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Title: The Cathedral
Author: Huysmans, J.-K. (Joris-Karl), 1848-1907
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Cathedral" ***

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J.K. Huysmans


Translated by Clara Bell

_Publishing History_
First published in France in 1898
First English edition in 1898



At Chartres, as you turn out of the little market-place, which is swept
in all weathers by the surly wind from the flats, a mild air as of a
cellar, made heavy by a soft, almost smothered scent of oil, puffs in
your face on entering the solemn gloom of the sheltering forest.

Durtal knew it well, and the delightful moment when he could take
breath, still half-stunned by the sudden change from a stinging north
wind to a velvety airy caress. At five every morning he left his rooms,
and to reach the covert of that strange forest he had to cross the
square; the same figures were always to be seen at the turnings from the
same streets; nuns with bowed heads, leaning forward, the borders of
their caps blown back and flapping like wings, the wind whirling in
their skirts, which they could hardly hold down; and shrunken women, in
garments they hugged round them, struggling forward with bent shoulders
lashed by the gusts.

Never at that hour had he seen anybody walking boldly upright, without
straining her neck and bowing her head; and these scattered women
gathered by degrees into two long lines, one of them turning to the
left, to vanish under a lighted porch opening to a lower level than the
square; the other going straight on, to be swallowed up in the darkness
by an invisible wall.

Closing the procession came a few belated priests, hurrying on, with one
hand gathering up the gown that ballooned behind them, and with the
other clutching their hats, or snatching at the breviary that was
slipping from under one arm, their faces hidden on their breast, to
plough through the wind with the back of their neck; with red ears, eyes
blinded with tears, clinging desperately, when it rained, to umbrellas
that swayed above them, threatening to lift them from the ground and
dragging them in every direction.

The passage had been more than usually stormy this morning; the squalls
that tear across the district of La Beauce, where nothing can check
them, had been bellowing for hours; there had been rain, and the puddles
splashed under foot. It was difficult to see, and Durtal had begun to
think that he should never succeed in getting past the dim mass of the
wall that shut in the square, by pushing open the door behind which lay
that weird forest, redolent of the night-lamp and the tomb, and
protected from the gale.

He sighed with satisfaction, and followed the wide path that led through
the gloom. Though he knew his way, he walked cautiously in this alley,
bordered by enormous trunks, their crowns lost in shadow. He could have
fancied himself in a hothouse roofed with black glass, for there were
flagstones under foot, and no sky could be seen, no breeze could stir
overhead. The few stars whose glimmer twinkled from afar belonged to our
firmament; they quivered almost on the ground, and were, in fact,

In this obscurity nothing was to be heard but the fall of quiet feet,
nothing to be seen but silent shades visible against the twilight like
shapes of deeper darkness.

Durtal presently turned into another wide walk crossing that he had
left. There he found a bench backed by the trunk of a tree, and on this
he leaned, waiting till the Mother should awake, and the sweet interview
interrupted yesterday by the close of the day should begin again.

He thought of the Virgin, whose watchful care had so often preserved him
from unexpected risk, easy slips, or greater falls. Was not She the
bottomless Well of goodness, the Bestower of the gifts of good Patience,
the Opener of dry and obdurate hearts? Was She not, above all, the
living and thrice Blessed Mother?

Bending for ever over the squalid bed of the soul, she washed the sores,
dressed the wounds, strengthened the fainting weakness of converts.
Through all the ages She was the eternal supplicant, eternally
entreated; at once merciful and thankful; merciful to the woes She
alleviated, and thankful to them too. She was indeed our debtor for our
sins, since, but for the wickedness of man, Jesus would never have been
born under the corrupt semblance of our image, and She would not have
been the immaculate Mother of God. Thus our woe was the first cause of
Her joy; and this supremest good resulting from the very excess of Evil,
this touching though superfluous bond, linking us to Her, was indeed the
most bewildering of mysteries; for Her gratitude would seem unneeded,
since Her inexhaustible mercy was enough to attach Her to us for ever.

Thenceforth, in Her immense humility, She had at various times
condescended to the masses; She had appeared in the most remote spots,
sometimes seeming to rise from the earth, sometimes floating over the
abyss, descending on solitary mountain peaks, bringing multitudes to Her
feet, and working cures; then, as if weary of wandering to be adored,
She wished--so it had seemed--to fix the worship in one place, and had
deserted Her ancient haunts in favour of Lourdes.

That town was the second stage of Her progress through France in the
nineteenth century. Her first visit was to La Salette.

This was years ago. On the 19th of September, 1846, the Virgin had
appeared to two children on a hill; it was a Saturday, the day dedicated
to Her, which, that year, was a fast day by reason of the Ember week. By
another coincidence, this Saturday was the eve of the Festival of Our
Lady of Seven Dolours, and the first vespers were being chanted when
Mary appeared as from a shell of glory just above the ground.

And she appeared as Our Lady of Tears in that desert landscape of
stubborn rocks and dismal hills. Weeping bitterly, She had uttered
reproofs and threats; and a spring, which never in the memory of man had
flowed excepting at the melting of the snows, had never since been dried

The fame of this event spread far and wide; frantic thousands scrambled
up fearful paths to a spot so high that trees could not grow there.
Caravans of the sick and dying were conveyed, God knows how, across
ravines to drink the water; and maimed limbs recovered, and tumours
melted away to the chanting of canticles.

Then, by degrees, after the sordid debates of a contemptible lawsuit,
the reputation of La Salette dwindled to nothing; pilgrims were few,
miracles were less often proclaimed. The Virgin, it would seem, was
gone; She had ceased to care for this spring of piety and these

At the present day few persons climb to La Salette but the natives of
Dauphiné, tourists wandering through the Alps, or invalids following the
cure at the neighbouring mineral springs of La Mothe. Conversions and
spiritual graces still abound there, but bodily healing there is next to

"In fact," said Durtal to himself, "the vision at La Salette became
famous without its ever being known exactly why. It may be supposed to
have grown up as follows: the report, confined at first to the village
of Corps at the foot of the mountain, spread first throughout the
department, was taken up by the adjacent provinces, filtered over all
France, overflowed the frontier, trickled through Europe, and at last
crossed the seas to land in the New World which, in its turn, felt the
throb, and also came to this wilderness to hail the Virgin.

"And the circumstances attending these pilgrimages were such as might
have daunted the determination of the most persevering. To reach the
little inn, perched on high near the church, the lazy rumbling of slow
trains must be endured for hours, and constant changes at stations; days
must be spent in the diligence, and nights in breeding-places of fleas
at country inns; and after flaying your back on the carding-combs of
impossible beds, you must rise at daybreak to start on a giddy climb, on
foot or riding a mule, up zig-zag bridle-paths above precipices; and at
last, when you are there, there are no fir trees, no beeches, no
pastures, no torrents; nothing--nothing but total solitude, and silence
unbroken even by the cry of a bird, for at that height no bird is to be

"What a scene!" thought Durtal, calling up the memories of a journey he
had made with the Abbé Gévresin and his housekeeper, since leaving La
Trappe. He remembered the horrors of a spot he had passed between Saint
Georges de Commiers and La Mure, and his alarm in the carriage as the
train slowly travelled across the abyss. Beneath was darkness increasing
in spirals down to the vasty deeps; above, as far as the eye could
reach, piles of mountains invaded the sky.

The train toiled up, snorting and turning round and round like a top;
then, going into a tunnel, was swallowed by the earth; it seemed to be
pushing the light of day away in front, till it suddenly came out into a
clearing full of sunshine; presently, as if it were retracing its road,
it rushed into another burrow, and emerged with the strident yell of a
steam whistle and deafening clatter of wheels, to fly up the winding
ribbon of road cut in the living rock.

Suddenly the peaks parted, a wide opening brought the train out into
broad daylight; the scene lay clear before them, terrible on all sides.

"Le Drac!" exclaimed the Abbé Gévresin, pointing to a sort of liquid
serpent at the bottom of the precipice, writhing and tossing between
rocks in the very jaws of the pit.

For now and again the reptile flung itself up on points of stone that
rent it as it passed; the waters changed as though poisoned by these
fangs; they lost their steely hue, and whitened with foam like a bran
bath; then the Drac hurried on faster, faster, flinging itself into the
shadowy gorge; lingered again on gravelly reaches, wallowing in the sun;
presently it gathered up its scattered rivulets and went on its way,
scaly with scum like the iridescent dross on boiling lead, till, far
away, the rippling rings spread and vanished, skinned and leaving behind
them on the banks a white granulated cuticle of pebbles, a hide of dry

Durtal, as he leaned out of the carriage window, looked straight down
into the gulf; on this narrow way with only one line of rails, the train
on one side was close to the towering hewn rock, and on the other was
the void. Great God! if it should run off the rails! "What a hash!"
thought he.

And what was not less overwhelming than the appalling depth of the abyss
was, as he looked up, the sight of the furious, frenzied assault of the
peaks. Thus, in that carriage, he was literally between the earth and
sky, and the ground over which it was moving was invisible, being
covered for its whole width by the body of the train.

On they went, suspended in mid-air at a giddy height, along interminable
balconies without parapets; and below, the cliffs dropped
avalanche-like, fell straight, bare, without a patch of vegetation or a
tree. In places they looked as if they had been split down by the blows
of an axe--huge growths of petrified wood; in others they seemed sawn
through shaley layers of slate.

And all round lay a wide amphitheatre of endless mountains, hiding the
heavens, piled one above another, barring the way to the travelling
clouds, stopping the onward march of the sky.

Some made a good show with their jagged grey crests, huge masses of
oyster shells; others, with scorched summits, like burnt pyramids of
coke, were green half-way up. These bristled with pine woods to the very
edge of the precipices, and they were scarred too with white
crosses--the high roads, dotted in places with Nuremberg dogs,
red-roofed hamlets, sheepfolds that seemed on the verge of tumbling
headlong, clinging on--how, it was impossible to guess, and flung here
and there on patches of green carpet glued on to the steep hill-sides;
while other peaks towered higher still, like vast calcined hay-cocks,
with doubtfully dead craters still brooding internal fires, and trailing
smoky clouds which, as they blew off, really seemed to be coming out of
their summits.

The landscape was ominous; the sight of it was strangely discomfiting;
perhaps because it impugned the sense of the infinite that lurks within
us. The firmament was no more than a detail, cast aside like needless
rubbish on the desert peaks of the hills. The abyss was the
all-important fact; it made the sky look small and trivial, substituting
the magnificence of its depths for the grandeur of eternal space.

The eye, in fact, turned away with disappointment from the sky, which
had lost its infinitude of depth, its immeasurable breadth, for the
mountains seemed to touch it, pierce it, and uphold it; they cut it up,
sawing it with the jagged teeth of their pinnacles, showing mere
tattered skirts of blue and rags of cloud.

The eye was involuntarily attracted to the ravines, and the head swam at
the sight of those, vast pits of blackness. This immensity in the wrong
place, stolen from above and cast into the depths, was horrible.

The Abbé had said that the Drac was one of the most formidable torrents
in France; at the moment it was dormant, almost dry; but when the
season of snows and storms comes it wakes up and flashes like a tide of
silver, hisses and tosses, foams and leaps, and can in an instant
swallow up villages and dams.

"It is hideous," thought Durtal. "That bilious flood must carry fevers
with it; it is accursed and rotten with its soapy foam-flakes, its
metallic hues, its scrap of rainbow-colour stranded in the mud."

Durtal now thought over all these details; as he closed his eyes he
could see the Drac and La Salette.

"Ah!" thought he, "they may well be proud of the pilgrims who venture to
those desolate regions to pray where the vision actually appeared, for
when once they are there they are packed on a little plot of ground no
bigger than the Place Saint Sulpice, hemmed in on one side by a church
of rough stone daubed with cement of the colour of Valbonnais mustard,
and on the other by a graveyard. The horizon is a circle of cones, of
dry scoriæ, like pumice, or covered with short grass; above them, the
glassy slope of perpetual ice and snow; to walk on, a scanty growth of
grass moth-eaten by sand. In two words, to sum up the scene, it was
nature's scab, the leprosy of the earth.

"From the artistic point of view, on this microscopic grand parade,
close to the spring whose waters are caught in pipes with taps, three
bronze statues stand in different spots. One, a Virgin, in the most
preposterous garments, her headgear a sort of pastry-mould, a Mohican's
bonnet, is on her knees weeping, with her face hidden in her hands. Then
the same Woman, standing up, her hands ecclesiastically shrouded in her
sleeves, looks at the two children to whom she is speaking; Maximin,
with hair curled like a poodle, twirling a cap like a raised pie, in his
hand; Mélanie buried in a cap with deep frills and accompanied by a dog
like a paper-weight--all in bronze. Finally the same Person, once more
alone, standing on tip-toe, her eyes raised to heaven with a
melodramatic expression.

"Never has the frightful appetite for the hideous that disgraces the
Church in our day been so resolutely displayed as on this spot; and if
the soul suffered in the presence of the obtrusive outrage of this
degrading work--perpetrated by one Barrême of Angers and cast in the
steam foundries of Le Creusot--the body too had something to endure on
this plateau under the crushing mass of hills that shut in the view.

"And yet it was hither that thousands of sick creatures had had
themselves hauled up to face the cruel climate, where in summer the sun
burns you to a cinder while, two yards away, in the shade of the church,
you are frozen.

"The first and greatest miracle accomplished at La Salette was that of
bringing such an invasion to this precipitous spot in the Alps, for
everything combines to forbid it.

"But crowds came there year after year, till Lourdes took possession of
them; for it is since the apparition of the Virgin there that La Salette
has fallen into disrepute.

"Twelve years after the vision at La Salette, the Virgin showed herself
again, not in Dauphiné this time, but in the depths of Gascony. After
the Mother of Tears, Our Lady of Seven Dolours, it was Our Lady of
Smiles, of the Immaculate Conception, the Sovereign Lady of Joy in
Glory, who appeared; and here again it was to a shepherdess that she
revealed the existence of a spring that healed diseases.

"And here it is that consternation begins. Lourdes may be described as
the exact opposite to La Salette; the scenery is magnificent, the hills
in the foreground are covered with verdure, the tamed mountains permit
access to their heights; on all sides there are shady avenues, fine
trees, living waters, gentle slopes, broad roads devoid of danger and
accessible to all; instead of a wilderness, a town, where every
requirement of the sick is provided for. Lourdes may be reached without
adventures in warrens of vermin, without enduring nights in country
inns, or days of jolting in wretched vehicles, without creeping along
the face of a precipice; and the traveller is at his destination when he
gets out of the train.

"This town then was so admirably chosen for the resort of crowds, that
it did not seem necessary that Providence should intervene with such
strong measures to attract them.

"But God, who forced La Salette on the world without availing Himself of
the means of fashionable notoriety, now changed His tactics; with
Lourdes, advertisement appeared on the scene.

"This it is that confounds the mind: Jesus condescending to make use of
the wretched arts of human commerce; adopting the repulsive tricks which
we employ to float a manufacture or a business.

"And we wonder whether this may not be the sternest lesson in humility
ever given to man, as well as the most vehement reproof hurled at the
American abominations of our day--God reduced to lowering Himself once
more to our level, to speaking our language, to using our own devices
that He may make Himself heard and obeyed; God no longer even trying to
make us understand His purpose through Himself, or to uplift us to that

"In point of fact, the way in which the Lord set to work to promulgate
the mercies peculiar to Lourdes is astounding. To make them known He is
no longer content to spread the report of its miracles by word of mouth;
no, and it might be supposed that in His eyes Lourdes is harder to
magnify than La Salette--He adopted strong measures from the first. He
raised up a man whose book, translated into every language, carried the
news of the vision to the most distant lands, and certified the truth of
the cures effected at Lourdes.

"To the end that this work should stir up the masses, it was necessary
that the writer destined to the task should be a clever organizer, and
at the same time a man devoid of individuality of style and of any novel
ideas. In a word, what was needed was a man devoid of talent; and that
is quite intelligible, since from the point of view of appreciating art
the Catholic public is still a hundred feet beneath the profane public.
And our Lord did the thing well; he selected Henri Lasserre.

"Consequently the mine exploded as required, rending souls and bringing
crowds out on to the road to Lourdes.

"Years went by. The fame of the sanctuary is an established fact.
Indisputable cures are effected by supernatural means and certified by
clinical authorities, whose good faith and scientific skill are above
suspicion. Lourdes has its fill; and yet, little by little, in the long
run, though pilgrims do not cease to flow thither, the commotion about
the Grotto is diminishing. It is dying out, if not in the religious
world, at any rate in the wider world of the careless or the doubting,
who must be convinced. And our Lord thinks it desirable to revive
attention to the benefits dispensed by His Mother.

"Lasserre was not such an instrument as could renew the half-exhausted
vogue enjoyed by Lourdes. The public was soaked in his book; it had
swallowed it in every vehicle and in every form; the end was achieved;
this budding-knife of miracles was a tool that might now be laid aside.

"What was now wanted was a book entirely unlike his; a book that would
influence the vaster public, whom his homely prosiness would never
reach. Lourdes must make its way through denser and less malleable
strata, to a public of higher class, and harder to please. It was
requisite, therefore, that this new book should be written by a man of
talent, whose style nevertheless should not be so transcendental as to
scare folks. And it was an advantage that the writer should be very well
known, so that his enormous editions might counterpoise those of

"Now in all the realm of literature there was but one man who could
fulfil these imperative conditions: Émile Zola. In vain should we seek
another. He alone with his battering push, his enormous sale, his
blatant advertisement, could launch Lourdes once more.

"It mattered little that he would deny supernatural agency and endeavour
to explain inexplicable cures by the meanest hypotheses; it mattered
little that he mixed mortar of the medical muck of a Charcot to make his
wretched theory hold together; the great thing was that noisy debates
should arise about the book of which more than a hundred and fifty
thousand copies proclaimed the name of Lourdes throughout the world.

"And then the very disorder of his arguments, the poor resort to a
'breath that heals the people,' invented in contradiction to all the
data of positive science on which he prided himself, with the purpose of
making these extraordinary cures intelligible--cures which he had seen,
and of which he dared not deny the reality or the frequency--were
admirable means of persuading unprejudiced and candid inquirers of the
authenticity of the recoveries effected year after year at Lourdes.

"This avowed testimony to such amazing facts was enough to give a fresh
impetus to the masses. It must be remarked, too, that the book betrays
no hostility to the Virgin, of whom it speaks only in respectful terms
on the whole; so is it not very credible that the scandal to which this
work gave rise was profitable?

"To sum up: it may be asserted that Lasserre and Zola were both useful
instruments; one devoid of talent, and for that very reason penetrating
to the very lowest strata of the Catholic methodists; the other, on the
contrary, making himself welcome to a more intelligent and cultivated
public, by those splendid passages where the flaming multitude of
processions moves on, and amid a cyclone of anguish, the triumphant
faith of the white ranks is exultant.

"Oh, yes! She is fond of Her Lourdes, is Our Lady, and pets it. She
seems to have centred all Her powers there, all Her favours; Her other
sanctuaries are perishing that this one may live!


"Why, above all, have created La Salette and then sacrificed it, as it

"That She should have appeared there is quite intelligible," thought
Durtal, answering himself. "The Virgin is more highly venerated in
Dauphiné than in any other province; chapels dedicated to Her worship
swarm in those parts, and She meant perhaps to reward their zeal by Her
gracious presence.

"On the other hand, She appeared there with a special and very definite
end in view: to preach repentance to mankind, and especially to priests.
She ratified by certain miracles the evidence of this mission which She
confided to Mélanie, and then, that being accomplished, She could desert
the spot where She had, no doubt, never intended to remain.

"And after all," he went on, after a moment's reflection, "may we not
admit an even simpler solution, namely, this:--

"Mary vouchsafes to appear under various aspects to satisfy the tastes
and cravings of each soul. At La Salette, where She descended in a
distressful spot, all in tears, She revealed Herself no doubt to certain
persons, more especially to the souls in love with sorrow, the mystical
souls that delight in reviving the anguish of the Passion and following
the Mother in Her heart-breaking way to the Cross. She would thus seem
less attractive to the vulgar who do not love woe or weeping; it may be
added that they still less love reproof and threats. The Virgin of La
Salette could not become popular, by reason of Her aspect and address,
while She of Lourdes, who appeared smiling, and prophesied no
catastrophes, was easy of access to the hopes and gladness of the crowd.

"She was, in short, in that sanctuary, the Virgin of the world at large,
not the Virgin of mystics and artists, the Virgin of the few, as at La

"What a mystery is this direct intervention of the Christ's Mother on
earth!" thought Durtal.

And he went on: "It is clear, on reflection, that the churches founded
by Her may be classed in two very distinct groups.

"One group where She has revealed Herself to certain persons, where
waters spring and bodily ills are healed: La Salette and Lourdes.

"The other, where She has never been gazed on by human beings, or where
Her appearance occurred in immemorial times, in forgotten centuries, the
dead ages. In those chapels prayer alone is in force, and Mary answers
it without the help of any waters. Indeed, She effects more moral than
physical cures. Notre Dame de Fourvières at Lyon, Notre Dame de
Sous-Terre at Chartres, Notre Dame des Victoires at Paris, to mention
only three.

"Wherefore this difference? None can understand, and probably none will
ever know. At most may we suppose that in compassion for the everlasting
craving of our hapless souls wearied with prayer without sight, She
would fain confirm our faith and help to gather in the flock by showing

"In all this obscurity," Durtal went on, "is it at least possible to
discern some dim landmarks, some vague law?

"As we gaze into the darkness, two spots of light appear," he replied to

"In the first place, this: She appears to none but the poor and humble;
She addresses the simple souls who have in a way handed down the
primitive occupation, the biblical function of the Patriarchs; She
unveils herself to the children of the soil, to the shepherds, to girls
as they watch the flock. Both at La Salette and at Lourdes She chose
little pastors for Her confidants, and this is intelligible, since, by
acting thus, she confirms the known will of Her Son; the first to behold
the infant Jesus in the manger at Bethlehem were in fact shepherds, and
it was from among men of the lowest class that Christ chose His

"And is not the water that serves as a medium of cure prefigured in the
Sacred Books--in the Old Testament by the River Jordan, which cleansed
Naaman of his leprosy; and in the New by the probationary pool stirred
by an angel?

"Another law seems no less probable. The Virgin is, as far as possible,
considerate of the temperament and individual character of the persons
She appears to. She places Herself on the level of their intellect, is
incarnate in the only material form that they can conceive of. She
assumes the simple aspect these poor creatures love, accepting the blue
and white robes, the crown and wreaths of roses, the trinkets and
garlands and frippery of a first Communion, the ugliest garb.

"There is not indeed a single case where the shepherd maids who saw Her
described Her otherwise than as a 'beautiful lady' with the features of
the Virgin of a village altar, a Madonna of the Saint-Sulpice shops, a
street-corner Queen.

"These two rules are more or less universal," said Durtal to himself.
"As to the Son, it would seem that He never now will reveal Himself in
human form to the masses. Since His appearance to the Blessed Mary
Margaret, whom He employed as a mouthpiece to address the people, He has
been silent. He keeps in the background, giving precedence to His

"He, it is true, reserves for Himself a dwelling in the secret places,
the hidden regions, the strongholds of the soul, as Saint Theresa calls
them; but His presence is unseen and His words spoken within us, and
generally not apprehended by means of the senses."

Durtal ceased speaking, confessing to himself how inane were these
reflections, how powerless the human reason to investigate the
inconceivable purposes of the Almighty; and again his thoughts turned to
that journey to Dauphiné which haunted his memory.

"Ah! but the chain of the High Alps and the peaks of La Salette," said
he to himself; "that huge white hotel, that church coloured with dirty
yellow lime-wash, vaguely Byzantine and vaguely Romanesque in its
architecture, and that little cell with the plaster Christ nailed to a
flat black wooden Cross--that tiny Sanctuary plainly white-washed, and
so small that one could step across it in any direction--they were
pregnant with her presence, all the same!"

"Surely She revisited that spot, in spite of Her apparent desertion, to
comfort all comers; She seemed so close at hand, so attentive and so
grieving, in the evening as one sat alone by the light of a candle, that
the soul seemed to burst open like a pod shedding the fruit of sin, the
seeds of evil deeds; and repentance, that had been so tardily evolved,
and sometimes so indefinite, became so suddenly despotic and
unmistakable that the penitent dropped on his knees by the bed, and
buried his head sobbing in the sheets. Ah, those were evenings of mortal
dulness and yet sweetly sad! The soul was rent, its very fibres laid
bare, but was not the Virgin at hand, so pitiful, so motherly, that
after, the worst was over She took the bleeding soul in her arms and
rocked it to sleep like a sick child.

"Then, during the day, the church afforded a refuge from the frenzy of
giddiness that came over one; the eye, bewildered by the precipices on
every side, distracted by the sight of the clouds that suddenly gathered
below and steamed off in white fleece from the sides of the rocks, found
rest under the shelter of those walls.

"And finally, to make up for the horrors of the scene and of the
statues, to mitigate the grotesqueness of the inn-servants, who had
beards like sappers and clothes like little boys--the caps, and holland
blouses with belts, and shiny black breeches, like cast iron, of the
children at the Saint Nicolas school in Paris--extraordinary characters,
souls of divine simplicity expanded there."

And Durtal recollected the admirable scene he had watched there one

He was sitting on the little plateau, in the icy shade of the church,
gazing before him at the graveyard and the motionless swell of mountain
tops. Far away, in the very sky, a string of beads moved on, one by one,
on the ribbon of path that edged the precipice. And by degrees these
specks, at first merely dark, assumed the bright hues of dresses,
assumed the form of coloured bells surmounted by white knobs, and at
last took shape as a line of peasant women wearing white caps.

And still in single file they came down the square.

After crossing themselves as they passed the cemetery, they went each to
drink a cup of water at the spring and then turned round; and Durtal,
who was watching them, saw this:

At their head walked an old woman of at least a hundred, very tall and
still upright, her head covered by a sort of hood from which her stiff,
wavy hair escaped in tangled grey locks like iron wire. Her face was
shrivelled like the peel of an onion, and so thin that, looking at her
in profile, daylight could be seen through her skin.

She knelt down at the foot of the first statue, and behind her, her
companions, girls of about eighteen for the most part, clasped their
hands and shut their eyes; and slowly a change came over them.

Under the breath of prayer, the soul, buried under the ashes of worldly
cares, flamed up, and the air that fanned it made it glow like an inward
fire, lighting up the thick cheeks, the stolid, heavy features. It
smoothed out the crackled surface of wrinkles, softened in the younger
women the vulgarity of chapped red lips, gave colour to the dull brown
flesh, overflowed in the smile on lips half parted in silent prayer, in
timid kisses offered with simple good faith, and returned no doubt in an
ineffable thrill by the Holy Child they had cherished from His birth,
who, since the martyrdom of Calvary, had grown to be the Spouse of

They felt, perhaps, something of the raptures of the Blessed Virgin who
is Mother and Wife and at the same time the beatified Handmaid of God.

And in the silence a voice as from the remotest ages arose, and the
ancestress said, "_Pater Noster_," and they all repeated the prayer, and
then dragged themselves on their knees up the steps of the way of
crosses, where the fourteen upright posts, each with its cast metal
bas-relief, bordered a serpentine path, dividing the statues from the
groups. Thus they went forward, stopping long enough to recite an _Ave_
on each step they climbed, and then, helping themselves with their
hands, they mounted to the next. And when the rosary was ended the old
woman rose, and they solemnly followed her into the church, where they
all prayed a long time, prostrate before the altar; and the grandmother
stood up, gave each holy water at the door, led her flock to the spring
where they all drank again, and then they went away, without speaking a
word, one after another up the narrow path, ending as black specks just
as they had come, and vanishing on the horizon.

"Those women have been two days and two nights crossing the mountains,"
said a priest, coming up to Durtal. "They started from the depths of
Savoy, and have travelled almost without rest to spend a few minutes
here; they will sleep to night in a cow-house or a cave, as chance may
direct, and to-morrow by daybreak they will start again on their
weariful way."

Durtal was overpowered by the radiant splendour of such faith.

It was possible, then, to find souls ever young, souls ever new, souls
as of undying children, watching where absolute solitude was not,
outside cloister walls, in the waste places of these peaks and gorges,
and amid this race of stern and rugged peasants. Here were women who,
without knowing it even, lived the contemplative life in union with God,
while they dug the barren slopes of a little plot at some prodigious
elevation. They were Leah and Rachel, Martha and Mary in one; and these
women believed guilelessly, entirely, as man believed in the middle
ages. These beings, with their rough-hewn feelings, their shapeless
ideas, hardly able to express themselves, hardly knowing how to read,
wept with love in the presence of the Inaccessible, whom they compelled
by their humility and single-heartedness to appear, to become actual to
their mind.

"Yes, it was but just that the Virgin should cherish them and choose
them above all others to be Her vessels of election.

"Yes. For they are unburdened with the dreadful weight of doubt, they
are endowed with almost total ignorance of evil.

"And yet are there not some souls too experienced, alas! in the culture
of wrong-doing, who nevertheless find mercy at Her feet? Has not the
Virgin other sanctuaries less frequented, less well known, which yet
have outlived the wear of time, the various caprice of the ages; very
ancient churches where She welcomes you if you love Her in solitude and

And Durtal, coming back to Chartres once more, looked about him at the
persons who were waiting in the warm shade of the indefinite forest till
the Virgin should awake, to worship Her.

With dawn, now beginning to break, this forest of the church under whose
shade he was sitting became absolutely unintelligible. The shapes,
faintly sketched, were transformed in the gloom which blurred every
outline as it slowly faded. Below, in the vanishing mist, rose the
immemorial trunks of fabulous white trees, planted as it seemed in wells
that held them tightly in the rigid circle of their margin; and the
night, now almost diaphanous on the level of the ground, was thicker as
it rose, cutting them off at the spring of the branches, which were
still invisible.

Durtal, as he raised his head, gazed into deep obscurity unlighted by
moon or star.

Looking up still, but straight before him, he saw in the air, through
the hazy twilight, sword-blades already bright, gigantic blades without
hilts or handles, thinner towards the point; and these blades, standing
on end at an immense height, appeared in the gloom they cut, to be
patterned with vague intaglios or in ill-defined relief.

As he peered into space to the right and left, he was aware of a
gigantic panoply on each side at a vast height, resting on blocks of
darkness, and consisting of a colossal shield riddled with holes,
hanging above five broader swords, without hilts, but damascened on
their flat blades with indefinite designs of bewildering niello.

Little by little the tentative sun of a doubtful winter's day pierced
the fog, which vanished in blueness; the shield that hung to the left of
Durtal, the north, was the first to come to life; rosy fires and the
lurid flames of punch gleamed in its hollows, while below, in the middle
blade, there started forth in the steel-grey arch, the gigantic image of
a negress robed in green with a brown mantle. Her head, wrapped in a
blue kerchief, was set in a golden glory, and she stared out, hieratic
and wild-looking, with white, wide-open eyes.

And this engimatical Ethiop had on her knees a black infant whose eyes,
in the same way, stood out like snowballs from the dusky face.

All about her, very gradually, the other swords, still so dim, began to
glow, blood rippling from their crimsoned points as if from recent
slaughter; and this trickling red formed a setting for the shapes of
beings come, no doubt, from the distant shores of Ganges: on one side a
king playing on a golden harp; on the other a monarch wielding a sceptre
ending in the turquoise-blue petals of a fabulous lily.

Then, to the left of the royal musician there was another man, bearded,
with a walnut-stained face, the eye-sockets vacant and covered by round
spectacles; on his head were a diadem and a tiara, in his hands a
chalice and a paten, a censer and a loaf; while to the right of the
other sovereign who held the sceptre, a still more harassing shape came
forth against the blue background of the sword--a sort of oriental
brigand, escaped perhaps from the prison cells of Persepolis or Susa, a
bandit as it seemed, wearing a little scarlet cap edged with yellow, in
shape like an inverted jam-pot, and a tan-coloured gown with white
stripes on the skirt; and this clumsy and ferocious personage bore a
green palm and a book.

Durtal turned away to sound the depths of darkness, and before him, at a
giddy height on the horizon, more sword-blades gleamed. The scrawls
which might have been mistaken in the darkness for patterns embossed or
incised on the surface of the steel, developed into figures draped in
long, straight, pleated robes; and at the highest point of the firmament
there hovered amid a sparkle of rubies and sapphires a woman crowned,
pale of face, dressed like the Moorish mother of the northern side in
Carmelite-brown and green; and she too held an infant, a child, like
herself, of the white race, clasping a globe in one hand, and extending
the other in benediction.

Last of all, the still dark side, the late side, to Durtal's right hand
and further south, till now wrapped in the half-dispelled morning haze,
was lighted up; the shield opposite to that on the north caught the
blaze, and below it, against the polished metal of the broad blade
facing that which presented the negress queen, appeared a woman of
somewhat olive hue, in raiment like the others, of myrtle-green and
brown, holding a sceptre, and with her, too, there was a child. And
round her again emerged images of men piled up one above the other,
shouldering each other in the narrow field they filled.

For a quarter of an hour nothing was clearly defined; then the real
things asserted themselves. In the middle of the swords, which were in
fact mosaic of glass, the figures stood out in broad daylight. In the
field of each window with its pointed arch bearded faces took form,
motionless in the midst of fire; and on all sides, in the thicket of
flames, as it were the burning bush of Horeb where God showed His glory
to Moses, the Virgin was seen in an unchangeable attitude of imperious
sweetness and pensive grace, mute and still, and crowned with gold.

She was, indeed, many; She came down from the empyrean to lower levels,
to be closer to Her flock, and at last found a place where they might
almost kiss Her feet, at the corner of an aisle that was always in
gloom; but there She wore a different aspect.

She stood forth in the middle of a window, like a tall, blue plant, and
the garnet-red foliage was supported by black iron rods.

Her colour was slightly coppery, almost Chinese, with a long nose and
rather narrow eyes; on the head there was a black coif, and She looked
steadily before Her, while the lower part of the face with its short
chin, the mouth rather drawn by two grave lines, gave it an expression
of suffering that was even a little morose. And here again, under the
immemorial name of Notre Dame de la belle Verrière, she held an infant
in a dress of raisin-purple, a child barely visible in the mixture of
dark hues all about it.

In short, She to whom all appealed was there; everywhere under the
forest roof of this cathedral the Virgin was present. She seemed to have
come from all the ends of the earth, under the semblance of every race
known in the Middle Ages: black as an African, tawny as a Mongolian,
pale coffee colour as a half-caste, and white as an European, thus
declaring that, as mediator for the whole human race, She was everything
to each, everything to all; and promising by the presence of Her Son,
whose features bore the character of each race, that the Messiah had
come to redeem all men without distinction.

And it seemed as though the sun, as it mounted higher, followed the
growth of the Virgin, taking its birth in the window where She was still
a babe in that northern transept where Saint Anne, her mother, of the
black face, sat between David, the king of the golden harp, and Solomon,
the bearer of the blue-lilied sceptre, each against a background of
purple, to prefigure the royal birth of the Son; between Melchizedec,
the mitred patriarch, holding the censer, and Aaron, in the curious red
cap bordered with lemon yellow, representing prophetically the
Priesthood of Christ.

And at the end of the apse, quite high up, there was another
Mary--triumphant, looking down the sacred grove, supported by figures
from the Old Testament and by Saint Peter. It was She again who in the
south transept faced Saint Anne, She, now a woman and herself a mother,
amid four enormous men bearing pick-a-back on their shoulders four
smaller figures; these were the four Greater Prophets who had foretold
the coming of the Messiah--Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel,
bearing the four Evangelists, and thus artlessly expressing the
parallelism of the Old and New Testaments, and the support given by the
Old Covenant to the New.

And then, as though Her presence were not fully ubiquitous, as though
She desired that, turn where they might, Her worshippers should ever see
Her, the Virgin was to be found on a smaller scale in less important
positions; enthroned in the centre of the shields, in the heart of the
great rose-windows, and finally, ceasing to appear as a mere picture,
took shape, materialized as a statue of black wood standing on a
pedestal in a full hooped skirt like a silver bell.

The sheltering forest had vanished with the darkness; the tree-trunks
remained, but rose with giddy flight from the ground, unbroken pillars
to the sky, meeting at a vast height under the groined vault; the forest
was seen as an immense church blossoming with roses of fire, pierced
with glowing glass, crowded with Virgins and apostles, patriarchs and

The genius of the middle ages had devised the skilful and pious lighting
of this edifice, and harmonized the ascending march of day to some
extent with its windows. The walls and the aisles were very dark, the
daylight creeping, mysteriously subdued, along the body of the church.
It was lost in the stained glass, checked by dark bishops, and opaque
saints completely filling the dusky-bordered windows with the dead hues
of a Persian rug; the panes absorbed the sun's rays, refracting none,
arrested the powdered gold of the sunbeams in the dull violet of purple
egg-fruit, the tawny browns of tinder or tan, the too-blue greens, and
the wine-coloured red stained with soot, like the thick juice of

As it reached the chancel, the light came in through brighter and
clearer colours, through the blue of translucent sapphires, through pale
rubies, brilliant yellow, and crystalline white. The gloom was relieved
beyond the transepts near the altar. Even in the centre of the cross the
sun pierced clearer glass, less storied with figures, and bordered with
almost colourless panes that admitted it freely.

At last, in the apse, forming the top of the cross, it poured in,
symbolical of the light that flooded the world from the top of the Tree;
and the pictures were diaphanous, just lightly covered with flowing
lines and aerial tints, to frame in a sheaf of coloured sparks the image
of a Madonna, less hieratic and barbaric than the others, and a fairer
Infant, blessing the earth with uplifted hand.

By this time the Cathedral of Chartres was alive with the clatter of
wooden shoes, the rustle of petticoats, and the tinkle of mass-bells.

Durtal left the corner of the transept where he had been sitting with
his back to a pillar, and turned to the left, towards a bay where there
was a framework ablaze with lighted tapers before the statue of the

And schools of little girls under the guidance of Sisters, troops of
peasant women and countrymen, poured out of every aisle, knelt in front
of the image, and then came up to kiss the pedestal.

The appearance of these folks suggested to Durtal that their prayers
were not like those that are sobbed out at evening twilight, the
supplications of women worn and dismayed by the weary hours of day.
These peasant souls prayed less as complaining than as loving; these
people, kneeling on the flags, had come for Her sake rather than for
their own. There was here and now a pause from grieving, a sort of
reprieve from tears; and this attitude was in harmony with the special
aspect adopted by Mary in this cathedral; She was seen there, in fact,
under the form of a child and of a young mother; She was the Virgin of
the Nativity, rather than our Lady of Dolour. The old artists of the
Middle Ages seemed to have feared to sadden Her by reminding Her of
memories too painful, to have striven to prove by this delicate reserve,
their gratitude to Her who in this sanctuary had ever shown Herself to
be the Dispenser of Mercies, the Lady Bountiful of Grace.

Durtal felt in himself an answering thrill, the echo of the prayers
chanted all round him by these loving souls; and he let himself melt
away in the soothing sweetness of the hymns, asking for nothing,
silencing his ungratified desires, smothering his secret repining,
thinking only of bidding an affectionate good-morning to the Mother to
whom he had returned after such distant wanderings in the land of sin,
after such a long absence.

And now that he had seen Her, that he had spoken to Her, he withdrew,
making room for others who came in greater numbers as the day grew. He
went home to get some food; and as he cast a last sweeping glance at the
beautiful church, remembering the warlike imagery of its details, the
buckler-shape of the rose-windows, the sword-blades of the lower lights,
the casque and helmet forms of the ogee, the resemblance of some
grisaille glass with its network of lead to a warrior's shirt of mascled
mail; as, outside, he gazed at one of the two belfries carved into
scales like a pine cone--like scale-armour--he said to himself that the
"Builders for God" must have borrowed their ideas from the military
panoply of the knights; that thus they had endeavoured to perpetuate the
memory of their exploits by representing the magnified image of the
armour with which the Crusaders girt themselves when they sailed to win
back the Holy Sepulchre.

And the interior of the church seemed, as a whole, to impress the same
idea and complete the symbolical images of the details by its vaulted
nave, of which the groined roof was so like the reversed hull of a
vessel, suggesting the graceful form of the ships that made sail for

Only, in the present day, such memories of heroic times were vain. In
this city of Chartres, where Saint Bernard preached the second crusade,
the vessel was stranded for ever, her hull overset, her anchor out.

And looking down on the unthinking city, the Cathedral kept watch alone,
beseeching pardon for the inappetency for suffering, for the inertia of
faith that her sons displayed, uplifting her towers to the sky like two
arms, while the spires mimicked the shape of joined hands, the ten
fingers all meeting and upright one against another, in the position
which the image-makers of old gave to the dead saints and warriors they
carved upon tombs.


Durtal had already been living at Chartres for three months.

On his return to Paris from La Trappe he had fallen into a fearful state
of spiritual anemia. His soul kept its room, rarely rose, lounged on a
couch, was torpid with the tepid langour still lulled by the sleepy
mutter of mere lip-service, and prayers reeled off as by a worn-out
machine of which the spring releases itself, so that it works all alone
with no result, and without a touch to start it.

Sometimes, however, in a rebellious mood he managed to check himself, to
stop the ill-regulated clockwork of his prayers, and then he would try
to examine himself, to get above himself, and to see in a comprehensive
glance the puzzling perspective of his nature.

And facing these chambers of the soul, dim with mist, he was struck by a
strange association of the Revelations of Saint Theresa and a tale by
Edgar Poe.

Those chambers of the inner man were empty and cold, and like the halls
of the House of Usher, surrounded by a moat whence the fog rose, forcing
its way in at last and cracking the worn shell of wall. Alone and
uneasy, he prowled about the ruined cells, with closed doors that
refused ever to open again; thus his walks about his own mind were very
limited, and the panorama he could see was strangely narrowed, shrunk
close and near to him, almost nothing. And he knew full well that the
ruins surrounding the central cell, the Master's Room, were bolted and
fastened with rivets that could not be unscrewed, and triple
bars--inaccessible. So he restricted himself to wandering in the halls
and passages.

At Notre Dame de l'Atre he had ventured further; he had gone into the
enclosure round about the abode of Christ; he had seen in the distance
the frontiers of Mysticism, and, too weak to go on his road, he had
fallen; and now this was to be lamented, for, as Saint Theresa truly
remarks, "in the spiritual life, if we do not go forward, we go back."
He had, in fact, retraced his steps, and lay half paralyzed, no longer
even in the vestibule of his mansion, but in the outer court.

Till this time the phenomena described by the matchless Abbess had been
exactly repeated. In Durtal, the Chambers of the Soul were deserted as
after a long mourning; but in the rooms that had remained open, phantoms
of sins confessed, of buried evil-doing, wandered like the sister of the
tormented Usher.

Durtal, like Edgar Poe's unhappy sufferer, listened with horror to the
rustle of steps on the stairs, the piteous weeping behind the doors.

And yet these ghosts of departed crimes were no more than indefinite
shapes; they never consolidated nor took a definite form. The most
persistent miscreant of them all, which had tormented him so long, the
sin of the flesh, at last was silenced, and left him in peace. La Trappe
had rooted up the stock of those debaucheries. The memory of them,
indeed, haunted him still, on his most distressing, most ignoble side;
but he could see them pass, his heart in his mouth, wondering that he
could so long have been the dupe of such foul delusions, no longer
understanding the power of those mirages, the illusions of those carnal
oases as he met them in the desert of a life shut up in seclusion, in
solitude, and in books.

His imagination could still put him on the rack; still, without merit,
without a struggle, by the help of divine grace, he had escaped a fall
ever since his return from the monastery.

On the other hand, though he had, to some extent, emasculated himself,
though he was exempt from his chief torment, he discerned, flourishing
within him, another crop of tares, of which the spread had till now been
hidden behind the sturdier growth of other vices. In the first instance,
he had believed himself to be less enslaved by sin, less utterly vile;
and he was nevertheless as closely bound to evil as ever, only the
nature and character of the bonds were different, and no longer the

Besides that dryness of the heart which made him feel as soon as he
entered a church or knelt down in his room, that a cold grip froze his
prayers and chilled his soul, he detected the covert attacks, the mute
assaults of ridiculous pride.

In vain did he keep watch; he was constantly taken by surprise without
having time even to look round him.

It began under the most temperate guise, the most benign reflections.

Supposing, for instance, that he had done his neighbour a service at
some inconvenience to himself, or that he had refrained from retaliating
on anybody against whom he believed he had a grievance, or for whom he
had no liking, a certain self-satisfaction stole, sneaked into his mind,
a certain vain-glory, ending in the senseless conclusion that he was
superior to many another man; and then, on this feeling of petty vanity,
pride was engrafted--the pride of a virtue he had not even struggled to
acquire, the arrogance of chastity, so insidious that most of those who
indulge it do not even suspect themselves.

And he was never aware of the end of these assaults till too late, when
they had become definite, and he had forgotten himself and succumbed;
and he was in despair at finding that he constantly fell into the same
snare, telling himself that the little good he could do must be wiped
out of the balance of his life by the outrageous extravagance of this

He was frenzied, he reasoned with the old mad arguments, and cried out
at his wits' end,--

"La Trappe crushed me! It cured me of sensuality, but only to load me
with disorders of which I knew nothing before I submitted to that
treatment! It is humble itself, but it puffed up my vanity and increased
my pride tenfold--then it set me free, but so weak, so wearied, that I
have never since been able to conquer that inanition, never have been
fit to enjoy the Mystical Nourishment which I nevertheless must have if
I am not to die to God!"

And for the hundredth time he asked himself,--

"Am I happier than I was before I was converted?"

And to be truthful to himself he was bound to answer "Yes." He lived on
the whole a Christian life, prayed but badly, but at any rate prayed
without ceasing; only--only--Alas! How worm-eaten, how arid were the
poor recesses of his soul! He wondered, with anguish, whether they would
not end like the Manor in Edgar Poe's tale, by crumbling suddenly, one
fatal day, into the dark waters of the pool of sin which was undermining
the walls.

Having reached this stage of his round of meditations, he was compelled
to throw himself on the Abbé Gévresin, who required him, in spite of his
coldness, to take the Communion. Since his return from Notre Dame de
l'Atre his friendship with the Abbé had become much closer, altogether

He knew now the inner man of this priest, who, in the midst of modern
surroundings, led a purely mediæval life. Formerly, when he rang at his
bell, he had paid no heed to the housekeeper, an old woman, who curtsied
to him without a word when she opened the door.

Now he was quite friendly with this singular and loving creature.

Their first conversation had arisen one day when he called to see the
Abbé, who was ill. Seated by the bedside, with spectacles on the alert
at the tip of her nose, she was kissing, one by one, the pious prints
that illustrated a book wrapped in black cloth. She begged him to be
seated, and then, closing the volume, and replacing her spectacles, she
had joined in the conversation; and he had left the room quite amazed by
this woman, who addressed the Abbé as "Father," and spoke quite simply
of her intercourse with Jesus and the Saints as if it were a natural
thing. She seemed to live in perfect friendship with them, and spoke of
them as of companions with whom she chatted without any embarrassment.

