A collection of roosters
In August – while everyone (including me!) is away on vacation –’m posting a shorter article each week with a look at a specific destination or aspect of life in the deep heart of France. This week: a visit to the Chateau de Panloup. Regular “feature-length” posts will resume in September.
You’ll see images of roosters almost everywhere you go in France – the coq is one of the country’s most enduring symbols. So it’s only mildly surprising to find a unique little museum dedicated to the subject in a little chateau in the Allier. And this Gallinotheque (“Rooster Museum”) is not the only interesting thing about the Chateau de Panloup, in the town of Yzeure; this is a working public building, with an arts space for children and a garden of exotic trees.
The chateau itself dates to the 12th century, but most of what’s visible now is distinctly from the 17th. Its most unusual feature is that it is covered in brightly polychromatic tiles rather than raw stone – a tribute to Yzeure’s past as a brickmaking center.
The Unofficial Symbol of France
Obviously, though, the main reason to go is for the Gallinotheque. The rooster has never been an “official” symbol of France, but there’s hardly a town or a wide spot in the road that doesn’t have at least one example of the bird crowing over some public space. I’ve written elsewhere about how it came to be perched on top of the crosses in thousands of churches all over Europe, but it also has this more nationalistic meaning in France – it’s a bird known for being vigilant, for being aggressive, for standing up for its territory.
It’s also likely that the use of the coq as a national symbol stems from a play on words in Latin: “gallus”, the word for “rooster”, became the word used to describe the Gaulois tribes when the “g” was capitalized. (And I have to believe that when the Romans made this connection, they were thinking pejoratively about how such a lightweight little warrior bird might fare in a battle with a great Roman eagle!) In any case, you’ll find it everywhere, especially on the flags and uniforms of many of France’s sporting teams.
And it’s the raison d’etre for the Gallinotheque museum in the Chateau de Panloup. They’ve collected more than 250 objects since the space opened in 2012 – mostly decorative pieces like plates, sculptures, and ceramic figurines. Contemporary artists who use roosters in their work are sometimes invited for special expos, as are other collectors of rooster art from around Europe. Admission is only 2 Euros, the Chateau itself is worth a good look, and the walk among the exotic trees in the surrounding park will make your day complete!
Have you discovered an interesting or off-beat little museum devoted to a particular subject in your travels around France? Please take a second to tell us about it in the comments space below – and please share this with others by clicking on the button for your preferred social-media platform before you leave!