Infomotions, Inc.Normandy, Illustrated, Complete / Home, Gordon, 1878-1969



Author: Home, Gordon, 1878-1969
Title: Normandy, Illustrated, Complete
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): normandy; castle; church; century; fifteenth century
Contributor(s): Blavatsky, H. P. (Helena Petrovna), 1831-1891 [Translator]
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Title: Normandy, Complete
       The Scenery & Romance Of Its Ancient Towns

Author: Gordon Home

Release Date: August 12, 2004 [EBook #8505]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK NORMANDY, COMPLETE ***




Produced by Ted Garvin, Beth Trapaga and the Distributed Proofreading
Team





NORMANDY:

THE SCENERY & ROMANCE OF ITS ANCIENT TOWNS:

DEPICTED BY GORDON HOME




PREFACE

This book is not a guide. It is an attempt to convey by pictures and
description a clear impression of the Normandy which awaits the visitor.

The route described could, however, be followed without covering the same
ground for more than five or six miles, and anyone choosing to do this
would find in his path some of the richest architecture and scenery that
the province possesses.

As a means of reviving memories of past visits to Normandy, I may perhaps
venture to hope that the illustrations of this book--as far as the
reproductions are successful--may not be ineffectual.

GORDON HOME

EPSOM, _October_ 1905




CONTENTS


PREFACE

LIST OF COLOURED ILLUSTRATIONS

LIST OF LINE ILLUSTRATIONS

CHAPTER I
Some Features of Normandy

CHAPTER II
By the Banks of the Seine

CHAPTER III
Concerning Rouen, the Ancient Capital of Normandy

CHAPTER IV
Concerning the Cathedral City of Evreux and the Road to Bernay

CHAPTER V
Concerning Lisieux and the Romantic Town of Falaise

CHAPTER VI
From Argentan to Avranches

CHAPTER VII
Concerning Mont St Michel

CHAPTER VIII
Concerning Coutances and Some Parts of the Cotentin

CHAPTER IX
Concerning St Lo and Bayeux

CHAPTER X
Concerning Caen and the Coast Towards Trouville

CHAPTER XI
Some Notes on the History of Normandy




LIST OF COLOURED ILLUSTRATIONS


MONT ST MICHEL FROM THE CAUSEWAY

ON THE ROAD BETWEEN CONCHES AND BEAUMONT-LE-ROGER
This is typical of the poplar-bordered roads of Normandy.

THE CHATEAU GAILLARD FROM THE ROAD BY THE SEINE
The village of Le Petit Andely appears below the castle rock, and is
partly hidden by the island. The chalk cliffs on the left often look
like ruined walls.

A TYPICAL REACH OF THE SEINE BETWEEN ROUEN AND LE PETIT ANDELY
On one side great chalk cliffs rise precipitously, and on the
other are broad flat pastures.

THE CHURCH AT GISORS, SEEN FROM THE WALLS OF THE NORMAN CASTLE

THE TOUR DE LA GROSSE HORLOGE, ROUEN
It is the Belfry of the City, and was commenced in 1389.

THE CATHEDRAL AT ROUEN
Showing a peep of the Portail de la Calende, and some of the quaint
houses of the oldest part of the City.

THE CATHEDRAL OF EVREUX SEEN FROM ABOVE
On the right, just where the light touches some of the roofs of the
houses, the fine old belfry can be seen.

A TYPICAL FARMYARD SCENE IN NORMANDY
The curious little thatched mushroom above the cart is to be found in
most of the Norman farms.

THE BRIDGE AT BEAUMONT-LE-ROGER
On the steep hill beyond stands the ruined abbey church.

IN THE RUE AUX FEVRES, LISIEUX
The second tiled gable from the left belongs to the fine sixteenth
century house called the Manoir de Francois I.

THE CHURCH OF ST JACQUES AT LISIEUX
One of the quaint umber fronted houses for which the town is famous
appears on the left.

FALAISE CASTLE
The favourite stronghold of William the Conqueror.

THE PORTE DES CORDELIERS AT FALAISE
A thirteenth century gateway that overlooks the steep valley of the Ante.

THE CHATEAU D'O
A seventeenth century manor house surrounded by a wide moat.

THE GREAT VIEW OVER THE FORESTS TO THE SOUTH FROM THE RAMPARTS OF
DOMFRONT CASTLE
Down below can be seen the river Varennes, and to the left of the railway
the little Norman Church of Notre-Dame-sur-l'Eau.

THE CLOCK GATE, VIRE

A VIEW OF MONT ST MICHEL AND THE BAY OF CANCALE FROM THE JARDIN DES
PLANTES AT AVRANCHES
On the left is the low coast-line of Normandy, and on the right appears
the islet of Tombelaine.

DISTANT VIEW OF MONT ST MICHEL

THE LONG MAIN STREET OF COUTANCES
In the foreground is the Church of St Pierre, and in the distance
is the Cathedral.

THE GREAT WESTERN TOWERS OF THE CHURCH OF NOTRE DAME AT ST LO
They are of different dates, and differ in the arcading and other
ornament.

THE NORMAN TOWERS OF BAYEUX CATHEDRAL

ST PIERRE, CAEN

OUISTREHAM




LIST OF LINE ILLUSTRATIONS


THE FORTIFIED FARM NEAR GISORS

A SEVENTEENTH CENTURY HOUSE AT ARGENTAN

THE OLD MARKET HOUSE AT ECOUCHE

ONE OF THE TOWERS IN THE WALLS OF DOMFRONT

THE CHETELET AND LA MERVFILLE AT MONT ST MICHEL
The dark opening through the archway on the left is the main entrance to
the Abbey. On the right can be seen the tall narrow windows that light the
three floors of Abbot Jourdain's great work.

AN ANCIENT HOUSE IN THE RUE ST MALO, BAYEUX

THE GATEWAY OF THE CHATEAU

THE DISUSED CHURCH OF ST NICHOLAS AT CAEN

A COURTYARD IN THE RUE DE BAYEUX AT CAEN




CHAPTER I


Some Features of Normandy

Very large ants, magpies in every meadow, and coffee-cups without handles,
but of great girth, are some of the objects that soon become familiar to
strangers who wander in that part of France which was at one time as much
part of England as any of the counties of this island. The ants and the
coffee-cups certainly give one a sense of being in a foreign land, but when
one wanders through the fertile country among the thatched villages and
farms that so forcibly remind one of Devonshire, one feels a friendliness
in the landscapes that scarcely requires the stimulus of the kindly
attitude of the peasants towards _les anglais_.

If one were to change the dark blue smock and the peculiar peaked hat of
the country folk of Normandy for the less distinctive clothes of the
English peasant, in a very large number of cases the Frenchmen would pass
as English. The Norman farmer so often has features strongly typical of the
southern counties of England, that it is surprising that with his wife and
his daughters there should be so little resemblance. Perhaps this is
because the French women dress their hair in such a different manner to
those on the northern side of the Channel, and they certainly, taken as a
whole, dress with better effect than their English neighbours; or it may be
that the similar ideas prevailing among the men as to how much of the face
should be shaved have given the stronger sex an artificial resemblance.

In the towns there is little to suggest in any degree that the mediaeval
kings of England ruled this large portion of France, and at Mont St Michel
the only English objects besides the ebb and flow of tourists are the two
great iron _michelettes_ captured by the French in 1433. Everyone who comes
to the wonderful rock is informed that these two guns are English; but as
they have been there for nearly five hundred years, no one feels much shame
at seeing them in captivity, and only a very highly specialised antiquary
would be able to recognise any British features in them. Everyone, however,
who visits Normandy from England with any enthusiasm, is familiar with the
essential features of Norman and early pointed architecture, and it is thus
with distinct pleasure that the churches are often found to be strikingly
similar to some of the finest examples of the earlier periods in England.

When we remember that the Norman masons and master-builders had been
improving the crude Saxon architecture in England even before the Conquest,
and that, during the reigns of the Norman kings, "Frenchmen," as the Saxons
called them, were working on churches and castles in every part of our
island, it is no matter for surprise to find that buildings belonging to
the eleventh, twelfth, and even the thirteenth century, besides being of
similar general design, are often covered with precisely the same patterns
of ornament. When the period of Decorated Gothic began to prevail towards
the end of the thirteenth century, the styles on each side of the Channel
gradually diverged, so that after that time the English periods do not
agree with those of Normandy. There is also, even in the churches that most
resemble English structures, a strangeness that assails one unless
familiarity has taken the edge off one's perceptions. Though not the case
with all the fine churches and cathedrals of Normandy, yet with an
unpleasantly large proportion--unfortunately including the magnificent
Church of St Ouen at Rouen--there is beyond the gaudy tinsel that crowds
the altars, an untidiness that detracts from the sense of reverence that
stately Norman or Gothic does not fail to inspire. In the north transept of
St Ouen, some of the walls and pillars have at various times been made to
bear large printed notices which have been pasted down, and when out of
date they have been only roughly torn off, leaving fragments that soon
become discoloured and seriously mar the dignified antiquity of the
stone-work. But beyond this, one finds that the great black stands for
candles that burn beside the altars are generally streaked with the wax
that has guttered from a dozen flames, and that even the floor is covered
with lumps of wax--the countless stains of only partially scraped-up
gutterings of past offerings. There is also that peculiarly unpleasant
smell so often given out by the burning wax that greets one on entering the
cool twilight of the building. The worn and tattered appearance of the
rush-seated chairs in the churches is easily explained when one sees the
almost constant use to which they are put. In the morning, or even as late
as six in the evening, one finds classes of boys or girls being catechised
and instructed by priests and nuns. The visitor on pushing open the swing
door of an entrance will frequently be met by a monotonous voice that
echoes through the apparently empty church. As he slowly takes his way
along an aisle, the voice will cease, and suddenly break out in a simple
but loudly sung Gregorian air, soon joined by a score or more of childish
voices; then, as the stranger comes abreast of a side chapel, he causes a
grave distraction among the rows of round, closely cropped heads. The
rather nasal voice from the sallow figure in the cassock rises higher, and
as the echoing footsteps of the person who does nothing but stare about him
become more and more distant, the sing-song tune grows in volume once more,
and the rows of little French boys are again in the way of becoming good
Catholics. In another side chapel the confessional box bears a large white
card on which is printed in bold letters, "M. le Cure." He is on duty at
the present time, for, from behind the curtained lattices, the stranger
hears a soft mumble of words, and he is constrained to move silently
towards the patch of blazing whiteness that betokens the free air and
sunshine without. The cheerful clatter of the traffic on the cobbles is
typical of all the towns of Normandy, as it is of the whole republic, but
Caen has reduced this form of noise by exchanging its omnibuses, that
always suggested trams that had left the rails, for swift electric trams
that only disturb the streets by their gongs. In Rouen, the electric cars,
which the Britisher rejoices to discover were made in England--the driver
being obliged to read the positions of his levers in English--are a huge
boon to everyone who goes sight-seeing in that city. Being swept along in a
smoothly running car is certainly preferable to jolting one's way over the
uneven paving on a bicycle, but it is only in the largest towns that one
has such a choice.

Although the only road that is depicted in this book is as straight as any
built by the Romans and is bordered by poplars, it is only one type of the
great _routes nationales_ that connect the larger towns. In the hilly parts
of Normandy the poplar bordered roads entirely disappear, and however
straight the engineers may have tried to make their ways, they have been
forced to give them a zig-zag on the steep slopes that breaks up the
monotony of the great perspectives so often to be seen stretching away for
great distances in front and behind. It must not be imagined that Normandy
is without the usual winding country road where every bend has beyond it
some possibilities in the way of fresh views. An examination of a good road
map of the country will show that although the straight roads are numerous,
there are others that wind and twist almost as much as the average English
turnpike. As a rule, the _route nationale_ is about the same width as most
main roads, but it has on either side an equal space of grass. This is
frequently scraped off by the cantoniers, and the grass is placed in great
piles ready for removal. When these have been cleared away the thoroughfare
is of enormous width, and in case of need, regiments could march in the
centre with artillery on one side, and a supply train on the other, without
impeding one another.

Level crossings for railways are more frequent than bridges. The gates are
generally controlled by women in the family sort of fashion that one sees
at the lodge of an English park where a right-of-way exists, and yet
accidents do not seem to happen.

The railways of Normandy are those of the Chemin de Fer de l'Ouest, and one
soon becomes familiar with the very low platforms of the stations that are
raised scarcely above the rails. The porters wear blue smocks and trousers
of the same material, secured at the waist by a belt of perpendicular red
and black stripes. The railway carriages have always two foot-boards, and
the doors besides the usual handles have a second one half-way down the
panels presumably for additional security. It is really in the nature of a
bolt that turns on a pivot and falls into a bracket. On the doors, the
class of the carriages is always marked in heavy Roman numerals. The
third-class compartments have windows only in the doors, are innocent of
any form of cushions and are generally only divided half-way up. The second
and first-class compartments are always much better and will bear
comparison with those of the best English railways, whereas the usual
third-class compartment is of that primitive type abandoned twenty or more
years ago, north of the Channel. The locomotives are usually dirty and
black with outside cylinders, and great drum-shaped steam-domes. They seem
to do the work that is required of them efficiently, although if one is
travelling in a third-class compartment the top speed seems extraordinarily
slow. The railway officials handle bicycles with wonderful care, and this
is perhaps remarkable when we realize that French railways carry them any
distance simply charging a penny for registration.

The hotels of Normandy are not what they were twenty years ago.
Improvements in sanitation have brought about most welcome changes, so that
one can enter the courtyard of most hotels without being met by the
aggressive odours that formerly jostled one another for space. When you
realize the very large number of English folk who annually pass from town
to town in Normandy it may perhaps be wondered why the proprietors of
hotels do not take the trouble to prepare a room that will answer to the
drawing-room of an English hotel. After dinner in France, a lady has
absolutely no choice between a possible seat in the courtyard and her
bedroom, for the estaminet generally contains a group of noisy Frenchmen,
and even if it is vacant the room partakes too much of the character of a
bar-parlour to be suitable for ladies. Except in the large hotels in Rouen
I have only found one which boasts of any sort of room besides the
estaminet; it was the Hotel des Trois Marie at Argentan. When this defect
has been remedied, I can imagine that English people will tour in Normandy
more than they do even at the present time. The small washing basin and jug
that apologetically appears upon the bedroom washstand has still an almost
universal sway, and it is not sufficiently odd to excuse itself on the
score of picturesqueness. Under that heading come the tiled floors in the
bedrooms, the square and mountainous eiderdowns that recline upon the beds,
and the matches that take several seconds to ignite and leave a sulphurous
odour that does not dissipate itself for several minutes.




CHAPTER II


By the Banks of the Seine

If you come to Normandy from Southampton, France is entered at the mouth of
the Seine and you are at once introduced to some of the loveliest scenery
that Normandy possesses. The headland outside Havre is composed of ochreish
rock which appears in patches where the grass will not grow. The heights
are occupied by no less than three lighthouses only one of which is now in
use. As the ship gets closer, a great spire appears round the cliff in the
silvery shimmer of the morning haze and then a thousand roofs reflect the
sunlight.

There are boats from Havre that take passengers up the winding river to
Rouen and in this way much of the beautiful scenery may be enjoyed. By this
means, however, the country appears as only a series of changing pictures
and to see anything of the detail of such charming places as Caudebec, and
Lillebonne, or the architectural features of Tancarville Castle and the
Abbey of Jumieges, the road must be followed instead of the more leisurely
river.

Havre with its great docks, its busy streets, and fast electric tramcars
that frighten away foot passengers with noisy motor horns does not compel a
very long stay, although one may chance to find much interest among the
shipping, when such vessels as Mr Vanderbilt's magnificent steam yacht,
without a mark on its spotless paint, is lying in one of the inner basins.
If you wander up and down some of the old streets by the harbour you will
find more than one many-storied house with shutters brightly painted, and
dormers on its ancient roof. The church of Notre Dame in the Rue de Paris
has a tower that was in earlier times a beacon, and it was here that three
brothers named Raoulin who had been murdered by the governor Villars in
1599, are buried.

On the opposite side of the estuary of the Seine, lies Honfleur with its
extraordinary church tower that stands in the market-place quite detached
from the church of St Catherine to which it belongs. It is entirely
constructed of timber and has great struts supporting the angles of its
walls. The houses along the quay have a most paintable appearance, their
overhanging floors and innumerable windows forming a picturesque background
to the fishing-boats.

Harfleur, on the same side of the river as Havre, is on the road to
Tancarville. We pass through it on our way to Caudebec. The great spire of
the church, dating from the fifteenth century, rears itself above this
ancient port where the black-sailed ships of the Northmen often appeared in
the early days before Rollo had forced Charles the Simple (he should have
been called "The Straightforward") to grant him the great tract of French
territory that we are now about to explore.

The Seine, winding beneath bold cliffs on one side and along the edge of
flat, rich meadowlands on the other, comes near the magnificent ruin of
Tancarville Castle whose walls enclose an eighteenth century chateau. The
situation on an isolated chalk cliff one hundred feet high was more
formidable a century ago than it is to-day, for then the Seine ran close
beneath the forbidding walls, while now it has changed its course somewhat.
The entrance to the castle is approached under the shadow of the great
circular corner tower that stands out so boldly at one extremity of the
buildings, and the gate house has on either side semi-circular towers
fifty-two feet in height. Above the archway there are three floors
sparingly lighted by very small windows, one to each storey. They point out
the first floor as containing the torture chamber, and in the towers
adjoining are the hopelessly strong prisons. The iron bars are still in the
windows and in one instance the positions of the rings to which the
prisoners were chained are still visible.

There are still floors in the Eagle's tower that forms the boldest portion
of the castle, and it is a curious feature that the building is angular
inside although perfectly cylindrical on the exterior. Near the chateau you
may see the ruined chapel and the remains of the Salle des Chevaliers with
its big fireplace. Then higher than the entrance towers is the Tour
Coquesart built in the fifteenth century and having four storeys with a
fireplace in each. The keep is near this, but outside the present castle
and separated from it by a moat. The earliest parts of the castle all
belong to the eleventh century, but so much destruction was wrought by
Henry V. in 1417 that the greater part of the ruins belong to a few years
after that date. The name of Tancarville had found a place among the great
families of England before the last of the members of this distinguished
French name lost his life at the battle of Agincourt. The heiress of the
family married one of the Harcourts and eventually the possessions came
into the hands of Dunois the Bastard of Orleans.

From Tancarville there is a road that brings you down to that which runs
from Quilleboeuf, and by it one is soon brought to the picturesquely
situated little town of Lillebonne, famous for its Roman theatre. It was
the capital of the Caletes and was known as Juliabona, being mentioned in
the iters of Antoninus. The theatre is so well known that no one has
difficulty in finding it, and compared to most of the Roman remains in
England, it is well worth seeing. The place held no fewer than three
thousand people upon the semi-circular tiers of seats that are now covered
with turf. Years ago, there was much stone-work to be seen, but this has
largely disappeared, and it is only in the upper portions that many traces
of mason's work are visible. A passage runs round the upper part of the
theatre and the walls are composed of narrow stones that are not much
larger than bricks.

The great castle was built by William the Norman, and it was here that he
gathered together his barons to mature and work out his project which made
him afterwards William the Conqueror. It will be natural to associate the
fine round tower of the castle with this historic conference, but
unfortunately, it was only built in the fourteenth century. From more than
one point of view Lillebonne makes beautiful pictures, its roofs dominated
by the great tower of the parish church as well as by the ruins of the
castle.

We have lost sight of the Seine since we left Tancarville, but a ten-mile
run brings us to the summit of a hill overlooking Caudebec and a great
sweep of the beautiful river. The church raises its picturesque outline
against the rolling white clouds, and forms a picture that compels
admiration. On descending into the town, the antiquity and the quaintness
of sixteenth century houses greet you frequently, and you do not wonder
that Caudebec has attracted so many painters. There is a wide quay, shaded
by an avenue of beautiful trees, and there are views across the broad,
shining waters of the Seine, which here as in most of its length attracts
us by its breadth. The beautiful chalk hills drop steeply down to the
water's edge on the northern shores in striking contrast to the flatness of
the opposite banks. On the side of the river facing Caudebec, the peninsula
enclosed by the windings of the Seine includes the great forest of
Brotonne, and all around the town, the steep hills that tumble
picturesquely on every side, are richly clothed with woods, so that with
its architectural delights within, and its setting of forest, river and
hill, Caudebec well deserves the name it has won for itself in England as
well as in France.

Just off the road to Rouen from Caudebec and scarcely two miles away, is St
Wandrille, situated in a charming hollow watered by the Fontanelle, a
humble tributary of the great river. In those beautiful surroundings stand
the ruins of the abbey church, almost entirely dating from the thirteenth
century. Much destruction was done during the Revolution, but there is
enough of the south transept and nave still in existence to show what the
complete building must have been. In the wonderfully preserved cloister
which is the gem of St Wandrille, there are some beautiful details in the
doorway leading from the church, and there is much interest in the
refectory and chapter house.

Down in the piece of country included in a long and narrow loop of the
river stand the splendid ruins of the abbey of Jumieges with its three
towers that stand out so conspicuously over the richly wooded country. When
you get to the village and are close to the ruins of the great Benedictine
abbey, you are not surprised that it was at one time numbered amongst the
richest and most notable of the monastic foundations. The founder was St
Philibert, but whatever the buildings which made their appearance in the
seventh century may have been, is completely beyond our knowledge, for
Jumieges was situated too close to the Seine to be overlooked by the
harrying ship-loads of pirates from the north, who in the year 851
demolished everything. William Longue-Epee, son of Rollo the great leader
of these Northmen, curiously enough commenced the rebuilding of the abbey,
and it was completed in the year of the English conquest. Nearly the whole
of the nave and towers present a splendid example of early Norman
architecture, and it is much more inspiring to look upon the fine west
front of this ruin than that of St Etienne at Caen which has an aspect so
dull and uninspiring. The great round arches of the nave are supported by
pillars which have the early type of capital distinguishing eleventh
century work. The little chapel of St Pierre adjoining the abbey church is
particularly interesting on account of the western portion which includes
some of that early work built in the first half of the tenth century by
William Longue-Epee. The tombstone of Nicholas Lerour, the abbot who was
among the judges by whom the saintly Joan of Arc was condemned to death, is
to be seen with others in the house which now serves as a museum.
Associated with the same tragedy is another tombstone, that of Agnes Sorel,
the mistress of Charles VII., that heartless king who made no effort to
save the girl who had given him his throne.

Jumieges continued to be a perfectly preserved abbey occupied by its monks
and hundreds of persons associated with them until scarcely more than a
century ago. It was then allowed to go to complete ruin, and no
restrictions seem to have been placed upon the people of the neighbourhood
who as is usual under such circumstances, used the splendid buildings as a
storehouse of ready dressed stone.

Making our way back to the highway, we pass through beautiful scenery, and
once more reach the banks of the Seine at the town of Duclair which stands
below the escarpment of chalk hills. There are wharves by the river-side
which give the place a thriving aspect, for a considerable export trade is
carried on in dairy produce.

After following the river-side for a time, the road begins to cut across
the neck of land between two bends of the Seine. It climbs up towards the
forest of Roumare and passes fairly close to the village of St Martin de
Boscherville where the church of St George stands out conspicuously on its
hillside. This splendid Norman building is the church of the Abbey built in
the middle of the eleventh century by Raoul de Tancarville who was
William's Chamberlain at the time of the conquest of England. The abbey
buildings are now in ruins but the church has remained almost untouched
during the eight centuries and more which have passed during which Normandy
was often bathed in blood, and when towns and castles were sacked two or
three times over. When the forest of Roumare, has been left behind, you
come to Canteleu, a little village that stands at the top of a steep hill,
commanding a huge view over Rouen, the historic capital of Normandy. You
can see the shipping lying in the river, the factories, the spire of the
cathedral, and the many church towers as well as the light framework of the
modern moving bridge. This is the present day representative of the
fantastic mediaeval city that witnessed the tragedy of Joan of Arc's trial
and martyrdom. We will pass Rouen now, returning to it again in the next
chapter.

