Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Normandy, Complete by Gordon Home

Part 1 out of 2

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.2 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Produced by Ted Garvin, Beth Trapaga and the Distributed Proofreading





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

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

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


EPSOM, _October_ 1905





Some Features of Normandy

By the Banks of the Seine

Concerning Rouen, the Ancient Capital of Normandy

Concerning the Cathedral City of Evreux and the Road to Bernay

Concerning Lisieux and the Romantic Town of Falaise

From Argentan to Avranches

Concerning Mont St Michel

Concerning Coutances and Some Parts of the Cotentin

Concerning St Lo and Bayeux

Concerning Caen and the Coast Towards Trouville

Some Notes on the History of Normandy



This is typical of the poplar-bordered roads of Normandy.

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

On one side great chalk cliffs rise precipitously, and on the
other are broad flat pastures.


It is the Belfry of the City, and was commenced in 1389.

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

On the right, just where the light touches some of the roofs of the
houses, the fine old belfry can be seen.

The curious little thatched mushroom above the cart is to be found in
most of the Norman farms.

On the steep hill beyond stands the ruined abbey church.

The second tiled gable from the left belongs to the fine sixteenth
century house called the Manoir de Francois I.

One of the quaint umber fronted houses for which the town is famous
appears on the left.

The favourite stronghold of William the Conqueror.

A thirteenth century gateway that overlooks the steep valley of the Ante.

A seventeenth century manor house surrounded by a wide moat.

Down below can be seen the river Varennes, and to the left of the railway
the little Norman Church of Notre-Dame-sur-l'Eau.


On the left is the low coast-line of Normandy, and on the right appears
the islet of Tombelaine.


In the foreground is the Church of St Pierre, and in the distance
is the Cathedral.

They are of different dates, and differ in the arcading and other









The dark opening through the archway on the left is the main entrance to
the Abbey. On the right can be seen the tall narrow windows that light the
three floors of Abbot Jourdain's great work.






Some Features of Normandy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By the Banks of the Seine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Concerning Rouen, the Ancient Capital of Normandy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Concerning the Cathedral City of Evreux and the Road to Bernay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Concerning Lisieux and the Romantic Town of Falaise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


From Argentan to Avranches

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Out in the country again, going westwards, the cottage industry of
weaving is apparent in nearly every cottage one sees. The loud
click-a-ti-clack--click-a-ti-clack of the looms can be heard on every
side as one passes such villages as Landisacq. Everywhere the scenery
is exceedingly English, the steep hillsides are often covered with
orchards, and the delicate green of the apple-trees in spring-time,
half-smothered in pinky-white blossom, gives the country a garden-like
aspect. You may see a man harrowing a field on a sudden slope with a
cloud of dust blowing up from the dry light soil, and you may hear him
make that curious hullaballooing by which the peasants direct their
horses, so different from the grunting "way-yup there" of the English
ploughman. Coming down a long descent, a great stretch of country to
the north that includes the battlefield of Tinchebrai comes into view.
It is hard to associate the rich green pastures, smiling orchards, and
peaceful cattle, with anything so gruesome as a battle between armies
led by brothers. But it was near the little town of Tinchebrai that the
two brothers, Henry I., King of England, and Robert Duke of Normandy
fought for the possession of Normandy. Henry's army was greatly
superior to that of his brother, for he had the valuable help of the

Book of the day: