The Story of Paris
by Thomas Okey
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Transcriber's note: Minor spelling inconsistencies, mainly hyphenated words, have been harmonised. Obvious printer errors have been repaired.

Accents: In French sentences, most of them italicised, accents have been added when necessary according to the French spelling of the time.

In an English context, French words have no accents if there are no accents in the original text. In case of an inconsistent use of accents, the French spelling has been favoured.

The advertisement for other books in the series have been removed from page 3 to the end of this e-book.

The Story of Paris


by Thomas Okey

With Illustrations by

Katherine Kimball

London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd. Aldine House, 10-13 Bedford Street Covent Garden, W.C. * * * New York: E.P. Dutton & Co.—1919

First Edition, 1906

Reprinted, 1911; July, 1919

"I will not forget this, that I can never mutinie so much against France but I must needes looke on Paris with a favourable eye: it hath my hart from my infancy; whereof it hath befalne me, as of excellent things, the more other faire and stately cities I have seene since, the more hir beauty hath power and doth still usurpingly gaine upon my affections. I love that citie for hir own sake, and more in hir only subsisting and owne being, than when it is fall fraught and embellished with forraine pompe and borrowed garish ornaments. I love hir so tenderly that hir spottes, her blemishes and hir warts are deare unto me. I am no perfect French man but by this great citie, great in people, great in regard of the felicitie of hir situation, but above all great and incomparable in varietie and diversitie of commodities; the glory of France and one of the noblest and chiefe ornaments of the world. God of his mercy free hir and chase away all our divisions from hir. So long as she shall continue, so long shall I never want a home or a retreat to retire and shrowd myselfe at all times."


"Quand Dieu eslut nonante et dix royaumes Tot le meillor torna en douce France."



In recasting Paris and its Story for issue in the "Mediaeval Towns Series," opportunity has been taken of revising the whole and of adding a Second Part, wherein we have essayed the office of cicerone.

Obviously in so vast a range of study as that afforded by the city of Paris, compression and selection have been imperative: we have therefore limited our guidance to such routes and edifices as seemed to offer the more important objects of historic and artistic interest, excluding from our purview, with much regret, the works of contemporary artists. On the Louvre, as the richest Thesaurus of beautiful things in Europe, we have dwelt at some length and even so it has been possible only to deal broadly with its contents. A book has, however, this advantage over a corporeal guide; it can be curtly dismissed without fear of offence, when antipathy may impel the traveller to pass by, or sympathy invite him to linger over, the various objects indicated to his gaze. In a city where change is so constant and the housebreaker's pick so active, any work dealing with monuments of the past must needs soon become imperfect. Since the publication of Paris and its Story in the autumn of 1904, a picturesque group of old houses in the Rue de l'Arbre Sec, including the Hotel des Mousquetaires, the traditional lodging of Dumas' d'Artagnan, has been swept away and a monstrous mass of engineering is now reared on its site: even as we write other demolitions of historic buildings are in progress. Care has, however, been taken to bring this little work up to date and our constant desire has been to render it useful to the inexperienced visitor to Paris. Success in so complicated and difficult a task can be but partial, and in this as in so many of life's aims "our wills," as good Sir Thomas Browne says, "must be our performances, and our intents make out our actions; otherwise our pious labours shall find anxiety in our graves and our best endeavours not hope, but fear, a resurrection."

It now remains to acknowledge our indebtedness to the following, among other authorities, which are here set down to obviate the necessity for repeated footnotes, and to indicate to readers who may desire to pursue the study of the history and art of Paris in more detail, some works among the enormous mass of literature on the subject that will repay perusal.

For the general history of France, the monumental Histoire de France now in course of publication, edited by E. Lavisse; Michelet's Histoire de France, Recits de l'Histoire de France, and Proces des Templiers; Victor Duruy, Histoire de France; the cheap and admirable selection of authorities in the seventeen volumes of the Histoire de France racontee par les Contemporains, edited by B. Zeller; Carl Faulmann, Illustrirte Geschichte der Buchdruckerkunst; the Chronicles of Gregory of Tours, Richer, Abbo, Joinville, Villani, Froissart, De Comines; Geographie Historique, by A. Guerard; Froude's essay on the Templars; Jeanne d'Arc, Maid of Orleans, by T. Douglas Murray; Paris sous Philip le Bel, edited by H. Geraud.

For the later Monarchy, the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods, the Histories of Carlyle, Mignet, Michelet and Louis Blanc; the Origines de la France Contemporaine, by Taine; the Cambridge Modern History, Vol. VIII.; the Memoirs of the Duc de St. Simon, of Madame Campan, Madame Vigee-Lebrun, Camille Desmoulins, Madame Roland and Paul Louis Courier; the Journal de Perlet; Histoire de la Societe Francaise pendant la Revolution, by J. de Goncourt; Goethe's Die Campagne in Frankreich, 1792; Legendes et Archives de la Bastille, by F. Funck Brentano; Life of Napoleon I., by J. Holland Rose; L'Europe et la Revolution Francaise, by Albert Sorel; the periodical, La Revolution Francaise; Contemporary American Opinion of the French Revolution, by C.D. Hazen.

For the particular history of Paris, the exhaustive and comprehensive Histoire de la Ville de Paris, by Michel Felibien and Guy Alexis Lobineau; the so-called Journal d'un Bourgeois de Paris, edited by L. Lalanne; Paris Pendant la Domination Anglaise, by A. Longnon; the more modern Paris a Travers les Ages, by M.F. Hoffbauer, E. Fournier and others; the Topographie Historique du Vieux Paris, by A. Berty and H. Legrand, and other works now issued or in course of publication by the Ville de Paris. Howell's Familiar Letters, Coryat's Crudities, Evelyn's Diary, and Sir Samuel Romilly's Letters, contain useful matter. For the chapters on Historical Paris, E. Fournier's Promenade Historique dans Paris, Chronique des Rues de Paris, Enigmes des Rues de Paris; the Marquis de Rochegude's Guide Pratique a Travers le Vieux Paris; the Dictionnaire Historique de Paris, by G. Pessard, and the excellent Nouvel Itineraire Guide Artistique et Archeologique de Paris, by C. Normand, published by the Societe des Amis des Monuments Parisiens.

For French art, Felibien's Entretiens; the writings of Lady Dilke; French Painting in the Sixteenth Century, by L. Dimier; Histoire de l'Art, Peinture, Ecole Francaise, by Cazes d'Aix and J. Berard; the compendious History of Modern Painting, by R. Muther; The Great French Painters, by C. Mauclair; La Sculpture Francaise, by L. Gonse; Mediaeval Art, by W.R. Lethaby; the Catalogue of the Exposition des Primitifs Francais (1904); Le Peinture en Europe, Le Louvre, by Lafenestre and Richtenberger, and the official catalogues of the Louvre collections. All these have been largely drawn upon and supplemented by affectionate memories of an acquaintance with Paris and many of its citizens dating back for more than thirty years.

May we add a last word of practical counsel. Distances in Paris are great, and the traveller who would economise time and reduce fatigue will do well to bargain with his host to be free to take the mid-day meal wherever his journeyings may lead him.

April, 1906.


The demolition of Old Paris has proceeded apace since the publication of the Story of Paris in 1906. The Tower of Dagobert; the old Academy of Medicine; the Annexe of the Hotel Dieu and a whole street, the Rue du Petit Pont; the Hotel of the Provost of Paris—all have fallen under the housebreakers' picks. As we write the curious vaulted entrance to the old charnel houses of St Paul is being swept away and the revision of this little book has been a melancholy task to a lover of historic Paris. Part II. of the work has been brought up to date and the changes in the Louvre noted: it is much to be regretted that the new edition of the official Catalogue of the Foreign Schools of Painting promised by the authorities in 1909 has not yet seen the light.

May, 1911.



Introduction 1



Gallo-Roman Paris 9


The Barbarian Invasions—St. Genevieve—The Conversion of Clovis—The Merovingian Dynasty 20


The Carlovingians—The Great Siege of Paris by the Normans—The Germs of Feudalism 35


The Rise of the Capetian Kings and the Growth of Feudal Paris 51


Paris under Philip Augustus and St. Louis 64


Art and Learning at Paris 84


Conflict with Boniface VIII.—The States-General—The Destruction of the Knights-Templars—The Parlement 107


Etienne Marcel—The English Invasions—The Maillotins—Murder of the Duke of Orleans—Armagnacs and Burgundians 121


Jeanne D'Arc—Paris under the English—End of the English Occupation 138


Louis XI. at Paris—The Introduction of Printing 144


Francis I.—The Renaissance at Paris 151


Rise of the Guises—Huguenot and Catholic—The Massacre of St. Bartholomew 171


Henry III.—The League—Siege of Paris by Henry IV.—His Conversion, Reign and Assassination 186


Paris under Richelieu and Mazarin 204


The Grand Monarque—Versailles and Paris 223


Paris under the Regency and Louis XV.—The brooding Storm 242


Louis XVI.—The Great Revolution—Fall of the Monarchy 256


Execution of the King—Paris under the First Republic—The Terror—Napoleon—Revolutionary and Modern Paris 271



The Cite—Notre Dame—The Sainte Chapelle—The Palais de Justice 295


St. Julien le Pauvre—St. Severin—The Quartier Latin 313


Ecole des Beaux Arts—St. Germain des Pres—Cour du Dragon—St. Sulpice—The Luxembourg—The Odeon—The Cordeliers—The Surgeons' Guild—The Musee Cluny—The Sorbonne—The Pantheon—St. Etienne du Mont—Tour Clovis—Wall of Philip Augustus—Roman Amphitheatre 318


The Louvre—Sculpture: Ground Floor 333


The Louvre (continued)—Pictures: First Floor 350


The Ville (S. of the Rue St. Antoine)—The Hotel de Ville—St. Gervais—Hotel Beauvais—Hotel of the Provost of Paris—SS. Paul and Louis—Hotel de Mayenne—Site of the Bastille—Bibliotheque de l'Arsenal—Hotel Fieubert—Hotel de Sens—Isle St. Louis 400


The Ville (N. of the Rue St. Antoine)—Tour St. Jacques—Rue St. Martin—St. Merri—Rue de Venise—Les Billettes—Hotels de Soubise, de Hollande, de Rohan—Musee Carnavalet—Place Royale—Musee Victor Hugo—Hotel de Sully 407


Rue St. Denis—Fontaine des Innocents—Tower of Jean sans Peur—Cour des Miracles—St. Eustache—The Halles—St. Germain l'Auxerrois 417


Palais Royal—Theatre Francais—Gardens and Cafes of the Palais Royal—Palais Mazarin (Bibliotheque Nationale)—St. Roch—Vendome Column—Tuileries Gardens—Place de la Concorde—Champs Elysees 424


The Basilica of St. Denis and the Monuments of the Kings, Queens and Princes of France 436

Index 441


The Winged Victory of Samothrace (Photogravure) Frontispiece

Map of the Successive Walls of Paris facing 1

The Cite 11

Remains of Roman Amphitheatre 14

Tower of Clovis 25

St. Germain des Pres 31

St. Julien le Pauvre 38

St. Germain l'Auxerrois 45

Wall of Philippe Auguste, Cour de Rouen 67

La Sainte Chapelle 73

Refectory of the Cordeliers 77

Notre Dame and Petit Pont 95

Tower in Rue Valette in which Calvin is said to have lived 99

Palace of the Archbishop of Sens 115

Palais de Justice, Clock Tower and Conciergerie 119

Tower of Jean Sans Peur 135

Tower of St. Jacques 153

Pont Notre Dame 157

Chapel, Hotel de Cluny 158

Tower of St. Etienne du Mont 161

La Fontaine des Innocents 171

West Wing of Louvre by Pierre Lescot 173

Tritons and Nereids from the Old Fontaine des Innocents (Jean Goujon) " 174

Catherine de' Medici (French School) 180

Petite Galerie of the Louvre 183

Hotel de Sully 195

Old Houses near Pont St. Michel, showing spire of the Ste. Chapelle 201

The Medici Fountain, Luxembourg Gardens 209

Pont Neuf 211

The Institut de France 221

Portion of the East Facade of the Louvre, from Blondel's drawing (reproduced by permission of M. Lampue) " 236

River and Pont Royal 239

South Door of Notre Dame 253

Hotel de Ville from River 293

Chapel of Chateau at Vincennes 296

Near the Pont Neuf 297

Notre Dame—Portal of St. Anne 301

Notre Dame—south side 303

Notre Dame—south side from the Seine 304

St. Severin 315

Old Academy of Medicine 317

Interior of Notre Dame 320

Cour de Dragon 323

Tower and Courtyard of Hotel Cluny 325

Arches in the Courtyard of the Hotel Cluny 329

Interior of St. Etienne du Mont 332

Diana and the Stag (Jean Goujon) " 342

St. George and the Dragon (M. Colombe) " 344

Triptych of Moulins (Maitre de Moulins) " 370

Portrait of Elizabeth of Austria (Francois Clouet) facing 372

Shepherds of Arcady (Poussin) " 376

Landing of Cleopatra at Tarsus (Lorrain) " 378

Embarkation for the Island of Cythera (Watteau) " 382

Grace before Meat (Chardin) " 384

Madame Recamier (David) " 388

The Binders (Millet) " 394

Landscape (Corot) " 396

St. Gervais 402

Hotel of the Provost of Paris 404

West door of St. Merri 409

Cloister of the Billettes, fifteenth century 410

Archives Nationales, Hotel Soubise, showing towers of Hotel de Clisson 411

Tower at the corner of the Rue Vieille du Temple 413

Place des Vosges, Maison de Victor Hugo 418

Cathedral of St. Denis 437

Plan of Paris " 448

The majority of the photographs of sculpture have been taken by Messrs. HAWEIS AND COLES, while most of the other photographs are reproduced by permission of Messrs. GIRAUDON.


The History of Paris, says Michelet, is the history of the French monarchy: "Paris, France and the Dukes and Kings of the French, are three ideas," says Freeman, "which can never be kept asunder." The aim of the writer in the following pages has been to narrate the story of the capital city of France on the lines thus indicated. Moreover, men are ever touched by "sad stories of the death of kings," the pomp and majesty and the fate of princes. By a pathetic fallacy their capacity to suffer is measured by their apparent power to enjoy, and those are moved to tears by the spectacle of a Dauphin surrendered to the coarse and brutal tutelage of a sans-culotte, who read without emotion of thousands of Huguenot children torn from their mothers' arms and flung to the novercal cruelties of strangers in blood and creed. In the earlier chapters the legendary aspect of the story has been drawn upon rather more perhaps than an austere historical conscience would approve, but it is precisely a familiarity with these romantic stories, which at least are true in impression if not in fact, that the sojourner in Paris will find most useful, translated as they are in sculpture and in painting, on the decoration of her architecture, both modern and ancient, and implicit in the nomenclature of her ways.

The story of Paris presents a marked contrast with that of an Italian city-state whose rise, culmination and fall may be roundly traced. Paris is yet in the stage of lusty growth. Time after time, like a young giantess, she has burst her cincture of walls, cast off her outworn garments and renewed her armour and vesture. Hers are no grass-grown squares and deserted streets; no ruined splendours telling of pride abased and glory departed; no sad memories of waning cities once the mistresses of sea and land; none of the tears evoked by a great historic tragedy; none of the solemn pathos of decay and death. Paris has more than once tasted the bitterness of humiliation; Norseman and Briton, Russian and German have bruised her fair body; the dire distress of civic strife has exhausted her strength, but she has always emerged from her trials with marvellous recuperation, more flourishing than before.

Since 1871, when the city, crushed under a twofold calamity of foreign invasion and of internecine war, seemed doomed to bleed away to feeble insignificance, her prosperity has so increased that house rent has doubled and population risen from 1,825,274 in 1870 to 2,714,068 in 1901. The growth of Paris from the settlement of an obscure Gallic tribe to the most populous, the most cultured, the most artistic, the most delightful and seductive of continental cities has been prodigious, yet withal she has maintained her essential unity, her corporate sense and peculiar individuality. Paris, unlike London, has never expatiated to the effacement of her distinctive features and the loss of civic consciousness. The city has still a definite outline and circumference, and over her gates to-day one may read, Entree de Paris. The Parisian is, and always has been, conscious of his citizenship, proud of his city, careful of her beauty, jealous of her reputation. The essentials of Parisian life remain unchanged since mediaeval times. Busy multitudes of alert, eager burgesses crowd her streets; ten thousand students stream from the provinces, from Europe, and even from the uttermost parts of the earth, to eat of the bread of knowledge at her University. The old collegiate life is gone, but the arts and sciences are freely taught as of old to all comers; and a lowly peasant lad may carry in his satchel the portfolio of a prime minister or the insignia of a president of the republic, even as his mediaeval prototype bore a bishop's mitre or a cardinal's hat. The boisterous exuberance of youthful spirits still vents itself in rowdy student life to the scandal of bourgeois placidity, and the poignant self-revelation and gnawing self-reproach of a Francois Villon find their analogue in the pathetic verse of a Paul Verlaine. Beneath the fair and ordered surface of the normal life of Paris still sleep the fiery passions which, from the days of the Maillotins to those of the Commune, have throughout the crises of her history ensanguined her streets with the blood of citizens.[1] Let us remember, however, when contrasting the modern history of Paris with that of London, that the questions which have stirred her citizens have been not party but dynastic ones, often complicated and embittered by social and religious principles ploughing deep in the human soul, for which men have cared enough to suffer, and to inflict, death.

[Footnote 1: "Faudra recommencer" ("We must begin again"), said, to the present writer in 1871, a Communist refugee bearing a great scar on his face from a wound received fighting at the barricades.]

Those writers who are pleased to trace the permanency of racial traits through the life of a people dwell with satisfaction on passages in ancient authors who describe the Gauls as quick to champion the cause of the oppressed, prone to war, elated by victory, impatient of defeat, easily amenable to the arts of peace, responsive to intellectual culture; terrible, indefatigable orators but bad listeners, so intolerant of their speakers that at tribal gatherings an official charged to maintain silence would march, sword in hand, towards an interrupter, and after a third warning cut off a portion of his dress. If the concurrent testimony of writers, ancient, mediaeval and modern, be of any worth, Gallic vanity is beyond dispute. Dante, expressing the prevailing belief of his age, exclaims, "Now, was there ever people so vain as the Sienese! Certes not the French by far."[2] Of their imperturbable gaiety and their avidity for new things we have ample testimony, and the course of this story will demonstrate that France, and more especially Paris, has ever been, from the establishment of Christianity to the birth of the modern world at the Revolution, the parent or the fosterer of ideas, the creator of arts, the soldier of the ideal. She has always evinced a wondrous preventive apprehension of coming changes. Sir Henry Maine has shown in his Ancient Law that the idea of kingship created by the accession of the Capetian dynasty revolutionised the whole fabric of society, and that "when the feudal prince of a limited territory surrounding Paris began ... to call himself King of France, he became king in quite a new sense." The earliest of the western people beyond Rome to adopt Christianity, she had established a monastery near Tours, a century and a half before St. Benedict, the founder of Western monasticism, had organised his first community at Subiaco. In the Middle Ages Paris became the intellectual light of the Christian world. From the time of the centralisation of the monarchy at Paris she absorbed in large measure the vital forces of the nation, and all that was greatest in art, science and literature was drawn within her walls, until in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, she became the centre of learning, taste and culture in Europe.[3] "Alone of the capitals of Modern Europe," said Freeman, "Paris can claim to have been the creator of the state of which it is now the head." The same authority bears witness to the unique position held by France in her generous and liberal treatment of new subjects, and the late historian, Mr. C.A. Fyffe, told the writer that when travelling in Alsace in 1871 the inhabitants of that province, so essentially German in race, were passionately attached to France, and more than once he heard a peasant exclaim, unable even to express himself in French: "Nimmer will ich Deutsch sein."

[Footnote 2: Inf. XXIX. 121-123. A French commentator consoles himself by reflecting that the author of the Divina Commedia is far more vituperative when dealing with certain Italian peoples, whom he designates as hogs, curs, wolves and foxes.]

[Footnote 3: Cobbett, comparing the relative intellectual culture of the British Isles and of France between the years 1600 and 1787, found that of the writers on the arts and sciences who were distinguished by a place in the Universal, Historical, Critical and Bibliographical Dictionary, one hundred and thirty belonged to England, Scotland and Ireland, and six hundred and seventy-six to France.]

During the first Empire and the Restoration, after the tempest was stilled and the great heritage of the Revolution taken possession of, an amazing outburst of scientific, artistic and literary activity made Paris the Ville Lumiere of Europe. She is still the city where the things of the mind and of taste have most place, where the wheels of life run most smoothly and pleasantly, where the graces and refinements and amenities of social existence, l'art des plaisirs fins, are most highly developed and most widely diffused. There is something in the crisp, luminous air of Paris that quickens the intelligence and stimulates the senses. Even the scent of the wood fires as one emerges from the railway station exhilarates the spirit. The poet Heine used to declare that the traveller could estimate his proximity to Paris by noting the increasing intelligence of the people, and that the very bayonets of the soldiers were more intelligent than those elsewhere. Life, even in its more sensuous and material phases, is less gross and coarse,[4] its pleasures more refined than in London. It is impossible to conceive the pit of a London theatre stirred to fury by an innovation in diction in a poetical drama, or to imagine anything comparable to the attitude of a Parisian audience at the cheap holiday performances at the Francais or the Odeon, where the severe classic tragedies of Racine, of Corneille, of Victor Hugo, or the well-worn comedies of Moliere or of Beaumarchais are played with small lure of stage upholstery, and listened to with close attention by a popular audience responsive to the exquisite rhythm and grace of phrasing, the delicate and restrained tragic pathos, and the subtle comedy of their great dramatists. To witness a premiere at the Francais is an intellectual feast. The brilliant house; the pit and stalls filled with black-coated critics; the quick apprehension of the points and happy phrases; the universal and excited discussion between the acts; the atmosphere of keen and alert intelligence pervading the whole assembly; the quaint survival of the time-honoured "overture"—three knocks on the boards—dating back to Roman times when the Prologus of the comedy stepped forth and craved the attention of the audience by three taps of his wand; the chief actor's approach to the front of the stage after the play is ended to announce to Mesdames and Messieurs what in these days they have known for weeks before from the press, that "the piece we have had the honour of playing" is by such a one—all combine to make an indelible impression on the mind of the foreign spectator.

[Footnote 4: "Nous cuisinons meme l'amour."—TAINE.]

The Parisian is the most orderly and well-behaved of citizens. The custom of the queue is a spontaneous expression of his love of fairness and order. Even the applause in theatres is organised. A spectacle such as that witnessed at the funeral of Victor Hugo in 1885, the most solemn and impressive of modern times, is inconceivable in London. The whole population (except the Faubourg St. Germain and the clergy) from the poorest labourer to the heads of the State issued forth to file past the coffin of their darling poet, lifted up under the Arc de Triomphe, and by their multitudinous presence honoured his remains borne on a poor bare hearse to their last resting-place in the Pantheon. Amid this vast crowd, mainly composed of labourers, mechanics and the petite bourgeoisie, assembled to do homage to the memory of the poet of democracy, scarcely an agent was seen; the people were their own police, and not a rough gesture, not a trace of disorder marred the sublime scene. The Parisian democracy is the most enlightened and the most advanced in Europe, and as of old the Netherlanders, in their immortal fight for freedom against the monstrous and appalling tyranny of Spain, were stirred to heroic deeds by the psalms of Clement Marot, even so to-day, where a few desperate and devoted men are moved to wrestle with a brutal despotism, the Marseillaise is their battle hymn. It is to Paris that the dearest hopes and deepest sympathies of generous spirits will ever go forth in

"The struggle, and the daring rage divine for liberty, Of aspirations toward the far ideal, enthusiast dreams of brotherhood."

"Siede Parigi in una gran pianura, Nell' ombilico a Francia, anzi nel core. Gli passa la riviera entro le mura, E corre, ed esce in altra parte fuore; Ma fa un' isola prima, e v'assicura Della citta una parte, e la migliore: L'altre due (ch' in tre parti e la gran terra) Di fuor la fossa, e dentro il fiume serra."

Orlando Furioso, Canto xiv.

Part I.: The Story


Gallo-Roman Paris

The mediaeval scribe in the fulness of a divinely-revealed cosmogony is wont to begin his story at the creation of the world or at the confusion of tongues, to trace the building of Troy by the descendants of Japheth, and the foundation of his own native city by one of the Trojan princes made a fugitive in Europe by proud Ilion's fall. Such, he was very sure, was the origin of Padua, founded by Antenor and by Priam, son of King Priam, whose grandson, yet another Priam, by his great valour and wisdom became the monarch of a mighty people, called from their fair hair, Galli or Gallici. And of the strong city built on the little island in the Seine who could have been its founder but the ravisher of fair Helen—Sir Paris himself? The naive etymology of the time was evidence enough.

But the modern writer, as he compares the geographical position of the capitals of Europe, is tempted to exclaim, Cherchez le marchand! for he perceives that their unknown founders were dominated by two considerations—facilities for commerce and protection from enemies: and before the era of the Roman road-makers, commerce meant facilities for water carriage. As the early settlers in Britain sailed up the Thames, they must have observed, where the river's bed begins somewhat to narrow, a hill rising from the continuous expanse of marshes from its mouth, easily defended on the east and west by those fortified posts which, in subsequent times, became the Tower of London and Barnard's Castle, and if we scan a map of France, we shall see that the group of islands on and around which Paris now stands, lies in the fruitful basin of the Seine, known as the Isle de France, near the convergence of three rivers; for on the east the Marne, on the west the Oise, and on the south the Yonne, discharge their waters into the main stream on its way to the sea. In ancient times the great line of Phoenician, Greek and Roman commerce followed northwards the valleys of the Rhone and of the Saone, whose upper waters are divided from those of the Yonne only by the plateau of Dijon and the calcareous slopes of Burgundy. The Parisii were thus admirably placed for tapping the profitable commerce of north-west Europe, and by the waters of the Eure, lower down the Seine, were able to touch the fertile valley of the Loire. The northern rivers of Gaul were all navigable by the small boats of the early traders, and, in contrast with the impetuous sweep of the Rhone and the Loire in the south and west, flowed with slow and measured stream:[5] they were rarely flooded, and owing to the normally mild winters, still more rarely blocked by ice. Moreover, the Parisian settlement stood near the rich cornland of La Beauce, and to the north-east, over the open plain of La Valois, lay the way to Flanders. It was one of the river stations on the line of the Phoenician traders in tin, that most precious and rare of ancient metals, between Marseilles and Britain, and in the early Middle Ages became, with Lyons and Beaucaire, one of the chief fairs of that historic trade route which the main lines of railway traffic still follow to-day. The island now known as the Cite, which the founders of Paris chose for their stronghold, was the largest of the group which lay involved in the many windings of the Seine, and was embraced by a natural moat of deep waters. To north and south lay hills, marshes and forests, and all combined to give it a position equally adapted for defence and for commerce.

[Footnote 5: The Seine takes five hours to flow through the seven miles of modern Paris.]

The Parisii were a small tribe of Gauls whose island city was the home of a prosperous community of shipmen and merchants, but it is not until the Conquest of Gaul by the Romans that Lutetia, for such was its Romanised name, joins the great pageant of history. It was—

"Armed Caesar falcon-eyed,"[6]

who saw its great military importance, built a permanent camp there and made it a central entrepot for food and munitions of war. And when in 52 B.C. the general rising of the tribes under Vercingetorix threatened to scour the Romans out of Gaul and to destroy the whole fabric of Caesar's ambition, he sent his favourite lieutenant, Labienus, to seize Lutetia where the Northern army of the Gauls was centred. Labienus crossed the Seine at Melun, fixed his camp on a spot near the position of the church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois, and began the first of the historic sieges for which Paris is so famous. But the Gaulish commander burnt the bridges, fired the city, and took up his position on the slopes of the hill of Lutetius (St. Genevieve) in the south, and aimed at crushing his enemy between his own forces and an army advancing from the north. Labienus having learnt that Caesar was in a tight place, owing to a check at Clermont and the defection of the Eduans, by a masterly piece of engineering recrossed the Seine by night at the Point du Jour, where the double viaduct of the girdle railway crosses to-day, and when the Gauls awoke in the morning they beheld the bannered host of the Roman legions in battle array on the plain of Grenelle beneath. They made a desperate attempt to drive them against the river, but they lost their leader and were almost annihilated by the superior arms and strategy of the Romans. Labienus was able to join his master at Sens, and the irrevocable subjugation of the Gauls soon followed. With the tolerant and enlightened conquerors came the Roman peace, Roman law, Roman roads, the Roman schoolmaster; and a more humane religion abolished the Druidical sacrifices. Lutetia was rebuilt and became a prosperous and, next to Lyons, the most important of Gallo-Roman cities. It lay equidistant from Germany and Britain and at the issue of valleys which led to the upper and lower Rhine. The quarries of Mount Lutetius produced an admirable building stone, kind to work and hardening well under exposure to the air, whose white colour may have won for Paris the name of Leucotia, or the White City, by which it is sometimes known to ancient writers. Caesar had done his work well, for so completely were the Gauls Romanised, that by the fifth or sixth century their very language had disappeared.[7]

[Footnote 6: "Cesare armato con gli occhi grifani."—Inferno, iv. 123.]

[Footnote 7: Of some 10,000 ancient inscriptions found in Gaul, only twenty are in Celtic, and less than thirty words of Celtic origin now remain in the French language.]