The river for some distance becomes frequently punctuated with islands.
Large extents of forest including those of Rouvray, Bonde and Elbeuf,
spread themselves over the high ground to the west. The view from above
Elbeuf in spite of its many tall chimney shafts includes such a fine
stretch of fertile country that the scene is not easily forgotten.

Following the windings of the river through Pont-de-L'Arche and the forest
of Louviers we come to that pleasant old town; but although close to the
Seine, it stands on the little river Eure. Louviers remains in the memory
as a town whose church is more crowded with elaborately carved stone-work
than any outside Rouen. There is something rather odd, in the close
juxtaposition of the Hotel Mouton d'Argent with its smooth plastered front
and the almost overpowering mass of detail that faces it on the other side
of the road. There is something curious, too, in the severe plainness of
the tower that almost suggests the unnecessarily shabby clothing worn by
some men whose wives are always to be seen in the most elaborate and costly
gowns. Internally the church shows its twelfth century origin, but all the
intricate stone-work outside belongs to the fifteenth century. The porch
which is, if possible, richer than the buttresses of the aisles, belongs to
the flamboyant period, and actually dates from the year 1496. In the
clerestory there is much sixteenth century glass and the aisles which are
low and double give a rather unusual appearance.

The town contains several quaint and ancient houses, one of them supported
by wooden posts projects over the pavement, another at the corner of the
Marche des Oeufs has a very rich though battered piece of carved oak at the
angle of the walls. It seems as if it had caught the infection of the
extraordinary detail of the church porch. Down by the river there are many
timber-framed houses with their foundations touching the water, with narrow
wooden bridges crossing to the warehouses that line the other side. The
Place de Rouen has a shady avenue of limes leading straight down to a great
house in a garden beyond which rise wooded hills. Towards the river runs
another avenue of limes trimmed squarely on top. These are pleasant
features of so many French towns that make up for some of the deficiencies
in other matters.

We could stay at Louviers for some time without exhausting all its
attractions, but ten miles away at the extremity of another deep loop of
the Seine there stands the great and historic Chateau-Gaillard that towers
above Le Petit-Andely, the pretty village standing invitingly by a cleft in
the hills. The road we traverse is that which appears so conspicuously in
Turner's great painting of the Chateau-Gaillard. It crosses the bridge
close under the towering chalk cliffs where the ruin stands so boldly.
There is a road that follows the right bank of the river close to the
railway, and it is from there that one of the strangest views of the castle
is to be obtained. You may see it thrown up by a blaze of sunlight against
the grassy heights behind that are all dark beneath the shadow of a cloud.
The stone of the towers and heavily buttressed walls appears almost as
white as the chalk which crops out in the form of cliffs along the
river-side. An island crowded with willows that overhang the water
partially hides the village of Le Petit-Andely, and close at hand above the
steep slopes of grass that rise from the roadway tower great masses of
gleaming white chalk projecting from the vivid turf as though they were the
worn ruins of other castles. The whiteness is only broken by the horizontal
lines of flints and the blue-grey shadows that fill the crevices.

From the hill above the Chateau there is another and even more striking
view. It is the one that appears in Turner's picture just mentioned, and
gives one some idea of the magnificent position that Richard Coeur de Lion
chose, when in 1197 he decided to build an impregnable fortress on this
bend of the Seine. It was soon after his return from captivity which
followed the disastrous crusade that Richard commenced to show Philippe
Auguste that he was determined to hold his French possessions with his
whole strength. Philippe had warned John when the news of the release of
the lion-hearted king from captivity had become known, that "the devil was
unchained," and the building of this castle showed that Richard was making
the most of his opportunities. The French king was, with some
justification, furious with his neighbour, for Richard had recently given
his word not to fortify this place, and some fierce fighting would have
ensued on top of the threats which the monarchs exchanged, but for the
death of the English king in 1199. When John assumed the crown of England,
however, Philippe soon found cause to quarrel with him, and thus the great
siege of the castle was only postponed for three or four years. The French
king brought his army across the peninsula formed by the Seine, and having
succeeded in destroying the bridge beneath the castle, he constructed one
for himself with boats and soon afterwards managed to capture the island,
despite its strong fortifications. The leader of the English garrison was
the courageous Roger de Lacy, Constable of Chester. From his knowledge of
the character of his new king, de Lacy would have expected little
assistance from the outside and would have relied upon his own resources to
defend Richard's masterpiece. John made one attempt to succour the
garrison. He brought his army across the level country and essayed to
destroy the bridge of boats constructed by the French. This one effort
proving unsuccessful he took no other measures to distract the besieging
army, and left Roger de Lacy to the undivided attention of the Frenchmen.
Then followed a terrible struggle. The French king succeeded in drawing his
lines closer to the castle itself and eventually obtained possession of the
outer fortifications and the village of Le Petit-Andely, from which the
inhabitants fled to the protection of the castle. The governor had no wish
to have all his supplies consumed by non-combatants, and soon compelled
these defenceless folk to go out of the protection of his huge walls. At
first the besiegers seemed to have allowed the people to pass unmolested,
but probably realizing the embarrassment they would have been to the
garrison, they altered their minds, and drove most of them back to the
castle. Here they gained a reception almost as hostile as that of the
enemy, and after being shot down by the arrows of the French they remained
for days in a starving condition in a hollow between the hostile lines.
Here they would all have died of hunger, but Philippe at last took pity on
the terrible plight of these defenceless women and children and old folks,
and having allowed them a small supply of provisions they were at last
released from their ghastly position. Such a tragedy as this lends terrible
pathos to the grassy steeps and hollows surrounding the chateau and one may
almost be astonished that such callousness could have existed in these days
of chivalry.

The siege was continued with rigour and a most strenuous attack was made
upon the end of the castle that adjoined the high ground that overlooks
the ruins. With magnificent courage the Frenchmen succeeded in mining
the walls, and having rushed into the breach they soon made themselves
masters of the outer courtyard. Continuing the assault, a small party
of intrepid soldiers gained a foothold within the next series of
fortifications, causing the English to retreat to the inner courtyard
dominated by the enormous keep. Despite the magnificent resistance
offered by de Lacy's men the besiegers raised their engines in front of
the gate, and when at last they had forced an entry they contrived a
feat that almost seems incredible--they cut off the garrison from their
retreat to the keep. Thus this most famous of castles fell within half
a dozen years of its completion.

In the hundred years' war the Chateau-Gaillard was naturally one of the
centres of the fiercest fighting, and the pages of history are full of
references to the sieges and captures of the fortress, proving how even
with the most primitive weapons these ponderous and unscalable walls were
not as impregnable as they may have seemed to the builders. Like the abbey
of Jumieges, this proud structure became nothing more than a quarry, for in
the seventeenth century permission was given to two religious houses, one
at Le Petit-Andely and the other at Le Grand-Andely to take whatever
stone-work they required for their monastic establishments. Records show
how more damage would have been done to the castle but for the frequent
quarrels between these two religious houses as to their rights over the
various parts of the ruins. When you climb up to the ruined citadel and
look out of the windows that are now battered and shapeless, you can easily
feel how the heart of the bold Richard must have swelled within him when he
saw how his castle dominated an enormous belt of country. But you cannot
help wondering whether he ever had misgivings over the unwelcome proximity
of the chalky heights that rise so closely above the site of the ruin. We
ourselves, are inclined to forget these questions of military strength in
the serene beauty of the silvery river flowing on its serpentine course
past groups of poplars, rich pastures dotted with cattle, forest lands and
villages set amidst blossoming orchards. Down below are the warm
chocolate-red roofs of the little town that has shared with the chateau its
good and evil fortunes. The church with its slender spire occupies the
central position, and it dates from precisely the same years as those which
witnessed the advent of the fortress above. The little streets of the town
are full of quaint timber-framed houses, and it is not surprising that this
is one of the spots by the beautiful banks of the Seine that has attained a
name for its picturesqueness.

With scarcely any perceptible division Le Grand-Andely joins the smaller
village. It stands higher in the valley and is chiefly memorable for its
beautiful inn, the Hotel du Grand Cerf. It is opposite the richly
ornamented stone-work of the church of Notre Dame and dates chiefly from
the sixteenth century. The hall contains a great fireplace, richly
ornamented with a renaissance frieze and a fine iron stove-back. The
courtyard shows carved timbers and in front the elaborate moulding beneath
the eaves is supported by carved brackets. Unlike that old hostelry at
Dives which is mentioned in another chapter, this hotel is not over
restored, although in the days of a past proprietor the house contained a
great number of antiques and its fame attracted many distinguished
visitors, including Sir Walter Scott and Victor Hugo.

In writing of the hotel I am likely to forget the splendid painted glass in
the church, but details of the stories told in these beautiful works of the
sixteenth century are given in all good guides.

There is a pleasant valley behind Les Andelys running up towards the great
plateau that occupies such an enormous area of this portion of Normandy.
The scenery as you go along the first part of the valley, through the
little village of Harquency with its tiny Norman church, and cottages with
thatched roofs all velvety with moss, is very charming. The country is
entirely hedge-less, but as you look down upon the rather thirsty-looking
valley below the road, the scenery savours much of Kent; the chalky fields,
wooded uplands and big, picturesque farms suggesting some of the
agricultural districts of the English county. When we join the broad and
straight national road running towards Gisors we have reached the tableland
just mentioned. There are perhaps, here and there, a group of stately elms,
breaking the broad sweep of arable land that extends with no more
undulations for many leagues than those of a sheet of old-fashioned glass.
The horizon is formed by simply the same broad fields, vanishing in a thin,
blue line over the rim of the earth.

[Illustration: THE FORTIFIED FARM NEAR GISORS]

At Les Thilliers, a small hamlet that, owing to situation at cross-roads
figures conspicuously upon the milestones of the neighbourhood, the road to
Gisors goes towards the east, and after crossing the valley of the Epte,
you run down an easy gradient, passing a fine fortified farm-house with
circular towers at each corner of its four sides and in a few minutes have
turned into the historic old town of Gisors. It is as picturesque as any
place in Normandy with the exception of Mont St Michel. The river Epte
gliding slowly through its little canals at the sides of some of the
streets, forms innumerable pictures when reflecting the quaint houses and
gardens whose walls are generally grown over with creepers. Near the ascent
to the castle is one of the washing places where the women let their soap
suds float away on the translucent water as they scrub vigorously. They
kneel upon a long wooden platform sheltered by a charming old roof
supported upon a heavy timber framework that is a picture in itself.

If you stay at the Hotel de l'Ecu de France you are quite close to the
castle that towers upon its hill right in the middle of the town. Most
people who come to Gisors are surprised to find how historic is its castle,
and how many have been the conflicts that have taken place around it. The
position between Rouen and Paris and on the frontier of the Duchy gave it
an importance in the days of the Norman kings that led to the erection of a
most formidable stronghold. In the eleventh century, when William Rufus was
on the throne of England, he made the place much stronger. Both Henry I.
and Henry II. added to its fortifications so that Gisors became in time as
formidable a castle as the Chateau Gaillard. During the Hundred Years' War,
Gisors, which is often spoken of as the key to Normandy, after fierce
struggles had become French. Then again, a determined assault would leave
the flag of England fluttering upon its ramparts until again the Frenchmen
would contrive to make themselves masters of the place. And so these
constant changes of ownership went on until at last about the year 1450, a
date which we shall find associated with the fall of every English
stronghold in Normandy, Gisors surrendered to Charles VII. and has remained
French ever since.

The outer baileys are defended by some great towers of massive Norman
masonry from which you look all over the town and surrounding country. But
within the inner courtyard rises a great mound dominated by the keep which
you may still climb by a solid stone staircase. From here the view is very
much finer than from the other towers and its commanding position would
seem to give the defenders splendid opportunities for tiring out any
besieging force. The concierge of the castle, a genial old woman of
gipsy-like appearance takes you down to the fearful dungeon beneath one of
the great towers on the eastern side, known as the Tour des Prisonniers.
Here you may see the carvings in the stone-work executed by some of the
prisoners who had been cast into this black abyss. These carvings include
representations of crucifixes, St Christopher, and many excellently
conceived and patiently wrought figures of other saints.

We have already had a fine view of the splendid Renaissance exterior of the
church which is dedicated to the Saints Gervais and Protais. The choir is
the earliest part of the building. It belongs to the thirteenth century,
while the nave and most of the remaining portions date from the fifteenth
or sixteenth century. It is a building of intense architectural interest
and to some extent rivals the castle in the attention it deserves.




CHAPTER III


Concerning Rouen, the Ancient Capital of Normandy

When whole volumes have been written on Rouen it would be idle to attempt
even a fragment of its history in a book of this nature. But all who go to
Rouen should know something of its story in order to be able to make the
most of the antiquities that the great city still retains. How much we
would give to have an opportunity for seeing the Rouen which has vanished,
for to-day as we walk along the modern streets there is often nothing to
remind us of the centuries crowded with momentous events that have taken
place where now the electric cars sweep to and fro and do their best to
make one forget the Rouen of mediaeval times.

Of course, no one goes to the city expecting to find ancient walls and
towers, or a really strong flavour of the middle ages, any more than one
expects to obtain such impressions in the city of London. Rouen, however,
contains sufficient relics of its past to convey a powerful impression upon
the minds of all who have strong imaginations. There is the cathedral which
contains the work of many centuries; there is the beautiful and inspiring
church of St Ouen; there is the archway of the Grosse Horloge; there is the
crypt of the church of St Gervais, that dates from the dim fifth century;
and there are still in the narrow streets between the cathedral and the
quays along the river-side, many tall, overhanging houses, whose age
appears in the sloping wall surfaces and in the ancient timbers that show
themselves under the eaves and between the plaster-work.

Two of the most attractive views in Rouen are illustrated here. One of them
shows the Portail de la Calende of the cathedral appearing at the end of a
narrow street of antique, gabled houses, while overhead towers the
stupendous fleche that forms the most prominent feature of Rouen. The other
is the Grosse Horloge and if there had been space for a third it would have
shown something of the interior of the church of St Ouen. The view of the
city from the hill of Bon Secours forms another imposing feature, but I
think that it hardly equals what we have already seen on the road from
Caudebec.

When you come out of the railway station known as the _Rive Droite_ a short
street leads up to one of the most important thoroughfares, the Rue Jeanne
d'Arc. It is perfectly straight and contains nothing in it that is not
perfectly modern, but at the highest point you may see a marble tablet
affixed to a wall. It bears a representation in the form of a gilded
outline of the castle towers as they stood in the time of the Maid of
Orleans, and a short distance behind this wall, but approached from another
street, there still remains the keep of Rouen's historic castle. The
circular tower contains the room which you may see to-day where Joan was
brought before her judges and the instruments of torture by which the
saintly maiden was to be frightened into giving careless answers to the
questions with which she was plied by her clever judges. This stone vaulted
room, although restored, is of thrilling interest to those who have studied
the history of Joan of Arc, for, as we are told by Mr Theodore Cook in his
"Story of Rouen," these are the only walls which are known to have echoed
with her voice.

Those who have made a careful study of the ancient houses in the older
streets of Rouen have been successful in tracing other buildings associated
with the period of Joan of Arc's trial. The Rue St Romain, that narrow and
not very salubrious thoroughfare that runs between the Rue de la Republique
and the west front of the cathedral, has still some of the old canons'
lodgings where some of the men who judged Joan of Arc actually lived. Among
them, was Canon Guillaume le Desert who outlived all his fellow judges.
There is still to be seen the house where lived the architect who designed
the palace for Henry V. near Mal s'y Frotte. Mr Cook mentions that he has
discovered a record which states that the iron cage in which Joan of Arc
was chained by her hands, feet and neck was seen by a workman in this very
house.

In the quaint and narrow streets that are still existing near the Rue St
Romain, many strange-looking houses have survived to the present day. They
stand on the site of the earliest nucleus of the present city, and it is in
this neighbourhood that one gets most in touch with the Rouen that has so
nearly vanished.

In this interesting portion of the city you come across the marvellously
rich Grosse Horloge already mentioned. A casual glance would give one the
impression that the structure was no older than the seventeenth century,
but the actual date of its building is 1529, and the clock itself dates
from about 1389, and is as old as any in France. The dial you see to-day is
brilliantly coloured and has a red centre while the elaborate decoration
that covers nearly the whole surface of the walls is freely gilded, giving
an exceedingly rich appearance. The two fourteenth century bells, one known
as La Rouvel or the Silver Bell on account of the legend that silver coins
were thrown into the mould when it was cast, and the other known as
Cache-Ribaut, are still in the tower, La Rouvel being still rung for a
quarter of an hour at nine o'clock in the evening. It is the ancient
Curfew, and the Tower de la Grosse Horloge is nothing more than the
historic belfry of Rouen, although one might imagine by the way it stands
over the street on an elliptical arch, that it had formed one of the gates
of the city.

At the foot of the belfry is one of those richly sculptured fountains that
are to be seen in two or three places in the older streets. The carving is
very much blackened with age, and the detail is not very easily
discernible, but a close examination will show that the story of Arethusa,
and Alpheus, the river-god, is portrayed. The fountain was given to Rouen
by the Duke of Luxembourg early in the eighteenth century.

Adjoining the imposing Rue Jeanne d'Arc is the fine Gothic Palais de
Justice, part of which was built by Louis XII. in the year 1499, the
central portion being added by Leroux, sixteen years later. These great
buildings were put up chiefly for the uses of the Echiquier--the supreme
court of the Duchy at that time--but it was also to be used as an exchange
for merchants who before this date had been in the habit of transacting
much of their business in the cathedral. The historic hall where the
Echiquier met is still to be seen. The carved oak of the roof has great
gilded pendants that stand out against the blackness of the wood-work, and
the Crucifixion presented by Louis XII. may be noticed among the portraits
in the Chambre du Conseille.

The earliest portions of the great cathedral of Notre Dame date from the
twelfth century, the north tower showing most palpably the transition from
Norman work to the Early French style of Gothic. By the year 1255 when
Louis IX. came to Rouen to spend Christmas, the choir, transepts and nave
of the cathedral, almost as they may be seen to-day, had been completed.
The chapel to St Mary did not make its appearance for some years, and the
side _portails_ were only added in the fifteenth century. The elaborate
work on the west front belongs to the century following, and although the
ideas of modern architects have varied as to this portion of the cathedral,
the consensus of opinion seems to agree that it is one of the most perfect
examples of the flamboyant style so prevalent in the churches of Normandy.
The detail of this masterpiece of the latest phase of Gothic architecture
is almost bewildering, but the ornament in every place has a purpose, so
that the whole mass of detail has a reposeful dignity which can only have
been retained by the most consummate skill. The canopied niches are in many
instances vacant, but there are still rows of saints in the long lines of
recesses. The rose window is a most perfect piece of work; it is filled
with painted glass in which strong blues and crimsons are predominant.
Above the central tower known as the Tour de Pierre, that was built
partially in the thirteenth century, there rises the astonishing iron spire
that is one of the highest in the world. Its weight is enormous despite the
fact that it is merely an open framework. The architect of this masterly
piece of work whose name was Alavoine seems to have devoted himself with
the same intensity as Barry, to whom we owe the Royal Courts of Justice in
London, for he worked upon it from 1823, the year following the destruction
of the wooden spire by lightning, until 1834, the year of his death. The
spire, however, which was commenced almost immediately after the loss of
the old one, remained incomplete for over forty years and it was not
entirely finished until 1876. The flight of eight hundred and twelve steps
that is perfectly safe for any one with steady nerves goes right up inside
the spire until, as you look out between the iron framework, Rouen lies
beneath your feet, a confused mass of detail cut through by the silver
river.

The tower of St Romain is on the north side of the cathedral. It was
finished towards the end of the fifteenth century, but the lower portion is
of very much earlier date for it is the only portion of the cathedral that
was standing when Richard I. on his way to the Holy Land knelt before
Archbishop Gautier to receive the sword and banner which he carried with
him to the Crusade.

The Tour de Beurre is on the southern side--its name being originated in
connection with those of the faithful who during certain Lents paid for
indulgences in order to be allowed to eat butter. It was commenced in 1485,
and took twenty-two years to complete. In this great tower there used to
hang a famous bell. It was called the Georges d'Amboise after the great
Cardinal to whom Rouen owes so much, not only as builder of the tower and
the facade, but also as the originator of sanitary reforms and a thousand
other benefits for which the city had reason to be grateful. The great bell
was no less than 30 feet in circumference, its weight being 36,000 lbs. The
man who succeeded in casting it, whose name was Jean Le Machon, seems to
have been so overwhelmed at his success that scarcely a month later he
died. At last when Louis XVI. came to Rouen, they rang Georges d'Amboise so
loudly that a crack appeared, and a few years later, during the Revolution,
Le Machon's masterpiece was melted down for cannon.

Inside the cathedral there are, besides the glories of the splendid Gothic
architecture, the tombs of Henry Plantagenet, the eldest son of Henry II.,
and Richard I. There are also the beautifully carved miserere seats in the
choir which are of particular interest in the way they illustrate many
details of daily life in the fifteenth century. The stone figure
representing Richard Coeur de Lion lies outside the railings of the
sanctuary. The heart of the king which has long since fallen into dust is
contained in a casket that is enclosed in the stone beneath the effigy. The
figure of Henry Plantagenet is not the original--you may see that in the
museum, which contains so many fascinating objects that are associated with
the early history of Rouen. The splendid sixteenth century monument of the
two Cardinals d'Amboise is to be seen in the Chapelle de la Sainte Vierge.
The kneeling figures in the canopied recess represent the two
Cardinals--that on the right, which is said to be a very good portrait,
represents the famous man who added so much to the cathedral--the one on
the left shows his nephew, the second Cardinal Georges d'Amboise. In the
middle of the recess there is a fine sculpture showing St George and the
Dragon, and most of the other surfaces of the tomb are composed of richly
ornamented niches, containing statuettes of saints, bishops, the Virgin and
Child, and the twelve Apostles. Another remarkable tomb is that of Louis de
Breze, considered to be one of the finest specimens of Renaissance work. It
is built in two storeys--the upper one showing a thrilling representation
of the knight in complete armour and mounted upon his war-horse, but upon
the sarcophagus below he is shown with terrible reality as a naked corpse.
The sculptor was possibly Jean Goujon, whose name is sometimes associated
with the monument to the two Cardinals, which is of an earlier date.

The tomb of Rollo, the founder of the Duchy of Normandy, and the first of
the Normans to embrace the Christian religion, lies in a chapel adjoining
the south transept. The effigy belongs to the fourteenth century, but the
marble tablet gives an inscription which may be translated as follows:
"Here lies Rollo, the first Duke and founder and father of Normandy, of
which he was at first the terror and scourge, but afterwards the restorer.
Baptised in 912 by Francon, Archbishop of Rouen, and died in 917. His
remains were at first deposited in the ancient sanctuary, at present the
upper end of the nave. The altar having been removed, the remains of the
prince were placed here by the blessed Maurille, Archbishop of Rouen in the
year 1063." The effigy of William Longsword, Rollo's son, is in another
chapel of the nave, that adjoining the north transept. His effigy, like
that of his father, dates from the fourteenth century. It is in
surroundings of this character that we are brought most in touch with the
Rouen of our imaginations.

