Driving idly along on one of our Sunday outings, having been to photograph the railway station and wheat silos at La Celle Saint Avant we spotted this marvellous dormer window.
We knew what it was immediately, as we've encountered these highly ornate roof windows before. They are rather uncommon, but there are some wonderful examples in Chateauroux [link] and a few other places. About 300 of them survive in central France and the Loire Valley.
Ones like this, with a square form, are called lucarnes capucines. They are the work of the master craftsmen of the artisan trade guilds in the 19th century. This one was made by a master carpenter-roofer belonging to the Compagnons du Devoir de Liberté. He is demonstrating how skillful he is, as a sort of advertisement. The house it adorns would have been his own home, and young carpenters travelling around France (journeymen) would have understood from this signal that there was a welcome and work for them here.
These special dormers usually carry coded messages to do with the values of the guilds and secret phrases. The arrangement of letters is a code I've seen on several of these windows, but I haven't quite deciphered it yet. I'm fairly sure that the big 'A' will be for 'Arts', and the big 'D' for 'Devoir' (duty/work). 'INCD' within the crossed compasses I can't yet interpret. On the pediment, and tucked in under the complex woodwork are other letters and numbers, not all of which I can read. The central star on the pediment is likely to be a secret guild sign for the Seal of Solomon.
Sadly, this lucarne capucine is not in very good condition and vulnerable to deterioration.
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