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THE SCOTTISH WOMEN'S
HOSPITAL AT THE FRENCH
ABBEY OF ROYAUMONT



THE SCOTTISH
WOMEN'S HOSPITAL
AT THE FRENCH
ABBEY OF ROYAUMONT

By ANTONIO DE NAVARRO



WITH FIFTEEN ILLUSTRATIONS




LONDON ! GEORGE ALLEN U UNWIN LTD.
RUSKIN HOUSE 40 MUSEUM STREET, W.C. i



First published in igij



{All rights reserved)



p



aa



TO THE

"DAMES DE ROYAUMONT"

IN ADMIRATIOM OF THE GENTLE AND GIGANTIC WORK

ACHIEVED BY WOMEN'S HANDS

AT

THE ABBEY OF ST. LOUIS
1914 TO 1917



10



FOREWORD

So impressed was the writer on his first visit to the
Abbey of St. Louis by its architecture, history, and
romantic surroundings, that he determined to create
spare moments in his own Red Cross work in France
and compile a brochure on the distinguished habitation
of the Scottish Women at Royaumont. Particularly
did the idea include (for the reader) a reconstruction
from ancient plans and documents of the superb Abbey
Church demoHshed by order of the Commune in the
year 1791.

Subsequent visits brought him into contact with
the Hospital there estabhshed, and this created an
instant diversion. FamiHarity wdth the perplexities
of transformation, an intimacy with the numerous
patients, and an ultimate comprehension of the remark-
able scientific, administrative, and benevolent achieve-
ments of the Staff, dimmed earher interests, made
clearly imperative a history of what had been accom-
plished by the first hospital in France conducted entirely
by women.

The necessary material has been contributed by
Dr. Agnes Savill, without whose valuable and varied
help a record of the Hospital could not have been
undertaken.

This finished, the original impulse of compiling a
history of the Abbey returned with all the force of
suspended intention, and with the added necessity of
framing the Hospital in its own surroundings.

Not to confuse the reader and still keep him conver-



8 FOREWORD

sant with necessary historic, architectural, archaeologic,
and ecclesiastical details, all the resources of com-
pression have been used to confine indispensable material
within a limited space. This has entailed the amassing
(and temporary abandonment) of exhaustive data
which would have interested the scholastic mind ; but
as the primary object of the volume is a presentation
of the Hospital achievements of the Scottish Women
at Royaumont, those more interested in the Abbey
will be wiUing to await a later comprehensive history
of St. Louis' " beloved foundation."

I have purposely avoided long quotations and foot-
notes, not to entangle the narrative. The many authori-
ties consulted, French and English, are easily accessible
to those who would care to enter a field of extensive
research.

A staccato mode of expression has been deemed
advisable in order to give pace to the enumeration of
a multitude of facts and developments without which
an intelligible history of the Abbey and Hospital would
be im.possible.

The book has been composed and written under
harassing interruptions : whenever work among the
French wounded permitted ; often in the small hours
when the mind was more needful of rest than of the
pen-pricks of a literary obligation.

A. DE N.



CONTENTS



THE ABBEY

CHAPTER PAGE

I. ORIGIN AND CONSTRUCTION OF THE ABBEY — YOUTH

OF ST. LOUIS . . . . -IS

II. DESCRIPTION OF DESTROYED ABBEY CHURCH —
CONSECRATION — MARRIAGE OF ST. LOUIS AT
ROYAUMONT . . . . .21

III. ''THE LEPER OF ROYAUMONT " — ST. LOUIS' FIRST

CRUSADE . . . . . -30

IV. FOUNDATION OF A LIBRARY AT THE MONASTERY —

VINCENT DE BEAUVAIS . . . .40

V. PROSPERITY OF THE ABBEY — ST. LOUIS' SECOND

CRUSADE — HIS DEATH AND CANONIZATION . 44



VI. CAUSES OF THE DOWNFALL OF ROYAUMONT —
HUNDRED YEARS WAR ....

VII. CIVIL WAR IN FRANCE — SERIOUS RESULTS TO
ROYAUMONT .....



50

59



VIII. INTRODUCTION OF THE COMMENDATORY SYSTEM AT
ROYAUMONT — PRAGMATIC SANCTION — COffCORDA T
— LAST REGULAR ABBOT . . . .62

IX. DECADENCE OF ROYAUMONT — FIRE, I760 — LAST

COMMENDATORY ABBOT — ABBATIAL RESIDENCE

DEMOLISHED — DAWN OF THE REVOLUTION . 69

9



10 CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAOB

X. SALE OF THE ABBEY AND LANDS BY ORDER OF
THE COMMUNE — VIOLATION OF ROYAL TOMBS —
BODIES REMOVED TO SAINT-DENIS — LIBRARY
PILLAGED — BELLS DISMANTLED . . • 7^

XI. DEMOLITION OF ABBEY CHURCH BY ORDER OF
THE COMMUNE — INTRODUCTION OF A COTTON
INDUSTRY IN ABBEY BUILDINGS — ABBEY BOUGHT
BY OBLATE FATHERS — SISTERS OF THE HOLY
FAMILY IN POSSESSION . . . . 8o



THE HOSPITAL

I. PREPARATIONS — START FOR FRANCE . . 89

II. ARRIVAL OF PIONEER PARTY IN FRANCE AND AT

ROYAUMONT . . . . -97

III. FIRST TRANSFORMATION OF THE ABBEY INTO A

MODERN HOSPITAL — APPOINTMENT OF A
GESTIONNAIRE ..... lOI

IV. FIRST VISITE d'iNSPECTION — CONDEMNATION OF A

GREAT PART OF THE WORK ACCOMPLISHED —

A REORGANIZATION DEMANDED . . IIO

V. TABLEAUX — REORGANIZATION — NAMING OF NEW

WARDS . . . . . .118

VI. REORGANIZATION FINISHED — SECOND VISITE d'iN-
SPECTION A COMPLETE SUCCESS — ARRIVAL OF
THE FIRST WOUNDED .... 132

VII. THE GARE RiOULATRICB — CHAUFFEUSB* . . I30

VIII. NURSES — ORDERLIES .... I38

IX. CHIEF CLERK ..... I44



CONTENTS



II



CHAPTER

X. l^kxEMENTS .

XI. MEALS

XII. SURGERY

XIII. X-RAY DEPARTMENT

XIV. RUSHES OF WORK .
XV. OPEN-AIR TREATMENT

XVI. DISCIPLINE .

XVII. RECREATION

XVIII. PATIENTS AND PERSONALITIES
XIX. " GOOD-BYE "



PAOB

153

159
163

169

173
178

187
212



APPENDIX .
AUTHORITIES CONSULTED



220



ILLUSTRATIONS



THE ABBEY OF ROYAUMONT

REFECTORY ....

BALLIVIERES PAVILION

A RAMPART OF POPLARS

QUEEN MARY WARD

A FLEET OF CARS .

LABEL ATTACHED TO EACH WOUNDED
SOLDIER

BLANCHE DE CASTILLE WARD

OPERATING THEATRE

OPEN-AIR TREATMENT

ON THE TERRACE .

CLOISTER WARD IN WARM MONTHS

IN THE CLOISTERS .

AN ORDERLY

CLOISTER ....



Facing page 13
16

76
80

128
136

136
142

156
169

301
201
208
208
212



M









i?



THE ABBEY



CHAPTER I

ORIGIN AND CONSTRUCTION OF THE ABBEY — YOUTH OF

ST. LOUIS

"It is our wish that the proceeds of the sale of our
jtwels and crowns be devoted to the erection of a new
Abbey of the Order of St. Victor."

The last wish of the expiring Louis VIII at the
Chateau de Montpensier was the germ which gave
birth to the building of the Abbey of Royaumont.
Seven centuries later it was to be transformed into a
British hospital for the care of French wounded.

At the death of the French King in the year 1226,
his son, Louis IX (St. Louis), had attained the age
of eleven. Until his majority, ten years later, his
mother, Blanche of Castille, governed the kingdom of
France as guardian of her son and of his royal patrimony.
Remarkable for her beauty, her dazzHng complexion
won for her the name of Dofia Blanca. Clever, pious,
resourceful, her strong character proved a valuable
adjunct to her son's remarkable quahties of mind and
heart. It was an age of plots, insurrections, calumny,
and open war, the Crown's great vassals endeavouring
by every means to seize once more the independence
and power which had been effectually disputed by
Philip Augustus. Blanche successfully resisted all
their attempts, at one time with open and persevering
energy, at another dexterously, with all the tact, address,
and allurements of a woman. On the attainment of
his majority in the year 1236, she transferred to her



i6 THE ABBEY OF ROYAUMONT

son a power respected, feared, but still encompassed
by turbulent vassals.

It is popularly believed that St. Louis owed his
extraordinary sanctity to his mother. There is no
evidence of the fact. Although she exercised an alert
supervision of her son's religious education, she did
not possess the enthusiasm, sympathy, religious scrupu-
lousness, in fact any of those " grand moral impulses
which are characteristic of Christian piety."

Of delicately chiselled features, Louis inherited the
brilliant complexion of his mother ; from the Counts
of Hainault, his fair, glossy, abundant hair. His
handsome presence, after a refined and gentle style,
spoke more of moral worth than of the great physical
strength with which he was endowed. Although elegant
in his tastes, he was fond of amusements, games, and
the chase in all its branches. He affected fine clothes
and magnificent furniture.

In those early days it was the habit of the Prankish
kings to renounce their town palaces for the more pri-
vate attractions of their country habitations, there to
transact affairs of State and to administer local matters
sur place. When in the year 1228 the site of the new
Abbey had been located in the Valley of the Oise, Blanche
and St. Louis took up their residence at the neighbour-
ing Chateau d'Asnieres, there to direct its prospective
construction. After the purchase of the lands of
Cuimont, belonging to the Priory of Saint-Martin-de-
Boran, Louis granted a Royal Charter of vast impor-
tance to the monastery in embryo, and changed the
local name of Cuimont to Regalis-Mons, or Royaumont,
an appellation whose etymological signification has
mystified many inquisitive historians. This Charter,
bearing date 1228, comprehended not only extensive
landed properties, appurtenances, tolls, exemptions,
and contributions from neighbouring domains, but the
right to circulate without question over land and wate




[


11




RFl-KCTORV.



ITS ORIGIN AND CONSTRUCTION 17

throughout the kingdom. During these excursions
all property bought, sold, or transported for the profit
of the monaster}^ was to be free of tax. The word of
a monk and the oath of an Abbey servant were to be
accepted wdthout question.

Five years later, in emulation of their sovereign, a
number of Louis' most powerful nobles freed the Abbey
from all the tolls and taxes to which they were entitled.
In the year 1231 the French King granted a second
Charter, and thereafter for successive years additional
grants flowed from private sources and from the royal
treasury. The material welfare of Royaumont was
thus to all human judgment made secure. Gifts,
grants, exemptions, signed by nobles, sealed by royal
hands, all appeared to ensure an unextinguishable
perpetuity to the new Abbey. Of all ecclesiastical
foundations in France, few monasteries equalled in
liberality and magnificence its royal heritage. St.
Louis' largesse was not concerned alone with its spiritual
enrichment, but with the prevention of all financial
anxieties that might disturb the peace of its conventual
life. Two objectives were in his mind : that the new
monastery should become a seat of learning and agricul-
tural activity, and the Abbey Church a mausoleum for
the interment of the members of his immediate family.
Time realized for him both ambitions.

Although it was the express wish of Louis VIII that
the Order of St. Victor should be estabUshed at the
new Abbey, his executors decided otherwise. Inti-
mately acquainted with the deceased monarch's objec-
tive, they elected in favour of the Cistercian Order,
then the most powerful and respected rehgious founda-
tion in Europe. The Abbey of Citeaux thus became
the mother-church of Royaumont. The date of the
first building operations is severally assigned by docu-
mentary evidence to 1228 and 1230. Seven years
were occupied in the first constructions. As was



f^ THE ABBEY OF ROYAUMONT

generally the case in the early days, the monks allotted
to religious houses in the making not only directed the
erection of their monasteries but participated manually
in their construction. Royaumont was no exception
to the rule ; St, Louis himself on many occasions
performed the duties of assistant-mason. It must
have been a scene of singular interest in those early
forest days : the cowled religious in their white habits
building their monastery, the young figure of the King
in royal mantle and pointed scarlet cap carrying, as
did the monks, litters charged with stone and cement.
A thirteenth-century chronicle informs us that such
was the King's interest in the work that in due course
he enlisted the co-operation of his younger brothers.
St. Louis, Alphonse Comte de Poitiers, Robert Comte
d'Artois, Charles Comte d'Anjou — a procession of
princely masons filing in and out the scaffoldings,
carrying cement and quarried stone, hurrying on the
house of God. The enthusiasm spread quickly to
the King's attendant nobles, who eventually joined the
distinguished company. Before long the royal builder
grew restless at the loss of time entailed in reaching
Royaumont from Asnieres, and hurriedly constructed
for his habitation on the spot " a building in the large
court, which was still to be seen there at the beginning
of the seventeenth century." A resident then within
the confines of the embryonic monastery, he was able
to assist at daily Mass, participate in the Rule of the
Order, and after the hour of tierce co-operate with the
builders in their manual labours. This enthusiasm
was not of a precocious nature, but grew and lasted
until his death before the walls of Tunis, his second
Crusade as lamentable a failure as his first venture to
free the Holy Land from the Infidel.

The Abbey of Royaumont is situated in the Valley
of the Oise, 35 kilometres from Paris, 12 from Chantilly.
The plan of the buildings — fine examples of thirteenth-



ITS ORIGIN AND CONSTRUCTION 19

century Gothic architecture — follows the Cistercian
convention. They are in a remarkable state of pre-
servation, all except the great Abbey Church, which
was dehberately pulled down by order of the Commune
in the year 1791. The architect is believed to have been
Pierre de Montreuil, who at a later date constructed for
St. Louis the Sainte Chapelle in Paris, built to enshrine
the Crown of Thorns which the French monarch had
acquired from Baldwin II, Emperor of Constantinople.

Even in their present condition the cloisters are
arresting and distinguished. What they must have
been with their original clustered columns, tierce-
point arcades, and tympanum rose-piercing — dividing
like lace-work the quadrangle bays — must be left to
a capable imagination. Deprived now of their deHcate
ornamentation, the \videned bays have assumed a
dignity more in harmony with the exterior austerity
of the monastic buildings. Two features of special
interest are the Royal Cell at the end of the Monks'
Dormitory (inhabited by St. Louis on nights when he
took part in the Divine Ofhce) and the adjoining Chapel
of the King. The remaining fragment of the latter
was one of two groined bays ending in a circular apse
(facing east). Together with the Abbey Church it was
pulled down by order of the Commune in the year 1791.

For outstanding beauty the Refectory takes premier
place among the monastic buildings : an edifice of
extreme architectural perfection. It would require
the brush of a painter to portray the first view of this
exquisite dining-hall as one descends the six steps
from the Cloister. A writer's palette could not provide
the necessary pigment. Forty metres long, thirteen
wide, five slender columns support the high vaulted
roof of twelve groined bays. The effect is one of in-
credible airiness and grace. If one might say so, there
is something pathetically beautiful in the row of frail
monoliths supporting serenely the heavy superstructure.



20 THE ABBEY OF ROYAUMONT

At the southern end, nine long pointed windows divided
by mullions and capped by large roses contribute a
jewelled light to the otherwise shadowy apartment.
A restored Reader's Pulpit adorns the western wall —
at its base a running frieze of fig-leaves, the arms of
St. Louis en ecusson forming a support for the desk.

The Refectory is famous for the fact that the King
ministered there to the nourishment of one hundred
and fourteen monks seated at two long tables — the
upper board accommodating the Abbot, Prior, and
distinguished guests. Here it was that St. Louis
served with his own royal hands the hot dishes from
the (still existing) hatch in the western wall communi-
cating with the kitchen, tasted the wine, and, when
not in accordance with his own standard, ordered a
better vintage, more worthy of the professed men of
God. King, Benefactor, Crusader, Saint : a simple
labourer helping to build the Abbey, washing the feet
of the poor on Maundy Thursday, here a servant to
the humble rehgious of his beloved Abbey. Apart
from its beauty in detail, what strikes most the visitor
to this radiant Refectory is the delicacy and refinement
of its ensemble. Supporting columns become the
pendants of groined arches, a variegated sunhght
carpets the floor with the lace-like tracery of the nine
pointed windows. In its Gothic architecture, emble-
matic of hands joined in prayer, the architect has in
its uprush of lines conceived a spirituality which sub-
limates the purpose for which it was intended. In
addition, Science has forsworn traditional aloofness
and become the handmaid of structural art. By
locating an outer thrust upon the walls, the frail central
pillars have been relieved from their responsibility of
supporting the pressure of ceiHng and roof. I 4

Free from intrusive footfalls, standing alone within
the embrace of its silent walls, one feels in the presence
of some exquisite spirit sanctuaried in stone.



CHAPTER II

DESCRIPTION OF DESTROYED ABBEY CHURCH — CONSE-
CRATION — MARRIAGE OF ST. LOUIS AT ROYAUMONT

All historians are in agreement with Guillaume de
Nangis that the Abbey Church of Royaiimont was
one of the finest specimens of thirteenth-century Gothic
ecclesiastical architecture in France. The fagade, in
its ensemble, resembled that of Saint- Jacques-la-
Boucherie at Paris, the tower of which still exists.
The two most imposing features of Pierre de Montreuil's
" Masterpiece of the Oise " were the magnificent per-
spective of its great windows and the loftiness of its
nave. An idea of its soaring altitude, " a nave which
both astounded and alarmed by its colossal height
and boldness," may be estimated when it is realized
that the roof of Notre-Dame de Paris exceeded that
of Royaumont by only four feet.

The church was in the form of a Latin cross, and
in its totality measured 105 metres in length. It
was composed of the nave, a transept with aisles, and
a rounded choir surrounded by an ambulatory. There
was none of the characteristic heaviness of Burgundian
Cistercian churches — the influence of the elegant Gothic
style of the Ile-de-France having triumphed completely.

Now that the memorable edifice has disappeared,
a descriptive reconstruction of it will be due to the
reader.

The nave, flanked by aisles, was composed of nine
bays, which were separated by thick cylindrical pillars.



22 THE ABBEY OF ROYAUMONT

These columns were crowned by capitals decorated
with crockets and carved foliage. Above the top of
the columns, nine circular decorated openings {oculi)
penetrate the blank wall for the introduction of light
above the lean-to roof of the cloisters. A succession
of closely serried windows of immense height and
width (divided by mullions into two smaller openings
and capped by a rose) furnished dazzHng light and
ornament to the long North aisle.

Transept. — The vault over the crossing of the transept
was surmounted by a central belfry resting on four
piers, lozenge-shaped in plan, and flanked by columnar
shafts. The most striking peculiarity of the church
was that the two arms of the transept were built on
different plans. The Southern arm was provided with
one aisle ; the Northern contained two. The latter
extended over one bay of the North aisle.

Southern Arm. — The end-wall is pierced on the left
by a small low door surmounted by a segmental arch.
Above are the traces of the mantling which formed the
background of the monumental tomb of Henri de
Lorraine, Count d'Harcourt, now preserved in the
neighbouring Church of Asnieres-sur-Oise. Below is
a door-opening, which leads to the present Chapel of
the Sacred Heart.

On the opposite side (in the portion of the wall which
is still standing, towards the corner near the Harcourt
tomb) there is a small door-opening of the thirteenth
century, having a tympanum decorated with a trefoil
supported on two corbels. Nothing but this very small
portion remains of the East wall. A sheaf of five
columns attached to the middle of the West wall of
the South arm carried the springers of two pointed
vaults. This was likewise the case in the aisles.

All the bases, the shafts of columns, and the capitals
now to be seen in the nave, choir, and transepts have
been placed in their present positions since the destruc-



THE ABBEY CHURCH 23

tion of the edifice. The bases in general are approxi-
mately on their true sites ; but the columns and capitals
have been disposed at random. A certain number
could not have belonged to the church, but are prob-
ably remains of the monastery. In the upper part
of the West wall are small windows with a filling in
of tracery of the dimensions of the triforium openings.
A rebated respond and four shafts still remain in posi-
tion. Millin mentions a fine staircase descending into
this transept from the dormitory. It also figures on
the old plan. This was probably the Renaissance
flight of steps which was constructed in the year 1672.
The Night Ofiice ended, it must have been a memorable
sight : the kingly figure, lantern in hand, mounting
this hanging stairway to his cell (an ascending spark
in the solemn darkness), one hundred and fourteen
shaded lanterns of the monks crawling along the softly
echoing floor to the sacristy door.

North Transept Arm. — The stair-turret at the north-
east corner of the North Transept, with the abutments
of transept walls attached to it, is the best preserved
portion of the ruined edifice. The turret measures
40 metres in height ; its rectangular plan with canted
edges narrows to a regular octagon at its final story.
The spiral staircase is a fine piece of coursed ashlar
work, which explains, perhaps, its wonderful state of
preservation. It is surmounted by an octagonal spire.
The finial is composed of lateral crockets surrounding
a central stem which springs from an annulet. At a
distance it has the appearance of a fleur-de-lis.

In the end wall of the transept arm are the remains
of a circular window. In the centre is a many-lobed
rose surrounded by a series of circles : a feature of
Burgundian churches. Between the rose and the
windows ran a gallery with a balustrade of quatrefoil
tracery, disposed in the thickness of the wall. Above
this are to be seen the remains of a large pointed



24 THE ABBEY OF ROYAUMONT

window. On the jambs are little engaged columns of
extreme elegance.

Apse. — The foundations of the apse are in a rare
state of preservation, and are fully exposed to view.
The groundwork of the chevet consists of two concen-
tric bands joined by rays intersecting the radiating
chapels, the entire plan producing the effect of a wheel.
In front of the central chapel, which was slightly deeper
than the others, a rectangular mass of masonry (still
visible) probably supported the Altar of Relics — altare
de retro.

The site of the Choir is indicated by a depression
i8 metres long by lo metres wide, bounded by the
internal circular line of the foundations of the semi-
circle and the foundations of the transept. The straight
part of the choir was flanked by double aisles, as shown
in the early plan.

Furniture. — Millin gives some details of the church
furniture. The choir was separated from the nave
by a grille of ordinary design, remarkable as a piece
of forged iron, bearing, in medallions, the sceptre, the
hand of justice, the nails, and the crown of thorns.
The woodwork of the stalls was of fourteenth-century
work, with fern-leaves carved on the panels and below
the misereres. Of the fifty-six upper and thirty-eight
lower ones, only a few remain. These are now pre-
served in the choir of the Church of Asni^res. The
main altar, 6 metres long, and of baroque ughness,
must have been the one discordant feature in the fur-
nishing of an impeccable edifice. It is at present lodged
in the Church of Viarmes.^ Several of the great windows

' Since the "baroque" (decadent Renaissance) did not appear
in French architecture until the latter part of the rei/^n of Louis
XV, it is obvious that this was not the original thirteenth-century
main-altar. Its disappearance may have been a consequence of
the disastrous fire of 1760, when the tower fell in, smashing all


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Online LibraryAntonio de NavarroThe Scottish women's hospital at the French abbey of Royaumont → online text (page 1 of 15)