The symbols of France are either revolutionary in nature or have a fascinating past. Let us get to know these genuinely French stuff in depth, from official government emblems to famous landmarks and cultural icons.
Things you'll find in this article
- France Symbols: 18 Iconic French Symbols
- Government French Symbols
- France National Symbols
- Landmark Symbols in France
- Cultural Symbols of France
France Symbols: 18 Iconic French Symbols
Without further adieu, here are the iconic French symbols.
Government French Symbols
The French Flag
The Fifth Republic’s symbol is the “tricolour” (three-color) flag. Its roots can be traced back to the union of the King’s (white) and the City of Paris’ (red) colors during the French Revolution (blue and red).
All public buildings now have the “tricolor” flying over them. The French flag is also flown at most civil and military ceremonies.
Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity) – the motto of the French Republic
The French national motto is “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité,” which is one of the symbols of sovereignty stated in article 2 of the French Constitution of 1958.
Archbishop Fénelon related the concepts of liberty, equality, and fraternity at the end of the 17th century, and this spread throughout the Age of Enlightenment. This symbol is now used on a variety of everyday objects, such as coins and postage stamps.
The Seal of State
The Seal depicts a seated figure of Liberty wielding a fasces (a bundle of rope-bound wooden rods with an axe in the middle).
Near Liberty is an urn bearing the letters SU, which stand for universal suffrage, and a Gallic Rooster stands at her feet. The Seal is only used on official occasions such as the signing of the Constitution and any subsequent amendments.
Coat of Arms
A large shield with the monogram RF (Republique Francaise) in the middle is surrounded by the heads of a lion and an eagle in the French coat of arms.
An oak branch, representing knowledge and eternity, is on one side of the shield, while an olive branch, representing goodwill, is on the other. The fasces, a sign of courage, justice, and power, is in the middle.
The French coat of arms is used on legal documents and passports in France.
Marianne is one of the most widely recognized symbols of sovereignty not stated in Article 2 of the 1958 French Constitution.
Marianne is the most well-known of the numerous personalities representing the French Republic. The name’s origin remains a mystery.
Some claim Marianne was based on the wife of politician Jean Reubell in 1797, while others believe she was named after the Jesuit Mariana, a 16th-century theoretician.
Nonetheless, she is venerated in town halls and law courts as a sign of “Triumph of the Republic.”
The cockerel has been a symbol of France since Gallic times, and it got its name because the words for cockerel (rooster in the United States) and Gallic were very similar in ancient French.
The cockerel can be found on government-issued items such as stamps, coins, and the official seal of France.
France National Symbols
Clafoutis – national dessert
Clafoutis is a typical French dessert made with blackberries and cooked in batter before being dusted with powdered sugar and served with cream.
Traditionally, black cherries are used, although several other fruits can be substituted. It spread throughout France in the 19th century and became extremely popular, eventually being designated as the national sweet.
Marseillaise, the National Anthem
Article 2 of the French Constitution of 1958 mentions the national anthem as one of the symbols of sovereignty.
The song’s original title was Chant de guerre de l’armeé du Rhine (War Song of the Rhine Army). It was first performed at a patriotic banquet, where its stirring melody captured everyone’s attention.
La Marseillaise was banned by Napoleon III during the Empire and Louis XVIII during the Second Restoration of 1815 before becoming the official national anthem.
For nearly 1000 years, the Fleur-de-lis has been synonymous with the French monarchy.
A stylized variant of the lily, any people associated it as a sign of slavery since it was once used to tag slaves for attempting to flee.
Nowadays, the Fleur-de-lis is known as France’s official emblem.
Yew – National Tree of France
The European Yew is a coniferous tree that has a thin, scaly bark that sheds tiny flakes and can reach a height of 28 meters.
Despite being France’s national tree, there aren’t many Yew trees in the region. It is estimated that only 76 yew trees exist in France, with many of them being over 300 years old.
Landmark Symbols in France
Arc de Triomphe
Napoleon I, ordered the building of the Arc de Triomphe. The Arch of Titus, designed in Rome in 81 AD, served as inspiration for the architect Jean-François Chalgrin. Napoleon I did not live to see the bridge, which was completed in 1836.
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With approximately 18,000 iron pieces held together by 2.5 million rivets, the landmark monument reaches a height of 324 meters.
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The Louvre Pyramid
The Louvre Museum, established in 1989, is widely acknowledged as the world’s most famous museum. It houses many well-known works of art from all over the world, including Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting “Mona Lisa”.
The museum’s pyramid-shaped glass entrance is the first thing you’ll encounter when you arrive, providing an iconic and appropriate welcome to this art paradise.
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The Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel is a magnificent French landmark. A fortified village on a small rocky island is topped by a strong fortress-like church. The Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel is one of France’s most beautiful sights.
This holy island has been a major pilgrimage destination in Europe for centuries and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris is one of Europe’s most beautiful churches. The cathedral, which dates from the Middle Ages, is the setting for Victor Hugo’s 19th-century novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”.
If you ascended the 380 stairs to the South Tower before the great fire of April 2019, you’d see the many chimeras and gargoyles that guarded the city of Paris at all hours of the day and night.
Cultural Symbols of France
The baguette is a staple food and a true symbol of France. The baguette, the archetypal French bread, is a long, thin loaf beloved by the French and extremely difficult to make well in other countries!
The French holiday Bastille Day commemorates the country’s independence. A military parade is held in Paris, as well as communal dinners, dances, celebrations, and fireworks.
It is a national holiday in France, named after the Bastille, a medieval fortress and jail in Paris. Many people in France correlated it with the late-1700s harsh rule of the Bourbon monarchy. The storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, marked the start of the French Revolution.
On July 14, 1790, the Fête de la Fédération took place. Bastille Day was proclaimed a national holiday for the first time exactly a century later.
Almost every village in France has a petanque court, where the game is played with fervor.
In a nutshell, a small marker ball is hurled a short distance in the petanque court, and then the contestants must throw their metal boules as close to the marker as possible, ideally dislodging a couple of opponents in the process.
Cockade of France
The French cockade is a national ornament of France, made of a circularly pleated ribbon in French colors. The three colors (blue, white, and red) stand for the clergy, aristocracy, and the third estate in French society.
It’s also known as the tricolor cockade’ and can be used on elite uniforms, mayors’ badges, and Miss France’s pageant sash.
Hi, I’m Christine – a full-time traveler and career woman. Although I’m from the Philippines, my location independent career took me to over 40 countries and lived in 4 continents in the last 10 years, including France. A self-proclaimed Francophile, I love everything France.