Twenty-one parishes used to send their lepers to this hospital, and those who could not pay their fees were helped to do so from the parish purse. In 1478 each leper was obliged to bring with him (among other things), a bed with its sheets, all his body-linen and towels, his cooking pots and table ware, and various articles of clothing, besides 62 sous 1 denier for the prior, 5 sous for the servants, and three "hanaps" or drinking vessels, one of silver. Evidently all this was not what a poor patient could often afford, and we find, without surprise, the parish St. John objecting to the rule in case of one Perrecte Deshays, who had been sent there by order of the officials, and could not possibly afford the list of necessaries claimed by the prior. So a compromise was made that for all lepers in the twenty-one parishes who could not give what the rules required, a sum of twenty livres from the parish authorities would be accepted as an equivalent. The treasurers of every parish were bound, in the public safety, to report to the proper town official every case of leprosy within their bounds. This official then took medical advice about the sick person, and if the leprosy was certified ordered the sequestration of the invalid. The acts in which these orders were carried out continue very frequent, even in the first half of the sixteenth century, and especially in the parish of Octeville. The leper was conducted to the hospital with exactly the same ceremony as was used for the interment of the dead, and was followed by all the members of the confrerie to which he belonged, and preceded by a mourner ringing a dirge. One of the statutes of a confrerie ordaining this procession has been preserved (Arch. de la Seine Inferieure, G. 5,238):—"Le seroient tenus convoier jusques a sa malladerie le maistre et varlets portans leurs sourplis et capperons vestus a toult la croix et banniere et clochette, et sy luy feroit l'en semblable service comme a ung trespasse en l'eglise ou il seroit demourant en lad. ville et sy seroit led. varlet tenu crier par les carfours comme pour ung trespasse."
[Footnote 21: The complete list has been printed from the archives of Rouen by M. Ch. de Beaurepaire.]
Another of these charitable refuges for lepers was built for Rouen by an English king in 1183 at Petit-Quevilly, outside the town on the south side of the Seine. The Hospital of St. Julien was placed by King Henry II. under the protection of the older Priory of Grammont, which is now a powder magazine. It was called the "Salle aux Pucelles," or "Nobles Lepreuses," because its patients were at first limited to royal or nobles families. In 1366 the "Maladrerie" appears to have outlived its original objects, and was changed into a priory, which retained the old chapel, and seems to have kept up a public hospital of wider scope under the patronage of Charles V. of France. It was then known as the Prieure St. Julien. Later on it got the name of "Chartreux," which still remains, because the besieging army of Henri Quatre wrecked the abbey on St. Catherine's hill, above the town, and the monks came to Quevilly, where the Carthusians had already settled themselves when the English turned them out of the Chartreuse de la Rose, which was the headquarters of our Henry the Fifth during his siege of Rouen early in the fifteenth century. Something of all this changing history is perceived in the names that the traveller sees on his way to the little church to-day. For he can either go there from the Pont Boieldieu in an electric car marked "Place Chartreux," or he may tell his coachman to drive him to the "Chapelle St. Julien, Rue de l'Hospice, Petit-Quevilly." Unless he enjoys hunting on foot for two small gabled roofs and a round apse, hidden away in the corner of some ancient and twisting streets among deserted fields, driving there will be far more satisfactory, and the visit is well worth his while.
The little building, whose very isolation has perhaps helped to preserve it, is now very justly classed among the best of the "Monuments Historiques de France" in Normandy. There is no tower. On the line beneath the roof round apse and nave, the corbels are carved with the heads of hairy Franks and Saxons, according to the tradition of the older Norman architecture at the Church of St. Paul's, which we shall next visit, near the river. Near the western end, on the northern exterior, is a dilapidated Madonna, and an old bricked-up doorway. But it is the inside that will chiefly repay you for your trouble. Through the triple portal of the west entrance, with plain round arches set on slightly carved Norman capitals, you pass at once into the nave. The whole effect is that which can be only given by simple, honest, and good workmanship. The restoration was carried out with a reverential conscientiousness that is far too rare, by M. Guillaume Lecointe, and by him this precious relic of twelfth-century architecture and art was given to the Commune of Petit-Quevilly. A small arcade of engaged colonnettes goes right round the whole church; the larger pillars have carved capitals, and there is the usual conventional Norman moulding on the round arches.
In the apse are four round-headed windows, all slightly smaller than the four in the choir and the six in the nave. In the chancel-arch there are two clustered columns, and also in the nave and apse. The others have plain round shafts. The simple vaulting of the choir and apse is excellently done, and on the roof above the choir you see the frescoes that are the chief treasure of the place, representing scenes from the Annunciation, the Wise Men, the Flight into Egypt, and other Biblical subjects. These paintings are boldly and well executed, and are of the highest interest. Indeed, their workmanship is such, that many antiquaries refused to believe that they were contemporary with the building itself. As if the little chapel had not suffered vicissitudes enough, it was put up to public auction at the Revolution in 1789, and used by its new proprietors as a stable and granary. They were careful to cover the whole of their ceiling with a thick coat of whitewash, and it is only in the last few years that the patriotic work of M. Lecointe has been completed by the careful recovery of these ancient paintings from beneath their bed of whitewash. Even then their value was not fully appreciated, and only when M. LeRoy had submitted certain detached portions to a chemical analysis was it proved that frescoes of the twelfth century had really been preserved.
By this careful observer it has been shown that a couch of sandy mortar was first laid on the stones of the vault, then a second layer, rich in lime, and especially in white of egg, was applied, and the surface was ready for the application of the colours. These are blue, green, yellow ochre, reddish-brown, black, and white. Cobalt blue, or "azure," was only discovered in the sixteenth century by a German glass-maker. The blue used in these paintings is the true "outremer" of the twelfth century, the solid colour made from lapislazuli, which was worth its weight in gold. That it was employed at all, is one more evidence of the munificence of Henry II. in his foundation. The green is a mixture of this blue with the yellow ochre. The white was made of powdered egg shells, and the black is lamp black. From the fact that the colouring matter has in no case penetrated the prepared surface, but adheres to it, we may argue finally that the process in which white of egg is the chief constituent was used to lay on the colours.
Besides the heart of Richard Coeur de Lion, the Cathedral of Rouen contains another relic of the Norman days in the tomb of that Empress Matilda, who as Countess of Anjou, gave Henry Plantagenet to the throne of England, and died in 1167. Her rich sepulchre at Bec was pillaged by the English in 1421, and the restored monument was desecrated in 1793, but in 1846 the original casket was discovered by the fortunate stroke of a pickaxe, and now rests in the Cathedral. In 1124 the shrine containing the body of the famous St. Romain was opened in the presence of the King and Queen of England, and fifty-four years afterwards, as the decorations made for it by Guillaume Bonne Ame had been taken for alms to the poor, Archbishop Rotrou made a new and more magnificent covering for the venerated relics that play so large a part in the story of the town. This new and Norman shrine it must have been which was carried by the two prisoners, delivered by the Privilege of the Fierte in 1194, but it has long ago been replaced by later work.
There is but one more religious monument, the last building I can show you in this chapter, that has remained from these centuries until now. Walk along the riverside eastwards, and as the waters flow from Paris towards you on your right, stop where the chalk cliffs of St. Catherine's Mount begin to slope downwards from the left hand of the road. Just between it and the river is the Church of St. Paul, which stands where the first Christian altar replaced the Temple of Adonis, and watched with St. Gervais and St. Godard the infant town of Rothomagus arise.
It was no doubt at the time when St. Romain himself finally destroyed the Tarasque of idolatry that this first church arose above the ruins of the pagan shrine. But of Roman or Merovingian structures St. Paul can show no trace. It has, however, an extremely interesting early Norman apse, which is different to everything else in Rouen, and older than any other building, save St. Mellon's crypt at St. Gervais. By going round the outside you can see three apses, and as you stand there, the midmost apse is the Norman building, that on your left is of the ninth century, and that on the right of the fourteenth. This Norman flat-buttressed and round-arched apse is directed to the east of summer, while the new church in the same place points to the east of winter, and is almost at right angles to the older one. The corbels outside, beneath the roof, are carved with the hairy-bearded faces of conquered Franks and Saxons, who were thus set up to the perpetual derision of their clean-shaved Norman victors. The idea is as old as the Temple of Agrigentum in 600 B.C., where the conquered Africans hold up the weight of the building, and recalls the barbarity of the primitive Sagas, which relate how the bleeding heads of enemies themselves were placed around the temples of the Norsemen.
