France facts

France includes over 500,000 sq km of land and it has just over 60 million people. About 20% of them live in or near Paris. Life expectancy is 75 (men), 83 (women). France is a secular democratic republic; the monarchy was removed in 1789. It is the largest country in Western Europe. It has almost the same population as the UK, but more than twice the area of land.

France has a Celtic past and many French place names come from a Celtic root. Then the Romans came and brought their Latin language. Later the Franks invaded from the north east and it was their influence that gave the French language its characteristic sound. Since then people have come from everywhere to settle in France!

France has a long Christian heritage, with such notable people as Irenaeus of Lyons, Martin of Tours, Bernard of Cluny, Bernard of Clairvaux, William Farel and even Calvin himself. The papal court spent almost the whole 14th century at Avignon , and the enormous papal palace can be seen to this day. The monarchy was seen as the guardian of the nation and of the Christian faith - the motto was "Une foi, une loi, un roi." (one faith, one law, one king).

With the revolution of 1789 the monarchy was removed and France embarked on its great republican experiment. This developed into the strongly secular state that we see today.

Some examples of French secularism?
1. Nobody knows how many muslims there are in France because it is illegal to ask someone's religion on a census form.

2. It is now illegal (2004) to wear the islamic veil, the sikh turban or a large cross at school. Some children have been excluded from school recently after refusing to come without their veil or turban.


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