Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine
by Edward A. Freeman
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The first eight and the last four of these sketches appeared in the Saturday Review, the others in the Guardian. They are here reprinted with a few omissions, but with no other alteration. The permission courteously given to reproduce them is gratefully acknowledged.



"Beyond doubt the finished historian must be a traveller: he must see with his own eyes the true look of a wide land; he must see, too, with his eyes the very spots where great events happened; he must mark the lie of a city, and take in, as far as a non-technical eye can, all that is special about a battle-field."

So wrote Mr. Freeman in his Methods of Historical Study,[1] and he possessed to the full the instincts of the traveller as well as of the historian. His studies and sketches of travels, already published, have shown him a wanderer in many lands and a keen observer of many peoples and their cities. He travelled always as a student of history and of architecture, and probably no man has ever so happily combined the knowledge of both. Though his thoughts were always set upon principles and upon the study of great subjects, he delighted in the details of local history and local building. "I cannot conceive," he wrote, "how either the study of the general sequence of architectural styles or the study of the history of particular buildings can be unworthy of the attention of any man. Besides their deep interest in themselves, such studies are really no small part of history. The way in which any people built, the form taken by their houses, their temples, their fortresses, their public buildings, is a part of their national life fully on a level with their language and their political institutions. And the buildings speak to us of the times to which they belong in a more living and, as it were, personal way than monuments or documents of almost any other kind."[2]

And no less clearly and decisively did he write of the value of local history: "There is no district, no town, no parish, whose history is not worth working out in detail, if only it be borne in mind that the local work is a contribution to a greater work."[3]

Thus the keenness of his interest in the architecture and the history that could be studied and learnt in every little town made him to the last the most untiring and enthusiastic of historical pilgrims. It is impossible to read his letters, so fresh and natural yet so full of a rare knowledge and insight, without seeing how thoroughly he had succeeded in achieving in himself that union of the traveller and the historian which adds so immeasurably to the powers of each. And that is what makes his letters from foreign lands so delightful to read, and his sketches (published and republished from time to time during the last thirty years) so illuminative. No one, I think, who has seen the places he writes of in his Historical and Architectural Sketches or in his Sketches from French Travel, with the books in his hand, will deny that they have added tenfold to his pleasure. Mr. Freeman tells you what to see and how to see it,—just what you want to know and what you ought to know. It would be an impertinence in me to point out the breadth or the accuracy of his knowledge as it appears in these sketches, which can be read again and again with new pleasure. But I think it may be said without exaggeration that in all the great work that Mr. Freeman did he did nothing better than this. He never "writes down" to his readers: he expects to find in them something of his own interest in the buildings and their makers; and he supplies the knowledge which only the traveller who is also a historian has at hand.

The volume that is now published contains sketches written at different times from 1861 to 1891. It will be seen that they all bear more or less directly on the great central work of the historian's life, the history of the Norman Conquest. In his travels he went always to learn, and when he had learned he could not help teaching. The course of each of these journeys can be traced in his own letters as published in the Life. In 1856 he made his first foreign excursion—to Aquitaine—and after 1860 a foreign tour was "almost an annual event."[4] In 1861 he paid his first visit to Normandy, with the best of all companions. In 1867 he went again, specially for the sake of the "Norman Conquest," with Mr. J.R. Green and Mr. Sidney Owen; and in the next year he was in Maine with Mr. Green. In 1875 he was again in Normandy, for a short time, on his way to Dalmatia. In 1876 he went to Maine also to "look up the places belonging to"[5] William Rufus, and again in 1879 with Mr. J.T. Fowler and Mr. James Parker. In 1891 he paid his last visit to the lands which he had come to know so well. He was then thinking of writing on Henry I., a work of which he lived to write but little. In this last Norman journey the articles, published in The Guardian after his death, were written. His method on each of these expeditions seems to have been the same. Before he started he read something of the special history of the places he was to visit. He always, if possible, procured a local historian's book. He wrote his articles while he was still away. "To many of these Norman places," says his daughter who has prepared this volume for the press, "he went several times, and he never wearied of seeing them again himself or of showing them to others.... In the last Norman journey of 1891 how one feels he was at home there, re-treading the ground so carefully worked out for the Norman Conquest and William Rufus—the same enthusiasm with which, often under difficulties of weather or of health, he 'stepped out' all he could of Sicily."

Not only did he walk, and read, and write, while he was abroad, he drew: and from the hundreds of characteristic sketches which he has left it had been easy to select many more than those which now illustrate this volume. Still, from those that have been reproduced, with the descriptive studies just as they were written, the reader is in a position to see the Norman and Cenomannian sites as they were seen by the great historian himself. More remains from his hand, sketches of Southern Gaul, of Sicily, Africa, and Spain, which I hope may be republished; but the present volume has a unity of its own.

I have said thus much because it was the request of those who loved him best that I should say something here by way of preface, though I have no claim, historical or personal, that my name should in any way be linked with his. But the last of his many acts of kindness to me was the gift of his Sketches from French Travel, which had been recently published in the Tauchnitz edition. And as one of those who have used his travel-sketches with continued delight, who welcomed him to Oxford in 1884, and whose privilege it was to attend many of the lectures which he delivered as Professor, I speak, if without any claim, yet very gratefully and sincerely. And since his lectures illustrate so well the work which made his sketches so admirable, I may be suffered to say a word from my memory of them and of himself.

In his lectures on the text of mediaeval historians he did a service to young students of history which was, in its way, unique. He showed them a great historian at work. In his comparison of authorities, in his references to and fro, in his appeal to every source of illustration, from fable to architecture, from poetry to charters, he made us familiar not only with his results, but with his methods of working. It was a priceless experience. Year after year he continued these lectures, informal, chatty, but always vigorous and direct, eager to give help, and keen to receive assistance even from the humblest of his hearers, choosing his subjects sometimes in connection with the historical work on which he happened to be engaged, sometimes in more definite relation to the subjects of the Modern History school. In this way he went through Gregory of Tours, Paul the Deacon—I speak only of those courses at which I was myself able to be present—and, in the last year of his life, the historians of the Saxon Emperors, 936-1002—Widukind, Thietmar, Richer, Liudprand, and the rest. In these and many other books, such as the Sicilian historians and the authorities for the Norman Conquest, he made the men and the times live again, and he seemed to live in them. Whatever the praise which students outside give to his published lectures, we who have listened to him and worked with him shall look back with fondness and gratitude most of all to those hours in his college rooms in Trinity, in the long, high dining-room in S. Giles's—the Judges' lodgings—and in the quaint low chamber in Holywell-street, where he fled for refuge when the Judges came to hold assize.

Much has been heard about Mr. Freeman's want of sympathy with modern Oxford, much that is mistaken and untrue. It is true that he loved most the Oxford of his young days, the Oxford of the Movement by which he was so profoundly influenced, the Oxford of the friends and fellow-scholars of his youth. But with no one were young students more thoroughly at home, from no one did they receive more keen sympathy, more generous recognition, or more friendly help. He did not like a mere smattering of literary chatter; he did not like to be called a pedant; but he knew, if any man did, what literature was and what was knowledge. He was eager to welcome good work in every field, however far it might be from his own.

It is true that Mr. Freeman was distinctly a conservative in academic matters, but it is quite a mistake to think that he was out of sympathy with modern Oxford. No man was more keenly alive to the good work of the younger generation. Certainly no man was more popular among the younger dons. A few, in Oxford and outside, snarled at him, as they snarl still, but they were very few who did not recognise the greatness of his character as well as of his powers. It is not too much to say of those who had been brought into at all near relations with him that they learnt not only to respect but to love him. He was—all came to recognise it—not only a distinguished historian, but, in the fullest sense of the words, a good man. He leaves behind him a memory of unswerving devotion to the ideal of learning—which no man placed higher than he. His remembrance should be an inspiration to every man who studies history in Oxford.

The kindness which allows me to say these words here is like his own, which was felt by the humblest of his scholars.