We have already in a preceding chapter seen something of the interior of
the church of St Ouen, which to many is more inspiring than the cathedral.
The original church belonged to the Abbey of St Ouen, established in the
reign of Clothaire I. When the Northmen came sailing up the river, laying
waste to everything within their reach, the place was destroyed, but after
Rollo's conversion to Christianity the abbey was renovated, and in 1046 a
new church was commenced, which having taken about eighty years to complete
was almost immediately burnt down. Another fire having taken place a
century later, Jean Roussel, who was Abbot in 1318, commenced this present
building. It was an enormous work to undertake but yet within twenty-one
years the choirs and transepts were almost entirely completed. This great
Abbot was buried in the Mary chapel behind the High Altar. On the tomb he
is called Marc d'Argent and the date of his death is given as December 7,
1339. After this the building of the church went on all through the
century. The man who was master mason in this period was Alexandre
Barneval, but he seems to have become jealous of an apprentice who built
the rose window that is still such a splendid feature of the north
transept, for in a moment of passion he killed the apprentice and for this
crime was sentenced to death in the year 1440. St Ouen was completed in the
sixteenth century, but the west front as it appears to-day has two spires
which made their appearance in recent times. The exterior, however, is not
the chief charm of St Ouen; it is the magnificent interior, so huge and yet
so inspiring, that so completely satisfies one's ideas of proportion.
Wherever you stand, the vistas of arches, all dark and gloomy, relieved
here and there by a blaze of coloured glass, are so splendid that you
cannot easily imagine anything finer. A notable feature of the aisles is
the enormous space of glass covering the outer walls, so that the framework
of the windows seems scarcely adequate to support the vaulted roof above.
The central tower is supported by magnificent clustered piers of dark and
swarthy masonry, and the views of these from the transepts or from the
aisles of the nave make some of the finest pictures that are to be obtained
in this masterpiece of Gothic architecture. The tower that rises from the
north transept belongs, it is believed, to the twelfth century church that
was burnt. On the western front it is interesting to find statues of
William the Conqueror, Henry II. and Richard Coeur de Lion among other
dukes of Normandy, and the most famous Archbishops of Rouen.

Besides the cathedral and St Ouen there is the splendid church of St
Maclou. Its western front suddenly appears, filling a gap in the blocks of
modern shops on the right hand side as you go up the Rue de la Republic.
The richness of the mass of carved stone-work arrests your attention, for
after having seen the magnificent facade of the cathedral you would think
the city could boast nothing else of such extraordinary splendour. The name
Maclou comes from Scotland, for it was a member of this clan, who, having
fled to Brittany, became Bishop of Aleth and died in 561. Since the tenth
century a shrine to his memory had been placed outside the walls of Rouen.
The present building was designed by Pierre Robin and it dates from between
1437 and 1520, but the present spire is modern, having replaced the old one
about the time of the Revolution. The richly carved doors of the west front
are the work of Jean Goujon. The organ loft rests on two columns of black
marble, which are also his work; but although the dim interior is full of
interest and its rose windows blaze with fifteenth century glass, it is the
west front and carved doors that are the most memorable features of the
building.

In the Place du Marche Vieux you may see the actual spot where Joan of Arc
was burnt, a stone on the ground bearing the words "Jeanne Darc, 30 Mai,
1431." To all who have really studied the life, the trial and the death of
the Maid of Orleans--and surely no one should visit Rouen without such
knowledge--this is the most sacred spot in the city, for as we stand here
we can almost hear her words addressed to Cauchon, "It is you who have
brought me to this death." We can see her confessor holding aloft the cross
and we seem to hear her breathe the Redeemer's name before she expires.




CHAPTER IV


Concerning the Cathedral City of Evreux and the Road to Bernay

The tolling of the deep-toned bourdon in the cathedral tower reverberates
over the old town of Evreux as we pass along the cobbled streets. There is
a yellow evening light overhead, and the painted stucco walls of the houses
reflect the soft, glowing colour of the west. In the courtyard of the Hotel
du Grand Cerf, too, every thing is bathed in this beautiful light and the
double line of closely trimmed laurels has not yet been deserted by the
golden flood. But Evreux does not really require a fine evening to make it
attractive, although there is no town in existence that is not improved
under such conditions. With the magnificent cathedral, the belfry, the
Norman church of St Taurin and the museum, besides many quaint peeps by the
much sub-divided river Iton that flows through the town, there is
sufficient to interest one even on the dullest of dull days.

Of all the cathedral interiors in Normandy there are none that possess a
finer or more perfectly proportioned nave than Evreux, and if I were asked
to point out the two most impressive interiors of the churches in this
division of France I should couple the cathedral at Evreux with St Ouen at
Rouen.

It was our own Henry I. who having destroyed the previous building set to
work to build a new one and it is his nave that we see to-day. The whole
cathedral has since that time been made to reflect the changing ideals of
the seven centuries that have passed. The west front belongs entirely to
the Renaissance period and the north transept is in the flamboyant style of
the fifteenth century so much in evidence in Normandy and so infrequent in
England.

The central tower with its tall steeple now encased in scaffolding was
built in 1470 by Cardinal Balue, Bishop of Evreux and inventor of the
fearful wooden cages in one of which the prisoner Dubourg died at Mont St
Michel.

In most of the windows there is old and richly coloured glass; those in the
chancel have stronger tones, but they all transform the shafts of light
into gorgeous rainbow effects which stand out in wonderful contrast to the
delicate, creamy white of the stone-work. Pale blue banners are suspended
in the chancel, and the groining above is coloured on each side of the
bosses for a short distance, so that as one looks up the great sweep of the
nave, the banners and the brilliant fifteenth century glass appear as vivid
patches of colour beyond the uniform, creamy grey on either side. The
Norman towers at the west end of the cathedral are completely hidden in the
mask of classical work planted on top of the older stone-work in the
sixteenth century, and more recent restoration has altered some of the
other features of the exterior. At the present day the process of
restoration still goes on, but the faults of our grandfathers fortunately
are not repeated.

Leaving the Place Parvis by the Rue de l'Horloge you come to the great open
space in front of the Hotel de Ville and the theatre with the museum on the
right, in which there are several Roman remains discovered at Vieil-Evreux,
among them being a bronze statue of Jupiter Stator. On the opposite side of
the Place stands the beautiful town belfry built at the end of the
fifteenth century. There was an earlier one before that time, but I do not
know whether it had been destroyed during the wars with the English, or
whether the people of Evreux merely raised the present graceful tower in
place of the older one with a view to beautifying the town. The bell, which
was cast in 1406 may have hung in the former structure, and there is some
fascination in hearing its notes when one realises how these same sound
waves have fallen on the ears of the long procession of players who have
performed their parts within its hearing. A branch of the Iton runs past
the foot of the tower in canal fashion; it is backed by old houses and
crossed by many a bridge, and helps to build up a suitable foreground to
the beautiful old belfry, which seems to look across to the brand new Hotel
de Ville with an injured expression. From the Boulevard Chambaudouin there
is a good view of one side of the Bishop's palace which lies on the south
side of the cathedral, and is joined to it by a gallery and the remains of
the cloister. The walls are strongly fortified, and in front of them runs a
branch of one of the canals of the Iton, that must have originally served
as a moat.

Out towards the long straight avenue that runs out of the town in the
direction of Caen, there may be seen the Norman church of St Taurin. It is
all that is left of the Benedictine abbey that once stood here. Many people
who explore this interesting church fail to see the silver-gilt reliquary
of the twelfth century that is shown to visitors who make the necessary
inquiries. The richness of its enamels and the elaborate ornamentation
studded with imitation gems that have replaced the real ones, makes this
casket almost unique.

Many scenes from the life of the saint are shown in the windows of the
choir of the church. They are really most interesting, and the glass is
very beautiful. The south door must have been crowded with the most
elaborate ornament, but the delicately carved stone-work has been hacked
away and the thin pillars replaced by crude, uncarved chunks of stone.
There is Norman arcading outside the north transept as well as just above
the floor in the north aisle. St Taurin is a somewhat dilapidated and
cob-webby church, but it is certainly one of the interesting features of
Evreux.

Instead of keeping on the road to Caen after reaching the end of the great
avenue just mentioned, we turn towards the south and soon enter pretty
pastoral scenery. The cottages are almost in every instance thatched, with
ridges plastered over with a kind of cobb mud. In the cracks in this
curious ridging, grass seeds and all sorts of wild flowers are soon
deposited, so that upon the roof of nearly every cottage there is a
luxuriant growth of grass and flowers. In some cases yellow irises alone
ornament the roofs, and they frequently grow on the tops of the walls that
are treated in a similar fashion. A few miles out of Evreux you pass a
hamlet with a quaint little church built right upon the roadway with no
churchyard or wall of any description. A few broken gravestones of quite
recent date litter the narrow, dusty space between the north side of the
church and the roadway. Inside there is an untidy aspect to everything, but
there are some windows containing very fine thirteenth century glass which
the genial old cure shows with great delight, for it is said that they were
intended for the cathedral at Evreux, but by some chance remained in this
obscure hamlet. The cure also points out the damage done to the windows by
_socialistes_ at a recent date.

By the roadside towards Conches, there are magpies everywhere, punctuated
by yellow hammers and nightingales. The cottages have thatch of a very deep
brown colour over the hipped roofs, closely resembling those in the
out-of-the-way parts of Sussex. It a beautiful country, and the
delightfully situated town of Conches at the edge of its forest is well
matched with its surroundings.

In the middle of the day the inhabitants seem to entirely disappear from
the sunny street, and everything has a placid and reposeful appearance as
though the place revelled in its quaintness. Backed by the dense masses of
forest there is a sloping green where an avenue of great chestnuts tower
above the long, low roof of the timber-framed cattle shelter. On the
highest part of the hill stands the castle, whose round, central tower
shows above the trees that grow thickly on the slopes of the hill. Close to
the castle is the graceful church, and beyond are the clustered roofs of
the houses. A viaduct runs full tilt against the hill nearly beneath the
church, and then the railway pierces the hill on its way towards Bernay.
The tall spire of the church of St Foy is comparatively new, for the whole
structure was rebuilt in the fifteenth century, but its stained glass is of
exceptional interest. Its richness of colour and the interest of the
subjects indicate some unusually gifted artist, and one is not surprised to
discover that they were designed by Aldegrevers, who was trained by that
great master Albrecht Dyrer. Altogether there are twenty-one of these
beautiful windows. Seven occupy the eastern end of the apse and give scenes
taken from the life of St Foy.

You can reach the castle by passing through the quaint archway of the Hotel
de Ville, and then passing through the shady public garden you plunge into
the dry moat that surrounds the fortified mound. There is not very much to
see but what appears in a distant view of the town, and in many ways the
outside groupings of the worn ruin and the church roofs and spire above the
houses are better than the scenes in the town itself. The Hotel Croix
Blanche is a pleasant little house for dejeuner. Everything is extremely
simple and typical of the family methods of the small French inn, where
excellent cooking goes along with many primitive usages. The cool
salle-a-manger is reached through the general living-room and kitchen,
which is largely filled with the table where you may see the proprietor
and his family partaking of their own meals. There seems no room to cook
anything at all, and yet when you are seated in the next room the
daughter of the family, an attractive and neatly dressed girl,
gracefully serves the most admirable courses, worthy and perhaps better
than what one may expect to obtain in the best hotel in Rouen.

There is a road that passes right through the forest of Conches towards
Rugles, but that must be left for another occasion if we are to see
anything of the charms of Beaumont-le-Roger, the perfectly situated little
town that lies half-way between Conches and Bernay.

The long street of the town containing some very charming peeps as you go
towards the church is really a terrace on the limestone hills that rises
behind the houses on the right, and falls steeply on the left. Spaces
between the houses and narrow turnings give glimpses of the rich green
country down below. From the lower level you see the rocky ridge above
clothed in a profusion of trees. The most perfect picture in the town is
from the river bank just by the bridge. In the foreground is the
mirror-like stream that gives its own rendering of the scene that is built
up above it. Leaning upon a parapet of the bridge is a man with a rod who
is causing tragedies in the life that teems beneath the glassy surface.
Beyond the bridge appear some quaint red roofs with one tower-like house
with an overhanging upper storey. Higher up comes the precipitous hill
divided into terraces by the huge walls that surround the abbey buildings,
and still higher, but much below the highest part of the hill, are the
picturesque ruins of the abbey. On the summit of the ridge dominating all
are the insignificant remains of the castle built by Roger a la Barbe,
whose name survives in that of the town. His family were the founders of
the abbey that flourished for several centuries, but finally, about a
hundred years ago, the buildings were converted to the uses of a factory!
Spinning and weaving might have still been going on but for a big fire that
destroyed the whole place. There was, however, a considerably more complete
series of buildings left than we can see to-day, but scarcely more than
fifty years ago the place was largely demolished for building materials.
The view from the river Rille is therefore the best the ruin can boast, for
seen from that point the arches rise up against the green background as a
stately ruin, and the tangled mass of weeds and debris are invisible. The
entrance is most inviting. It is down at the foot of the cliff, and the
archway with the steep ascent inside suggests all sorts of delights beyond,
as it stands there just by the main street of the town. I was sorry
afterwards, that I had accepted that hospitality, for with the exception of
a group of merry children playing in an orchard and some big caves hollowed
out of the foot of the cliff that rises still higher, I saw nothing but a
jungle of nettles. This warning should not, however, suggest that
Beaumont-le-Roger is a poor place to visit. Not only is it a charming, I
may say a fascinating spot to visit, but it is also a place in which to
stay, for the longer you remain there the less do you like the idea of
leaving. The church of St Nicholas standing in the main street where it
becomes much wider and forms a small Place, is a beautiful old building
whose mellow colours on stone-work and tiles glow vividly on a sunny
afternoon. There is a great stone wall forming the side of the rocky
platform that supports the building and the entrance is by steps that lead
up to the west end. The tower belongs to the flamboyant period and high up
on its parapet you may see a small statue of Regulus who does duty as a
"Jack-smite-the-clock." Just by the porch there leans against a wall a most
ponderous grave slab which was made for the tomb of Jehan du Moustier a
soldier of the fourteenth century who fought for that Charles of Navarre
who was surnamed "The Bad." The classic additions to the western part of
the church seem strangely out of sympathy with the gargoyles overhead and
the thirteenth century arcades of the nave, but this mixing up of styles is
really more incongruous in description than in reality.

When you have decided to leave Beaumont-le-Roger and have passed across the
old bridge and out into the well-watered plain, the position of the little
town suggests that of the village of Pulborough in Sussex, where a road
goes downhill to a bridge and then crosses the rich meadowland where the
river Arun winds among the pastures in just the same fashion as the Rille.

At a bend in the road to Bernay stands the village of Serquigny. It is just
at the edge of the forest of Beaumont which we have been skirting, and
besides having a church partially belonging to the twelfth century it has
traces of a Roman Camp. All the rest of the way to Bernay the road follows
the railway and the river Charentonne until the long--and when you are
looking out for the hotel--seemingly endless street of Bernay is reached.
After the wonderful combination of charms that are flaunted by
Beaumont-le-Roger it is possible to grumble at the plainer features of
Bernay, but there is really no reason to hurry out of the town for there is
much quaint architecture to be seen, and near the Hotel du Lion d'Or there
is a house built right over the street resting on solid wooden posts. But
more interesting than the domestic architecture are the remains of the
abbey founded by Judith of Brittany very early in the eleventh century for
it is probably one of the oldest Romanesque remains in Normandy. The church
is cut up into various rooms and shops at the choir end, and there has been
much indiscriminate ill-treatment of the ancient stone-work. Much of the
structure, including the plain round arches and square columns, is of the
very earliest Norman period, having been built in the first half of the
eleventh century, but in later times classic ornament was added to the work
of those shadowy times when the kingdom of Normandy had not long been
established. So much alteration in the styles of decoration has taken place
in the building that it is possible to be certain of the date of only some
portions of the structure. The Hotel de Ville now occupies part of the
abbey buildings.

At the eastern side of the town stands St Croix, a fifteenth century church
with a most spacious interior. There is much beautiful glass dating from
three hundred years ago in the windows of the nave and transepts, but
perhaps the feature which will be remembered most when other impressions
have vanished, will be the finely carved statues belonging to the
fourteenth century which were brought here from the Abbey of Bec. The south
transept contains a monument to Guillaume Arvilarensis, an abbot of Bec who
died in 1418. Upon the great altar which is believed to have been brought
from the Abbey of Bec, there are eight marble columns surrounding a small
white marble figure of the Child Jesus.

Another church at Bernay is that of Notre Dame de la Couture. It has much
fourteenth century work and behind the high altar there are five chapels,
the centre one containing a copy of the "sacred image" of Notre Dame which
stands by the column immediately to the right of the entrance. Much more
could be said of these three churches with their various styles of
architecture extending from the very earliest period down to the classic
work of the seventeenth century. But this is not the place for intricate
descriptions of architectural detail which are chiefly useful in books
which are intended for carrying from place to place.




CHAPTER V


Concerning Lisieux and the Romantic Town of Falaise

Lisieux is so rich in the curious timber-framed houses of the middle and
later ages that there are some examples actually visible immediately
outside the railway station whereas in most cases one usually finds an
aggregation of uninteresting modern buildings. As you go towards the centre
of the town the old houses, which have only been dotted about here and
there, join hands and form whole streets of the most romantic and almost
stage-like picturesqueness. The narrow street illustrated here is the Rue
aux Fevres. Its houses are astonishingly fine, and it forms--especially in
the evening--a background suitable for any of the stirring scenes that took
place in such grand old towns as Lisieux in medieval days. This street is
however, only one of several that reek of history. In the Rue des
Boucheries and in the Grande Rue there are lovely overhanging gables and
curious timber-framing that is now at any angle but what was originally
intended. There is really so much individual quaintness in these houses
that they deserve infinitely more than the scurry past them which so
frequently is all their attractions obtain. The narrowness and fustiness of
the Rue aux Fevres certainly hinder you from spending much time in
examining the houses but there are two which deserve a few minutes'
individual attention. One which has a very wide gable and the upper floors
boarded is believed to be of very great antiquity, dating from as early a
period as the thirteenth century. It is numbered thirty-three, and must not
be confused with the richly ornamented Manoir de Francois I. The timber
work of this house, especially of the two lower floors is covered with
elaborate carving including curious animals and quaint little figures, and
also the salamander of the royal house. For this reason the photographs
sold in the shops label the house "Manoir de la Salamandre." The place is
now fast going to ruin--a most pitiable sight and I for one, would prefer
to see the place restored rather than it should be allowed to become so
hopelessly dilapidated and rotten that the question of its preservation
should come to be considered lightly.

If the town authorities of Lisieux chose to do so, they could encourage the
townsfolk to enrich many of their streets by a judicious flaking off of the
plaster which in so many cases tries to hide all the pleasant features of
houses that have seen at least three centuries, but this sort of work when
in the hands of only partially educated folk is liable to produce a worse
state of affairs than if things had been left untouched. An example of what
over-restoration can do, may be seen when we reach the beautiful old inn at
Dives.

The two churches of Lisieux are well fitted to their surroundings, and
although St Jacques has no graceful tower or fleche, the quaintness of its
shingled belfry makes up for the lack of the more stately towers of St
Pierre. Where the stone-work has stopped short the buttresses are roofed
with the quaintest semi-circular caps, and over the clock there are two
more odd-looking pepper boxes perched upon the steep slope that projects
from the square belfry. Over all there is a low pyramidal roof, stained
with orange lichen and making a great contrast in colour to the
weather-beaten stone-work down below. There are small patches of tiled
roofing to the buttresses at the western ends of the aisles and these also
add colour to this picturesque building. The great double flight of stone
steps which lead to the imposing western door have balustrades filled with
flamboyant tracery, but although the church is built up in this way, the
floor in the interior is not level, for it slopes gently up towards the
east. The building was commenced during the reign of Louis XII. and not
finished until nearly the end of the reign of Francois I. It is therefore
coeval with that richly carved house in the Rue aux Fevres. Along the sides
of the church there project a double row of thirsty-looking gargoyles--the
upper ones having their shoulders supported by the mass of masonry
supporting the flying buttresses. The interior is richer than the exterior,
and you may see on some of the pillars remains of sixteenth century
paintings. A picture dating from 1681 occupies a position in the chapel of
St Ursin in the south aisle; it shows the relic of the saint being brought
to Lisieux in 1055.

The wide and sunny Place Thiers is dominated by the great church of St
Pierre, which was left practically in its present form in the year 1233.
The first church was begun some years before the conquest of England but
about a century later it suffered the fate of Bayeux being burnt down in
1136. It was reconstructed soon afterwards and shows to-day the first
period of Gothic architecture that became prevalent in Normandy. Only the
north tower dates from this period, the other one had to be rebuilt during
the reign of Henri III. and the spire only made its appearance in the
seventeenth century. The Lady Chapel is of particular interest owing to the
statement that it was built by that Bishop of Beauvais who took such a
prominent part in the trial of Joan of Arc. The main arches over the big
west door are now bare of carving or ornament and the Hotel de Ville is
built right up against the north-west corner, but despite this St Pierre
has the most imposing and stately appearance, and there are many features
such as the curious turrets of the south transept that impress themselves
on the memory more than some of the other churches we have seen.

Lisieux is one of those cheerful towns that appear always clean and bright
under the dullest skies, so that when the sun shines every view seems
freshly painted and blazing with colour. The freshness of the atmosphere,
too, is seldom tainted with those peculiar odours that some French towns
produce with such enormous prodigality, and Lisieux may therefore claim a
further point in its favour.

It is generally a wide, hedgeless stretch of country that lies between
Lisieux and Falaise, but for the first ten miles there are big farm-houses
with timber-framed barns and many orchards bearing a profusion of blossom
near the roadside. A small farm perched above the road and quite out of
sight, invites the thirsty passer-by to turn aside up a steep path to
partake of cider or coffee. It is a simple, almost bare room where the
refreshment is served, but its quaintness and shadowy coolness are most
refreshing. The fireplace has an open hearth with a wood fire which can
soon be blown into a blaze by the big bellows that hang against the chimney
corner. A table by one of the windows is generally occupied in her spare
moments by the farmer's pretty daughter who puts aside her knitting to
fetch the cider or to blow up the fire for coffee. They are a most genial
family and seem to find infinite delight in plying English folk with
questions for I imagine that not many find their way to this sequestered
corner among waving trees and lovely orchards.

A sudden descent before reaching St Pierre-sur-Dives gives a great view
over the level country below where everything is brilliantly green and
garden-like. The village first shows its imposing church through the trees
of a straight avenue leading towards the village which also possesses a
fine Market Hall that must be at least six hundred years old. The church is
now undergoing restoration externally, but by dodging the falling cement
dust you may go inside, perhaps to be disappointed that there is not more
of the Norman work that has been noticed in the southern tower that rises
above the entrance. The village, or it should really be called a small
town, for its population is over a thousand, has much in it that is
attractive and quaint, and it might gain more attention if everyone who
passes through its streets were not hurrying forward to Falaise.

The country now becomes a great plain, hedgeless, and at times almost
featureless. The sun in the afternoon throws the shadows of the roadside
trees at right angles, so that the road becomes divided into accurate
squares by the thin lines of shadow. The straight run from St Pierre is
broken where the road crosses the Dives. It is a pretty spot with a farm, a
manor-house and a washing place for women just below the bridge, and then
follows more open road and more interminable perspectives cutting through
the open plain until, with considerable satisfaction, the great
thoroughfare from Caen is joined and soon afterwards a glimpse of the
castle greets us as we enter Falaise.