Then the countenance of this woman, whom the priest introduced to him as
Madame Céleste Bavoil, was, strange to say, the least of it. She was
thin and upright, but short. In profile, with her strong Roman nose and
set lips, she had the fleshless mask of a dead Cæsar; but, seen in
front, the sternness of the features was softened into a familiar
peasant's face, and melted into the kindliness of an old nun, quite out
of keeping with the solemn strength of her features.

It seemed as though with that clean-cut, imperious nose, small white
teeth, and black eyes sparkling with light, busy and inquisitive as
those of a mouse, under fine long lashes, the woman ought,
notwithstanding her age, to have been handsome; it seemed at least as
though the combination of these details would have given the face a
stamp of distinction. Not so; the conclusion was false to the premises;
the whole betrayed the combined effect of the details.

"This contradiction," thought he, "evidently is the result of other
peculiarities which nullify the harmony of the more important features;
in the first place the thinness of the cheeks and their hue of old wood
dotted here and there with freckles, calm stains of the colour of stale
bran; then the flat braids of white hair drawn smooth under a frilled
cap, and finally the modest dress, a black dress clumsily made, dragging
across the bosom, and showing the lines of her stays stamped in relief
on the back.

"And perhaps, in her, it is not so much incongruity of features, as a
crying contrast between the dress and the face, the head and the body,"
thought he.

Altogether, as he summed her up, she was equally suggestive of the
chapel and the fields. Thus she had something of the Sister and
something of the peasant.

"Yes," he went on to himself, "that is very near the mark; but that is
not all, for she is both less dignified and less common, inferior and
yet more worthy. Seen from behind she is more like a woman who hires out
the chairs in church than like a nun; seen in front she is conspicuously
superior to the natives of the soil. Also it may be noted that when she
speaks of the saints she is loftier, quite different; she soars up in a
flame of the spirit. But all these hypotheses are in vain," he
concluded, "for I cannot judge of her from one brief impression, one
rapid view. What is quite certain is that, though she is not in the
least like the Abbé, she too is in two halves--two persons in one. He,
with the innocent gaze, the pure eyes of a girl at her first Communion,
has the sometimes bitter mouth of an old man; she is proud of feature
and humble of heart; they both, though by different outward signs and
acts, achieve the same result, an identical semblance of paternal
indulgence and mature goodness."

And Durtal had gone again and again to see them. His reception was
always the same; Madame Bavoil greeted him with the invariable formula:
"Here is our friend," while the priest's eyes smiled as he grasped his
hand. Whenever he saw Madame Bavoil she was praying: over her stove,
when she sat mending, while she was dusting the furniture, as she opened
the door, she was always telling her rosary, without pause.

The chief delight of this rather silent woman consisted in talking of
the Virgin to whom she had vowed worship; on the other hand she could
quote by memory long passages from a mystic and somewhat eccentric
writer of the end of the sixteenth century: Jeanne Chézard de Matel, the
foundress of the Order of the Incarnate Word, an Institution of which
the Sisters display a conspicuous costume--a white dress held round the
waist by a belt of scarlet leather, a red cloak and a blood-coloured
scapulary on which the name of Jesus is embroidered in blue silk, with a
crown of thorns, a heart pierced with three nails, and the words _Amor

At first Durtal thought Madame Bavoil slightly crazy, and while she
poured out a passage by Jeanne de Matel on Saint Joseph, he looked at
the priest--who gave no sign.

"Then Madame Bavoil is a saint?" he asked one morning when they were

"My dear Madame Bavoil is a pillar of prayer," replied the Abbé gravely.

And one afternoon, when Gévresin was away in his turn, Durtal questioned
the woman.

She gave him an account of her long pilgrimages across Europe,
pilgrimages that she had spent years in making on foot, begging her way
by the roadside.

Wherever the Virgin had a sanctuary, thither she went, a bundle of
clothing in one hand, an umbrella in the other, an iron Crucifix on her
breast, a rosary at her waist. By a reckoning which she had kept from
day to day she had thus travelled ten thousand five hundred leagues on

Then old age had come on, and she had "lost her old powers," as she
said; Heaven had formerly guided her by inward voices, fixing the dates
of these expeditions; but journeying was no longer required of her. She
had been sent to live with the Abbé that she might rest; but her manner
of life had been laid down for her once for all: her bed a straw
mattress on wooden planks; her food such rustic and monastic fare as
beseemed her, milk, honey and bread, and at seasons of penance she was
to substitute water for milk.

"And you never take any other nourishment?"

"Never." And then she would add,--

"Aha! our friend, you see I am in disgrace up there!" and she would
laugh cheerfully at herself and her appearance "If you had but seen me
when I came back from Spain, where I went to visit Our Lady of the
Pillar at Saragoza! I was a negress. With my large Crucifix on my
breast, my gown looking like a nun's--every one asked: 'What can that
woman be?' I looked like a charcoal-burner out for a holiday; no white
to be seen but my cap, collar and cuffs; all the rest--face, hands and
petticoats--quite black."

"But you must have been very dull travelling about alone?"

"Not at all, our friend, the Saints kept me company on the way; they
told me at which house I should find a lodging for the night, and I was
sure of being well received."

"And you never were refused hospitality?"

"Never. To be sure I did not ask for much; when I was wandering I only
begged for a piece of bread and a glass of water, and to rest on a truss
of straw in the cow-house."

"And Father Gévresin--how did you first know him?"

"That is quite a long story. Fancy! Heaven, as a punishment, deprived me
of the Communion for a year and three months to a day. When I confessed
to a priest, I owned to my intercourse with Our Saviour, and the Virgin
and the Angels; then he at once treated me as a mad woman, unless he
accused me of being possessed by the devil; to conclude, he refused me
absolution, and I thought myself happy if he did not slam the little
wicket of the confessional roughly in my face at my very first words.

"I believe I should have died of grief if the Lord had not at last had
pity on me. One Saturday, when I was in Paris, He sent me to Notre Dame
des Victoires, where the Father was in the confessional. He listened to
me, he put me through long and severe tests, and then he granted me
Communion. I often went to him again as a penitent, and then the niece
who kept house for him retired into a convent, and I took her place;
and I have been his housekeeper near on ten years now--"

She told her story with many breaks. Since she had ceased to wander
about the country, she followed the pilgrimages in Paris in honour of
the Blessed Virgin, and she had a list of the most popular sanctuaries:
Notre-Dame des Victoires, Notre-Dame de Paris; Our Lady of Good Hope at
Saint-Séverin, of Ever-present Help at L'Abbaye au Bois, of Peace at the
convent in the Rue Picpus, of the Sick at the church of Saint-Laurent,
of Happy Deliverance--a black Virgin from the church of Saint-Etienne
des Grès--in the care of the Sisters of Saint-Thomas de Villeneuve, Rue
de Sèvres; and outside Paris the shrines in the suburbs: Our Lady of
Miracles at Saint-Maur, of the Angels at Bondy, of the Virtues at
Aubervilliers, of Good Keeping at Long Pont, and those of Notre-Dame at
Spire, at Pontoise, &c.

On another occasion, as he seemed suspicious of the severity of the rule
imposed on her by Christ, she replied,--

"Remember, our friend, what happened to an illustrious handmaid of the
Lord, Maria d'Agreda; being very ill, she yielded to the wishes of her
daughters in the faith and sucked a mouthful of chicken, but she was
forthwith reproved by Jesus, who said to her: 'I will not have my
Spouses dainty.'

"Well, and I should run the risk of a similar reproof, if I attempted to
touch a morsel of meat or to drink a drop of coffee or wine."

"And yet," said Durtal to himself as he came away, "it is quite evident
that the woman is not mad. She has nothing the matter with her, either
hysterical or mental: she is fragile and very thin, but she is scarcely
nervous, and in spite of the laconic character of her meals she is in
very good health, indeed is never ailing; nay more, she is a woman of
good sense and an admirable manager. Up by daybreak, after Communion she
soaps and washes all the linen herself, makes the sheets and shirts,
mends the Abbé's gowns, and lives with amazing economy, while taking
care that her master wants for nothing. Such a sagacious apprehension of
the conduct of life has no connection with lunacy or delirium."

He knew too that she would never take any wages. It is true that in the
sight of a world which gives its whole mind to legalized larceny this
woman's disinterestedness might be enough to prove her insanity; but
Durtal, in contradiction to received ideas, did not think that a
contempt for money was necessarily allied with madness, and the more he
thought of it the more was he convinced that she was a saint, and not a
strait-laced saint, but indulgent and cheerful.

What he could positively assert was that she was very good to him; ever
since his return from La Trappe she had helped him in every way,
encouraging his spirits when she saw him depressed, and going, in spite
of his protesting, to look over his wardrobe when she suspected that
there might be sutures to operate upon, and buttons to replace.

This intimacy had become even closer since their life in common, all
three together, on the occasion of Durtal's accompanying them, at their
entreaty, to La Salette. And then suddenly their affectionate
familiarity was endangered, for the Abbé Gévresin left Paris.

The Bishop of Chartres died, and his successor was one of Gévresin's
oldest friends. On the very day when the Abbé Le Tilloy des Mofflaines
was promoted to the episcopal throne, he begged Gévresin to accompany
him to Chartres. There was an anxious struggle in the old priest's mind.
He was ailing, weary, good for nothing, and at the bottom of his heart
longed only never to move; but on the other hand he had not the courage
to refuse his poor support to Monseigneur des Mofflaines. He tried to
mollify the prelate by his advanced age, but the Bishop would not
listen; all he would concede was that, instead of being appointed
Vicar-general, the Abbé should be no more than a Canon. Still Gévresin
mildly shook his head. Finally the prelate had his way, appealing to his
friend's charity, and declaring that he ought to accept the post, in the
last resort as a mortification and penance.

And when his departure was decided on, it became the Abbé's turn to
circumvent Durtal and persuade him to leave Paris and come to settle
near him at Chartres.

Although he was deeply grieved at this move, which he had done his
utmost to hinder, Durtal was refractory, and refused to bury himself in
a country town.

"But why, our friend," said Madame Bavoil, "I wonder why you are so
obstinately bent on remaining here; you live in perfect solitude at home
with your books. You can do the same if you come with us."

And when, his arguments exhausted, after a vehement diatribe against
provincial life, Durtal ended by saying,--

"Then at Paris there are the quays, Saint Séverin, Notre Dame; there are
delightful convents--"

"You would find equally good things at Chartres," answered the Abbé.
"You will have one of the finest cathedrals in the world, monasteries
such as you love, and as for books, your library is so well furnished
that I can hardly think that you can add to it by wandering along the
quays. Besides, as you know even better than I, no work of the class you
seek is ever to be disinterred from the boxes of second-hand books.
Their titles figure only in the catalogues of sales, and there is
nothing to hinder their being sent to you at Chartres."

"I do not deny it--but there are other things on the quays besides old
books; there are curiosities to be seen, and the Seine--a landscape--"

"Well, if you are homesick for that particular walk, you have only to
take a train, and spend a whole afternoon lounging by the parapet over
the river; it is easy to get from Chartres to Paris; there are express
trains morning and evening which make the journey in less than two

"And besides," cried Madame Bavoil, "what does all that matter? The
great thing is that you leave a town just like any other town, to
inhabit the very home of the Virgin. Just think! Notre Dame de
Sous-Terre is the most ancient chapel to Mary in all France; think! you
will live near Her, with Her, and She will load you with mercies!"

"And after all," the Abbé went on, "this exile cannot interfere with any
of your schemes in art. You talk of writing the Lives of Saints; will
you not work at them far better in the silence of the country than in
the uproar of Paris?"

"The country--the provinces! The mere idea overpowers me," exclaimed
Durtal. "If you could but imagine the impression it suggests to me, the
sort of atmosphere, the kind of smell it presents to my brain. You know
the huge cupboards you find in old houses, with double doors, and lined
within with blue paper that is always damp. Well, at the mere name of
the provinces I feel as if one of these were opened in my face, and I
got a full blast of the stuffiness that comes out of it!--And to put the
finishing touch to the vision by combining taste and smell, I have only
to bite one of the biscuits they make nowadays of Lord knows what,
reeking the moment you taste them, of fish glue and plaster that has
been rained upon, I have only to eat that cold, insipid paste and sniff
at a musty closet, and at once the lugubrious picture rises before me of
some Godforsaken place!--Your Chartres will no doubt smell like

"Oh, oh!" cried Madame Bavoil. "But you cannot know much about it, since
you have never been to the place."

"Let him be!" said the Abbé, laughing. "He will get over his
prejudices." And he went on,--

"Just explain this inconsistency: here is a Parisian who likes his city
so little that he seeks out the most deserted nook to live in, the
quietest, the least frequented, the spot that is most like a provincial
retreat. He has a horror of the Boulevards, of public promenades, and of
theatres; he buries himself in a hole, and stops his ears that he may
not hear the noises around him; but, when he has a chance of improving
on this scheme of existence, of ripening in real silence far from the
crowd, when he can invert the conditions of life, and, instead of being
a provincial Parisian, can become a Parisian of the provinces, he shies
and kicks!"

"It is a fact," Durtal admitted when he was alone, "a positive fact
that the capital is unprofitable to me. I never see anybody now, and
shall be reduced to still more utter solitude when these friends are
gone. I shall, for all purposes, be quite as well off at Chartres;
I can study at my ease amid peaceful surroundings, within reach of
a cathedral of far greater interest than Notre Dame de Paris. And
besides--besides--there is another question of which the Abbé Gévresin
says nothing, but which disturbs me greatly. If I remain here, alone, I
shall have to find a new confessor, to wander through the churches, just
as I wander through work-a-day life in search of dining-places and
tables d'hôte. No, no; I have had enough at last of this day-by-day
diet, spiritual and material! I have found a boarding-house for my soul
where it is content, and it may stay there!

"And there is yet another argument. I can live more inexpensively at
Chartres, and, without spending more than I spend here, I can settle
myself once for all, dine with my feet on my own fender, and be waited

So he had ended by deciding to follow his two friends, and had secured
fairly spacious rooms facing the Cathedral; and then he, who had always
lived cramped in tiny apartments, at last understood the provincial
comfort of vast spaces and books ranged against the walls, with ample

Madame Bavoil had found him a servant, familiar and voluble indeed, but
a good and pious woman. And he had begun his new existence lost in
constant amazement at that wonderful Cathedral, the only one he had
never before seen, probably because it was so near Paris, and, like all
Parisians, he never took the trouble to set out on any but longer
journeys. The town itself seemed to him devoid of interest, having but
one secluded walk, a little embankment where, below the suburbs and near
the old Guillaume Gate, washerwomen sang while they soaped the linen in
a stream that blossomed, as they rubbed, with flecks of iridescent

Hence he determined to walk out only very early in the morning or in the
evening; then he could dream alone in the town, which by the afternoon
was already half dead.

The Abbé and his housekeeper were lodged in the episcopal palace, under
the shadow of the Cathedral apse. They occupied a first floor, with
nothing over it, above some empty stables; a row of cold, tiled rooms
which the Bishop had had redecorated.

Some time after their arrival at Chartres the Abbé had replied to
Durtal, who had remarked that he was anxious,--

"Yes, I am certainly going through a difficult time; I have had to live
down certain prejudices--but indeed I was prepared for them. And that
was another reason why I did not wish to leave Paris. But the Blessed
Virgin is good! Everything is coming right--"

And when Durtal persisted,--

"As you may suppose," said the priest, "the appointment of a Canon from
another diocese was not looked upon with indifferent eyes by the clergy
of Chartres. Such suspicions with regard to an unknown priest brought by
a new Bishop are not after all unnatural; it is inevitably feared that
he may play the part of a ruler without a robe; each one is on his
guard, and they sift his least word and pick over his least action."

"And then," said Durtal, "is it not another mouth to feed out of the
wretched pittance allowed by the State?"

"So far as that goes, no. I draw no stipend, and damage no man's
interest; in fact I would not accept it. The only pecuniary advantage I
derive from being about the Bishop's person is that I have no rent to
pay, since I am lodged for nothing in the episcopal building.

"I could not in any case have drawn a stipend, for the allowance granted
to Canons by the Government has ceased to be given, since a measure was
passed, on March 22nd, 1885, decreeing the suppression of such
emoluments as the incumbents died off. Hence only those who held such
benefices before the passing of the law now draw on the funds devoted to
the maintenance of the Church; and they are dying off one by one, so
that the time is fast approaching when there will not be a single Canon
left who is salaried by the State. In some dioceses these lapsed
benefices are compensated for by the revenues from some religious
foundation, or, as you may call it, a prebend. But there are none at
Chartres. The Chapter has at the utmost the use of a varying income
which it divides among those who have no benefice, giving them, good
years with bad, a sum of about three hundred francs each, and that is

"And the Canons have no perquisites?"

"None whatever."

"Then I wonder how they live."

"If they have no private fortune they live more penuriously than the
poorest labourers in Chartres. Most of them simply vegetate; some
perform Mass for Sisterhoods, or are convent chaplains, but that brings
in very little, two hundred or two hundred and fifty francs perhaps.
Another holds the post of secretary to the diocese, by which he gets
rooms and as much, perhaps, as six hundred francs. Yet another conducts
the services of the holy week known as the Voice of Our Lady of
Chartres, and acts as precentor; and some find employment as the
Bishop's officials. Each one, in short, has a struggle to earn his food
and lodging."

"What exactly is a Canon; what are his functions, and the origin of his

"The origin? It is lost in the night of ages. It is supposed that
Colleges of Canons existed in the time of Pépin le Bref; it is at any
rate certain that during his reign Saint Chrodegang, Bishop of Metz,
assembled the clerks of his cathedral and obliged them to live together,
in a house in common, as though it were a convent, under a rule of which
Charlemagne makes mention in his Capitularies.--A Canon's functions?
They consist in the solemn celebration of the Canonical services, and
the direction of all processions. As a matter of conscience every Canon
is required in the first place to reside in the town where the church is
situated to whose service he is attached; then to be present at the
Canonical hours when Mass is said; finally to sit on the meetings of the
Chapter on certain fixed days. But to tell the truth, their part has
almost fallen into desuetude. The Council of Trent speaks of them as the
'_Senatus Ecclesiæ_,' the Senate of the Church, and they then formed the
necessary Council of the Bishop. In these days the prelates do not even
consult them.

"They only exercise a small part of their lost prerogatives when the See
is vacant. At that time the Chapter acts in the place of the Bishop, and
even then its rights are greatly restricted. As it has not Episcopal
Orders, it can exercise none of the powers inherent in them. It cannot
consequently ordain or confirm."

"And if the See remains long vacant?"

"Then the Chapter requests the Bishop of a neighbouring diocese to
ordain its seminarists, and confirm the children it presents to him. In
short, as you see, a Canon is not a very important gentleman.

"I am not speaking, of course, of Honorary Canons, or Titular Canons.
They have no duties to fulfil; they merely enjoy an honorary title which
allows them to wear the Canon's hood, by permission of their own Bishop
when, as frequently happens, they belong to another diocese.

"The Chapter of this Cathedral of Chartres is said to have been founded
in the sixth century by Saint Lubin. It then consisted of seventy-two
Canons, and the number was added to, for when the Revolution broke out
it amounted to seventy-six, and included seventeen dignitaries: the
Dean, the sub-Dean, the Precentor, the sub-Precentor, the chief
Archdeacon of Chartres, the Archdeacons of Beauce-en-Dunois, of Dreux,
of Le Pincerais, of Vendôme, and of Blois; the gatekeeper, the
Chancellor, the Provosts of Normandy, of Mézangey, of Ingré, and of
Auvers; and the Chancel Warden. These priests, most of them men of
family and wealth, were a nursery ground of Bishops; they owned all the
houses round the Cathedral and lived independently in their cloister,
devoting themselves to history, theology, and the Canon law--they are
now indeed fallen!"

The Abbé was silent, shaking his head. Then he went on,--

"To return to my subject--I was naturally somewhat hurt by the coldness
I met with on my arrival at Chartres. As I told you, I had to allay many
apprehensions. But I think I have succeeded. And I thank God, too, for
having given me a valuable supporter in the person of a subordinate
priest of the Cathedral, who has done me invaluable service with my
colleagues--the Abbé Plomb; do you know him?"


"He is a highly intelligent priest, very learned, a passionate mystic,
thoroughly acquainted with the Cathedral, of which he has examined every

"Ah ha! I am interested in that priest! Perhaps he is one of those I
have already noticed. What is he like?"

"Short, young, pale, slightly marked with the small-pox, with spectacles
that you may recognize by this peculiarity: the arch which rests on the
nose is shaped like a loop, or, if you choose to say so, like a
horseman's legs astride in the saddle."

"That man!"--and Durtal, left to himself, thought about the priest whom
he had repeatedly seen in the church or the square.

"Certainly," said he to himself, "there is always the risk of a mistake
when we judge of people by appearances; but how startling is the truth
of that commonplace remark when applied to the clergy! This Abbé Plomb
looks like a scared sacristan; he goes about gaping at invisible crows,
and he seems so ill at ease, so loutish, so awkward--and this is our
learned man and devoted mystic, in love with his Cathedral! Certainly it
is not safe to judge of an Abbé from appearances. Now that it is to be
my fate to live in this clerical world, I must begin by throwing
prejudice overboard, and wait till I know all the priests of the
diocese, before allowing myself to form an opinion of them."


"In point of fact," said Durtal to himself as he stood dreaming on the
market-place, "no one exactly knows what was the origin of the Gothic
forms of a cathedral. Archæologists and architects have exhausted
hypotheses and systems in vain; they seem to agree in attributing the
Romanesque to Oriental parentage, and that in fact maybe proven. That
the Romanesque should be an offshoot of the Latin and Byzantine styles,
and be, as Quicherat defines it, 'the style which has ceased to be Roman
and is not yet Gothic, though it already has something of the Gothic,' I
am ready to admit; and indeed, on examining the capitals, and studying
their outline and drawing, we perceive that they are Assyrian or Persian
rather than Roman or Byzantine and Gothic; but as to discovering the
paternity even of the pointed and flamboyant styles, that is quite
another thing. Some writers assert that the pointed arch based on an
equilateral triangle existed in Egypt, Syria, and Persia; others regard
it as descended from Saracen and Arab art; nothing certainly is

"Again, it must be clearly stated that the pointed equilateral arch,
which some persons still suppose to be the distinctive characteristic of
an era in architecture, is not so in fact, as Quicherat has very clearly
demonstrated, and, since him, Lecoy de la Marche. The study of archives
has, on this point, completely overset the hobbies of architects, and
demolished the twaddle of the Bonzes. Besides, there is abundant
evidence of the employment of the pointed arch side by side with the
round arch in a perfectly systematic design, in the construction of many
Romanesque churches; in the Cathedrals of Avignon and Fréjus, in Notre
Dame at Aries, in Saint Front at Périgueux, at Saint Martin d'Ainay, at
Lyon, in Saint Martin des Champs in Paris, in Saint Etienne at Beauvais,
in the Cathedral of Le Mans; and in Burgundy, at Vézelay, at Beaune, in
Saint Philibert at Dijon, at La Charité-sur-Loire, in Saint Ladre at
Autun, and in most of the basilicas erected by the monastic school of

"Still, all this throws no light on the lineage of the Gothic, which
remains obscure--possibly because it is perfectly clear; setting aside
the theory which restricts itself to discerning in this question a
merely material and technical problem of stability and resistance,
solved by monks who discovered one fine day that the strength of their
roofs would be increased by the adoption of the mitre-shaped vaulting of
the pointed arch instead of the semicircular arch, would it not seem
that the romantic hypothesis--Chateaubriand's explanation--which was so
much laughed at, and which is nevertheless the simplest and the most
natural, may really be the most obvious and the true one?

"To me," thought Durtal, "it is almost certain that it was in the forest
that man found the prototype of the nave and the pointed arch. The most
amazing cathedral constructed by Nature herself, with lavish outlay of
the pointed aisle of branches, is at Jumièges. There, close to the
splendid ruins of the Abbey, where the two towers are still intact,
while the roofless nave, carpeted with flowers, ends in a chancel of
foliage shut in by an apse of trees, three vast aisles of centenary
boles extend in parallel lines; one in the middle, very wide, the two
others, one on each side, somewhat narrower; they exactly represent a
church nave with its two side aisles, upheld by black columns and roofed
with verdure. The ribs of the arches are accurately represented by the
branches which meet above, as the columns which support them are
simulated by the great shafts. It must be seen in winter, with the
groining outlined and powdered with snow, and the pillars as white as
the trunks of birch-trees, to understand the primitive idea, the seed of
art which could give rise in the mind of an architect to the conception
of similar arcades, and lead to the gradual refining of the Romanesque
till the pointed arch had entirely superseded the round.

"And there is not a park, whether older or more recent than the groves
of Jumièges, which does not exhibit the same forms with equal
exactitude; but what Nature could not give was the prodigious art, the
deep symbolical knowledge, the over-strung but tranquil mysticism of the
believers who erected cathedrals. But for them the church in its
rough-hewn state, as Nature had formed it, was but a soulless thing, a
sketch, rudimentary; the embryo only of a basilica, varying with the
seasons and the days, at once living and inert, awaking only to the
roaring organ of the wind, the swaying roof of boughs wrung with the
slightest breath; it was lax and often sullen; the yielding victim of
the breeze, the resigned slave of the rain; it was lighted only by the
sunshine that filtered between the diamond and heart-shaped leaves, as
if through the meshes of a green network. Man's genius collected the
scattered gleams, condensed them in roses and broad blades, to pour it
into his avenues of white shafts; and even in the darkest weather the
glass was splendid, catching the very last rays of sunset, dressing
Christ and the Virgin in the most fabulous magnificence, and almost
realizing on earth the only attire that beseems the glorified Body, a
robe of mingled flame.

"Really, when you come to think of it, a cathedral is a superhuman

"Starting in our lands from the old Roman crypt, from the vault, crushed
like the soul by humility and fear, and bowed before the infinite
Majesty whose praise they hardly dared to sing, the churches gradually
waxed bolder; they gave an upward spring to the semicircular arch,
lengthening it to an almond shape, leaping from the earth, uplifting
roofs, heightening naves, breaking out into a thousand sculptured forms
all round the choir, and flinging heavenward, like prayers, their
rapturous piles of stones! They symbolized the loving tenderness of
orisons; they became more trusting, more playful, more daring in the
sight of God.

"Each and all seemed to smile, as soon as they gave up their dismal
skeleton and strove upwards.

"The Romanesque, I fancy, must have been born old," Durtal went on after
a pause. "At any rate it has always remained gloomy and timid.

"Although at Jumièges, for instance, it has attained grandiose
dimensions with its enormous span opening like a vast portal to the sky,
it still is depressing. The semicircular arch, in fact, bends to the
earth, for it has not the point, soaring upwards, of the lancet arch.

"Oh! to think of the tears, the dolorous murmurs of those thick
partitions, those smoky vaults, those arches resting on squat pillars,
those almost speechless blocks of stone, those sober ornaments
expressing their symbolism so curtly! The Romanesque is the La Trappe of
architecture; we find it sheltering the austerest Orders, the sternest
Brotherhoods, kneeling in ashes, and chanting in an undertone with bowed
heads none but penitential Psalms. These massive cellars speak of the
fear of sin, but also of the dread of a God whose wrath could only be
appeased by the Advent of the Son. The Romanesque seems to have
preserved from its Oriental origin an element antedating the Birth of
Christ; prayer seems to rise there to the implacable Adonaï rather than
to the pitying Infant, the gentle Mother. The Gothic, on the contrary,
is less timid, more captivated by the two other Persons and the Virgin;
it is the home of less rigorous and more artistic Orders. Bowed
shoulders are straightened, downcast eyes are raised, sepulchral voices
become seraphic. It is, in fact, the expansion of the spirit, while the
Romanesque symbolizes its repression. At least, to me, that is the
interpretation of these styles," Durtal repeated to himself.

"Nor is that all," he went on. "Yet another distinction may be deduced
from these observations.

"The Romanesque is allegorical of the Old Testament, as the Gothic is of
the New.

"The parallel, when you consider it, is exact. Is not the Bible--the
inflexible Book of Jehovah, the awful Code of the Father, well expressed
by the stern and penitential Romanesque; and the consoling, tender
Gospel by the Gothic, full of effusiveness and invitation, full of
humble hope?

"If the symbols are these, it would seem that time very often plays the
part of man's purpose in evolving the completed idea and uniting the two
styles, as, in Holy Scripture, the two Books are united; thus certain
cathedrals present a very curious result. Some, austere at their birth,
are cheerful and even smiling as they are completed. All that is left
of the old Abbey church of Cluny is from this point of view a typical
instance. This, next to that of Paray-le-Monial, which remains entire,
is undoubtedly one of the most magnificent examples of the Burgundian
Romanesque, which, with its fluted pilasters, unfortunately betrays the
distressing tradition of Greek art imported into France by the Romans.
Still, allowing that these basilicas--which may have been built between
the eleventh and thirteenth centuries--are purely Romanesque, as
Quicherat opines, mentioning them as examples, their structure is
already of a mingled type, and the joyousness of the vaulted arch is
already to be seen there.

"Nor have we here, as at Notre Dame la Grande at Poitiers, a Romanesque
façade, minutely elaborate, flanked at each wing by a low tower
supporting a heavy stone spire cut into facets, like a pine-apple. At
Paray there is none of the puerile ornament and heavy richness that we
see at Poitiers. The barbaric dress of the little toy church of Notre
Dame la Grande gives way to the winding-sheet of a flat wall, but the
exterior is none the less remarkably impressive with its solemn
simplicity of outline. And those two square towers, pierced with narrow
windows and overlooked by a round tower resting so calmly, so firmly on
an open arcade of columns joined by round arches, are a belfry at once
dignified and rustic, spirited and strong.

"And the august simplicity of the exterior is repeated in the interior
of the church.

"Here, however, the Romanesque has already lost its crushed, crypt-like
character, its obscure aspect as of a Persian cellar. The strong
structural lines are the same; the capitals still display the
inflorescence of Mussulman involutions, the fabulous entanglements of
Assyrian patterns, reminiscences of Asiatic art transplanted to our
soil; but we already see the union of dissimilar bays; columns struggle
upwards, pillars are taller, the wide arches are less rigid, and have a
lighter and longer trajectory; and the plain walls, enormous but already
light, are pierced at prodigious heights with holes admitting the day.

"At Paray the round arch is to be seen in harmony with the pointed arch
which appears in the higher summits of the structure, announcing the
advent of a less plaintive phase of the soul, a tenderer and less harsh
idea of Christ, who is preparing, and already revealing, the Mother's
indulgent smile.

"But then," said Durtal, suddenly, to himself, "if my theories are
correct, the architecture which could, by itself alone, symbolize
Catholicism as a whole, and represent the complete Bible in both
Testaments, must be either Romanesque with the pointed arch, or a
transition style, half Romanesque and half Gothic.

"The deuce!" thought he, thus led to an unforeseen conclusion. "To be
sure, it is not necessary perhaps that the church itself should offer so
complete a parallel, or that the Old and New Testaments should be bound
up in one volume; here, indeed, at Chartres the work, though integral,
is in two separate volumes, since the crypt on which the Gothic church
rests is Romanesque. Nay, it is thus even more symbolical, and it
emphasizes the idea of the windows in which the prophets bear on their
shoulders the four Evangelists; once more the Old Testament appears as
the base, the foundation of the New.

"What a fulcrum for dreams is this Romanesque!" Durtal went on. "Is it
not also the smoke-stained shrine, the gloomy retreat, constructed for
black Virgins? This seems all the less doubtful because all the
Mauresque Virgins are thick-set and heavy; they are not sylphs, like the
fair Virgins of Gothic art. The Byzantine School conceived of Mary as
swarthy, 'of the hue of polished brown ebony,' as the old historians
say; only, in opposition to the text in Canticles, it painted or carved
Her as black, indeed, but not comely. Thus figured, She is truly a
gloomy Virgin, eternally sorrowing, in harmony with the Romanesque
catacombs. Her presence naturally beseems the crypt of Chartres; but in
the Cathedral itself, on the pillar where She stands to this day, does
She not appear strange? For She is not in Her true home under the
soaring white vault."

"Well, our friend, you are dreaming!"

Durtal started like a man roused from sleep.

"Ah! It is you, Madame Bavoil?"

"To be sure. I am going home from market, and from your lodgings."

"From my lodgings?"

"Yes, to invite you to breakfast. The Abbé Plomb's housekeeper is to be
out this afternoon, so he is coming to take his morning meal with us;
and the Father thought it would be a good opportunity to make you

"I am much obliged to him; but I must go home and tell Mother Mesurat,
that she may not cook my cutlet."

"You need not do that, as I have just come from her; not finding you, I
left word and told Madame Mesurat. Are you still satisfied with her?"

"Once upon a time," said he, laughing, "I had, to manage my house in
Paris, one Sieur Rateau, a drunkard of the first class, who turned
everything upside down, and led the furniture a life! Now I have this
worthy woman, who sets to work on a different system, but the results
are identically the same. She works by persuasion and gentle means; she
does not overthrow the furniture, or bellow as she turns the mattress,
or rush at the wall with a broom as if she were charging with fixed
bayonet; no, she quietly collects the dust and stirs it round and ends
by piling it in little heaps that she hides in the corners of the rooms;
she does not rummage the bed, but restricts herself to patting it with
the tip of her fingers, stroking the creases out of the sheets, puffing
up the pillows and coaxing them out of their hollows. The man turned
everything topsy-turvy; she moves nothing."

"Well, well; but she is a good woman!"

"Yes, and in spite of it all, I am glad to have her."

As they talked they had reached the entrance to the Bishop's residence.
They went through a little gate by the lodge into a large forecourt
strewn with small river pebbles, in front of a vast building of the
seventeenth century. There were no flowers of stone-work, no sculpture,
no decorative doorways--nothing but a frontage of shabby brick and
stone, a bare, uninviting structure evidently neglected, with tall
windows, behind which the shutters could be seen, painted grey. The
entrance was on the level of the first floor; double outside steps led
up to the door, and under the landing, in the arch below, there was a
glass door, through which, framed in the square, could be seen the
trunks of trees beyond.

This courtyard was bordered with tall poplars, which the late Bishop,
who had frequented the Tuileries, used to speak of with a smile as his
hundred guards.

Madame Bavoil and Durtal crossed this forecourt, sloping to the left
towards a wing of the building, roofed with slate.

There, on the first floor, with only a loft above lighted by round
dormers, lived the Abbé Gévresin.

They went up a narrow staircase with a rusty iron balustrade. The walls
were trickling with damp, they secreted drops, distilled spots like
black coffee; the steps were worn hollow, and thin at the ends like
spoons; they led up to a door smeared yellow, with a cast-iron knob as
black as ink. A copper ring swung in the wind at the end of a bell-rope,
knocking the chipped plaster of the wall. An indescribable smell of
stale apples and stagnant water came up the middle of the staircase from
the little outer hall below, which was paved with rows of bricks set on
edge, eaten into patterns like madrepores, while the ceiling looked like
a map, furrowed with seas that were traced in yellow by the soaking
through of the rain.

And the Abbé's little apartment, lately "done up" with a vile
red-checked paper, reeked of the tomb. It was evident that under the
shadow of the Cathedral that overhung this wing no sunshine ever dried
the walls, of which the skirting boards were rotting into powder like
brown sugar, crumbling slowly, on the icy cold polish of the floor.

"How sad to see an old man, a victim to rheumatism, housed here!"
thought Durtal.

When he went into the Abbé's room, he found the chill somewhat taken off
by a large coke fire; the priest was reading his breviary, wrapped in a
wadded gown, close to the window, of which he had drawn back the blind
to see a little better.

This room was furnished with a small iron bedstead hung with white
cotton curtains looped back by bands of red cretonne; opposite the bed
were a table covered with a cloth, and on it a desk, and a prie-dieu
below a Crucifix nailed to the wall; the remainder of the room was
fitted with bookshelves up to the ceiling. Three arm-chairs, such as are
nowhere to be seen nowadays but in religious houses or seminaries, made
of walnut wood with straw bottoms like church chairs, were set round the
table, and two more, with round rush mats for the feet, stood one on
each side of the fireplace. On the chimney-shelf was an Empire clock
between two vases, and from these rose the faded stems of some dried
grasses stuck upright into sand.

"Come to the fire," said the Abbé, "for in spite of the brazier it is
fearfully cold."

And in answer to Durtal, who spoke of his rheumatism, he resignedly
shrugged his shoulders.

"All the residence is the same," said he. "Monseigneur, who is almost a
cripple, could not find a single dry room in the whole palace. Heaven
forgive me, but I believe his rooms are even damper than mine. In point
of fact there ought to be hot-air pipes all over the place, and it will
never be done for lack of money."

"But at any rate Monseigneur might have stoves put into the rooms, here
and there."

"He!" cried the Abbé, laughing, "but he has no private means whatever.
He draws a stipend of ten thousand francs a year and not another penny;
for there is no endowment at Chartres, and the revenue from the fees on
the ecclesiastical Acts is nothing. In this rich, but irreligious town
he can hope for no assistance; the gardener and porter are paid by him;
he is obliged for economy's sake to employ Sisters from a convent as
cook and linen-keeper. Add to that his inability to keep a carriage, so
that he has to hire a conveyance for his pastoral rounds. And how much
then do you suppose he has left to live on, if you deduct his charities?
Why, he is poorer than you or I!"

"But then Chartres is the fag end of Church preferment, a mere raft for
the shipwrecked and starving."

"Thou hast said! Bishop, canons, priests, everybody here is

The bell rang, and Madame Bavoil showed in the Abbé Plomb. Durtal
recognized him. He looked even more scared than usual; he bowed, backing
away, and did not know what to do with his hands, which he buried in his

By the end of half an hour, when he was more at his ease, he expanded
into smiles, and at last he talked; Durtal, much surprised, saw that the
Abbé Gévresin was right. This priest was highly intelligent and
well-informed, and what made the man even more attractive was his
perfect freedom from the want of breeding, the narrow ideas, the goody
nonsense which make intercourse so difficult with the ecclesiastics in
literary circles.

They had settled themselves in the dining-room, as dismal a room as the
rest, but warmer, for an earthenware stove was roaring and puffing hot
gusts from its open ventilators.

When they had eaten their boiled eggs, the conversation, hitherto
discursive as to subject, turned on the Cathedral.

"It is the fifth erection over a Druidical cave," said the Abbé Plomb.
"It has a strange history.

"The first, built at the time of the Apostles by Bishop Aventinus, was
razed to the ground. Rebuilt by another Bishop named Castor, it was
partly burnt down by Hunaldus Duke of Aquitaine, then restored by
Godessaldus; again injured by fire, by Hastings, the Norman chief;
repaired once more by Gislebert, and finally destroyed utterly by
Richard Duke of Normandy when he sacked the city after the siege.

"We have no very authentic records of these two basilicas; at most are
we certain that the Roman Governor of the land of Chartres completely
destroyed the first and at the same time slaughtered a great number of
Christians, among them his own daughter Modesta, throwing the corpses
into a well dug near the cave, and thence known as _le Puits des Saints

"A third fabric, built by Bishop Vulphardus, was burnt down in 1020,
when Fulbert was Bishop, and he founded the fourth Cathedral. This was
blasted by lightning in 1194; nothing remained but the two belfries and
the crypt.

"The fifth structure, finally, built in the reign of Philippe Auguste,
when Régnault de Mouçon was Bishop of Chartres, is that we still see; it
was consecrated on the 17th of October, 1260, in the presence of Saint
Louis. This again has passed through the fire. In 1506 the northern
spire was struck by lightning; the structure was of wood covered with
lead; a terrific storm raged from six in the evening till four in the
morning, fanning the fire to such violence that the six bells were
melted like cakes of wax. The flames were, however kept within limits,
and the church was refitted. But the scourge returned many times; in
1539, in 1573, and in 1589 lightning fell on the new belfry. Then a
century elapsed before the visitation was repeated; in 1701 the same
spire was struck again.

"It then stood uninjured till 1825, when a thunder-bolt fell and shook
it severely on Whit Monday while the _Magnificat_ was being chanted at

"Finally, on the 4th of June, 1836, a tremendous fire broke out, caused
by the carelessness of two plumbers working under the roof. It lasted
eleven hours, and destroyed all the timbers, the whole forest that
supported the roof; it was by a miracle that the church was not entirely
consumed in this fury of fire."

"You must allow, Monsieur, that there is something strange in this
disaster without respite."

"Yes, and what is still more strange," said the Abbé Gévresin, "Is the
persistency of fire from heaven, bent on destroying it."

"How do you account for that?" asked Durtal.

"Sébastien Rouillard, the author of _Parthénie_, believes that these
visitations were permitted as a punishment for certain sins, and he
insinuates that the conflagration of the third Cathedral was justified
by the misconduct of some pilgrims who at that time slept in the nave,
men and women together. Others believe that the Devil, who can command
the lightning, was bent on suppressing this sanctuary at any cost."

"But why, then, did not the Virgin protect Her particular church more

"You may observe that She has several times preserved it from being
utterly reduced to cinders; however, it is, all the same, very strange
when we remember that Chartres is the first place where the Virgin was
worshipped in France. It goes back to Messianic times, for, long before
Joachim's daughter was born, the Druids had erected, in the cave which
has become our crypt, an altar to the Virgin who should bear a
child--_Virgini Pariturae_. They, by a sort of grace, had intuitive
foreknowledge of a Saviour whose Mother should be spotless; thus it
would seem that at Chartres, above all places, there are very ancient
bonds of affection with Mary. This makes it very natural that Satan
should be bent on breaking them."

"Do you know," said Durtal, "that this grotto is prefigured in the Old
Testament by a human structure of almost official character? In her
"Life of Our Lord," that exquisite visionary, Catherine Emmerich, tells
us that there was, hard by Mount Carmel, a grotto with a well, near
which Elias saw a Virgin; and it was to this spot, she says, that the
Jews who expected the Advent of the Redeemer made pilgrimages many times
a year.

"Is not this the prototype of the cave of Chartres and the well of the
Strong Saints?

"Observe, too, on the other hand, the tendency of the thunder to fall,
not on the old belfry, but on the new one. No meteorological reason, I
suppose, can account for this preference; but on carefully considering
the two spires, I am struck by the delicate foliage, the slender
lacework of the new spire, the elegant and coquettish grace of the whole
of that side. The other, on the contrary, has no ornament, no carved
tracery; it is simply carved in scallops like scale armour; it is sober,
stern, stalwart and strong. It might really almost be thought that one
is female and the other of the male sex. And then might we not conclude
that the first is symbolical of the Virgin and the second of Her Son? In
that case my inference would be akin to that offered to us by Monsieur
l'Abbé: the fires are to be ascribed to Satan, who would wreak himself
on the image of Her who has the power to crush his head."

"Pray have a slice of beef, our friend," said Madame Bavoil, coming in
with a bottle in her hands.

"No, thank you."

"And you, Monsieur l'Abbé?"

The Abbé Plomb bowed, but declined.

"Why, you eat nothing!"

"What! I? I may even confess that I am rather ashamed of having eaten so
heartily, after reading this morning the life of Saint Laurence of
Dublin, who, by way of food, was content to dip his bread in the water
clothes had been washed in."


"Well, in order to be able to say with the Prophet-King that he fed on
ashes--since ashes are used for lye; that is a penitential banquet which
is very unlike that we have just consumed," he added, laughing.

"Well, my dear Madame Bavoil, that puts even you to shame," said the
Abbé Gévresin. "You are not yet covetous of so meagre a feast; you are
really quite dainty! You must have milk or water to dip your sop in!"

"Dear me," said Durtal, "by way of high feeding I can improve on that. I
remember reading in an old book the story of the Blessed Catherine of
Cardona, who, without using her hands, cropped the grass, on her knees,
among the asses."

It had not struck Madame Bavoil that the friends were speaking in fun,
and she replied quite humbly,--

"God Almighty has never yet required me to strew my bread with ashes or
to graze the field--if He should give me the order, I should certainly
obey it.--But it does not matter."

And she was so far from enthusiastic that they all laughed.

"Then the Cathedral as a whole," said the Abbé Gévresin after a short
silence, "dates from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, excepting, of
course, the new spire and numerous details."


"And the names of the architects are unknown?"

"As are those of almost all the builders of great churches," replied the
Abbé Plomb. "It may, however, be safely assumed that during the twelfth
and thirteenth centuries the Benedictines of the Abbey of Tiron directed
the building of our church, for that monastery had established a House
at Chartres in 1117; we also know that this convent contained more than
five hundred Brothers practising all the arts, and that sculptors,
image-makers, stone-cutters, or workers in pierced stone, were numerous.
It would therefore seem very natural that these monks sent to live at
Chartres were the men who drew the plans of Notre Dame, and employed the
horde of artists whom we see represented in one of the old windows of
the apse--men in furred caps shaped like a jelly bag, who are busily
carving and polishing the statues of kings.

"Their work was finished at the beginning of the sixteenth century by
Jehan Le Texier, known as Jehan de Beauce, who erected the northern
belfry, called the New Belfry, and the decorative work inside the
church, forming the niches for the groups on the walls of the
choir-aisles or ambulatory."

"And has no one ever been able to discover the name of any one of the
original architects, sculptors, or glass-makers of this Cathedral?"

"It has been the subject of much research, and I, personally, may say
that I have grudged neither time nor trouble, but all in vain.

"This much we know: At the top of the southern belfry, the Old Belfry as
it is called, near the window-bay looking towards the New Belfry, this
name was deciphered: 'Harman, 1164.' Is it that of an architect, of a
workman, or of a night watchman on the look-out at that time in the
tower? We can but wonder. Didron, again, discovered on the pilaster of
the eastern porch, above the head of a butcher slaughtering an ox, the
word 'Rogerus' in twelfth century characters. Was he the architect, the
sculptor, the donor of this porch--or the butcher? Another signature,
'Robir,' is to be seen on the pedestal of a statue in the north porch.
Who was Robir? None can say.

"Langlois, too, mentions a glass-worker of the thirteenth century,
Clément of Chartres, whose signature he found on a window of the
Cathedral at Rouen--_Clement Vitrearius Carnutensis_; but it is a wide
leap to infer, as some would do, that merely because this Clément was a
native of Chartres, he must have painted one or more of the glass
pictures in Notre Dame here. And at any rate we have no information as
to his life or his works in this city. It may also be remarked that on a
pane in our church we read _Petrus Bal ...;_ is this the name, complete
or defaced, of a donor or of a painter? Once more we must confess
ourselves ignorant.

"If I add to this that two of Jehan de Beauce's colleagues have been
traced: Thomas Le Vasseur, who assisted him in the building of the new
spire, and one Sieur Bernier, whose name occurs in ancient accounts;
that from some old contracts, discovered by Monsieur Lecoq, we know that
Jehan Soulas, image-maker, of Paris, carved the finest of the groups
that are the glory of the choir-aisles, and can verify the names of
other sculptors who succeeded this admirable artist, but who are less
interesting, since with them pagan art reappears and mediocrity is
evident: François Marchant, image-maker, of Orleans, and Nicolas
Guybert, of Chartres--we have mentioned almost all the records worthy of
preservation as to the great artists who laboured at Chartres from the
twelfth till the close of the first half of the fifteenth century."

