SOS Calvaires, the association that is on the rise

SOS Calvaires, the association that is on the rise

With its thousands of volunteers spread across the country, the SOS Calvaires association seeks to bring the ordeals of our countryside back to life.

Calvaries damaged by time, grassy crosses, vandalized statues. This is sometimes the panorama of the rural world in France. To identify and save this heritage, the Angevin association SOS Calvaires has launched a smartphone application. Its goal is simple: to identify crosses and other small rural Christian heritage requiring restoration. Hikers and ordinary citizens alike can inventory the monuments near them. Since its launch in 2021, more than 12,000 ordeals have already been recorded! Restoration campaigns are then carried out, through private fundraising. The association is pleased today to restore the equivalent of an ordeal every day.

Before creating this platform, its volunteers started from an alarming observation: no census database of crosses in France existed.

4000 volunteers throughout the territory

Created in 1987 and always based in Maine-et-Loire in Lion-d’Angers, this general interest association aims to be “protective of religious monuments and respectful of local memories”. First known under the name of Friends of the chapels and calvaries of the Lion-d’Angers region, from 2019 it became the thriving association of today.

Growing since the pandemic, SOS Calvaires brings together lovers of Christian heritage by the thousands, in France, and perhaps soon internationally. She inventories, values ​​and repairs, supported by her volunteer “builders”, her “comforters” who restore small objects of personal devotion (including crucifixes) and her “prayers” in union of prayer. In total, there are no fewer than 4,000 volunteers – all or almost all young professionals – spread across 75 regional branches throughout the country. Especially Catholics close to scout circles but also citizens concerned with “working for the symbol and in search of reality”, assures Alexandre Caillé, the general director of the association.

Reinvigorating our campaigns

For SOS Calvaires, restoring small Christian heritage has multiple advantages. In particular, that of revitalizing hamlets emptied of their inhabitants. They seek to “recreate the social fabric and links” and to develop a “short circuit” of catering. On the ground, the links created are also, for its director, a way of “giving hope and joy to those bent by life”. These projects aim to unite the population, all generations combined. And to restore vitality to depopulated villages, for a few days.

Transmission to future generations is their keystone. “When we put an ordeal back in place,” recalls the general director, “we honor a memory, we maintain history.” But above all, it is for the association a way of saying that, despite the increasing secularization of society, the stone crosses remain there. And their motto, taken from the Carthusians, “STAT CRUX DUM VOLVITUR ORBIS” (“The world turns while the Cross remains”) takes on its full meaning.

A Christian dimension

Who says crosses and votive niches, says Christian dimension. “Without proselytism or activism,” according to Alexandre Caillé. Even less desire to “evangelize the masses”, we specify. SOS Calvaires aims to respect secularism: no restoration without authorization from local political and religious authorities.

With its blessings at the end of the project, the association nevertheless displays an assumed Catholicism, not without pride. For its director, “by restoring an ordeal, we touch on the Christian roots of France”.

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