French figures: The proud bird that is a symbol of France

Proud, cocky and strutting - the rooster is often seen as an arrogant bird and, perhaps not coincidentally, is also an unofficial symbol of France.

French figures: The proud bird that is a symbol of France
Photo: AFP

Wander around France and you will find le coq (the cockerel) everywhere – in shop signs and logos, on weather vanes and war memorials and in the names of bars and restaurants. 

So how did the barnyard animal become a symbol of France?

As with all long-established traditions, there are various versions of this one, including the similarity in Latin of rooster (gallus) and Gauls (Gallus), a pun adopted by enemies of France to make fun of the French and the adoption of the symbol by Medieval French kings as a symbol of Christianity.

Whatever its roots, the Gallic rooster was pushed as a symbol of France after the revolution of 1789, when the country's new leaders were looking for 'traditional' symbols of France unconnected to royalty or the previous regime. 

It has featured on the old French franc coins and also tops many war memorials as a symbol of national pride.

French president Emmanuel Macron launching 'la French tech' complete with stylised coq logo. Photo: AFP

Le coq remains, however, an unofficial symbol, unlike the country's official motto of liberté, egalité, fraternité which is carved on all public buildings. 

The French state does not use it on official communications, but it is the emblem of many of the country's sports teams and is also used in the branding of many French companies and campaigns.

It has also entered the language – in French to express joy you can say on crie cocorico – we shout cock-a-doodle-do!

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.