Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Zouave et sophistiqué

This statue adorns the upstream end of one of the pillars (close to the right bank) on the Alma Bridge over the Seine in Paris. It is the only one remaining of the original four military statues on the bridge and depicts a zouave soldier of the Crimean War in his battle garb.

Looking down on the zouave. He's wearing a fez, and his feet are dry.

The zouaves were infantry units in the French African Army whose first campaign was the conquest of Algeria in the nineteenth century. They were active in many battles and wars beyond north Africa until 1962; their units were dissolved when Algeria gained its independence from France.

The peculiarity of this particular statue is that it was once a measure of the Seine's flooding. When the zouave had les pieds au sec (dry feet), the Seine was below flood stage and all was normal. If the zouave had les pieds dans l'eau (it's feet in the water), the Seine was at flood stage and the roadways, parking lots, and walkways at water level were inundated. When the river's level got up to the zouave's thighs, boats could no longer navigate (they couldn't get under the bridges). During the historic flood of 1910, the water rose up to the zouave's shoulders.

Parisians looked to the zouave during periods of high water until the early 1970s, when the bridge was reconstructed with only one pillar actually in the water. The three companion statues (a foot soldier, a grenadier, and an artillery man) were removed from the bridge and located elsewhere. The zouave remained on the bridge, but was moved and placed higher up than it was originally.


  1. What a charming shot! I love the story that goes with it. Glad his feet are dry.

  2. Geeze, sorry to see that your neck is out of whack again!

  3. The wet feet story is really cool. I love interesting tidbits like that.

  4. Rest up, Walt! Hope your neck heals quickly. Have really enjoyed your Paris episodes.

  5. What a great angle for the photo! I love the story of how it was used to measure the height of the river.

    Sure hope your neck feels better, too.

  6. So far, we've been able to avoid Paris during its floods.

  7. mitch, his feet were very dry... it was approaching 30º that day.

    judy, so am I. There's so much work to do in the yard and I'm kinda out of commission.

    cubby, Paris is full of 'em!

    evelyn, thanks!

    ginny, thanks, so do I.

    starman, it's pretty dramatic to see the water get high.


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