Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Okay, take 2. This was not what I expected. This is not truly a travel book. This is the writings of a historian while seeking certain historical sites in Maine and Normandy. For those who do not know, Maine is a region in France close to Normandy. In the book he is seeking sites concerned with major players and a few battles from the early middle ages. Naturally enough, when in Normandy, he starts with William the Conqueror. He moves through many more players, including some that even I have bare Okay, take 2.
Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine : Edward Augustus Freeman :
He moves through many more players, including some that even I have barely heard of. Much of the book is more like a catalog of Church Architecture in the reason, and this is where he gets a little annoying. The author is extremely Anglo-centric, and one reason why he likes Normandy and Maine is that they are more like England in their architecture. He finds the English style of the Romanesque and Gothic Churches to be much better than the French style, something which I cannot agree with.
His prose is often overdone. He attempts to wax lyrical, and often fails. It is not bad, but I cannot truly recommend it. If you are looking for 19th Century travel books, I can point out many that are better than this one. Mary Fish rated it liked it May 27, Rory marked it as to-read Aug 29, Zeeshan Zafar marked it as to-read Oct 24, There are no discussion topics on this book yet. About Edward Augustus Freeman. Edward Augustus Freeman. English historian, architectural artist, and Liberal politician, as well as a one-time candidate for Parliament. Books by Edward Augustus Freeman.
Ruskin's declamations on this head. The man who turns the ancient reality of the twelfth century into a sham of the nineteenth deserves no other fame than the fame which Eratostratus won at Ephesus, and which James Wyatt won in the chapter-house of Durham. One would rather like to see a map of France, or indeed of Europe, marking in different degrees of colour the abundance or scarcity of English visitors and residents. Of course the real traveller, whether he goes to study politics or history or language or architecture or anything else, is best pleased when he gets most completely out of the reach of his own countrymen.
The first stage out of the beaten track of tourists is a moment of rapture. For it is the tourists who do the mischief; the residents are a comparatively harmless folk. A colony of English settled down in a town and its neighbourhood do very little to spoil the natives among whom they live. For the very reason that they are residents and not tourists, they do not in the same way corrupt innkeepers, or turn buildings and prospects into vulgar lions.
It is hard to find peace at Rouen, as it is hard to find it at Aachen; but a few English 22 notices in the windows at Dinan do not seriously disturb our meditations beneath the spreading apses of St. Sauveur and St. Malo or the plaster statue of Bertrand du Guesclin. For any grievances arising from the neighbourhood of our countrymen, we might as well be at Dortmund or Rostock. But, between residents, tourists, and real travellers, we may set it down that there is no place which Englishmen do not visit sometimes, as there certainly are many places in which Englishmen abound more than enough.
We have wandered into this not very profound or novel speculation through a sort of wish to know how far three fine French churches of which we wish to speak a few words are respectively known to Englishmen in general. These are the Norman cathedrals of Bayeux and Coutances, both of them still Bishops' sees, and the Breton Cathedral of Dol, which, in the modern ecclesiastical arrangements, has sunk into a parish church.
Bayeux lies on a great track, and we suppose that all the world goes there to see the tapestry. Coutances has won a fame among professed architectural students almost higher than it deserves, but we fancy that the city lies rather out of the beat of the ordinary tourist.
Dol is surely quite out of the world; we trust that, in joining it with the other two, we may share somewhat of the honours of discovery. We will not say that we trust that no one has gone thither 23 from the Greater Britain since the days of the Armorican migration; but we do trust that a criticism on the cathedral church of Dol will be somewhat of a novelty to most people. We select these three because they have features in common, and because they all belong to the same general type of church.
As cathedrals, they are all of moderate size; Coutances and Dol, we may distinctly say, are of small size. They do not range with such miracles of height as France shows at Amiens and Beauvais, or with such miracles of length as England shows at Ely and St. They rank rather with our smaller episcopal churches, such as Lichfield, Wells, and Hereford. Indeed most of the great Norman churches come nearer to this type than to that of minsters of a vaster scale.
And the reason is manifest. The great churches of Normandy, like those of England, are commonly finished with the central tower. Perhaps they do not always make it a feature of quite the same importance which it assumes in England, but it gives them a marked character, as distinguished from the great churches of the rest of France. Elsewhere, the central tower, not uncommon in churches of the second and third rank, is altogether unknown among cathedrals and other great minsters of days later than Romanesque.
It is as much the rule for a French cathedral to have no central tower as it is for an English or Norman 24 cathedral to have one. The result is that, just as in our English churches, the enormous height of Amiens and Beauvais cannot be reached. But, in its stead, the English and Norman churches attained a certain justness of proportion and variety of outline which the other type does not admit. No church in Normandy, except St. Ouen's, attains any remarkable height, and even St. Ouen's is far surpassed by many other French churches.
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But perhaps a vain desire to rival the vast height of their neighbours sometimes set the Norman builders to attempt something of comparative height by stinting their churches in the article of breadth. This peculiarity may be seen to an almost painful extent at Evreux. Our three churches, then—Coutances and Dol certainly—rank with our smaller English cathedrals, allowing for a greater effect of height, partly positive, partly produced by narrowness.