There is something peculiarly fascinating about Falaise, for it combines
many of the features that are sparingly distributed in other towns. Its
position on a hill with deep valleys on all sides, its romantic castle, the
two beautiful churches and the splendid thirteenth century gateway, form
the best remembered attractions, but beyond these there are the hundred and
one pretty groupings of the cottages that crowd both banks of the little
river Ante down in the valley under the awe-inspiring castle.

Even then, no mention has been made of the ancient fronts that greet one in
many of the streets, and the charms of some of the sudden openings between
the houses that give views of the steep, wooded hollows that almost touch
the main street, have been slighted. A huge cube of solid masonry with a
great cylindrical tower alongside perched upon a mass of rock precipitous
on two sides is the distant view of the castle, and coming closer, although
you can see the buttresses that spring from the rocky foundations, the
description still holds good. You should see the fortress in the twilight
with a golden suffusion in the sky and strange, purplish shadows on the
castle walls. It then has much the appearance of one of those unassailable
strongholds where a beautiful princess is lying in captivity waiting for a
chivalrous knight who with a band of faithful men will attempt to scale the
inaccessible walls. Under some skies, the castle assumes the character of
one of Turner's impressions, half real and half imaginary, and under no
skies does this most formidable relic of feudal days ever lose its grand
and awesome aspect. The entrance is through a gateway, the Porte St.
Nicolas, which was built in the thirteenth century. There you are taken in
hand by a pleasant concierge who will lead you first of all to the Tour La
Reine, where he will point out a great breach in the wall made by Henri IV.
when he successfully assaulted the castle after a bombardment with his
artillery which he had kept up for a week. This was in 1589, and since then
no other fighting has taken place round these grand old walls. The ivy that
clings to the ruins and the avenue of limes that leads up to the great keep
are full of jackdaws which wheel round the rock in great flights. You have
a close view of the great Tour Talbot, and then pass through a small
doorway in the northern face of the citadel. Inside, the appearance of the
walls reveals the restoration which has taken place within recent years.
But this, fortunately, does not detract to any serious extent from the
interest of the whole place. Up on the ramparts there are fine views over
the surrounding country, and immediately beneath the precipice below nestle
the picturesque, browny-red roofs of the lower part of the town. Just at
the foot of the castle rock there is still to be seen a tannery which is of
rather unusual interest in connection with the story of how Robert le
Diable was first struck by the charms of Arlette, the beautiful daughter of
a tanner. The Norman duke was supposed to have been looking over the
battlements when he saw this girl washing clothes in the river, and we are
told that owing to the warmth of the day she had drawn up her dress, so
that her feet, which are spoken of as being particularly beautiful were
revealed to his admiring gaze. Arlette afterwards became the mother of
William the Conqueror, and the room is pointed out in the south-west corner
of the keep in which we are asked to believe that the Conqueror of England
was born. It is, however, unfortunate for the legend that archaeologists do
not allow such an early date for the present castle, and thus we are not
even allowed to associate these ramparts with the legend just mentioned. It
must have been a strong building that preceded this present structure, for
during the eleventh century William the Norman was often obliged to retreat
for safety to his impregnable birthplace. The Tour Talbot has below its
lowest floor what seems to be a dungeon, but it is said that prisoners were
not kept here, the place being used merely for storing food. The gloomy
chamber, however, is generally called an oubliette. Above, there are other
floors, the top one having been used by the governor of the castle. In the
thickness of the wall there is a deep well which now contains no water. One
of the rooms in the keep is pointed out as that in which Prince Arthur was
kept in confinement, but although it is known that the unfortunate youth
was imprisoned in this castle, the selection of the room seems to be
somewhat arbitrary.

In 1428 the news of Joan of Arc's continued successes was brought to the
Earl of Salisbury who was then governor of Falaise Castle, and it was from
here that he started with an army to endeavour to stop that triumphal
progress. In 1450 when the French completely overcame the numerous English
garrisons in the towns of Normandy, Falaise with its magnificent position
held out for some time. The defenders sallied out from the walls of the
town but were forced back again, and notwithstanding their courage, the
town capitulated to the Duke of Alencon's army at almost the same time as
Avranches and a dozen other strongly defended towns. We can picture to
ourselves the men in glinting head-pieces sallying from the splendid old
gateway known as the Port des Cordeliers. It has not lost its formidable
appearance even to-day, though as you look through the archway the scene is
quiet enough, and the steep flight of outside steps leads up to scenes of
quiet domestic life. The windows overlook the narrow valley beneath where
the humble roofs of the cottages jostle one another for space. There are
many people who visit Falaise who never have the curiosity to explore this
unusually pleasing part of the town. In the spring when the lilac bushes
add their brilliant colour to the russet brown tiles and soft creams of the
stone-work, there are pictures on every side. Looking in the cottages you
may see, generally within a few feet of the door, one of those ingenious
weaving machines that are worked with a treadle, and take up scarcely any
space at all. If you ask permission, the cottagers have not the slightest
objection to allowing you to watch them at their work, and when one sees
how rapidly great lengths of striped material grow under the revolving
metal framework, you wonder that Falaise is not able to supply the demands
of the whole republic for this class of material.

Just by the Hotel de Ville and the church of La Trinite stands the imposing
statue of William the Conqueror. He is mounted on the enormous war-horse of
the period and the whole effect is strong and spirited. The most notable
feature of the exterior of the church of La Trinite is the curious
passage-way that goes underneath the Lady Chapel behind the High Altar. The
whole of the exterior is covered with rich carving, crocketed finials,
innumerable gargoyles and the usual enriched mouldings of Gothic
architecture. The charm of the interior is heightened if one enters in the
twilight when vespers are proceeding. There is just sufficient light to
show up the tracery of the windows and the massive pointed arches in the
choir. A few candles burn by the altar beyond the dark mass of figures
forming the congregation. A Gregorian chant fills the building with its
solemn tones and the smoke of a swinging censer ascends in the shadowy
chancel. Then, as the service proceeds, one candle above the altar seems to
suddenly ignite the next, and a line of fire travels all over the great
erection surrounding the figure of the Virgin, leaving in its trail a blaze
of countless candles that throw out the details of the architecture in
strong relief. Soon the collection is made, and as the priest passes round
the metal dish, he is followed by the cocked-hatted official whose
appearance is so surprising to those who are not familiar with French
churches. As the priest passes the dish to each row the official brings his
metal-headed staff down upon the pavement with a noisy bang that is
calculated to startle the unwary into dropping their money anywhere else
than in the plate. In time the bell rings beside the altar, and the priest
robed in white and gold elevates the host before the kneeling congregation.
Once more the man in the cocked hat becomes prominent as he steps into the
open space between the transepts and tolls the big bell in the tower above.
Then a smaller and much more cheerful bell is rung, and fearing the arrival
of another collecting priest we slip out of the swinging doors into the
twilight that has now almost been swallowed up in the gathering darkness.

The consecration of the splendid Norman church of St Gervais took place in
the presence of Henry I. but there is nothing particularly English in any
part of the exterior. The central tower has four tall and deeply recessed
arches (the middle ones contain windows) on each side, giving a rich
arcaded appearance. Above, rises a tall pointed roof ornamented with four
odd-looking dormers near the apex. Every one remarks on their similarity to
dovecots and one almost imagines that they must have been built as a place
of shelter on stormy days for the great gilded cock that forms the weather
vane. The nave is still Norman on the south side, plain round-headed
windows lighting the clerestory, but the aisles were rebuilt in the
flamboyant period and present a rich mass of ornament in contrast to the
unadorned masonry of the nave. The western end until lately had to endure
the indignity of having its wall surfaces largely hidden by shops and
houses. These have now disappeared, but the stone-work has not been
restored, and you may still see a section of the interior of the house that
formerly used the west end of the south aisle as one of its walls. You can
see where the staircases went, and you may notice also how wantonly these
domestic builders cut away the buttresses and architectural enrichments to
suit the convenience of their own needs.

As you go from the market-place along the street that runs from St Gervais
to the suburb of Guibray, the shops on the left are exchanged for a low
wall over which you see deep, grassy hollows that come right up to the edge
of the street. Two fine houses, white-shuttered and having the usual vacant
appearance, stand on steep slopes surrounded by great cedars of Lebanon and
a copper beech.

The church of Guibray is chiefly Norman--it is very white inside and there
is some round-headed arcading in the aisles. The clustered columns of the
nave have simple, pointed arches, and there is a carved marble altarpiece
showing angels supporting the Virgin who is gazing upwards. The aisles of
the chancel are restored Norman, and the stone-work is bright green just
above the floor through the dampness that seems to have defied the efforts
of the restorers.




CHAPTER VI


From Argentan to Avranches

Between tall poplars whose stems are splotched with grey lichen and whose
feet are grown over with browny-green moss, runs the road from Falaise to
Argentan, straight and white, with scarcely more than the slightest bend,
for the whole eight miles. It is typical of the roads in this part of the
country and beyond the large stone four or five kilometres outside Falaise,
marking the boundary between Calvados and Orne, and the railway which one
passes soon afterwards, there is nothing to break the undulating monotony
of the boundless plain.

We cannot all hope to have this somewhat dull stretch of country relieved
by any exciting event, but I can remember one spring afternoon being
overtaken by two mounted gendarmes in blue uniforms, galloping for their
very lives. I looked down the road into the cloud of dust raised by the
horses' hoofs, but the country on all sides lay calm and deserted, and I
was left in doubt as to the reason for this astonishing haste. Half an hour
afterwards a group of people appeared in the distance, and on approaching
closer, they proved to be the two gendarmes leading their blown horses as
they walked beside a picturesque group of apparently simple peasants, the
three men wearing the typical soft, baggy cap and blue smock of the country
folk. The little group had a gloomy aspect, which was explained when I
noticed that the peasants were joined together by a bright steel chain.
Evidently something was very much amiss with one of the peaceful villages
lying near the road.

After a time, at the end of the long white perspective, appear the towers
of the great church of St Germain that dominate the town where Henry II.
was staying when he made that rash exclamation concerning his "turbulent
priest." It was from Argentan that those four knights set out for England
and Canterbury to carry out the deed, for which Henry lay in ashes for five
weeks in this very place. But there is little at the present time at
Argentan to remind one that it is in any way associated with the murder of
Becket. The castle that now exists is occupied by the Courts of Justice and
was partially built in the Renaissance period. Standing close to it, is an
exceedingly tall building with a great gable that suggests an
ecclesiastical origin, and on looking a little closer one soon discovers
blocked up Gothic windows and others from which the tracery has been
hacked. This was the chapel of the castle which has been so completely
robbed of its sanctity that it is now cut up into small lodgings, and in
one of its diminutive shops, picture post-cards of the town are sold.

The ruins of the old castle are not very conspicuous, for in the
seventeenth century the great keep was demolished. There is still a fairly
noticeable round tower--the Tour Marguerite--which has a pointed roof above
its corbels, or perhaps they should be called machicolations. In the Place
Henri IV. stands a prominent building that projects over the pavement
supported by massive pointed arches, and with this building in the
foreground there is one of the best views of St Germain that one can find
in the town. Just before coming to the clock that is suspended over the
road by the porch of the church, there is a butcher's shop at the street
corner that has a piece of oak carving preserved on account of its interest
while the rest of the building has been made featureless with even plaster.
The carving shows Adam and Eve standing on either side of a formal Tree of
Life, and the butcher, who is pleased to find a stranger who notices this
little curiosity, tells him with great pride that his house dates from the
fifteenth century. The porch of St Germain is richly ornamented, but it
takes a second place to the south porch of the church of Notre Dame at
Louviers and may perhaps seem scarcely worthy of comment after St Maclou at
Rouen. The structure as a whole was commenced in 1424, and the last portion
of the work only dates from the middle of the seventeenth century. The
vaulting of the nave has a very new and well-kept appearance and the side
altars, in contrast to so many of even the large churches, are almost
dignified in their somewhat restrained and classic style. The high altar is
a stupendous erection of two storeys with Corinthian pillars. Nine long,
white, pendant banners are conspicuous on the walls of the chancel. The
great altars and the lesser ones that crowd the side chapels are subject to
the accumulation of dirt as everything else in buildings sacred or lay, and
at certain times of the day, a woman may be seen vigorously flapping the
brass candlesticks and countless altar ornaments with a big feather broom.
On the north side of the chancel some of the windows have sections of old
painted glass, and in one of them there is part of a ship with men in
crow's nests backed by clouds, a really vigorous colour scheme.

Keeping to the high ground, there is to the south of this church an open
Place, and beyond it there are some large barracks, where, on the other
side of a low wall may be seen the elaborately prepared steeple-chase for
training soldiers to be able to surmount every conceivable form of
obstacle. Awkward iron railings, wide ditches, walls of different
composition and varying height are frequently scaled, and it is practice of
this sort that has made the French soldier famous for the facility with
which he can storm fortifications. The river Orne finds its way through the
lower part of the town and here there are to be found some of the most
pleasing bits of antique domestic architecture. One of the quaintest of
these built in 1616 is the galleried building illustrated here, and from a
parallel street not many yards off there is a peep of a house that has been
built right over the stream which is scarcely less picturesque.

[Illustration: A SEVENTEENTH CENTURY HOUSE AT ARGENTAN]

The church of St Martin is passed on entering Argentan from Falaise. Its
east end crowds right up against the pavement and it is somewhat unusual to
find the entrances at this portion of the building. The stained glass in
the choir of St Martin is its most noticeable feature--the pictures showing
various scenes in the life of Christ.

As in all French towns Argentan knows how to decorate on fete days. Coming
out of the darkness of the church in the late twilight on one of these
occasions, I discovered that the town had suddenly become festooned with a
long perspective of arches stretching right away down the leafy avenue that
goes out of the town--to the north in one direction, and to St Germain in
the other. The arches were entirely composed without a single exception of
large crimson-red Chinese lanterns. The effect was astonishingly good, but
despite all the decoration, the townsfolk seemed determined to preserve the
quiet of the Sabbath, and although there were crowds everywhere, the only
noise that broke the stillness was that of the steam round-about that had
been erected on a triangular patch of grass. The dark crowds of people
illuminated by flaring lights stood in perfect quiet as they watched the
great noisy mass of moving animals and boats, occupied almost entirely by
children, keep up its perpetual dazzle and roar. The fair--for there were
many side-shows--was certainly quieter than any I have witnessed in
England.

A long, straight road, poplar-bordered and level, runs southwards from
Argentan to Mortree, a village of no importance except for the fact that
one must pass through it if one wishes to visit the beautiful Chateau d'O.
This sixteenth century mansion like so many to be seen in this part of
France, is in a somewhat pathetic state of disrepair, but as far as one may
see from the exterior, it would not require any very great sum to
completely restore the broken stone-work and other signs of decay. These,
while perhaps adding to the picturesqueness of the buildings, do not bring
out that aspect of carefully preserved antiquity which is the charm of most
of the houses of this period in England. The great expanse of water in the
moat is very green and covered by large tracts of weed, but the water is
supplied by a spring, and fish thrive in it. The approach to the chateau
across the moat leads to an arched entrance through which you enter the
large courtyard overlooked on three sides by the richly ornamented
buildings, the fourth side being only protected from the moat by a low
wall. It would be hard to find a more charming spot than this with its
views across the moat to the gardens beyond, backed by great masses of
foliage.

Going on past Mortree the main road will bring one after about eight miles
to the old town of Alencon, which has been famed ever since the time of
Louis XIV. for the lace which is even at the present day worked in the
villages of this neighbourhood, more especially at the hamlet of Damigny.
The cottagers use pure linen thread which is worth the almost incredible
sum of L100 per lb. They work on parchment from patterns which are supplied
by the merchants in Alencon. The women go on from early morning until the
light fails, and earn something about a shilling per day!

The castle of Alencon, built by Henry I. in the twelfth century, was
pulled down with the exception of the keep, by the order of Henry of
Navarre, the famous contemporary of Queen Elizabeth. This keep is still in
existence, and is now used as a prison. Near it is the Palais de Justice,
standing where the other buildings were situated.

The west porch of the church of Notre Dame is richly ornamented with
elaborate canopies, here and there with statues. One of these represents St
John, and it will be seen that he is standing with his face towards the
church. A legend states that this position was taken by the statue when the
church was being ransacked by Protestants in the sixteenth century.

Another road from Argentan is the great _route nationale_ that runs in a
fairly direct line to Granville. As one rides out of the town there is a
pretty view on looking back, of St Germain standing on the slight eminence
above the Orne. Keeping along by that river the road touches it again at
the little town of Ecouche. The old market hall standing on massive
pillars, is the most attractive feature of the place. Its old tiled roof
and half-timbered upper storey remind one forcibly of some of those
fortunate old towns in England that have preserved this feature. The church
has lost its original nave, and instead, there is a curious barn-like
structure, built evidently with a view to economy, being scarcely more than
half the height of the original: the vacant space has been very roughly
filled up, and the numerous holes and crevices support a fine growth of
weeds, and a strong young tree has also taken root in the ramshackle stone
work. From the central tower, gargoyles grin above the elaborately carved
buttresses and finials in remarkable contrast to the jerry-built addition.

[Illustration: THE OLD MARKET HOUSE AT ECOUCHE]

Passing through rich country, you leave the valley of the Orne, and on
both sides of the road are spread wide and fascinating views over the
orchard-clad country that disappears in the distant blue of the horizon.
Wonderful patches of shadow, when large clouds are flying over the heavens,
fall on this great tract of country and while in dull weather it may seem a
little monotonous, in days of sunshine and shade it is full of a haunting
beauty that is most remarkable.

About seven miles from Argentan one passes Fromentelle, a quiet hamlet full
of thatched cottages and curious weathercocks, and then five miles further
on, having descended into the valley of the little river Rouvre, Briouze
is entered. Here there is a wide and very extensive market-place with
another quaint little structure, smaller than the one at Ecouche, but
having a curious bell-turret in the centre of the roof. On Monday, which
is market day, Briouze presents a most busy scene, and there are plenty of
opportunities of studying the genial looking country farmers, their wives,
and the large carts in which they drive from the farms. In the midst of the
booths, you may see a bronze statue commemorating the "Sapeurs, pompiers"
and others of this little place who fell in 1854.

Leaving the main road which goes on to Flers, we may take the road to
Domfront, which passes through three pretty villages and much pleasant
country. Bellau, the first village, is full of quaint houses and charming
old-world scenes. The church is right in the middle on an open space
without an enclosure of any description. Standing with one's back to this
building, there is a pretty view down the road leading to the south, a
patch of blue distance appearing in the opening between the old gables. To
all those who may wish to either paint or photograph this charming scene, I
would recommend avoiding the hour in the afternoon when the children come
out of school. I was commencing a drawing one sunny afternoon--it must have
been about three o'clock--and the place seemed almost deserted. Indeed, I
had been looking for a country group of peasants to fill the great white
space of sunny road, when in twos and threes, the juvenile population
flooded out towards me. For some reason which I could not altogether
fathom, the boys arranged themselves in a long, regular line, occupying
exactly one half of the view, the remaining space being filled by an
equally long line of little girls. All my efforts failed to induce the
children to break up the arrangement they had made. They merely altered
their formation by advancing three or four paces nearer with almost
military precision. They were still standing in their unbroken rows when I
left the village.

Passing a curious roadside cross which bears the date 1741 and a long Latin
inscription splashed over with lichen, one arrives at La Ferriere aux
Etangs, a quaint village with a narrow and steep street containing one
conspicuously old, timber-framed house. But it is scarcely necessary to
point out individual cottages in this part of Normandy, for wherever one
looks, the cottages are covered with thick, purply-grey thatch, and the
walls below are of grey wooden framework, filled in with plaster, generally
coloured a creamy-white. When there are deep shadows under the eaves and
the fruit trees in blossom stand out against the dark thatch, one can
easily understand how captivating is the rural charm of this part of
Normandy. Gradually the road ascends, but no great views are apparent,
although one is right above the beautiful valley of the Varennes, until
quite near to Domfront. Then, suddenly there appears an enormous stretch of
slightly undulating country to the south and west. As far as one can see,
the whole land seems to be covered by one vast forest.

But though part of this is real forest-land, much of it is composed of
orchards and hedgerow trees, which are planted so closely together that, at
a short distance, they assume the aspect of close-growing woods. The first
impression of the great stretch of forest-land does not lose its striking
aspect, even when one has explored the whole of the town. The road that
brings one into the old town runs along a ridge and after passing one of
the remains of the old gateways, it rises slightly to the highest part of
the mass of rock upon which Domfront is perched. The streets are narrow and
parallel to accommodate themselves to the confined space within the walls.
At the western end of the granite ridge, and separated from the town by a
narrow defile, stands all that is left of the castle--a massive but
somewhat shapeless ruin. At the western end of the ramparts, one looks down
a precipitous descent to the river Varennes which has by some unusual
agency, cut itself a channel through the rocky ridge if it did not merely
occupy an existing gap. At the present time, besides the river, the road
and railway pass through the narrow gorge.

The castle has one of those sites that appealed irresistibly to the warlike
barons of the eleventh century. In this case it was William I., Duc de
Belleme, who decided to raise a great fortress on this rock that he had
every reason to believe would prove an impregnable stronghold, but although
only built in 1011, it was taken by Duke William thirty-seven years later,
being one of the first brilliant feats by which William the Norman showed
his strength outside his own Duchy. A century or more later, Henry II.,
when at Domfront, received the pope's nuncio by whom a reconciliation was
in some degree patched up between the king and Becket. Richard I. is known
to have been at the castle at various times. In the sixteenth century,
a most thrilling siege was conducted during the period when Catherine
de Medicis was controlling the throne. A Royalist force, numbering some
seven or eight thousand horse and foot, surrounded this formidable rock
which was defended by the Calvinist Comte de Montgommery. With him was
another Protestant, Ambroise le Balafre, who had made himself a despot
at Domfront, but whose career was cut short by one of Montgommery's men
with whom he had quarrelled. They buried him in the little church of
Notre-Dame-sur-l'Eau--the wonderfully preserved Norman building that one
sees beneath one's feet when standing on the ramparts of the castle. The
body, however, was not long allowed to remain there, for when the royal
army surrounded the castle they brought out the corpse and hung it in a
conspicuous place to annoy the besieged. Like Corfe Castle in England, and
many other magnificently fortified strongholds, Domfront was capable of
defence by a mere handful. In this case the original garrison consisted of
one hundred and fifty, and after many desertions the force was reduced to
less than fifty. A great breach had been made by the six pieces of
artillery placed on the hill on the opposite side of the gorge, and through
this the besiegers endeavoured to enter. The attenuated garrison, with
magnificent courage, held the breach after a most desperate and bloody
fight. But after all this display of courage, it was found impossible to
continue the defence, for by the next morning there were barely more than a
dozen men left to fight. Finally Montgommery was obliged to surrender
unconditionally, and not long afterwards he was executed in Paris. You may
see the breach where this terrible fight took place at the present day, and
as you watch the curious effects of the blue shadows falling among the
forest trees that stretch away towards the south, you may feel that you are
looking over almost the same scene that was gazed upon by the notable
figures in history who have made their exits and entrances at Domfront.

So little has the church of Notre-Dame-sur-l'Eau altered in its appearance
since it was built by the Duc de Belleme that, were he to visit the ruins
of his castle, he would marvel no doubt that the men of the nine centuries
which have passed, should have consistently respected this sturdy little
building. There are traces of aisles having existed, but otherwise the
exterior of the church can have seen no change at all in this long period.
Inside, however, the crude whitewash, the curious assemblage of enormous
seventeenth century gravestones that are leant against the walls, and the
terribly jarring almost life-sized crucifix, all give one that feeling of
revulsion that is inseparable from an ill-kept place of worship. On the
banks of the river outside, women may be seen washing clothes; the sounds
of the railway come from the station near by, and overhead, rising above
the foliage at its feet, are the broken walls and shattered keep from which
we have been gazing.

