Account of a Tour in Normandy, Vol. II. (of 2)
by Dawson Turner
1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse








Ducler—St. Georges de Bocherville—M. Langlois


Abbey of Jumieges—Its History—Architectural Details—Tombs of Agnes Sorel and of the Enervez


Gournay—Castle of Neufmarche—Castle and Church of Gisors


Andelys—Fountain of Saint Clotilda—La Grande Maison—Chateau Gaillard—Ecouis


Evreux—Cathedral—Abbey of St. Taurinus—Ancient History


Vicinity of Evreux—Chateau de Navarre—Cocherel—Pont-Audemer— Montfort-sur-Risle—Harfleur—Bourg-Achard—French Wedding


Moulineaux—Castle of Robert the Devil—Bourg-Theroude—Abbey of Bec—Brionne


Bernay—Broglie—Orbec—Lisieux—Cathedral—Ecclesiastical History


Site and Ruins of the Capital of the Lexovii—History of Lisieux—Monasteries of the Diocese—Ordericus Vitalis—M. Dubois—Letter from the Princess Borghese


French Police—Ride from Lisieux to Caen—Cider—General Appearance and Trade of Caen—English resident there


Historians of Caen—Towers and Fortifications—Chateau de la Gendarmerie—Castle—Churches of St. Stephen, St. Nicholas, St. Peter, St. John, and St. Michel de Vaucelles


Royal Abbeys of the Holy Trinity and St. Stephen—Funeral of the Conqueror, Exhumation of his Remains, and Destruction of his Monument


Palace of the Conqueror—Heraldic Tiles—Portraits of William and Matilda—Museum—Public Library—University—Academy—Eminent Men—History of Caen


Vieux—La Maladerie—Chesnut Timber—Caen Stone—History of Bayeux—Tapestry


Cathedral of Bayeux—Canon of Cambremer—Cope of St. Regnobert—Odo


Church and Castle of Creully—Falaise—Castle—Churches—Fair of Guibray


Rock and Chapel of St. Adrien—Pont-de-l'Arche—Priory of the two Lovers—Abbey of Bonport—Louviers—Gaillon—Vernon





Plate 26 Sculpture upon a capital in the Chapter-House at St. Georges

Plate 27 M. Langlois

Plate 28 Musicians, from the Chapter-House at St. Georges

Plate 29 Distant View of the Abbey of St. Jumieges

Plate 30 Ancient trefoil-headed Arches in ditto

Plate 31 Distant of the Castle of Gisors

Plate 32 Banded Pillar in the Church of ditto

Plate 33 Distant View of Chateau Gaillard

Plate 34 Gothic Puteal, at Evreux

Plate 35 Leaden Font at Bourg-Achard

Plate 36 Ancient Tomb in the Cathedral at Lisieux

Plate 37 Head-Dress of Females, as Caen

Plate 38 Tower in the Chateau de Calix, at ditto

Plate 39 Tower and Spire of St. Peter's Church, at ditto

Plate 40 Sculpture upon a Capital in ditto

Plate 41 Tower of St. John's Church, at Caen

Plate 42 Monastery of St. Stephen, at ditto

Plate 43 Fireplace in the Conqueror's Palace, at Ditto

Plate 44 Profile of M. Lamouroux

Plate 45 Figure from the Bayeux Tapestry

Plate 46 Sculpture at Bayeux

Plate 47 Ornaments in the Spandrils of the Arches in Bayeux Cathedral

Plate 48 Castle of Falaise

Plate 49 Elevation of the West Front of La Delivrande

Plate 50 Font at Magneville




(Ducler, July, 1818.)

You will look in vain for Ducler in the livre des postes; yet this little town, which is out of the common road of the traveller, becomes an interesting station to the antiquary, it being situated nearly mid-way between two of the most important remains of ancient ecclesiastical architecture in Normandy—the abbeys of St. Georges de Bocherville and of Jumieges.—The accommodation afforded by the inns at Bocherville and Jumieges, is but a poor substitute for the hospitality of the suppressed abbeys; and, as even the antiquary must eat and perhaps sleep, he who visits either St. George or the holy Virgin, will do well to take his fricandeau and his bed, at the place whence I am writing.

At a period when the right bank of the Seine from Harfleur to Rouen displayed an almost uninterrupted line or monastic buildings, Ducler also boasted of a convent[1], which must have been of some importance, as early as the middle of the seventh century.—King Childeric IInd, granted the forest of Jumieges to the convent of the same name and that of St. Vandrille; and St. Ouen was directed by the monarch to divide the endowment between the two foundations. His award did not give satisfaction to St. Philibert, the abbot of Jumieges, who maintained that his house had not received a fair allotment. The proposition was stoutly resisted by St. Lambert, abbot of St. Vandrille; and the dispute was at length settled by the saints withdrawing their claims, and ceding the surplus land to the abbey of Ducler. St. Denys was the patron of this abbey; and to him also the present parochial church is dedicated: it is of Norman architecture; the tower is surrounded by a row of fantastic corbels; and a considerable quantity of painted glass yet remains in the windows. The village itself (for it is nothing more than a village, though honored by French geographers with the name of a bourg), consists of a single row of houses, placed immediately under the steep chalk cliff which borders the Seine. The face of the cliff is also indented by excavations, in which the poorer inhabitants dwell, almost like the Troglodytes of old. The situation of Ducler, and that of the two neighboring abbeys, is delightful in summer and in fine weather. In winter it must be cold and cheerless; for, besides being close to a river of so great breadth, it looks upon a flat marshy shore, whence exhalations copiously arise. The view from our chamber window this morning presented volumes of mist rolling on with the stream. The tide was setting in fast downwards; and the water glided along in silent rapidity, involved in clouds.

The village of Bocherville, or, as it is more commonly called, of St. Georges, the place borrowing its name from the patron saint of the abbey, lies, at the distance of about two leagues from Rouen. The road is exceedingly pleasing. Every turning presents a fresh view of the river; while, on looking back, the city itself is added to the landscape; and, as we approach, the abbey-church is seen towering upon the eminence which it commands.

The church of St. Georges de Bocherville, called in old charters de Baucherville, and in Latin de Balcheri or Baucheri villa, was built by Ralph de Tancarville, the preceptor of the Conqueror in his youth, and his chamberlain in his maturer age. The descendants of the founder were long the patrons and advocates of the monastery. The Tancarvilles, names illustrious in Norman, no less than in English, story, continued during many centuries to regard it as under their particular protection: they enriched it with their donations whilst alive, and they selected it as the spot to contain their remains when they should be no more.

The following portion of the charter, which puts us in possession of the indisputable aera of the erection of the church, is preserved by Mabillon[2]. It is the Conqueror who speaks.—"Radulfus, meus magister, aulaeque et camerae princeps, instinctu divino tactus, ecclesiam supradicti martyris Georgii, quae erat parva, re-edificare a fundamentis inchoavit, et ex proprio in modum crucis consummavit."

The Monarch and his Queen condescended to gratify a faithful and favorite servant, by endowing his establishment. The corpse of the sovereign himself was also brought hither from St. Gervais, by the monks and clergy, in solemn procession, before it was carried to Caen[3] for interment.

Ralph de Tancarville, however, was not fortunate in the selection of the inmates whom he planted in his monastery. His son, in the reign of Henry Ist, dismissed the canons for whom it was first founded, and replaced them by a colony of monks from St. Evroul. Ordericus Vitalis, himself of the fraternity of St. Evroul, commemorates and of course praises the fact. Such changes are of frequent occurrence in ecclesiastical history; and the apprehension of being rejected from an opulent and well-endowed establishment, may occasionally have contributed, by the warning example, to correct the irregularities of other communities. A century later, the abbot of St. Georges was compelled to appeal to the pope, in consequence of an attempt on the part of his brethren at St. Evroul, to degrade his convent into a mere cell, dependent upon theirs.—The chronicle of the abbey is barren of events of general interest; nor do its thirty-one abbots appear to have been men of whom there was much more to be said, than that they arrived at their dignity on such a year, and quitted it on such another. Of the monks, we are told that, in the fifteenth century, though their number was only eight, the dignitaries included, the daily task allotted them was greater than would in any of the most rigid establishments, in latter days, have been imposed upon forty brethren in a week!

