Friday, 25 January 2013

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios: "See You At The Elm"

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios
by Sab Will,  wannabe offbeat Paris street guru

The title says it all: quirks and curiosities. And as luck would have it, Paris is packed with them; you just have to know where to look!

In this on-going series I offer you some hand picked, photographed and commented oddities which particularly interested me, and I hope will do the same for you.

I'm an avid collector of such items so any comments and suggestions you may have would be very welcome. So, without further ado, let's get straight onto...

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios
4th Arrondissement: Quirk 7 ~ "See You At The Elm"

Three more curiosities for the price of one, just like I did in quirk No.3 of the 4th arrondissement, now don't say I'm not good to you!

We find ourselves at another church, but not inside it, not just yet anyway. Instead we are looking up at its magnificent facade through the leaves of... a certain elm. But not just any old elm, you understand.

Well, this isn't the original of course, but ever since the middle ages an old old tree has stood at this spot in the centre of the place in front of the church. It was even known as the Carrefour de l'Orme - the Elm Crossroads.

The locals would gather by the tree, and in particular for the settling of debts, giving rise to a French expression, Attendez-moi sous l'orme ! - 'Wait for me at the elm', meaning I want paying back, and sharpish!

The local Saint-Gervais factory would contribute each year to the upkeep of the tree, and it was the subject of many sculpted or painted representations, two of which I shall tell you about forthwith.

Follow me inside the church, if you will and let's take a trip down the central isle. On either side, about half way down, are a couple of rows of sideways-facing choir stalls.

A closer inspection of the misericords - the little jutting out ledges on the underside of the upswung seats to help people keep from keeling over - reveal some very curious creatures indeed. And among them, guess what we find... a couple of our old friend the Saint-Gervais elm.

The rest of the display will have to be the subject of another quirk, for now we're going to hasten outside again and around to the right... or left, depending on which way you look at it.

On the street just off to the north side of the church is a long building and we need to look up to the second floor at the little wraught iron balconies. Right there in the middle - well, I'm sure I don't need to tell you, do I? - is the elm once again. It's everywhere!

* 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...

© 2013 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!

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