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    Ch. 4 - Normandy and the Ile de France

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    Chapter 4
    Previous Chapter
    From Mont-Saint-Michel, the architectural road leads across
    Normandy, up the Seine to Paris, and not directly through Chartres,
    which lies a little to the south. In the empire of architecture,
    Normandy was one kingdom, Brittany another; the Ile de France, with
    Paris, was a third; Touraine and the valley of the Loire were a
    fourth and in the centre, the fighting-ground between them all, lay
    the counties of Chartres and Dreux. Before going to Chartres one
    should go up the Seine and down the Loire, from Angers to Le Mans,
    and so enter Chartres from Brittany after a complete circle; but if
    we set out to do our pleasure on that scale, we must start from the
    Pyramid of Cheops. We have set out from Mont-Saint-Michel; we will
    go next to Paris.

    The architectural highway lies through Coutances, Bayeux, Caen,
    Rouen, and Mantes. Every great artistic kingdom solved its
    architectural problems in its own way, as it did its religious,
    political, and social problems, and no two solutions were ever quite
    the same; but among them the Norman was commonly the most practical,
    and sometimes the most dignified. We can test this rule by the
    standard of the first town we stop at--Coutances. We can test it
    equally well at Bayeux or Caen, but Coutances comes first after
    Mont-Saint-Michel let us begin with it, and state the problems with
    their Norman solution, so that it may be ready at hand to compare
    with the French solution, before coming to the solution at Chartres.

    The cathedral at Coutances is said to be about the age of the
    Merveille (1200-50), but the exact dates are unknown, and the work
    is so Norman as to stand by itself; yet the architect has grappled
    with more problems than one need hope to see solved in any single
    church in the tie de France. Even at Chartres, although the two
    stone fleches are, by exception, completed, they are not of the same
    age, as they are here. Neither at Chartres nor at Paris, nor at Laon
    or Amiens or Rheims or Bourges, will you see a central tower to
    compare with the enormous pile at Coutances. Indeed the architects
    of France failed to solve this particular church problem, and we-
    shall leave it behind us in leaving Normandy, although it is the
    most effective feature of any possible church. "A clocher of that
    period (circa 1200), built over the croisee of a cathedral,
    following lines so happy, should be a monument of the greatest
    beauty; unfortunately we possess not a single one in France. Fire,
    and the hand of man more than time, have destroyed them all, and we
    find on our greatest religious edifices no more than bases and
    fragments of these beautiful constructions. The cathedral of
    Coutances alone has preserved its central clocher of the thirteenth
    century, and even there it is not complete; its stone fleche is
    wanting. As for its style, it belongs to Norman architecture, and
    diverges widely from the character of French architecture." So says
    Viollet-le-Duc; but although the great churches for the most part
    never had central clochers, which, on the scale of Amiens, Bourges,
    or Beauvais, would have required an impossible mass, the smaller
    churches frequently carry them still, and they are, like the dome,
    the most effective features they can carry. They were made to
    dominate the whole.

    No doubt the fleche is wanting at Coutances, but you can supply it
    in imagination from the two fleches of the western tower, which are
    as simple and severe as the spear of a man-at-arms. Supply the
    fleche, and the meaning of the tower cannot be mistaken; it is as
    military as the "Chanson de Roland"; it is the man-at-arms himself,
    mounted and ready for battle, spear in rest. The mere seat of the
    central tower astride of the church, so firm, so fixed, so serious,
    so defiant, is Norman, like the seat of the Abbey Church on the
    Mount; and at Falaise, where William the Bastard was born, we shall
    see a central tower on the church which is William himself, in
    armour, on horseback, ready to fight for the Church, and perhaps, in
    his bad moods, against it. Such militant churches were capable of
    forcing Heaven itself; all of them look as though they had fought at
    Hastings or stormed Jerusalem. Wherever the Norman central clocher
    stands, the Church Militant of the eleventh century survives;--not
    the Church of Mary Queen, but of Michael the Archangel;--not the
    Church of Christ, but of God the Father--Who never lied!

    Taken together with the fleches of the facade, this clocher of
    Coutances forms a group such as one very seldom sees. The two towers
    of the facade are something apart, quite by themselves among the
    innumerable church-towers of the Gothic time. We have got a happy
    summer before us, merely in looking for these church-towers. There
    is no livelier amusement for fine weather than in hunting them as
    though they were mushrooms, and no study in architecture nearly so
    delightful. No work of man has life like the fleche. One sees it for
    a greater distance and feels it for a longer time than is possible
    with any other human structure, unless it be the dome. There is more
    play of light on the octagonal faces of the fleche as the sun moves
    around them than can be got out of the square or the cone or any
    other combination of surfaces. For some reason, the facets of the
    hexagon or octagon are more pleasing than the rounded surfaces of
    the cone, and Normandy is said to be peculiarly the home of this
    particularly Gothic church ornament; yet clochers and fleches are
    scattered all over France until one gets to look for them on the
    horizon as though every church in every hamlet were an architectural
    monument. Hundreds of them literally are so,--Monuments Historiques,
    -protected by the Government; but when you undertake to compare
    them, or to decide whether they are more beautiful in Normandy than
    in the Ile de France, or in Burgundy, or on the Loire or the
    Charente, you are lost, Even the superiority of the octagon is not
    evident to every one. Over the little church at Fenioux on the
    Charente, not very far from La Rochelle, is a conical steeple that
    an infidel might adore; and if you have to decide between provinces,
    you must reckon with the decision of architects and amateurs, who
    seem to be agreed that the first of all filches is at Chartres, the
    second at Vendome, not far from Blois in Touraine, and the third at
    Auxerre in Burgundy. The towers of Coutances are not in the list,
    nor are those at Bayeux nor those at Caen. France is rich in art.
    Yet the towers of Coutances are in some ways as interesting, if not
    as beautiful, as the best.

    The two stone fleches here, with their octagon faces, do not
    descend, as in other churches, to their resting-place on a square
    tower, with the plan of junction more or less disguised; they throw
    out nests of smaller fleches, and these cover buttressing corner
    towers, with lines that go directly to the ground. Whether the
    artist consciously intended it or not, the effect is to broaden the
    facade and lift it into the air. The facade itself has a distinctly
    military look, as though a fortress had been altered into a church.
    A charming arcade at the top has the air of being thrown across in
    order to disguise the alteration, and perhaps owes much of its charm
    to the contrast it makes with the severity of military lines. Even
    the great west window looks like an afterthought; one's instinct
    asks for a blank wall. Yet, from the ground up to the cross on the
    spire, one feels the Norman nature throughout, animating the whole,
    uniting it all, and crowding into it an intelligent variety of
    original motives that would build a dozen churches of late Gothic.
    Nothing about it is stereotyped or conventional,--not even the
    conventionality.

    If you have any doubts about this, you have only to compare the
    photograph of Coutances with the photograph of Chartres; and yet,
    surely, the facade of Chartres is severe enough to satisfy Saint
    Bernard himself. With the later fronts of Rheims and Amiens, there
    is no field for comparison; they have next to nothing in common; yet
    Coutances is said to be of the same date with Rheims, or nearly so,
    and one can believe it when one enters the interior. The Normans, as
    they slowly reveal themselves, disclose most unexpected qualities;
    one seems to sound subterranean caverns of feeling hidden behind
    their iron nasals. No other cathedral in France or in Europe has an
    interior more refined--one is tempted to use even the hard-worn
    adjective, more tender--or more carefully studied. One test is
    crucial here and everywhere. The treatment of the apse and choir is
    the architect's severest standard. This is a subject not to be
    touched lightly; one to which we shall have to come back in a humble
    spirit, prepared for patient study, at Chartres; but the choir of
    Coutances is a cousin to that of Chartres, as the facades are
    cousins; Coutances like Chartres belongs to Notre Dame and is felt
    in the same spirit; the church is built for the choir and apse,
    rather than for the nave and transepts; for the Virgin rather than
    for the public. In one respect Coutances is even more delicate in
    the feminine charm of the Virgin's peculiar grace than Chartres, but
    this was an afterthought of the fourteenth century. The system of
    chapels radiating about the apse was extended down the nave, in an
    arrangement "so beautiful and so rare," according to Viollet-le-Duc,
    that one shall seek far before finding its equal. Among the
    unexpected revelations of human nature that suddenly astonish
    historians, one of the least reasonable was the passionate outbreak
    of religious devotion to the ideal of feminine grace, charity, and
    love that took place here in Normandy while it was still a part of
    the English kingdom, and flamed up into almost fanatical frenzy
    among the most hard-hearted and hard-headed race in Europe.

