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Fluctuat nec mergitur, as seen on a school façade on rue Delambre, 14ème, Paris

Ready for today’s petite history lesson?

Baron Haussmann made it official in 1853. That’s when “Fluctuat nec mergitur” (“He who rises with the wave is not swallowed by it”) became Paris’ official motto.  The phrase is also present in the city coat of arms and is symbolized by a ship with one or three poles floating over stormy waters. Both motto and city arms originate from the river Seine’s boatman’s corporation, whose hanse ruled the city’s trade and commerce from the Roman era on. At the time, Paris (then named Lutetia) was no more than a fishermen village by the banks of the Seine.

Today, the phrase is to be seen practically everywhere in the city – from public buildings (like schools, train stations, bridges, museums, fountains) to – now, hold on to your hats! – the helmets of Parisian firefighters!

A few easy spots to track it include: the façade of Hôtel de Ville, the streetlamps of Alexandre III Bridge or the fountain Saint Sulpice.

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