Inconsiderable as is the abbey, in an historical point of view, the church of St. Georges de Bocherville is of singular importance, inasmuch as it is one of the land-marks of Norman architecture. William, in his charter, simply styles himself Dux Normannorum; it therefore was granted a few years before the conquest. The building has suffered little, either from the hands of the destroyers, or of those who do still more mischief, the repairers; and it is certainly at once the most genuine and the most magnificent specimen of the circular style, now existing in Upper Normandy.—The west front is wholly of the time of the founder, with the exception of the upper portion of the towers that flank it on either side. In these are windows of nearly the earliest pointed style; and they are probably of the same date as the chapter-house, which was built in the latter part of the twelfth century. The effect of the front is imposing: its general simplicity contrasts well with the rich ornaments of the arched door-way, which is divided into five systems of mouldings, all highly wrought, and presenting almost every pattern commonly found in Norman buildings. A label encircles the whole, the inner edge of which is indented into obtuse pyramids, erroneously called lozenges. The capitals of the columns supporting the arch are curiously sculptured: upon the second to the left, on entering, are Adam and Eve, in the act of eating the forbidden fruit; upon the opposite one, is represented the Flight into Egypt. Normandy does not contain, I believe, a richer arch; but very many indeed are to be seen in England, even in our village churches, superior in decoration, though not, perhaps, in size; for this at St. Georges is on a very large scale: on each side of it is a smaller blank arch, with a single moulding and a single pillar. Two tiers of circular-headed windows of equal size fill up the front.—The rest of the exterior may be said to be precisely as it was left by the original builders, excepting only the insertion of a pointed window near the central tower.

The inside is at least equally free from modern alterations or improvements. No other change whatever is to be traced in it than such as were required to repair the injuries done it during the religious wars; and these were wholly confined to a portion of the roof, and of the upper part of the wall on the south side of the nave. The groined roof, though posterior to the original date of the building, is perhaps of the thirteenth century. The nave itself terminates towards the east in a semi-circular apsis, according to the custom of the times; and there, as well as at the opposite extremity of the building, it has a double tier of windows, and has columns more massy than those in the body of the church. The aisles end in straight lines; but, within, a recess is made in the thickness of the wall, for the purpose of admitting an altar. Both the transepts are divided within the church, at a short distance from their extremities, into two stories, by a vaulted roof of the same height as the triforium.—M. Le Prevost, who has very kindly communicated to me the principal part of these details, has observed the same to be the case in some other contemporary buildings in Normandy. On the eastern side of each transept is a small chapel, ending, like the choir, in a semi-circular apsis, which rises no higher than the top of the basement story. A cable moulding runs round the walls of the whole church within.—You and I, in our own country, have often joined in admiring the massy grandeur of Norman architecture, exemplified in the nave of Norwich cathedral: at St. Georges I was still more impressed by the noble effect of semi-circular arcades, seen as they are here on a still larger scale, and in their primitive state, uninterrupted and undebased by subsequent additions.

On closer examination, the barbarous style of the sculpture forces itself upon the eye. Towards the western end of the building the capitals are comparatively plain: they become more elaborate on approaching the choir. Some of them are imitations or modifications (and it may even be said beautiful ones) of the Grecian model; but in general they are strangely grotesque. Many represent quadrupeds, or dragons, or birds, and commonly with two bodies, and a single head attached to any part rather than the neck. On others is seen "the human form divine," here praying, there fighting; here devouring, there in the act of being devoured; not uncommonly too the men, if men they must be called, are disfigured by enormous heads with great flapping ears, or loll out an endless length of tongue.—One is almost led to conceive that Schedel, the compiler of the Nuremberg Chronicle, had a set of Norman capitals before his eyes, when he published his inimitable series of monsters. His "homines cynocephali," and others with "aures tam magnas ut totum corpus contegant," and those again whose under lips serve them as coverlids, may all find their prototypes, or nearly so, in the carvings of St. Georges.

The most curious sculptures, however, in the church, are two square bas-reliefs, opposite to one another, upon the spandrils of the arches, in the walls that divide the extremities of the transepts into different stories[4]. They are cut out of the solid stone, in the same manner as the subjects on the block of a wood-engraving: one of these tablets represents a prelate holding a crosier in his left hand, while the two fore-fingers of the right are elevated in the act of giving the blessing; the other contains two knights on horseback, jousting at a tournament. They are armed with lance and buckler, and each of them has his head covered with a pointed helmet, which terminates below in a nasal, like the figures upon the Bayeux tapestry.—This coincidence is interesting, as deciding a point of some moment towards establishing the antiquity of that celebrated relic, by setting it beyond a doubt that such helmets were used anterior to the conquest; for it is certain that these basso-relievos are coeval with the building which contains them.

This church affords admirable subjects for the pencil. It should be drawn in every part: all is entire; all original; the corbel-stones that support the cornice on the exterior are perfect, as well along the choir and nave, as upon the square central steeple: each of the sides of this latter is ornamented with a double tier of circular arches. The buttresses to the church are, like those of the chapel of St. Julien, shallow and unbroken; and they are ranged, as there, between the windows. At the east end alone they take the shape of small semi-cylindrical columns of disproportionate length.

The monastic buildings, which were probably erected about the year 1700, now serve as a manufactory. Between them and the church is situated the chapter-house, which was built towards the end of the twelfth century, at a period when the pointed architecture had already begun to take place of the circular style. Its date is supplied in the Gallia Christiana, where we read, that Victor, the second abbot, "obiit longaevus dierum, idibus Martii, seu XVIII calendas Aprilis, ante annum 1211; sepultusque est sub tabula marmorea in capitulo quod erexerat."

We found it in a most ruinous and dilapidated state, yet extremely curious; indeed not less so than the church. Its front to the west exhibits a row of three semi-circular arches, with an ornament on the archivolt altogether different from what I recollect to have seen elsewhere[5]. The inside corresponds in profuse decoration with this entrance; but the arches in it are all pointed. An entablature of beautiful workmanship is carried round the whole building, which is now used as a mill: it was crowded with dirty children belonging to the manufactory; and the confusion which prevailed, was far from being favorable to the quiet lucubrations of an antiquary. In no part of the church is the sculpture equally curious; and it is very interesting to observe the progress which this branch of the art had made in so short a time. Two or three of the capitals to the arches in front, seem to include one continued action, taken apparently from the history of Joshua. Another capital, of which I send you a sketch from the pencil of M. Le Prevost, is a great curiosity. The group which it contains, is nearly a duplicate of the supposed statue of William the Conqueror at Caen. In all probability it represents some legendary story, though the subject is not satisfactorily ascertained. Against the pillars that support these arches, were affixed whole-length figures, or cariatides, in alto-relievo. Three of them still remain, though much mutilated; two women and a man. They hold in their hands labels, with inscriptions that fall down to their feet in front. One of the females has her hair disposed in long braided tresses, which reach on either side to her girdle. In this respect, as well as in the style of the sculpture and costume, there is a resemblance between these statues and those on the portals at St. Denys and at Chartres, as well as those formerly on that of St. Germain des Pres, at Paris, all which are figured by Montfaucon in his Monumens de la Monarchie Francaise, and are supposed by him to be of the times of the Merovingian or Carlovingian dynasty; but subsequent writers have referred them to the eleventh or twelfth century.

It was in this chapter-house that M. Langlois[6] found, among a heap of stones, a most interesting capital, that had formerly been attached to a double column. By his kindness, I inclose you two drawings of it. One of them shews it in its entire form as a capital; the other exhibits the bas-relief carved upon it[7].

The various injuries sustained by the building, render it impossible to ascertain the spot which this capital originally occupied; but M. Le Prevost supposes that it belonged to some gate of the cloister, which is now destroyed. A more curious series of musical instruments is, perhaps, no where to be found; and it is a subject upon which authors in general are peculiarly unsatisfactory. I am told that, in an old French romance, the names of upwards of twenty are enumerated, whose forms and nature are quite unknown at the present day; while, on the other hand, we are all of us aware that painting and sculpture supply figures of many, for which it would be extremely difficult or impossible to find names[8].

The chapter-house, previously to the revolution, contained a tomb-stone[9], uninscribed and exhibiting only a sculptured sword, under which it was supposed that either Ralph de Tancarville himself, the founder of the abbey, or his grandson, William, lay interred. It is of the latter that the records of the monastery tell, how, on the fifth day after he girded himself with the military belt, he came to the church, and deposited his sword upon the altar, and subsequently redeemed it by various donations, and by confirming to the monks their right to the several benefices in his domain, which had been ceded to them by his grandfather.—Here then, I quit you: in a few days I shall have paid my devotions at the shrine of Jumieges:—meanwhile, in the language of the writers of the elder day, I close this sheet with.


* * * * *


[Footnote 1: Histoire de la Haute Normandie, II. p. 266. VOL. II.]

