Vivez joyeux, vivez Rabelais!

On Wednesday March 8, students, doctors, staff and friends of the University gathered in the Jardin des Plantes to inaugurate the restored Rabelais monument. It was an opportunity for the Carabine Montpelliéraine association to reaffirm its affiliation with the French writer and former student of Montpellier's Faculty of Medicine, as well as with his philosophy, summed up in the famous phrase: "Vivez joyeux!

Twenty or so of them stand out among the small crowd slipping into Montpellier's Jardin des Plantes on this misty morning of March 8th. Proudly displaying their faluche, Montpellier's carabins and carabines have their eyes riveted on the Rabelais monument, their monument, finally restored thanks to the support of the University, the Faculty of Medicine and the inescapable Fondation d'entreprises du Jardin des plantes, which was kind enough to accompany them in this project of high emotional and symbolic value. This monument, which was inaugurated 102 years ago, and this thought by Rabelais still say a lot about the students of Montpellier," said Camille Pelissier, president of the Carabine montpelliéraine association. It's the very essence of the folklore and values we pass on year after year, and which we hold so dear.

To the folklore of the Carabins

And while this folklore remains largely a matter for the initiated, the students present that morning were not shy about sharing their memories of " carabinage ". Every year, this ceremony takes place at the foot of the monument, where aspiring Carabinieri who have reached the end of their second year are inducted into the guild. The custom is that, after taking the oath, each student takes a photo on the back of the sculpture, where the writer's famous maxim " Vivez joyeux" ("Live joyfully ") is engraved in stone. " We do difficult studies," continues Camille Pelissier, "so it's important for us to insist on this celebration of life's pleasures. "

In 1921, on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of Montpellier's Faculty of Medicine, the Carabins commissioned the sculptor Jacques Villeneuve to create this work, which he christened "En vin vérité" ("In Truthful Wine"). Beneath the bust of Rabelais overlooking the monument, the faces of Pantagruel and Gargantua frame a bas-relief depicting a scene from a farce written and performed at the time by Rabelais on rue de la Loge. In the foreground, an allegory of the Faculty of Medicine in the guise of a woman in professorial dress bends over the Aphorisms of Hippocrates translated into Greek by Rabelais. On the right, a Carabin student faces Rabelais, holding out a cup of wine in his right hand.

The cup is full again

A bowl that had mysteriously disappeared into the twists and turns of history, and which this restoration brings back from the past. "It wouldn 't occur to anyone to add the missing parts of the Venus de Milo, but with this bowl, there was a sense in restoring it," explains Pierre-Jean Trabon, heritage architect who led the restoration with the approval of the Drac. We took part in all the site meetings," continues Camille Pelissier. The meaning of this monument is passed down from generation to generation, and we were aware of details that were not known to the architects. These are details that the cleaning of the overgrown stonework, the repointing of the stones and the redevelopment of the surrounding area are revealing once again in all their beauty. 

And it was to celebrate this new-found beauty, and the certainty that generations of students will continue to celebrate the Rabelaisian art of living, that the Carabins and Carabines de Montpellier brought the ceremony to a close with a cup in hand to accompany the words of their president:

" Friends carabins in front of our master to all François Rabelais let's raise our glass with him and above all never forget to live joyfully! "