    So in this church, in the centre of this arrangement of apse and
    chapels with their quite unusual--perhaps quite singular--grace, the
    four huge piers which support the enormous central tower, offer a
    tour de force almost as exceptional as the refinement of the
    chapels. At Mont-Saint-Michel, among the monks, the union of
    strength and grace was striking, but at Coutances it is exaggerated,
    like Tristram and Iseult,--a roman of chivalry. The four "enormous"
    columns of the croisee, carry, as Viollet-le-Duc says, the "enormous
    octagonal tower,"--like Saint Christopher supporting the Christ-
    child, before the image of the Virgin, in her honour. Nothing like
    this can be seen at Chartres, or at any of the later palaces which
    France built for the pleasure of the Queen of Heaven. We are
    slipping into the thirteenth century again; the temptation is
    terrible to feeble minds and tourist natures; but a great mass of
    twelfth and eleventh-century work remains to be seen and felt. To go
    back is not so easy as to begin with it; the heavy round arch is
    like old cognac compared with the champagne of the pointed and
    fretted spire; one must not quit Coutances without making an
    excursion to Lessayon the road to Cherbourg, where is a church of
    the twelfth century, with a square tower and almost untouched Norman
    interior, that closely repeats the Abbey Church at Mont-Saint-
    Michel. "One of the most complete models of Romanesque architecture
    to be found in Normandy," says M. de Caumont. The central clocher
    will begin a photographic collection of square towers, to replace
    that which was lost on the Mount; and a second example is near
    Bayeux, at a small place called Cerisy-la-Foret, where the church
    matches that on the Mount, according to M. Corroyer; for Cerisy-la-
    Foret was also an abbey, and the church, built by Richard II, Duke
    of Normandy, at the beginning of the eleventh century, was larger
    than that on the Mount. It still keeps its central tower.

    All this is intensely Norman, and is going to help very little in
    France; it would be more useful in England; but at Bayeux is a
    great: cathedral much more to the purpose, with two superb western
    towers crowned by stone fleches, cousins of those at Coutances, and
    distinctly related to the twelfth-century fleche at Chartres. "The
    Normans," says Viollet-le-Duc, "had not that instinct of proportion
    which the architects of the Ile de France, Beauvais, and Soissons
    possessed to a high degree; yet the boldness of their constructions,
    their perfect execution, the elevation of the fleches, had evident
    influence on the French school properly called, and that influence
    is felt in the old spire of Chartres." The Norman seemed to show
    distinction in another respect which the French were less quick to
    imitate. What they began, they completed. Not one of the great
    French churches has two stone spires complete, of the same age,
    while each of the little towns of Coutances, Bayeux, and Caen
    contains its twin towers and fleches of stone, as solid and perfect
    now as they were seven hundred years ago. Still another Norman
    character is worth noting, because this is one part of the influence
    felt at Chartres. If you look carefully at the two western towers of
    the Bayeux Cathedral, perhaps you will feel what is said to be the
    strength of the way they are built up. They rise from their
    foundation with a quiet confidence of line and support, which passes
    directly up to the weather-cock on the summit of the fleches. At the
    plane where the square tower is changed into the octagon spire, you
    will see the corner turrets and the long intermediate windows which
    effect the change without disguising it. One can hardly call it a
    device; it is so simple and evident a piece of construction that it
    does not need to be explained; yet you will have to carry a
    photograph of this fleche to Chartres, and from there to Vendome,
    for there is to be a great battle of fleches about this point of
    junction, and the Norman scheme is a sort of standing reproach to
    the French.

