P1080866So retro, so unconnected. A piece of metal to spare one’s knuckles when summoning residents from within. They sometimes are as simple as a ring or bar of metal, but often, in usual French fashion, door knockers are elaborately decorated, sometimes as fantastical figures. They are made to last multiple generations. I love them.

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A simple ring that’s not so simple, with an elegant twist.
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And the simple bar version, but with a nicely scrolled attachment. Never miss an opportunity to add a little something!

Door knockers were the subject of conversation recently, and I decided it was time to post my collection, which is getting out of hand. The conversation was with a reader, who was visiting the region with her husband. These IRL (in real life) meetings are a surprising but gratifying aspect of writing this blog. The conversation turned on which model to choose, how to carry home something so heavy, and oohs and ahhs over various examples we spotted on doors as we wandered about Minerve.

bell ringer
Not a knocker but an old-fashioned doorbell. You pull the ring, attached to a (non-electrical) wire that yanks a bell inside. The kind of bell that clangs. Do you really want a doorbell connected to your phone instead of one of these?

Take the angel at the top. What work went into it! The chubby face, the interesting sleeves, the patterned torso.IMG_2644And how about this beauty? I think I stared at it for 20 minutes. There are three faces, not counting the creature itself. Is this from a story, a fairy tale? Who created it? Who lived there and decided “THIS is what I need on my door!” Was it a commissioned piece? Was it one of several choices presented to the homeowner? Where do I get one of these?IMG_0457Lions are a classic. None of the lions I’ve encountered (remember I lived in Africa!) would be inclined to hold a ring in its mouth. Did you know there were lions in Europe? As late as the 4th century AD, in part of Greece. I wonder how the makers of these knockers came to visualize lions.

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Closeup. He’s a bit distressed, no?
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The whole door is wonderful. That peephole! You’d have to bend over to see through.

Then we have a combination lion and ouroboros, the Egyptian symbol found on King Tut’s tomb and later associated with alchemists and gnostics, though other mythologies also included the self-eating serpent.

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Another distressed lion.
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Amid no lack of embellishment. More is more.

Fish are another theme for knockers. They look great. I’m not one to go knocking on strangers’ doors, so I am not sure how they feel in the hand. I’m a bit put off by those faces. Do you agree?IMG_1135fish knockerIMG_1134The swan is a bit more elegant, don’t you think?P1070408Or this gentleman, with his pageboy coiffure and Bolton-esque moustache, gazing to the heavens in…what? exasperation? Disgust that somebody did a bad patch on the door above his head? Or, worse, that somebody scratched the door?IMG_2034The one my friend desires is the classic woman’s hand holding a small ball. The hand is supposed to signify welcome, and the ring symbolizes the theory that a vein runs from that finger to the heart, signifying love. What I love is that the cuff is elaborately detailed and that the fingers are delicately perched on the ball. Note that the base also is decorated behind the hand. Never miss an opportunity to add a design.

After all, more is more!IMG_2328IMG_2676P1090129P1060485Tell me which is your favorite. For great detail about the history of knockers, or heurtoirs, check out this post (in French but you’ll still get a lot out of the photos) on Paris Myope.

51 thoughts on “Knock, Knock

  1. Love these! There is just something so classy about a lion door knocker. One of my regrets in our current house is that the glass-panelled door has no place for one so instead we have a boring doorbell. We did recover the old-fashioned pewter bell from my husband’s grandparents place though. It sits proudly on a pillar at the gate.

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  2. I too love the lady’s hand! The lions look too “distressed” for me…remind me of the cowardly lion. The knocker on my house is a brass Nantucket basket. I intend to take it with me to our next house. The ones in your pictures don’t look as portable!

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  3. My faves are the strange horse creature and the swan. The women’s hands holding a ball have always struck me as creepy. They are referred to in our house as ‘the dead hands’. I’ve never been able to find an explanation for them, so thank you for that. I’m amused that I have entirely the opposite reaction to them to the intended!

    Lions in art frequently look distressed or miserable — check out any medieval or renaissance tapestry, for example.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have also developed a love for French doors and door knockers, since buying our house here. I think this was partly inspired by one of your previous posts. I even blogged about it too but I did thank you! I hope you don’t mind if I add a link to my post, purely because it talks about the hand of Fatima doorknockers and what they represent. I only learnt this from research for my own post. It’s amazing want one learns from reading and writing blogs!
    https://fancyingfrance.com/2018/12/04/doors-and-more/
    I’m now on the look out for an interesting door knocker for our house, maybe I’ll find one in a brocante or vide-grenier?
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The fish is a dolphin (dauphin) and was the symbol for the crown prince. I have seen it on candlesticks, knockers, and downspouts (on the Isle Saint Louis), its probably a lot of other places too.
    bonnie in provence

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  6. I love the old doorknockers! That first one is my favorite. I grew up in a very old farm house in a suburb of the big city that had a lovely one. When my mom sold the house years ago, a developer was going to take it down. We removed some old glass doorknobs, wrote tearful goodbye and thank you notes to the old home that sheltered us for so many years.. and the door knocker is now on my mom’s front door in her new much smaller home near us.

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    1. I am glad you saved some good stuff!
      When my parents redid their bathroom, we wrote notes and stuck them in the wall before the new tile went on. I wonder whether anybody will ever find them.

