Boule aux Rats – Carpentras, France - Atlas Obscura
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Carpentras, France

Boule aux Rats

This mysterious sculpture was thought to symbolize a world ravaged by misery.  

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There are many “rat ball” sculptures located around France. Saint-Germain-l’Auxer-rois in Paris, Le Mans Cathedral, and the church of Saint-Jacques de Meulan in Yvelines département Île-de-France are a few of the more prominent sculptures. The Carpentras Cathedral also features a very impressive “Boule aux Rats.”

No one really knows what these strange sculptures were designed to represent. They contain a sphere with rats either nibbling into it, emerging from the ball, or both. Many researchers believe the sculptures were created as a motif to symbolize the world being consumed by misery. They became prominent fixtures during the Middle Ages when cities lacked sanitation and were often infested with rats. 

Along with the sculpture, next to the Carpentras Cathedral is the Arch of Carpentras. Constructed under Augustus during the first century, the Roman triumphal arch was decorated with carvings of enslaved Gauls. It’s believed that it was designed to commemorate Augustus victories in the eastern and northern regions. 

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