They are, in fact, English second-class churches with the height of English first-class churches. Bayeux, in every way the largest of the three, perhaps just trembles on the edge of the first-class. Coutances, the smallest, is distinctly defective in length; the magnificent, though seemingly unfinished, central tower, plainly wants a longer eastern limb to support it.
Even at Bayeux the eastern limb is short according to English notions, though not so conspicuously so as Coutances. We suspect that Dol is 25 really the most justly proportioned of the three, though in many points its outline is the one which would least commend itself to popular taste. The central tower is still lower than that at Lisieux; it is rather like that of St. Canice at Kilkenny, only just rising above the level of the roof.
But, as is always the case with this arrangement, the effect is solemn and impressive. The low heavy central tower is a common feature in Normandy, and one to which the eye soon gets accustomed. The west front of Dol is imperfect and irregular; the southern has been carried up and finished in a later style, while the northern one, whose rebuilding had been begun, was left unfinished altogether. The whole front is mutilated and poor, and the chief attractions of Dol must be looked for elsewhere. The west front of Coutances is as famous as the west front of Wells, and both, to our taste, equally undeservedly.
Both are shams; in neither does a good, real, honest gable stand out between the two towers. The west front of Coutances also is a mass of meaningless breaks and projections, and the form of the towers is completely disguised by the huge excrescences in the shape of turrets. Far finer, to our taste, is the front of Bayeux. Though it is a composition of various dates, thrown together in a sort of casual way, and though the details of the two towers do not exactly agree, yet the different stages are worked together so as to produce a very 26 striking effect.
The later work seems not so much to be stuck upon the earlier as to grow out of it. One could hardly have thought that spires, among the most elegant of the elegant spires of the district, would have looked so thoroughly in place as they do when crowning towers, the lower parts at least of which are the work of the famous Odo.
There is nothing of that inconsistency which is clearly marked between the upper and lower parts of the front of St. Stephen's at Caen. The general external effect of Bayeux can hardly be judged of till the completion of the new central lantern. This last is a bold experiment, seemingly a Gothic version of the cupola which it displaces.
But as far as the original work goes, there can be no doubt of Bayeux holding much the first place among our three churches. Looked at within, the precedence of Bayeux is less certain. The first glance at Coutances, within as without, is disappointing, mainly because the visitor has been led to expect a building on a grander scale. But the interior soon grows on the spectator, in a way in which the outside certainly does not.
The first impression felt is one of being cramped for room. The difference between Coutances and Bayeux is plainly shown by the fact that at Bayeux room is found for a spacious choir east of the central tower, while at Coutances a smaller choir is driven to annex the space under the lantern. This is an arrangement which is 27 often convenient in any case, but which, as a matter of effect, commonly suits a Romanesque church better than a Gothic one.
Sketches of travel in Normandy and Maine
But when we come more thoroughly to take in the internal beauties of Coutances, we begin to feel that Bayeux, with all its superior grandeur, has found a very formidable rival. Coutances is the more harmonious whole. The choir and the nave vary considerably, and the choir must be somewhat the later of the two. But the difference is hardly of a kind to interfere much with the general effect. The general appearance of the church is thoroughly consistent throughout, and the octagon lantern, with its arcades, galleries, and pendentives, all open to the church, forms a magnificent feature.
It is evidently the feature of which Coutances was specially proud; it is repeated, at a becoming distance, in the other two churches of the city, as well as elsewhere in the diocese. The nave arcades of Coutances are exquisite, the triforium is well proportioned and well designed, except that perhaps the beautiful floriated devices in the head may be thought to have usurped the place of some more strictly architectural design. The clerestory is perhaps a little heavy. In the choir the clerestory and triforium are thrown into one stage of singular likeness, though in this style the lack of a distinct triforium is always to be regretted.
The mouldings in both parts have, as is so usual in Normandy, an English look, which is quite 28 unknown in France proper, and in the choir we find a larger use of the characteristic English round abacus. But, next to the lantern, the most striking thing in the interior of Coutances is certainly the sweep of the eastern aisles and chapels, where the interlacing aisles and pillars produce an effect of spaciousness which is not to be found in the main portions of the church. The interior of Bayeux, besides its greater spaciousness and grandeur of effect, is attractive on other grounds.
It is far more interesting than Coutances to the historical inquirer. Many facts in the history of Normandy are plainly written in the architectural changes of this noble church. The most interesting portion indeed does not appear in the general view of the interior. The church of Odo, the church at whose dedication William was present, and which must have been rising at the time of the visit of Harold, now survives only in the crypt of the choir and in the lower portions of the towers. Of the church which then replaced it, the arcades of the nave still remain.
No study of Romanesque can be more instructive than a comparison of the work of these two dates. Odo's work is plain and simple, with many of the capitals of 29 a form eminently characteristic of an early stage of the art of floriated enrichment—a form of its own which grew up alongside of others, and gradually budded into such splendid capitals of far later work as we see at Lisieux. Will it be believed that the remorseless demon of restoration has actually descended the steps of this venerable crypt, and that two of the capitals are now, not of the eleventh century, but brand-new productions of the nineteenth?