[Footnote 2: Ann. Benedict. III. p. 674, 675.—This charter was not among the archives of the monastery; but I am informed by M. Le Prevost, that several are still in existence, most of them granted by the family of the founder, but some by Kings of England. One of the latter is by Richard Coeur de Lion, and his seal of red wax still remains appended to it, in fine preservation. The seal, on one side, represents the king seated upon his throne, with a pointed beard, having his crown on his head, and a sword in one hand, and sceptre in the other: on the other side, he is on horseback, with his head covered with a cylindrical helmet, surmounted with a very remarkable crest, in the form of a fan: on his shield are plainly distinguishable the three lions of England.—From among the charters granted by the Tancarville family, M. Le Prevost has sent me copies of two which have never yet been printed; but which appear to deserve insertion here. One is from Lucy, daughter of William de Tancarville, and grand-daughter of Ralph, the chamberlain.—"Notum sit Ricardo de Vernon and Willelmo Camerario de Tancarvilla, et veteribus et juvenibus, quod Lucia, filia Willelmi, Camerarii de Tancarvilla, pro anima sua et pro animabus antecessorum suorum, ad ecclesiam Sti. Georgii de Bauchervilla dedit molendinum de Waldinivilla, quod est subter aliud molendinum et molendinum de Waldinval, libere et quiete, et insuper ecclesiam de Seonvilla, salva elemosina Roberti sacerdotis in vita sua, si dignus est habendi eam. Et post mortem Willelmi capellani sui de Sancto Flocello, ad ecclesiam supra dictam dedit decimam de vavassoribus de Seolvilla, quam dedit in elemosina habendam Willelmo capellano tota vita bene et in pace et secure, et decimas de custodiis totius terre sue que est in Constantino.—Ego Lucia do hanc elemosinam pro anima mea et pro antecessoribus ad ecclesiam Sanctii Georgii; et qui auferet ab ea et auferetur ab eo regnum Dei. Amen.—Testibus, Ricardo de Haia et Matille uxore sua et Nigello de Chetilivilla et hominibus de Sancto Flocello."—To this is added, in a smaller hand-writing, probably the lady's own autograph, the following sentence:—"Et precor vos quod ecclesia Sancti Georgii non decrescatur in tempore vestro pro Dei amore et meo de elemosinis patris mei neque de meis."—There is still farther subjoined, in a different hand-writing, and in a much paler ink:—"Haec omnia Ricardus de Vernon libenter concessit."—The other charter was granted by William the Younger, and details a curious custom occasionally observed in the middle ages, in making donations:—

"Universis sancte ecclesie fidelibus. Willelmus junior camerarius in domino salutem. Notum sit presentibus et futuris, quod ego Willelmus junior camerarius quinto die post susceptum militie cingulum veni apud Sanctum Georgium, ibique cum honorifica processione susceperunt me Abbas Ludovicus et monachi cum magno gaudio letantes; et ibi obtuli gladium meum super altare Sti. Georgii, et tunc consilio et admonitione sociorum meorum nobilium virorum qui mecum venerant, scilicet Roberti des Is, dapiferi mei, et Rogerii de Calli, et Johannis de Lunda, et aliorum plurium, redemi gladium meum per dona et confirmationem plurium ecclesiarum, quas ipso die concessi eisdem meo dono, et, sicut avus meus, fundator illius monasterii dederat, confirmavi; scilicet ecclesiam de Abetot et ecclesiam de Espretot cum decima, et ecclesiam Sancti Romani cum duabus partibus decime, et similiter ecclesiam de Tibermaisnil: confirmavi etiam dona militum meorum et amicorum quae dederunt ipso die abbatie in perpetuam elemosynam, Rogerius de Calli dedit XX Sot. annuatim; Robertus de Mortuomari X Sot.; Robertus des Is X solidos; Johannes de Lunda, cognatus meus X Sot.; Andreas de Bosemuneel X solidos, vel decimam de una carrucatura terre ... Humfridus de Willerio X solid.; Willelmus de Bodevilla X acras terre; Garinus de Mois V solid.; Adam de Mirevilla X solid.; Robert. de Fuschennis X solid.; Lesra de Drumara I acram terre."]

[Footnote 3: The following are the words of Ordericus Vitalis, upon the subject:

"Religiosi tandem viri, Clerici et Monachi, collectis viribus et intimis sensibus, processionem ordinaverunt: honeste induti, crucibus et thuribus, ad Sanctum Georgium processerunt, et animam Regis, secundum morem sanctae Christianitatis Deo commendaverunt."—Duchesne, Scriptores Normanni, p. 661.]

[Footnote 4: See Cotman's Architectural Antiquities of Normandy, t. 10. f. A. and B.]

[Footnote 5: See Cotman's Architectural Antiquities of Normandy, t. 11. last figure.]

[Footnote 6: My readers will join with me, I trust, in thanks to M. Langlois, for his drawings; and will not be sorry to see, accompanying his sketch of the bas-relief, a spirited one of himself. Normandy does not contain a more ardent admirer of her antiquities, or one to whom she is more indebted for investigating, drawing, and publishing them. But, to the disgrace of Rouen, his labors are not rewarded. All the obstacles, however opposed by the "durum, pauperies, opprobium," have not been able to check his independent mind: he holds on his course in the illustration of the true Norman remains; and to any antiquary who visits this country, I can promise a great pleasure in the examination of his port-folio.]

[Footnote 7: Its size at top is fourteen inches and a half, by six inches and two-thirds.]

[Footnote 8: This difficulty, in the present instance, has yielded to the extensive researches of Mr. Douce, who has afforded assistance to me, which, perhaps, no other antiquary could have bestowed. He has unravelled all the mysteries of minstrelsy with his usual ability; and I give the information in his own words, only observing that the numbers begin from the left.—"No. 1 was called the violl, corresponding with our Viol de Gamba. As this was a larger violin, though the sculptor has not duly expressed its comparative bulk, I conceive it was either used as a tenor or base, being perfectly satisfied, in spite of certain doubts on the subject, that counterpoint was known in the middle ages.—No. 2 is the largest instrument of the kind that I have ever seen, and it seems correctly given, from one part of it resting on the figure, No. 3, to support it. Twiss mentions one that he saw sculptured on the cathedral, at Toro, five feet long. The proper name of it is the rote, so called from the internal wheel or cylinder, turned by a winch, which caused the bourdon, whilst the performer stopped the notes on the strings with his fingers. This instrument has been very ignorantly termed a vielle, and yet continues to be so called in France. It is the modern Savoyard hurdy-gurdy, as we still more improperly term it; for the hurdy-gurdy is quite a different instrument. In later times, the rote appears to have lost its rank in concert, and was called the beggar's lyre.—No. 4 is evidently the syrinx, or Pan's pipe, which has been revived with so much success in the streets of London.—Twiss shewed me one forty years ago, that he got in the south of France, where they were then very common.—No. 5 is an instrument for which I can find no name, nor can I immediately call to memory any other representation of it. It has some resemblance to the old Welsh fiddle or crowth; but, as a bow is wanting, it must have been played with the fingers; and I think the performer's left hand in the sculpture does seem to be stopping the strings on the upper part, or neck, a portion of which has been probably broken off.—I suspect it to be the old mandore, whence the more modern mandolin. The rotundity of the sounding-board may warrant this conjecture.—No. 6 was called the psalterion, and is of very great antiquity, (I mean as to the middle ages).—Its form was very diversified, and frequently triangular. It was played with a plectrum, which the performer holds in his right hand.—No. 7 is the dulcimer, which is very common in sculpture. This instrument appears, as in the present case, to have been sometimes played with the fingers only, and sometimes with a plectrum.—No. 8 is the real vielle, or violin, of very common occurrence, and very ancient.—No. 9 is a female tumbler, or tomllesterre, as Chaucer calls them. This profession, so far as we can depend on ancient representation, appears to have exclusively belonged to women.—No. 10. A harp played with a plectrum, and, perhaps, also with the left hand occasionally.—No. 11. The figure before the suspended bells has had a hammer in each hand with which to strike them, and the opposite, and last, person, who plays in concert with him, has probably had a harp, as is the case in an ancient manuscript psalter illumination that I have, prefixed to the psalm Exaltate Deo.—I have seen these bells suspended (in illumination to the above psalm) to a very elegant Gothic frame, ascending like the upper part of a modern harp."]

[Footnote 9: Gallia Christiana, XI. p. 270.]



(Ducler, July, 1818)

The country between Ducler and Jumieges is of much the same character with that through which we had already travelled from Rouen; the road sometimes coasting the Seine, and sometimes passing through a well-wooded country, pleasantly intermingled with corn-fields. In its general appearance, this district bears a near resemblance to an English landscape; more so, indeed, than in any other part of Normandy, where the features of the scenery are upon a larger scale.