NORMANDY [S.R. 1861] 1

FALAISE [S.R. 1867] 10



FECAMP [S.R. 1868] 42


THE COTENTIN [S.R. 1876] 62

THE AVRANCHIN [S.R. 1876] 74





ARGENTAN [G. 1892] 125





JUBLAINS [S.R. 1876] 189


LE MANS [S.R. 1876] 211

MAINE [S.R. 1876] 224



1. ST. STEPHEN, CAEN, E. Frontispiece









10. EU CHURCH, S.E. 57














Before foreign travelling had become either quite so easy or quite so fashionable as it is now, the part of France most commonly explored by English tourists was Normandy. Antiquarian inquirers, in particular, hardly went anywhere else, and we suspect that with many of them a tour in France, as Mr. Petit says, still means merely a tour in Normandy.[6] The mere holiday tourist, on the other hand, now more commonly goes somewhere else—either to the Pyrenees or to those parts of France which form the road to Switzerland and Italy. The capital of the province, of course, is familiar to everybody; two of the chief roads to Paris lie through it. But Rouen, noble city as it is, does not fairly represent Normandy. Its buildings are, with small exceptions, later than the French conquest, and, as having so long been a capital, and now being a great manufacturing town, its population has always been very mixed. There are few cities more delightful to examine than Rouen, but for the true Normandy you must go elsewhere. The true Normandy is to be found further West. Its capital, we suppose we must say, is Caen; but its really typical and central city is Bayeux. The difference is more than nine hundred years old. In the second generation after the province became Normandy at all, Rouen had again become a French city. William Longsword, Rollo's son, sent his son to Bayeux to learn Danish. There the old Northern tongue, and, we fancy, the old Northern religion too, still flourished, while at Rouen nobody spoke anything but French.

A tour in Normandy has an interest of its own, but the nature of that interest is of a kind which does not make Normandy a desirable choice for a first visit to France. We will suppose that a traveller, as a traveller should, has learned the art of travel in his own land. Let him go next to some country which will be utterly strange to him—as we are talking of France, say Aquitaine or Provence. He will there find everything different from what he is used to—buildings, food, habits, dress, as unlike England as may be. If he tries to talk to the natives he will perhaps make them understand his Langue d'oil; but he will find that his Parisian grammar and dictionary will go but a very little way towards making him understand their Lingua d'oc. Now, Normandy and England, of course, have many points of difference, and doubtless a man who goes at once into Normandy from England will be mainly struck by the points of difference. But let a man go through Southern Gaul first, and visit Normandy afterwards, and he will be struck, not with the points of difference, but with the points of likeness. Buildings, men, beasts, everything will at once remind him of his own country. We hold that this is a very sufficient reason for visiting the more distant province first. Otherwise the very important phenomenon of the strong likeness between Normandy and England will not be taken in as it ought to be.

Go from France proper into Normandy and you at once feel that everything is palpably better. Men, women, horses, cows, all are on a grander and better scale. If we say that the food, too, is better, we speak it with fear and trembling, as food is, above all things, a matter of taste. From the point of view of a fashionable cook, no doubt the Norman diet is the worse, for whence should the fashionable cook come except from the land with which Normandy has to be compared? But certain it is that a man with an old-fashioned Teutonic stomach—a man who would have liked to dine off roast meat with Charles the Great or to breakfast off beef-steaks with Queen Elizabeth—will find Norman diet, if not exactly answering to his ideal, yet coming far nearer to it than the politer repasts of Paris. Rouen, of course, has been corrupted for nine centuries, but at Evreux, and in Thor's own city of Bayeux, John Bull may find good meat and good vegetables, and plenty of them to boot. Then look at those strong, well-fed horses—what a contrast to the poor, half-starved, flogged, over-worked beasts which usurp the name further south! Look at those goodly cows, fed in good pastures, and yielding milk thrice a day; they claim no sort of sisterhood with the poverty-stricken animals which, south of the Loire, have to do the horse's work as well as their own. Look at the land itself. An Englishman feels quite at home as he looks upon green fields, and, in the Bessin district, sees those fields actually divided by hedges. If the visitor chance not only to be an Englishman but a West-Saxon, he will feel yet more at home at seeing a land where the apple-tree takes the place of the vine, and where his host asks special payment for wine, but supplies "zider" for nothing. But above all things, look at the men. Those broad shoulders and open countenances seem to have got on the wrong side of the Channel. You are almost surprised at hearing anything but your own tongue come out of their mouths. It seems strange to hear such lips talking French; but it is something to think that it is at least not the French of Louis the Great or of Louis Napoleon, but the tongue of the men who first dictated the Great Charter, and who wrung its final confirmation from the greatest of England's later kings.

The truth is, that between the Englishman and the Norman—at least, the Norman of the Bessin—there can be, in point of blood, very little difference. One sees that there must be something in ethnological theories, after all. The good seed planted by the old Saxon and Danish colonists, and watered in aftertimes by Henry the Fifth and John, Duke of Bedford, is still there.[7] It has not been altogether choked by the tares of Paris. The word "Saxon" is so vague that we cannot pretend to say exactly who the Saxons of Bayeux were; but Saxons of some sort were there, even before another Teutonic wave came in with Rolf Ganger and his Northmen. Bayeux, as we have said, was the Scandinavian stronghold. Men spoke Danish there when not a word of Danish was understood at Rouen. Men there still ate their horse-steaks, and prayed to Thor and Odin, while all Rouen bowed piously at the altar of Notre-Dame. The ethnical elements of a Norman of the Bessin and an Englishman of Norfolk or Lincolnshire must be as nearly as possible the same. The only difference is, that one has quite forgotten his Teutonic speech, and the other only partially. Not that all Teutonic traces have gone even from the less Norman parts of Normandy. How many of the English travellers who land at Dieppe stop to think that the name of that port, disguised as it is by a French spelling, is nothing in the world but "The Deeps?" If any one, now that there is a railway, prefers to go along the lovely valley of the Seine, he will come to the little town of Caudebec. Here, again, the French spelling makes the word meaningless; but only write it "Cauld beck," and it at once tells its story to a Lowland Scot, and ought to do so to every "Anglo-Saxon" of any kind. As for the local dialect, it is French. It is not, like that of Aquitaine and Provence, a language as distinct as Spanish or Italian. It is French, with merely a dialectical difference from "French of Paris." But the Normans, in this resembling the Gascons, have no special objection to a final consonant, and most vulgarly and perversely still sound divers s's and t's which the politer tongue of the capital dooms to an existence on paper only.

It is certainly curious that Normandy—which, save during the comparatively short occupation in the fifteenth century, has always been politically separate from England, since England became English once more—should be so much more like England than Aquitaine, which was an English dependency two hundred and fifty years after Normandy and England were separated. The cause is clearly that between Englishmen and Normans there is a real natural kindred which political separation has not effaced, while between English and Gascons there was no sort of kindred, but a mere political connexion which chanced to be convenient for both sides. The Gascons, to this day, have not wholly forgotten the advantages of English connexion, but neither then nor now is any likeness to England the result. So, in our own time, we may hold Malta for ever, but we shall never make Maltese so like Englishmen as our Danish kinsmen still are without any political connexion more recent than the days of Earl Waltheof.

For the antiquary, nothing can be more fascinating than a Norman tour. Less curious, less instructive, because much more like English buildings, than those of Aquitaine, the architectural remains of the province are incomparably finer in themselves. Caen is a town well nigh without a rival. It shares with Oxford the peculiarity of having no one predominant object. At Amiens, at Peterborough—we may add at Cambridge—one single gigantic building lords it over everything. Caen and Oxford throw up a forest of towers and spires, without any one building being conspicuously predominant. It is a town which never was a Bishop's see, but which contains four or five churches each fit to have been a cathedral. There is the stern and massive pile which owes its being to the Conqueror of England, and where a life which never knew defeat was followed by a posthumous history which is only a long series of misfortunes. There is the smaller but richer minster, part of which at least is the genuine work of the Conqueror's Queen.[8] Around the town are a group of smaller churches such as not even Somerset or Northamptonshire can surpass. Then there is Bayeux, with its cathedral, its tapestry, its exquisite seminary chapel; Cerisy, with its mutilated but almost unaltered Norman abbey; Bernay, with a minster so shattered and desecrated that the traveller might pass it by without notice, but withal retaining the massive piers and arches of the first half of the eleventh century. There is Evreux, with its Norman naves, its tall slender Gothic choir, its strange Italian western tower, and almost more fantastic central spire. All these are noble churches, sharing with those of our own land a certain sobriety and architectural good sense which is often wanting in the churches of France proper. In Normandy as in England, you do not see piles, like Beauvais, begun on too vast a scale for man's labour ever to finish; you do not see piles like Amiens, where all external proportion is sacrificed to grandeur of internal effect.[9] A Norman minster, like an English one, is satisfied with a comparatively moderate height, but with its three towers and full cruciform shape, it seems a perfection of outline to which no purely French building ever attains.