"And after that period the names that have been handed down to us
deserve nothing but execration. Thomas Boudin, Legros, Jean de Dieu,
Berruer, Tuby, Simon Mazières--these were the men that dared to carry on
the work begun by Soulas! Louis, the Duc d'Orléans' architect, who
debased and ravaged the choir, and the infamous Bridan, who, to the
contemptible delight of some of the Canons, erected his blatant and
wretched presentment of the Assumption!"

"Alas!" said the Abbé Gévresin, "and they were Canons who thought fit to
break two ancient windows in the choir and fill them with white panes,
the better to light that group of Bridan's!"

"Will you eat nothing more?" asked Madame Bavoil, who, at a negative
from the guests, cleared away the cheese and preserves, and brought in

"Since you are so much charmed by our Cathedral, I shall be most happy
to take you over it and explain its details," said the Abbé Plomb to

"I shall accept with pleasure, Monsieur l'Abbé, for it fairly haunts me,
it possesses me--your Notre Dame! You know, no doubt, Quicherat's
theories of Gothic art?"

"Yes, and I believe them to be correct. Like him, I am convinced that if
the essential character of the Romanesque is the substitution of the
vaulted roof for the truss, the distinctive element and principle of the
Gothic is the buttress, and not the pointed arch.

"I reserve my opinion, indeed, as to the accuracy of Quicherat's
declaration that 'the history of architecture in the middle ages is no
more than the history of the struggle of architects against the thrust
and weight of vaulting,' for there is something in this art beyond
material industry and a problem of practice; at the same time he is
certainly right on almost every point.

"It may be added as a general principle, that in our use of the terms
Ogee and Gothic, we are misapplying words which have lost their original
meaning; since the Goths have nothing to do with the style of
architecture which has taken their name, and the word ogee or ogyve,
which strictly means the semicircular form, is inaccurate as applied to
the arch with a double curve, which has for so long been regarded as the
basis, nay, as the characteristic stamp of a style."[1]

"After all," the Abbé went on, after a short silence, "how can we judge
of the works of a past age, but by such help as we may obtain from the
arcades pierced in shoring walls or from vaulting on round or pointed
arches? for they are all debased by centuries of repair, or left
unfinished. Look at Chartres; Notre Dame was to have had nine spires,
and it has but two! The cathedrals of Reims, of Paris, of Laon, and many
more, were to have had spires rising from their towers; and where are
they? We can form no exact idea of the effect their architects intended
to produce. And then, again, these churches were meant to be seen in a
setting which has been destroyed, an environment that has ceased to
exist; they were surrounded by houses of a character resembling their
own; they are now in the midst of barracks five stories high, gloomy,
ignoble penitentiaries!--and we constantly see the ground about them
cleared, when they were never intended to stand isolated on a square.
Look where you will, there is a total misapprehension of the conditions
in which they were placed, of the atmosphere in which they lived.
Certain details, which seem to us inexplicable in some of these
buildings, were, no doubt, imperatively required by the position and
needs of the surroundings. In fact, we stumble, we feel our way--but we
know nothing--nothing!"

"And at best," said Durtal, "archæology and architecture have only done
a secondary work; they have simply set before us the material organism,
the body of the cathedrals; who shall show us the soul?"

"What do you mean by the word?" said the Abbé Gévresin.

"I am not speaking of the soul of the building at the moment when man by
Divine help had created it; we know nothing of that soul--not indeed as
regards Chartres, for some invaluable documents still reveal it; but of
the soul of other churches, the soul they still have, and which we help
to keep alive by our more or less regular presence, our more or less
frequent communion, our more or less fervent prayers.

"For instance, take Notre Dame at Paris; I know that it has been
restored and patched from end to end, that its sculpture is mended where
it is not quite new; in spite of Hugo's rhetoric it is second-rate, but
it has its nave and its wondrous transept; it is even endowed with an
ancient statue of the Virgin before which Monsieur Olier had knelt, and
very often. Well, an attempt was made to revive there the worship of Our
Lady, to incite a spirit of pilgrimage thither; but all is dead! That
Cathedral no longer has a soul; it is an inert corpse of stone; try
attending Mass there, try to approach the Holy Table--you will feel an
icy cloak fall on you and crush you. Is it the result of its emptiness,
of its torpid services, of the froth of runs and trills they send up
there, of its being closed in a hurry in the evening and never open till
so late in the morning, long after daybreak? Or has it something to do
with the permitted rush of tourists, of London gapers that I have seen
there talking at the top of their voice, sitting staring at the altar
when the Holy Elements were being consecrated just in front of them? I
know not--but of one thing I am certain, the Virgin does not inhabit
there day and night and always, as she does Chartres.

"Look at Amiens, again, with its colourless windows and crude daylight,
its chapels enclosed behind tall railings, its silence rarely broken by
prayer, its solitude. There too is emptiness; and why I know not, but to
me the place exhales a stale odour of Jansenism. I am not at large
there, and prayer is difficult; and yet the nave is magnificent, and the
sculptures in the ambulatory, finer even than those of Chartres, may be
pronounced unique.

"But here, too, the soul is absent.

"It is the same with the Cathedral of Laon--bare, ice-bound, dead past
hope; while some are in an intermediate state, dying, but not yet cold:
Reims, Rouen, Dijon, Tours, and Le Mans for instance; even in these
there is some refreshment; and Bourges, with its five porches opening on
a long perspective of aisles, and its vast deserted spaces; or Beauvais,
a melancholy fragment, having no more than a head and arms flung out in
despair like an appeal for ever ignored by Heaven, have still preserved
some of the aroma of olden days. Meditation is possible there; but
nowhere, nowhere is there such comfort as there is here, nowhere is
prayer so fervent as at Chartres!"

"Those are heaven-sent words!" cried Madame Bavoil. "And you shall have
a glass of old black currant liqueur for your pains! Yes, indeed, he is
quite right--our friend is right," she went on, addressing the priests,
who laughed. "Everywhere else, excepting at Notre Dame des Victoires in
Paris and, more especially, Notre Dame de Fourvière at Lyon, when you go
to meet Her, you wait and wait; and often enough She does not come.
Whereas in our Cathedral She receives you at once, just as She is. And I
have told him, told our friend, that he should attend the first morning
Mass in the crypt, and he will see what a welcome our Mother gives her

"Chartres is a marvellous place," said the Abbé Gévresin, "with its two
black Madonnas--Notre Dame of the Pillar, above in the body of the
church, and Notre Dame de Sous-Terre below, in the vault over which the
basilica is built. No other sanctuary, I believe, possesses the
miraculous images of Mary, to say nothing of the antique relic known as
the Shift or Tunic of the Virgin."

"And what in your opinion constitutes the soul of Chartres?" asked the
Abbé Plomb.

"Certainly not the souls of the citizens' wives and the church servants
that are poured out there," replied Durtal. "No, its vitality comes from
the Sisterhoods, the peasant women, the pious schools, the pupils of the
Seminary, and perhaps more especially from the children of the choir,
who crowd to kiss the Pillar and kneel before the Black Virgin. As for
the devotion of the respectable classes! It would scare away the

"With a few rare exceptions the fine flower of female Pharisaism is no
doubt the outcome of that class," said the Abbé Plomb, and he added in a
half jesting, half sorrowful tone,--

"And I, here at Chartres, am the distressful gardener of these souls!"

"To return to our starting point," said the Abbé Gévresin: "what was the
birthplace of the Gothic?"

"France: so Lecoy de la Marche emphatically asserts. 'The buttress made
its appearance as the essential basis of a style in the early years of
Louis le Gros, in the district lying between the Seine and the Aisne.'
In his opinion the first practice of this form was in the Cathedral of
Laon; other authorities regard it as merely supplementary to earlier
basilicas, instancing Saint-Front at Périgueux, Vézelay, Saint-Denis,
Noyon, and the ancient college chapel at Poissy; but no two agree. One
thing is certain, Gothic art is the art of the North; it made its way
into Normandy, and from thence into England. Then it spread to the Rhine
in the twelfth century, and to Spain by the beginning of the thirteenth.
Gothic churches in the South are but an importation, evidently
ill-assorted with the men and women who frequent them, and the merciless
blue sky which spoils them."

"And observe," said Durtal, "that in our country that aspect of
mysticism is discordant with the rest."

"How is that?"

"Well, you see, in the distribution of the sacred arts France received
architecture only. Consider the pre-Raphaelite painters. All the early
painters were Italians, Spaniards, Flemings, or Germans. Those whom some
writers try to represent as our fellow-countrymen are Flemings
transplanted to Burgundy, or docile Frenchmen whose imitative work bears
an unmistakable Flemish stamp. Look in the Louvre at our primitive
artists; look at Dijon, especially at what remains from the time when
northern art was introduced by Philippe le Hardi into his own province.
It is impossible to feel a doubt. Everything came from Flanders--Jean
Perréal, Bourdichon, even Fouquet are whatever you please, only not the
inventors of an original Gallic art.

"It is the same with the mystic writers. Of what use would it be to
mention the nationalities to which they belong? They too are Spanish,
Italian, German, Flemish--not one is French."

"I beg your pardon, our friend!" cried Madame Bavoil, "there was the
Venerable Jeanne de Matel, who was born at Roanne."

"Yes, but she was the daughter of an Italian father who was born at
Florence," said the Abbé Gévresin, who, hearing the bell ring for Nones,
now folded up his table napkin. They all stood up and said grace, and
Durtal made an appointment with the Abbé Plomb to visit the Cathedral.
Then he went home, meditating, as he walked, on this strange division of
art in the middle ages, and the supremacy given to France in
architecture, when as yet she was so inferior in every other art.

"And it must be owned," he concluded, "that she has now lost this
superiority; for it is long indeed since she produced an architect. The
men who assume the name are mere thieving bunglers, builders devoid of
all individuality and learning. They are not even able to pilfer
skilfully from their precursors. What are they nowadays? Patchers up of
chapels, church cobblers, botchers and blunderers!"

  [1] The English use of the word Ogee is thus defined: "An arch
  or moulding which displays sectionally contrasted curves similar
  to that of the _cyma reversa_." FAIRHOLT, "Dict. of Terms used in
  Art;" and PARKER, "A Concise Glossary of Terms used in


Madame Bavoil was right; to understand the welcome the Virgin could
bestow on Her visitors, the early Mass in the crypt must be attended;
above all, the Communion should be received.

Durtal made the experiment; one day when the Abbé Gévresin enjoined on
him to approach the Table, he followed the housekeeper's advice and went
to the crypt at early dawn.

The way down was by a cellar-stair lighted by a small lamp with a
sputtering wick darkening the chimney with smoke; having safely reached
the bottom, he turned to the left in the darkness; here and there, at an
angle, a floating wick threw a ruddy light on the circuit which he made
in alternate light and shade, till at last he had some notion of the
general outline of the crypt. Its plan would be fairly represented by
the nave of a wheel whence the spokes radiated in every direction,
joining the outer circle or tyre. From the circular path in which he
found himself passages diverged like the sticks of a fan, and at the end
little fogged glass windows were visible, looking almost bright in the
opaque blackness of the walls.

And by following the curve of the corridor, Durtal came to a green baize
door which he pushed open. He found himself in the side aisle of a nave
ending in a semicircle, where there was a high altar. To the right and
left two little recesses formed the arms or transept of a small cross.
The centre aisle, forming a low nave, had chairs on either side, leaving
a narrow space to give access to the altar.

It was scarcely possible to see; the sanctuary was lighted only by tiny
lamps from the roof in little saucers of lurid orange or dull gold. An
extraordinarily mild atmosphere prevailed in this underground structure,
which was also full of a singular perfume in which a musty odour of hot
wax mingled with a suggestion of damp earth. But this was only the
background, the canvas, so to speak, of the perfume, and was lost under
the embroidery of fragrance which covered it, the faded gold, as it
were, of oil in which long kept aromatic herbs had been steeped, and
old, old incense powder dissolved. It was a weird and mysterious vapour,
as strange as the crypt itself, which, with its furtive lights and
breadths of shadow, was at once penitential and soothing.

Durtal went up the broader aisle to the left arm of the cross and sat
down; the tiny transept had its little altar, with a Greek cross in
relief against a purple disk. Overhead the enormous curve of the
vaulting hung heavy, and so low that a man could touch it by stretching
an arm; it was as black as the mouth of a chimney, and scorched by the
fires that had consumed the cathedrals built above it.

Presently the clap-clap of sabots became audible, and then the smothered
footfall of nuns; there was silence but for sneezing and nose-blowing
stifled by pocket-handkerchiefs, and then all was still.

A sacristan came in through a little door opening into the other
transept, and lighted the tapers on the high altar; then strings of
silver-gilt hearts became visible in the semicircle all along the walls,
reflecting the blaze of flames, and forming a glory for a statue of the
Virgin sitting, stiff and dark, with a Child on Her knees. This was the
famous Virgin of the Cavern, or rather a copy of it, for the original
was burnt in 1793 in front of the great porch of the Cathedral, amid the
delirious raving of _sans-culottes_.

A choir-boy came in, followed by an old priest; and then, for the first
time, Durtal saw the Mass really as a service, and understood the
wonderful beauty that lies inherent in a devout commemoration of the

The boy on his knees, his soul aspiring and his hands clasped, spoke
aloud and slowly, rehearsing the responses of the Psalm with such deep
attention and respect, that the meaning of this noble liturgy, which has
ceased to amaze us, because we are so used to hearing it stammered out
in hot haste, was suddenly revealed to Durtal.

And the priest himself, unconsciously, whether he would or no, took up
the child's tone, imitating him, speaking slowly, not merely tripping
the verses off the tip of his tongue, but absorbed in the words he had
to repeat; and he seemed overwhelmed, as though it were his first Mass,
by the grandeur of the rite of which he was to be the instrument.

In fact, Durtal heard the celebrant's voice tremble when standing before
the altar in the presence of the Father, like the Son Himself whom he
represented, and imploring forgiveness for all the sins of the world
which He bore on His shoulders, supported in his grief and hope by the
innocence of the child whose loving care was less mature and less lively
than the man's.

And as he spoke the despairing words, "My God, my God, wherefore is my
spirit heavy, and why dost Thou afflict me?" the priest was indeed the
image of Jesus suffering on the hill of Calvary, but the man remained in
the celebrant--the man, conscious of himself, and himself experiencing,
in behoof of his personal sins and his own shortcomings, the impressions
of sorrow contained in the inspired text.

Meanwhile his little acolyte had words of comfort, bid him hope; and
after repeating the _Confiteor_ in the face of the congregation, who on
their part purified their souls by the same ablution of confession, the
priest with revived assurance went up the altar steps and began the

Positively, in this atmosphere of prayers crushed in by the heavy roof,
Durtal, in the midst of kneeling Sisters and women, was struck with a
sense as of some early Christian rite buried in the catacombs. Here were
the same ecstatic tenderness, the same faith; and it was possible even
to imagine some apprehension of surprise, and some eagerness to profess
the faith in the face of danger. And thus, as in a vague image, this
sacred cellar held the dim picture of the neophytes assembled so long
since in the underground caverns of Rome.

The service proceeded before Durtal's eyes, and he was amazed to watch
the boy, who, with half closed eyes and the reserve of timid emotion,
kissed the flagons of wine and of water before presenting them to the

Durtal would look no more; he tried to concentrate his mind while the
priest was wiping his hands, for the only prayers he could honestly
offer up to God were verses and texts repeated in an undertone.

This only had he in his favour, but this he had: that he passionately
loved mysticism and the liturgy, plain-song and cathedrals. Without
falsehood or self-delusion, he could in all truth exclaim, "Lord, I have
loved the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thine honour
dwelleth." This was all he had to offer to the Father in expiation of
his contumely and refractoriness, his errors and his falls.

"Oh!" thought he, "how could I dare to pour out the ready-made collects
of which the prayer-books are full, how say to God, while addressing Him
as 'Lovely Jesus,' that He is the beloved of my heart, that I solemnly
vow never to love anything but Him, that I would die rather than ever
displease Him?

"Love none but Him!--If I were a monk and alone, possibly; but living in
the world!--And then who but the Saints would prefer death to the
smallest sin? Why then humbug Him with these feints and grimaces?

"No," said Durtal, "apart from the personal outpourings, the secret
intimacy in which we are bold to tell Him everything that comes into our
head, the prayers of the liturgy alone can be uttered with impunity by
any man, for it is the peculiarity of these inspirations that they adapt
themselves in all ages to every state of the mind and every phase of
life. And with the exception of the time-honoured prayers of certain
Saints, which are as a rule either supplications for pity or for help,
appeals to God's mercy or laments, all other prayers sent forth from the
cold insipid sacristies of the seventeenth century, or, worse still,
composed in our own day by the piety-mongers who insert in our books of
prayer the pious cant of the Rue Bonaparte--all these inflated and
pretentious petitions should be avoided by sinners who, in default of
every other virtue, at least wish to be sincere.

"Only that wonderful child could thus address the Lord without
hypocrisy," he went on, looking at the little acolyte, and understanding
truly for the first time what innocent childhood meant--the little
sinless soul, purely white.

"The Church, which tries to find beings absolutely ingenuous and
immaculate to wait upon the altar, had succeeded at Chartres in moulding
souls and transforming ordinary boys on their admission to the sanctuary
into exquisite angels. There must certainly be, above and besides their
special training, some blessing and goodwill from Our Lady, to mould
these little rogues to the service, to make them so unlike others, and
endow them in the middle of the nineteenth century with the fire of
chastity and primitive fervour of the middle age."

The service proceeded slowly, soaking into the abject silence of the
worshippers, and the child, more reverent and attentive than ever, rang
the bell; it was like a shower of sparks tinkling under the smoky vault,
and the silence seemed deeper than ever behind the kneeling boy,
upholding with one hand the chasuble of the celebrant, who bowed over
the altar. The Host was elevated amid the shower of silver sound; and
then, above the prostrate heads, in the clear sparkle of bells, the
golden tulip of a chalice flashed out till, to a final hurried peal, the
gilded flower was lowered, and the prostrate worshippers looked up.

And Durtal was thinking,--

"If only He to whom we refused shelter when the Mother who bore Him was
in travail, could find a loving refuge in our souls to-day! But alas!
apart from these nuns, these children, these priests, and these peasant
women who cherish Him so truly, how many here present are, like me,
embarrassed by His presence, and at all times incapable of making ready
the chamber He requires, of receiving Him in a room swept and garnished?

"Alas! to think that things are always the same, always going back to
the beginning! Our souls are still the crafty synagogues who betrayed
Him, and the vile Caiaphas that lurks within us rises up at the very
moment when we fain would be humble and love Him while we pray! My God!
My God! Would it not be better to depart than to drag myself thus, with
such a bad grace, into Thy presence? For, after all, it is all very well
for the Abbé Gévresin to insist that I should communicate, he is not
I--he is not in me; he does not know the wild doings in my hidden lairs,
or the turmoil in my ruins. He believes it to be mere nervelessness,
indolence. Alas! That is not all. There is a dryness, a coldness, which
are not altogether free from a certain amount of irritation and
rebelliousness against the rules he insists on."

The moment of Communion was at hand. The little boy had gently thrown
the white napkin back on the table; the nuns and poor women and peasants
went forward, all with clasped hands and bowed heads, and the child took
a taper and passed in front of the priest, his eyes almost shut for fear
of seeing the Host.

There was in this little creature such a glow of love and reverence that
Durtal gazed with admiration and trembled with awe. Without in the least
knowing why, in the midst of the darkness that fell on his soul, of the
impotent and wavering feeling that thrilled it without there being any
word to describe them, he felt a tide bearing him to the Saviour, and
then a recoil.

The comparison was inevitably forced upon him between that child's soul
and his own. "Why, it is he, not I, who should take the Sacrament!"
cried he to himself; and he crouched there inert, his hands folded, not
knowing how to decide, in a frame at once beseeching and terrified, when
he felt himself gently drawn to the table and received the Sacrament.
And meanwhile he was trying to collect himself, and to pray, and at the
same time, at the same instant, was in the discomfort of the shuddering
fears that surge up within us, and that find expression physically in a
craving for air, and in that peculiar condition when the head feels as
if it were empty, as if the brain had ceased to act, and all vitality
was driven back on the heart, which swells to choking; when it seems, in
the spiritual sense, that as energy returns so far as to allow of
self-command once more, of introspection, we peer down in appalling
silence into a black void.

He painfully rose and returned to his place, not without stumbling.
Never, not even at Chartres, had he been able to hinder the torpor that
overpowered him at the moment of receiving the Sacrament. His powers
were benumbed, his faculties arrested.

In Paris, at the core of his soul, which seemed rolled up in itself like
a chrysalis, there had always been a sort of restraint, an awkwardness
in waiting, and in approaching Christ, and then an apathy which nothing
could shake off. And this state was prolonged in a sort of cold,
enveloping mist, or rather in a vacuum all round the soul, deserted and
swooning on its couch.

At Chartres this state of collapse was still present, but some indulgent
tenderness presently enwrapped and warmed the spirit. The soul as it
recovered was no longer alone; it was encouraged and perceptibly helped
by the Virgin, who revived it. And this impression, peculiar to this
crypt, permeated the body too; it was no longer a feeling of suffocation
for lack of air; on the contrary, it was the oppression of inflation, of
over-fulness, which would be mitigated by degrees, allowing of easy
breathing at last.

Durtal, comforted and relieved, rose to go. By this time the crypt had
become a little lighter from the growing dawn; the passages, ending in
altars backing against the windows, were still dark, as a result of the
ground plan, but in the perspective of each a moving gold cross was to
be seen almost distinctly, rising and falling with a priest's back,
between two pale stars twinkling one on each side above the tabernacle;
while a third, lower and with redder flame, lighted up the book and the
white napery.

Durtal wandered away to meditate in the Bishop's garden, where he had
permission to walk whenever he pleased.

The garden was perfectly still, with tomb-like avenues, pollard poplars,
and trampled lawns--half dead. There was not a flower, for the Cathedral
killed everything under its shadow. Its vast deserted apse, without a
statue, rose amid a flight of buttresses flung out like huge ribs,
inflated as it were by the breath of incessant prayer within; shade and
damp always clung round the spot; in this funereal Close, where the
trees were green only in proportion as they were distant from the
church, lay two microscopic ponds like the mouths of two wells; one
covered to the brim with yellow-green duck-weed, the other full of
brackish water of inky blackness, in which three goldfish lay as in

Durtal was fond of this neglected spot, with its reek of the grave and
the salt marsh, and the mouldy smell, that earthy scent that comes up
from a rotting soil of wet leaves.

He paced the alleys, where the Bishop never came, and where the children
of the household, rushing about at play, destroyed the fragments of
grass-plots spared by the Cathedral. Slates cracked underfoot, flung
down from the roofs by the wind, and the jackdaws croaked in answer to
each other across the silent park.

Durtal came out on a terrace overlooking the city, and he rested his
elbows on a parapet of grey time-eaten stone, as dry as pumice and
patterned with orange and sulphur-coloured lichens.

Beneath him spread a valley crowded with smoking chimneys and roofs,
veiling this upper part of the town in a tangle of blue. Further down
all was still and lifeless; the houses were asleep, not so far awake
even as to show the transient flash of glass when a window is thrown
open, nor was there such a spot of red as is often seen in a country
street when an eider-down quilt hangs out to air across the bar of a
balcony; everything was closed and dull and soundless; there was not
even the hive-like hum that hangs over inhabited places. But for the
distant rumble of a cart, the crack of a whip, the bark of a dog, all
was still: it was a town asleep, a land of the dead.

And beyond the valley, on the further bank, the scene was still more
sullen and silent; the plains of La Beauce stretched away as far as the
eye could reach, mute and melancholy, without a smile, under a heartless
sky divided by an ignoble barrack facing the Cathedral.

The dreariness of these plains, an endless level without a mound,
without a tree! And you felt that even beyond the horizon they still
stretched away as flat as ever; only the monotony of the landscape was
emphasized by the raging fury of the tempestuous winds, sweeping the
hillside, levelling the tree-tops, and wreaking themselves on this
basilica, which, perched on high, had for centuries defied their
efforts. To uproot it the lightning had been needed to help, firing its
towers, and even the combined attacks of the hurricane and the flames
had been unable to destroy the original stock, which, replanted after
each disaster, had always sprouted in fresh verdure with reinvigorated

That morning, in the dawn of a rainy autumn day, lashed by a bitter
north wind, Durtal, shivering and ill at ease, left the terrace and took
refuge in the more sheltered walks, going down presently into a
garden-slope where the brushwood afforded some little protection from
the wind; these shrubberies wandered at random down the hill, and an
inextricable tangle of blackberries clung with the cat's-claws of their
long shoots to the saplings that were scattered about.

It was evident that since some immemorial time the Bishops, for lack of
funds, had neglected these grounds. Of all the old kitchen garden,
overgrown by brambles, only one plot was more or less weeded, and rows
of spinach and carrots alternated with the frosted balls of cabbages.

Durtal sat down on a stump that had once supported a bench, and tried to
look into his own soul; but he found within, look where he might, only a
spiritual Beauce; it seemed to him to mirror the cold and monotonous
landscape; only it was not a mighty wind that blew through his being;
but a sharp, drying little blast. He knew that he was cross-grained and
could not make his observations calmly; his conscience harassed him and
insisted on vexatious argument.

"Pride! Ah, how is it to be kept under till the day shall come when it
shall be quelled? It insinuates itself so stealthily, so noiselessly,
that it has ensnared and bound me before I can suspect its presence; and
my case too is somewhat peculiar, and hard to cure by the religious
treatment commonly prescribed in such cases. For in fact," said he to
himself, "my pride is not of the artless and overweening kind, elated,
audacious, boldly displaying, and proclaiming itself to the world; no,
mine is in a latent state, what was called vain-glory in the simplicity
of the Middle Ages, an essence of pride diluted with vanity and
evaporating within me in transient thoughts and unexpressed conceit. I
have not even the opportunity afforded by swaggering pride for being on
my guard and compelling myself to keep silence. Yes, that is very true;
talk leads to specious boasting and invites subtle praise; one is
presently aware of it, and then, with patience and determination, it is
in one's power to check and muzzle oneself. But my vice of pride is
wordless and underground; it does not come forth. I neither see nor hear
it. It wriggles and creeps in without a sound, and clutches me without
my having heard its approach!

"And the good Abbé answers: 'Be watchful and pray;' well, I am more than
willing, but the remedy is ineffectual, for aridity and outside
influences deprive it of its efficacy!

"As for outside suggestions--they never seem to come to me but in
prayer. It is enough that I kneel down and try to collect my thoughts,
they are at once dissipated. The mere purpose of prayer is like a stone
flung into a pool; everything is stirred up and comes to the top!

"And people who have not habits of religious practice fancy that there
is nothing easier than prayer. I should like to see them try. They could
then bear witness that profane imaginings, which leave them in peace at
all other times, always surge up unexpectedly, during prayer.

"Besides, what use is therein disputing the fact? Merely looking at a
sleeping vice is enough to wake it."

And his thoughts went back to that warm crypt. "Yes, no doubt, like all
the buildings of the Romanesque period, it is symbolical of the Old
Testament; but it is not simply gloomy and sad, for it is enveloping and
comforting, warm and tender! Admitting even that it is the figure in
stone of the older Dispensation, would it not seem that it symbolizes it
less as a whole, than as embodying more especially a select group of the
Holy Women who prefigured the Virgin in the earlier Scriptures? Is it
not the expression in stone of those passages in which the illustrious
women of the Bible are most conspicuous, who were, in a way, prophetic
incarnations of the New Eve?

"Hence this crypt would reproduce the most consoling and the most heroic
passages of the Sacred Book, for the Virgin is supreme in this
underground sanctuary; it is Hers rather than the terrible Adonaï's, if
one may dare say so.

"And again, She is a very singular Virgin, who has inevitably remained
in harmony with Her surroundings: a Virgin black and rugged, and
stunted, like the rough-hewn shrine She inhabits.

"She is therefore, no doubt, the outcome of the same idea that conceived
of Christ as black and ugly because He had assumed the burthen of all
the sins of the world, the Christ of the first ages of the Church, who
in His humility put on the vilest aspect. In that case Mary would have
conceived Her Son in Her own image; She too had chosen to be ugly and
obscure, out of humility and loving-kindness, that She might the better
console the disfigured and despised creatures whose image She had

And Durtal went on:--

"What a crypt is this where, in the course of so many centuries, kings
and queens have come to worship!

"Philip Augustus and Isabella of Hainault, Blanche of Castille and Saint
Louis, Philippe de Valois, Jean le Bon, Charles V., Charles VI., Charles
VII., Charles VIII. and Anne de Bretagne; then François I., Henri III.
and Louise de Vaudemont, Catherine de' Medici; Henri IV., who was
crowned in this Cathedral, Anne of Austria, Louis XIV., Maria Leczinska,
and so many others--all the nobility of France; and Ferdinand of Spain,
and Léon de Lusignan, the last King of Armenia, and Pierre de Courtenay,
Emperor of Constantinople--all kneeling like the poor folks of to-day,
and like them beseeching Notre Dame de Sous-Terre."

And what was more interesting still was that the Virgin had wrought many
miracles on this spot. She had saved children who had fallen into the
well of the Strong Saints, had preserved the guardians who had charge of
the relic of Her garment when the edifice was blazing above them, and
had cured crowds, half maddened by the Burning plague in the Middle
Ages, shedding Her benefits with a lavish hand.

Times were changed indeed, but fervent worshippers had knelt before the
Image, had relinked the bonds broken in the course of years, had, so to
speak, recaptured the Virgin in a net of prayer; and so, instead of
departing, as She had done elsewhere, She had remained at Chartres.

By some incredible effect of clemency She had endured the insult of the
tenth-day festivals and the outrage of seeing the Goddess of Reason
installed in her place on the altar, had suffered the infamous liturgy
of obscene canticles rising with the thundering incense of gunpowder.
And She had forgiven it all, no doubt for the sake of the love shown Her
by preceding generations, and the awed, but real affection of the humble
believers who had come back to Her when the storm was over.

This cavern was crowded with memories. The coating of those walls had
been formed of the vapours of the soul, of the exhalations of
accumulated desires and regrets, even more than of the smoke of tapers;
how foolish it was then to have painted this crypt in squalid imitation
of the catacombs, to have defaced the glorious darkness of these stones
with colours which were indeed fast vanishing, leaving only traces as of
palette scrapings in the consecrated soot on the roof!

Durtal was expatiating on these reflections as he went out of the
garden, when he met the Abbé Gévresin walking along and reading his
breviary. He asked whether Durtal had taken the Sacrament. And
perceiving that his penitent always came back to his shame of the inert
and torpid grief that came over him in contemplation of the Holy
Sacrament, the old priest said to him,--

"That is no concern of yours; all you have to do is to pray to the best
of your power. The rest is my concern--if the far from triumphant state
of your soul only makes you a little humble, that is all I ask of you."

"Humble! I am like a water cooler; my vanity sweats out at every pore as
the water oozes from the clay."

"It is some consolation to me that you perceive it," said the Abbé,
smiling. "It would be far worse if you did not know yourself, if you
were so proud as to believe that you had no pride."

"But how then am I to set to work? You advise me to pray; but teach me
at least how not to dissipate myself in every direction, for as soon as
I try to collect myself I go to pieces; I live in a perpetual state of
dissolution. It is like a thing arranged on purpose; as soon as I try to
shut the cage all my thoughts fly off--they deafen me with their

The Abbé was thinking.

"I know," said he; "nothing is more difficult than to free the spirit
from the images that take possession of it. Still, and in spite of all,
you may achieve concentration of mind if you observe these three rules:

"In the first place you must humble yourself, by owning the frailty of
your mind, unable to preserve itself from wandering in the presence of
God; next you must not be impatient or restless, for that would only
stir up the dregs and bring other objects of frivolity to the surface;
finally, it is well not to investigate the nature of the distractions
that trouble your prayers till they are over. This only prolongs the
disturbance, and in a way recognizes its existence. You thus run the
risk, in virtue of the law of association of ideas, of inviting new
diversions, and there would be no way of escape.

"After prayer you may examine yourself with benefit; follow my advice,
and you will find the advantage of it."

"That is all very fine," thought Durtal, "but when it comes to putting
the advice into practice it is quite another thing. Are not these mere
old women's remedies, precious ointments, quack medicines, for which the
pious and virtuous have a weakness?"

They walked on in silence across the forecourt of the palace to the
priest's rooms. As they went in, they found Madame Bavoil at the foot of
the stairs, her arms in a tub full of soap-suds. As she rubbed the
clothes, she turned to look at Durtal, and, as if she could read his
thoughts, she mildly asked,--

"Why, our friend, wear such a graveyard face when you took the Sacrament
this morning?"

"So you heard I had been to Communion?"

"Yes, I went into the crypt while Mass was going forward, and saw you go
up to the Holy Table. Well, shall I tell you the truth? You do not know
how to address our Holy Mother."


"No. You are shy when She is doing her best to put you at your ease; you
creep close to the wall when you ought to walk boldly up the middle
aisle to face Her. That is not the way to approach Her!"

"But if I have nothing to say to Her?"

"Then you simply chatter to Her like a child; some pretty speech, and
She is satisfied. Oh, these men! How little they know how to pay their
court, how greatly they lack little coaxing ways, and even honest
artfulness! If you can invent nothing on your own part, borrow from
another. Repeat after the Venerable Jeanne de Matel:

"'Holy Virgin, this abyss of iniquity and vileness invokes the abyss of
strength and splendour to praise Thy preeminent Glory.' Well, is that
pretty well expressed, our friend? Try; recite that to Our Lady and She
will unbind you; then prayer will come of itself. Such little ways are
permitted by Her, and we must be humble enough not to presume to do
without them."

Durtal could not help laughing.

"You want me to become a trickster, a sneak in spiritual life!" said he.

"Well, where would be the harm? Does not the Lord know when we mean
well? Does not He take note of our intentions? Would you, yourself,
repulse anyone who paid you a compliment, however clumsily, if you
thought he meant to please you by it? No, of course not."

"Here is another thing," said the Abbé, laughing. "Madame Bavoil, I saw
Monseigneur this morning; he grants your petition and authorizes you to
dig in as many parts of the garden as you choose."

"Aha!" and amused by Durtal's surprise she went on: "You must have seen
for yourself that excepting a little plot of ground where the gardener
plants a few carrots and cabbages for the Bishop's table, the whole of
the garden is left to run wild; it is sheer waste and of no use to
anybody. Now instead of buying vegetables, I mean to grow some, since
Monseigneur gives me leave to turn over his ground, and by the same
token I will give some to your housekeeper."

"Thank you. Then do you understand gardening?"

"I? Why, am I not a peasant? I have lived in the country all my life,
and a kitchen garden is just my business! Besides, if I were in
difficulties, would not my Friends Above come to advise me?"

"You are a wonderful woman, Madame Bavoil," said Durtal, somewhat
disconcerted in spite of himself by the answers of a cook who so calmly
asserted that she was on intimate terms with the divine Beyond.


It rained without ceasing. Durtal breakfasted under the assiduous
watchfulness of his servant, Madame Mesurat. She was one of those women
whose stalwart build and masculine presence would allow of their
dressing in men's clothes without attracting attention. She had a
pear-shaped head, cheeks that hung flabby as if they had been emptied of
air, a pompous nose that drooped till it very nearly touched a
projecting underlip like a bracket, giving her an expression of
determined contempt which she very certainly had never felt. In short,
she suggested the absurd idea of a solemn, gawky Marlborough disguised
as a cook.

She served unvarying meats with inglorious sauces; and as soon as the
dish was on the table she stood at attention, waiting to know whether it
was good. She was imposing and devoted--quite insufferable. Durtal, on
edge with irritation, found it all he could do not to dismiss her to the
kitchen, and finally buried his nose in a book that he might not have to
answer her, might not see her.

This day, provoked by his silence, Madame Mesurat lifted the window
curtain, and for the sake of saying something, exclaimed,--

"Good heavens! What weather! Impossible!"

And in fact the sky offered no hope of consolation. It was all in tears.
The rain fell in uninterrupted streams, unwinding endless skeins of
water. The Cathedral was standing in a pool of mud lashed into leaping
drops by the falling torrent, and the two spires looked drawn together,
almost close, linked by loose threads of water. This indeed was the
prevailing impression--a briny atmosphere full of strings holding the
sky and earth together as if tacked with long stitches, but they would
not hold; a gust of wind snapped all these endless threads, which were
whirled in every direction.

"My arrangement to meet the Abbé Plomb to go over the Cathedral is
evidently at an end," said Durtal to himself. "The Abbé will certainly
not turn out in such weather."

He went into his study; this was his usual place of refuge. He had his
divan there, his pictures, the old furniture he had brought from Paris;
and against the walls, shelves, painted black, held thousands of books.
There he lived, looking out on the towers, hearing nothing but the
cawing of the rooks and the strokes of the hours as they fell one by one
on the silence of the deserted square. He had placed his table in front
of a window, and there he sat dreaming, praying, meditating, making

The balance of his personal account was struck by internal damage and
mental disputations; if the soul was bruised and ice-bound, the mind was
no less afflicted, no less fagged. It seemed to have grown dull since
his residence at Chartres. The biographies of Saints which Durtal had
intended to write, remained in the stage of charcoal sketches; they blew
off before he could fix them. In reality he had ceased to care for
anything but the Cathedral; it had taken possession of him.

And besides, the lives of the Saints as they were written by the
inferior Bollandists were enough to disgust anybody with saintliness.
Offered to publisher after publisher, carted from the Paris libraries to
the provincial workshops, this barrow of books had at first been hauled
by a single nag, Father Giry; then a second horse had been added, the
Abbé Guérin, and, harnessed to the same shafts, these two men pulled
their heavy truck over the broken road of souls.

He had only to open a bale of this prosy dulness, taking down a volume
at random, to light on sentences of this quality:

"Such an one was born of parents not less remarkable for their rank than
for their piety;" or, on the other hand, "His parents were not of
illustrious birth, but in them might be seen the distinction of all the
virtues which are so far above rank."

And then the dreadful style of the Pont Neuf: "His historian does not
hesitate to say he would have been mistaken for an angel if the maladies
with which God afflicted him had not shown that he was a man."--"The
Devil, not enduring to see him advancing by rapid leaps on the way of
perfection, adopted various means of hindering him in the happy progress
of his career."

And on turning over to a fresh page he came upon a passage in the life
of one of the Elect who was mourning for his mother, excusing him in
this solemn rigmarole: "After granting to the feelings of nature such
relief as grace cannot forbid on these occasions--"

Or again, here and there were such pompous and ridiculous definitions as
this, which occurs in the life of César de Bus: "After a visit to Paris,
which is not less the throne of vice than the capital of the kingdom--"
And this went on in meagre language through twelve to fifteen volumes,
ending by the erection of a row of uniform virtue, a barrack of pious
idiotcy. Now and again the two poor nags seemed to wake up and trot for
a little space, though gasping for breath, when they had some detail to
record which no doubt moved them to rapture; they expatiated
complacently on the virtues of Catherine of Sweden or Robert de la
Chaise-Dieu, who as soon as they were born cried for sinless wet-nurses,
and would suck none but pious breasts; or they spoke with ravishment of
the chastity of Jean the Taciturn, who never took a bath, that he might
not shock "his modest eyes," as the text says, by seeing himself; and
the bashful purity of San Luis de Gonzagua, who had such a terror of
women that he dared not look at his mother for fear of evil thoughts!

In consternation at the poverty of these distressing non-sequiturs,
Durtal turned to the less familiar biographies of the Blessed Women; but
here again, what a farrago of the commonplace, what glutinous unction,
what a hash by way of style! There was certainly some curse from Heaven
on the old women of the Sacristy who dared take up a pen. Their ink at
once turned to stickiness, to bird-lime, to pitch, which smeared all it
touched. Oh, the poor Saints! the hapless Blessed Women!

His meditations were interrupted by a ring at the bell:

"Why, has the Abbé Plomb really come out in spite of the gale?"

It was indeed the priest that Madame Mesurat showed in.

"Oh," said he to Durtal, who lamented over the rain, "the weather will
clear up all in good time; at any rate, as you had not put me off I was
determined not to keep you waiting."

They sat chatting by the fire; and the room took the Abbé's fancy, no
doubt, for he settled himself at his ease. He threw himself back in an
arm-chair, tucking his hands into his cincture. And when, in answer to
his question as to whether Durtal were not too dull at Chartres, the
Parisian replied, "It seems to me that I live more slowly, and yet am
not such a burthen to myself," the Abbé went on,--

"What you must feel painfully is the lack of intellectual society; you,
who in Paris lived in the world of letters--how can you endure the
atmosphere of this provincial town?"

Durtal laughed.

"The world of letters! No, Monsieur l'Abbé, I should not be likely to
regret that, for I had given it up many years before I came to live
here; and besides, I assure you it is impossible to be intimate with
those train-bands of literature and remain decent. A man must
choose--them or honest folks; slander or silence; for their speciality
is to eliminate every charitable idea, and above all to cure a man of
friendship in the winking of an eye."


"Yes, by adopting a homoeopathic pharmacopoeia which still makes use
of the foulest matter--the extract of wood-lice, the venom of snakes,
the poison of the cockchafer, the secretions of the skunk and the matter
from pustules, all disguised in sugar of milk to conceal their taste and
appearance; the world of letters, in the same way, triturates the most
disgusting things to get them swallowed without raising your gorge.
There is an incessant manipulation of neighbours' gossip and play-box
tittle-tattle, all wrapped up in perfidious good taste to mask their
flavour and smell.

"These pills of foulness, exhibited in the required doses, act like
detergents on the soul, which they almost immediately purge of all
trustfulness. I had enough of this regimen, which acted on me only too
successfully, and I thought it well to escape from it."

"But the pious world, too, is not absolutely free from gossip," said the
Abbé, smiling.

"No doubt, and I am well aware that devotion does not always sweeten the
mind, but--

"The truth is," said he after reflection, "that the assiduous practice
of religion generally results in some intense effects on the soul. Only
they may be of two kinds. Either it develops the soul's taint and
evolves in it the final ferments which putrefy it once for all, or it
purifies the spirit and makes it clean and clear and exquisite. It may
produce hypocrites or good and saintly people; there is really no

"But when such divine husbandry has completely cleansed souls, how
guileless and how pure they may be! Nor am I speaking of the Elect, such
as I saw at La Trappe--merely of young novices, little priestlings whom
I have known. They had eyes like clear glass, undimmed by the haze of a
single sin; and, looking into them, behind those eyes you would have
seen their open soul burning like a soaring crown of fire framing the
smiling face in a halo of white name.

"In fact, Jesus simply fills up all the room in their soul. Do not you
think, Monsieur l'Abbé, that these youths occupy their bodies just
enough for suffering and to expiate the sins of others? Without knowing
it, they have been sent into the world to be safe tenements of the Lord,
the resting-place where Jesus finds a home after wandering over the
frozen steppes of other souls."

"Yes," said the Abbé, taking off his spectacles to wipe them on his
bandana, "but to acquire so fine a strain of being, how much
mortification, penance, and prayer have been needed in the generations
that have ended by giving them birth! The spirits of whom you speak are
the flower of a stem long nourished in a pious soil. The Spirit, of
course, bloweth where it listeth, and may find a saint in the heart of a
listless family; but this mode of operation must always be an exception.
The novices you have known must certainly have had grandmothers and
mothers who frequently incited them to kneel and pray by their side."

"I do not know--I knew nothing of the origin of these lads--but I feel
that you are right. It is obvious, indeed, that children, slowly brought
up from their earliest years, and sheltered from the world under the
shadow of such a sanctuary as this at Chartres, must end in the
blossoming of an unique flower."

And when Durtal told him of the impression made on him by the angelic
service of the Mass, the Abbé smiled.

"Though our boys are not unique, they are no doubt rare. Here, the
Virgin Herself trains them, and note, the little lad you saw is neither
more diligent nor more conscientious than his fellows; they are all
alike. Dedicated to the priesthood from the time when they can first
understand, they learn quite naturally to lead a spiritual life from
their constant intimacy with the services."

"What then is the system of this Institution?"

"The Foundation of the Clerks of Our Lady dates from 1853, or rather it
was reconstituted in that year--for it existed in the Middle Ages--by
the Abbé Ychard. Its purpose is to increase the number of priests by
admitting poor boys to begin their studies. It receives intelligent and
pious children of every nationality, if they are supposed to show any
vocation for Holy Orders. They remain in the choir school till they are
in the third class, and are then transferred to the Seminary.

"Its funds?--are, humanly speaking, nothing, based on trust in
Providence, for it has altogether, for the maintenance of eighty pupils,
nothing but the pay earned by these children for various duties in the
Cathedral, and the profits from a little monthly magazine called 'The
Voice of the Virgin,' and finally and chiefly the charity of the
faithful. All this does not amount to a very substantial income; and
yet, to this day, money has never been lacking."

The Abbé rose and went to the window.

"Oh, the rain will not cease," said Durtal. "I am very much afraid,
Monsieur l'Abbé, that we cannot examine the Cathedral porches to-day."

"There is no hurry. Before going into the details of Notre Dame, would
it not be well to contemplate it as a whole, and let its general purpose
soak into the mind before studying each page of its parts?

"Everything lies contained in that building," he went on, waving his
hand to designate the church; "the scriptures, theology, the history of
the human race, set forth in broad outline. Thanks to the science of
symbolism a pile of stones may be a macrocosm.

"I repeat it, everything exists within this structure, even our material
and moral life, our virtues and our vices. The architect takes us up at
the creation of Adam to carry us on to the end of time. Notre Dame of
Chartres is the most colossal depository existing of heaven and earth,
of God and man. Each of its images is a word; all those groups are
phrases--the difficulty is to read them."

"But it can be done?"

"Undoubtedly. That there may be some contradictions in our
interpretations I admit, but still the palimpsest can be deciphered. The
key needed is a knowledge of symbolism."

And seeing that Durtal was listening to him with interest, the Abbé came
back to his seat, and said,--

"What is a symbol? According to Littré it is a 'figure or image used as
a sign of something else;' and we Catholics narrow the definition by
saying with Hugues de Saint Victor that a symbol is an allegorical
representation of a Christian principle under a tangible image.

"Now symbolism has existed ever since the beginning of the world. Every
religion adopted it, and in ours it came into being with the Tree of the
Knowledge of Good and Evil in the first chapter of Genesis, while it
still is in full splendour in the last chapter of the Apocalypse.