    Coutances and Bayeux are interesting, but Caen is a Romanesque
    Mecca. There William the Conqueror dealt with the same architectural
    problems, and put his solution in his Abbaye-aux-Hommes, which bears
    the name of Saint Stephen. Queen Matilda put her solution into her
    Abbaye-aux-Femmes, the Church of the Trinity. One ought particularly
    to look at the beautiful central clocher of the church at Vaucelles
    in the suburbs; and one must drive out to Thaon to see its eleventh-
    century church, with a charming Romanesque blind arcade on the
    outside, and a little clocher, "the more interesting to us,"
    according to Viollet-le-Duc, "because it bears the stamp of the
    traditions of defence of the primitive towers which were built over
    the porches." Even "a sort of chemin de ronde" remains around the
    clocher, perhaps once provided with a parapet of defence. "C'est la,
    du reste, un charmant edifice." A tower with stone fleche, which
    actually served for defence in a famous recorded instance, is that
    of the church at Secqueville, not far off; this beautiful tower, as
    charming as anything in Norman art, is known to have served as a
    fortress in 1105, which gives a valuable date. The pretty old
    Romanesque front of the little church at Ouistreham, with its portal
    that seems to come fresh from Poitiers and Moissac, can be taken in,
    while driving past; but we must on no account fail to make a serious
    pilgrimage to Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives, where the church-tower and
    fleche are not only classed among the best in Normandy, but have an
    exact date, 1145, and a very close relation with Chartres, as will
    appear. Finally, if for no other reason, at least for interest in
    Arlette, the tanner's daughter, one must go to Falaise, and look at
    the superb clocher of Saint-Gervais, which was finished and
    consecrated by 1135.

    Some day, if you like, we can follow this Romanesque style to the
    south, and on even to Italy where it may be supposed to have been
    born; but France had an architectural life fully a thousand years
    old when these twelfth-century churches were built, and was long
    since artistically, as she was politically, independent. The Normans
    were new in France, but not the Romanesque architecture; they only
    took the forms and stamped on them their own character. It is the
    stamp we want to distinguish, in order to trace up our lines of
    artistic ancestry. The Norman twelfth-century stamp was not easily
    effaced. If we have not seen enough of it at Mont-Saint-Michel,
    Coutances, Bayeux, and Caen, we can go to Rouen, and drive out to
    Boscherville, and visit the ruined Abbey of Jumieges. Wherever there
    is a church-tower with a tall fleche, as at Boscherville,
    Secqueville, Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives, Caen, and Bayeux, Viollet-le-
    Duc bids notice how the octagonal steeple is fitted on to the square
    tower. Always the passage from the octagon to the square seems to be
    quite simply made. The Gothic or Romanesque spire had the advantage
    that a wooden fleche was as reasonable a covering for it as a stone
    one, and the Normans might have indulged in freaks of form very
    easily, if they chose, but they seem never to have thought of it.
    The nearest approach to the freedom of wooden roofs is not in the
    lofty fleches, but in the covering of the great square central
    towers, like Falaise or Vaucelles, a huge four-sided roof which
    tries to be a fleche, and is as massive as the heavy structure it
    covers.

    The last of the Norman towers that Viollet-le-Duc insists upon is
    the so-called Clocher de Saint-Romain, the northern tower on the
    west front of the Cathedral of Rouen. Unfortunately it has lost its
    primitive octagon fleche if it ever had one, but "the tower remains
    entire, and," according to Viollet-le-Duc, "is certainly one of the
    most beautiful in this part of France; it offers a mixture of the
    two styles of the Ile de France and of Normandy, in which the former
    element dominates"; it is of the same date as the old tower of
    Chartres (1140-60), and follows the same interior arrangement; "but
    here the petty, confused disposition of the Norman towers, with
    their division into stories of equal height, has been adopted by the
    French master builder, although in submitting to these local customs
    he has still thrown over his work the grace and finesse, the study
    of detail, the sobriety in projections, the perfect harmony between
    the profiles, sculpture, and the general effect of the whole, which
    belong to the school he came from. He has managed his voids and
    solids with especial cleverness, giving the more importance to the
    voids, and enlarging the scale of his details, as the tower rose in
    height. These details have great beauty; the construction is
    executed in materials of small dimensions with the care that the
    twelfth-century architects put into their building; the profiles
    project little, and, in spite of their extreme finesse, produce much
    effect; the buttresses are skilfully planted and profiled. The
    staircase, which, on the east side, deranges the arrangement of the
    bays, is a chef-d'oeuvre of architecture." This long panegyric, by
    Viollet-le-Duc, on French taste at the expense of Norman temper,
    ought to be read, book in hand, before the Cathedral of Rouen, with
    photographs of Bayeux to compare. Certain it is that the Normans and
    the French never talked quite the same language, but it is equally
    certain that the Norman language, to the English ear, expressed
    itself quite as clearly as the French, and sometimes seemed to have
    more to express.

    The complaint of the French artist against the Norman is the
    "mesquin" treatment of dividing his tower into storeys of equal
    height. Even in the twelfth century and in religious architecture,
    artists already struggled over the best solution of this
    particularly American problem of the twentieth century, and when
    tourists return to New York, they may look at the twenty-storey
    towers which decorate the city, to see whether the Norman or the
    French plan has won; but this, at least, will be sure in advance:--
    the Norman will be the practical scheme which states the facts, and
    stops; while the French will be the graceful one, which states the
    beauties, and more or less fits the facts to suit them. Both styles
    are great: both can sometimes be tiresome.

    Here we must take leave of Normandy; a small place, but one which,
    like Attica or Tuscany, has said a great deal to the world, and even
    goes on saying things--not often in the famous genre ennuyeux--to
    this day; for Gustave Flaubert's style is singularly like that of
    the Tour Saint-Romain and the Abbaye-aux-Hommes. Going up the Seine
    one might read a few pages of his letters, or of "Madame de Bovary,"
    to see how an old art transmutes itself into a new one, without
    changing its methods. Some critics have thought that at times
    Flaubert was mesquin like the Norman tower, but these are, as the
    French say, the defects of his qualities; we can pass over them, and
    let our eyes rest on the simplicity of the Norman fleche which
    pierces the line of our horizon.

    The last of Norman art is seen at Mantes, where there is a little
    church of Gassicourt that marks the farthest reach of the style. In
    arms as in architecture, Mantes barred the path of Norman conquest;
    William the Conqueror met his death here in 1087. Geographically
    Mantes is in the Ile de France, less than forty miles from Paris.
    Architecturally, it is Paris itself; while, forty miles to the
    southward, is Chartres, an independent or only feudally dependent
    country. No matter how hurried the architectural tourist may be, the
    boundary-line of the Ile de France is not to be crossed without
    stopping. If he came down from the north or east, he would have
    equally to stop,--either at Beauvais, or at Laon, or Noyon, or
    Soissons,--because there is an architectural douane to pass, and
    one's architectural baggage must be opened. Neither Notre Dame de
    Paris nor Notre Dame de Chartres is quite intelligible unless one
    has first seen Notre Dame de Mantes, and studied it in the sacred
    sources of M. Viollet-le-Duc.

    Notre Dame de Mantes is a sister to the Cathedral of Paris, "built
    at the same time, perhaps by the same architect, and reproducing its
    general dispositions, its mode of structure, and some of its
    details"; but the Cathedral of Paris has been greatly altered, so
    that its original arrangement is quite changed, while the church at
    Mantes remains practically as it was, when both were new, about the
    year 1200. As nearly as the dates can be guessed, the cathedral was
    finished, up to its vaulting, in 1170, and was soon afterwards
    imitated on a smaller scale at Mantes. The scheme seems to have been
    unsatisfactory because of defects in the lighting, for the whole
    system of fenestration had been changed at Paris before 1230,
    naturally at great cost, since the alterations, according to
    Viollet-le-Duc (articles "Cathedral" and "Rose," and allusions
    "Triforium"), left little except the ground-plan unchanged. To
    understand the Paris design of 1160-70, which was a long advance
    from the older plans, one must come to Mantes; and, reflecting that
    the great triumph of Chartres was its fenestration, which must have
    been designed immediately after 1195, one can understand how, in
    this triangle of churches only forty or fifty miles apart, the
    architects, watching each other's experiments, were influenced,
    almost from day to day, by the failures or successes which they saw
    The fenestration which the Paris architect planned in 1160-70, and
    repeated at Mantes, 1190-1200, was wholly abandoned, and a new
    system introduced, immediately after the success of Chartres in
    1210.