But towards the end of the third century three lowly wayfarers were journeying from Rome along the great southern road to Paris, charged by the Pope with a mission fraught with greater issues to Gaul than were the Caesars and all their legions. Let us recall somewhat of the appearance of the city which Dionysius, Rusticus and Eleutherius saw as they neared its suburbs and came down what is now known as the Rue St. Jacques. After passing the arches of the aqueduct, two of which exist to this day, that crossed the valley of Arcueil and brought the waters of Rungis,[8] Paray and Montjean to the baths of the imperial palace and the public fountains, they would discern on the hill of Lutetius to their right, the Roman camp, garrison and cemetery. Lower down to the east they would catch a glimpse of a great amphitheatre, capable of accommodating 10,000 spectators.[9]

[Footnote 8: The water supply of Paris is even now partly derived from these sources, and flows along the old repaired Roman aqueduct.]

[Footnote 9: Part of this amphitheatre was laid bare in 1869 by some excavations made for the Compagnie des Omnibus between the Rues Monge and Linne. Unhappily, the public subscription initiated by the Academie des Inscriptions to purchase the property proved inadequate, and the Company retained possession of the land. In 1883, however, other excavations were undertaken in the Rue de Navarre, which resulted in the discovery of other remains of the amphitheatre which have been preserved and made into a public park.]

On their left, where now stands the Lycee St. Louis, would be the theatre of Lutetia, and further on, the imposing and magnificent palace of the Caesars, with its gardens sloping down to the Seine. The turbulent little stream of the Bievre flowed by the foot of Mons Lutetius on the east, entering the main river opposite the eastern limit of the civitas of Lutetia, gleaming white before them and girdled by the waters of the Seine. A narrow eel-shaped island, subsequently known as the Isle de Galilee, lay between the Isle of the Cite and the southern bank; two islands, the Isles de Notre Dame and des Vaches, divided by a narrow channel to the east, and two eyots, the Isles des Juifs and de Bussy, to the west. Another islet, the Isle de Javiaux or de Louviers, lay near the northern bank beyond the two eastern islands. Crossing a wooden bridge, where now stands the Petit Pont, they would enter the forum under a triumphal arch. Here would be the very foyer of the city; a little way to the left the prefect's palace and the basilica, or hall of justice;[10] to the right the temple of Jupiter. As they crossed the island they would find it linked to the northern bank by another wooden bridge (the Grand Pont) replaced by the present Pont Notre Dame.[11] In the distance to the north stood Mons Martis (Montmartre), villas nestling on its slopes and crowned with the temples of Mars and Mercury, four of whose columns are preserved in the church of St. Pierre: to the west the aqueduct from Passy bringing its waters to the mineral baths located on the site of the present Palais Royal. A road, now the Rue St. Martin, led to the north; to the east, fed by the streams of Menilmontant and Belleville, lay the marshy land which is still known as the quarter of the Marais.

[Footnote 10: In 1848 some remains were found of the old halls of this building, and of its columns, worn by the ropes of the boatmen who used to moor their craft to them. In 1866 fragments of the triumphal arch were found in digging the foundations of the new Hotel Dieu.]

[Footnote 11: In 860 a new bridge was built east of the Grand Pont by Charles the Bold and defended by a tower at its head. The money-changers were established on the bridge by Louis VI., and it became known subsequently as the Pont au Change.]

Denis, who by the mediaeval hagiographers is invariably confused with Dionysius the Areopagite, and his companions, preached and taught the new faith unceasingly and met martyrs' deaths. In the Golden Legend he is famed to have converted much people to the faith, and "dyde do make many churches, and at length was brought before the judge who dyde do smyte off the hedes of the thre felawes by the temple of Mercurye. And anone the body of Saynte Denys reysed hymselfe up and bare his hede beetwene his armes, as the angels ladde hym two leghes fro the place which is sayd the hille of the martyrs unto the place where he now resteth by his election and the purveance of god. And there was heard so grete and swete a melodye of angels that many that herd it byleuyd in oure lorde."

The work that Denis and his companions began was more fully achieved in the fourth century by the rude Pannonion soldier, St. Martin, who also evangelised at Paris. He is the best-known of Gallic saints, and the story of his conversion one of the most popular in Christendom. When stationed at Amiens he was on duty one bitter cold day at the city gate, and espied a poor naked beggar asking alms. Soldiers in garrison are notoriously impecunious, and Martin had nothing to give; but drawing his sword he cleaved his mantle in twain, and bestowed half upon the shivering wretch at his feet. That very night the Lord Jesus appeared to him in a dream surrounded by angels, having on His shoulders the half of the cloak which Martin had given to the beggar. Turning to the angels, Jesus said: "Know ye who hath thus arrayed Me? My servant Martin, though yet unbaptised, hath done this." After this vision Martin received baptism and remained steadfast in the faith. The illiterate and dauntless soldier became the fiery apostle of the faith, a vigorous iconoclast, throwing down the images of the false gods, breaking their altars in pieces and burning their temples. Of the Roman gods, Mercury, he said, was most difficult to ban, but Jove was merely stupid[12] and brutish, and gave him least trouble.

[Footnote 12: "Jovem brutum atque hebetem."]

On the 16th of March 1711, some workmen, digging a burial crypt for the archbishops of Paris under the choir of Notre Dame, came upon a wall, six feet below the pavement, which contemporary antiquarians believed to be the wall of the original Christian basilica over which the cathedral was built, but which modern authorities affirm to have been part of the old Gallo-Roman wall of the Cite. In the fabric of this wall the early builders had incorporated the remains of a temple of Jupiter, and among the debris were found the fragments of an altar raised to Jove in the reign of Tiberius Caesar by the Nautae, a guild of Parisian merchant-shippers, and the table of another altar on whose foyer still remained some of the very burnt wood and incense used in the last pagan sacrifice. The mutilated stones, with their rude Gallo-Roman reliefs and inscriptions,[13] may be seen in the Frigidarium of the Thermae, the old Roman baths by the Hotel de Cluny, and are among the most interesting of historical documents in Paris. The Corporation of Nautae Parisiaci, one of the most powerful of the guilds, among whose members were enrolled the chief citizens of Lutetia, who dedicated this altar to Jove, were the origin of the Commune or Civil Council of Paris, whose Provost[14] was known as late as the fourteenth century as the Prevot des Marchands d'Eau. Their device was the Nef, or ship, which is and has been throughout the ages, the arms of Paris, and which to this day may be seen carved on the vaultings of the Roman baths.

[Footnote 13: On the former may still be read: TIB ... CAESARE AVG. IOVI. OPTVM ... MAXSVMO. ARAM. NAVTAE. PARISIACI PVBLICE. POSIERVNT.]

[Footnote 14: Not to be confounded with the Royal Provost, a king's officer, who in 1160 replaced the Capetian viscounts. The office was abolished in 1792.]

In the great palace of which these baths formed but a part was enacted that scene so vividly described in the pages of Gibbon,[15] when, in 355, Julian, after his victories over the Alemanni and the Franks, was acclaimed Augustus by the rebellious troops of Constantius. He had admonished the sullen legions, angry at being detached from their victorious and darling commander for service on the Persian frontier, and had urged them to obedience, but at midnight the young Caesar was awakened by a clamorous and armed multitude besieging the palace, and at early dawn its doors were forced; the reluctant Julian was seized and carried through the streets in triumph, lifted on a shield, and for diadem crowned with a military collar, to be enthroned and saluted as emperor. In after life the emperor-philosopher looked back with tender regret to the three winters he spent in Paris before his elevation to the imperial responsibilities and anxieties. He writes of the busy days and meditative nights he passed in his dear Lutetia, with its two wooden bridges, its pure and pleasant waters, its excellent wine. He dwells on the mildness of its climate, where the fig-tree, protected by straw in the winter, grew and fruited. One rigorous season, however, the emperor well remembered[16] when the Seine was blocked by huge masses of ice. Julian, who prided himself on his endurance, at first declined the use of those charcoal fires which to this day are a common and deadly method of supplying heat in Paris. But his rooms were damp and his servants were allowed to introduce them into his sleeping apartment. The Caesar was almost asphyxiated by the fumes, and his physicians to restore him administered an emetic. Julian in his time was beloved of the Lutetians, for he was a just and tolerant prince whose yoke was easy. He had purged the soil of Gaul from the barbarian invaders, given Lutetia peace and security, and made of it an important, imperial city. His statue, found near Paris, still recalls his memory in the hall of the great baths of the Lutetia he loved so well.

[Footnote 15: French authorities believe the scene to have been enacted in the old palace of the Cite.]

[Footnote 16: The present writer recalls a similar glacial epoch in Paris during the early eighties, when the Seine was frozen over at Christmas time.]

The so-called apostasy of this lover of Plato and worshipper of the Sun, who never went to the wars or travelled without dragging a library of Greek authors after him, was a philosophic reaction against the harsh measures,[17] the bloody and treacherous natures of the Christian emperors, and the fierceness of the Arian controversy. The movement was but a back-wash in the stream of history, and is of small importance. Julian's successors, Valentinian and Gratian, reversed his policy but shared his love for the fair city on the Seine, and spent some winters there. Lutetia had now become a rich and cultured Gallo-Roman city.

[Footnote 17: By the law of 350 A.D. it was a capital offence to sacrifice to or honour the old gods. The persecuted had already become persecutors. Boissier, La Fin du Paganisme.]


The Barbarian Invasions—St. Genevieve—The Conversion of Clovis—The Merovingian Dynasty

In the Prologue to Faust, the Lord of Heaven justifies the existence of the restless, goading spirit of evil by the fact that man's activity is all too prone to flag,—

"Er liebt sich bald die unbedingte Ruh."[18]

[Footnote 18: "He soon hugs himself in ease at any price."]

As with men so with empires: riches and inaction are hard to bear. It was not so much a corruption of morals as a growing slackness and apathy in public life and an intellectual sloth that hastened the fall of the Roman Empire. Owing to the gradual exhaustion of the supply of slaves its economic basis was crumbling away. The ruling class was content to administer and enjoy rather than to govern: unwilling or incompetent to grapple with the new order of things.[19] For centuries the Gauls had been untrained in arms and habituated to look to the imperial legions for defence against the half-savage races of men, giants in stature and strength, surging like an angry sea against their boundaries.