"The Old Testament is an anticipatory figure of all the New Testament
tells us. The Mosaic dispensation contains, as in an allegory, what the
Christian religion shows us in reality; the history of the People of
God, its principal personages, its sayings and doings, the very
accessories round about it, are a series of images; everything came to
the Hebrews under a figure, Saint Paul tells us. Our Lord took the
trouble to remind His disciples of this on various occasions, and He
Himself, when addressing the multitude, almost always spoke in parables
as a means of conveying one thing by an illustration from another.

"Symbols, then, have a divine origin; it may be added that from the
human point of view this form of teaching answers to one of the least
disputable cravings of the human mind. Man feels a certain enjoyment in
giving proof of his intelligence, in guessing the riddle thus presented
to him, and likewise in preserving the hidden truth summed up in a
visible formula, a perdurable form. Saint Augustine expressly says:
'Anything that is set forth in an allegory is certainly more emphatic,
more pleasing, more impressive, than when it is formulated in technical

"That is Mallarmé's idea too," thought Durtal, "and this coincidence in
the views of the saint and the poet, on grounds at once analogous and
different, is whimsical, to say the least."

"Thus in all ages," the Abbé went on, "men have taken inanimate objects,
or animals and plants, to typify the soul and its attributes, its joys
and sorrows, its virtues and its vices; thought has been materialized to
fix it more securely in the memory, to make it less fugitive, more near
to us, more real, almost tangible.

"Hence the emblems of cruelty and craft, of courtesy and charity,
embodied by certain creatures, personified by certain plants; hence the
spiritual meanings attributed to precious stones, and to colours. And it
may be added that in times of persecution, in the early Christian times,
this hidden language enabled the initiated to hold communication, to
give each other some token of kinship, some password which the enemy
could not interpret. Thus, in the paintings discovered in catacombs, the
Lamb, the Pelican, the Lion, the Shepherd, all meant the Son; the Fish
_Ichthys_, of which the characters express the Greek formula: 'Jesus,
Son of God, Saviour,' figures, in a secondary sense, the believer, the
rescued soul, fished out from the sea of Paganism; the Redeemer having
told two of His Apostles that they should be fishers of men.

"And of course the period when human beings lived in closest intercourse
with God--the Middle Ages--was certain to follow the revealed tradition
of Christ, and express itself in symbolical language, especially in
speaking of that Spirit, that essence, that incomprehensible and
nameless Being who to us is God. At the same time it had at its command
a practical means of making itself understood. It wrote a book, as it
were, intelligible to the humblest, superseding the text by images, and
so instructing the ignorant. This indeed was the idea put into words by
the Synod of Arras in 1025: 'That which the illiterate cannot apprehend
from writing shall be shown to them in pictures.'

"The Middle Ages, in short, translated the Bible and Theology, the
lives of the Saints, the apocryphal and legendary Gospels into carved or
painted images, bringing them within reach of all, and epitomizing them
in figures which remained as the permanent marrow, the concentrated
extract of all its teaching."

"It taught the grown-up children the catechism by means of the stone
sentences of the porches," exclaimed Durtal.

"Yes, it did that too. But now," the Abbé went on, after a pause,
"before entering on the subject of architectural symbolism, we must
first establish a distinct notion of what Our Lord Himself did in
creating it, when, in the second chapter of the Gospel according to
Saint John, He speaks of the Temple at Jerusalem, and says that if the
Jews destroy it He will rebuild it in three days, expressly prefiguring
by that parable His own Body. This set forth to all generations the form
which the new temples were thenceforth to take after His death on the

"This sufficiently accounts for the cruciform plan of our churches. But
we will study the inside of the church later; for the present we must
consider the meanings of the external parts of a cathedral.

"The towers and belfries, according to the theory of Durand, Archbishop
of Mende in the thirteenth century, are to be regarded as preachers and
prelates, and the lofty spire is symbolical of the perfection to which
their souls strive to rise. According to other interpreters of the same
period, such as Saint Melito, Bishop of Sardis, and Cardinal Pietro of
Capua, the towers represent the Virgin Mary, or the Church watching over
the salvation of the Flock.

"It is a certain fact," the Abbé went on, "that the position of the
towers was never rigidly laid down once for all in mediæval times; thus
different interpretations are admissible according to their position in
the structure. Still, perhaps the most ingeniously refined, the most
exquisite idea is that which occurred to the architects of Saint Maclou
at Rouen, of Notre Dame at Dijon, and of the Cathedral at Laon, for
example, who built rising from the centre of the transepts--that is
above the very spot where, on the Cross, the breast of Christ would lie,
a lantern higher than the rest of the roof, often finishing outside in a
tall and slender spire, starting as it were from the Heart of Christ to
leap with one spring to the Father, to soar as if shot up from the bow
of the vaulting in a sharp dart to reach the sky.

"The towers, like the buildings they overshadow, are almost always
placed on a height that commands the town, and they shed around them
like seed into the soil of the soul, the swarming notes of their bells,
reminding all Christians by this aerial proclamation, this bead-telling
of sound, of the prayers they are commanded to use and the duties they
must fulfil; nay, at need, they may atone before God for man's apathy by
testifying that at least they have not forgotten Him, beseeching Him
with uplifted arms and brazen tongues, taking the place as best they may
of so many human prayers, more vocal perhaps than they."

"With its ship-like character," said Durtal, who had thoughtfully
approached the window, "this Cathedral strikes me as amazingly like a
motionless vessel with spires for masts and the clouds for sails, spread
or furled by the wind as the weather changes; it remains the eternal
image of Peter's boat which Jesus guided through the storm."

"And likewise of Noah's Ark--the Ark outside which there is no safety,"
added the Abbé.

"Now consider the church in all its parts. Its roof is the symbol of
Charity, which covereth a multitude of sins; its slates or tiles are the
soldiers and knights who defend the sanctuary against the heathen,
represented by the storm, its stones, all joined, are, according to
Saint Nilus, emblematic of the union of souls, or, as the _Rationale_ of
Durand of Mende has it, of the multitude of the faithful; the stronger
stones figuring the souls that are most advanced in the way of
perfection and hinder the weaker brethren, represented by the smaller
stones, from slipping and falling. However, to Hugues de Saint Victor, a
monk of the abbey of that name in the twelfth century, this collection
of stones is merely the mingled assembly of the clerks and the laity.

"Again, these blocks of stone of various shapes are bound and held
together by mortar, of which Durand of Mende will tell you the meaning.
'Mortar,' saith he, 'is compounded of lime and sand and water; lime is
the burning quality of charity, and it combines by the aid of water,
which is the Spirit, with the sand, of the earth earthy.'

"Thus these united stones form the four walls of the church, which
Prudentius of Troyes tells us are the four evangelists; or, according
to other interpreters, they represent in stone the cardinal virtues of
religion: Justice, Fortitude, Prudence, and Temperance, already
prefigured by the walls of the City of God in the Apocalypse.

"Thus you see each part may be regarded as having more than one meaning,
but all included in one general idea common to all."

"And the windows?" asked Durtal.

"I am coming to them; they are emblematic of our senses, which are to be
closed to the vanities of the world and open to the gifts of Heaven;
they are also provided with glass, giving passage to the beams of the
true Sun, which is God. But Dom Villette has most clearly set forth
their symbolical meaning: 'They are,' says he, 'the Scriptures, which
receive the glory of the sun and keep out the wind, the hail and the
snow, the images of false doctrine and heresies.'

"As to the buttresses, they symbolize the moral force that sustains us
against temptation; they are likewise the hope which upholds the soul
and strengthens it; others see in them the image of the temporal powers
who are called upon to defend the power of the Church; and others again,
regarding more especially the flying buttresses which resist the thrust
of the span, say that they are imploring arms clinging to the
safe-keeping of the Ark in time of danger.

"The principal entrance, the great portal of so many churches, such as
those of Vézelay, Paray-le-Monial and Saint German l'Auxerrois, in
Paris, was approached through a covered vestibule, often very deep and
intentionally dark, called the Narthex. The baptismal pool was in this
porch. It was a place for probation and forgiveness, emblematical of
Purgatory, an ante-room to Heaven, where, before being permitted access
to the sanctuary, penitents and neophytes had their place.

"Such, briefly, is the allegorical meaning of the parts. If we now
regard it again as a whole, we may observe that the cathedral, built
over a crypt symbolical of the contemplative life, and also of the tomb
in which Christ was laid, was naturally obliged to have its apse towards
that point of the heavens where the sun rises at the equinox, so as to
convey, says the Bishop of Mende, that it is the Church's mission to
show moderation in its triumphs as in its reverses. All the liturgical
commentators are agreed that the high altar must be placed at the
eastern end, so that the worshippers, as they pray, may turn their eyes
towards the cradle of the Faith; and this rule was held absolute, and so
well approved by God that He confirmed it by a miracle. The Bollandists
in fact have a legend that Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, seeing a
church that had been built on another axis, made it turn to the East by
a push with his shoulder, thus placing it in its right position.

"The church has generally three doors, in honour of the Holy Trinity;
and the portal in the middle, called the Royal Porch, is divided by a
pier and a pillar surmounted by a statue of Our Lord, who says of
Himself in the Gospel, 'I am the door,' or of the Virgin, if the Church
is consecrated to Her, or even of the patron Saint in whose name it is
dedicated. The door, thus divided, typifies the two roads which man is
free to follow. Indeed, in most cathedrals this symbol is emphasized by
a representation of the Last Judgment placed above the entrance.

"This is the case in Paris, at Amiens, and at Bourges. At Chartres, on
the contrary, the Judgment of Souls is relegated, as at Reims, to the
tympanum of the northern porch; but here it is to be seen in the
rose-window over the western portal, in contradiction to the system
usual in the Middle Ages of treating in the windows above the doors the
subject carved in the porch; thus presenting on the same side a
repetition of the same symbols, in glass as seen from within, and in
stone without."

"Good; but how then can you account, by the ternary rule so universally
adopted, for that marvellous cathedral at Bourges, where, instead of
three porches and three aisles, we find five?"

"Nothing can be simpler--we cannot account for it. At most can we
suppose that the architect of Bourges intended by those five doors to
figure the five wounds of Christ. Even then we should be left to wonder
why he placed all the wounds in a single line; for that church has no
transept, no arms at the end of which the holes in the hands may be
symbolized by doors, which is the usual course."

"And the cathedral at Antwerp, which has two more aisles?"

"They no doubt typify the seven avenues, the seven gifts of the
Paraclete. This question of number leads me to speak of theological
enumeration, a peculiar element which plays a part in the varied subject
of symbolism," the Abbé went on. "The allegorical science of numbers is
a very old one. Saint Isidor of Seville, and Saint Augustine studied it.
Michelet, who talks nonsense as soon as he has to do with a cathedral,
is hard on the mediæval architects for their belief in the meaning of
figures. He accuses them of having observed mystic rules in the
arrangement of certain parts of the buildings; of having, for instance,
restricted the number of windows, or arranged pillars and bays in
accordance with some arithmetical combination. Not understanding that
each detail of a church had a meaning and was a symbol, he could not
understand that it was important to calculate each, since its meaning
might be modified or even completely altered. Thus a pillar by itself
may not necessarily typify an Apostle, but if there should be twelve,
they evidently show the meaning attributed to them by the builder, since
they recall the exact number of Christ's disciples. Sometimes, indeed,
to prevent any mistake, the answer is supplied with the problem; as in
an old church at Étampes, where I read, inscribed on the twelve
Romanesque shafts, the names of the Apostles in relief, in the
traditional setting of a Greek cross.

"At Chartres they had adopted a still better plan: statues of the twelve
Apostles were placed in front of the pillars of the nave: but the
Revolution took offence at these figures, overthrew and destroyed them.

"In considering the system of symbolism it is necessary to study the
significance of numbers. The secrets of church building can only be
discerned by recognizing the mysterious idea of the unity of the figure
I., which is the image of God Himself. The suggestion of II., which
figures the two natures of the Son, the two dispensations, and,
according to Saint Gregory the Great, the two-fold law of love of God
and man. Three is the number of the Persons of the Trinity, and of the
theological virtues. Four typifies the cardinal virtues, the four
Greater Prophets, the Gospels and the elements. Five is the number of
Christ's wounds, and of our senses, whose sins He expiated by a
corresponding number of wounds. Six records the days devoted by God to
the creation, determines the number of the Commandments promulgated by
the Church, and, according to Saint Melito, symbolizes the perfection of
the active life. Seven is the sacred number of the Mosaic law; it is the
number of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, of the Sacraments, of the words
of Jesus on the Cross, of the canonical hours, and of the successive
orders of priesthood. Eight, says Saint Ambrose, is the symbol of
regeneration, Saint Augustine says of the Resurrection, and it recalls
the idea of the eight Beatitudes. Nine is the number of the angelic
hierarchy, of the special gifts of the Spirit as enumerated by Saint
Paul; and it was at the ninth hour that Christ died. Ten is the number
of laws given by Jehovah, the law of fear; but Saint Augustine explains
it otherwise, saying that it includes the knowledge of God, since it may
be decomposed into three, the symbol of a triune God, and seven,
figuring the day of rest after the Creation. Eleven, the same saint
explains as an image of transgressing the law and an emblem of sin; and
Twelve is the great mystic number, the tale of the patriarchs and the
Apostles, of the tribes, the minor prophets, the virtues, the fruits of
the Holy Ghost, and the articles of faith embodied in the _Credo_. And
this might be repeated to infinity. Hence it is quite evident that the
artists of the Middle Ages added to the meaning they assigned to certain
creatures and certain things, that of quantity, supporting one by the
other, emphasizing or moderating a suggestion by this added-means,
working back sometimes on a former idea, and expressing this duplication
in a different form or concentrating it in the energetic conciseness of
a cipher. They thus produced a whole at once speaking to the eye and, at
the same time, giving synthetical expression to the complete text of a
dogma in a compact allegory."

"But what hermetic concentration!" exclaimed Durtal.

"Very true; these various meanings of persons and objects, resulting
from numerical differences, are at first very puzzling."

"And do you suppose that, on the whole, the height, breadth, and length
of a cathedral reveal a specialized idea, a particular purpose on the
part of the architect?"

"Yes; but I must at once confess that the key to these religious
calculations is lost. Those archæologists who have racked their brains
to find it have vainly added together the measurements of naves and
clerestories; they have not yet succeeded in formulating the idea they
expected to see emerge from the sums total.

"In this matter we must confess ourselves ignorant. Besides, have not
the standards of measurement been different at different times? As with
the value of coins in the Middle Ages, we know nothing about them. So,
in spite of some very interesting investigations carried out from this
point of view by the Abbé Crosnier at the Priory of Saint Gilles, and
the Abbé Devoucoux at the Cathedral of Autun, I remain sceptical as to
their conclusions, which I regard as very ingenious, but far from

"The method of numbers is to be seen in perfection only in the details,
such as the pillars of which I spoke just now; it is no less evident
when we find the same number prevailing throughout the edifice, as for
instance at Paray-le-Monial, where all things are in threes. There the
designer has not been content to reproduce the sacred number in the
general scheme of the structure; he has applied it in every part. The
church has, in fact, three aisles; each aisle has three compartments;
each compartment is formed by three arches surmounted by three windows.
In short, it is the principle of the Trinity, the primary Three, applied
to every part."

"Well, but do you not think, Monsieur l'Abbé, that, apart from such
instances of indisputable meaning, there are in such symbolism some very
fine-drawn and obscure similitudes?"

The Abbé smiled.

"Do you know," said he, "the theories of Honorius of Autun as to the
symbolism of the censer?"


"Well, then, after having pointed out the natural and very proper
interpretation that may be applied to this vessel, as representing the
Body of Our Lord, while the incense signifies His Divinity, and the fire
is the Holy Spirit within Him; and after having defined the various
interpretations of the metal of which it is made--if of gold, it answers
to the perfection of His Divinity; if of silver, to the matchless
excellence of His Humility; if of copper, to the frailty of the flesh He
assumed for our salvation; if of iron, to the Resurrection of that Body
which conquered death--the scholiast comes to the chains.

"And then, indeed, his elucidation becomes somewhat thin and fine-drawn.

"If there are four chains, he says, they represent the four cardinal
virtues of the Lord, and the chain by which the cover is lifted from the
vessel answers to the Soul of Christ quitting His Body. If, on the other
hand, there are but three chains, it is because the Person of the
Saviour includes three elements: a human organism, a soul, and the
Godhead of the Word. And Honorius adds: 'the ring through which the
chains run represents the Infinite in which all these things are

"That is subtle, with a vengeance!"

"Less so than Durand de Mende when he speaks of the snuffers," replied
the Abbé; "after that, we will kick away that ladder.

"The snuffers for trimming the lamps are, he asserts, 'the divine words
off which we cut the letter of the law, and by so doing reveal the
Spirit which giveth light.' And he adds, 'the pots in which the snuff is
extinguished are the hearts of the faithful who observe the law

"It is the very madness of Symbolism!" cried Durtal.

"At least, it is a too curious excess of it; but if this interpretation
of the snuffers is certainly grotesque, if even the theory of the censer
seems beaten somewhat thin on the whole, you must admit that it is
fascinating and exact so far as it is applied to the chain which lifts
the upper part of the vessel in a cloud of fragrance, and thus
symbolizes the ascent of Our Lord into Heaven.

"That certain exaggerations should creep in through this use of parables
was difficult to prevent; but, on the other hand, what marvels of
analogy, and what purely mystical notions are revealed through the
meanings given by the liturgy to certain objects used in the services.

"To the tapers, for instance, when Pierre d'Esquilin explains the
purport of the three component parts: the wax, which is the spotless
Body of the Saviour born of a Virgin; the wick, which, enclosed in the
wax, is His most Holy Soul hidden in the veil of the flesh; and the
light, which is emblematic of His Godhead.

"Or, again, take the substances used by the Church in certain
ceremonies: water, wine, ashes, salt, oil, balsam, incense. Incense,
besides representing the divinity of the Son, is likewise the symbol of
prayer, '_thus devotio orationis_' as it is described by Raban Maur,
Archbishop of Mayence in the ninth century. I happen to remember also,
_à propos_ of this resin and the censer in which it is burnt, a verse I
read long since in the 'Monastic Distinctions' of the anonymous English
writer of the thirteenth century, which sums up their signification more
neatly than I can:

    '_vas notatur,
    Mens pia; thure preces; igne supernus amor._'

The vase is the spirit of piety; the incense, prayer; the fire, divine

"As to water, wine, ashes, and salt, they are used in compounding a
precious ointment used by the bishop when consecrating a church. They
are mingled to sign the altar with the cross, and to sprinkle the
aisles: the water and wine symbolize the two natures united in Our Lord;
the salt is divine wisdom; the ashes are in memory of His Passion.

"Balsam, as you know, is emblematical of virtue and good repute, and is
combined with oil, signifying peace and wisdom, to compose the
sacramental ointment.

"Think, too," the priest went on, "of the pyx, in which the
transubstantiated elements are preserved, the consecrated oblations, and
note that in the Middle Ages these little cases were formed in the
figure of a dove and contained the Host in the very image of the
Paraclete and the Virgin; this was well done, but here is something
better. The jewellers of the time carved ivory and gave these little
shrines the form of a tower. Is not the sentiment exquisite of our Lord
dwelling in the heart of the Virgin, the Ivory Tower of the Canticles?
Is not ivory indeed the most admirable material to serve as a sanctum
for the most pure white flesh of the Sacrament?"

"It is certainly mystical, and far more appropriate than the vessels of
every form, the _ciboria_ of silver-gilt, of aluminum, of silver of
these days."

"And need I remind you that the liturgy assigns a meaning to each
vestment, each ornament of the Church, according to its use and form?

"Thus, for instance, the surplice and alb signify innocence; the cord
that serves as a girdle is an emblem of chastity and modesty; the amice,
of purity of heart and body--the helmet of salvation mentioned by Saint
Paul. The maniple, of good works, vigilance, and the tears and sweat
poured out by the priest to win and save souls; the stole, of obedience,
the clothing on of immortality given to us in baptism; the dalmatic, of
justice, of which we must give proof in our ministrations; the chasuble,
of the unity of the faith, and also of the yoke of Christ.

"But the rain has not ceased, and I must nevertheless be gone, for I
have a penitent waiting for me," exclaimed the Abbé, looking at his
watch. "Will you come the day after to-morrow at about two o'clock? We
will hope it may be fine enough to examine the outside of the

"And if it still rains?"

"Come all the same. But I must fly."

He pressed Durtal's hand and was gone.


"Yes, I know when I confessed in her presence that I did not yet know of
which Saint I might write the history, Madame Bavoil--dear Madame
Bavoil, as the Abbé Gévresin calls her--exclaimed: 'The life of Jeanne
de Matel! Why not?'

"But it is a biography that is not easy to deal with or that can be
lightly handled," said Durtal to himself, as he arranged the notes he
had collected by degrees as bearing on this Venerable woman.

And he sat meditating.

"What is quite unintelligible," said he to himself, "is the
disproportion between the promises made to her by Jesus and the results
achieved. Never, I really believe, have so many tribulations and
hindrances, or so much ill-fortune attended the founding of a new Order.
Jeanne spent her days on the high roads, running from one monastery to
another, and toil as she would to dig up the conventual soil, nothing
would grow. She could not even assume the habit of her Institution, or
at any rate only a few minutes before her death, for, in order to travel
with greater ease all over France, she wore the livery of a world she
abominated, and to which she appealed in vain in the name of the Lord to
take an interest in the formation of her cloister. Unhappy woman! She
went to Court--as her confessor Father de Gibalin bears witness, while
he testifies that he had never known a humbler soul--as others go to the

"And yet the Lord certainly commanded her to found this Order of the
Incarnate Word. He sketched the scheme, laid down the rule, and
prescribed the costume, explaining its symbolism, declaring that the
white robe of its maidens would do honour to that with which He was
mockingly invested in Herod's palace; that their red cloak would keep
in memory that which was cast over Him in the house of Pilate; that
their crimson scapulary and girdle would preserve the remembrance of the
stake and the cords dyed in His blood. And He seems to have mocked her.

"He solemnly assured her that after sorrowful trials the seed she had
sown should bring forth an abundant harvest of nuns. He expressly told
her that she would rank as the sister of Saint Theresa and Saint Clare;
those holy women appeared to ratify these promises by their presence,
and when nothing would come of it, nothing would work, when, quite worn
out, she burst into tears, the Lord calmly bade her be still and take

"Meanwhile, she was living amid a howling storm of recrimination and
threats. The clergy persecute her, the Archbishop of Lyon, the Cardinal
de Richelieu, aims only at hindering the completion of her abbeys on his
lands; she cannot even manage her Sisterhood, since we find her
wandering in search of a protector or an assistant; they are torn by
divisions, and their insubordination is such that at length she is
compelled to return in hot haste, and, with many tears, expel the
contumacious sisters from the cloister.

"It really seems as though no sooner had she built up a monastic wall
than it split and fell; nothing would hold. In short, the Order of the
Incarnate Word was born rickety and died a dwarf. It lingered in the
midst of universal apathy, and survived till 1790, when it was buried.
In 1811 one Abbé Denis revived it at Azérables in la Creuse, and since
then it has struggled on for better for worse, scattered through about
fifteen houses, one of these at Texas in the New World.

"There is no doubt of it," Durtal concluded; "we are far enough from the
strong sap which Saint Theresa and Saint Clare could infuse into the
centennial growth of their mighty trees!

"To say nothing of the fact that Jeanne de Matel, who has never been
canonized like her two sisters, and whose name remains unknown to most
Catholics, intended to found an order of men as well as women; she did
not succeed, and the attempts since made in our day by the Abbé Combalot
to carry her plan into effect have been equally vain!

"Now, what is the reason? Is it because there are too many and various
communities in the Church? Why, new foundations are set on foot and
flourish every day! Is it by reason of the poverty of the monasteries?
Nay, for indigence is the great test of success, and experience shows
that God only blesses the most destitute convents and abandons the
others! Is it, then, the austerity of the rule? But this was very mild;
it was that of Saint Augustine, which yields to every compromise, and at
need accepts every shade of practice. The sisters rose at five in the
morning; the diet was not restricted to Lenten fare excepting at the
Paschal season, but one fast day was enjoined in the week, and even that
was compulsory only to the Sisters who were strong enough to bear it.
Thus there is nothing to account for such persistent failure.

"And Jeanne de Matel was a saint endowed with remarkable energy and
really moulded by the Saviour! In her writings she is an eloquent and
subtle theologian, an ardent and rapturous mystic, dealing in metaphors
and hyperbole, in tangible parallels, passionate questionings, and
apostrophes; she resembles both Saint Denys the Areopagite and Saint
Maddalena dei Pazzi; Saint Denys in matter, Saint Maddalena in manner.
As a writer, no doubt she is not supreme, and the poverty of her
borrowed style is sometimes painful; still, considering that she lived
in the seventeenth century, she was at any rate not a mere scribbler of
vapid aspirations, like most of the prosy pietists of the time.

"And her works have met with the same fate as her foundations. They
remain for the most part unpublished. Hello, who was familiar with them,
only extracted a very mediocre _cento_; some others, as Prince Galitzin
and the Abbé Penaud, have explored her writings with better results and
printed some loftier and more impassioned passages.

"And this Abbess wrote some of genuine inspiration.

"Yes, but all this does not alter the fact that I do not see the book I
could write about her," muttered Durtal. "In spite of my wish to be
agreeable to dear Madame Bavoil, no--I have no inclination to undertake
the task.

"All things considered, if I did not so heartily hate a move, if I had
energy enough to go back to Holland, I would try to do honour in loving
and respectful terms to the worshipful Lidwina, who is of all the
female saints one whose life I should best love to write; but merely to
attempt to reconstruct the surroundings amid which she lived, I should
have to settle in the town where she dwelt, _Schiedam_.

"If God grants me life, no doubt I shall one day do this; but the plan
is not yet ripe. Put that aside, then, and since on the other hand
Jeanne de Matel does not captivate me, perhaps I had better think of
another abbess even less known, and whose career was one of more
tranquil endurance, less wandering and more concentrated, and at any
rate more attractive.

"Besides, her life can now only be found in an octavo volume by an
anonymous writer, whose incoherent chapters, in language as clogging as
a linseed poultice, will for ever hinder the world from knowing her. So
it will be interesting to work it up and make it readable."

As he turned over his papers he was thinking of one Mother Van
Valckenissen, in religion Mary Margaret of the Angels, foundress of the
Priory of Carmelite Sisters at Oirschot in Dutch Brabant.

This pious lady was the daughter of a noble house, born on the 26th of
May, 1605, at Antwerp, during the wars which devastated Flanders, and at
the very time when Prince Maurice of Nassau was besieging the town. As
soon as she could read, her parents sent her to school in a convent of
Dominican nuns near Brussels. Her father dying, her mother removed her
from that convent and placed her with the White Ursulines of Louvain;
then she too died, and at fifteen the girl was an orphan.

Her guardian again removed her to the House of the Carmelite Sisters at
Mechlin; but the struggle between the Spaniards and the Flemings came
close to the district watered by the Dyle, and Marie Marguerite was once
more taken from her convent to find refuge with the canonesses of
Nivelles. Thus her whole childhood was spent in rushing from one convent
to another.

She was happy in these retreats, especially with the Carmelites,
adopting the hair shirt and submitting to the severest discipline; but
now, on coming forth from the most rigid cloistered life, she found
herself in the midst of a gay world. This Chapter of Canonesses, which
ought to have inculcated the mystic life, was one of those hybrid
institutions not altogether white nor quite black, a cross between
profane piety and pious laity. This Chapter, filled up exclusively from
the ranks of rich and high-born women, while the Abbess, nominated by
the Sovereign, assumed the title of Princess of Nivelles, led a devout
and frivolous life, passing strange. Not only might these semi-nuns go
out walking whenever they thought fit, they had a right to live at home
for a certain part of their time, and might even marry after obtaining
the consent of the Abbess.

In the morning those who chose to reside in the Abbey put on a monastic
habit during the services; then their religious duties ended; they
doffed the convent livery, dressed in splendid attire, the hoops and
bows and farthingales and ruffs that were then the fashion, and sat in
the parlour where visitors poured in.

The unhappy Marie loathed the dissipation of a life which hindered her
from ever being alone with her God. Bewildered by the gossip and ashamed
of wearing clothes that were offensive to her, compelled to steal away
before daylight, disguised as a waiting-woman, to pray in a deserted
church far from all this turmoil, she at last pined away with sorrow,
and was dying of grief at Nivelles.

At this juncture a certain Father Bernard de Montgaillard, Abbot of
Orval, of the Cistercian Order, came to the town. She flew to him, and
besought him to rescue her; and this monk, enlightened by a truly divine
spirit, understood that she was born to be a victim of expiation, to
atone for the insults offered to the Holy Eucharist in churches. He gave
her comfort, and announced to her her vocation as a Carmelite. She set
out for Antwerp to visit the Mother Anne de Saint Barthélemy, a saintly
woman, who, warned of her coming by a vision of Saint Theresa, consented
to receive her into the Carmel of which she was the Superior.

Then obstacles arose, the work of the Devil. Having returned to her
guardian, pending her reception at the convent, she suddenly fell
paralyzed, losing all at once her hearing, speech, and sight. She
nevertheless succeeded in making it understood that they were to carry
her, as she was, to the convent, where she was left half dead. There she
fell at the feet of Mother Anne, who blessed her, and raised her up

Then her novitiate began.

In spite of her delicate frame, she endured the most terrible fasts, the
most violent scourging; she bound her body in chains with points on the
links, fed on the parings thrown out on plates, drank dirty water to
quench her thirst, and was so cold one winter that her legs froze.

Her body was one wound, but her soul was glorious; she lived in God, who
loaded her with mercies and communed with her sweetly; her probation was
near its end, and again, just when she became a postulant, she fell
dangerously sick. There were doubts as to her being admitted to the
Order, and again Saint Theresa intervened and commanded the Abbess to
receive her.

She took the habit, and then fell a prey to the temptation of despair,
which has assailed some Saints; after this came a sense of dryness and
desertion, which lasted for three years. She held out; she endured all
the tortures of the Mystical Substitution, bearing the most painful and
repulsive diseases to save souls. The Lord vouchsafed at last to
intermit the penitential task of suffering. He allowed her to breathe,
and the Devil took advantage of this lull to come upon the scene.

He appeared to her under the most hostile and monstrous form, breaking
everything, and vanishing in a trail of pestilential vapours. Meanwhile
a good man, one Sylvester Lindermans, had determined to found a Carmel
on an estate he possessed at Oirschot, in Holland. As is ever the case
when a convent is to be established, tribulations abounded. It seemed,
in fact, that the time was ill-chosen for transferring the Sisters to a
town in arms against the Catholics, across a country infested by bands
of armed Protestants. When the Mother Superior selected Marie Marguerite
to go forth and found this new House, she entreated to be left to pray
in peace in her little nook; but Jesus interposed; commanding her to
depart. She obeyed; exhausted, sick, and worn out, she dragged herself
along the roads, and at last arrived, with the Sisters accompanying her,
at Oirschot, where she organized the Convent as best she might in a
house which had never been intended to serve as a nunnery.

She was made Vicar-Prioress, and at once revealed a marvellous power of
influencing souls. Living the austere life of a Carmelite, which she
aggravated for herself by fearful mortifications, she was always
tolerant to others, and although she was known to murmur, so great were
her bodily sufferings, "Till the Day of Judgment, none can ever know
what I endure!" she was always gay, and preached cheerfulness to her
daughters in these words: "It is all very well for those who sin to be
sad; but we ought to have twice as much joy as the angels, since we,
like them, fulfil the will of God, and we, in addition, can suffer for
His glory, which they can never do."

She was the most indulgent and considerate of Abbesses. For fear of
giving offence to her flock by exerting her authority, she never gave an
order in an imperative form; never said, "Do this or that," but only,
"Let us do it." And if at any time she found herself obliged to punish a
nun in the refectory, she would forthwith kiss the feet of the others,
and entreat them to buffet her to humble her.

But it would have been too perfect if she and the angelic flock over
which she ruled could have lived the inward life in peace, and sunk
their soul in God. The Curé of Oirschot hated her, and, why no one knew,
he defamed her throughout the town. The Devil too, on his part, returned
to the charge; he appeared, in the midst of an uproar that shook the
walls and made the roof tremble, in the form of an Ethiopian giant, blew
out all the lights, and tried to strangle the nuns. Most of them almost
died of fear; but in compensation for their sufferings Heaven granted
them the comfort of incessant miracles.

The Mother enabled them to prove in her person the authenticity of the
incredible tales they had read during meals, of the Lives of the Saints.
She had the gift of bilocation, appearing in several places at the same
time, shedding a trail of delicious fragrance wherever she passed,
curing the sick by the Sign of the Cross, scenting out and discerning
hidden sins as a hunting dog puts up game, and reading souls.

And her daughters adored her, wept to see her lead a life which now was
one long torment. As a result of the intense cold, she became a victim
to acute rheumatism; for the Rule of Saint Theresa, which prohibits the
lighting of a fire anywhere but in the kitchens, if it is endurable in
Spain, is simply murderous in the frozen climate of Flanders.

"After all," said Durtal to himself, "this life so far is not very
unlike that experienced by many another cloistered nun; but towards the
approach of death the amazing beauty of this spirit was revealed in so
special a manner, and in wishes so remarkable, that it remains unique in
the records of the Monastic Houses."

Her health grew worse and worse. Added to the rheumatism, which crippled
her, she had pains in the stomach, which nothing could relieve. Sciatica
was presently engrafted on this flourishing stock of torments, and
dropsy, a common disease in cloisters of austere rule, supervened.

Her legs swelled and refused to carry her; she lay helpless on her bed.
The Sisters who nursed her now discovered a secret which she had always
kept, out of humility; they perceived that her hands were pierced with
red holes surrounded by a blue halo, and that her feet, also pierced,
lay of their own accord, unless they were held down, one above the
other, in the position of Christ's feet on the cross. At last she
confessed that many years before Jesus had marked her with the stigmata
of the Passion, and that the wounds burnt night and day like red hot

Her sufferings constantly increased. Feeling that this time she was
dying, she grieved over the pitiless macerations she had used, and with
touching artlessness begged forgiveness of her poor body for having
exhausted its strength, and so having perhaps hindered it from living to
suffer longer.

And she then put up the most strangely fragrant, the most wildly
extravagant prayer that ever a Saint can have addressed to God.

She had so loved the Holy Eucharist, she had so longed to kneel at His
feet and atone for the outrages inflicted on Him by the sins of mankind,
that she waxed faint at the thought that after her death what would
remain of her could no longer worship Him.

The idea that her body would rot in uselessness, that the last handfuls
of her miserable flesh would decay without having served to honour the
Saviour, broke her heart; and then it was that she besought Him to
suffer her to melt away, to liquefy into an oil which might be burnt
before the tabernacle in the lamp of the sanctuary.

And Jesus vouchsafed to her this excessive privilege, such as the like
is unknown in the history of the Saints; and at the moment when she died
she enjoined her daughters to leave her body exposed in the chapel, and
unburied for some weeks.

On this point there is abundant authentic evidence. More or less minute
inquiries were made, and the reports of medical experts are so precise
that we can follow from day to day the state of the corpse until it had
turned to oil and could be preserved in phials, from which, by her
desire, a spoonful was poured every morning to feed the wick of a lamp
hanging near the altar.

When she died--then aged fifty-two, having lived as a nun for
thirty-three years, and fourteen as Superior of Oirschot--her face was
transfigured, and in spite of the cold of a winter when the Scheldt
could be crossed in a carriage, her body remained soft and pliable; but
it swelled. Surgeons examined it and opened it in the presence of
witnesses. They expected to find the stomach filled with water, but
scarcely half a pint was removed, and the body did not collapse.

This autopsy led to the incomprehensible discovery in the gall-bladder
of three nails with black heads, angular and polished, of an unknown
metal; two weighed as much as half a French gold crown, within seven
grains; the third, which was as large as a nutmeg, weighed five grains

The operators then filled up the intestines with tow soaked in wormwood,
and sewed the body up again with a needle and thread. And during and
after these proceedings not only did the dead nun give out no smell of
putrefaction, but, as in her lifetime, she diffused an ineffable and
exquisite perfume.

Nearly three weeks elapsed; boils formed and broke, giving out blood and
water for more than a month; then the skin showed patches of yellow;
exudation ceased and oil came out, at first white, limpid, and fragrant,
afterwards darker and of about the colour of amber. It filled more than
a hundred phials, each containing two ounces, several of them being
still preserved in the Carmels of Belgium; and her remains when buried
were not decomposed, but had assumed the golden brown colour of a date.

"A book might really be written on the life of this admirable woman,"
thought Durtal. "And then what a group of wonderful nuns were those
about her! The convents of Antwerp, Mechlin, and Oirschot swarmed with
saintly nuns. In the time of Charles V. the Order of Carmelites renewed
in Flanders the mystical prodigies which, four centuries before, in the
Middle Ages, the Dominicans had accomplished in the Monastery of
Unterlinden at Colmar.

"How such women as these carry one away and throw one, as it were! What
strength of soul we see in this Marie Marguerite! What grace must have
sustained her, that she could thus shed all the natural frenzy of the
senses, and endure so cheerfully and bravely the most overwhelming

"Well, now, shall I harness myself to a history of this venerable
Abbess? But then I must procure the volume by Joseph de Loignac, her
first biographer, the notice by the Recluse of Marlaigne, the pamphlet
by Monseigneur de Ram, the narrative by Papebröch; above all I must have
at hand the translation, made by the Carmelites of Louvain, of the
Flemish manuscript written while the Mother was still alive, by her
daughters. Where can I unearth that? In any case the search must be a
long one. No, I must set aside that scheme, which for the present is

"What I ought to do I know very well; I ought to put the article into
shape on Angelico's picture in the Louvre. I promised the paper at least
four months ago to the magazine which clamours for it every morning by
letter. It is disgraceful! Since I left Paris I have ceased to work; and
I have no excuse, for the subject interests me, since it affords me an
opportunity for studying the complete system of the symbolism of colour
in the Middle Ages. 'The Early Painters, and Prayer in Colour as seen in
their Works.' What a subject for thought! However, that is not the
immediate matter. I must not sit dreaming, but go to join the Abbé
Plomb; and the weather is clouding over again! I certainly have no

As he crossed the square he was lost again in meditations, captivated
once more by the haunting thought of the Cathedral, and saying to
himself as he looked up at the spires,--

"How many varieties there are in the immense family of the Gothic; and
what dissimilarities. No two churches are alike."

The towers and belfries of those he knew rose before him as in those
diagrams on which, irrespective of distance, the buildings are placed
all close together at the same point of view to show their relative

"It is quite true," thought he, "the towers vary like the basilicas.
Those of Notre Dame de Paris are thick-set and gloomy, almost
elephantine; cleft almost from top to bottom by deep bays, they seem to
mount slowly and with difficulty, and stop short, crushed as it were by
the burden of sins, dragged down to earth by the wickedness of the city;
we feel the effort with which they rise, and we are saddened as we
contemplate those captive masses, all the more depressing by reason of
the dismal hue of the louvre-boards. At Reims, on the contrary, they are
open from top to bottom, pierced as with needles' eyes, long narrow
windows of which the opening seems filled with a herring-bone of
enormous size, or a gigantic comb with teeth on each side. They spring
into the air, as light as filigree; and the sky gets into the mouldings,
plays between the mullions, peeps through the tracery and the
innumerable lancets, in strips of blue, is focussed and reflected in the
little carved trefoils above. These towers are mighty, expansive,
immense, and yet light. They are as speaking, as much alive, as those in
Paris are stern and mute.

"At Laon they are more especially strange. With their light columns,
here thrust forward and there standing back, they suggest a series of
shelves piled up in a hurry, crowned merely by a platform, over which
lowing oxen look down.

"The two towers at Amiens, built, like those of the Cathedrals at Rouen
and at Bourges, at different periods, do not match. They are of
different heights, lame against the sky; another that is really
magnificent in its solitude, and putting to shame the mediocrity of the
two belfries lately erected on each side of the west front, is the
Norman tower of Saint Ouen, its summit encircled by a crown. This is the
patrician tower among so many that preserve a peasant air, with bare
heads, or coifs made narrow and square at the top, sloped somewhat like
the mouthpiece of a whistle, such as that of Saint Romain at Rouen, or
rustic, pointed caps like that worn by the church of Saint Bénigne at
Dijon, or the queer sort of awning which shades the Cathedral of Saint
Jean at Lyon.

"And in any case a tower without a tapering spire never soars to heaven.
It always rises heavily, pants on the way, and falls asleep exhausted.
It is, as it were, an arm without a hand, a wrist without palm and
fingers, a stump; or, again, a pencil uncut, having no point wherewith
to write up beyond the clouds the prayers from below; in short, it is
for ever inert.

"We must turn to the steeple, to the stone spire, to find the true
symbol of prayers shot up to pierce the sky and reach the Heart of the
Father, which is their target.

"And in this family of arrows what a variety we see; no two darts are

"Some are set in a collar of turrets at their base, held in a circle of
pinnacles, like the points of a Magian king's diadem; this we see in the
bell-tower of Senlis.

"Others seem to have about them the children born in their image, little
spires, all round them; some are covered with bosses, knobs, and
blisters; others pierced like colanders and strainers, in patterns of
trefoils and quaterfoils that seem to have been punched out; here we
find some that are covered with ornament, with teeth like a rasp, ridges
of notches, or bristling with spines; others are imbricated with scales
like a fish, as we see in the older spire at Chartres; and others again,
like that at Caudebec, display the emblem of the Roman Church, the
triple crown of the Pope.

"Out of this general outline, which was almost forced upon them, and
which they hardly ever tried to avoid, this pyramid or pepper-caster,
jelly-bag or extinguisher, the architects of the Middle Ages evolved the
most ingenious combinations and varied their designs to infinity.

"How mysterious for the most part is the origin of our cathedrals! Most
of the artists who built them are unknown; nay, the age of the stones is
rarely a matter of certainty, for the greater part of them have been
wrought upon by the alluvium of ages.

"They almost all cover intervals of two, three, or four centuries each;
they extend from the beginning, of the thirteenth century till the first
years of the sixteenth.

"And on reflection that is very intelligible.

"It has been accurately remarked that the thirteenth century was the
great period of cathedral-building. It gave birth to almost every one of
them; and then, being created, their growth was checked for nearly two
hundred years.

"The fourteenth century was torn by frightful disasters. It began with
the ignoble quarrels between Philippe le Bel and the Pope; it saw the
stake lighted for the Templars, made bonfires in Languedoc of the
_Bégards_ and the _Fraticelli_, the lepers and the Jews; wallowed in
blood under the defeats of Crécy and Poitiers, the furious excesses of
the Jacquerie and of the Maillotins, and the ravages of the brigands
known as the _Tard-venus_; and finally, having run so wild, its madness
was reflected in the incurable insanity of the king.

"Thus it ended, as it had begun, writhing in the most horrible religious
convulsions. The Tiaras of Rome and Avignon clashed, and the Church,
standing unsupported on these ruins, tottered on its base, for the Great
Western Schism now shook it.

"The fifteenth century seemed to be born mad. Charles VI.'s insanity
seemed to be infectious; the English invasion was followed by the
pillage of France, the frenzied contest of the Bourguignons and the
Armagnacs, by plagues and famines, and the overthrow at Agincourt; then
came Charles VII., Joan of Arc, the deliverance and the healing of the
land by the energetic treatment of King Louis XI.

"All these events hindered the progress of the works in cathedrals.

"The fourteenth century on the whole restricted itself to carrying on
the structures begun during the previous century. We must wait till the
end of the fifteenth, when France drew breath, to see architecture start
into life once more.

"It must be added that frequent conflagrations at various times
destroyed a whole church, and that it had to be rebuilt from the
foundations; others, like Beauvais, fell down, and had to be
reconstructed, or, if money was lacking, simply strengthened and the
gaps repaired.

"With the exception of a very few--Saint Ouen at Rouen for one, a rare
example of a church almost entirely built during the fourteenth century
(excepting the western towers and front, which are quite modern), and
the Cathedral at Reims for another, which appears to have been
constructed without much interruption, on the original plans of Hugues
Libergier or Robert de Coucy--not one of our cathedrals was erected
throughout in accordance with the designs of the architect who began it,
nor has one remained untouched.

"Most of them, consequently, represent the combined efforts of
successive pious generations; still, this apparently improbable fact is
true: until the dawn of the Renaissance the genius of successive
builders was singularly well matched. If they made any alterations in
their predecessors' plans, they were able to introduce some touch of
individuality, inventions of exquisite beauty that did not clash with
the whole. They engrafted their genius on that of their first masters;
there was the perpetuated tradition of an admirable conception, a
perennial breath of the Holy Spirit. It was the interloper, the period
of false and farcical Pagan art, that extinguished that pure flame, and
annihilated the luminous truthfulness of the Mediæval past, when God had
dwelt intimately, at home, in souls; it substituted a merely earthly
form of art for one that was divine.

"As soon as the sensuality of the Renaissance revealed itself, the
Paraclete fled; the mortal sin of stone could display itself at will. It
contaminated the buildings that were finished, defiled the churches,
debasing their purity of form; this, with the gross license of sculpture
and painting, was the great stupration of the cathedrals.

"And this time the Spirit of Prayer was quite dead; everything went to
pieces. The Renaissance, so lauded afterwards by Michelet and the
historians, was the death of the Mystical soul of monumental theology,
of religious art--all the great art of France.

"Bless me! where am I?" Durtal suddenly asked himself, finding himself
in the ill-paved alleys which lead from the Cathedral square to the
lower town. He saw that, dreaming as he walked, he had passed the Abbé's

He turned up the street again, stopped in front of an old house and
rang. A brass wicket was opened and closed, and a housekeeper, shuffling
up in old shoes, half opened the door. Durtal was met by the Abbé Plomb,
who was watching for him, and who led him into a room full of statues;
there were carved images in every spot--on the chimney-shelf, on a
chest of drawers, on a side table, and in the middle of the room.

"Do not look at them," said the Abbé, "do not heed them; I have no part
in the selection of this horrible bazaar. I have to endure it in spite
of myself; these are offerings from my penitents."

Durtal laughed, though somewhat scared by the extraordinary specimens of
religious art that crowded the room.

There was every kind of work: black frames with brass flats, and in them
engravings of Virgins by Bouguereau and Signol, Guido's _Ecce Homo_,
Pietàs, Saint Philomenas--and then the assembly of polychrome statues:
Mary painted with the crude green of angelica and the acrid pinks of
English pear-drops; Madonnas gazing in rapture at their own feet, with
extended hands whence proceeded fans of yellow rays; Joan of Arc
squatting like a hen on her eggs, with eyes raised to heaven like white
marbles, and pressing a standard to her bosom in its plaster cuirass;
Saint Anthonys of Padua, clean and snug, as neat as two pins; Saint
Josephs, not enough the carpenter and too little the Saint; Magdalens
weeping silver pills; a whole mob of semi-divinities, best quality, of
the class known as "The Munich Article" in the Rue Madame.

"Oh, Monsieur l'Abbé, the donors are certainly terrible people--but
could you not, quite by accident, drop one of these objects every day--"

The priest gave a shrug of despair.

