High up on the Cul de Beaujeu, looking down onto the rooftops of Chavignol, there stands a cross, coloured a brilliant white. It does not stand at the very top of the hill, but instead sits just below the summit, on the side of a rough stone track that runs around the peak. As you near the centre of Chavignol, just as you approach Domaine Delaporte in fact, and the road opens out before you, the cross comes into view. Its position means that its form appears as a white silhouette, set against a backdrop of emerald-green vines (provided you are visiting during summer, obviously).
“The cross honours the memory of my great uncle, Jacques Delaporte. He was on the Cul de Beaujeu during a storm, and when there he was struck and killed by lightning. It is a nice spot, overlooking Chavignol, with a good view across the vineyards. It’s a nice place to charm a girl, with a barbecue, and a bottle of wine…..”
Not long after Matthieu Delaporte had enlightened me as to the reason for the existence of the cross, I decided to take a look for myself. It wasn’t too hard to find the track that leads up onto the Cul de Beaujeu, just up the road from the Henri Bourgeois facilities. Having forced my unwilling hire car along the roughest and steepest of tracks, strewn with lumps of limestone (Kimmeridgian, obviously), I eventually came to a halt at the cross. Matthieu had not been lying about the view; from here, high on the hill, I could see across the rooftops of Chavignol and down the valley beyond all the way to Sancerre, sitting atop its hill of flint and clay in the distance.
Close up, I could see the paint on the cross was in truth a weather-stained grey-white, and flaking, and it was not quite as brilliant as it had appeared from the foot of the hill. And here I could also read an inscription, carved into the stone;
“27 Mars 1955, Seigneur, Que Votre Volonte Soit Faite”
The meaning of the date is obvious, while the rest translates (allowing for the fact my French remains intermediate at best) as “Lord, may your will be done”, suggesting Matthieu’s words regarding the origins of the cross had been true. And looking around I found more evidence; secreted behind the foot of the cross was a grey plastic bucket, surely once pressed into action as an emergency ice bucket, complete with an empty bottle, but to my surprise it was not a Delaporte bottle. When I next see Matthieu I must tell him he is not the only one doing a little ‘charming’ on the summit of the Cul de Beaujeu.