Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Seeing Europe with Famous Authors, Volume 3 by Various

Part 3 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 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.

The papal soldiery were ever objects of scorn to the royalists of
Villeneuve, who dubbed them "patachines" ("pestacchina," Ital. for
slipper), and taunted them with drilling under parasols--a pleasantry
repaid by the Italians who hurled the epithet "luzers" (lizards) against
the royalists, who were said to pass their time sunning themselves against
the hot rocks of Villeneuve.

Descending the stately stairway that leads to the foot of the Rocher des
Doms, and turning to the left, we soon reach the house of the "gardien du
pont," who will admit us to all that remains of the miraculous pontifical
structure of the twelfth century. The destructive hand of man and the
assaults of the Rhone have dealt hardly with St. Benezet's work. Ruined
during the siege of 1226, it was repaired in 1234-37, and in 1349 knit to
the papal fortress at the Avignon end. In 1352, when Clement VI. rebuilt
four of the arches, it is described as of stone and wood; it was cut
during the siege of Benedict XIII., and repaired, or rebuilt, in 1418 and
1430; in 1602 three arches collapsed; in 1633 two more fell, and in 1650
the gaps were bridged by wooden struts and planks, which were carried away
in 1670 by ice-floes.

Owing to the interminable dispute between the monarchy and the papacy as
to liability for its repair, each power claiming jurisdiction over the
Rhone, all attempts to preserve it from ruin were abandoned in 1680, when
Louis XIV. refused either to allow the legates to take toll for the
necesary repairs, or to undertake them himself.

Little is known of the original bridge, which consisted of twenty-two
semi-circular arches (Viollet-le-Duc gives eighteen), much lower than the
present elliptic ones, which date back to the thirteenth century,
according to Labaude--or to the fifteenth century, acording to other
authorities--when the bridge, having proved too low-pitched, was raised to
its present level, and the flood arches over the piles were built. The
four subsisting arches were, with the bridge chapel, restored during the
last century. The old bridge formed an elbow upstream on the Villeneuve
branch of the Rhone.

The chapel of St. Nicholas, too, has suffered many vicissitudes. The
primitive Romanesque building was raised to the level of the new footway
by dividing the nave into two floors and building a flight of steps,
supported on a squinch arch, down to what then became the lower chapel.
Much battered during the sieges of the palace, it was restored and
reconsecrated in 1411 and a century later the Gothic upper apse was added,
whose external walls overtop the old nave. In consequence of these
modifications the lower chapel has a Gothic nave and a Romanesque apse,
whereas the upper chapel has a Gothic apse and a Romanesque nave.

The "Pont d'Avignon" is known to every French-speaking child, and with
many variants the old "ronde" is sung and danced from the remotest plains
of Canada to the valleys of the Swiss Alps. The good folk of Avignon,
however, protest that their "rondes" were not danced perilously on the
narrow Pont St. Benezet, but under its arches on the green meadows of the
Isle de la Barthelasse, and that "Sur" in lieu of "Sous" is due to
northern misunderstanding of their sweet Provencal tongue.


By Henry James

[Footnote: From "A Little Tour In France." By special arrangement with,
and by permission of, the publishers, Houghton, Mifflin Co. Copyright,

I alighted at Orange to visit a collection of eminently civil monuments.
The collection consists of but two objects, but these objects are so fine
that I will let the word pass. One of them is a triumphal arch, supposedly
of the period of Marcus Aurelius; the other is a fragment, magnificent in
its ruin, of a Roman theater. But for these fine Roman remains and for its
name, Orange is a perfectly featureless little town, without the Rhone--
which, as I have mentioned, is several miles distant--to help it to a
physiognomy. It seems one of the oddest things that this obscure French
borough--obscure, I mean, in our modern era, for the Gallo-Roman Arausio
must have been, judging it by its arches and theater, a place of some
importance--should have given its name to the heirs apparent of the throne
of Holland, and been borne by a king of England who had sovereign rights
over it. During the Middle Ages it formed part of an independent
principality; but in 1531 it fell, by the marriage of one of its
princesses, who had inherited it, into the family of Nassau. I read in my
indispensable Murray that it was made over to France by the treaty of

The arch of triumph, which stands a little way out of the town, is rather
a pretty than an imposing vestige of the Romans. If it had greater purity
of style, one might say of it that it belonged to the same family of
monuments as the Maison Caree at Nimes. It has three passages--the middle
much higher than the others--and a very elevated attic. The vaults of the
passages are richly sculptured, and the whole monument is covered with
friezes and military trophies. This sculpture is rather mixed; much of it
is broken and defaced, and the rest seemed to me ugly, tho its workmanship
is praised. The arch is at once well preserved and much injured. Its
general mass is there, and as Roman monuments go it is remarkably perfect;
but it has suffered, in patches, from the extremity of restoration. It is
not, on the whole, of absorbing interest.

It has a charm, nevertheless, which comes partly from its soft, bright
yellow color, partly from a certain elegance of shape, of expression; and
on that well-washed Sunday morning, with its brilliant tone, surrounded by
its circle of thin poplars, with the green country lying beyond it and a
low blue horizon showing through its empty portals, it made, very
sufficiently, a picture that hangs itself to one of the lateral hooks of
the memory. I can take down the modest composition, and place it before me
as I write. I see the shallow, shining puddles in the hard, fair French
road; the pale blue sky, diluted by days of rain; the disgarnished
autumnal fields; the mild sparkle of the low horizon; the solitary figure
in sabots, with a bundle under its arm, advancing along the "chaussee;"
and in the middle I see the little ochre-colored monument, which, in spite
of its antiquity, looks bright and gay, as everything must look in France
of a fresh Sunday morning.

It is true that this was not exactly the appearance of the Roman theater,
which lies on the other side of the town; a fact that did not prevent me
from making my way to it in less than five minutes, through a succession
of little streets concerning which I have no observations to record. None
of the Roman remains in the south of France are more impressive than this
stupendous fragment. An enormous mound rises above the place, which was
formerly occupied--I quote from Murray--first by a citadel of the Romans,
then by a castle of the princes of Nassau, razed by Louis XIV.

Facing this hill a mighty wall erects itself, thirty-six meters high, and
composed of massive blocks of dark brown stone, simply laid one on the
other; the whole naked, rugged surface of which suggests a natural cliff
(say of the Vaucluse order) rather than an effort of human, or even of
Roman labor. It is the biggest thing at Orange--it is bigger than all
Orange put together--and its permanent massiveness makes light of the
shrunken city. The face it presents to the town--the top of it garnished
with two rows of brackets, perforated with holes to receive the staves of
the "velarium"--bears the traces of more than one tier of ornamental
arches; tho how these flat arches were applied, or incrusted, upon the
wall, I do not profess to explain.

You pass through a diminutive postern--which seems in proportion about as
high as the entrance of a rabbit-hutch--into the lodge of the custodian,
who introduces you to the interior of the theater. Here the mass of the
hill affronts you, which the ingenious Romans treated simply as the
material of their auditorium. They inserted their stone seats, in a
semicircle, in the slope of the hill, and planted their colossal wall
opposite to it. This wall, from the inside, is, if possible, even more
imposing. It formed the back of the stage, the permanent scene, and its
enormous face was coated with marble. It contains three doors, the middle
one being the highest, and having above it, far aloft, a deep niche,
apparently intended for an imperial statue. A few of the benches remain on
the hillside, which, however, is mainly a confusion of fragments. There is
part of a corridor built into the hill, high up, and on the crest are the
remnants of the demolished castle.

The whole place is a kind of wilderness of ruin; there are scarcely any
details; the great feature is the overtopping wall. This wall being the
back of the scene, the space left between it and the chord of the
semicircle (of the auditorium) which formed the proscenium is rather less
than one would have supposed. In other words, the stage was very shallow,
and appears to have been arranged for a number of performers standing in a
line, like a company of soldiers. There stands the silent skeleton,
however, as impressive by what it leaves you to guess and wonder about as
by what it tells you. It has not the sweetness, the softness of
melancholy, of the theater at Arles; but it is more extraordinary, and one
can imagine only tremendous tragedies being enacted there--

"Presenting Thebes' or Pelops' line."

At either end of the stage, coming forward, is an immense wing--immense in
height, I mean, as it reaches to the top of the scenic wall; the other
dimensions are not remarkable. The division to the right, as you face the
stage, is pointed out as the green-room; its portentous altitude and the
open arches at the top give it the air of a well. The compartment on the
left is exactly similar, save that it opens into the traces of other
chambers, said to be those of a hippodrome adjacent to the theater.
Various fragments are visible which refer themselves plausibly to such an
establishment; the greater axis of the hippodrome would appear to have
been on a line with the triumphal arch. This is all I saw, and all there
was to see, of Orange, which had a very rustic, bucolic aspect, and where
I was not even called upon to demand breakfast at the hotel. The entrance
of this resort might have been that of a stable of the Roman days.


By Bayard Taylor

[Footnote: From "Views Afoot." Published by G.P. Putnam's

This district borders on the desert of the Crau, a vast plain of stones
reaching to the mouth of the Rhone and almost entirely uninhabited. We
caught occasional glimpses of its sealike waste between the summits of the
hills. At length, after threading a high ascent, we saw the valley of the
Durance suddenly below us. The sun, breaking through the clouds, shone on
the mountain-wall which stood on the opposite side, touching with his glow
the bare and rocky precipices that frowned far above the stream.
Descending to the valley, we followed its course toward the Rhone with the
ruins of feudal "bourgs" crowning the crags above us.

It was dusk when we reached the village of Senas tired with the day's
march. A landlord standing in his door, on the lookout for customers,
invited us to enter in a manner so polite and pressing we could not choose
but do so. This is a universal custom with the country innkeepers. In a
little village which we passed toward evening there was a tavern with the
sign "The Mother of Soldiers." A portly woman whose face beamed with
kindness and cheerfulness stood in the door and invited us to stop there
for the night. "No, mother," I answered; "we must go much farther to-day."
"Go, then," said she, "with good luck, my children! A pleasant journey!"

On entering the inn at Senas two or three bronzed soldiers were sitting by
the table. My French vocabulary happening to give out in the middle of a
consultation about eggs and onion-soup, one of them came to my assistance
and addrest me in German. He was from Fulda, in Hesse-Cassel, and had
served fifteen years in Africa....

Leaving next morning at daybreak, we walked on before breakfast to Orgon,
a little village in a corner of the cliffs which border the Durance, and
crossed the muddy river by a suspension bridge a short distance below, to
Cavaillon, where the country-people were holding a great market. From this
place a road led across the meadow-land to L'Isle, six miles distant. This
little town is so named because it is situated on an island formed by the
crystal Sorgues, which flows from the fountains of Vaucluse.

It is a very picturesque and pretty place. Great mill-wheels, turning
slowly and constantly, stand at intervals in the stream, whose grassy
banks are now as green as in springtime. We walked along the Sorgues--
which is quite as beautiful and worthy to be sung as the Clitumnus--to the
end of the village to take the road to Vaucluse. Beside its banks stands
the "Hotel de Petrarque et Laure." Alas that names of the most romantic
and impassioned lovers of all history should be desecrated to a sign-post
to allure gormandizing tourists!

The bare mountain in whose heart lies the poet's solitude now rose before
us at the foot of the lofty Mount Ventoux, whose summit of snows extended
beyond. We left the river and walked over a barren plain across which the
wind blew most drearily. The sky was rainy and dark, and completed the
desolateness of the scene, which in nowise heightened our anticipations of
the renowned glen. At length we rejoined the Sorgues and entered a little
green valley running up into the mountain. The narrowness of the entrance
entirely shut out the wind, and, except the rolling of the waters over
their pebbly bed, all was still and lonely and beautiful. The sides of the
dell were covered with olive trees, and a narrow strip of emerald meadow
lay at the bottom.

It grew more hidden and sequestered as we approached the little village of
Vaucluse. Here the mountain towers far above, and precipices of gray rock
many hundred feet high hang over the narrowing glen. On a crag over the
village are the remains of a castle; the slope below this, now rugged and
stony, was once graced by the cottage and garden of Petrarch. All traces
of them have long since vanished, but a simple column bearing the
inscription. "A Petrarque" stands beside the Sorgues.

We ascended into the defile by a path among the rocks, overshadowed by
olives and wild fig-trees, to the celebrated fountains of Vaucluse. The
glen seems as if stuck into the mountain's depths by one blow of the
enchanter's wand, and just at the end, where the rod might have rested in
its downward sweep, is the fathomless well whose over-brimming fulness
gives birth to the Sorgues. We climbed up over the mossy rocks and sat
down in the grotto beside the dark, still pool. It was the most absolute

The rocks towered above and over us to the height of six hundred feet, and
the gray walls of the wild glen below shut out all appearance of life. I
leaned over the rock and drank of the blue crystal that grew gradually
darker toward the center till it became a mirror and gave back a perfect
reflection of the crags above it. There was no bubbling, no gushing up
from its deep bosom, but the wealth of sparkling waters continually welled
over as from a too-full goblet.

It was with actual sorrow that I turned away from the silent spot. I never
visited a place to which the fancy clung more suddenly and fondly. There
is something holy in its solitude, making one envy Petrarch the years of
calm and unsullied enjoyment which blest him there. As some persons whom
we pass as strangers strike a hidden chord in our spirits, compelling a
silent sympathy with them, so some landscapes have a character of beauty
which harmonizes thrillingly with the mood in which we look upon them,
till we forget admiration in the glow of spontaneous attachment. They seem
like abodes of the beautiful which the soul in its wanderings long ago
visited and now recognizes and loves as the home of a forgotten dream. It
was thus I felt by the fountains of Vaucluse; sadly and with weary steps I
turned away, leaving its loneliness unbroken as before.

We returned over the plain in the wind, under the gloomy sky, passed
L'Isle at dusk, and after walking an hour with a rain following close
behind us stopt at an auberge in Le Thor, where we rested our tired frames
and broke our long day's fasting. We were greeted in the morning with a
dismal rain and wet roads as we began the march. After a time, however, it
poured down in such torrents that we were obliged to take shelter in a
remise by the roadside, where a good woman who addrest us in the
unintelligible Provencal kindled up a blazing fire. On climbing a long
hill when the storm had abated, we experienced a delightful surprise.
Below us lay the broad valley of the Rhone, with its meadows looking fresh
and spring-like after the rain. The clouds were breaking away; clear blue
sky was visible over Avignon, and a belt of sunlight lay warmly along the
mountains of Languedoc. Many villages with their tall picturesque towers
dotted the landscape, and the groves of green olive enlivened the
barrenness of winter.

The Pont du Gard--Aigues-Mortes-Nimes

By Henry James

[Footnote: From "A Little Tour in France." By special arrangement with,
and by permission of, the publishers, Houghton, Mifflin Co. Copyright,

It was a pleasure to feel one's self in Provence again--the land where the
silver-gray earth is impregnated with the light of the sky. To celebrate
the event, as soon as I arrived at Nimes I engaged a caleche to convey me
to the Pont du Gard. The day was yet young, and it was perfectly fair; it
appeared well, for a longish drive, to take advantage, without delay, of
such security. After I had left the town I became more intimate with that
Provencal charm which I had already enjoyed from the window of the train,
and which glowed in the sweet sunshine and the white rocks, and lurked in
the smoke-puffs of the little olives.

The olive-trees in Provence are half the landscape. They are neither so
tall, so stout, nor so richly contorted as I have seen them beyond the
Alps; but this mild colorless bloom seems the very texture of the country.
The road from Nimes, for a distance of fifteen miles, is superb; broad
enough for an army, and as white and firm as a dinner-table. It stretches
away over undulations which suggest a kind of harmony; and in the curves
it makes through the wide, free country, where there is never a hedge or a
wall, and the detail is always exquisite, there is something majestic,
almost processional. You are very near (the Pont du Gard) before you see
it; the ravine it spans suddenly opens and exhibits the picture. The scene
at this point grows extremely beautiful. The ravine is the valley of the
Garden, which the road from Nimes has followed some time without taking
account of it, but which, exactly at the right distance from the aqueduct,
deepens and expands, and puts on those characteristics which are best
suited to give it effect. The gorge becomes romantic, still, and solitary,
and, with its white rocks and wild shrubbery, hangs over the clear,
colored river, in whose slow course there is here and there a deeper pool.
Over the valley, from side to side, and ever so high in the air, stretch
the three tiers of the tremendous bridge. They are unspeakably imposing,
and nothing could well be more Roman.

The hugeness, the solidity, the unexpectedness, the monumental rectitude
of the whole thing leave you nothing to say--at the time--and make you
stand gazing. You simply feel that it is noble and perfect, that it has
the quality of greatness. A road, branching from the highway, descends to
the level of the river and passes under one of the arches. This road has a
wide margin of grass and loose stones, which slopes upward into the bank
of the ravine. You may sit here as long as you please, staring up at the
light, strong piers; the spot is extremely natural, tho two or three stone
benches have been erected on it.

I remained there an hour and got a complete impression; the place was
perfectly soundless, and for the time, at least, lonely; the splendid
afternoon had begun to fade, and there was a fascination in the object I
had come to see. It came to pass that at the same time I discovered in it
a certain stupidity, a vague brutality. That element is rarely absent from
great Roman work, which is wanting in the nice adaption of the means to
the end. The means are always exaggerated; the end is so much more than
attained. The Roman rigidity was apt to overshoot the mark, and I suppose
a race which could do nothing small is as defective as a race that can do
nothing great. Of this Roman rigidity the Pont du Gard is an admirable

It would be a great injustice, however, not to insist upon its beauty--a
kind of manly beauty, that of an object constructed not to please but to
serve, and impressive simply from the scale on which it carries out this
intention. The number of arches in each tier is different; they are
smaller and more numerous as they ascend. The preservation of the thing is
extraordinary; nothing has crumbled or collapsed; every feature remains;
and the huge blocks of stone, of a brownish-yellow (as if they had been
baked by the Provencal sun for eighteen centuries), pile themselves,
without mortar or cement, as evenly as the day they were laid together.

All this to carry the water of a couple of springs to a little provincial
city! The conduit on the top has retained its shape and traces of the
cement with which it was lined. When the vague twilight began to gather,
the lonely valley seemed to fill itself with the shadow of the Roman name,
as if the mighty empire were still as erect as the support of the
aqueduct; and it was open to a solitary tourist, sitting there
sentimental, to believe that no people has ever been, or will ever be, as
great as that, measured, as we measure the greatness of an individual, by
the push they gave to what they undertook. The Pont du Gard is one of the
three or four deepest impressions they have left; it speaks of them in a
manner with which they might have been satisfied....

On my way back to the little inn where I had left my vehicle, I passed the
Pont du Gard, and took another look at it. Its great arches made windows
for the evening sky, and the rocky ravine, with its dusky cedars and
shining river, was lonelier than before. At the inn I swallowed, or tried
to swallow, a glass of horrible wine with my coachman; after which, with
my team, I drove back to Nimes in the moonlight. It only added a more
solitary whiteness to the constant sheen of the Provencal landscape.

* * * * *

The weather the next day was equally fair, so that it seemed an imprudence
not to make sure of Aigues-Mortes. Nimes itself could wait; at a pinch, I
could attend to Nimes in the rain. It was my belief that Aigues-Mortes was
a little gem, and it is natural to desire that gems should have an
opportunity to sparkle. This is an excursion of but a few hours, and there
is a little friendly, familiar, dawdling train that will convey you, in
time for a noonday breakfast, to the small dead town where the blest Saint
Louis twice embarked for the crusades. You may get back to Nimes for
dinner; the run is of about an hour.

I found the little journey charming, and looked out of the carriage
window, on my right, at the distant Cevennes, covered with tones of amber
and blue, and, all around, at vineyards red with the touch of October. The
grapes were gone, but the plants had a color of their own. Within a
certain distance of Aigues-Mortes they give place to wide salt-marshes,
traversed by two canals; and over this expanse the train rumbles slowly
upon a narrow causeway, failing for some time, tho you know you are near
the object of your curiosity, to bring you to sight of anything but the
horizon. Suddenly it appears, the towered and embattled mass, lying so low
that the crest of its defences seems to rise straight out of the ground;
and it is not till the train stops, close before them that you are able to
take the full measure of its walls.

Aigues-Mortes stands on the edge of a wide etang, or shallow inlet of the
sea, the further side of which is divided by a narrow band of coast from
the Gulf of Lyons. Next after Carcassonne, to which it forms an admirable
pendant, it is the most perfect thing of the kind in France. It has a
rival in the person of Avignon, but the ramparts of Avignon are much less
effective. Like Carcassonne, it is completely surrounded with its old
fortifications; and if they are far simpler in character (there is but one
circle), they are quite as well preserved. The moat has been filled up,
and the site of the town might be figured by a billiard-table without
pockets. On this absolute level, covered with coarse grass, Aigues-Mortes
presents quite the appearance of the walled town that a school-boy draws
upon his slate, or that we see in the background of early Flemish
pictures--a simple parallelogram, of a contour almost absurdly bare,
broken at intervals by angular towers and square holes.

Such, literally speaking, is this delightful little city, which needs to
be seen to tell its full story. It is extraordinarily pictorial, and if it
is a very small sister of Carcassonne, it has at least the essential
features of the family. Indeed, it is even more like an image and less
like a reality than Carcassonne; for by position and prospect it seems
even more detached from the life of the present day. It is true that
Aigues-Mortes does a little business; it sees certain bags of salt piled
into barges which stand in a canal beside it, and which carry their cargo
into actual places. But nothing could well be more drowsy and desultory
than this industry as I saw it practised, with the aid of two or three
brown peasants and under the eye of a solitary douanier who strolled on
the little quay beneath the western wall. "C'est bien plaisant, c'est bien
paisible," said this worthy man, with whom I had some conversation; and
pleasant and peaceful is the place indeed, tho the former of these
epithets may suggest an element of gayety in which Aigues-Mortes is

The sand, the salt, the dull sea-view, surround it with a bright, quiet
melancholy. There are fifteen towers and nine gates, five of which are on
the southern side, overlooking the water. I walked all round the place
three times (it doesn't take long), but lingered most under the southern
wall, where the afternoon light slept in the dreamiest, sweetest way. I
sat down on an old stone, and looked away to the desolate salt-marshes and
still, shining surface of the etang; and, as I did so, reflected that this
was a queer little out-of-the-world corner to have been chosen, in the
great dominions of either monarch, for that pompous interview which took
place, in 1538, between Francis I. and Charles V. It was also not easy to
perceive how Louis IX., when in 1248 and 1270 he started for the Holy
Land, set his army afloat in such very undeveloped channels.

An hour later I purchased in the town a little pamphlet by M. Marius
Topin, who undertakes to explain this latter anomaly, and to show that
there is water enough in the port, as we may call it by courtesy, to have
sustained a fleet of crusaders. I was unable to trace the channel that he
points out, but was glad to believe that, as he contends, the sea has not
retreated from the town since the thirteenth century. It was comfortable
to think that things are not so changed as that. M. Topin indicates that
the other French ports of the Mediterranean were not then "disponibles,"
and that Aigues-Mortes was the most eligible spot for an embarkation.

Behind the straight walls and the quiet gates the little town has not
crumbled, like the Cite of Carcassonne. It can hardly be said to be alive;
but if it is dead it has been very neatly embalmed. The hand of the
restorer rests on it constantly; but this artist has not, as at
Carcassonne, had miracles to accomplish. The interior is very still and
empty, with small stony, whitewashed streets, tenanted by a stray dog, a
stray cat, a stray old woman. In the middle is a little place, with two or
three cafes decorated by wide awnings--a little place of which the
principal feature is a very bad bronze statue of Saint Louis by Pradier.
It is almost as bad as the breakfast I had at the inn that bears the name
of that pious monarch.

You may walk round the enceinte of Aigues-Mortes, both outside and in; but
you may not, as at Carcassonne, make a portion of this circuit on the
chemin de ronde, the little projecting footway attached to the inner face
of the battlements. This footway, wide enough only for a single
pedestrian, is in the best order, and near each of the gates a flight of
steps leads up to it; but a locked gate, at the top of the steps, makes
access impossible, or at least unlawful. Aigues-Mortes, however, has its
citadel, an immense tower, larger than any of the others, a little
detached, and standing at the northwest angle of the town. I called upon
the casernier--the custodian of the walls--and in his absence I was
conducted through this big Tour de Constance by his wife, a very mild,
meek woman, yellow with the traces of fever and ague--a scourge which, as
might be expected in a town whose name denotes "dead waters," enters
freely at the nine gates.

The Tour de Constance is of extraordinary girth and solidity, divided into
three superposed circular chambers, with very fine vaults, which are
lighted by embrasures of prodigious depth, converging to windows little
larger than loop-holes. The place served for years as a prison to many of
the Protestants of the south whom the revocation of the Edict of Nantes
had exposed to atrocious penalties, and the annals of these dreadful
chambers during the first half of the last century were written in tears
and blood. Some of the record cases of long confinement there make one
marvel afresh at what man has inflicted and endured. In a country in which
a policy of extermination was to be put into practise this horrible tower
was an obvious resource. From the battlements at the top, which is
surmounted by an old disused lighthouse, you see the little compact
rectangular town, which looks hardly bigger than a garden-patch, mapped
out beneath you, and follow the plain configuration of its defenses. You
take possession of it, and you feel that you will remember it always.

* * * * *

In general Nimes is poor; its only treasures are its Roman remains, which
are of the first order. The new French fashions prevail in many of its
streets; the old houses are paltry, and the good houses are new; while
beside my hotel rose a big spick-and-span church, which had the oddest air
of having been intended for Brooklyn or Cleveland....

What nobler ornament can there be than the Roman baths at the foot of Mont
Cavalier, and the delightful old garden that surrounds them? All that
quarter of Nimes has every reason to be proud of itself; it has been
revealed to the world at large by copious photography. A clear, abundant
stream gushes from the foot of a high hill (covered with trees and laid
out in paths), and is distributed into basins which sufficiently refer
themselves to the period that gave them birth--the period that has left
its stamp on that pompous Peyrou which we admired at Montpellier. Here are
the same terraces and steps and balustrades, and a system of water-works
less impressive, perhaps, but very ingenious and charming.