Of course we are told that they are exact copies; but what then? We do not want copies, but the things themselves, and if they were a little ragged and jagged, what harm could it do down underground? A striking contrast to the work of Odo, a contrast as striking as can easily be found between two things which are, after all, essentially of the same style, is to be seen in the splendid arcades of the nave, one of the richest examples to be found anywhere of the later and more ornamented Romanesque. The arches are of unusual and very irregular width; the irregularity must be owing to something in the remains or foundations of the earlier building.
They are crowned, however, not by a triforium and clerestory of their own style, but a single clerestory of coupled lancets of enormous height, with the faintest approach to tracery in the head. The effect is striking, but certainly somewhat incongruous. The choir is one of 30 the most beautiful productions of the thirteenth-century style of the country, always approaching nearer to English work than the architecture of any other part of the Continent. Another church at Bayeux, that which now forms the chapel of the seminary, is well known as being more English still.
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It might, as far as details go, stand unaltered as an English building. And now for a few words as to the obscure Breton church which we have ventured to put into competition with such formidable Norman rivals. It has that peculiar charm which attaches to a fine building found where one would hardly expect to find it—a feeling which reaches its highest point at St. The first impression which it gives is that there is something Irish about it; there is certainly no church in Ireland which can be at all compared to it; still it is something like what one could fancy St.
Canice growing into. One marked characteristic of Dol Cathedral comes from its material. It is built of the granite of the country, which necessarily gives it a somewhat stern and weather-beaten look, and hinders any great exuberance of architectural ornament. Not that we think this any loss; the simple buttresses 31 and flying buttresses at Dol are really a relief after the elaborate and unintelligible forests of pinnacles which surround so many French churches, even of very moderate size.
It is only in the huge porch attached to the south transept that an approach to anything of this kind is found. But very beautiful work of other sorts may be seen at Dol. The smaller porch is a gem of early work, and the range of windows in the north aisle presents some of the most delicate triumphs of geometrical tracery, too delicate in truth to last, as all are more or less broken. The flat east end gives the church an English look, and the flat east end with an apsidal chapel beyond it especially suggests Wells.
Within, the church has a great effect of height and narrowness, greater certainly than Coutances. Like Coutances, the nave and choir are of somewhat different dates, the choir being more modern, but, unlike Coutances, still more unlike Bayeux, they range completely together in composition. The nave we might fairly call Early English. It is not quite so characteristic as some of the work at Bayeux, but it uses the round abacus freely, although not exclusively. But for a few square abaci which are used, and for the appearance of early tracery in the side windows, it might pass as a purely Lancet building.
The choir is fully developed geometrical work, of excellent character, with a beautifully designed triforium and clerestory. It is specially curious to see how a building which does not differ in any essential peculiarity of style from its fellows assumes a distinct character, and that by no means wholly to its loss, through the use of a somewhat rugged material.
In the strictly historical aspect, the English inquirer is perhaps naturally led to think most of those events in which his more recent countrymen were more immediately concerned—those events of the Hundred Years' War, on which so much light has lately been thrown by the researches of M. It is not only because Normandy is the cradle of so many families which after events made English, because so many Norman villages still bear names illustrious in the English peerage.
It is because it is in the earlier history of Normandy, above all, in 34 the reign of William himself, that we are to seek for one side of the causes which made a Norman conquest of England possible, just as it is in the earlier history of England, above all, in the reign of Eadward, that we are to seek for the other side of those causes. No one among those causes was more important than the personal character of the great Duke of the Normans himself.
And the qualities which made William able to achieve the Conquest of England were, if not formed, at least trained and developed, by the events of his reign in his own Duchy. Succeeding with a very doubtful title, at once bastard and minor, it is wonderful that he contrived to retain his ducal crown at all; it is not at all wonderful that his earlier years were years of constant struggle within and without his dominions. He had to contend against rivals for the Duchy, and against subjects to whom submission to any sovereign was irksome.
He had to contend against a jealous feudal superior, who dreaded his power, who retained somewhat of national dislike to the Danish intruders, and who, shut up in his own Paris, could hardly fail to grudge to any vassal the possession of the valley and mouth of the Seine. William, in short, before he conquered England, had to conquer both Normandy and France. And such was his skill, such was his good luck, that he found out how to conquer Normandy by the help of France, and how to conquer France by 35 the help of Normandy.
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The King of the French acted as his ally against his rebellious vassals, and those rebellious vassals changed into loyal subjects when it was needful to withstand the aggressions of the King of the French. The principal stages in this warfare are marked by two battles, the sites of which are appropriately placed on the two opposite sides of the Seine. The men of the peninsula boasted, in a rhyme which is still not forgotten in the neighbourhood of the fight, how.
For King Henry, successful in the general issue of the day, had his own personal mishaps in the course of the battle, and to have overthrown the King of the French 36 was an exploit which supplied the vanquished with some little consolation. The scene of this battle is fitly to be found in the true Normandy, but towards its eastern frontier. It must not be forgotten that the truest Normandy was not the oldest Normandy. The lands first granted to Rolf, perhaps for the very reason that they were the lands first granted to him, became French, while the later acquisitions of Rolf himself still remained Danish.
The boundary was seemingly marked by the Dive. The Teutonic Norman was beaten on his own ground, but the Frenchman at least never made his way to the gates of Bayeux or Coutances. The site of the battle is less attractive to the eye than many other battle-fields, but the ground is excellently adapted for what the battle seems really to have been, a sharp encounter of cavalry, a few gallant charges ending in the headlong flight of the defeated side.
This was the young Duke's first introduction to serious warfare; but he had tougher work than this to go through before his career was over. A range 37 of hills of some height bounds the prospect to the north, and it was from that direction that William brought his forces to the field. The field itself is a sort of low plateau, sloping to the east, and bordered by a series of villages placed in what, if the height of the rising ground were higher, might be called combes or valleys.
The churches of Valmeray, where a ruined fragment of later date marks the spot where King Henry heard mass before the fight, Billy, Boneauville, Chicheboville, and Secqueville, all skirt the hill, if hill we can call it. The actual battle-field lies between the two last-named villages. To the west a higher ridge, called by the name of St. Lawrence, marks the furthest point of the battle, the place where the defeated rebels made their last stand, and which was marked by a commemorative chapel, now destroyed.
From that point the high ground again stretches westward as far as the village of Haute Allemagne, the great quarry of Caen stone. Over all the ground in this direction the rebels were scattered, multitudes of them being carried away, we are told, by the stream of the Orne. The spot, as we have said, is not in itself particularly attractive, though there is something striking in the view both ways from the high ground of St. And it is quite 38 worth the while of any student of Norman history to walk over the ground, Wace in hand, taking in the graphic description of the honest rhymer, as clear and accurate as usual in his topographical details.
And it is pleasant to find how well the events of the day are still remembered by the peasantry of the neighbourhood. There is no fear, as there is said to be in the neighbourhood of Worcester, of an inquirer after the field of battle being taken to see the scene of a battle between some local Sayers and Heenan. The Norman of every rank, when let alone by Frenchmen, is a born antiquary, proud of the ancient history of his country, and taking an intelligent interest in it which in England is seldom to be found except amongst highly-educated men.
Both the one and the other Mortemer happily lie quite out of the beat of ordinary tourists. Just out of the road, at the base of the two hills, the eye is caught by a ruined tower on the right hand. This is what remains of the castle of Mortemer, a fragment of considerably later date than the battle.
The church is modern and worthless; the few scattered houses, almost wholly of wood, which form the hamlet, present nothing remarkable. But it is in this very absence of anything remarkable that the historic interest of Mortemer consists. The Mortemer of the eleventh century was a town; the Mortemer of the nineteenth century is a very small and scattered village. Doubtless a town of that age might be, in point of population, not beyond a village now; still a town implies continuous houses, which is just what Mortemer now does not possess.
The French occupied Mortemer 40 because of the convenient quarters to be had in its hostels. It is now one of the last places in the world to which one would go for quarters of any kind. Mortemer was apparently an open town, not defended by walls or a castle, or the French could hardly have occupied it, as they did, without resistance. But it must have been a town, as towns then went, or so large a body could not have been so comfortably quartered in it as they evidently were. The key to the change is to be found in the event itself. The Normans of the surrounding country surprised the French on the morning after they had entered Mortemer, while they were still engaged in revelry and debauchery.
They set fire to the town, and slew the Frenchmen as they attempted to escape. To all appearance, the town was never rebuilt, and its change into the mean collection of houses which now bears its name is a strange but abiding trophy of a great triumph of Norman craft—in this case we can hardly say of Norman valour—eight centuries back. Such are two of the historic spots which are to be found in abundance on the historic soil of Normandy. They are only two out of many; every town, almost every village, has its tale to tell. From Eu to Pontorson there is hardly a spot which does not make some contribution to the history of those stirring times when Normandy had a life of its own, and when the Norman 41 name was famous from Scotland to Sicily.
After six hundred years of incorporation with the French monarchy, Normandy is still Norman; "le Duc Guillaume" is still a familiar name, not only to professed scholars or antiquaries, but to the people themselves. Without any political bearing—for the political absorption of Normandy by France was remarkably speedy—the feelings and memories of the days of independence have lingered on in a way which is the more remarkable as there is no palpable distinction of language, such as distinguishes Bretons, Basques, or even the speakers of the Tongue of Oc.
But in everything but actual speech the old impress remains, and the result is that in Normandy, above all in Lower Normandy, the English historical traveller finds himself more thoroughly at home than in any other part of the Continent except in the lands where the speech once common to England, to Bayeux, and to Northern Germany is still preserved. We are apt to think that they had nothing in their minds but mere convenience, according to their several standards of convenience, convenience for traffic, convenience for military defence or attack, convenience for the chase, the convenience of solitude in one class of ecclesiastical foundations, the convenience of the near neighbourhood of large centres of men in another class.
This may be so; but, if so, these considerations of various kinds constantly led them, by some sort of happy accident, to the choice of very attractive sites. We are told that the saint was so given up to pious contemplation that he travelled for a whole day through that glorious region without noticing lake, mountains, or anything else. Now we need hardly stop to show that the fact that Bernard's absorption was thought worthy of record proves that, if he did not notice any of these things, there was some one in his company who did. We suspect that in this, as in a great many things, we have more in common with our forefathers several centuries back than we have with those who are nearer to us by many generations.
Though near the sea, it is not within sight of the sea. But the love of watering-places and sea-bathing is one which is altogether modern, and, in the days in which our old towns, castles, and monasteries grew up, a site immediately on the sea would have been looked on as unsafe. The monks of Saint Michael's Mount were indeed privileged with, or condemned to, an everlasting sea-view; but the title of their house was that of Saint Michael " in periculo maris.
Two parallel ranges of 45 hills run down to the sea, with a valley and a small stream between them, at the mouth of which the modern port has been made. On the slope of the hills on the left side lies the huge mass of the minster rising over the long straggling town which stretches away to the water. But though the great church thus lies secluded from the sea, the spiritual welfare of sea-faring men was not forgotten.
The point where the opposite range of hills directly overhangs the sea is crowned by one of those churches specially devoted to sailors and their pilgrimages which are so often met with in such positions. The chapel of Our Lady of Safety, now restored after a season of ruin and desecration, forms a striking and picturesque object in the general landscape. And from the chapel itself and from the hill-side paths which lead up to it, we get the noblest views of the great abbey, in all the stern simplicity of its age, stretching the huge length of its nave, one of the very few, even in Normandy, which rival the effect of Winchester and Saint Albans.
A single central tower, of quite sufficient height, of no elaborate decoration, crowned by no rich spire or octagon, but with a simple covering of lead, forms the thoroughly appropriate centre of the whole building. We feel that this tower is exactly what is wanted; we almost doubt whether the church gained or lost by the loss of the western towers, which would have taken off from the effect of 46 boundless length which is the characteristic of the building.
At any rate we think how far more effective is the English and Norman arrangement, which at all events provides a great church with the noblest of central crowns, than the fashion of France, which concentrates all its force on the western front, and leaves the at least equally important point of crossing to shift for itself.
The church itself is one of the noblest even in Normandy, and it is in remarkably good preservation. And the two points in which the fabric has suffered severe damage are not owing either to Huguenots or to Jacobins, but to its own guardians under two different states of things. The bad taste of the monks themselves in their later days is chargeable with the ugly Italian west front, which has displaced the elder front with towers of which the stumps may still be seen.
The destruction of roodlofts has been so general in France that one is not particularly struck by each several case of destruction. The conventual buildings, like most French conventual buildings, have been rebuilt in an incongruous style, and now serve for the various public purposes of the local administration.
In a near view of the north side, they form an ugly excrescence against the church, but they are lost in the more distant and general view. The church itself mainly belongs to the first years of the thirteenth century, with smaller portions both of earlier and of later date. On entering the church, we find that the long western limb is not all strictly nave, the choir, by an arrangement more common in England than in France, stretching itself west of the central tower. The whole of this western limb is built in the simplest and severest form of that earliest French Gothic, which to an English eye seems to be simply an advanced form of the transition from Romanesque.
Even at Amiens, amid all the splendours of its fully-developed geometrical windows, the pillars and arches, in their square abaci and even in the sections of their mouldings, have what an Englishman calls a Romanesque feeling still hanging about them. We do not say this in disparagement. This stage was a necessary stage for architecture to pass through, and the Transitional period is always one of the most interesting in architectural history.
We say nothing against the style, except that, as being essentially imperfect and not realising the ideal of either of the two styles between which it comes historically, we cannot look on it as a proper model for modern imitation. Just as at Wells, the western part—in this case the five western bays—is slightly later than the rest.
And, as at Wells, the distinction between the older and newer work is easily to be remarked by those who look for it, though it is a distinction which makes no difference in the general effect and which might pass unnoticed by any but a very minute observer. In truth it is, in both cases, a difference not of style but 49 of taste. It is here that we find the only remains of an earlier church, and these are of no very remarkable antiquity. One bay of its presbytery and two adjoining chapels have been spared.
The style is a little singular. There is something not quite Norman about the very square arches of a single order, and the capitals are not the usual Norman capitals of the second half of the eleventh century. Except this bay, the presbytery has been rebuilt in essentially the same style as the nave, though naturally a little earlier. But on the south side a singular change took place in the fourteenth century.
As at Waltham, the builders of that day cut away the triforium and threw the two lower stages into one. Without meddling with the vaulting or the vaulting-shafts, the pier-arches and 50 triforium range of the thirteenth century have been changed into arches of the fourteenth, resting on tall slender pillars, almost recalling the choir of Le Mans.
The church is finished to the east by a fine Flamboyant Lady Chapel. The contrast between it and the earlier work suggests the effect of Henry the Seventh's Chapel at Westminster, though the contrast is not quite so strong. Altogether there can be no doubt of the claim of the church to a place in the very first rank of the great minsters of a province specially rich in such works. Many of the great events of Norman history, many of the chief events in the life of the Great William, happened conveniently in or near to the great cities of the Duchy.
But many others also happened in somewhat out of the way places, which no one is likely to get to unless he goes there on purpose. The Conqueror received his death-wound at Mantes, he died in a suburb of Rouen, he was buried at Caen. All these are places easy to get at. Perhaps we should except Mantes, which in a certain sense is not easy to get at. All the world goes by Mantes, but few people stop there. The reason is manifest. The traveller who goes by Mantes commonly has in his pocket a ticket for Paris, which enables him to spend a day at Rouen, but not to spend a day at Mantes.