[Footnote 19: To protect home producers against the competition of the Gallic wine and olive growers, Roman statesmen could conceive nothing better than the stupid expedient of prohibiting the culture of the vine and olive in Gaul.]

The end of the fifth century is the beginning of the evil times of Gallic story: the confederation of Frankish tribes who had conquered and settled in Belgium saw successive waves of invasion pass by, and determined to have their part in the spoils. They soon overran Flanders and the north, and at length under Clovis captured Paris and conquered nearly the whole of Gaul. That fair land of France, "one of Nature's choicest masterpieces, one of Ceres' chiefest barns for corn, one of Bacchus' prime wine cellars and of Neptune's best salt-pits," became the prey of the barbarian. The whole fabric of civilisation seem doomed to destruction, Gaul had become the richest and most populous of Roman provinces; its learning and literature were noised in Rome; its rhetoricians drew students from the mother city herself; it was the last refuge of Graeco-Roman culture in the west. But at the end of the sixth century Gregory of Tours deplores the fact that in his time there were neither books, nor readers, nor scholar who could compose in verse or prose, and that only the speech of the rustic was understood. He playfully scolds himself for muddling prepositions and confusing genders and cases, but his duty as a Christian priest is to instruct, not to charm, and so he tells the story of his times in such rustic Latin as he knows. He draws for us a vivid picture of Clovis, his savage valour, his astuteness, his regal passion.

After the victory at Soissons over Syagrius, the shadowy king of the Romans, Clovis was met by St. Remi, who prayed that a vase of great price and wondrous beauty among the spoil might be returned to him. "Follow us," said the king, "to Soissons, where the booty will be shared." Before the division took place Clovis begged that the vase might be accorded to him. His warriors answered: "All, glorious king, is thine." But before the king could grasp the vase, one, jealous and angry, threw his francisque[20] at it, exclaiming: "Thou shalt have no more than falls to thy lot." The broken vase was however apportioned to the king, who restored it to the bishop. But Clovis hid the wound in his heart, and at the annual review in the Champ de Mars near Paris, as the king strode along the line inspecting the weapons of his warriors, he stopped in front of the uncourtly soldier, took his axe from him, complained of its foul state, and flung it angrily on the ground. As the man stooped to pick it up Clovis, with his own axe, cleft his skull in twain, exclaiming: "Thus didst thou to the vase at Soissons." "Even so," says Gregory quaintly, "did he inspire all with great fear."

[Footnote 20: The favourite arm of the Franks, a short battle-axe, used as a missile or at close quarters.]

At this point of our story we are met by the first of those noble women, heroic and wise, for whom French history is pre-eminent. In the early fifth century "saynt germayn[21] of aucerre and saynt lew of troyes, elect of the prelates of fraunce for to goo quenche an heresye that was in grete brytayne, now called englond, came to nannterre for to be lodged and heberowed and the people came ageynst theym for to have theyr benyson. Emonge the people, saynt germayn, by thenseignemente of the holy ghoost, espyed out the lytel mayde saynt geneuefe, and made hyr to come to hym, and kyste hyr heed and demaunded hyr name, and whos doughter she was, and the people aboute hyr said that her name was geneuefe, and her fader seuere, and her moder geronce, whyche came unto hym, and the holy man sayd: is this child yours? They answerd: Ye. Blessyd be ye, said the holy man, whan god hath gyven to you so noble lignage, knowe ye for certeyn that the day of hyr natiyuyte the angels sange and halyowed grete mysterye in heuen with grete ioye and gladnes."

[Footnote 21: Again we quote from the Golden Legend.]

Tidings soon came to Paris that Attila, the felon king of Hungary, had enterprised to destroy and waste the parts of France, and the merchants for great dread they had, sent their goods into cities more sure. Genevieve caused the good women of the town to "wake in fastynges and in orysons, and bade the bourgeyses that they shold not remeuve theyr goodes for by the grace of god parys shold have none harme." At first the people hardened their hearts and reviled her, but St. Germain, who had meantime returned to Paris, entreated them to hearken to her, and our Lord for her love did so much that the "tyrantes approachyd not parys, thanke and glorye to god and honoure to the vyrgyn." At the siege of Paris by Childeric and his Franks, when the people were wasted by sickness and famine, "the holy vyrgyne, that pyte constrayned her, wente to the sayne for to goe fetche by shyp somme vytaylles." She stilled by her prayers a furious tempest and brought the ships back laden with wheat. When the city was at length captured, King Childeric, although a paynim, saved at her intercession the lives of his prisoners, and one day, to escape her importunate pleadings for the lives of some criminals, fled out of the gates of Paris and shut them behind him. The saint lived to build a church over the tomb of St. Denis and to see Clovis become a Christian. She died in 509, and was buried on the hill of Lutetius, which ever since has borne her name.

The faithful built a little wooden oratory over her tomb, which Clovis and his queen Clotilde replaced in 506 by a great basilica dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul,—whose length the king measured by the distance he could hurl his axe—and the famous monastery of St. Genevieve.[22]

[Footnote 22: Her figure was a favourite subject for the sculptors of Christian churches. She usually bears a taper in her hand and a devil is seen peering over her shoulder. This symbolises the miraculous relighting of the taper after the devil had extinguished it. The taper was long preserved at Notre Dame.]

The conversion of Clovis is the capital fact of early French history. Clotilde had long[23] importuned him to declare himself a Christian, and he had consented to the baptism of their firstborn, but the infant's death within a week seemed an admonition from his own jealous gods. A second son, however, recovered from grievous sickness at his wife's prayers, and this, aided perhaps by a shrewd insight into the trend of events, induced him to lend a more willing ear to the teachers of the new Faith. In 496 the Franks were at death grapple with their German foes at Tolbiac. Clovis, when the fight went against him, invoked the God of the Christians and prayed to be delivered from his enemies. His cry was heard and the advent of the new Lord of Battles was winged with victory.

[Footnote 23: If we may believe Gregory of Tours, her arguments were vituperative rather than convincing. "Your Jupiter," said she, "is omnium stuprorum spurcissimus perpetrator."]

The conversion of Clovis was a triumph for the Church: in her struggle with the Arian heresy in Gaul, she was now able to enforce the arguments of the pen by the edge of the sword. Her scribes are tender to his memory, for his Christianity was marked by few signs of grace. He remained the same savage monarch as before, and did not scruple to affirm his dynasty and extend his empire by treachery and by the assassination of his kinsmen. To the Franks, Jesus was but a new and more puissant tribal deity. "Long live the Christ who loves the Franks," writes the author of the prologue to the Salic law; and when the bishop was one day reading the Gospel story of the Passion, the king, qui moult avait grand compassion, cried out: "Ah! had I been there with my Franks I would have avenged the Christ." Nor was their ideal of kinship any loftier. Their realm was not a trust, but a possession to be divided among their heirs, and the jealousy and strife excited by the repeated partitions among sons, make the history of the Merovingian[24] dynasty a tale of cruelty and treachery whose every page is stained with blood.

[Footnote 24: Merovee, second of the kings of the Salic Franks, was fabled to be the issue of Clodio's wife and a sea monster.]

Clovis, in 508, made Paris the official capital of his realm, and at his death in 511 divided his possessions between his four sons—Thierry, Clodomir, Childebert and Clothaire. Clodomir after a short reign met his death in battle, leaving his children to the guardianship of their grandmother, Clotilde. One day messengers came to her in the old palace of the Caesars on the south bank of the Seine from Childebert and Clothaire praying that their nephews might be entrusted to them. Believing they were to be trained in kingly offices that they might succeed their father in due time, Clotilde granted their prayer and two of the children were sent to them in the palace of the Cite. Soon came another messenger, bearing a pair of shears and a naked sword, and Clotilde was bidden to determine the fate of her wards and to choose for them between the cloister and the edge of the sword. An angry exclamation escaped her: "If they are not to be raised to the throne, I would rather see them dead than shorn." The messenger waited to hear no more and hastened back to the two kings. Clothaire then seized the elder of the children and stabbed him under the armpit. The younger, at the sight of his brother's blood, flung himself at Childebert's feet, burst into tears, and cried: "Help me, dear father, let me not die even as my brother." Childebert's heart was softened and he begged for the child's life. Clothaire's only answer was a volley of insults and a threat of death if he protected the victim. Childebert then disentwined the child's tender arms clasping his knees—he was but six years of age—and pushed him to his brother, who drove a dagger into his breast. The tutors and servants of the children were then butchered, and Clothaire became at his brother's death, in 558, sole king of the Franks.[25] The third child, Clodoald, owing to the devotion of faithful servants escaped, and was hidden for some time in Provence. Later in life he returned to Paris and built a monastery at a place still known by his name (St. Cloud) about two leagues from the city.

[Footnote 25: Among the wives of Clothaire was the gentle Radegonde, who turned with horror from the bloody scenes of the palace to live in works of charity with the poor and suffering, and in holy communion with priests and bishops. She was at length consecrated a deaconess by St. Medard, donned the habit of a nun, and founded a convent at Poitiers, where the poet Fortunatus had himself ordained a priest that he might be near her. Radegonde's memory is dear to us in England, for it was a small company of her nuns who settled on the Green Croft by the river bank below Cambridge, and founded a priory whose noble church and monastic buildings were subsequently incorporated in Jesus College when the nunnery was suppressed by Bishop Alcock in 1496.]

In the days of Siegbert and Chilperic, kings of Eastern and Western France, the consuming flames of passion and greed again burst forth, this time fanned by the fierce breath of feminine rivalry. Siegbert had married Brunehaut, daughter of the Visigoth king of Spain: Chilperic had espoused her sister, Galowinthe, after repudiating his first wife, Adowere. When Galowinthe came to her throne she found herself the rival of Fredegonde, a common servant, with whom Chilperic had been living. He soon tired of his new wife, a gentle and pliant creature, Fredegonde regained her supremacy and one morning Galowinthe was found strangled in bed. The news came to King Siegbert and Brunehaut goaded him to avenge her sister's death. Meanwhile Chilperic had married Fredegonde, who quickly compassed the murder of her only rival, the repudiated queen, Adowere. Soon Chilperic drew the sword and civil war devastated the land. By foreign aid Siegbert captured and spoiled Paris and compelled a peace. Scarcely, however, had the victor dismissed his Germain allies, when Chilperic fell upon him again. Siegbert now determined to make an end. He entered Paris, and prepared to crush his enemy at Tournay. As he set forth, St. Germain, bishop of Paris, seized his horse's bridle and warned him that the grave he was digging for his brother would swallow him too. When he reached Vitry two messengers were admitted to see him. As he stood between them listening to their suit he was stabbed on either side by two long poisoned knives: the assassins had been sent by Fredegonde.

