Friday, July 18, 2014

Liberté, Egalité, Laicité (not necessarily in that order)

I. Laicité

I accidentally (because this kind of thing seems to happen to me) wandered into a celebration of Vespers by nuns and priests who belong to the Monastic Orders of Jerusalem at the church of San Gervais. 

This was my one shot at a surreptitious photo; it's not great:

I'm always moved by the ceremony of high church activities, but what really struck me, especially after watching a woman walk in with her young daughter was how hollow the French calls for laicité really are. If you are a French Catholic and can just wander in off the street to your own religious service because that's just what the very fabric of your society looks like — if as a kid you simply know you belong — then what you're calling for when you ask your society to be secular is for you to be able to continue on in your life, religious unmarked rather than secular, while placing a burden of invisibility on people whose religious lives are not quite so literally built into the shape of the city.

II. Egalité

III. Liberté

I like this and think it's clever — don't get me wrong. Somebody seems to be turning traffic signs into stations of the cross.


  1. Nice addition to your collection of amazing traffic signs!

    Interesting choice of terms in the sign in your "Egalité" picture. "équipe", to this not-nearly-fluent speaker of French, places the activity in the realm of competition---gives the juxtaposition of religious symbols an ironic, and all too-sadly real, twist.

  2. Yeah, they're right up there with "Don't break the Warka vases!" in Barcelona and "Watch out for immodestly-dressed tractor drivers!" in Jerusalem.

    As for the sign, that was how I was reading it (admittedly with the Spanish sense of it as my reference point). They're on an equal plain, but choose your side because there's no crossover.