[Illustration: ONE OF THE TOWERS IN THE WALLS OF DOMFRONT]

The walls of the town, punctuated by many a quaint tower, have lost their
fearsome aspect owing to the domestic uses to which the towers are palpably
devoted. One of them appears in the adjoining illustration, and it is
typical of the half-dozen or so that still rise above the pretty gardens
that are perched along the steep ascent. But though Domfront is full of
almost thrilling suggestions of medievalism and the glamour of an ancient
town, yet there is a curious lack of picturesque arrangement, so that if
one were to be led away by the totally uninteresting photographs that may
be seen in the shops, one would miss one of the most unique spots in
Normandy.

Stretching away towards Flers, there is a tract of green country all ups
and downs, but with no distant views except the peep of Domfront that
appears a few miles north of the town. Crowning the ridge of the hill is
the keep of the castle, resembling a closed fist with the second finger
raised, and near it, the bell-cote of the Palais de Justice and the spire
of the church break the line of the old houses. Ferns grow by the roadside
on every bank, but the cottages and farms are below the average of rustic
beauty that one soon demands in this part of France.

Flers is a somewhat busy manufacturing town where cotton and thread
mills have robbed the place of its charm. At first sight one might
imagine the church which bears the date 1870 was of considerably
greater age, but inside one is almost astounded at the ramshackle
galleries, the white-washed roof of rough boards discoloured by damp,
and the general squalor of the place relieved only by a ponderous
altar-piece of classic design. The castle is still in good preservation
but although it dates from early Norman times, it is chiefly of the
sixteenth century.

Out in the country again, going westwards, the cottage industry of
weaving is apparent in nearly every cottage one sees. The loud
click-a-ti-clack--click-a-ti-clack of the looms can be heard on every
side as one passes such villages as Landisacq. Everywhere the scenery
is exceedingly English, the steep hillsides are often covered with
orchards, and the delicate green of the apple-trees in spring-time,
half-smothered in pinky-white blossom, gives the country a garden-like
aspect. You may see a man harrowing a field on a sudden slope with a
cloud of dust blowing up from the dry light soil, and you may hear him
make that curious hullaballooing by which the peasants direct their
horses, so different from the grunting "way-yup there" of the English
ploughman. Coming down a long descent, a great stretch of country to
the north that includes the battlefield of Tinchebrai comes into view.
It is hard to associate the rich green pastures, smiling orchards, and
peaceful cattle, with anything so gruesome as a battle between armies
led by brothers. But it was near the little town of Tinchebrai that the
two brothers, Henry I., King of England, and Robert Duke of Normandy
fought for the possession of Normandy. Henry's army was greatly
superior to that of his brother, for he had the valuable help of the
Counts of Conches, Breteuil, Thorigny, Mortagne, Montfort, and two or
three others as powerful. But despite all this array, the battle for
some time was very considerably in Robert's favour, and it was only
when Henry, heavily pressed by his brother's brilliant charge, ordered
his reserves to envelop the rear, that the great battle went in favour
of the English king. Among the prisoners were Robert and his youthful
son William, the Counts of Mortain, Estouteville, Ferrieres, and a
large number of notable men. Until his death, twenty-seven years later,
Henry kept his brother captive in Cardiff Castle, and it has been said
that, owing to an effort to escape, Henry was sufficiently lacking in
all humane feelings towards his unfortunate brother, to have both his
eyes put out. It seems a strange thing that exactly sixty years after
the battle of Hastings, a Norman king of England, should conquer the
country which had belonged to his father.

The old church of St Remy at Tinchebrai, part of which dates from the
twelfth century, has been abandoned for a new building, but the inn--the
Hotel Lion d'Or--which bears the date 1614, is still in use. Vire, however,
is only ten miles off, and its rich mediaeval architecture urges us
forward.

Standing in the midst of the cobbled street, there suddenly appears right
ahead a splendid thirteenth century gateway--the Tour de l'Horloge--that
makes one of the richest pictures in Normandy. It is not always one can see
the curious old tower thrown up by a blaze of gold in the west, but those
who are fortunate enough to see such an effect may get a small suggestion
of the scene from the illustration given here. The little painted figure of
the Virgin and Child stands in a niche just over the arch, and by it
appears the prayer "Marie protege la ville!"

One of the charms of Vire is its cleanliness, for I can recall no
unpleasant smells having interfered with the pleasure of exploring the old
streets. There is a great market on the northern side of the town, open and
breezy. It slopes clear away without any intervening buildings to a great
expanse of green wooded country, suggestive of some of the views that lie
all around one at Avranches. The dark old church of Notre Dame dates mainly
from the twelfth century. Houses and small shops are built up against it
between the buttresses in a familiar, almost confidential manner, and on
the south side, the row of gargoyles have an almost humorous appearance.
The drips upon the pavement and shops below were evidently a nuisance, and
rain water-spouts, with plain pipes leading diagonally from them, have been
attached to each grotesque head, making it seem that the grinning monsters
have developed a great and unquenchable thirst. Inside, the church is dark
and impressive. There are double rows of pillars in the aisles, and a huge
crucifix hangs beneath the tower, thrown up darkly against the chancel,
which is much painted and gilded. The remains of the great castle consist
of nothing more than part of the tall keep, built eight hundred years ago,
and fortunately not entirely destroyed when the rest of the castle came
down by the order of Cardinal Richelieu. An exploration of the quaint
streets of Vire will reveal two or three ancient gateways, many gabled
houses, some of which are timber-framed visually, and most of them are the
same beneath their skins of plaster. The houses in one of the streets are
connected with the road by a series of wooden bridges across the river,
which there forms one of the many pictures to be found in Vire.

Mortain is separated from Vire by fifteen miles of exceedingly hilly
country, and those who imagine that all the roads in Normandy are the flat
and poplar bordered ones that are so often encountered, should travel along
this wonderful switch-back. As far as Sourdeval there seems scarcely a yard
of level ground--it is either a sudden ascent or a breakneck rush into a
trough-like depression. You pass copices of firs and beautiful woods,
although in saying beautiful it is in a limited sense, for one seldom finds
the really rich woodlands that are so priceless an ornament to many Surrey
and Kentish lanes. The road is shaded by tall trees when it begins to
descend into the steep rocky gorge of the Cance with its tumbling
waterfalls that are a charming feature of this approach to Mortain. High
upon the rocks on the left appears an enormous gilded statue of the Virgin,
in the grounds of the Abbaye Blanche. Going downwards among the broken
sunlight and shadows on the road, Mortain appears, picturesquely perched on
a great rocky steep, and in the opening of the valley a blue haze suggests
the great expanse of level country towards the south. The big parish church
of the town was built originally in 1082 by that Robert of Mortain, who, it
will be remembered, was one of the first of the Normans to receive from the
victorious William a grant of land in England. The great tower which stands
almost detached on the south-west side is remarkable for its enormously
tall slit windows, for they run nearly from the ground to the saddle-back
roof. The interior of this church is somewhat unusual, the nave and chancel
being structurally one, and the aisles are separated by twenty-four
circular grey pillars with Corinthian capitals. The plain surfaces of the
walls and vaulting are absolutely clean white, picked out with fine black
lines to represent stone-work--a scarcely successful treatment of such an
interior! On either side of the High Altar stand two great statues
representing St Guillaume and St Evroult.

To those who wish to "do" all the sights of Mortain there is the Chapel of
St Michael, which stands high up on the margin of a great rocky hill, but
the building having been reconstructed about fifty years ago, the chief
attraction to the place is the view, which in tolerably clear weather,
includes Mont St Michel towards which we are making our way.

A perfectly straight and fairly level stretch of road brings you to St
Hilaire-du-Harcout. On the road one passes two or three large country
houses with their solemn and perfectly straight avenues leading directly up
to them at right angles from the road. The white jalousies seem always
closed, the grass on the lawns seems never cut, and the whole
establishments have a pathetically deserted appearance to the passer-by. A
feature of this part of the country can scarcely be believed without
actually using one's eyes. It is the wooden chimney-stack, covered with oak
shingles, that surmounts the roofs of most of the cottages. Where the
shingles have fallen off, the cement rubble that fills the space between
the oak framing appears, but it is scarcely credible that, even with this
partial protection, these chimneys should have survived so many centuries.
I have asked the inmates of some of the cottages whether they ever feared a
fire in their chimneys, but they seemed to consider the question as totally
unnecessary, for some providence seems to have watched over their frail
structures.

St Hilaire has a brand new church and nothing picturesque in its long,
almost monotonous, street. Instead of turning aside at Pontaubault towards
Mont St Michel, we will go due north from that hamlet to the beautifully
situated Avranches. This prosperous looking town used, at one time, to have
a large English colony, but it has recently dwindled to such small
dimensions that the English chaplain has an exceedingly small parish. The
streets seem to possess a wonderful cleanliness; all the old houses appear
to have made way for modern buildings which, in a way, give Avranches the
aspect of a watering-place, but its proximity to the sea is more apparent
in a map than when one is actually in the town. On one side of the great
place in front of the church of Notre Dame des Champs is the Jardin des
Plantes. To pass from the blazing sunshine and loose gravel, to the dense
green shade of the trees in this delightful retreat is a pleasure that can
be best appreciated on a hot afternoon in summer. The shade, however, and
the beds of flowers are not the only attractions of these gardens. Their
greatest charm is the wonderful view over the shining sands and the
glistening waters of the rivers See and Selune that, at low tide, take
their serpentine courses over the delicately tinted waste of sand that
occupies St Michael's Bay. Out beyond the little wooded promontory that
protects the mouth of the See, lies Mont St Michel, a fretted silhouette of
flat pearly grey, and a little to the north is Tombelaine, a less
pretentious islet in this fairyland sea. Framed by the stems and foliage of
the trees, this view is one of the most fascinating in Normandy. One would
be content to stay here all through the sultry hours of a summer day, to
listen to the distant hum of conversation among white-capped nursemaids, as
they sew busily, giving momentary attention to their charges. But Avranches
has an historical spot that no student of history, and indeed no one who
cares anything for the picturesque events that crowd the pages of the
chronicles of England in the days of the Norman kings, may miss. It is the
famous stone upon which Henry II. knelt when he received absolution for the
murder of Becket at the hands of the papal legate. To reach this stone is,
for a stranger, a matter of some difficulty. From the Place by the Jardin
des Plantes, it is necessary to plunge down a steep descent towards the
railway station, and then one climbs a series of zigzag paths on a high
grassy bank that brings one out upon the Place Huet. In one corner,
surrounded by chains and supported by low iron posts, is the historic
stone. It is generally thickly coated with dust, but the brass plate
affixed to a pillar of the doorway is quite legible. These, and a few
fragments of carved stone that lie half-smothered in long grass and weeds
at a short distance from the railed-in stone, are all that remain of the
cathedral that existed in the time of Henry II.

It must have been an impressive scene on that Sunday in May 1172, when the
papal legate, in his wonderful robes, stood by the north transept door, of
which only this fragment remains, and granted absolution to the sovereign,
who, kneeling in all humbleness and submission, was relieved of the curse
of excommunication which had been laid on him after the tragic affair in
the sanctuary at Canterbury. In place of the splendid cathedral, whose nave
collapsed, causing the demolition of the whole building in 1799, there is a
new church with the two great western towers only carried up to half the
height intended for them.

From the roadway that runs along the side of the old castle walls in
terrace fashion there is another wonderful view of rich green country,
through which, at one's feet, winds the river See. Away towards the
north-west the road to Granville can be seen passing over the hills in a
perfectly straight line. But this part of the country may be left for
another chapter.




CHAPTER VII


Concerning Mont St Michel

  So, when their feet were planted on the plain
  That broaden'd toward the base of Camelot,
  Far off they saw the silver-misty morn
  Rolling her smoke about the Royal mount,
  That rose between the forest and the field.
  At times the summit of the high city flash'd;
  At times the spires and turrets half-way down
  Pricked through the mist; at times the great gate shone
  Only, that open'd on the field below:
  Anon, the whole fair city disappeared.

  Tennyson's _Gareth and Lynette_

"The majestic splendour of this gulf, its strategetic importance, have at
all times attracted the attention of warriors." In this quaint fashion
commences the third chapter of a book upon Mont St Michel which is to be
purchased in the little town. We have already had a glimpse of the
splendour of the gulf from Avranches, but there are other aspects of the
rock which are equally impressive. They are missed by all those who,
instead of going by the picturesque and winding coast-road from
Pontaubault, take the straight and dusty _route nationale_ to Pontorson,
and then turn to follow the tramway that has in recent years been extended
along the causeway to the mount itself. If one can manage to make it a
rather late ride along the coast-road just mentioned, many beautiful
distant views of Mont St Michel, backed by sunset lights, will be an ample
reward. Even on a grey and almost featureless evening, when the sea is
leaden-hued, there may, perhaps, appear one of those thin crimson lines
that are the last efforts of the setting sun. This often appears just
behind the grey and dim rock, and the crimson is reflected in a delicate
tinge upon the glistening sands. Tiny rustic villages, with churches humble
and unobtrusive, and prominent calvaries, are passed one after the other.
At times the farmyards seem to have taken the road into their own hands,
for a stone well-head will appear almost in the roadway, and chickens,
pigs, and a litter of straw have to be allowed for by those who ride or
drive along this rural way. When the rock is still some distance off, the
road seems to determine to take a short cut across the sands, but thinking
better of it, it runs along the outer margin of the reclaimed land, and
there is nothing to prevent the sea from flooding over the road at its own
discretion. Once on the broad and solidly constructed causeway, the rock
rapidly gathers in bulk and detail. It has, indeed, as one approaches, an
almost fantastic and fairy-like outline. Then as more and more grows from
the hazy mass, one sees that this remarkable place has a crowded and much
embattled loneliness. Two round towers, sturdy and boldly machicolated,
appear straight ahead, but oddly enough the wall between them has no
opening of any sort, and the stranger is perplexed at the inhospitable
curtain-wall that seems to refuse him admittance to the mediaeval delights
within. It almost heightens the impression that the place belongs
altogether to dreamland, for in that shadowy world all that is most
desirable is so often beyond the reach of the dreamer. It is a very
different impression that one gains if the steam train has been taken, for
its arrival is awaited by a small crowd of vulture-like servants and
porters from the hotels. The little crowd treats the incoming train-load of
tourists as its carrion, and one has no time to notice whether there is a
gateway or not before being swept along the sloping wooden staging that
leads to the only entrance. The simple archway in the outer wall leads into
the Cour de l'Avancee where those two great iron cannons, mentioned in an
earlier chapter, are conspicuous objects. They were captured by the heroic
garrison when the English, in 1433, made their last great effort to obtain
possession of the rock. Beyond these, one passes through the barbican to
the Cour de la Herse, which is largely occupied by the Hotel Poulard Aine.
Then one passes through the Porte du Roi, and enters the town proper. The
narrow little street is flanked by many an old house that has seen most of
the vicissitudes that the little island city has suffered. In fact many of
these shops which are now almost entirely given over to the sale of
mementoes and books of photographs of the island, are individually of great
interest. One of the most ancient in the upper part of the street, is
pointed out as that occupied in the fourteenth century by Tiphane de
Raguenel, the wife of the heroic Bertrand du Guesclin.

It is almost impossible for those who are sensitive in such matters, not to
feel some annoyance at the pleasant but persistent efforts of the vendors
of souvenirs to induce every single visitor to purchase at each separate
shop. To get an opportunity for closely examining the carved oaken beams
and architectural details of the houses, one must make at least some small
purchase at each trinket store in front of which one is inclined to pause.
Perhaps it would even be wise before attempting to look at anything
architectural in this quaintest of old-world streets, to go from one end to
the other, buying something of trifling cost, say a picture postcard, from
each saleswoman. In this way, one might purchase immunity from the
over-solicitous shop-keepers, and have the privilege of being able to
realise the mediaeval character of the place without constant
interruptions.

Nearly every visitor to Mont St Michel considers that this historic gem, in
its wonderful setting of opalescent sand, can be "done" in a few hours.
They think that if they climb up the steps to the museum--a new building
made more conspicuous than it need be by a board bearing the word _Musee_
in enormous letters--if they walk along the ramparts, stare for a moment at
the gateways, and then go round the abbey buildings with one of the small
crowds that the guide pilots through the maze of extraordinary vaulted
passages and chambers, that they have done ample justice to this
world-famous sight. If the rock had only one-half of its historic and
fantastically arranged buildings, it would still deserve considerably more
than this fleeting attention paid to it by such a large proportion of the
tourists. So many of these poor folk come to Mont St Michel quite willing
to learn the reasons for its past greatness, but they do not bring with
them the smallest grains of knowledge. The guides, whose knowledge of
English is limited to such words as "Sirteenth Senchury" (thirteenth
century), give them no clues to the reasons for the existence of any
buildings on the island, and quite a large proportion of visitors go away
without any more knowledge than they could have obtained from the
examination of a good book of photographs.

To really appreciate in any degree the natural charms of Mont St Michel, at
least one night should be spent on the rock. Having debated between the
rival houses of Poularde Aine and Poularde Jeune, and probably decided on
the older branch of the family, perhaps with a view to being able to speak
of their famous omelettes with enthusiasm, one is conducted to one of the
houses or dependences connected with the hotel. If one has selected the
Maison Rouge, it is necessary to make a long climb to one's bedroom. The
long salle a manger, where dinner is served, is in a tall wedge-like
building just outside the Porte du Roi and in the twilight of evening
coffee can be taken on the little tables of the cafe that overflows on to
the pavement of the narrow street. The cafe faces the head-quarters of the
hotel, and is as much a part of it as any of the other buildings which
contain the bedrooms. To the stranger it comes as a surprise to be handed a
Chinese lantern at bedtime, and to be conducted by one of the hotel
servants almost to the top of the tall house just mentioned. Suddenly the
man opens a door and you step out into an oppressive darkness. Here the use
of the Chinese lantern is obvious, for without some artificial light, the
long series of worn stone steps, that must be climbed before reaching the
Maison Rouge, would offer many opportunities for awkward falls. The
bedrooms in this house, when one has finally reached a floor far above the
little street, have a most enviable position. They are all provided with
small balconies where the enormous sweep of sand or glistening ocean,
according to the condition of the tides, is a sight which will drag the
greatest sluggard from his bed at the first hour of dawn. Right away down
below are the hoary old houses of the town, hemmed in by the fortified wall
that surrounds this side of the island. Then stretching away towards the
greeny-blue coast-line is the long line of digue or causeway on which one
may see a distant puff of white smoke, betokening the arrival of the early
train of the morning. The attaches of the rival hotels are already awaiting
the arrival of the early batch of sight-seers. All over the delicately
tinted sands there are constantly moving shadows from the light clouds
forming over the sea, and blowing freshly from the west there comes an
invigorating breeze.

Before even the museum can have a real interest for us, we must go back to
the early times when Mont St Michel was a bare rock; when it was not even
an island, and when the bay of Mont St Michel was covered by the forest of
Scissey.

It seems that the Romans raised a shrine to Jupiter on the rock, which soon
gave to it the name of Mons Jovis, afterwards to be contracted into
Mont-Jou. They had displaced some earlier Druidical or other
sun-worshippers who had carried on their rites at this lonely spot; but the
Roman innovation soon became a thing of the past and the Franks, after
their conversion to Christianity, built on the rock two oratories, one to
St Stephen and the other to St Symphorian. It was then that the name
Mont-Jou was abandoned in favour of Mons-Tumba. The smaller rock, now known
as Tombelaine, was called Tumbella meaning the little tomb, to distinguish
it from the larger rock. It is not known why the two rocks should have been
associated with the word tomb, and it is quite possible that the Tumba may
simply mean a small hill.

In time, hermits came and built their cells on both the rocks and gradually
a small community was formed under the Merovingian Abbey of Mandane.

It was about this time, that is in the sixth century, that a great change
came over the surroundings of the two rocks. Hitherto, they had formed
rocky excrescences at the edge of the low forest-land by which the country
adjoining the sea was covered. Gradually the sea commenced a steady
encroachment. It had been probably in progress even since Roman times, but
its advance became more rapid, and after an earthquake, which occurred in
the year 709, the whole of the forest of Scissey was invaded, and the
remains of the trees were buried under a great layer of sand. There were
several villages in this piece of country, some of whose names have been
preserved, and these suffered complete destruction with the forest. A
thousand years afterwards, following a great storm and a consequent
movement of the sand, a large number of oaks and considerable traces of the
little village St Etienne de Paluel were laid bare. The foundations of
houses, a well, and the font of a church were among the discoveries made.
Just about the time of the innundation, we come to the interesting story of
the holy-minded St Aubert who had been made bishop of Avranches. He could
see the rock as it may be seen to-day, although at that time it was crowned
with no buildings visible at any distance, and the loneliness of the spot
seems to have attracted him to retire thither for prayer and meditation. He
eventually raised upon the rock a small chapel which he dedicated to Michel
the archangel. After this time, all the earlier names disappeared and the
island was always known as Mont St Michel. Replacing the hermits of Mandane
with twelve canons, the establishment grew and became prosperous. That this
was so, must be attributed largely to the astonishing miracles which were
supposed to have taken place in connection with the building of the chapel.
Two great rocks near the top of the mount, which were much in the way of
the builders, were removed and sent thundering down the rocky precipice by
the pressure of a child's foot when all the efforts of the men to induce
the rock to move had been unavailing. The huge rock so displaced is now
crowned by the tiny chapel of St Aubert. The offerings brought by the
numerous pilgrims to Mont St Michel gave the canons sufficient means to
commence the building of an abbey, and the unique position of the rock soon
made it a refuge for the Franks of the western parts of Neustria when the
fierce Norman pirates were harrying the country. In this way the village of
Mont St Michel made its appearance at the foot of the rock. The contact of
the canons with this new population brought some trouble in its wake. The
holy men became contaminated with the world, and Richard, Duke of Normandy,
replaced them by thirty Benedictines brought from Mont-Cassin. These monks
were given the power of electing their own abbot who was invested with the
most entire control over all the affairs of the people who dwelt upon the
rock. This system of popular election seems to have worked admirably, for
in the centuries that followed, the rulers of the community were generally
men of remarkable character and great ideals.

About fifty years before the Conquest of England by Duke William, the abbot
of that time, Hildebert II., commenced work on the prodigious series of
buildings that still crown the rock. His bold scheme of building massive
walls round the highest point, in order to make a lofty platform whereon to
raise a great church, was a work of such magnitude that when he was
gathered to his fathers the foundations were by no means complete. Those
who came after him however, inspired by the great idea, kept up the work of
building with wonderful enthusiasm. Slowly, year by year, the ponderous
walls of the crypts and undercrofts grew in the great space which it was
necessary to fill. Dark, irregularly built chambers, one side formed of the
solid rock and the others composed of the almost equally massive masonry,
grouped themselves round the unequal summit of the mount, until at last,
towards the end of the eleventh century, the building of the nave of the
church was actually in progress. Roger II., the eleventh of the abbots,
commenced the buildings that preceded the extraordinary structure known as
La Merveille. Soon after came Robert de Torigny, a pious man of great
learning, who seems to have worked enthusiastically. He raised two great
towers joined by a porch, the hostelry and infirmary on the south side and
other buildings on the west. Much of this work has unfortunately
disappeared. Torigny's coffin was discovered in 1876 under the north-west
part of the great platform, and one may see a representation of the
architect-abbot in the clever series of life-like models that have been
placed in the museum.