The whole place is a mixture of old Rome and of the French eighteenth
century; for the remains of the antique baths are in a measure
incorporated in the modern fountains. In a corner of this umbrageous
precinct stands a small Roman ruin, which is known as a temple of Diana,
but was more apparently a nymphaeum, and appears to have had a graceful
connection with the adjacent baths. I learn from Murray that this little
temple, of the period of Augustus, "was reduced to its present state of
ruin in 1577;" the moment at which the towns-people, threatened with a
siege by the troops of the crown, partly demolished it, lest it should
serve as a cover to the enemy. The remains are very fragmentary, but they
serve to show that the place was lovely. I spent half an hour in it on a
perfect Sunday morning (it is enclosed by a high grille, carefully tended,
and has a warden of its own), and with the help of my imagination tried to
reconstruct a little the aspect of things in the Gallo-Roman days.

I do wrong, perhaps, to say that I tried; from a flight so deliberate I
should have shrunk. But there was a certain contagion of antiquity in the
air; and among the ruins of baths and temples, in the very spot where the
aqueduct that crosses the Garden in the wondrous manner I had seen
discharged itself, the picture of a splendid paganism seemed vaguely to
glow. Roman baths--Roman baths; those words alone were a scene.

Everything was changed; I was strolling in a jardin francais; the bosky
slope of the Mont Cavalier (a very modest mountain), hanging over the
place, is crowded with a shapeless tower, which is as likely to be of
medieval as of antique origin; and yet, as I leaned on the parapet of one
of the fountains, where a flight of curved steps (a hemicycle, as the
French say) descended into a basin full of dark, cool recesses, where the
slabs of the Roman foundations gleam through the clear green water--as in
this attitude I surrendered myself to contemplation and reverie, it seemed
to me that I touched for a moment the ancient world. Such moments are
illuminating, and the light of this one mingles, in my memory, with the
dusky greenness of the Jardin de la Fontaine.

The fountain proper--the source of all these distributed waters--is the
prettiest thing in the world, a reduced copy of Vaucluse. It gushes up at
the foot of the Mont Cavalier, at a point where that eminence rises with a
certain cliff-like effect, and, like other springs in the same
circumstances, appears to issue from the rock with a sort of quivering
stillness. I trudge up the Mont Cavalier,--it is a matter of five
minutes,--and having committed this cockneyism enhanced it presently by
another. I ascended the stupid Tour Magne, the mysterious structure I
mentioned a moment ago. The only feature of this dateless tube, except the
inevitable collection of photographs to which you are introduced by the
doorkeeper, is the view you enjoy from its summit. This view is, of
course, remarkably fine but I am ashamed to say I have not the smallest
recollection of it; for while I looked into the brilliant spaces of the
air I seemed still to see only what I saw in the depths of the Roman
baths--the image, disastrously confused and vague, of a vanished world.
This world, however, has left at Nimes a far more considerable memento
than a few old stones covered with water-moss.

The Roman arena is the rival of those of Verona and of Arles; at a
respectful distance it emulates the Colosseum. It is a small Colosseum, if
I may be allowed the expression, and is in a much better preservation than
the great circus at Rome. This is especially true of the external walls,
with their arches, pillars, cornices. I must add that one should not speak
of preservation, in regard to the arena at Nimes, without speaking also of
repair. After the great ruin ceased to be despoiled, it began to be
protected, and most of its wounds have been drest with new material. These
matters concern the archeologist; and I felt here, as I felt afterward at
Arles, that one of the profane, in the presence of such a monument, can
only admire and hold his tongue. The great impression, on the whole, is an
impression of wonder that so much should have survived. What remains at
Nimes, after all dilapidation is estimated, is astounding.

I spent an hour in the Arenes on that same sweet Sunday morning, as I came
back from the Roman baths, and saw that the corridors, the vaults, the
staircases, the external casing, are still virtually there. Many of these
parts are wanting in the Colosseum, whose sublimity of size, however, can
afford to dispense with detail. The seats at Nimes, like those at Verona,
have been largely renewed; not that this mattered much, as I lounged on
the cool surface of one of them, and admired the mighty concavity of the
place and the elliptical sky-line, broken by uneven blocks and forming the
rim of the monstrous cup--a cup that had been filled with horrors, and yet
I made my reflections; I said to myself that tho a Roman arena is one of
the most impressive of the works of man, it has a touch of that same
stupidity which I ventured to discover in the Pont du Gard. It is brutal;
it is monotonous; it is not at all exquisite.

The Arenes at Nimes were arranged for a bull-fight--a form of recreation
that, as I was informed, is much dans les habitudes Nimoises and very
common throughout Provence, where (still according to my information) it
is the usual pastime of a Sunday afternoon. At Arles and Nimes it has a
characteristic setting, but in the villages the patrons of the game make a
circle of carts and barrels, on which the spectators perch themselves. I
was surprised at the prevalence, in mild Provence, of the Iberian vice,
and hardly know whether it makes the custom more respectable that at Nimes
and Arles the thing is shabbily and imperfectly done. The bulls are rarely
killed, and indeed often are bulls only in the Irish sense of the term--
being domestic and motherly cows. Such an entertainment of course does not
supply to the arena that element of the exquisite which I spoke of as

The exquisite at Nimes is mainly represented by the famous Maison Carree.
The first impression you receive from this delicate little building, as
you stand before it, is that you have already seen it many times.
Photographs, engravings, models, medals, have placed it definitely in your
eye, so that from the sentiment with which you regard it curiosity and
surprise are almost completely, and perhaps deplorably absent. Admiration
remains however--admiration of a familiar and even slightly patronizing
kind. The Maison Carree does not overwhelm you; you can conceive it. It is
not one of the great sensations of antique art; but it is perfectly
felicitous, and, in spite of having been put to all sorts of incongruous
uses, marvelously preserved. Its slender columns, its delicate
proportions, its charming compactness, seemed to bring one nearer to the
century that built it than the great superpositions of arenas and bridges,
and give it the interest that vibrates from one age to another when the
note of taste is struck.

If anything were needed to make this little toy-temple a happy production,
the service would be rendered by the second-rate boulevard that conducts
to it, adorned with inferior cafes and tobacco-shops. Here, in a
respectable recess, surrounded by vulgar habitations, and with the
theater, of a classic pretension, opposite, stands the small "square
house," so called because it is much longer than it is broad. I saw it
first in the evening, in the vague moonlight, which made it look as if it
were cast in bronze. Stendhal says, justly, that it has the shape of a
playing-card, and he expresses his admiration for it by the singular wish
that an "exact copy" of it should be erected in Paris. He even goes as far
as to say that in the year 1880 this tribute will have been rendered to
its charms; nothing would be more simple, to his mind, than to "have" in
that city "le Pantheon de Rome, quelques temples de Grece." Stendhal found
it amusing to write in the character of a commis-voyageur, and sometimes
it occurs to his reader that he really was one.

Arles and Les Baux

By Henry James

[Footnote: From "A Little Tour in France." By special arrangement with,
and by permission of, the publishers, Houghton, Mifflin Co. Copyright,

There are two shabby old inns at Arles, which compete closely for your
custom. I mean by this that if you elect to go to the Hotel du Forum, the
Hotel du Nord, which is placed exactly beside it (at a right angle),
watches your arrival with ill-concealed disapproval; and if you take the
chances of its neighbor, the Hotel du Forum seems to glare at you
invidiously from all its windows and doors. I forget which of these
establishments I selected; whichever it was, I wished very much that it
had been the other.

The two stand together on the Place des Hommes, a little public square of
Arles, which somehow quite misses its effect. As a city, indeed, Arles
quite misses its effect in every way; and if it is a charming place, as I
think it is, I can hardly tell the reason why. The straight-nosed
Arlesiennes account for it in some degree; and the remainder may be
charged to the ruins of the arena and the theater. Beyond this, I remember
with affection the ill-proportioned little Place des Hommes; not at all
monumental, and given over to puddles and to shabby cafes. I recall with
tenderness the tortuous and featureless streets, which looked like the
streets of a village, and were paved with villainous little sharp stones,
making all exercise penitential.

Consecrated by association is even a tiresome walk that I took the evening
I arrived, with the purpose of obtaining a view of the Rhone. I had been
to Arles before, years ago, and it seemed to me that I remembered finding
on the banks of the stream some sort of picture. I think that on the
evening of which I speak there was a watery moon, which it seemed to me
would light up the past as well as the present. But I found no picture,
and I scarcely found the Rhone at all. I lost my way, and there was not a
creature in the streets to whom I could appeal. Nothing could be more
provincial than the situation of Arles at ten o'clock at night. At last I
arrived at a kind of embankment, where I could see the great mud-colored
stream slipping along in the soundless darkness. It had come on to rain, I
know not what had happened to the moon, and the whole place was anything
but gay. It was not what I had looked for; what I had looked for was in
the irrecoverable past. I groped my way back to the inn over the infernal
cailloux, feeling like a discomfited Dogberry.