The lofty towers of the abbey of Jumieges are conspicuous from afar: the stone of which they are built is peculiarly white; and at a distance scarcely any signs of decay or dilapidation are visible. On a nearer approach, however, the Vandalism of the modern French appears in full activity. For the pitiful value of the materials, this noble edifice is doomed to destruction. The arched roof is beaten in; and the choir is nearly levelled with the ground. Two cart-loads of wrought stones were carried away, while we were there; and the workmen were busily employed in its demolition. The greater part, too, of the mischief, appears recent: the fractures of the walls are fresh and sharp; and the fresco-paintings are unchanged.—Had the proud, abbatial structure but been allowed to have existed as the parochial church of the village, the edifice might have stood for ages; but the French are miserably deficient in proper feeling; and neither the historical recollections connected with Jumieges, nor its importance as a monument of architectural antiquity, could redeem it from their tasteless selfishness. In a few years, its very ruins will have perished; and not a wreck will remain of this ancient sanctuary of religion and of learning.

It was in the year 654 or 655, that St. Philibert, second abbot of Rebais, in the diocese of Meaux, founded this monastery. He selected the site upon which the present building stands, a delightful situation, in a peninsula on the right bank of the Seine. This peninsula, and the territory extending from Ducler to Caudebec, had been granted to him for this purpose by Clovis IInd, or, more properly speaking, by Bathilda, his queen; for the whole administration of affairs was in reality under her guidance, though the reins of state were nominally held by her feeble husband. The territory[10] had previously borne the name of Jumieges, or, in Latin, Gemeticum, a term whose origin has puzzled etymologists. Those who hold it disgraceful to be ever at a loss on points of this nature, and who prefer displaying a learned to an unlearned ignorance, derive Gemeticum, either from gemitus, because, "pro suis offensis illic gemunt, qui in flammis ultricibus non erunt gemituri;" or from gemma, conformably to the following distich,—

"Gemmeticum siquidem a gemma dixere priores; Quod reliquis gemmae, praecelleret instar Eoae."

The ground upon which the abbey was erected was previously occupied by an ancient encampment. The author of the Life of St. Philibert, who mentions this circumstance, has also preserved a description of the original church. These authentic accounts of edifices of remote date, which frequently occur in hagiology, are of great value in the history of the arts[11].—The bounty of the queen was well employed by the saint; and the cruciform church, with chapels, and altars, and shrines, and oratories, on either side, and with its high altar hallowed by relics, and decked out with gold and silver and precious stones, shews how faithfully the catholics, in their religious edifices of the present day, have adhered to the models of the early, if not the primitive, ages of the church.

Writers of the same period record two facts in relation to Jumieges, which are of some interest as points of natural history.—Vines were then commonly cultivated in this place and neighborhood;—and fishes of so great a size, that we cannot but suppose they must have been whales, frequently came up the Seine, and were caught under the walls of the monastery.—The growth of the vine is abundantly proved: it is not only related by various monkish historians, one of whom, an anonymous writer, quoted by Mabillon, in the Acta Sanctorum ordinis Sancti Benedicti, says, speaking of Jumieges, "hinc vinearum abundant botryones, qui in turgentibus gemmis lucentes rutilant in Falernis;" but even a charter of so late a date as the year 1472, expressly terms a large tract of land belonging to the convent, the vineyard[12].—The existence of the English monastic vineyards has been much controverted, but not conclusively. Whether these instances of the northern growth of the vine, as a wine-making plant, do or do not bear upon the question of the supposed refrigeration of our climate by the increase of the Polar ice, must be left to the determination of others.—The whale-fishery of Jumieges rests upon the single authority of the Gesta Sancti Philiberti: the author admits, indeed, that it is a strange thing, "et a saeculo inauditum;" but still he speaks of it as a fact that has fallen under his own knowledge, that the monks, by means of hooks, nets, and boats, catch sea-fish[13], fifty feet in length, which at once supply their table with food, and their lamps with oil.

The number of holy men who originally accompanied St. Philibert to his new abbey, was only seventy; but they increased with surprising rapidity; insomuch, that his successor, St. Aicadras, who received the pastoral staff, after a lapse of little more than thirty years from the foundation of Jumieges, found himself at the head of nine hundred monks, besides fifteen hundred attendants and dependants of various denominations.

During all these early ages, the monastery of Jumieges continued to be accounted one of the most celebrated religious houses in France. Its abbots are repeatedly mentioned in history, as enjoying the confidence of sovereigns, and as charged with important missions. In their number, was Hugh, grandson of Pepin le Bref, or, according to other writers, of Charlemagne. Here also, Tassilo, Duke of Bavaria, and his son, Theodo, were compelled to immure themselves, after the emperor had deposed them; whilst Anstruda, daughter of Tassilo, was doomed to share his imperial bed.

An aera of misfortune began with the arrival of the Normans. It was in May, in the year 841, that these dreadful invaders first penetrated as far as Rouen, marking their track by devastation. On their retreat, which almost immediately succeeded, they set fire to Jumieges, as well as to the capital. In their second invasion, under Ironside and Hastings, the "fury of the Normans" was poured out upon Neustria; and, during their inroad, they levelled Jumieges with the ground[14]. But the monks saved themselves: they dispersed: one fled as far as St. Gall; others found shelter in the royal abbey of St. Denis; the greater part re-assembled in a domain of their own, called Haspres, in Flanders, whither they carried with them the bodies of St. Aicadrus and St. Hugh: there too they resided till the conversion of their enemies to Christianity.

The victorious fleet of Rollo first sailed in triumph up the Seine, in the year 876. According to three monkish historians, Dudo of St. Quintin, William of Jumieges, and Matthew of Westminster, the chieftain venerated the sanctity of Jumieges, and deposited in the chapel of St. Vast, the corpse of the holy virgin, Hameltruda, whom he had brought from Britain. They also tell us that, on the sixth day after his baptism, he made a donation of some lands to this monastery.—The details, however, of the circumstances connected with the first, diminish its credibility; and Jumieges, then desolate, could scarcely contain a community capable of accepting the donation. But under the reign of the son and successor of Rollo, the abbey of Jumieges once more rose from its ashes. Baldwin and Gundwin, two of the monks who had fled to Haspres, returned to explore the ruins of the abbey: they determined to seclude themselves amidst its fire-scathed walls, and to devote their lives to piety and toil.—In pursuing the deer, the Duke chanced to wander to Jumieges, and he there beheld the monks employed in clearing the ground. He listened with patience to their narration; but when they invited him to partake of their humble fare, barley-bread and water, he turned from them with disdain. It chanced, however, that immediately afterwards, he encountered in the forest a boar of enormous size. The beast unhorsed him, and he was in danger of death. The peril he regarded as a judgment from heaven; and, as an expiation for his folly, he rebuilt the monastery. So thoroughly, however, had the Normans demonachised Neustria, that William Longa Spatha was compelled to people the abbey with a colony from Poitou; and thence came twelve monks, headed by Abbot Martin, whom the duke installed in his office in the year 930. William himself also desired to take refuge from the fatigues of government in the retirement of the monastery; and though dissuaded by Abbot Martin, who reminded him that Richard, his infant, son still needed his care, he did not renounce his intention:—but his life and his reign were soon ended by treachery.

This second aera of the prosperity of Jumieges was extremely short; for the prefect, whom Louis d'Outremer, King of France, placed in command at Rouen, when he seized upon the young Duke Richard, pulled down the walls of this and of all the other monasteries on the banks of the Seine, to assist towards the reparation and embellishment of the seat of his government. But from that time forward the tide of monastic affairs flowed in one even course of prosperity; though the present abbatial church was not begun till the time of Abbot Robert, the second of that name, who was elected in 1037. By him the first stone of the foundation was laid, three years after his advancement to the dignity; but he held his office only till 1043, when Edward the Confessor invited him to England, and immediately afterwards promoted him to the Bishopric of London.—Godfrey, his successor at Jumieges, was a man conversant with architecture, and earnest in the promotion of learning. In purchasing books and in causing them to be transcribed, he spared neither pains nor expence. The records of the monastery contain a curious precept, in which he directs that prayers should be offered up annually upon a certain day, "pro illis qui dederunt et fecerunt libros."—The inmates of Jumieges continued, however, to increase in number; and the revenues of the abbey would not have been adequate to defray the expences of the new building, had not Abbot Robert, who, in 1050, had been translated to the see of Canterbury, supplied the deficiency by his munificence, and, as long as he continued to be an English prelate, remitted the surplus of his revenues to the Norman abbey. He held his archiepiscopal dignity only one year, at the expiration of which he was banished from England: he then retired to Jumieges, where he died the following spring, and was buried in the choir of the church which he had begun to raise. At his death, the church had neither nave nor windows; and the whole edifice was not completed till November, in the year 1066. In the following July the dedication took place. Maurilius, Archbishop of Rouen, officiated, in great pomp, assisted by all the prelates of the duchy; and William, then just returned from the conquest of England, honored the ceremony with his presence.

I have dwelt upon the early history of this monastery, because Normandy scarcely furnishes another of greater interest. In the Neustria Pia, Jumieges fills nearly seventy closely-printed folio pages of that curious and entertaining, though credulous, work.—What remains to be told of its annals is little more than a series of dates touching the erection of different parts of the building: these, however, are worth preserving, so long as any portion of the noble church is permitted to have existence, and so long as drawings and engravings continue to perpetuate the remembrance of its details.

The choir and extremities of the transept, all of pointed architecture, are supposed to have been rebuilt in 1278.—The Lady-Chapel was an addition of the year 1326.—The abbey suffered materially during the wars between England and France, in the reigns of our Henry IVth and Henry Vth: its situation exposed it to be repeatedly pillaged by the contending parties; and, were it not that the massy Norman architecture sufficiently indicates the true date, and that we know our neighbors' habit of applying large words to small matters, we might even infer that it was then destroyed as effectually as it had been by Ironside: the expression, "lamentabiliter desolata, diffracta et annihilata," could scarcely convey any meaning short of utter ruin, except to the ears of one who had been told that a religious edifice was actually abime during the revolution, though he saw it at the same moment standing before him, and apparently uninjured.—The arched roof of the choir received a complete repair in 1535: that of the nave, which was also in a very bad state, underwent the same process in 1688; at the same time, the slender columns that support the cornice were replaced with new ones, and the symbols of the Evangelists were inserted in the upper part of the walls. These reparations are managed with a singular perception of propriety; and though the manner of the sculpture in the symbolic figures, is not that of a Gothic artist, yet they are most appropriate, and harmonize admirably with the building.

You must excuse me that, now I am upon this subject, I venture to "travel somewhat out of the record," for the sake of proposing to you a difficulty which has long puzzled me:—the connection which Catholic divines find between St. Luke's Bull and the word Zecharias;—for it appears, by the following distich from the Rhenish Testament, that some such cause leads them to regard this symbol as peculiarly appropriate to the third Evangelist:—

"Effigies vituli, Luca, tibi convenit; extat Zacariae in scriptis mentio prima tuis."—

An antiquary might be perplexed by these figures, the drawings whereof I now send you. He would find it impossible to suppose the exquisitely-sculptured images and the slender shafts with richly-wrought capitals, of the same date as the solid simple piers and arches all around; and yet the stone is so entirely the same, and the workmanship is so well united, that it would require an experienced eye to trace the junction. In the middle of the sixteenth century, the central tower was also found to need reparation; and the church, upon this occasion, sustained a lasting injury, in the loss of its original spire, which was of lead, and of great height and beauty. It was taken down, under pretence of its insecurity; but in reality the monks only wished to get the metal. This happened in 1557, under Gabriel le Veneur, Bishop of Evreux, the then abbot. Five years afterwards the ravages of the Huguenots succeeded: the injury done to Jumieges by these sectaries, was estimated at eighty thousand francs; and the library and records of the convent perished in the devastation.

The western front of the church still remains almost perfect; and it is most singular. It consists, of three distinct parts; the central division being nearly of equal width to the other two conjointly, and projecting considerably beyond them. The character of the whole is simplicity: the circular door-way is comparatively small, and entirely without ornament, except a pillar on each side; the six circular-headed windows over the entrance, disposed in a double row, are equally plain. Immediately above the upper tier of windows, is a projecting chequered cornice; and, still higher, where the gable assumes a triangular form, are three lancet-shaped apertures, so extremely narrow, that they resemble the loop-holes of a dungeon rather than the windows of a church. In each of the lateral compartments was likewise originally a door-way, and above it a single window, all of the same Norman style, but all now blocked up. These compartments are surmounted with short towers, capped with conical spires. The towers appear from their style and masonry to be nearly coeval with the lower part of the building, though not altogether so: the southern is somewhat the most modern. They are, however, so entirely dissimilar in plan from the rest of the front, that we cannot readily admit that they are a portion of the original design. Nor are they even like to each other. Both of them are square at their bases, and preserve this form to a sufficient height to admit of two tiers of narrow windows, separated from each other by little more than a simple string-course. Above these windows both become octagon, and continue so to the top; but in a very different manner. The northern one has obtuse angles, imperfectly defined; the southern has four projecting buttresses and four windows, alternating with each other. The form of the windows and their arrangement, afford farther marks of distinction. The octagon part is in both turrets longer than the square, but, like it, divided into two stories.

The central tower of the church, which was large and square, is now reduced to a fragment: three of its sides are gone; the western remains sufficiently perfect to shew what the whole was when entire. It contained a double tier of arches, the lower consisting of two, which were large and simple, the upper of three, divided by central shafts and masonry, so that each formed a double window. All of them were circular-headed, but so far differed from the architecture of the nave, that they had side-pillars with capitals.

The church[15] was entered by a long narrow porch.—The nave is a fine specimen of Norman architecture, but is remarkable in that style for one striking peculiarity, that the eight wide circular arches on either side, which separate it from the aisles, are alternately supported by round pillars and square piers; the latter having semi-cylindrical columns applied to each of their sides. The capitals are ornamented with rude volutes. The arches in the triforium are of nearly the same width as those below, but considerably less in height. There is no archivolt or moulding or ornament. Above these there is only one row of windows, which, like all the rest, are semi-circular headed; but they have neither angular pillars, nor mouldings, nor mullions. These windows are rather narrow externally, but within the opening enlarges considerably. The windows in the upper and lower tiers stand singly: in the intermediate row they are disposed by threes, the central one separated from the other two by a single column.—The inside of the nave is striking from its simplicity: it is wholly of the eleventh century, except the reparations already mentioned, which were made in 1688.—The choir and Lady-Chapel are nearly demolished; and only some fragments of them are now standing: they were of pointed architecture, and posterior to the nave by at least two centuries.

A smaller church, dedicated to St. Peter, stood near the principal one, with which it was connected by means of a corridor of pointed arches. There are other instances of two churches being erected within the precincts of one abbey, as at Bury St. Edmund's. St. Peter's was a building at least of equal antiquity with the great church. But it had undergone such alterations in the year 1334, during the prelacy of the twenty-seventh abbot, William Gemblet, that little of the original structure remained. He demolished nearly the whole of the nave, for the sake of adding uniformity to the cloisters of the monastery.—M. Le Prevost, however, is of opinion, that the ruins of Jumieges contain nothing more interesting to an antiquary than the west end of the portion of building, which subsequently served as the nave. It is a mass of flint-work; and he considers it as having belonged to the church that existed before the incursion of the Normans.

The cloisters, which stood to the south-west of St. Peter's, are now almost wholly destroyed.—To the west of them is a large hall or gallery, known by the name of la Salle des Chevaliers. It is entered by two porches, one towards the north-west, the other towards the south-west[16], both full of architectural beauty and curiosity. I know of no authority for their date; but, from the great variety and richness of their ornaments, and the elegant taste displayed in the arrangement of these, I should suppose them to have been erected during the latter half of the twelfth century: one of the arches is unquestionably pointed, though the cusp of the arch is very obtuse. The slight sketch which accompanies this letter, represents a fragment of the inner door-way of the south-west porch, and may enable you to form your own judgment upon the subject.

The stones immediately over the entrance are joggled into each other, the key-stone having a joggle on either side.—I have not observed this peculiarity in any other specimen of Norman masonry.—Between these porches apartments, along the interior of which runs a cornice, supported by grotesque corbels, and under it a row of windows, now principally blocked up, disposed in triplets, a trefoil-headed window being placed between two that are semi-circular, as seen in the accompanying drawing. The date of the origin of the trefoil-headed arch has been much disputed: these perhaps are some of the earliest, and they are unquestionably coeval with the building.

