A rooster or a cross?

lygIn ancient times, France was called Gaul and the French were the Gauls (Gaulois). The rooster became the symbol of Gaul and the Gauls as a result of a pun. The Romans made fun of the Gauls, because, in Latin, the word Gallus means both rooster and Gaul. They regarded them as so boastful and noisy birds or roosters that were no match for the Roman eagle.

Thereafter, the kings of France will adopt the cock out of bravado. When meeting their rivals who treated them as roosters, they would say that the cock is a brave and early rising fighter.
The cock is also the bird of light and faith, the enemy of evil and darkness, etc….

There is a rooster on top of many churches in France. It is a very well liked symbol. I had a discussion with a priest yesterday at my nephew’s christening. He told me that wether a church had a rooster on top depended on a negotiation between the priest and the mayor of the village or town. Basically, since the separation of church and state in France, what tops the church (a rooster or a cross) pretty much depends on who pays the bills, the church or the village:)

43 Comments Add yours

  1. Muller says:

    Very interesting, thanks. We live in South Africa, approximately 75% protestant. Here the rooster or the cross indicate protestant (rooster) and catholic (cross) churches.

  2. Sartenada says:

    It was so great that You explained it to people here. I knew it. Thank You.

    1. My French Heaven says:


  3. Reblogged this on chaumierelesiris and commented:
    Ever wondered why there are roosters on the churches in France? We even have a former steeple rooster on the roof of our cottage. I was delighted to explore this corner of history in this wonderful post from My French Heaven.

  4. rkutchjm says:

    Interesting. Thanks for my mind helping of the day.

  5. terrepruitt says:

    Interesting! Thank you. This – to me – helps me understand why the rooster is such a HUGE decorative theme. I had never understood why there would be an entire collection of kitchen things with a rooster on them. Now I imagine it is because it is a well loved symbol in France and the French are such great cooks . . . . . not sure if that is why . . . . but that is what I will think of now instead of, “Who would want a rooster as their kitchen theme?”

    1. My French Heaven says:

      🙂 Roosters are mainly found on old wooden butter molds as well as cake snatches and pie plates and other casts…

      1. terrepruitt says:

        Here, in the states you can get EVERYTHING in your kitchen with a rooster on it. Towels, plates, rugs, glasses, canisters, you name it, I am sure they will have it with a rooster!

  6. acflory says:

    I learn something new every day! Speaking of learning something – I found RENDERED DUCK FAT!!!!! at the supermarket so… could you possibly let me have that recipe for rillette? Je t’en prie and merci beaucoup!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I have never made rillettes myself, but I’m sure there are many good recipes on the net. I think the best would be to go on a French website to have an original recipe and then use Google translation if you need it. This one here looks really good to me as my grandma used to make it almost the same way: http://www.marmiton.org/recettes/recette_rillettes-de-canard_13349.aspx

      1. acflory says:

        Thank you so much! I just checked out that recipe and I could read most of it. 🙂 Can’t wait for the weather to get cooler so I can try it out.

  7. janina says:

    It all makes sense now….the Resistance fighters is a good example, which I applaud. You could call me a Francophile even ‘tho I’ve never visited, only via Le Tour de France on the TV…thank you! It’s my annual vacation, and I especially like its segment at the beginning of each day’s broadcast showing us a sampling of food and wine of the region they will be cycling through that day, and presented by a now-Australian French chef called Gabriel Gaté, who I think is adorable. 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Ah le tour de France! One of the best PR ideas France has ever had… Be careful though. Some of the things they eat and drink on the tour de France aren’t very safe:)

      1. janina says:

        Well, since I watch it on the TV, it’s a bit impossible for me to be actually eating anything on that Tour! And, just out of curiosity, do you think a TV show that is broadcast Australia-wide is likely to have a cooking/food segment showing foods that are unsafe to eat?? Unless of course you are referring to the drug-taking…..

        1. My French Heaven says:

          Of course I am reffering to the drug taking

  8. very interesting! the rooster does look shaped a little like a cross 🙂

  9. Very interesting! Thank you for sharing this!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks!! My pleasure!

  10. Another great history lesson. I believe in NL the difference between rooster and cross is related to protestant vs catholic churches.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      They have many more protestants there. We only have about 2% 🙂

  11. cathynd95 says:

    Now that is an interesting bit of French trivia!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      🙂 I didn’t know it myself:)

    1. My French Heaven says:


  12. So that explains your Gravatar!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      It does! 🙂 🙂

  13. suth2 says:

    I think of the French rugby team when I see the rooster. Allez Les Bleus.

  14. ann perrin says:

    loved that post, typical pragmatic french approach, ‘who pays the bills’!X

    1. My French Heaven says:


  15. I never knew this history of the rooster symbol. Our village church has a rooster on the steeple – and when it was replaced a few years ago, the old one, which had been used for target practice, was auctioned off, and the owner of our cottage bought it. So we are the proud owners of a slightly battered, and formally blessed, rooster who sits atop our chimney.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      That’s great! Is it the one I see on your header photo? I love your blog!!

      1. Yes, it’s the one in the photo!

        1. My French Heaven says:

          What a charming place you have! Just lovely!!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      The Belgium say that it’s our symbol, because it’s the only animal that likes to sing and boast while standing in it’s own crap:)

  16. juliabarrett says:

    What an interesting factoid. France has many ancient traditions that taken out of context make no sense, but when understood make perfect sense. One of my ancestors came from France, although we don’t know what happened to him after maybe 1895 or so.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      It’d be interesting to do some research. There’s a great show called “who do you think your are” (see youtube). They investigate on the ancestors of famous people. The one with JK Rowling was very interesting:)

  17. Irene says:

    This is great. I also notice it appears on a lot of kitchenware too. I understand why now.

    1. My French Heaven says:


  18. boiteafoto says:

    Et même au dessus de Notre Dame il y en a un…

    1. My French Heaven says:


  19. That’s so interesting because as we were driving through France, my husband and I had a discussion about crosses and other objects; weather vanes, roosters on top of churches and came to the conclusion that Catholic churches had crosses and Protestant churches had other symbols. Wrong again, I guess 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      That’s funny:) I did some research: 2% of the French population is Protestant and 65% is Catholic. There are very very few Protestant churches in the country:)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s