But Fredegonde's tale of blood was not yet complete. She soon learned that Merovee, one of Chilperic's two sons by Adowere, had married Brunehaut. Merovee followed the rest of her victims, and Clovis, the second son, together with a sister of Adowere, next glutted her vengeance. "One day, after leaving the Synod of Paris," writes St. Gregory, "I had bidden King Chilperic adieu and had withdrawn conversing with the bishop of Albi. As we crossed the courtyard of the palace (in the Cite) he said: 'Seest thou not what I perceive above this roof?' I answered, 'I see only a second building which the king hath built.' He asked again, 'Seest thou naught else?' I weened he spoke in jest and did but answer—'If thou seest aught else, prithee show it unto me.' Then uttering a deep sigh, he said: 'I see the sword of God's wrath suspended over this house.'" Shortly after this conversation Chilperic having returned from the chase to his royal villa of Chelles, was leaning on the shoulder of one of his companions to descend from his horse, when Landeric, servant of Fredegonde, stabbed him to death.

Thirty years were yet to pass before the curtain falls on the acts of the rival queens, their sons and grandsons, but the heart revolts at the details of the wars and lusts of these savage potentates.

Battle and murder had destroyed Brunehaut's children and her children's children until none were left to rule over the realms but herself and the four sons of Thierry II. The nobles, furious at the further tyranny of a cruel and imperious woman, plotted her ruin, and in 613, when Brunehaut, sure of victory, marched with two armies against Clothaire II., she was betrayed near Paris to him, her implacable enemy. He reproached her with the death of ten kings, and set her on a camel for three days to be mocked and insulted by the army. The old and fallen queen was then tied to the tail of a horse: the creature was lashed into fury and soon all that remained of the proud queen was a shapeless mass of carrion. The traditional place where Brunehaut met her death is still shown at the corner of the Rue St. Honore and the Rue de l'Arbre Sec. Thierry's four sons had already been put to death. In 597 her rival Fredegonde, at the height of her prosperity, had died peacefully in bed, full of years, and was buried in the church of St. Vincent[26] by the side of Chilperic, her husband.

[Footnote 26: (See pp. 32 and 36.)]

Amid all this ruin and desolation, when the four angels of the Euphrates seem to have been loosed on Gaul, one force was silently at work knitting up the ravelled ends of the rent fabric of civilisation and tending a lamp which burned with the promise of ideals, nobler far than those which fed the ancient faith and polity. The Christian bishops were everywhere filling the empty curule chairs in the cities and provinces of Gaul. At the end of the sixth century, society lived in the Church and by the Church, and the sees of the archbishops and bishops corresponded to the Roman administrative divisions. All that was best in the old Gallo-Roman aristocracy was drawn into her bosom, for she was the one power making for unity and good government. From one end of the land to the other the bishops visited and corresponded with each other. They alone had communion of ideas, common sentiments and common interests. St. Gregory, bishop of Tours, was the son of a senator; St. Germain of Auxerre was a man of noble lineage, who had already exercised high public functions before he was made a bishop; St. Germain of Autun was ever on the move, now in Brittany, now at Paris, now at Arles, to crush heresy, to threaten a barbarian potentate, or to sear the conscience and, if need were, ban the person of a guilty Christian king.

By the end of the sixth century two hundred and thirty-eight monastic institutions had been founded in Gaul, and from the sixth to the eighth century, eighty-three churches were built. The monasteries were so many nurseries of the industry, knowledge and learning which had not perished in the barbarian invasions; so many cities of refuge from violence and rapine, where the few who thirsted after righteousness and burned with charity might find shelter and protection. "Every letter traced on paper," said an old abbot, "is a blow to the devil." The ecclesiastical and monastic schools took the place of the destroyed Roman day-schools, and whatever modicum of learning the Frankish courts could boast of, was due to the monks and nuns of their time; for some at least of these potentates when not absorbed in the gratification of their lusts, their vengeance, greed or ambition, were possessed by nobler instincts.

To St. Germain of Autun, made bishop in 555, Paris owes one of her earliest ecclesiastical foundations. His influence over Childebert, king of Paris, was great. He obtained an order that those who refused to destroy pagan idols in their possession were to answer to the king, and when Childebert and his warriors, seized by an irresistible fighting impulse, marched into Spain, and were bought off the siege and sack of Saragossa by the present of the tunic of St. Vincent, he induced the king to found the abbey and church of St. Vincent (St. Germain des Pres), to receive the relic and a great part of the spoil of Toledo, consisting of jewels, golden chalices, books and crucifixes of marvellous craftsmanship. In the same reign was begun on the site of the present sacristy of Notre Dame a great basilica, dedicated to St. Stephen, so magnificently decorated that it was compared to Solomon's Temple for the beauty and the delicacy of its art. The church of Ste. Marie or Notre Dame, already existing in 365, stood on a site extending westward into the present Place du Parvis Notre Dame. During this great outburst of zeal and devotion, another monastery (St. Vincent le Rond), was established and dedicated to St. Vincent, which subsequently became associated with the name of the earlier St. Germain of Auxerre (l'Auxerrois).

A curious episode is found in Gregory's Chronicle, which is characteristic of the times, and proves that a monastery and church of St. Julien le Pauvre were already in existence. An impostor, claiming to have the relics of St. Vincent and St. Felix, came to Paris, but refused to deposit them with the bishop for verification. He was arrested and searched, and the so-called relics were found to consist of moles' teeth, the bones of mice, some bears' claws and other rubbish: they were flung into the Seine and the impostor was put in prison. Gregory, who was lodging in the monastery of St. Julien le Pauvre, went into the church shortly after midnight to say matins, and found the creature, who had escaped from the bishop's prison, lying drunk on the pavement. He had him dragged away into a corner, but so intolerable was the stench that the pavement was purified with water and sweet smelling herbs. When the bishops, who were at Paris for a synod, met at dinner the next day, the impostor was identified as a fugitive slave of the bishop of Tarbes.

Dagobert the Great, who came to the throne in 628, and his favourite minister, St. Eloy, goldsmith and bishop (founder of the convent in Paris which long bore his name), are enshrined in the hearts of the people in many a song and ballad: St. Eloy, with his good humour, his ruddy countenance, his eloquence, gentleness, modesty, wit, and wide charity, singing in the church processions a haute gamme jubilant et trepudiant like David of old before the ark: Dagobert, the Solomon of the Franks, the terror of the oppressor, the darling of the poor. The great king was fond of Paris and established himself there when not scouring his kingdom to administer justice or to crush his enemies. He was the second founder of the monastery of St. Denis, which he rebuilt and endowed with great magnificence, and to which he gave much importance by the establishment there of a great fair, which soon drew merchants from all parts of Europe. He was a patron of the arts and employed St. Eloy to make reliquaries[27] for St. Denis and the churches in Paris, of such richness and beauty that they were admired of the whole of France.

[Footnote 27: The works of art traditionally ascribed to St. Eloy are many. He is reported to have made a golden throne set with stones (or rather two thrones, for he used his material so honestly and economically). He was made master of the mint, and thirteen pieces of money are known which bear his name. He decorated the tombs of St. Martin and St. Denis, and constructed reliquaries for St. Germain, Notre Dame, and other churches.]

The monkish scribes who wrote the Chronicles of St. Denis were not ungrateful to the memory of good King Dagobert, for it is there related that one day, as a holy anchorite lay sleeping on his stony couch on an island, being heavy with years, a venerable, white-haired man appeared to him and bade him rise and pray for the soul of King Dagobert of France. As he arose he beheld out at sea a crowd of devils bearing the king away in a little boat towards Vulcan's Cauldron, beating and tormenting him cruelly, who called unceasingly on St. Denis of France, on St. Martin and St. Maurice. Then thunder and tempest rolled down from heaven, and the three glorious saints appeared to him, arrayed in white garments. He was much affrighted, and on asking who they were, was answered: "We be they whom Dagobert hath called, and are come to snatch him from the hands of the devils and bear him to Abraham's bosom." The saints then vanished from before him and sped against the devils and reft the soul from them, which they were tormenting with threats and buffetings, and bare it to the joys perdurable of Paradise, chanting the words of the Psalmist Beatus quem eligisti.


The Carlovingians—The Great Siege of Paris by the Normans—The Germs of Feudalism

Chaos and misery followed the brilliant reign of Dagobert. In half a century his race had faded into the feeble rois faineants, degenerate by precocious debauchery, some of whom were fathers at fourteen or fifteen years of age and in their graves before they were thirty. The bow of power is to him who can bend it, and in an age when human passions are untamed, the one unpardonable vice in a king is weakness. Soon the incapable, impotent and irresolute Merovingians were thrust aside by the more puissant Carlovingian race.

Charles Martel, although buried with the Frankish kings at St. Denis, was content with the title of Duke of the Franks, and hesitated to proclaim himself king. He, like the other mayors of the palace, ruled through feeble and pensioned puppets when they did not contemptuously leave the throne vacant. In 751 Pepin the Short sent two prelates to sound Pope Zacchary, who, being hard pressed by the Lombards, lent a willing ear to their suit, agreed that he who was king in fact should be made so in name, and authorised Pepin to assume the title of king. Chilperic III., like a discarded toy, was relegated to a monastery at St. Omer, and Pepin the Short anointed at Soissons by St. Boniface bishop of Mayence, from that sacred "ampul full of chrism" which a snow-white dove had brought in its mouth to St. Remi wherewith to anoint Clovis at Rheims. In the year 754 Stephen III., the first pope who had honoured Paris by his presence, came to ask the reward of his predecessor's favour and was lodged at St. Denis. There he anointed Pepin anew, with his sons Charles and Carloman, and compelled the Frankish chieftains, under pain of excommunication, to swear allegiance to them and their descendants.

The city of Lutetia had much changed since the messengers of Pope Fabianus entered five centuries before. On that southern hill where formerly stood the Roman camp and cemetery were now the great basilica and abbey of St. Genevieve. The amphitheatre and probably much of the palace of the Caesars were in ruins, all stripped of their marbles to adorn the new Christian churches. The extensive abbatial buildings and church, resplendent with marble and gold, on the west, dedicated to St. Vincent, were henceforth to be known as St. Germain of the Meadows (des Pres), for the saint's body had been translated from the chapel of St. Symphorien in the vestibule to the high altar of the abbey church a few weeks before the pope's arrival at St. Denis. The Cite[28] was still held within decayed Gallo-Roman walls, and the Grand and Petit Ponts of wood crossed the arms of the Seine. On the site of the old pagan temple to Jupiter by the market-place stood the church Our Lady: to the south-east stood the church of St. Stephen. The devotion of the Nautae had been transferred from Apollo to St. Nicholas, patron of shipmen, Mercury had given place to St. Michael, and to each of those saints oratories were erected. Other churches and oratories adorned the island, dedicated to St. Gervais, and St. Denis of the Prison (de la chartre), by the north wall where, abandoned by his followers, the saint was visited by his divine Lord, who Himself administered the sacred Host. A nunnery dedicated to St. Eloy, where three hundred pious nuns diffused the odour of Jesus Christ through the whole city, occupied a large site opposite the west front of Notre Dame. Near by stood a hospital, founded and endowed a century before by St. Landry, bishop of Paris, for the sick poor, which soon became known as the Hostel of God (Hotel Dieu). The old Roman palace and basilica had been transformed into the official residence and tribunal of justice of the Frankish kings. On the south bank stood the church and monastery of St. Julien le Pauvre. A new Frankish city was growing on the north bank, bounded on the west by the abbey of St. Vincent le Rond, and on the east by the abbey of St. Lawrence. Houses clustered around the four great monasteries, and suburbs were in course of formation. The Cite was still largely inhabited by opulent merchants of Gallo-Roman descent, who were seen riding along the streets in richly decorated chariots drawn by oxen.

[Footnote 28: The term Cite (civitas) was given to the old Roman part of many French towns.]

Charlemagne during his long reign of nearly half a century (768-814) was too preoccupied with his noble but ineffectual purpose of cementing by blood and iron the warring races of Europe into a united populus Christianus, and establishing, under the dual lordship of emperor and pope, a city of God on earth, to give much attention to Paris. He did, however, spend a Christmas there, and was present at the dedication of the church of St. Denis, completed in 775 under Abbot Fulrad. It was a typical Frankish prince whom the Parisians saw enthroned at St. Denis. He had the abundant fair hair, shaven chin and long moustache we see in the traditional pictures of Clovis. Above middle height, with large, bright piercing eyes, which, when he was angered shone like carbuncles, he impressed all by the majesty of his bearing, in spite of a rather shrill and feeble voice and a certain asymmetrical rotundity below the belt.

Abbot Fulrad was a sturdy prince and for long disputed the possession of some lands at Plessis with the bishop of Paris. The decision of the case is characteristic of the times. Two champions were deputed to act for the litigants, and met before the Count of Paris[29] in the king's chapel of St. Nicholas in the Palace of the Cite, and a solemn judgment by the cross was held. While the royal chaplain recited psalms and prayers, the two champions stood forth and held their arms outstretched in the form of a cross. In this trial of endurance the bishop's deputy was the first to succumb; his fainting arms drooped and the abbot won his cause.

[Footnote 29: The Carlovingians had been careful to abolish the office of mayor of the palace.]

Paris had grown but slowly under the Frankish kings. They lived ill at ease within city walls. Children of the fields and the forests, whose delight was in the chase or in war, they were glad to escape from Paris to their villas at Chelles or Compiegne. But the civil power of the Church grew apace. In the early sixth century the abbots of St. Germain des Pres at Paris held possession of nearly 90,000 acres of land, mostly arable, in various provinces: their annual revenue amounted to about L34,000 of our money: they ruled over more than 10,000 serfs. From a list of the lands held in Paris in the ninth century by the abbey of St. Pierre des Fosses,[30] and published in the Tresor des pieces rares ou inedites, we are able to form some idea of the vast extent of monastic possessions in the city. The names of the various properties whose boundaries touch those of the abbey lands are given: private owners are mentioned only four times, whereas to ecclesiastical and monastic domains there are no less than ninety references. These monastic settlements were veritable garden cities, where most of our modern fruits, flowers and vegetables were cultivated; where flocks and herds were bred, and all kinds of poultry, including pheasants and peacocks, reared. Guilds of craftsmen worked and flourished; markets were held generally on saints' days, and pilgrimages were fostered. Charlemagne was an honest coiner and a protector of foreign traders; he was tolerant of the Jews, the only capitalists of the time, and under him Paris became the "market of the peoples," and Venetian and Syrian merchants sought her shores.

[Footnote 30: St. Pierre was subsequently enriched by the possession of the body of St. Maur, brought thither in the Norman troubles by fugitive monks from Anjou, and the monastery is better known to history under the name of St. Maur des Fosses. The entrails of our own Henry V. were buried there. Rabelais, before its secularisation, was one of its canons, and Catherine de' Medicis once possessed a chateau on its site. Monastery and chateau no longer exist.]

In Gallo-Roman days few were the churches outside the cities, but in the great emperor's time every villa[31] is said to have had its chapel or oratory served by a priest. Charlemagne was a zealous patron of such learning as the epoch afforded, and sought out scholars in every land. English, Irish, Scotch, Italian, Goth, and Bavarian—all were welcomed. The English scholar Alcuin, master of the Cloister School at York, became his chief adviser and tutor. He would have every child in his empire to know at least his paternoster, and every abbot on election was required to endow the monastery with some books. The choice of authors was not a wide one: the Old and New Testaments; the writings of the Fathers, especially St. Augustine, the emperor's favourite author; Josephus; the works of Bede; some Latin authors, chiefly Virgil; scraps of Plato translated into Latin—a somewhat exiguous and austere library, but one which reared a noble and valiant line of scholars and statesmen to rule the minds and bridle the savage lusts of the coming generations of men. Under Irish and Anglo-Saxon influences the cramped, minute script of the Merovingian scribes grew in beauty and lucidity; gold and silver and colour illuminated the pages of their books. The golden age of the Roman peace seemed dawning again in a new Imperium Christianorum.

[Footnote 31: The villa of those days was a vast domain, part dwelling, part farm, part game preserve.]

Towards the end of his reign the old emperor was dining with his court in a seaport town in the south of France, when news came that some strange, black, piratical craft had dared to attack the harbour. They were soon scattered, but the emperor was seen to rise from the table, and go to a window, where he stood gazing fixedly at the retreating pirates. Tears trickled down his cheeks and none dared to approach him. At length he turned and said: "Know ye my faithful servants, wherefore I weep thus bitterly? I fear not these wretched pirates, but I am afflicted that they should dare to approach these shores, and sorely do grieve when I foresee what evil they will work on my sons and on my people." His courtiers deemed they were Breton or Saracen pirates, but the emperor knew better. They were the terrible Northmen, soon to prove a bloodier scourge to Gaul than Hun or Goth or Saracen; and to meet them Charlemagne left an empire distracted by civil war, and a nerveless, feeble prince, Louis the Pious, Louis the Forgiving, fitter for the hermit's cell than for the throne and sword of an emperor.

In 841 the black boats of the sea-rovers for the first time entered the Seine, and burnt Rouen and Fontenelle. In 845 a fleet of one hundred and twenty vessels swept up its higher waters and on Easter Eve captured, plundered and burnt Paris, sacked its monasteries and churches and butchered their monks and priests. The futile Emperor Charles the Bald bought them off at St. Denis with seven thousand livres of silver, and they went back to their Scandinavian homes gorged with plunder—only to return year by year, increased in numbers and ferocity. Words cannot picture the terror of the citizens and monks when the dread squadrons, with the monstrous dragons carved on their prows, their great sails and threefold serried ranks of men-of-prey, were sighted. Everyone left his home and sought refuge in flight; the monks hurried off with the bodies of the saints, the relics and treasures of the sanctuary, to hide them in far-away cities. In 852 Charles' soldiers refused to fight, and for two hundred and eighty-seven days the pirates ravaged the valley of the Seine at their will. Never within memory or tradition were such things known. Rouen, Bayeux, Beauvais, Paris, Meaux, Melun, Chartres, Evreux, were devastated; the islands of the Seine were whitened by the bones of the victims, and similar horrors were wrought along the other rivers of France. In 858 a body of the freebooters settled on the island of Oissel, below Rouen, and issued forth en excursion to spoil and slay and burn at their pleasure: the once rich city of Paris was left a cinder heap; the abbey of St. Genevieve was sacked and burnt, Notre Dame, St. Stephen, St. Germain des Pres and St Denis alone escaping at the cost of immense bribes. Charles ordered two fortresses to be built for the defence of the approaches to the bridges, and continued his feeble policy of paying blackmail.

In 865 St. Denis was pillaged. In 866 Robert the Strong, Count of Paris, had won the title of the Maccabeus of France, by daring to stand against the fury of the Northmen and to defeat them; but having in the heat of battle with the terrible Hastings taken off his cuirass, he was killed. By order of Charles, St. Denis was fortified in 869, after another pillage of St. Germain.

In 876 began a second period of raids of even greater ferocity under the Norwegian Rollo the Gangr[32] (the walker), a colossus so huge that no horse could be found to bear him. In 884 the whole Christian people seemed doomed to perish. Flourishing cities and monasteries became heaps of smoking ruins; along the roads lay the bodies of priests and laymen, noble and peasant, freeman and serf, women and children and babes at the breast to be devoured of wolves and vultures. The very sanctuaries[33] were become the dens of wild beasts, the haunt of serpents and creeping things.