The stupid and disgraceful barbarism, which is now employing itself in the ruins of Jumieges, has long since annihilated the invaluable monuments which it contained.—In the Lady-Chapel of the conventual church was buried the heart of the celebrated Agnes Sorel, mistress of Charles VIIth, who died at Mesnil, about a league from this abbey, during the time when her royal lover was residing here.—Her death was generally attributed to poison; nor did the people hesitate in whispering that the fatal potion was administered by order of the Queen. Her son, the profligate tyrant Louis XIth, detested his father's concubine; and once, forgetting his dignity and his manhood, he struck the Dame de Beaute.—The statue placed upon the mausoleum represented Agnes kneeling and offering her heart to the virgin; but this effigy had been removed before the late troubles: a heart of white marble, which was at the foot of the tomb, had also disappeared. According to the annals of the abbey, they were destroyed by the Huguenots. The tomb itself, with various brasses inlaid upon it, remained undisturbed till the period of the revolution, when the whole memorial was removed, and even her remains were not suffered to rest in peace. The slab of black marble which covered them, and which bore upon its edges the French inscription to her memory, is still in existence; though it has changed its place and destination. The barbarians who pillaged the convent sold it with the rest of the plunder; and it now serves as a threshold to a house near the Mont aux Malades, at Rouen[17]. The inscription, which is cut in very elegant Gothic characters, is as follows: a part of it is, however, at present hidden by its position:—"Cy gist Agnes Surelle, noble damoiselle, en son vivant Dame de Roqueferriere, de Beaulte, d'Yssouldun, et de Vernon sur Seine, piteuse entre toutes gens, qui de ses biens donnoit largement aux gens d'eglise et aux pauvres; qui trespassa le neuvieme jour de Fevrier, l'an de grace 1449.—Priez Dieu pour elle."—It is justly to be regretted, that some pains are not taken for the preservation of this relic, which even now would be an ornament to the cathedral.—The manor-house at Mesnil, where the fair lady died, still retains its chimneys of the fifteenth century; and ancient paintings are discernible on the walls.

The monument in the church of St. Peter, generally known by the name of le tombeau des enervez, was of still greater singularity. It was an altar-tomb, raised about two feet above the pavement; and on the slabs were carved whole-length figures, in alto-relievo, of two boys, each about sixteen years of age, in rich attire, and ornamented with diadems, broaches, and girdles, all copiously studded with precious stones. Various traditions concerning this monument are recorded by authors, and particularly at great length by Father du Plessis[18].—The nameless princes, for such the splendor of their garb denotes them to have been, were considered, according to a tradition which prevailed from very early times, as the sons of Clovis and Bathilda, who, in the absence of their father, were guilty of revolt, and were punished by being hamstrung; for this is the meaning of the word enervez.—According to this tradition, the monks, in the thirteenth century, caused the monument to be ornamented with golden fleurs-de-lys, and added the following epitaph:—

"Hic in honore Dei requiescit stirps Clodovei, Patris bellica gens, bella salutis agens. Ad votum matris Bathildis poenituere, Scelere pro proprio, proque labore patris."—

Three other lines, preserved by Yepez, in his chronicle, refer to the same tale, but accuse the princes of a crime of deeper die than mere rebellion against parental authority:—

"Conjugis est ultus probrum; nam in vincula tradit Crudeles natos, pius impietate, simulque Et duras pater, o Clodovee, piusque maritus."

Mabillon supposed the tomb to have been erected for Tassilo and his son; but I do not know how this conjecture is to be reconciled to the appearance of the statues, both representing persons of equal age. An examination of the grave at the time of the destruction of the abbey, might have afforded some interesting results; though, had any discovery been made, it would have been but a poor reward for the desolation which facilitated the research.

* * * * *


[Footnote 10: Immediately on the opposite side of the Seine, are extensive turf-bogs, which are of rare occurrence in this part of France; and in them grows the Andromeda polifolia, a plant that seems hitherto to have been discovered no where else in the kingdom.]

[Footnote 11: The following particulars relative to the territory of Jumieges, as well as the church, are curious: they are copied from an extract from the Life of St. Philibert, as given in the Neustria Pia, p. 262.—"Congrue sane locus ille Gemmeticus est dictus, quippe qui instar gemmarum multivario sit decore conspicuus. Videas illic arborum comas sylvestrium, multigenos arborum fructus, solum fertile, prata virentia, hortorum flores suaveolentes, bortis gravidas vites, humum undique cinctam aquis, pascua pecorum uberrima, loca venationi apta, avium cantu circumsonantia. Sequana fluvius illic cernitur late ambiens: et deinde suo pergeus cursu, uno duntaxat commeantibus aditu relicto. Ibi mare increscens nunc eructat: nunc in sinum suum revolutum, navium fert compendia, commercia plurimorum. Nihil illic deest; quicquid vehiculis pedestribus, et equestribus plaustris, et ratibus subministratur, abunde suppetit. Illic castrum condidere antiqui; ibi stant, in acie, illustria castra Dei: ibi prae desiderio paradisi suspirantes gemunt, quibus postea opus non erit, in flammis ultricibus, nihil profuturos edere gemitus. Ibi denique almus sacerdos, Philibertus, multiplici est laude et praedicatione efferendus: qui instar Patriarchae Jacob, in animabus septuaginta, demigravit in hanc eremum, addito grege septemplici, propter septiformem gratiam spiritus sancti. Ibi enim eius prudentia construxit mA"nia quadrata, turrita mole surgentia; claustra excipiendis adventantibus mire opportuna. In his domus alma fulget; habitatoribus digna. Ab Euro surgit Ecclesia, crucis effigie, cujus verticem obtinet Beatissima Virgo Maria; Altare est ante faciem lectuli, cum Dente sanctiss, patris Philiberti, pictum gemmarum luminibus, auro argentoque comptum: ab utroque latere, Joannis et Columbani Arae dant gloriam Deo; adherent vero a Borea, Dyonisii Martyris, et Germani Confessoris, aediculae; in dextra domus parte, sacellum nobile extat S. Petri; a latere habens S. Martini oratorium. Ad Austrum est S. Viri cellula, et petris habens margines; saxis cinguntur claustra camerata: is decor cunctorum animos oblectans, eum inundantibus aquis, geminus vergit ad Austrum. Habet autem ipsa domus in longum pedes ducentos nonaginta, in latum quinquaginta: singulis legere volentibus lucem transmittunt fenestrae vitreae: subtus habet geminas aedes, alteras condendis vinis, alteras cibis apparandis accommodatas."]

[Footnote 12: Allusions to the cultivation of the vine at Jumieges, as then commonly practised, may be found in many other public documents of the fifteenth century: but we may come yet nearer our own time; for we know that, in the year 1500, there was still a vineyard in the hamlet of Conihoult, a dependence upon Jumieges, and that the wine called vin de Conihoult, is expressly mentioned among the articles of which the charitable donations of the monastery consisted.—We are told, too, that at least eighteen or twenty acres, belonging to the grounds of the abbey itself, were used as a vineyard as late as 1561.—At present, I believe, vines are scarcely any where to be seen in Normandy, much north of Gaillon.]

[Footnote 13: In a charter belonging to the monastery, granted by Henry IInd, in 1159, (see Neustria Pia, p. 323) he gives the convent, "integritatem aquae ex parte terrae Monachorum, et Graspais, si forte capiatur."—The word Graspais is explained by Ducange to be a corruption of crassus piscis. Noel (in his Essais sur le Departement de la Seine Inferieure, II, p. 168) supposes that it refers particularly to porpoises, which he says are still found in such abundance in the Seine, nearer its mouth, that the river sometimes appears quite black with them.]

[Footnote 14: The following account of the destruction of the monastery is extracted from William of Jumieges. (See Duchesne's Scriptores Normanni, p. 219)—"Dehinc Sequanica ora aggrediuntur, et apud Gemmeticum classica statione obsidionein componunt.... In quo quamplurima multitudo Episcoporum, seu Clericorum, vel nobilium laicorum, spretis secularibus pompis, collecta, Christo Regi militatura, propria colla saluberrimo iugo subegit. Cuius loci Monachi, sive incolae, Paganorum adventum comperientes, fuga lapsi quaedam suarum rerum sub terra occulentes, quaedam secum asportantes, Deo juvante evaserunt. Pagani locum vacuum reperientes, Monasterium sanctae Mariae sanctique Petri, et cuncta aedificia igne iniecto adurunt, in solitudinem omnia redigentes. Hac itaque patrata eversione, locus, qui tauto honoris splendore diu viguerat, exturbatis omnibus ac subuersis domibus, cA"pit esse cubile ferarum et volucrum: maceriis in sua soliditate in sublime porrectis, arbustisque densissimis; et arborum virgultis per triginta ferme annorum curricula ubique a terra productis."]

[Footnote 15: The following are the proportions of the building, in French feet:—

Length of the church..................265 Ditto of the nave.....................134 Width of ditto.........................62 Length of choir........................43-1/2 Width of ditto.........................31 Length of Lady-Chapel..................63 Width of ditto.........................27 Height of central tower...............124 Ditto of western towers...............150


[Footnote 16: Mr. Cotman has figured this porch, (Architectural Antiquities of Normandy, t. 4) but has, by mistake, called it "An Arch on the West Front of the Abbey Church."]

