But this record is nothing to the second and last example which I shall take from the prisoners of the "Fierte." In 1541 a young gentleman named Francois de Fontenay, Sieur de Saint-Remy, aged twenty-nine, was pardoned by the canons after a career which I can only sketch in the roughest outlines. When he was only fifteen, he got some friends to help him and killed a sergeant who had displeased him by carrying stories of his behaviour to his mother. When a little older, in a village of the Cotentin, at the request of a young lady he professed to love, he laid an ambush with some friends for a Monsieur des Mostiers, but only succeeded in wounding him severely, and barely escaped the execution that punished one of his comrades in the same affair. Developing rapidly into a bravo of the first water, he attacked a man "at the request of le sieur de Danmesnil," and wounded him mortally with his rapier in the thigh. Being at a house in Montgardon with his mother and brother, he held it against forty armed men who had come in the name of the law to arrest them both, shot an arquebusier with his own hand, and beat the troop off before the help for which he managed to send had had time to arrive. Nor was he without friends who were quite worthy of their company.
In the year before de Fontenay himself enjoyed the Privilege de St. Romain, it had been extended, at the express wish of several members of the royal family, to four sons of the Baron d'Aunay, the Duke of Orleans being especially urgent in pointing out that these poor fellows had done nothing in his opinion that should debar them from the privilege. They were, as a matter of fact, merely charged with the following peccadilloes, among others. In the course of rescuing a friend from the Communal authorities at Saint-Avon, they used the town-folk so roughly that a man and a woman fell into a well during the dispute, and were drowned. On their way to the wars they met a man with his wife upon the bridge near their home, and annoyed at not having enough room left for their horses, they dismounted, tied up the man's hands and feet, and beat the woman cruelly before her husband's eyes. On the death of their grandmother, who had married twice, they visited her second husband to get possession of certain legal papers, and when he resisted they ran him through the stomach with a rapier. Enlisted for once upon the side of justice, they were clamouring at a house for the surrender of a murderer who had taken refuge there, and when the owner opened the door they killed him with a slash across the body. Pursued themselves by the officers, they waited till they were on their own land, then turned and charged the men, sword in hand, secured their horses, and thrashed one of them with knotted thorns. Before they were finally taken by the sergeants of Rouen they had thrown themselves into the church of Aulnay and defended it against forty armed men, wounding several of them with crossbow-bolts before they surrendered.
Our friend Francois de Fontenay was acquainted with this gallant band of brothers through the house of Creance, with which both were connected; and their sturdy resistance to the law of the land must have soon created a strong feeling of sympathy and admiration; for the five men are found all joined together to accomplish the murder of one Boullart near Caen. Wherever de Fontenay went it soon became the fashion among the villages to oppose his progress; but this made little difference, for both at Neufbourg and at Fert-Mace, either by his own hand or by his servants, several "common people," who were so ill-advised as to get in the way were killed, and at Dun-le-Roy he was compelled to fight his way out, using the edge of his rapier right and left, "with considerable loss of life among the peasants." They had been the centre (and their swords were never idle) of similar riots, near Bourges, in the streets of Falaise, at Lisieux, and elsewhere. More high-born foes were treated in just as summary a fashion. With his brother Jehan, Francois attacked his enemy St. Germain (a Cotentin magistrate) on the bridge at Lyons, wounded him four times, and left him dead. His shoemaker was late in delivering some boots, so Francois visited him, sword-in-hand, carried off two other pairs, and "has not yet been known to pay for them." Other necessities he had not scrupled to provide himself with in a similar way. Oxen and sheep from a farmer called Lemoyne, chickens from a priory near Bayeux, more sheep from the Sieur de Grosparmy, horses from another farmer, flour from a third. A husband who objected to giving up his wife at St. Lo was promptly wounded, so severely that he could only watch her helplessly as she was carried off.
Such are a few of the crimes, of which Monsieur de Fontenay confessed the astonishing number of forty-two. After his acquittal of them all, by virtue of the Fierte, the canons were for some six months kept hard at work dealing out similar deliverances to the crowd of his accomplices who kept on appearing from every side, and clamouring for the mercy of the Chapterhouse. Though I can conceive no worse precedent for the future of the Fierte, I need make no further comment upon the fact of de Fontenay's deliverance, except that he was so well aware of the detestation he had inspired in many of his victims that he was afraid to make any public appearance in the streets of Rouen for fear of assassination.
Remembering this man's career, turn out of the Place des Ponts de Robec, down the Rue Damiette, southwards, and I will show you the spot in Rouen that has made me tell you something of his history as a type of the young gallant of the sixteenth century. As you pass the "Rue du Rosier" (on your left at No. 54), the "Impasse des Hauts Mariages" appears a little further on. Any budding romance the name may suggest will not survive a walk of a few yards up its narrow and noisome recesses. But at the end of the Rue Damiette, behind the vista of old houses, the arches of St. Maclou will tempt you irresistibly towards the end of the road that curves out at the north-west corner of the church, just opposite the famous fountain which has been so mutilated by the Huguenots. At this point turn sharply to the left, down the Rue Martainville eastwards. To the south the Rue Moliere flings its quaint legendary shadows towards the river. A little further on, a dark square opening makes a patch of black beneath the gabled windows of No. 190. That is the entrance to the Aitre St. Maclou, the oldest cemetery in Rouen, and one of the most interesting in Europe. Pass through the dark passage into the open space beyond that is surrounded by old timbered houses, and go straight through to the little stairway that is opposite the entrance. From that slight eminence you may look back upon the strangest scene you have yet visited; if it is an autumn afternoon the little charity children will be running to and fro beneath the emblems of death carved on the timbers above their heads, while the religious sisters, in their grey gowns and wide white head-dresses move slowly to and fro beside them. It is the picture of another century, in its appropriate setting.
As the sun sets slowly and the shadows gather, this aged sepulchre of the dead of Rouen gradually gives up its secrets, and the ancient city of past centuries reappears to the grating of the rebec of the "Danse Macabre." The broad boulevards of the morning sink into the soil, and in their place there gapes a mighty moat with massive buttresses above it. The Seine of yesterday grows wider, pushing the Quais back to the foot of the town walls, and above his youthful waters slope the rounded arches built by the Empress Matilda, wife of Geoffrey Plantagenet. The streets and houses shrink into a narrower limit, bounded by a line of bastions, with crenelated towers at intervals, and eight gates each with its watch-tower and drawbridge and portcullis.
Above the battlemented walls, the airy spires and mighty pyramids of the City of Churches rise from thirty-five parishes, and from four and thirty monasteries. Three donjon keeps dominate the town. Upon the St. Catherine's Mount a fortress holds the hill, and above it rise the towers of the Abbey of St. Trinite du Mont. Within every church the monuments and carvings are still fresh and unmutilated. The royal statues, long since lost, sleep peacefully in the Cathedral choir, and the pomp of death spreads its sombre magnificence in every sacred building. The old fountains are playing in the squares and streets. The fountain of St. Maclou, which had two figures like the Mannekin of Brussels; the Croix de Pierre, with statues in every niche; the St. Vincent, with its great dais overshadowing a group of the Nativity, and water spouting from the mouths of oxen in the manger; the Lacrosse with the Virgin and her Child; the Lisieux, whereon was carved the Mount Parnassus with Apollo and the Muses, Pegasus too, and a great triple-headed matron for Philosophy, and two bronze salamanders vomiting streams of water; all the fountains that Jacques Lelieur has traced for us are perfect and are playing in the town whose streets he drew in 1525.
The sky grows darker, and the rain falls, as it fell then, even more frequently than now; but we can pass beneath the "avant-soliers," those covered galleries that line the squares and market-places to give shade or shelter to the merchant and his purchasers, and behind their heavy timbers we shall be safe from the great wains of country produce, or the lumbering chariots of the town, with their leather hangings stamped in gold, dragged by the heavy Norman horses. The streets are as narrow as they were first built in Pompeii; sixteen feet is thought enough for the principal arteries of traffic, others measure but ten feet, or even six, across. They are so crooked and the line of houses on each side is often so uneven that it seems as if the windings of some country footpath have been left in all their primitive irregularity, and decorated here and there with casual dwellings, while the gaps are filled in roughly as time goes on and space grows more precious every year. This haphazard arrangement has no doubt resulted in a certain picturesqueness of disposition and perspective, and even in a tortuous maze of buildings very difficult for any foreign enemy to assault; but it is obvious that the city's internal plan has owed nothing either to military or aesthetic considerations at the outset. For these streets that were not paved at all until the fifteenth century, are only covered with rude stones, and look more like the interior of a vast open drain than anything; pigs and other animals stroll into them from the open doorways of the commoner houses, and even the richer families seem to consider that the highway is little more than a commodious dust-bin.
Above the mire and stench of the street rise houses which seem to topple forward into the morass beneath; each storey overhangs the last, until the trowsy gables almost rub against each other at the top, and nearly shut out every breath of air or glimpse of sky. Close above the pavement, and swinging in the rain, a multitude of signs and strange carvings blot out the little light remaining; Tritons, sirens and satyrs are cheek by jowl with dragons, open-mouthed, their tails in monstrous curves. Vast gilded barrels, bunches of grapes as huge as ever came out of the Promised Land, images of the Three Kings of the East, six-pointed stars, enormous fleurs de lys, great pillars painted blue or red, cockatrices and popinjays and bears and elephants; a whole menagerie of fabulous creatures hang over the lintels of almost every house; for in the days when numbers are not, many habitations have to be distinguished by a sign besides the taverns and the hostelries and shops. Higher up still the long thin gargoyles peer into the clouded air; clutching at the outmost edge of wall, they stretch as far forward as they may and are every one in actual service, spouting showers of rain and refuse from the roof into the crowded road. Upon the walls themselves, in low relief, every panel has its medallion, a classical head within a wreath of bay-leaves, a more modern celebrity ringed by the mottoes and emblems of his lineage. Above the doorway of the merchant is carved his galleon in full sail; the armourer displays a brave scene, of a soldier hacking his way with an irresistible rapier through the mob of caitiffs who had been so foolish as to buy their swords at other shops; over the next porch is carved a horse without a rider, hastening across the bridge to bring the tidings of the murder of his master in the suburbs; elsewhere is sculptured the Holy City with a humble wayfarer approaching from one side, and a noble from the other. Every building has a character of its own, a personality apart from other houses in the street, and nearly all are gay with paint and gilding, and instinct with a natural feeling for artistic decoration that was only appreciated at its true worth after the Huguenot iconoclasts had wrecked it.
Amid all this life and colour death and the taint of death are ever present, for every church is little better than a charnel-house, and in the crowded city nearly eighty cemeteries are packed with dead. Magnificent processions of princes and of great prelates march through the town by day; they are followed by the riot of the Mascarade des Conards, a burlesque throng of some two thousand fantastic dresses careering madly up and down the streets, chased by the "Clercs de la Basoche," or racing after every sober citizen in sight. It is lucky if the Huguenots have not seized the town and filled the churches with a mob of fanatics, smashing everything with hammers, and making bonfires of the sacred vestments in the streets, or if the Catholics are not just taking their revenge by burning their enemies alive or murdering Protestant children in their little beds. Even on ordinary days there is horror enough only too visible. You need not go so far as the gibbets just above the town where corpses are clattering in chains beneath the wind; on the Place du Vieux Marche a sacrilegious priest is being slowly strangled; in the Parvis Notre Dame a blasphemer's throat is cut; close by the churchyard, a murderer's hand is chopped off, and he is hurried away to execution on the scaffold by the Halles. From a by-street the leper's bell sounds fitfully, and out of the darkened house beyond, men in St. Michael's livery are bearing the last victims of the Plague to burial within the city walls. In 1522 there were 50,000 of such burials in Rouen alone in six months. Every gallant who goes by with his feathered cap and velvet cloak, his tightly-fitting hose and slashed shoes, every lady in her purple hat and stiff-starched ruff, her gold-brocaded stomacher, and her sweeping skirt, every soldier swaggering his rapier, every sailor rolling home from sea, every monk mumbling his prayers over a rosary—all alike are breathing an infected poisonous air. The young girls from the country feel it most and fly from it the quickest, coming in to sell their eggs and chickens, with their woollen petticoats and gaily coloured headdress, or meeting some lover of the town at a dark corner in the narrow, damp, ill-ventilated streets. Here and there a silent figure clad in blue stalks from one house to another and leaves the mark of a great white cross upon the fast-shut door or shutters, for within there is the Plague. And upon every passer-by outside there blows continually the invisible blast of pestilence from the countless graveyards pent up in the choking circuit of the walls. From the thirteenth century onwards the city has been swept with the desolating scourge of hideous disease. It was in 1348, when the ravages of the Black Death were at their highest and 100,000 persons died of it in Rouen that this cemetery of St. Maclou was founded.
Within the central space of the square court that you can see to-day is the actual ground which formed this ancient graveyard. Formerly there were two altars in it, one to the Slayer of the infernal Dragon, the mighty Saint of Sepulchres, the protector of the dead, St. Michael; the other to the souls of the dead themselves. In many a country churchyard in France at the present day you may see a tall lonely shaft that rises above the tombs, generally with a tiny belfry at its summit, which holds the bell that rings at midnight to call the wandering ghosts to rest; and at its base this "Lanterne des Morts" carries a small slab of stone on which offerings were placed at night. It was the Confrerie de St. Michel who had charge of this, and of the burying arrangements of the city, and they bore upon their hats the image of their patron-saint as a badge of their sad calling. Twice before 1505 this graveyard had to be enlarged; by 1526 three of the galleries that now surround it had been built, those to the west and south and east. The northern side was finished only in 1640. Of the older work there are still thirty-one columns standing, some eleven feet apart, carved with subjects from the famous "Dance of Death," the "Danse Macabre" of Rouen.
But these curtains that circumscribe the Bed of Death have other emblems carved upon them too; there is a double frieze of oak above the pillars, and on it appears the skull and crossbones, the spade and mattock, the fragments of pitiful anatomy that marked the ghastly trade of sexton in the sixteenth century. In the covered galleries, as they were originally, the richer burgesses were buried, though not one of their memorial stones remains; into the open space were flung the poor proletariat, who had gone through life marked with a yellow cross upon their arms, and found in death an undistinguished and promiscuous burial. Looking down upon them all in their last troubled sleep, were the figures carved in high relief upon each pillar, groups that are so mutilated now that only by the careful drawings and descriptions left by M. Langlois long ago can we trace faintly what was placed there by Denys Leselin the carver and his brother Adam, and by Gaultier Leprevost, whose names are preserved in the church registers of St. Maclou.
Each relief showed a group in which some living figure is dragged to death by a triumphant skeleton, and chief among them were our first parents Adam and Eve, the origins of death for every generation after.
"Mors qui venis de mors de pome Primes en feme et puis en home Tu bats le siecle comme toile."
On other pillars were an emperor, a king, a high constable, a duke, a courtier, a pope, a cardinal, a bishop, and an abbot. They seem to cry, like Villon, with a phrase that is especially appropriate to a Rouen cemetery:
"Haro, haro, le grand et le mineur, Et qu'est cecy—mourray, sans coup ferir?"
Without the power to struggle, they are haled from their high places to the levelling tomb.
Reproductions of the first Todtentanz of Hans Holbein the younger are now within the reach of everyone, and they have made these terrible imaginations of the early sixteenth century the common property of all who care to look at them. Designed just before 1526, when the horrors of the Peasants' War and of innumerable outbreaks of pestilence and famine had left fresh traces in the minds of everyone, they were not published until 1538 at Lyons by Melchoir and Gaspar Trechsel. After the sixth edition of 1562 no further addition to the plates is known. They were cut with a knife upon wood, and not with the ordinary graver, in 1527, or a little earlier, by Hans of Luxemburg, sometimes called Franck, whose full signature is on Holbein's Alphabet in the British Museum, which contains several sets of the impressions, believed to be engraver's proofs from the original blocks, such as exist also in Berlin, at Basle, in Paris, and at Carlsruhe. They have been frequently copied, but the best modern imitations in wood engraving are those made in 1833 for Douce's "Holbein's Dance of Death," which come nearest to the incomparable skill of Hans of Luxemburg, and have been reproduced again, only in this last year, by George Bell of London.
The oldest representation of this idea is probably to be found at Minden in Westphalia, and bears the date of 1383. But it was known also at Dresden, at Lubeck, in Lucerne, in the chateau of Blois, in Auvergne, and elsewhere in France. In all these places Death is shown dancing with men of every age and condition, and carrying them off with him to the grave. There is no doubt that the scene had its origin not merely in the imagination of the sixteenth century, but reached further back to the hideous "Danse Macabre" of the fourteenth century, when the Black Death was slaying high and low so fast that men were seized with a panic of hysterical convulsion and leaped frenziedly about the streets and churches, even in the cemeteries themselves. The numberless carvings on the cathedrals, representing the Devil and his myrmidons struggling for mastery with a living soul, provided an easy and instant suggestion. But by degrees the religious quality of the mania lessened and grew weaker. At last the purely material horror of extinction overcame everything else. It was no longer the Devil who seized a maddened ring of men and women and danced them screaming into hell. Now it was Death himself who clutched every man by the sleeve and hurried him into the over-crowded ever-hungry sepulchre. If this was one thought of the rich who thought at all, it was also the only consolation of the poor, and therefore no more appropriate carvings for the poor man's cemetery of St. Maclou could be imagined by the workman of the sixteenth century.
But if the poor had their Danse Macabre, the great ones of the city spared nothing to impress on their survivors that the magnificence of their lives should follow them even to the tomb. In the Chapelle de la Vierge of Rouen Cathedral are two of the most famous funereal monuments of the sixteenth century, and in one of these you will notice a very remarkable example of the way in which the sculptors of the rich understood their task. Their orders, no doubt, were to give of their best to celebrate the dead man's greatness; their designs were evidently as unfettered by suggestion as by expense; and they had their inevitable revenge. Beneath the magnificent figure of the knight in armour lies the corpse, naked in death and as poor as the beggar in the street. In the Louvre you may see a monument by Germain Pilon that is even more suggestive of this feeling on the part of the artist. It is the tomb of Madame de Birague, Valentina Balbiani. Under a sumptuous dress, covered with sculpture so delicate that the marble looks like lace, a thin and shrunken form can be distinguished. The wasted hand holds a tiny book whose pages it has no strength to turn. Her little dog tries vainly to awake her from a slumber that is eternal. A corpse that is almost a skeleton lies beneath. This is not the sincere expression of the sorrow Villon knew; for we can easily imagine the unhappy Valentina's fate from our knowledge of her husband, one of the hell-hounds of Catherine de Medicis, who was foremost in the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. This is not the old longing of the lover for his mistress:—
Mort, j'appelle de ta rigueur, Qui m'as ma maistresse ravie, Et n'est pas encore assouvie Si tu ne me tiens en langueur. Onc puis n'euz force ne vigneur; Mais que te nuysoit-elle en vie Mort?
Deux estions, et n'avions qu'ung cueur; S'il est mort, force est que devie, Voire, ou que je vive sans vie, Comme les images, par cueur, Mort!
[Footnote 64: This has been admirably described in Mrs Mark Pattison's volumes on the "Renaissance of Art in France," though the authoress refuses to admit that Michelet's view of Pilon's motive is correct. But in Vol. I. compare pp. 236 and 21.]
It is the changed note of Ronsard's passionate regret that every lovely feature must be marred by Death:—
"Pour qui gardes-tu tes yeux Et ton sein delicieux Ta joue et ta bouche belle En veux-tu baiser Platon La-bas apres que Charon T'aura mise en sa nacelle?"
The work of Germain Pilon at the Louvre, and of the sculptor of the dead de Breze in Rouen Cathedral, whether that were Pilon himself, or Jean Cousin, or Goujon, has none of the gentle regret that reverences what it has once loved in life. There is in it all the fierce desire for personified destruction, all the hideous mockery of the rich man levelled with the poorest in a common corruption, which inspired the "Danse Macabre"; but the sculptor's thought is expressed with the subtle handicraft of a supersensitive age, with a fury of achievement and a triumph over technical difficulties that is the very essence of the best French Renaissance. In the same spirit Ronsard continues his relentless comparison of the dead woman with the living mistress:—
"Ton teste n'aura plus de peau Ny ton visaige tant beau N'aura veines ny arteres Tu n'auras plus que des dents Telles qu'on les voit dedans Les testes des cimeteres."
This complicated mental attitude had evidently not been reached when Rouland Leroux carved the great mausoleum for Cardinal d'Amboise, which is on the south side of this chapel, or if it had been attained by some men, neither Leroux himself nor Pierre Desaubeaulx his fellow-workman had been touched by it. The very inscription proclaims the exact reverse of that grisly triumph which is celebrated so clearly on the opposite tomb; for the virtues of Georges d'Amboise are said to be superior to death:—
"Pastor eram cleri populi pater aurea sese Lilia subdebant quercus et ipsa mihi Mortuus en jaceo morte extinguuntur honores At virtus mortis nescia morte viret."
An optimism that may have been foreign to his age is appropriate to this sturdy and ambitious ecclesiastic, who did not forget to do so much material good for his town of Rouen, with waterworks, and even drainage, and fair new buildings spaciously designed; all this in spite of wider interests which did not stop at the tiara itself, of which all men said the great cardinal was worthy. Of the two statues that are now within the arched recess, the one on the right represents him, and it must have been an excellent likeness. It has been called a peasant face; and it is certainly no courtier who kneels there before the carving of his patron saint slaying the dragon. The square head, the deep brows, the heavy jaw and firm mouth, are not beautiful, but they are impressive, and they show a character as far removed from the peasant as it was from the voluptuary, as near akin to the administrator of Normandy as to the Cardinal of the Holy Church. I have little doubt that this was the handiwork of the Rouland Leroux who must have often seen him in the Cathedral, and who helped to build the great Palais de Justice, which was given to Rouen at his request.
In the statue on the left hand, it is more possible that Jean Goujon (to whom so many things are ascribed without foundation) may have had a hand. For this was put up in 1541, at least sixteen years after the first one, in memory of the second Georges d'Amboise, the nephew of the greater cardinal, and the last archbishop freely elected by the Chapterhouse. Of the multitude of carvings that are in the alabaster and marble round these statues, it is scarcely possible to give any description that will be intelligible, and if their value in history does not tempt you to visit them yourself, I can only point you to the drawing that Miss James has done to make these pages more intelligible. The niches on each side of the dragon contain six statuettes; a bishop, a Virgin and child, St. John the Baptist, St. Romain, a saint, and an archbishop blessing. Above them curves a large arch, with three pierced pendentives and a frieze delicately carved with birds and angels. Above this rises the highest division of the monument, on the same plane as the sarcophagus below; seven small niches of the prophets and sibyls divide the six larger panels, in which the Apostles are shown in pairs. Beyond these again is a crown of pinnacles in open-work, alternating with statuettes in smaller niches. The lowest portion, the sarcophagus itself, is divided by seven pilasters, each adorned with the figure of a monk, with six compartments holding the statuettes of Faith, Charity, Prudence, Strength, Temperance, and Justice. All this amazing complication of delicate handiwork was done for the sum of 6952 livres, 16 sols, 4 deniers, which represents about 60,000 francs, or L2400 to-day.
On the opposite side of this chapel is the great tomb of Louis de Breze, Grand Seneschal of Normandy, of which I have already spoken. As an architectural composition it is, to my mind, infinitely finer than the other, though there is not only a lack of the obvious sincerity that inspired Leroux, but there is also the too evident appearance of that triumph of Death which has been described in this chapter. Nor can I help fancying that it represents too the somewhat sinister triumph of a widow's cunning. For as I have drawn elsewhere the life and the ambitions of Georges d'Amboise as the owner of Chaumont on the Loire, so I have become acquainted with that typical figure of the sixteenth century, Diane de Poitiers, at the home she took from Bohier at Chenonceaux; and therefore her kneeling figure in the widow's weeds of a conventional sorrow suggests nothing better to me than the fashionable grief of the mistress of Henri II., the ostentation in mourning of the most rapacious and unfeeling woman of her time.
Though the magnificent workmanship of the dead man at whose head she kneels reminds me more of Germain Pilon's methods, I can well believe that Jean Goujon may have been responsible for the general design of the whole monument during the year we know he spent at Rouen in 1540, when he was twenty years of age. Men seem to have matured more quickly in those days than is possible in the slower generations that we know. But even if the graceful caryatides and every other carving is his work, I must still ascribe the strong treatment of the massive knight in armour on his war horse to the same artist who conceived the dead figure lying in its shroud beneath; and whether that artist were Pilon or Jean Cousin, it is most improbable that it should have been Goujon, for whom the work would have been just as much too early for his own age, as that of Pilon would have been too late for the suggested date of the entire monument. That the contrast of the dead and living Seneschal was more than a mere court fashion of the time, I have, of course, only advanced my own opinion; but even if it were not so, in this case and in that of the Balbiani monument and many others, the fact that so gruesome a custom should have prevailed at all is even more significant than if it were the result of the imagination of some few of the greatest sculptors.
In sketching the more sombre features of this extraordinary century, it is impossible to omit any reference to those religious troubles which may have been already suggested to you by the kneeling monks upon the tomb of Georges d'Amboise. They were as terrible in Rouen as in almost every other town in France; the violent deaths and tortures they made so common in the city cannot be omitted in any estimate of the horrors of the time; and if I do not dilate upon them as their importance in history might seem to demand, it is because they are chiefly responsible for the destruction or debasement of most of those great architectural monuments which it is my chief business to describe. They were also responsible for the next two sieges in the story of the town, and in the first of these there is a tale that I must tell you, if only to show that if these men had the realisation of death ever present before their eyes, they were also very hard to kill, and did not yield to the Arch-Enemy so easily as many of their descendants in an age which tries its hardest to forget him.
Encouraged by the news of the horrible massacre of Vassy, the Huguenots under the Prince of Conde seized Rouen on the night of April 15, 1562, pillaged the churches, and stopped the services of the Catholic religion. A few months afterwards the royal army marched to the rescue under the Constable Anne de Montmorency, Francois de Guise, and the father of Henri Quatre, Antoine de Navarre, who was shot in the shoulder when directing the attack from the trenches, and died at Andelys a month afterwards. While the Protestants were defending the walls, a certain Francois de Civille was ordered with his company to hold the ramparts near the Porte St. Hilaire, not far from the Fourches de Bihorel. While at his post he was wounded by a shot from an arquebus, which passed through his cheek and shattered the right jaw-bone, at eleven in the morning on the 15th October. The bullet came out behind his collar-bone and tore his ruff to pieces. He fell down the glacis, and a foraging party stripped him and buried him hurriedly in a ditch near by, and there he was left till six that evening. His lacquey, Nicolas de la Barre, searching the ramparts for his master after the assault had been repulsed, saw a human hand sticking up out of the mud; his companion, Captain Jean de Clere, kicked the fingers as he walked, and a peculiar ring de Civille was known to wear flashed in the light. The body was at once dug up and carried to the house of the Sieur de Coqueraumont, in the Rue des Capucins.
There for five days and five nights the servant watched by his master, "who lay in a lethargy," and was just beginning to show feeble signs of life when the enemy took the town by assault. On the twenty-eighth, some Catholic soldiers broke into his place of refuge, and finding a pestilent heretic lying ill, they threw him out of a window. Being lucky enough to fall upon one of the many dunghills which were beneath the windows of Rouen at that time, de Civille lay there in his shirt and nightcap for three days and nights without food or drink, and no one discovered him. At last, when the town was a little quieter, a cousin fetched him away to the Chateau de Croisset, and by July in the next year he had almost completely recovered his health. Though all this happened when he was only twenty-six, he lived to write an account of his adventures when he was seventy-four for the pleasure and instruction of posterity; and he only expired for the last time at the ripe age of eighty, from an inflammation of the lungs caught by making love to a young woman underneath her window during a hard frost.
The second siege in this century was occasioned by the troubles of the League. In 1589 public anxiety had increased to such a pitch that the royalist Court of Justice was removed to Caen, while the "Ligueurs" held Rouen for the Duc de Mayenne. In July 1590 bands of armed men a hundred strong went shouting through the streets, and would have disarmed the town-guard on the Vieux Marche had they not been stopped by Valdory, the district captain of the Burgess militia, who has left a detailed account of the disturbances of that unhappy time in Rouen. From his book it may be learnt that the "Vieux Palais" of the English kings was still within the city walls by the river to the south-west, that the fort had not long been rebuilt near the Abbey of St. Catherine, that the Faubourgs were again destroyed as they were in 1417 to leave no shelter for the enemy, and that the investing troops tried to cut off the stream of Robec, so as not merely to deprive that quarter of its water supply, but to stop the public mills. In November 1591 Henry of Navarre used some ships to help him in his attack on Rouen, but the townsfolk, who refused to acknowledge a Protestant as their king, seem to have paid little attention to the naval demonstration, and finally chased his vessels out of the harbour and got possession of most of their cargoes of sheep, oxen, wine and other booty. The defence was brilliantly conducted throughout, and Valdory relates that when three hundred musketeers were requested for a forlorn hope, no less than two thousand men thronged to the officers' houses demanding weapons to join in the sally. "Rouvel" was very busy all the time in the town belfry, and rang furiously by night or day whenever the scouts gave notice that the enemy were likely to attack. Directly his notes were heard, every citizen rushed to his appointed place upon the ramparts, and waited without confusion for the enemy. They were good shots with an arquebus, too, for a captain was reported to Valdory as having killed one of the enemy's sentinels "at a distance of three hundred paces at least;" and an equally successful shot is recorded at five hundred paces.
They were even vain-glorious; for Monsieur de Villars, says the same authority, desirous of a little diversion outside the walls, rode out with several gentlemen, and tilted at the ring beyond the ramparts under a hot fire, until he had had his fill of amusement. When the enemy could get to close quarters with the common folk they found them no easier to handle; for as some of Henry of Navarre's soldiers were foraging in a garden for herbs, the gardeners rushed out and "killed them with large stones." The town never opened its gates until Henry of Navarre repudiated his religion and became the King of France. Rouen, as well as Paris, was evidently "well worth a mass."
One of the most interesting things about this fighting is the presence of a numerous body of Englishmen who had joined Biron and Henry of Navarre, under the Earl of Essex. Their Queen had offered a special prize for the first man who should make a successful shot at the defenders of the town; but they do not seem to have distinguished themselves particularly, and at last a hundred of them (chiefly squires) were killed. A hardy specimen of the race, however, is mentioned by Valdory, who evidently kept his eyes open for good work, whether of friend or foe. This Englishman, after receiving four wounds from a cutlass on the head, "pretended to be dead, allowed himself to be stripped by our soldiers, and dragged naked to the ramparts." While he lay there, desirous to make quite sure of their man, the Rouen sentinels (who must have been mariners from Dieppe) dropped a small cannon ball on his stomach, "but he did not seem to feel it," and continued obstinately to remain alive. However, when the Sieur de Canonville took him prisoner and bound up his wounds, with the object, apparently, of getting a ransom from his friends, he seems to have determined that no foreigner should make money out of him, and died.
In the Church of West Hanney, near Wantage, in Berkshire, is the tomb of one of these Englishmen who fought for Henry of Navarre before the walls of Rouen, and it will be an appropriate ending to this chapter of the dead if I close it with his epitaph:—
"Beneath this stone lyeth enterred the corps of Sir Christopher Lytcot, Knight, twice high sheriff of the county of Berk (Husband of two wives both in the sayd countye the former Jane Essex widdowe of Thomas Essex of Beckett House Eq. the later Catherine Young widdowe of Willm Younge of Bastledon Eq) Knighted in the campe before Roane the xvi of Novemb 1591 by the hands of the French Kinge Henry the Fourth of yt name and King of Navarre. Who after his travailes in Germany Italy and Fraunce and the execution of justice unto the glory of God and the good of his country ended his pilgrimage at Bastledon ye xxv of April 1599."
"Les gens de Rouen sont honnetes, Grans entrepreneurs d'edifices De theatres et artifices Es entrees des grans seigneurs, Roy prelatz et aultres greigneurs."
Though Henri Quatre could not get through the gates of Rouen while the town remained faithful to the League, and considered him a heretic, the sturdy citizens were ready enough to accept a king of their own religion, and when the "Vert Galant" made his first solemn entry into the place in 1596, they welcomed him as heartily as any of his predecessors. You will remember that there were Englishmen with him when he was trying to get into Rouen a few years before, and it was to Rouen again that the Earl of Shrewsbury and a brilliant suite brought the Queen of England's greeting to her cousin of France, and sent him the famous Order of the Garter. The Ambassador was most appropriately lodged in a very famous house in Rouen, which itself formed a remarkably complete memorial of the friendship between the same two thrones earlier in the century. The Maison Bourgtheroulde, at the corner of the Place de la Pucelle and the Rue du Panneret, contains indeed one of the best pictorial records that exists in Europe, not only of the meeting of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, but also of the decorations that were displayed there.
The house is a good example of the transition between "Gothic" domestic architecture and that of the Renaissance. Built about the same time as the Palais de Justice and the Bureau de Finances, it formed a part of that brilliant series of beautiful dwellings in which the early years of the sixteenth century at Rouen were so fruitful. Its exterior facade upon the Place de la Pucelle is so terribly changed and mutilated now, that unless you will refer to Lelieur's drawing, reproduced with Chapter IX., no view of its present condition can suggest to you the original design. Of that high roof with lofty crested windows, of the side-turret at the angle of the street, of the beautifully carved door, not a trace remains. The principal entrance built on the old Marche aux Veaux was placed between two heavy pillars, which had statues on them, and even before the traveller had passed inside, these suggested to him the motive which underlies the whole decoration of the house; for these are the two pillars which were on each side of the English King's pavilion at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Whereof the one, in the words of the English chronicler, was "intrayled with anticke works, the old god of wine called Bacchus birlyng the wine, which by the conduits in the erthe ran to all people plenteously with red, white, and claret wine, over whose head was written in letters of Romayn in gold, 'Faicte bonne chere qui vouldra.'" The other pillar was "of ancient Romayne work, borne with four lions of gold ... and on the summit of the said piller stood an image of the blynde God, Cupid, with his bowe and arrowes of love, by hys seeming, to stryke the yonge people to love." But these have gone, and so little is left of the beauty of the facade that it really will require some courage to believe what I have just said, and go through the wooden door in search of better fortune.
It was the town house of the family of Le Roux, a name which already has artistic associations for any lover of the architecture of Rouen, though I have found no trace of relationship between the architect of the Cathedral facade, the Bureau de Finances, and the Palais de Justice, and the lawyers who built and decorated this "hotel." Indeed I cannot imagine it would be likely that a man of so much originality and power both in architecture and in sculpture would have lent himself to the methods of decoration employed here, which, as you will see, are more appropriate to the accurately historical than to the freely artistic frame of mind. The man who made the fortune of the family was the second Guillaume Le Roux, husband of Jeanne Jubert de Vely, and one of the fifteen lay councillors called to the Perpetual Echiquier created by Louis XII. in 1499. He bought the estates of Tilly, Lucy, Sainte Beuve, and Bourgtheroulde, and built the "corps de logis" in the interior courtyard exactly opposite the entrance. He also began the wings on the north and west, but left the great southern gallery to be completed by his son Guillaume, "Abbe d'Aumale et du Val Richer," who held several benefices under the great Cardinal d'Amboise, and derived his chief claim to importance from having been employed by Francois I. in the negotiation of the celebrated Concordat which that king announced with so much solemnity on his entry into Rouen in 1517.
[Footnote 65: Called Le Roux d'Esneval in a genealogy of 1689, and perhaps relations of Louis de Breze's first wife, whom he married before Diane de Poitiers. See the end of Chapter X.]
These two last facts may largely account for the decoration of the new wing the Abbe built in Rouen, and the carvings he added to the older walls; for they are mainly suggested by one of the most magnificent occurrences in the ostentatious reign of a king whose visit to the town had no doubt enhanced the importance of the Abbe in the eyes of his fellow-citizens. At any rate he was not likely to let them forget that the Francois whom he had helped in the matter of the Concordat was also the hero of the "Champ du Drap d'Or." Though the house may have been begun as early as 1486, when the second Guillaume Le Roux was married, it was not finished for some time afterwards, and we may put 1531 as the latest date, because the Phoenix of Eleanor of Austria shows beside the Salamander of her husband. Abbe Guillaume died in 1532, before which year the carvings must have been completed, and they evidently cannot have been begun before 1520, the date of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, which was their chief inspiration, so that the carvings certainly have the value of almost contemporaneous workmanship, and most probably the authority, either directly or indirectly, of an eye-witness. It may be as well to remember that to that gorgeous ceremony there was no possibility of any mere loafer, or any wandering unauthorised artist being admitted, because it is on record that everyone without a special permit was cleared out of the country in a circle of some four leagues; and it is not too much to imagine that even if one who had had a hand in the important negotiations of the Concordat four years before were not in the King's suite, he was at least in a position to see and profit by the work of the artists who accompanied Francois, to record his splendours and to make the best use of all their opportunities.
[Footnote 66: There were, of course, men to do the same kind office for Henry VIII. In the Hampton Court Gallery, see No. 342, and the notes in Mr Ernest Law's catalogue.]
Since 1820 the Maison Bourgtheroulde has practically been a unique example of the style of decoration for which it is famous. Before that year "La Grande Maison" existed at Grand-Andely, not far off, with much the same kind of ornament upon its Renaissance walls; but that has now vanished utterly, with the exception of some of the large statues which were bought at three francs the square foot by an Englishman, and taken across the Channel to decorate a country-house. It will therefore be well worth while to consider in some detail what the Bourgtheroulde carvings are, and how they originated; for even if they do not appeal to us so much as the original and thoroughly local work of other Rouen sculptors, they have a value of their own that may be considered entirely apart from any aesthetic criticism of the sources of the carver's workmanship.
[Footnote 67: It would be interesting to know whether anything can be traced of them now. It is rather extraordinary to consider the number of artistic objects which were carried off from Rouen in exactly this way. Apart from the windows of St. Herbland, which I mentioned at the beginning of Chapter VII., a window from Saint Nicolas le Paincteur called the "Visitation" has been recognised by a canon of Rouen in York Minster; windows from Saint Jean sur Renelle were brought to London, and exhibited, with others, about 1810, by Mr Stevenson of Norwich; and other paintings on glass from the monastery of the Chartreux du Petit Quevilly also reached our shores. All of which would seem to indicate that we saw the value of good work earlier in this century than the French did. But they have had their revenge since then; and in the carving of the Maison Bourgtheroulde we have neglected to preserve one of the best memorials of England that exists in France.]
To begin, then, at the beginning, the entrance-door on the inside of the court is decorated with medallion portraits, surrounded by garlands, of Francois I. (whose long nose betrays him) and the stout, square face of Henry VIII. Both are bearded. The note of historical suggestion is struck at once. It continues still more unmistakably on the series of panels immediately beneath the window-sills of the wing on the left hand as you enter. On these is represented that useless pageant of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, by which Francois (who posed as the protector of art and the Renaissance in France, though he did singularly little for either) tried to obscure the defeat he had just sustained by the election of his solemn rival Charles V. as Emperor. The interview lasted from the 7th to the 24th of June 1520, and there the chronicler describes how the two Kings "se virent et parlementerent ensemble apres midi environ les vespres, en la terre dudit Roy d'Angleterre, en une petite vallee nommee le valdore entre ladite ville d'Ardres et le chateau de Guynes."
The third or central panel (which is the best carved and almost the best preserved) contains the actual meeting of the Kings. At the first (beginning from the left) is shown the Chateau of Guynes; from the windows and galleries men and women are looking out, and on the ground before the gate are the small saluting-cannon of the period, almost invisible from the decay of the stone. A few of the last of the English suite are just issuing from the gates, some a-foot and some on horseback; both men and horses wear great feathered plumes, and the men on foot have a circular headdress of feathers like an aureole. In the second panel, two horsemen bearing maces ride in front of an ecclesiastic who carries a processional cross. Behind it is the great Cardinal Wolsey, in violet-coloured velvet, riding on a mule, with pages. Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, was with him; and the Order of the Garter, whose motto could be read upon a horseman's knee some sixty years ago, was worn by Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. It has disappeared now, and so much has gone with it, owing to the atmosphere of Rouen, which has more in common with Oxford than its architectural surroundings, that the careful plaster-casts preserved in Paris (and photographed by the late M. Paul Robert in his "Trocadero" Series, iv. 29) will soon be the best memorial of sculptures, as valuable to England as they are to France, and equally neglected by both. In 1821 M. Delaqueriere issued a careful description of them (published by Firmin Didot, Paris), and to a second edition (published in 1841) he added a detailed drawing of the whole gallery by Polycles Langlois, and five larger drawings of each of the panels originally done, in 1823, for Nodier's well-known "Voyages Pittoresques." It is the central panel from these that I reproduce here, and Miss James's drawing will show you the relative position of the procession and of the frieze of the Triumph above it on the left wing of the house. In 1841, plaster-casts could be bought from M. Rossi in Rouen. But these exist no longer, and, by comparing the drawing made in 1823 with the carvings themselves, you will be able to appreciate how rapidly the stone decays. It will still be possible, however (in 1899 at least), to discover on the mouldering surface of the wall at least a trace of nearly everything that was originally there; and your appreciation of the faithfulness of the sculptor to recorded fact will be still further increased if you can compare his work with the picture in Hampton Court, with the English contemporary versions from which I have occasionally quoted, and with such French accounts as that of du Bellay or Fleurange.
The third and central panel is the culmination of the splendours of the whole. Each monarch, with his hat in his right hand, bows low in salutation. You will notice that Francois wears his beard, but Henry is clean shaved like the majority of those present. This is another detail that is corroborated elsewhere, for the story is well known how Francois swore he would not shave till he had seen the English King; how Henry made a similar oath out of politeness, and broke it in impatience; how the French ambassadors eagerly enquired whether this clean chin was to be construed as "an unfriendly act," and were told that Henry's affection resided not in his beard, but in his heart. The English King, says the chronicler, on that great occasion "showed himself some deal forward in beauty and personage, the most goodliest Prince that ever reigned over the realm of England: his Grace was apparelled in a garment of cloth of silver of damask, ribbed with cloth of gold, so thick as might be; the garment was large, and pleated very thick. The horse which his Grace rode on was trapped in a marvellous vesture of a new-devised fashion; the trapper was of fine bullion, curiously wrought, pounced and set with antique work of Romayne figures." This carving shows that his harness was embroidered in alternate squares of leopards and roses. Close to him is the Marquis of Dorset, who bore the sword of State, with the Earls of Essex and Northumberland and others, besides the pikemen and guards, and the 400 mounted archers, who were peculiar to the English retinue.
Francois wears embroidered cloth of gold, and bears a cape of heavier gold thread, sewn with gems. His chest and sleeves are covered with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and pearls. His horse has the fleurs de lys embroidered on saddle and harness. Before him march the Swiss guard under Fleurange, who has left an account of the whole matter; close by are Mountjoy and the other heralds, with the High Admiral and the great nobles. On the back of the last rider is carved the royal badge, that salamander which was seen miraculously to appear in effigy among the clouds while the Cardinal was celebrating High Mass. The English chronicler describes the scene carved upon this panel as follows:—"Then blew the trumpets, sackbutts, clarions, and all other minstrelsy on both sides, and the King descended down towards the bottom of the valley of Ardres in sight of the nations, and on horseback met and embraced the two Kings each other; then the two Kings alighted, and after embraced with benign and courteous manner each other, with sweet and goodly words of greeting; and after few words these two noble Kings went together into the tent of cloth of gold that was there set on the ground for such purpose, thus arm-in-arm went the French King Francis the First of France, and Henry the Eighth King of England and France, together passing with communication."
On the fourth panel, behind four mace-bearers, rides an ecclesiastic bearing what was once a double cross: the dove that flew above his head has entirely disappeared. Then comes Cardinal de Boissey, the Papal Legate, and among the other Cardinals (who may be recognised by their hatstrings falling on their chests) are those of Bourbon, Albret, and Lorraine. Much of this has been destroyed, but there is enough left to realise what Du Bellay says about the ruinous extravagance of the dresses:—"Many of the Frenchmen," he writes, "carried the price of woodland, watermill, and pasture on their backs." Yet the taste of the Englishmen, who had not spent so much, was acknowledged to have produced as splendid an effect as the gorgeous outlay of the French; as Fleurange particularly records of the English pavilion made of wood, and drapery and glass, "elle etait trop plus belle que celle des Francais, et de peu de coutance." In one point, however, the ladies of Paris asserted a superiority they have retained almost ever since; the Englishwomen confessed themselves beaten; but when they followed the fashion of their fair rivals, it was not much better; for, says the truthful historian, "what they lost in modesty they did not make up in grace."
Most unfortunately, on the fifth and last panel, though the stair-rail has preserved some of its details better than any of the rest, the superiority of these French ladies cannot be sufficiently studied, though several of their heads may be seen watching the procession from the windows and balconies of Ardres. The plumed hats and horses of the escort are particularly clear here, and they are more numerous than in the famous "Triumph of Maximilian" or in the "Entry of Charles V. into Bologna." The figure of the courtier just mounting his horse is the one I like best of all except the dignified personage who bears the cross before the French ecclesiastics.
If the English ambassador in 1596 was easily able to recognise the subject of these carvings, no less quickly would the Cardinal de Florence, the Papal Legate who came to Rouen in the same year, and was also lodged in this house, remember the originals from which were taken the carvings on the frieze above the windows on this wall. For though later generations have misunderstood them, just as they imagined the lower carvings to be the Council of Trent, it is quite clear from some words first discovered on the stone in 1875, that the frieze was inspired by the "Triumphs" of Petrarch. These words are as follows; and I have added their proper continuation and beginning in italics:—
"Amor vincit mundum Pudicitia vincit amorem Mors vincit pudicitiam Fama vincit mortem Tempus vincit famam Divinitas seu Eternitas omnia vincit."
M. Palustre has pointed out that an edition of these "Triumphs" was published in Venice in 1545 by Giolito, with woodcuts; and though this is rather too late for the carvings (unless, as was the case with Holbein's "Todtentanz," we may imagine the cuts were known long before the book) it is a matter of common knowledge that the subject was a favourite one not only for such illustrations but especially for tapestry; as Agrippa d'Aubigne records of contemporary tapestries at Lyons: "Elles representent quatre triomphes, chacun de trois partis...." And it was also by just such chariots, cars, and elephants, or other animals, that virtues and vices were represented in the great processions of the kings and queens at Rouen and elsewhere, processions which of course were often taken as the subject for tapestries commemorating their magnificence. In Petrarch's verses you may read:—
"Quattro destrier via piu che neve bianchi Sopr' un carro di foco un garzon crudo Con arco in mano, e con saette a' fianchi.... ... Vidi un vittorioso e sommo duce Pur com' un di color, che 'n Campidoglio Trionphal carro a gran gloria conduce...."
On the third of these upper panels (just above the meeting of the two kings), is a great car drawn by oxen, whose wheels are crushing prostrate bodies in the road beneath them. The fourth carving shows a stage drawn by two elephants. The fleshless head of Death is in the front, with a serpent coiling round his leg, and on the car is the figure of a woman blowing a trumpet, with a banner. This is evidently the fourth line of the verse just quoted, "Fama vincit mortem." On the fifth car, drawn by four beasts, is a great dais, and personages beneath it. Before it walks a figure with a turban, beside it another figure crowned with branches and carrying a tree. Emblems of the growth of nature dispersed in the design may perhaps suggest the passage of the seasons and the lapse of time, for "Tempus vincit famam." The last line, "Divinitas omnia vincit," is very well illustrated, over the door. Drawn by a lion, an eagle, an ox and an angel, to symbolise the four evangelists, a great car supports the three Persons of the Trinity beneath a dais; and under the wheels are crushed various uncouth figures representing heresies. Cardinals, popes, and bishops accompany the procession.
Though I have only mentioned, so far, two of those great royal entries into Rouen, for which the citizens were especially famous, the details given in Chapter XI. will alone suggest that the scenes taken from Petrarch's verses would be very appropriate to a house in this particular town. The still more gorgeous festivities arranged for Henri II. and Catherine de Medicis, which I shall mention later on in this chapter, are even more like the triumphal cars and set pageants here represented, which have lasted on in England in the somewhat debased form of our own Lord Mayor's show, and were perhaps themselves the symbolical descendants of the Triumphs of the ancient Romans.
This gallery of the Cloth of Gold and the Triumphs, is decorated in every other part with beautifully designed arabesques, and is joined to the main facade by an exquisite turret, which rises at the corner near the short flight of steps, and breaks up the straight line of the walls in a way that the early Renaissance builders were extremely fond of doing, before the transition period had advanced so far as to make them forget the principles of the rising line of "Gothic" and adhere solely to the horizontal line of the Italian. But this turret is even more remarkable for the carvings it bears than for the delicate taste which dictated its position in the whole design. Upon the two sides visible to the spectator from the courtyard it is covered with representations of the pastoral scenes that might be seen any summer in the sixteenth century on the hills near Rouen. To see them all upon these walls you will need a good field-glass, but they deserve the closest inspection that is possible.
Standing by the door of the gallery, the first relief above the window in the turret shows a scene by the banks of Seine, in which men are swimming about and playing various tricks on each other in the water. On shore some labourers are cutting grass with long scythes which have only one handle rather low down in their long straight stem, and women are piling up what has been cut for hay. In the distance the same scene is continued, a man stops to drink out of his flask, a hawk is swooping down upon a heron, and trees and towered houses fill up the further space. Above it, and beneath the next window higher up the tower, the country grows more mountainous, and sheep are pasturing among the fields. In front a gallant shepherd ties his mistress's garter, while she reproves his rustic forwardness. Behind them a somewhat similar declaration of affection is going on. A third shepherd quenches his thirst from a round flask. A traveller on horseback, with a bundle tied behind him, rides up the winding road, near which stands a rude shepherd's hut on wheels, which is still used in many an upland pasture to this day. On the other side of the road is a windmill. Scattered houses rise above the hills, and among the clouds is seen a flight of birds. Beneath is written the appropriate legend, "Berger a Bergere prōptemēt se ingere." Beneath the small window at the top of the tower on the same side, the game called "Mainchaude" is in full progress. A shepherdess blindfolds with her hand the shepherd whose head is resting in her lap, and his comrades stand ready to take advantage of his helpless position. Various modest sheep pretend they are not looking, another man calls to his friend in the distance, and a fifth is pensively playing a hautbois in the usual miraculous countryside with artistically disposed tufts of clouds above it. The motto reads:—
"Passe temps legers nous valent argent Silz ne sont dargent ils sont de bergers."
S A FINS
CARVING FROM THE TURRET OF THE MAISON BOURGTHEROULDE]
Turning to the other side of the tower, the carving beneath the highest window represents a jovial picnic under the same idyllic conditions. Out of a big bowl placed on a tree-stump, a shepherdess helps her lover with a spoon, another man makes his dog beg for a morsel of the food; music is provided behind by a self-sacrificing person with the bagpipes, and a fourth shepherd stands in the distance with some sheep, like a martyr to his duty. The window beneath this is decorated with a sheep-shearing scene, which I have reproduced from the outline drawing by E.H. Langlois, published by Delaqueriere in his "Description Historique des Maisons de Rouen" (Paris: Firmin Didot. 1821). The presiding shepherdess carries on her work with the usual embarrassing distractions. By her side a musician plays his hautbois to a dancing dog. Just behind them a spirited chase after a marauding wolf is in full cry; more houses, clouds, and birds complete the picture. The motto is "Nous somes des fins: aspirans a fins." The last scene represents men fishing, some with nets out of a boat, others on land with various uncouth patterns of fishing-rod; everyone appears to be making a fine catch, but the extraordinary occurrence on the bank will entirely divert your attention from the fish; for a knight, who had evidently ridden down to see the sport, has been snatched out of his saddle by a burly flying griffin, and his servant looks frantically after his disappearing body in the clouds. Untroubled by these strange events, a young woman walks calmly towards the castle, a little further on, carrying a basket of eggs and butter on her head, and above her some new kind of osprey flies away with a protesting pike. [See page 361.]
As carvings, these charmingly naive representations of country life break absolutely every rule that is supposed to govern the art of sculpture. Their relief is very slight indeed, they have no definite limits, for they wander vaguely round the windows, with trees and running water and clouds and birds and houses all on the same plane, and all with equal "values." I have not the slightest doubt that just as the Field of the Cloth of Gold was copied from a historical tapestry of the event, just as the Triumphs of Petrarch were copied from tapestries that might well have decorated the town of Ardres on the occasion of the royal meeting, so these window decorations, which betray their origin even more than the carvings on the other wing, were taken direct from tapestries which may have been at Ardres in June 1520, and certainly might have been seen in any great chateau of the period. Their very position on these walls is very like what tapestries were so frequently used for in the lavish mural decoration of the time. Every house hung out its best embroideries and tapestries and gaily coloured cloths; and the way in which these windows break into the background of each design represents the very probable result of draping a long piece of tapestry round the window of a house. The Chateau of Blois is known to have contained just such "bergeries" in the rooms of Anne of Brittany; at another chateau in Touraine, the Chaumont of Georges d'Amboise (the friend of the builder of this house in Rouen), may be still seen needlework, in pink and old rose, of country scenes, in the rooms used by Catherine de Medicis. Finally, in the inventory of the tapestries of Philip the Bold of Burgundy, drawn up soon after his death, you may read such entries as the following:—
"Ung autre petiz tapiz de bergerie, sur champ vert, seme de bergiers et de bergieres ... ung autre vielz tapiz de haulte lice ouvre de jeunes hommes et femmes jouans de plusieurs jeux ... arbres, herbaiges, ciel fait a faucons."
This might really represent the original needlework from which Abbe Leroux chose the subjects for his carving, and that the origin was some tapestry of this fashionable kind I see no reason to doubt, especially in the town which preserves in the Church of St. Vincent some of the finest sixteenth-century tapestries in France.
The flat textile kind of carving all over the house, which rises to excellence of workmanship in relief only in the meeting of the two kings, lends itself irresistibly to the same conclusion. And for this reason I have not that extravagant admiration of it, viewed purely as work of art, which may be better reserved for conceptions that are more original in the mind of the sculptor, and of more local interest in the town for which the work was done. As an example of the passion for processions and decoration, however, few better could have been chosen in Rouen than this Maison Bourgtheroulde, and I have therefore dilated on it at some length, to emphasise the spirit of life and colour that is the main subject of this chapter. But a far more important reason for these details is the fact that the Field of the Cloth of Gold carved on this gallery, is of the greatest value and interest to all Englishmen as one of the few representations of that famous pageant which exist either in England or out of it.
The only place near London where it can be conveniently studied is in the gallery of Hampton Court Palace. In that collection you may see, in No. 337, Henry's embarkation from Dover on the 31st of May in the Great Harry or Henri Grace de Dieu, as she had been "hallowed" in 1514. And in No. 342 is a large painting 5-1/2 feet high by 13 feet, 3 inches long, of this meeting of the kings between Guinea and Ardres, which confirms in a very remarkable way many of the details in the Maison Bourgtheroulde. It is not by Holbein, though he is known to have done similar work that has not survived, but may have been painted either by John Browne or Vincent Volpe or John Cruste, all of whose names are mentioned in connection with court pageants of the reign. A small outline of this picture is very possibly connected with our earliest notions of English history, for it is prefixed to Mr Murray's edition of Mrs Markham's "England." Mr Ernest Law's catalogue of the Hampton Court pictures gives further details in connection with it, and for a longer description refers his readers to the third volume of the State papers of Henry VIII., and to "Archaeologia," iii. 185-230.
[Footnote 68: In November 1774 the Society of Antiquaries published a large engraving of this picture (which is still procurable) by James Basine, after a drawing by E. Edwards from the original then in the Royal Apartments of Windsor Castle. In this you may see the Fountains of Bacchus and Cupid running wine, in front of the English Pavilion, which is full of windows. The Salamander of Francis floats in the air above. In 1781 the same engraver copied the companion picture of the embarkation of Henry VIII. from Dover in the "Great Harry," after a drawing by S.H. Grimm.]
I cannot leave this subject without expressing the earnest hope not only that our own National Portrait Gallery may soon be able to let the public see some good reproduction of a scene that is of the greatest historical interest, but that efforts may be made to secure the better preservation of the original carvings in Rouen. The connection between that city and England is of long standing. It was the capital of those Norman dukes who conquered us at Hastings and flooded us with their art, their learning, and their civilisation. It was the most cherished foreign possession of our King Henry the Fifth, who died too soon to wear the crown in Paris. It has been the especial pilgrimage of our best historians and archaeologists and artists almost from that time until the present day. The "Monuments Historiques" in which it is so rich are being worthily cared for by an enlightened government, and I must believe that the sympathy and kindness extended by every authority in Rouen towards a visitor who honestly confessed his interest and carefully explored many of its inexhaustible treasures, would be more than doubled if that interest were expressed by some representative body like our Society of Antiquaries. That society would once more deserve well of its country, in the interests of both history and art, if it would come forward with some suggestion either to the Ministre des Beaux Arts, or to the local authorities. The Maison Bourgtheroulde is now in the safe hands of the Comptoir d'Escompte de Rouen. Every English traveller goes there to change his notes; and every Englishman must see with regret that the English portion of these valuable carvings is the one that is most damaged. This was inevitable from their position; but further injury can at once be prevented by shielding them with glass. If these modest pages which bring the subject before the notice of a somewhat wider, and perhaps a more influential public, succeed in suggesting some movement that will, I am confident, be welcomed in the best spirit by Frenchmen on the spot, I shall feel that the "Story of Rouen" has not been told in vain.
There is another house belonging to a famous citizen in Rouen, which is very different, but perhaps even more characteristic of the place; and with our walk towards it we may resume that discovery of the life of the town which I am just now concerned that you should realise. To reach the Maison Caradas you have a pleasant choice of paths. As you stand outside the Maison Bourgtheroulde and look east towards the Cathedral towers, the first street that goes south towards the river is the Rue Herbiere, on your right out of the Place de la Pucelle, and that will bring you out by the Douane on the Quais. An even better way is to take the Rue de la Vicomte, quite parallel to this, but further east, which passes the western gate of St. Vincent, and is full of interesting old houses from the Rue de la Grosse Horloge to the river. As you pass down it now there are some wonderful old houses on your right, and a fine courtyard at No. 25. Still a third choice is the Rue Harenguerie, which takes the same direction from the south door of St. Vincent, and by this I usually passed myself, for the sake of weaving stories in my mind about No. 21, a house that Balzac would have delighted to describe, with an open staircase in the corner of its old courtyard.
The names of streets have often a fascination in themselves, and this one has probably been called the same ever since the herring market was set upon the quays in 1408. I wish I had had space to tell you more of these old names, which nearly all preserve a little local history, when they have not been stupidly and unnecessarily changed. But you may take this as a type of what many another will suggest, and in the laborious pages of the excellent M. Periaux you may discover much more for yourself. The sale of herrings, which was always a large and an increasing business on the northern coasts, was organised in 1348, and by 1399 a barrel of "harengs caques" was sold for 110 sols. "Brusler tout vifz comme harans soretz," says Rabelais, of the poor regents of Toulouse University; and your salt herring from Guernsey, Scotland, and Biscay was in much request at the old market on the quay between the Porte St. Vincent and the Porte du Crucifix, where on large tables and slabs of stone the fishwives hired places from the Sergents de la Vicomte d'Eau to sell their eels from the Marne, congers from La Rochelle, trout from Andelys, fresh herrings from Le Havre. You may see the scene still in a stained-glass window of the Cathedral, and you may well imagine the state of mind of the old poet:—
"Nul n'orra toute la dyablerie Ny le caquet de la Pessonnerie."
Like everything else, it was under holy patronage, and fishwives prayed at the shrine of St. Julien l'Hospitalier, the saint whose story Flaubert, another child of Rouen, has so wonderfully told. The wags of the seventeenth century called these ladies "non angeliques mais harangeriques"; but on fast-days every burgess and innkeeper and monk was glad enough to go to them; for was there not even an "Abbaye aux Harengs" no further off than Mantes, and what better present could the Archbishop think of sending to his friend the Archdeacon than 2000 salted herrings in a specially holy barrel?
All the sound of the chaffering and howling of prices has gone into silence long ago in the old Rue Harenguerie of to-day, and you will be glad to turn into more lively quarters by taking the corner to your left, eastwards, down the Rue des Charettes. It is lighted up every now and then by a break in the houses and a glimpse of the river to your right, though it is more of masts and sails than water you will see. As you walk along, the name of a street that turns northwards on your left hand should be familiar if you have followed me thus far; for it is called Jacques Lelieur, as is only right and proper, to commemorate the name and fame of one who did a great deal of good in the Rouen of his own day, and has made it much more interesting to ours. His house is No. 18 in the Rue Savonnerie, which continues the Rue des Charettes in the same direction, and you will know it by the tablet on the wall. It has two fine gables with excellent woodwork upon the street-facade; though showing slight traces here and there of restoration, it was well worth keeping in good order as the house of an artistic burgess of the sixteenth century who lived up to his position in the town.
To Jacques Lelieur we owe it that I am able to show you part of the most complete representation of a town in 1525 which is known to exist. For he drew the course of the various fountains and water-conduits in Rouen, not only in plan, but adding the elevation of the various houses, as may be seen on map F in Chapter IX., so that you may actually walk down every street and see what he saw three hundred and seventy years ago. All that part which was lucky enough to be comprised in his plan of the waterworks is accurately preserved in his naif and faithful drawings, in which the scaffoldings are put in as carefully as the finished buildings. The rows of gables that occur so often are not quite planed away into rectilinear dulness yet, as you may see along the Rue des Faux, or even Eau de Robec here and there. But the greater part of what he drew is only a melancholy memory, and the background of the old life of Rouen can only be recalled from his drawing now to frame some such sketch as the present one of the inhabitants who have vanished with it. The view of the town at the end of this chapter contains a little microscopic vignette in the centre showing the artist presenting his famous Livre des Fontaines to the civic dignitaries. It is on four long bands of parchment, of which the Hotel de Ville carefully preserves one, and the fourth is in the City Library. The drawings are done in black ink, with the houses coloured a pale yellow, the roofs shown with red tiles or bluish slates, the grass touched with yellowish-green. Besides being a secretary and notary of the Royal Courts, Lelieur held office in the town as councillor, sheriff, and finally President of the General Assembly in the absence of the bailli and lieutenant in 1542. He was crowned for his poem in the famous poetic tourney of the Puy des Palinods de Rouen, and he owned two or three fine estates outside the town.
The object of our little pilgrimage is nearly reached now, and after you have admired the carvings on the front of No. 41, stop at the quaint dwelling marked 29. This is the Maison Caradas, and its position at a corner with the open space of the river beyond it enables you to see it well all round. The slope of the ground upwards, which I noticed in earlier chapters, is especially pronounced here, and shows how much embankment had to be done before the town was really rescued from the swamps and mud-flats of the Seine. The fashion of building each upper storey to overlap the one beneath is very evident here, and the effects I suggested in the last chapter may be vividly realised; as Regnier puts it with his usual frankness:—
"Et du haut des maisons tomboit un tel degout Que les chiens alteres pouvoient boire debout."
[Footnote 69: Regnier had come to Rouen to be treated by Lesonneur, a famous local specialist; but he unfortunately celebrated his recovery with a little too much Vin d'Espagne, and died in the Rue de la Prison in 1613.]
This is one of the houses drawn in Lelieur's book at the corner of the Rue Tuile, with the Fontaine Lisieux near it, that is now merely a grotesque ruin of its former splendours. So much uncertainty is exhibited by the best local authorities as to the real owner of the Maison Caradas that I shall not pretend to solve the problem here. It is clear, however, that the word is a surname, or one of the by-names so common in the first years of the sixteenth century when this was built; and it is possible that it preserves one more suggestion of the connection between Rouen and Spain, and means "amiable," as in the phrase, "Bien o mal carado." For the root of the word is evidently in the Greek [Greek: charis], and is found in the Gaelic "cara" (the friend or ally), and the Breton "Caradoc," who was the Caractacus of Roman days.
If you will follow me a little further in the same direction, as the Rue de la Savonnerie becomes the Rue des Tapissiers, you will find the corner of the aged Rue du Hallage on your left marked by an ancient parrot in a decrepit cage. He has been living there for so long that he is certain to be there to blink at any new arrival in the next half century, and as you pass him you will remember the parrot who was discovered in Central America, full of years and knowledge, in a village where not a single inhabitant understood what the bird said. He had been found among the ruined houses of a people who had vanished utterly, and he had become the sole repository of syllables that have been never heard elsewhere. If anyone could really understand him, I have often fancied that this faded bag of feathers at the corner of the Rue du Hallage could use the most astonishing language about the things that he has seen, for he could hardly be in a better place in Rouen than this strange street that crawls beneath shadowed archways to the Marche aux Balais and the Rue de l'Epicerie. It takes its name from the Maison du Haulage, where the merchants paid town dues upon their goods, and a few steps further in the Rue des Tapissiers will bring you to the Halles themselves, to which you enter through a huge black archway that gapes upon the Place de la Basse Vieille Tour. Upon the left are some of those old "avant soliers" which you have seen in Jacques Lelieur's drawing of the Place du Vieux Marche, the covered causeways formed by projecting walls propped up by heavy timbers. There is much hideously vulgar modern decoration to spoil the full effect, but the main outlines of the old building are all there, and you may imagine what it looked like for yourself.
On each side, as you enter the dark tunnel, great warehouses stretch out to right and left, still on the same spot where Charles V. gave Rouen the Halle aux Drapiers in 1367. Since then they have been constantly filled and constantly rebuilt. Beneath your feet are immense vaults that have been used since 1857 for storing oil and goods under warrant, and in the South Hall are piled the famous "Rouenneries" and coloured cottons, and those "draperies" which have been famous almost since Edward the Confessor allowed the Rouen merchants to use his Port of Dungeness, and the town was granted the monopoly of the Irish trade, with the exception of one ship a year from Cherbourg.
When Warwick the Kingmaker made a memorable visit to Rouen in 1467 as an ambassador, King Louis XI. ordered the town to furnish the English with all they wanted at his expense, with the result that "tous les gens de l'ambassade s'en retournerent chez eux, vetus de damas et de velours, et de ces draps fins et precieux qui asseurent au commerce de Rouen la superiorite sur toutes les villes du royaume." That "superiority" lasted well through the sixteenth century, and when Huguenots fled from Rouen to Westminster and Rye and Winchester, they were nearly all cloth-makers and silk-weavers. Such names as the Rue aux Anglais, the Rue aux Espagnols and others preserve the memory of commercial ventures that are even more picturesquely suggested by the ships carved here and there upon old house-fronts in the town. Nor did Rouen commerce stop at England, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Flanders, or other countries of the old world. Her citizens, as we have seen, had known long ago a "King of the Canaries," and it was no doubt at the suggestion of either Spanish or Portuguese companions that Rouen ships sailed on towards the Guinea Coast, to the Cape Verde Islands, and "the Indies," even across the Atlantic to Brazil, whence they brought back the rare wood called by Jean de Lery "araboutan."
[Footnote 70: The native name for this staple of trade was "ibirapitanga," and with it they shipped across monkeys and parroquets for the ladies of the French Court. That there was a considerable rivalry with Portugal in these matters may be gathered from the remark in Marino Cavalli (Venetian Ambassador to the Court of France) that a Portuguese vessel was burnt off Brazil in 1546. But the first document on Brazil ever published in France was the account of the savages exhibited before Henri II. in 1550. It is probably written by Maurice Seve and Claude de Tillemont and was published in 1551. Before that year it will be remembered that the only works about America known were the book of Fernandez in Spanish, Ramusio's account in Italian, and the letters of Cortes in German. After it, Thevet's "France Antarticque" appeared in 1558, and Nicolas Barre's letters in 1557. So that the book of the entry of Henri II. has the importance of filling a gap in "American Literature."]
Though various "savages" were seen there earlier, the most famous occasion of the appearance of real Brazilians in the streets of Rouen was the particularly magnificent reception given by the citizens to Henri II. and Catherine de Medicis in October 1550. They were accompanied by Marie de Lorraine, daughter of the Duc de Guise and Queen-Dowager of Scotland, who met at Rouen her little daughter Marie Stuart then eight years old and receiving a perilous education at the French Court which she was soon to rule during the short reign of Francois II. Marguerite de France, daughter of Francois I. was there too, and Diane de Poitiers, just over fifty years of age, who maintained over the King the same influence she had exercised over the Dauphin when she first came to Court from Normandy. It is interesting to note that her nephew Louis d'Auzebosc was pardoned by the Fierte St. Romain seven years afterwards.
Besides the "theatres" and "Mysteres," which you will remember were presented to Francois I., the citizens determined that in case mythology and symbolism had lost their pristine charms, an absolutely novel entertainment should be given to the King on this occasion. So on the fields between the Couvent des Emmurees and the left bank of the Seine a great sham fight was arranged between a number of Norman sailors and fifty "Brazilian savages" of the newly discovered tribe of Tupinambas, "naivement depinct au naturel," which may be understood as "clad only in their own skins and a few stripes of paint." They must have felt the climate of Rouen in October slightly raw, but no doubt the sham fight kept them warm, and everything seems to have gone off very pleasantly. The ladies were especially interested in these unknown creatures, and the King devotedly displayed the triple crescent of his lady Diana throughout the entire performance. There was much singing of anthems and decoration of the streets, but the Indians were evidently the "piece de resistance."
[Footnote 71: In that year was carved for No. 17 Rue Malpalu the "enseigne" of the Brazilian savages, which has only disappeared in the last few years. It is difficult to say that any ecclesiastical carvings are meant for Indians, for I have seen figures with plumes and tattooing and tomahawks in a French church of the thirteenth century which were merely meant for peculiarly gruesome devils; but the feathered dresses and bow and arrows of the figures in the Church of St. Jacques at Dieppe are of an age that may very well agree with this appearance of Brazilians as public characters in France.
In 1565 Godefroy's "Ceremonial de France" records that they were again shown to Charles IX. at Troyes, and Montaigne's questions to them in 1563 will be remembered. They replied that what astonished them most was (Essais I. xxx.) to see so many strong men armed and bearded (meaning the Swiss guard probably) obeying a puny little person like the King. They were also fairly puzzled at seeing men gorged with plenty and living in ostentation on one side of the road, and starveling ruffians begging their bread in the gutter on the other without attempting to take the rich men by the throat, or even burn their houses. On which the essayist's comment is "Tout cela ne va pas trop mal; mais quoy! ils ne portent point de hault de chausses," a truly Rabelaisian reason for their want of intellect!]
Besides the music in the town, of which I reproduce an example at the end of this chapter, an entertainment was provided for the King and Queen and all the ladies in the great Palais de Justice, with which those rogues, the gay members of the "Basoche," must have been heartily in sympathy. For Brusquet, the Court jester, went into the Advocate's Box, and before the Queen upon the seat of justice, with all her ladies round her, he pleaded several important causes both for the prosecution and for the defence, "et faisait rage d'alleguer loix, chapitres, et decisions, et luy croissoit le latin en la bouche comme le cresson a la guelle d'un four," the whole being a satire on the well-known Norman passion for a lawsuit, which was appreciated as much by the good people of Rouen as by their royal visitors.
But to finish this chapter with a glimpse of the people themselves, I must take you back to that old Rue du Hallage, in which our memories of Rouen's trading voyages suggested the festivities of this royal entry. And I can imagine few greater contrasts than that from the spacious courtyard of the Palais de Justice to the view of the queer twisting streets and common habitations that you will get by standing in the Place de la Calende and looking down the Rue de l'Epicerie towards the river. As you wander down it you must look at No. 14, an excellent type of early sixteenth-century building, with its old figured tiles and high gable, and the division between the ground floor and the next storey strongly marked by carvings and brackets. You are now not only in a typical part of the old city, but on ground that has borne the name since the fourteenth century, and earned it (as did the Rue Harenguerie) from the kind of commerce carried on there. You have already passed the Rue des Fourchettes on your right, and a little further on is a still more fascinating name, the Marche aux Balais, where brooms were sold in 1644, after their modest commerce had been forbidden near St. Martin sur Renelle. On one of the small houses round it is the date 1602, and near it the carving of a salamander, which evidently gave its name to the Rue de la Salamandre, which had originally been known as "Mauconseil" ever since 1280, a name that is almost as appropriate to its darkness now as "Salamandre" must have been suggestive of its condition in the sixteenth century. It needs very little imagination to conceive amid these surroundings just such a "Cour de Miracle" in Rouen as Victor Hugo described in Paris. And, indeed, it is but quite lately that a conglomeration of tottering and leprous houses, without owners, and never entered by the police, was torn down. The Rue Coupe-Gorge, the Rue de l'Aumone, especially the horrible Clos St. Marc, have not long been swept away. Every cellar and every attic seemed to communicate by tortuous and filthy passages with the next. No visitor was admitted who had not the hallmark of crime visibly upon him, or was not a member of that loathsome confraternity of thieves and beggars who lived by their raids upon society at large.
Straight out of the Marche aux Balais the Rue du Hallage burrows under the ancient houses towards the river, hemmed in by walls on all sides, that catch up every breath of air that moves, and shut out nearly all the light. The backs of its crowded dwellings you can see from the great square into which the Rue de l'Epicerie directly leads, the Place de la Haute Vieille Tour, where you must go forthwith and see the beautiful little building that was set up for the great ceremony of the Fierte St. Romain.
This was the ceremony that gave their one great day in all the year to the drowsy archways of the Rue du Hallage; for the Marche aux Balais and the Rue Salamandre and the Rue de l'Epicerie itself, were all crowded to suffocation. Every Ascension-tide, from the reign of the Norman dukes until the Revolution, not these streets only, but every window in the houses, and the very roofs above, were crammed with people waiting for the great annual procession in which the prisoner was set free. I have quoted many extracts from the records kept by the Chapterhouse of these occasions, because the list has provided typical instances of men and manners in Rouen from the thirteenth century onwards. And I can close my tale of the most brilliant portion of Rouen's history in no better way than by suggesting to you something of the interest and the excitement created by a processional ceremony, which may itself be taken as typical of the people's life.
From the earliest hour at the breaking of the dawn of Ascension Day, the whole of Rouen was thinking and talking of nothing else except the prisoner, and in every quarter of the city the interest in him took a different form. All the countryside of Vexin and of Caux had trooped into the town with women and children in their Sunday best. From the attic windows of the Rue de l'Epicerie girls in flapping white head-dresses leant across the road and screamed their good fortune to the neighbours opposite; for these were some of the best places to see the ceremony, and in 1504 the crowd who scrambled for them was so great that the roofs fell in. The open square itself was gradually filling up; the gay Cauchoises who were chambermaids at the Auberge de la Herche were doing a roaring trade; soldiers of the Cinquantaine in green velvet doublets were taking their morning draught at the Trois Coulombs, before each man shouldered his arquebus and went off to keep his guard; even the Crieurs des Trepasses had come out into the light, their strange black cloaks all sewn with silver skulls. At last eight o'clock struck, and there was a general movement towards the Parvis, for the luckiest in the front rows of the crowd could look through the Chapterhouse door and actually see the preliminary meeting of the canons about the choice of their prisoner. But the door was soon shut, and at last the crowd could only hear the solemn notes of the "Veni Creator" sounding from within, as the good ecclesiastics prayed for divine direction in their solemn office. At last a name was written down, sealed up and given to the Chaplain de la Confrerie de St. Romain, who passed solemnly out with the fatal missive in his hand, and the canons at once proceeded to fill up the interval of waiting with a huge dinner.