The nave goes back into some private property beyond the churchyard, in which a forgotten tomb lies mouldering behind the railings. In the grass to the right of the old apse you can see a pointed arch springing from a capital, which shows how the surrounding soil has risen since the thirteenth century. This old building is all used as the vestry of the new church, through which you must pass to see the interior of the ancient buildings. Once within them, you will find nearest to you the fourteenth-century work of which a fragment showed outside. Then comes the Norman chapel, that recalls the work in the abbey of St. George's de Boscherville. Beyond that again is the ninth-century "Saxon" buildings. The archaic quality of the decoration is very notable in the capital that represents the adoration of the Magi, and indicates the relative importance of the personages by the size in which each is carved, just as is done in the Egyptian sculptures.
With these few relics the tale of Norman architecture in Rouen is finished. From a short survey of this town alone, no one who had never seen Caen or Coutances would imagine that he was in the duchy which possessed a school of architecture that was developed into Notre Dame, on the one hand, in the Ile de France, and into Durham, on the other, in England. In our own island the architecture before the eleventh century, which it supplanted, known as the Anglo-Saxon, was a primitive Romanesque of purely Italian origin, as shown in Bradford-on-Avon Church, which was built by Ealdhelm in Wessex long before the Conquest. This is the only entire building of the earlier style that we have, though the towers of Earl's Barton, of Bywell, of St. Benets in Cambridge, remain to show its affinity to the styles of Italy and Western Europe, and of the Campaniles. Even when the Norman work first appears, it is not without a great deal of that Byzantine element which is expressed by a spreading cupola and a central lantern. But this early Norman building is very rare, and that is why the three churches I have just described in Rouen have a value that is scarcely realised by travellers who are in search for Gothic or Renaissance architecture only. They are somewhat difficult of access too, and little known, but they will repay a visit. They show the form of the Latin cross, with little in its eastern limb besides the apse, the choir beneath the central tower that replaced the Byzantine cupola, and a little vaulting in the aisles. Originally they had a flat ceiling for frescoes. This is a style that was neither that of Southern Italy nor that of Aquitaine. It may have been a distinctively national development of the Lombard schools of Pavia or Milan. But in any case, though purely local at first, it utterly supplanted the Primitive Romanesque that had hitherto been the common possession of Western Europe, just as, in later centuries, the pointed style utterly swept away the round arch in all its forms of expression. And in the coming chapters it is with the pointed arch that we shall have more and more to deal. To Italy, who imitated it helplessly, the Northern Gothic never became even remotely national in its expression. The native Southern Romanesque was there only appropriately replaced by the really Italian style developed in the Roman Renaissance. But in the North, where the early pointed arch had been at first only a memory of Paynim victories, or a trophy of early Saracenic work, the pointed style as a school of architecture was destined to triumph immediately it rose from the position of mere ornament to the necessity of a constructive feature. It was the problem of vaulting over a space that was not square, which gave the pointed arch its reason for absolute existence, its beauty of proved strength and adequate proportion. Some of the noblest forms of its development are to be found in the buildings we shall see later on in Rouen.
A French Town
Lapis de pariete clamabit, et lignum, quod inter juncturas aedificiorum est, respondebit.
If the Norman capital that Philip Augustus added to the royal domain of France was not particularly rich, as I have shown, in architectural beauty, it possessed something more enduring even than stone, more vital than any school of architecture, something also far more precious as an indication of coming prosperity and strength; and this was the beginning of the independence and wealth of the citizens of Rouen, as symbolised by the beginning of their Commune. This spirit of independence, and bold assertion of consecrated privilege, was not limited to the laymen. Perhaps its most unexpected expansion is to be found in that Privilege de St. Romain exercised by the Cathedral Chapterhouse, whose beginning has been already mentioned in the fables of the Church (see pp. 38 to 41). To appreciate the state of things in this connection, which Philip Augustus found in Rouen, you must recall two facts that I stated in earlier pages. They are, first, the institution of the Foire du Pardon by the Conqueror (see p. 69), and, second, the opportunity offered for experiments in independence whether civic or ecclesiastical, by the years of Stephen's anarchy in England, and of Henry Plantagenet's minority in France (see p. 84) between the years 1135 and 1145.
I am enabled to limit the date of the beginning of the Privilege de St. Romain to this particular interval, because a formal inquiry in 1210 established the facts, on sworn testimony, that there had been no objection made to the privilege in the reigns of Richard Coeur de Lion or of Henry II., and the details given of the procession to the Norman castle and the visit of the canons to the dungeons show that the machinery of ceremonial had already advanced to a certain degree of age and elaboration. In the first of these reigns there is indeed definite reference to the fact that no prisoner was released in 1193, because the Lion-hearted Duke was himself a captive; and as a graceful recognition of this courtesy the Chapter were permitted to release two prisoners in 1194 to compensate for the voluntary lapse of one year. This again would show that the privilege was already known and recognised as traditional and proper. We can go still further back in the process of limitation; for Orderic Vital, who died in 1141, describes the first bringing of St. Romain's body to the Cathedral, and says nothing either of the dragon or the privilege; nor, indeed, could the essential part of the ceremony known as the "Levee de la Fierte" have taken place before the jewelled shrine had been made (see p. 98) to hold the sacred relics which the prisoner bore upon his shoulders. Now it is not likely that Henry Plantagenet, when he came into his kingdom in 1145, would have permitted so grave a limitation of the royal prerogative to arise for the first time; and, on the other hand, it is extremely probable that it should arise during the years of his minority, when, as we have seen, experiments in independence were quite the fashion. It is therefore practically certain that the Privilege de St. Romain began soon after 1135, though not so late as 1145.
The year 1210, already mentioned, is the first date on which an actual record exists of the liberated prisoner's name. His crime is not mentioned, though we know that it involved the penalty of death. But the date is important because of the inquiry insisted on by the governor of the Castle, when the Chapter of the Cathedral claimed his release by exercising their famous Privilege. When the dispute was referred to Philip Augustus, who was naturally anxious to conciliate the powerful clergy in his new domains, the chevalier Richard (who was the military protector of the abbey of St. Medard at Soissons), was given to the canons, and in gratitude for this escape from mortal peril, he granted the Cathedral the perpetual rent upon his public mill.
[Footnote 22: "Cum essem in periculo corporis mei in regio carcere apud Rothomagum detentus," he says.]
From this case it is clear that so glaring a renunciation of the incommunicable sovereign rights of life and death could only have been successfully obtained by the regular intercession made to each duke for the release of one prisoner every year; and the origin of that intercession can be explained with perfect probability by the persistent mediaeval custom of the "Mysteries" or Miracle Plays, which came into fashion as soon as the confreries of various trades had been consolidated, just about the time the craft guilds appeared in England, in 1130, a date that fits in very well with the beginning of St. Romain's "privilege." These Mysteries or Miracle Plays were, as has been noticed, often performed in the Parvis of the Cathedral, and their first object was to represent the truths of Scripture to the people in the most intelligible and picturesque way. Ascension Day was one of the festivals of the Church which most especially needed some such educational and popular celebration, to impress upon men's minds how Christ by ascending to His Father to free them from the Devil and from everlasting death, had opened wide the gates of heaven, and taken captivity captive. No more striking significance could have been given to the meaning of the festival than by the public release of a prisoner who had been condemned to death. By slow degrees this release became an annual grace accorded to the Church in its holy office of public instructor.
And it was no new thing to invest with such extraordinary privileges the powerful princes of a church which was the visible representative of Divine Providence on earth. The bishops of Orleans, for instance, possessed even until the last years of Louis XV. the prerogative of pardoning every single criminal in the prisons on the day of their solemn entry into their episcopal see. This, at first sight, appears a wider power than any possessed by a bishop of Rouen, who, on one day in the year, voted as a canon in his Chapterhouse for the release of one prisoner and his accomplices. But the opportunity of the bishops of Orleans came only once in a lifetime, that of the Chapterhouse of Rouen was renewed against all opposition every year for some six centuries, and M. Floquet has discovered a manuscript which proves that the prerogative of pardon was granted in addition, within certain limits, to the bishop by virtue of his office, as it was in 1393, when Guillaume de Vienne entered his diocese in state on a Sunday in September 1393. Yet no historian seems yet to have noticed this most striking fact. How it must have impressed the popular imagination may easily be estimated from the known horrors of the dungeons and "lakes of misery" in which, at Rouen and most mediaeval cities, the criminals were condemned to linger. The "resurrection of the dead" would be no exaggerated description for the act of pardon which released a prisoner from the hideous dens of a twelfth-century jail. Certainly no act could more clearly fix on all men's minds the meaning of a sacred season and the power of the Church.
[Footnote 23: Outside France the Bishop of Geneva is a famous example of this ecclesiastical right of pardon; and even limiting ourselves to French Territory, apart from Orleans, we shall find instances at Laon, at Vendome on the Fete of St. Lazare, at the Petit Chatelet of Paris on Palm Sunday, and at Embrun. But in none of these cases is there either proof or record of so continuous and persistent an exercise of the privilege as is found at Rouen.]
In 1135 the great fete of St. Romain, the most important yet held in Rouen, had been instituted for only about fifty years. Its pardons, its processions, and its fair were still fresh in the popular imagination, and would be very likely to be secured as the chief attraction in the first great "Miracle-Play" that was given under the patronage of the Church at Ascension-tide, for they kept alive the memory of the patron saint of Rouen, who had delivered his city from the Dragon of Idolatry by means of a condemned prisoner. So the idea of the Ascension Mystery became inextricably connected with the great saint of the town, yet the Privilege itself was not exerted on his feast day, the 23rd of October, but on Ascension Day, when the Virgin was also represented as crushing the serpent's head. For two days in the great Ascension Festival the flaming monster was moved before the cross through all the streets of Rouen. On the third day, which was Ascension Day itself, the dragon followed, bound and vanquished, behind it.
So it is that we find this first recorded prisoner, Chevalier Richard, speaking of the "Privilege" as "en l'honneur de la glorieuse Vierge Marie et de Saint Romain." By 1210, therefore, these two holy names had become definitely associated with the "Levee de la Fierte," and the fierte was already raised upon the shoulders of the prisoner to signify the new yoke of the Christian religion which he took upon him in exchange for the sins from whose consequence he had been mercifully delivered. Where Chevalier Richard, in 1210, raised the jewelled shrine of the relics of St. Romain, at the chapel of the old castle of the Dukes of Normandy, on the very same spot did Nicolas Beherie and his wife raise it in 1790, on the last occasion when the "Privilege" was exercised. The custom had continued through the centuries in the place of its origin, though Norman castles had been replaced by the prison of Philip Augustus, though the Baillage had been built, though the Englishmen under Henry V. had taken the town, though the Conciergerie of later reigns existed. The conservatism of the Church had led her thus unconsciously to preserve the secret of the origin of her Privilege from the days when the prisons of the last Norman dukes had been the only appropriate scene for her most striking and gorgeous public ceremony.
[Footnote 24: With this phrase in 1210 compare the words recorded in MS. 69 in the Rouen Library, where the privilege is spoken of as "accorde a la Sainte vierge Marie et au bienheureux Saint Romain," in 1299.]
The little open chapel built upon the same spot now (see p. 37), saw the last deliverance of 1790, and still preserves the name of the "Fierte St. Romain." An excellent and well-proportioned example of the architecture of the sixteenth century, it was used for the first time in 1543, and shows in every detail of its construction and arrangement that it was expressly planned for this especial ceremony. Of the ceremony itself I shall have more to say later on. For the present I must content myself with this necessary explanation of its origin and locality. From the lists of the prisoners I shall very frequently have occasion to take a striking example of the manners of the time, as the tale of the city is gradually unfolded, in which this Privilege de St. Romain is perhaps the most exceptional and striking feature. But it is only by the second half of the fourteenth century that the names are written down with a sufficient regularity to admit of useful reference. During the thirteenth century, at which I have now arrived, there are only three names actually preserved, though the continuation of the Privilege is fully proved by the inevitable quarrels between the ecclesiastical and civil authorities, of which conspicuous examples occur in 1207 and in 1299.
The canons did not shrink from laying the town under an interdict when the lawyers proved recalcitrant, and took every opportunity to enforce the recognition of their permanent right of choosing their prisoner at the season of the year consecrated to the exercise of their peculiar privilege. The same Bailly of Rouen who had objected to this in 1299, found, to his cost, that it was dangerous to repeat his attempts to thwart the ecclesiastics. For when their freedom of choice was again infringed only three years afterwards, the Chapter brought the sacred shrine to the chapel in the Place de la Vieille Tour, and, after explaining what had happened to the people, they left this venerated palladium of the town out in the open square until their privileges had been recognised. For the Thursday of Ascension Day, for the Friday and Saturday following, it remained there guarded by certain of the clergy and by many pious citizens. Each day it was solemnly visited by a procession from the Cathedral, accompanied by a sympathising crowd that daily grew larger and more vehement. By the Sunday morning the Baillage gave in, and the canons released the prisoner with a ceremony that was more than usually impressive after the opposition that had preceded it.
Such quarrels were the more probable just now, because the ecclesiastics were thus tenacious of their "privilege" just when the infant commune was beginning to feel its strength, when commerce was becoming regular, and even a town militia makes its appearance; for the "Compagnie de la Cinquantaine," sometimes called the Arbaletriers, were able to trace back their foundations to 1204, when an inquiry was held and their privileges confirmed more than five hundred and fifty years afterwards. The commune itself was also fully approved by Philip Augustus, who confirmed its possession of certain common lands in the suburbs which had been granted by Duke Richard. By the same date the "bourgeois" or sworn freemen were exercising the free choice of their twelve councillors and twelve aldermen, and sent up to the King from among them three candidates out of whom His Majesty selected the Mayor of Rouen; and this civic constitution lasted until 1320. It was revised by St. Louis, in 1255, and the same king reformed the civic expenditure by establishing the Chambre des Comptes which held its sittings in later centuries in the Renaissance building north-west of the Cathedral. In 1220 the commune obtained from the King for an annual rent of 40 livres, the house and land of the Earl of Leicester close to the Porte Massacre, and the Church of Notre Dame de la Ronde, and there they built the Belfry Tower and the Hotel de Ville, which lasted until 1449 and is still represented by the buildings in the Rue de la Grosse Horloge above the famous archway near the Hotel de Nord.
This fief of the Earl of Leicester was but one of the many acquisitions by which Philip Augustus gradually bought out the feudal barons and made sure of Normandy. Other property of the Montforts, and of William the Marshal are examples. And if the King allowed his burgesses their Hotel de Ville, we may be sure he destroyed the castles of the barons whenever it was possible. Even that ancient fortress of the Dukes of Normandy, called the Tour de Rouen, or the Haute Vieille Tour, he pulled down, destroying their double wall and filling up their triple moat, and erected on the "Place Bouvreuil" the new castle of the kings of France, with its six towers and the donjon keep which still exists, and is called the Tour Jeanne d'Arc. The other buildings only lasted until 1590, though a mill could be seen for almost another century which was still worked by the water that ran from the stream of Gaalor which supplied the well of the castle-keep, and was used later on for many other fountains in the city. By 1250 it had already been led through underground channels to the Rue Massacre, and by 1456 the Fountain of the Town Belfry was established which is now represented by the Fontaine de la Grosse Horloge, built in 1732. The waters themselves come originally from a spring near the foot of the Mont-aux-Malades. In his new castle Philip Augustus ordained the Echiquier de Normandie, as the supreme Tribunal of Justice in the province, whose courts were to lie alternately at Rouen, Caen, and Falaise.
[Footnote 25: M. Paul Meyer, head of the Ecole des Chartes, has, I hear, just discovered a mediaeval poem about this interesting person, called the "Histoire de Guillaume le Marechal." It was in the British Museum, and his edition will be of great interest to British history.]
Soon afterwards the land occupied by the palace of William the Conqueror was nearly all given up to the burgesses for purposes of their trade. They were permitted to extend the buildings to the quays provided they did not intercept traffic on the river. By 1224 the drapers had obtained lands in the forest of Roumare for the proper manufacture of their woollen stuffs, which were always a staple of commerce in Rouen, and they used these "Halles" for the exhibition and sale of their wares. The courtyard must have looked very much as it does to-day, with the addition of cloisters and open shop-fronts. By 1325 commerce had grown there so much that "sales in the dark" had to be forbidden by law. St. Louis granted the extension of the market-halls over the whole ground on which the Norman dukes had built, and established in 1256 the market called "Marche de la Vieille Tour." This king was an especial friend of the Archbishop Odo Rigaud, and both were zealous in the reforms necessary to Church and State. In 1262 the Cathedral gave up to the King certain possessions outside the town in exchange for the public mills of Rouen; and property was further centralised by the royal charter granting these Halles, with the Marche de la Vieille Tour, for an annual rent to the mayor and burgesses of the town, who were also given full rights of possession in the streams of Robec and Aubette. St. Louis also established the right of the citizens to insist on their debtors coming to Rouen itself to adjust their legal difficulties, and further assisted commerce by prohibiting strange merchants from retail trade in the city, and by making all Jews wear a circle of yellow (called rouelle) on back and breast, as a distinctive mark.
The commercial privileges which I have already mentioned (see p. 85) were fully confirmed by Philip Augustus, especially with regard to exports to Ireland, while Louis IX. continued the gradual consolidation of the river trade in the hands of the Rouen merchants. What this involved, may be seen from the case which was brought before the Parliament of Paris in 1272, when the Mayor of Rouen had seized six barrels of wine which a landowner was bringing (as he asserted) from his vineyards to his own house by river. Every quay along the bank was rapidly taken possession of by the merchants, and by 1282 the famous "Clos aux Galees," between the Rue du Vieux Palais and the Rue de Fontenelle, was built in the parish of St. Eloi as a dockyard for purposes of commerce and of war. But not long after this the space appears to have been needed for other purposes, and the real "Clos des Galees" was moved across the river to the other bank at the end of the Empress Bridge, or "Pont de Mathilde." In a charter of 1297, the change is marked by the name, "Neuves-Galees," and this occurs again in 1308. It is remarkable as the first arsenal ever used for artillery in France; for cannon, arms, and powder were all stored here in later times, and here were built the ships that fought in the Hundred Years' War by Charles VI., out of wood from the forests of Roumare. Just before the great siege by the English in 1418 the citizens destroyed it, but the name remained in the hostelry called the "Enseigne de la Galere." Then the "Grenier a sel" and the "Hotel des Gabelles" were built on the same spot; and finally you can only imagine very vaguely where the first dockyards of Rouen were when you look now at the Caserne St. Sever.
In tracing out the changes that have come in each century to the aspect of the town, it is not often we shall find a locality so persistent in its character as the Place de la Haute et Basse Vieille Tour, when once its military strength had been changed into commercial convenience. The older castle, originally built more to the north-west by Rollo, between the Church of St. Pierre du Chastel and the Rue des Charrettes, had long ago absolutely disappeared, and its place was taken by a Franciscan convent, given to the brethren in 1248 by Archbishop Rigaud, who had been originally a monk of the Order; and the ruins of their building may be seen in the street which, as Rue des Cordeliers, still preserves their name. Another change that is still recorded in the nomenclature of the streets took place when Louis VIII. allowed the inhabitants to build gardens and almshouses in what had once been the moat of the old town walls. This you may trace in the name of the Rue des Fosses Louis VIII., formerly the Rue de l'Aumone. In the same way the Rue des Carmes preserves the fact that the Carmelite monks brought by St. Louis from the Holy Land, migrated to the street that bears their name in 1336, and remained there for a very long time.
But everything did not go smoothly in the streets of Rouen while these pacific changes were in progress. In 1213 the town was filled with the levy of counts, barons, and knights, with all their men-at-arms, whom Philip was collecting to attack the King of England; and in 1250 a far more disorderly and plebeian assembly gathered under the leadership of Andre de St. Leonard to express in the practical form of riot and pillage their disapprobation of the ten per cent. exacted by the Church for grinding corn in the ecclesiastical mills. Near the Pont de Robec and the Rue du Pere Adam flour and wheat were forcibly stolen, but Archbishop Odo Rigaud soon asserted his authority, by fining the ringleader 100 marks of silver, equivalent to about L2000 sterling, and the dissatisfaction ceased. In the next year a rising, that had some slight degree of religious colour in it, gave a good deal of trouble, not to Rouen only, but to the rest of France. Bands of peasants, styling themselves "Pastoureaux," asserted their indignation at the captivity of King Louis IX. by chasing the archbishop out of his cathedral. From the fact that they had been joined, not merely by all the lazy ruffians of the neighbourhood, but by some burgesses, and even by certain municipal office-holders, we may infer that the privileges or prerogatives of the Church were once more the real objects of the dispute. Though the ecclesiastics were as usual strong enough to exact a public apology and absolution from the mayor and his councillors, the strange frenzy spread to the Provinces; men averred that the Holy Virgin and her angels had appeared to urge them to release St. Louis, and it was necessary for Queen Blanche herself to intervene before the trouble was stopped in Paris and many parts of France.
This widespread affection felt for St. Louis may, perhaps, be explained not only by his personality, but by the fact that he was always moving from one part of his dominions to another, in spite of the obvious inconveniences of mediaeval travel. I have already noticed some of the things he did for Rouen on his various visits. But such pilgrimages as that of 1255 to Adam Bacon, the solitary abbot of St. Catherine, cannot have failed to increase his local reputation. He celebrated Christmas here in 1264, after another short visit previously on his way from Pont de l'Arche to Bec, and in 1269 he came again from Port-Audemer. On every such occasion he prayed in the churches and left offerings suitable to his rank; he ate in the refectories with the monks, he dispensed alms to the poor, and gave money or its equivalent to the hospitals. His charity was, indeed, extraordinary, for Queen Margaret's Confessor has related that he not only fed the hungry at his every meal, but went round the beds in the sick houses, smoothing the pillows of the sufferers, speaking to them, and trying to supply their wants.
It was when King Louis came with his mother, Blanche of Castile, to keep the Christmas of 1255 at Rouen, that the greater part of the choir, transept, and nave of the Cathedral as we see it now was finished. The monastical developments of previous centuries had done their work; the power of the great abbots and priors, which raised them into feudal dignitaries, with large wealth and wide possessions, had reached its limit. The rise of the communes in every town, and the passion for civic liberty which accompanied them and gave them birth, as we have traced it in Rouen, was taken advantage of by the archbishops in those fruitful years which lay between 1180 and 1240. The royal power, personified here by Philip Augustus, was as much concerned as the burgesses in the diminution of feudality. Even the great secular nobles were not averse to encouraging a movement that appeared to counteract the importance of their most dangerous ecclesiastical rivals. So that religious and political motives came together, just at this one momentous period, to produce an enthusiasm for building which has never been equalled before or since. The gradual development of the sacred edifice from the crypt, like that catacomb of St. Gervais, through the form of the Roman basilica, with its simple nave and round apse, to the new developments of choir and chapels, introduced by Suger, had not proceeded without leaving on the finished product—which has been called Gothic—the traces of its growth. And this is one reason why, until the fourteenth century at least, the Cathedral retained the mingled characteristics of a building that was both civil and ecclesiastical, that was used both for the divine offices and for political, even military assemblies.
In what I shall have to say of the architecture called Gothic, I would not have it thought that I exclude the praise of beauty from every other form of building, for there are Renaissance buildings, for instance, in Rouen alone that would contradict such barren dogmatism at the outset. The reserve and the harmonious proportion of the Cour des Comptes have a value of their own quite independent of the Gothic unrestraint and revelry of carving in the Portail des Libraires. But I cannot conceal my preference for one form of beauty over another, my delight in the most organic form of art the world has ever seen, the true "master art" of Gothic, as opposed to that "looking backward" which was the Renaissance, to that defiance of the rule of progress which bade men advance to different developments of organic living forms in every single branch of life, except in the greatest art of all. The Middle Ages had inherited a direct succession of harmonious forms, one rising out of another until the perfection was attained. Then came the Black Death, and the no less fatal scourges of Commercialism and Bureaucracy. Men's thoughts apparently became so riveted upon the grave that they must go back to the art of the dead Romans and the formalism of classical examples to keep breath in their bones at all. And even so, they informed the skeleton with a new life. In such new creations of the aged spirit as the French Renaissance Chateaux of Touraine, or Rouen's Hotel Bourgtheroulde, they showed what vigour there was left, if only it had been permitted to remain original. Nor is there any hope of betterment in architecture, or any art, to-day, until something of the spirit has come back to us which made each citizen proud of the house he lived in, or of the House of God he helped to build, until the love of workmanship that built the old cathedrals has returned.
[Footnote 26: In the matter of this word "Gothic," I am of the opinion of Renan, who writes: "En Allemagne jusqu'au quatorzieme siecle ce style s'appela 'opus Francigenum,' et c'est la le nom qu'il aurait du garder." If it is too much to expect of future writers that they will give up the phrase, let them at least follow the advice of Mr Moore and limit "Gothic" to the French pointed school of the Ile de France. Our own architecture has already received quite enough additional labels to prevent confusion.]
Through those doors, which were shut sternly in the face of princes under the Church's ban, the poor man gladly passed from the hovel that was his home. Out of the dark twisting streets whose crowded houses pressed even against the walls of the Cathedral, the humblest citizen might turn towards the beauty of a building greater and more wonderful than any that his feudal lord could boast. He found there not merely the sanctuary, not merely the shrine of all that was holiest in history or in creed, but the epitome of his own life, the handicrafts of his various guilds, as at Rouen, the tale of all his humblest occupations, the mockery of his neighbours' foibles, the lessons of the horror of sin. For before the end of the thirteenth century, the handicraftsmen, associated into such guilds as we have seen in Rouen, had not only won their freedom from arbitrary oppression, but had secured so large a share in the government of the towns, that within the next fifty years, the heads of the communes were nearly always the delegates from the craft-guilds. The zenith of Gothic architecture coincided with this period of their triumph; its bright, and glittering, and joyful art spread all over the intelligent world, and more especially in France; it was not contented with merely architectural forms in colourless cathedrals, but decorated them with carvings painted in gay colours, used every space for pictures, drew upon all literature for its materials. In Dante, Chaucer, and Petrarch, in the German Niebelungenlied, in the French romances, in the Icelandic Sagas, in Froissart and the chroniclers, you may find the same spirit; and each town smote its own epic into stone upon the walls of its cathedral. Every village, even, had its painter, its carvers, its actors; the cathedrals that have remained are but the standard from which we may imagine the loving perfection to which every form of craftsman's art was carried. And their work gives us such pleasure now because they had such intense pleasure in doing the work themselves.
For the masons had gone to their new task with a will. Freed from the thick and shadowy archways piled upon heavy piers, which had obscured the old priestly and dogmatic Romanesque, the builders of the new cathedral revelled in the new found Gothic of the people, and raised their soaring arches to the sky, and crowned their pinnacles with wreaths that flamed into the clouds. And upon every inch of wall they wrote and wrought upon the living stone, "magistri de vivis lapidibus," until every detail of the world of worshippers was gathered up and sanctified by this expression of its new found meaning, as a part of the mystery and the beauty of holiness.
It is significant of the democratic nature of this architectural outburst, that the first communes signalised their liberty by the earliest cathedrals, at Noyon, Soissons, Laon, Reims, Amiens, in the capital of France, and in the capital of Normandy. It was early in this same century (1203) that Normandy became part of the crown domain together with Maine, Anjou, Touraine, Poitou, and Limousin. Before the century was done, Languedoc, the County of Toulouse, part of Auvergne, and Champagne were also included in the royal domain. More than this, the Head of the Church himself had come in 1309 to live in Avignon, and this movement had, no doubt, its effect upon religious sentiment in the nation to whose charge St. Peter's representative committed himself; for religion had of course the greatest part in a movement that could never have been so widespread and so creative without its powerful motives; but, even in spite of the immense impulse given by the crusades, religion would never have got its opportunity at all, if "politics" had not at the very moment been ripe for contemporaneous expansion, if the people and the King had not simultaneously been ready to give expression to a movement in which liberty and unity were the greatest factors. Thus it is that the cathedrals are the first visible basis of that French nationality into which the scattered provinces of Gaul had expanded, the first germ of that creative genius of French art which has not yet lost its right of place in Europe, the first clear record of the national intellect. And the people were not slow to recognise the meaning of the carvings that were placed where all who ran might read, placed there by men of like passions with themselves, copied often so directly from themselves, that the cathedrals may be regarded as the great record of the ancestry of the common people. The emblazoned tomb, or the herald's parchment, might fitly chronicle the proud descent of the solitary feudal lord; but the brothers and kinsmen of his dependents were carved in their habits as they lived upon the church's walls, and there they work at their appointed tasks, and laugh at their superiors, unto this day. So the people filled their church with throngs of worshippers, with merry-making crowds, with vast audiences of the great mediaeval Mystery Plays, with riotous assemblages sometimes not too decent, whose rough humour has been preserved for us in the thousand grotesque carvings of the time.
I have been at this length in explaining the building of the cathedrals, because it would be impossible for you, without some such suggestion of their origin, to realise the meaning of the carvings which cover the great north and south porches of the transept at Rouen. I choose them first out of the mass of detail and construction in this enormous and heterogeneous building, because they are most typical of the feeling which gave it birth, and of the craftsmen who worked upon it. It is well-nigh impossible to attempt any explanation of the many styles, from the twelfth century to the sixteenth, which are commingled, superimposed even, without any feeling in the mind of the architect, for the time being, except that of the imperious need for self-expression, regardless of the fashions of his predecessor. In the great western facade this mingling of the styles is most observable. The angle towers are absolutely unlike, the arches are broken, the pinnacles are smashed short off, niches are mutilated, and arabesques are worn away, yet in the healing rays of moonlight, the whole composes into a mysterious beauty of its own that will not bear the strict analysis of glaring day.
But the Portail aux Libraires which Jean Davi, the architect of the Chapelle de la Vierge, built for Archbishop Guillaume de Flavacourt in 1278, will bear microscopic examination in every part, and the reverently careful restorations carried out some time ago by MM. Desmarest and Barthelemy have only brought to light the exquisite perfection of the original work. This gate to the northern transept got its name from the special trade which gradually was connected with that portion of the Cathedral bounds. I have already noticed how the Parvis was filled with various shops and booths, and this space before the northern gate was similarly appropriated by booksellers until at least some time after the sixteenth century was over. What I have to say now is connected with the actual portal itself. The forecourt once filled with bookstalls, that leads up to it, was only decorated in 1480 by Guillaume Pontifz, who also erected the fine screen that opens into it from the Rue St. Romain. On the east side of this court you may see St. Genevieve standing with a Bible in her left hand, and a candle in her right. Upon one shoulder a tiny angel tries to kindle the light, while on the other a wicked little devil with a pair of bellows is perched ready to blow it out again. The panel decoration upon the buttresses of this north door has been selected by Mr Ruskin as the high-water mark of Gothic tracery before its decline began. It takes the form of blind windows carved upon the solid stone, and is certainly an exquisite example of varied, yet severe proportion and arrangement. Its plan expresses the true qualities of the material with a right regard for mass in decoration, rather than for line, the fatal change which wrought so much damage after the earlier ruling principle had been given up.
This same acute observer, blessed with more leisure time than I have ever had in Rouen or elsewhere, was able to make certain remarks on the detailed carvings of the door itself, which must be at least suggested in any other description. My own count of the separate carvings does not agree with that made by Mr Ruskin, and in a mere matter of mathematics I may be bold enough to differ publicly, where agreement is so inevitable with the main thesis of his argument. Some idea may be obtained of the work expended on this one portion of the Cathedral alone, when I say that in the centre of the door is a square pedestal, on each of whose four sides are five medallions vertically arranged. Within the great encompassing arch, on each side, is a cluster of three more square pedestals similarly decorated. The arch itself has seventeen medallions upon each pillar, the top five on each side being cut in half by a moulding. Beyond the arch to right and left are two other pedestals with the same five ornaments on their two faces. Thus, if you count the smaller pillars only, there are twenty-four rows of five, or 120 medallions, and adding those on the arch, you get a total of 154. Even this is not all; for on each medallion or panel its separate bas-relief is contained within a quatrefoil. None of their arcs are semi-circles, and none of their basic figures are squares, for each panel is slightly varied in size from its neighbours. The result is that intervals of various shapes are left at each of the four angles of every quatrefoil, and into each interval is fitted a different animal, which gives the astonishing result of 596 minor carvings in this one doorway, all of them representing living things, and all of them subsidiary to the larger subjects which they frame. If you measure these tiny sculptures you will find the base of the curved triangle they adorn to average about four inches long, its height being just half that distance. When you look closer at those which are least worn away you will find them clearly enough carved to represent unmistakably in one instance the peculiar reverted eye of a dog gnawing something in jest, and ready to run away with it; in another, the wrinkled skin that is pressed over a cheekbone by an angry fist; in a third, the growth of wing and scale upon a lizard.
