Today in Paris there is only 1 rat for every 3 people. This strange fact is said to come from a little known mystery called “rats, lovers and the well.” In the 1st Arrisedomont on the Corner of Rue Pierre Lescot and Rue St. Denis was a well known as Ariandne’s Well. The legend goes that this was the place for young lovers to meet. One day a young beautiful redhead from Briton named Agnes Hellebic, who was the daughter of a noble from the royal court heard of this place, and she wanted to escape being able to enjoy true love before her father married her off to an much older noble. It was there that she met Romuald, the son of a wealthy merchant.
She immediately fell in love with Romuald coming to visit him every morning for a few days, until one morning when he didn’t appear at the appointed time. Distraught, she waited and waited , and continued to come to the well, but he had unexpectedly been called away on a long trading trip with his father to Spain, and it would be several months before his return. Not knowing this, she threw herself into the well one morning. Her body was removed and she was buried in the Innocents Cemetery. Upon his return, Romauld was so saddened by her death, he asked for a priest to bless the well and give her last rights.
This request was refused because those who committed suicide were not entitled to Last Rites. He later discovered that her family was from Briton and they were pagans, so he found a pagan priest to bless the well instead. For a few days after the blessing Romauld would often come to mourn the death of his beloved and pray seeking solace. On the seventh day Agnes appeared, very well and alive, yet slightly ethereal.
Over the next three days the reunion was all the trappings of a wonderful love story. Until, on the third morning, Romauld awoke to only find a red lock of hair on his bed pillow and no trace of Agnes. He continued to go to the well and pray for many months, until one morning he discovered two abandoned infants with red hair, a boy and a girl, at the well. Were these their love children? Romauld gave them to a couple who could not have children of their own. By 1558 Pierre de Gondi, the new bishop of Paris blessed the well, in an effort to rid it of the large number of rats that seemed to be attracted to it.
Legend has it that these rats were the shapeshifting incubi and succubi, decedents of the two children from this love story three centuries earlier. The rats left the well, but are now rumored to return in human form when needed. Within the popular imagination of the Parisian culture, during times of revolution when emotions run high, huge mobs will suddenly form, with more people than the police can count. These huge groups mysteriously appear, and just as quickly disappear. Legend has it, these are the rats coming to join in revolution and protest!