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Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres by Henry Adams

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withdrawing room, where the decorator and builder thought only of
pleasing her. The very faults of the architecture and effeminacy of
taste witness the artists' object. If the glassworkers had thought
of themselves or of the public or even of the priests, they would
have strained for effects, strong masses of colour, and striking
subjects to impress the imagination. Nothing of the sort is even
suggested. The great, awe-inspiring mosaic figure of the Byzantine
half-dome was a splendid religious effect, but this artist had in
his mind an altogether different thought. He was in the Virgin's
employ; he was decorating her own chamber in her own palace; he
wanted to please her; and he knew her tastes, even when she did not
give him her personal orders. To him, a dream would have been an
order. The salary of the twelfth-century artist was out of all
relation with the percentage of a twentieth-century decorator. The
artist of 1200 was probably the last who cared little for the baron,
not very much for the priest, and nothing for the public, unless he
happened to be paid by the guild, and then he cared just to the
extent of his hire, or, if he was himself a priest, not even for
that. His pay was mostly of a different kind, and was the same as
that of the peasants who were hauling the stone from the quarry at
Bercheres while he was firing his ovens. His reward was to come when
he should be promoted to decorate the Queen of Heaven's palace in
the New Jerusalem, and he served a mistress who knew better than he
did what work was good and what was bad, and how to give him his
right place. Mary's taste was infallible; her knowledge like her
power had no limits; she knew men's thoughts as well as acts, and
could not be deceived. Probably, even in our own time, an artist
might find his imagination considerably stimulated and his work
powerfully improved if he knew that anything short of his best would
bring him to the gallows, with or without trial by jury; but in the
twelfth century the gallows was a trifle; the Queen hardly
considered it a punishment for an offence to her dignity. The artist
was vividly aware that Mary disposed of hell.

All this is written in full, on every stone and window of this apse,
as legible as the legends to any one who cares to read. The artists
were doing their best, not to please a swarm of flat-eared peasants
or slow-witted barons, but to satisfy Mary, the Queen of Heaven, to
whom the Kings and Queens of France were coming constantly for help,
and whose absolute power was almost the only restraint recognized by
Emperor, Pope, and clown. The colour-decoration is hers, and hers
alone. For her the lights are subdued, the tones softened, the
subjects selected, the feminine taste preserved. That other great
ladies interested themselves in the matter, even down to its
technical refinements, is more than likely; indeed, in the central
apside chapel, suggesting the Auxerre grisaille that Viollet-le-Duc
mentioned, is a grisaille which bears the arms of Castile and Queen
Blanche; further on, three other grisailles bear also the famous
castles, but this is by no means the strongest proof of feminine
taste. The difficulty would be rather to find a touch of certainly
masculine taste in the whole apse.

Since the central apside chapel is the most important, we can begin
with the windows there, bearing in mind that the subject of the
central window was the Life of Christ, dictated by rule or custom.
On Christ's left hand is the window of Saint Peter; next him is
Saint Paul. All are much restored; thirty-three of the medallions
are wholly new. Opposite Saint Peter, at Christ's right hand, is the
window of Saint Simon and Saint Jude; and next is the grisaille with
the arms of Castile. If these windows were ordered between 1205 and
1210, Blanche, who was born in 1187, and married in 1200, would have
been a young princess of twenty or twenty-five when she gave this
window in grisaille to regulate and harmonize and soften the
lighting of the Virgin's boudoir. The central chapel must be taken
to be the most serious, the most studied, and the oldest of the
chapels in the church, above the crypt. The windows here should rank
in importance next to the lancets of the west front which are only
about sixty years earlier. They show fully that difference.

Here one must see for one's self. Few artists know much about it,
and still fewer care for an art which has been quite dead these four
hundred years. The ruins of Nippur would hardly be more intelligible
to the ordinary architect of English tradition than these twelfth-
century efforts of the builders of Chartres. Even the learning of
Viollet-le-Duc was at fault in dealing with a building so personal
as this, the history of which is almost wholly lost. This central
chapel must have been meant to give tone to the apse, and it shows
with the colour-decoration of a queen's salon, a subject-decoration
too serious for the amusement of heretics. One sees at a glance that
the subject-decoration was inspired by church-custom, while colour
was an experiment and the decorators of this enormous window space
were at liberty as colourists to please the Countess of Chartres and
the Princess Blanche and the Duchess of Brittany, without much
regarding the opinions of the late Bernard of Clairvaux or even
Augustine of Hippo, since the great ladies of the Court knew better
than the Saints what would suit the Virgin.

The subject of the central window was prescribed by tradition.
Christ is the Church, and in this church he and his Mother are one;
therefore the life of Christ is the subject of the central window,
but the treatment is the Virgin's, as the colours show, and as the
absence of every influence but hers, including the Crucifixion,
proves officially. Saint Peter and Saint Paul are in their proper
place as the two great ministers of the throne who represent the two
great parties in western religion, the Jewish and the Gentile.
Opposite them, balancing by their family influence the weight of
delegated power, are two of Mary's nephews, Simon and Jude; but this
subject branches off again into matters so personal to Mary that
Simon and Jude require closer acquaintance. One must study a new
guidebook--the "Golden Legend," by the blessed James, Bishop of
Genoa and member of the order of Dominic, who was born at Varazze or
Voragio in almost the same year that Thomas was born at Aquino, and
whose "Legenda Aurea," written about the middle of the thirteenth
century, was more popular history than the Bible itself, and more
generally consulted as authority. The decorators of the thirteenth
century got their motives quite outside the Bible, in sources that
James of Genoa compiled into a volume almost as fascinating as the
"Fioretti of Saint Francis."

According to the "Golden Legend" and the tradition accepted in
Jerusalem by pilgrims and crusaders, Mary's family connection was
large. It appears that her mother Anne was three times married, and
by each husband had a daughter Mary, so that there were three Marys,

Joachim-Anne- Cleophas- -Salome

Joseph-Mary Alpheus-Mary Mary-Zebedee

Christ James Joseph Simon Jude James John
the Minor the the Major the Evangelist
Apostle Just St. Iago of Compostella

Simon and Jude were, therefore, nephews of Mary and cousins of
Christ, whose lives were evidence of the truth not merely of
Scripture, but specially of the private and family distinction of
their aunt, the Virgin Mother of Christ. They were selected, rather
than their brothers, or cousins James and John, for the conspicuous
honour of standing opposite Peter and Paul, doubtless by reason of
some merit of their own, but perhaps also because in art the two
counted as one, and therefore the one window offered two witnesses,
which allowed the artist to insert a grisaille in place of another
legendary window to complete the chapel on their right. According to
Viollet-le-Duc, the grisaille in this position regulates the light
and so completes the effect.

If custom prescribed a general rule for the central chapel, it seems
to have left great freedom in the windows near by. At Chartres the
curved projection that contains the next two windows was not a
chapel, but only a window-bay, for the sake of the windows, and, if
the artists aimed at pleasing the Virgin, they would put their best
work there. At Bourges in the same relative place are three of the
best windows in the building:--the Prodigal Son, the New Alliance
and the Good Samaritan; all of them full of life, story, and colour,
with little reference to a worship or a saint. At Chartres the
choice is still more striking, and the windows are also the best in
the building, after the twelfth-century glass of the west front. The
first, which comes next to Blanche's grisaille in the central
chapel, is given to another nephew of Mary and apostle of Christ,
Saint James the Major, whose life is recorded in the proper Bible
Dictionaries, with a terminal remark as follows:--

For legends respecting his death and his connections with Spain, see
the Roman Breviary, in which the healing of a paralytic and the
conversion of Hermogenes are attributed to him, and where it is
asserted that he preached the Gospel in Spain, and that his remains
were translated to Compostella ... As there is no shadow of
foundation for any of the legends here referred to, we pass them by
without further notice. Even Baronius shows himself ashamed of

If the learned Baronius thought himself required to show shame for
all the legends that pass as history, he must have suffered cruelly
during his laborious life, and his sufferings would not have been
confined to the annals of the Church; but the historical accuracy of
the glass windows is not our affair, nor are historians especially
concerned in the events of the Virgin's life, whether recorded or
legendary. Religion is, or ought to be, a feeling, and the
thirteenth-century windows are original documents, much more
historical than any recorded in the Bible, since their inspiration
is a different thing from their authority. The true life of Saint
James or Saint Jude or any other of the apostles, did not, in the
opinion of the ladies in the Court of France, furnish subjects
agreeable enough to decorate the palace of the Queen of Heaven; and
that they were right, any one must feel, who compares these two
windows with subjects of dogma. Saint James, better known as
Santiago of Compostella, was a compliment to the young Dauphine--
before Dauphines existed--the Princess Blanche of Castile, whose
arms, or castles, are on the grisaille window next to it. Perhaps
she chose him to stand there. Certainly her hand is seen plainly
enough throughout the church to warrant suspecting it here. As a
nephew, Saint James was dear to the Virgin, but, as a friend to
Spain, still more dear to Blanche, and it is not likely that pure
accident caused three adjacent windows to take a Spanish tone.

The Saint James in whom the thirteenth century delighted, and whose
windows one sees at Bourges, Tours, and wherever the scallop-shell
tells of the pilgrim, belongs not to the Bible but to the "Golden
Legend." This window was given by the Merchant Tailors whose
signature appears at the bottom, in the corners, in two pictures
that paint the tailor's shop of Chartres in the first quarter of the
thirteenth century. The shop-boy takes cloth from chests for his
master to show to customers, and to measure off by his ell. The
story of Saint James begins in the lower panel, where he receives
his mission from Christ, Above, on the right, he seems to be
preaching. On the left appears a figure which tells the reason for
the popularity of the story. It is Almogenes, or in the Latin,
Hermogenes, a famous magician in great credit among the Pharisees,
who has the command of demons, as you see, for behind his shoulder,
standing, a little demon is perched, while he orders his pupil
Filetus to convert James. Next, James is shown in discussion with a
group of listeners. Filetus gives him a volume of false doctrine.
Almogenes then further instructs Filetus. James is led away by a
rope, curing a paralytic as he goes. He sends his cloak to Filetus
to drive away the demon. Filetus receives the cloak, and the droll
little demon departs in tears. Almogenes, losing his temper, sends
two demons, with horns on their heads and clubs in their hands, to
reason with James; who sends them back to remonstrate with
Almogenes. The demons then bind Almogenes and bring him before
James, who discusses differences with him until Almogenes burns his
books of magic and prostrates himself before the Saint. Both are
then brought before Herod, and Almogenes breaks a pretty heathen
idol, while James goes to prison. A panel comes in here, out of
place, showing Almogenes enchanting Filetus, and the demon entering
into possession of him. Then Almogenes is seen being very roughly
handled by a young Jew, while the bystanders seem to approve. James
next makes Almogenes throw his books of magic into the sea; both are
led away to execution, curing the infirm on their way; their heads
are cut off; and, at the top, God blesses the orb of the world.

That this window was intended to amuse the Virgin seems quite as
reasonable an idea as that it should have been made to instruct the
people, or us. Its humour was as humorous then as now, for the
French of the thirteenth century loved humour even in churches, as
their grotesques proclaim. The Saint James window is a tale of
magic, told with the vivacity of a fabliau; but if its motive of
amusement seems still a forced idea, we can pass on, at once, to the
companion window which holds the best position in the church, where,
in the usual cathedral, one expects to find Saint John or some other
apostle; or Saint Joseph; or a doctrinal lesson such as that called
the New Alliance where the Old and New Testaments are united. The
window which the artists have set up here is regarded as the best of
the thirteenth-century windows, and is the least religious.

The subject is nothing less than the "Chanson de Roland" in pictures
of coloured glass, set in a border worth comparing at leisure with
the twelfth-century borders of the western lancets. Even at
Chartres, the artists could not risk displeasing the Virgin and the
Church by following a wholly profane work like the "Chanson" itself,
and Roland had no place in religion. He could be introduced only
through Charlemagne, who had almost as little right there as he. The
twelfth century had made persistent efforts to get Charlemagne into
the Church, and the Church had made very little effort to keep him
out; yet by the year 1200, Charlemagne had not been sainted except
by the anti-Pope Pascal III in 1165, although there was a popular
belief, supported in Spain by the necessary documents, that Pope
Calixtus II in 1122 had declared the so-called Chronicle of
Archbishop Turpin to be authentic. The Bishop of Chartres in 1200
was very much too enlightened a prelate to accept the Chronicle or
Turpin or Charlemagne himself, still less Roland and Thierry, as
authentic in sanctity; but if the young and beautiful Dauphine of
France, and her cousins of Chartres, and their artists, warmly
believed that the Virgin would be pleased by the story of
Charlemagne and Roland, the Bishop might have let them have their
way in spite of the irregularity. That the window was an
irregularity, is plain; that it has always been immensely admired,
is certain; and that Bishop Renaud must have given his assent to it,
is not to be denied.

The most elaborate account of this window can be found in Male's
"Art Religieux" (pp. 444-50). Its feeling or motive is quite another
matter, as it is with the statuary on the north porch. The Furriers
or Fur Merchants paid for the Charlemagne window, and their
signature stands at the bottom, where a merchant shows a fur-lined
cloak to his customer. That Mary was personally interested in furs,
no authority seems to affirm, but that Blanche and Isabel and every
lady of the Court, as well as every king and every count, in that
day, took keen interest in the subject, is proved by the prices they
paid, and the quantities they wore. Not even the Merchant Tailors
had a better standing at Court than the Furriers, which may account
for their standing so near the Virgin. Whatever the cause, the
Furriers were allowed to put their signature here, side by side with
the Tailors, and next to the Princess Blanche. Their gift warranted
it. Above the signature, in the first panel, the Emperor Constantine
is seen, asleep, in Constantinople, on an elaborate bed, while an
angel is giving him the order to seek aid from Charlemagne against
the Saracens. Charlemagne appears, in full armour of the year 1200,
on horseback. Then Charlemagne, sainted, wearing his halo, converses
with two bishops on the subject of a crusade for the rescue of
Constantine. In the next scene, he arrives at the gates of
Constantinople where Constantine receives him. The fifth picture is
most interesting; Charlemagne has advanced with his knights and
attacks the Saracens; the Franks wear coats-of-mail, and carry long,
pointed shields; the infidels carry round shields; Charlemagne,
wearing a crown, strikes off with one blow of his sword the head of
a Saracen emir; but the battle is desperate; the chargers are at
full gallop, and a Saracen is striking at Charlemagne with his
battle-axe. After the victory has been won, the Emperor Constantine
rewards Charlemagne by the priceless gift of three chasses or
reliquaries, containing a piece of the true Cross; the Suaire or
grave-cloth of the Saviour; and a tunic of the Virgin. Charlemagne
then returns to France, and in the next medallion presents the three
chasses and the crown of the Saracen king to the church at Aix,
which to a French audience meant the Abbey of Saint-Denis. This
scene closes the first volume of the story.

The second part opens on Charlemagne, seated between two persons,
looking up to heaven at the Milky Way, called then the Way of Saint
James, which directs him to the grave of Saint James in Spain. Saint
James himself appears to Charlemagne in a dream, and orders him to
redeem the tomb from the infidels. Then Charlemagne sets out, with
Archbishop Turpin of Rheims and knights. In presence of his army he
dismounts and implores the aid of God. Then he arrives before
Pampeluna and transfixes with his lance the Saracen chief as he
flies into the city. Mounted, he directs workmen to construct a
church in honour of Saint James; a little cloud figures the hand of
God. Next is shown the miracle of the lances; stuck in the ground at
night, they are found in the morning to have burst into foliage,
prefiguring martyrdom. Two thousand people perish in battle. Then
begins the story of Roland which the artists and donors are so eager
to tell, knowing, as they do, that what has so deeply interested men
and women on earth, must interest Mary who loves them. You see
Archbishop Turpin celebrating mass when an angel appears, to warn
him of Roland's fate. Then Roland himself, also wearing a halo, is
introduced, in the act of killing the giant Ferragus. The combat of
Roland and Ferragus is at the top, out of sequence, as often happens
in the legendary windows. Charlemagne and his army are seen marching
homeward through the Pyrenees, while Roland winds his horn and
splits the rock without being able to break Durendal. Thierry,
likewise sainted, brings water to Roland in a helmet. At last
Thierry announces Roland's death. At the top, on either side of
Roland and Ferragus, is an angel with incense.

The execution of this window is said to be superb. Of the colour,
and its relations with that of the Saint James, one needs time and
long acquaintance to learn the value. In the feeling, compared with
that of the twelfth century, one needs no time in order to see a
change. These two windows are as French and as modern as a picture
of Lancret; they are pure art, as simply decorative as the
decorations of the Grand Opera. The thirteenth century knew more
about religion and decoration than the twentieth century will ever
learn. The windows were neither symbolic nor mystical, nor more
religious than they pretended to be. That they are more intelligent
or more costly or more effective is nothing to the purpose, so long
as one grants that the combat of Roland and Ferragus, or Roland
winding his olifant, or Charlemagne cutting off heads and
transfixing Moors, were subjects never intended to teach religion or
instruct the ignorant, but to please the Queen of Heaven as they
pleased the queens of earth with a roman, not in verse but in
colour, as near as possible to decorative perfection. Instinctively
one looks to the corresponding bay, opposite, to see what the
artists could have done to balance these two great efforts of their
art; but the bay opposite is now occupied by the entrance to Saint
Piat's chapel and one does not know what changes may have been made
in the fourteenth century to rearrange the glass; yet, even as it
now stands, the Sylvester window which corresponds to the
Charlemagne is, as glass, the strongest in the whole cathedral. In
the next chapel, on our left, come the martyrs, with Saint Stephen,
the first martyr, in the middle window. Naturally the subject is
more serious, but the colour is not differently treated. A step
further, and you see the artists returning to their lighter
subjects. The stories of Saint Julian and Saint Thomas are more
amusing than the plots of half the thirteenth-century romances, and
not very much more religious. The subject of Saint Thomas is a
pendant to that of Saint James, for Saint Thomas was a great
traveller and an architect, who carried Mary's worship to India as
Saint James carried it to Spain. Here is the amusement of many days
in studying the stories, the colour and the execution of these
windows, with the help of the "Monographs" of Chartres and Bourges
or the "Golden Legend" and occasional visits to Le Mans, Tours,
Clermont Ferrand, and other cathedrals; but, in passing, one has to
note that the window of Saint Thomas was given by France, and bears
the royal arms, perhaps for Philip Augustus the King; while the
window of Saint Julian was given by the Carpenters and Coopers. One
feels no need to explain how it happens that the taste of the royal
family, and of their tailors, furriers, carpenters, and coopers,
should fit so marvellously, one with another, and with that of the
Virgin; but one can compare with theirs the taste of the Stone-
workers opposite, in the window of Saint Sylvester and Saint
Melchiades, whose blues almost kill the Charlemagne itself, and of
the Tanners in that of Saint Thomas of Canterbury; or, in the last
chapel on the south side, with that of the Shoemakers in the window
to Saint Martin, attributed for some reason to a certain Clemens
vitrearius Carnutensis, whose name is on a window in the cathedral
of Rouen. The name tells nothing, even if the identity could be
proved. Clement the glassmaker may have worked on his own account,
or for others; the glass differs only in refinements of taste or
perhaps of cost. Nicolas Lescine, the canon, or Geoffroi Chardonnel,
may have been less rich than the Bakers, and even the Furriers may
have not had the revenues of the King; but some controlling hand has
given more or less identical taste to all.

What one can least explain is the reason why some windows, that
should be here, are elsewhere. In most churches, one finds in the
choir a window of doctrine, such as the so-called New Alliance, but
here the New Alliance is banished to the nave. Besides the costly
Charlemagne and Saint James windows in the apse, the Furriers and
Drapers gave several others, and one of these seems particularly
suited to serve as companion to Saint Thomas, Saint James, and Saint
Julian, so that it is best taken with these while comparing them. It
is in the nave, the third window from the new tower, in the north
aisle,--the window of Saint Eustace. The story and treatment and
beauty of the work would have warranted making it a pendant to
Almogenes, in the bay now serving as the door to Saint Piat's
chapel, which should have been the most effective of all the
positions in the church for a legendary story. Saint Eustace, whose
name was Placidas, commanded the guards of the Emperor Trajan. One
day he went out hunting with huntsmen and hounds, as the legend in
the lower panel of the window begins; a pretty picture of a stag
hunt about the year 1200; followed by one still prettier, where the
stag, after leaping upon a rock, has turned, and shows a crucifix
between his horns, the stag on one side balancing the horse on the
other, while Placidas on his knees yields to the miracle of Christ.
Then Placidas is baptized as Eustace; and in the centre, you see him
with his wife and two children--another charming composition--
leaving the city. Four small panels in the corners are said to
contain the signatures of the Drapers and Furriers. Above, the story
of adventure goes on, showing Eustace bargaining with a shipmaster
for his passage; his embarcation with wife and children, and their
arrival at some shore, where the two children have landed, and the
master drives Eustace after them while he detains the wife. Four
small panels here have not been identified, but the legend was no
doubt familiar to the Middle Ages, and they knew how Eustace and the
children came to a river, where you can see a pink lion carrying off
one child, while a wolf, which has seized the other, is attacked by
shepherds and dogs. The children are rescued, and the wife
reappears, on her knees before her lord, telling of her escape from
the shipmaster, while the children stand behind; and then the
reunited family, restored to the Emperor's favour, is seen feasting
and happy. At last Eustace refuses to offer a sacrifice to a
graceful antique idol, and is then shut up, with all his family, in
a brazen bull; a fire is kindled beneath it; and, from above, a hand
confers the crown of martyrdom.

Another subject, which should have been placed in the apse, stands
in a singular isolation which has struck many of the students in
this branch of church learning. At Sens, Saint Eustace is in the
choir, and by his side is the Prodigal Son. At Bourges also the
Prodigal Son is in the choir. At Chartres, he is banished to the
north transept, where you will find him in the window next the nave,
almost as though he were in disgrace; yet the glass is said to be
very fine, among the best in the church, while the story is told
with rather more vivacity than usual; and as far as colour and
execution go, the window has an air of age and quality higher than
the average. At the bottom you see the signature of the corporation
of Butchers. The window at Bourges was given by the Tanners. The
story begins with the picture showing the younger son asking the
father for his share of the inheritance, which he receives in the
next panel, and proceeds, on horseback, to spend, as one cannot help
suspecting, at Paris, in the Latin Quarter, where he is seen
arriving, welcomed by two ladies. No one has offered to explain why
Chartres should consider two ladies theologically more correct than
one; or why Sens should fix on three, or why Bourges should require
six. Perhaps this was left to the artist's fancy; but, before
quitting the twelfth century, we shall see that the usual young man
who took his share of patrimony and went up to study in the Latin
Quarter, found two schools of scholastic teaching, one called
Realism, the other Nominalism, each of which in turn the Church had
been obliged to condemn. Meanwhile the Prodigal Son is seen feasting
with them, and is crowned with flowers, like a new Abelard, singing
his songs to Heloise, until his religious capital is exhausted, and
he is dragged out of bed, to be driven naked from the house with
sticks, in this also I resembling Abelard. At Bourges he is gently
turned out; at Sens he is dragged away by three devils. Then he
seeks service, and is seen knocking acorns from boughs, to feed his
employer's swine; but, among the thousands of young men who must
have come here directly from the schools, nine in every ten said
that he was teaching letters to his employer's children or lecturing
to the students of the Latin Quarter. At last he decides to return
to his father,--possibly the Archbishop of Paris or the Abbot of
Saint-Denis,--who receives him with open arms, and gives him a new
robe, which to the ribald student would mean a church living--an
abbey, perhaps Saint Gildas-de-Rhuys in Brittany, or elsewhere. The
fatted calf is killed, the feast is begun, and the elder son, whom
the malicious student would name Bernard, appears in order to make
protest. Above, God, on His throne, blesses the globe of the world.

The original symbol of the Prodigal Son was a rather different form
of prodigality. According to the Church interpretation, the Father
had two sons; the older was the people of the Jews; the younger, the
Gentiles. The Father divided his substance between them, giving to
the older the divine law, to the younger, the law of nature. The
younger went off and dissipated his substance, as one must believe,
on Aristotle; but repented and returned when the Father sacrificed
the victim--Christ--as the symbol of reunion. That the Synagogue
also accepts the sacrifice is not so clear; but the Church clung to
the idea of converting the Synagogue as a necessary proof of
Christ's divine character. Not until about the time when this window
may have been made, did the new Church, under the influence of Saint
Dominic, abandon the Jews and turn in despair to the Gentiles alone.