The Bretons having made a destructive attack upon the mount in the early
years of the thirteenth century and caused much damage to the buildings,
Jourdain the abbot of that time planned out "La Merveille," which comprises
three storeys of the most remarkable Gothic halls. At the bottom are the
cellar and almonry, then comes the Salle des Chevaliers and the dormitory,
and above all are the beautiful cloisters and the refectory. Jourdain,
however, only lived to see one storey completed, but his successors carried
on the work and Raoul de Villedieu finished the splendid cloister in 1228.

Up to this time the island was defenceless, but during the abbatiate of
Toustain the ramparts and fortifications were commenced. In 1256 the
buildings known as Belle-Chaise were constructed. They contained the
entrance to the abbey before the chatelet made its appearance. After
Toustain came Pierre le Roy who built a tower behind Belle-Chaise and also
the imposing-looking chatelet which contains the main entrance to the whole
buildings. The fortifications that stood outside this gateway have to some
extent disappeared, but what remain are shown in the accompanying
illustration.

In the early part of the fifteenth century, the choir of the church
collapsed, but peace having been declared with England, soon afterwards
D'Estouteville was able to construct the wonderful foundations composed of
ponderous round columns called the crypt of les Gros-Piliers, and above it
there afterwards appeared the splendid Gothic choir. The flamboyant tracery
of the windows is filled with plain green leaded glass, and the fact that
the recent restoration has left the church absolutely bare of any
ecclesiastical paraphernalia gives one a splendid opportunity of studying
this splendid work of the fifteenth century. The nave of the church has
still to undergo the process of restoration, for at the present time the
fraudulent character of its stone-vaulted roof is laid bare by the most
casual glance, for at the unfinished edge adjoining the choir one may see
the rough lath and plaster which for a long time must have deceived the
visitors who have gazed at the lofty roof. The western end of the building
is an eighteenth century work, although to glance at the great patches of
orange-coloured lichen that spread themselves over so much of the
stone-work, it would be easy to imagine that the work was of very great
antiquity. In earlier times there were some further bays belonging to the
nave beyond the present west front in the space now occupied by an open
platform. There is a fine view from this position, but it is better still
if one climbs the narrow staircase from the choir leading up to the
asphalted walk beneath the flying buttresses.

About the middle of the fourteenth century, Tiphaine de Raguenel, the wife
of Bertrand du Guesclin, that splendid Breton soldier, came from Pontorson
and made her home at Mont St Michel, in order not to be kept as a prisoner
by the English. There are several facts recorded that throw light on the
character of this noble lady, sometimes spoken of as "The Fair Maid of
Dinan." She had come to admire Du Guesclin for his prowess in military
matters, and her feeling towards him having deepened, she had no hesitation
in accepting his offer of marriage. It appears that Du Guesclin after this
most happy event--for from all we are able to discover Tiphaine seems to
have shared his patriotic ideals--was inclined to remain at home rather
than to continue his gallant, though at times almost hopeless struggle
against the English. Although it must have been a matter of great
self-renunciation on her part, Tiphaine felt that it would be much against
her character for her to have any share in keeping her husband away from
the scene of action, and by every means in her power she endeavoured to
re-animate his former enthusiasm. In this her success was complete, and
resuming his great responsibilities in the French army, much greater
success attended him than at any time in the past. Du Guesclin was not a
martyr, but he is as much the most striking figure of the fourteenth
century as Joan of Arc is of the fifteenth.

All through the period of anxiety through which the defenders of the mount
had to pass when the Hundred Years' War was in progress, Mont St Michel was
very largely helped against sudden attacks by the remarkable vigilance of
their great watch-dogs. So valuable for the safety of the Abbey and the
little town were these dogs considered that Louis XI. in 1475 allowed the
annual sum of twenty-four pounds by Tours-weight towards their keep. The
document states that "from the earliest times it has been customary to have
and nourish, at the said place, a certain number of great dogs, which are
tied up by day, and at night brought outside the enclosure to keep watch
till morning." It was during the reign of this same Louis that the military
order of chivalry of St Michael was instituted. The king made three
pilgrimages to the mount and the first chapter of this great order, which
was for a long time looked upon as the most distinguished in France, was
held in the Salle des Chevaliers.

For a long while Tombelaine, which lies so close to Mont St Michel, was in
the occupation of the English, but in the account of the recovery of
Normandy from the English, written by Jacques le Bouvier, King of Arms to
Charles VII., we find that the place surrendered very easily to the French.
We are told that the fortress of Tombelaine was "An exceedingly strong
place and impregnable so long as the persons within it have provisions."
The garrison numbered about a hundred men. They were allowed to go to
Cherbourg where they took ship to England about the same time as the
garrisons from Vire, Avranches, Coutances, and many other strongholds which
were at this time falling like dead leaves. Le Bouvier at the end of his
account of this wonderful break-up of the English fighting force in
Normandy, tells us that the whole of the Duchy of Normandy with all the
cities, towns, and castles was brought into subjection to the King of
France within one year and six days. "A very wonderful thing," he remarks,
"and it plainly appears that our Lord God therein manifested His grace, for
never was so large a country conquered in so short a time, nor with the
loss of so few people, nor with less injury, which is a great merit, honour
and praise to the King of France."

In the early part of the sixteenth century, Mont St Michel seems to have
reached the high-water mark of its glories. After this time a decline
commenced and Cardinal le Veneur reduced the number of monks to enlarge his
own income. This new cardinal was the first of a series not chosen from the
residents on the mount, for after 1523 the system of election among
themselves which had answered so well, was abandoned, and this wealthy
establishment became merely one of the coveted preferments of the Church.
There was no longer that enthusiasm for maintaining and continuing the
architectural achievements of the past, for this new series of
ecclesiastics seemed to look upon their appointment largely as a sponge
which they might squeeze.

In Elizabethan times Mont St Michel once more assumed the character of a
fortress and had to defend itself against the Huguenots when its resources
had been drained by these worldly-minded shepherds, and it is not
surprising to find that the abbey which had withstood all the attacks of
the English during the Hundred Years' War should often fall into the hands
of the protestant armies, although in every case it was re-taken.

A revival of the religious tone of the abbey took place early in the first
quarter of the seventeenth century, when twelve Benedictine monks from St
Maur were installed in the buildings. Pilgrimages once more became the
order of the day, but since the days of Louis XI. part of the sub-structure
of the abbey buildings had been converted into fearful dungeons, and the
day came when the abbey became simply a most remarkable prison. In the time
of Louis XV., a Frenchman named Dubourg--a person who has often been spoken
of as though he had been a victim of his religious convictions, but who
seems to have been really a most reprehensible character--was placed in a
wooden cage in one of the damp and gruesome vaults beneath the abbey.
Dubourg had been arrested for his libellous writings concerning the king
and many important persons in the French court. He existed for a little
over a year in the fearful wooden cage, and just before he died he went
quite mad, being discovered during the next morning half-eaten by rats. A
realistic representation of his ghastly end is given in the museum, but one
must not imagine that the grating filling the semi-circular arch is at all
like the actual spot where the wretched man lay. The cage itself was
composed of bars of wood placed so closely together that Dubourg was not
able to put more than his fingers between them. The space inside was only
about eight feet high and the width was scarcely greater. The cage itself
was placed in a position where moisture dripped on to the miserable
prisoner's body, and we can only marvel that he survived this fearful
torture for so many months. During the French Revolution the abbey was
nothing more than a jail, and it continued to be devoted to this base use
until about forty years ago. Since that time, restoration has continued
almost unceasingly, for in the prison period nothing was done to maintain
the buildings, and there is still much work in hand which the French
government who are now in control are most successfully carrying out.

These are a few of the thrilling phases of the history of the rock. But
what has been written scarcely does the smallest justice to its crowded
pages. The only way of being fair to a spot so richly endowed with
enthralling events seems to be in stirring the imagination by a preliminary
visit, in order that one may come again armed with a close knowledge of all
that has taken place since Aubert raised his humble chapel upon the lonely
rock. Who does not know that sense of annoyance at being conducted over
some historic building by a professional guide who mentions names and
events that just whet the appetite and then leave a hungry feeling for want
of any surrounding details or contemporary events which one knows would
convert the mere "sight" into holy ground. I submit that a French guide, a
French hand-book or a poor translation, can do little to relieve this
hunger, that Mont St Michel is fully worthy of some preliminary
consideration, and that it should not be treated to the contemptuous scurry
of a day's trip.

The tides that bring the sea across the great sweep of sand surrounding
Mont St Michel, are intermittent, and it is possible to remain for a day or
two on the island and be able to walk around it dry-shod at any hour. It is
only at the really high tides that the waters of the Bay of Cancale give
visitors the opportunity of seeing the fantastic buildings reflected in the
sea. But although it is safer and much more pleasant to be able to examine
every aspect of the rock from a boat, it is possible to walk over the sands
and get the same views provided one is aware of the dangers of the
quicksands which have claimed too many victims. It is somewhat terrifying
that on what appears to be absolutely firm sand, a few taps of the foot
will convert two or three yards beneath one's feet into a quaking mass.
There is, however, no great danger at the foot of the rocks or
fortifications, but to wander any distance away entails the gravest risks
unless in company with a native who is fully aware of any dangerous
localities. The sands are sufficiently firm to allow those who know the
route to drive horses and carts to Tombelaine, but this should not
encourage strangers to take any chances, for the fate of the English lady
who was swallowed up by the sands in sight of the ramparts and whose body
now lies in the little churchyard of the town, is so distressing that any
repetition of such tragedies would tend to cast a shade over the glories of
the mount.

You may buy among the numerous photographs and pictures for sale in the
trinket shops, coloured post-cards which show flaming sunsets behind the
abbey, but nothing that I have yet seen does the smallest justice to the
reality. Standing on the causeway and looking up to the great height of the
tower that crowns the highest point, the gilded St Michael with his
outspread wings seems almost ready to soar away into the immensity of the
canopy of heaven. Through the traceried windows of the chancel of the
church, the evening light on the opposite side of the rock glows through
the green glass, for from this position the upper windows are opposite to
one another and the light passes right through the building. The great mass
of curiously simple yet most striking structures that girdle the summit of
the rock and form the platform beneath the church, though built at
different times, have joined in one consenescence and now present the
appearance of one of those cities that dwell in the imagination when
reading of "many tower'd Camelot" or the turreted walls of fairyland. Down
below these great and inaccessible buildings comes an almost perpendicular
drop of rocks, bare except for stray patches of grass or isolated bushes
that have taken root in crevices. Then between this and the fortified wall,
with its circular bastions, encircling the base of the rock, the roofs of
the little town are huddled in picturesque confusion. The necessity of
accommodating the modern pilgrims has unfortunately led to the erection of
one or two houses that in some measure jar with their mediaeval
surroundings. Another unwelcome note is struck by the needlessly aggressive
board on the museum which has already been mentioned. However, when a
sunset is glowing behind the mount, these modern intrusions are subdued
into insignificance, and there is nothing left to disturb the harmony of
the scene.

A walk round the ramparts reveals an endless series of picturesque
groupings of the old houses with their time-worn stone walls, over which
tower the chatelet and La Merveille. Long flights of stone steps from the
highest part of the narrow street lead up to the main entrance of the abbey
buildings. Here, beneath the great archway of the chatelet, sits an old
blind woman who is almost as permanent a feature as the masonry on which
she sits. Ascending the wide flight of steps, the Salle des Gardes is
reached. It is in the lower portion of the building known as Belle-Chaise,
mentioned earlier in this chapter. From this point a large portion of the
seemingly endless series of buildings are traversed by the visitor, who is
conducted by a regular guide. You ascend a great staircase, between massive
stone walls spanned by two bridges, the first a strongly built structure of
stone, the next a slighter one of wood, and then reach a breezy rampart
where great views over the distant coasts spread themselves out. From here
you enter the church, its floor now littered with the debris of
restoration. Then follow the cloister and the refectory, and down below
them on the second floor of the Merveille is the Salle des Chevaliers.
Besides the wonderful Gothic halls with their vaulted roofs and perfect
simplicity of design, there are the endless series of crypts and dungeons,
which leave a very strong impression on the minds of all those whose
knowledge of architecture is lean. There is the shadowy crypt of Les Gros
Pilliers down below the chancel of the church; there is the Charnier where
the holy men were buried in the early days of the abbey; and there is the
great dark space filled by the enormous wheel which was worked by the
prisoners when Mont St Michel was nothing more than a great jail. It was by
this means that the food for the occupants of the buildings was raised from
down below. Without knowing it, in passing from one dark chamber to
another, the guide takes his little flock of peering and wondering visitors
all round the summit of the rock, for it is hard, even for those who
endeavour to do so, to keep the cardinal points in mind, when, except for a
chance view from a narrow window, there is nothing to correct the
impression that you are still on the same side of the mount as the
Merveille. At last the perambulation is finished--the dazzling sunshine is
once more all around you as you come out to the steep steps that lead
towards the ramparts.




CHAPTER VIII


Concerning Coutances and Some Parts of the Cotentin

When at last it is necessary to bid farewell to Mont St Michel, one is not
compelled to lose sight of the distant grey silhouette for a long while. It
remains in sight across the buttercup fields and sunny pastures on the road
to Pontaubault. Then again, when climbing the zig-zag hill towards
Avranches the Bay of Mont St Michel is spread out. You may see the mount
again from Avranches itself, and then if you follow the coast-road towards
Granville instead of the rather monotonous road that goes to its
destination with the directness of a gun-shot, there are further views of
the wonderful rock and its humble companion Tombelaine.

Keeping along this pretty road through the little village of Genets, where
you actually touch the ocean, there is much pretty scenery to be enjoyed
all the way to the busy town of Granville. It is a watering-place and a
port, the two aspects of the town being divided from each other by the
great rocky promontory of Lihou. If one climbs up right above the place
this conformation is plainly visible, for down below is the stretch of
sandy beach, with its frailly constructed concert rooms and cafes
sheltering under the gaunt red cliffs, while over the shoulder of the
peninsula appears a glimpse of the piers and the masts of sailing ships.
There is much that is picturesque in the seaport side of the town,
particularly towards evening, when the red and green harbour-lights are
reflected in the sea. There are usually five or six sailing ships loading
or discharging their cargoes by the quays, and you will generally find a
British tramp steamer lying against one of the wharves. The sturdy
crocketed spire of the sombre old church of Notre Dame stands out above the
long line of shuttered houses down by the harbour. It is a wonderful
contrast, this old portion of Granville that surmounts the promontory, to
the ephemeral and gay aspect of the watering-place on the northern side.
But these sort of contrasts are to be found elsewhere than at Granville,
for at Dieppe it is much the same, although the view of that popular resort
that is most familiar in England, is the hideous casino and the wide sweep
of gardens that occupy the sea-front. Those who have not been there would
scarcely believe that the town possesses a castle perched upon towering
cliffs, or that its splendid old church of Saint-Jacques is the real glory
of the place. Granville cannot boast of quite so much in the way of
antiquities, but there is something peculiarly fascinating about its dark
church, in which the light seems unable to penetrate, and whose walls
assume almost the same tones as the rocks from which the masonry was hewn.

I should like to describe the scenery of the twenty miles of country that
lie between Granville and Coutances, but I have only passed over it on one
occasion. It was nine o'clock in the evening, and the long drawn-out
twilight had nearly faded away as I climbed up the long ascent which
commences the road to Coutances, and before I had reached the village of
Brehal it was quite dark. The road became absolutely deserted, and although
one or two people on bicycles passed me about this time, they were carrying
no lamps as is the usual custom in France, where the rules governing the
use of a _bicyclette_ are so numerous and intricate, but so absolutely
ignored. My own lamp seemed to be a grave distraction among the invisible
occupants of the roadside meadows, and often much lowing rose up on either
side. The hedges would suddenly whirr with countless grasshoppers,
although, no doubt, they had been amusing themselves with their monotonous
noises for hours. The strange sound seemed to follow me in a most
persistent fashion, and then would be merged into the croaking of a vast
assemblage of frogs. These sounds, however, carry with them no real menace,
however late the hour, but there is something which may almost strike
terror into the heart, though it might almost be considered foolish by
those who have not experienced a midnight ride in this country. The clipped
and shaven trees that in daylight merely appear ridiculous, in the darkness
assume an altogether different character. To the vivid imagination, it is
easy to see a witch's broom swaying in the wind; a group of curious and
distorted stems will suggest a row of large but painfully thin brownies,
holding hands as they dance. Every moment, two or three figures of gaunt
and lanky witches in spreading skirts will alarm you as they suddenly
appear round a corner. When they are not so uncanny in their outlines, the
trees will appear like clipped poodles standing upon their hind legs, or
they will suddenly assume the character of a grove of palm trees. After a
long stretch of this sort of country, it is pleasant to pass through some
sleeping village where there are just two or three lighted windows to show
that there are still a few people awake besides oneself in this lonely
country. I can imagine that the village of Hyenville has some claims to
beauty. I know at least that it lies in a valley, watered by the river
Sienne, and that the darkness allowed me to see an old stone bridge, with a
cross raised above the centre of the parapet. Soon after this I began to
descend the hill that leads into Coutances. A bend in the road, as I was
rapidly descending, brought into view a whole blaze of lights, and I felt
that here at last there were people and hotels, and an end to the ghostly
sights of the open country. Then I came to houses, but they were all quite
dark, and there was not a single human being in sight. Following this came
a choice of streets without a possibility of knowing which one would lead
in the direction of the hotel I was hoping to reach; but my perplexity was
at length relieved by the advent of a tall youth whose cadaverous features
were shown up by the street lamp overhead. He gave his directions clearly
enough, but although I followed them carefully right up the hill past the
cathedral, I began to think that I had overshot the mark, when another
passer-by appeared in the silent street. I found that I was within a few
yards of the hotel; but on hurrying forward, I found to my astonishment,
that the whole building was completely shut up and no light appeared even
within the courtyard. As I had passed the cathedral eleven reverbrating
notes had echoed over the town, and it seemed as though Coutances had
retired earlier on this night of all nights in order that I might learn
to travel at more rational hours. Going inside the courtyard, my anxiety
was suddenly relieved by seeing the light of a candle in a stable on the
further side; a man was putting up a horse, and he at once volunteered
to arouse some one who would find a bedroom. After some shouting to the
gallery above, a maid appeared, and a few minutes afterwards mine host
himself, clad in a long flannel night robe and protecting a flickering
candle-flame with his hand, appeared at a doorway. His long grey beard
gave him a most venerable aspect. The note of welcome in his cheery
voice was unmistakable and soon the maid who had spoken from the balcony
had shown the way up a winding circular staircase to a welcome exchange
to the shelter of a haystack which I had begun to fear would be my only
resting-place for the night.

In the morning, the Hotel d'Angleterre proved to be a most picturesque
old hostelry. Galleries ran round three sides of the courtyard, and the
circular staircase was enclosed in one of those round towers that are
such a distinctive feature of the older type of French inn.

The long main street does not always look deserted and in daylight it
appeared as sunny and cheerful as one expects to find the chief
thoroughfare of a thriving French town. Coutances stands on such a bold
hill that the street, almost of necessity, drops precipitously, and the
cathedral which ranks with the best in France, stands out boldly from all
points of view. It was principally built in the thirteenth century, but a
church which had stood in its place two centuries before, had been
consecrated by Bishop Geoffrey de Montbray in 1056, in the presence of Duke
William, afterwards William I. of England. The two western towers of the
present cathedral are not exactly similar, and owing to their curious
formation of clustered spires they are not symmetrical. It is for this
reason that they are often described as being unpleasing. I am unable to
echo such criticism, for in looking at the original ideas that are most
plainly manifest in this most astonishing cathedral one seems to be in
close touch with the long forgotten builders and architects whose notions
of proportion and beauty they contrived to stamp so indelibly upon their
masterpiece. From the central tower there is a view over an enormous sweep
of country which includes a stretch of the coast, for Coutances is only
half a dozen miles from the sea. This central tower rises from a square
base at the intersection of the transepts with the nave. It runs up almost
without a break in an octagonal form to a parapet ornamented with open
quatrefoils. The interior has a clean and fresh appearance owing to the
recent restorations and is chiefly remarkable for the balustraded triforium
which is continued round the whole church. In many of the windows there is
glass belonging to the sixteenth century and some dates as early as the
fourteenth century.

Besides the cathedral, the long main street of Coutances possesses the
churches of St Nicholas and St Pierre. In St Nicholas one may see a
somewhat unusual feature in the carved inscriptions dating from early in
the seventeenth century which appear on the plain round columns. Here, as
in the cathedral, the idea of the balustrade under the clerestory is
carried out. The fourteen Stations of the Cross that as usual meet one in
the aisles of the nave, are in this church painted with a most unusual
vividness and reality, in powerful contrast to so many of these crucifixion
scenes to be seen in Roman Catholic churches.

The church of St Pierre is illustrated here, with the cathedral beyond, but
the drawing does not include the great central tower which is crowned by a
pyramidal spire. This church belongs to a later period than the cathedral
as one may see by a glance at the classic work in the western tower, for
most of the building is subsequent to the fifteenth century. St Pierre and
the cathedral form a most interesting study in the development from Early
French architecture to the Renaissance; but for picturesqueness in domestic
architecture Coutances cannot hold up its head with Lisieux, Vire, or
Rouen. There is still a remnant of one of the town gateways and to those
who spend any considerable time in the city some other quaint corners may
be found. From the western side there is a beautiful view of the town with
the great western towers of the cathedral rising gracefully above the
quarries in the Bois des Vignettes. Another feature of Coutances is the
aqueduct. It unfortunately does not date from Roman times when the place
was known as Constantia, for there is nothing Roman about the ivy-clad
arches that cross the valley on the western side.

From Coutances northwards to Cherbourg stretches that large tract of
Normandy which used to be known as the Cotentin. At first the country is
full of deep valleys and smiling hills covered with rich pastures and
woodland, but as you approach Lessay at the head of an inlet of the sea the
road passes over a flat heathy desert. The church at Lessay is a most
perfect example of Norman work. The situation is quite pretty, for near by
flows the little river Ay, and the roofs are brilliant with orange lichen.
The great square tower with its round-headed Norman windows, is crowned
with a cupola. With the exception of the windows in the north aisle the
whole of the interior is of pure Norman work. There is a double triforium
and the round, circular arches rest on ponderous pillars and there is also
a typical Norman semi-circular apse. The village, which is a very ancient
one, grew round the Benedictine convent established here by one Turstan
Halduc in 1040, and there may still be seen the wonderfully picturesque
castle with its round towers.

Following the estuary of the river from Lessay on a minor road you come to
the hamlet of St Germain-sur-Ay. The country all around is flat, but the
wide stretches of sand in the inlet have some attractiveness to those who
are fond of breezy and open scenery, and the little church in the village
is as old as that of Lessay. One could follow this pretty coast-line
northwards until the seaboard becomes bold, but we will turn aside to the
little town of La Haye-du-Puits. There is a junction here on the railway
for Carentan and St Lo, but the place seems to have gone on quite unaltered
by this communication with the large centres of population. The remains of
the castle, where lived during the eleventh century the Turstan Halduc just
mentioned, are to be seen on the railway side of the town. The dungeon
tower, picturesquely smothered in ivy, is all that remains of this Norman
fortress. The other portion is on the opposite side of the road, but it
only dates from the sixteenth century, when it was rebuilt. Turstan had a
son named Odo, who was seneschal to William the Norman, and he is known to
have received certain important lands in Sussex as a reward for his
services. During the next century the owner of the castle was that Richard
de la Haye whose story is a most interesting one. He was escaping from
Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, when he had the ill luck to fall in
with some Moorish pirates by whom he was captured and kept as a slave for
some years. He however succeeded in regaining his liberty, and after his
return to France, he and his wife, Mathilde de Vernon, founded the Abbey of
Blanchelande. The ruins of this establishment are scarcely more than two
miles from La Haye du Puits, but they unfortunately consist of little more
than some arches of the abbey church and some of the walls of the lesser
buildings.

