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Communes : 36,780 town halls and mayors

"Villages are extended families" Charles Ceyrac

Mairie de la Brévière (14) - Photo : G. BrameFrance has 36,780 towns and villages, which are called communes. All communes have a "mairie" or "hôtel de ville" (town hall).

The commune is run by the mayor and town council. They are elected every six years.

City hall in Rouen (76) - Photo : M. Déchelette At the town hall (called "la mairie" or, in big communes, "l’hôtel de ville") is the office where you have to register important events like births, deaths, marriages, civil partnerships and divorces. This information is entered in the

registry office ("l’Etat-civil") records. You also go to the town hall for documents ("papiers") such as identity cards, passports, copies of birth certificates, etc.

A wedding is primarily a civil ceremony (un acte civil), which means the couple have to go to the town hall with at least two witnesses to declare their commitment in front of the mayor or his deputy. It is a legal requirement. They can then have a church wedding if they wish.

On the front of the town hall you will find the letters RF standing for République Française, and the French motto

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.
(freedom, equality, brotherhood).

Junior town councils

Everyone knows young people are full of ideas, so some towns have set up young people’s councils, asking them for their ideas for improving the quality of local life.

These young citizens, elected by their fellow-pupils, come up with ideas that would benefit the whole community. The town council accepts some of these ideas and implements them with the help of the young people themselves, who then feel more involved.

Similarly, there are young people’s councils at departmental and regional level, and also a Junior Parliament when 557 young people are appointed member of parliament for a day. They sit in the seats usually occupied by the 577 elected members of the National Assembly and propose a new law which the real members of parliament will then consider and vote upon.

plaque école Saint-ExuperyHaving a local primary school keeps a commune alive, but unfortunately many small villages have had to close their schools because they haven’t enough children. Other communes have combined and worked together to create a school.

France is traditionally a catholic country and every village has a church. Today fewer people attend services but churches are part of the commune’s architectural and cultural heritage.

Monument aux morts, Occagnes - Photo : G. Brame

On the main square or in the cemetery in most towns and villages you will also find a war memorial for those who died in the wars of the last century. The names of soldiers who gave their lives for their country are engraved on the monument and the French commemorate this twice a year : on May 8th (end of World War II) and November 11th (Armistice, end of World War I).


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