Cross, still and heart: the symbols of the three theological virtues are united in the Cross of the Camargue. Here is the story of this symbol.
There are different types of crosses – we have also dedicated an article to them – and each one carries a particular meaning. The Cross of the Camargue is unique because it contains several symbols in one, representing the union of the three theological virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity. It is called “della Camargue” because it is precisely in the French area of the Camargue that it was used for the first time.
The Three Theological Virtues
The theological virtues are Faith, Hope and Charity. They are virtues that refer primarily to man’s relationship with God. Faith is the virtue of believing in God, through the Revelation of Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Hope, as a theological virtue, is the ability to desire and expect from God the happiness and fulfilment of things. Charity is the virtue of the man who, recognising himself as loved by God, loves others and is capable of receiving love and giving love as Jesus taught.
St. Paul himself, in the first letter to the Corinthians, mentions the three theological virtues: “Now, therefore, these three things remain: faith, hope and charity. But the greatest of all is charity!”
Symbols of Faith, Hope and Charity
The theological and cardinal virtues have often been protagonists in the visual representations of the Catholic tradition. In many works of Renaissance art, they are represented as characters who hold some representative objects.
The symbols most frequently used to represent Faith, Hope and Charity are the cross, the anchor and the heart.
The cross represents faith: Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection constitute the essence of God’s Revelation to man. God made himself known as Father, he sent his Only Son to free humanity from sin and defeat evil once and for all: the cross symbolises all this. The anchor is the symbol of Hope: man trusts in Jesus Christ, still of salvation, which allows him to remain steadfast in joy and faith. The heart is a symbol of charity: always associated with love, the heart represents the most intimate and vital part of the human being. Charity, and therefore the capacity to be loved and to love, has to do with the truest and most living part of us.
The Cross of the Camargue
The Cross of the Camargue unites in a single design the symbols of the three theological virtues. It was created by the artist Hermann-Paul in 1926 at the request of his friend Folco de Baroncelli-Javon. It has become the emblematic symbol of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, a town whose church is dedicated to the Three Marys of the Gospel. On the side facade of the building, you can admire a cross of the Camargue.
In the Cross of the Camargue, the vertical arm of the cross traverses the heart and splits at the lower end into the two arms of the anchor. The three upper ends of the cross are often tridentate. The tridents are also linked to the history of this symbol: they were the tools that the guardians, that is the breeders of the Camargue, used to move the livestock raised in the wild. Precisely for this reason the Cross of the Camargue is also known as the Guardian Cross – croix gardiane in French.
In addition to the three theological virtues, the cross is therefore also representative of the characters of the Camargue: the tridents of the guardians, the anchor of the fishermen and the charitable heart of the Three Marie del Mare.