"They would only bring me more," cried he. "But if you are willing, we
will be off at once, for I am afraid of being caught here if I linger."

And as they walked, talking of the Cathedral, Durtal exclaimed,--

"Is it not a monstrous thing that in the splendour of this Cathedral of
Chartres it is impossible to hear any genuine plain-song? I am reduced
to frequenting the sanctuary only at hours when there is no high service
going on. Above all I avoid being present at High Mass on Sundays; the
music that is tolerated infuriates me! Is there no way of having the
organist dismissed, and a clean sweep made of the precentor and the
teachers in the choir-school, of packing off the basses with their
vinous voices to the taverns? Ugh! And the gassy effervescence that
rises from the thin pipes of the little boys! and the street tunes
eructed in a hiccough, like the run of a lamp-chain when you pull it up,
mingling with the noisy bellow of the basses! What a disgrace, what a
shame! How is it that the Bishop, the priests, the Canons do not
prohibit such treason?

"Monseigneur, I know, is old and ill; but those Canons!--They look so
weary, to be sure! As I see them droning out the Psalms in their stalls,
I wonder whether they know where they are and what they are doing; they
always seem to me in a half unconscious state--"

"The high winds of la Beauce induce lethargy," said the Abbé, laughing.
"But allow me to assure you that though the Cathedral scorns Gregorian
chants, here, at Chartres, at the little Seminary, at the church of
Notre Dame de la Brèche, and at the convent of the Sisters of Saint
Paul, they are sung after the Use of Solesmes, so that you can
alternately attend that church and those chapels and the Cathedral,
since perfection is to be found in neither."

"Of course. Still, is it not horrible to think that the Hottentot taste
of a few bawling old men can pursue the Virgin even in Her sanctuary
with such musical insults? Ah, there is the rain again," said Durtal
with vexation, after a short silence.

"Well, here we are. We can take shelter in the church, and study the
interior at our leisure."

They knelt before the Black Virgin of the Pillar; then they sat down in
the deserted nave, and the Abbé said in an undertone,--

"I explained to you the other day the symbolism of the outside of the
building. Would you like me now to inform you in a few words as to the
allegories set forth in the aisles?"

And on seeing Durtal agree by a nod, the priest went on,--

"You are, of course, aware that almost all our cathedrals are cruciform.
In the primitive Church, it is true, you will find that some were
constructed of a circular form and surmounted by a dome. But most of
these were not built by our forefathers; they are ancient temples of the
heathen adapted by the Catholics, with more or less alteration, to their
own use, or imitated from such temples before the Romanesque style was

"We need then seek in these no liturgical meaning, since that form was
not a Christian invention. At the same time Durand of Mende, in his
_Rationale_, asserts that a building of rounded form symbolizes the
extension of the Church over the whole circle of the universe. Others
explain the dome as being the crown of the Crucified King, and the
smaller cupolas which occasionally support it as the huge heads of the
Nails. But we may set aside these explanations, which are but based on
existing facts, and study the cruciform plan shown here, as in other
cathedrals, in the arrangement of the nave and transepts.

"It may be noted that in a few churches, as, for instance, the abbey
church of Cluny, the interior, instead of showing a Latin Cross, was
planned on the lines of the Cross of Lorraine, two _crosslets_ being
added to the arms.--Now, behold the whole scheme!" the priest said, with
a gesture that comprehended the whole of the interior of the basilica of

"Jesus is dead; His head is at the altar; His outstretched arms are the
two transepts; His pierced hands are the doors; His legs are the nave
where we are standing; His pierced feet are the door by which we have
come in. Now consider the systematic deviation of the axis of the
building; it imitates the attitude of a body bent over from the upright
tree of sacrifice, and in some cathedrals--for instance, at Reims--the
narrowness, the strangulation, so to speak, of the choir in proportion
to the nave represents all the more closely the head and neck of a man,
drooping over his shoulder when he has given up the ghost.

"This twist in the church is to be seen almost everywhere--in Saint Ouen
and in the Cathedral at Rouen, in Saint Jean at Poitiers, at Tours and
at Reims. Sometimes, indeed--but this statement needs verification--the
architect had substituted for the body of the Saviour that of the Saint
in whose name the church was dedicated, and the curved axis of Saint
Savin, for instance, has been supposed to represent the bend of the
wheel which was the instrument of that Saint's martyrdom.

"But all this is evidently familiar to you.

"This is less well known: So far we have studied the image of Christ
motionless, and dead, in our churches. I will now tell you of a singular
instance of a church which, instead of reproducing the attitude of the
Divine Corpse, represents that of His still living Body, a church which
seems to have a suggestion of movement as if bending like Christ on the

"In fact it seems to be certain that some architects strove to represent
in the plan of their building the motion of the human frame, to imitate
the action of a drooping figure; in short, to give life to stones.

"Such an attempt was made in the abbey church of Preuilly-sur-Claise in
Touraine. The plan and photographs of this basilica are to be found in
an interesting volume that I can lend you; the author, the Abbé
Picardat, is the Curé of the church. You will from them readily perceive
that the curve of the plan is that of a body leaning on one side, drawn
out and bending over.

"And the movement of the body is represented by the curve of the axis,
beginning at the very first bay and continued along the nave, the choir,
and the apse to the end, which bends aside to imitate the droop of the

"Thus, even better than at Chartres, at Reims, and at Rouen, this humble
sanctuary, built by Benedictine monks whose names are unknown,
represents in its serpentine line, in the perspective of its aisles and
the obliquity of its vaulting, the allegorical presentment of our Lord
on the Cross. In all other churches the architects have to some extent
imitated the cadaverous rigidity of the head fallen in death; at
Preuilly the monks have perpetuated the never-to-be-forgotten instant
that elapsed between the '_Sitio_' (I thirst) and the '_Consummatum
est_' (It is finished), as recorded in the Gospel of Saint John. Thus
the old Touraine church is in the image of Christ Crucified, but still

"Now, to look at home once more, we will consider the inward parts of
our sanctuaries. It may be noted incidentally that the length of the
cathedral figures the long-suffering of the Church in adversity; its
breadth symbolizes charity, which expands the souls of men; its height,
the hope of future reward; and we can then proceed to details.

"The choir and sanctuary symbolize Heaven; the nave is the emblem of the
earth; as the gulf that divides the two worlds can only be passed by the
help of the Cross, it was formerly the custom, now, alas, fallen into
desuetude, to erect an enormous Crucifix over the grand arch between
the nave and the choir. Hence the name of triumphal arch was given to
the vast space in front of the High altar. It may also be remarked that
a railing or screen marks the limits of these two parts of the
cathedral. Saint Gregory Nazianzen regards this as the border line
traced between the two parts--that of God, and that of man.

"There is, however, a different explanation given by Richard de Saint
Victor, as to the sanctuary, the choir, and the nave. According to him,
the first symbolizes the Virgins, the second the chaste souls, and the
third the married hearts. As to the altar, or, as old liturgical writers
call it, the _Cancel_ (chancel), it is Christ Himself, the spot whereon
His Head rests, the Table of the Last Supper, the Stake whereon He shed
His blood, the Sepulchre that held His body; and again, it is the
Spiritual Church, and its four angles the four corners of the earth over
which it shall reign.

"Now behind this altar we find the apse, assuming in most cathedrals the
form of a semicircle. There are exceptions; to mention three: at
Poitiers, at Laon, and in Notre Dame du Fort at Étampes the wall is
square, as in the ancient civic basilicas, and does not describe the
sort of half-moon, of which the significance is one of the most
beautiful inventions of symbolism.

"This semicircular end, this apsidal shell, with the chapels that
surround the choir, simulates the Crown of Thorns on the Head of Christ.
Excepting in Sanctuaries which are wholly dedicated to Our Lady--this
one, Notre Dame de Paris, and some others--one of these chapels, that in
the centre and the largest, is dedicated to the Virgin, to show by the
place that it occupies at the end of the church that Mary is the last
refuge of sinners.

"She, in person, is again symbolized by the Sacristy, whence the priest
comes forth as Christ's representative after putting on his sacerdotal
vestments, as Jesus came forth from His Mother's womb after clothing
Himself in flesh.

"It must constantly be repeated; every part of a church and every
material object used in divine worship is representative of some
theological truth. In the script of architecture everything is a
reminiscence, an echo, a reflection, and every part is connected to form
a whole.

"For instance, the altar, which is the Image of Our Lord, must be
draped with white linen in memory of the winding-sheet in which Joseph
of Arimathea wrapped His body--and that linen must be woven of pure
thread, of hemp or flax. The chalice, which according to the texts
adduced by the _Spicilegium_ of Solesmes, is to be taken now as a symbol
of glory, and now as a sign of opprobrium, may be regarded, by the most
generally received theory, as the figure of the sacred Tomb; then the
paten appears as the stone which served to close it, while the corporal
is the shroud itself.

"When I tell you further," added the Abbé, "that according to Saint
Nilus, the columns signify the divine dogmas, or, according to Durand of
Mende, the Bishops and the Doctors of the Church, that the capitals are
the words of Scripture, that the pavement of the church is the
foundation of faith and humility, that the ambos and rood-loft, almost
everywhere destroyed, figure the pulpit of the gospel, the mountain on
which Christ preached; again, that the seven lamps burning before the
altar are the seven gifts of the Spirit, that the steps to the altar are
the steps to perfection; that the alternating choirs represent on the
one side the angels, and on the other the righteous, combining to do
homage with their voices to the glory of the Most High, I have pretty
well explained to you the general meaning and detailed symbolism of the
interior of the cathedral, and more particularly that of Chartres.

"Now you must observe a peculiarity which is also to be seen in the
Cathedral at Le Mans; the side aisles of the nave in which we are
sitting are single, but they are double round the choir--"

But Durtal was not listening; far away from this architectural exegesis,
he was admiring the amazing structure without even trying to analyze it.

Wrapped in the mystery of its own shadow thick with the haze of rain, it
soared up lighter and lighter as it rose in the skyey whiteness of its
arcades, aspiring like a soul purifying itself with increasing light as
it toils up the ways of the mystic life.

The clustered columns sprang in slender sheaves, their groups so light
that they looked as if they might bend at a breath; yet it was not till
they had reached a giddy height that these stems curved over, flying
from one side of the Cathedral to the other to meet above the void,
mingling their sap and blossoming at last, like a basket of flowers, in
the once gilt pendants from the roof.

This church appeared as a supreme effort of matter striving for
lightness, rejecting, as though it were a burden, the diminished weight
of its walls and substituting a less ponderous and more lucent matter,
replacing the opacity of stone by the diaphanous texture of glass.

It grew more spiritual--wholly spiritual, purely prayer, as it sprang
towards the Lord to meet Him; light and slender, as it were
imponderable, it remained the most glorious expression of Beauty
escaping from its earthly dross, Beauty become seraphic.

It was as slender and colourless as Roger Van der Weyden's Virgins, who
are so fragile, so ethereal, that they might blow away were they not
held down to earth by the weight of their brocades and trains. Here was
the same mystical conception of a long-drawn body and an ardent soul,
which, unable to free itself completely from that body, strove to purify
it by reducing it, refining it, almost distilling it to a fluid.

The building bewildered him with the giddy flight of its vault, the
dazzling splendour of its windows. The weather was gloomy, and yet a
furnace of gems flamed in the lancets of the windows and the blazing
wheels of the roses.

Up there, high in air, as they might be salamanders, human beings with
faces ablaze and robes on fire dwelt in a firmament of glory; but these
conflagrations were enclosed and limited by an incombustible frame of
darker glass which set off the youthful and radiant joy of the flames by
the contrast of melancholy, the suggestion of the more serious and aged
aspect presented by gloomy colouring. The bugle cry of red, the limpid
confidence of white, the repeated Hallelujahs of yellow, the virginal
glory of blue, all the quivering crucible of glass was dimmed as it got
nearer to this border dyed with rusty red, the tawny hues of sauces, the
harsh purples of sandstone, bottle-green, tinder-brown, fuliginous
blacks, and ashy greys.

As at Bourges, where the glass is of the same period, Oriental influence
was visible in these windows at Chartres. Not only had the figures the
hieratic appearance, the sumptuous and barbarous dignity of Asiatic
personages, but the borders, in their design and the arrangement of
their colours, were an evident reminiscence of the Persian carpets which
undoubtedly served as models to the painters; since it is known from the
_Livre des Métiers_ that in the thirteenth century hangings copied from
those which the Crusaders brought from the Levant were manufactured in
France, and in Paris itself.

But, apart from the question of subjects or borders, the various colours
of these pictures were, so to speak, but an accessory crowd, handmaidens
whose part it was to set off another colour, namely blue--a glorious,
indescribable blue, a vivid sapphire hue of excessive transparency, pale
but piercing and sparkling throughout, glittering like the broken glass
of a kaleidoscope--in the top-lights, in the roses of the transepts, and
in the great west window, where it burned like the blue flame of
sulphur, among the lead-lines and black iron bars.

Taken for all in all, with the tones of its stone-work and its windows,
Notre Dame de Chartres was fair with blue eyes. He personified Her as a
sort of white fairy, a tall and slender virgin, with large blue eyes
under lids of translucent rose. This was the Mother of a Christ of the
North, the Christ of a Pre-Raphaelite Flemish painter. She sat enthroned
in a Heaven of ultramarine, surrounded by these Oriental hangings of
glass--a pathetic reminder of the Crusades.

And these transparent hangings were like flowers, redolent of sandal and
pepper, fragrant with the subtle spices of the Magian kings; a perfumed
flower-bed of hues culled at the cost of so much blood in the fields of
Palestine; and here offered by the West, under the cold sky of Chartres,
to the Virgin Mother in remembrance of the sunny lands where She dwelt
and where Her Son chose to be born.

"Where could you find a grander shrine or a more sublime dwelling for
Our Mother?" said the Abbé as he pointed to the nave.

This exclamation roused Durtal from his reflections, and he listened as
the priest went on,--

"Though this cathedral is unique as regards its width, in spite of its
enormous height it cannot compare with the extravagant elevation of
Bourges, Amiens, and more especially of Beauvais, where the vault of the
roof rises to forty-eight metres from the ground. That cathedral, it is
true, was bent on outstripping its sisters.

"Springing into the air at one flight, when it reached the upper spaces
it tottered and fell. You know the portions which survived the wreck of
that mad attempt?"

"Yes, Monsieur l'Abbé; and that sanctuary and that apse, so narrow and
restricted, with columns so close together, and the iridescent light,
like filmy soap bubbles, from walls which seem made of glass, disturb
and bewilder you; on first entering it gives the impression of
indescribable uneasiness, a sort of anxious and distressed anticipation.
And in truth it is neither quite healthy nor sound; it seems only to
live by dint of aids and expedients; it struggles to be free and is not;
it is long drawn and not ethereal; it has--how shall I express
it?--large bones. You remember the pillars? They are like the smooth
muscular trunks of beech trees, which have also the angular edges of
reeds. How different from the harp-strings which form the aerial
skeleton of Chartres! No, in spite of all, Beauvais, like Reims, and
like Paris, is a fleshy cathedral; it has not the elegant leanness, the
perennial youthfulness of form, the Patrician stamp of Amiens, and more
especially of Chartres!

"And have you not been struck, Monsieur l'Abbé, by the way in which the
genius of man has constantly borrowed from Nature in the construction of
his basilicas? It is almost certain that the arcades of the forest were
the starting-point for the mystic avenues of our aisles. And again, look
at the pillars. I was speaking of those at Beauvais as suggesting the
beech and the reed; if you think of the columns at Laon, they have nodes
all up their stems, resembling the regular swelling of bamboos, to the
point of imitation. Note also the stone flora of the capitals and the
pendants of the vault, terminating the long ribs of the arches. Here the
animal kingdom seems to have inspired the architect. Might we not
conceive of a fabulous spider, of which the key-stone is the body and
the ribs stretching under the vaults are the legs? The image is so
accurate as to be irresistible. And then what a marvel is the gigantic
Arachne, wrought like a jewel and heightened with gold, which might have
spun the web of those three flaming rose windows!"

"By the way," said the Abbé, when they had left the church and were
walking down the street, "I forgot to point out to you the Number which
is everywhere stamped on Chartres; it is identical with Paray-le-Monial.
Here, again, everything is in threes. Thus there are three aisles, and
three entrances each with three doors; if you count the pillars of the
nave, you will count twice three on each side. The transept aisles again
have each three bays and three pillars, the windows are in threes under
the three great roses. So, you see, Notre Dame is full of the Trinity."

"And it is also the great store-house of Mediæval painting and

"Yes, and like other Gothic cathedrals, it is the completest and most
trustworthy collection of symbolism; for the allegories we fancy we can
interpret in Romanesque churches are on the whole but artificial and
doubtful--and that is quite conceivable. The Romanesque is a convert, a
pagan turned monk. It was not born Catholic as the pointed arch was; it
only became so by baptism conferred by the Church. Christianity
discovered it in the Roman _basilica_, and utilized while modifying it;
thus its origin is pagan, and it was only as it grew up that it could
learn the language and use the forms of our emblems."

"And yet, to me, as a whole, it seems to be a symbol, for it is the
image in stone of the Old Testament, a figure of contrition and fear."

"And yet more of the soul's peace," replied the Abbé. "Believe me,
really to understand that style we must go back to the fountain-head, to
the earliest times of Monasticism, of which it is a perfect expression;
back, in fact, to the Fathers of the Church, the monks of the Desert.

"Now, what is the very special character of the mysticism of the East?
It is the calmness of faith, love feeding on itself, ecstasy without
display, ardent but reserved, internal.

"In the books of the Egyptian Recluses you will never find the vehemence
of a Maddalena de' Pazzi or a Catherine of Siena, the passionate
ejaculations of a Saint Angela. Nothing of the kind, no amorous
addresses, no trepidations, no laments. They look upon the Redeemer less
as the Victim to be wept over than as the Mediator, the Friend, the
Elder Brother. To them He was, to quote Origen's words, 'The Bridge
between us and the Father.'

"These tendencies, transplanted from Africa to Europe, were preserved by
the first monks of the West, who followed the example of their
predecessors, and modified and built their churches on the same pattern.

"That repentance, contrition, and awe dwell under these dark vaults,
among these heavy pillars, in this fortress, as it were, where the elect
shut themselves in to resist the assaults of the world, is quite
certain--but this mystical Romanseque also suggests the notion of a
sturdy faith, of manly patience, and stalwart piety--like its walls.

"It has not the flaming raptures of the mystical Gothic, which finds
utterance in all these soaring shafts of stone; the Romanesque lives
self-centred, in reserved fervour, brooding in the depths of the soul.
It may be summed up in this saying of Saint Isaac's: _In mansuetudine et
in tranquillitate, simplifica animam tuam_.'"

"You will confess, Monsieur l'Abbé, that you have a weakness for the

"Perhaps I have, in so far as that it is less petted, more humble, less
feminine, and more claustral than the Gothic."

"On the whole," the priest concluded, as he shook hands with Durtal at
his own door, "it is the symbol of the inner life, the image of the
monastic life; in a word, the true architecture of the cloister."

"On condition, nevertheless," said Durtal to himself, "that it is not
like that of Notre Dame de Poitiers, where the interior is gaudy with
childish colouring and raw tones; for there, instead of expressing
regret and tranquillity, it rouses a suggestion of the childish glee of
an old savage in his second childhood, who laughs when his tattoo marks
are renewed, and his skin rough-cast with crude ochres."


"How many worshippers can the Cathedral contain? Well, nearly 18,000,"
said the Abbé Plomb. "But I need hardly tell you, I suppose, that it is
never full; that even during the season for pilgrimages the vast crowds
of Mediæval times never assemble here. Ah, no! Chartres is not exactly
what you would call a pious town!"

"It strikes me as indifferent to religion, to say the least, if not
actually hostile," said the Abbé Gévresin.

"The citizen of Chartres is money-getting, apathetic, and salacious,"
replied the Abbé Plomb. "Above all, greedy of money, for the passion for
lucre is fierce here, under an inert surface. Really, from my own
experience, I pity the young priest who is sent as a beginner to
evangelize la Beauce.

"He arrives full of illusions, dreaming of Apostolic triumphs, burning
to devote himself--and he drops into silence and the void. If he were
but persecuted he would feel himself alive; but he is met, not with
abuse, but with a smile, which is far worse; and at once he becomes
aware of the futility of all he can do, of the aimlessness of his
efforts, and he is discouraged.

"The clergy here are, it may be said, admirable, composed of good and
saintly priests; but they vegetate, torpid with inaction; they neither
read nor work; their joints become ankylose; they die of weariness in
this provincial spot."

"You do not!" exclaimed Durtal, laughing; "for you make work. Did you
not tell me that you especially devote yourself to ladies who can still
condescend to take an interest in Our Lord in this town?"

"Your satire is scathing," replied the Abbé. "I can assure you that if I
had serving-women and the peasant girls to deal with, I should not
complain; for in simple souls there are qualities and virtues and a
responsive spring, but not in the commercial or the richer classes! You
cannot imagine what those women are. If only they attend Mass on Sunday
and perform their Easter duties they think they may do anything and
everything; and thenceforth their one idea is not so much to avoid
offending the Saviour as to disarm Him by mean subterfuges. They speak
ill of their neighbour, injuring him cruelly, refusing him all help and
pity, and they make excuses for themselves as though these were mere
venial faults; but as to eating meat on a Friday! That is quite another
thing; they are persuaded that this is the unpardonable sin. To them
their stomach is the Holy Ghost; consequently, the great point is to
tack and veer round that particular sin, never to commit it, while only
just avoiding it, and not depriving themselves in the least. What
eloquence they will pour out on me to convince me of the penitential
quality of water-fowl.

"During Lent they are possessed with the idea of giving dinners, and
rack their brains to provide a lenten meal in which there is no meat,
though it would be supposed that there was; and then come interminable
discussions as to teal, wild duck, and cold-blooded birds. They should
consult a naturalist and not a priest on such cases of conscience.

"As to Holy Week, that is another affair; the mania for water-birds
gives way to a hankering for the _Charlotte Russe_. May they, without
offence to God, enjoy a _Charlotte_? There are eggs in it, to be sure,
but so whipped and scourged that the dish is almost ascetic; culinary
explanations are poured into my ear, the confessional becomes a kitchen,
and the priest might be a master-cook.

"But as to the general sin of greediness, they hardly admit that they
are guilty of it. Is it not so, my dear colleague?"

The Abbé Gévresin nodded assent. "They are indeed hollow souls," said
he, "and what is more, impenetrable. They are sealed against every
generous idea, regarding the intercourse they hold with the Redeemer as
beseeming their rank and in good style; but they never seek to know Him
more nearly, and restrict themselves, of deliberate purpose, to calls of

"Such visits as we pay to an aged parent on New Year's Day," said

"No, at Easter," corrected Madame Bavoil.

"And among these Fair Penitents," the Abbé Plomb went on, "we have that
terrible variety, the wife of the Député who votes on the wrong side,
and to his wife's objurgations retorts: 'Why, I am at heart a better
Christian than you are!'

"Invariably and every time, she repeats the list of her husband's
private virtues, and deplores his conduct as a public man; and this
history, which is never ending, always leads up to the praises she
awards herself, almost to requiring us to apologize for all the
annoyance the Church occasions her."

The Abbé Gévresin smiled, and said,--

"When I was in Paris, attached to one of the parishes on the left bank
of the Seine, in which there is a huge draper's and fancy shop, I had to
deal with a very curious class of women. Especially on days when there
was a great show of cotton and linen goods, or a sale of bankrupt stock,
there was a perfect rush of well-dressed women to the confessional.
These people lived on the other side of the water; they had come to that
part of the town to buy bargains, and finding the departments of the
shop too full, no doubt, they meant to wait till the crowd should be
thinner, to make their selection in comfort; so then, not knowing what
to be doing, they took refuge in the church, and, tortured by the need
for speech, they asked for the priest whose turn it was to attend, and
to justify themselves, chattered in the confessional as if it had been a
drawing-room, merely to kill time."

"Not being able to go to a _café_ like a man, they go to church," said

"Unless it is," said Madame Bavoil, "that they would rather confide to
an unknown priest the sins it would pain them to confess to their own

"At any rate, this is a new light on things: the influence of big shops
on the tribunal of penance!" exclaimed Durtal.

"And of railway stations," added the Abbé Gévresin.

"How of railway stations?"

"Yes, I assure you that churches situated near railway stations have a
special following of women on their journeys. There it is that our dear
Madame Bavoil's shrewd remark finds justification. Many a country-woman
who has the Curé of her own parish to dinner dares not tell him the tale
of her adultery, because he could too easily guess the name of her
lover, and because the propinquity of a priest living on intimate terms
in her house would be inconvenient; so she takes advantage of an
excursion to Paris to open her heart to another confessor who does not
know her. As a general rule, when a woman speaks ill of her Curé, and
begins the tale of her confession by explaining that he is dull,
uneducated, unsympathetic in understanding and guiding souls, you may be
certain that a confession is coming of sin against the sixth (seventh)

"Well, well; the people who flutter around the Lord are cool hands!"
exclaimed Madame Bavoil.

"They are unhappy creatures, who try to strike a balance between their
duties and their vices.

"But enough of this; let us turn to something more immediate. Have you
brought us the article on the Angelico, as you promised? Read it to us."

Durtal brought out of his pocket the manuscript he had finished, which
was to be posted that evening to Paris.

He seated himself in one of the straw-bottomed arm-chairs in the middle
of the room where they were sitting with the Abbé Gévresin, and began:--

    By Fra Angelico. In the Louvre.

The general arrangement of this picture reminds the spectator of the
tree of Jesse, of which the branches, supporting a human figure on every
twig, spread fan-like as they rise on each side of a throne, while at
the top, on a single stem, the radiant beauty of a Virgin is the
crowning blossom.

In Fra Angelico's 'Coronation of the Virgin,' to the right and left of
the isolated knoll on which Christ sits under a carved stone canopy,
placing the crown He holds with both hands on His Mother's bowed head,
we see a perfect espalier of Apostles, Saints, and Patriarchs, rising in
close and crowded ramification at the lower part of the panel, to burst
into a luxuriant blossoming of angels relieved against the blue sky,
their heads in a sunshine of glories.

The arrangement of the persons represented is as follows:--

At the foot of the throne, under the gothic canopy--to the left, Saint
Nicholas of Myra kneels in prayer, wearing his mitre and clasping his
crozier, from which the maniple hangs like a folded banner; Saint Louis
the King with a crown of fleurs de lys; the monastic saints; St. Antony,
St. Benedict, St. Francis, St. Thomas, who holds an open book in which
we read the first lines of the _Te Deum_, St. Dominic holding a lily,
St. Augustine with a pen. Then, going upwards, St. Mark and St. John
carrying their gospels, St. Bartholomew showing the knife with which he
was flayed; and higher still the lawgiver Moses, ending in the serried
ranks of angels against the azure firmament, each head circled with a
golden nimbus.

On the right, below, by the side of a monk whose back only is
seen--possibly St. Bernard--Mary Magdalene is on her knees with a vase
of spices by her side, robed in vermilion; behind her come St. Cecilia,
crowned with roses, St. Clara or St. Catherine of Sienna, in a blue
hood, patterned with stars, St. Catherine of Alexandria, leaning on her
wheel of martyrdom, St. Agnes, cherishing a lamb in her arms, St. Ursula
flinging an arrow, and others whose names are unknown; all female
saints, facing the Bishop, the King, the Recluses, and the founders of
Orders. By the steps of the throne are St. Stephen, with the green palm
of martyrdom, St. Lawrence, with his gridiron, St. George, wearing a
breastplate, and on his head a helmet, St. Peter the Dominican
recognizable by his split skull; and yet further up St. Matthew, St.
Philip, St. James the Greater, St. Jude, St. Paul, St. Matthias, and
King David. Finally, opposite the angels on the left a group of angels,
whose faces, set in gold discs, are relieved against the pure
ultramarine background.

In spite of injury from the restorations it has endured, this panel,
with its stamped and diapered gold, is splendid in the freshness of its
colours, laid on with white of egg.

As a whole, it represented, so to speak, a stairway for the eye, a
circular stair of two flights, in steps of glorious blue hung with gold.

The lowest to the left is seen in the blue mantle of Saint Louis, and
others lead up through a glimpse of blue drapery, the robe of St. John,
and then, higher still before reaching the blue expanse of the sky, the
robe of the first angel.

The first on the right is the mantle of St. Cecilia; others are the
bodice of St. Agnes, St. Stephen's robe, a prophet's tunic; and above
these, before reaching the lapis-lazuli border of sky, the robe of the
first angel.

Thus blue, which is the predominating colour in the whole, is regularly
piled up in steps and spaced almost identically on the opposite sides of
the throne. This azure hue of the draperies, their folds faintly
indicated with white, is extraordinarily serene, indescribably innocent.
This it is which gives the work its soul of colour--this blue, helped
out by the gold which gleams round the heads, runs or twines on the
black robes of the monks; in Y's on those of St. Thomas; in suns, or
rather in radiating chrysanthemums, on those of St. Antony and St.
Benedict; in stars on St. Clara's hood; in filagree embroidery in the
letters of their names, in brooches and medallions on the bodices of the
other female saints.

At the very bottom of the picture a splash of gorgeous red--the
Magdalen's robe--that finds an echo in the flame-colour of one of the
steps of the throne, and reappears here and there, but softened in
fragmentary glimpses of drapery, or smothered under a running pattern of
gold (as in St. Augustine's cope) serves as a spring-board, as it were,
to start the whole stupendous harmony.

The other colours seem to fill no part, but that of necessary stop-gaps,
indispensable supports. They are too, for the most part, common and ugly
to a degree that is most puzzling. Look at the greens: they range from
boiled endive to olive, ending in the absolute hideousness of two steps
of the throne which lie across the picture--two bars, two streaks of
spinach dipped in tawny mud. The only tolerable green of them all is
that of St. Agnes' mantle, a Parmigiano green, rich in yellow, and made
still richer by the lining which affords the pleasing adjunct of orange.

On the other hand, consider this blue which Angelico uses so sumptuously
in his celestial tones; when he makes it darker it loses its fulness,
and looks almost dull; we see this in St. Clara's hood.

But what is yet more amazing is that this painter, so eloquent in blue,
is but a stammerer when he makes use of the other angelic
hue--rose-pink. In his hands it is neither subtle nor ingenuous; it is
opaque, of the colour of blood thinned with water, or of pink
sticking-plaister, excepting when it trends on the hue of wine-lees,
like that of the Saviour's sleeves.

And it is heaviest of all in the saints' cheeks. It looks glazed, like
the surface of pie-crust; it has the quality of raspberry syrup drowned
in white of egg.

These are in the main the only colours used by Angelico. A magnificent
blue for the sky and another vile blue, white, brilliant red, melancholy
pinks, a light green, dark greens, and gold. No bright yellow like
everlastings, no luminous straw-colour; at most a heavy opaque yellow
for the hair of his female saints; no truly bold orange, no violet,
either tender or strong, unless in the half-hidden lining of a cloak or
in the scarcely visible robe of a saint, cut off by the frame; no brown
that does not lurk in the background. His palette, as may be seen, is
very limited.

And it is symbolical, if we consider it. He has undoubtedly done in his
hues what he has done in the arrangement of the work. His picture is a
hymn to Chastity, and round the central group of Christ and His Mother
he has placed in ranks the Saints who best concentrated this virtue on
earth. St. John the Baptist, beheaded for the bounding impurity of an
Herodias; St. George, who saved a virgin from the emblematic Dragon;
such saints as St. Agnes, St. Clara, and St. Ursula; the heads of the
Orders--St. Benedict and St. Francis; a king like St. Louis, and a
bishop like St. Nicholas of Myra, who hindered the prostitution of three
young girls whom a starving father was fain to sell. Everything, down to
the smallest details, from the attributes of the persons represented to
the steps of the throne, of which the number is nine--that of the choirs
of angels--everything in this picture is symbolical.

It is permissible therefore to assume that he selected his colours for
their allegorical signification.

White: the symbol of the Supreme Being, and of absolute Truth, and
employed by the Church in its adornments for the festival of our Lord
and the Virgin because it signifies Goodness, Virginity, Charity, and is
the splendour, the emblem of Divine Wisdom when it is enhanced to the
pure radiance of silver.

Blue: because it symbolizes Chastity, Innocence, and Guilelessness.

Red: which is the colour adopted for the offices of the Holy Ghost and
of the Passion; the garb of Charity, Suffering and Love.

Rose-pink; the Love of Eternal Wisdom, and, as Saint Mechtildis teaches,
the anguish and torments of Christ.

Green: used liturgically at Seasons of Pilgrimage, and which seems to be
the colour preferred by the Benedictine Sisterhood, interpreting it as
meaning freshness of soul and perennial sap; the green which, in the
hermeneutics of colour, expresses the hopes of the regenerated creature,
the yearning for final repose, and which is likewise the mark of
humility, according to the Anonymous English writer of the thirteenth
century, and of contemplation, according to Durand of Mende.

On the other hand, Angelico has intentionally refrained from introducing
the hues which are emblematic of vices, excepting of course those
adopted for the garb of the Monastic Orders, which altogether changes
their meaning.

Black: the colour of error and the void, the seal of death, and,
according to Sister Emmerich, the image of profaned and wasted gifts.

Brown: which, as the same Sister tells us, is synonymous with agitation,
barrenness and dryness of the spirit, and neglect of duty; brown; which
being composed of black and red--smoke darkening the sacred fire--is

Grey: the ashes of penance, the symbol of tribulation, according to the
Bishop of Mende, the sign of half-mourning formerly used in the Paris
ritual instead of violet in Lent. The mingling of white and black, of
virtue and vice, of joy and grief, the mirror of the soul that is
neither good nor evil, the medium being, the lukewarm creature that God
spueth out, grey can only rise by the infusion of a little purity, a
little blue; but can, when thus converted to pearl grey, become a pious
hue, and attempt a step towards Heaven, an advance in the lower paths of

Yellow: considered by Sister Emmerich as the colour of idleness, of a
horror of suffering, and often given to Judas in mediæval times, is
significant of treason and envy. Orange: of which Frédéric Portal
speaks as the revelation of Divine Love, the communion of God with man,
mingling the blood of Love to the sinful hue of yellow, may be taken to
bear a worse meaning with the idea of falsehood and torment; and,
especially when it verges on red, expresses the defeat of a soul
over-ridden by its sins, hatred of Love, contempt of Grace, the end of
all things.

Dead leaf colour: speaking of moral degradation, spiritual death, the
hopefulness of green for ever extinct.

Finally, violet: adopted by the Church for the Sundays in Advent and in
Lent, and for penitential services. It was the colour of the
mortuary-shroud of the kings of France; during the Middle Ages it was
the attribute of mourning, and it is at all times the melancholy garb of
the exorcist.

What is certainly far less easy to explain is the limited variety of
countenance the painter has chosen to adopt. Here symbolism is of no
use. Look, for instance, at the men. The Patriarchs with their bearded
faces do not show us the almost translucent texture, as of the
sacramental wafer, in which the bones show through the dry and
diaphanous parchment-like skin, or like the seeds of the cruciferous
flower called _Monnaie du Pape_ (honesty); they have all regular and
pleasant faces, are all healthy, full-blooded personages, attentive and
devout. His monks too have round faces and rosy cheeks; not one of his
Saints looks like a Recluse of the Desert overcome by fasting, or has
the exhausted emaciation of an ascetic; they are all vaguely alike, with
the same solidity and the same complexion. In fact, as we see them in
this picture, they are a contented colony of excellent people.

At least, so they appear at a first glance.

The women, too, are all of one family; sisters more or less exactly
alike; all fair and rosy, with light snuff-coloured eyes, heavy eyelids,
and round faces; they form a train of rather an insipid type round the
Virgin with her long nose and bird-like head kneeling at the feet of

Altogether, among all these figures we find scarcely four distinct
types, if we take into consideration their more or less advanced years
and the modifications resulting from the arrangement of their hair,
their being bearded or shaven, and the pose of the head, front face or
profile, which distinguishes them.

The only groups which are not of an almost uniform stamp are the angels,
sexless youths for ever charming. They are of matchless purity, of a
more than human innocence in their blue and rose-pink and green robes
sprigged with gold, with their yellow or red hair, at once aerial and
heavy, their chastely downcast eyes, and flesh as white as pith. Grave,
but in ecstasy, they play on the harp or the theorbo, on the Viol
d'Amore or the rebeck, singing the eternal glory of the most Holy

Thus, on the whole, the types used by Angelico are not less restricted
than his colours.

But then, in spite of the exquisite array of angels, is this picture
monotonous and dull? Is this much-talked-of work over-praised?

No, for this Coronation of the Virgin is a masterpiece, and superior to
all that enthusiasm can say about it; indeed, it outstrips painting and
soars through realms which the mystics of the brush had never

Here we have not a mere manual effort, however admirable; this is not
merely a spiritual and truly religious picture such as Roger van der
Weyden and Quentin Matsys could create; it is quite another thing. With
Angelico an unknown being appears on the scene, the soul of a mystic
that has entered on the contemplative life, and breathes it on the
canvas as on a perfect mirror. It is the soul of a marvellous monk that
we see, of a saint, embodied on this coloured mirror, exhaled in a
painted creation. And we can measure how far that soul had advanced on
the path of perfection from the work that reflects it.

He carries his angels and his saints up to the Unifying Life, the
supreme height of Mysticism. There the weariness of their dolorous
ascent is no more; there is the plenitude of tranquil joy, the peace of
man made one with God. Angelico is the painter of the soul immersed in
God, the painter of his own spirit.

None but a monk could attempt such paintings. Matsys, Memling, Dierck
Bouts, Roger van der Weyden were no doubt sincere and pious worthies.
They gave their work a reflection of Heaven; they too reflected their
own soul in the faces they depicted; but though they gave them a
wonderful stamp of art, they could only infuse into them the semblance
of the soul beginning the practice of Christian asceticism; they could
only represent men still detained, like themselves, in the outer
chambers of those Castles of the Soul of which Saint Theresa speaks, and
not in the Hall where, in the centre, Christ sits and sheds His glory.

They were, in my opinion, greater and keener observers, more learned and
more skilful, even better painters than Angelico; but their heart was in
their craft, they lived in the world, they often could not resist giving
their Virgins fine-lady airs, they were hampered by earthly
reminiscences, they could not rise in their work above the trammels of
daily life; in short, they were and remained men. They were admirable;
they gave utterance to the promptings of ardent faith; but they had not
had the specific culture which is practised only in the silence and
peace of the cloister. Hence they could not cross the threshold of the
seraphic realm where roamed the guileless being who never opened his
eyes, closed in prayer, excepting to paint--the monk who had never
looked out on the world, who had seen only within himself.

And what we know of his life is worthy of this work. He was a humble and
tender recluse, who always prayed or ever he took up his brush, and
could not draw the Crucifixion without melting into tears.

Through the veil of his tears his angelic vision poured itself out in
the light of ecstasy, and he created beings that had but the semblance
of human creatures, the earthly husk of our existence, beings whose
souls soared already far from their prison of flesh. Study his picture
attentively, and see how the incomprehensible miracle works of such a
sublimated state of mind.

The types chosen for the Apostles and Saints are, as we have said, quite
ordinary. But gaze firmly at the countenances of these men, and you will
see how little they really take in of the scene before them. Whatever
attitude the painter may have given them, they are all absorbed into
themselves; they behold the scene, not with the eyes of the body, but
with the eyes of the soul. Each is looking into himself. Jesus dwells in
them, and they can gaze on Him better in their inmost heart than on His

It is the same with his female Saints. I have said that they are
insignificant looking, and it is true; but how their features, too, are
transfigured and effaced under the Divine touch! They are drowned in
adoration, and spring buoyant, though motionless, to meet the Heavenly
Spouse. Only one remains but half escaped from her material shell: Saint
Catherine of Alexandria, who, with upturned eyes of a brackish green, is
neither as simple nor as innocent as her sisters; she still sees the
form of man in Christ; she still is a woman; she is, if one may so, the
sin of the work.

Still, all these spiritual degrees clothed in human figures are but the
accessories of this picture. They are placed there, in the august
assumption of gold and the chaste ascending scale of blue, to lead by a
stair of pure joy to the sublime platform whereon we see the group of
the Saviour and the Virgin.

And here, in the presence of the Mother and Son, the ecstatic painter
overflows. One could imagine that the Lord had merged into him, and
transported him beyond the life of sense, love and chastity are so
perfectly personified in the group above all the means of expression at
the command of man.

No words could express the reverent tenderness, the anxious affection,
the filial and paternal love of the Christ, who smiles as He crowns His
Mother; and She is yet more incomparable. Here the words of adulation
are too weak; the invisible is made visible by the sacramental use of
colour and line. A feeling of infinite deference, of intense but
reserved adoration, flows and spreads about this Virgin, who, with Her
arms crossed over Her bosom, bends Her little dove-like head, with
downcast eyes and a rather long nose, under a veil. She resembles the
Apostle St. John who is just behind her, and might be his daughter; and
she is enigmatic; for that soft, delicate face, which in the hands of
any other painter would be merely charming and trivial, breathes out the
purest innocence. She is not even flesh and blood; the material that
clothes Her swells softly with the breath of the fluid that shapes it.
Mary is a living but a volatilized and glorious body.

We can understand certain ideas of the Abbess of Agréda who declares
that She was exempt from the defilements inflicted on women; we see what
St. Thomas meant who asserted that Her beauty purified instead of
agitating the senses.

Her age is indeterminate; She is not a woman, yet She is no longer a
child. It is hard to say even that She is grown up, just marriageable, a
girl-child, so entirely is She refined above all humanity, beyond the
world, so exquisitely pure and for ever chaste.

She remains incomparable, unapproached in painting. By Her, other
Madonnas are vulgar; they are in every case women; She alone is the
white stem of the divine Ear of corn, the Wheat of the Eucharist. She
alone is indeed the Immaculate, the _Regina Virginum_ of the hymns; and
She is so youthful, so guileless, that the Son seems to be crowning His
Mother before She can have conceived Him.

It is in this that we see the glory of the gentle Friar's superhuman
genius. He painted as others have spoken, inspired by Grace; he painted
what he saw within him just as St. Angela of Foligno related what she
heard within her. Both one and the other were mystics absorbed into God;
thus this picture by Angelico is at the same time a picture by the Holy
Ghost, bolted through a purified sieve of art.

If we consider it, this soul is that of a female saint rather than of a
monk. Turn to his other pictures; those, for instance, in which he
strove to depict Christ's Passion; we are not looking at the stormy
scene represented by Matsys or Grünewald; he has none of their harsh
manliness, nor their gloomy energy, nor their tragic turbulence; he only
weeps with the uncomforted grief of a woman. He is a Sister rather than
a Friar-artist; and it is from this loving sensibility, which in the
mystic vocation is more generally peculiar to women, that he has drawn
the pathetic orisons and tender lamentation of his works.

And was it not also in this spiritual nature, so womanly in its
complexion, that he found, under the impulse of the Spirit, the wholly
angelical gladness, the really glorious apotheosis of Our Lord and His
Mother, as he has painted them in this Coronation of the Virgin, which,
after being revered for centuries in the Dominican Church at Fiesole,
has now found shelter and admiration in the little gallery devoted to
the Italian School at the Louvre.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Your article is very good," said the Abbé Plomb. "But can the
principles of a ritual of colour which you have discerned in Angelico
be verified with equal strictness in other painters?"

"No, if we look for colour as Angelico received it from his monastic
forefathers, the illuminators of Missals, or as he applied it in its
strictest and most usual acceptation. Yes, if we admit the law of
antagonism, the rules of inversion, and if we know that symbolism
authorizes the system of contraries, allowing the use of the hues which
are appropriated to certain virtues to indicate the vices opposed to

"In a word, an innocent colour may be interpreted in an evil sense, and
vice versâ," said the Abbé Gévresin.

"Precisely. In fact, artists who, though pious, were laymen, spoke a
different language from the monks. On emerging from the cloister the
liturgical meaning of colours was weakened; it lost its original
rigidity and became pliant. Angelico followed the traditions of his
Order to the letter, and he was not less scrupulous in his respect for
the observances of religious art which prevailed in his day. Not for
anything on earth would he have infringed them, for he regarded them as
a liturgical duty, a fixed rule of service. But as soon as profane
painters had emancipated the domain of painting, they gave us more
puzzling versions, more complicated meanings; and the symbolism of
colour, which is so simple in Angelico, became singularly
abstruse--supposing that they even were constantly faithful to it in
their works--and almost impossible to interpret.

"For instance, to select an example: the Antwerp gallery possesses a
tryptich, by Roger van der Werden, known as 'The Sacraments.' In the
centre panel, devoted to the Eucharist, the Sacrifice of the Redeemer is
shown under two aspects, the bleeding form of the Crucifixion and the
mystic form of the pure oblation on the altar; behind the Cross, at the
foot of which we see the weeping Mary, Saint John and the Holy Women, a
priest is celebrating Mass and elevating the Host in the midst of a
cathedral which forms the background of the picture.

"On the left-hand shutter, the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and
Penance are shown, in small detached scenes; and on the right-hand
shutter those of Ordination, Marriage and Extreme Unction.

"This picture, a work of marvellous beauty, with the 'Descent from the
Cross' by Quentin Matsys, are the inestimable glory of the Belgium
gallery; but I will not linger over a full description of this work; I
will omit any reflection suggested by the supreme art of the painter,
and restrict myself to recording that part of the work which bears on
the symbolism of colour."

"But are you sure that Roger van der Weyden intended to ascribe such
meanings to the colours?"

"It is impossible to doubt it, for he has assigned a different hue to
each Sacrament, by introducing above the scenes he depicts, an angel
whose robe is in each instance different in accordance with the ceremony
set forth. His meaning therefore is beyond question; and these are the
colours he affects to the means of Grace consecrated by the Saviour:

"To the Eucharist, green; to Baptism, white; to Confirmation, yellow; to
Penance, red; to Ordination, purple; to Marriage blue; to Extreme
Unction, a violet so deep as to be almost black.

"Well, you will admit that the interpretation of this sacred scheme of
colour is not altogether easy.

"The pictorial imagery of Baptism, Extreme Unction, and Ordination is
quite clear; Marriage even as symbolized by blue may be intelligible to
simple souls; that Communion should blazon its coat with _vert_, is even
more appropriate, since green represents sap and humility, and is
emblematical of the regenerative power. But ought not Confession to
display violet rather than red; and how, in any case, are we to account
for Confirmation being figured in yellow?"

"The colour of the Holy Ghost is certainly red," remarked the Abbé

"Thus there are differences of interpretation between Angelico and Roger
van der Weyden, though they lived at the same time. Still, the monk
seems to me the more trustworthy authority."

"For my part," said the Abbé Gévresin, "I cannot but think of the right
side of the lining of which you were speaking just now."