People very anxious to stop at Mantes, and to muse, so to speak, among its embers, have had great searchings of heart how to get there, and have not accomplished 52 their object till after some years of reflection. And the interest of Mantes, after all, is mainly negative. The town stands well; its river, its bridges, its islands, suggest the days when Scandinavian pirates sailed up the Seine and encamped with special delight on such eys or holms as that between Mantes and Limay. A specially prolonged fit of musing may perhaps lead one to regret the prowess of Count Odo, and to wish that Paris also had received that wholesome Northern infusion which still works so healthily between the Epte and the Coesnon.
Mantes can show no traces of William or his age, for the simple reason that William took good care that no such traces should be left. By perhaps the worst deed of his life, a deed which awakened special indignation at the time, he gave Mantes to destruction to avenge a silly jest of its sovereign. At Mantes he held his churching and lighted his candles, and their blaze burned up houses, churches, whatever was there.
Therefore, because William himself was there in only too great force, it is that Mantes has no work of man to show on which William can ever have looked. The church, whose graceful towers every one has seen from the railway, is a grand fabric a hundred years or more later than William's time, but to Norman and English eyes it 53 might seem that, with such a height as it has, the building ought to have fully doubled its actual length. The third tower, that of a destroyed church, is worth study as an example of a striking kind of cinque-cento, the design being purely Gothic and the details being strongly Italianised.
So much for the spot, beyond the limits of his own Duchy, where William, in the words of our Chronicles, "did a rueful thing, and more ruefully it him befel. Cintheaux is one of the best of the small but rich twelfth-century churches which are so common in the district. Quilly is more remarkable still, as possessing a tower containing marked vestiges of that earlier Romanesque style of which Normandy contains so much fewer examples than either England or Aquitaine.
There, in , King Henry and Duke Robert, " duo germani fratres ," had a conference. We forget who it was who translated " duo germani fratres " by "two German brothers," and went on to rule that the Henry spoken of must have been the Emperor Henry the Fourth, and to remark that the conference happened not very long before his death.
Cintheaux, however, has carried us from the age of William into the age of his sons, and we must retrace our steps somewhat. The sites connected with William himself will easily fall into three classes—those which belong to his wars with France and Anjou, those which figure in the Breton campaign which he waged in company with Earl Harold, and those which have a direct bearing on the Conquest of England.
The second class we may easily dispose of. Of Dol and Dinan we have said somewhat already, and Dinan especially is a place familiar to many Englishmen. But we may remark that, though Dinan contains few remains of any great antiquity, few places better 55 preserve the general effect of an ancient town. It still rises grandly above the river, spanned both by the lowly ancient bridge and the gigantic modern viaduct; the walls are nearly perfect, and houses, partly through the necessities of the site, have not spread themselves at all largely beyond them.
We may add that the good sense of the inhabitants has found out a way to make excellent boulevards without sacrificing the walls to their creation. Rennes, the furthest point reached by the two comrades so soon to become enemies, is now wholly a modern city. Saint Michael's Mount has become a popular lion, which can only be seen under the vexatious companionship of a guide and a "party. Yet one has still time to wonder at the strange effect produced by crowding the buildings of a great monastery on the top of the rock, an effect which reaches its highest point when we go up a staircase and find ourselves landed in a cloister of singular beauty.
But the rock and the buildings—nowhere better seen than from the Mount of Dol—are still there, a most striking object from every point of the landscape, Saint Michael "in peril of the sea" seeming to watch over the bay which bears his name, as from his height at Glastonbury he seems to watch over the flats and the hills peopled with the names alike of British and of West-Saxon heroes.
And the 56 vast expanse of sand brings vividly before us the scene in the Tapestry where the giant strength of the English Earl is shown lifting with ease the soldiers who found themselves engulfed in the treacherous stream. The wars of William with Geoffrey of Anjou and Henry of Paris introduce us to several points, striking in the way both of nature and of art.
That is to say, the castle crowns one rocky hill, and looks out on another, still wilder and more rugged, with a pass between them, through which runs the stream of the Varenne, a tributary of the Mayenne, as that is in its turn of the Loire. But the position of the two towns is different. Though the castle of Falaise occupies so commanding a site, the town itself is anything but one of the hill-towns, while Domfront is one of the best of the class.
Not that it is the least likely to be an ancient hill-fort, like Chartres, Le Mans, or Angers; both Falaise and Domfront are, beyond all doubt, towns which have gathered round their respective castles in comparatively modern times. Both, there can be no doubt, date, in 57 their very beginnings, from a time later than the Norman settlement. Still Domfront is practically a hill-town; the walls simply fence in the top of the height, and the town, never having reached any great size, has not yet spread itself to the bottom.
A more picturesque site can hardly be found. Of the castle, the chief remnant is a shattered fragment of the keep, most likely the very fortress which surrendered to William's youthful energy. The original work is nearly untouched, except that the barbarism of modern times has removed about half the nave. Some way further on the same road we reach Mayenne, a town whose name suggests far later warfare, but which was an important conquest of William's in the days when Maine was the border ground, and the battle-field, of Norman and Angevin.
The river is here the main point for attack and defence as well as for traffic. The castle therefore does not crown the highest point of the town, but flanks the stream with a grand range of bastions, a miniature of the mighty pile of Philip Augustus at "black Angers. Before the Scandinavian conquerors were fully settled in the country, the great point was to occupy sites commanding the sea and the navigable rivers; it was a sign of quite another state of things when the lord of the soil perched himself on the crest of an inland hill.
Of the earlier type of fortress we have an example in the castle of Eu, a name whose associations may seem to be wholly modern, but which is, in truth, as the border fortress of Normandy towards Flanders and the doubtful land of Ponthieu between them, one of the most historic sites in the Duchy. Eu figures prominently in the wars of Rolf; in its church William espoused his Flemish bride; in its castle he first received his renowned English guest. The castle where 59 William and Harold met has given way to that well-known building of the House of Guise which lived to become the last home of lawful royalty in France.
But the site still reminds one of the days of Rolf rather than of the days of William. It can hardly be said to command the town; it is itself commanded by higher ground immediately above it; town, church, castle, all seem from the surrounding hills to lie together in a hole. But it is admirably placed for commanding the approaches from the sea and from the low, and in Rolf's time no doubt marshy, ground lying between the town and the water. In exact contrast to Eu, stands the noble hill-castle of Arques, near Dieppe, the work of William's rebellious uncle and namesake, which he had to win by the slow process of hunger from Norman rebels and French auxiliaries.
The steep slopes of the hill might have seemed defence enough, but Count William did not deem his fortress secure without cutting an enormous fosse immediately within its circuit, so that any one who climbed the slope of the hill would find a deep gulf between himself and the fortress, even if he were lucky enough to escape falling headlong. The 60 building has been greatly enlarged in later times, but the shell of Count William's keep, a huge massive square tower, is still here, as perhaps are some portions of his gateway and of his surrounding walls.
The view is a noble one, and it takes in the site of that later battle of Henry of Navarre to which Arques now owes most of its renown, and which has gone some way to wipe out the memory of both Williams, Count and Duke alike. One point more. Round the lower course of the Dive all sorts of historical associations centre. The stream divides the older and the later Normandy, but of these the later is the truer, the land where the old speech and the old spirit lingered longest. By its banks was fought the battle in which Harold Blaatand rescued Normandy from the Frank, and in which the stout Dane took captive with his own hands Lewis King of the West-Franks, the heir and partial successor of Charles.
The King with his vanguard had already climbed the hill, when he looked round, only to behold the mass of his army cut to pieces before the sudden onslaught of the irresistible Duke. William had marched up from Falaise and had taken them at the right moment, almost as Harold took his Norwegian namesake at Stamford bridge. It is one of those spots where the story is legibly written on the scene.
The causeway is still there, and it is easy to realise the King looking on the slaughter of his troops, and hardly withheld from rushing down to give them help which must have proved wholly in vain. The heights from which he looked down stretched to the sea, by the mouth of the river. The port of Dive, now nearly choked up with sand, was then a great haven, and there the fleet of William, assembled for the conquest of England, lay for a whole month, waiting for the favourable winds which never came till they had changed their position for the more auspicious haven of Saint Valery.
The "pagus Constantinus," the peninsular land of Coutances, is, or ought to be, the most Norman part of Normandy. It was no good arguing when the case was as clear as the sun at noon-day. The Bessin , the land of Bayeux, might perhaps be twisted into something funny, but the Avranchin could hardly be anything but the district of Avranches, and this one might have given the key to the others.
City and district then bear the same Imperial name as that other Constantia on the Rhine with which Coutances is doomed to get so often confounded. How often has one seen Geoffrey of Mowbray described as "Bishop of Constance. In a modern writer this judgment of charity is hardly possible. It really seems as if some people thought that the Conqueror was accompanied to England by a Bishop of the city where John Huss was burned ages afterwards. But the fact is that the land is not really so peninsular as it looks and as it feels.
The actual projection northward from the coast of the Bessin or Calvados is not very great. It is the long coast to the west, the coast which looks out on the Norman islands, the coast which forms a right angle with the Breton coast by the Mount of Saint Michael, which really gives the land its peninsular air.
We are apt to forget that the nearest coast due west of the city of Coutances does not lie in Europe. Avranches has its district also, and the modern department of Manche takes in both, as the modern diocese of Coutances takes in the older dioceses of Coutances and Avranches. But we must not forget that the land of Coutances is not wholly peninsular, but also partly insular. The Norman islands, those fragments of the duchy which remained faithful to their natural Duke when the mainland passed under the yoke of Paris, are essential parts of the Constantine land, diocese and county.
Modern arrangements have transferred their ecclesiastical allegiance to the church of Winchester, and their civil allegiance to the Empire of India; but historically those islands are that part of the land of Coutances which remained Norman while the rest stooped to become French. They formed a land which the Dane was, by a 66 kind of congruity, called on to make his own.
And his own he made it and thoroughly.
Added to the Norman duchy by William Longsword before Normans had wholly passed into Frenchmen, with the good seed watered again by a new settlement straight from Denmark under Harold Blaatand, the Danish land of Coutances, like the Saxon land of Bayeux, was far slower than the lands beyond the Dive in putting on the speech and the outward garb of France. And no part of the Norman duchy sent forth more men or mightier, to put off that garb in the kindred, if conquered, island, and to come back to their natural selves in the form of Englishmen.
Before William could conquer England, he had first to conquer his own duchy by the aid of France. Bayeux and Coutances were to have no share in the spoil of York and Winchester till they had been themselves subdued by the joint might of Rouen and Paris. Geoffrey would deserve a higher fame than he wins by the possession of endless manors in Domesday and by the suppression of the West-Saxon revolt at Montacute,  if we could believe that, according to a legend which is even now hardly exploded, the existing church of Coutances is his work.
William of Durham and Roger of Salisbury would seem feeble workers in the building art beside the man who consecrated that building in the purest style of the thirteenth century in the year According to that theory, art must have been at Coutances a hundred and fifty years in advance of the rest of the world, and, after about a hundred and twenty years, the rest of the world must have begun a series of rude attempts at imitating the long-neglected model.
A journey through the peninsula shows its scenery, so varied and in many parts so rich, adorned by a succession of great buildings worthy of the land in which they are placed. The great haven of the 68 district is indeed more favoured by nature than by art. Yet it is far more likely that the name of Cherbourg is simply the same as our own Scarborough, and that it is so called from the rocky hills, the highest ground in the whole district, which look down on the fortified harbour, and are themselves condemned to help in its fortification.
The rocks and the valley between them are worthy of some better office than to watch over an uninteresting town which has neither ancient houses to show nor yet handsome modern streets. On a slight eminence overhanging the sea stands Querqueville, with its older and its newer, its lesser and its greater, church, the two standing side by side, and with the outline of the greater—the same triapsidal form marking both—clearly suggested by the smaller.
Of the smaller, which is very 69 small indeed, one can hardly doubt that parts at least are primitive Romanesque, as old as any one chooses. It is the fellow of the little church of Montmajeur near Arles, but far ruder. But at Querqueville the name is part of the argument; the building gives its name to the place. The first syllable of Querqueville is plainly the Teutonic kirk ; and it suggests that it got the name from this church having been left standing when most of its neighbours were destroyed in the Scandinavian inroads which created Normandy.
The building has gone through several changes; the upper part of its very lofty tower is clearly a late addition, but the ground-plan, and so much of the walls as show the herring-bone work, are surely remains of a building older than the settlement of Rolf. Is its effect improved or spoiled—it certainly is made stranger and more striking—by its 70 grouping with a spire of late date immediately at its side? The castle is clean gone; and the traveller to whom Normandy is chiefly attractive in its Norman aspect may perhaps sacrifice the Roman remains of Alleaume if the choice lies between them and a full examination of the castle and abbey of Saint Saviour on the Douve, Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte , the home of the two Neals, the centre, in the days of the second of the rebellions which caused William to ride so hard from Valognes to Rye.
The abbey, Neal's abbey, where his monks supplanted an earlier foundation of canons, has gone through many ups and downs. Its Romanesque plan remained untouched through a great reconstruction of its upper part in the later 71 Gothic. It fell into ruin at the Revolution, but one side of the nave and the central saddle-backed tower still stood, and now the ruin is again a perfect church, where Sisters of Mercy have replaced the monks of Saint Benedict.
Here then a great part of the work of the ancient lords remains; with the castle which should be their most direct memorial the case is less clear. But when we come nearer, there is hardly a detail—round arches of course alone prove nothing—which does not suggest a later time. Did he most ingeniously recast every detail of an elder keep, or did he choose to build exactly according to the type of an age long before his own? Anyhow, as far as general effect goes, the tower thoroughly carries us back to the days of the earlier fame of Saint Saviour.
The visitor to Saint Saviour may perhaps manage to make his way straight from that place to Coutances without going back to Valognes. In any case his main object between Saint Saviour and Coutances will be the great Romanesque abbey of Lessay; only, by going back to Valognes and taking the railway to Carentan, he will be able to combine with Lessay the two very fine churches of Carentan and Periers. Of these, Carentan has considerable Romanesque portions, the arches of the central lantern and the pillars of the nave which have been ingeniously lengthened and made to bear pointed arches.
Lessay, we fancy, is very little known. It is out of the way, and the country round about it, flat and dreary, is widely different from the generally rich, and often beautiful, scenery of the district. But few churches of its own class surpass it as an example of an almost untouched Norman minster, not quite of the first class in point of scale. We say untouched, because it is so practically, though a good deal of the vaulting was most ingeniously repaired after the English wars, just as Saint Stephen at Caen was after the Huguenot wars.
Some miles over the landes bring us again into the hilly region round the episcopal city, and Coutances is seen on its hill, truly a city which cannot be hid. Of its lovely minster we once spoke 73 in some detail;  of the city itself we may add that none more truly bespeaks its origin as a hill-fort. The hill is of no extraordinary height; but it is thoroughly isolated, not forming part of a range like the hills of Avranches and Le Mans. And, saving the open place before the cathedral—perhaps the forum of Constantia—there is not a flat yard of ground in Coutances.
The church itself is on a slope; you walk up the incline of one street and see the houses sloping down the incline of the other. The modern department and the modern diocese go on further; but the "pagus Constantinus" is now done with; the land of Avranches, the march against the Breton, has a history of its own. The town of Avranches is well known as one of those Continental spots on which Englishmen have settled down and formed a kind of little colony.