Others note that laws should be respected, but this is not a typical case in which a religious symbol was placed on public land. In 1946, the land where the Calvary was built was private. When the Department acquired it, the Calvary was already there.

Protests against the threatened removal of the Calvary are led by conservative politicians. The small Debout la France (France Arise) party, led by MP Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (who is the only MP for his party), has emerged as a main voice in the defense of the Calvary and has called for a demonstration on January 3, which has been criticized by some as a politicization of the issue.

At the time of this writing, the Department is trying to defuse the tensions by finding a compromise solution, by either selling the plot back to privates or moving the Calvary to private land rather than destroying it.