In Search of the Elusive Omega Cross: Part I

By: Peter von Pazatka Lipinsky (First published in 1999)

Since the beginning of time gravesides have been marked in various ways. For example, some nomadic tribes in Pomerania used large rocks or smaller sized boulders to build a small mount to identify a graveside. Other nomadic tribes used the so-called face urns to bury the ashes of the deceased. Different people had different ways to mark the burial site of a relative or a friend. After Christianity was accepted by more and more people in the area what was later known as Pomerania, Kashubia and West-Prussia, wooden crosses were used throughout the land as grave markers to identify someone's final resting place. 

The disadvantage with the wooden crosses was, that this type of grave marker did not withstood the onslaught of the very harsh weather. It would not take long and the inscription on the cross, name, date of birth and death would not be legible. Soon the wooden cross would succumb to the elements.

During the latter part of the Renaissance time, wrought iron crosses became very popular. People of the catholic faith preferred this type of grave marker, if one could afford it. In many cases, the Graveside would also be fenced in with a wrought iron fence. Sometimes a religious figure or statue would be added to the graveside to enhance the appearance of someone's final resting-place.

Later on, around the beginning of the 1900's, cast iron crosses were produced at a much lower cost compared to the hand made iron wrought crosses. The iron crosses could also be produced at a much quicker pace, but did not become all that popular to be used as grave markers. In addition to the wooden, wrought iron and cast iron grave markers, the use of marble and granite headstones became very popular as well as fashionable.

Some of the handmade wrought iron crosses were truly a piece of art. Each blacksmith had his very own special way of producing a very fine wrought iron cross with his own so called "special signature". People could tell by the design of each cross who the blacksmith was. A few of these iron crosses can still be found in different parts of Germany, as well as in the U.S.A. and Canada, where German settlers once had started to make a new life for them-selves, after leaving the old country.

In areas of Pomerania were the Kashubian's used to live, a different hand-made wrought iron cross was sometimes used by the Kashubians as a grave marker, also known as the "Kashubian Kreuz" =cross. The Kashubian cross was fashioned in the shape of the Greek letter "Omega", which was fastened on top of an iron rod. On top of the letter "Omega" was a replica of the sun. The Kashubian crosses, as well as hand carved figures, hand painted pottery and Kashubian needle art are truly a mirror of Kashubian craftsmanship and tradition.

The Kashubian crosses are being mentioned in several books, but to find them today, seems almost impossible. During a visit to Bytow in the fall of 1998 the author visited several cemeteries around Bytow but was unable to discover even one of these old traditional grave markers. Only in the old Church yard in Borzyszkowy did the author discover a fairly simple wrought iron cross, which does not even come close to the Kashubian cross. The cemetery from Piaszno to this day has a wrought iron gate leading to the cemetery. In another cemetery by Niezabyszewo a couple of very plain iron crosses are also still standing. There is however a sketch of a typical Kashubian "Omega cross " to be found in the "Pommern Lexikon". If any reader of this story has a picture of an old Kashubian graveside, please get in touch with the author by e-mail.

UPDATE 2006: The story continues with Part II and I'm pleased to be able to write that my search has finally produced the results which I have been looking for such a long time.

 Entrance to old cemetary

Entrance to old cemetery