Since I arrived in Paris, the Seine River has flooded numerous times. On a couple of occasions, the flooding was severe enough to close metro stations and several of the museums located next to the river, including the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. Whenever this happens, there’s a lot of talk in Paris about how much “he” is underwater. It took me awhile, but I finally discovered that the “he” everyone was talking about was actually a statue. His name is Zouave, and he has served as the unofficial flood marker of Paris for over a century and a half.
Zouave was created by the artist Georges Diebolt in 1856. He was one of four statues that originally decorated the Pont de l’Alma, a bridge that was named after the Battle of the Alma in the Crimean War. For this reason, the four statues represented the different military classes of soldiers who fought in the French Army during this conflict: a Zouave, a grenadier, an artilleryman, and a skirmisher. Unfortunately, the other three statues were removed when the bridge was rebuilt in the 1970s, meaning that the Zouave now stands alone at his perch. But he is not without purpose!
Since the 19th century, the Zouave has acted as an unofficial flood marker for the city of Paris. Whenever the water rises, the severity of the flood is measured by how much of this statue is underwater. Personally, I’ve seen the waters rise up to Zouave’s chest, but people still talk about the Great Flood of 1910 when the poor man was up to his neck underwater. The Seine River reached of height of 8.62 metres that year, and that is a record that still stands to this day.
FIND ME HINT
To find the Zouave statue, you have to look on the north end of the Pont de l’Alma. However, if you’re not in Paris, it is possible to follow him online. This famous Parisian landmark has his own Twitter account!
Want more FIND ME? Click HERE.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.