"This rule of contraries is not peculiar to the ritual of colour; it is
to be seen in almost every part of the science of symbolism. Look at
the emblems derived from the animal world; the eagle alternately
figuring Christ and the Devil; the snake which, while it is one of the
most familiar symbols of the Demon, may nevertheless, as in the brazen
serpent of Moses, prefigure the Saviour."

"The anticipatory symbol of Christian symbolism was the double-faced
Janus of the heathen world," said the Abbé Plomb, laughing.

"Indeed, these allegories of the palette turn completely to the
right-about," said Durtal. "Take red, for instance: we have seen that in
the general acceptation it is to be interpreted as meaning charity,
endurance, and love. This is the right side out; the wrong side,
according to Sister Emmerich, is dulness, and clinging to this world's

"Grey, the emblem of repentance and sorrow, and at the same time the
image of a lukewarm soul, is also, according to another interpretation,
symbolical of the Resurrection--white, piercing through blackness--light
entering into the Tomb and coming out as a new hue--grey, a mixed colour
still heavy with the gloom of death, but reviving as it gets light by
degrees from the whiteness of day.

"Green, to which the mystics gave favourable meanings, also acquires a
disastrous sense in some cases; it then represents moral degradation and
despair; it borrows melancholy significance from dead leaves, is the
colour given to the bodies of the devils in Stephan Lochner's Last
Judgment, and in the infernal scenes depicted in the glass windows and
pictures of the earliest artists.

"Black and brown, with their inimical suggestions of death and hell,
change their meaning as soon as the founders of religious Orders adopt
them for the garb of the cloister. Black then symbolizes renunciation,
repentance, the mortification of the flesh, according to Durand de
Mende; and brown and even grey suggest poverty and humility.

"Yellow again, so misprized in the formulas of symbolism, becomes
significant of charity; and if we accept the teaching of the English
monk who wrote in about 1220, yellow is enhanced when it changes to
gold, rising to be the symbol of divine Love, the radiant allegory of
eternal Wisdom.

"Violet, finally, when it appears as the distinctive colour of
prelates, divests itself of its usual meaning of self-accusation and
mourning, to assume a certain dignity and simulate a certain pomp.

"On the whole, I find only white and blue which never change."

"In the Middle Ages, according to Yves de Chartres," said the Abbé
Plomb, "blue took the place of violet in the vestments of bishops, to
show them that they should give their minds rather to the things of
Heaven than to the things of earth."

"And how is it," asked Madame Bavoil, "that this colour, which is all
innocence, all purity, the colour of Our Mother Herself, has disappeared
from among the liturgical hues?"

"Blue was used in the Middle Ages for all the services to the Virgin,
and it has only fallen into desuetude since the eighteenth century,"
replied the Abbé Plomb; "and that only in the Latin Church, for the
orthodox Churches of the East still wear it."

"And why this neglect?"

"I do not know, any more than I know why so many colours formerly used
in our services have been forgotten. Where are the colours of the
ancient Paris use: saffron yellow, reserved for the festival of All
Angels; salmon pink, sometimes worn instead of red; ashen grey, which
took the place of violet; and bistre instead of black on certain days.

"Then there was a charming hue which still holds its place in the scale
of colour used in the Roman ritual, though most of the Churches overlook
it--the shade called 'old rose,' a medium between violet and crimson,
between grief and joy, a sort of compromise, a diminished tone, which
the Church adopted for the third Sunday in Advent and the fourth Sunday
in Lent. It thus gave promise, in the penitential season that was
ending, of a beginning of gladness, for the festivals of Christmas and
Easter were at hand.

"It was the idea of the spiritual dawn rising on the night of the soul,
a special impression which violet, now used on those days, could not

"Yes, it is to be regretted that blue and rose-colour have disappeared
from the Churches of the West," said the Abbé Gévresin. "But to return
to the monastic dress which delivered brown, grey, and black from their
melancholy significance, does it not strike you that from the point of
view of emblematic language, that of the Order of the Annunciation was
the most eloquent? Those sisters were habited in grey, white, and red,
the colours of the Passion, and they also wore a blue cape and a black
veil in memory of Our Mother's mourning."

"The image of a perpetual Holy Week!" exclaimed Durtal.

"Here is another question," the Abbé Plomb went on. "In the earliest
religious pictures the cloaks in which the Virgin, the Apostles, and the
Saints are draped almost always show the hue of their lining in
ingeniously contrived folds. It is of course different from that of the
outer side, as you yourself observed just now with regard to the mantle
of Saint Agnes in Angelico's work. Now, do you suppose that, apart from
contrast of colour selected for technical purposes, the monk meant to
express any particular idea by the juxtaposition of the two colours?"

"In accordance with the symbolism of the palette the outer colour would
represent the material creature, and the lining colour the spiritual

"Well, but then what is the significance of Saint Agnes' mantle of green
lined with orange?"

"Obviously," replied Durtal, "green denoting freshness of feeling, the
essence of good, hope; and orange, in its better meaning, being regarded
as representing the act by which God unites Himself to man, we might
conclude from these data that Saint Agnes had attained the life of
union, the possession of the Saviour, by virtue of her innocence and the
fervour of her aspirations. She would thus be the image of virtue
yearning and fulfilled, of hope rewarded, in short.

"But now I must confess that there are many gaps, many obscurities in
this allegorical lore of colours. In the picture in the Louvre, for
instance, the steps of the throne, which are intended to play the part
of veined marble, remain unintelligible. Splashed with dull red, acrid
green, and bilious yellow, what do these steps express, suggesting as
they do by their number the nine choirs of angels?"

"It seems to me difficult to allow that the monk intended to figure the
celestial hierarchies by smears with a dirty brush and these crude

"But has the colour of a step ever represented an idea in the science of
symbolism?" asked the Abbé Gévresin.

"Saint Mechtildis says so. When speaking of the three steps in front of
the altar, she propounds that the first should be of gold, to show that
it is impossible to go to God save by charity; the second blue, to
signify meditation on things divine; the third green, to show eager hope
and praise of Heavenly things."

"Bless me!" cried Madame Bavoil, who was getting somewhat scared by this
discussion, "I never saw it in that light. I know that red means fire,
as everybody knows; blue, the air; green, water; and black, the earth.
And this I understand, because each element is shown in its true colour;
but I should never have dreamed that it was so complicated, never have
supposed that there was so much meaning in painters' pictures."

"In some painters'!" cried Durtal. "For since the Middle Ages the
doctrine of emblematic colouring is extinct. At the present day those
painters who attempt religious subjects are ignorant of the first
elements of the symbolism of colours, just as modern architects are
ignorant of the first principles of mystical theology as embodied in

"Precious gems are lavishly introduced in the works of the primitive
painters," observed the Abbé Plomb. "They are set in the borders of
dresses, in the necklets and rings of the female saints, and are piled
in triangles of flame on the diadems with which painters of yore were
wont to crown the Virgin. Logically, I believe we ought to seek a
meaning in every gem as well as in the hues of the dresses."

"No doubt," said Durtal, "but the symbolism of gems is much confused.
The reasons which led to the choice of certain stones to be the emblems,
by their colour, water, and brilliancy, of special virtues, are so
far-fetched and so little proven, that one gem might be substituted for
another without greatly modifying the interpretation of the allegory
they present. They form a series of synonyms, each replacing the other
with scarcely a shade of difference.

"In the treasury of the Apocalypse, however, they seem to have been
selected, if not with stricter meaning, with a more impressive breadth
of application, for expositors regard them as coincident with a virtue,
and likewise with the person endowed with it. Nay, these jewellers of
the Bible have gone further; they have given every gem a double
symbolism, making each embody a figure from the Old Testament and one
from the New. They carry out the parallel of the two Books by selecting
in each case a Patriarch and an Apostle, symbolizing them by the
character more especially marked in both.

"Thus, the amethyst, the mirror of humility and almost childlike
simplicity, is applied in the Bible to Zebulon, a man obedient and
devoid of pride, and in the Gospel to St. Matthias, who also was gentle
and guileless; the chalcedony, as an emblem of charity, was ascribed to
Joseph, who was so merciful and pitiful to his brethren, and to St.
James the Great, the first of the Apostles to suffer martyrdom for the
love of Christ; the jasper, emblematical of faith and eternity, was the
attribute of Gad and of St. Peter; the sard, meaning faith and
martyrdom, was given to Reuben and St. Bartholomew; the sapphire, for
hope and contemplation, to Naphtali and St. Andrew, and sometimes,
according to Aretas, to St. Paul; the beryl, meaning sound doctrine,
learning, and long-suffering, to Benjamin and to St. Thomas, and so
forth. There is, indeed, a table of the harmony of gems and their
application to patriarchs, apostles, and virtues, drawn up by Madame
Félicie d'Ayzac, who has written an elaborate paper on the figurative
meaning of gems."

"The avatar of some other Scriptural personages might be equally well
carried out by these emblematical minerals," observed the Abbé Gévresin.

"Obviously; and as I warned you, the analogies are very far-fetched. The
hermeneutics of gems are uncertain, and founded on mere fanciful
resemblances, on the harmonies of ideas hard to assimilate. In mediæval
times this science was principally cultivated by poets."

"Against whom we must be on our guard," said the Abbé Plomb, "since
their interpretations are for the most part heathenish. Marbode, for
example, though he was a Bishop, has left us but a very pagan
interpretation of the language of gems."

"These mystical lapidaries have on the whole chiefly applied, their
ingenuity to explaining the stones of the breastplate of Aaron, and
those that shine in the foundations of the New Jerusalem, as described
by St. John; indeed, the walls of Sion are set with the same jewels as
the High Priest's pectoral, with the exception of the carbuncle, the
ligure, agate, and onyx, which are named in Exodus, and replaced in the
Book of Revelation by chalcedony, sardonyx, chrysoprase, and jacinth."

"Yes, and the symbolist goldsmiths wrought diadems, setting them with
precious stones, to crown Our Lady's brow; but their poems showed little
variety, for they were all borrowed from the _Libellus Corona Virginis_,
an apocryphal work ascribed to St. Ildefonso, and formerly famous in

The Abbé Gévresin rose and took an old book from the shelf.

"That brings to my mind," said he, "a hymn in honour of the Virgin
composed in rhyme by Conrad of Haimburg, a German monk in the fourteenth
century. Imagine," he continued, as he turned over the pages, "a litany
of gems, each verse symbolizing one of Our Mother's virtues.

"This prayer in minerals opens with a human greeting. The good monk,
kneeling down, begins:--

"'Hail, noble Virgin, meet to become the Bride of the Supreme King!
Accept this ring in pledge of that betrothal, O Mary!'

"And he shows Her the ring, turning it slowly in his fingers, explaining
to Our Lady the meaning of each stone that shines in the gold setting;
beginning with green jasper, symbolical of the faith which led the
Virgin to receive the message of the angelic visitant; then comes the
chalcedony, signifying the fire of charity that fills Her heart; the
emerald, whose transparency signifies Her purity; the sardonyx, with its
pale flame, like the placidity of Her virginal life; the red sard-stone,
one with the Heart that bled on Calvary; the chrysolite, sparkling with
greenish gold, reminding us of Her numberless miracles and Her Wisdom;
the beryl, figurative of Her humility; the topaz, of Her deep
meditations; the chrysoprase of Her fervency; the jacinth of Her
charity; the amethyst, mingling rose and purple, of the love bestowed on
Her by God and men; the pearl, of which the meaning remains vague, not
representing any special virtue; the agate, signifying Her modesty; the
onyx, showing the many perfections of Her grace; the diamond, for
patience and fortitude in sorrow; while the carbuncle, like an eye that
shines in the night, everywhere proclaims that Her glory is eternal.

"Finally the donor points out to the Virgin the interpretation of
certain other matters set in the ring, which in the Middle Ages were
regarded as precious: crystal, emblematic of chastity of body and soul;
ligurite, resembling amber, more especially figurative of the quality of
temperance; lodestone, which attracts iron, as She touches the chords of
repentant hearts with the bow of her loving-kindness.

"And the monk ends his petition by saying: 'This little ring, set with
gems, which we offer Thee as at this time, accept, glorious Bride, in
Thy benevolence. Amen.'"

"It would no doubt be possible," said the Abbé Plomb, "to reproduce
almost exactly the invocations of these Litanies by each stone thus
interpreted." And he reopened the book his friend the priest had just

"See," he went on, "how close is the concordance between the epithets in
the sentences and the quality assigned to the gems.

"Does not the emerald, which in this sequence is emblematical of
incorruptible purity, reflect in the sparkling mirror of its water the
_Mater Purissima_ of the Litanies to the Virgin? Is not the chrysolite,
the symbol of wisdom, a very exact image of the _Sedes Sapientiae_? The
jacinth, attribute of charity and succour vouchsafed to sinners, is
appropriate to the _Auxilium Christianorum_ and the _refugium
peccatorum_ of the prayers. Is not the diamond, which means strength and
patience, the _Virgo potens_?--the carbuncle, meaning fame, the _Virgo
praedicanda_?--the chrysoprase, for fervour, the _Vas insigne

"And it is probable," said the Abbé, in conclusion, as he laid the book
down, "that if we took the trouble we could rediscover one by one, in
this rosary of stones, the whole rosary of praise which we tell in
honour of Our Mother."

"Above all," remarked Durtal, "if we did not restrict ourselves to the
narrow limits of this poem, for Conrad's manual is brief, and his
dictionary of analogies small; if we accepted the interpretations of
other symbolists, we could produce a ring similar to his and yet quite
different, for the language of the gems would not be the same. Thus to
St. Bruno of Asti, the venerable Abbot of Monte Cassino, the jasper
symbolizes Our Lord, because it is immutably green, eternal without
possibility of change; and for the same reason the emerald is the image
of the life of the righteous; the chrysoprase means good works; the
diamond, infrangible souls; the sardonyx, which resembles the
blood-stained seed of a pomegranate, is charity; the jacinth, with its
varying blue, is the prudence of the saints; the beryl, whose hue is
that of water running in the sunshine, figures the Scriptures elucidated
by Christ; the chrysolite, attention and patience, because it has the
colour of the gold that mingles in it and lends it its meaning; the
amethyst, the choir of children and virgins, because the blue mixed in
it with rose pink suggests the idea of innocence and modesty.

"Or, again, if we borrow from Pope Innocent III. his ideas as to the
mystical meanings of gems, we find that chalcedony, which is pale in the
light and sparkles in the dark, is synonymous with humility; the topaz
with chastity and the merit of good works, while the chrysoprase, the
queen of minerals, implies wisdom and watchfulness.

"If we do not go quite so far back into past ages, but stop at the end
of the sixteenth century, we find some new interpretations in a
Commentary on the Book of Exodus by Corneille de la Pierre; for he
ascribes truth to the onyx and carbuncle, heroism to the beryl, and to
the ligure, with its delicate and sparkling violet hue, scorn of the
things of earth, and love of heavenly things."

"And then St. Ambrose regards this stone as emblematical of Eucharist,"
the Abbé Gévresin put in.

"Yes; but what is the ligure or ligurite?" asked Durtal. "Conrad of
Haimburg speaks of it as resembling amber; Corneille de la Pierre
believes it to be violet-tinted, and St. Jerome gives us to understand
that it is not identifiable; in fact, that it is but another name for
the jacinth, the image of prudence, with its water of blue like the sky
and changing tints. How are we to make sure?"

"As to blue stones, we must not forget that St. Mechtildis regarded the
sapphire as the very heart of the Virgin," observed the Abbé Plomb.

"We may also add," Durtal went on, "that a new set of variations on the
subject of gems was executed in the seventeenth century by a celebrated
Spanish Abbess, Maria d'Agreda, who applies to Our Mother the virtues of
the precious stones spoken of by St. John in the twenty-first chapter of
the Apocalypse. According to her, the sapphire figures the serenity of
Mary; the chrysolite shows forth Her love for the Church Militant, and
especially for the Law of Grace; the amethyst, Her power against the
hordes of hell; the jasper, Her invincible fortitude; the pearl, Her
inestimable dignity--"

"The pearl," interrupted the Abbé Plomb, "is regarded by St. Eucher as
emblematic of perfection, chastity, and the evangelical doctrine."

"And all this time you are forgetting the meaning of other well-known
gems," cried Madame Bavoil. "The ruby, the garnet, the aqua-marine; are
they speechless?"

"No," replied Durtal. "The ruby speaks of tranquility and patience; the
garnet, Innocent III. tells us, symbolizes charity. St. Bruno and St.
Rupert say that the aqua-marine concentrates in its pale green fire all
theological science. There yet remain two gems, the turquoise and the
opal. The former, little esteemed by the mystics, is to promote joy. As
to the second, of which the name does not occur in treatises on gems, it
may be identified with chalcedony, which is described as a sort of agate
of an opaque quality, dimmed with clouds and flashing fires in the

"To have done with this emblematical jewelry, we may add that the series
of stones serves to symbolize the hierarchies of the angels. But here,
again, the meanings commonly received are derived from more or less
forced comparisons and a tissue of notions more or less flimsy and
loose. However, it is so far established that the sard-stone suggests
the Seraphim, the topaz the Cherubim, the jasper means the Thrones, the
chrysolite figures the Dominions, the sapphire the Virtues, the onyx the
Powers, the beryl the Principalities, the ruby the Archangels, and the
emerald the Angels."

"And it is a curious fact," said the Abbé Plomb, "that while beasts,
colours, and flowers are accepted by that symbolists sometimes with a
good meaning and sometimes with an evil one, gems alone never change;
they always express good qualities, and never vices."

"Why is that?"

"St. Hildegarde perhaps affords a clue to this stability when, in the
fourth book, of her treatise on Physics, she says that the Devil hates
them, abhors and scorns them, because he remembers that their splendour
shone in him before his fall, and that some of them are the product of
the fire that is his torment.

"And the saint added, 'God, who deprived him of them, would not that the
stones should lose their virtues; He desired, on the contrary, that they
should ever be held in honour, and used in medicine to the end that
sickness should be cured and ills driven out.' And, in fact, in the
Middle Ages they were highly esteemed and used to effect cures."

"To return to those early pictures," said the Abbé Gévresin, "in which
the Virgin emerges like a flower from amid the gorgeous assemblage of
gems, it may be said as a general thing, that the glow of jewels
declares by visible signs the merits of Her who wears them; but it would
be difficult to say what the painter's purpose may have been when, in
the decoration of a crown or a dress, he placed any particular stone in
one spot rather than another. It is, as a rule, a question of taste or
harmony, and has nothing, or very little, to do with symbolism."

"Of that there can be no doubt," said Durtal, who rose and took leave,
as Madame Bavoil, hearing the cathedral clock strike, handed to the two
priests their hats and breviaries.


The somewhat dolefully calm frame of mind in which Durtal had been
living since settling at Chartres came to a sudden end. One day _ennui_
made him its prey, the black possession which would allow him neither to
work, nor to read, nor to pray; so overwhelming that he knew not whither
to turn nor what to do.

After spending dark and futile days in lounging round his library,
taking down a volume and shutting it up again, opening another of which
he failed to master a single page, he tried to escape from the weariness
of the hours by taking walks, and he determined finally to study the
town of Chartres.

He found a number of blind alleys and break-neck steeps, such as the
road down the knoll of St. Nicolas, which tumbles from the top of the
town to the bottom in a precipitous flight of steps; and then the
Boulevard des Filles-Dieu, so lonely with its walks planted with trees,
was worthy of his notice. Starting from the Place Drouaise, he came to a
little bridge where the waters meet of the two branches of the Eure; to
the right, above the eddying current and the buildings on the shore, he
could see the pile of the old town shouldering up the cathedral; to the
left, all along the quay, and looking out on the tall poplars that
fanned the water-mills, were saw-mills and timber-yards, the washing
places where laundresses knelt on straw in troughs, and the water foamed
before them in widening inky circles splashed into white bubbles by the
dip of a bird's wing.

This arm of the river diverted into the moat of the old ramparts,
encircled Chartres, bordered on one side by the trees of the alleys, and
on the other by cottages with terraced gardens down to the level of the
stream, the two banks joined by foot-bridges of planks or cast iron

Near where the Porte Guillaume uplifted its crenelated towers like
raised pies, there were houses that looked as if they had been gutted,
displaying, as in the vanished _cagnards_ or vaults of the Hotel Dieu at
Paris, cellars open on the level of the water, paved basements in whose
depths of prison twilight stone steps could be seen; and on going out
through the Porte Guillaume across a little humpbacked bridge, under the
archway still showing the groove in which the portcullis had worked
which was let down of yore to defend this side of the town, he came upon
yet another arm of the river washing the feet of more houses, playing at
hide and seek in the courts, musing between walls; and at once he was
haunted by the recollection of another river just like this, with its
decoction of walnut hulls frothed with bubbles; and to contribute to the
suggestion, the more clearly to evoke a vision of the dismal Bièvre, the
rank, acrid, pungent smell of tan, steeped, as it were, in vinegar, came
up in fumes from this broth of medlar juice brought down by the Eure.

The Bièvre, a prisoner now in the sewers of Paris, seemed to have
escaped from its dungeon and to have taken refuge at Chartres that it
might live in the light of day; winding by the Rues de la Foulerie, de
la Tannerie, du Massacre, the quarters invaded by the leather-dressers,
the skinners and tan-peat makers.

But the Parisian environment, so pathetic in its aspect of silent
suffering, was absent from this town; these streets suggested merely a
declining hamlet, a poverty-stricken village. He felt something lacking
in this second Bièvre, the fascination of exhaustion, the grace of the
woman of Paris faded and smirched by misery; it lacked the charm
compounded of pity and regret, of a fallen creature.

Such as they were, however, these streets, traced with a sort of
descending twist round the hill on which the cathedral stood exalted,
were the only curious by-ways of Chartres worth wandering through.

Here Durtal often succeeded in getting out of himself, in dreaming over
the distressful weariness of these streams, and in ceasing to meditate
on his own qualms, till he presently was tired of constant excursions in
the same quarter of the town, and then he tramped through it in every
direction, trying to find an interest in the sight of time-worn
spots--the grace of Queen Berthe's tower, of Claude Huvé's house and
other buildings that have survived the shock of ages; but the enthusiasm
he threw into the study of these relics, spoilt by the foregone
eulogiums of the guides, could not last, and he then fell back on the

Although the cathedral crushed everything near it, Saint-Pierre, the
ancient Abbey church of a Benedictine monastery, now used as barracks,
deserved a lingering visit for the sake of its splendid windows, the
dwelling-place of Abbots and Bishops who look down with stern eyes,
holding up their croziers. And these windows, damaged by time, were very
singular. Upright, in each lancet-shaped setting of white glass, rose a
sword-blade bereft of its point; and in these square-tipped blades Saint
Benedict and Saint Maur stood lost in thought, with Apostles and Popes,
Prelates and Saints, standing out in robes of flame against the luminous
whiteness of the borders.

Certainly Chartres could show the finest glass windows in the world; and
each century had left its noblest stamp on its sanctuaries: the twelfth,
thirteenth, and even the fifteenth, on the cathedral; the fourteenth on
Saint Pierre; and a few examples--unfortunately broken up and used in a
medley mosaic--of painted glass of the sixteenth century in Saint
Aignan, another church where the vaulted roof had been washed of the
colour of gingerbread speckled with anise-seed, by painters of our own

Durtal got through a few afternoons in these churches; then the charm of
this prolonged study was at an end, and gloom took possession of him,
even worse than before.

The Abbé Plomb, to divert his mind, took him for walks in the country,
but La Beauce was so flat, so monotonous, that any variety of landscape
was impossible to find. Then the Abbé took him through other parts of
the town. Some of the buildings claimed their attention, as, for
instance, the House of Detention, in the Rue-Sainte-Thérèse near the
Palais de Justice. The edifices themselves were not, indeed, very
impressive, but the history of their origin made them available as the
fulcrum for old dreams. There was something in the prison walls, in
their height and austerity, in their look of order and precision, which
made the cloister wall of a Carmel look small. They had, in fact, of
old, sheltered a Sisterhood of that Order, and a few steps further on,
in a blind alley, was the entrance to the ancient convent of the
Jacobins, the Mother-House of the great Sisterhood of Chartres: the
Nursing Sisters of Saint Paul.

The Abbé Plomb took him to visit this house, and he retained a cheerful
impression of the walk in the fresh air on the old ramparts. The Sisters
had kept up the sentry's walk, which followed a long and narrow avenue
with a statue of the Virgin at each end, one representing the Immaculate
Conception, the other the Virgin Mother. And this walk, strewn with
river-pebbles and edged with flowers, shut in on one side by the Abbey
and the novices' schools, on the left overlooked a precipice down to the
Butte des Charbonniers, and below that again, the Rue de la Couronne;
while beyond lay the grass lawns of the Clos Saint Jean, the line of the
railroad, labourers' hovels, and convent buildings.

"There you see," said the Abbé, "behind the embankment of the Western
Railway stands the Convent of the Sisters of Our Lady and of the
Carmelites; here, nearer to the town on this side of the line, are the
Little Sisters of the Poor."

And indeed the place swarmed with convents: Sisters of the Visitation,
Sisters of Providence, Sisters of Good Comfort, Ladies of the Sacred
Heart, all lived in hives close round Chartres. Prayer hummed up on
every side, rising as the fragrant breath of souls above a city where,
by way of divine service, nothing was chanted but the price-current of
grain and the higher and lower cost of horses in the fairs which, on
certain days, brought all the copers of La Perche together in the
_cafés_ on the Place.

Besides this walk on the old ramparts, the Convent of the Sisters of
Saint Paul was attractive by reason of its quiet and cleanliness. Down
silent passages the backs of the good women might be seen crossed by the
triangular fold of linen, and the click could be heard of their heavy
black rosaries on links of copper, as they rattled on their skirts
against the hanging bunch of keys. Their chapel was redolent of Louis
XIV., at once childish and pompous, too much bedizened with gold, and
the floor too shiny with wax; but there was an interesting detail: at
the entrance large panes of glass had been substituted for the walls, so
that in winter the sick, sitting in a warm room, could look through the
glass partition and follow the services and hear the plain song of
Solesmes which the Sisters had the good taste to use.

This visit revived Durtal's spirit; but he inevitably compared the
peaceful hours told out in that retreat with others, and his disgust was
increased for this town, and its inhabitants, and its avenues, and its
boasted Place des Epars, aping a little Versailles, with its surrounding
blatant mansions, and its ridiculous statue of Marceau in the middle.

And then the limpness of the place, hardly awake by sunrise and asleep
again by dusk!

Once only did Durtal see it really awake, and that was on the day when
Monseigneur Le Tilloy des Mofflaines was enthroned as Bishop.

Then suddenly the city was galvanized; projects were made, the various
bodies corporate sat in committee, and men came forth who had lived
within doors for years.

Scaffold poles were brought out from the masons' yards; blue and yellow
flags were hoisted on them, and these masts were linked together by
garlands of ivy-leaves sewn one over the other with white cotton.

Then Chartres was exhausted, and paused for breath.

Durtal, startled by these unexpected preparations and such an assumption
of life, had gone out to meet the Bishop, as far as to the Rue Saint
Michel. There, on the open square, a gymnastic apparatus had been
erected, the swing bars and rings having been removed, and the poles
garnished with pine branches and gilt paper rosettes, and surmounted by
a trophy of tricolour flags arranged in a fan behind a painted cardboard
shield. This was an arch of triumph, and under this the Brethren of the
Christian Schools were to escort the canopy.

The procession, which had gone forth to fetch the Bishop from the
Hospice of Saint Brice, where, in obedience to time-honoured custom, he
had slept the night before entering his See, had made its way thither
under a fine rain of chanted canticles, broken by heavier showers of
brass sounding a pious flourish of trumpets. Slowly, with measured
steps, the train wound along between two hedges of people crowded on the
sidewalks, and all the way the windows, hung with drapery, displayed
bunches of faces and leaning bodies, cut across the middle by the
balcony bar.

At the head of the procession, behind the gaudy uniforms of the
ponderous beadles, came the girls of the Congregational Schools, dressed
in crude blue with white veils, in two ranks, filling up the roadway;
then followed delegates of nuns from every Order that has a House in the
diocese; Sisters of the Visitation from Dreux, Ladies of the Sacred
Heart from Châteaudun, Sisters of the Immaculate Conception from Nogent
le Rotrou, the uncloistered Sisters of the Cloistered Orders of
Chartres, Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul and Poor Clares, whose dresses
of blueish grey and peat-brown contrasted with the black robes of the

What was most odd was the various shapes of their coifs. Some had soft
flapping blinkers, others wore them goffered and stiffened with starch;
these hid their face at the bottom of a deep white tunnel; others, on
the contrary, showed their countenance set in an oval frame of pleated
cambric, prolonged behind into conical wings of starched linen lustrous
from heavy irons. As he looked over this expanse of caps, Durtal was
reminded of the Paris landscape of roofs, in shapes resembling the
funnels worn by these nuns and the cocked hats of the beadles.

Then, behind these long files of sober-coloured garments, the scarlet
vestments of the choirs came like the blare of trumpets. The little ones
marched with downcast eyes, their arms crossed under their red capes
edged with ermine, and behind them, a little in advance of the next
group, walked two white cowls, that of a Brother of Picpus, and that of
a Trappist who represented the Trappist Sisterhood of La Cour Peytral,
to which he was chaplain.

Finally the Seminarists came on in a black crowd; those of the Great
Seminary of Chartres and of the Little Seminary of Saint Chéron
preceding the priests, and behind them, under a purple velvet canopy
embroidered in gold with wheat ears and grapes, and decorated at each
corner with bunches of snow-white feathers, with his mitre on his head
and holding his crozier, came Monseigneur Le Tilloy des Mofflaines.

As he passed, in the act of blessing the street, many an unknown Lazarus
rose up, the forgotten dead come back to life; His Reverence seemed to
multiply the Miracles of the Lord. Effete old men, huddled in their
chairs in the doorways or at the windows, revived for a second, and
found strength enough to cross themselves. Persons who had been
supposed dead for years managed almost to smile. The vacant eyes of old,
old children gazed at the violet cross outlined in the air by the
Prelate's gloved hand. Chartres, that city of the dead, had changed to a
vast nursery; in the extravagance of its joy the town was in its second

But as soon as the Bishop was past the scene changed. Durtal was
startled, and he tittered.

A whole "Court of Miracles" seemed to follow in the Prelate's train,
strutting but tottering; a procession of old wrecks, dressed out in such
garments as are sold from the dead-house, staggered along holding each
other's arms, propped one against another. Every reach-me-down that had
been hanging these twenty years flapped about their limbs, hindering
their progress. Trousers with baggy ankles or with gaiter tops,
balloon-shaped or close-fitting, made of loose-woven stuff or so shrunk
that they would not meet the boot, displaying feet where the elastic
sides wriggled like living vermin, and ankles covered with vermicelli
dipped in ink; then the most impossibly threadbare and discoloured
coats, made, as it seemed, of old billiard cloths, of tarpaulin worn to
the canvas, of cast-off awnings; overcoats of cast iron, the surface
worn off the back-seam and sleeves--glaucous waistcoats, sprigged with
flowers and furnished with buttons of dry brawn-parings; and all this
was as nothing; what was prodigious, beyond the bounds of belief,
fabulous, positively insane, was the collection of hats that crowned
these costumes.

The specimens of extinct headgear, lost in the night of ages, that were
collected here! The veterans wore muff-boxes and gas-pipes; some had
tall white hats, for all the world like toilet-pails turned upside
down, or huge spigots with a hole for the head; others had donned felt
hats like sponges, shaggy, long-haired Bolivars, melons on flat brims
just like a tart on a dish; others, again, had crush-hats, which swayed
and played the accordion on their own account, their ribs showing
through the stuff.

The craziness of the gibus hats beats description. Some were very tall,
the shaft crowned with a platform larger than the head, like the shako
of an Imperial Lancer; others very low, ending in an inverted cone--the
mouth of a blunderbuss or a Polish schapska.

And under this Sanhedrim of drunken hats were the mopping, wrinkled
faces of very old men, with whiskers like white rabbits' paws, and
bristles like tooth-brushes in their nostrils.

Durtal shook with inextinguishable laughter at this carnival of
antiquities; but his mirth was soon over; he saw two Little Sisters of
the Poor who were in charge of this school of fossils, and he
understood. These poor creatures were dressed in clothes that had been
begged, the rummage of wardrobes, for which the owners had no further
use. Then the queerness of their outfit was pathetic; the Little Sisters
must have been at infinite trouble to utilize these leavings of charity;
and the old children, recking little of fashion, plumed themselves with
pride at being so fine.

Durtal followed to the cathedral. When he reached the little square, the
procession, caught by a gale of wind, was struggling and clinging to the
banners, which bellied like the sails of a ship, carrying on the men who
clutched the poles. At last, more or less easily, all the people were
swallowed up in the basilica. The _Te Deum_ was pouring out in a torrent
from the organ. At this moment it really seemed as though, under the
impulsion of this glorious hymn, the church, springing heavenward in a
rapturous flight, were rising higher and higher; the echo resounded down
the ages, repeating the hymn of triumph which had so often been sung
under that roof; and for once the music was in harmony with the
building, and spoke the language which the cathedral had learnt in its

Durtal was exultant. It seemed to him that Our Lady smiled down from
those glowing windows, that She was touched by these accents, created by
the saints she had loved, to embody for ever, in a definite melody, and
in unique words, the scattered praise of the faithful, the unformulated
rejoicing of the multitude.

Suddenly his exalted mood was sobered. The _Te Deum_ was ended; a roll
of drums and a clarion flourish rang out from the transept. And while
the brass band of Chartres cannonaded the old walls with the balista of
mere noise, he fled to breathe away from the crowd, which, however, did
not nearly fill the church; and then, after the ceremony, he went to see
the parade of representatives of the various institutions in the town,
who came to pay their respects to the new Bishop in his palace.

There he could laugh and not be ashamed. The forecourt was packed full
of priests. All the superiors of the different Archdeaconries--Chartres,
Châteaudun, Nogent le Rotrou, and Dreux--had left there, within the
great gate, their following of parish priests and curés, who were pacing
round and round the green circus of a grass plot.

The big-wigs of the town, not at all less ridiculous than the pensioners
of the Little Sisters of the Poor, crowded in, driving the ecclesiastics
into the garden walks. Teratology seemed to have emptied out its
specimen bottles; it was a seething swarm of human larvæ, of strange
heads--bullet-shaped, egg-shaped, faces as seen through a bottle or in a
distorting mirror, or escaped from one of Redon's grotesque albums; a
perfect museum of monsters on the move. The stagnation of monotonous
toil, handed down for generations from father to son in a city of the
dead, was stamped on every face, and the Sunday-best festivity of the
day added a touch of the absurd to hereditary ugliness.

Every black coat in Chartres had come out to take the air. Some dated
from the days of the Directory, swallowed up the wearer's neck, climbed
up high behind the nape, muffled the ears and padded the shoulders;
others had shrunk by lying in the drawer, and their sleeves, much too
short, cut the wearer round the armholes so that he dared not move.

A miasma of benzine and camphor exhaled from these groups. The clothes,
only that morning taken out of pickle to be aired by the good wife, were
pestilential. The stove-pipe hats were to match. Left to themselves on
wardrobe shelves, they had surely grown taller; they towered immense,
displaying on their mill-board column a thin covering of hairs.

This assembly of worthies admired and congratulated each other; clasped
hands encased in white gloves--gloves scoured with paraffin, cleaned
with indiarubber or breadcrumb. Presently a retiring wave cleared a
space in the crowd of priests and laymen, who shrank back hat in hand to
make way for an old hearse of a landau, drawn by a consumptive horse and
driven by a sort of Moudjik, a coachman with a puffy face behind a
thicket of hair sprouting on his cheeks and his mouth, in his ears and
nose. This vehicle came to an anchor before the front steps, and out of
it stepped a fat man, blown out like a bladder and buttoned up in an
uniform with silver lace; after him came a thinner personage in a coat
with facings of dark and light blue, and everybody bowed to the Préfet
attended by one of his three Councillors.

They had lifted their plumed cocked hats, distributed a dole of
hand-shaking, and vanished into the vestibule when the army made its
appearance, represented by a Colonel of Cuirassiers, some officers of
the Artillery and the Commissariat, a few subalterns of Infantry, and
one gendarme.

This was all.

Within an hour of this reception the exhausted town was asleep again,
not having energy enough even to remove the poles; Lazarus had gone back
to his sepulchre, the resuscitated antiquities had relapsed into death;
the streets were empty; reaction had ensued; Chartres would be exhausted
for months by this outbreak.

"What a sty it is! What a hole!" cried Durtal to himself.

On certain days, tired of spending his afternoons shut up with his books
or of attending service in the cathedral, hearing the canons languidly
playing rackets from side to side of the choir with the Psalms, of which
they tossed the verses to and fro in a mumbling tone, he would go down
after dinner and smoke cigarettes in the little Place. At Chartres,
eight o'clock in the evening was as three in the morning in any other
town; every light was out, every house closed.

The priesthood, eager for bed, had shut up shop. No prayers to the
Virgin, no Benediction, nothing in this cathedral! At such an hour,
kneeling in the dark, you feel as if the Mother were more immediately
present, nearer, more intimately your own; but these moments of
confidence, when it is easier to tell Her all your trivial woes, were
unknown at Notre Dame. No one was worn out by midnight prayer in that

But though he could not go in, Durtal could prowl round and about it.
And then, scarcely seen by the light of the poverty-stricken lamps
standing here and there on the square, the cathedral assumed strange
aspects. The portals yawned as caverns full of blackness, and the outer
shape of the body of the building, from the towers to the apse, with
its abutments and buttresses merely guessed at in the dark, stood up
like a cliff worn away by invisible waves. It might have been a
mountain, its summit jagged by storms, eaten into deep caverns at the
foot by a vanished ocean; and on going nearer he could in the gloom
imagine ill-defined paths steeply running up the cliff, or winding on
shelves at the edge of a rock; and, occasionally, midway on one of these
dark paths, some white statue of a Bishop would start forth under a
moonbeam, like a ghost haunting the ruins, and blessing all comers with
uplifted fingers of stone.

These wanderings in the precincts of the cathedral, which by daylight
was so light and slender, and in the dark seemed so ponderous and
threatening, were ill-adapted to cure Durtal of his melancholy.

This illusion of rocks riven by the lightning, of caverns deserted by
the waves, plunged him into fresh reveries, and at last threw him back
on himself, ending, after many divagations of mind, in the contemplation
of the ruin within him. Then once more he sounded his soul, and tried to
reduce his thoughts to some sort of order.

"I am simply bored to death," said he to himself, "and why?" And by dint
of analyzing his condition he came to this conclusion: "My state of
boredom is not simple but two-fold; or, if it is indeed all of a piece,
it may be divided into two very distinct phases: I am bored by myself,
independently of place, of home, of books; and I am also bored by
provincial life--the special form of boredom inherent in Chartres.

"Bored by myself--ah, yes, most heartily! How tired I am of watching
myself, of trying to detect the secret of my disgust and
contentiousness. When I contemplate my life I could sum it up thus: the
past has been horrible; the present seems to me feeble and desolate; the
future--is appalling."

He paused, and then went on,--

"During my first days here I was happy in the dream suggested by this
cathedral. I believed it would re-act on my life, that it would people
the solitude I felt within me, that it would, in a word, be a help to me
in this provincial atmosphere. But I beguiled myself. In fact, it still
weighs on me, it still holds me wrapped in the mild gloom of its crypt;
but I can now reason about it, I can scrutinize its details, I try to
talk to it of art, and in these inquiries I have lost the unreasoning
sense of its environment, the silent fascination of the whole.

"I am less conscious now of its soul than of its body. I tried to study
archæology, that contemptible anatomy of building, and I have fallen
humanly in love with its beauty; the spiritual aspect has vanished, to
leave nothing behind but the earthly part. Alas! I was determined to
see, and I have wrecked trust; it is the eternal allegory of Psyche over

"And besides--besides--is not the weariness that is crushing me to some
extent the fault of the Abbé Gévresin? By compelling me to much
repetition he has exhausted in me the soothing and, at the same time,
subversive virtue of the Sacrament; and the most evident result of this
treatment is that my soul has collapsed and has no spirit to
reinvigorate it.

"No, no," he went on presently. "Here I am working back on my perennial
presumption, my incessant round of cares; and once more I am unjust to
the Abbé. But it is certainly no fault of his if frequent Communion
makes me cold. I look for sensations; but the very first thing should be
to convince myself that such cravings are contemptible, and next, to
understand clearly that it is precisely because Communion is so frigid
that it is the more meritorious and virtuous, yes, that is very easy to
say; but where is the Catholic who prefers such coldness to a glow? The
saints may, no doubt; but even they suffer under it! It is so natural to
entreat God for a little joy, to look forward to an Union consummated by
a loving word, a sign--a mere nothing that may show that He is present.

"Say what they may, we cannot help being pained by a dead absorption of
that living bread! And it is very hard to admit that Our Lord is wise
when He keeps us in ignorance of the ills from which it preserves us and
the progress it enables us to make, since, but for that, we might be
defenceless against the attacks of self-conceit and the assaults of
vanity--helpless against ourselves.

"In short, whatever the reason, I am no better off at Chartres than in
Paris," was his conclusion. And when these reflections beset him,
especially on Sundays, he regretted having accompanied the Abbé Gévresin
into the country.

In Paris, in old days, he at any rate got through the hours at the
services. He could attend Mass in the morning at the Benedictine chapel
or at Saint Séverin, and go to Saint Sulpice for vespers or compline.

Here there was nothing; and yet where were there more promising
conditions for the performance of Gregorian music than at Chartres?

Setting aside a few antiquated basses who could only bark, and whom it
would be necessary to dismiss, there was a whole sheaf of rich young
voices, a school of nearly a hundred boys who could have rolled out in
clear, sweet tones the broad melodies of the old plain-song.

But in this ill-starred cathedral an inept precentor gave out, by way of
liturgical canticles, a perfect menagerie of outlandish tunes, which,
let loose on Sunday, seemed to scamper like marmosets up the pillars and
under the roof. And the artless voices of the choir-boys were drilled to
these musical monkey-tricks. At Chartres it was impossible to attend
High Mass in the cathedral with any decent devotion.

The other services were not much better; indeed, Durtal was reduced to
attending vespers at Notre Dame de la Brèche, in the lower town, a
chapel where the priest, a friend of the Abbé Plomb, had introduced the
use of Solesmes, and patiently trained a little choir composed of
faithful working-men and pious boys.

The voices, especially the trebles, were not first-rate; but the priest,
being a skilled musician, had contrived to train and soften them, and
had, in fact, succeeded in getting the Benedictine art accepted in his

Unfortunately it was so ugly, so painfully adorned with images, that
only by shutting his eyes could Durtal endure to remain in Notre Dame de
la Brèche.

In the midst of this surge of reflections on his soul, on Paris, on the
Eucharist, on music, on Chartres, Durtal was at last quite bewildered,
not knowing where he was. Now and then, however, he recovered some
tranquillity, and then he was astonished at himself, he could not
understand himself.

"Why regret Paris--why, indeed?" he would ask himself. "Was the life I
led there unlike that I lead here? Were not the churches there--Notre
Dame de Paris, to name but one--just as much to be execrated for
sacrilegious _bravuras_ as Notre Dame de Chartres? On the other hand, I
never went out there to lounge in the tiresome streets; I saw nobody but
the Abbé Gévresin and Madame Bavoil, and I see them still, and oftener,
in this town. I have even gained a friend by the move, a learned and
agreeable companion, in the Abbé Plomb. So why?"

And then one morning, unexpectedly, every thing was plain to him. He saw
quite clearly that he was on the wrong track, and without even seeking
for it he found the right one.

To discover the unknown source of his flaccid longing for he knew not
what, and his inexplicable dissatisfaction, he had only to look back a
little way and pause at La Trappe. He saw now everything had begun
there. Having reached that culminating point of his retrospect, he
could, as it were, stand on a height and command a view of the declining
years since he had left the monastery; and now, gazing at that
descending panorama of his life, he discerned this:--

That from the time of his return to Paris a craving for the cloister had
been incessantly permeating his being; he had unremittingly cherished
the dream of retiring from the world, of living peacefully as a recluse
near to God.

He had, to be sure, only thought of it definitely in the form of
impossible longings and regrets, for he knew full well that neither was
his body strong enough nor his soul staunch enough for him to bury
himself as a Trappist. Still, once started from that spring-board, his
imagination flew off at a tangent, overleaped every obstacle, floated in
discursive reveries where he saw himself as a Friar in some easy-going
convent under the rule of a merciful Order, devoted to liturgies and
adoring art.

He could but shrug his shoulders, indeed, when he came back to himself,
and smile at these dreams of the future which he indulged in hours of
vacuous idleness; but this self-contempt of a man who catches himself in
the very act of flagrant nonsense was nevertheless succeeded by the hope
of not losing all the advantages of an honest delusion; and he could
remount on a chimera which he thought less wild, as leading to a _via
media_, a compromise, fancying that by moderating his ideal he should
find it more attainable.

He assured himself that, in default of a really conventual life, he
might perhaps achieve an illusory imitation of it by avoiding the
turmoil of Paris and burying himself in a hole. And he now saw that he
had completely cheated himself when, on discussing the question as to
whether he should leave Paris and go to settle at Chartres, he had
believed that he was yielding to the Abbé Gévresin's arguments and
Madame Bavoil's urgency.

Certainly, without admitting it, without accounting for it, he had
really acted on the prompting of this cherished dream. Would not
Chartres be a sort of monastic haven, of open cloister, where he could
enjoy his liberty and not have to give up his comforts? Would it not, at
any rate, for lack of an unattainable hermitage, be a sop thrown to his
desires; and supposing he could succeed in reducing his too exorbitant
demands, give him the final repose and peace for which he had yearned
ever since his return from La Trappe?

And nothing of all this had been realized. The unsettled feeling he had
experienced in Paris had pursued him to Chartres. He was, as it were, on
the march, or perched on a bough; he could not feel at home, but as a
man lingering on in furnished rooms, whence he must presently depart.

In short, he had deluded himself when he had fancied that a man might
make a cell of a solitary room in silent surroundings; the religious
jog-trot in a provincial atmosphere had no resemblance to the life of a
monastery. There was no illusion or suggestion of the convent.

This check, when he recognized it, added to the ardour or his regrets;
and the distress which in Paris had lurked latent and ill-defined,
developed at Chartres clear and unmistakable.

Then began an unremitting struggle with himself.

The Abbé Gévresin, whom he consulted, would only smile and treat him as
in a novices' school or a seminary a youthful postulant is treated who
confesses to deep melancholy and persistent weariness. His malady is not
taken seriously; he is told that all his companions suffer the same
temptations, the same qualms; he is sent away comforted, while his
superiors seem to be laughing at him.

But at the end of a little time this method no longer succeeded. Then
the Abbé was firm with Durtal, and one day, when his penitent was
bemoaning himself, he replied,--

"It is an attack you must get over," and then he added lightly after a
silence, "And it will not be the last or the worst."

At this Durtal turned restive; the Abbé, however, drove him to bay,
wanting to make him confess how senseless his struggles were.

"The idea of the cloister haunts you," said he. "Well, then, what is
there to hinder you? Why do you not retire to a Trappist convent?"

"You know very well that I am not strong enough to endure the rule."

"Then become an oblate; go to join Monsieur Bruno at Notre Dame de

"No, indeed, not that, at any rate. To be an oblate at La Trappe is the
same thing as remaining at Chartres! It is a mere half-measure. Monsieur
Bruno will always remain a boarder; he will never be a monk. He gets all
the disadvantages of the cloister, and none of the benefits."

"But there are other monasteries besides those of La Trappe," replied
the Abbé. "Be a Benedictine Father or oblate, a black Friar. Their rule
seems to be mild; you will live in a world of learned men and writers;
what more would you have?"

"I do not say--but--"

"But what?"

"I know nothing of them--"

"Nothing can be easier than to get to know them. The Abbé Plomb is a
welcome friend at Solesmes. He can give all the introductions you can
wish to that convent."

"Good; that is worth thinking about. I will consult the Abbé," said
Durtal, rising to take leave of the old priest.

"The Black Dog is troubling you, our friend," observed Madame Bavoil,
who had overheard the two men's conversation from the next room, the
door between being open; and she came in, her breviary in her hand.

"Ah, ha!" she went on, looking at him over her spectacles, "do you
suppose that by moving your soul from place to place you can change it?
Your trouble is neither in the air nor outside you, but within you. On
my word, to hear you talk, one might fancy that by travelling from one
spot to another every discord could be avoided, that a man could escape
from himself! Nothing can be more false. Ask the Father--"

And when Durtal, smiling awkwardly, was gone, Madame Bavoil questioned
her master.

"What is really the matter with him?"

"He is being broken by the ordeal of dryness," replied the priest. "He
is enduring a painful but not dangerous operation. So long as he
preserves a love of prayer, and neglects none of his religious
exercises, all will be well. That is the touchstone which enables us to
discern whether such an attack is sent from Heaven."

"But, Father, he must at any rate be comforted."

"I can do nothing but pray for him."

"Another question: our friend is possessed by the notion of a monastic
life; perhaps you ought to send him to a convent."

The Abbé gave an evasive shrug.

"Dryness of spirit and the dreams to which it gives rise are not the
sign of a vocation," said he. "I might even say that they have a greater
chance of thriving than of diminishing in the cloister. From that point
of view conventual life might be bad for him. Still, that is not the
only question to be considered--there is something else--and besides,
who knows?" He was silent, and presently added: "Much may be possible.
Give me my hat, Madame Bavoil. I will go and talk over Durtal with the
Abbé Plomb."


This discussion had been of use to Durtal; it took him out of the
generalities over which he had persistently mused since his arrival at
Chartres. The Abbé had, in fact, shown him his bearings, and pointed out
a navigable channel leading to a definite end, a haven familiar to all.
The monastery which had lingered in Durtal's fancy as a mere confused
picture, apart from time, without place or date, deriving nothing from
his memories of La Trappe but the sense of discipline, and on to which
he had at once engrafted the fancy of an abbey of a more literary and
artistic stamp, governed by a conciliatory rule, in a milder
atmosphere--that ideal retreat, half borrowed from reality and half the
fabric of a dream--was taking shape. By speaking of an Order that
existed, mentioning it by name and actually specifying a House under its
rule, the Abbé had given Durtal substantial food instead of the
argumentative wordiness of a mania; he had afforded him something better
to chew than the empty air on which he had fed so long.

The state of uncertainty and indecision he had been living in was at
end; his choice now lay between remaining at Chartres or retiring to
Solesmes; and at once, without delay, he set to work to read and
reconsider the works of Saint Benedict.

This rule, summed up more particularly in a series of paternal
injunctions and affectionate advice, was a marvel of gentleness and
tactfulness. Every craving of the soul was described, every misery of
the body foreseen. It knew so precisely how to ask much and yet not to
exact too much, that it had yielded without breaking, satisfied the
movements of different ages, and remained, in the nineteenth century
what it had been in mediæval times.

Then how merciful, how wise it was when addressing itself to the feeble
and infirm. "The sick shall be served as though they were Christ in
person," says Saint Benedict; and his anxiety for his sons, his urgent
recommendations to the Superiors to love and visit the younger brethren,
to neglect nothing that may assuage their ills, reveals a maternal care
that is truly touching on the patriarch's part.

"Yes, yes," muttered Durtal, "but there are in this rule other articles
which seem less acceptable to miscreants of my stamp. This, for
instance: 'No man shall dare to give or to receive anything without the
Abbot's permission, or to have or hold anything as his own--absolutely
nothing, neither book, nor tablets, nor pointer--in a word, nothing
whatever, inasmuch as they are not allowed to call even their body or
their will their own.'

"This is a terrible sentence of abnegation and obedience," he sighed,
"only, is this law, which is binding on the Fathers and the Serving
Brothers, equally strict for the Oblates, the ægrotant members of the
Benedictine army, who are not mentioned in the text? This remains to be
seen. It will be well too to ascertain how far it is applied, for the
rule is on the whole so skilful, so elastic, so broad that it can be
made at option very austere or very mild.

"With the Trappists the ordinances are so closely drawn that they are
stifling; with the Benedictines, on the contrary, they would be light
and airy enough to allow the soul to breathe easily. One Fraternity
clings scrupulously to the letter; the other, on the contrary, draws
inspiration from the Spirit of the Saint.

"Before goading myself along this road I must consult the Abbé Plomb,"
was Durtal's conclusion. He went to call on the priest; but he was
absent for some days.

As a precaution against indolence, a measure of spiritual discipline, he
threw himself on the cathedral once more, and tried, now that he was
less overpowered by speculation, to read its meaning.

The stone text which he was bent on understanding was puzzling, if not
difficult to decipher, in consequence of the interpolated passages,
repetitions, and parts eliminated or abridged; in fact, to say the
truth, as the result of a certain incoherence, accounted for no doubt by
the circumstance that the work had been carried on, altered or extended
by successive artists during a lapse of two hundred years.

The image-makers of the thirteenth century had not always taken into
account the ideas expressed by their precursors; they had repeated them,
expressing them from their own point of view in their personal tongue;
thus, for instance, they had introduced a second version of the signs of
the seasons and of the zodiac. The sculptors of the twelfth century had
made a calendar in stone on the western front; those of the thirteenth
did the same in the right-hand doorway of the north porch, justifying
this reduplication of the subject on the same church by the fact that
the zodiac and the seasons may in symbolism have several

According to Tertullian the death and new birth of the circling years
afforded an image of the Resurrection at the end of the world. According
to others the Sun, surrounded by the twelve Signs, was emblematic of the
Sun of Justice surrounded by his twelve Apostles. The Abbé Bulteau sees
in these stony calendars a rendering of the passage in which St. Paul
declares to the Hebrews that "Jesus is the same yesterday, to-day, and
for ever," while the Abbé Clerval gives this simple interpretation: that
all times belong to Christ, and are bound to glorify Him.

"But this is a mere detail," said Durtal to himself. "In the whole
structure of the cathedral itself we can trace two-fold purposes.

"The architectural mass of Notre Dame de Chartres as a whole may be
divided, externally, into three great parts, as indicated by the three
grand porches. The western or royal portal, which is the ceremonial
entrance to the sanctuary, between the two towers; the north porch on
the side next the bishop's palace, beyond the new spire; the south
porch, flanked by the old spire.

"Now, the subjects represented on the royal front and in the south porch
are identical. Each glorifies the Triumph of the Incarnate Word, with
this difference: that on the south porch Our Lord is not exalted alone
as He is on the west front, but in the person also of the Elect and of
His Saints. If to these two subjects, which may be considered as
one--the Saviour glorified in Himself and in His Saints--we add the
praises of the Virgin set forth in the north front we find this result:
a poem in praise of the Mother and the Son as declaring the final cause
of the Church itself.

"By studying the variations between the south and west fronts we
perceive that, though in both Jesus is shown in the same act of blessing
the earth, and though both are almost exclusively restricted to
illustrating the Gospel, leaving the scenes of the Old Testament to the
arches on the north, they differ greatly from each other, and are no
less unlike the portals of all other cathedrals.

"In total disagreement with the mystic rituals observed almost
everywhere else--at Notre Dame de Paris, at Bourges, at Amiens, to name
but three churches--the Last Judgment, which is seen on the main
entrance of those basilicas, is at Chartres relegated to the south

"And in the same way the Tree of Jesse, which at Amiens and Reims and
the cathedral at Rouen, is displayed on the royal porch, is at Chartres
on the north side of the building; and many more similar changes might
be noted," said Durtal to himself. "But, which is yet more strange, the
parallel so commonly to be observed between the subjects treated on the
inner and outer surface of the same wall, in sculptured stone without
and painted glass within, does not constantly exist at Chartres. This,
for instance, is the case with regard to the genealogical Tree of
Christ, which is seen inside in glass on the upper wall of the west
front, and is carved outside on the north porch. At the same time, when
the subjects do not entirely coincide on the front and back of the page,
they are often complementary, or carry out the same idea. Thus the Last
Judgment, which is not to be found on the outside of the north front,
blazes out, within, from the great rose window above on the same side.
This, then, is not cumulative but appropriate development--history begun
in one dialect and finished in another.

"In short, it is the ruling idea of the poem which governs all these
differences and harmonies; which comes out like a refrain after each of
these three strophes in stone; the idea that this church belongs to Our
Mother. The cathedral is faithful to its name, loyal to its dedication.
The Virgin is Lady over all. She fills the whole interior, and appears
outside even on the western and southern portals, which are not
especially Hers, above a door, on a capital, high in air on a pediment.
The angelic salutation of art has been repeated without intermission by
the painters and sculptors of every age. The cathedral of Chartres is
truly the Virgin's fief.

"And on the whole," thought Durtal, "in spite of the discrepancies in
some of its texts, the cathedral is legible.

"It contains a rendering of the Old and New Testaments; it also engrafts
on the sacred Scriptures the Apocryphal traditions relating to the
Virgin and St. Joseph, the lives of the saints preserved in the Golden
Legend of Jacopo da Voragine and the special biographies of the aspiring
recluses of the diocese of Chartres. It is a vast encyclopædia of
mediæval learning as concerning God, the Virgin, and the Elect.

"Didron is almost justified in saying that it is a compendium of those
great encyclopædias composed in the thirteenth century; only the theory
that he bases on this truthful observation wanders off and becomes
faulty as soon as he tries to work it out.

"He concludes, in fact, by conceiving of this cathedral as no more than
a rendering of the _Speculum Universale_, the _Mirror of the World_ of
Vincent of Beauvais; above all, like that work, as an epitome of
practical life and a record of the human race throughout the ages. In
point of fact," said Durtal to himself, as he took the _Christian
Iconography_ of that writer down from the shelf, "in point of fact,
according to him, our stone pages ought to follow in such succession
that, beginning with the opening chapter on the north, they would end
with the paragraphs on the south. Then we should find the narrative in
the following order: First of all the genesis, the Biblical cosmogony,
the creation of man and woman and Eden; and then, after the expulsion of
the first pair, the tale of man's redemption by suffering.

"'Whereby,' says he, 'the sculptor took occasion to teach the hinds of
La Beauce how to work with their hands and their head. Here, to the
right of Adam's Fall, he carves under the eyes and for the perpetual
edification of all men, a calendar of stone with all the labours of the
field, and then a catechism of industry, showing the works done in the
town; finally, for the labours of the mind, a manual of the liberal

"Then, thus instructed, man lives on from generation to generation,
until the end of the world, set forth in the images on the south side.

"This treasury of sculpture would thus include a compendium of the
history of nature and of science, a glossary of morality and art, a
biography of humanity, a panorama of the whole world. Thus it would very
really represent the _Mirror of the World_, and be an edition in stone
of Vincent of Beauvais' book.

"There is only one difficulty. The Dominican's _Speculum Universale_
dates from many years later than the erection of this cathedral; also,
in developing his theory, Didron does not take into account the
perspective and relations of the statuary. He assigns equal importance
to a small figure half hidden in the moulding of an arch and to the
large statues in the foreground supporting the picture in relief of Our
Lord and His Mother. Indeed, it might be said that these are the very
figures he overlooks; and, in the same way, he takes no account of the
western doors, which he could not force into his scheme.

"This archæologist's ideas, in fact, cannot be maintained. He
subordinates leading features to accessory details, and ends in a kind
of rationalism entirely opposed to the mysticism of the period. He
investigates the Middle Ages by levelling down the divine idea to the
lowest earthly meaning, and referring to man what is intended to apply
to God. The prayer of sculpture, chanted by the ages of faith, becomes,
in the introduction to his work, nothing more than an encyclopædia of
industrial and moral teaching.

"Let us look closer at all this," Durtal went on, and he went out to
smoke a cigarette on the Place. "That royal doorway," thought he, as he
walked on, "is the entrance to the great front by which kings were
admitted. It is likewise the first chapter of the book, and it sums up
the whole of the building.

"But certainly these conclusions forestalling the premisses are very
strange; this recapitulation, placed at the very beginning of the work,
when it ought, in fact, to be placed at the end, in the apse!

"And yet," he reflected, "putting this aside, the _façade_ thus worked
out fills the position in this basilica which the second of the
Sapiential Books holds in the Bible. It answers to the Book of Psalms,
which is in a certain sense an epitome of all the Books of the Old
Testament, and consequently, at the same time, a prophetic memento of
the whole of revealed religion.

"The western side of the cathedral is similar; only, it is a compendium
not of the older but of the newer Scriptures; an epitome of the Gospels,
an abridgment of the books of St. John and the synoptical Gospels.

"In building this, the twelfth century did more. It added more details
to this glorification of Christ, following Him from before His birth,
through the Bible story, till after His Death and to His Apotheosis as
described in the Apocalypse; it completed the Scriptures by the
Apocryphal writings, telling the tale of Saint Joachim and Saint Anna,
recording many episodes of the marriage of the Virgin and Joseph derived
from the Gospel of the Nativity of the Virgin and _pseudo_-Gospel of St.
James the Less.

"But, indeed, in every early sanctuary such use was made of these
legends, and no church is really intelligible when they are ignored.

"Nor is there anything to surprise us in this mixture of the authentic
Gospels and mere fables. When the Church refused to recognize by
canonical authority the divine origin of the Gospels of the Childhood,
of the Nativity, the writings of St. Thomas the Israelite, of Nicodemus,
of St. James the Less, and the History of Joseph, it had no intention of
rejecting them altogether, and consigning them to the limbo of
inventions and lies. In spite of certain anecdotes which are, to say the
least of it, ridiculous, there may be found in these texts some accurate
details and authentic narratives which the Evangelists, cautiously
reticent, did not think proper to record. The Middle Ages by no means
lent themselves to heresy when they ascribed to these purely human
Scriptures the value of probable legend and the interest of pious

"As a whole," thought Durtal, who was now standing in front of the doors
between the two towers, the royal western front, "as a whole, this vast
palimpsest, with its 719 figures, is easy to decipher if we avail
ourselves of the key applied by the Abbé Bulteau in his monograph on
this cathedral.

"Starting from the new belfry and working across the western front to
the old belfry, we follow the history of Christ embodied in nearly two
hundred statues lost in the capitals. It starts with Christ's ancestors,
beginning with the story of Anna and Joachim, and giving the legend in
minute images. Out of deference perhaps to the Inspired Books, this
history creeps along the wall, making itself small so as to be
inconspicuous, and narrates, as if in secret, by artless mimicry, poor
Joachim's despair when a scribe of the Temple named Reuben reproves him
for being childless, and rejects his offerings in the name of the Lord
who has not blessed him; then Joachim, in sorrow, separates from his
wife and goes away to bewail the curse that has lighted on him, till an
angel appears to him and comforts him, and bids him return to his wife,
who shall bear a daughter of his begetting.

"Then we see Anna, weeping alone over her barrenness and her widowhood;
and the angel comes to her and bids her go forth to meet her husband,
and she finds him at the golden gate. And they fall on each other's neck
and go home together. And Anna brings forth Mary, whom they dedicate to
the Lord.

"Years then pass, till the time comes when the Virgin is to be
betrothed. The High Priest bids all of the children of the House of
David who are of age, and not yet married, to come to the altar with a
rod in their hand; and to discern which of these shall be chosen to
marry the Virgin, Abiathar, the High Priest, inquires of the Most High,
who repeats the prophecy of Isaiah which declares that a flower shall
come out of Jesse on which the Holy Spirit shall rest.

"And immediately the rod blossoms of one of those present, Joseph the
Carpenter, and a dove descends from heaven to settle on it.

"So Mary is given to Joseph, and the marriage takes place; Messiah is
born, and Herod massacres the Innocents; and there the gospel of the
Nativity ends, and the story is taken up by the Holy Scriptures, which
follow the Life of Jesus to the hour of His last appearance on earth
after His death.

"These scenes, set forth in small simple imagery, serve as a border at
the bottom of the vast presentment which extends from tower to tower
over all three doors.

"Here the scenes are placed which are intended to attract the crowd by
plainer and more visible images; here we see the general theme of this
portal in all its splendour, recapitulating the Gospels and achieving
the purpose of the Church itself.

"On the left we see the Ascension of Our Lord, soaring triumphant on
clouds rendered by a waving scroll held on each side, in the Byzantine
manner, by two angels; while below, the Apostles with uplifted faces,
gaze at this ascension pointed out to them by other angels who have
descended and hover over them, their fingers extended towards the sky.

"The hollow moulding of the arch is filled up with a calendar and zodiac
of stone.

"The right-hand side shows the Assumption of Our Lady, seated on a
throne, sceptre in hand, and holding the Infant, who blesses the world.
Beneath are the episodes of Her life: the Annunciation, the Visitation,
the Nativity, the homage of the shepherds, and the presentation of Jesus
to the High Priest; and the bend of the arch, rising to a point like a
mitre above the Mother, has the mouldings enriched with two lines of
figures, one of archangels bearing censers, with wings closely
imbricated as if with tiles, the other of personifications of the seven
liberal arts, each represented by two figures--one allegorical, and the
other the presentment of the inventor, or of the paragon of that art in
antiquity. This is the same scheme of expression as we see in the
cathedral at Laon; the paraphrase in sculpture of scholastic theology,
and a rendering in images of the text of Albertus Magnus, who, after
rehearsing the perfections of the Virgin, declares that She possessed a
perfect knowledge of the seven arts: grammar, rhetoric, dialectic,
arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music--all the lore of the Middle

"Finally, in the middle, the great doorway illustrates the subject round
which the storied carving of the other doors all centres: the
Glorification of Our Lord, as Saint John beheld it at Patmos; the
Apocalypse, the last book of the Bible, spread open on the forefront of
the basilica, above the grand entrance to the church.

"Jesus is seated, on His head the cruciform nimbus, robed in the linen
talaris and draped in a mantle which hangs in a fall of close pleats;
His bare feet rest on a stool, emblematical of the earth, according to
Isaiah. With one hand He blesses the world; in the other He holds the
Book with the seven Seals. About him, in the oval glory or _Vesica_, we
see the Tetramorph--the four evangelical emblems with closely fretted
wings: the winged cherub, the lion, the eagle, and the ox, figuring St.
Matthew, St. Mark, St. John, and St. Luke. Above are the twelve Apostles
holding scrolls and books.

"And to complete the Apocalyptic vision, in the hollow mouldings of the
arch are the twelve Angels and four and twenty Elders described by St.
John, in white raiment and crowned with gold, playing on musical
instruments, and singing in the perpetual adoration which some few
souls, dwelling isolated in the midst of the indifference of this age,
still carry on. They magnify the glory of the Most High, throwing
themselves on their faces when the Evangelical Beasts, responding to the
fervent and solemn prayers that go up from the earth, utter, in a voice
that resounds above the roar of thunder, the word which in its four
letters, its two syllables, sums up every duty of man to God--the
humble, loving, obedient _Amen_.

"The text has been very closely followed by the image-maker, excepting
with regard to the Beasts, for one detail is omitted; they are not
represented with the eyes of which the prophet tells us they were 'full

"Thus, regarding this whole front as a triptych, we find that in the
left doorway we have the Ascension framed in the signs of the zodiac; in
the middle, the triumph of Jesus as described by the Seer; on the right,
the triumph of Mary, surrounded by certain of Her attributes. The whole
constitutes the scheme to be carried out by the architect: the
Glorification of the Incarnate Word.

"In fact, as the Abbé Clerval says in his important work on the
cathedral of Chartres, 'we have the scenes of His life which prepared
the way for His glory; we have this actual entrance into glory; and then
His eternal glorification by the Angels, the Saints, and the Blessed

"From the point of view of artistic execution the work in the grand
subject is crisp and splendid; the smaller figures are obscure and
mutilated. The panel representing the Virgin Mary has suffered severely,
and both it and that representing the Ascension are strangely rough and
barbarous, quite inferior to the central tympanum, which contains the
most living, the most haunting, of many figures of Christ.

"Nowhere, indeed, in mediæval sculpture does the Redeemer appear as more
saddened or more pitiful, or under a more solemn aspect. Seen in
profile, His hair flowing over His shoulders, smooth in front and
divided down the middle, with a nose slightly turned up and a heavy
mouth under a thick moustache, with a short, curling beard and a long
neck, He suggests not so much a Byzantine Christ, such as the artists of
that time were wont to paint and carve, but a pre-Raphaelite Christ
designed by a Fleming, or even derived from the Dutch, showing indeed
that slightly earthy taint which reappeared at a later time with a less
pure type of head, at the end of the fifteenth century, in the picture
by Cornelis Van Oostzaanen, in the gallery at Cassel.

"He rises enthroned, almost sorrowful in His triumph, unamazed as He
blesses, with pathetic resignation, the generations of sinners who for
seven centuries have gazed up at Him with inquisitive, unloving eyes as
they cross the square; and all turn their back on Him, caring little
enough for this Saviour unlike the head familiar to them, recognizing
Him only with sheep-like features and a pleasing expression; such, in
short, as the foppish image at the cathedral at Amiens before which the
lovers of a softer type go into ecstasies.

"Above this Christ are the three windows invisible from outside, and
over them again the huge dead rose window, looking like a blind eye, and
lighting up, like the windows, only when seen from within, when they
glow with clear flame and pale sapphires set in stone; then, higher yet,
above the rose, is the gallery of French kings, under the great
triangular gable between the towers.

"And the two belfries fling up their spires; the old one carved in soft
limestone, imbricated with scales, rising in one bold flight to end in a
point, and send up a vapour of prayer among the clouds; the new one,
pierced like lace, chiselled like a jewel, wreathed with foliage and
crockets of vine, rises with coquettish dalliance, trying to make up for
lack of the inspired flight and humble entreaty of its senior by
babbling prayer and ingratiating smiles; to persuade the Father by
childlike lisping.

"But to return to the west portal," Durtal went on, "in spite of the
importance of its grand decoration, displaying the Eternal Triumph of
the Word, the interest of artists is irresistibly attracted to the
ground storey of the building, where nineteen colossal stone statues
stand in the space that extends from tower to tower; part against the
wall, and part in the recesses of the door-bays.

"The finest sculpture in the world is certainly that we find here. There
are seven kings, seven saints or prophets, and five queens. There were
originally twenty-four of these statues, but five have disappeared and
left no trace.

"They all wear glories excepting the three first, nearest to the new
belfry, and all stand under canopies of pierced work, representing roofs
or tabernacles, palaces, bridges--a whole town in little, Sion for
children, a dwarfed New Jerusalem.

"They all are standing, each on a column with a guilloche pattern; on
plinths carved over with lozenges, diamond points, fir-cone scales, with
chain patterns, fretwork, billets, chequers like a chess-board of which
the alternate squares are hollowed out; and paved with a sort of mosaic,
inlaid patterns which, like the borders of the church windows, suggest a
reminiscence of Mussulman goldsmith's work, and show the origin of the
style brought from the East by the Crusaders.

"The three first statues in the recess to the left, nearest the new
spire, do not stand on any pattern borrowed from the heathen; they are
trampling on indescribable monsters. One, a king whose head having been
lost, has been fitted with the head of a queen, treads on a man
entangled by serpents; another king stands on a woman who holds a
reptile by the tail with one hand, and with the other strokes the plait
of her own hair; the third, a queen, her head crowned with a plain gold
fillet and her shape that of a woman with child, while her face is
smiling but commonplace, has at her feet two dragons, a monkey, a toad,
a dog, and a snake with an ape's head. What is the meaning of these
enigmas? No one knows--no more, indeed, than we know the names of the
sixteen other statues placed along the porch.

"Some believe that they represent the ancestry of the Messiah, but this
assertion has no evidence to support it; others find here a mixed
assemblage of the heroes of the Old Testament and the benefactors to the
Church, but this hypothesis is no less illusory. The truth is that,
though all these personages have had sceptres in their hands, scrolls,
ribands, and breviaries, not one of them displays the attributes which
would serve to identify them in accordance with the religious symbolism
of the Middle Ages. At most might we venture to give the name of Daniel
to a headless figure because a formless dragon writhes under his feet,
emblematical of the Devil conquered by the prophet at Babylon.

"The most striking and the strangest of these figures are the queens.

"The first, the royal virago with the prominent stomach, is ordinary
enough; the last, opposite to this princess at the furthest end of the
front near the old tower, has lost half her face, and the remaining
portion is not attractive; but the three others, standing in the
principal doorway, are matchless.

"The first, tall, slender, and very straight, wears a crown on her brow,
a veil, hair banded on each side of a middle parting, and falling in
plaits on her shoulders; her nose turns up a little, is somewhat common;
her lips firm and judicious; her chin square. The face is not very
young. The body is swathed, and rigid, in a large cloak with wide
sleeves, and the richly-jewelled sheath of a gown that betrays no
feminine outline of figure. She is upright, sexless, shapeless; her
waist slight and bound with a girdle of cord, like a Franciscan Sister.
She stands looking, with her head slightly bent, attentive to one knows
not what, seeing nothing. Has she attained to the perfect negation of
all things? Is she living the life of Union with God beyond the worlds,
where time is no more? It might be thought so, since it is noteworthy
that, in spite of her royal insignia and the magnificence of her
costume, she has the self-centred look, the austere demeanour of a nun.
She seems more of the cloister than of the Court. Then we wonder who can
have placed her on guard by this door, and why, faithful to a charge
known to none but herself, she watches, day and night, with her far-away
gaze across the square, waiting motionless for some one who for seven
hundred years has failed to come.

"She might be an embodiment of Advent, stooping a little to listen to
the woeful supplications of man as they rise from earth; in that case,
she must be an Old Testament queen, dead long before the birth of the
Messiah she perhaps may have prophesied.

"As she holds a book, the Abbé Bulteau thinks it may be a full-length
statue of Saint Radegonde. But other princesses have been canonized,
and, like her, hold books. At the same time, the monastic aspect of this
queen, her emaciated figure, her eye vaguely fixed on the region of
internal dreams, would well befit Clotaire's wife, who retired to a

"But for what can she be watching? The dreaded arrival of the king bent
on tearing her from her Abbey at Poitiers to replace her on the throne?
For lack of any information every conjecture must be futile.

"The second statue again represents a king's wife holding a book. She is
younger; she wears neither cloak nor veil; her bosom is full and closely
fitted in a clinging dress, tightly drawn over the bust like wet linen;
a bodice resembling the Carlovingian _rokette_, fastened on one side.
Her hair lies flat in two bands on her forehead, covering her ears and
falling in long tresses plaited with ribbon, and ending in loose tufts.

"Her face is wilful and alert, and rather haughty. She is looking out of
herself; her beauty is of a more human type, and she knows it. Saint
Clotilde, is the Abbé Bulteau's guess.

"It is very certain that this Elect lady was not always a pattern of
amiability--not what could be called easy to get on with. Before being
reproved and chastened we see her in history, as vindictive, unrelenting
to pity, eager for retaliation. She would be Clotilde before her
repentance--the Queen, before she became a saint.

"But is it really she? The name was given her because a statue of the
same period and very like this, which was formerly at Notre Dame de
Corbeil, was dubbed with this name. It was, however, subsequently
admitted that it represented the Queen of Sheba. Are we then in the
presence of that sovereign? And why, if her name is not in the Book of
Life, has she a glory?

"It is highly probable that she is neither the wife of Clovis, nor
Solomon's friend--this strange princess who stands before us, at once so
earthly and yet more spectral than her sisters; for time has marred her
features, injured her skin, dotted her chin with hail-specks, vulgarized
her mouth, injured her nose, making it look like the ace of clubs, and
put the stamp of death on that living countenance.

"As to the third, she is tall and slender, a fragile spindle, a slim,
sylph-like creature, suggesting a taper with the lower portion
patterned, embossed, brocaded in the wax itself; she stands
magnificently arrayed in a stiff-pleated robe channelled lengthwise,
like a stick of celery. The bodice is richly trimmed and stitched; below
her waist hangs a cord with loose jewelled knots; on her head is a
crown. Both arms are broken; one hand rested on her bosom; in the other
she held a sceptre, of which a small portion remains.

"This queen is smiling, artless, and engaging--quite charming. She looks
down on all comers with wide open eyes under high-arched brows. Never,
at any period, has a more expressive face been formed by the genius of
man; it is a masterpiece of childlike grace and saintly innocence.

"Here, amid the pensive architecture of the twelfth century, one of a
crowd of devout statues, symbolical to some extent of simple love in an
age when men were in perpetual dread of everlasting hell, she seems to
stand at the Gate of the Lord as the exorable image of forgiveness. To
the terrified souls of habitual sinners who after perseverance in guilt
no longer dare cross the threshold of the Sanctuary, she stands kindly
reproving such reticence, conquering regrets and soothing terrors by her
familiar smile.

"She is the elder sister of the prodigal son, of whom St. Luke indeed
makes no mention, but who, if she ever existed, would have pleaded for
the absent wanderer, and have insisted with her father on the killing of
the fatted calf when the son returned.

"Chartres, to be sure, does not see her in this indulgent aspect; local
tradition names her Berthe of the broad foot; but while there is no
argument to support this hypothesis, it is in fact quite absurd, as the
statue is graced with a nimbus. This mark of holiness would not have
been given to Charlemagne's mother, whose name is not on the list of the
saints of the Church Triumphant.

"According to the notions of those archæologists who believe that the
sculptured dignitaries of this porch represent the ancestry of Christ,
she must be a queen of the Old Testament. But which? As Hello very truly
remarks, tears abound in the Scriptures, but laughter is so rare that
Sarah's, when she could not help mocking at the angel who announced that
she should bear a son in her old age, has remained on record. So it is
in vain that we inquire to what personage of the ancient books this
queen's innocent joy may be ascribed.

"The truth is that she must remain a perennial mystery; she is an
angelic, limpid creature, who has attained, no doubt, to the purest joy
in the Lord; and withal so attractive, so helpful, that she leaves in us
an impression of a healing gesture, the illusion of a blessing made
visible to all who crave it. Her right arm indeed is broken at the
wrist, and her hand is gone; but we can fancy it there still when we
look for it; as a shade, a reflection; it is very plainly seen in the
slight fulness of the bosom, as though it were the palm; in the folds of
the bodice, which distinctly show the four taper fingers and raised
thumb to make the sign of the cross over us.

"How exquisite a forerunner of the Blessed Mother is this royal guardian
of the threshold, this sovereign, inviting wanderers to come back to the
Church, to enter the door over which She keeps watch, and which is
itself one of the symbols of Her Son!" exclaimed Durtal, as he glanced
at the opposite figures--such different women! one a nun rather than a
queen, her head a little bowed; another, every inch a queen, holding
hers aloft; the third saucy, though saintly, her neck neither bent nor
assertive, holding herself in a natural attitude, and moderating the
august mien of a sovereign by the humble, smiling expression of a saint.

"And perhaps," said he to himself, "we may see in the first an image of
the contemplative life, and in the second the embodied idea of the
active life; while the third, like Ruth in the Scriptures, symbolizes

As to the other statues--prophets wearing the Jewish cap with ears, and
kings holding missals or sceptres, they too are impossible to identify.
One in the middle arch, divided from the so-called Berthe by a king, was
more especially interesting to Durtal because it was like Verlaine. The
statue had indeed thicker hair, but just as strange a head, a skull with
curious bumps, a flattish face, a curling beard, and the same common but
kindly look.

Tradition gives this statue the name of St. Jude, and this resemblance
is suggestive between the saint whom Christians most neglected, and who
for several centuries found so few devotees that suddenly, one day, on
the theory that he, less than the others, would have exhausted his
credit with God, people took to imploring him for desperate cases, lost
souls, and the poet so utterly ignored or so stupidly condemned by the
very Catholics to whom he has given the only mystical verses produced
since the Middle Ages.

"They were ill-starred, one as a saint and the other as a poet," Durtal
concluded, as he drew back to get a better view of the front.

It was indeed incredible, with the chasing of silvery flowers wrought on
the panes by frost; with its church-drapery, its lace rochets, its fine
pierced work, as light as gossamer, running up to the level of the
second storey, and forming a fretted frame for the great stone-carvings
of the porch. And above that it rose in hermit-like sobriety, unadorned,
Cyclopean, with the colossal eye of its dull rose-window between the two
towers, one full of windows and richly wrought like the doorway, the
other as bare as the façade above the porch.

But after all, what absorbed and possessed Durtal's mind was still those
statues of queens.

He finally thought no more of the rest, listened to nothing but the
divine eloquence of their lean slenderness, regarding them only under
the semblance of tall flower-stems deep in carved stone tubes and
expanding into faces of ingenuous fragrance, of innocent perfume, while
Christ, touched and saddened, blessing the world, seemed to bend from
His throne above them to inhale the delicate aroma that rose from these
up-soaring chalices full of soul. Durtal was wondering--what potent
necromancer could evoke the spirits of these royal doorkeepers, compel
them to speak, and enable us to overhear the colloquy they perhaps hold
when in the evening they seem to withdraw behind the curtain of shadow?

What have they to say to each other--they who have seen Saint Bernard,
Saint Louis, Saint Ferdinand, Saint Fulbert, Saint Yves, Blanche of
Castille--so many of the Elect walking past on their way into the starry
gloom of the nave? Did they cause the death of their companions, the
five other statues that have vanished for ever from the little assembly?
Do they listen, through the closed doors, to the wailing breath of
heart-broken psalms, and the roaring tide of the organ? Can they hear
the inane exclamations of the tourists who laugh to see them so stiff
and so lengthy? Do they, as many saints have done, smell the fetor of
sin, the foul reek of evil in the souls that pass by them? Why, then,
who would dare to look at them?

And still Durtal looked at them, for he could not tear himself away;
they held him fast by the undying fascination of their mystery; in
short, he concluded, they are supra-terrestrial under the semblance of
humanity. They have no bodies; it is the soul alone that dwells in the
wrought sheath of their raiment; they are in perfect harmony with the
cathedral, which, divesting itself of its stones, soars in ecstatic
flight above the earth.

The crowning achievement of mystical architecture and statuary are here,
at Chartres; the most rapturous, the most superhuman art which ever
flourished in the flat plains of La Beauce.

And now, having contemplated the whole effect of this façade, he went
close to it again to examine its minutest accessories and details, to
study more closely the robes of these sovereigns; then he observed that
no two were alike in their drapery. Some flowed without any broken
folds, in ridge and furrow like the fall of rippling water; others hung
closely gathered in parallel flutings like the ribs on stems of
angelica, and the stern material lent itself to the needs of the
dressers, was soft in the figured crape and fustian and fine linen,
heavy in the brocade and gold tissue. Every texture was distinct; the
necklaces were chased bead by bead; the knots of the girdles might be
untied, so naturally were the strands entwined; the bracelets and crowns
were pierced and hammered and adorned with gems, each in its setting, as
if by practised goldsmiths.

And in many cases the pedestal, the statue, and the canopy were all
carved out of one block, in one piece. What were the men who executed
such work?

It is probable that they lived in convents, for art was not at that time
cultivated or practised but in the precincts of God. And just then they
were in their glory in the Ile de France, the Orleans country, the
provinces of Maine, Anjou, and Berry, for we find statues of this type
in all; still, it must be said that they are not equal to these at

At Bourges, for instance, analogous prophets and very similar queens
stand meditative in, one of the extraordinary side bays where the Arab
trefoil is so conspicuous. At Angers the statues are weather-beaten,
almost ruined, but it can be seen that they were less stately, merely
human; they are no longer chastely slender, fit for Heaven, but earthly
queens. At Le Mans, where they are in better preservation, they vainly
strive to soar above their narrow weed; they lack spring, they are
nerveless, feeble, almost common.

Nowhere do we find a soul clothed in stone as at Chartres; and if at Le
Mans we study the front, of which the scheme is the same as at Chartres,
with Christ enthroned and benedictory between the winged beasts of the
Tetramorph, what a descent we note in the divine ideal! Everything is
pinched and airless. The Christ, too roughly wrought, looks savage. The
pupils only of the supreme masters of Chartres evidently adorned these

Was there a guild, a brotherhood of these image-makers, devoted to the
holy work, who went from place to place to be employed by monks as
helpers of the masons and labourers, builders for God? Did they first
come from the Benedictine Abbey of Tiron founded at Chartres near the
market, by that Abbot Saint Bernard whose name figures on the list of
benefactors to the church, in the necrology of the cathedral? None may
know. They worked humbly, anonymously.

And what souls these artists had! For this we know: they laboured only
in a state of grace. To raise this glorious temple, purity was required
even of the workmen.

This would seem incredible if it were not proved by authentic documents
and undoubted evidence.

We possess letters of the period preserved in the Benedictine annals, a
letter from an Abbot of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dive, found by Monsieur Léopold
Delisle, in MS. 929 of the French collection in the Bibliothèque
Nationale, and a Latin volume of the Miracles of Our Lady, discovered in
the Vatican Library, and translated into French by Jehan le Marchant, a
poet of the thirteenth century. And these all relate the way in which
the Sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin was rebuilt after destruction by

What then occurred was indeed sublime. This was a crusade, if ever there
was one. It was here no question of snatching the Holy Sepulchre from
the power of the infidels, of meeting armies on the field of battle, and
fighting with men; the Lord Himself was to be attacked in His
entrenchments, Heaven was besieged, and conquered by love and
repentance! And Heaven confessed itself beaten; the angels smiled and
yielded; God capitulated, and in the gladness of defeat He threw open
the treasury of His grace to be plundered of men.

Then, under the guidance of the Spirit, came a battle in every workshop
with brute matter, the struggle of a nation vowing, cost what it might,
to save a Virgin, homeless now as on the day when Her Son was born.

The manger of Bethlehem was a mere heap of cinders. Mary would be left
to wander, lashed by bitter winds, across the icy plains of La Beauce.
Should the same tale be repeated, twelve hundred years later, of
pitiless households, inhospitable inns, and crowded rooms?

Madonna was loved then in France--loved as a natural parent, a real
mother. On hearing that she was turned adrift by fire, seeking woefully
for a home, everyone grieved and wept; and that, not only in the country
about Chartres; in the Orleans country, in Normandy, Brittany, the Ile
de France, in the far north, whole populations stopped their regular
work, left their homes to fly to Her help, the rich giving money and
jewels, and helping the poor to drag their barrows and carry corn and
oil, wine, wood and lime, everything that could serve to feed labouring
men or help in building a church.

It was a constant stream of immigration, the spontaneous exodus of a
people. Every road was crowded with pilgrims, all, men and women alike,
dragging whole trees, pushing loads of sawn beams, and cartfuls of the
moaning sick and aged forming the sacred phalanx, the veterans of
suffering, the unconquerable legions of sorrow, all to help in the siege
of the heavenly Jerusalem, forming the outer guard to support the attack
by the reinforcement of prayer.

Nothing--neither sloughs, nor bogs, nor pathless forests, nor fordless
rivers, could check the advancing tide of the marching throng; and one
morning, from every point of the compass, lo! they took possession of

The investment began; while the sick opened the first parallels of
prayer, the sound pitched the tents; the camp extended for leagues on
all sides; tapers were kept burning on the carts, and at night La Beauce
was a champaign of stars.

What still seems incredible, and is nevertheless attested by every
chronicle of the time, is that this horde of old folks and children, of
women and men, were at once amenable to discipline; and yet they
belonged to every class of society, for there were among them knights
and ladies of high degree; but divine love was so powerful that it
annihilated distinctions and abolished caste; the nobles harnessed
themselves with the villeins to drag the trucks, piously fulfilling
their task as beasts of burthen; patrician dames helped the peasant
women to stir the mortar, and to cook the food; all lived together in an
undreamed surrender of prejudice; all were alike ready to be mere
labourers, machines, loins and arms, and to toil without a murmur under
the orders of the architects who had come out of the cloister to direct
the work.

Nothing was ever more simply or more efficiently organized; the convent
cellarers, forming a sort of commissariat for this army, superintended
the distribution of food, and saw to the sanitation of the huts and the
health of the camp. Men and women were no more than docile instruments
in the hands of the chiefs they themselves had chosen, and who in their
turn obeyed gangs of monks. These again were under the orders of the
wonderful man, the nameless genius, who, after conceiving the plan of
this cathedral, directed the whole work.

To achieve such results the spirit of the multitude must really have
been admirable, for the humble and laborious work of plasterers and
barrow-men was accepted by all, noble or base-born, as an act of
mortification and penance, and at the same time as an honour; and no man
was so audacious as to lay hand on the materials belonging to the Virgin
till he had made peace with his enemies and confessed his sins. Those
who were reluctant to repair the ill they had done, or to frequent the
Sacraments, were dismissed from the traces, rejected as reprobates by
their comrades, and even by their own families.

At daybreak every morning the work decided on by the foremen was begun.
Some dug the foundations, cleared away the ruins, carried off the
rubbish; others, going in parties to the quarries of Berchère-l'Evêque,
at about five miles from Chartres, cut out enormous blocks of stone, so
heavy that in some cases a thousand workmen were not many enough to
hoist them from their bed to the top of the hill where the church was
presently to rise.

And when these silent toilers paused, exhausted and broken, the sound
went up of prayers and psalms; some would groan over their sins,
imploring Our Lady's mercy, beating their breast and sobbing in the arms
of priests who bade them be comforted.

On Sundays long processions formed with banners at their head, and the
shout of canticles filled the streets that blazed from afar with tapers;
the canonical services were attended by a whole people on their knees;
relics were carried with much pomp to visit the sick.

And all the time the walls of the Celestial City were being shaken by
battering-rams of supplication, catapults of prayer; the living forces
of the whole army combining to make a breach and take the place by

Then it was that Jesus surrendered at discretion, conquered by so much
humility and so much love; He placed His powers in His Mother's hands,
and miracles began to abound.

All the tribe of the sick and crippled are on their feet; the blind see,
the dropsical dry up, the lame walk, the weak-hearted run.

The tale of these miracles, which were repeated day after day, sometimes
being produced even before the pilgrim had reached Chartres, has been
preserved in the Latin manuscript in the Vatican.

The natives of Château Landon are dragging a cart-load of wheat. On
reaching Chantereine they discover that the food they had taken for the
journey is all gone, and they beg for bread from some unhappy creatures
who are themselves in the greatest want. The Virgin intercedes for them
and the bread of the poor is multiplied. Again, some men set out from
the Gâtinais with a load of stone. Ready to drop, they pause near Le
Puiset, and some villagers coming out to meet them, invite them to rest
while they themselves take a turn at the load; but this they refuse.
Then the natives of Le Puiset offer them a cask of wine, and pour it
into a barrel hoisted on to the truck. This the pilgrims accept, and,
feeling less weary, they go on their way. But they are called back to
see that the empty vat has refilled itself with excellent wine. Of this
all drink, and it heals the sick.

Again, a man of Corbeville-sur-Eure employed in loading a cart with
timber has three fingers chopped across by an axe and shrieks in agony.
His comrades advise him to have the fingers completely severed, as they
hold only by a strip of flesh, but the priest who is conducting them to
Chartres disapproves. They all pray to Mary, and the wound vanishes, the
hand is whole as before.

Some men of Brittany have lost their way at night in the open country,
and are suddenly guided aright by flames of fire; it is the Virgin in
person descending that Saturday after Complines into Her church when it
is almost finished, and filling it with dazzling glory.

And there are pages and pages of such incidents.

"Ah, it is easy to understand," thought Durtal, "why this Sanctuary is
so full of Her. Her gratitude for the love of our forefathers is still
felt here--even now She is fain not to seem too much disgusted, not to
look too closely.

"Well, well! we build sanctuaries in another way nowadays. When I think
of the Sacred Heart in Paris, that gloomy, ponderous erection raised by
men who have written their names in red on every stone! How can God
consent to dwell in a church of which the walls are blocks of vanity
joined by a cement of pride; walls where you may read the names of
well-known tradesmen exhibited in a good place, as if they were an
advertisement? It would have been so easy to build a less magnificent
and less hideous church, and not to lodge the Redeemer in a monument of
sin! Think of the throng of good souls who so long ago dragged their
load of stones, praying as they went! It would never have occurred to
them to turn their love to account and make it serve their craving for
display, their hunger for lucre."

An arm was laid on his, and Durtal recognized the Abbé Gévresin, who
had come up while he stood dreaming in front of the cathedral.

"I am going on at once, they are waiting for me," said the priest. "I
only took advantage of our meeting to tell you that I had a letter this
morning from the Abbé Plomb."

"Indeed! And where is he?"

"At Solesmes; but he comes home the day after to-morrow. Our friend
seems greatly taken with the Benedictine life."

And the Abbé smiled, while Durtal, a little startled, watched him turn
the corner by the new belfry.


One morning Durtal went out to seek the Abbé Plomb. He could not find
him in his own house, nor in the cathedral; but at last, directed by the
beadle, he made his way to the house at the corner of the Rue de
l'Acacia, where the choir-school was lodged.

He went in by a gate that stood half open, into a yard littered with
broken pails and other rubbish. The house, beyond this courtyard, was
suffering from the cutaneous disease that affects plaster, eaten with
leprosy and spotted with blisters, with zig-zag rifts from top to
bottom, and a crackled surface like the glaze of an old jar. The dead
stock of a vine stretched its gnarled black arms along the wall.

Durtal, looking in at a window, saw a dormitory with rows of white beds,
and he was amused, for never had he seen beds so tiny.

A lad was in the room, whom he called, by tapping on the pane, and asked
whether the Abbé Plomb were still about the place. The boy nodded an
affirmative, and showed Durtal into a waiting-room.

This room was like the office of an exceedingly inferior and pious
hotel. The furniture consisted of a mahogany table of a sort of salmon
pink colour, on which stood a pot-stand bereft of flowers; arm-chairs
with circular backs fit for a gatekeeper's room, a chimney-piece adorned
with statues of saints much fly-bitten, and a chimney board covered with
paper representing the Vision of Lourdes. On the walls hung a black
board with rows of numbered keys; opposite, a chromo-lithograph of
Christ, displaying, with an amiable smile, an underdone heart bleeding
amid streams of yellow sauce.