The old symbolism belonged to the fourth and fifth centuries, and,
as told by the Jesuit fathers Martin and Cahier in their "Monograph"
of Bourges, it should have pleased the Virgin who was particularly
loved by the young, and habitually showed her attachment to them. At
Bourges the window stands next the central chapel of the apse, where
at Chartres is the entrance to Saint Piat's chapel; but Bourges did
not belong to Notre Dame, nor did Sens. The story of the prodigal
sons of these years from 1200 to 1230 lends the window a little
personal interest that the Prodigal Son of Saint Luke's Gospel could
hardly have had even to thirteenth-century penitents. Neither the
Church nor the Crown loved prodigal sons. So far from killing fatted
calves for them, the bishops in 1209 burned no less than ten in
Paris for too great intimacy with Arab and Jew disciples of
Aristotle. The position of the Bishop of Chartres between the
schools had been always awkward. As for Blanche of Castile, her
first son, afterwards Saint Louis, was born in 1215; and after that
time no Prodigal Son was likely to be welcomed in any society which
she frequented. For her, above all other women on earth or in
heaven, prodigal sons felt most antipathy, until, in 1229, the
quarrel became so violent that she turned her police on them and
beat a number to death in the streets. They retaliated without
regard for loyalty or decency, being far from model youth and prone
to relapses from virtue, even when forgiven and beneficed.

The Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven, showed no prejudice against
prodigal sons, or even prodigal daughters. She would hardly, of her
own accord, have ordered such persons out of her apse, when Saint
Stephen at Bourges and Sens showed no such puritanism; yet the
Chartres window is put away in the north transept. Even there it
still stands opposite the Virgin of the Pillar, on the women's and
Queen Blanche's side of the church, and in an excellent position,
better seen from the choir than some of the windows in the choir
itself, because the late summer sun shines full upon it, and carries
its colours far into the apse. This may have been one of the many
instances of tastes in the Virgin which were almost too imperial for
her official court. Omniscient as Mary was, she knew no difference
between the Blanches of Castile and the students of the Latin
Quarter. She was rather fond of prodigals, and gentle toward the
ladies who consumed the prodigal's substance. She admitted Mary
Magdalen and Mary the Gipsy to her society. She fretted little about
Aristotle so long as the prodigal adored her, and naturally the
prodigal adored her almost to the exclusion of the Trinity. She
always cared less for her dignity than was to be wished. Especially
in the nave and on the porch, among the peasants, she liked to
appear as one of themselves; she insisted on lying in bed, in a
stable, with the cows and asses about her, and her baby in a cradle
by the bedside, as though she had suffered like other women, though
the Church insisted she had not. Her husband, Saint Joseph, was
notoriously uncomfortable in her Court, and always preferred to get
as near to the door as he could. The choir at Chartres, on the
contrary, was aristocratic; every window there had a court quality,
even down to the contemporary Thomas A'Becket, the fashionable
martyr of good society. Theology was put into the transepts or still
further away in the nave where the window of the New Alliance elbows
the Prodigal Son. Even to Blanche of Castile, Mary was neither a
philanthropist nor theologist nor merely a mother,--she was an
absolute Empress, and whatever she said was obeyed, but sometimes
she seems to have willed an order that worried some of her most
powerful servants.

Mary chose to put her Prodigal into the transept, and one would like
to know the reason. Was it a concession to the Bishop or the Queen?
Or was it to please the common people that these familiar picture-
books, with their popular interest, like the Good Samaritan and the
Prodigal Son, were put on the walls of the great public hall? This
can hardly be, since the people would surely have preferred the
Charlemagne and Saint James to any other. We shall never know; but
sitting here in the subdued afternoon light of the apse, one goes on
for hours reading the open volumes of colour, and listening to the
steady discussion by the architects, artists, priests, princes, and
princesses of the thirteenth century about the arrangements of this
apse. However strong-willed they might be, each in turn whether
priest, or noble, or glassworker, would have certainly appealed to
the Virgin and one can imagine the architect still beside us, in the
growing dusk of evening, mentally praying, as he looked at the work
of a finished day: "Lady Virgin, show me what you like best! The
central chapel is correct, I know. The Lady Blanche's grisaille
veils the rather strong blue tone nicely, and I am confident it will
suit you. The Charlemagne window seems to me very successful, but
the Bishop feels not at all easy about it, and I should never have
dared put it here if the Lady Blanche had not insisted on a Spanish
bay. To balance at once both the subjects and the colour, we have
tried the Stephen window in the next chapel, with more red; but if
Saint Stephen is not good enough to satisfy you, we have tried again
with Saint Julian, whose story is really worth telling you as we
tell it; and with him we have put Saint Thomas because you loved him
and gave him your girdle. I do not myself care so very much for
Saint Thomas of Canterbury opposite, though the Count is wild about
it, and the Bishop wants it; but the Sylvester is stupendous in the
morning sun. What troubles me most is the first right-hand bay. The
princesses would not have let me put the Prodigal Son there, even if
it were made for the place. I've nothing else good enough to balance
the Charlemagne unless it be the Eustace. Gracious Lady, what ought
I to do? Forgive me my blunders, my stupidity, my wretched want of
taste and feeling! I love and adore you! All that I am, I am for
you! If I cannot please you, I care not for Heaven! but without your
help, I am lost!"

Upon my word, you may sit here forever imagining such appeals, and
the endless discussions and criticisms that were heard every day,
under these vaults, seven hundred years ago. That the Virgin
answered the questions is my firm belief, just as it is my
conviction that she did not answer them elsewhere. One sees her
personal presence on every side. Any one can feel it who will only
consent to feel like a child. Sitting here any Sunday afternoon,
while the voices of the children of the maitrise are chanting in the
choir,--your mind held in the grasp of the strong lines and shadows
of the architecture; your eyes flooded with the autumn tones of the
glass; your ears drowned with the purity of the voices; one sense
reacting upon another until sensation reaches the limit of its
range,--you, or any other lost soul, could, if you cared to look and
listen, feel a sense beyond the human ready to reveal a sense divine
that would make that world once more intelligible, and would bring
the Virgin to life again, in all the depths of feeling which she
shows here,--in lines, vaults, chapels, colours, legends, chants,--
more eloquent than the prayer-book, and more beautiful than the
autumn sunlight; and any one willing to try could feel it like the
child, reading new thought without end into the art he has studied a
hundred times; but what is still more convincing, he could, at will,
in an instant, shatter the whole art by calling into it a single
motive of his own.



All artists love the sanctuary of the Christian Church, and all
tourists love the rest. The reason becomes clear as one leaves the
choir, and goes back to the broad, open hall of the nave. The choir
was made not for the pilgrim but for the deity, and is as old as
Adam, or perhaps older; at all events old enough to have existed in
complete artistic and theological form, with the whole mystery of
the Trinity, the Mother and Child, and even the Cross, thousands of
years before Christ was born; but the Christian Church not only took
the sanctuary in hand, and gave it a new form, more beautiful and
much more refined than the Romans or Greeks or Egyptians had ever
imagined, but it also added the idea of the nave and transepts, and
developed it into imperial splendour. The pilgrim-tourist feels at
home in the nave because it was built for him; the artist loves the
sanctuary because he built it for God.

Chartres was intended to hold ten thousand people easily, or fifteen
thousand when crowded, and the decoration of this great space,
though not a wholly new problem, had to be treated in a new way.
Sancta Sofia was built by the Emperor Justinian, with all the
resources of the Empire, in a single violent effort, in six years,
and was decorated throughout with mosaics on a general scheme, with
the unity that Empire and Church could give, when they acted
together. The Norman Kings of Sicily, the richest princes of the
twelfth century, were able to carry out a complete work of the most
costly kind, in a single sustained effort from beginning to end,
according to a given plan. Chartre was a local shrine, in an
agricultural province, not even a part of the royal domain, and its
cathedral was the work of society, without much more tie than the
Virgin gave it. Socially Chartres, as far as its stone-work goes,
seems to have been mostly rural; its decoration, in the porches and
transepts, is royal and feudal; in the nave and choir it is chiefly
bourgeois. The want of unity is much less surprising than the unity,
but it is still evident, especially in the glass. The mosaics of
Monreale begin and end; they are a series; their connection is
artistic and theological at once; they have unity. The windows of
Chartres have no sequence, and their charm is in variety, in
individuality, and sometimes even in downright hostility to each
other, reflecting the picturesque society that gave them. They have,
too, the charm that the world has made no attempt to popularize them
for its modern uses, so that, except for the useful little guide-
book of the Abbe Clerval, one can see no clue to the legendary
chaos; one has it to one's self, without much fear of being trampled
upon by critics or Jew dealers in works of art; any Chartres beggar-
woman can still pass a summer's day here, and never once be
mortified by ignorance of things that every dealer in bric-a-brac is
supposed to know.

Yet the artists seem to have begun even here with some idea of
sequence, for the first window in the north aisle, next the new
tower, tells the story of Noah; but the next plunges into the local
history of Chartres, and is devoted to Saint Lubin, a bishop of this
diocese who died in or about the year 556, and was, for some reason,
selected by the Wine-Merchants to represent them, as their
interesting medallions show. Then follow three amusing subjects,
charmingly treated: Saint Eustace, whose story has been told; Joseph
and his brethren; and Saint Nicholas, the most popular saint of the
thirteenth century, both in the Greek and in the Roman Churches. The
sixth and last window on the north aisle of the nave is the New

Opposite these, in the south aisle, the series begins next the tower
with John the Evangelist, followed by Saint Mary Magdalen, given by
the Water-Carriers. The third, the Good Samaritan, given by the
Shoemakers, has a rival at Sens which critics think even better. The
fourth is the Death, Assumption, and Coronation of the Virgin. Then
comes the fifteenth-century Chapel of Vendome, to compare the early
and later glass. The sixth is, or was, devoted to the Virgin's
Miracles at Chartres; but only one complete subject remains.

These windows light the two aisles of the nave and decorate the
lower walls of the church with a mass of colour and variety of line
still practically intact in spite of much injury; but the windows of
the transepts on the same level have almost disappeared, except the
Prodigal Son and a border to what was once a Saint Lawrence, on the
north; and, on the south, part of a window to Saint Apollinaris of
Ravenna, with an interesting hierarchy of angels above:--seraphim
and cherubim with six wings, red and blue; Dominations; Powers;
Principalities; all, except Thrones.

All this seems to be simple enough, at least to the people for whom
the nave was built, and to whom the windows were meant to speak.
There is nothing esoteric here; nothing but what might have suited
the great hall of a great palace. There is no difference in taste
between the Virgin in the choir, and the Water-Carriers by the
doorway. Blanche, the young Queen, liked the same colours, legends,
and lines that her Grocers and Bakers liked. All equally loved the
Virgin. There was not even a social difference. In the choir,
Thibaut, the Count of Chartres, immediate lord of the province, let
himself be put in a dark corner next the Belle Verriere, and left
the Bakers to display their wealth in the most serious spot in the
church, the central window of the central chapel, while in the nave
and transepts all the lower windows that bear signatures were given
by trades, as though that part of the church were abandoned to the
commons. One might suppose that the feudal aristocracy would have
fortified itself in the clerestory and upper windows, but even there
the bourgeoisie invaded them, and you can see, with a glass, the
Pastrycooks and Turners looking across at the Weavers and Curriers
and Money-Changers, and the "Men of Tours." Beneath the throne of
the Mother of God, there was no distinction of gifts; and above it
the distinction favoured the commonalty.

Of the seven immense windows above and around the high altar, which
are designed as one composition, none was given by a prince or a
noble. The Drapers, the Butchers, the Bakers, the Bankers are
charged with the highest duties attached to the Virgin's service.
Apparently neither Saint Louis, nor his father Louis VIII, nor his
mother Blanche, nor his uncle Philippe Hurepel, nor his cousin Saint
Ferdinand of Castile, nor his other cousin Pierre de Dreux, nor the
Duchess Alix of Brittany, cared whether their portraits or armorial
shields were thrust out of sight into corners by Pastrycooks and
Teamsters, or took a whole wall of the church to themselves. The
only relation that connects them is their common relation to the
Virgin, but that is emphatic, and dominates the whole.

