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Account of a Tour in Normandy, Vol. II. (of 2) by Dawson Turner

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(_Lisieux, July_, 1818.)

Lisieux represents one of the most ancient capitals of the primitive
tribes of Gaul. The Lexovii, noticed by Julius Caesar, in his
_Commentaries_, and by other authors, who were almost contemporary with
the Roman conqueror, are supposed by modern geographers to have occupied
a territory nearly co-extensive with the bishopric of Lisieux; and it
may be remarked, that the bounds of the ancient bishoprics of France
were usually conterminal with the Roman provinces and prefectures.

The capital of the Lexovii was called the _Neomagus_ or _Noviomagus
Lexoviorum_; and no doubt ever was entertained but that the present city
occupied the same site, till an accidental discovery, in the year 1770,
proved the contrary to be the fact.--About that time a _chaussee_ was
formed between Lisieux and Caen; and, in the course of some excavations,
which were made under the direction of M. Hubert, the superintending
engineer, for the purpose of procuring stone, the laborers opened the
foundations of some ruined buildings scattered over a field, called _les
Tourettes_, about three-quarters of a mile from the former town. The
character of these foundations was of a nature to excite curiosity: they
were clearly the work of a remote age, and various specimens of ancient
art were dug up amongst the ruins. The extent of the foundations, which
spread over a space four times as large as the plot occupied by modern
Lisieux left no doubt but that Danville, and all other geographers, must
have been mistaken with respect to the position assigned by them to the
ancient Neomagus. M. Hubert drew a plan of the ruins, and accompanied it
with an historical memoir; but unfortunately he was a man little capable
of prosecuting such researches; and though M. Mongez, in his report to
the National Institute[66], eulogized the map as exact, and the memoir
as excellent, they were both of them extremely faulty. It was reserved
for M. Louis Dubois, of whom I shall have occasion to speak again before
I close this letter, to repair the omissions and rectify the mistakes of
M. Hubert, and he has done it with unremitting zeal and extraordinary
success. The researches of this gentleman, among the remains of Neomagus
Lexoviorum, have already brought to light a large number of valuable
medals, both in silver and bronze, as well as a considerable quantity of
fragments of foreign marble, granite, and porphyry, some of them
curiously wrought. The most important of his discoveries has been
recently made: it is that of a Roman amphitheatre, in a state of great
perfection, the grades being covered only by a thin layer of soil, which
a trifling expence of time and labor will effectually remove.

Such vestiges prove that Neomagus must have been a place of importance;
and, like the other Gallo-Roman cities, it would probably have
maintained its honors under the Franks; but about the middle of the
fourth century, the Saxons, swarming from the mouths of the Elbe and
Weser, laid waste the coasts of Belgium and of Neustria, and finally
established themselves in that portion of northern Gaul called the
_Secunda Lugdunensis_, which thence obtained, in the _Notitia Imperii_,
the title of the _Littus Saxonicum_.--In the course of these incursions,
it is supposed that Neomagus was utterly destroyed by the invaders. None
of the medals dug up within the precincts of the town, or in its
neighborhood, bear a later date than the reign of Constantine; and,
though the city is recorded in the _Itinerary of Antoninus_, no mention
of it is to be found in the curious chart, known by the name of the
_Tabula Peutingeriana_, formed under the reign of Theodosius the Great;
so that it then appears to have been completely swept away and

The new town of Lisieux and the bishopric most probably arose together,
towards the close of the sixth century; and the city, like other
provincial capitals in Gaul, took the name of the tribe by whom the
district had been peopled. It first appears in history under the
appellation of _Lexovium_ or _Lexobium_: in the eleventh century, when
Ordericus Vitalis composed his history, it was called _Luxovium_; and
soon after it became _Lixovium_, and _Lizovium_, which, gallicised,
naturally passed into _Lyzieulx_, or, as it is now written, _Lisieux_.
The city was ravaged by the Normans about the year 877, in the course of
one of their predatory excursions from Bayeux: it again felt their
vengeance early in the following century, when Rollo, after taking
Bayeux by storm, sacked Lisieux at the head of his army on his way to
Rouen. The conqueror was not put in possession of the Lexovian territory
by Charles the Simple till 923, eleven years after the rest of Neustria
had been ceded to him.

United to the duchy, Lisieux enjoyed a short respite from the calamities
of war; nor does it appear to have borne any prominent part in the
transactions of the times. The name, indeed, of the city occurs as the
seat of the council held for the purpose of degrading Malgerius from the
primacy of Normandy; but, except on this occasion, Lisieux is scarcely
mentioned till the first year of the twelfth century, when it was the
seat of rebellion. Ralph Flambart, bishop of Durham, a prelate of
unbounded arrogance, had fled from England, and joined Duke Robert, then
in arms against his brother. Raising the standard of insurrection, he
fixed himself at Lisieux, took forcible possession of the town, and
invested his son, only twelve years old, with the mitre[67], while he
himself exercised despotic authority over the inhabitants. At length, he
purchased peace and forgiveness, by opening the gates to his lawful
sovereign, after the battle of Tinchbray.--In the middle of October, in
the same year, Henry returned to Lisieux, and there held an assembly of
the Norman nobility and prelates, who proclaimed peace throughout the
duchy, enacted sundry strict regulations to prevent any infringement of
the laws, and decreed that Robert, the captive duke, should be consigned
to an English prison.--Two years subsequently, another council was also
assembled at Lisieux, by the same sovereign, and for nearly the same
objects; and again, in 1119, Henry convened his nobles a third time at
Lisieux, when this parliament ratified the peace concluded at Gisors,
six years previously, and witnessed the marriage[68] of the king's son,
William Adelin, with Matilda, daughter of Fulk, earl of Anjou.

Historical distinction is seldom enviable:--in the wars occasioned by
the usurpation of Stephen, Lisieux once more obtained an unfortunate
celebrity. The town was attacked in 1136, by the forces of Anjou, under
the command of Geoffrey Plantagenet, husband of the Empress Maud, joined
by those of William, Duke of Poitiers; and the garrison, consisting of
Bretons, seeing no hope of effectual resistance or of rescue, set fire
to the place to the extreme mortification of the invaders, who, in the
language of the chronicles of the times, "when they beheld the city and
all its wealth a prey to the flames, waxed exceedingly wroth, at being
deprived of the spoil; and grieved sorely for the loss of the booty
which perished in the conflagration."--The town, however, was not so
effectually ruined, but that, during the following year, it served King
Stephen as a rallying point, at which to collect his army to march
against his antagonist.--In 1169, it was distinguished by being selected
by Thomas a Becket, as the place of his retirement during his temporary

History from this time forward relates but little concerning Lisieux.
Though surrounded with walls during the bishopric of John, who was
promoted to the see early in the twelfth century, the situation of the
town, far from the coast or from the frontiers of the province, rendered
the inhabitants naturally unwarlike, and caused them in general to
submit quietly to the stronger party.--Brito, in his _Philippiad_, says
that, when Philip Augustus took Lisieux, in 1213, the Lexovians,
destitute of fountains, disputed with the toads for the water of the
muddy ditches. His mentioning such a fact is curious, as shewing that
public fountains were at that early period of frequent occurrence in
Normandy.--Our countrymen, in the fifteenth century, acted with great
rigor, to use the mildest terms, towards Lisieux. Henry, after landing
at Touques, in 1417, entered the town, in the character of an enraged
enemy, not as the sovereign of his people: he gave it up to plunder; and
even the public archives were not spared. The cruelty of our English
king is strongly contrasted by the conduct of the Count de Danois,
general of the army of Charles VIIth, to whom the town capitulated in
1449. Thomas Basin, then bishop, negociated with such ability, that,
according to Monstrelet, "not the slightest damage was done to any
individual, but each peaceably enjoyed his property as before the

The most celebrated monasteries within the diocese of Lisieux were the
Benedictine abbeys of Bernay, St. Evroul, Preaux, and
Cormeilles.--Cormeilles was founded by William Fitz-Osborne, a relation
to William the Conqueror, at whose court he held the office of sewer,
and by whom he was promoted to the earldom of Hereford. Its church and
monastic buildings had so far gone to ruin, in the last century, as to
call forth a strong remonstrance from Mabillon[69]: they were afterwards
repaired by Charles of Orleans, who was appointed abbot in 1726.--The
abbey of Preaux is said to have existed prior to the invasion of the
Normans; but its earliest records go no farther back than the middle of
the eleventh century, when it was restored by Humphrey de Vetulis, who
built and inclosed the monastery about the year 1035, at which time Duke
Robert undertook his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This abbey, according
to the account given by Gough, in his _Alien Priories_, presented to
thirty benefices, and enjoyed an annual revenue of twenty thousand
livres.--Among its English lands which were considerable, was the priory
of Toft-Monks in our own immediate vicinity: the name, as you know,
remains, though no traces of the building are now in existence.

The third abbey, that of St. Evrau or St. Evroul, called in Latin,
_Monasterium Uticense_, was one of the most renowned throughout
Normandy. The abbey dates its origin from St. Evroul himself, a
nobleman, who lived in the reign of Childebert, and was attached to the
palace of that monarch, "from which," to use the words of the
chronicles, "he made his escape, as from shipwreck, and fled to the
woods, and entered upon the monastic life."--The legend of St. Ebrulfus
probably savors of romance, the almost inseparable companion of
traditional, and particularly of monastic, history: it is safer,
therefore, to be contented with referring the foundation of the
monastery to the tenth century, when William Gerouis, after having been
treacherously deprived of his sight and otherwise maimed, renounced the
world; and, uniting with his nephews, Hugh and Robert de Grentemaisnil,
brought considerable possessions to the endowment of this abbey. The
abbey was at all times protected by the especial favor of the kings of
France. No payment or service could be demanded from its monks; they
acknowledged no master without their own walls, besides the sovereign
himself; they were entitled to exemption from every kind of burthen; and
they had the privilege of being empowered to castellate the convent, and
to compel the people of the surrounding district to contribute their
assistance for the purpose.

St. Evroul, however, principally claims our attention, as the sanctuary
where Ordericus Vitalis, to use his own expressions, "delighted in
obedience and poverty."--This most valuable writer was an Englishman;
his native town being Attingesham, on the Severn, where he was born in
the year 1075. He was sent to school at Shrewsbury, and there received
the first rudiments, both of the _humanities_ and of ecclesiastical
education. In the tenth year of his age, his father, Odelerius,
delivered the boy to the care of the monk Rainaldus. The weeping father
parted from the weeping son, and they never saw each other more.
Ordericus crossed the sea, and arrived in Normandy, an exile, as he
describes himself, and "hearing, like Joseph in Egypt, a language which
he understood not." In the eleventh year of his age, he received the
tonsure from the hands of Mainerius, the abbot of St. Evroul. In the
thirty-third year of his age, he was ordained a priest; and
thenceforward his life wore away in study and tranquillity. Aged and
infirm, he completed his _Ecclesiastical History_, in the sixty-seventh
year of his age; and this great and valuable work ends with his
auto-biography, which is written in an affecting strain of simplicity
and piety.--The Ecclesiastical History of Ordericus is divided into
parts: the first portion contains an epitome of the sacred and profane
history of the world, beginning with the incarnation, and ending with
Pope Innocent IInd. The second, and more important division, contains
the history of Normandy, from the first invasion of the country, down
to the year 1141.--Though professedly an ecclesiastical historian, yet
Ordericus Vitalis is exceedingly copious in his details of secular
events; and it is from these that his chronicle derives its importance
and curiosity. It was first published by Duchesne, in his collection of
Norman historians, a work which is now of rare occurrence, and it has
never been reprinted.

