French figures: The magical bells that bring chocolate

Church bells perform lots of serious and historic functions, but in France they have an extra, seasonal, job.

French figures: The magical bells that bring chocolate
Photo: AFP

You will be likely to hear church bells a lot in France – except for one very special day of the year.

On Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, church bells across France fall silent.

And the reason for this – so the country's children will tell you – is that the bells have all flown off to Rome to be blessed.

But it's what happens on the bells' return journey that makes the children particularly interested in this story. The legend goes that as they travel back from Rome, the bells distribute Easter chocolate to children across the country, in much the same way as the Easter Bunny does in Anglophone countries.

READ ALSO How to have a traditional French Easter

This is why, at Easter time, you will see lots of chocolate shaped like bells in the shops, as well as chocolate eggs, bunnies and chicks.

This article is part of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – every day until Christmas we will be presenting you with a person or object that has a particular significance to life in France. 


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French figures: The true spirit of France

This is the incredible story about the teenage girl who became a symbol of France for the ages.

French figures: The true spirit of France
Illustration photo: AFP

The story of Joan of Arc – Jeanne d'Arc in French – begun like many fairytales do: an unlikely hero is chosen to accomplish a dangerous task.

Born around 1412, Joan of Arc was an illiterate peasant girl convinced that divine powers had decided she would fight the English army in France. 

She then did exactly that. 

This was during the so-called Hundred Years’ War, when English troops battled for territory across the country that is now France.

Joan of Arc liberated Orléans city from English forces in a legendary and decisive battle that paved the way for the later French victory in 1453.

Joan of Arc paid for her heroism with her life. She was captured and sold her to the English army, who burned her at the stake in Rouen, northeast France, around 1431. She was approximately 19 years old at the time.

But her short life left a lasting mark on France and in 1920 she was made a Saint. Almost 600 years after her death she is still commemorated and celebrated in France and her spirit is invoked during difficult times for the country.

Known today as “the Maid of Orléans”, Joan of Arc's silhouette is all over the city, ingrained on medallions on the street, cast into sculptures and painted on the boxes of Cotignac, an Orléans culinary speciality.

READ ALSO: Ten reasons why you should visit the French city Orléans

This article is the final instalment of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – featuring every day a person or thing that has a special place in French culture. To see the whole calendar, click here.