Immediately north of La Haye there is some more heathy ground, but it is
higher than the country surrounding Lessay. A round windmill, much
resembling the ruined structure that stands out conspicuously on the bare
 tableland of Alderney, is the first of these picturesque features that
we have seen in this part of the country. It is worth mention also on
account of the fact that it was at St Sauveur-le-Vicomte, only about seven
miles distant, that the first recorded windmill was put up in France about
the year 1180, almost the same time as the first reference to such
structures occurs in England. St Sauveur has its castle now occupied by the
hospital. It was given to Sir John Chandos by Edward III. after the Treaty
of Bretigny in 1360, and that courageous soldier, who saw so much fighting
in France during the Hundred Years War, added much to the fortress which
had already been in existence since very early times in the history of the
duchy.

A road runs from St Sauveur straight towards the sea. It passes the corner
of a forest and then goes right down to the low sandy harbour of Port Bail.
It is a wonderful country for atmospheric effects across the embanked
swamps and sandhills that lie between the hamlet and the sea. One of the
two churches has a bold, square tower, dating from the fifteenth
century--it now serves as a lighthouse. The harbour has two other lights
and, although it can only be entered at certain tides, the little port
contrives to carry on a considerable export trade of farm produce, most of
it being consumed in the Channel Islands.

The railway goes on to its terminus at Cartaret, a nicely situated little
seaside village close to the cape of the same name. Here, if you tire of
shrimping on the wide stretch of sands, it is possible to desert Normandy
by the little steamer that during the summer plies between this point and
Gorey in Jersey. Modern influences have given Cartaret a more civilised
flavour than it had a few years ago, and it now has something of the aspect
of a watering-place. Northwards from Cartaret, a road follows the
coast-line two or three miles from the cliffs to Les Pieux. Then one can go
on to Flamanville by the cape which takes its name from the village, and
there see the seventeenth century moated manor house.

Cherbourg, the greatest naval port of France, is not often visited by those
who travel in Normandy, for with the exception of the enormous breakwater,
there is nothing beyond the sights of a huge dockyard town that is of any
note. The breakwater, however, is a most remarkable work. It stands about
two miles from the shore, is more than 4000 yards long by 100 yards wide,
and has a most formidable appearance with its circular forts and batteries
of guns.

The church of La Trinite was built during the English occupation and must
have been barely finished before the evacuation of the place in 1450. Since
that time the post has only been once attacked by the English, and that was
as recently as 1758, when Lord Howe destroyed and burnt the forts, shipping
and naval stores.

Leaving Cherbourg we will take our way southwards again to Valognes, a town
which suffered terribly during the ceaseless wars between England and
France. In 1346, Edward III. completely destroyed the place. It was
captured by the English seventy-one years afterwards and did not again
become French until that remarkable year 1450, when the whole of Normandy
and part of Guienne was cleared of Englishmen by the victorious French
armies under the Count of Clermont and the Duke of Alencon.

The Montgommery, whose defeat at Domfront castle has already been
mentioned, held Valognes against the Catholic army, but it afterwards was
captured by the victorious Henry of Navarre after the battle of Ivry near
Evreux.

Valognes possesses a good museum containing many Roman relics from the
neighbourhood. A short distance from the town, on the east side, lies the
village of Alleaume where there remain the ivy-grown ruins of the castle in
which Duke William was residing when the news was brought to him of the
insurrection of his barons under the Viscount of the Cotentin. It was at
this place that William's fool revealed to him the danger in which he
stood, and it was from here that he rode in hot haste to the castle of
Falaise, a stronghold the Duke seemed to regard as safer than any other in
his possession.

Still farther southwards lies the town of Carentan, in the centre of a
great butter-making district. It is, however, a dull place--it can scarcely
be called a city even though it possesses a cathedral. The earliest part of
this building is the west front which is of twelfth century work. The spire
of the central tower has much the same appearance as those crowning the two
western towers at St Lo, but there is nothing about the building that
inspires any particular enthusiasm although the tracery of some of the
windows, especially of the reticulated one in the south transept, is
exceptionally fine.




CHAPTER IX


Concerning St Lo and Bayeux

The richest pasture lands occupy the great butter-making district that lies
north of St Lo. The grass in every meadow seems to grow with particular
luxuriance, and the sleepy cows that are privileged to dwell in this choice
country, show by their complaisant expressions the satisfaction they feel
with their surroundings. It is wonderful to lie in one of these sunny
pastures, when the buttercups have gilded the grass, and to watch the
motionless red and white cattle as they solemnly let the hours drift past
them. During a whole sunny afternoon, which I once spent in those pastoral
surroundings, I can scarcely remember the slightest movement taking place
among the somnolent herd. There was a gentle breeze that made waves in the
silky sea of grass and sometimes stirred the fresh green leaves of the
trees overhead. The birds were singing sweetly, and the distant tolling of
the cathedral bells at Carentan added a richness to the sounds of nature.
Imagine this scene repeated a thousand times in every direction and you
have a good idea of this strip of pastoral Normandy.

About four miles north of St Lo, the main road drops down into the pleasant
little village of Pont Hebert and then passes over the Vire where it flows
through a lovely vale. In either direction the brimming waters of the river
glide between brilliant green meadows, and as it winds away into the
distance, the trees become more and more blue and form a charming contrast
to the brighter colours near at hand.

To come across the peasants of this pretty country in the garb one so
frequently sees depicted as the usual dress of Normandy, it is necessary to
be there on a Sunday or some fete day. On such days the wonderful frilled
caps, that stand out for quite a foot above the head, are seen on every
peasant woman. They are always of the most elaborate designs, and it is
scarcely necessary to say that they are of a dazzling whiteness. The men
have their characteristic dark blue close-fitting coats and the
high-crowned cap that being worn on week days is much more frequently in
evidence than the remarkable creations worn by the womenfolk.

There is a long climb from Pont Hebert to St Lo but there are plenty of
pretty cottages scattered along the road, and these with crimson stonecrop
on the roofs and may and lilac blossoming in the gardens, are pictures that
prevent you from finding the way tedious. At last, from the considerable
height you have reached, St Lo, dominated by its great church, appears on a
hill scarcely a mile away. The old town, perched upon the flat surface of a
mass of rock with precipitous sides, has much the same position as
Domfront. But here we are shut in by other hills and there is no unlimited
view of green forest-lands. The place, too, has a busy city-like aspect so
that the comparison cannot be carried very far. When you have climbed the
steep street that leads up through a quaint gateway to the extensive
plateau above, you pass through the Rue Thiers and reach one of the finest
views of the church. On one side of the street, there are picturesque
houses with tiled roofs and curiously clustered chimneys, and beyond them,
across a wide gravelly space, rises the majestic bulk of the west front of
Notre Dame. From the wide flight of steps that leads to the main entrance,
the eye travels upwards to the three deeply-recessed windows that occupy
most of the surface of this end of the nave. Then the two great towers,
seemingly similar, but really full of individual ornament, rise
majestically to a height equal to that of the highest portion of the nave.
Then higher still, soaring away into the blue sky above, come the enormous
stone spires perforated with great multi-foiled openings all the way to the
apex. Both towers belong to the fifteenth century, but they were not built
at quite the same time. In the chancel there is a double arcade of graceful
pillars without capitals. There is much fine old glass full of beautiful
colours that make a curious effect when the sunlight falls through them
upon the black and white marble slabs of the floor.

Wedged up against the north-west corner of the exterior stands a
comparatively modern house, but this incongruous companionship is no
strange thing in Normandy, although, as we have seen at Falaise, there are
instances in which efforts are being made to scrape off the humble domestic
architecture that clings, barnacle-like, upon the walls of so many of the
finest churches. On the north side of Notre Dame, there is an admirably
designed outside pulpit with a great stone canopy overhead full of
elaborate tracery. It overhangs the pavement, and is a noticeable object as
you go towards the Place de la Prefecture. On this wide and open terrace, a
band plays on Sunday evenings. There are seats under the trees by the stone
balustrade from which one may look across the roofs of the lower town
filling the space beneath. The great gravelly Place des Beaux-Regards that
runs from the western side of the church, is terminated at the very edge of
the rocky platform, and looking over the stone parapet you see the Vire
flowing a hundred feet below. This view must have been very much finer
before warehouses and factory-like buildings came to spoil the river-side
scenery, but even now it has qualities which are unique. Facing the west
end of the church, the most striking gabled front of the Maison Dieu forms
part of one side of the open space. This building may at first appear
almost too richly carved and ornate to be anything but a modern
reproduction of a mediaeval house, but it has been so carefully preserved
that the whole of the details of the front belong to the original time of
the construction of the house. The lower portion is of heavy stone-work,
above, the floors project one over the other, and the beauty of the
timber-framing and the leaded windows is most striking.

St Lo teems with soldiers, and it has a town-crier who wears a dark blue
uniform and carries a drum to call attention to his announcements. In the
lower part of the town, in the Rue des Halles, you may find the corn-market
now held in the church that was dedicated to Thomas a Becket. The building
was in course of construction when the primate happened to be at St Lo and
he was asked to name the saint to whom the church should be dedicated. His
advice was that they should wait until some saintly son of the church
should die for its sake. Strangely enough he himself died for the
privileges of the church, and thus his name was given to this now
desecrated house of God.

The remains of the fortifications that crown the rock are scarcely
noticeable at the present time, and it is very much a matter of regret that
the town has, with the exception of the Tour Beaux-Regards, lost the walls
and towers that witnessed so many sieges and assaults from early Norman
times right up to the days of Henry of Navarre. It was one of the towns
that was held by Geoffrey Plantagenet in Stephen's reign, and it was burnt
by Edward III. about the same time as Valognes. Then again in the religious
wars of the sixteenth century, a most terrific attack was made on St Lo by
Matignon who overcame the resistance of the garrison after Colombieres, the
leader, had been shot dead upon the ramparts.

It is fortunate for travellers in hot weather that exactly half-way between
St Lo and Bayeux there lies the shade of the extensive forest of Cerisy
through which the main road cuts in a perfectly straight line. At Semilly
there is a picturesque calvary. The great wooden cross towers up to a
remarkable height so that the figure of our Lord is almost lost among the
overhanging trees, and down below a double flight of mossy stone steps
leads up to the little walled-in space where the wayfarer may kneel in
prayer at the foot of the cross. Onward from this point, the dust and heat
of the roadway can become excessive, so that when at last the shade of the
forest is reached, its cool glades of slender beech-trees entice you from
the glaring sunshine--for towards the middle of the day the roadway
receives no suggestion of shadows from the trees on either side.

In this part of the country, it is a common sight to meet the peasant women
riding their black donkeys with the milk cans resting in panniers on either
side. The cans are of brass with spherical bodies and small necks, and are
kept brilliantly burnished.

The forest left behind, an extensive pottery district is passed through.
The tuilleries may be seen by the roadside in nearly all the villages,
Naron being entirely given up to this manufacture. Great embankments of
dark brown jars show above the hedges, and the furnaces in which the
earthenware is baked, are almost as frequent as the cottages. There are
some particularly quaint, but absolutely simple patterns of narrow necked
jugs that appear for sale in some of the shops at Bayeux and Caen.

Soon the famous Norman cathedral with its three lofty spires appears
straight ahead. In a few minutes the narrow streets of this historic city
are entered. The place has altogether a different aspect to the busy and
cheerful St Lo. The ground is almost level, it is difficult to find any
really striking views, and we miss the atmosphere of the more favourably
situated town. Perhaps it is because of the evil influence of Caen, but
certainly Bayeux lacks the cleanliness and absence of smells that
distinguishes Coutances and Avranches from some of the other Norman towns.
It is, however, rich in carved fronts and timber-framed houses, and
probably is the nearest rival to Lisieux in these features. The visitor is
inclined to imagine that he will find the tapestry for which he makes a
point of including Bayeux in his tour, at the cathedral or some building
adjoining it, but this is not the case. It is necessary to traverse two or
three small streets to a tree-grown public square where behind a great
wooden gateway is situated the museum. As a home for such a priceless relic
as this great piece of needlework, the museum seems scarcely adequate. It
has a somewhat dusty and forlorn appearance, and although the tapestry is
well set out in a long series of glazed wooden cases, one feels that the
risks of fire and other mischances are greater here than they would be were
the tapestry kept in a more modern and more fire-proof home. Queen Mathilda
or whoever may have been either the actual producer or the inspirer of the
tapestry must have used brilliant colours upon this great length of linen.
During the nine centuries that have passed since the work was completed the
linen has assumed the colour of light brown canvas, but despite this, the
greens, blues, reds, and buffs of the stitches show out plainly against the
unworked background. There is scarcely an English History without a
reproduction of one of the scenes portrayed in the long series of pictures,
and London has in the South Kensington Museum a most carefully produced
copy of the original. Even the chapter-house of Westminster Abbey has its
coloured reproductions of the tapestry, so that it is seldom that any one
goes to Bayeux without some knowledge of the historic events portrayed in
the needlework. There are fifty-eight separate scenes on the 230 feet of
linen. They commence with Harold's instructions from Edward the Confessor
to convey to William the Norman the fact that he (Harold) is to become king
of England. Then follows the whole story leading up to the flight of the
English at Senlac Hill.

Even if this wonderful piece of work finds a more secure resting-place in
Paris, Bayeux will still attract many pilgrims for its cathedral and its
domestic architecture compare favourably with many other Norman towns.

The misfortunes that attended the early years of the life of the cathedral
were so numerous and consistent that the existence of the great structure
to-day is almost a matter for surprise. It seems that the first church made
its appearance during the eleventh century, and it was in it that Harold
unwittingly took that sacred oath on the holy relics, but by some accident
the church was destroyed by fire and there is probably nothing left of this
earliest building except the crypt. Eleven years after the conquest of
England, William was present at Bayeux when a new building built by his
half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, was consecrated. Ten years after his
death, however, this second church was burnt down. They rebuilt it once
more a few years later, but a third time a fire wrought much destruction.
The portions of the cathedral that survived this century of conflagrations
can be seen in the two great western towers, in the arches of the Norman
nave, and a few other portions. The rest of the buildings are in the Early
French period of pointed architecture, with the exception of the central
tower which is partly of the flamboyant period, but the upper portion is as
modern as the middle of last century. The spandrels of the nave arcades are
covered over with a diaper work of half a dozen or more different patterns,
some of them scaly, some representing interwoven basket-work, while others
are composed simply of a series of circles, joined together with lines.
There are curious little panels in each of these spandrels that are carved
with the most quaint and curious devices. Some are strange, Chinese-looking
dragons, and some show odd-looking figures or mitred saints. The panel
showing Harold taking the oath is modern. There is a most imposing pulpit
surmounted by a canopy where a female figure seated on a globe is
surrounded by cherubs, clouds (or are they rocks?) and fearful lightning.
At a shrine dedicated to John the Baptist, the altar bears a painting in
the centre showing the saint's dripping head resting in the charger. Quite
close to the west front of the cathedral there stands a house that still
bears its very tall chimney dating from mediaeval times. Not far from this
there is one of the timber-framed fifteenth century houses ornamented with
curious carvings of small figures, and down in the Rue St Malo there is an
even richer example of the same type of building. On the other side of the
road, nearer the cathedral, a corner house stands out conspicuously.

[Illustration: AN ANCIENT HOUSE IN THE RUE ST MALO, BAYEUX]

It is shown in the illustration given here and its curious detail makes it
one of the most quaint of all the ancient houses in the city.

Some of these old buildings date from the year 1450, when Normandy was
swept clear of the English, and it is probably owing to the consideration
of the leader of the French army that there are any survivals of this time.
The Lord of Montenay was leading the Duke of Alencon's troops and with him
were Pierre de Louvain, Robert Conigrain and a number of free archers.
After they had battered the walls of Bayeux with their cannon for fifteen
days, and after they had done much work with mines and trenches, the French
were ready for an assault. The King of France, however, and the notables
who have been mentioned "had pity for the destruction of the city and would
not consent to the assault." Without their orders, however, the troops,
whose ardour could not be restrained, attacked in one place, but not having
had the advice of their leaders the onslaught was quite indecisive, both
sides suffering equally from arrows and culverins. It was soon after this
that Matthew Gough, the English leader, was obliged to surrender the city,
and we are told that nine hundred of the bravest and the best soldiers of
the Duchy of Normandy came out and were allowed to march to Cherbourg. The
French lords "for the honour of courtesy" lent some of their horses to
carry the ladies and the other gentlewomen, and they also supplied carts to
convey the ordinary womenfolk who went with their husbands. "It was," says
Jacques le Bouvier, who describes the scene, "a thing pitiful to behold.
Some carried the smallest of the children in their arms, and some were led
by hand, and in this way the English lost possession of Bayeux."


[Illustration: THE GATEWAY OF THE CHATEAU]




CHAPTER X


Concerning Caen and the Coast Towards Trouville

Caen, like mediaeval London, is famed for its bells and its smells. If you
climb up to any height in the town you will see at once that the place is
crowded with the spires and towers of churches; and, if you explore any of
the streets, you are sure to discover how rudimentary are the notions of
sanitation in the historic old city. If you come to Caen determined to
thoroughly examine all the churches, you must allow at least two or three
days for this purpose, for although you might endeavour to "do" the place
in one single day, you would remember nothing but the fatigue, and the
features of all the churches would become completely confused.

My first visit to Caen, several years ago, is associated with a day of
sight-seeing commenced at a very early hour. I had been deposited at one of
the quays by the steamer that had started at sunrise and had slowly glided
along the ten miles of canal from Ouistreham, reaching its destination at
about five o'clock. The town seemed thoroughly awake at this time, the
weather being brilliantly fine. White-capped women were everywhere to be
seen sweeping the cobbled streets with their peculiarly fragile-looking
brooms. It was so early by the actual time, however, that it seemed wise to
go straight to the hotel and to postpone the commencement of sight-seeing
until a more rational hour. My rooms at the hotel, however, were not yet
vacated, so that it was impossible to go to my bedroom till eight o'clock.
The hotel courtyard, though picturesque, with its three superimposed
galleries and its cylindrical tower containing the staircase, was not, at
this hour in the morning at least, a place to linger in. It seemed
therefore the wisest plan to begin an exploration of some of the adjoining
streets to fill the time. After having seen the exterior of three or four
churches, the interiors of some others; after having explored a dozen
curious courtyards and the upper part of the town, where the Chateau
stands, the clocks began to strike seven, although to me it seemed like
noon. By half-past eight the afternoon seemed well advanced, and when
dejeuner made its appearance at the hotel it seemed as though the day would
never cease. I had by this time seen several more churches and interesting
old buildings, and my whole senses had become so jaded that I would
scarcely have moved a yard to have seen the finest piece of architecture in
the whole of Normandy. The circumstances of this day, were, no doubt,
exceptional, but I mention them as a warning to those who with a pathetic
conscientiousness endeavour to see far more than they can possibly
comprehend in the space of a very few hours. It would be far better to
spend one's whole time in the great church of the Abbaye aux Hommes, and
photograph in one's mind the simplicity of the early Norman structure, than
to have a confused recollection of this, St Pierre, the church of the
Abbaye aux Darnes and half a dozen others.

The galleried hotel I have mentioned was known as the Hotel St Barbe. It is
now converted into a warehouse, but no one need regret this for it was more
pleasant to look at than to actually stay in. I am glad, personally, to
have had this experience; to have seen the country carts, with the blue
sheep-skins over the horse collars, drive into the courtyard, and to have
watched the servants of the hotel eating their meals at a long table in the
open air. There was a Spanish flavour about the place that is not found in
the modern hotels.

There is no town I have ever known more confusing in its plan than Caen,
and, although I have stayed there for nearly a week on one occasion, I am
still a little uncertain in which direction to turn for the castle when I
am at the church of St Jean. The streets, as a rule, are narrow and have a
busy appearance that is noticeable after the quiet of Bayeux. The clatter
and noise of the omnibuses has been subdued in recent years by the
introduction of electric trams which sweep round the corners with a
terrifying speed, for after a long sojourn in the country and quiet little
towns one loses the agility and wariness of the town-bred folk.

Caen, of course, does not compete with Lisieux for its leading position as
the possessor of the largest number of old houses, but it nevertheless can
show some quaint carved fronts in the Rue St Pierre and the narrow streets
adjoining. At the present time the marks of antiquity are being removed
from the beautiful renaissance courtyard of the Bourse near St Pierre. The
restoration has been going on for some years, and the steps that lead up to
the entrance in one corner of the quadrangle are no longer stained with the
blackish-green of a prolonged period of damp. But it is better, however,
that this sixteenth century house should assume a fictitious newness rather
than fall entirely into disrepair. It was originally the house of one of
the wealthy families of Caen named Le Valois, and was known as the Hotel
d'Escoville. Another splendid house is the Hotel de la Monnaie built by the
famous and princely merchant Etienne Duval, Sieur de Mondrainville, whose
great wealth enabled him to get sufficient supplies into Metz to make it
possible for the place to hold out during its siege in 1553. In his most
admirably written book "Highways and Byways in Normandy," Mr Dearmer gives
an interesting sketch of this remarkable man whose success brought him
jealous enemies. They succeeded in bringing charges against him for which
he was exiled, and at another time he was imprisoned in the castle at Caen
until, with great difficulty, he had proved the baseness of the attacks
upon his character. Duval was over seventy when he died, being, like Job,
wealthy and respected, for he had survived the disasters that had fallen
upon him.

The gateway of the Chateau is the best and most imposing portion of the
fortifications of Caen. The castle being now used as barracks, visitors as
a rule are unable to enter, but as the gateway may be seen from outside the
deep moat, the rest of the place need not tantalise one. In William the
Conqueror's time the castle was being built, and the town walls included
the two great abbeys for which Caen is chiefly famous. These two
magnificent examples of Norman architecture have been restored with great
thoroughness so that the marks of antiquity that one might expect are
entirely wanting in both buildings. The exterior of the great church of St
Etienne disappoints so many, largely from the fact that the gaunt west
front is the only view one really has of the building except from a
distance. Inside, services seem to go on at most times of the day, and when
you are quietly looking at the mighty nave with its plain, semicircular
arches and massive piers, you are suddenly startled by the entry from
somewhere of a procession of priests loudly singing some awe-inspiring
chant, the guttural tones of the singers echoing through the aisles.
Following the clerical party will come a rabble of nuns, children and
ordinary laity, and before you have scarcely had time to think a service
has commenced, people are kneeling, and if you do not make haste towards
the doors a priest will probably succeed in reaching you with a collecting
dish in which one is not inclined to place even a sou if the service has
hindered the exploration of the church. Owing to the perpetuation of an
error in some of the English guides to Normandy, it is often thought that a
thigh-bone of the founder of the abbey is still lying beneath the marble
slab in the sanctuary, but this is a great mistake, for that last poor
relic of William the Conqueror was lost during the Revolution. The whole
story of the death, the burial, and the destruction of the tomb and remains
of the founder of the abbey are most miserable and even gruesome. William
was at Rouen when he died, and we need scarcely remind ourselves of that
tragic scene discovered by the clergy when they came to the house not long
after the great man had expired. Every one of William's suite had
immediately recognised the changed state of affairs now that the inflexible
will that had controlled the two kingdoms had been removed, and each,
concerned for himself, had betaken himself with indecent haste to England
or wherever his presence might be most opportune. In this way, there being
no one left to watch the corpse, the Archbishop of Rouen discovered that
the house and even the bed had been pillaged, so that the royal body was
lying in great disorder until reverently tended by a Norman gentleman named
Herluin. Having fulfilled William's wishes and brought the remains to Caen,
a stately funeral was arranged. As the procession slowly passed through the
narrow streets, however, it was interrupted by an alarm of fire-some of the
wooden houses blazing fiercely just when the bier was passing. The flames
grew so quickly that in some danger the mournful procession was dispersed
and the coffin was only attended by a few monks when the gates of the
Abbaye aux Hommes were reached. Eventually the burial ceremonies were in
progress beside the open grave within the church, but another interruption
ensued. Scarcely had the Bishop of Evreux concluded his address when
everybody was startled at hearing the loud voice of Ascelin resounding
through the church. He was a well-known man, a burgher, and a possessor of
considerable wealth, and it was therefore with considerable anxiety that
the clergy heard his claim upon the ground in which they were about to bury
William. It was the actual site of a house that had belonged to Ascelin's
father, for the dead king had shown no consideration to private claims when
he was building the great abbey to appease the wrath of the church. The
disturbance having been settled by the payment for the grave of a sum which
Ascelin was induced to accept, the proceedings were resumed. But then came
the worst scene of all, for it has been recorded that the coffin containing
the ponderous body of the king had not been made with sufficient strength,
and as it was being lowered into the grave, the boards gave way, and so
gruesome was the result that the church was soon emptied. It thus came
about that once more in the last phase of all William was deserted except
by a few monks.