Valuable materials for a new edition were, however, collected early in
the eighteenth century, by William Bessin, a monk of St. Ouen; and
these, before the revolution, were preserved in the library of that
abbey. Bessin had been assisted in the task by Francis Charles Dujardin,
prior of St. Evroul, who had collated the text, as published in the
collection of Norman historians, with the original manuscript in his own
monastery, to which latter Duchesne unfortunately had not access, but
had been obliged to content himself with a copy, now in the Royal
Library at Paris. It is to be hoped, that the joint labors of Bessin and
Dujardin may still be in existence, and may come to light, when M.
Liquet shall have completed the task of arranging the manuscripts in the
public library at Rouen. The manuscript which belonged to St. Evroul,
and was always supposed to be an autograph from the hands of Ordericus
Vitalis himself, was discovered during the revolution among a heap of
parchments, thrown aside as of no account, in some buildings belonging
to the former district of Laigle. It is now deposited in the public
library of the department of the Orne, but unfortunately, nearly half
the leaves of the volume are lost. The earliest part of what remains is
towards the close of the seventh book, and of this only a fragment,
consisting of eight pages, is left. The termination of the seventh book,
and the whole of the eighth are wanting. From the ninth to the
thirteenth, both of these inclusive, the manuscript is perfect. A page
or two, however, at the end of the work, which contained the author's
life, has been torn out.--At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the
manuscript was complete; for it is known that, at that time, a monk of
St. Evroul made a transcript of it, which extended through four volumes
in folio. These volumes were soon dispersed. Two of them found their way
to Rouen, where they were kept in the library of St. Ouen: the other two
were in that of the abbey of St. Maur de Glandefeuille, on the Loire. A
third, though incomplete, copy of the original manuscript was also known
to exist in France before the revolution. It formerly belonged to
Coaslin de Camboret, Bishop of Metz, by whom it was presented, together
with four thousand manuscripts, to the monks of St. Germain des Pres at
Paris. But the greater part of the literary treasures of this abbey fell
a prey to the flames in July, 1793, and it is feared that the copy of
Ordericus perished at that time.

The original code from St. Evroul, was discovered by M. Louis Dubois,
whom I have already mentioned in connection with the ruins of Neomagus.
He is an antiquary of extensive knowledge and extraordinary zeal. His
_History of Lisieux_, which he has long been preparing for the press,
will be a work of great curiosity and interest. The publication of it is
for the present suspended, whilst he superintends an edition of the
_Vaux-de-Vires_, or _Vaux de villes_, of Olivier Basselin, an early
Norman poet. Meanwhile, M. Dubois still continues his researches among
the foundations of the ancient city, from which he has collected a
number of valuable relics. Some of the most pleasant and instructive
hours of my tour have been spent in his society; and, whilst it was
under his guidance that I visited the antiquities of Lisieux, his
learning assisted me in illustrating them. M. Dubois likewise possesses
a large collection of original autograph letters, which I found much
pleasure in perusing.

During the reign of Napoleon, he held the office of librarian of
Alencon, a situation that afforded him the opportunity of meeting with
many literary curiosities of this nature. Among others, which thus fell
into his hands, was the following letter, written by the Princess
Borghese, sister to the Emperor, and addressed to the Empress
Marie-Louise, by whom it was received, while on a tour through the
western departments. I annex a transcript of this epistle; for, although
it has no immediate connection with the main subject of our
correspondence, it yet is a very singular contribution towards the
private history of the dynasty of Napoleon.--The odd mixture of
caudle-cup compliment and courtly flattery, is sufficiently amusing. I
have copied it, word for word, letter for letter, and point for point;
for, as we have no other specimen of the epistles of her imperial
highness, I think it right to preserve all the peculiarities of the
original; and, by, way of a treat for the collectors of autographs, I
have added a fac-simile of her signature.

Madame et tres chere SA"ur,

je recois par le Prince Aldobrandini la lettre de V.M. et la belle tasse
dont elle a daigne, le charger pour moi au nom de L'empereur, je
remercie mille fois votre aimable bonte, et j'ose vous prier ma tres
chere sA"ur d'Atre aupres de L'empereur l'interprete de ma reconnaissance
pour cette marque de souvenir.--je fais parler beaucoup le Prince et la
Princesse Aldobrandini sur votre sante, sur votre belle grossesse, je ne
me lasse pas de les interroger, et je suis heureuse d'apprendre que vous
vous portes tres bien, que rien ne vous fatigue, et que vous aves la
plus belle grossesse qu'il soit possible de desirer, combien je desire
chere sA"ur que tous nos vA"ux soient exaucA(C)s, ne croyA(C)s cependant pas
que si vous nous donnes une petite Princesse je ne l'aimerais pas. non,
elle nous serait chere, elle resemblerait a V.M. elle aurait sa douceur,
son amabilite, et ce joli caractere qui la fait cherir de ceux qui out
le bonheur de la Conaitre--mais ma chA"re sA"ur j'ai tort de m'apesantir
sur les qualites dont serait douee cette auguste princesse, vous nous
donneres d'abord un prince un petit Roi de Rome, juges combien je le
desire nos bons toscans prient pour vous, ils vous aiment et je n'ai pas
de peine a leur inspirer ce que je sens si vivement.

je vous remercie ma tres chere sA"ur de l'interest que vous prenez a mon
fils, tout le monde dit qu'il ressemble a L'empereur. cela me Charme il
est bien portant a present, et j'espere qu'il sera digne de servir sous
les drapeaux de son auguste oncle.--adieu ma chere sA"ur soyA(C)s assA(C)s
bonne pour Conserver un souvenir a une sA"ur qui vous est tendrement
attachee. Napoleon ne cesse de lire la lettre pleine de bonte que V.M. a
daigne lui ecrire, cela lui a fait sentir le plaisir qu'il y avait a
savoir lire, et l'encourage dans ses etudes--je vous embrasse et suis,

Madame et tres chere SA"ur

de V.M.

La plus attachee

[Illustration: Autograph of the Princess Borghese]

Pitti le 18 janvier 1811

* * * * *


[Footnote 66: See _Magazin Encyclopedique, for_ 1802, III. p. 504.]

[Footnote 67: This transaction appears to have been peculiarly flagrant:
a long detail of the circumstances, accompanied by several letters, very
characteristic of the feeling and church-government of the times, is
preserved in the _Concilia Normannica_, p. 520.--The account concludes
in the following words:--"Exhorruit ad facinus, non Normannia solum et
Anglia, quibus maledicta progenies notissima erat, sed et universa
Gallia, et a singulis ad Apostolicum Paschalem delatum est. Nec tamen
utrique simul ante quinquienniuin sordes de domo Dei propulsare
praevaluerunt. Ceteris ferventius institit Yvo Carnotensis Antistes,
conculcatae disciplinae ecclesiasticae zelo succensus; in tantum ut
Neustriacos Praesules quasi desides ac pusillanimes coarguere veritus non
sit: sed ea erat Ecclesiae sub ignavo Principe sors per omnia
lamentabilis, ut ipsemet postmodum cum laude non invitus agnovit."]

[Footnote 68: Sandford, in his _Genealogical History of the Kings of
England_, says, that this marriage was solemnized at Luxseul, in the
county of Burgundy; but he refers for his authority to Ordericus
Vitalis, by whom it is stated to have been at Luxovium, the name by
which he always calls Lisieux; and he, in the same page, mentions the
assembly of the nobles also held there.]

[Footnote 69: _Annal_, IV. p. 599.]



(_Caen, August_, 1818.)

Our reception at Caen has been somewhat inauspicious: we had scarcely
made the few necessary arrangements at the hotel, and seated ourselves
quietly before the _caffe au lait_, when two gens-d'armes, in military
costume, stalked without ceremony into the room, and, taking chairs at
the table, began the conversation rather abruptly, with "Monsieur, vous
etes sous arret."--My companions were appalled by such a salutation, and
apprehended some mistake; but the fact turned out to be, that our
passport did not bear the signature of the mayor of Rouen, and that this
ignorance of the regulations of the French police had subjected us to so
unexpected a visit. It was too late in the day for the deficiency to be
then supplied; and therefore, after a few expostulations, accompanied
with observations, on their part, that we had the good fortune to have
fixed ourselves at an _honnete hotel_, and did not wear the appearance
of suspicious persons, the soldiers took their leave, first exacting
from me a promise, that I would present myself the next morning before
the proper officer, and would in the meanwhile consider myself a
prisoner upon my parole.

The impression which this occurrence could not fail to make upon our
minds, was, that the object of the gens-d'armes had been either to
extort from us money, or to shew their consequence; but I have since
been led to believe that they did no more than their duty.--We have
several acquaintance among the English who reside here, and we find from
the whole of them, that the utmost strictness is practised in all
matters relating to passports, and not less towards natives than
foreigners. No Frenchman can quit his _arrondissement_ unprovided with a
passport; and the route he intends to take, and the distance he designs
to travel, must also be specified. A week or two ago the prefect of the
police himself was escorted back to Caen, between a couple of
gens-d'armes, because he inadvertently paid a visit to a neighboring
bathing-place without his passport in his pocket. This is a current
story here: I cannot vouch for its authenticity; however it is certain,
that since the discovery of the late plot contrived by the ultras, a
plot whose existence is generally disbelieved, the French police is more
than usually upon the alert.

When I presented myself at the Hotel de Ville, to redeem my promise, a
recent decree was pointed out to me, containing a variety of regulations
which shew extraordinary uneasiness on the part of the government, and
which would seem to indicate that they are in possession of intelligence
respecting projects, that threaten the public tranquillity[70]. To judge
from all official proceedings, it seems as if we were walking upon a
smothered volcano, and yet we are told by every body that there is not
the slightest room for apprehension of any kind.

This interruption has thrown me out of the regular course of my
narration.--My last letter left me still at Lisieux, from which city to
Caen the road lies through a tract of country altogether without
interest, and in most places without beauty. During the first half of
the ride, we could almost have fancied ourselves at home in
Norfolk.--About this part of the way, the road descends through a hollow
or dale, which bore the ominous name of "_Coupe Gorge_." When Napoleon
was last in Normandy, he inquired into the origin of the
appellation.--The diligences, he was answered, "had often been stopped
and robbed in this solitary pass."--Napoleon then said, "If one person
can be made to settle here, more will follow, for it is conveniently
situated between two good towns. Let the prefect buy a little plot of
ground and build a house upon it, and give it to an old soldier, upon
condition that he shall constantly reside in it with his family." The
orders of Napoleon were obeyed. The old soldier opened an inn, other
houses arose round it, and the cut-throat pass is now thoroughly secure.
The conductor and the post-boy tell the tale with glee whilst they drive
through the hamlet; and its humble dwellings will perhaps recal the
memory and fame of Napoleon Buonaparte when the brazen column of the
grand army, and the marble arch of the Thuilleries, shall have been long
levelled with the ground.--As to the character of the landscape, I must
add, that though it makes a bad picture, there are great appearances of
care in the agriculture, and of comfort in the population. The country,
too, is sufficiently well wooded; and apple and pear trees every where
take the place of the pollard oaks and elms of our hedge-rows.

Norman cider is famous throughout France: it is principally, however,
the western part of the province that produces it. Throughout the whole
of that district, the lower classes of the inhabitants scarcely use any
other beverage. Vines, as I have already had occasion to mention, were
certainly cultivated, in early times, farther to the north than they are
at present. The same proofs exist of vineyards in the vicinity of Caen
and Lisieux, as at Jumieges. Indeed, towards the close of the last
century, there was still a vineyard at Argence, only four miles
south-east of Caen; and a kind of white wine was made there, which was
known by the name of _Vin Huet_. But the liquor was meagre; and I
understand that the vineyard is destroyed.--Upon the subject of the
early use of beer in Normandy, tradition is somewhat indistinct. The
ancient name of one of the streets in Caen, _rue de la Cervoisiere_,
distinctly proves the habit of beer-drinking; and, when Tacitus speaks
of the beverage of the Germans, in his time, as "humor ex hordeo vel
frumento in quandam similitudinem vini corruptus," it seems highly
improbable but that the same liquor should have been in use among the
cognate tribes of Gaul. Brito, however, expressly says of Flanders, that
it is a place where,

"Raris sylva locis facit umbram, vinea nusquam:
Indigenis potus Thetidi miscetur avena,
Ut vice sit vini multo confecta labore."

And the same author likewise tells us, that the Normans of his time were

"... _Siceraeque_ potatrix
Algia tumentis ...
Non tot in autumni rubet Algia tempore _pomis_
Unde liquare solet _siceram_ sibi _Neustria_ gratam."

Huet is of opinion, that the use of cider was first introduced into
Neustria by the Normans, who had learned it of the Biscayans, as these
latter had done from the inhabitants of the northern coast of Africa.

We did not find the Norman cider at all palatable: it is extremely sour,
hard, and austere. The inhabitants, however, say that this is not its
natural character, but is attributable to the late unfavorable seasons,
which have prevented the fruit from ripening properly.--The apple-tree
and pear-tree in Normandy, far from being ugly, and distorted, and
stunted in their growth, as is commonly seen in England, are trees of
great beauty, and of extreme luxuriance, both in foliage and
ramification. The _Coccus_, too, which has caused so much destruction
among our orchards at home, is fortunately still unknown here.

The only place at which we stopped between Lisieux and Caen, was
Croissanville, a poor village, but one that possesses a degree of
historical interest, as the spot where the battle was fought between
Aigrold, King of Denmark, and Louis d'Outremer, King of France; a battle
which seated Richard Fearnought upon the throne of Normandy.--The
country about Croissanville is an immense tract of meadow-land; and from
it the Parisian market draws a considerable proportion of its supplies
of beef. The cattle that graze in these pastures are of a large size,
and red, and all horned; very unlike those about Caen, which latter are
of small and delicate proportions, with heads approaching to those of
deer, and commonly with black faces and legs.

From Croissanville to Caen the road passes through a dead flat, almost
wholly consisting of uninclosed corn-fields, extending in all
directions, with unvaried dull monotony, as far as the eye can reach.
Buck-wheat is cultivated in a large proportion of them: the inhabitants
prepare a kind of cake from this grain, of which they are very fond, and
which is said to be wholesome. Tradition, founded principally upon the
French name of this plant, _sarrazin_, has given rise to a general
belief, that buck-wheat was introduced into France by the Moors; but
this opinion has, of late, been ably combated. The plant is not to be
found in Arabia, Spain, or Sicily; the countries more particularly
inhabited by Mahometans; and in Brittany, it still passes by the Celtic
appellation, _had-razin_, signifying _red-corn_, of which words
_sarrazin_ may fairly be regarded a corruption, as _buck-wheat_, in our
own tongue, ought unquestionably to be written _beech-wheat_; a term
synonymous to what it is called in Latin and German. The present name
may well appear inexplicable, to those who are unacquainted with the
Anglo-Saxon and its cognate dialects.

In the midst of this level country, in which even apple-trees are
scarce, stands the ancient capital of Lower Normandy, extending from
east to west in so long a line, that on our approach it appeared to
cover as much ground as Rouen, which is in fact double its size.--From a
distance, the view of Caen is grand; not only from the apparent
magnitude of the town, but from the numerous spires and towers, that,
rising from every part of it, give it an air of great importance. Those
of the abbeys of St. Stephen and the Trinity, at opposite extremities,
constitute the principal features in the view.--The same favorable
impressions continue when you enter the town. The streets are wide, and
the houses of stone; and a stone city is a pleasing sight to eyes long
accustomed to the wooden buildings of Rouen, Bernay, and
Lisieux.--Besides, there is a certain degree of regularity in the
construction of the buildings, and some care is taken in keeping them
clean.--Lace-making is the principal occupation of females of the lower
class in Caen and the neighborhood; the streets, as we passed along,
were lined almost uninterruptedly on either side, with a row of
lace-makers; and boys were not uncommonly working among the women. It is
calculated that not fewer than twenty thousand individuals, of all ages,
from ten or twelve years old and upwards, are thus employed; and the
annual produce of their labor is estimated at one hundred and seventy
thousand pounds sterling. Caen lace is in high estimation for its beauty
and quality, and is exported in considerable quantities.

The present population of Caen amounts to about thirty-one thousand
individuals. The town, no longer the capital of Lower Normandy, is still
equally distinguished as the capital of the department of the Calvados.
The prefect resides here; and the royal court of Caen comprises in its
jurisdiction, not only the department more especially appertaining to
it, but also those of the Manche and the Orne.--The situation of the
town, though at the confluence of the Orne and the Odon, is not such as
can be regarded favorable to extensive trade. The united rivers form a
stream, which, though navigable at very high tides for vessels of two
hundred tons burthen, will, on other occasions, admit only of much
smaller ones; while the channel, nearer to its mouth, is obstructed by
rocks that render the navigation difficult and dangerous. Many plans
have been projected and attempted for the purpose of improving and
enlarging the harbor, but little or no progress has yet been made.
Vauban long since pointed out the mouth of the Orne as singularly well
adapted for a naval station; and Napoleon, in pursuance of this idea,
actually commenced the excavation of a basin under the walls of the
town, and intended to deepen the bed of the river, thinking it best to
make a beginning in this direction. All idea, however, of prosecuting
such a plan is for the present abandoned.--Other engineers have proposed
the junction of the Orne with the Loire by means of a canal, which would
be of the greatest importance to France, not only by facilitating
internal commerce, but by saving her vessels the necessity of coasting
Capes Finisterre, and la Hogue, and thus enabling them to avoid a
navigation, which is at all times dangerous, and in case of war
peculiarly exposed.

For minor purposes, however, for mills and manufactories of different
kinds, Caen is certainly well situated; being in almost every direction
intersected with streams, owing to the repeated ramifications of the
Odon, some of which are artificial, and of as early a date as the
eleventh century. The same circumstance contributes materially to the
pleasantness of the town; for the banks of the river are in many places
formed into walks, and crowned by avenues of noble trees.

[Illustration: Head-Dress of Females, at Caen]

The _grand cours_ at Caen is almost as fine a promenade as that at
Rouen. On Sunday evening it was completely crowded. The scene was full
of life and gaiety, and very varied. All the females of the lower rank,
and many of the higher orders, were dressed in the costume of the
country, which commonly consists of a scarlet gown and deep-blue apron,
or _vice versa_. Their hair, which is usually powdered, is combed
entirely back from every part of their faces, and tucked up behind. The
snow-white cap which covers it is beautifully plaited, and has longer
lappets than in the Pays de Caux. Mr. Cotman sketched the _coiffure_ of
the chamber-maid, at the Hotel d'Espagne, in grand costume, and I send
his drawing to you.--The men dress like the English; but do not
therefore fancy that you or I should have any chance of being mistaken
for natives, even if we did not betray ourselves by our accent. Here, as
every where else, our countrymen are infallibly known: their careless
slouching gait is sure to mark them; and the police keep a watchful eye
upon them. Caen is at present frequented by the English: those indeed,
who, like the Virgilian steeds, "stare loco nesciunt," seldom shew
themselves in Lower Normandy; but above thirty British families have
taken up their residence in this town: they have been induced to do so
principally by the cheapness of living, and by the advantages held out
for the education of their children. A friend of mine, who is of the
number of temporary inhabitants, occupies the best house in the place,
formerly the residence of the Duc d'Aumale; and for this, with the
garden, and offices, and furniture of all kinds, except linen and plate,
he pays only nine pounds a month. For a still larger house in the
country, including an orchard and garden, containing three acres, well
stocked with fruit-trees, he is asked sixty pounds from this time to
Christmas. But, cheap as this appears, the expence of living at
Coutances, or at Bayeux, or Valognes, is very much less.

Were I obliged to seek myself a residence beyond the limits of our own
country, I never saw a place which I should prefer to Caen. I should not
be tempted to look much farther before I said,

"Sis meae sedes utinam senectae:"--

The historical recollections that are called forth at almost every turn,
would probably have some influence in determining my choice; the noble
specimens of ancient architecture which happily remain, unscathed by
wars and Calvinists and revolutions, might possibly have more; but the
literary resources which the town affords, the pleasant society with
which it abounds, and, above all, the amiable character of its
inhabitants, would be my great attraction.--At present, indeed, we have
not been here sufficiently long to say much upon the subject of society
from our own experience; but the testimony we receive from all quarters
is uniform in this point, and the civilities already shewn us, are of a
nature to cause the most agreeable prepossessions. It is not our
intention to be hurried at Caen; and I shall therefore reserve to my
future letters any remarks upon its history and its antiquities. To a
traveller who is desirous of information, the town is calculated to
furnish abundant materials.

* * * * *


[Footnote 70: The following were among the articles of the decree:--"No
individual to leave his _arrondissement_ without a passport.--No person
to receive a stranger in his house, or suffer one to quit it, without
apprising the police.--The inhabitants to carry their arms of all kinds
to the Hotel de Ville.--No plays to be performed, except first approved
by the officers of the police.--The manager of the theatre to give
notice every Friday to the mayor, of the pieces intended to be acted the
following week.--The actors to read nothing, and say nothing, which is
not in the play.--The performance to begin precisely at six, and close
at ten.--Only a certain interval to be allowed between the different
pieces, or between the acts of each.--Every person to be uncovered,
except the soldiers on duty.--No weapons of any kind, nor even sticks or
umbrellas, to be taken into the theatre."]



(_Caen, August,_ 1818.)

France does not abound in topographical writers; but the history and
antiquities of Caen have been illustrated with singular ability, by men
to whom the town gave birth, and who have treated their subject with
equal research and fidelity--these are Charles de Bourgueville, commonly
called the Seigneur de Bras, and the learned Huet, Bishop of Avranches.

De Bourgueville was a magistrate of Caen, where he resided during almost
the whole of the sixteenth century. The religious wars were then raging;
and he relates, in a most entertaining and artless manner, the history
of the events of which he was an eye-witness. His work, as is justly
observed by Huet, is a treasure, that has preserved the recollection of
a great variety of the most curious details, which would otherwise have
been neglected and forgotten. Every page of it is stamped with the
character of the author--frankness, simplicity, and uprightness. It
abounds in sound morality, sage maxims, and proofs of excellent
principles in religion and politics; and, if the writer occasionally
carries his _naivete_ to excess, it is to be recollected that the book
was published when he was in his eighty-fifth year, a period of life
when indulgence may reasonably be claimed. He died four years
subsequently, in 1593.--In Huet's work, the materials are selected with
more skill, and are digested with more talent. The author brought to his
task a mind well stored with the learning requisite for the purpose, and
employed it with judgment. But he has confined himself, almost wholly,
to the description of the town; and the consequence is, that while the
bishop's is the work most commonly referred to, the magistrate's is that
which is most generally read. The dedication of the former to the town
of Caen, does honor to the feelings of the writer: the portrait of the
latter, prefixed to his volume, and encircled with his quaint motto,
_"L'heur de grace use l'oubli,"_ itself an anagram upon his name,
bespeaks and insures the good will of the reader.

The origin of Caen is uncertain.--Its foundation has been alternately
ascribed to Phoenicians, Romans, Gauls, Saxons, and Normans. The
earliest historical fact connected with the town, is recorded in an old
chronicle of Normandy[71], written in 1487, by William de Talleur, of
Rouen. The author, in speaking of the meeting between Louis d'Outremer,
King of France, and Richard Ist, Duke of Normandy, about the year 945,
enumerates Caen among the good towns of the province. Upon this, Huet
observes that, supposing Caen to have been at that time only recently
founded, it must have acquired importance with much rapidity; for, in
the charter, by which Richard IIIrd, Duke of Normandy, granted a dowery
to Adela, daughter of Robert, King of France, whom he married in 1026,
Caen is not only stated as one of the portions of the dower, but its
churches, its market, its custom-house, its quay, and its various
appurtenances are expressly mentioned; and two hundred years afterwards,
Brito in his _Philippiad_, puts Caen in competition with Paris,

"Villa potens, opulenta situ, spatiosa, decora,
Fluminibus, pratis, et agrorum fertilitate,
Merciferasque rates portu capiente marino,
Seque tot ecclesiis, domibus et civibus ornans,
Ut se Parisio vix annuat esse minorem."--

Caen is designated in Duke Richard's charter, by the appellation of "in
Bajocensi comitatu villa quae dicitur _Cathim_, super fluvium
Olnae."--From _Cathim_, came _Cahem_; and _Cahem_, in process of time,
was gradually softened into _Caen_. The elision that took place in the
first instance, is of a similar nature to that by which the Italian
words _padre_ and _madre_, have been converted into _pere_ and _mere_;
and the alteration in the latter case continued to be indicated by the
diaeresis, which, till lately, separated the two adjoining
vowels.--Towards the latter part of the eleventh century, Caen is
frequently mentioned by the monkish historians, in whose Latin, the town
is styled _Cadomus_ or _Cadomum_.--And here ingenious etymologists have
found a wide field for conjecture: Cadomus, says one, was undoubtedly
founded by Cadmus; another, who hesitates at a Phoenician antiquity,
grasps with greater eagerness at a Roman etymon, and maintains that
_Cadomus_ is a corruption from _Caii domus_, fully and sufficiently
proving that the town was built by Julius Caesar.

Robert Wace states, in his _Roman de Rou_, that, at the time
immediately previous to the conquest of England, Caen was an open

"Encore ert Caen sans Chatel,
N'y avoit mur, ny quesnel."--

And Wace is a competent witness; for he lived during the reign of Henry
Ist, to whom he dedicated his poem. Philip de Valois, in 1346, allowed
the citizens to surround the town with ditches, walls, and gates. This
permission was granted by the king, on the application of the
inhabitants, Caen, as they then complained, being still open and
unfortified. Hence, the fortifications have been considered to be the
work of the fourteenth century, and, generally speaking, they were
unquestionably, of that time; but it is equally certain, that a portion
was erected long before.

A proof of the antiquity of the fortifications may perhaps be found in
the name of the tower called _la Tour Guillaume le Roi_, which stands
immediately behind St. Peter's, and was intended to protect the river at
the extremity of the walls, dividing the town from the suburb of
Vaugeux. This tower is generally supposed to be the oldest in the
fortifications. Its masonry is similar to that of the wall with which it
is connected, and which is known to have been built about the same time
as the abbey of St. Stephen. The appearance of it is plain, massy, and
rugged; and it forms a picturesque object. Such also is the _Tour au
Massacre_, which is situated at the confluence of the Orne and Odon. The
tower in question is said to have received its gloomy title from a
massacre, of which our countrymen were guilty, at the time when the town
was taken in 1346. There is, however, reason to believe that this tale
is a mere fiction. Huet, at the same time that he does not venture so
far to oppose popular belief, as altogether to deny the truth of the
story of the massacre, adds, that the original name of the tower was _la
Tour Machart_, and suspects its present appellation to be no more than a
corruption of the former one. Renauld Machart was bailiff of Caen two
years prior to the capture of the place by Edward IIIrd; and the
probability is, that the tower was erected by him in those times of
alarm, and thus took his name. It has been supposed that the figure
sculptured upon it, may also be intended for a representation of Machart

Caen contains another castellated building, which might easily mislead
the studious antiquarian. The _Chateau de Calix_, as it is sometimes
called, is situated at the extremity of the suburb known by that name;
and the curious inhabitants of Caen usually suppose that it was erected
for the purpose of commanding the river, whilst it flowed in its
ancient, but now deserted, bed; or, at least, that it replaces such a
fortification. According to the learned Abbe de la Rue, however, and he
is a most competent authority, no real fortification ever existed here;
but the castle was raised in conformity to the caprice of Girard de
Nollent, the wealthy owner of the property, who flourished towards the
beginning of the sixteenth century.--Girard de Nollent's mansion is now
occupied by a farmer. It has four fronts. The windows are
square-headed, and surrounded by elegant mouldings; but the mullions
have been destroyed. One medallion yet remains over the entrance; and it
is probable that the walls were originally covered with ornaments of
this kind. Such, at least, is the case with the towers and walls, which,
surrounding the dwelling, have given it a castellated aspect. The
circular tower nearest the gate forms the subject of the accompanying
sketch: it is dotted on all sides with busts in basso-relievo, enclosed
in medallions, and of great diversity of character. One is a frowning
warrior, arrayed in the helmet of an emperor of the lower empire;
another, is a damsel attired in a ruff; a third, is a turbaned turk. The
borders of the medallions are equally diversified: the _cordeliere_,
well known in French heraldry, the vine-leaf, the oak-leaf, all appear
as ornaments. The battlements are surmounted with two statues,
apparently Neptune, or a sea-god, and Hercules. These heathen deities
not being very familiar to the good people of Caen, they have converted
them, in imagination, into two gens-d'armes, mounting guard on the
castle; and hence it is frequently called the _Chateau de la
Gendarmerie_. Some of the busts are accompanied by inscriptions--"Vincit
pudicitiam mors;" "Vincit amor pudicitiam;" "Amor vincit mortem;" and
all seem to be either historical or allegorical. The battlements of the
curtain-wall are ornamented in the same manner. The farther tower has
less decoration, and is verging to decay. I have given these details,
because the castle of Calix is a specimen of a style of which we have no
fair parallel in England, and the workmanship is far from being

[Illustration: Tower in the _Chateau de Calix_, at Caen]

In the Rue St. Jean is a house with decorations, in the same style, but
more sumptuous, or, perhaps I ought rather to say, more perfect. Both of
them are most probably of nearly the same date: for it was principally
during the reigns of Charles VIIIth and Louis XIIth, that the practice
prevailed in France, of ornamenting the fronts of houses with
medallions. The custom died away under Francis Ist.

I must now return to more genuine fortifications.--When the walls of
Caen were perfect, they afforded an agreeable and convenient promenade
completely round the town, their width being so great, that three
persons might with ease walk abreast upon them. De Bourgueville tells us
that, in his time, they were as much frequented as the streets; and he
expatiates with great pleasure upon the gay and busy prospect which they

The castle at Caen, degraded as it is in its character by modern
innovation, is more deserving of notice as an historical, than as an
architectural, relic. It still claims to be ranked as a place of
defence, though it retains but few of its original features. The
spacious, lofty, circular towers, known by the names of the black, the
white, the red, and the grey horse, which flanked its ramparts, have
been brought down to the level of the platform. The dungeon tower is
destroyed. All the grandeur of the Norman castle is lost; though the
width of its ditches, and the thickness of its walls, still testify its
ancient strength. I doubt whether any castle in France covers an equal
extent of ground. Monstrelet and other writers have observed, that this
single fortress exceeded in size the towns of Corbeil or of Montferrand;
and, indeed, there are reasons for supposing that Caen, when first
founded, only occupied the site of the present castle; and that, when it
became advisable to convert the old town into a fortress, the
inhabitants migrated into the valley below. Six thousand infantry could
be drawn up in battle-array within the outer ballium; and so great was
the number of houses and of inhabitants enclosed within its area, that
it was thought expedient to build in it a parochial church, dedicated to
St. George, besides two chapels.

One of the chapels is still in existence, though now converted to a
store-house; and the Abbe de la Rue considers it as an erection anterior
to the conquest, and, belonging to the old town of Caen. Its choir is
turned towards the west, and its front to the east.--The religious
edifices upon the continent do not preserve the same uniformity as our
English ones, in having their altars placed in the direction of the
rising sun; but this at Caen is a very remarkable instance of the
position of the entrance and the altar being completely reversed[72].
The door-way is a fine semi-circular arch: the side pillars supporting
it are very small, but the decorations of the archivolt are rich: they
consist principally of three rows of the chevron moulding, enclosed
within a narrow fillet of smaller ornaments, approaching in shape to
quatrefoils. Collectively, they form a wide band, which springs from
flat piers level with the wall, and does not immediately unite with the
head of the inner arch. The intermediate space is covered by a
reticulated pattern indented in the stone. Above the entrance is a
window of the same form, its top encircled by a broad chequered band, a
very unusual accompaniment to this style of architecture. The front of
the chapel presents in other respects, a flat uniform surface, unvaried,
except by four Norman buttresses, and a string-course of the simplest
form, running round the whole building, at somewhat less than
mid-height. The sides of the chapel are lighted by a row of
circular-headed windows, with columns in the angles; and between these
windows are buttresses, as in the chapel of the lazar-house of St.
Julien, at Rouen.

Huet endeavours to prove that the first fortress which was built at
Caen, was erected by William the Conqueror, who frequently resided here
with his Queen Matilda, and who was likely to find some protection of
this nature desirable, as well to guard his royal residence against the
mutinous disposition of the lords of the Bessin, as to command the
navigation of the Orne. The castle was enlarged and strengthened by his
son Henry; but it is believed that the four towers, just mentioned, and
the walls surrounding the keep, were added by our countrymen, during
that short period when the Norman sceptre was again wielded by the
descendants of the Norman dukes. Under Louis XIIth and Francis Ist, the
whole of the castle, but particularly the dungeon, underwent great
repairs, by which the original form of the structure was entirely
changed.--From that period history is silent respecting the fortress. I
cannot, however, take leave of it without reminding you, that Sir John
Fastolf, whilom our neighbour at Castor, was for some time placed in
command here, as Lieutenant to the Regent Duke of Bedford. You, who are
acquainted with the true character of the knight, need scarcely be told,
that even his enemies concur in bearing testimony to his ability, his
vigilance, and his valor: it is to be regretted that he has not met with
equal justice at home. Not one individual troubles himself about
history, whilst a thousand read the drama; and the stains which
Shakspeare's pen has affixed to the name of Fastolf, are of a nature
never to be wiped away; thus disproving the distich of the satyrist, who
indeed, by his own works, has effectually falsified his own maxim,

"Truth will survive when merry jokes are past;
For rising merit must buoy up at last."

As usual, the buildings dedicated to religion are far more numerous and
valuable than the relics of military architecture. Of these, the first
which salutes the stranger who enters by the great high road, is the
Hotel Dieu, which is almost intact and unaltered. The basement story
contains large and deep pointed arches, ornamented with the chevron
moulding, disposed in a very peculiar manner.--From the style of the
building, there is every reason to believe that it is of the beginning
of the thirteenth century, at which time William, Count of Magneville,
appropriated to charitable purposes the ground now occupied by this
hospital, and caused his donation to be confirmed by a bull from Pope
Innocent IIIrd, dated in April, 1210.

The abbeys, the glories of Caen, will require more leisure: at present
let us pass on to the parochial churches. Of these, the most ancient
foundation is _St. Etienne le Vieil_; and tradition relates that this
church was dedicated by St. Renobert, bishop of Bayeux, in the year
350.--But, though the present edifice may stand upon the site of an
ancient one, there would be little risk in affirming, that not one stone
of it was laid upon another till after the year 1400. The building is
spacious, and its tower is not devoid of beauty. The architecture is a
medley of debased gothic and corrupted Roman; but the large pointed
windows, decorated by fanciful mouldings and scroll-work, have an air of
richness, though the component parts are so inharmonious.

Attached to the wall of the choir of this church is still to be seen an
equestrian statue[73], part of the celebrated group supposed to
represent William the Conqueror making his triumphal entry into Caen. A
headless horse, mounted by a headless rider, and a figure, which has
lost all shape and form, beneath the feet of the steed, are all that now
remain; but De Bourgueville, who knew the group when perfect, says, that
there likewise belonged to it a man and woman upon their knees, as if
seeking some explanation for the death of their child, or
rather, perhaps, in the act of imploring mercy.--I have already pointed
out the resemblance between these statues and the bas-relief, of which I
have sent you a sketch from St. Georges. One of the most learned
antiquaries of the present time has found a prototype for the supposed
figure of the Duke, among the sculptures of the Trajan column. But this,
with all due deference, is far from a decisive proof that the statue in
question was not intended for William. Similar adaptations of the
antique model, "mutato nomine," frequently occur among the works of the
artists of the middle ages; and there is at least a possibility that,
had the face been left us, we might have traced some attempt at a
portrait of the Norman Duke. Upon the date of the sculpture, or the
style of the workmanship, I dare not venture an opinion. There are
antiquaries, I know, (and men well qualified to judge,) who believe it
Roman: I have heard it pronounced from high authority, that it is of the
eleventh century, others suspect that it is Italian, of the thirteenth
or fourteenth centuries; whilst M. Le Prevost and M. De Gerville
maintain most strenuously that it is not anterior to the fifteenth. De
Bourgueville certainly calls it "une antiquite de grand remarque;" but
we all know that any object which is above an hundred years old, becomes
a piece of antiquity in the eye of an uncritical observer; and such was
the good magistrate.

The church of St. Nicholas, now used as a stable, was built by William
the Conqueror, in the year 1060, or thereabouts. Desecrated as it is, it
remains entire; and its interior is remarkable for the uniformity of the
plan, the symmetry of the proportions. All the capitals of the pillars
attached to the walls are alike; and those of the arches, which very
nearly resemble the others, are also all of one pattern. In the
side-aisles there is no groining, but only cross vaulting. The vaulting
of the nave is pointed, and of late introduction. Round the choir and
transepts runs a row of small arches, as in the triforium.--The west end
was formerly flanked by two towers, the southern of which only remains.
This is square, and well proportioned: each side contains two lancet
windows. The lower part is quite plain, excepting two Norman buttresses.
The whole of the width of the central compartment, which is more than
quadruple that of either of the others, is occupied below by three
circular portals, now blocked up.--Above them are five windows, disposed
in three tiers. In the lowest are two not wider than loop-holes: over
these two others, larger; another small one is at the top. All these
windows are of the simplest construction, without side pillars or
mouldings.--The choir of the church ends in a semi-circular apsis,
divided into compartments by a row of pillars, rising as high as the
cornice: in the intercolumniation are windows, and under the windows
small arches, each of which has its head hewn out of a single
stone.--The roof of the choir is of stone, and the pitch of it is very

Here, then, we have the exact counterpart of the Irish stone-roofed
chapels, the most celebrated of which, that of Cormac, in Cashel
Cathedral, appears, from all the drawings and descriptions I have seen
of it, to be altogether a Norman building. Ledwich asserts that "this
chapel is truly Saxon, and was erected prior to the introduction of the
Norman, and gothic styles[74]." If, we agree with him, we only obtain a
proof that there is no essential difference between Norman and Saxon
architecture; and this proposition, I believe, will soon be universally
admitted. We now know what is really Norman; and a little attention to
the buildings in the north of Germany, may terminate the long-debated
questions, relative to Saxon architecture and the origin of the
stone-roofed chapels in the sister isle.

In the burial-ground that surrounds the church of St. Nicholas, are
several monumental inscriptions, all of them posterior to the
commencement of the reign of Napoleon, and all, with one single
exception, commemorative of females. The epitaphs are much in the same
tone as would be found in an English church-yard. The greater part,
however, of the tomb-stones, are uninscribed. They are stone coffins
above-ground, sculptured with plain crosses, or, where they have been
raised to ecclesiastics, with an addition of some portion of the
sacerdotal dress.

[Illustration: Tower and Spire of St. Peter's Church, at Caen]

Among the churches of comparatively modern erection, St. Peter deserves
most attention. From every part of the town and neighborhood, its lofty
spire, towering above the surrounding buildings, forces itself upon your
view. It is not easy to carry accurate ideas of height in the memory;
but, as far as recollection will serve me, I should say that its
elevation is hardly inferior to that of the spire of Salisbury
cathedral. I have no hesitation in adding, that the proportions of the
tower and spire of the church at Caen, are more pleasing. Elegance,
lightness, and symmetry, are the general characters of the whole, though
the spire has peculiar characters of its own.--The tower, though built a
century later than that of Salisbury, is so much less ornamented, that
it might be mistaken for an earlier example of the pointed style. The
lowest story is occupied wholly by a portal: the second division is
surrounded by pointed arches, beneath crocketed gables: the third is
filled by four lancet arches, supported by reeded pillars, so lofty,
that they occupy nearly two-thirds of the entire height of the tower.
The flanking arches are blanks: the two middle ones are pierced into
windows, divided by a central mullion. The balustrade at the top of the
tower is of a varied pattern, each side exhibiting a different tracery.
Eight crocketed pinnacles are added to the spire, which is octangular,
and has a row of crockets at each angle. From the base to the summit it
is encircled, at regular distances, with broad bands of stone-work,
disposed like scales; and, alternating with the bands, are perforations
in the form of cinquefoils, quatrefoils, and trefoils, diminishing as
the spire rises, but so disposed, that the light is seen distinctly
through them. The effect of these perforations was novel and very

[Illustration: Sculpture upon a Capital in St. Peter's Church at Caen]

This tower and spire were built in the year 1308, under the directions
of Nicolle L'Anglois, a burgher of Caen, and treasurer of the
church.--How far we are at liberty to infer from his name, as Ducarel
does, that he was an Englishman, may admit of some doubt. He was buried
here; and De Bourgueville has preserved his epitaph, which recounts
among his other merits, that

"Et par luy, et par sa devise
Fut la tour en sa voye mise
D'estre faicte si noblement."--

But the name of the architect who was employed is unrecorded.--The rest
of the church was erected at different periods: the northern aisle in
1410; the opposite one some time afterwards; and the eastern extremity,
with the vaulted roof of the choir and aisles, in 1021.--With this
knowledge, it is not difficult to account for the diversity of styles
that prevails in the building.--The western front contains much good
tracery, and well disposed, apparently as old as the tower.--The
exterior of the east end, with its side-chapels, is rather Italian than
gothic.--The interior is of a purer style: the five arches forming the
apsis are perhaps amongst the finest specimens of the luxuriant French
gothic: roses are introduced with great effect amongst the tracery and
friezes, with which the walls are covered. The decorations of the
chapels round the choir, although they display a tendency towards
Italian architecture, are of the most elaborate arabesque. The niches
are formed by escalop shells, swelling cylinders of foliage, and
scrolls: some of the pendants from the roofs are of wonderfully varied
and beautiful workmanship.--The nave has nothing remarkable, saving the
capital of one of the side pillars. Its sculptures, with the exception
of one mutilated group, have been drawn by Mr. Cotman.--The subjects are
strangely inappropriate, as the ornaments of a sacred edifice. All are
borrowed from romance.--Aristotle bridled and saddled by the mistress
of Alexander. Virgilius, or, as some say, Hippocrates, hanging in the
basket. Lancelot crossing the raging flood.--The fourth, which is not
shewn in the sketch, is much defaced, but seems to have been taken from
the _Chevalier et la Charette_. According to the usual fate of ancient
sculpture, the _marguilliers_ of the parish have so sadly encumbered it
with white-wash, that it is not easy to make out the details; and a
friend of mine was not quite certain whether the bearded figure riding
on the lion, was not a youthful Cupid. No other of the capitals has at
present any basso-relievo of this kind; but I suspect they have been
chopped off. The church suffered much from the Calvinists; and
afterwards, during the revolution, when most of the bas-reliefs of the
portal were destroyed.

[Illustration: Tower of St. John's Church, at Caen]

The neighboring church of St. John appears likewise to be the work of
the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This building and St. Peter's
agree in general character: their towers are nearly the counterparts of
each other. But, in St. John's, the great tower is placed at the west
end of the edifice, the principal portal being beneath it. This is not
very usual in the Norman-gothic churches, though common in England. The
tower wants a spire; and, at present, it leans considerably out of the
perpendicular line, so that some apprehensions are entertained for its
safety. It was originally intended that the church should also be
surmounted by a central tower; and, as De Bourgueville says, the
beginning was made in his time; but it remains to the present day
incomplete, and has not been raised sufficiently high to enable us to
form a clear idea of the design of the architect, though enough remains
to shew that it would have been built in the Romanizing-gothic
style.--The inside is comparatively plain, excepting only the arches in
the lower open part of the tower. These are richly ornamented; and a
highly-wrought balustrade runs round the triforium, uniform in its
pattern in the nave and choir, but varying in the transepts.--In the
other ecclesiastical buildings at Caen, we saw nothing to interest
us.--The chapel of St. Thomas l'Abattu, which, according to Huet, "had
existed from time immemorial," and which, to judge from Ducarel's
description and figure, must have been curious, has now entirely

In the suburb of Vaucelles, the church of St. Michael contains some
architectural features of great curiosity[75]. The circular-headed
arches in the short square tower, and in a small round turret that is
attached to it, are unquestionably early Norman, and are remarkable for
their proportions, being as long and as narrow as the lancet windows of
the following aera. It would not be equally safe to pronounce upon the
date of the stone-roofed pyramid which covers this tower. The north
porch is entered by a pointed arch, which, though much less ornamented,
approaches in style to the southern porch of St. Ouen, and, like that,
has its inner archivolt fringed with pendant trefoils. The wall above
the arch rises into a triangular gable, entirely covered with waving
tracery, the only instance of the kind which I have seen at Caen.

* * * * *


[Footnote 71: _Huet, Origines de Caen_, p. 12.]

[Footnote 72: Upon this subject, Huet has an extraordinary observation,
(_Origines de Caen_, p. 186.) "that, in the early times of Christianity,
it was customary for all churches to front the east or north, or some
intermediate point of the compass."--So learned and careful a writer
would scarcely have made such a remark without some plausible grounds;
but I am at a loss where to find them. Bingham, in his _Origines
Eccleslasticae_, I. p. 288, says, "that churches were so placed, that
the front, or chief entrances, were towards the west, and the sanctuary
or altar placed towards the east;" and though he adduces instances of a
different position, as in the church of Antioch, which faced the east,
and that of St. Patrick, at Sabul, near Down in Ulster, which stood from
north to south, he cites them only as deviations from an established

[Footnote 73: _Cotman's Architectural Antiquities of Normandy_, t. 20.]

[Footnote 74: _Antiquities of Ireland_, p. 151.]

[Footnote 75: See _Cotman's Architectural Antiquities of Normandy_, t.
18, 19.]



(_Caen, August_, 1818.)

The two royal abbeys of Caen have fortunately escaped the storms of the
revolution. These buildings are still standing, an ornament to the town,
and an honor to the sovereign who caused them to be erected, as well as
to the artist who planned, and to the age which produced them. As models
of architecture they are the same land-marks to the history of the art
in Lower Normandy, as the church of St. Georges is in the upper division
of the province. Their dates are equally authenticated; and the
characteristic features in each are equally perfect.

Both these noble edifices rose at the same time, and from the same
motive. William the Conqueror, by his marriage with Matilda, daughter of
Baldwin, Earl of Flanders, had contracted an alliance proscribed by the
degrees of consanguinity. The clergy inveighed against the union; and
they were supported in their complaints by Lanfranc, then resident at
Bec, whose remonstrances were so uncourtly and strenuous, that the duke
banished him from the province. It chanced that the churchman, while in
the act of obedience to this command, met the sovereign. Their interview
began with recriminations: it ended with reconciliation; and Lanfranc
finally engaged to undertake a mission to the supreme Pontiff, who,
considering the turbulent disposition of the Normans, and that a better
end was likely to be answered by peaceable than by hostile measures,
consented to grant the necessary dispensation. At the same time, by way
of penance, he issued an injunction that the royal pair should erect two
monasteries, the one for monks, the other for nuns. And in obedience to
this command, William founded the abbey of St. Stephen, and Matilda, the
abbey of the Holy Trinity; or, as they are usually called at Caen,
_l'abbaye aux hommes_, and _l'abbaye aux dames_.

The approach to the monastery of the Trinity is through a spacious
gate-tower, part of the original structure. Over the rent and shapeless
door-way are three semi-circular arches, upon the capitals of which is
distinctly observable the cable-moulding, and along the top of the tower
runs a line of the same toothed ornament, remarked by Ducarel at
Bourg-Achard, and stated by him to have been considered peculiar to
Saxon architecture[76]. The park that formerly environed the abbey
retains its character, though abandoned to utter neglect. It is of great
extent, and is well wooded. The monastic buildings, which are, as usual,
modern, are mostly perfect.--A ruined wall nearly in front of the
church, with a chimney-piece, perhaps of Norman workmanship, belonged to
the old structure. Such part of the chimney wall as was exposed to the
flame is built of large tiles, placed diagonally. All other vestiges of
the ancient apartments have been removed.

The noble church[77] is now used as a work-house for the department. At
the revolution it became national property, and it remained
unappropriated, till, upon the institution of the Legion of Honor,
Napoleon applied it to some purpose connected with that body, by whom it
was lately ceded for it present object. But, if common report may be
credited, it is likely soon to revert to its original destination. The
restoration may be easily effected, as the building has sustained but
little injury. A floor has been thrown across the nave and transept,
dividing them into two stories; but in other respects they are
unaltered, and divine service is still performed in the choir.

A finer specimen of the solid grandeur of Norman architecture is
scarcely to be found any where than in the west front of this church.
The corresponding part of the rival abbey of St. Stephen is poor when
compared to it; and Jumieges and St. Georges equally fail in the
comparison. In all of these, there is some architectural anomaly: in the
Trinity none, excepting, indeed, the balustrade at the top of the
towers; and this is so obviously an addition of modern times, that no
one can be misled by it. This balustrade was erected towards the
beginning of the seventeenth century, when the oval apertures and
scrolls seen in Ducarel's print were introduced. Anciently the towers
were ornamented with very lofty spires. According to some accounts,
these were demolished, because they served as land-marks to the English
cruizers, being seen far out at sea; but other accounts state, that the
spires were pulled down by Charles, King of Navarre, who was at war with
his namesake, Charles Vth, then Dauphin and Regent. The abbey at that
time bore the two-fold character of nunnery and fortress.--Strangely
inconsistent as this union may appear, the fact is undoubted. Even now a
portion of the fosses remains; and the gate-way indicates an approach
to a fortified place. Ancient charters likewise expressly recognize the
building in both capacities: they endow the abbey for the service of
God; and they enjoin the inhabitants of the adjacent parishes to keep
the fortifications in repair against any assaults of men. Nay, letters
patent, granted by Charles Vth, which fix the salary of the captain of
the _Fort of the Trinity, at Caen_, at one hundred francs per annum, are
yet extant.

I shall attempt no description of the west front of this monastery, few
continental buildings being better known in England. The whole remains
as it was in the time of Ducarel, except that the arches of entrance are
blocked up, and modern windows have been inserted in the door-ways.--The
north side of the church is quite concealed by the cloisters and
conventual buildings. The southern aisle has been plastered and patched,
and converted into a range of work-shops, so that its original elevation
is wholly obliterated. But the nave, which rises above, is untouched by
innovation. The clerestory range is filled by a row of semi-circular
headed windows, separated by intervening flat buttresses, which reach to
the cornice. Each buttress is edged with two slender cylindrical
pilasters; and each window flanked by two smaller arches, whose surfaces
are covered with chequer-work. The arch of every window has a key-stone,
formed by a grotesque head.--Above the whole is a corbel-table that
displays monsters of all kinds, in the form of beasts, and men scarcely
less monstrous.--The semi-circular east end is divided in its elevation
into three compartments. The lower contains a row of small blank arches:
in each of the other two is a window, of a size unusually large for a
Norman building, but still without mullions or tracery; its sides
ornamented with columns, and its top encircled with a broad band of
various mouldings. The windows are separated by cylindrical pillars,
instead of buttresses.--In the upper part of the low central tower are
some pointed arches, the only deviations of style that are to be found
in the building. To the extremity of the southern transept has been
attached a Grecian portico, which masks the ancient portal. Above is a
row of round arches, some of which are pierced into windows.

Of the effect of the nave and transept within, it is difficult now to
obtain a correct idea, the floor intervening to obstruct a general
view.--High arches, encircled with the embattled moulding below; above
these, a wide billeted string-course, forming a basis for a row of
smaller arches, without side-pillars or decoration of any kind; then
another string-course of different and richer patterns; and over this,
the triforium, consisting also of a row of small arches, supported by
thick pillars;--such is the elevation of the sides of the nave; and the
same system is continued with but small variation in the transepts. But,
notwithstanding the general uniformity of the whole, no two compartments
are precisely alike; and the capitals are infinitely varied. It is
singular to see such a playfulness of ornament in a building, whose
architect appears, at first view, to have contemplated only grandeur and
solidity.--The four arches which support the central tower are on a
magnificent scale. The archivolts are encircled by two rows of lozenged
squares, indented in the stone. The rams, or rams' heads, upon the
capitals of these piers, are peculiar. The eastern arch rises higher
than the rest, and is obtusely pointed; yet it seems to be of the same
date with its circular companions.--So exquisite, however, is the
quality of the Caen stone, that no opinion drawn from the appearance of
the material, ought to be hazarded with confidence. Seven centuries have
elapsed since this church was erected, and there is yet no difference to
be discovered in the color of the stone, or the sharpness of the work;
the whole is as clean and sharp as if it were but yesterday fresh from
the chisel. The interior of the choir has not been divided by the
flooring; and the eastern extremity, which remains perfect, shews the
original design. It consists of large arches, disposed in a double tier,
so as to correspond with the windows of the apsis, and placed at a short
distance from the wall; but without any Lady-Chapel beyond. The pillars
that support these arches are well proportioned: the sculptures on their
capitals are scarcely less grotesque than those at St. Georges; but,
barbarous as they are, the corners of almost every capital are finished
with imitations, more or less obvious, of the classical Ionic
volute.--Among the sculptures is a head resting upon two lions, which
has been fancied to be a representation of the Conqueror himself; whilst
a faded painting of a female, attired as a nun, on the north side of the
altar, is also commonly entitled a portrait of the foundress.--Were any
plausible reason alleged for regarding the picture as intended to bear
even an imaginary resemblance to Matilda, I would have sent you a copy
of it; but there appear no grounds to consider it as
authentic.--Willing, however, to contribute a mark of respect to a
female, styled by William of Malmesbury, "faeminam prudentiae speculum,
pudoris culmen," and, by way of a companion to the rough sketch of her
illustrious consort, in the initial letter in the library at Rouen, I
add the fac-simile of a seal, which, by the kindness of a friend has
fallen into my hands. It has been engraved before, but only for private
distribution; and, if a suspicion should cross your mind, that it may
have belonged to the Empress Maud, or to Matilda, wife to Stephen, I can
only bespeak your thanks to me, for furnishing you with a likeness of
any one of these ladies.

[Illustration: Fac-simile of seal]

Matilda was interred in the middle of this choir; and, according to
Ordericus Vitalis, a monument of exquisite workmanship, richly
ornamented with gold and precious stones, and bearing a long inscription
in letters of gold, was raised to her memory. Her effigy was afterwards
added to the monument; the whole of which was destroyed in 1652, by the
Calvinists, who tore open the Queen's coffin, and dispersed her remains.
After a lapse of an hundred and forty years, the royal bones were again
collected, and deposited in this church. At the same time, the splendid
monument was replaced by a plain altar-tomb, which existed till the
revolution, when all was once more swept away. The marble slab,
inscribed with the original epitaph, alone remained entire, and was
carried to the abbey church of St. Stephen's, where it still forms a
part of the pavement in a chapel. The letters are finely sculptured and
perfectly sharp. However, it is not likely to continue there long; for
Count de Montlivault, the prefect of the department, has already caused
a search to be made for Matilda's remains, and he intends to erect a
third monument to her memory. The excavations for this purpose have
hitherto been unsuccessful: the Count met with many monumental stones,
and many coffins of various kinds, but none that could be mistaken for
the desired object; for one of the inscriptions on the late monument
expressly states, that the Queen's bones had been wrapped in a linen
cloth, and enclosed in a leaden box.

The inquiry, however, will not be discontinued[78]: there are still
hopes of success, especially in the crypt, which corresponds in its
architecture with the church above. It is filled with columns placed in
four ranges, each standing only four feet from the other, all of elegant
proportions, with diversified capitals, as those in the choir.--Round
it runs a stone bench, as in the subterraneous chapel in St. Gervais, at

Founded by a queen, the abbey of the Trinity preserved at all times a
constitution thoroughly aristocratical. No individual, except of noble
birth, was allowed to take the veil here, or could be received into the
community. You will see in the series of the abbesses the names of
Bourbon, Valois, Albret, Montmorenci, and others of the most illustrious
families in France. Cecily, the Conqueror's eldest daughter, stands at
the head of the list. According to the _Gallia Christiana_, she was
devoted by her parents to this holy office, upon the very day of the
dedication of the convent, in July 1066.

The black marble slab which covered her remains, was lately discovered
in the chapter-house. A crozier is sculptured upon it. It is delineated
in a very curious volume now in the possession of the Abbe de la Rue,
which contains drawings of all the tombs and inscriptions that formerly
existed in the abbey.

The annual income of the monastery of the Trinity is stated by Gough, in
his _Alien Priories_, at thirty thousand livres, and that of the
monastery of St. Stephen, at sixty thousand; but Ducarel estimates the
revenue of the former at seventy thousand, and of the latter at two
hundred thousand; and I should not doubt but that the larger sums are
nearest the truth; indeed, the grants and charters still in existence,
or noticed by historians, would rather lead to the supposition that the
revenues must have been even greater. Parsimony in the endowment of
religious buildings, was not a prevailing vice in the eleventh and
twelfth centuries. Least of all was it likely that it should be
practised in the case of establishments, thus founded in expiation of
the transgressions of wealthy and powerful sinners. Page after page, in
the charters, is filled with the list of those, who, with

"Lands and livings, many a rood,
Had gifted the shrine for their soul's repose."

The privileges and immunities enjoyed by these abbeys were very
extensive. Both of them were from their origin exempted by Pope
Alexander IInd, with the consent of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, from all
episcopal jurisdiction; and both had full power, as well spiritual as
ecclesiastical, over the members of their own communities, and over the
parishes dependent upon them; with no other appeal than to the
archbishop of Rouen, or to the Pope. Express permission was likewise
given to the abbot of St. Stephen's, by virtue of a bull from Pope
Clement VIIth, to wear a gold mitre studded with precious stones, and a
ring and sandals, and other episcopal ornaments.

Many of the monuments and deeds of the greater abbey are now in the
prefecture of the department. The original chartulary or register was
saved by the Abbe de la Rue, and is at this time preserved in his
valuable collection. The charters of the Trinity were hid, during the
revolution, by the nuns, who secreted them beneath the tiling of a barn.
They were discovered there not long since; but damp and vermin had
rendered them wholly illegible.

Lanfranc, whose services at Rome well deserved every distinction that
his sovereign could bestow, was the first abbot of St. Stephen's. Upon
his translation to the see of Canterbury, he was succeeded by William,
who was likewise subsequently honored with an archiepiscopal mitre. The
third abbot, Gislebert, was bishop of Evreux; and, though the series was
not continued through an uninterrupted line of equal dignity, the office
of abbot of this convent was seldom conferred, except upon an individual
of exalted birth. Eight cardinals, two of them of the noble houses of
Medici and Farnese, and three others, still more illustrious, the
cardinals Richelieu, Mazarine, and Fleury, are included in the list,
though in later times the abbacy was held _in commendam_ by these
powerful prelates, whilst all the internal management of the house
devolved upon a prior. Amongst the abbots will also be found Hugh de
Coilly, grandson of King Stephen, Anthony of Bourbon, a natural son of
Henry IVth of France, and Charles of Orleans, who was likewise of royal
extraction.--St. Stephen was selected as the patron of the abbey, in
consequence of the founder having bestowed upon it the head of the
protomartyr, together with one of his arms, and a phial of his blood,
and the stone with which he was killed.

[Illustration: Monastery of St. Stephen, at Caen]

The monastic buildings now serve for what, in the language of
revolutionary and imperial France, was called a _Lycee_, but which has
since assumed the less heathen appellation of a college. They constitute
a fine edifice, and, seen from a short distance, in conjunction with the
east end of the church, they form a grand _tout-ensemble_. The abbey
church, from this point of view, has somewhat of an oriental character:
the wide sweep of the semi-circular apsis, and the slender turrets and
pyramids that rise from every part of the building, recal the idea of
a Mahometan mosque. But the west end is still more striking than the
east; and if, in the interior of the church of the Trinity, we had
occasion to admire the beautiful quality of the Caen stone, our
admiration of it was more forcibly excited here: notwithstanding the
continual exposure to wind and weather, no part appears corroded, or
discolored, or injured. A character of magnificence, arising in a great
measure from the grand scale upon which it is built, pervades this
front. But, to be regarded with advantage, it must be viewed as a whole:
the parts, taken separately, are unequal and ill assorted. The
simplicity of the main division approaches to meanness. Its three
door-ways and double tier of windows appear disproportionally small,
when contrasted with the expanse of blank wall; and their returns are
remarkably shallow. The windows have no mouldings whatever, and the
pillars and archivolts of the doors are very meagre. The front consists
of three compartments, separated by flat buttresses; the lateral
divisions rising into lofty towers, capped with octagon spires. The
towers are much ornamented: three tiers of semi-circular arches surround
the upper divisions; the arches of the first tier have no mouldings or
pillars; the upper vary in pattern, and are enriched with pillars and
bands, and some are pierced into windows.--Twelve pinnacles equally full
of arches, some pointed, others semi-circular, surround each spire.
Similar pinnacles rise from the ends of the transepts and the
choir.--The central tower, which is short and terminates in a conical
roof, was ruined by the Huguenots, who undermined it, thinking that its
fall would destroy the whole building. Fortunately, however, it only
damaged a portion of the eastern end; the reparations done to which have
occasioned a discrepancy of style, that is injurious to the general
effect. But the choir and apsis were previously of a different aera from
the rest of the edifice. They were raised by the Abbot Simon de
Trevieres, in the beginning of the fourteenth century.--I am greatly
mistaken, if a real Norman church ever extended farther eastward than
the choir.

The building is now undergoing a thorough repair, at the expence of the
town. No other revenues, at present, belong to it, except the _sous_
which are paid for chairs during mass.

A friend, who is travelling through Normandy, describes the interior in
the following manner; and, as I agree with him in his ideas, I shall
borrow his description:--"Without doubt, the architect was conversant
with Roman buildings, though he has Normanized their features, and
adopted the lines of the basilica to a _barbaric_ temple. The Coliseum
furnished the elevation of the nave;--semi-circular arches surmounted by
another tier of equal span, and springing at nearly an equal height from
the basis of the supporting pillars. The architraves connecting the
lower rows of pillars are distinctly enounced. The arches which rise
from them have plain bold mouldings. The piers between each arch are of
considerable width. In the centre of each pier is a column, which
ascends as usual to the vault. These columns are alternately simple and
compound. The latter are square pilasters, each fronted by a
cylindrical column, which of course projects farther into the nave than
the simple columns; and thus the nave is divided into bays. This system
is imitated in the gothic cathedral, at Sens. The square pilaster ceases
at about four-fifths of its height: then two cylindrical pillars rise
from it, so that, from that point, the column becomes clustered. Angular
brackets, sculptured with knots, grotesque heads, and foliage, are
affixed to the base of these derivative pillars. A bold double-billeted
moulding is continued below the clerestory, whose windows adapt
themselves to the binary arrangement of the bays. A taller arch is
flanked by a smaller one on the right or the left side, as its situation
requires. These are supported by short massy pillars: an embattled
moulding runs round the windows.

"In the choir the arches become pointed, but with Norman mouldings: the
apsis is a re-construction. In that portion of the choir, which seems
original, there are pointed windows formed by the interlacing of
circular arches: these light the gallery.

"The effect produced by the perspective of the interior is lofty and
palatial. The ancient masonry of the exterior is worthy of notice. The
stones are all small, perhaps not exceeding nine or twelve inches: the
joints are about three-quarters of an inch."

At the north-west angle of the nave has been built a large chapel,
comparatively a modern erection; and in the centre of this lies
Matilda's gravestone.--There is no other chapel to the nave, and, as
usual, no monument in any portion of the church; but in front of the
high altar is still to be seen the flat stone, placed there in 1742, in
memory of the Conqueror, and bearing the epitaph--

[Illustration: Epitaph in memory of the Conqueror]


The poetical part of this epitaph was composed by Thomas, archbishop of
York, and was engraved upon the original monument, as well as upon a
plate of gilt copper, which was found within the sepulchre when it was
first opened. Many other poets, we are told by Ordericus Vitalis,
exercised their talents upon the occasion; but none of their productions
were deemed worthy to be inscribed upon the tomb. The account of the
opening of the vault is related by De Bourgueville, from whom it has
been already copied by Ducarel; but the circumstances are so curious,
that I shall offer no apology for telling a twice-told tale. From
Ordericus Vitalis also we may borrow some details respecting the funeral
of the Conqueror, which, though strictly appertaining to English
history, have never yet, I believe, appeared in an English dress.

In speaking of the church of St. Gervais at Rouen, I have already
briefly alluded to the melancholy circumstances by which the death of
this monarch was attended. The sequel of the story is not less

The king's decease was the signal for general consternation throughout
the metropolis of Normandy. The citizens, panic struck, ran to and fro,
as if intoxicated, or as if the town were upon the point of being taken
by assault. Each asked counsel of his neighbor, and each anxiously
turned his thoughts to the concealing of his property. When the alarm
had in some measure subsided the monks and clergy made a solemn
procession to the abbey of St. Georges, where they offered their prayers
for the repose of the soul of the departed Duke; and archbishop William
commanded that the body should be carried to Caen, to be interred in the
church of St. Stephen, which William had founded. But the lifeless king
was now deserted by all who had participated in his munificence and
bounty. Every one of his brethren and relations had left him; nor was
there even a servant to be found to perform the last offices to his
departed lord. The care of the obsequies was finally undertaken by
Herluin, a knight of that district, who, moved by the love of God and
the honor of his nation, provided at his own expence, embalmers, and
bearers, and a hearse, and conveyed the corpse to the Seine, whence it
was carried by land and water to the place of its destination.

Upon the arrival of the funeral train at Caen, it was met by Gislebert,
bishop of Evreux, then abbot of St. Stephen's, at the head of his monks,
attended with a numerous throng of clergy and laity; but scarcely had
the bier been brought within the gates, when the report was spread that
a dreadful fire had broken out in another part of the town, and the
Duke's remains were a second time deserted. The monks alone remained;
and, fearful and irresolute, they bore their founder "with candle, with
book, and with knell," to his last home. Ordericus Vitalis enumerates
the principal prelates and barons assembled upon this occasion; but he
makes no mention of the Conqueror's son, Henry, who, according to
William of Jumieges, was the only one of the family that attended, and
was also the only one worthy of succeeding to such a father.--Mass had
now been performed, and the body was about to be committed to the
ground, "ashes to ashes, dust to dust," when, previously to this closing
part of the ceremony, Gislebert mounted the pulpit, and delivered an
oration in honor of the deceased.--He praised his valor, which had so
widely extended the limits of the Norman dominion; his ability, which
had elevated the nation to the highest pitch of glory; his equity in
the administration of justice; his firmness in correcting abuses; and
his liberality towards the monks and clergy; then, finally, addressing
the people, he besought them to intercede with the Almighty for the soul
of their prince, and to pardon whatsoever transgression he might have
been guilty of towards any of them.--At this moment, one Asselin, an
obscure individual, starting from the crowd, exclaimed with a loud
voice, "the ground upon which you are standing, was the site of my
father's dwelling. This man, for whom you ask our prayers, took it by
force from my parent; by violence he seized, by violence he retained it;
and, contrary to all law and justice, he built upon it this church,
where we are assembled. Publicly, therefore, in the sight of God and
man, do I claim my inheritance, and protest against the body of the
plunderer being covered with my turf."--The appeal was attended with
instant effect; bishops and nobles united in their entreaties to
Asselin; they admitted the justice of his claim; they pacified him; they
paid him sixty shillings on the spot by way of recompence for the place
of sepulture; and, finally, they satisfied him for the rest of the land.

But the remarkable incidents doomed to attend upon this burial, were not
yet at an end; for at the time when they were laying the corpse in the
sarcophagus, and were bending it with some force, which they were
compelled to do, in consequence of the coffin having been made too
short, the body, which was extremely corpulent, burst, and so
intolerable a stench issued from the grave, that all the perfumes which
arose from all the censers of the priests and acolytes were of no avail;
and the rites were concluded in haste, and the assembly, struck with
horror, returned to their homes.

The latter part of this story accords but ill with what De Bourgueville
relates. We learn from this author, that four hundred and thirty years
subsequent to the death of the Conqueror, a Roman cardinal, attended by
an archbishop and bishop, visited the town of Caen, and that his
eminence having expressed a wish to see the body of the duke, the monks
yielded to his curiosity, and the tomb was opened, and the corpse
discovered in so perfect a state, that the cardinal caused a portrait to
be taken from the lifeless features.--It is not worth while now to
inquire into the truth of this story, or the fidelity of the
resemblance. The painting has disappeared in the course of time: it hung
for a while against the walls of the church, opposite to the monument;
but it was stolen during the tumults caused by the Huguenots, and was
broken into two pieces, in which state De Bourgueville saw it a few
years afterwards, in the hands of a Calvinist, one Peter Hode, the
gaoler at Caen, who used it in the double capacity of a table and a
door.--The worthy magistrate states, that he kept the picture, "because
the abbey-church was demolished."

He was himself present at the second violation of the royal tomb, in
1572; and he gives a piteous account of the transaction. The monument
raised to the memory of the Conqueror, by his son, William Rufus, under
the superintendance of Lanfranc, was a production of much costly and
elaborate workmanship: the shrine, which was placed upon the mausoleum,
glittered with gold and silver and precious stones. To complete the
whole, the effigy of the king had been added to the tomb, at some
period subsequent to its original erection.--A monument like this
naturally excited the rapacity of a lawless banditti, unrestrained by
civil or military force, and inveterate against every thing that might
be regarded as connected with the Catholic worship.--The Calvinists were
masters of Caen, and, incited by the information of what had taken place
at Rouen, they resolved to repeat the same outrages. Under the specious
pretext of abolishing idolatrous worship, they pillaged and ransacked
every church and monastery: they broke the painted windows and organs,
destroyed the images, stole the ecclesiastical ornaments, sold the
shrines, committed pulpits, chests, books, and whatever was combustible,
to the fire; and finally, after having wreaked their vengeance upon
eyery thing that could be made the object of it, they went boldly to the
town-hall to demand the wages for their labors.--In the course of these
outrages the tomb of the Conqueror at one abbey, and that of Matilda at
the other, were demolished. And this was not enough; but a few days
afterwards, the same band returned, allured by the hopes of farther
plunder. It was customary in ancient times to deposit treasures of
various kinds in the tombs of sovereigns, as if the feelings of the
living passed into the next stage of existence;--

"... quae gratia currum
Armorumque fuit vivis, quae cura nitentes
Pascere equos, eadem sequitur tellure repostos."

The bees that adorned the imperial mantle of Napoleon were found in the
tomb of Childeric. A similar expectation excited the Huguenots, at Caen.
They dug up the coffin: the hollow stone rung to the strokes of their
daggers: the vibration proved that it was not filled by the corpse; and
nothing more was wanted to seal its destruction.

De Bourgueville, who went to the spot and exerted his eloquence to check
this last act of violence, witnessed the opening of the coffin. It
contained the bones of the king, wrapped up in red taffety, and still in
tolerable preservation; but nothing else. He collected them, with care,
and consigned them to one of the monks of the abbeys who kept them in
his chamber, till the Admiral de Chatillon entered Caen at the head of
his mercenaries, on which occasion the whole abbey was plundered, and
the monks put to flight, and the bones lost. "Sad doings, these," says
De Bourgueville, "_et bien peu reformez!_"--He adds, that one of the
thigh-bones was preserved by the Viscount of Falaise, who was there with
him, and begged it from the rioters, and that this bone was longer by
four fingers' breadth than that of a tall man. The bone thus preserved,
was re-interred, after the cessation of the troubles: it is the same
that is alluded to in the inscription, which also informs us that a
monument was raised over it in 1642, but was removed in 1742, it being
then considered as an incumbrance in the choir.

With this detail I close my letter. The melancholy end of the Conqueror,
the strange occurrences at his interment, the violation of his grave,
the dispersion of his remains, and the demolition and final removal of
his monument, are circumstances calculated to excite melancholy emotions
in the mind of every one, whatever his condition in life. In all these
events, the religious man traces the hand of retributive justice; the
philosopher regards the nullity of sublunary grandeur; the historian
finds matter for serious reflection; the poet for affecting narrative;
the moralist for his tale; and the school-boy for his theme.--Ordericus
Vitalis sums the whole up admirably. I should spoil his language were I
to attempt to translate it; I give it you, therefore, in his own
words:--"Non fictilem tragoediam venundo, non loquaci comoedia
cachinnantibus parasitis faveo: sed studiosis lectoribus varios eventus
veraciter intimo. Inter prospera patuerunt adversa, ut terrerentur
terrigenarum corda. Rex quondam potens et bellicosus, multisque populis
per plures Provincias metuendus, in area jacuit nudus, et a suis, quos
genuerat vel aluerat, destitutus. Aere alieno in funebri cultu indiguit,
ope gregarii pro sandapila et vespilionibus conducendis eguit, qui tot
hactenus et superfluis opibus nimis abundavit. Secus incendium a
formidolosis vectus est ad Basilicam, liberoque solo, qui tot urbibus et
oppidis et vicis principatus est, caruit ad sepulturam. Arvina ventris
ejus tot delectamentis enutrita cum dedecore patuit, et prudentes ac
infrunitos, qualis sit gloria carnis, edocuit[79]."

* * * * *


[Footnote 76: _Anglo-Norman Antiquities_, p. 45.]

[Footnote 77: See _Cotman's Architectural Antiquities of Normandy_, t.

[Footnote 78: A detailed account of the proceedings on this occasion, is
given in the _Journal Politique du Departement du Calvados_, for March
21, and May 6, 1819.--The first attempt at the discovery of Matilda's
coffin, was made in March, 1818, and was confined to the chapter-house:
the matter then slept till the following March, when Count de
Montlivault, attended by the Bishop of Bayeux, Mr. Spencer Smythe, and
other gentlemen, prosecuted his inquiries within the church itself, and,
immediately under the spot where her monument stood, discovered a stone
coffin, five feet four inches long, by eleven inches deep, and varying
in width from twenty inches to eleven. Within this coffin was a leaden
box, soldered down; and, in addition to the box, the head of an effigy
of a monk, in stone, and a portion of a skull-bone filled with aromatic
herbs, and covered with a yellowish-white membrane, which proved, upon
examination, to be the remains of a linen cloth. The box contained
various bones, that had belonged to a person of nearly the same height
as Matilda is described to have been. No doubt seemed to remain but that
the desideratum was discovered. The whole was therefore carefully
replaced; and the prefect ordered that a new tomb should be raised,
similar to that which was destroyed at the revolution; and that the
slab, with the original epitaph, should be laid on the top; that copies
of the former inscription, stating how the queen's remains had been
re-interred by the abbess, in 1707, should be added to two of the sides;
that to the third should be affixed the ducal arms of Normandy; and that
the fourth should bear the following inscription:--

"Ce tombeau renfermant les depouilles mortelles
de l'illustre Fondatrice de cette Abbaye,
renverse pendant les discordes civiles,
et deplace depuis une longue serie d'annees,
a ete restaure, conformement au voeu des
amis de la religion, de l'antiquite et des arts,
Casimir, comte de Montlivault, conseiller d'etat, prefet.
Lechaude d'Anisy, directeur de l'Hospice."

The ceremony of the re-interment was performed with great pomp on the
fifth of May; and the Bishop of Bayeux pronounced a speech on the
occasion, that does him credit for its good sense and affecting

[Footnote 79: _Hist. Normannorum Scriptores_, p. 662.]



(_Caen, August_, 1818.)

Within the precincts of the abbey of St. Stephen are some buildings,
which do not appear to have been used for monastic purposes. It is
supposed that they were erected by William the Conqueror, and they are
yet called his palace. Only sixty years ago, when Ducarel visited Caen,
these remains still preserved their original character.

He describes the great guard-chamber and the barons' hall, as making a
noble appearance, and as being perhaps equally worth the notice of an
English antiquary as any object within the province of Normandy. The
walls of these rooms are standing, but dilapidated and degraded; and
they have lost their architectural character, which, supposing Ducarel's
plate to be a faithful representation, must have been very decisive. It
is scarcely possible to conceive how any man, with such a specimen of
the palace before his eyes, could dream of its being coeval with the
Norman conquest: every portion is of the pointed style, and even of a
period when that style was no longer in its purity. Possibly, indeed,
other parts of the edifice may have been more ancient; such certainly
was the "Conqueror's kitchen," a singular octagon building, with four
tall slender chimneys capped with perforated cones. This was destroyed
many years ago; but Ducarel obtained an original drawing of it, which he
has engraved. Amongst the ruins there is a chimney which perhaps
belonged to this building.--The guard-chamber and barons' hall are noble
rooms: the former is one hundred and ninety feet in length and ninety in
breadth. You remember how admirably the _Lay of the Last Minstrel_ opens
with a description of such a hall, filled with knights, and squires, and
pages, and all the accompaniments of feudal state. I tried, while
standing by these walls, to conjure up the same pictures to my
imagination, but it was impossible; so desolate and altered was every
thing around, and so effectually was the place of baronial assemblage
converted into a granary. The ample fire-place still remains; but, cold
and cheerless, it looks as if had been left in mockery of departed
splendor and hospitality. I annex a sketch of it, in which you will also
see a few scattered tiles, relics of the magnificent pavement that once
covered the floor.

[Illustration: Fireplace in the Conqueror's Palace, at Caen]

This pavement has been the subject of much learned discussion; because,
if the antiquity of the emblazoned tiles could be established, (which it
certainly cannot) we should then have a decisive proof of the use of
armorial bearings in the eleventh century. Nearly the whole of these
tiles are now removed. After the abbey was sold, the workmen entirely
destroyed the tiles, breaking them with their pick-axes. The Abbe de la
Rue, however, collected an entire set of them; and others have been
preserved by M. Lair, an antiquary of Caen.--Ducarel thus describes the
pavement when perfect: "The floor is laid with tiles, each near five
inches square, baked almost to vitrification. Eight rows of these
tiles, running from east to west, are charged with different coats of
arms, said to be those of the families who attended Duke William in his
invasion of England. The intervals between each of these rows are filled
up with a kind of tessellated pavement, the middle whereof represents a
maze or labyrinth, about ten feet in diameter, and so artfully contrived
that were we to suppose a man following all the intricate meanders of
its volutes, he could not travel less than a mile before he got from one
end to the other. The remainder of the floor is inlaid with small
squares of different colors, placed alternately, and formed into draught
or chess-boards, for the amusement of the soldiers while on guard."

Such is the general description of the floors of this apartment: with
regard to the date of the tiles, Ducarel proceeds to state that "it is
most probable the pavement was laid down in the latter part of the reign
of King John, when he was loitering away his life at Caen, with the
beautiful Isabel of Angouleme, his queen; during which period, the
custom of wearing coats of arms was introduced."--Common tradition
assigns the tiles to higher date, making them coeval with the conquest;
and this opinion has not been without supporters. It was strenuously
defended by Mr. Henniker Major, who, in the year 1794, printed for
private distribution, two letters upon the subject, addressed to Lord
Leicester, in which he maintained this opinion with zeal and laborious
research. To the letters were annexed engravings of twenty coats of
arms, the whole, as he observes, that were represented on the pavement;
for though the number of emblazoned tiles was considerable, the rest
were all repetitions[80]. The same observation was found in the
inscription attached to a number of the tiles, which the monks kept
framed for public inspection, in a conspicuous part of the monastery;
and yet some of the armorial bearings in this very selection, differ
from any of those figured by Mr. Henniker Major. The Abbe de la Rue has
also many which are not included in Mr. Henniker Major's engravings. In
one of the coats the arms are quartered, a practice that was not
introduced till the reign of Edward IIIrd. The same quarterings are also
found upon an escutcheon, placed over the door that leads to the
apartment. This door is a flattened arch, with an ogee canopy, the
workmanship probably of the fourteenth century.

To the same date I should also refer the tiles; and possibly the whole
palace was built at that period. There are no records of its erection;
no document connects its existence with the history of the duchy; no
author relates its having been suffered to fall into decay. So striking
an absence of all proof, and this upon a point where evidence of
different kinds might naturally have been expected, may warrant a
suspicion how far the building was ever a royal palace, according to the
strict import of the town. A friend of mine supposes that these
buildings may have been the king's lodgings. During the middle ages it
was usual for monarchs in their progresses, to put up at the great
abbeys; and this portion of the convent of St. Stephen may have been
intended for the accommodation of the royal guests.

The assigning of a comparatively modern date to the pavement, does not
necessarily interfere with the question as to the antiquity of heraldic
bearings. The coats of arms which are painted upon the tiles may have
been designed to represent those of the nobility who attended Duke
William on his expedition to England: it is equally possible that they
embraced a more general object, and were those of the principal families
of the duchy--De Thou gives his suffrage in favor of the former opinion,
but Huet of the latter; and the testimony of the bishop must be allowed,
in this case, to outweigh that of the president.--Huet also says, that
it is matter of notoriety that the tiles were laid down towards the
close of the fourteenth century. He mentions, however, no authority for
the assertion; and less credit perhaps will be given to it than it
deserves, from his having stated just before, that the abbey and palace
were contemporary structures.

Upon the outside wall of a chapel that is supposed to have belonged to
the same palace, were ancient fresco paintings of William and Matilda,
and of their sons, Robert and William Rufus. They are engraved by
Montfaucon[81], and are supposed by him, probably with reason, to be
coeval with the personages they represent. The figures are standing upon
animals, the distribution of which is the most remarkable circumstance
connected with the portraits. To the king is assigned a dog; to the
queen a lion: the eldest son has the same symbol as his father; the
younger rests upon a two-bodied beast, half swine, half bird, the bodies
uniting in a female head.--Upon the same plate, Montfaucon has given a
second whole-length picture of the conqueror, which represents him with
the crown upon his head, and the sceptre in his hand. Considering the
costume, he observes with justice that it cannot have been painted
earlier than the latter part of the fourteenth century. Ducarel, who, as
usual, has copied the Benedictine's engravings, says that, in his time,
the same portrait existed in fresco over a chimney-piece in the porter's
lodge.--We saw two copies of it; the one in the sacristy of the abbey
church, the other in the museum, an establishment which may, without
injustice to the honors of Caen, be dismissed with the brief
observation, that, though three rooms are appropriated to the purpose,
there is a very scanty assortment of pictures, and their quality is
altogether ordinary.

The public library is a handsome apartment, one hundred and thirty feet
in length, and it contains about twenty thousand volumes, mostly in good
condition; but a great proportion of the books are of a description
little read, being old divinity. To the students of the university, this
establishment is of essential service; and on this account it is to be
regretted, that the very scanty revenue with which it is endowed,
amounting only to twelve hundred francs per annum, prevents the
possibility of any material increase to the collection, except in the
case of such books as the liberality of the state contributes. And these
are principally works of luxury and great expence, which might
advantageously be exchanged for the less costly productions of more
extensive utility. We inquired in vain after manuscripts and specimens
of early typography. None were to be found; and yet they might surely
have been expected here; for a public library has existed in Caen from
an early part of the last century, and, previous to the revolution, it
was enriched with various donations. M. de Colleville presented to it
the whole of the collection of the celebrated Bochart; Cavelier, printer
to the university, a man known by several treatises on Roman
antiquities, added a donation of two thousand volumes; and Cardinal de
Fleury, who considered it under his especial protection, gave various
sums of money for the purchase of books, and likewise provided a salary
for the librarian. I suspect that no small proportion of the more
valuable volumes, have been dispersed or stolen. Round the apartment
hang portraits of the most eminent men of Caen: tablets are also
suspended, for the purpose of commemorating those who have been
benefactors to the library; but the tablets at present are blank.

For its university Caen is indebted to Henry VIth, who, anxious to give
eclat and popularity to British rule, founded a college by letters
patent, dated from Rouen, in January, 1431. The original charter
restricted the objects of the university to education in the canon and
civil law; but, five years subsequently, the same king issued a fresh
patent, adding the faculties of theology and the arts; and, in the
following year, he still farther added the faculty of medicine.--To
give permanency to the work thus happily begun, the states of Normandy
preferred their petition to Pope Eugene IVth, who issued two bulls,
dated the thirtieth of May, 1437, and the nineteenth of May, 1439, by
which the new university received the sanction of the holy see, and was
placed upon the same footing as the other universities of the kingdom.
The Bishop of Bayeux was at the same time appointed chancellor; and
sundry apostolical privileges were conceded, which have been confirmed
by subsequent pontiffs.--Thus Normandy, as is admitted by De
Bourgueville, owed good as well as evil to her English sovereigns; but
Charles VIIth had no sooner succeeded in expelling our countrymen from
the province, than jealousy arose in his breast, at finding them in
possession of such a title to the gratitude of the people, and he
resolved to run the risk of destroying what had been done, rather than
lose the opportunity of gratifying his personal feeling. The university
was therefore dissolved in 1450, that a new one might hereafter be
founded by the new sovereign. The king thought it necessary to vary in
some degree from the example of his predecessor; and for this purpose he
had recourse to the extraordinary expedient of abolishing the faculty of
law. A petition, however, from the states, induced him to replace the
whole upon its original footing in 1452, and it continued till the time
of the revolution to have all the five faculties, and to be the only one
in France that retained them. Two years only intervened between the
dates of the patents issued by Charles VIIth, upon the subject of this
university; yet there is a remarkable difference in their language. The
first of them, which is obviously intended to disparage Caen, styles it
a large town, scantily inhabited, without manufactures or commerce, and
destitute of any great river to afford facilities towards the transport
of the produce of the country. The second was designed to have an
opposite tendency; and in this, the people of Caen are praised for their
acuteness, and the town for its excellent harbor and great rivers. The
patent also adds, that the nearest university, that of Paris, is fifty
leagues distant.

In the estimation, at least, of the inhabitants, the university of Caen
ranks at present the third in France; Paris and Strasbourg being alone

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