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  • Writer's pictureParisian Niche

French Symbols - The Rooster



We have so enjoyed researching and sharing some of the other French symbols, like the fleur de lys and the Napoleonic bee. We've even tossed around (get it?) the meaning behind Paris' unique Fluctuat Nec Mergitur city motto, the Tricolore flag, La Marseillaise (France's national anthem), and even the Phrygian Cap (mascot of the upcoming Olympics).


So, with the recent installation of the new golden rooster atop Notre Dame's risen spire (yay!) it seems more than appropriate to share the symbolism behind le coq gaulois. Let's jump into the P'Niche Time Travel Machine and take a trip to learn more...



So... why a rooster? Seems kind of ... random, right?


Well, when we consider that the Latin word "gallus" actually means "rooster," but also (and more importantly) "inhabitant of Gaul," it becomes a bit more clear.


Since our friends, the Gauls, settled Paris, we should not be at all surprised at this rooster-iffic symbolism, which has been around since the medieval ages.




Cementing the significant value (pun intended), of the bold and fierce rooster to French identity, le coq gaulois was minted into old Gallic coins.


Wish I could see one of these antiques in person - super cool...




Also since the Middle Ages, le coq gaulois (rooster) was used as a religious symbol - a sign of hope, faith, and Christ.


Just as the rooster welcomes the daylight, we too, wait in watch for the Resurrection. You'll see roosters on churches all over.



Moving forward in time, we can note that the rooster maintained its importance, as many royal images and representations featured the tough bird.


You might even still be able to peep a rooter or two if you look hard and long enough around the Louvre and/or the Palace of Versailles.


If you find one (or more), please let P'Niche know, as I have certainly been on the active search, but come up short - so far...


But wait - the rooster - not just for royals!



During the French Revolution, the rooster was further used to demonstrate France's national identity, with écu coins showing the rooster on one side. On the other side was the other French Revolution symbol - a freedom fighter wearing a Phrygian Cap.


Napoléon, however, did not feel that the rooster displayed enough strength, stating that "the rooster has no power, he cannot be the image of the empire of France."


Enter the Eagle - a symbol demonstrating the sheer might of the French Republic. He also added his bee (to show the work and industriousness of France).


Now, with the rooster lying in the wings (omg, so punny, right?!), we're moving forward to another Revolution.

DUN DUN DUN! Here we are at Les Trois Glorieuses, the French Revolution of 1830. Our fine feathered friend is back and ready to rave/riot.


Herein, the Duke d'Orléans decreed that rooster should appear on the uniforms and buttons of the National Guard.


The Second Republic saw both the rooster and eagle (talk about a coq fight!), but during the Third Empire, they installed the rooster on the gate of the Elysée Palace - where you can still see it today.


I mean, the gates of Paris are all ornate, so is this really a big deal? Well, kinda!


During the war of 1870 France was at war with Prussia and the German states. See, they had their own eagle, which was deemed barbaric (cough, Napoléon who?)


Further, the rooster installed at the president's gate shows a rooster, mighty and strong, crushing his opponent brutally. This was meant to symbolize overcoming them and their financing of The Great War (World War One).


Many also chose to add roosters to their war memorials, in remembrance. Cock-a-doodle-doo, indeed! But, wait, the French rooster actually calls "cocorico" and hails a sound of French pride. Now, you know!



Jumping a bit to 1919, this is the year that the French soccer (football) team added the rooster to their jerseys and kits. Rugby and other sports followed suit.


Probably my favorite reiteration of this was in 1998, when France hosted the World Cup, and chose as their mascot - a rooster! His name was Footix and he was put forward by graphic designer, Fabrice Pialot.


Too cute, this guy! (Also, we won - allez les Bleus!)



At last we are parking the P'Niche Time Travel Machine in the present time.


We've arrived at a ceremony - the blessing and installation of the new, golden rooster atop the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral - hooray!


The crane lifted it into place on December 16, 2023. Best P'Niche Birthday gift ever!



The golden wings of this rooster are meant to represent flames - the cathedral reborn of fire and ash - like a Phoenix, as told by designer and architect Philippe Villeneuve. Several relics were placed inside by Archbishop Ulrich, including fragments of what is believed by many to be Christ's Crown of Thorns. Also added were remains of Saint Denis and Saint Genevieve, as well as a list of the nearly 2000 artisans who are bringing Notre Dame back to life.


As a reminder, Notre Dame will reopen to the public on December 08, 2024 - feast of the Immaculate Conception and a public holiday in France.


In the meantime, however, you can stroll outside to see the consistent progress (and the new rooster). P'Niche sure will be doing so!


Hopefully, you are now a bit more familiar with the deep significance of the French Rooster - le coq gaulois. I will definitely be sporting my French soccer / footy jersey to show my pride and am sure a few of you will as well...


And let's make a challenge P'Nichers... where do you peep for the rooster when in Paris? Sound off in the comments below et à bientôt!


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