[Footnote 17: See a paper by M. Le Prevost in the Precis Analitique des Travaux de l'Academie de Rouen, 1815, p. 131.]

[Footnote 18: Histoire de la Haute Normandie, II, p. 260.]



(Gisors, July, 1818)

We are now approaching the western frontiers.—Gournay, Gisors, and Andelys, the objects of our present excursion, are disposed nearly in a line between the capitals of France and Normandy; and whenever war broke out between the two states, they experienced all the glory, and all the afflictions of warfare. This district was in fact a kind of debatable land; and hence arose the numerous strong holds, by which the country was once defended, and whose ruins now adorn the landscape.

The tract known by modern topographers, under the names of the arrondissemens of Gournay and of Andelys, constituted one of the general divisions of ancient Normandy, the Pays de Bray. It was a tract celebrated beyond every other in France, and, from time immemorial, for the excellence of the products of its dairies. The butter of Bray is an indispensable requisite at every fashionable table at Paris; and the fromage de Neufchatel is one of the only two French cheeses which are honored with a place in the bill of fare at Very's at Grignon's, or at Beauvilliers'.

The females of the district frequently passed us on the road, carrying their milk and eggs to the provincial metropolis. Accustomed as we are to the Norman costume, we still thought that the many-colored attire and long lappetted cap, of the good wife, of Bray, in conjunction with her steed and its trappings, was a most picturesque addition to the surrounding scenery. The large pannier on either side of the saddle leaves little room for the lady, except on the hinder parts of the poor beast; and there she sits, perfectly free and degagee, without either pillion or stirrup, showing no small portion of her leg, and occasionally waving a little whip, ornamented in the handle with tufts of red worsted.—We had scarcely quitted the suburbs of Rouen before we found ourselves in Darnetal, a place that has risen considerably in importance, since the revolution, from the activity of its numerous manufacturers. Its population is composed entirely of individuals of this description, to whose pursuits its situation upon the banks of the Robec and Aubette is peculiarly favorable: the greater part of the goods manufactured here are coarse cloths and flannels. Before the revolution, the town belonged to the family of Montmorenci.—The rest of the ride offered no object of interest. The road, like all the main post-roads, is certainly wide and straight; but the French seem to think that, if these two points are but obtained, all the rest may be regarded as matter of supererogation. Hence, very little attention is paid to the surface of the highways: even on those that are most frequented, it is thought enough to keep the centre, which is paved, in decent repair: the ruts by the side are frequently so deep as to be dangerous; and in most cases the cross roads are absolutely impassable to carriages of every description, except the common carts of the country.—There is nothing in which England has a more decided superiority over France than in the facility of communication between its different towns; and there is also nothing which more decidedly marks a superiority of civilization. English travellers, who usually roll on the beaten track to and from the capital, return home full of praises of the French roads; but were they to attempt excursions among the country-towns and villages, their opinion would be wofully altered.—The forest of Feuillee extends about four leagues on each side of the road, between Rouen and Gournay. It adds little to the pleasantness of the ride: the trees are planted with regularity, and the side-branches are trimmed away almost to the very tops. Those therefore who expect overhanging branches, or the green-wood shade, in a French forest, will be sadly disappointed. On the contrary, when the wind blows across the road, and the sun shines down it, such a forest only adds to the heat and closeness of the way.

The country around Gournay is characterized by fertility and abundance; yet, in early times, the rich valley in which it is situated, was a dreary morass, which separated the Caletes from the Bellovacences. A causeway crossed the marshes, and formed the only road of communication between these tribes; and Gournay arose as an intermediate station. Therefore, even prior to the Norman aera, the town was, from its situation, a strong hold of note; and under the Norman dukes, Gournay necessarily became of still greater consequence, as the principal fortress on the French frontier; but the annexation of the duchy to the crown of France, destroyed this unlucky pre-eminence; and, at present, it is only known as a great staple mart for cheese and butter. Nor is it advantageously situated for trade; as there is no navigable river or means of water-carriage in its vicinity. The inhabitants therefore look forward with some anxiety to the completion of the projected canal from Dieppe.

Gournay is a small, clean, and airy place. The last two circumstances are no trifling recommendation to those who have just escaped from the dirt and closeness of Rouen. Its streets are completely those of a country town: the intermixture of wood and clay in the houses gives them a mean aspect, and there are scarcely two to be found alike, either in size, shape, color, or materials.—The records of Gournay begin in the reign of Rollo. That prince gave the town, together with the Norman portion of the Pays de Bray, to Eudes[19], a nobleman of his own nation, to be held as a fief of the duchy, under the usual military tenure. In one of the earliest rolls of Norman chieftains[20], the Lord of Gournay is bound, in case of war, to supply the duke with twelve soldiers from among his vassals, and to arm his dependants for the defence of his portion of the marches. Hugh, the son of Eudes de Gournay, erected a castle in the vicinity of the church of St. Hildebert, and the whole town was surrounded with a triple wall and double fosse. The place was inaccessible to an invading enemy, when these fosses were filled with the waters of the Epte; but Philip Augustus caused the protecting element to become his most powerful auxiliary. Willelmus Brito relates his siege with minuteness in his Philippiad, an heroic poem, devoted to the acts and deeds of the French monarch.—After advancing through Lions and Mortemer, Philip encamped before Gournay, thus described by the historical bard;—

"Non procul hinc vicum populosa genta superbum, Divitiis plenum variis, famaque celebrem, Rure situm piano, munitum triplice muro, Deliciosa nimis speciosaque vallis habebat. Nomine GORNACUM, situ inexpugnabilis ipso, Etsi nullus ei defensor ab intus adesset; Cui multisque aliis praeerat Gornacius HUGO. Fossae cujus erant amplae nimis atque profundae Quas sic Epta suo repleret flumine, posset Nullus ut ad muros per eas accessus haberi. Arte tamen sibi REX tali pessundedit ipsum. Haud procul a muris stagnum pergrande tumebat, Cujus aquam, pelagi stagnantis more, refusam Urget stare lacu sinuoso terreus agger, Quadris compactus saxis et cespite multo. Hunc REX obrumpi medium facit, effluit inde Diluvium immensum, subitaque voragine tota Vallis abit maris in speciem, ruit impete vasto Eluvies damnosa satis, damnosa colonis. * * * * * Municipes fugiunt ne submergantur, et omnis Se populus villa viduat, vacuamque relinquit. * * * * * Armis villa potens, muris munita virisque, Arte capi nulla metuens aut viribus ullis, Diluvio capitur inopino............... * * * * * REX ubi GORNACUM sic in sua jura redegit, Indigenas omnes revocans ad propria, pacem Indicit populis libertatemque priorem; Deinde re-aedificat muros.............

In 1350, after the death of Philip of Valois, Gournay was again separated from France, and given as a dower to Blanche of Navarre, the widow of that prince, who held it forty-eight years, when, after her death, it reverted to the crown. At the commencement of the following century, the town fell, with the rest of the kingdom, into the possession of the English; and once more, upon the demise of our sovereign, Henry Vth, formed part of the dower of the widowed queen. On her decease, it devolved upon her son; but a period of eleven years had scarcely elapsed, when the laws of conquest united it for a third time to the crown of France, in 1449.—From that period to the revolution, it was constantly in the possession of different noble families of the kingdom.

The name of Hugo de Gournay is enrolled amongst those who followed the conqueror into England, and who held lands in capite from him in this country[21]. Hugo was a man of eminent valor, and his services were requited by the grant of many large possessions; but, after all his military actions, he sought repose in the abbey of Bec, which had been enriched by his piety. His son, Girald, who married the sister of William, Earl Warren, accompanied Robert, Duke of Normandy, into the Holy Land; and the grandson of Girald was in the number of those who followed Richard Coeur-de-Lion in a similar expedition, and was appointed his commissioner, to receive the English share of the spoil, after the capture of Acre. He was also among the barons who rose against King John. Their descendants settled in very early times in our own county, where their possessions were extensive and valuable.

It was in Gournay that the unfortunate Arthur, heir to the throne of England, received the order of knighthood, together with the earldoms of Brittany, Poitou, and Angers, from Philip Augustus, immediately previously to entering upon the expedition, which ultimately ended with his death; and, according to tradition, it was on this occasion that the town adopted for its arms the sable shield, charged with a knight in armor, argent[22].

Gournay has now no other remains of antiquity, except the collegiate church of St. Hildebert[23], which was founded towards the conclusion of the eleventh century, though it was scarcely completed at the end of the thirteenth. Hence the discrepancy of style observable in the architecture of its different parts. The west front, in which the windows are all pointed, was probably one of the last portions completed. The interior is principally of semi-circular architecture, with piers unusually massy, and capitals no less fanciful and extraordinary than those already noticed at St. Georges. Here, however, we have fewer monsters. The ornaments consist chiefly of foliage, and wreaths, and knots, and chequered work, and imitations of members of the antique capital. Some of the pillars, instead of ending in regular capitals, are surmounted by a narrow projecting rim, carved with undulating lines. It has been supposed that this ornament, which is quite peculiar to the church of St. Hildebert, is a kind of hieroglyphical representation of water.—Perhaps, it is the chamber of Sagittarius; or, perhaps, it is a fess wavy, to which the same signification has been assigned by heralds.—If this interpretation be correct, the symbol is allusive to the ancient situation of the town, built in the midst of a marsh, intersected by two streams, the Epte and the St. Aubin.

While we were on the point of setting out from Gournay, we had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Cotman, who landed a few days since at Dieppe, and purposes remaining in Normandy, to complete a series of drawings which he began last year, towards the illustration of the architectural antiquities of the duchy. He has joined our party, and we are likely to have the advantage of his society for some little time.

The village of Neufmarche, about a league from Gournay, on the right bank of the Epte, still retains a small part of its castle, built by Henry Ist, to command the passage of the river, and to serve as a barrier against the incursions of the French. Its situation is good, upon an artificial hill, surrounded by a fosse; and the principal entrance is still tolerably entire. But the rest is merely a shapeless heap of ruins: the interior is wholly under the plough; and the fragments of denudated walls preserve small remains of the coating of large square stones, which formerly embellished and protected them. Neufmarche, in the days of Norman sovereignty, was one of the strong holds of the duchy. The chroniclers[24] speak of the village as being defended by a fortress, in the reign of William the Conqueror. The church, too, with its semi-circular architecture, attests the antiquity of the station.

Long before we reached Gisors, we had a view of the keep of the castle, rising majestically above the town, which is indeed at present "une assez maussade petite ville, qui n'a guere qu'une rue." From its position and general outline, the castle, at first view, resembles the remains of Launceston, in Cornwall. It recalled to my mind the impressions of surprise, mixed with something approaching to awe, which seized me, when the first object that met my eyes in the morning (for it was late and dark when I reached Launceston) was the noble keep, towering immediately above my chamber windows, and so near, that it appeared as if I had only to open them and step into it. I do not mean to draw a parallel between the castles of Launceston and Gisors, and still less am I about to inquire into the relationship between the Norman and the Cornish fortresses. The lapse of twenty years has materially weakened my recollection of the latter, nor would this be a seasonable opportunity for such a disquisition: but the subject deserves investigation, the result of which may tend to establish the common origin of both, and to dissipate the day-dreams of Borlase, who longed to dignify the castellated ruins of the Cornish peninsula, by ascribing them to the Roman conquerors of Britain.

Gisors itself existed before the tenth century; but its chief celebrity was due to William Rufus, who, anxious to strengthen his frontiers against the power of the kings of France, caused Robert of Belleme to erect this castle, in 1097. Thus then we have a certain date; and there is no reason to believe, but that the whole of what is left us is really of the same aera, or of the following reign, in which it is known that the works were greatly augmented; for Henry Ist was completely a castle-builder. He was a prince who spared no pains in strengthening and defending the natural frontiers of his province, as the fortresses of Verneuil, Tillieres, Nonancourt, Anet, Ivry, Chateau-sur-Epte, Gisors, and many others, abundantly testify. All these were either actually built, or materially strengthened by him.—This at Gisors, important from its strength and from its situation, was the source of frequent dissentions between the sovereigns of England and France, as well as the frequent witness of their plighted faith, and the scene of their festivities.—In 1119, a well-known interview took place here, between Henry Ist and Pope Calixtus IInd, who had travelled to France for the purpose of healing the schisms in the church, and who, after having accomplished that task, was desirous not to quit the kingdom till he had completed the work of pacification, by reconciling Henry to Louis le Gros, and to his brother, Robert. The speech of our sovereign upon this occasion, as recorded by Ordericus Vitalis[25], is a valuable document to the English historian: it sets forth, at considerable length, his various causes of grievance, whether real, imaginary, or invented, against the legal heir to our throne.—After a lapse of thirty-nine years, Louis le Jeune succeeded in annexing Gisors to the crown of France; but he resigned it to our Henry IInd, only three years subsequently, as a part of the marriage portion of his daughter, Margaret. It then remained with our countrymen till the conquest of the duchy by Philip Augustus; previously to which event, that sovereign and Henry met, in the year 1188, under an elm near Gisors, on the road to Trie, upon receiving the news of the capture of Jerusalem by the Sultan Saladin[26]. The monarchs, actuated by religious zeal, took up the cross, and mutually pledged themselves to suspend for a while their respective differences, and direct their united efforts against the common foe of the christian faith, Legends also tell that, during the conference, a miraculous cross appeared in the air, as if in ratification of the compact; and hence the inhabitants derive the armoria bearing of the town; gules, a cross engrailed or[27]. In 1197, Philip embellished Gisors with new buildings; and he retired hither the following year, after the battle of Courcelles, a conflict, which began by his endeavor to surprise Richard Coeur-de-Lion, but which ended with his total defeat. He had well nigh lost his life during the flight, by his horse plunging with him, all armed as he was, into the Epte.—He took refuge in Gisors; and the golden gate of the town commemorated his gratitude. With eastern magnificence, he caused the entire portal to be covered with gold; and the statue of the Virgin, which surmounted it, received the same splendor.

During the wars between France and England, in the fifteenth century, Gisors was repeatedly won and lost by the contending parties. In later and more peaceable times, it has been only known as the provincial capital of the bailiwick of Gisors, and of the Norman portion of the Vexin.

The castle consists of a double ballium, the inner occupying the top of a high artificial mound, in whose centre stands the keep. The whole of the fortress is of the most solid masonry. Previously to the discovery of cannon, it could scarcely be regarded otherwise than as impregnable, for the site which it occupies is admirably adapted for defence; and the walls were as strong as art could make them.—The outer walls were of great extent: they were defended by two covered ways, and flanked by several towers, of various shapes.—In the inclosed sketch, you will observe a circular tower, which is perhaps more perfect than any of the rest. The two entrances which led to the inner wards, were defended by more massy towers, strengthened with portcullises and draw-bridges.

The conical mound is almost inaccessible, on account of its steepness. The summit is inclosed by a circular wall of considerable height, pierced with loop-holes, and strengthened at regular intervals with buttresses, most of which are small and shallow, and resemble such as are found in the Norman churches. Those, however, which flank the entrance of the keep, are of a different character: they project so boldly, that they may rather be considered as bastions or solid turrets.—The dungeon rises high above all the rest, a lofty octagon tower, with a turret on one side of the same shape, intended to receive the winding staircase, which still remains, but in so shattered a state, that we could not venture to ascend it. The shell of the keep itself is nearly perfect, and is also varied in its outline with projecting piers.—Within the inner ballium, we discovered the remains of the castle-chapel. More than half, indeed, of the building is destroyed, but the east end is standing, and is tolerably entire. The roof is vaulted and groined: the groins spring from short pillars, whose capitals are beautifully sculptured with foliage; The architecture of the whole is semi-circular; but I should apprehend it to be posterior to any part of the fortress.—The inside of the castle serves at this time for a market-hall: the fosse, now dry and planted with trees, forms a delightful walk round the whole.

We were much disappointed by the church of Gisors; in the illustration of the details of which, Millin is very diffuse. The building is of considerable magnitude; its proportions are not unpleasing, and it contains much elaborate sculpture; but the labor has been ill bestowed, having been lavished without any attention to consistency. It is throughout a jumble of Roman and Gothic, except that the exterior of the north transept is wholly Gothic. Some of the little figures which decorate it are very gracefully carved, especially in the drapery. A pillar in the south aisle, entwined by spiral fillets, is of great singularity and beauty. The dolphin is introduced in each pannel, and the heraldic form of this fish harmonizes with the gentle curve of the field upon which it is sculptured. A crown of fleurs-de-lys surrounds the columns at mid-height. These symbols, as I believe I observed on a former occasion, are often employed as ornaments by the French architects. The church, which is dedicated to the twin saints, St. Gervais and St. Protais, is the work of different aeras, but principally of the latter half of the sixteenth century, a time when, as a Frenchman told me, "l'on commenca a batir dans le beau style Romain."—The man who made the observation was of the lower order of society, one of the swinish multitude, who, in England, never dream about styles in architecture. I mention the circumstance, for the sake of pointing out the difference that exists in these matters between the two countries.

1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse