Normandy, Part 1
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Produced by Ted Garvin, Beth Trapaga and the Distributed Proofreading




Part 1.


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

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

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


EPSOM, _October_ 1905





Some Features of Normandy

By the Banks of the Seine

Concerning Rouen, the Ancient Capital of Normandy

Concerning the Cathedral City of Evreux and the Road to Bernay

Concerning Lisieux and the Romantic Town of Falaise

From Argentan to Avranches

Concerning Mont St Michel

Concerning Coutances and Some Parts of the Cotentin

Concerning St Lo and Bayeux

Concerning Caen and the Coast Towards Trouville

Some Notes on the History of Normandy



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

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

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


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

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

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

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

On the steep hill beyond stands the ruined abbey church.

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

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

The favourite stronghold of William the Conqueror.

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

A seventeenth century manor house surrounded by a wide moat.

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


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


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

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









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






Some Features of Normandy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By the Banks of the Seine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Concerning Rouen, the Ancient Capital of Normandy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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