The monument which was raised over the Conqueror's grave, was, however, of
a most gorgeous character. It was literally encrusted with precious gems,
and it is known that enormous quantities of gold from the accumulated
stores of wealth which William had made were used by Otto the goldsmith
(sometimes known as Aurifaber) who was entrusted with the production of
this most princely tomb. Such a striking object as this could scarcely pass
through many centuries in safety, and we find that in the Huguenot wars of
the seventeenth century it was largely destroyed and the stone coffin was
broken open, the bones being scattered. We only know what became of a
thigh-bone which was somehow rescued by a monk belonging to the abbey. He
kept it for some time, and in 1642 it was replaced in a new, but much less
gorgeous tomb. About one hundred years later, it was moved to another part
of the church, but in the Revolution this third tomb was broken into, and
the last relic of the Conqueror was lost. Then after some years, the Prefet
of Calvados placed upon the site of the desecrated tomb the slab of black
marble that still marks the spot. The inscription reads "Hic sepultus est,
Invictissimus Guielmus Conquestor, Normanniae Dux et Angliae Rex, Hujusce
domus Conditor Qui obit anno MLXXXVII."

When Lanfranc had been sent to the Pope by William with a view to making
some arrangement by which the King could retain his wife Matilda and at the
same time the good offices of the Church, his side of the bargain consisted
in undertaking to build two great abbeys at Caen, one for men and one for
women. The first we have already been examining, the other is at the
eastern side of the town on the hill beyond the castle. It is a more
completely Norman building than St Etienne, but its simple, semi-circular
arches and round-headed windows contrast strangely with the huge pontifical
canopy of draped velvet that is suspended above the altar, and very
effectually blocks the view of the Norman apse beyond. The smallness of the
windows throughout the building subdues the light within, and thus gives St
Trinite a somewhat different character to St Etienne. The capitals of the
piers of the arcade are carved with strange-looking monkeys and other
designs, and there are chevron mouldings conspicuous in the nave. The tomb
of Queen Mathilda is in the choir. Like that of her husband it has been
disturbed more than once, so that the marble slab on top is all that
remains of the original.

Opposite the Place Reine Mathilde stands the desecrated church of St
Gilles, one of the numerous beautiful buildings in Caen now in partial ruin
and occupied as warehouses, wine-vaults or workshops. They are all worth
looking for, and if possible examining inside as well as out, for they
include some beautiful flamboyant structures and others of earlier date,
such as St Nicholas, illustrated here, which in part dates from Norman
times. St Etienne le Vieux, quite close to the Abbaye aux Hommes, is a
beautiful building rich in elaborate carving and rows of gargoyles. It was
built in the early years of the fifteenth century in place of one which had
fallen into ruin when Henry V. besieged Caen. It is still unrestored, and
if you peep inside the open doors you will see the interior filled with
ladders, boxes, brooms, and a thousand odds and ends, this most beautiful
structure being used as a municipal workshop.

We have more than once referred to the church of St Pierre, but as yet we
have made no reference to its architecture. The tower and graceful spire
needs no detailed description, for it appears in the coloured illustration
adjoining, and from it one may see what a strikingly perfect structure this
is for such an early date as 1308. It is a marvel of construction, for the
spire within is hollow, and without any interior framework or supports at
all. Although it is so seemingly frail, it was used during the sixteenth
century for military purposes, having been selected as a good position for
firing upon the castle, and it naturally became a target for the guns
inside the fortress. You cannot now see the holes made by the cannon balls,
but although they were not repaired for many years the tower remained
perfectly stable, as a proof of the excellent work of Nicholas, the
Englishman who built it.

Unlike the church of the Abbaye aux Dames, St Pierre is brilliantly lit
inside by large, traceried windows that let in the light through their
painted glass. In the nave the roof is covered with the most elaborate
vaulting with great pendants dropping from the centre of each section; but
for the most crowded ornament one must examine the chancel and the chapels.

The church of St Jean is not conspicuous, but it is notable for two or
three features. The western tower is six and a half feet out of
perpendicular, the triforium has a noticeable balustrade running all round,
and the chancel is longer than the nave. St Sauveur, in the Rue St Pierre
is of the same period as St Jean, but its tower if it had been crocketed
would have very closely resembled that of St Pierre, and it is chiefly
notable for the fact that it is two churches thrown into one--that of St
Eustace being joined on to it.

Another feature of Caen that is often overlooked is the charm of its old
courtyards. Behind some of the rather plain stone fronts, the archways lead
into little paved quadrangles that have curious well-heads, rustic outside
staircases, and odd-shaped dormer windows on the steep roofs. One of these
courtyards behind a house in the Rue de Bayeux is illustrated here, but to
do justice to the quaintnesses that are to be revealed, it would have been
necessary to give several examples. In the Boulevard St Pierre, where the
pavements are shaded by pink horse chestnuts there stands the Tour le Roy.
It is the most noticeable remnant of the days when Caen was a walled and
strongly fortified city, but as you look at it to-day it seems too much
like a good piece of the sham antique to be found at large exhibitions. It
is the restoration that is at fault, and not the tower itself, which is
really old, and no doubt is in quiet rebellion at the false complexion it
is obliged to wear.

The view of Caen from across the race-course is a beautiful one, but under
some aspects this is quite eclipsed by the wonderful groupings of the
church towers seen from the canal as it goes out of the town towards the
east. I can remember one particular afternoon when there was a curious
mistiness through which the western sunlight passed, turning everything
into a strange, dull gold. It was a light that suppressed all that was
crude and commercial near at hand and emphasised the medievalism of the
place by throwing out spires and towers in softly tinted silhouettes. I
love to think of Caen robed in this cloth of gold, and the best I can wish
for every one who goes there with the proper motives, is that they may see
the place in that same light.

On the left, a few miles out of Caen on the road to Creully, stands the
Abbaye d'Ardennes where Charles VII. lodged when his army was besieging
the city in 1450. The buildings are now used as a farm, and the church
is generally stacked with hay and straw up to the triforium.

Although they start towards the east, the canal and the river Orne
taking parallel courses run generally towards the north, both entering
the sea by the village of Ouistreham, the ancient port of Caen. Along
the margin of the canal there is a good road, and almost hidden by the
long grass outside the tall trees that line the canal on each bank,
runs the steam tramway to Cabourg and the coast to the west of the
Orne. Except when the fussy little piece of machinery drawing three or
four curious, open-sided trams, is actually passing, the tramway
escapes notice, for the ground is level and the miniature rails are
laid on the ground without any excavating or embanking. The scenery as
you go along the tramway, the road, or the canal, is charming, the
pastures on either side being exceedingly rich, and the red and white
cattle seem to revel in the long grass and buttercups. Heronville,
Blainville and other sleepy villages are pleasantly perched on the
slight rise on the western side of the canal. Their churches, with red
roofs all subdued with lichen into the softest browns, rise above the
cottages or farm buildings that surround them in the ideal fashion that
is finally repeated at Ouistreham where locks impound the waters of the
canal, and a great lighthouse stands out more conspicuously than the
church tower. Seen through the framework of closely trimmed trees
Ouistreham makes a notable picture. The great Norman church is so
exceedingly imposing for such a mere village, that it is easy to
understand how, as a port in the Middle Ages, Ouistreham flourished
exceedingly.

The tramway crosses the canal at Benouville on its way to Cabourg, and
leaving the shade of birches and poplars takes its way over the open fields
towards the sea. Benouville is best remembered on account of its big
chateau with a great classic portico much resembling a section of Waterloo
Place perched upon a fine terraced slope. Ranville has an old church tower
standing in lonely fashion by itself, and you pass a conspicuous calvary as
you go on to the curious little seaside resort known as Le Home-Sur-Mer.
The houses are bare and (if one may coin a word) seasidey. Perched here and
there on the sandy ridge between the road and the shore, they have scarcely
anything more to suggest a garden than the thin wiry grass that contrives
to exist in such soil.

Down on the wide sandy beach there is an extensive sweep of the coast to be
seen stretching from beyond Ouistreham to the bold cliffs of Le Havre.
Keeping along the road by the tramway you have been out of sight of the
sea, but in a few minutes the pleasant leafiness of Cabourg has been
reached. Here everything has the full flavour of a seaside resort, for we
find a casino, a long esplanade, hotels, shops and bathing apparatus. It is
a somewhat strong dose of modern life after the slumbering old world towns
and villages we have been exploring, and it is therefore with great
satisfaction that we turn toward the village of Dives lying close at hand.
The place possesses a splendid old market hall, more striking perhaps than
that of Ecouche and a picturesque inn--the Hotel Guillaume le Conquerant.
The building is of stone with tiled roofs, and in the two courtyards there
are galleries and much ancient timber-framing, but unfortunately the
proprietor has not been content to preserve the place in its natural
picturesqueness. He has crowded the exterior, as well as the rooms, with a
thousand additions of a meretricious character which detract very much from
the charm of the fine old inn and defeat the owner's object, that of making
it attractive on account of its age and associations. Madame de Sevigne
wrote many of her letters in one of the rooms, but we know that she saw
none of the sham antique lamps, the well-head, or the excess of flowers
that blaze in the courtyards. On account of its name, the unwary are
trapped into thinking that William the Norman--for he had still to defeat
Harold--could have frequently been seen strolling about this hostelry, when
his forces for invading England were gathering and his fleet of ships were
building. This is, of course, a total misapprehension, for the only
structure that contains anything that dates back to 1066 is the church.
Even this building dates chiefly from the fourteenth century, but there is
to be seen, besides the Norman walls, a carved wooden cross that is
believed to have been found in the sea, and therefore to have some
connection with William's great fleet and its momentous voyage to England.
The names of the leading men who accompanied William are engraved upon two
marble slabs inside the church, and on the hill above the village a short
column put up by M. de Caumont, commemorates the site upon which William is
believed to have inspected his forces previous to their embarkation.

It is a difficult matter to form any clear idea of the size of this army
for the estimates vary from 67,000 to 14,000, and there is also much
uncertainty as to the number of ships employed in transporting the host
across the channel. The lowest estimates suggest 696 vessels, and there is
every reason to believe that they were quite small. The building of so
large a fleet of even small boats between the winter and summer of 1066
must have employed an enormous crowd of men, and we may be justified in
picturing a very busy scene on the shores of this portion of the coast of
Normandy. Duke William's ship, which was named the _Mora_, had been
presented to him by his wife Mathilda, and most of the vessels had been
built and manned by the Norman barons and prelates, the Bishop of Bayeux
preparing no less than a hundred ships. The Conquest of England must have
almost been regarded as a holy crusade!

When the fleet left the mouth of the river Dives it did not make at once
for Pevensey Bay. The ships instead worked along the coast eastwards to the
Somme, where they waited until a south wind blew, then the vessels all left
the estuary each carrying a light, for it was almost dark. By the next
morning the white chalk of Beachy Head was in sight, and at nine o'clock
William had landed on English soil.

Close to Dives and in sight of the hill on which the Normans were
mustered, there is a small watering-place known as Houlgate-sur-mer. The
houses are charmingly situated among trees, and the place has in recent
years become known as one of those quiet resorts where princes and
princesses with their families may be seen enjoying the simple pleasures
of the seaside, _incognito_. This fact, of course, gets known to
enterprising journalists who come down and photograph these members of the
European royal families wherever they can get them in particularly
unconventional surroundings.

From Houlgate all the way to Trouville the country is wooded and hilly, and
in the hollows, where the timber-framed farms with their thatched roofs are
picturesquely arranged, there is much to attract the visitor who, wearying
of the gaiety of Trouville and its imitators along the coast, wishes to
find solitudes and natural surroundings.




CHAPTER XI


Some Notes on the History of Normandy

The early inhabitants of Normandy submitted to the Roman legions under
Titurus Sabinus in B.C. 58, only a few years before Caesar's first attempt
upon Britain. By their repeated attacks upon Roman territory the Gaulish
tribes had brought upon themselves the invasion which, after some stubborn
fighting, made their country a province of the Roman Empire. Inter-tribal
strife having now ceased, the civilisation of Rome made its way all over
the country including that northern portion known as Neustria, much of
which from the days of Rollo came to be called Normandy. Traces of the
Roman occupation are scattered all over the province, the most remarkable
being the finely preserved theatre at Lillebonne, a corruption of
Juliabona, mentioned in another chapter.

In the second century Rouen, under its Roman name Rotomagos, is mentioned
by Ptolemy. It was then merely the capital of the tribe of Velocasses, but
in Diocletian's reign it had become not only the port of Roman Paris, but
also the most important town in the province. In time the position occupied
by Rotomagos became recognised as one having greater strategical advantages
than Juliabona, a little further down the river, and this Gallo-Roman
precursor of the modern Rouen became the headquarters of the provincial
governor. The site of Rotomagos would appear to include the Palais de
Justice and the Cathedral of the present day.

After the four centuries of Roman rule came the incursions of the savage
hordes of northern Europe, and of the great army of Huns, under Attila, who
marched through Gaul in A.D. 451. The Romans with their auxiliaries engaged
Attila at Chalons--the battle in which fabulous numbers of men are said to
have fallen on both sides.

The Roman power was soon completely withdrawn from Gaul, and the Franks
under Clovis, after the battle of Soissons, made themselves complete
masters of the country. In 511 Clovis died. He had embraced Christianity
fifteen years before, having been baptised at Rheims, probably through
the influence of his wife Clothilda. Then for two hundred and fifty
years France was under the Merovingian kings, and throughout much of
this period there was very little settled government, Neustria, together
with the rest of France, suffering from the lawlessness that prevailed
under these "sluggard" kings. Rouen was still the centre of many of the
events connected with the history of Neustria. We know something of the
story of Hilparik, a king of Neustria, whose brutal behaviour to his
various queens and the numerous murders and revenges that darkened his
reign, form a most unsavoury chapter in the story of this portion of
France.

Following this period came the time when France was ruled by the mayors
of the palace who, owing to the weakness of the sovereigns, gradually
assumed the whole of the royal power. After Charles Martel, the most
famous of these mayors, had defeated the Saracens at Tours, came his son
Pepin-le-Bref, the father of Charlemagne. Childeric, the last of the
Merovingian kings, had been put out of the way in a monastery and Pepin
had become the King of France. Charlemagne, however, soon made himself
greater still as Emperor of an enormous portion of Europe--France,
Italy, and Germany all coming under his rule. At his death Charlemagne
divided his empire. His successor Louis le Debonnaire, owing to his
easy-going weakness, fell a prey to Charlemagne's other sons, and at his
death, Charles the Bald became King of France and the country west of
the Rhine. The other portions of the empire falling to Lothaire and the
younger Louis.

During all this period, France had suffered from endless fighting and the
famines that came as an unevitable consequence, and just about this time
Neustria suffered still further owing to the incursions of the Danes. Even
in Charlemagne's time the black-sailed ships of the Northmen had been seen
hovering along the coast near the mouth of the Seine, and it has been said
that the great Emperor wept at the sight of some of these awe-inspiring
pirates.

In the year 841 the Northmen had sailed up the Seine as far as Rouen, but
they found little to plunder, for during the reign of the Merovingian
kings, the town had been reduced to a mere shadow of its former prosperity.
There had been a great fire and a great plague, and its ruin had been
rendered complete during the civil strife that succeeded the death of
Charlemagne. Wave after wave came the northern invasions led by such men as
Bjorn Ironside, and Ragnar Lodbrog. Charles the Bald, fearing to meet these
dreaded warriors, bribed them away from the walls of Paris in the year 875.
But they came again twelve years afterwards in search of more of the
Frenchmen's gold. When Charles the Fat, the German Emperor, became also
King of France, he had to suffer for his treacherous murder of a Danish
chief, for soon afterwards came the great Rollo with a large fleet of
galleys, and Paris was besieged once more. Odo, Count of Paris, held out
successfully, but when the king came from Germany with his army, instead of
attacking the Danes, he induced them to retire by offering them a bribe of
800 lbs. of silver. Before long Odo became King of France, but after ten
years of constant fighting, he died and was succeeded by Charles the
Simple. This title does an injustice to his character, for he certainly did
more for France than most of his predecessors. Finding the Northmen too
firmly established in Neustria to have any hope of successfully driving
them out of the country, he made a statesmanlike arrangement with Rollo.
The Dane was to do homage to the French king, to abandon his gods Thor,
Odin and the rest for Christianity, and in return was to be made ruler of
the country between the River Epte and the sea, and westwards as far as the
borders of Brittany Rollo was also to be given the hand of the Princess
Gisela in marriage. Rouen became the capital of the new Duchy of Normandy,
and the old name of Neustria disappeared.

The Northmen were not at this time numerous, but they continued to come
over in considerable numbers establishing centres such as that of Bayeux,
where only Danish was spoken. As in England, this warrior people showed the
most astonishing adaptability to the higher civilisation with which they
had come into contact, and the new generations that sprang up on French
soil added to the vigour and daring of their ancestors the manners and
advanced customs of France, although the Northmen continued to be called
"The Pirates" for a considerable time. When Rollo died he was succeeded by
his son William Longsword, and from an incident mentioned by Mr T.A. Cook
in his "Story of Rouen," we can see the attitude of the Normans towards
Charles the Simple. He had sent down to Rouen two court gallants to
sympathise with the Princess Gisela, his daughter, for the rough treatment
she had received at the hands of Rollo, but they were both promptly siezed
and hanged in what is now the Place du Marche Vieux.

Great stone castles were beginning to appear at all the chief places in
Normandy, and when Duke Richard had succeeded Harold Blacktooth we find
that the Duchy was assuming an ordered existence internally. The feudal
system had then reached its fullest development, and the laws established
by Rollo were properly administered. With the accession of Hugh Capet to
the throne of France, Normandy had become a most loyal as well as powerful
fief of the crown. The tenth century witnessed also an attempt on the part
of the serfs of the Duchy to throw off something of the awful grip of the
feudal power. These peasants were the descendants of Celts, of Romans, and
of Franks, and their efforts to form a representative assembly bear a
pathetic resemblance to the movement towards a similar end in Russia of
to-day. The representatives of the serfs were treated with the most fearful
cruelty and sent back to their villages; but the movement did not fail to
have its effects, for the condition of the villains in Normandy was always
better than in other parts of France.

Broadly speaking, all the successors of Rollo, the first Duke of Normandy,
governed the country with wisdom and ability, and although there was more
or less constant war, either with the French, who were always hoping to
regain the lost province, or with rebellious barons who disputed the
authority of the dukes, yet the country progressed steadily and became
prosperous. Abbeys and churches that the invaders had laid waste were
rebuilt on a larger scale. At Jumieges there are still to be seen some
remains of the church that William Longsword began to build for the
unfortunate monks who had been left homeless after their abbey had been
destroyed by the "Pirates." Richard I., who died in 996, had added to the
Cathedral at Rouen, and the abbey of St Ouen prospered greatly in the
religious revival that became so widespread during the eleventh century.
Duke Richard II. had been assisted on one occasion by Olaf, King of Norway,
and before his return to the north that monarch, impressed no doubt by the
pomp of the ceremonial, was in 1004 baptised in the cathedral at Rouen.

After Richard II. came Robert the Magnificent, who was called also
Robert the Devil by the people. It was he, who from the walls of his
castle at Falaise, if the legend be true, first saw Arlette the tanner's
daughter who afterwards became the Mother of William the Bastard. As a
boy William had a perilous life, and it is almost marvellous that he
survived to change his appellation to that of "Conqueror." Robert the
Magnificent had joined one of the crusades to the Holy Land when William
was only seven years old, but before he left Normandy, he had made it
known that he wished the boy to succeed him. For twenty years there was
civil war between the greater barons and the supporters of the heir, but
in the end William showed himself sufficiently strong to establish his
power. He won a great battle at Val-es-Dunes where he had been met by
the barons led by Guy of Burgundy, and, having taken some of the most
formidable fortresses in the Duchy, he turned his attention to his foes
outside with equal success. Soon after this William married Mathilda a
daughter of Count Baldwin of Flanders, but although by this act he made
peace with her country, William soon found himself in trouble with the
church. Bishop Mauger, whom he had appointed to the See of Rouen, found
fault with the marriage owing to its being within the forbidden degrees
of relationship, and the papal sanction having been refused, William
only obtained his wishes through the agency of Lanfranc. All his life
William appears to have set a stern example of purity in family life,
and his relations with the church, from this time to his death, seem to
have been most friendly. It was largely due to his religious life as
well as the support he gave to the monasteries that William was able to
give the colour of a religious crusade to his project for invading
England. Harold had slighted the sacredness of the holy relics of the
saints of Normandy, and William was to show England that their king's
action was not to pass unpunished. In this way the Norman host that
assembled at Dives, while the great fleet was being prepared, included
many who came from outside William's dominions. After the whole of
England had been completely subjugated William had his time and
attention largely taken up with affairs in Normandy. His son Robert was
soon in open rebellion, and assisted by the French King, Philip I.,
Robert brought about the death of his father, for it was while
devastating a portion of French territory that William received the
injury which resulted in his death. Robert then became Duke of Normandy,
and there followed those sanguinary quarrels between the three brothers
William Rufus, King of England, Henry Beauclerc and Robert. Finally,
after his return from Palestine, Robert came to England to endeavour to
make peace with his younger brother Henry, who was now king, but the
quarrel was not to be settled in this way. Henry, determined to add
Normandy to the English crown, crossed the channel with a large army and
defeated his brother at Tinchebrai in 1106. With the accession of
Stephen to the English throne in 1135, came the long struggle between
that king and Maud. When Henry II. married Eleanor of Aquitaine, not
only that great province but also Maine and Anjou came under his sway,
so that for a time Normandy was only a portion of the huge section of
France belonging to the English Crown. During his long reign Henry spent
much time in Normandy, and Argentan and Avranches are memorable in
connection with the tragedy of Thomas a Becket. During the absence of
Richard Coeur-de-Lion in Palestine John became exceedingly friendly with
Philip Augustus, the French King, but when Richard was dead he found
cause to quarrel with the new English king and, after the fall of the
Chateau Gaillard, John soon discovered that he had lost the Duchy of
Normandy and had earned for himself the name of "Lackland."

From this time, namely, the commencement of the thirteenth century,
Normandy belonged to the crown of France although English armies were,
until 1450, in frequent occupation of the larger towns and fortresses.





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