Expert Answer Forum
Roosters on Churches? QUESTION from Robert Manning December 11, 2000 Dear Mrs. Fortin,
Recently I have heard about a European tradition of placing the figure of a rooster on church buildings. Supposedly, this comes from the middle ages and has its origins in a papal edict of the ninth or tenth centuries. Although I have been able to determine that some churches do have roosters on them (although the oldest is an 18th century New England church), I have not been able to verify the Church's role in this tradition. Although I am inclined to write this story off as folklore, I remain curious about the actual history of this tradition. The sources on papal history and church architecture I have found so far have not touched on this admittedly trivial topic. Could you please shine any light on this question for me, or at least perhaps point in which direction I might go next? Thank you for your consideration.
God Bless. Robert Manning.
ANSWER by Mrs. Suzanne Fortin, B.A. on December 16, 2000 Dear Robert,
I am sorry, I was not able to confirm the origins of this practice. You're correct that it seems to have begun in the 9th century-- there is a record of a Church in Lombardy (northern Italy) having one. I run a French-language discussion board, and my European posters seem to familiar with it.. One of them said that the rooster symbolized the rooster that crowed around the time of Peter's denial during Our Lord's arrest, in order to remind us to be vigilant about our faith.
Should you hear of a name of a pope who actually decreed this practice, please let me know. It would narrow down the search considerably.
Thank you for your question.
Have a Blessed Feast of the Nativity, Suzanne Fortin
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