Vandals have cut down the iconic iron cross surmounting the summit of Pic Saint-Loup in southern France, hewing through the vertical beam one meter above the base.
The 30-foot high iron cross, erected in 1911 to replace a previous wooden cross, is an important symbol of the Hérault department and the entire Languedoc region, and could be seen from miles around. It was discovered toppled on Monday and the vandals are still at large.
“It is an emblematic place for the inhabitants of Hérault and the whole Montpellier basin because it is visible from everywhere,” said Father Michel Plagniol, rector of the Saint-Pierre cathedral in Montpellier. “We can see it from the coastal plain of Montpellier. Many people go there for a walk and climb the peak.”
Pic Saint-Loup extends over six kilometres and spans the municipalities of Cazevieille, Mas-de-Londres, Saint-Jean-de-Cuculles, Valfaunès and Saint-Mathieu-de-Tréviers.
The 2,000 lb (900 kg) iron cross stood atop the Saint-Loup peak, 628 meters above sea level. The vandals who cut the cross down also covered its base in graffiti.
This is not the first time that an act of this type has been perpetrated, as the monumental cross was also vandalized in 1989. Local police are investigating the matter while elected officials and the local population reportedly agree that the cross should be rebuilt according to the original design.
A trail that passes near the cross, used by hikers and pilgrims alike, has been closed until further notice.
While Europe has experienced a growing number of acts of vandalism and profanation of Christian sites, the greatest number of such acts have occurred in France, where churches, schools, cemeteries, and monuments “are being vandalized, desecrated, and burned at an average rate of three per day,” according to reports drawing from government statistics.
French churches and other Christian monuments have come increasingly under attack, with an average of nearly three churches per day targeted for vandalism over the past three years.