    As they now stand, Mantes is the oldest. While conscientiously
    trying to keep as far away as we can from technique, about which we
    know nothing and should care if possible still less if only
    ignorance would help us to feel what we do not understand, still the
    conscience is happier if it gains a little conviction, founded on
    what it thinks a fact. Even theologians--even the great theologians
    of the thirteenth century--even Saint Thomas Aquinas himself--did
    not trust to faith alone, or assume the existence of God; and what
    Saint Thomas found necessary in philosophy may also be a sure source
    of consolation in the difficulties of art. The church at Mantes is a
    very early fact in Gothic art; indeed, it is one of the earliest;
    for our purposes it will serve as the very earliest of pure Gothic
    churches, after the Transition, and this we are told to study in its
    windows.

    Before one can get near enough fairly to mark the details of the
    facade, one sees the great rose window which fills a space nearly
    twenty-seven feet in width. Gothic fanatics commonly reckon the
    great rose windows of the thirteenth century as the most beautiful
    creation of their art, among the details of ornament; and this
    particular rose is the direct parent of that at Chartres, which is
    classic like the Parthenon, while both of them served as models or
    guides for that at Paris which dates from 1220, those in the north
    and south transepts at Rheims, about 1230, and so on, from parent to
    child, till the rose faded forever. No doubt there were Romanesque
    roses before 1200, and we shall see them, but this rose of Mantes is
    the first Gothic rose of great dimensions, and that from which the
    others grew; in its simplicity, its honesty, its large liberality of
    plan, it is also one of the best, if M. Viollet-le-Duc is a true
    guide; but you will see a hundred roses, first or last, and can
    choose as you would among the flowers.

    More interesting than even the great rose of the portal is the
    remark that the same rose-motive is carried round the church
    throughout its entire system of fenestration. As one follows it, on
    the outside, one sees that all the windows are constructed on the
    same rose-scheme; but the most curious arrangement is in the choir
    inside the church. You look up to each of the windows through a sort
    of tunnel or telescope: an arch enlarging outwards, the roses at the
    end resembling "oeil-de-boeufs," "oculi." So curious is this
    arrangement that Viollet-le-Duc has shown it, under the head
    "Triforium," in drawings and sections which any one can study who
    likes; its interest to us is that this arrangement in the choir was
    probably the experiment which proved a failure in Notre Dame at
    Paris, and led to the tearing-out the old windows and substituting
    those which still stand. Perhaps the rose did not give enough light,
    although the church at Mantes seems well lighted, and even at Paris
    the rose windows remain in the transepts and in one bay of the nave.

    All this is introduction to the windows of Chartres, but these three
    churches open another conundrum as one learns, bit by bit, a few of
    the questions to be asked of the forgotten Middle Ages. The church
    towers at Mantes are very interesting, inside and out; they are
    evidently studied with love and labour by their designer; yet they
    have no fleches. How happens it that Notre Dame at Paris also has no
    fleches, although the towers, according to Viollet-le-Duc, are
    finished in full preparation for them? This double omission on the
    part of the French architect seems exceedingly strange, because his
    rival at Chartres finished his fleche just when the architect of
    Paris and Mantes was finishing his towers (1175-1200). The Frenchman
    was certainly consumed by jealousy at the triumph never attained on
    anything like the same scale by any architect of the Ile de France;
    and he was actually engaged at the time on at least two fleches,
    close to Paris, one at Saint-Denis, another of Saint-Leu-d'Esserent,
    which proved the active interest he took in the difficulties
    conquered at Chartres, and his perfect competence to deal with them.

    Indeed, one is tempted to say that these twin churches, Paris and
    Mantes, are the only French churches of the time (1200) which were
    left without a fleche. As we go from Mantes to Paris, we pass, about
    half-way, at Poissy, under the towers of a very ancient and
    interesting church which has the additional merit of having
    witnessed the baptism of Saint Louis in 1215. Parts of the church at
    Poissy go back to the seventh and ninth centuries. The square base
    of the tower dates back before the time of Hugh Capet, to the
    Carolingian age, and belongs, like the square tower of Saint-
    Germain-des-Pres at Paris, to the old defensive military
    architecture; but it has a later, stone fleche and it has, too, by
    exception a central octagonal clocher, with a timber fleche which
    dates from near 1100. Paris itself has not much to show, but in the
    immediate neighbourhood are a score of early churches with charming
    fleches, and at Etampes, about thirty-five miles to the south, is an
    extremely interesting church with an exquisite fleche, which may
    claim an afternoon to visit. That at Saint-Leu-d'Esserent is a still
    easier excursion, for one need only drive over from Chantilly a
    couple of miles. The fascinating old Abbey Church of Saint-Leu looks
    down over the valley of the Oise, and is a sort of antechamber to
    Chartres, as far as concerns architecture. Its fleche, built towards
    1160,--when that at Chartres was rising,--is unlike any other, and
    shows how much the French architects valued their lovely French
    creation. On its octagonal faces, it carries upright batons, or
    lances, as a device for relieving the severity of the outlines; a
    device both intelligent and amusing, though it was never imitated. A
    little farther from Paris, at Senlis, is another fleche, which shows
    still more plainly the effort of the French architects to vary and
    elaborate the Chartres scheme. As for Laon, which is interesting
    throughout, and altogether the most delightful building in the Ile
    de France, the fleches are gone, but the towers are there, and you
    will have to study them, before studying those at Chartres, with all
    the intelligence you have to spare. They were the chef-d'oeuvre of
    the mediaeval architect, in his own opinion.

    All this makes the absence of fleches at Paris and Mantes the more
    strange. Want of money was certainly not the cause, since the
    Parisians had money enough to pull their whole cathedral to pieces
    at the very time when fleches were rising in half the towns within
    sight of them. Possibly they were too ambitious, and could find no
    design that seemed to satisfy their ambition. They took pride in
    their cathedral, and they tried hard to make their shrine of Our
    Lady rival the great shrine at Chartres. Of course, one must study
    their beautiful church, but this can be done at leisure, for, as it
    stands, it is later than Chartres and more conventional. Saint-
    Germain-des-Pres leads more directly to Chartres; but perhaps the
    church most useful to know is no longer a church at all, but a part
    of the Museum of Arts et Metiers,--the desecrated Saint-Martin-des-
    Champs, a name which shows that it dates from a time when the
    present Porte-Saint-Martin was far out among fields. The choir of
    Saint-Martin, which is all that needs noting, is said by M. Enlart
    to date from about 1150. Hidden in a remnant of old Paris near the
    Pont Notre Dame, where the student life of the Middle Ages was to be
    most turbulent and the Latin Quarter most renowned, is the little
    church of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, towards 1170. On the whole,
    further search in Paris would not greatly help us. If one is to
    pursue the early centuries, one must go farther afield, for the
    schools of Normandy and the Ile de France were only two among half a
    dozen which flourished in the various provinces that were to be
    united in the kingdom of Saint Louis and his successors. We have not
    even looked to the south and east, whence the impulse came. The old
    Carolingian school, with its centre at Aix-la-Chapelle, is quite
    beyond our horizon. The Rhine had a great Romanesque architecture of
    its own. One broad architectural tide swept up the Rhone and filled
    the Burgundian provinces as far as the watershed of the Seine.
    Another lined the Mediterranean, with a centre at Arles. Another
    spread up the western rivers, the Charente and the Loire, reaching
    to Le Mans and touching Chartres. Two more lay in the centre of
    France, spreading from Perigord and Clermont in Auvergne. All these
    schools had individual character, and all have charm; but we have
    set out to go from Mont-Saint-Michel to Chartres in three centuries,
    the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth, trying to get, on the way,
    not technical knowledge; not accurate information; not correct views
    either on history, art, or religion; not anything that can possibly
    be useful or instructive; but only a sense of what those centuries
    had to say, and a sympathy with their ways of saying it. Let us go
    straight to Chartres!
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