[Footnote 32: The remains of the great Viking's castle are still shown at Aalesund, in Norway.]

[Footnote 33: When Alan Barbetorte, after the recovery of Nantes, went to give thanks to God in the cathedral, he was compelled to cut his way, sword in hand, through thorns and briers.]

In 885 a great league of pirates—Danes, Normans, Saxons, Britons and renegade French—on their way to ravage the rich cities of Burgundy drew up before Paris; and their leader, Siegfroy, demanded passage to the higher waters. Paris, forsaken by her kings and emperors for more than a century, scarred and bled by three spoliations, was now to become a beacon of hope. The Roman walls were repaired, the towers on the north and south banks were strengthened. Bishop Gozlin, in whom great learning was wedded to incomparable fortitude, defied the pirates, warning them that the citizens were determined to resist and to hold Paris for a bulwark to the land.

Of this most terrible of the Norman sieges of Paris, we have fuller record. A certain monk of St. Germain des Pres, Abbo by name, who had taken part in the defence, was one day sitting in his cell reading his Virgil. Desiring to exercise his Latin, and give an example to other cities, he determined to sing of a great siege with happier issue than that of Troy.[34] Abbo saw the black hulls and horrid prows of the pirates' boats as they turned the arm of the Seine below Paris, seven hundred strong vessels, and many more of lighter build. For two leagues and a half the very waters of the Seine were covered with them, and men asked into what mysterious caves the river had retreated. On November 26th, 885, the attack began at the unfinished tower on the north bank, replaced in later times by the Grand Chatelet. Three leaders stand eminent among the defenders of the city: Bishop Gozlin, the great warrior priest; his nephew, Abbot Ebles of St. Denis; and Count Eudes (Hugh) of Paris, son of Robert the Strong. The air is darkened with javelins and arrows; bishop and abbot are in the very eye of danger; the latter with one shaft spits seven of the besiegers, and mockingly bids their fellows take them to the kitchen to be cooked. On the morrow, reinforced by fresh troops, the assault is renewed, stones are hurled, arrows whistle; the air is filled with groans and cries; the defenders pour down boiling oil and melted wax and pitch. The hair of some of the Normans takes fire; they burn and the Parisians shout—"Jump into the Seine; the water will make your hair grow again and then look you that it be better combed." One well-aimed millstone says Abbo, sends the souls of six to hell. The baffled Northmen retire, entrench a camp at St. Germain l'Auxerrois, and prepare rams and other siege artillery.

[Footnote 34: It must be admitted, however, that the poet's uncouth diction is anything but Virgilian.]

Abbo now pauses to bewail the state of France: no lord to rule her, everywhere devastation wrought by fire and sword, God's people paralysed at the advancing phalanx of death, Paris alone tranquil, erect and steadfast in the midst of all their thunderbolts, polis ut regina micans omnes super urbes, a queenly city resplendent above all towns. The second attack begins with redoubled fury. After battering the walls of the north tower, monstrous machines on sixteen wheels are advanced and the besiegers strive to fill the fosse. Trees, shrubs, slaughtered cattle, wounded horses, the very captives slain before the eyes of the besieged, are cast in to fill the void. Bishop Gozlin brings down the Norman chieftain, who had butchered the prisoners, by a well-aimed arrow: his body, too, is flung into the fosse. The enemy cover the plain with their swords and the river with their bucklers; fireships are loosed against the bridge. In the city women fly to the sanctuaries; they roll their hair in the dust, beat their breasts and rend their faces, calling on St. Germain: "Blessed St. Germain, succour thy servants." The fighters on the walls take up the cry; Bishop Gozlin invokes the Virgin, Mother of the Redeemer, Star of the Sea, bright above all other stars, to save them from the cruel Danes.

On February 6th, 886, a sudden flood sweeps away the Petit Pont, and its tower, with twelve defenders, is isolated. With shouts of triumph the Northmen cross the river and surround it. The twelve refuse to yield, and fire is brought. The warriors (a touching detail) fearing lest their falcons be stifled, cut them loose. There is but one vessel wherewith to quench the flames and that soon drops from their hands; the little band rush forth; they set their backs against the ruins of the bridge, their faces to their foes and fought a hopeless fight. The walls of the city are lined with their kinsmen and friends impotent to help; the enemies of God, doomed one day to dine at Pluto's cauldron, press upon them; they fight till Phoebus sinks to the depths of the sea, so great is the courage of despair. The survivors are promised their lives if they will yield, they are disarmed, then treacherously slain, and their souls fly to heaven. But one, Herve, of noble bearing and of great beauty, deemed a prince, is spared for ransom. With thunderous voice he refuses to bargain his life for gold, falls unarmed on his foes and is cut to pieces. "These things," writes Monk Abbo, "I saw with mine eyes," and he gives the names of the heroic twelve who went to receive the palm of martyrdom: Ermenfroi, Herve, Herland, Ouacre, Hervi, Arnaud, Seuil, Jobert, Hardre, Guy, Aimard, Gossuin. Their names are inscribed on a little marble tablet over the Place du Petit Pont,[35] near the spot where they fell. Hail to the brave who across twelve centuries thrill our hearts to-day! They were examplars to the land; they helped to make France by their desperate courage and noble self-sacrifice, and to win for Paris the hegemony of her cities. The city is at length revictualled by Henry of Saxony and again the Parisians are left to themselves. On the sixth of April Bishop Gozlin, their shield, their two-edged axe, whose shaft and bow were terrible, passes to the Lord. On May 12th, Eudes steals away to implore further help from the emperor, and as soon as he sees the imperialists on the march returns and hews his way into Paris, to share the terrors of the siege. Henry the Saxon again appears, but is ambushed and slain and his army melts away. Yet again Paris is abandoned by her emperor and seeks help of heaven, for the waters are low, the besiegers are able to get footing on the island, set fire to the gates and attack the walls. The body of St. Genevieve, which had been transferred to the Cite, is borne about, and at night the ghostly figure of St. Germain is seen by the sentinels to pass along the ramparts, sprinkling them with holy water and promising salvation. Charles the Fat, the Lord's anointed, now appears with a multitude of a hundred tongues and encamps on Montmartre, but while the Parisians are preparing to second him in crushing their foes, they learn that the cowardly emperor has bought them off with a bribe and permission to winter in Burgundy. The Parisians, however, refused to give them passage and by an unparalleled feat of engineering they transported their ships overland for two miles and set sail again above the city. Next year, as Gozlin's successor, Bishop Antheric, was sitting at table with Abbot Ebles, a fearful messenger brought news that the acephali[36] were again in sight. Forgetting the repast, the two churchmen seized their weapons, called the city to arms, hastened to the ramparts, and the abbot slew their pilot with a well-aimed shaft. The Normans are terrified, and at length a treaty is made with their leaders, who promised not to ravage the Marne and some even entered Paris. But the ill-disciplined hordes were hard to hold in and bands of brigands, as soon as the ramparts were passed, began to plunder and slew a score of Christian men. The Parisians in their indignation sought out and—Hurrah! cries Abbo—found five hundred Normans in the city and slew them. But the bishop protected those that took refuge in his palace, instead of killing them as he ought to have done—potius concidere debens. For a time Paris had respite; cowardly Charles the Fat was deposed, and in 887 Count Eudes was acclaimed king of France after his return from Aquitaine, whose duke he had brought to subjection. He counselled a gathering of all the peoples outside Paris to make common cause against the Normans, and Abbo saw the proud Franks march in with heads erect, the skilful and polished Aquitaines, the Burgundians too prone to flight. But nought availed: the motley host soon melted away.

[Footnote 35: The tablet has now (1911) disappeared. See p. 313.]

[Footnote 36: Abbo's favourite epithet. They were without a head, for they knew not Christ, the Head of Mankind.]

At the extreme north-east of Paris the Rue du Crimee leads to a group of once barren hills, part of which is now made into the Park of the Buttes Chaumont. Here, by the Mount of the Falcon (Montfaucon[37]) in 892 King Eudes fell upon an army of Northmen, who had come against Paris and utterly routed them. Antheric, the noble pastor, with his virgin-like face, led three hundred footmen into the fight and slew six hundred of the acephali. But Abbo's muse now fails him, for Eudes, noble Eudes, is no more worthy of his office, and Christ's sheep are perishing. Where is the ancient prowess of France? Three vices are working her destruction: pride, the sinful charms of Venus (foeda venustas veneris) and love of sumptuous garments. Her people are arrayed in purple vesture, and wear cloaks of gold; their loins are cinctured with girdles rich with precious stones. Monk Abbo wearies not of singing, but the deeds of noble Eudes are wanting; all the poet craves is another victory to rejoice Heaven; another defeat of the black host of the enemy.

[Footnote 37: In the Middle Ages and down to 1761 Montfaucon had a sinister reputation. There stood the gallows of Paris, a great stone gibbet with its three rows of chains, near the old Barriere du Combat, where the present Rue de la Grange aux Belles abuts on the Boulevard de la Villette.]

Alas! the noble Eudes was now a king with rebellious vassals. Paris was never captured again, but the acephali were devouring the land. The grim spectres of Famine and Plague made a charnel-house of whole regions of France, while Eudes was fighting the Count of Flanders, a rival king, and the ineffectual emperor, Charles the Simple. He it was who after Eudes' death, by the treaty of St. Claire sur Epte in 902, surrendered to the barbarians the fair province, subsequently to be known as Normandy. The new prayer in the Litany, "From the fury of the Northmen, good Lord deliver us," was heard, and the dread name of Rollo vanishes from history to live again in song. Under the title of Robert, assumed from his god-father, he reappears to win a dukedom and a king's daughter; the Normans are broken in to Christianity, law and order; their land becomes one of the most civilized regions of France; the fiercest of church levellers are known as the greatest of church builders in Christendom. They gave their name to a style of Christian architecture in Europe and a line of kings to England,[38] Naples and Sicily.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse