Thursday, 8 December 2011

Sab's Top Ten Curious Paris Corners: No.5 ~ "Losing Your Head"

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesTop 10 ~ Corners Statues

Sab's Top Ten Curious Paris Corners
No.5: "Losing Your Head" ~ Introduction 
by Sab Will,  wannabe offbeat Paris street guru

Wander around these sacred streets a moment, especially the older quarters, and raise your eyes from time to time as you round a corner or two.

Peek-a-boo! There's sometimes someone looking down on you. Some would say 'looking after' us. 'Guarding over' us would be pushing my irreligious tendencies a little too far, but whatever the origins of these charming corner curiosities, it's always a pleasure to discover them.

And discover them you will in the most unexpected places, which is just one more reason to wander around Paris with your nose in the air, at the danger of slip-sliding away when you step in something much more down to earth.

Once again, thinking back on all the interesting corner phenomena I've seen in my 20-odd years in the city, I'm a little worried as to which approach to take with this series. Should I limit it to statues in niches only or go wider to include amazing mosaics, ancient shop ensignia, historic timepieces and more?

Only time will tell, in fact, but one thing's for sure, there'll be a surprise around every corner in this Paris Top 10.

Sab's Top Ten Curious Paris Corners
No.5 ~ "Losing Your Head"

Yes, I've already written about this one - is there any Paris chronicler who wouldn't have - but I'll do it again with pleasure: same weirdness, different words!

And what a weird little Paris corner this one is to be sure to be sure. Plus, the great thing is that there's a very simple trap a lot of people fall into.

You see, what we've got here, one floor up, is a headless, indeed a most-of-its-body-less statue in one of those little niche nooky cranny things very much in the style of the Lady in Red at the top of this page.

And whaddya know, right next to it, well, just under it but above the street's current name, carved into the stone, is the old name for the street, which was, wait for it... rue de la Femme Sans Teste. The Headless Woman street!

Which all seems very straight forward. There's the statue of some woman, a saint no doubt, which has been chopped in half, and the street got named after her. Right?

I think you guessed it; wrong. So very wrong. In fact, to try and cut a long ramble short and cut to the chase as it were, the street's named after an old pub or bar sign with a headless woman. Coincidentally this statue was placed there, in the days when it was considered aesthetically pleasing and no doubt spiritually uplifting to have a friendly neighbourhood saint on the corner of your block.

The French revolutionaries didn't like saints. At all. So when the Sans-Culottes (the 'Without-Fancypants', as the commoners were called) saw poor old Saint Nick up there, well, put it this way: He won't be going down too many chimneys any more, that's for sure.

So it was a man, not a woman, and the road wasn't named after him at all, but a drinking den represented by a woman who'd lost her head but still managed to hold onto her glass. Folks were mighty strange in those days if you ask me.

Discover all my curious Paris corners... 


* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

© 2011 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!

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