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  7. I have dozens and dozens of photos of French doors and door knockers! I love the beauty and variety. Thanks for a post that again takes me back to a favorite travel destination.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you. Maybe next year we might find that – Hand of Fatima. It does look creepy though. I never thought of it that way before. Maybe I should look for the dolphin instead. In reality I would love anyone of them, even the sad looking lion.
    Ali

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          1. Well, the mystery would be why is it a “berger” and not a “bergere”? Normal translation of berger would be male, a shepherd. And I know nothing of the history of shepherdesses in France. Someone needs to do more research!!
            bonnie

            Liked by 1 person

            1. My method for figuring out these sorts of queries is to look for the key words, but not the ones in question. So I looked for “arret” “volet” and “tete” but not “berger” nor “bergere.” The top responses re all bergère. Turns out there is a blog devoted to nothing but arrets volets! https://arretvolet.wordpress.com/page/1/
              I also discovered tête de barbu and tête de sultan!

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            2. I’m very curious about why you are so insistent it’s a tête de berger when that spelling calls up nothing on a simple Search Engine search — as opposed to “tête de bergère” which calls up numerous entries. But I think if you want to do more research, there are many records of shepherdesses in France. Think of Claude Lorrain’s paintings, for example, and what about the classical carol, “D’ou viens-tu, bergère?” . . .

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Not being insistent, just curious about the language. These arrets are sold in stores today as tete de berger, I am always interested in the history of objects, names, etc. Of course there were both women and men who took care of the sheep, its the etymology of the name that interests me.
                bonnie

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Taste of France makes a good point—you’ve learned of them first under another name and that’s stuck. To me, I learned of them here as têtes de bergères and they look like women, I’ve heard about bergères before, no contradiction or complication … interesting, the many filters through we use and perceive language…

                  Liked by 1 person

  9. I like the lady’s hand and what it symbolizes. The gentleman is whimsical but in an unwelcoming way. Like “what are you doing here?” or “not another mouth to feed!”

    I’m surprised there are no birds.
    I live in California and my house came with a lovely woodpecker knocker. We live on Decker St so he’s The Pecker in Decker.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My favorite is definitely the lion -I know, lions are not really cheerful so I take that as a fact. There is something majestic about lion’s mane. The inspiration may would have come from China, on the Silk Road, since old France didn’t have any lions back then.

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  11. Great minds think alike. I recently visited Tuscany and Umbria. Along the way, tired of wine tastings, I started photographing the varied and interesting door knockers. I plan to develop them all, choosing 5 to be matted and framed as a memento. I found the variations fascinating. I wish I had caught the letter boxes which were also very ornate. Next European visit.

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  12. Love these, so glad you took all those photos. I like the chubby little angel and the fantastical creature with the three faces on the plate. It looks like a horse, or a sea horse, or perhaps the French version of Nessie.
    Somewhere in the debris of my life I have a French door knocker in the shape of a bird, but haven’t yet put it on a house.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh, I love the dolphin (I think I’ve pinned a couple of crazy variants on my Pinterest pages) and the old-fashioned door-bell. Looks like something to be found on a monastery, or a castle on a stormy night where some unsuspecting traveller is going to wish they’d not stopped to give it a ding-a-ling! I had a trip to Iran some years back and many houses have two knockers in different sizes and shapes to give two distinctive rings – a feminine version for the lady-callers and a masculine version for the gents. That way the right person answers the door. I guess it’s the same in many Islamic countries.

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  14. Love your post as a long-time fan and photographer of door knockers. Before I moved to France I had a very large hand of Fatima on my front door in Oregon. Then when I bought my house here, I had to find a small one as there are glass panels in the door. Eh, voila! At the monthly brocante shortly after I moved here, there was a nicely painted and patina-ed, small green hand of Fatima which now proudly adorns my front door. Here in Villereal there are about 20 Fatima door knockers, each one slightly different.

    I have a photo of a similar lion surrounded by the snake biting it’s tail, from Beziers.

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  15. More IS more…. can’t decide – they are all glorious in their own right. I love the distressed ones, those that are really being used and I want to dwell a bit in self-pity for the one we had on our English door, a house from the 1880th, a classic Victorian Pile!!!! What a wonderful collection – and all not too far from your home.
    We also had a door knocker on the one door of our 1430th house in Switzerland, but the heavy, heavy ring was so giant that somebody had screwed it firmly into the enormous wooden door! Love them, love them…..

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I love this – an instant read on the character of the house, done properly. Maybe that anxious lion tells a story? Our house was “awesome” when it was built in the mid-’80s by a tech engineer, with an integrated electronic doorbell/intercom system that rang in and could be answered from every room – which no one repairs or has had parts for since the mid-’90s. We’ve repaired so much sheet rock and brick getting that thing removed I’ve stopped keeping count. There’s no practical way to wire a conventional doorbell and I refuse to have a Ring – totally hackable, like everything else, so a door knocker is perfect. I was pleasantly surprised at how many wonderful antique options are available, and we have the luxuries of a solid wood door and a marble entry so we’ll get the satisfying echo of the schwack throughout the house along with the beautiful ornament – that’s assuming anyone other than your readers knows how to use a door knocker these days?

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I love this post — thanks for sharing your collection. Besides bringing to mind all the wonderful door knockers I’ve admired in visits to France, it also made me think back over various doors and entryways to our homes over the last 45 years. . . living in a 5th-floor condo now, with an electronic “buzz-and-talk” system at sidewalk level, the elevator only going to the floor for which one has a fob, etc., I often miss the surprise visits we used to receive, that sense of wondering who might be at the door, knocking. . . .

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