I remember now that this hotel was the one (whichever that may be) which
has the fragment of a Gallo-Roman portico inserted into one of its angles.
I had chosen it for the sake of this exceptional ornament. It was damp and
dark, and the floors felt gritty to the feet; it was an establishment at
which the dreadful "gras-double" might have appeared at the table d'hote,
as it had done at Narbonne. Nevertheless, I was glad to get back to it;
and nevertheless, too--and this is the moral of my simple anecdote--my
pointless little walk (I don't speak of the pavement) suffuses itself, as
I look back upon it, with a romantic tone. And in relation to the inn, I
suppose I had better mention that I am well aware of the inconsistency of
a person who dislikes the modern caravansary, and yet grumbles when he
finds a hotel of the superannuated sort, one ought to choose, it would
seem, and make the best of either alternative. The two old taverns at
Arles are quite unimproved; such as they must have been in the infancy of
the modern world, when Stendhal passed that way, and the lumbering
diligence deposited him in the Place des Hommes, such in every detail they
are to-day. Vieilles auberges de France, one ought to enjoy their gritty
floors and greasy windowpanes. Let it be put on record, therefore, that I
have been, I won't say less comfortable, but at least less happy, at
better inns.

To be really historic, I should have mentioned that before going to look
for the Rhone I had spent part of the evening on the opposite side of the
little place, and that I indulged in this recreation for two definite
reasons. One of these was that I had an opportunity of conversing at a
cafe with an attractive young Englishman, whom I had met in the afternoon
at Tarascon, and more remotely, in other years, in London; the other was
that there sat enthroned behind the counter a splendid mature Arlesienne,
whom my companion and I agreed that it was a rare privilege to

There is no rule of good manners or morals which makes it improper, at a
cafe to fix one's eyes upon the dame de comptoir; the lady is, in the
nature of things, a part of your "consommation." We were therefore free to
admire without restriction the handsomest person I had ever seen give
change for a five-franc piece. She was a large quiet woman, who would
never see forty again; of an intensely feminine type, yet wonderfully rich
and robust, and full of a certain physical nobleness. Tho she was not
really old, she was antique, and she was very grave, even a little sad.
She had the dignity of a Roman empress, and she handled coppers as if they
had been stamped with the head of Caesar.

I have seen washerwomen in the Trastevere who were perhaps as handsome as
she; but even the head-dress of the Roman contadina contributes less to
the dignity of the person born to wear it than the sweet and stately
Arlesian cap, which sits at once aloft and on the back of the head; which
is accompanied with a wide black bow covering a considerable part of the
crown; and which, finally, accomodates itself indescribably well to the
manner in which the tresses of the front are pushed behind the ears.

This admirable dispenser of lumps of sugar has distracted me a little; for
I am still not sufficiently historical. Before going to the cafe I had
dined, and before dining I had found time to go and look at the arena.
Then it was that I discovered that Arles has no general physiognomy, and,
except the delightful little church of Saint Trophimus, no architecture,
and that the rugosities of its dirty lanes affect the feet like knife-
blades. It was not then, on the other hand, that I saw the arena best. The
second day of my stay at Arles I devoted to a pilgrimage to the strange
old hill town of Les Baux, the medieval Pompeii, of which I shall give
myself the pleasure of speaking.

The evening of that day, however (my friend and I returned in time for a
late dinner), I wandered among the Roman remains of the place by the light
of a magnificent moon, and gathered an impression which has lost little of
its silvery glow. The moon of the evening before had been aqueous and
erratic; but if on the present occasion it was guilty of any irregularity,
the worst it did was only to linger beyond its time in the heavens, in
order to let us look at things comfortably. The effect was admirable; it
brought back the impression of the way, in Rome itself, on evenings like
that, the moonshine rests upon broken shafts and slabs of antique
pavement. As we sat in the theater, looking at the two lone columns that
survive--part of the decoration of the back of the stage--and at the
fragments of ruin around them, we might have been in the Roman forum.

The arena at Arles, with its great magnitude, is less complete than that
at Nimes; it has suffered even more the assaults of time and of the
children of time, and it has been less repaired. The seats are almost
wholly wanting; but the external walls, minus the topmost tier of arches,
are massively, ruggedly complete; and the vaulted corridors seem as solid
as the day they were built. The whole thing is superbly vast, and as
monumental, for a place of light amusement--what is called in America a
"variety-show"--as it entered only into the Roman mind to make such
establishments. The podium is much higher than at Nimes, and many of the
great white slabs that faced it have been recovered and put into their
places. The proconsular box has been more or less reconstructed, and the
great converging passages of approach to it are still majestically
distinct; so that, as I sat there in the moon-charm stillness, leaning my
elbows on the battered parapet of the ring, it was not impossible to
listen to the murmurs and shudders, the thick voice of the circus, that
died away fifteen hundred years ago.

The theater has a voice as well, but it lingers on the ear of time with a
different music. The Roman theater at Arles seemed to me one of the most
charming and touching ruins I had ever beheld; I took a particular fancy
to it. It is less than a skeleton--the arena may be called a skeleton; for
it consists only of half a dozen bones. The traces of the row of columns
which formed the scene--the permanent back-scene--remain; two marble
pillars--I just mentioned them--are upright, with a fragment of their
entablature. Before them is the vacant space which was filled by the
stage, with the line of the proscenium distinct, marked by a deep groove,
imprest upon slabs of stone, which looks as if the bottom of a high screen
had been intended to fit into it. The semicircle formed by the seats--half
a cup--rises opposite; some of the rows are distinctly marked. The floor,
from the bottom of the stage, in the shape of an arc of which the chord is
formed by the line of the orchestra, is covered by slabs of colored
marble--red, yellow, and green--which, tho terribly battered and cracked
to-day, give one an idea of the elegance of the interior.

Everything shows that it was on a great scale: the large sweep of its
enclosing walls, the massive corridors that passed behind the auditorium,
and of which we can still perfectly take the measure. The way in which
every seat commanded the stage is a lesson to the architects of our epoch,
as also the immense size of the place is a proof of extraordinary power of
voice on the part of the Roman actors. It was after we had spent half an
hour in the moonshine at the arena that we came on to this more ghostly
and more exquisite ruin. The principal entrance was locked, but we
effected an easy escalade, scaled a low parapet, and descended into the
place behind the scenes.

It was as light as day, and the solitude was complete. The two slim
columns, as we sat on the broken benches, stood there like a pair of
silent actors. What I called touching, just now was the thought that here
the human voice, the utterance of a great language, had been supreme. The
air was full of intonations and cadences; not of the echo of smashing
blows, of riven armor, of howling victims and roaring beasts. The spot is,
in short, one of the sweetest legacies of the ancient world; and there
seems no profanation in the fact that by day it is open to the good people
of Arles, who use it to pass, by no means, in great numbers, from one part
of the town to the other; treading the old marble floor, and brushing, if
need be, the empty benches. This familiarity does not kill the place
again; it makes it, on the contrary, live a little--makes the present and
the past touch each other.

If I called Les Baux a city, it was not that I was stretching a point in
favor of the small spot which to-day contains but a few dozen inhabitants.
The history of the place is as extraodinary as its situation. It was not
only a city, but a state; not only a state; but an empire; and on the
crest of its little mountain called itself sovereign of a territory, or at
least of scattered towns and counties, with which its present aspect is
grotesquely out of relation. The lords of Les Baux, in a word, were great
feudal proprietors; and there was a time during which the island of
Sardinia, to say nothing of places nearer home, such as Arles and
Marseilles, paid them homage.

The chronicle of this old Provencal house has been written, in a style
somewhat unctuous and flowery, by M. Jules Canonge. I purchased the little
book--a modest pamphlet--at the establishment of the good sisters, just
beside the church, in one of the highest part of Les Baux. The sisters
have a school for the hardy little Baussenques, whom I heard piping their
lessons, while I waited in the cold parlor for one of the ladies to come
and speak to me. Nothing could have been more perfect than the manner of
this excellent woman when she arrived; yet her small religious house
seemed a very out-of-the-way corner of the world. It was spotlessly neat,
and the rooms looked as if they had lately been papered and painted; in
this respect, at the medieval Pompeii, they were rather a discord. They
were, at any rate, the newest, freshest thing at Les Baux.

I remember going round to the church, after I had left the good sisters,
and to a little quiet terrace, which stands in front of it, ornamented
with a few small trees and bordered with a wall, breast-high, over which
you look down steep hillsides, off into the air and all about the
neighboring country. I remember saying to myself that this little terrace
was one of those felicitous nooks which the tourist of taste keeps in his
mind as a picture. The church was small and brown and dark, with a certain
rustic richness. All this however, is no general description of Les Baux.

I am unable to give any coherent account of the place, for the simple
reason that it is a mere confusion of ruin. It has not been preserved in
lava like Pompeii, and its streets and houses, its ramparts and castle,
have become fragmentary, not through the sudden destruction, but through
the gradual withdrawal, of a population. It is not an extinguished, but a
deserted city; more deserted far than even Carcassonne and Aigues-Mortes,
where I found so much entertainment in the grass-grown element.

It is of very small extent, and even in the days of its greatness, when
its lords entitled themselves counts of Cephalonia and Neophantis, kings
of Arles and Vienne, princes of Achaia, and emperors of Constantinople--
even at this flourishing period, when, as M. Jules Canonge remarks, "they
were able to depress the balance in which the fate of peoples and kings is
weighed," the plucky little city contained at the most no more than
thirty-six hundred souls. Yet its lords (who, however, as I have said,
were able to present a long list of subject towns, most of them, tho a few
are renowned, unknown to fame) were seneschals and captains-general of
Piedmont and Lombardy, grand admirals of the kingdom of Naples, and its
ladies were sought in marriage by half the first princes in Europe.

A considerable part of the little narrative of M. Canonge is taken up with
the great alliances of the House of Baux, whose fortunes, matrimonial and
other, he traces from the eleventh century down to the sixteenth. The
empty shells of a considerable number of old houses, many of which must
have been superb, the lines of certain steep little streets, the
foundations of a castle, and ever so many splendid views, are all that
remains to-day of these great titles.

To such a list I may add a dozen very polite and sympathetic people, who
emerged from the interstices of the desultory little town to gaze at the
two foreigners who had driven over from Arles, and whose horses were being
baited at the modest inn. The resources of this establishment we did not
venture otherwise to test, in spite of the seductive fact that the sign
over the door was in the Provencal tongue. This little group included the
baker, a rather melancholy young man, in high boots and a cloak, with whom
and his companions we had a good deal of conversation.

The Baussenques of to-day struck me as a very mild and agreeable race,
with a good deal of the natural amenity which, on occasions like this one,
the traveler, who is waiting for his horses to be put in or his dinner to
be prepared, observes in the charming people who lend themselves to
conversation in the hilltowns of Tuscany. The spot where our entertainers
at Les Baux congregated was naturally the most inhabited portion of the
town; as I say, there were at least a dozen human figures within sight.
Presently we wandered away from them, scaled the higher places, seated
ourselves among the ruins of the castle, and looked down from the cliff
overhanging that portion of the road which I have mentioned as approaching
Les Baux from behind.

I was unable to trace the configuration of the castle as plainly as the
writers who have described it in the guide-books, and I am ashamed to say
that I did not even perceive the three great figures of stone (the three
Marys, as they are called; the two Marys of Scripture, with Martha), which
constitute one of the curiosities of the place, and of which M. Jules
Canonge speaks with almost hyperbolical admiration. A brisk shower,
lasting some ten minutes, led us to take refuge in a cavity, of mysterious
origin, where the melancholy baker presently discovered us, having had the
bonne pensee of coming up for us with an umbrella which certainly
belonged, in former ages, to one of the Stephanettes or Berangeres
commemorated by M. Canonge. His oven, I am afraid, was cold so long as our
visit lasted.

When the rain was over we wandered down to the little disencumbered space
before the inn, through a small labyrinth of obliterated things. They took
the form of narrow, precipitous streets, bordered by empty houses, with
gaping windows and absent doors, through which we had glimpses of
sculptured chimney-pieces and fragments of stately arch and vault. Some of
the houses are still inhabited; but most of them are open to the air and
weather. Some of them have completely collapsed; others present to the
street a front which enables one to judge of the physiognomy of Les Baux
in the days of its importance. This importance had pretty well passed away
in the early part of the sixteenth century, when the place ceased to be an
independent principality, It became--by request of one of its lords,
Bernardin des Baux, a great captain of his time--part of the appanage of
the kings of France, by whom it was placed under the protection of Arles,
which had formerly occupied with regard to it a different position. I know
not whether the Arlesians neglected their trust; but the extinction of the
sturdy little stronghold is too complete not to have begun long ago. Its
memories are buried under its ponderous stones.

As ve drove away from it in the gloaming, my friend and I agreed that the
two or three hours we had spent there were among the happiest impressions
of a pair of tourists very curious in the picturesque. We almost forgot
that we were bound to regret that the shortened day left us no time to
drive five miles further, above a pass in the little mountains--it had
beckoned to us in the morning, when we came in sight of it, almost
irresistibly--to see the Roman arch and mausoleum of Saint Remy. To
compass this larger excursion (including the visit to Les Baux) you must
start from Arles very early in the morning; but I can imagine no more
delightful day.


Cathedrals and Chateaux


By Nathaniel Hawthorne

[Footnote: From "French and Italian Note Books." By special arrangement
with, and by permission of, the publishers, Houghton, Mifflin Co.
Copyright, 1871, 1883, 1889.]

The aspect of the old French town was very different from anything
English; whiter, infinitely cleaner; higher and narrower houses, the
entrance to most of which seeming to be through a great gateway affording
admission into a central court-yard; a public square, with a statue in the
middle, and another statue in a neighboring street. We met priests in
three-cornered hats, long frock-coats, and knee-breeches; also soldiers
and gendarmes, and peasants and children, clattering over the pavements in
wooden shoes.

It makes a great impression of outlandishness to see the signs over the
shop doors in a foreign tongue. If the cold had not been such as to dull
my sense of novelty, and make all my perceptions torpid, I should have
taken in a set of new impressions, and enjoyed them very much. As it was,
I cared little for what I saw, but yet had life enough left to enjoy the
Cathedral of Amiens, which has many features unlike those of English

It stands in the midst of the cold, white town, and has a high-shouldered
look to a spectator accustomed to the minsters of England, which cover a
great space of ground in proportion to their height. The impression the
latter give is of magnitude and mass; this French Cathedral strikes one as
lofty. The exterior is venerable, tho but little time-worn by the action
of the atmosphere; and statues still keep their places in numerous niches,
almost as perfect as when first placed there in the thirteenth century.
The principal doors are deep, elaborately wrought, pointed arches; and the
interior seemed to us, at the moment, as grand as any that we had seen,
and to afford as vast an idea of included space; it being of such an airy
height, and with no screen between the chancel and nave, as in all the
English cathedrals.

We saw the differences, too, betwixt a church in which the same form of
worship for which it was originally built is still kept up, and those of
England, where it has been superseded for centuries; for here, in the
recess of every arch of the side-aisles, beneath each lofty window, there
was a chapel dedicated to some saint, and adorned with great marble
sculptures of the crucifixion, and with pictures, execrably bad, in all
cases, and various kinds of gilding and ornamentation. Immensely tall wax
candles stand upon the altars of these chapels, and before one sat a
woman, with a great supply of tapers, one of which was burning. I suppose
these were to be lighted as offerings to the saints, by the true
believers. Artificial flowers were hung at some of the shrines, or placed
under glass.

In every chapel, moreover, there was a confessional--a little oaken
structure, about as big as a sentry-box, with a closed part for the priest
to sit in, and an open one for the penitent to kneel at, and speak through
the open-work of the priest's closet. Monuments, mural and others, to
long-departed worthies, and images of the Savior, the Virgin, and saints,
were numerous everywhere about the church; and in the chancel there was a
great deal of quaint and curious sculpture, fencing in the Holy of Holies,
where the high altar stands. There is not much painted glass; one or two
very rich and beautiful rose-windows, however, that looked antique; and
the great eastern window, which, I think, is modern. The pavement has,
probably, never been renewed, as one piece of work, since the structure
was erected, and is foot-worn by the successive generations, tho still in
excellent repair. I saw one of the small, square stones in it, bearing the
date of 1597, and no doubt there are a thousand older ones.


By Thomas Frognall Dibdin

[Footnote: From "A Bibliographical Tour in France and Germany."]

The approach to Rouen is indeed magnificent. I speak of the immediate
approach, after you reach the top of a considerable rise, and are stopt by
the barriers. You then look down a straight, broad, and strongly paved
road, lined with a double row of trees on each side. As the foliage was
not thickly set, we could discern, through the delicately clothed
branches, the tapering spire of the cathedral, and the more picturesque
tower of the Abbaye St. Ouen--with hanging gardens, and white houses, to
the left--covering a richly cultivated ridge of hills, which sink, as it
were, into the Boulevards, and which is called the Faubourg Cauchoise. To
the right, through the trees, you see the River Seine (here of no
despicable depth or breadth), covered with boats and vessels in motion,
the voice of commerce, and the stir of industry, cheering and animating
you as you approach the town. I was told that almost every vessel which I
saw (some of them of two hundred, and even of three hundred tons burden)
was filled with brandy and wine....

First for the cathedral, for what traveler of taste does not doff his
bonnet to the mother-church of the town through which he happens to be
traveling, or in which he takes a temporary abode? The west front, always
the forte of the architects's skill, strikes you as you go down, or come
up, the principal street--La Rue des Carmes--which seems to bisect the
town into equal parts. A small open space, which, however, has been
miserably encroached upon by petty shops, called the Flower Gardens, is
before this western front; so that it has some little breathing room in
which to expand its beauties to the wondering eyes of the beholder. In my
poor judgment, this western front has very few elevations comparable with
it--including even those of Lincoln and York. The ornaments, especially
upon the three porches, between the two towers, are numerous, rich, and
for the greater part entire, in spite of the Calvinists, the French
Revolution, and time.

As you enter the cathedral, at the center door, by descending two steps,
you are struck with the length and loftiness of the nave, and with the
lightness of the gallery which runs along the upper part of it. Perhaps
the nave is too narrow for its length. The lantern of the central large
tower is beautifully light and striking. It is supported by four massive
clustered pillars, about forty feet in circumference; but by casting your
eye downward, you are shocked at the tasteless division of the choir from
the nave by what is called a Grecian screen; and the interior of the
transepts has undergone a like preposterous restoration.

The rose windows of the transepts, and that at the west end of the nave,
merit your attention and commendation. I could not avoid noticing, to the
right, upon entrance, perhaps the oldest side chapel in the cathedral, of
a date less ancient than that of the northern tower, and perhaps of the
end of the twelfth century. It contains by much the finest specimens of
stained glass--of the early part of the sixteenth century. There is also
some beautiful stained glass on each side of the chapel of the Virgin,
behind the choir; but altho very ancient, it is the less interesting, as
not being composed of groups, or of historical subjects. Yet, in this as
in almost all the churches which I have seen, frightful devastations have
been made among the stained glass windows by the fury of the

On gazing at this splendid monument of ancient piety and liberality--and
with one's mind deeply intent upon the characters of the deceased--let us
fancy we hear the sound of the great bell from the southwest tower--called
the Amboise Tower--erected, both the bell and the tower, by the uncle and
minister of Amboise. Know, my dear friend, that there was once a bell (and
the largest in Europe, save one), which used to send forth its sound for
three successive centuries from the said tower. This bell was broken about
thirty years ago, and destroyed in the ravages of the immediately
succeeding years. The southwest tower remains, and the upper part of the
central tower, with the whole of the lofty wooden spire--the fruits of the
liberality of the excellent men of whom such honorable mention has been
made. Considering that this spire is very lofty, and composed of wood, it
is surprising that it has not been destroyed by tempest or by lightning.

Leaving the cathedral, you pass a beautifully sculptured fountain, of the
early time of Francis I., which stands at the corner of the street, to the
right; and which, from its central situation, is visited the livelong day
for the sake of its limpid waters. Push on a little further, then, turning
to the right, you get into a sort of square, and observe the abbey--or
rather the west front of it--full in face of you. You gaze, and are first
struck with its matchless window: call it rose, or marigold, as you

I think, for delicacy and richness of ornament, this window is perfectly
unrivaled. There is a play of line in the mullions, which, considering
their size and strength, may be pronounced quite a masterpiece of art. You
approach, regretting the neglected state of the lateral towers, and enter
through the large and completely opened center doors, the nave of the
abbey. It was toward sunset when we made our first entrance. The evening
was beautiful; and the variegated tints of sunbeam, admitted through the
stained glass of the window, just noticed, were perfectly enchanting. The
window itself, as you look upward, or rather as you fix your eye upon the
center of it, from the remote end of the abbey, or the Lady's Chapel, was
a perfect blaze of dazzling light; and nave, choir, and side aisles seemed
magically illumined. We declared instinctively that the Abbey of St. Ouen
could hardly have a rival--certainly not a superior.

Let me, however, put in a word for the organ. It is immense, and perhaps
larger than that belonging to the cathedral. The tin pipes (like those of
the organ in the cathedral) are of their natural color. I paced the
pavement beneath, and think that this organ can not be short of forty
English feet in length. Indeed, in all the churches which I have yet seen,
the organs strike me as being of magnificent dimensions.

You should be informed, however, that the extreme length of the interior,
from the further end of the chapel of the Virgin, to its opposite western
extremity, is about four hundred and fifty English feet; while the height,
from the pavement to the roof of the nave, or the choir, is one hundred
and eight English feet. The transepts are about one hundred and forty feet
in length. The central tower, upon the whole, is not only the grandest
tower in Rouen, but there is nothing for its size in our own country that
can compare with it. It rises upward of one hundred feet above the roof of
the church; and is supported below, or rather within, by four magnificent
cluster-pillared bases, each about thirty-two feet in circumference. Its
area, at bottom, can hardly be less than thirty-six feet square. The choir
is flanked by flying buttresses, which have a double tier of small arches,
altogether "marvelous and curious to behold."

I could not resist stealing quietly round to the porch of the south
transept, and witnessing, in that porch, one of the most chaste, light,
and lovely specimens of Gothic architecture which can be contemplated.
Indeed, I hardly know anything like it. The leaves of the poplar and ash
were beginning to mantle the exterior; and, seen through their green and
gay lattice work, the traceries of the porch seemed to assume a more
interesting aspect. They are now mending the upper part of the facade with
new stone of peculiar excellence--but it does not harmonize with the old
work. They merit our thanks, however, for the preservation of what remains
of this precious pile. I should remark to you that the eastern and
northeastern sides of the abbey of St. Ouen are surrounded with promenades
and trees: so that, occasionally, either when walking or sitting upon the
benches, within these gardens, you catch one of the finest views
imaginable of the abbey.


By Epiphanius Wilson

[Footnote: From "The Cathedrals of France." By permission
of the author. Copyright, 1900.]

For many a mile over the rich cornfields of Beauce, of which ancient
district Chartres was once the capital, the spires of Chartres are
visible. The river and the hill constitute at Chartres the basis of its
strength in long-forgotten warfare; its walls in piping times of peace
have been leveled into leafy boulevards, but it may still be entered
through one of the antique gates that survive as memorials of its former

The cathedral itself is one of that group to which belong Amiens, Rheims,
Bourges and Notre Dame de Paris. It is noted for its size, magnificence
and completeness, and contains in itself, from its crypt to its highest
stone, an exemplification of architectural history in France from the
eleventh to the fourteenth centuries. We may suppose that Christianity was
first published in the Beauce province by the same apostles, Savinienus
and Potentienius, who had evangelized Sens and the Senones. Their
disciple, Aventin (Aventinus), is recognized as the first Bishop of
Chartres, and as the builder of the first cathedral which stood on the
site of the present building....

The naves, the north and south transept portals, and the choir belong to
the thirteenth century, the north tower to the fifteenth, and the
magnificent jube, or screen, which runs round the choir, is evidently
sixteenth century style, being an example of that Renaissance employment
of Gothic details, of which we find such glorious counterparts at Rouen
and Albi. The western facade of Chartres is plain in comparison with those
of Amiens or Rheims. The voussures of the three central portals are
comparatively shallow. Above them are three lancet windows which resemble
windows of the Early English Style. The rose-window, beneath which the
lancets are placed, is of great dimensions and effective tracery. The
highest story of the front between the towers is screened by a rich
arcade, over which rises the gable point.

This arcade, or gallery, is intended to break the abruptness with which
the pointed roof rises between the two spires. These spires are different
in design, the southern tower being much earlier than that at the north.
The southern spire, in its austere simplicity and exquisite proportions,
is certainly the finest I have seen in France, and can only be paralleled
elsewhere by that which rises like a flower-bud almost ready to burst over
Salisbury plain. The northern tower is very much more elaborate, and
reminded me of those examples with which the traveler becomes so familiar
in the many churches of Rouen. The richly crocketed gables, the flying
buttresses and pinnacles which run half way up this spire, while they
adorn it, seem to stunt the profile and rob it of its towering altitude,
just as is the case with the western spires of St. Ouen. Yet this northern
tower is considerably higher than the ancient one at the south, being 374
feet high, while the more ancient spire is only 348. The other dimensions
of the church are as follows: It is 420 feet long; 110 feet wide; its
height from ceiling vault to pavement is 115 feet. The modern tower was
built by Louis XII. in 1514, the architect being an inhabitant of Beauce,
a certain Jean Texier.

The carvings in the west front of the cathedral are examples of the
beginning of French sculpture, as it emerges from the severity and
rigidity of Byzantine types. The human figures are long, slender, and
swathed almost like mummies in their drapery. The faces are strongly
individualized and seem to be portraits. While these statues must be
attributed to a period previous to the middle of the twelfth century, we
see in them the originality of French genius struggling to break away from
the fetters of Eastern precedent.

Viollet-de-Duc thinks that these faces belong to the type of the ancient
Gaul; the flat forehead and raised arch of the eyebrows, the projecting
eyes, the long jaws, the peaked and drooping nose, the long upper lip, the
wide, closed mouth, the square chin, the long wavy hair are neither
German, Roman, or French. There is a blending of firmness, grandeur and
refinement in these wonderful countenances, each of them apparently copied
from a different model. They are crowned and nimbused as the kings and
saints of antique France. A more impressive gallery of illustrious
personages is nowhere else to be found.


By Epiphanius Wilson

[Footnote: From "The Cathedrals of France." By permission
of the author. Copyright, 1900.]

French cathedrals have, as it were, a royal character, and this is
emphasized especially in the history and architecture of Rheims cathedral,
which became, from the time of Philippe Auguste, the church at whose altar
the kings of France were crowned.

The origin of the Church at Rheims dates from the third century; when we
are told Pope Fabian sent into Gaul a band of bishops and teachers. Rheims
was chosen as the seat of an episcopal primacy, and it was in the church
built by St. Nicaise, or Nicasius, in 401, that Clovis was baptized and
crowned in 496. This ancient building, doubtless of simple Roman
proportions, was rebuilt in the reign of Louis the Debonair in 822, when
Ebon was archbishop.

It was completed with a magnificence which vied with the churches of
Constantinople, Ravenna and Rome. It was considered in its day the most
splendid church in France. Its roof and walls blazed with gilding and
many-tinted paintings. Its floors were of marble mosaic. Rich tapestries
hung round the choir, and its treasury was filled with masterpieces of the
goldsmith and the jeweler. This church continued to be the wonder of
Gallic Christianity until the beginning of the thirteenth century, when it
was destroyed by fire. It is remarkable to notice in the history of French
cathedrals how many of them were rebuilt just at the time when the pointed
style, which may be called preeminently the Christian style of
architecture, had come to birth almost simultaneously in various countries
of Europe.

We are obliged to come to the conclusion that the pointed arch was
introduced in Germany, France and England by the Crusaders, who had seen
it used in the East, and had considered it best fitted for buildings that
enshrined the sublime mysteries of the Christian faith. It was in the
pointed style, therefore, that the new cathedral of Rheims was built. The
name of its architect is not known, but his plan shows that he must have
been a man of profound genius. Archbishop Alberic Humbert laid the
foundation stone in 1212. The whole province contributed liberally to the
work, and in 1242 the building was sufficiently advanced for the
celebration of divine service in the choir.

The Church of Notre Dame of Rheims would require a volume to describe it
completely. The front is perhaps the most elaborate to be found in France.
The three vast portals, peopled with statues of colossal size, their
arched vaulting covered with saintly and angelic figures, the mighty rose-
windows, flanked with pointed openings, crowned with carved tabernacle
work, and the great gallery of kings crossing the whole front, just below
the peak of the gable, and above all, the two towers pierced by majestic
windows and supported at each corner by niches with three open faces, give
an impression of richness and brightness and grace, mingled with that
indefinable majesty, which is due partly to the vast dimensions, partly to
the harmonious proportions of the whole structure.

The divisions of the front facade resemble somewhat the same part of the
edifice at Amiens, excepting that it is far more florid, and less strict
and severe in its main divisions. At Amiens the details are kept in
strictest subservience to the structural lines of the edifice. At Rheims
it is the magnificent wealth of details that crowds upon the view, the
walls and arches are surcharged with statues, with niches, with brackets,
pinnacles, tracery, foliage, finials and turrets. The sides of the
entrances of the three portals are crowded with colossal statues, thirty-
nine in number, representing patriarchs, prophets, kings, bishops, virgins
and martyrs. On the trumeau of the central gate is a fine statue of the
Virgin Mary; on the sides of this trumeau are bas-reliefs representing the
Fall of Man, of whose restoration Mary should be the instrument.

It is quite characteristic of a medieval church that we should find, on
the lintels and side-posts of these doorways, emblems of agricultural work
in the various seasons of the year, as well as different symbols of arts
and handicrafts. Amid the carvings of these doorways are the heroes and
saints of the Old Testament, types and forerunners of the Messiah, as well
as historic scenes, representing the Redemption of the World, the
Conversion of the Gentiles, the Resurrection of the Dead, the Last
Judgment, the Condemnation of the Wicked, the Reception of the Just into
the habitations of the blest. Finally, the Assumption and Coronation of
the Blessed Virgin sums up, with an imaginative legend, this series of
Christian dogma perpetuated in stone.

But the medieval genius is many-sided, and never satisfied with that which
is beautiful alone; and this magnificent array of Christian carving would
not be complete to the mind of the medieval artist unless he had crowned
the angles of his buildings with a series of grotesque gargoyles and
allegoric statues, representing the streams that watered the earthly
paradise, while at the summit of the roof are niched angles bearing
instruments of music. As the rose is a peculiarity of Gothic churches, and
from its remarkable shape gives ample room for sculpture in stone, and
color in glass, so the rose at Rheims is among the most beautiful examples
of the kind, and illustrates the principle that the rose is intended to
light up high, remote and shadowy spaces in a long nave or aisle.

Above the great rose-window is a pointed arch in whose voussures are ten
statues, relating the history of David, while over this arch runs a band
of niches, forty-two in number, in which are colossal statues of the kings
of France from Clovis to Charles VI.

The two portals of the transepts are richly decorated in harmony with the
style of the western facade. A graceful spire rises from the eastern part
of the roof. It is called "The Angel's spire," from the fact that poised
upon its summit is an angel covered with gilt and holding aloft a cross.
This turret rises 59 feet above the roof of the church. The church itself
is 486 feet in length, and from the vaulting of the roof to the pavement
is 125 feet. The towers are 272 feet high. I noticed the church is built
in the form of a cross, but the transept is very close to the apse, so
that the choir being too confined for the great ceremonies, such as that
of royal coronations, which used to take place there, has been extended
westward across the transept so as to take up three bays of the nave.

There are seven chapels at the east of the church, but none are found in
the naves. The plainness of the nave, in comparison with the ornate
character of the exterior, is very remarkable, but this plainness detracts
nothing from the impressiveness of its long arcades, its towering roof,
the noble lines which rise from the ground and support, as it were, on
slender sinews of stone, the shadowy ceiling. The rose-windows, four in
number, are filled with glass of the thirteenth century, and the tall
windows of the chevet and clerestory contain a many colored mosaic of a
similar sort. I was particularly struck with the rose-window over the
western portal. It represents the Beautiful Vision; the Eternal Father is
throned in the central ring of the window, and in the radiating panes is
the Hierarchy of Paradise, angels and archangels and all the company of
Heaven, while in a wider circumference are grouped the redeemed,
contemplating in adoration the majesty of God.

I noticed two very interesting tombs in Rheims cathedral. The first was
the sarcophagus of Jovinus, the Christian prefect of Rheims, in the fourth
century, who protected the church and was originally buried in the Abbey
of St. Nicaise, from whence his tomb was brought to the cathedral. It
consists of a single block of snowy marble, nine feet long, and four feet
high, on which the consular general is represented in a spirited bas-
relief mounted on horseback and saving the life of a man from the lion, in
whose flank Jovinus has launched his spear. Very fine indeed is the
workmanship of this monument. The figures which surround Jovinus are men
of handsome countenance, evidently portraits, their dress and arms being
finished with the utmost nicety of detail. The figures are about half

The other tomb is that of St. Remigius, a Renaissance work erected by
Cardinal Delenoncourt in 1533. It is sumptuous and gaudy rather than
beautiful. Twelve statues, full life-size, represent the twelve peers of
France, six are the prelates of Rheims, Laon, Langres, Beauvais, Chalons,
and Noyon; the six lay peers are the dukes of Burgundy, Normandy and
Aquitaine, and the counts of Flanders, Champagne, and Toulouse. The white
marble of these somewhat stagey figures is beautifully worked and the
effect is imposing.

The western wall of the interior is faced with niches, in which the
statues seem to emerge from a cloud of gloom. At one time tombs of the
most magnificent sort crowded the aisles, enshrining the relics of saints
and bishops, but during the raging of the Terror the Revolutionists
violated these tombs, seizing their treasures, breaking down with ax and
hammer their carvings. But, after all, the church of Notre Dame of Rheims
does not seem to have suffered very much loss from the clearing away of
these obstructions to the vista of her arcades, which now depend for their
solemn beauty upon the simplicity and dignity of their lines and
proportions, the effect of their windows, and the religious gloom which
lingers in their lofty recesses.

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest