Dawson Turner.

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coved roof is of timber, plain and bold, and destitute either of the
open tie-beams and arches, or the knot-work and cross timber which adorn
our old English roofs. If the roof of our priory church was not
ornamented, as last mentioned, it would nearly resemble that in
question. - Below the hall is a prison; to its right is the room where
the parliament formerly held its sittings, but which is now appropriated
to the trial of criminal causes. The unfortunate Mathurin Bruneau, the
soi-disant dauphin, was last year tried here, and condemned to
imprisonment. He is treated in his place of confinement with ambiguous
kindness. The poor wretch loves his bottle; and, being allowed to
intoxicate himself to his heart's content, he is already reduced to a
state of idiotism. - Heylin, who saw the building when it was in
perfection, says, speaking of this _Great Chamber_, "that it is so
gallantly and richly built, that I must needs confess it surpasseth all
the rooms that ever I saw in my life. The palace of the Louvre hath
nothing in it comparable; the ceiling is all inlaid with gold, yet doth
the workmanship exceed the matter." - The ceiling which excited Heylin's
admiration still exists. It is a grand specimen of the interior
decoration of the times. The oak, which age has rendered almost as dark
as ebony, is divided into compartments, covered with rich but whimsical
carving, and relieved with abundance of gold. Over the bench is a
curious old picture, a _Crucifixion_. Joseph and the Virgin are standing
by the cross: the figures are painted on a gold ground; the colors deep
and rich; the drawing, particularly in the arms, indifferent; the
expression of the faces good. It was upon this picture that witnesses
took the oaths before the revolution; and it is the only one of the six
formerly in this situation that escaped destruction[105]. Round the
apartment are gnomic sentences in letters of gold, reminding judges,
juries, witnesses, and suitors, of their duties. The room itself is said
to be the most beautiful in France for its proportions and quantity of
light. In the _Antiquités Nationales_, is described and figured an
elaborately wrought chimney-piece in the council-chamber, now destroyed,
as are some fine Gothic door-ways, which opened into the chamber. The
ceiling of the apartment called la _seconde Chambre des Enquêtes_,
painted by Jouvenet, with a representation of Jupiter hurling his
thunderbolts at Vice, is also unfortunately no more. It fell in, from a
failure in the woodwork of the roof, on the first of April, 1812. It was
among the most highly-esteemed productions of this master, and not the
less remarkable for having been executed with the left hand, after a
paralytic stroke had deprived him of the use of the other.

Millin observes, with much justice, that one of the most remarkable of
the decrees that issued from this palace, was that which authorized the
meetings of the _Conards_, a name given to a confraternity of buffoons,
who, disguised in grotesque dresses, performed farces in the streets on
Shrove Tuesday and other holidays. Nor is it a little indicative of the
taste of the times, that men of rank, character, and respectability
entered into this society, the members of which, amounting to two
thousand five hundred, elected from among themselves a president, whom
they dressed as an abbot[106], with a crozier and mitre, and, placing
him on a car drawn by four horses, led him, thus attired, in great pomp
through the streets; the whole of the party being masked, and
personating not only the allegorical characters of avarice, lust, &c.
but the more tangible ones of pope, king, and emperor, and with them
those of holy writ. The seat of this guild was at Notre Dame de Bonnes

[Illustration: Sculpture, representing the Feast of Fools]

In the cathedral itself the more notorious _Procession des Fous_ was
also formerly celebrated, in which, as you know, the ass played the
principal part, and the choir joined in the hymn[107], -

"Orientis partibus
Adventavit Asinus," &c.

These, or similar ceremonies, call them if you please absurdities, or
call them impieties, (you will in neither case be far from their proper
name,) were in the early ages of Christianity tolerated in almost every
place. Mr. Douce has furnished us with some curious remarks upon them in
the eleventh volume of the _Archaeologia_, and Mr. Ellis in his new
edition of _Brand's Popular Antiquities_. I am indebted to the first of
these gentlemen for the knowledge that the inclosed etching, copied some
time ago from a drawing by Mr. Joseph Harding, is allusive to the
ceremony of the _feast of fools_, and does not represent a group of
morris-dancers, as I had erroneously supposed. Indeed, Mr. Douce
believes that many of the strange carvings on the _misereres_ in our
cathedrals have references to these practices. And yet, to the honor of
England, they never appear to have been equally common with us as in
France. - According to Du Cange[108], the confraternity of the Conards or
Cornards was confined to Rouen and Evreux. I have not been able to
ascertain when they were suppressed; but they certainly existed in the
time of Taillepied, in the beginning of the seventeenth century, about
fifty years previously to which they dropped their original name of
_Coqueluchers_. At this time too they had evidently degenerated from the
primary object of their institution, "ridendo castigare mores atque in
omne quod turpitèr factum fuerat ridiculum immittere." Taillepied was
an eye-witness of their practices; and he prudently contents himself
with saying; "le fait est plus clair à le voir que je ne pourrois icy

At a short distance from the palace is a small square, called the _Place
de la Pucelle_, a name which it has but recently acquired, in lieu of
the more familiar appellation of _le Marché aux Veaux_. The present
title records one of the most interesting events in the history of
Rouen, the execution of the unfortunate Joan of Arc, which is said to
have taken place on the very spot now covered by the monument that
commemorates her fate. Three different ones have in succession occupied
this place. The first was a cross, erected in 1454, only twenty-four
years after her death; for even at this early period, the King of France
had obtained from Pope Calixtus IIIrd, a bull directing the revision of
her sentence, and he had caused her innocence to be acknowledged. The
second was a fountain of delicate workmanship, consisting of three
tiers of columns placed one above the other, on a triangular plan, the
whole decorated with arabesques and statues of saints, while the Maid
herself crowned the summit, and the water flowed through pipes that
terminated in horses' heads. The present monument is inferior to the
second, equally in design and in workmanship: it is a plain triangular
pedestal, ornamented with dolphins at the base, and surmounted by the
heroine in military costume. Of the two last, figures are given by
Millin[109], who could not be expected to suffer a subject to escape
him, so calculated for the gratification of national pride. In a
preceding volume of the same work[110], he has represented the monument
erected to her memory by Charles VIIth, upon the bridge at Orleans: the
latter is commemorative of her triumphs; that at Rouen, only of her
capture and death. But the King testified his gratitude by more
substantial tokens: he ennobled her three brothers and their
descendants; and even allowed the females of the family to confer their
rank upon the persons whom they married, a privilege which they
continued to enjoy till the time of Louis XIIIth, who abolished it in

In the square is a house within a court, now occupied as a school for
girls, of the same æra as the Palais de Justice, and in the same
_Burgundian style_, but far richer in its sculptures. The entire front
is divided into compartments by slender and lengthened buttresses and
pilasters. The intervening spaces are filled with basso-relievos,
evidently executed at one period, though by different masters. A
banquet beneath a window in the first floor, is in a good _cinque-cento_
style. Others of the basso-relievos, represent the labors of the field
and the vineyard; rich and fanciful in their costume, but rather wooden
in their design: the Salamander, the emblem of Francis Ist, appears
several times amongst the ornaments, and very conspicuously. I believe
there is not a single square foot of this extraordinary building, which
has not been sculptured. - On the north side extends a spacious gallery.
Here the architecture is rather in Holbein's manner: foliaged and
swelling pilasters, like antique candelabra, bound the arched windows.
Beneath, is the well-known series of bas-reliefs, executed on marble
tablets, representing the interview between Francis Ist of France, and
Henry VIIIth of England, in the _Champ du Drap d'or_, between Guisnes
and Ardres. They were first discovered by the venerable father
Montfaucon, who engraved them in his _Monumens de la Monarchie
Française_[111]; but to the greater part of our antiquaries at home,
they are, perhaps, more commonly known by the miserable copies inserted
in Ducarel's work, who has borrowed most of his plates from the
Benedictine. - These sculptures are much mutilated, and so obscured by
smoke and dirt, that the details cannot be understood without great
difficulty. The corresponding tablets above the windows, are even in a
worse condition; and they appear to have been almost unintelligible in
the time of Montfaucon, who conjectures that they were allegorical, and
probably intended to represent the triumph of religion. Each tablet
contains a triumphal car, drawn by different animals, one by elephants,
another by lions, and so on, and crowded with mythological figures and
attributes. - A friend of mine, who examined them this summer, tells me,
that he thinks the subjects are either _taken_ from the triumphs of
Petrarch, or _imitated_ from the triumphs introduced in the _Polifilo_.
Graphic representations of allegories are susceptible of so many
variations, that an artist, embodying the ideas of the poet, might
produce a representation bearing a close resemblance to the mythological
processions of the mystic dream. - Of one of the most perfect of the
historical subjects, I send you a drawing: it is the first in order in
Montfaucon's work, and exhibits the suite of the King of England, on
their way from the town of Guisnes, to meet the French monarch. Two of
the figures might be mistaken for Henry himself and Wolsey, riding
familiarly side by side; but these dignified personages have more
important parts allotted them in the second and third compartments,
where they appear in the full-blown honors of their respective

[Illustration: Bas-Relief, from the representations of the Champ du Drap d'or]

The interior has been modernized; so that a beam covered with small
carvings is the only remaining object of curiosity. On the top, a bunch
of leaden thistles has been a sad puzzle to antiquaries, who would fain
find some connection between the building and Scotland; but neither
record nor tradition throw any light upon their researches. Montfaucon,
copying from a manuscript written by the Abbé Noel, says, "I have more
than once been told that Francis Ist, on his way through Rouen, lodged
at this house; and it is most probable, that the bas-reliefs in question
were made upon some of these occasions, to gratify the king by the
representation of a festival, in which he particularly delighted." The
gallery sculptures are very fine, and the upper tier is much in the
style of Jean Goujon. It is not generally known that Goujon re-drew the
embellishments of Beroald de Verville's translation of the Polifilo; and
that these, beautiful as they are in the Aldine edition, acquired new
graces from the French artist. - I have remarked that the allegorical
tablets appear to coincide with the designs of the Polifilo: a more
accurate examination might, perhaps, prove the fact; and then little
doubt would remain. The building is much dilapidated; and, unless
speedily repaired, these basso-relievos, which would adorn any museum,
will utterly perish. In spite of neglect and degradations, the aspect of
the mansion is still such that, as my friend observed, one would expect
to see a fair and stately matron standing in the porch, attired in
velvet, waiting to receive her lord. - In the adjoining house, once,
probably, a part of the same, but now an inn, bearing the sign of _la
Pucelle_, is shewn a circular room, much ornamented, with a handsome
oriel conspicuous on the outside. In this apartment, the Maid is said to
have been tried; but it is quite certain that not a stone of the
building was then put of the quarry.

Hence I must take you, and still under the auspices of Millin[112], to
the great town-clock, or, as it is here called, _la Tour de la Grosse
Horloge_; and I cannot help wishing on the occasion, that I had half the
powers of instructing and amusing which he possessed. Like the writers
in our most popular Reviews, he uses the subjects which he places at the
head of his articles as little more than a peg, whereon to hang whatever
he knows connected with the matter; and the result is, that he is never
read without pleasure or information. Such is peculiarly the case in the
present instance, in which he takes an opportunity of giving the history
of the origin of clocks, tracing them from the simple dial, and
particularising the most curious and intricate contrivances of modern
ingenuity. Another name of the tower which contains this clock, is _la
Tour du Beffroi_, or, as we should say in English, the _Belfry_; for the
two words have the same meaning, and it is not to be doubted but that
they originated from the same root, the Anglo-Saxon _bell_, whence
barbarous Latinists have formed _Belfredus_ and _Berfredus_, terms for
moveable towers used in sieges, and so denominated from their
resemblance in form to bell-towers. I mention this etymology, because
the French have misled themselves strangely on the subject; and one of
them has wandered so widely in his conjectures, as to derive _beffroi_
from _bis effroi_, supposing it to be the cause of double alarm!
Happily, in the most alarming of all times for France, that of the
revolution, this bell, though appointed the _tocsin_, had scarcely ever
occasion to sound. There is, however, another purpose, alarming at all
periods, and especially in a town built of wood, to which it is
appropriated, and to which we only yesterday heard it applied, the
ringing to announce a fire. The precautions taken against similar
accidents in Rouen, are excellent, and they had need be so; for
insurance-companies of any kind are unknown, I believe, in France[113],
or exist only upon a most limited scale, at the foot of the Pyrenees,
where the farmers mutually insure each other against the effects of the
hail. The daily office of this bell is to sound the curfew, a practice
which, under different names, is still kept up through Normandy. Here it
rings nightly at nine. In other towns it rings at nine in winter only,
but not till ten in summer. In some places it is called _la retraite_.

Adjoining the bell-tower is a fountain, ornamented with statues of
Alpheus and Arethusa, united by Cupid; a specimen of the taste of the
far-famed _siècles de Louis XIV et de Louis XV_, and a worthy companion
of the water-works at Versailles. There are in Rouen more than thirty
public fountains, all supplied by five different springs, among which,
those of Yonville and of Darnétal are accounted to afford the purest
water. - The Robec and the Aubette also flow through Rouen in artificial
channels. St. Louis granted them both to the city in 1262; but it was
the great benefactor of the place, the Cardinal d'Amboise, who brought
them within the walls, by means of a canal, which he caused to be dug
at his own expence. For a space of two leagues their banks are
uninterruptedly lined with mills and manufactories of various
descriptions; and it is this circumstance which has given rise to the
saying, that Rouen is a wonderful place, for "that it has a river with
three hundred bridges, and whose waters change their color ten times a

As a building, the fountain of Lisieux, decorated with a bas-relief
representing Parnassus, with Apollo, the Muses, and Pegasus, is most
frequently pointed out to strangers; a wretched specimen of wretched
taste. Infinitely more interesting to us are the Gothic fountains or
conduits, which are now wholly wanting in England. Such is the fountain
_de la Croix de Pierre_, which, in shape, style, and ornaments,
resembles the monumental crosses erected by; our King Edward Ist, for
his Queen Eleanor. The water flows from pipes in the basement. The stone
statues, which filled the tabernacles, were destroyed during the
revolution: they have been replaced by others in wood. - The fountain _de
la Crosse_ is of inferior size, and more recent date. It is a polygon,
with sides of pannelled work, each compartment occupied by a pointed
arch, with tracery in the spandrils. It ends in a short truncated
pyramid, which, in Millin's time, was surmounted by a royal crown[114].
Its name is taken from a house, at whose corner it stands, and on whose
roof was originally a crozier.

Writing to a friend may be regarded, if we extend to writing the happy
comparison which Lord Bacon has applied to conversation, not as walking
in a high-road which leads direct to a house, but rather as strolling
through a country intersected with a variety of paths, in which the
traveller wanders as fancy or accident directs. Hence I shall scarcely
apologize for my abrupt transition to another very different subject,
the hospitals. - There are at Rouen two such establishments, situated at
opposite extremes of the town, the _Hospice Général_ and the _Hôtel
Dieu_, more commonly called _la Madeleine_. The latter is appropriated
only to the sick; the former is also open to the aged, to foundlings, to
paupers, and to lunatics. For the poor, I have been able to hear of no
other provision; and poor-laws, as you know, have no existence in
France; yet, even here, in a manufacturing town, and at a season of
distress, beggary is far from extreme. These institutions, like all the
rest at Rouen, are said to be under excellent management.

The annual expences of la Madeleine are estimated at two hundred and
forty thousand-francs[115]; out of which sum, no less than forty-seven
thousand francs are expended in bread. The number of individuals
admitted here, during the first nine months of 1805, the last authentic
statement I have been able to procure, was two thousand seven hundred
and seventeen: during the same period, two thousand one hundred and
fifty-eight were discharged, and two hundred and seventy died. The
building is modern and handsome, and situated at the end of a fine
avenue. The church, a Corinthian edifice, and indisputably the
handsomest building of that description at Rouen, is generally admired.
The Hospice Général, destitute as it is of architectural magnificence,
cannot be visited without satisfaction. When I was at this hospital, the
old men who are housed there were seated at their dinner, and I have
seldom witnessed a more pleasing sight. They exhibited an appearance of
cleanliness, propriety, good order, and comfort, equally creditable to
themselves and to the institution. The number of inmates usually
resident in this building is about two thousand; and they consisted, in
1805, of one hundred and sixty aged men, one hundred and eighty aged
women, six hundred children, and eight hundred and twenty-five invalids.
Among the latter were forty lunatics. The food here allowed to the
helpless poor is of good quality; and, as far as I could learn, is
afforded in sufficient quantity: there are also two work-shops; in one
of which, articles are manufactured for the use of the house; in the
other, for sale.

The principal towns of France, as was anciently the case in England,
have each its mint. The numismatic antiquities of this kingdom are yet
involved in considerable obscurity; but it is said that the monetary
privileges of the towns were first settled by Charles the Bald[116],
who, about the year 835, enacted, that money, which had previously only
been coined in the royal palace itself, or in places where the sovereign
was present, should be struck in future at Paris, Rouen, Rheims, Sens,
Chalons sur Saone, Mesle in Poitou, and Narbonne. At present, the money
struck at Rouen is impressed with the letter _B_, indicating that the
mint is second only to that of Paris; for the city has remained in
possession of the right of coinage throughout all its various changes of
masters: it now holds it in common with ten other, cities in the
kingdom. Ducarel[117] has figured two very scarce silver pennies, coined
here by William the Conqueror, before the invasion of England; and
Snelling and Ruding[118] detail ordinances for the regulation of the
mintage of Rouen, during the reign of Henry Vth. I have not been able,
however, to procure in the city any specimens of these, or of other
Norman coins; and in fact the native spot of articles of _virtu_ is
seldom the place where they can be procured either genuine or in
abundance. Greek medals, I am told, are regularly exported from
Birmingham to Athens, for the supply of our travelled gentlemen; and, if
groats and pennies should ever rise in the market, I doubt not but that
they will find their way in plenty into the old towns of Normandy. There
is not, at Rouen, any public collection of the productions of the mint.
Since the annexation of the duchy to the crown of France, no coins have
been struck here, except the common silver currency of the kingdom: the
manufacture of medals and of gold coins is exclusively the privilege of
the Parisian mint. The establishment is under the care of a commissary
and assay-master, appointed by the crown, but not salaried. Their pay
depends upon the amount of money coined, on which they are allowed one
and a half per cent., and are left to find silver where they can; so
that, in effect, it is little more than a private concern. The work is
performed by four die-presses, moved by levers, each of which requires
ten men; and about twenty thousand pieces can be produced daily from
each press. But this method of working is attended with unequal
pressure, and causes both trouble and uncertainty: it is even necessary
that each coin should be separately weighed. The extreme superiority of
the machinery of our own mint, where the whole operation is performed by
steam, with a rapidity and accuracy altogether astonishing, affords Just
reason for exultation to an Englishman. - It is true, that the execution
of our bank paper rather counterbalances such feelings of complacency.


[105] This appears from the following inscription now upon a silver
tablet placed near it. - "Ce tableau est celui qui fut donné par Louis
XII, en 1499, à l'Exchiquier, lorsqu'il le rendit permanent. C'est le
seul de tous les ornemens de ce palais qui ait échappé aux ravages de la
révolution: il a été conservé par les soins de M. Gouel, graveur, et par
lui remis à la cour royale de Rouen qui l'a fait placer ici, comme un
monument de la piété d'un roi, à qui sa bonté mérita le surnom de père
du peuple, et dont les vertus se reproduisent aujourd'hui dans la
personne non moins chérie que sacrée de sa majesté très chrétienne,
Louis XVIII, 15 Janvier, 1816."

[106] Du Cange, (I. p. 24.) quoting from a book printed at Rouen, in
1587, under the title of _Les Triomphes de l'Abbaye des Conards_, &c.
gives the following curious mock patent from the abbot of this
confraternity, addressed to somebody of the name of De Montalinos. -

"Provisio Cardinalatus Rothomagensis Julianensis, &c.

"Paticherptissime Pater, &c.

"Abbas Conardorum et inconardorum ex quacumque Natione, vel
genitatione sint aut fuerint: Dilecto nostro filio naturali et
illegitimo Jacobo à Montalinasio salutem et sinistram benedictionem.
Tua talis qualis vita et sancta reputatio cum bonis servitiis ... et
quod diffidimus quòd postea facies secundùm indolem adolescentiæ ac
sapientiæ tuæ in Conardicis actibus, induxenunt nos, &c. Quocirca
mandamus ad amicos, inimicos et benefactores nostros qui ex hoc
sæculo transierunt vel transituri sunt ... quatenus habeant te
ponere, statuere, instalare et investire tàm in choro, chordis et

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Online LibraryDawson TurnerAccount of a Tour in Normandy, Volume 1 → online text (page 14 of 16)