Think of the life and energy that were pulsing through the brain of the craftsman who could so fill the surface of the stone. Think of the time that he was ready to give up to patient chiselling at this one task till it was perfect to his mind. And then consider more closely the quatrefoils, small in themselves, which are yet far larger than the details which surround them. The best known is one that has suffered terribly in the wear and tear of nearly six centuries. It is the famous bas-relief of the hooded pig playing on a violin, a motive which recurs at Winchester and in York Minster. Its fingers are placed so accurately upon the bow that the method of playing has formed a type of late twelfth-century style in all collections of musical antiquities. The Minstrel's Gallery in Exeter Cathedral may profitably be compared with it. This accuracy of execution in an essential detail shows the patient copying from life which accompanied—and indeed was necessary to—the vivid imagination that could create so many non-existent monsters. For among all these grotesque chimeras and fantastic mixtures of the animal and human element you will notice the creative faculty in its strongest development. These strange beasts, half man and half a goat, part woman and part fish, have each of them a reality of individual life, a possibility of visualised construction, that is marvellous in its appeal to the spectator. Another violin player appears upon this same door, this time with a human head set on the body of a beast, and beside it some small animal dances to the tune.
The mediaeval carver was no mystic symbolist. But he felt so much and so vividly that when two strongly opposed ideas came into his head at once he had to express himself by throwing them together into one newly-forged creation of a woman-ape, or a dog-man. He had besides his own thoughts all that strange gallery to draw from, of sirens, harpies, centaurs, which a dying mythology bequeathed. You may trace most of the Metamorphoses of Ovid on the walls of the cathedrals. Then there were the queer bestiaries of his own doctors, the early Mandevilles, the Presterjohns of the twelfth century, the Munchausens of all time. From these he inherited the Sciopod upon the door of Sens, the cynoscephalae, and "men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders." He lived, too, in an age far more pictorial, far more given to the living allegory, than any centuries to which the cold print of a book alone appealed. Architecture, as he knew it, ceased when printing became cheap. But in his days the Bible of the people, the encyclopaedia of the poor, the general guide to heavenly or terrestrial knowledge of the mass of worshippers, was what they saw in the Mystery Plays, or what was carved for them (often inspired from the same dramatic source) upon the walls of their cathedrals. When he had tried all these, there remained the thousand simple incidents of daily life, such as the mother welcoming her child which is on this Portail des Libraires and was copied from it (as is the case in six other instances) in the misericordes of the choir in 1467, or the man who steals clothes from the line as Falstaff's ragged regiment did (a ruffian who is no doubt commemorated also in the name of Rue Tirelinceuil at Rouen), or the burglar walking off with a chest upon the southern transept, while the owner soundly kicks him and tries to take it back.
This southern door is called the Portail de la Calende from the confrerie of that name, but the derivation is rather uncertain, and some authorities consider it refers to certain ecclesiastical assemblies, distinct from the synod, which were held four times a year in this part of the Cathedral. The plan of the quatrefoils is much the same as that of the "Libraires." Within the tall embracing arch it is indeed identical, but upon the arch itself fourteen panels are set on each side, and outside it are no less than three double clusters both to right and left, which increases the total of panels to 227. In this enormous number, I have already mentioned one; but perhaps the best known is that which illustrates a very popular mediaeval legend, the "Lai d'Aristote," which also recurs in the misereres of the choir. It suggests the eternal supremacy of woman over man, even the wisest, by representing the typical philosopher of the middle ages saddled and bridled by a gay lady of Alexander's court, who sits upon his back and whips him heartily. This is rather difficult to see, as it is high up on a buttress beneath a statue at the side of the Rue des Bonnetiers. From mythology you will find here countless sirens, some playing instruments before their victims, others, like the mermaid of the fable, admiring themselves in mirrors and waving a seductive comb. There is also yet another violin player, with his back towards you, playing to a dancer who is posturing head downwards on his hands, like the daughter of Herodias upon the west facade.
I have already given the name of one of the master-masons who were associated with this great pile of buildings, where the sound of chisel and mallet can have scarcely ever ceased from the twelfth century to the sixteenth. But Jean Davi's work was necessarily one of the last finishing touches upon a building that others had reared in the mass for him to decorate in detail. The various churches that had been consecrated on the same spot have been recorded in their turn, from the first primitive shrine of St. Mellon, in the fourth century, to that greater fane seen by the Conqueror, which was almost entirely burnt in 1200. The lower part of the Tour St. Romain is certainly a part of the cathedral St. Maurilius consecrated. To say exactly when the work of reconstruction was begun which St. Louis saw completed has puzzled antiquarians far more diligent and learned than I am. But M. Viollet le Duc has pointed to unmistakable signs of work earlier than the rest in the two circular chapels of the apse, in the chapels of the transept, and in the two side-doors of the western facade, which open to the aisles. M. de Beaurepaire has also demonstrated, from a close study of the Chapterhouse accounts, that when Richard de Malpalu was dean in 1200, one Jean d'Andeli is spoken of as "Cementario, tunc magistro fabrice ecclesiae rothomagensis." He was also a relation of one of the canons. The Chronique du Bec gives the credit of initiating the design to Ingelramus, or Enguerrand, from 1200 to 1214; but this does not contradict the possibility of partners in the work, and that the choir at any rate was done before the Norman influence was much affected by the Ile de France, may be seen at once in the fourteen tall and strong round pillars with their simple capitals and massive round arches, which produce a very fine effect of pure solidity amongst the lighter pointed work surrounding them. After Enguerrand came "Durand le Machon," who dwelt in the same house that Jean d'Andeli had held on lease, and after him, again, the name of Gautier de St. Hilaire occurs before that of Jean Davi towards the end of the thirteenth century.
The period of the first coming of Philip Augustus in the ten years after 1210 is strongly marked by the influence of the Ile de France, and by the French Gothic work of Suger, which at first swept out of its path every other style with which it came in contact. But by degrees the Norman transition re-asserts itself, and the northern pointed work made its appearance, whose history is completed in England, and is a different school from the Gothic on the French side of the Channel. But every century and every style seems to have had its say and left its mark upon the fabric of Rouen. After the thirteenth century had built choir and transepts and a great part of the nave, and before its close had begun the decoration of the magnificent side portals, and the refinement of the Lady Chapel, the first thing the fifteenth century did was to enlarge the windows of the choir after its own manner, and widen the windows of the nave as well. The only names we find in the fourteenth century are that of the architect of a rose window in the nave and a tomb of Charles V., which have both disappeared, and that of Jean de Bayeux, the builder of the civic belfry tower at the Hotel de Ville. But the perpetrator of the enlarged choir windows was Jehan Salvart, who worked for Henry V. during the English occupation, and is forgiven much, because he was with Le Roux at the finishing of the exquisite church of St. Maclou. The glass was put in by Jean Senlis.
I may as well complete the tale of architects now that I have begun it, though the detail of their work is fitter given in the order of its making, later on. But it is so rare that these master-masons have left any traces of themselves at all, that I may perhaps be pardoned for giving the full list that is hardly possible in any other great cathedral in the world. Jean Roussel succeeded to his father of Bayeux in 1430, to be followed in 1452 by Geoffroi Richier for eleven years. Guillaume Pontifz was perhaps the greatest contributor of any of these later men. In the thirty-four years of his office, the stalls of the choir, representing the various crafts, were carved by several workmen, whose names will be given later, at the cost of nearly 7000 livres, borne by the Cardinal d'Estouteville, the Portail de la Calende was completed, a new top placed upon the Tour St. Romain, a frigid and unpleasing staircase built in the north transept to lead up to the canon's library, and the courtyard, with its entrance screen placed in the Rue St. Romain before the Portail des Libraires. He also began the Tour de Beurre, but left it to be finished by Jacques Le Roux, who had done so much for St. Maclou, but died a poor man in 1500, and was buried beneath the organ. Within the part of this tower that he built was hung the great bell "Georges d'Amboise," the biggest outside Russia, which shared with "Rouvel" the affection of the citizens, which rejoiced the heart of Francis the First, and cracked with grief in 1786 at being called upon to ring for Louis XVI. It was his nephew, Rouland Leroux, whose help was called in when the canons desired to embellish their west facade and have a finer central door. This work was begun in 1508 with the money of Georges d'Amboise, and Pierre Desaubeaulx did the central tympanum. Jean Theroulde, Pierre Dalix, another Leroux, Nicolas Quesnel, Hance de Bony, and Denis Lerebours worked at the statuettes. A screen of open work (carrying the clock) was raised in front of the rose window, and four turrets were added, of which but one remains. So Rouland Leroux finished his contract in 1527, having left for himself a greater fame in the masonry of the central tower, whose base he rebuilt after the old stone spire had been destroyed by fire, and especially in the tomb of Cardinal d'Amboise, than ever he will gain by the patchwork of the west facade. What he could do with a free hand and his own designs to begin with, may be imagined from the fact that he built the Bureau des Finances on the opposite side of the Parvis and laid the first plans for the Palais de Justice. No wonder that he worked at Havre, at Beauvais, and at Angers, as well as in his native town.
I shall hardly be blamed, I think, if among the full tones of a praise that must become monotonous, a single note of regretful misunderstanding cannot remain quite unheard; and I must confess that in this western front so many unfinished and supervening designs occur that I find myself unable to imagine the meaning of its builders. Considering, first of all, the arrangement of its detail, I find elaborate flower-mouldings and renaissance-work placed so high up that they can barely be distinguished as anything save light and shade, whereas upon the Portail des Libraires all such delicate work ceases at about 9 feet high, and the upper carving is done boldly in broad, simple masses for an effect of distance. But if this is bad flamboyant work, the central gate itself is purer, and perhaps among the finest examples existing of the flamboyant style. There are four strings of niches round this porch from the ground to the top of the arch, each holding two figures; every detail in them and about them is worked with the most elaborate and tender patience, full of imaginative carvings, trellised with leaves and blossoms deep wrought in the stone. At this part of the western front and at the northern side-door I could never tire of looking. But the whole facade I had to give up in despair, save when the moonlight softened it into a tracery of lacework climbing to the sky, as delicate as the pattern of white spray upon a rising wave.
The masonry upon the central tower I have already mentioned. In 1544 it was crowned, by Robert Becquet, with a light spire of wood, 132 metres in height, that was burnt by the lightning in 1821. The new cast-iron erection, with which it has been replaced, may best be described as possessing half the height of the Eiffel Tower with none of the excuses for the Colonne de Juillet, of which M. Alavoine, its architect, was also the designer. For the present I need only add that both the western towers could actually be placed, all but their last two metres, inside the nave of Beauvais. The nave of Rouen is but 28 metres high, and 136 in length, from the Portail to the apse of the Chapelle de la Vierge; and as a matter of possible proportion it is interesting to note that the old spire could just have lain down inside it. At first it had no chapels, but these were built later on between the buttresses, as was done at Notre Dame in Paris. The transept measures 50 metres in breadth, which is just the height of the great lantern above it, that is beneath the central tower.
[Footnote 27: In 1897 two men were still alive who saw it burn, and all the gargoyles vomiting molten lead; they were M. Noel the Librarian, and le pere Pepin, janitor of the Town Belfry.]
From here, as from the heart of Normandy, flowed the life blood of Rouen through her arteries of traffic clustering round the great Cathedral. Within its walls the noblest of her dead are gathered, returning to the central shrine that gave them birth and being. With the completion of the first main bulk of its design the story of the town that built it is brought to a definite point of development. I shall no longer be obliged to go even as deeply as I have hitherto felt necessary into the details of the civic history, for Rouen is henceforth a part of France, and the seal of her nationality is stamped large upon her. Till now, she has been slowly growing out of the mists of aboriginal antiquity, through Merovingian bloodshed, to become the pirate's stronghold, and then the capital of the Northmen's Duchy. When she had fulfilled her mission by carrying French arts and Norman strength into the English kingdom, she lost a little of that individuality of character which I have traced through former pages, just as a mother loses the first bloom of her girlhood when her son is born. Though Rouen once more passed for some years into the possession of an English king, the days of her captivity—with its culminating shame—are as little agreeable for us to hear, as for her citizens to remember, and Englishmen will no longer take that vital interest in her each year's growth, with which a grandson reads the memoirs of his forefather.
So I have somewhat altered the plan of the next chapters in accordance with what I suspect to be the sympathies of those who have done me the honour to follow me thus far.
If you are content to let me guide you further among the many buildings, whose very origin I have not yet had time to trace, you will find that to nearly every one of them may be attached some brilliant episode that stands out in a century, or some overshadowing personage whose life-story dominates a generation of his fellow-citizens. So that, as we visit these old walls together, they shall speak to us in no uncertain voice, of the lives of those who built them, and of the progress of the town. Until now, there have been but few buildings to which I could point as the visible witnesses of my written word. So that my story has had to proceed but slowly on its way, without the illustration which your eyes in Rouen streets could give it, making a gradual ground-work of which there are hardly any traces left. But with the building of the Cathedral I have reached a point where the tale of civic, or religious, or private houses that are still to be seen, is the tale of Rouen, told on pages well-nigh imperishable. These mile-stones on our road henceforth become so frequent, that in passing from one to the other, I shall have hardly any need to fill the gaps in a history that is at once more modern, and more easily understood. And as we left off with the highest expression of religious fervour, the Cathedral, we may well pass on, for the sake of contrast, to the most visible sign of purely municipal development, the belfry of the old Hotel de Ville, the famous buildings of the Rue de la Grosse Horloge.
La Rue de la Grosse Horloge
Une rue delicieuse ou le monde se pourmene, ou tousiours il y ha du vent, de l'umbre et du soleil, de la pluye et de l'amour. Ha! Ha! riez doncques, allez-y doncques! c'est une rue tousiours neufve, tousiours royale, tousiours imperiale, une rue patrioticque, une rue a deux trottoirs, une rue ouverte des deux bouts ... brief, c'est la royne des rues, tousiours entre la terre et le ciel, une rue a fontaine, une rue a laquelle rien ne manque pour estre celebree parmi les rues.
The cluster of old buildings which are beneath the shadow of the belfry are perhaps better known to strangers than any other piece of architecture in the town. It is the focal point of Rouen, the centre of its civic life, and if you are fortunate enough to live quite close to it, as I did, you will find yourself in the best place for starting on nearly every expedition that your fancy may dictate. The Rue de la Grosse Horloge itself is one of those memorable thoroughfares of which nearly every old French town possesses at least one fascinating example, the kind of street that, in his "Contes Drolatiques," Balzac has so admirably described in making mention of the Rue Royale at Tours. A glance at even the few streets marked upon Map B will show its structural importance in the economy of the town. For the Cathedral has stood in different forms upon the same spot since the fifth century, and this street starts from immediately opposite its western gate. In the earliest days it was stopped at the other end by the gate through which the Roman road passed, across the Vieux Marche, towards Caletum (Lillebonne). In later times the Porte Massacre was built there, which takes its name, not from the wholesale murder of the Jews in the adjoining quarter, but from the butchers who congregated close by in the Rue Massacre, or Rue des Machecriers (Wace's word for a butcher), which is called the Rue de la Boucherie-de-Massacre in a title-deed of 1454.
[Footnote 28: In venturing to suggest a few such expeditions in my appendix, I have found it convenient to assume that even if my reader were not a guest in the Hotel du Nord, he would invariably come to the archway of the Grosse Horloge to meditate on the programme for the day.]
The Place du Vieux Marche is a spot almost as historic in its way as the Parvis of the Cathedral, so that there is interest at both ends of the Rue de la Grosse Horloge. Its most terrible memory is the burning of Jeanne d'Arc, which (as I shall show from Lelieur's plan in a later chapter) took place at the angle of the modern halls, and close to the cemetery of the vanished church of St. Sauveur, on the same spot in the Vieux Marche used since the earliest history of Rouen as one of the many places of public execution. The Rue de la Grosse Horloge has also been called the Grande Rue, and several other names which need not be recorded here; for both by geographical position and in its own right it has always claimed a large share in the interest of the citizens of Rouen. Much of its once beautiful architecture has vanished altogether. The church of St. Herbland, for instance, once stood at its eastern extremity, opposite the Cathedral. But of the Gothic work of 1483 not a stone is to be seen. The stained glass windows were bought by a traveller in 1802, and by him taken to England, after the Revolution had suppressed the Church.
[Footnote 29: Their affection was not always grammatical, as may be seen from the old title "Rue du Gros Horloge" on the corner of the street to-day.]
A somewhat better fate has awaited the exquisite example of French Renaissance architecture which used to be at No. 129. Of this very remarkable house, known for uncertain reasons as the Maison de Diane de Poitiers, and certainly worthy of any court beauty of the time, the facade has been carefully preserved in the little square behind the Tour St. Andre in the Rue Jeanne d'Arc. As the upper storeys project over the road, it must have been built before 1520, the date after which such overhanging constructions were forbidden. Every inch of the wooden surface is covered with delicate arabesques and figures. The proportions of the various storeys are admirably indicated, and the wall-openings grow smaller as they rise, until the whole is crowned with an equilateral triangle, in which a round-headed arch on square pilasters fills the central space. A round medallion with a bust is placed on each side of the second storey windows, and the floors are boldly indicated by deep lines of shadowed carving. The house, of which nothing but this marvellous facade remains, was originally called by the sign of the Cock, and is known to have belonged on the 30th May 1525, to Jean Le Roy, who appears in the parish lists of 1471 as a draper. His son Noel married another of the bourgeoisie, one Marion Ribault; and from her possession until the town bought it from the Hospital, which held it last, the line of title-deeds is unbroken; the important point to notice being that it was built not by a noble, but by a tradesman.
[Footnote 30: There is a charming picture by Bonington, who was particularly attracted by Rouen, of "Le Gros Horloge," showing this house still in its old place in the famous street.]
But it is the Grosse Horloge itself that is the jewel of the street. As you look at it from the west you can see constructions built in the Middle Ages, in the Renaissance, in the reign of Henri Quatre, and in the days of Louis Quinze. The Belfry Tower, or Campanile, is, as is fitting to its ancient history, the oldest building of them all. There was a tower here from the earliest days when Rouen had a civic history at all, a "Ban-cloque" to call her citizens together, which is mentioned in the city charters as a symbol of her freedom. First hung here in 1150, the old bell first saved the town in 1174 during the siege by Louis VII. In the next century the bell was recast with the following inscription:—IE SUIS NOMME ROUVEL ROGIER LE FERON ME FIST FERE JEHAN DAMIENS ME FIST. This is not without significance, for though the King had given the ground for the new Hotel de Ville, it was only the Mayor, Le Feron, who in 1258 had a right to order the communal bell which called the citizens to their orderly municipal meetings, or summoned them to revolt against oppression. On the larger bell, originally used as the curfew, are the words:—IE SUIS NOMME CACHE RIBAUT MARTIN PIGACHE ME FIST FERE NICOLE FESSART ME FIST AMENDER JEHAN DAMIENS ME FIST. Pigache was Mayor in 1254, and Fessart in 1261.
In February 1381 Rouvel rang for the famous revolt of the "Harelle," and went on ringing the whole time the town was "up." So when young Charles VI. entered angrily by a breach in the Porte Martainville, its treasonable clamour was silenced for some time. For this most blatant of the privileges of the commune was actually taken away altogether. Nor when he pardoned rebellious Rouen could the King be persuaded to give back the bell or allow the belfry he had ruined to be set up. So the citizens humbly besought him that they might "faire une auloge et la fere asseoir ou estoit le Beffroi de la dicte ville," and when King and Bailli had agreed, they craftily built a tower for their "horloge" just like the lost and beloved belfry on the old foundations, and you may read on the bronze plate upon the southern side how this was done when Guillaume de Bellengues was captain of the town, and Jehan la Thuille was bailli for the King. Jehan le Bayeux took nine years to build it as it is shown in Jacques Lelieur's manuscript of 1525.
Begun by Jourdain Delestre, the clock was finished by Jehan de Felanis, began to go in September 1389 with two small bells to mark the quarters, and was mounted on its proper platform in 1396. The King's charter of 1389 had made special and approving mention of the virtuous Cache-Ribaut, so he was set to ring the hours. But the wicked Rouvel had been given to two of the King's household; and the town would not rest content without him, until, after many emphatic reminders of his royal pardon, the King was prevailed upon to give him back again, and he rings the curfew to this day. But he was not hung up until October 1449, when, after Talbot had left the Vieux Palais, the Council joyfully gave orders to Laurent des Loges, "pour pendre et asseoir certaine cloche nommee Rouve estant en la tour du beffroy"; and in the town accounts stands the cheery item of "Sept sous six deniers pour vin donne aux ouvriers," when it was hung on the very Saturday on which the Duke of Somerset was handing to Charles VII. the articles of capitulation. So when a French king at last came through the famous street again, Rouvel, who had remained in the dignified silence of the conquered for sixty-seven years, made his joyful note heard again above all the clamour of the citizens, and rang a welcome to the freedom of the city, to deliverance from the English, to the return of the King who confirmed the ancient privileges of the Charte aux Normands, maintained the Echiquier de Normandie, and did, in fact, everything that was expected of him except re-establish the Mayor. For the revolt of the Harelle had entirely deposed the Mayor from office. In 1389 his councillors were reduced to six, and it was only three centuries later that, in 1695, the King once more appointed a real mayor out of the usual three candidates presented by the town.
Then the bell "Cache Ribaut" came down, as was but right of him, from his high place within the campanile, and Rouvel swung again on his home-beam, "a la seconde croisee en ogive," and proceeded on his old business of proclaiming elections, festivals, and fires and curfews, and does so still. Affectionate flattery once called him a "cloche d'argent," from his peculiar tone; but the most open-minded foreigner can hardly, I think, now take any other interest in his voice than that aroused by his long history, for he has grown somewhat hoarse from ringing no less than 650 strokes at nine each evening for so many years.
The old clock shares with that of the Palais de Justice in Paris the honour of being the first in France. Guillaume Thibault and Guillaume Quesnel painted with fine gold and azure the face towards the Vieux Marche, which Olivier had made when he decorated both sides of the old Porte Massacre, and they set upon it the figures of the lamb and of the four evangelists. Its face was carved as it is now in the days of Francois Premier, and on its one hand is still seen the lamb of Rouen pointing to the hours. You must by no means omit to mount the tower and see the guardian wind it up, for the swing of its pendulum and the simplicity of its internal arrangements will be of the greatest interest. The astronomical part, showing the phases of the moon, is quite modern, and is set in a separate place just behind the clock-face. As you turn into the belfry out of the arch or arcade you are actually walking on the old ramparts of the city; and on the wall you may read the number of strokes rung to mark disaster in each portion of the town, two for St. Sever, six for St. Gervais, one for Mont Riboudet, and so forth. From the topmost gallery look out at the many towers and spires which even now rise in such profusion above the roofs of Rouen—St. Pierre du Chastel, St. Eloi, the front of the Palais de Justice with the Tour St. Laurent beyond, St. Ouen looking (to my mind) far finer from that point of vantage than the Cathedral, which almost hides the delicate beauties of St. Maclou. Just below you is the Hotel de Ville, and the courtyard which M. Detancourt filled with queer mythology in various stages of undress, "pour son agrement," says the guide. To east and west runs the great arm of the river, with that amphitheatre of hills which holds the town pressed against the outside of the bow like an arrow-head ready to be launched, and on the left of Mont St. Catherine you see the Darnetal valley where every siege of Rouen had its natural beginning. If you are fortunate enough to find one still alive who saw the seventeenth summer of this century, Le Pere Pepin will show you too the "tinterelles" presented by the Sieur de Mon in 1713, which hang round Cache Ribaut to strike the hours; and the sun and moon, which are set in their old place again above the pavilion.
[Footnote 31: This quaint courtyard is disappointing after you have read De La Queriere's warm eulogies, and I have only found two occasions on which it became notable in the history of the town. In 1461 the Conte de Charolais lodged here with Regnault de Villeneuve, Avocat du Roi, whose house was known then as the "Lion d'Or"; and when the White Rose triumphed in England, Margaret of Anjou found a refuge here by the orders of Louis XI.]
I have already mentioned the name of Jacques Lelieur. His chief fame rests on the admirable plan he made in 1525 of the water-supply of Rouen, and incidentally of many of her streets. In Lelieur's map, which is a fascinating mixture of plan and elevation, the Porte Massacre (in the Rue de la Grosse Horloge), is shown to be separated from the Hotel de Ville by a few shops. Two years after his drawing was made the great gate (which had shown signs of weakness a century before) was taken down and the present vaulted archway begun, which was finished in 1529. Miss James has made for me a careful drawing of the central panel of the entrados, which is now just above the street, and shows the Good Shepherd (which was, no doubt, suggested by the lamb in the arms of Rouen), copied from the seal of the Drapers' Company. "Pastor bonus," says the legend, "animam suam ponit pro ovibus suis." Within the semicircular panel on each side are more sheep pasturing in a landscape, and on all the strapwork, or "bandeaux," are carved delicate arabesques. The "pavilion," with its high roof above it, holds the famous clock of Jehan de Felanis.