The beginnings of the Norman Conquest, in its more personal and picturesque point of view, are to be found in the Castle of Falaise. There, as Sir Francis Palgrave sums up the story, "Arletta's pretty feet twinkling in the brook made her the mother of William the Bastard." And certainly, if great events depend upon great men, and if great men are in any way influenced by the places of their birth, there is no place which seems more distinctly designed by nature to be the cradle of great events. The spot is one which history would have dealt with unfairly if it had not contrived to find its way into her most striking pages. And certainly in this respect Falaise has nothing to complain of. Except one or two of the great cities of the province, no place is brought more constantly under our notice during five centuries of Norman history. And Norman history, we must not forget, includes in this case some of the most memorable scenes in the history of England, France, and Scotland. The siege by Henry the Fourth was in a manner local; it was part of a warfare within the kingdom of France. But that warfare was one in which all the Powers of Europe felt themselves to be closely interested; it was a warfare in which one at least of them directly partook; it was one in which the two great religions of Western Europe felt that their own fates were to be in a manner decided. In the earlier warfare of the fifteenth century Falaise plays a prominent part. Town and castle were taken and retaken, and the ancient fortress itself received a lasting and remarkable addition from the hand of one of the greatest of English captains. The tall round tower of Talbot, a model of the military masonry of its time, goes far to share the attention of the visitor with the massive keep of the ancient Dukes. Thence we leap back to the earliest great historical event which we can connect, with any certainty, with any part of the existing building. It was here, in a land beyond the borders of the Isle of Britain, but in a comparatively neighbouring portion of the wide dominions of the House of Anjou, that the fullest homage was paid which ever was paid by a King of Scots to a King of England. Here William the Lion, the captive of Alnwick, became most effectually the "man" of Henry Fitz-Empress, and burdened his kingdom with new and onerous engagements from which his next overlord found it convenient to relieve him. Earlier in the twelfth century, and in the eleventh, Falaise plays its part in the troubled politics of the Norman Duchy, in the wars of Henry the First and in the wars of his father. Still going back through a political and military history spread over so many ages, the culminating interest of Falaise continues to centre round its first historic mention. Henry of Navarre, our own Talbot, William the Lion, Robert of Belleme, all fail to kindle the same emotions as are aroused by the spot which was the favourite dwelling-place of the pilgrim of Jerusalem, the birthplace of the Conqueror of England.

Local tradition of course affirms the existing building to be the scene of William's birth. The window is shown from which Duke Robert first beheld the tanner's daughter, and the room in which William first saw what, if it really be the spot, must certainly have been light of an artificial kind. A pompous inscription in the modern French style calls on us to reverence the spot where the "legislator of ancient England" "fut engendre et naquit." The odd notion of William being the legislator of England calls forth a passing smile, and another somewhat longer train of thought is suggested. William, early in his reign, tried to learn English. He proved no very apt scholar, and he presently gave up his studies; but we may fairly believe that he learned enough to understand the simple formulae of his own English charters. This leads one to ask the question: Would he not have been as likely to understand his own praises in the tongue of the conquered English as in what is supposed to represent his own native speech? Have we, after all, departed any further from the tongue of the oldest Charter of London than the Imperial dialect of abstractions and antitheses has departed from the simple and vigorous speech of the Roman de Rou? And, if he could spell it out in either tongue, he would find it somewhat faint praise to be told that, judged by the standard of the nineteenth century, he was a mere barbarian, but that M.F. Galeron would condescend so far as to suggest to his contemporaries to judge the local hero by a less rigid rule. If this is all the credit that the great William can get from his own people in his own birthplace, we can only say that, while demurring to his title of legislator of England, we would give him much better measure than this, even if we were writing on the site of the choir of Waltham.

Antiquaries have, till lately, generally acquiesced in the local belief that the existing building is the actual castle of Robert the Devil. The belief in no way commits us to the details of the local legend. Robert must have had an astonishingly keen sight if he could, from any window of the existing keep, judge of the whiteness of a pair of feet and ankles at the bottom of the rock. Nor does it at all follow that, if the present keep was standing at the time of William's birth, William was therefore born in it. The Duke's mistress would be just as likely to be lodged in some of the other buildings within the circuit of the castle as in the great square tower of defence. And, if we accept the belief, which is now becoming more prevalent, that the present keep is of the twelfth century and not of the eleventh, we are not thereby at all committed to the dogma that, because Robert the Devil lived before 1066, he could not possibly have had a castle of stone. In the wars of the eleventh and twelfth centuries many castles in Normandy were destroyed, not a few of them by William himself after the great revolt which was put down at Val-es-dunes. The Norman castle, evidently of the type used after the Conquest, was introduced into England before the Conquest by the foreign favourites of Edward the Confessor. They could have built only in imitation of what they had been used to build in Normandy, and unless the new fashion, with its new name, had been a distinct advance on anything in the way of fortification already known in England, it would not have caused so much amazement as it did. Englishmen were perfectly familiar with stone walls to a town, but the Norman keep was something new, something for which there was no English name, and which therefore retained its French name of "castel." On the whole, the evidence is in favour of the belief that the present castle of Falaise is of the twelfth century. But there is no reason to deny, and there is every reason to believe, that Robert the Devil may have inhabited a castle of essentially the same type in the eleventh century.

Adjoining the keep is the tall round tower of the great Talbot. The two towers suggest exactly opposite remembrances. One sets before us the Norman dominant in England, the other sets before us the Englishman dominant in Normandy. Or the case may be put in another shape. Talbot, like so many of his comrades, was probably of Norman descent. Such returned to the land of their fathers in the character of Englishmen. And yet after all, when the descendants of Rolf's Danes and of the older Saxons of Bayeux assumed the character of Englishmen, they were but casting away the French husk and standing forth once more in the genuine character of their earlier forefathers. Such changes were doubtless quite unconscious; long before the fifteenth century the Norman in England had become thoroughly English, and the Norman in Normandy had become thoroughly French. French indeed in speech and manners he had been for ages, but by the time of Henry the Fifth he had become French in national feeling also. The tower of Talbot was no doubt felt by the people of Falaise to be a badge of bondage. It stands nobly and proudly, overtopping the older keep; its genuine masonry as good as on the day it was built, while the stuff with which its upper part was mended twenty years back has already crumbled away. Within, a few details of purely English character tell their tale in most intelligible language.

The position of the castle is striking beyond measure. It is all the more so because it comes on the traveller who reaches the place in the way in which travellers are now most likely to reach it as a thorough surprise. In the approach by the railway the castle hardly shows at all. We pass through the streets of the town; the eye is caught by the splendid church of St. Gervase, but of the castle we get only the faintest glimpse, nothing at all to suggest the full glory of its position. We pass on by the fine but very inferior church of the Holy Trinity; we contemplate the statue of the local hero; we pass through the castle gate; we pass by a beautiful desecrated chapel of the twelfth century; we feel by the rise of the ground and by the sight of the walks below that we are ascending, but it is not till we are close to the keep itself, till we have reached the very edge of the precipice, that we fully realise there is a precipice at all. At last we are on the brow; we see plainly enough the falaises, the felsen—the honest Teutonic word still surviving, and giving its name to the town itself, and to its distinguishing feature. The castle stands on the very edge of the steep and rugged rock; opposite to it frowns another mass of rocks, not sharp and peaked, but chaotic, like a mass of huge boulders rolled close together. From this point the English cannon played successfully on the ancient keep, which, under the older conditions of warfare, must have been well nigh impregnable. It is from this opposing height that the castle is now best surveyed by the peaceful antiquary. Between the two points tumbles along the same little beck in which the pretty feet are said to have twinkled, and not far off the trade of the damsel's father is still plied, perhaps on the very spot where that unsavoury craft, of old the craft of the demagogue, was so strangely to connect itself with the mightiest of Norman warriors and princes.

What, it may be asked, is the condition of this most interesting monument of an age which has utterly passed away? If there is any building in the world which belongs wholly to the past, towards which the duty of the present is simply to preserve, to guard every stone, to prop if need be, but to disturb nothing, to stay from falling as long as human power can stay it, but to abstain from supplanting one jot or one tittle of the ancient work by the most perfect of modern copies—it is surely the donjon-keep of Falaise. But, like every other building in France, the birthplace of the Conqueror is hopelessly handed over to the demon of restoration. They who have turned all the ancient monuments of France upside down have come to Falaise also. They who were revelling ten years back in the destruction of Perigueux, they who are even now fresh from effacing all traces of antiquity from the noble minster of Matilda, they who have thrust their own handiworks even into the gloomy crypt of Odo, have at last stretched forth their hands to smite the cradle of the Conqueror himself. The Imperial architect, M. Ruprich Robert, has surveyed the building, he has drawn up a most clear and intelligent account of its character and history, and, on this showing, the work of destruction has begun. Controversy will soon be at an end; there will be no need to dispute whether any part be of the eleventh or of the twelfth century; both alike are making room for a spruce imitation of the nineteenth. We shall no longer see the dwelling-place either of Robert the Devil or of Henry Fitz-Empress; in its stead we shall trace the last masterpiece of the reign of Napoleon the Third. Sham Romanesque is grotesque everywhere, but it is more grotesque than all when we see newly-cut capitals stuck into the windows of a roofless castle, when the grey hue of age is wiped away from a building which has stood at least seven hundred years, and when the venerable fortress is made to look as spick and span as the last built range of shops at Paris. Among the endless pranks, at once grotesque and lamentable, played by the mania for restoration, surely the "restoration" of this venerable ruin is the most grotesque and lamentable of all. The municipality of Caen have lately made themselves a spectacle to mankind by pulling down, seemingly out of sheer wantonness, one half of one of the most curious churches of their city.[10] We commend them not; but we do not place even them on a level with the subtler destroyers of Falaise. The savages of Caen are satisfied with simple, open destruction; what they cannot understand or appreciate they make away with. But there is no hypocrisy, no pretence about them; they simply destroy, they do not presume to replace. But the restorer not only takes away the work of the men of old, he impudently puts his own work in its stead. He takes away the truth and puts a lie in its place. Our readers know very well with what reservations this doctrine must be taken—reservations which in the case of churches or other buildings actually applied to appropriate modern uses, are very considerable. But in the case of a mere monument of antiquity, a building whose only value is that it has stood so many years, that it exhibits the style of such an age, that it has beheld such and such great events, there is no reservation to be made at all. In the castle of Falaise we may adopt, word for word, the most vehement of Mr. Ruskin's declamations on this head. The man who turns the ancient reality of the twelfth century into a sham of the nineteenth deserves no other fame than the fame which Eratostratus won at Ephesus, and which James Wyatt won in the chapter-house of Durham.



One would rather like to see a map of France, or indeed of Europe, marking in different degrees of colour the abundance or scarcity of English visitors and residents. Of course the real traveller, whether he goes to study politics or history or language or architecture or anything else, is best pleased when he gets most completely out of the reach of his own countrymen. The first stage out of the beaten track of tourists is a moment of rapture. For it is the tourists who do the mischief; the residents are a comparatively harmless folk. A colony of English settled down in a town and its neighbourhood do very little to spoil the natives among whom they live. For the very reason that they are residents and not tourists, they do not in the same way corrupt innkeepers, or turn buildings and prospects into vulgar lions. It is hard to find peace at Rouen, as it is hard to find it at Aachen; but a few English notices in the windows at Dinan do not seriously disturb our meditations beneath the spreading apses of St. Sauveur and St. Malo or the plaster statue of Bertrand du Guesclin. For any grievances arising from the neighbourhood of our countrymen, we might as well be at Dortmund or Rostock. But, between residents, tourists, and real travellers, we may set it down that there is no place which Englishmen do not visit sometimes, as there certainly are many places in which Englishmen abound more than enough.

We have wandered into this not very profound or novel speculation through a sort of wish to know how far three fine French churches of which we wish to speak a few words are respectively known to Englishmen in general. These are the Norman cathedrals of Bayeux and Coutances, both of them still Bishops' sees, and the Breton Cathedral of Dol, which, in the modern ecclesiastical arrangements, has sunk into a parish church. Bayeux lies on a great track, and we suppose that all the world goes there to see the tapestry. Coutances has won a fame among professed architectural students almost higher than it deserves, but we fancy that the city lies rather out of the beat of the ordinary tourist. Dol is surely quite out of the world; we trust that, in joining it with the other two, we may share somewhat of the honours of discovery. We will not say that we trust that no one has gone thither from the Greater Britain since the days of the Armorican migration; but we do trust that a criticism on the cathedral church of Dol will be somewhat of a novelty to most people.

We select these three because they have features in common, and because they all belong to the same general type of church. As cathedrals, they are all of moderate size; Coutances and Dol, we may distinctly say, are of small size. They do not range with such miracles of height as France shows at Amiens and Beauvais, or with such miracles of length as England shows at Ely and St. Albans. They rank rather with our smaller episcopal churches, such as Lichfield, Wells, and Hereford. Indeed most of the great Norman churches come nearer to this type than to that of minsters of a vaster scale. And the reason is manifest. The great churches of Normandy, like those of England, are commonly finished with the central tower. Perhaps they do not always make it a feature of quite the same importance which it assumes in England, but it gives them a marked character, as distinguished from the great churches of the rest of France. Elsewhere, the central tower, not uncommon in churches of the second and third rank, is altogether unknown among cathedrals and other great minsters of days later than Romanesque. It is as much the rule for a French cathedral to have no central tower as it is for an English or Norman cathedral to have one. The result is that, just as in our English churches, the enormous height of Amiens and Beauvais cannot be reached. But, in its stead, the English and Norman churches attained a certain justness of proportion and variety of outline which the other type does not admit. No church in Normandy, except St. Ouen's, attains any remarkable height, and even St. Ouen's is far surpassed by many other French churches. But perhaps a vain desire to rival the vast height of their neighbours sometimes set the Norman builders to attempt something of comparative height by stinting their churches in the article of breadth. This peculiarity may be seen to an almost painful extent at Evreux.

Our three churches, then—Coutances and Dol certainly—rank with our smaller English cathedrals, allowing for a greater effect of height, partly positive, partly produced by narrowness. They are, in fact, English second-class churches with the height of English first-class churches. Bayeux, in every way the largest of the three, perhaps just trembles on the edge of the first-class. Coutances, the smallest, is distinctly defective in length; the magnificent, though seemingly unfinished, central tower, plainly wants a longer eastern limb to support it. Even at Bayeux the eastern limb is short according to English notions, though not so conspicuously so as Coutances. We suspect that Dol is really the most justly proportioned of the three, though in many points its outline is the one which would least commend itself to popular taste. The central tower is still lower than that at Lisieux; it is rather like that of St. Canice at Kilkenny, only just rising above the level of the roof. But, as is always the case with this arrangement, the effect is solemn and impressive. The low heavy central tower is a common feature in Normandy, and one to which the eye soon gets accustomed. The west front of Dol is imperfect and irregular; the southern has been carried up and finished in a later style, while the northern one, whose rebuilding had been begun, was left unfinished altogether. The whole front is mutilated and poor, and the chief attractions of Dol must be looked for elsewhere. The west front of Coutances is as famous as the west front of Wells, and both, to our taste, equally undeservedly. Both are shams; in neither does a good, real, honest gable stand out between the two towers. The west front of Coutances also is a mass of meaningless breaks and projections, and the form of the towers is completely disguised by the huge excrescences in the shape of turrets. Far finer, to our taste, is the front of Bayeux. Though it is a composition of various dates, thrown together in a sort of casual way, and though the details of the two towers do not exactly agree, yet the different stages are worked together so as to produce a very striking effect. The later work seems not so much to be stuck upon the earlier as to grow out of it. One could hardly have thought that spires, among the most elegant of the elegant spires of the district, would have looked so thoroughly in place as they do when crowning towers, the lower parts at least of which are the work of the famous Odo. There is nothing of that inconsistency which is clearly marked between the upper and lower parts of the front of St. Stephen's at Caen. The general external effect of Bayeux can hardly be judged of till the completion of the new central lantern. This last is a bold experiment, seemingly a Gothic version of the cupola which it displaces. But as far as the original work goes, there can be no doubt of Bayeux holding much the first place among our three churches.

Looked at within, the precedence of Bayeux is less certain. The first glance at Coutances, within as without, is disappointing, mainly because the visitor has been led to expect a building on a grander scale. But the interior soon grows on the spectator, in a way in which the outside certainly does not. The first impression felt is one of being cramped for room. The difference between Coutances and Bayeux is plainly shown by the fact that at Bayeux room is found for a spacious choir east of the central tower, while at Coutances a smaller choir is driven to annex the space under the lantern. This is an arrangement which is often convenient in any case, but which, as a matter of effect, commonly suits a Romanesque church better than a Gothic one. But when we come more thoroughly to take in the internal beauties of Coutances, we begin to feel that Bayeux, with all its superior grandeur, has found a very formidable rival. Coutances is the more harmonious whole. The choir and the nave vary considerably, and the choir must be somewhat the later of the two. But the difference is hardly of a kind to interfere much with the general effect. The general appearance of the church is thoroughly consistent throughout, and the octagon lantern, with its arcades, galleries, and pendentives, all open to the church, forms a magnificent feature. It is evidently the feature of which Coutances was specially proud; it is repeated, at a becoming distance, in the other two churches of the city, as well as elsewhere in the diocese. The nave arcades of Coutances are exquisite, the triforium is well proportioned and well designed, except that perhaps the beautiful floriated devices in the head may be thought to have usurped the place of some more strictly architectural design. The clerestory is perhaps a little heavy. In the choir the clerestory and triforium are thrown into one stage of singular likeness, though in this style the lack of a distinct triforium is always to be regretted. The mouldings in both parts have, as is so usual in Normandy, an English look, which is quite unknown in France proper, and in the choir we find a larger use of the characteristic English round abacus. But, next to the lantern, the most striking thing in the interior of Coutances is certainly the sweep of the eastern aisles and chapels, where the interlacing aisles and pillars produce an effect of spaciousness which is not to be found in the main portions of the church.

The interior of Bayeux, besides its greater spaciousness and grandeur of effect, is attractive on other grounds. It is far more interesting than Coutances to the historical inquirer. Many facts in the history of Normandy are plainly written in the architectural changes of this noble church. The most interesting portion indeed does not appear in the general view of the interior. The church of Odo, the church at whose dedication William was present, and which must have been rising at the time of the visit of Harold, now survives only in the crypt of the choir and in the lower portions of the towers.[11] The rest was destroyed by fire, like so many other churches in Normandy, during the wars of Henry the First. Of the church which then replaced it, the arcades of the nave still remain. No study of Romanesque can be more instructive than a comparison of the work of these two dates. Odo's work is plain and simple, with many of the capitals of a form eminently characteristic of an early stage of the art of floriated enrichment—a form of its own which grew up alongside of others, and gradually budded into such splendid capitals of far later work as we see at Lisieux. Will it be believed that the remorseless demon of restoration has actually descended the steps of this venerable crypt, and that two of the capitals are now, not of the eleventh century, but brand-new productions of the nineteenth? Of course we are told that they are exact copies; but what then? We do not want copies, but the things themselves, and if they were a little ragged and jagged, what harm could it do down underground?

A striking contrast to the work of Odo, a contrast as striking as can easily be found between two things which are, after all, essentially of the same style, is to be seen in the splendid arcades of the nave, one of the richest examples to be found anywhere of the later and more ornamented Romanesque. The arches are of unusual and very irregular width; the irregularity must be owing to something in the remains or foundations of the earlier building. They are crowned, however, not by a triforium and clerestory of their own style, but a single clerestory of coupled lancets of enormous height, with the faintest approach to tracery in the head. The effect is striking, but certainly somewhat incongruous. The choir is one of the most beautiful productions of the thirteenth-century style of the country, always approaching nearer to English work than the architecture of any other part of the Continent. Another church at Bayeux, that which now forms the chapel of the seminary, is well known as being more English still. It might, as far as details go, stand unaltered as an English building.

And now for a few words as to the obscure Breton church which we have ventured to put into competition with such formidable Norman rivals.[12] Perhaps it derives some of its attractions from its being out of the way and comparatively unknown. It has that peculiar charm which attaches to a fine building found where one would hardly expect to find it—a feeling which reaches its highest point at St. David's. The first impression which it gives is that there is something Irish about it; there is certainly no church in Ireland which can be at all compared to it; still it is something like what one could fancy St. Canice growing into. One marked characteristic of Dol Cathedral comes from its material. It is built of the granite of the country, which necessarily gives it a somewhat stern and weather-beaten look, and hinders any great exuberance of architectural ornament. Not that we think this any loss; the simple buttresses and flying buttresses at Dol are really a relief after the elaborate and unintelligible forests of pinnacles which surround so many French churches, even of very moderate size. It is only in the huge porch attached to the south transept that an approach to anything of this kind is found. But very beautiful work of other sorts may be seen at Dol. The smaller porch is a gem of early work, and the range of windows in the north aisle presents some of the most delicate triumphs of geometrical tracery, too delicate in truth to last, as all are more or less broken. The flat east end gives the church an English look, and the flat east end with an apsidal chapel beyond it especially suggests Wells. Within, the church has a great effect of height and narrowness, greater certainly than Coutances. Like Coutances, the nave and choir are of somewhat different dates, the choir being more modern, but, unlike Coutances, still more unlike Bayeux, they range completely together in composition. The nave we might fairly call Early English. It is not quite so characteristic as some of the work at Bayeux, but it uses the round abacus freely, although not exclusively. But for a few square abaci which are used, and for the appearance of early tracery in the side windows, it might pass as a purely Lancet building. The choir is fully developed geometrical work, of excellent character, with a beautifully designed triforium and clerestory. Altogether we think Dol may make good its claim to a high place among churches of the second order. It is specially curious to see how a building which does not differ in any essential peculiarity of style from its fellows assumes a distinct character, and that by no means wholly to its loss, through the use of a somewhat rugged material.



In the strictly historical aspect, the English inquirer is perhaps naturally led to think most of those events in which his more recent countrymen were more immediately concerned—those events of the Hundred Years' War, on which so much light has lately been thrown by the researches of M. Puiseux.[13] But he should not forget that, besides being the scene of these events in the great struggle between England and France, Normandy, independent Normandy, has also a history of its own, in which both England and France had a deep interest. It is not only because Normandy is the cradle of so many families which after events made English, because so many Norman villages still bear names illustrious in the English peerage. It is because it is in the earlier history of Normandy, above all, in the reign of William himself, that we are to seek for one side of the causes which made a Norman conquest of England possible, just as it is in the earlier history of England, above all, in the reign of Eadward, that we are to seek for the other side of those causes.

No one among those causes was more important than the personal character of the great Duke of the Normans himself. And the qualities which made William able to achieve the Conquest of England were, if not formed, at least trained and developed, by the events of his reign in his own Duchy. Succeeding with a very doubtful title, at once bastard and minor, it is wonderful that he contrived to retain his ducal crown at all; it is not at all wonderful that his earlier years were years of constant struggle within and without his dominions. He had to contend against rivals for the Duchy, and against subjects to whom submission to any sovereign was irksome. He had to contend against a jealous feudal superior, who dreaded his power, who retained somewhat of national dislike to the Danish intruders, and who, shut up in his own Paris, could hardly fail to grudge to any vassal the possession of the valley and mouth of the Seine. William, in short, before he conquered England, had to conquer both Normandy and France. And such was his skill, such was his good luck, that he found out how to conquer Normandy by the help of France, and how to conquer France by the help of Normandy. The King of the French acted as his ally against his rebellious vassals, and those rebellious vassals changed into loyal subjects when it was needful to withstand the aggressions of the King of the French.

The principal stages in this warfare are marked by two battles, the sites of which are appropriately placed on the two opposite sides of the Seine. At Val-es-dunes William of Normandy and Henry of France overcame the Norman rebels.[14] Afterwards, when Henry had changed his policy, the Normans smote the French with a great slaughter at Mortemer, neither of the contending princes being personally present. Val-es-dunes, we must confess the fact, was in truth a victory of the Roman over the Teuton. It was by the aid of his French overlord that William chastised into his obedience the sturdy Saxons of the Bessin and the fierce Danes of the Cotentin. The men of the peninsula boasted, in a rhyme which is still not forgotten in the neighbourhood of the fight, how

De Costentin partit la lance Qui abastit le roy de France.

For King Henry, successful in the general issue of the day, had his own personal mishaps in the course of the battle, and to have overthrown the King of the French was an exploit which supplied the vanquished with some little consolation.

The scene of this battle is fitly to be found in the true Normandy, but towards its eastern frontier. It must not be forgotten that the truest Normandy was not the oldest Normandy. The lands first granted to Rolf, perhaps for the very reason that they were the lands first granted to him, became French, while the later acquisitions of Rolf himself still remained Danish.

The boundary was seemingly marked by the Dive. Val-es-dunes then, placed a little to the west of that river, comes within the true Normandy, though it is near to its outskirts. The Teutonic Norman was beaten on his own ground, but the Frenchman at least never made his way to the gates of Bayeux or Coutances. The site of the battle is less attractive to the eye than many other battle-fields, but the ground is excellently adapted for what the battle seems really to have been, a sharp encounter of cavalry, a few gallant charges ending in the headlong flight of the defeated side. This was the young Duke's first introduction to serious warfare; but he had tougher work than this to go through before his career was over. To the east of Caen stretches a somewhat dreary country, which forms a striking contrast to the rich meadows and orchards of the Bessin, while it in no way approaches to the wildness of the sterner portions of the Cotentin. A range of hills of some height bounds the prospect to the north, and it was from that direction that William brought his forces to the field. The field itself is a sort of low plateau, sloping to the east, and bordered by a series of villages placed in what, if the height of the rising ground were higher, might be called combes or valleys. The churches of Valmeray, where a ruined fragment of later date marks the spot where King Henry heard mass before the fight, Billy, Boneauville, Chicheboville, and Secqueville, all skirt the hill, if hill we can call it. The actual battle-field lies between the two last-named villages. To the west a higher ridge, called by the name of St. Lawrence, marks the furthest point of the battle, the place where the defeated rebels made their last stand, and which was marked by a commemorative chapel, now destroyed. From that point the high ground again stretches westward as far as the village of Haute Allemagne, the great quarry of Caen stone. Over all the ground in this direction the rebels were scattered, multitudes of them being carried away, we are told, by the stream of the Orne.

The spot, as we have said, is not in itself particularly attractive, though there is something striking in the view both ways from the high ground of St. Lawrence. It is easy to say how thoroughly well the ground was chosen for what took place on it, a melee, of mounted knights, a tournament in earnest. And it is quite worth the while of any student of Norman history to walk over the ground, Wace in hand, taking in the graphic description of the honest rhymer, as clear and accurate as usual in his topographical details. And it is pleasant to find how well the events of the day are still remembered by the peasantry of the neighbourhood. There is no fear, as there is said to be in the neighbourhood of Worcester, of an inquirer after the field of battle being taken to see the scene of a battle between some local Sayers and Heenan. The Norman of every rank, when let alone by Frenchmen, is a born antiquary, proud of the ancient history of his country, and taking an intelligent interest in it which in England is seldom to be found except amongst highly-educated men.

The other site, Mortemer, lies in a region far more attractive to the eye than Val-es-dunes, but, as an historical spot, it is chiefly remarkable from the event of the battle having, so to speak, wiped out all traces of itself.[15] The spot where the French invaders received so heavy a blow lies appropriately in the more French part of Normandy, in the region on the right of the Seine, and it seems to have been almost wholly by the hands of the men of the surrounding districts that the blow was struck. The Mortemer of which we speak must not be mistaken for the Abbey of Mortemer, near Lyons-la-foret, in that famous wood of which Sir Francis Palgrave has so much to tell. Both the one and the other Mortemer happily lie quite out of the beat of ordinary tourists. The Mortemer of the battle lies on the road between the small towns of Neufchatel and Aumale. Neufchatel-en-Bray, a Neufchatel without lake or watches or republic, can nevertheless boast of surrounding hills which, if not equal to the Jura, are of considerable height for Northern Gaul, and its cheese is celebrated through a large portion of Normandy. Ascend and descend one hill, then ascend and descend another, and the journey is made from Neufchatel to Aumale. Just out of the road, at the base of the two hills, the eye is caught by a ruined tower on the right hand. This is what remains of the castle of Mortemer, a fragment of considerably later date than the battle. The church is modern and worthless; the few scattered houses, almost wholly of wood, which form the hamlet, present nothing remarkable. But it is in this very absence of anything remarkable that the historic interest of Mortemer consists. The Mortemer of the eleventh century was a town; the Mortemer of the nineteenth century is a very small and scattered village. Doubtless a town of that age might be, in point of population, not beyond a village now; still a town implies continuous houses, which is just what Mortemer now does not possess. The French occupied Mortemer because of the convenient quarters to be had in its hostels. It is now one of the last places in the world to which one would go for quarters of any kind. Mortemer was apparently an open town, not defended by walls or a castle, or the French could hardly have occupied it, as they did, without resistance. But it must have been a town, as towns then went, or so large a body could not have been so comfortably quartered in it as they evidently were. The key to the change is to be found in the event itself. The Normans of the surrounding country surprised the French on the morning after they had entered Mortemer, while they were still engaged in revelry and debauchery. They set fire to the town, and slew the Frenchmen as they attempted to escape. To all appearance, the town was never rebuilt, and its change into the mean collection of houses which now bears its name is a strange but abiding trophy of a great triumph of Norman craft—in this case we can hardly say of Norman valour—eight centuries back.

Such are two of the historic spots which are to be found in abundance on the historic soil of Normandy. They are only two out of many; every town, almost every village, has its tale to tell. From Eu to Pontorson there is hardly a spot which does not make some contribution to the history of those stirring times when Normandy had a life of its own, and when the Norman name was famous from Scotland to Sicily. After six hundred years of incorporation with the French monarchy, Normandy is still Norman; "le Duc Guillaume" is still a familiar name, not only to professed scholars or antiquaries, but to the people themselves. Without any political bearing—for the political absorption of Normandy by France was remarkably speedy—the feelings and memories of the days of independence have lingered on in a way which is the more remarkable as there is no palpable distinction of language, such as distinguishes Bretons, Basques, or even the speakers of the Tongue of Oc. But in everything but actual speech the old impress remains, and the result is that in Normandy, above all in Lower Normandy, the English historical traveller finds himself more thoroughly at home than in any other part of the Continent except in the lands where the speech once common to England, to Bayeux, and to Northern Germany is still preserved.



It has sometimes struck us that the mediaeval founders of towns and castles and monasteries were not so wholly uninfluenced by considerations of mere picturesque beauty as we are apt to fancy. We are apt to think that they had nothing in their minds but mere convenience, according to their several standards of convenience, convenience for traffic, convenience for military defence or attack, convenience for the chase, the convenience of solitude in one class of ecclesiastical foundations, the convenience of the near neighbourhood of large centres of men in another class. This may be so; but, if so, these considerations of various kinds constantly led them, by some sort of happy accident, to the choice of very attractive sites. And we venture to think that it was not merely accident, because we often come upon descriptions of sites in mediaeval writers which seem to show that the men of those times were capable of appreciating the picturesque position of this or that castle or abbey, as well as its direct suitableness for military or monastic purposes. Giraldus, for instance, evidently admired the site of Llanthony, and, if he expressed himself about it in rather exaggerated language, that is no more than what naturally happens when any man, especially when Giraldus, expresses himself in Latin, especially in mediaeval Latin. In the like sort, we have come across one or two descriptions of the Abbey of Fecamp which clearly show that the writers were struck, as any man of taste would be, with the position in which that great and famous monastery had arisen. And, to leap to scenes which far surpass either Fecamp or Llanthony, the well-known story of Saint Bernard's absorption on the shores of the Lake of Geneva really tells the other way. We are told that the saint was so given up to pious contemplation that he travelled for a whole day through that glorious region without noticing lake, mountains, or anything else. Now we need hardly stop to show that the fact that Bernard's absorption was thought worthy of record proves that, if he did not notice any of these things, there was some one in his company who did. We suspect that in this, as in a great many things, we have more in common with our forefathers several centuries back than we have with those who are nearer to us by many generations.

Modern taste might possibly make one objection to the site of Fecamp. Though near the sea, it is not within sight of the sea. The modern watering-place of Fecamp is springing up at a considerable distance from the ancient abbey. But the love of watering-places and sea-bathing is one which is altogether modern, and, in the days in which our old towns, castles, and monasteries grew up, a site immediately on the sea would have been looked on as unsafe. And in truth there are not many places, and certainly Fecamp is not one of them, where all the various buildings of a great monastery could have been planned so as to command the modern attraction of a sea-view. Moreover it is a point not to be forgotten that people who go to Fecamp or elsewhere for sea-views and sea-bathing go there during certain months only, while the monks had to live there all the year round. The monks of Saint Michael's Mount were indeed privileged with, or condemned to, an everlasting sea-view; but the title of their house was that of Saint Michael "in periculo maris." To be exposed to the perils of the sea was no part of the intention of the founders of Fecamp, either of abbey, town or palace.[16] They chose them a site which gave them the practical advantages of the sea without the dangers of its immediate neighbourhood. Fecamp then lies a little way inland. Two parallel ranges of hills run down to the sea, with a valley and a small stream between them, at the mouth of which the modern port has been made. On the slope of the hills on the left side lies the huge mass of the minster rising over the long straggling town which stretches away to the water. But though the great church thus lies secluded from the sea, the spiritual welfare of sea-faring men was not forgotten. The point where the opposite range of hills directly overhangs the sea is crowned by one of those churches specially devoted to sailors and their pilgrimages which are so often met with in such positions. The chapel of Our Lady of Safety, now restored after a season of ruin and desecration, forms a striking and picturesque object in the general landscape. And from the chapel itself and from the hill-side paths which lead up to it, we get the noblest views of the great abbey, in all the stern simplicity of its age, stretching the huge length of its nave, one of the very few, even in Normandy, which rival the effect of Winchester and Saint Albans. A single central tower, of quite sufficient height, of no elaborate decoration, crowned by no rich spire or octagon, but with a simple covering of lead, forms the thoroughly appropriate centre of the whole building. We feel that this tower is exactly what is wanted; we almost doubt whether the church gained or lost by the loss of the western towers, which would have taken off from the effect of boundless length which is the characteristic of the building. At any rate we think how far more effective is the English and Norman arrangement, which at all events provides a great church with the noblest of central crowns, than the fashion of France, which concentrates all its force on the western front, and leaves the at least equally important point of crossing to shift for itself.

The church itself is one of the noblest even in Normandy, and it is in remarkably good preservation. And the two points in which the fabric has suffered severe damage are not owing either to Huguenots or to Jacobins, but to its own guardians under two different states of things. The bad taste of the monks themselves in their later days is chargeable with the ugly Italian west front, which has displaced the elder front with towers of which the stumps may still be seen. An Italian front, though it must be incongruous when attached to a mediaeval building, need not be in itself either ugly or mean, but this front of Fecamp is conspicuously both. The other loss is that of the jube or roodloft, which, from the fragments left, seems to have been a magnificent piece of later Gothic work, perhaps almost rivalling the famous one at Alby. The destruction of roodlofts has been so general in France that one is not particularly struck by each several case of destruction. But there is something singular about this Fecamp case, as the jube was pulled down at the restoration of religion, through the influence of the then cure, in opposition to the wishes of his more conservative or more ritualistic parishioners. With these two exceptions Fecamp has lost but little, as far as regards the church itself. The conventual buildings, like most French conventual buildings, have been rebuilt in an incongruous style, and now serve for the various public purposes of the local administration. In a near view of the north side, they form an ugly excrescence against the church, but they are lost in the more distant and general view.

The church itself mainly belongs to the first years of the thirteenth century, with smaller portions both of earlier and of later date. On entering the church, we find that the long western limb is not all strictly nave, the choir, by an arrangement more common in England than in France, stretching itself west of the central tower. The whole of this western limb is built in the simplest and severest form of that earliest French Gothic, which to an English eye seems to be simply an advanced form of the transition from Romanesque. Even at Amiens, amid all the splendours of its fully-developed geometrical windows, the pillars and arches, in their square abaci and even in the sections of their mouldings, have what an Englishman calls a Romanesque feeling still hanging about them. At Fecamp this is far stronger. The large triforium, the untraceried windows, the squareness of everything except a few English round abaci in some bays of the triforium, the external heaviness and simplicity, all make the early Gothic of Fecamp little more than pointed Romanesque. We do not say this in disparagement. This stage was a necessary stage for architecture to pass through, and the Transitional period is always one of the most interesting in architectural history. And when work of that date is carried out with such excellence both of composition and detail as it is at Fecamp, it is much more than historically interesting, it is thoroughly satisfactory in artistic effect. We say nothing against the style, except that, as being essentially imperfect and not realising the ideal of either of the two styles between which it comes historically, we cannot look on it as a proper model for modern imitation. Several diversities of detail may on minute examination be seen in the different bays of the nave of Fecamp, just as in the contemporary nave of Wells. Just as at Wells, the western part—in this case the five western bays—is slightly later than the rest. And, as at Wells, the distinction between the older and newer work is easily to be remarked by those who look for it, though it is a distinction which makes no difference in the general effect and which might pass unnoticed by any but a very minute observer. In truth it is, in both cases, a difference not of style but of taste. The eastern limb of Fecamp—strictly the presbytery and not the choir—is more remarkable in some ways than the nave. It is here that we find the only remains of an earlier church, and these are of no very remarkable antiquity. M. Bouet, in a short account of Fecamp, addressed to the Norman Antiquarian Society, records his disappointment at finding at Fecamp no traces of the days of the early Dukes, or even of days earlier still, such as he found at Jumieges. This oldest part of Fecamp is part of a church begun so late as 1085. One bay of its presbytery and two adjoining chapels have been spared. The style is a little singular. There is something not quite Norman about the very square arches of a single order, and the capitals are not the usual Norman capitals of the second half of the eleventh century. Except this bay, the presbytery has been rebuilt in essentially the same style as the nave, though naturally a little earlier. But on the south side a singular change took place in the fourteenth century. As at Waltham, the builders of that day cut away the triforium and threw the two lower stages into one. But what was done at Waltham in the most awkward and bungling way in which anything ever was done anywhere, was at Fecamp at least done very cleverly. Without meddling with the vaulting or the vaulting-shafts, the pier-arches and triforium range of the thirteenth century have been changed into arches of the fourteenth, resting on tall slender pillars, almost recalling the choir of Le Mans. Whether this change was an improvement or not is a question of taste, but there can be no question as to the wonderful skill, aesthetical and mechanical, with which the change was made, and it is the more striking from the contrast with the wretched "botch" at Waltham.

The church is finished to the east by a fine Flamboyant Lady Chapel. The contrast between it and the earlier work suggests the effect of Henry the Seventh's Chapel at Westminster, though the contrast is not quite so strong. Altogether there can be no doubt of the claim of the church to a place in the very first rank of the great minsters of a province specially rich in such works.

We have dwelt so long on the position and the architecture of Fecamp that we have no space left to add anything on its history. But the local history of Fecamp naturally connects itself with several other more general points at which we shall perhaps have some future opportunity of glancing.



Many of the great events of Norman history, many of the chief events in the life of the Great William, happened conveniently in or near to the great cities of the Duchy. But many others also happened in somewhat out of the way places, which no one is likely to get to unless he goes there on purpose. The Conqueror received his death-wound at Mantes, he died in a suburb of Rouen, he was buried at Caen. All these are places easy to get at. Perhaps we should except Mantes, which in a certain sense is not easy to get at. All the world goes by Mantes, but few people stop there. The reason is manifest. The traveller who goes by Mantes commonly has in his pocket a ticket for Paris, which enables him to spend a day at Rouen, but not to spend a day at Mantes. People very anxious to stop at Mantes, and to muse, so to speak, among its embers, have had great searchings of heart how to get there, and have not accomplished their object till after some years of reflection. And the interest of Mantes, after all, is mainly negative. The town stands well; its river, its bridges, its islands, suggest the days when Scandinavian pirates sailed up the Seine and encamped with special delight on such eys or holms as that between Mantes and Limay. A specially prolonged fit of musing may perhaps lead one to regret the prowess of Count Odo, and to wish that Paris also had received that wholesome Northern infusion which still works so healthily between the Epte and the Coesnon. But Mantes, as regards William, is something like Mortemer as regards William's rival King Henry. Mantes can show no traces of William or his age, for the simple reason that William took good care that no such traces should be left. By perhaps the worst deed of his life, a deed which awakened special indignation at the time, he gave Mantes to destruction to avenge a silly jest of its sovereign. At Mantes he held his churching and lighted his candles, and their blaze burned up houses, churches, whatever was there. Therefore, because William himself was there in only too great force, it is that Mantes has no work of man to show on which William can ever have looked. The church, whose graceful towers every one has seen from the railway, is a grand fabric a hundred years or more later than William's time, but to Norman and English eyes it might seem that, with such a height as it has, the building ought to have fully doubled its actual length. The third tower, that of a destroyed church, is worth study as an example of a striking kind of cinque-cento, the design being purely Gothic and the details being strongly Italianised. But, after all, the architectural inquirer will be best pleased with the fine Romanesque tower in the suburb of Limay, and the lover of picturesque effect will not fail to dwell on the mediaeval bridge which leads thither from the town.

So much for the spot, beyond the limits of his own Duchy, where William, in the words of our Chronicles, "did a rueful thing, and more ruefully it him befel." Of the points within Normandy which his name invests with their main interest, we have already spoken of his birthplace at Falaise—where the brutal work of "restoration," i.e. of scraping and destroying, is still going on in full force—of the field of his early victory at Val-es-dunes, and of the victory won for him by others at Mortemer. We may, however, suggest that any one who visits Val-es-dunes, will not do amiss if he extends his ramble as far as the churches of Cintheaux and Quilly. Cintheaux is one of the best of the small but rich twelfth-century churches which are so common in the district. And its worthy cure, the historian of Val-es-dunes, is doing his best to bring it back to its former state, without subjecting it, like Falaise or like one of the spires of Saint Stephen's, to the cruel martyrdom of the apostle Bartholomew. Quilly is more remarkable still, as possessing a tower containing marked vestiges of that earlier Romanesque style of which Normandy contains so much fewer examples than either England or Aquitaine. Cintheaux=Centella, has also a certain historic interest in the generation after William. There, in 1105, King Henry and Duke Robert, "duo germani fratres," had a conference. We forget who it was who translated "duo germani fratres" by "two German brothers," and went on to rule that the Henry spoken of must have been the Emperor Henry the Fourth, and to remark that the conference happened not very long before his death. Cintheaux, however, has carried us from the age of William into the age of his sons, and we must retrace our steps somewhat. The sites connected with William himself will easily fall into three classes—those which belong to his wars with France and Anjou, those which figure in the Breton campaign which he waged in company with Earl Harold, and those which have a direct bearing on the Conquest of England. The second class we may easily dispose of. Of Dol and Dinan we have said somewhat already, and Dinan especially is a place familiar to many Englishmen. But we may remark that, though Dinan contains few remains of any great antiquity, few places better preserve the general effect of an ancient town. It still rises grandly above the river, spanned both by the lowly ancient bridge and the gigantic modern viaduct; the walls are nearly perfect, and houses, partly through the necessities of the site, have not spread themselves at all largely beyond them. We may add that the good sense of the inhabitants has found out a way to make excellent boulevards without sacrificing the walls to their creation. Rennes, the furthest point reached by the two comrades so soon to become enemies, is now wholly a modern city. Saint Michael's Mount has become a popular lion, which can only be seen under the vexatious companionship of a guide and a "party." It is therefore impossible to study the interior with much comfort or profit. Yet one has still time to wonder at the strange effect produced by crowding the buildings of a great monastery on the top of the rock, an effect which reaches its highest point when we go up a staircase and find ourselves landed in a cloister of singular beauty. But the rock and the buildings—nowhere better seen than from the Mount of Dol—are still there, a most striking object from every point of the landscape, Saint Michael "in peril of the sea" seeming to watch over the bay which bears his name, as from his height at Glastonbury he seems to watch over the flats and the hills peopled with the names alike of British and of West-Saxon heroes. And the vast expanse of sand brings vividly before us the scene in the Tapestry where the giant strength of the English Earl is shown lifting with ease the soldiers who found themselves engulfed in the treacherous stream.

The wars of William with Geoffrey of Anjou and Henry of Paris introduce us to several points, striking in the way both of nature and of art. Few among them surpass Domfront, William's first conquest beyond the bounds of his own Duchy, the fortress which he won by the mere terror of his name after the fearful vengeance which he had inflicted on the rebels of Alencon.[17] The spot reminds one in some degree of his own birthplace at Falaise. That is to say, the castle crowns one rocky hill, and looks out on another, still wilder and more rugged, with a pass between them, through which runs the stream of the Varenne, a tributary of the Mayenne, as that is in its turn of the Loire. But the position of the two towns is different. Though the castle of Falaise occupies so commanding a site, the town itself is anything but one of the hill-towns, while Domfront is one of the best of the class. Not that it is the least likely to be an ancient hill-fort, like Chartres, Le Mans, or Angers; both Falaise and Domfront are, beyond all doubt, towns which have gathered round their respective castles in comparatively modern times. Both, there can be no doubt, date, in their very beginnings, from a time later than the Norman settlement. Still Domfront is practically a hill-town; the walls simply fence in the top of the height, and the town, never having reached any great size, has not yet spread itself to the bottom. A more picturesque site can hardly be found. Of the castle, the chief remnant is a shattered fragment of the keep, most likely the very fortress which surrendered to William's youthful energy.[18] As for churches, the only one within the walls is worthless, but the church of Notre-Dame at the foot of the hill is one of the best and purest specimens of Norman work on a moderate scale to be found anywhere. The original work is nearly untouched, except that the barbarism of modern times has removed about half the nave.

After Domfront had submitted to William and had become permanently incorporated with Normandy, he himself founded the fortress of Ambrieres, as a border stronghold.[19] A fragment of the castle still overlooks the lower course of the Varenne, but the ground is no longer Norman. Some way further on the same road we reach Mayenne, a town whose name suggests far later warfare, but which was an important conquest of William's in the days when Maine was the border ground, and the battle-field, of Norman and Angevin.[20] The site of Mayenne, sloping, like that of Mantes, down to a large river, has caused quite another arrangement. The river is here the main point for attack and defence as well as for traffic. The castle therefore does not crown the highest point of the town, but flanks the stream with a grand range of bastions, a miniature of the mighty pile of Philip Augustus at "black Angers." This lower position of castles, thus returned to in later times, seems however to have been the usual position for the fortresses of the earliest Norman time. Before the Scandinavian conquerors were fully settled in the country, the great point was to occupy sites commanding the sea and the navigable rivers; it was a sign of quite another state of things when the lord of the soil perched himself on the crest of an inland hill. Of the earlier type of fortress we have an example in the castle of Eu, a name whose associations may seem to be wholly modern, but which is, in truth, as the border fortress of Normandy towards Flanders and the doubtful land of Ponthieu between them, one of the most historic sites in the Duchy. Eu figures prominently in the wars of Rolf; in its church William espoused his Flemish bride; in its castle he first received his renowned English guest.[21] The church of William's day has given way to a superb fabric of the thirteenth century, which needs only towers, which are strangely lacking, to rank among the finest minsters in Normandy. The castle where William and Harold met has given way to that well-known building of the House of Guise which lived to become the last home of lawful royalty in France. But the site still reminds one of the days of Rolf rather than of the days of William. It can hardly be said to command the town; it is itself commanded by higher ground immediately above it; town, church, castle, all seem from the surrounding hills to lie together in a hole. But it is admirably placed for commanding the approaches from the sea and from the low, and in Rolf's time no doubt marshy, ground lying between the town and the water. In exact contrast to Eu, stands the noble hill-castle of Arques, near Dieppe, the work of William's rebellious uncle and namesake, which he had to win by the slow process of hunger from Norman rebels and French auxiliaries.[22] The little town, with a church of later date, but of striking outline, lies low, lower than Eu; but the castle soars above it, crowning a peninsular height which forms the extremity of a long range of higher ground. The steep slopes of the hill might have seemed defence enough, but Count William did not deem his fortress secure without cutting an enormous fosse immediately within its circuit, so that any one who climbed the slope of the hill would find a deep gulf between himself and the fortress, even if he were lucky enough to escape falling headlong. The building has been greatly enlarged in later times, but the shell of Count William's keep, a huge massive square tower, is still here, as perhaps are some portions of his gateway and of his surrounding walls. The view is a noble one, and it takes in the site of that later battle of Henry of Navarre to which Arques now owes most of its renown, and which has gone some way to wipe out the memory of both Williams, Count and Duke alike.

One point more. Round the lower course of the Dive all sorts of historical associations centre. The stream divides the older and the later Normandy, but of these the later is the truer, the land where the old speech and the old spirit lingered longest. By its banks was fought the battle in which Harold Blaatand rescued Normandy from the Frank, and in which the stout Dane took captive with his own hands Lewis King of the West-Franks, the heir and partial successor of Charles.[23] There, too, are the causeway and bridge of Varaville, marking the site of the ford where William's well-timed march enabled him to strike almost as heavy a blow against the younger royalty of Paris as the Danish ally of his forefathers had struck against the elder royalty of Laon.[24] The French invaders of Normandy, King Henry at their head, had gorged themselves with the plunder of the lands west of the Dive and were now carelessly advancing towards the high ground of Auge in the direction of Lisieux. The King with his vanguard had already climbed the hill, when he looked round, only to behold the mass of his army cut to pieces before the sudden onslaught of the irresistible Duke. William had marched up from Falaise and had taken them at the right moment, almost as Harold took his Norwegian namesake at Stamford bridge. It is one of those spots where the story is legibly written on the scene. The causeway is still there, and it is easy to realise the King looking on the slaughter of his troops, and hardly withheld from rushing down to give them help which must have proved wholly in vain. The heights from which he looked down stretched to the sea, by the mouth of the river. The port of Dive, now nearly choked up with sand, was then a great haven, and there the fleet of William, assembled for the conquest of England, lay for a whole month, waiting for the favourable winds which never came till they had changed their position for the more auspicious haven of Saint Valery.

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