It dominates us, too, if we reflect on it, even after seven hundred
years that its meaning has faded. When one looks up to this display
of splendour in the clerestory, and asks what was in the minds of
the people who joined to produce, with such immense effort and at
such self-sacrifice, this astonishing effect, the question seems to
answer itself like an echo. With only half of an atrophied
imagination, in a happy mood we could still see the nave and
transepts filled with ten thousand people on their knees, and the
Virgin, crowned and robed, seating herself on the embroidered
cushion that covered her imperial throne; sparkling with gems;
bearing in her right hand the sceptre, and in her lap the infant
King; but, in the act of seating herself, we should see her pause a
moment to look down with love and sympathy on us,--her people,--who
pack the enormous hall, and throng far out beyond the open portals;
while, an instant later, she glances up to see that her great lords,
spiritual and temporal, the advisers of her judgment, the supports
of her authority, the agents of her will, shall be in place; robed,
mitred, armed; bearing the symbols of her authority and their
office; on horseback, lance in hand; all of them ready at a sign to
carry out a sentence of judgment or an errand of mercy; to touch
with the sceptre or to strike with the sword; and never err.

There they still stand! unchanged, unfaded, as alive and complete as
when they represented the real world, and the people below were the
unreal and ephemeral pageant! Then the reality was the Queen of
Heaven on her throne in the sanctuary, and her court in the glass;
not the queens or princes who were prostrating themselves, with the
crowd, at her feet. These people knew the Virgin as well as they
knew their own mothers; every jewel in her crown, every stitch of
gold-embroidery in her many robes; every colour; every fold; every
expression on the perfectly familiar features of her grave, imperial
face; every care that lurked in the silent sadness of her power;
repeated over and over again, in stone, glass, ivory, enamel, wood;
in every room, at the head of every bed, hanging on every neck,
standing at every street-corner, the Virgin was as familiar to every
one of them as the sun or the seasons; far more familiar than their
own earthly queen or countess, although these were no strangers in
their daily life; familiar from the earliest childhood to the last
agony; in every joy and every sorrow and every danger; in every act
and almost in every thought of life, the Virgin was present with a
reality that never belonged to her Son or to the Trinity, and hardly
to any earthly being, prelate, king, or kaiser; her daily life was
as real to them as their own loyalty which brought to her the best
they had to offer as the return for her boundless sympathy; but
while they knew the Virgin as though she were one of themselves, and
because she had been one of themselves, they were not so familiar
with all the officers of her court at Chartres; and pilgrims from
abroad, like us, must always have looked with curious interest at
the pageant.

Far down the nave, next the western towers, the rank began with
saints, prophets, and martyrs, of all ages and countries; local,
like Saint Lubin; national, like Saint Martin of Tours and Saint
Hilary of Poitiers; popular like Saint Nicholas; militant like Saint
George; without order; symbols like Abraham and Isaac; the Virgin
herself, holding on her lap the Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost;
Christ with the Alpha and Omega; Moses and Saint Augustine; Saint
Peter; Saint Mary the Egyptian; Saint Jerome; a whole throne-room of
heavenly powers, repeating, within, the pageant carved on the
porches and on the portals without. From the croisee in the centre,
where the crowd is most dense, one sees the whole almost better than
Mary sees it from her high altar, for there all the great rose
windows flash in turn, and the three twelfth-century lancets glow on
the western sun. When the eyes of the throng are directed to the
north, the Rose of France strikes them almost with a physical shock
of colour, and, from the south, the Rose of Dreux challenges the
Rose of France.

Every one knows that there is war between the two! The thirteenth
century has few secrets. There are no outsiders. We are one family
as we are one Church. Every man and woman here, from Mary on her
throne to the beggar on the porch, knows that Pierre de Dreux
detests Blanche of Castile, and that their two windows carry on war
across the very heart of the cathedral. Both unite only in asking
help from Mary; but Blanche is a woman, alone in the world with
young children to protect, and most women incline strongly to
suspect that Mary will never desert her. Pierre, with all his
masculine strength, is no courtier. He wants to rule by force. He
carries the assertion of his sex into the very presence of the Queen
of Heaven.

The year happens to be 1230, when the roses may be supposed just
finished and showing their whole splendour for the first time. Queen
Blanche is forty-three years old, and her son Louis is fifteen.
Blanche is a widow these four years, and Pierre a widower since
1221. Both are regents and guardians for their heirs. They have
necessarily carried their disputes before Mary. Queen Blanche claims
for her son, who is to be Saint Louis, the place of honour at Mary's
right hand; she has taken possession of the north porch outside, and
of the north transept within, and has filled the windows with glass,
as she is filling the porch with statuary. Above is the huge rose;
below are five long windows; and all proclaim the homage that France
renders to the Queen of Heaven.

The Rose of France shows in its centre the Virgin in her majesty,
seated, crowned, holding the sceptre with her right hand, while her
left supports the infant Christ-King on her knees; which shows that
she, too, is acting as regent for her Son. Round her, in a circle,
are twelve medallions; four containing doves; four six-winged angels
or Thrones; four angels of a lower order, but all symbolizing the
gifts and endowments of the Queen of Heaven. Outside these are
twelve more medallions with the Kings of Judah, and a third circle
contains the twelve lesser prophets. So Mary sits, hedged in by all
the divinity that graces earthly or heavenly kings; while between
the two outer circles are twelve quatrefoils bearing on a blue
ground the golden lilies of France; and in each angle below the rose
are four openings, showing alternately the lilies of Louis and the
castles of Blanche. We who are below, the common people, understand
that France claims to protect and defend the Virgin of Chartres, as
her chief vassal, and that this ostentatious profusion of lilies and
castles is intended not in honour of France, but as a demonstration
of loyalty to Notre Dame, and an assertion of her rights as Queen
Regent of Heaven against all comers, but particularly against
Pierre, the rebel, who has the audacity to assert rival rights in
the opposite transept.

Beneath the rose are five long windows, very unlike the twelfth-
century pendants to the western rose. These five windows blaze with
red, and their splendour throws the Virgin above quite into the
background. The artists, who felt that the twelfth-century glass was
too fine and too delicate for the new scale of the church, have not
only enlarged their scale and coarsened their design, but have
coarsened their colour-scheme also, discarding blue in order to
crush us under the earthly majesty of red. These windows, too, bear
the stamp and seal of Blanche's Spanish temper as energetically as
though they bore her portrait. The great central figure, the tallest
and most commanding in the whole church, is not the Virgin, but her
mother Saint Anne, standing erect as on the trumeau of the door
beneath, and holding the infant Mary on her left arm. She wears no
royal crown, but bears a flowered sceptre. The only other difference
between Mary and her mother, that seems intended to strike
attention, is that Mary sits, while her mother stands; but as though
to proclaim still more distinctly that France supports the royal and
divine pretensions of Saint Anne, Queen Blanche has put beneath the
figure a great shield blazoned with the golden lilies on an azure

With singular insistence on this motive, Saint Anne has at either
hand a royal court of her own, marked as her own by containing only
figures from the Old Testament. Standing next on her right is
Solomon, her Prime Minister, bringing wisdom in worldly counsel, and
trampling on human folly. Beyond Wisdom stands Law, figured by Aaron
with the Book, trampling on the lawless Pharaoh. Opposite them, on
Saint Anne's left, is David, the energy of State, trampling on a
Saul suggesting suspicions of a Saul de Dreux; while last,
Melchisedec who is Faith, tramples on a disobedient Nebuchadnezzar

How can we, the common people, help seeing all this, and much more,
when we know that Pierre de Dreux has been for years in constant
strife with the Crown and the Church? He is very valiant and lion-
hearted;--so say the chroniclers, priests though they are;--very
skilful and experienced in war whether by land or sea; very adroit,
with more sense than any other great lord in France; but restless,
factious, and regardless of his word. Brave and bold as the day;
full of courtesy and "largesse"; but very hard on the clergy; a good
Christian but a bad churchman! Certainly the first man of his time,
says Michelet! "I have never found any that sought to do me more ill
than he," says Blanche, and Joinville gives her very words; indeed,
this year, 1230, she has summoned our own Bishop of Chartres among
others to Paris in a court of peers, where Pierre has been found
guilty of treason and deposed. War still continues, but Pierre must
make submission. Blanche has beaten him in politics and in the
field! Let us look round and see how he fares in theology and art!

There is his rose--so beautiful that Blanche may well think it seeks
to do hers ill! As colour, judge for yourselves whether it holds its
own against the flaming self-assertion of the opposite wall! As
subject, it asserts flat defiance of the monarchy of Queen Blanche.
In the central circle, Christ as King is seated on a royal throne,
both arms raised, one holding the golden cup of eternal priesthood,
the other, blessing the world. Two great flambeaux burn beside Him.
The four Apocalyptic figures surround and worship Him; and in the
concentric circles round the central medallion are the angels and
the kings in a blaze of colour, symbolizing the New Jerusalem.

All the force of the Apocalypse is there, and so is some of the
weakness of theology, for, in the five great windows below, Pierre
shows his training in the schools. Four of these windows represent
what is called, for want of a better name, the New Alliance; the
dependence of the New Testament on the Old; but Pierre's choice in
symbols was as masculine as that of Blanche was feminine. In each of
the four windows, a gigantic Evangelist strides the shoulders of a
colossal Prophet. Saint John rides on Ezekiel; Saint Mark bestrides
Daniel; Saint Matthew is on the shoulders of Isaiah; Saint Luke is
carried by Jeremiah. The effect verges on the grotesque. The balance
of Christ's Church seems uncertain. The Evangelists clutch the
Prophets by the hair, and while the synagogue stands firm, the
Church looks small, feeble, and vacillating. The new dispensation
has not the air of mastery either physical or intellectual; the old
gives it all the support it has, and, in the absence of Saint Paul,
both old and new seem little concerned with the sympathies of
Frenchmen. The synagogue is stronger than the Church, but even the
Church is Jew.

That Pierre could ever have meant this is not to be dreamed; but
when the true scholar gets thoroughly to work, his logic is
remorseless, his art is implacable, and his sense of humour is
blighted. In the rose above, Pierre had asserted the exclusive
authority of Christ in the New Jerusalem, and his scheme required
him to show how the Church rested on the Evangelists below, who in
their turn had no visible support except what the Prophets gave
them. Yet the artist may have had a reason for weakening the
Evangelists, because there remained the Virgin! One dares no more
than hint at a motive so disrespectful to the Evangelists; but it is
certainly true that, in the central window, immediately beneath the
Christ, and His chief support, with the four staggering Evangelists
and Prophets on either hand, the Virgin stands, and betrays no sign
of weakness.

The compliment is singularly masculine; a kind of twelfth-century
flattery that might have softened the anger of Blanche herself, if
the Virgin had been her own; but the Virgin of Dreux is not the
Virgin of France. No doubt she still wears her royal crown, and her
head is circled with the halo; her right hand still holds the
flowered sceptre, and her left the infant Christ, but she stands,
and Christ is King. Note, too, that she stands directly opposite to
her mother Saint Anne in the Rose of France, so as to place her one
stage lower than the Virgin of France in the hierarchy. She is the
Saint Anne of France, and shows it. "She is no longer," says the
official Monograph, "that majestic queen who was seated on a throne,
with her feet on the stool of honour; the personages have become
less imposing and the heads show the decadence." She is the Virgin
of Theology; she has her rights, and no more; but she is not the
Virgin of Chartres.

She, too, stands on an altar or pedestal, on which hangs a shield
bearing the ermines, an exact counterpart of the royal shield
beneath Saint Anne. In this excessive display of armorial bearings--
for the two roses above are crowded with them--one likes to think
that these great princes had in their minds not so much the thought
of their own importance--which is a modern sort of religion--as the
thought of their devotion to Mary. The assertion of power and
attachment by one is met by the assertion of equal devotion by the
other, and while both loudly proclaim their homage to the Virgin,
each glares defiance across the church. Pierre meant the Queen of
Heaven to know that, in case of need, her left hand was as good as
her right, and truer; that the ermines were as well able to defend
her as the lilies, and that Brittany would fight her battles as
bravely as France. Whether his meaning carried with it more devotion
to the Virgin or more defiance to France depends a little on the
date of the windows, but, as a mere point of history, every one must
allow that Pierre's promise of allegiance was kept more faithfully
by Brittany than that of Blanche and Saint Louis has been kept by

The date seems to be fixed by the windows themselves. Beneath the
Prophets kneel Pierre and his wife Alix, while their two children,
Yolande and Jean, stand. Alix died in 1221. Jean was born in 1217.
Yolande was affianced in marriage in 1227, while a child, and given
to Queen Blanche to be brought up as the future wife of her younger
son John, then in his eighth year. When John died, Yolande was
contracted to Thibaut of Champagne in 1231, and Blanche is said to
have written to Thibaut in consequence: "Sire Thibauld of Champagne,
I have heard that you have covenanted and promised to take to wife
the daughter of Count Perron of Brittany. Wherefore I charge you, if
you do not wish to lose whatever you possess in the kingdom of
France, not to do it. If you hold dear or love aught in the said
kingdom, do it not." Whether Blanche wrote in these words or not,
she certainly prevented the marriage, and Yolande remained single
until 1238 when she married the Comte de la Marche, who was, by the
way, almost as bitter an enemy of Blanche as Pierre had been; but by
that time both Blanche and Pierre had ceased to be regents.
Yolande's figure in the window is that of a girl, perhaps twelve or
fourteen years old; Jean is younger, certainly not more than eight
or ten years of age; and the appearance of the two children shows
that the window itself should date between 1225 and 1230, the year
when Pierre de Dreux was condemned because he had renounced his
homage to King Louis, declared war on him, and invited the King of
England into France. As already told, Philippe Hurepel de Boulogne,
the Comte de la Marche, Enguerrand de Couci,--nearly all the great
nobles,--had been leagued with Pierre de Dreux since Blanche's
regency began in 1226.

That these transept windows harmonize at all, is due to the Virgin,
not to the donors. At the time they were designed, supposing it to
be during Blanche's regency (1226-36), the passions of these donors
brought France to momentary ruin, and the Virgin in Blanche's Rose
de France, as she looked across the church, could not see a single
friend of Blanche. What is more curious, she saw enemies in plenty,
and in full readiness for battle. We have seen in the centre of the
small rose in the north transept, Philippe Hurepel still waiting her
orders; across the nave, in another small rose of the south
transept, sits Pierre de Dreux on his horse. The upper windows on
the side walls of the choir are very interesting but impossible to
see, even with the best glasses, from the floor of the church. Their
sequence and dates have already been discussed; but their feeling is
shown by the character of the Virgin, who in French territory, next
the north transept, is still the Virgin of France, but in Pierre's
territory, next the Rose de Dreux, becomes again the Virgin of
Dreux, who is absorbed in the Child,--not the Child absorbed in
her,--and accordingly the window shows the chequers and ermines.

The figures, like the stone figures outside, are the earliest of
French art, before any school of painting fairly existed. Among
them, one can see no friend of Blanche. Indeed, outside of her own
immediate family and the Church, Blanche had no friend of much
importance except the famous Thibaut of Champagne, the single member
of the royal family who took her side and suffered for her sake, and
who, as far as books tell, has no window or memorial here. One might
suppose that Thibaut, who loved both Blanche and the Virgin, would
have claimed a place, and perhaps he did; but one seeks him in vain.
If Blanche had friends here, they are gone. Pierre de Dreux, lance
in hand, openly defies her, and it was not on her brother-in-law
Philippe Hurepel that she could depend for defence.

This is the court pageant of the Virgin that shows itself to the
people who are kneeling at high mass. We, the public, whoever we
are,--Chartrain, Breton, Norman, Angevin, Frenchman, Percherain, or
what not,--know our local politics as intimately as our lords do, or
even better, for our imaginations are active, and we do not love
Blanche of Castile. We know how to read the passions that fill the
church. From the north transept Blanche flames out on us in splendid
reds and flings her Spanish castles in our face. From the south
transept Pierre retorts with a brutal energy which shows itself in
the Prophets who serve as battle-chargers and in the Evangelists who
serve as knights,--mounted warriors of faith,--whose great eyes
follow us across the church and defy Saint Anne and her French
shield opposite. Pierre was not effeminate; Blanche was fairly
masculine. Between them, as a matter of sex, we can see little to
choose; and, in any case, it is a family quarrel; they are all
cousins; they are all equals on earth, and none means to submit to
any superior except the Virgin and her Son in heaven. The Virgin is
not afraid. She has seen many troubles worse than this; she knows
how to manage perverse children, and if necessary she will shut them
up in a darker room than ever their mothers kept open for them in
this world. One has only to look at the Virgin to see!

There she is, of course, looking down on us from the great window
above the high altar, where we never forget her presence! Is there a
thought of disturbance there? Around the curve of the choir are
seven great windows, without roses, filling the whole semicircle and
the whole vault, forty-seven feet high, and meant to dominate the
nave as far as the western portal, so that we may never forget how
Mary fills her church without being disturbed by quarrels, and may
understand why Saint Ferdinand and Saint Louis creep out of our
sight, close by the Virgin's side, far up above brawls; and why
France and Brittany hide their ugly or their splendid passions at
the ends of the transepts, out of sight of the high altar where Mary
is to sit in state as Queen with the young King on her lap. In an
instant she will come, but we have a moment still to look about at
the last great decoration of her palace, and see how the artists
have arranged it.

Since the building of Sancta Sofia, no artist has had such a chance.
No doubt, Rheims and Amiens and Bourges and Beauvais, which are now
building, may be even finer, but none of them is yet finished, and
all must take their ideas from here. One would like, before looking
at it, to think over the problem, as though it were new, and so
choose the scheme that would suit us best if the decoration were to
be done for the first time. The architecture is fixed; we have to do
only with the colour of this mass of seven huge windows, forty-seven
feet high, in the clerestory, round the curve of the choir, which
close the vista of the church as viewed from the entrance. This
vista is about three hundred and thirty feet long. The windows rise
above a hundred feet. How ought this vast space to be filled? Should
the perpendicular upward leap of the architecture be followed and
accented by a perpendicular leap of colour? The decorators of the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries seem to have thought so, and made
perpendicular architectural drawings in yellow that simulated gold,
and lines that ran with the general lines of the building. Many
fifteenth-century windows seem to be made up of florid Gothic
details rising in stages to the vault. No doubt critics complained,
and still complain, that the monotony of this scheme, and its
cheapness of intelligence, were objections; but at least the effect
was light, decorative, and safe. The artist could not go far wrong
and was still at liberty to do beautiful work, as can be seen in any
number of churches scattered broadcast over Europe and swarming in
Paris and France. On the other hand, might not the artist disregard
the architecture and fill the space with a climax of colour? Could
he not unite the Roses of France and Dreux above the high altar in
an overpowering outburst of purples and reds? The seventeenth
century might have preferred to mass clouds and colours, and Michael
Angelo, in the sixteenth, might have known how to do it. What we
want is not the feeling of the artist so much as the feeling of
Chartres. What shall it be--the jewelled brilliancy of the western
windows, or the fierce self-assertion of Pierre Mauclerc, or the
royal splendour of Queen Blanche, or the feminine grace and
decorative refinement of the Charlemagne and Santiago windows in the

Never again in art was so splendid a problem offered, either before
or since, for the artist of Chartres solved it, as he did the whole
matter of fenestration, and later artists could only offer
variations on his work. You will see them at Bourges and Tours and
in scores of thirteenth and fourteenth and fifteenth and sixteenth
century churches and windows, and perhaps in some of the twentieth
century,--all of them interesting and some of them beautiful,--and
far be it from us, mean and ignorant pilgrims of art, to condemn any
intelligent effort to vary or improve the effect; but we have set
out to seek the feeling, and while we think of art in relation to
ourselves, the sermon of Chartres, from beginning to end, teaches
and preaches and insists and reiterates and hammers into our torpid
minds the moral that the art of the Virgin was not that of her
artists but her own. We inevitably think of our tastes; they thought
instinctively of hers.

In the transepts, Queen Blanche and Duke Perron, in legal possession
of their territory, showed that they were thinking of each other as
well as of the Virgin, and claimed loudly that they ought each to be
first in the Virgin's favour; and they stand there in place, as the
thirteenth century felt them. Subject to their fealty to Mary, the
transepts belonged to them, and if Blanche did not, like Pierre,
assert Herself and her son on the Virgin's window, perhaps she
thought the Virgin would resent Pierre's boldness the more by
contrast with her own good taste. So far as is known, nowhere does
Blanche appear in person at Chartres; she felt herself too near the
Virgin to obtrude a useless image, or she was too deeply religious
to ask anything for herself. A queen who was to have two children
sainted, to intercede for her at Mary's throne, stood in a solitude
almost as unique as that of Mary, and might ignore the raw
brutalities of a man-at-arms; but neither she nor Pierre has carried
the quarrel into Mary's presence, nor has the Virgin condescended
even to seem conscious of their temper. This is the theme of the
artist--the purity, the beauty, the grace, and the infinite
loftiness of Mary's nature, among the things of earth, and above the
clamour of kings.

Therefore, when we, and the crushed crowd of kneeling worshippers
around us, lift our eyes at last after the miracle of the mass, we
see, far above the high altar, high over all the agitation of
prayer, the passion of politics, the anguish of suffering, the
terrors of sin, only the figure of the Virgin in majesty, looking
down on her people, crowned, throned, glorified, with the infant
Christ on her knees. She does not assert herself; probably she
intends to be felt rather than feared. Compared with the Greek
Virgin, as you see her, for example, at Torcello, the Chartres
Virgin is retiring and hardly important enough for the place. She is
not exaggerated either in scale, drawing, or colour. She shows not a
sign of self-consciousness, not an effort for brilliancy, not a
trace of stage effect--hardly even a thought of herself, except that
she is at home, among her own people, where she is loved and known
as well as she knows them. The seven great windows are one
composition; and it is plain that the artist, had he been ordered to
make an exhibition of power, could have overwhelmed us with a storm
of purple, red, yellows, or given us a Virgin of Passion who would
have torn the vault asunder; his ability is never in doubt, and if
he has kept true to the spirit of the western portal and the
twelfth-century, it is because the Virgin of Chartres was the Virgin
of Grace, and ordered him to paint her so. One shudders to think how
a single false note--a suggestion of meanness, in this climax of
line and colour--would bring the whole fabric down in ruins on the
eighteenth-century meanness of the choir below; and one notes,
almost bashfully, the expedients of the artists to quiet their
effects. So the lines of the seven windows are built up, to avoid
the horizontal, and yet not exaggerate the vertical.

The architect counts here for more than the colourist; but the
colour, when you study it, suggests the same restraint. Three great
windows on the Virgin's right, balanced by three more on her left,
show the prophets and precursors of her Son; all architecturally
support and exalt the Virgin, in her celestial atmosphere of blue,
shot with red, calm in the certainty of heaven. Any one who is
prematurely curious to see the difference in treatment between
different centuries should go down to the church of Saint Pierre in
the lower town, and study there the methods of the Renaissance. Then
we can come back to study again the ways of the thirteenth century.
The Virgin will wait; she will not be angry; she knows her power; we
all come back to her in the end.

Or the Renaissance, if one prefers, can wait equally well, while one
kneels with the thirteenth century, and feels the little one still
can feel of what it felt. Technically these apsidal windows have not
received much notice; the books rarely speak of them; travellers
seldom look at them; and their height is such that even with the
best glass, the quality of the work is beyond our power to judge. We
see, and the artists meant that we should see, only the great lines,
the colour, and the Virgin. The mass of suppliants before the choir
look up to the light, clear blues and reds of this great space, and
feel there the celestial peace and beauty of Mary's nature and
abode. There is heaven! and Mary looks down from it, into her
church, where she sees us on our knees, and knows each one of us by
name. There she actually is--not in symbol or in fancy, but in
person, descending on her errands of mercy and listening to each one
of us, as her miracles prove, or satisfying our prayers merely by
her presence which calms our excitement as that of a mother calms
her child. She is there as Queen, not merely as intercessor, and her
power is such that to her the difference between us earthly beings
is nothing. Her quiet, masculine strength enchants us most. Pierre
Mauclerc and Philippe Hurepel and their men-at-arms are afraid of
her, and the Bishop himself is never quite at his ease in her
presence; but to peasants, and beggars, and people in trouble, this
sense of her power and calm is better than active sympathy. People
who suffer beyond the formulas of expression--who are crushed into
silence, and beyond pain--want no display of emotion--no bleeding
heart--no weeping at the foot of the Cross--no hysterics--no
phrases! They want to see God, and to know that He is watching over
His own. How many women are there, in this mass of thirteenth
century suppliants, who have lost children? Probably nearly all, for
the death rate is very high in the conditions of medieval life.
There are thousands of such women here, for it is precisely this
class who come most; and probably every one of them has looked up to
Mary in her great window, and has felt actual certainty, as though
she saw with her own eyes--there, in heaven, while she looked--her
own lost baby playing with the Christ-Child at the Virgin's knee, as
much at home as the saints, and much more at home than the kings.
Before rising from her knees, every one of these women will have
bent down and kissed the stone pavement in gratitude for Mary's
mercy. The earth, she says, is a sorry place, and the best of it is
bad enough, no doubt, even for Queen Blanche and the Duchess Alix
who has had to leave her children here alone; but there above is
Mary in heaven who sees and hears me as I see her, and who keeps my
little boy till I come; so I can wait with patience, more or less!
Saints and prophets and martyrs are all very well, and Christ is
very sublime and just, but Mary knows!

It was very childlike, very foolish, very beautiful, and very true,-
-as art, at least:--so true that everything else shades off into
vulgarity, as you see the Persephone of a Syracusan coin shade off
into the vulgarity of a Roman emperor; as though the heaven that
lies about us in our infancy too quickly takes colours that are not
so much sober as sordid, and would be welcome if no worse than that.
Vulgarity, too, has feeling, and its expression in art has truth and
even pathos, but we shall have time enough in our lives for that,
and all the more because, when we rise from our knees now, we have
finished our pilgrimage. We have done with Chartres. For seven
hundred years Chartres has seen pilgrims, coming and going more or
less like us, and will perhaps see them for another seven hundred
years; but we shall see it no more, and can safely leave the Virgin
in her majesty, with her three great prophets on either hand, as
calm and confident in their own strength and in God's providence as
they were when Saint Louis was born, but looking down from a
deserted heaven, into an empty church, on a dead faith.



After worshipping at the shrines of Saint Michael on his Mount and
of the Virgin at Chartres, one may wander far and wide over France,
and seldom feel lost; all later Gothic art comes naturally, and no
new thought disturbs the perfected form. Yet tourists of English
blood and American training are seldom or never quite at home there.
Commonly they feel it only as a stage-decoration. The twelfth and
thirteenth centuries, studied in the pure light of political
economy, are insane. The scientific mind is atrophied, and suffers
under inherited cerebral weakness, when it comes in contact with the
eternal woman--Astarte, Isis, Demeter, Aphrodite, and the last and
greatest deity of all, the Virgin. Very rarely one lingers, with a
mild sympathy, such as suits the patient student of human error,
willing to be interested in what he cannot understand. Still more
rarely, owing to some revival of archaic instincts, he rediscovers
the woman. This is perhaps the mark of the artist alone, and his
solitary privilege. The rest of us cannot feel; we can only study.
The proper study of mankind is woman and, by common agreement since
the time of Adam, it is the most complex and arduous. The study of
Our Lady, as shown by the art of Chartres, leads directly back to
Eve, and lays bare the whole subject of sex.

If it were worth while to argue a paradox, one might maintain that
Nature regards the female as the essential, the male as the
superfluity of her world. Perhaps the best starting-point for study
of the Virgin would be a practical acquaintance with bees, and
especially with queen bees. Precisely where the French man may come
in, on the genealogical tree of parthenogenesis, one hesitates to
say; but certain it is that the French woman, from very early times,
has shown qualities peculiar to herself, and that the French woman
of the Middle Ages was a masculine character. Almost any book which
deals with the social side of the twelfth century has something to
say on this subject, like the following page from M. Garreau's
volume published in 1899, on the "Social State of France during the

A trait peculiar to this epoch is the close resemblance between the
manners of men and women. The rule that such and such feelings or
acts are permitted to one sex and forbidden to the other was not
fairly settled. Men had the right to dissolve in tears, and women
that of talking without prudery .... If we look at their
intellectual level, the women appear distinctly superior. They are
more serious; more subtle. With them we do not seem dealing with the
rude state of civilization that their husbands belong to .... As a
rule, the women seem to have the habit of weighing their acts; of
not yielding to momentary impressions. While the sense of
Christianity is more developed in them than in their husbands, on
the other hand they show more perfidy and art in crime .... One
might doubtless prove by a series of examples that the maternal
influence when it predominated in the education of a son gave him a
marked superiority over his contemporaries. Richard Coeur-de-Lion
the crowned poet, artist, the king whose noble manners and refined
mind in spite of his cruelty exercised so strong an impression on
his age, was formed by that brilliant Eleanor of Guienne who, in her
struggle with her husband, retained her sons as much as possible
within her sphere of influence in order to make party chiefs of
them. Our great Saint Louis, as all know, was brought up exclusively
by Blanche of Castile; and Joinville, the charming writer so worthy
of Saint Louis's friendship, and apparently so superior to his
surroundings, was also the pupil of a widowed and regent mother.

The superiority of the woman was not a fancy, but a fact. Man's
business was to fight or hunt or feast or make love. The man was
also the travelling partner in commerce, commonly absent from home
for months together, while the woman carried on the business. The
woman ruled the household and the workshop; cared for the economy;
supplied the intelligence, and dictated the taste. Her ascendancy
was secured by her alliance with the Church, into which she sent her
most intelligent children; and a priest or clerk, for the most part,
counted socially as a woman. Both physically and mentally the woman
was robust, as the men often complained, and she did not greatly
resent being treated as a man. Sometimes the husband beat her,
dragged her about by the hair, locked her up in the house; but he
was quite conscious that she always got even with him in the end. As
a matter of fact, probably she got more than even. On this point,
history, legend, poetry, romance, and especially the popular
fabliaux--invented to amuse the gross tastes of the coarser class--
are all agreed, and one could give scores of volumes illustrating
it. The greatest men illustrate it best, as one might show almost at
hazard. The greatest men of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth
centuries were William the Norman; his great grandson Henry II
Plantagenet; Saint Louis of France; and, if a fourth be needed,
Richard Coeur-de-Lion. Notoriously all these men had as much
difficulty as Louis XIV himself with the women of their family.
Tradition exaggerates everything it touches, but shows, at the same
time, what is passing in the minds of the society which tradites. In
Normandy, the people of Caen have kept a tradition, told elsewhere
in other forms, that one day, Duke William,--the Conqueror,--
exasperated by having his bastardy constantly thrown in his face by
the Duchess Matilda, dragged her by the hair, tied to his horse's
tail, as far as the suburb of Vaucelles; and this legend accounts
for the splendour of the Abbaye-aux-Dames, because William, the
common people believed, afterwards regretted the impropriety, and
atoned for it by giving her money to build the abbey. The story
betrays the man's weakness. The Abbaye-aux-Dames stands in the same
relation to the Abbaye-aux-Hommes that Matilda took towards William.
Inferiority there was none; on the contrary, the woman was socially
the superior, and William was probably more afraid of her than she
of him, if Mr. Freeman is right in insisting that he married her in
spite of her having a husband living, and certainly two children. If
William was the strongest man in the eleventh century, his great-
grandson, Henry II of England, was the strongest man of the twelfth;
but the history of the time resounds with the noise of his battles
with Queen Eleanor whom he, at last, held in prison for fourteen
years. Prisoner as she was, she broke him down in the end. One is
tempted to suspect that, had her husband and children been guided by
her, and by her policy as peacemaker for the good of Guienne, most
of the disasters of England and France might have been postponed for
the time; but we can never know the truth, for monks and historians
abhor emancipated women,--with good reason, since such women are apt
to abhor them,--and the quarrel can never be pacified. Historians
have commonly shown fear of women without admitting it, but the man
of the Middle Ages knew at least why he feared the woman, and told
it openly, not to say brutally. Long after Eleanor and Blanche were
dead, Chaucer brought the Wife of Bath on his Shakespearean stage,
to explain the woman, and as usual he touched masculine frailty with
caustic, while seeming to laugh at woman and man alike:--

"My liege lady! generally," quoth he,
"Women desiren to have soverainetee."

The point was that the Wife of Bath, like Queen Blanche and Queen
Eleanor, not only wanted sovereignty, but won and held it.

That Saint Louis, even when a grown man and king, stood in awe of
his mother, Blanche of Castile, was not only notorious but seemed to
be thought natural. Joinville recorded it not so much to mark the
King's weakness, as the woman's strength; for his Queen, Margaret of
Provence, showed the courage which the King had not. Blanche and
Margaret were exceedingly jealous of each other. "One day," said
Joinville, "Queen Blanche went to the Queen's [Margaret] chamber
where her son [Louis IX] had gone before to comfort her, for she was
in great danger of death from a bad delivery; and he hid himself
behind the Queen [Margaret] to avoid being seen; but his mother
perceived him, and taking him by the hand said: 'Come along! you
will do no good here!' and put him out of the chamber. Queen
Margaret, observing this, and that she was to be separated from her
husband, cried aloud: 'Alas! will you not allow me to see my lord
either living or dying?'" According to Joinville, King Louis always
hid himself when, in his wife's chamber, he heard his mother coming.

The great period of Gothic architecture begins with the coming of
Eleanor (1137) and ends with the passing of Blanche (1252).
Eleanor's long life was full of energy and passion of which next to
nothing is known; the woman was always too slippery for monks or
soldiers to grasp.

Eleanor came to Paris, a Queen of fifteen years old, in 1137,
bringing Poitiers and Guienne as the greatest dowry ever offered to
the French Crown. She brought also the tastes and manners of the
South, little in harmony with the tastes and manners of Saint
Bernard whose authority at court rivalled her own. The Abbe Suger
supported her, but the King leaned toward the Abbe Bernard. What
this puritan reaction meant is a matter to be studied by itself, if
one can find a cloister to study in; but it bore the mark of most
puritan reactions in its hostility to women. As long as the woman
remained docile, she ruled, through the Church; but the man feared
her and was jealous of her, and she of him. Bernard specially adored
the Virgin because she was an example of docile obedience to the
Trinity who atoned for the indocility of Eve, but Eve herself
remained the instrument of Satan, and French society as a whole
showed a taste for Eves.

[Genealogical chart showing the relationships among the three

Eleanor could hardly be called docile. Whatever else she loved, she
certainly loved rule. She shared this passion to the full with her
only great successor and rival on the English throne, Queen
Elizabeth, and she happened to become Queen of France at the moment
when society was turning from worship of its military ideal, Saint
Michael, to worship of its social ideal, the Virgin. According to
the monk Orderic, men had begun to throw aside their old military
dress and manners even before the first crusade, in the days of
William Rufus (1087-1100), and to affect feminine fashions. In all
ages, priests and monks have denounced the growing vices of society,
with more or less reason; but there seems to have been a real
outbreak of display at about the time of the first crusade, which
set a deep mark on every sort of social expression, even down to the
shoes of the statues on the western portal of Chartres:--

A debauched fellow named Robert [said Orderic] was the first, about
the time of William Rufus, who introduced the practice of filling
the long points of the shoes with tow, and of turning them up like a
ram's horn. Hence he got the surname of Cornard; and this absurd
fashion was speedily adopted by great numbers of the nobility as a
proud distinction and sign of merit. At this time effeminacy was the
prevailing vice throughout the world ... They parted their hair from
the crown of the head on each side of the forehead, and their locks
grew long like women, and wore long shirts and tunics, closely tied
with points ... In our days, ancient customs are almost all changed
for new fashions. Our wanton youths are sunk in effeminacy ... They
insert their toes in things like serpents' tails which present to
view the shape of scorpions. Sweeping the dusty ground with the
prodigious trains of their robes and mantles, they cover their hands
with gloves ...

If you are curious to follow these monkish criticisms on your
ancestors' habits, you can read Orderic at your leisure; but you
want only to carry in mind the fact that the generation of warriors
who fought at Hastings and captured Jerusalem were regarded by
themselves as effeminate, and plunged in luxury. "Their locks are
curled with hot irons, and instead of wearing caps, they bind their
heads with fillets. A knight seldom appears in public with his head
uncovered and properly shaved according to the apostolic precept."
The effeminacy of the first crusade took artistic shape in the west
portal of Chartres and the glass of Saint-Denis, and led instantly
to the puritan reaction of Saint Bernard, followed by the gentle
asceticism of Queen Blanche and Saint Louis. Whether the pilgrimages
to Jerusalem and contact with the East were the cause or only a
consequence of this revolution, or whether it was all one,--a result
of converting the Northern pagans to peaceful habits and the
consequent enrichment of northern Europe,--is indifferent; the fact
and the date are enough. The art is French, but the ideas may have
come from anywhere, like the game of chess which the pilgrims or
crusaders brought home from Syria. In the Oriental game, the King
was followed step by step by a Minister whose functions were
personal. The crusaders freed the piece from control; gave it
liberty to move up or down or diagonally, forwards and backwards;
made it the most arbitrary and formidable champion on the board,
while the King and the Knight were the most restricted in movement;
and this piece they named Queen, and called the Virgin:--

Li Baudrains traist sa fierge por son paon sauver,
E cele son aufin qui cuida conquester
La firge ou le paon, ou faire reculer.

The aufin or dauphin became the Fou of the French game, and the
bishop of the English. Baldwin played his Virgin to save his pawn;
his opponent played the bishop to threaten either the Virgin or the

For a hundred and fifty years, the Virgin and Queens ruled French
taste and thought so successfully that the French man has never yet
quite decided whether to be more proud or ashamed of it. Life has
ever since seemed a little flat to him, and art a little cheap. He
saw that the woman, in elevating herself, had made him appear
ridiculous, and he tried to retaliate with a wit not always
sparkling, and too often at his own expense. Sometimes in museums or
collections of bric-a-brac, you will see, in an illuminated
manuscript, or carved on stone, or cast in bronze, the figure of a
man on his hands and knees, bestridden by another figure holding a
bridle and a whip; it is Aristotle, symbol of masculine wisdom,
bridled and driven by woman. Six hundred years afterwards, Tennyson
revived the same motive in Merlin, enslaved not for a time but
forever. In both cases the satire justly punished the man. Another
version of the same story--perhaps the original--was the Mystery of
Adam, one of the earliest Church plays. Gaston Paris says "it was
written in England in the twelfth century, and its author had real
poetic talent; the scene of the seduction of Eve by the serpent is
one of the best pieces of Christian dramaturgy ... This remarkable
work seems to have been played no longer inside the church, but
under the porch":--

Diabolus. Jo vi Adam mais trop est fols.

Eva. Un poi est durs.

Diabolus. Il serra mols.
Il est plus durs qui n'est enfers.

Eva. Il est mult francs.

Diabolus. Ainz est mult sers.
Cure ne volt prendre de sei
Car la prenge sevals de tei.
Tu es fieblette et tendre chose
E es plus fresche que n'est rose.
Tu es plus blanche que crystal
Que neif que chiet sor glace en val.
Mal cuple en fist li Criatur.
Tu es trop tendre e il trop dur.
Mais neporquant tu es plus sage
En grant sens as mis tun corrage
For co fait bon traire a tei.
Parler te voil.

Eva. Ore ja fai.

Devil. Adam I've seen, but he's too rough.

Eve. A little hard!

Devil. He'll soon be soft enough!
Harder than hell he is till now.

Eve. He's very frank!

Devil. Say very low!
To help himself he does not care;
The helping you shall be my share;
For you are tender, gentle, true,
The rose is not so fresh as you;
Whiter than crystal, or than snow
That falls from heaven on ice below.
A sorry mixture God has brewed,
You too tender, he too rude.
But you have much the greater sense,
Your will is all intelligence.
Therefore it is I turn to you.
I want to tell you--

Eve. Do it now!

The woman's greater intelligence was to blame for Adam's fall. Eve
was justly punished because she should have known better, while
Adam, as the Devil truly said, was a dull animal, hardly worth the
trouble of deceiving. Adam was disloyal, too, untrue to his wife
after being untrue to his Creator:--

La femme que tu me donas
Ele fist prime icest trespass
Donat le mei e jo mangai.
Or mest vis tornez est a gwai
Mal acontai icest manger.
Jo ai mesfait par ma moiller.

The woman that you made me take
First led me into this mistake.
She gave the apple that I ate
And brought me to this evil state.
Badly for me it turned, I own,
But all the fault is hers alone.

The audience accepted this as natural and proper. They recognized
the man as, of course, stupid, cowardly, and traitorous. The men of
the baser sort revenged themselves by boorishness that passed with
them for wit in the taverns of Arras, but the poets of the higher
class commonly took sides with the women. Even Chaucer, who lived
after the glamour had faded, and who satirized women to satiety,
told their tale in his "Legend of Good Women," with evident
sympathy. To him, also, the ordinary man was inferior,--stupid,
brutal, and untrue. "Full brittle is the truest," he said:--

For well I wote that Christ himself telleth
That in Israel, as wide as is the lond,
That so great faith in all the loud he ne fond
As in a woman, and this is no lie;
And as for men, look ye, such tyrannie
They doen all day, assay hem who so list,
The truest is full brotell for to trist.

Neither brutality nor wit helped the man much. Even Bluebeard in the
end fell a victim to the superior qualities of his last wife, and
Scheherazade's wit alone has preserved the memory of her royal
husband. The tradition of thirteenth-century society still rules the
French stage. The struggle between two strong-willed women to conrol
one weak-willed man is the usual motive of the French drama in the
nineteenth century, as it was the whole motive of Partenopeus of
Blois, one of the best twelfth-century romans; and Joinville
described it, in the middle of the thirteenth, as the leading motive
in the court of Saint Louis, with Queen Blanche and Queen Margaret
for players, and Saint Louis himself for pawn.

One has only to look at the common, so-called Elzevirian, volume of
thirteenth-century nouvelles to see the Frenchman as he saw himself.
The story of "La Comtesse de Ponthieu" is the more Shakespearean,
but "La Belle Jehanne" is the more natural and lifelike. The plot is
the common masculine intrigue against the woman, which was used over
and over again before Shakespeare appropriated it in "Much Ado"; but
its French development is rather in the line of "All's Well." The
fair Jeanne, married to a penniless knight, not at all by her
choice, but only because he was a favourite of her father's, was a
woman of the true twelfth-century type. She broke the head of the
traitor, and when he, with his masculine falseness, caused her
husband to desert her, she disguised herself as a squire and
followed Sir Robert to Marseilles in search of service in war, for
the poor knight could get no other means of livelihood. Robert was
the husband, and the wife, in entering his service as squire without
pay, called herself John:--

Molt fu mesire Robiers dolans cant il vint a Marselle de cou k'il
n'oi parler de nulle chose ki fust ou pais; si dist a Jehan:

--Ke ferons nous? Vous m'aves preste de vos deniers la vostre
mierchi, si les vos renderai car je venderai mon palefroi et
m'acuiterai a vous.

--Sire, dist Jehans, crees moi se il vous plaist je vous dirai ke
nous ferons; jou ai bien enchore c sous de tournois, s'll vous
plaist je venderai nos ii chevaus et en ferai deniers; et je suis li
miousdres boulengiers ke vous sacies, si ferai pain francois et je
ne douc mie ke je ne gaagne bien et largement mon depens.

--Jehans, dist mesire Robiers, je m'otroi del tout a faire votre

Et lendemam vendi Jehans ses .ii. chevaux X livres de tornois, et
achata son ble et le fist muire, et achata des corbelles et
coumencha a faire pain francois si bon et si bien fait k'il en
vendoit plus ke li doi melleur boulengier de la ville, et fist tant
dedens les ii ans k'il ot bien c livres de katel. Lors dist Jehans a
son segnour:

--Je lo bien que nous louons une tres grant mason et jou akaterai
del vin et hierbegerai la bonne gent

--Jehan, dist mesire Robiers, faites a vo volente kar je l'otroi et
si me loc molt de vous.

Jehans loua une mason grant et bielle, et si hierbrega la bonne gent
et gaegnoit ases a plente, et viestoit son segnour biellement et
richement, et avoit mesire Robiers son palefroi et aloit boire et
mengier aveukes les plus vallans de la ville, et Jehans li envoioit
vins et viandes ke tout cil ki o lui conpagnoient s'en
esmervelloient. Si gaegna tant ke dedens .iiii ans il gaegna plus de
ccc livres de meuble sains son harnois qui valoit bien .L. livres.

Much was Sir Robert grieved when he came to Marseilles and found
that there was no talk of anything doing in the country, and he said
to John: "What shall we do? You have lent me your money, I thank
you, and will repay you, for I will sell my palfrey and discharge
the debt to you."

"Sir," said John, "trust to me, if you please, I will tell you what
we will do, I have still a hundred sous, if you please I will sell
our two horses and turn them into money, and I am the best baker you
ever knew, I will make French bread, and I've no doubt I shall pay
my expenses well and make money"

"John," said Sir Robert, "I agree wholly to do whatever you like"

And the next day John sold their two horse for ten pounds, and
bought his wheat and had it ground, and bought baskets, and began to
make French bread so good and so well made that he sold more of it
than the two best bakers in the city, and made so much within two
years that he had a good hundred pound property Then he said to his
lord "I advise our hiring a very large house, and I will buy wine
and will keep lodgings for good society

"John," said Sir Robert, "do what you please, for I grant it, and am
greatly pleased with you."

John hired a large and fine house and lodged the best people and
gained a great plenty, and dressed his master handsomely and richly,
and Sir Robert kept his palfrey and went out to eat and drink with
the best people of the city, and John sent them such wines and food
that all his companions marvelled at it. He made so much that within
four years he gained more than three hundred pounds in money besides
clothes, etc, well worth fifty.

The docile obedience of the man to the woman seemed as reasonable to
the thirteenth century as the devotion of the woman to the man, not
because she loved him, for there was no question of love, but
because he was HER man, and she owned him as though he were child.
The tale went on to develop her character always in the same sense.
When she was ready, Jeanne broke up the establishment at Marseilles,
brought her husband back to Hainault, and made him, without knowing
her object, kill the traitor and redress her wrongs. Then after
seven years' patient waiting, she revealed herself and resumed her

If you care to see the same type developed to its highest capacity,
go to the theatre the first time some ambitious actress attempts the
part of Lady Macbeth. Shakespeare realized the thirteenth-century
woman more vividly than the thirteenth-century poets ever did; but
that is no new thing to say of Shakespeare. The author of "La
Comtesse de Ponthieu" made no bad sketch of the character. These are
fictions, but the Chronicles contain the names of women by scores
who were the originals of the sketch. The society which Orderic
described in Normandy--the generation of the first crusade--produced
a great variety of Lady Macbeths. In the country of Evreux, about
1100, Orderic says that "a worse than civil war was waged between
two powerful brothers, and the mischief was fomented by the spiteful
jealousy of their haughty wives. The Countess Havise of Evreux took
offence at some taunts uttered by Isabel de Conches,--wife of Ralph,
the Seigneur of Conches, some ten miles from Evreux,--and used all
her influence with her husband, Count William, and his barons, to
make trouble ... Both the ladies who stirred up these fierce
enmities were great talkers and spirited as well as handsome; they
ruled their husbands, oppressed their vassals, and inspired terror
in various ways. But still their characters were very different.
Havise had wit and eloquence, but she was cruel and avaricious.
Isabel was generous, enterprising, and gay, so that she was beloved
and esteemed by those about her. She rode in knight's armour when
her vassals were called to war, and showed as much daring among men-
at-arms and mounted knights as Camilla ..." More than three hundred
years afterwards, far off in the Vosges, from a village never heard
of, appeared a common peasant of seventeen years old, a girl without
birth, education, wealth, or claim of any sort to consideration, who
made her way to Chinon and claimed from Charles VII a commission to
lead his army against the English. Neither the king nor the court
had faith in her, and yet the commission was given, and the rank-
and-file showed again that the true Frenchman had more confidence in
the woman than in the man, no matter what the gossips might say. No
one was surprised when Jeanne did what she promised, or when the men
burned her for doing it. There were Jeannes in every village.
Ridicule was powerless against them. Even Voltaire became what the
French call frankly "bete," in trying it.

Eleanor of Guienne was the greatest of all Frenchwomen. Her decision
was law, whether in Bordeaux or Poitiers, in Paris or in Palestine,
in London or in Normandy; in the court of Louis VII, or in that of
Henry II, or in her own Court of Love. For fifteen years she was
Queen of France; for fifty she was Queen in England; for eighty or
thereabouts she was equivalent to Queen over Guienne. No other
Frenchwoman ever had such rule. Unfortunately, as Queen of France,
she struck against an authority greater than her own, that of Saint
Bernard, and after combating it, with Suger's help, from 1137 until
1152, the monk at last gained such mastery that Eleanor quitted the
country and Suger died. She was not a person to accept defeat. She
royally divorced her husband and went back to her own kingdom of
Guienne. Neither Louis nor Bernard dared to stop her, or to hold her
territories from her, but they put the best face they could on their
defeat by proclaiming her as a person of irregular conduct. The
irregularity would not have stood in their way, if they had dared to
stand in hers, but Louis was much the weaker, and made himself
weaker still by allowing her to leave him for the sake of Henry of
Anjou, a story of a sort that rarely raised the respect in which
French kings were held by French society. Probably politics had more
to do with the matter than personal attachments, for Eleanor was a
great ruler, the equal of any ordinary king, and more powerful than
most kings living in 1152. If she deserted France in order to join
the enemies of France, she had serious reasons besides love for
young Henry of Anjou; but in any case she did, as usual, what
pleased her, and forced Louis to pronounce the divorce at a council
held at Beaugency, March 18, 1152, on the usual pretext of
relationship. The humours of the twelfth century were Shakespearean.
Eleanor, having obtained her divorce at Beaugency, to the deep
regret of all Frenchmen, started at once for Poitiers, knowing how
unsafe she was in any territory but her own. Beaugency is on the
Loire, between Orleans and Blois, and Eleanor's first night was at
Blois, or should have been; but she was told, on arriving, that
Count Thibaut of Blois, undeterred by King Louis's experience, was
making plans to detain her, with perfectly honourable views of
marriage; and, as she seems at least not to have been in love with
Thibaut, she was obliged to depart at once, in the night, to Tours.
A night journey on horseback from Blois to Tours in the middle of
March can have been no pleasure-trip, even in 1152; but, on arriving
at Tours in the morning, Eleanor found that her lovers were still so
dangerously near that she set forward at once on the road to
Poitiers. As she approached her own territory she learned that
Geoffrey of Anjou, the younger brother of her intended husband, was
waiting for her at the border, with views of marriage as strictly
honourable as those of all the others. She was driven to take
another road, and at last got safe to Poitiers.

About no figure in the Middle Ages, man or woman, did so many
legends grow, and with such freedom, as about Eleanor, whose
strength appealed to French sympathies and whose adventures appealed
to their imagination. They never forgave Louis for letting her go.
They delighted to be told that in Palestine she had carried on
relations of the most improper character, now with a Saracen slave
of great beauty; now with Raymond of Poitiers, her uncle, the
handsomest man of his time; now with Saladin himself; and, as all
this occurred at Antioch in 1147 or 1148, they could not explain why
her husband should have waited until 1152 in order to express his
unwilling disapproval; but they quoted with evident sympathy a
remark attributed to her that she thought she had married a king,
and found she had married a monk. To the Frenchman, Eleanor remained
always sympathetic, which is the more significant because, in
English tradition, her character suffered a violent and incredible
change. Although English history has lavished on Eleanor somewhat
more than her due share of conventional moral reproof, considering
that, from the moment she married Henry of Anjou, May 18, 1152, she
was never charged with a breath of scandal, it atoned for her want
of wickedness by French standards, in the usual manner of
historians, by inventing traits which reflected the moral standards
of England. Tradition converted her into the fairy-book type of
feminine jealousy and invented for her the legend of the Fair
Rosamund and the poison of toads.

For us, both legends are true. They reflected, not perhaps the
character of Eleanor, but what the society liked to see acted on its
theatre of life. Eleanor's real nature in no way concerns us. The
single fact worth remembering was that she had two daughters by
Louis VII, as shown in the table; who, in due time, married--Mary,
in 1164, married Henry, the great Count of Champagne; Alix, at the
same time, became Countess of Chartres by marriage with Thibaut, who
had driven her mother from Blois in 1152 by his marital intentions.
Henry and Thibaut were brothers whose sister Alix had married Louis
VII in 1160, eight years after the divorce. The relations thus
created were fantastic, especially for Queen Eleanor, who, besides
her two French daughters, had eight children as Queen of England.
Her second son, Richard Coeur-de-Lion, born in 1157, was affianced
in 1174 to a daughter of Louis VII and Alix, a child only six years
old, who was sent to England to be brought up as future queen. This
was certainly Eleanor's doing, and equally certain was it that the
child came to no good in the English court. The historians, by
exception, have not charged this crime to Queen Eleanor; they
charged it to Eleanor's husband, who passed most of his life in
crossing his wife's political plans; but with politics we want as
little as possible to do. We are concerned with the artistic and
social side of life, and have only to notice the coincidence that
while the Virgin was miraculously using the power of spiritual love
to elevate and purify the people, Eleanor and her daughters were
using the power of earthly love to discipline and refine the courts.
Side by side with the crude realities about them, they insisted on
teaching and enforcing an ideal that contradicted the realities, and
had no value for them or for us except in the contradiction.

The ideals of Eleanor and her daughter Mary of Champagne were a form
of religion, and if you care to see its evangels, you had best go
directly to Dante and Petrarch, or, if you like it better, to Don
Quixote de la Mancha. The religion is dead as Demeter, and its art
alone survives as, on the whole, the highest expression of man's
thought or emotion; but in its day it was almost as practical as it
now is fanciful. Eleanor and her daughter Mary and her granddaughter
Blanche knew as well as Saint Bernard did, or Saint Francis, what a
brute the emancipated man could be; and as though they foresaw the
society of the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, they used every
terror they could invent, as well as every tenderness they could
invoke, to tame the beasts around them. Their charge was of manners,
and, to teach manners, they made a school which they called their
Court of Love, with a code of law to which they gave the name of
"courteous love." The decisions of this court were recorded, like
the decisions of a modern bench, under the names of the great ladies
who made them, and were enforced by the ladies of good society for
whose guidance they were made. They are worth reading, and any one
who likes may read them to this day, with considerable scepticism
about their genuineness. The doubt is only ignorance. We do not, and
never can, know the twelfth-century woman, or, for that matter, any
other woman, but we do know the literature she created; we know the
art she lived in, and the religion she professed. We can collect
from them some idea why the Virgin Mary ruled, and what she was
taken to be, by the world which worshipped her.

Mary of Champagne created the literature of courteous love. She must
have been about twenty years old when she married Count Henry and
went to live at Troyes, not actually a queen in title, but certainly
a queen in social influence. In 1164, Champagne was a powerful
country, and Troyes a centre of taste. In Normandy, at the same
date, William of Saint Pair and Wace were writing the poetry we
know. In Champagne the court poet was Christian of Troyes, whose
poems were new when the churches of Noyon and Senlis and Saint Leu
d'Esserent, and the fleche of Chartres, and the Leaning Tower of
Pisa, were building, at the same time with the Abbey of Vezelay, and
before the church at Mantes. Christian died not long after 1175,
leaving a great mass of verse, much of which has survived, and which
you can read more easily than you can read Dante or Petrarch,
although both are almost modern compared with Christian. The quality
of this verse is something like the quality of the glass windows--
conventional decoration; colours in conventional harmonies;
refinement, restraint, and feminine delicacy of taste. Christian has
not the grand manner of the eleventh century, and never recalls the
masculine strength of the "Chanson de Roland" or "Raoul de Cambrai."
Even his most charming story, "Erec et Enide," carries chiefly a
moral of courtesy. His is poet-laureate's work, says M. Gaston
Paris; the flower of a twelfth-century court and of twelfth-century
French; the best example of an admirable language; but not lyric;
neither strong, nor deep, nor deeply felt. What we call tragedy is
unknown to it. Christian's world is sky-blue and rose, with only
enough red to give it warmth, and so flooded with light that even
its mysteries count only by the clearness with which they are shown.

Among other great works, before Mary of France came to Troyes
Christian had, toward 1160, written a "Tristan," which is lost. Mary
herself, he says, gave him the subject of "Lancelot," with the
request or order to make it a lesson of "courteous love," which he
obeyed. Courtesy has lost its meaning as well as its charm, and you
might find the "Chevalier de la Charette" even more unintelligible
than tiresome; but its influence was great in its day, and the
lesson of courteous love, under the authority of Mary of Champagne,
lasted for centuries as the standard of taste. "Lancelot" was never
finished, but later, not long after 1174, Christian wrote a
"Perceval," or "Conte du Graal," which must also have been intended
to please Mary, and which is interesting because, while the
"Lancelot" gave the twelfth-century idea of courteous love, the
"Perceval" gave the twelfth-century idea of religious mystery. Mary
was certainly concerned with both. "It is for this same Mary," says
Gaston Paris, "that Walter of Arras undertook his poem of 'Eracle';
she was the object of the songs of the troubadours as well as of
their French imitators; for her use also she caused the translations
of books of piety like Genesis, or the paraphrase at great length,
in verse, of the psalm 'Eructavit.'"

With her theories of courteous love, every one is more or less
familiar if only from the ridicule of Cervantes and the follies of
Quixote, who, though four hundred years younger, was Lancelot's
child; but we never can know how far she took herself and her laws
of love seriously, and to speculate on so deep a subject as her
seriousness is worse than useless, since she would herself have been
as uncertain as her lovers were. Visionary as the courtesy was, the
Holy Grail was as practical as any bric-a-brac that has survived of
the time. The mystery of Perceval is like that of the Gothic
cathedral, illuminated by floods of light, and enlivened by rivers
of colour. Unfortunately Christian never told what he meant by the
fragment, itself a mystery, in which he narrated the story of the
knight who saw the Holy Grail, because the knight, who was warned,
as usual, to ask no questions, for once, unlike most knights, obeyed
the warning when he should have disregarded it. As knights-errant
necessarily did the wrong thing in order to make their adventures
possible, Perceval's error cannot be in itself mysterious, nor was
the castle in any way mysterious where the miracle occurred, It
appeared to him to be the usual castle, and he saw nothing unusual
in the manner of his reception by the usual old lord, or in the fact
that both seated themselves quite simply before the hall-fire with
the usual household. Then, as though it were an everyday habit, the
Holy Grail was brought in (Bartsch, "Chrestomathie," 183-85, ed.

Et leans avail luminaire
Si grant con l'an le porrait faire
De chandoiles a un ostel.
Que qu'il parloient d'un et d'el,
Uns vallez d'une chambre vint
Qui une blanche lance tint
Ampoigniee par le mi lieu.
Si passa par endroit le feu
Et cil qui al feu se seoient,
Et tuit cil de leans veoient
La lance blanche et le fer blanc.
S'issoit une gote de sang
Del fer de la lance au sommet,
Et jusqu'a la main au vaslet
Coroit cele gote vermoille....
A tant dui autre vaslet vindrent
Qui chandeliers an lors mains tindrent
De fin or ovrez a neel.
Li vaslet estoient moult bel
Qui les chandeliers aportoient.
An chacun chandelier ardoient
Dous chandoiles a tot le mains.
Un graal antre ses dous mains
Une demoiselle tenoit,
Qui avec les vaslets venoit,
Bele et gente et bien acesmee.
Quant cle fu leans antree
Atot le graal qu'ele tint
Une si granz clartez i vint
Qu'ausi perdirent les chandoiles
Lor clarte come les estoiles
Qant li solauz luist et la lune.
Apres celi an revint une
Qui tint un tailleor d'argent.

Le graal qui aloit devant
De fin or esmere estoit,
Pierres precieuses avoit
El graal de maintes menieres

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