But what was chiefly characteristic of this bedizened porter's lodge
was a horribly sickening smell, the smell of lukewarm castor oil.

Durtal, nauseated by this odour, was on the point of making his escape,
when the Abbé Plomb came in and took his arm. They went out together.

"Then you have just come back from Solesmes?" said Durtal.

"As you see."

"And were you satisfied with your visit?"

"Enchanted," and the Abbé smiled at the impatience he could detect in
Durtal's accents.

"What do you think of the monastery?"

"I think it most interesting to visit, both from the monastic and from
the artistic point of view. Solesmes is a great convent, the parent
House of the Benedictine Order in France, and it has a flourishing
school of novices. What is it that you want to know, exactly?"

"Why, everything you can tell me."

"Well, then, I may tell you that ecclesiastical art, brought to its very
highest expression, is fascinating in that monastery. No one can
conceive of the magnificence of the liturgy and of plain-song who has
not heard them at Solesmes. If Notre Dame des Arts had a special
sanctuary, it undoubtedly would be there."

"Is the chapel ancient?"

"A part of the old church remains, and the famous Solesmes sculpture,
dating from the sixteenth century. Unfortunately, there are some quite
disastrous windows in the apse: the Virgin between Saint Peter and Saint
Paul; modern glass in its most piercing atrocity. But, then, where is
decent glass to be had?"

"Nowhere. We have only to look at the transparent pictures let into the
walls of our new churches to appreciate the incurable idiocy of painters
who insist on treating window panes from cartoons, as they do subject
pictures--and such subjects! and such pictures! All turned out by the
gross from cheap glass melters, whose thin material dots the pavement of
the church with spots like confetti, strewing lollipops of colour
wherever the light falls.

"Would it not be far better to accept the colourless scheme of
window-glass used at Citeaux, where a decorative effect was produced by
a design in the lead lines; or to imitate the fine grisailles,
iridescent from age, which may still be seen at Bourges, at Reims, and
even here, in our cathedral?"

"Certainly," said the Abbé. "But to return to our monastery. Nowhere, I
repeat, are the services performed with so much pomp. You should see it
on the occasion of some high festival! Picture to yourself above the
altar, where commonly the tabernacle shines, a Dove suspended from a
golden crozier, its wings outspread amid clouds of incense; then a whole
army of monks deploying in a solemn rhythmic march, and the Abbot
standing, on his brow a mitre thickly set with jewels, his green and
white ivory crozier in his hand, his train carried by a lay-brother when
he moves, while the gold of many copes blazes in the light of the
tapers, and a torrent of sound from the organ bears the voices up,
carrying to the very vault the cry of repentance or the joy of the

"It is glorious. It is not the penitential austerity of the liturgy as
it is used by the Franciscans or at La Trappe: it is luxury offered to
God, the beauty He created dedicated to His service, and in itself
praise and prayer. But if you wish to hear the music of the Church in
its utmost perfection you must go to the neighbouring Abbey: that of the
Sisters of Saint Cecilia."

The Abbé paused, whispering to himself, thinking over his reminiscences;
and then he slowly spoke again,--

"Wherever you go, the voice of a nun preserves, merely by reason of her
sex, a sort of emotion, a tendency to the cooing tone, and, it must be
owned, a certain satisfaction in hearing herself when she knows that
others can hear her; so that the Gregorian chant is never perfectly
executed by nuns.

"But with the Benedictine Sisters of Sainte-Cecile all the graces of
earthly sentimentality have vanished. These nuns have ceased to have
women's voices; the quality is at once seraphic and manly. In their
church you are either thrown back I know not how far into the depth of
past ages, or shot forward into time to come, as they sing. They have
outpourings of soul and tragical pauses, pathetic murmurs and ecstasies
of passion, and sometimes they seem to rush to the assault, and storm
certain Psalms at the bayonet's point. And they do assuredly achieve
the most vehement leap that can be imagined from this world into the

"Then it is a very different thing from the Benedictine service of nuns
in the Rue Monsieur in Paris?"

"No comparison is possible. Without wishing to reflect on the musical
sincerity of those good Sisters, who sing quite suitably but humanly, as
women, it may be asserted that they have neither such knowledge, nor
such soul-felt aspiration, nor such voices. As a monk remarked, 'when
you have heard the Sisters of Solesmes, those of Paris sound

"And you saw the Abbess of Saint Cecilia. Why, when I think of it, is
not she the writer of a Treatise on Prayer (_Traité de l'Oraison_) which
I read when I was at La Trappe, and which was not, I believe, regarded
with favour at the Vatican?"

"Yes, she it is. But you are making the greatest mistake in imagining
that her book was not approved at Rome. It was examined there, like
every book of the kind, through a magnifying glass, strained through a
sieve, picked over line by line, turned inside out and upside down; but
the theologians employed in this pious custom-house service acknowledged
and certified that this work, based on the soundest principles of
mysticism, was learnedly, impeccably, desperately orthodox.

"I may add that the volume was printed privately by the Abbess herself,
helped by some of the nuns, in a little hand-press belonging to the
convent, and has never been in circulation. It is, in fact, an epitome
of doctrine, the essential extract of her teaching, and was more
especially intended for those of her daughters who are unable to have
the benefit of her instruction and lectures, because they live away from
Solesmes, in other convents that she has founded.

"Why in these days, when for ten years past the Benedictine Sisters have
made a study of Latin, when many of them translate from Hebrew and Greek
and are skilled in exegesis, when others draw and paint the pages of
missals, reviving the art of the illuminators of the Middle Ages, when
others again--as, for instance, Mother Hildegarde--are organists of the
highest attainment, you may easily understand that the woman who
directs them all, the woman who has created in her Sisterhoods a school
of practical mysticism and of religious art, is a very remarkable
person; nay, in these days of frivolous devotions and ignorant piety,
quite unique."

"Why, she is one of the great Abbesses of the Middle Ages," cried

"She is the crowning work of Dom Guéranger, who took her in hand almost
as a child and kneaded and mollified her soul with long patience; then
he transplanted her into a special greenhouse, watching her growth in
the Lord day after day; and you see the result of this forcing and high

"Yes, and even this does not hinder some persons from regarding convents
as the homes of idleness and reservoirs of folly. When you think that
obscure idiots write to the papers to say that nuns know nothing of the
Latin they repeat! It would be well for them if they knew as much Latin
as those women!"

The Abbé smiled.

"And the secret of the Gregorian chant dwells with them," he went on.
"It is necessary not only to understand the language of the Psalms as
they are sung, but to appreciate meanings which are often doubtful in
the Vulgate, in order to express them properly. Without fervent feeling
and knowledge, the voice is nothing.

"It may be beautiful in secular music, but it is null and void when it
attempts the venerable sequences of plain-song."

"And how are the Fathers employed?"

"They also began by restoring the liturgy and Church singing; then they
discovered certain lost texts of the subtle symbolists and learned
saints, and collected them in a _Spicilegium_ and _Analectae_. Now they
are editing and printing a musical Palæography, one of the most learned
and abstruse of modern publications.

"Still, I would not have you believe that the whole mission of the
Benedictine Order consists in overhauling ancient manuscripts and
reproducing ancient Antiphonals and curious chronicles. The Brother who
has a talent for any art devotes himself to it, no doubt, if the
Superior permits; on this point the rule knows no exception; but the
real and true aim of the Son of Saint Benedict is to sing Psalms and
praise the Lord, to serve his apprenticeship here for his task in
Heaven: namely, to glorify the Redeemer in words inspired by Himself,
and in the language He spoke by the voice of David and the Prophets.

"Seven times a day the Benedictines do the homage required of the Elders
in Heaven, as described by Saint John in the Apocalypse, and represented
by sculptors as playing on instruments here at Chartres.

"In point of fact, their particular function is not at all to bury
themselves under the accumulated dust of ages, nor even to accept in
substitution the sins and woes of others as the Orders of pure
mortification do--the Carmelites and the Poor Clares. Their vocation is
to fill the office of the Angels; it is a task of joy and peace, an
anticipation of their inheritance of gladness beyond the grave; in fact,
the work which is nearest to that of purified spirits, the highest on

"To fulfil their duty fittingly, besides ardent piety, a thorough
knowledge of the Scriptures is required, and a refined feeling for art.
Thus a true Benedictine must be at once a saint, a learned man, and an

"And what is the daily life of Solesmes?" asked Durtal.

"Very methodical and very simple: Matins and Lauds at four in the
morning; at nine o'clock tierce, mass for the brethren, and sext; at
noon dinner; at four nones and vespers; at seven supper; at half-past
eight compline and deep silence. As you see, there is time for
meditation and work in the intervals between the canonical hours and

"And the oblates?"

"What oblates? I saw none at Solesmes."

"Indeed--then if there are any, do they lead the same life as the

"Evidently; excepting, perhaps, some dispensations depending on the
Abbot's favour. I can tell you this much: that in some other Benedictine
Houses that I have visited the general system is that the oblate shall
follow as much of the rule as he is able for."

"Still, he is, I suppose, free to come and go--his actions are free?"

"When once he has taken the oath of obedience to his Superior, and,
after his term of probation, has adopted the monastic habit, he is as
much a monk as the rest, and consequently can do nothing without the
Father Superior's leave."

"The deuce!" muttered Durtal. "Of course, if the ridiculous metaphor so
familiar to the world were accurate, if the cloister were rightly
compared to a tomb, the condition of the oblate would also be tomb-like,
only its walls would be less air-tight, and the stone, a little tilted,
would admit a ray of daylight."

"If you like!" said the Abbé, laughing.

As they walked, they had reached the Bishop's palace.

They went into the forecourt, and saw the Abbé Gévresin making his way
to the gardens; they joined him, and the old priest asked them to go
with him to the kitchen garden, where, to oblige his housekeeper, he was
to inspect the seeds she had sown.

"Aye, and I too promised long ago to look at the vegetables," exclaimed

They went down the ancient paths and reached the orchard on the slope;
and as soon as Madame Bavoil caught sight of them she grounded arms, so
to speak, setting her foot in gardener fashion on the spade she had
stuck into the soil.

She proudly pointed to her rows of cabbages and carrots, onions and
peas, announced that she intended to make an attempt on the gourd tribe,
expatiated on cucumbers and pumpkins, and to conclude, declared that at
the bottom of the kitchen garden she meant to have a flower-bed.

Then they sat down on a mound that formed a sort of seat.

The Abbé Plomb, in a mood for teasing, gave his spectacles a push,
settling the arch above his nose, and rubbing his hands, remarked, very

"Madame Bavoil, flowers and vegetables are but of trivial importance
from the decorative and culinary point of view; the only rule that
should guide you in your selection is the symbolical meaning, the
virtues and vices ascribed to plants. Now, I am sorry to observe that
your favourites are for the most part of evil augury."

"I do not understand you, Monsieur l'Abbé."

"Why, you have only to consider that these vegetables which you take
such care of mean many evil things. Lentils, for instance--you grow


"Well, the seeds of the lentils are very cunning and mysterious.
Artemidorus, in his 'Interpretation of Dreams,' tells us that if we
dream of them it is a sign of mourning; it is the same with lettuce and
onion: they forecast misfortune. Peas are less ill-famed; but, above
all, beware of coriander, with its leaves smelling like bugs, for it
gives rise to all manner of evils.

"Thyme, on the contrary, according to Macer Floridus, cures snake-bites,
fennel is a stimulant wholesome for women, and garlic taken fasting is a
preservative against the ills we may contract from drinking strange
waters, or changing from place to place. So plant whole fields of
garlic, Madame Bavoil."

"The Father does not like it!"

"And then," the Abbé Plomb added, very seriously, "you must fill your
mind from the books of Albertus Magnus, the Master of Saint Thomas
Aquinas, who in the treatises ascribed to him on the Virtues of Herbs,
the Wonders of the World, and the Secrets of Women, puts forth certain
ideas, which, as I may hope, will not have been written in vain.

"He tells us that the plantain-root is a cure for headache and for
ulcers; that mistletoe grown on an oak opens all locks; that celandine
laid on a sick man's head sings if he will die; that the juice of the
house-leek will enable you to hold a hot iron without being burnt; that
leaves of myrtle twisted into a ring will reduce an abscess; that lily
powdered and eaten by a young maiden is an effectual test of her
virginity, for if she should not be innocent it takes instantaneous
effect as a diuretic!"

"I did not know of that property in the lily," said Durtal, laughing,
"but I knew that Albertus Magnus assigned the same peculiarity to the
mallow; only the patient need not swallow the plant; she has only to
stoop over it."

"What nonsense!" exclaimed the old priest.

His housekeeper, quite scared, stood looking at the ground.

"Do not listen to him, Madame Bavoil," cried Durtal. "I have a less
medical, and more religious, idea: cultivate a liturgical garden and
emblematic vegetables; make a kitchen and flower garden that may set
forth the glory of God and carry up our prayers in their language; and,
in short, imitate the purpose of the Song of the Three Holy Children in
the fiery furnace, when they called on all Nature, from the breath of
the storm to the seed buried in the field, to Bless the Lord!"

"Very good!" exclaimed the Abbé Plomb; "but you must have a wide space
at your disposal, for not less than one hundred and thirty plants are
mentioned in the Scriptures; and the number of those to which mediæval
writers give a meaning is immense."

"To say nothing of the fact," observed the Abbé Gévresin, "that a garden
dependent on our cathedral ought also to reproduce the botany of its

"Is it known?"

"A list has not indeed been written for Chartres as it has been for
Reims of its sculptured flora: the botany in stone of the church of
Notre Dame there, has been carefully classified and labelled by Monsieur
Saubinet; still, you will observe that the posies of the capitals are
much the same everywhere. In all the churches of the thirteenth century
you will find the leaves of the vine, the oak, the rose-tree, the ivy,
the willow, the laurel, and the bracken, with strawberry and buttercup
leaves. Indeed, as a rule, the image-makers selected native plants
characteristic of the region where they were employed."

"Did they intend to express any particular idea by the capitals and
corbels of the columns?--At Amiens, for instance, there is a wreath of
flowers and foliage forming the string-course above the arches of the
nave for its whole length and continued over the cornice of the pillars.
Apart from the probable purpose of dividing the height into two equal
parts in order to rest the eye, has this string-course any other
meaning? Does it embody any particular idea? Is it the expression of
some phrase relating to the Virgin, in whose name the cathedral is

"I do not think so," said the Abbé. "I believe that the artist who
carved those wreaths simply aimed at a decorative effect, and made no
attempt to give us in symbolical language a compendium of our Mother's

"Moreover, if we admit that the sculptors of the thirteenth century
introduced the acanthus on account of its emollient qualities, the oak
because it is emblematic of strength, and the water-lily because its
broad leaves are accepted as a figure of charity, we ought no less to
conclude that at the end of the fifteenth century, when the mystery of
symbolism was not as yet altogether lost, the toothed bunches of curled
cabbage, of thistles and other deeply-cut leaves mingling with
true-love-knots, as in the church at Brou, might have had some meaning.
But it is perfectly certain that these vegetable forms were chosen only
for their elaborately elegant growth, and the fragile and mannered grace
of their outline. Otherwise we might assert that this later ornament has
a different tale to tell from that set forth in the flora of Reims and
Amiens, Rouen and Chartres.

"In point of fact, the natural form which most frequently occurs in the
capitals of our cathedral--by no means a remarkably flowery one--is the
episcopal crozier as seen in the young shoots of the fern."

"No doubt. But does not the fern bear a symbolical meaning?"

"In a general sense, it is emblematic of humility, evidently in allusion
to its habit of growing as much as possible far from the high road, in
the depths of woods. But by consulting the Treatise of St. Hildegarde we
learn that the plant she calls _Fern_, or bracken, has magical

"Just as sunshine disperses darkness, says the Abbess of Rupertsberg,
the _Fern_ puts nightmares to flight. The devil hates and flees from it,
and thunder and hail rarely fall on spots where it takes shelter; also
the man who wears it about him escapes witchcraft and spells."

"Then St. Hildegarde made a study of natural history in its relations to
medicine and magic?"

"Yes; but the book remains unknown because it has never yet been

"She sometimes assigns very singular talismanic virtues to certain
flowers. Would you like some instances?

"According to her, the plantain cures anyone who has eaten or drunk
poison, and the pimpernel has the same virtue when hung round the neck.
Myrrh must be warmed against the body till it is quite soft, and then it
nullifies the wizard's malignant arts, delivers the mind from phantoms,
and is an antidote to philtres. It also puts to flight all lascivious
dreaming, if worn on the breast or the stomach; only, as it eliminates
every carnal suggestion it depresses the spirit and makes it 'arid'; and
for this reason, adds the saint, it should never be eaten but under
great necessity.

"It is true that as a remedy against the dejection caused by myrrh we
may apply the 'hymelsloszel' (Himmelschlüssel), which is--or appears to
be--_Primula officinalis_, the cowslip, whose bunches of fragrant yellow
blossoms are to be seen in moist woods and meadows. This plant is
'warm,' and imbibes its qualities from the light. Hence it can drive
away melancholy, which, says St. Hildegarde, spoils men's good manners,
making them utter speech contrary to God, on hearing which words the
spirits of the air gather about him who has spoken them, and finally
drive him mad.

"I may also tell you of the mandragora, a plant 'warm and watery,' that
may symbolize the human being it resembles; and it is more susceptible
than all other plants to the suggestion of the devil; but I would rather
quote a recipe that you might perhaps think useful.

"Here is our Abbess's prescription _à propos_ to the iris or lily: Take
the tip of the root, bruise it in rancid fat, heat this ointment and rub
it on any who are afflicted with red or white leprosy, and they will
soon be healed.

"But enough of these old-world recipes and counter-charms; we will study
the symbolism of plants.

"Flowers in general are emblematic of what is good. According to Durand
of Mende, both flowers and trees represent good works, of which the
virtues are the roots; according to Honorius, the hermit, green herbs
are for wisdom; those in flower are for progress; those in fruit are the
perfect souls; finally, we are told by old treatises on symbolical
theology that all plants embody the allegory of the Resurrection, while
the idea of eternity attaches more particularly to the vine, the cedar
and the palm."

"And you may add," the Abbé Gévresin put in, "that in the Psalms the
palm figures the righteous man, while according to the interpretation of
Gregory the Great its rugged bark and the golden strings of dates are
emblematical of the wood of the Cross, hard to the touch, but bearing
fruit that is sweet to those who are worthy to taste them."

"Well," said Durtal, "but supposing that Madame Bavoil should wish to
plant a liturgical garden, what should she select for it?

"Can we, to begin with, compose a dictionary of plants representing the
capital sins and their antithetical virtues, sketch a basis of
operations, and pick out by certain rules the materials at the command
of the mystic gardener?"

"I do not know," said the Abbé Plomb. "At the same time, I should think
it might be possible; only we should have to remember the names of the
plants more or less exactly symbolizing those qualities and defects. In
short, what you need is a sort of language of flowers as applied to the
catechism. Let us try.

"For pride we have the pumpkin, which was worshipped of old as a
divinity in Sicyon. It bears indifferently the character of pride or of
fertility; of fertility by reason of its multitude of seeds and its
rapid growth, of which the monk Walafrid Strabo wrote in noble
hexameters a whole chapter of his poem; and of pride by reason of its
huge hollow head and its bulk; and then we also have the cedar, which
Peter of Capua and Saint Melito agree in accusing of pride.

"Avarice? I confess I know of no plant which represents it; we will come
back to that."

"I beg your pardon," said the Abbé Gévresin; "Saint Eucher and Raban
Maur speak of thorns as emblematical of riches which accumulate to the
detriment of the soul; and Saint Melito says that the sycamore means
greed of money."

"The poor sycamore!" cried the younger priest. "It has been served with
every sauce! Raban Maur and the Anonymous monk of Clairvaux also call it
a misbelieving Jew; Peter of Capua compares it to the Cross; Saint
Eucher calls it wisdom, and there are other meanings. But meanwhile I
forget how far we had gone. Oh! lasciviousness; we here have ample
choice. Besides certain trees there is cyclamen, or sow-bread, which,
according to an ancient dictum of Theophrastus, is symbolical of this
sin because it was used in the preparation of love-philtres; the nettle,
which Peter of Capua says is emblematic of the unruly instincts of the
flesh; and the tuberose, a more modern introduction, but known as far
back as the sixteenth century, when a Minorite Father brought it to
France. Its heady perfume, which disturbs the nerves, also, it is said,
excites the senses.

"For envy there are the bramble and the aconite, which, to be sure, is
more exactly assigned to calumny and scandal; and, again, the nettle,
which, however, is also interpreted by Albertus Magnus as figuring
courage and expelling fear.

"Greediness?" The Abbé paused to think. "Carnivorous plants, perhaps, as
the fly-trap and the bog sundew."

"And why not the humbler _cuscuta_, the dodder, the cuttlefish of the
vegetable kingdom, which shoots out the antennæ of its stems as fine as
thread, attaching itself to other plants by tiny suckers and feeding
greedily on their juices?" asked the Abbé Gévresin.

"Anger," the Abbé Plomb went on, "is symbolized by a shrub with pinkish
flowers, a kind of bitter-sweet, as it is popularly called, and by Herb
Basil, which ever since the Middle Ages has had the same character
ascribed to it of cruelty and rage as to its namesake, the basilisk, in
the animal world."

"Oh!" cried Madame Bavoil, "and we use it to season dishes and flavour
certain sauces."

"That is a serious culinary error and a spiritual danger," said the
priest, smiling. He then went on:--

"Anger may also be figured by the balsam, which especially symbolizes
impatience by reason of the irritability of its seed-vessels, which fly
at a touch and explode, sending them to some distance....

"Sloth finally has the whole tribe of poppies, which give sleep.

"As to the opposite virtues, the explanation they need is childish. For
humility you have the bracken, the hyssop, the knotweed, and the violet,
which, says Peter of Capua, is, by that same token, emblematical of

"And likewise, according to Saint Melito, of the Confessors; or,
according to Saint Mechtildis, of widows," added the Abbé Gévresin.

"For indifference to the things of this world we find the lichen
symbolizing solitude; for chastity, the orange-flower and the lily; for
charity, the water-lily, the rose, and the saffron flower--so say Raban
Maur and the Anonymous monk of Clairvaux; for temperance, the lettuce,
which also stands for fasting; for meekness, mignonette; for
watchfulness, the elder, signifying zeal; and thyme, which, with its
sharp, pungent aroma, symbolizes activity.

"You may dispense with the sins, which have no place in the precincts of
Our Lady, and lay out your plots with the devout flowers."

"How is that to be done?" asked the Abbé Gévresin.

"Why," said Durtal, "there are two plans. One would be to sketch the
plan of a real church and supply the place of its statues with plants,
which would be the better way from the point of view of art; or else to
compose a whole sanctuary with trees and shrubs."

He rose, and went to pick up a stick that was lying in the field.

"There," said he, tracing the cruciform outline of a church on the
ground, "there you have the plan of our cathedral. Supposing now we
build it, beginning at the end, the apse; there we naturally place the
Lady chapel, as we find it in most cathedrals.

"Plants emblematic of Our Lady's attributes are abundant."

"The mystical rose of the Litanies!" exclaimed Madame Bavoil.

"H'm!" said Durtal; "the rose has been much bedraggled. Not only was it
the erotic blossom of Paganism, but in the Middle Ages Jews and
prostitutes were compelled in many places to wear a rose as a
distinctive mark of infamy."

"True," said the Abbé Plomb, "and yet Peter of Capua uses it, with an
interpretation of love and charity, to figure the Virgin; Saint
Mechtildis, again, says that roses are symbolical of martyrs, and in
another passage of her work on 'Specific Grace,' she compares this
flower to the virtue of patience."

"Walafrid Strabo, in his '_Hortulus_,' also speaks of the rose as the
blood of the martyred saints," the Abbé Gévresin murmured.

"'_Rosae martyres, rubore sanguinis_,' according to the key of Saint
Melito," the other priest added, in confirmation.

"We will admit that shrub," cried Durtal. "Now for the lily--"

"Here I must interrupt you," exclaimed the Abbé Plomb, "for it must be
at once understood that the lily of the Scriptures has nothing to do
with the flower we know by that name.

"The common white lily which grows in Europe, and which even before the
Middle Ages was regarded by the Church as emblematic of virginity, does
not seem to have existed in Palestine; and when, in the Song of Songs,
the mouth of the Beloved is compared to a lily, it is evidently not in
praise of white, but of red lips. The plant spoken of in the Bible as
the lily of the valleys, or the lily of the fields, is neither more nor
less than the anemone.

"This is proved by the Abbé Vigouroux. It abounds in Syria, round
Jerusalem, in Galilee, on the Mount of Olives; rising from a tuft of
deeply-cut, alternate leaves of a rich, dull green, the flower cup is
like a delicate and refined poppy; it has the air of a patrician among
flowers, of a little Infanta, fresh and innocent in her gorgeous

"It is certainly the fact," observed Durtal, "that the innocence of the
lily is far from obvious, for its scent, when you think of it, is
anything rather than chaste. It is a mingling of honey and pepper, at
once acrid and mawkish, pallid but piercing; it is suggestive rather of
the aphrodisiac conserves of the East and the erotic sweetmeats of the

"But, after all," said the Abbé Gévresin, "granting that there never
were lilies in the Holy Land--but is it so?--it is none the less certain
that a whole series of symbols were derived from this plant both by the
ancients and in mediæval times.

"Look, for instance, at Origen; to him the lily is Christ, for Our Lord
alluded to Himself when He said, 'I am the flower of the field and the
lily of the valley;' and in these words, the field, meaning tilled land,
represents the Hebrew people, taught by God Himself, while the valleys
or fallow land are the ignorant, or, in other words, the heathen.

"Again, turn to Peter Cantor. According to him, the lily is the Virgin,
by reason of its whiteness, of its perfume delectable above all others,
of its healing virtues; and finally, because it grows in uncultivated
ground, as the Virgin was born of Jewish parents."

"As regards the therapeutic virtues mentioned by Petrus Cantor," said
the Abbé Plomb, "I may add that the Anonymous English writer of the
thirteenth century tells us that the lily is a sovereign remedy for
burns, and for this cause is an image of the Virgin, who heals sinners
of their burns--that is to say, of their vices."

"You may further consult Saint Methodus, Saint Mechtildis, Peter of
Capua, and the English monk of whom you spoke, and you will find that
the lily is the attribute, not only of the Virgin Mary, but of virginity
in general and of all virgins.

"And here is a posy of meanings culled from Saint Eucher, who compares
the whiteness of the lily to the purity of the angels; from Saint
Gregory the Great, who says its fragrance is like the works of the
saints; and again from Raban Maur, who speaks of the lily as emblematic
of celestial beatitude, of the beauty of holiness, of the Church, of
perfection, of chastity in the flesh."

"Not to forget that, according to the translation of Origen, the Lily
among Thorns is the Church in the midst of its enemies," the Abbé Plomb
put in.

"Then it is Jesus, His Mother, the Angels, the Church, the Virgins,
everything at once!" exclaimed Durtal. "We cannot but wonder how these
mystic gardeners could discern so many meanings in one and the same

"Why, you can see: the symbolists not only considered the analogies and
resemblances they discovered between the form, scent, and colour of a
flower and the being with whom they compared it; they also studied the
Bible, especially the passages wherein a tree or flower was named, and
they then ascribed to it such qualities as were mentioned or could be
inferred from the text. They did the same with regard to animals,
colours, gems, everything to which they could attribute a meaning. It is
simple enough."

"It is complicated enough!" said Durtal. "And now where was I?"

"In the Lady chapel, planting roses and anemones. Now add to these a
shrub which is the emblem of Mary according to the Anonymous monk of
Clairvaux, or of the Incarnation according to the Anonymous writer of
Troyes, the walnut, of which the fruit is interpreted in the same sense
by the Bishop of Sardis."

"And also mignonette," cried Durtal, "for Sister Emmerich speaks of it
frequently and with much mystery. She says that this flower is very
dear to Mary, who planted it and made much use of it.

"Then there is another plant which seems to me no less appropriate: the
bracken--not by reason of the qualities ascribed to it by Saint
Hildegarde, but because it symbolizes the most secret and retiring
humility. Take one of the stoutest stems and cut it aslant, like the
mouthpiece of a whistle, and you will find very distinctly imprinted in
black the form of a heraldic _fleur de lys_, as if stamped with a hot
iron. The scent being absent, we may here accept it as the symbol of
humility--a humility so perfect that it is undiscoverable but in death."

"Aha! our friend is not so ignorant of country lore as I had fancied,"
exclaimed Madame Bavoil.

"Oh, I wandered in the woods a little, as a child."

"For the choir no discussion is possible, I believe," said the Abbé
Gévresin. "The eucharistic plants, the vine and corn are self-evidently

"The vine, of which the Lord said '_Ego vitis sum_,' is also the emblem
of communion and the image of the eighth beatitude; corn, which, as the
Sacramental element, was the object of peculiar care and respect in the
Middle Ages.

"You have only to recall the solemn ceremonial observed in certain
convents when the wafer was to be prepared.

"At Saint Etienne, Caen, the monks washed their face and hands, and
kneeling before the altar of Saint Benedict, said Lauds, the seven
penitential Psalms, and the Litanies of the Saints. Then a lay brother
presented the mould in which the wafers were to be baked, two at a time;
and on the day when this unleavened bread was prepared those who had
taken part in the ceremony dined together, and their table was served
exactly like the Abbot's.

"At Cluny, again, three priests or three deacons, fasting after the
above-mentioned services of prayer, put on albs and invited the aid of
certain lay brethren. They mixed the flour of wheat that had been sifted
by the novices, grain by grain, with a due quantity of water; and a monk
wearing gloves baked the wafers one by one over a large fire of
brushwood, in an iron mould stamped with the proper symbols."

"That reminds me," said Durtal, as he lighted a cigarette, "of the mill
for grinding the wheat for the offering."

"I am familiar with the mystical wine-press which was often represented
by the glass-workers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries," said the
Abbé Gévresin. "That was practically a paraphrase of Isaiah's prophetic
verse: 'I have trodden the wine-press alone, and there was no man with
me'; but the mystic mill is, I own, unknown to me."

"I have seen it once at Berne, in a window of the fifteenth century,"
said the Abbé Plomb.

"I also saw it in the cathedral at Erfurt, painted, not on glass, but on
a panel. The picture is by no known painter, and dated 1534. I can see
it now: Above, God the Father, a good old man with a snowy beard, solemn
and thoughtful; and the mill, like a coffee mill, fixed on the edge of a
table, with the drawer open below. The evangelical beasts are emptying
into the hopper, skins full of scrolls on which are written the
effective Sacramental words. These scrolls are swallowed in the body of
the machine, and come out into the drawer, thence falling into a chalice
held by a Cardinal and Bishop kneeling at the table.

"And the texts are changed into a little Child in the act of blessing
while the four Evangelists turn a long silver crank in the right-hand
corner of the panel."

"What seems strange," remarked the Abbé Gévresin, "is that it should be
the formula of Transubstantiation and not the substance that is changed,
and that the Evangelists, twice represented--under their animal and
their human aspect--pour into the mill and grind. And also that the
sacred oblation should be represented by the living flesh.

"Still, it is correct; since the consecrating words are uttered, the
bread has ceased to be. This scheme of implied meaning, though somewhat
strange, in a literal presentment, a scene of actual grinding--the wheat
in the grain, in flour, and in the Host--this obvious intention of
ignoring the species, the appearances, and substituting the reality
which is invisible to sense, must have been adopted by the painter in
order to appeal to the masses, to bear witness to the certainty of the
Miracle and to make the mystery evident to the people. But let us return
to the construction of our church. Where were we?"

"Here," said Durtal, pointing with his stick to the side aisles as
traced in the sand. "Now, to represent the side chapels we have a
choice. One we shall dedicate, of course, to Saint John the Baptist. To
distinguish it from the others we have the gilliflower and the
ground-ivy to which he has given his name, and more especially the St.
John's wort, which if gathered on the eve of his festival and placed in
a room, destroys malignant spells and charms, is a protection against
thunder, and hinders the walking of ghosts.

"It may be added that this plant, famous in the Middle Ages, was used as
a remedy for epilepsy and St. Vitus' dance, two maladies for which the
intercession of the Precursor is most efficacious.

"We will dedicate another to Saint Peter. On his altar we may lay a posy
of the herbs dedicated to his service by our forefathers: the primrose,
the wild honeysuckle, the gentian and soap-wort, pellitory and bindweed,
with others whose names escape me.

"But, first, will it not be our bounden duty to erect a tower for Our
Lady of the Seven Dolours, such as we find in many churches?

"The flower obviously indicated is the passion-flower; that unique
blossom, of a purplish blue, its seed-vessel simulating the Cross, its
styles and stigma the Nails; its stamens mimicking the Hammer, its
thread-like fringe the Crown of thorns--in short, it represents all the
instruments of the Passion. Add to this, if you will, a bunch of hyssop,
plant a cypress, of which Saint Melito speaks as emblematical of the
Saviour, and which Monsieur Olier regards as symbolical of death; a
myrtle, signifying compassion, according to a passage by Saint Gregory
the Great; and, above all, do not omit the buckthorn, or _Rhamnus_--for
of that shrub the Jews twined the stems that formed Christ's crown--and
your chapel is complete."

"The buckthorn," said the Abbé Gévresin; "yes, Rohant de Fleury says
that its thorny branches were used to crown the Son's head; but this
leaves us wondering, when we remember that in the Old Testament, in the
ninth chapter of the Book of Judges, all the tall trees of Judæa bow
down before the Royalty prophetically prefigured by this humble shrub."

"Very true," replied the Abbé Plomb. "But what is most curious is the
number of absolutely dissimilar senses which the oldest symbolists
attribute to the buckthorn. Saint Methodus uses it for virginity;
Theodoret for sin; Saint Jerome ascribes it to the devil; and Saint
Bernard takes it as symbolizing humility. Again, in the '_Theologia
Symbolica_' of Maximilian Sandaeus, this shrub is made to signify the
worldly prelacy, while the olive, vine, and fig, with which the author
contrasts it, are the contemplative Orders. In this, no doubt, we may
see an allusion to the thorns which Bishops were not always unready to
thrust on the long-suffering Heads of monasteries.

"You have forgotten, too, in the blazonry of your chapel, the reed which
formed the sceptre of mockery forced into the Son's hands. But the reed,
like the buckthorn, is a sort of Jack-of-all-trades. Saint Melito
defines it as the Incarnation and the Scriptures; Raban Maur as the
Preacher, the hypocrite, and the Gentiles; Saint Eucher as the sinner;
the Anonymous monk of Clairvaux as Christ; and others which I have

"These are many meanings for a single plant," observed Durtal. "But now
if we want to specialize some chapels as dedicated to saints, nothing
can be easier; at any rate, for such as have lent their names to plants.

"For instance, the Valerian, known as Herb Saint George, the white
flower with a hollow stem, which grows in moist, places, and its popular
name is quite intelligible since it was used in treating nervous
diseases, for which the saint's intercession was invoked.

"Then we have the plant or plants dedicated to Saint Roch: the
pennyroyal, and two species of _Inula_, one with bright yellow flowers,
a purgative that cures the itch. Formerly on Saint Roch's day branches
of this herb were blessed and hung in the cow-houses to preserve the
cattle from epidemics.

"Saint Anne's wort, a humble creeper, the samphire--an emblem of

"Herb Barbara, the winter-cress, a cruciferous plant, anti-scorbutic--a
poverty-stricken flower, creeping along the wayside like a beggar.

"To Saint Fiacre is dedicated the mullein, with its emollient leaves;
boiled to make a poultice, it relieves colic, which this saint has a
reputation for curing.

"Saint Stephen's wort is the enchanter's nightshade, a beneficent plant
with red berries on a hairy stem. And there are many others.

"For the crypt, supposing we dig one out, it must certainly be filled
with the trees mentioned in the Old Testament, of which this portion of
the building is itself an allegory. In spite of climate we must grow the
vine and the palm, emblems of eternity; the cedar, which by reason of
its incorruptible wood is sometimes thought to symbolize the angels; the
olive and the fig, emblems of the Holy Trinity and of the Word;
frankincense, cassia and _balsamodendron Myrrha_, a symbol of the
perfect humanity of Our Lord; the terebinth--meaning exactly what?"

"According to Peter of Capua, the Cross and the Church; but Saint Melito
says the saints. According to the monk of Clairvaux, it is the false
doctrine of the Jews and heretics; and as to the drops of resin, they
are Christ's tears, if we may believe Saint Ambrose," replied the Abbé

"And even so, our cathedral remains incomplete. We are but feeling our
way, without logical sequence. I admit that at the entrance we must
plant the purifying hyssop in the place of the holy-water vessel; but
with what can we build the walls unless we accept the alternative of a
real church having walls but unfinished?"

"Take the figurative sense of the walls and translate that; the great
walls are representative of the four Evangelists, Can you find plants
for them?"

Durtal shook his head. "The Evangelists are, of course, symbolized in
the fauna of mysticism by the animals of the Tetramorph; the twelve
apostles have their synonyms in the category of gems, and two of the
Evangelists are naturally to be found there: Saint John is associated
with the emerald, the emblem of purity and faith; Saint Matthew with the
chrysolite, the emblem of wisdom and watchfulness; but none, so far as I
know, has found a representative among either trees or flowers. And yet,
to be sure, Saint John has the sun-flower, signifying divine
inspiration; for he is represented in a window in the church of Saint
Rémy at Reims, his head crowned with a nimbus surmounted by two of these

"Saint Mark, too, has a plant--the tansy, so named in the Middle Ages."

"The tansy?"

"Yes; a bitter, aromatic plant with yellow flowers, which grows in stony
ground, and is used in medicine as an anti-spasmodic. Like Saint
George's herb, it is used in nervous maladies, the intercession of
Saint Mark being, it would seem, of sovereign efficacy.

"As to Saint Luke, he may be represented by clumps of mignonette, for
Sister Emmerich tells us that while he was a physician it was his
favourite remedy. He macerated mignonette in palm oil, and after
blessing it, applied the unction in the form of a cross on the brow and
mouth of his patients; in other cases he used the dried plant in an

"Only Saint Matthew remains; but here I give in, for I know of no
vegetable species that can reasonably be assigned to him."

"Nay, do not think it hopeless," cried the Abbé Plomb. "A mediæval
legend tells us that balms exuded from his tomb; hence he was
represented as holding a branch of cinnamon, symbolical of the fragrance
of virtue, says Saint Melito."

"Well, it would be better to accept the real walls of a church, making
use of the structure, and limiting ourselves to completing the idea by
details borrowed from the symbolism of flowers."

"And the sacristy?" suggested the Abbé Gévresin.

"Since, according to the _Rationale_ of Durand of Mende, the sacristy is
the very bosom of the Virgin, we will represent it by virginal plants
such as the anemone, and trees such as the cedar, which Saint Ildefonso
compares to Our Mother. And now, if we are to furnish the instruments of
worship, we shall find in the ritual of the liturgy and in the very form
of certain plants almost precise guidance. Thus, flax, of which the
cornice and altar napery is to be woven, is indispensable; the olive and
the _balsamum_, from which oil and balm are extracted, and frankincense,
which sheds the drops of gum for the incense, are no less indicated. For
the chalice we may choose from among the flowers which goldsmiths take
as their models: the white convolvulus, the frail campanula, and even
the tulip, though, having some repute as connected with magic, that
flower is in ill odour. For the shape of the monstrance there is the

"Yes," interrupted the Abbé Plomb, wiping his spectacles, "but these are
fancies borrowed simply from superficial resemblance; it is modern
symbolism, which is really not symbolism at all. And is not this the
case to a great extent with the various interpretations that you accept
from Sister Emmerich? She died in 1824."

"What does that matter?" said Durtal. "Sister Emmerich was a primitive
saint, a seer, whose body indeed lived in our day, but whose soul was
far away; she dwelt more in the Middle Ages than in ours. It might be
said indeed that she was more ancient still, for, in fact, she was
contemporary with Christ, whose life she follows step by step through
her pages.

"Hence her ideas of symbolism cannot be set aside. To me they are of
equal authority with those of Saint Mechtildis, who was born in the
early part of the thirteenth century.

"In point of fact, the source whence they both alike derived them is the
same. And what is time, or past or present, when we speak of God?

"These women were the sieves through which His grace was poured, and
what need I care whether the instruments were of yesterday or to-day?
The word of the Lord is supreme over the ages; His inspiration blows
when and where it lists. Is not that true?"

"I quite agree."

"And all this time," said the housekeeper, "you do not think of making
use in your building of the iris, which my good Jeanne de Matel regards
as an emblem of peace."

"Oh, we will find a place for it, Madame Bavoil, never fear. And there
is yet another plant which we must not omit; the trefoil, for sculptors
have strewn it broadcast in their stony gardens, and the trefoil, like
the fruit of the almond tree, which shows the elongated nimbus, is an
emblem of the Holy Trinity.

"Suppose we recapitulate:

"At the end of the nave, in the shell of the apse, in front of a
semicircle of tall bracken turned brown by autumn, we see a flaming
assumption of climbing roses hedging a bed of red and white anemones,
edged with the sober green of mignonette. And to give variety by adding
symbols of humility--the knotweed, the violet, and the hyssop--we may
form a posy of which the meaning will represent the perfect virtues of
Our Mother.

"Now," said he, pointing with his stick to the plan of the nave he had
traced, "here is the altar, overgrown with red-leaved vines, purple or
pearly grapes, sheaves of golden corn. Ah! but we must have a cross over
the altar."

"That will not be difficult," replied the Abbé Gévresin. "From the grain
of mustard seed, which all the symbolists accept in a figurative sense
as representing Christ, to the sycamore and the terebinth, you have a
wide range; you can at pleasure have a tiny cross, a mere nothing, or a
gigantic crucifix."

"Here," Durtal went on, "along the bays where trefoils flourish,
different flowers rise from the ground, corresponding to the saints of
their ascription; here is the chapel of Our Lady of the Seven Dolours,
recognizable by the passion-flower full blown on its creeping stem, with
its many tendrils; and the background is a hedge of reeds and rhamnus,
full of sad meaning, mitigated by the compassionate myrtle.

"Here, again, is the sacristy, where smiles the soft blue flax on its
light stem, the abundant flowers of the convolvulus and campanula, tall
sun-flowers, and, if you choose, a palm, for I recollect that Sister
Emmerich speaks of this tree as a paragon of chastity, because, she
says, the male and female flowers are separate, and both kept modestly
hidden. Another interpretation to the credit of the palm!"

"But after all, you are absurd, our friend!" cried Madame Bavoil. "All
this will not hold together. Your plants are the growth of different
climates, and in any case they could not all be in bloom at the same
time; consequently, by the time you have planted this, that will be
dead. You can never grow them side by side."

"That is symbolical of many unfinished cathedrals, where the building is
carried across from century to century," said Durtal, snapping his
stick. "But listen, fancy apart, there is something which may be done,
and has not been done, for celestial botany and pious posies.

"That is, to make a liturgical garden, a true Benedictine garden, where
flowers may be grown in succession for the sake of their relations to
the Scriptures and hagiology. Would it not be delightful to follow out
the liturgy of prayer with that of plants, to place them side by side in
the sanctuary, to deck the altars with flowers all having their meanings
according to the days and festivals; in short, to associate nature in
its most exquisite manifestation--that is, its flowers--with the
ceremonies of divine worship?"

"Yes, indeed!" exclaimed both the priests with one accord.

"Meanwhile, till these fine things are accomplished, I will be content
to dig in my little kitchen garden with an eye to the savoury stews in
which you shall share," said Madame Bavoil. "There I am in my element; I
do not lose my footing as I do in your imitation churches."

"And I, on my part, will meditate on the symbolism of eatables," said
Durtal, taking out his watch. "It is near breakfast time."

As he was going off, the Abbé Plomb called him back and said,

"In your future cathedral you have forgotten to reserve a nook for Saint
Columba, if, indeed, we can find some ascetic plant native, or at any
rate common, to Ireland, the land where this Father was born."

"The thistle, figurative of mortification and penance and a memento of
asceticism, is conspicuous as the badge of Scotland," replied Durtal.
"But why Saint Columba?"

"Because of all saints he is the most neglected, the least invoked by
those of our contemporaries who ought to be most assiduous; since he is
regarded in the attributions of special virtues as the patron saint of

"Pooh!" cried the Abbé Gévresin. "Why, if ever a man revealed a
magnificent comprehension of things human and divine, it was that great
Abbot and founder of monasteries!"

"Oh! there is no suggestion implied that Saint Columba was feeble of
brain; and as to why the mission was trusted to him rather than another
of protecting the greater part of the human race, I do not know."

"Perhaps he may have cured lunatics and healed those possessed?" the
Abbé Gévresin suggested.

"At any rate," said Durtal, "it would be vain to erect a chapel to him,
since it would always be empty; no one would come to entreat him, poor
saint! for the essential mark of an idiot is not to think himself one!"

"A saint out of work!" remarked Madame Bavoil.

"And who is not likely to find any," said Durtal, as he left them.


Durtal had begged his housekeeper, Madame Mesurat, to serve his coffee
in his study. He thus hoped to escape having her constantly standing in
front of him, as she did all through his meal, asking him if his
mutton-cutlet were good.

And though that meat had a taste of flannel, Durtal had nodded a sketchy
affirmative, knowing full well that if he ventured on the least comment
he would have to endure an incoherent harangue on all the butchers in
the town.

As soon as this woman, at once servile, despotic, and obsequious, had
placed his cup on the table, he buried his nose in a book, and by his
repellent attitude compelled her to fly.

He knew the book he was turning over almost by heart, for he had often
read it between the hours of service at the cathedral. It was so
entirely sympathetic to him, with its artless faith and ingenuous
enthusiasm, that it was to him like the familiar speech of the Church

The little volume contained the prayers composed in the fourteenth
century by Gaston Phoebus, Comte de Foix. Durtal had it in two editions,
one printed in the original form of his authentic words and antiquated
spelling, by the Abbé de Madaune; the other modernized, but with great
skill and taste, by Monsieur de la Brière.

Durtal, as he turned the pages, came on such lamentable and humble
prayers as these: "Thou who hast shapened me in my mother's womb, let me
not perish.... Lord, I confess my poverty.... My conscience gnaws me and
shows me the secrets of my heart. Avarice constrains me, concupiscence
befouls me, gluttony disgraces me, anger torments me, inconstancy
crushes me, indolence oppresses me, hypocrisy beguiles me.... and these,
Lord, are the companions with whom I have spent my youth, these are the
friends I have known, these are the masters I have served." And further
on he exclaims, "Sin have I heaped upon sin, and the sins which I could
not commit in very deed yet have I committed by evil desire."

Durtal closed the volume, regretting that it should be so entirely
unknown to Catholics. They were all busy chewing the cud of the old hay
left at the heading or end of the "Christian's Day" or "The Eucologia,"
or meditating on the pompous prayers elaborated in the ponderous
phraseology of the seventeenth century, in which there is no accent of
sincerity to be found--nothing, not an appeal that comes from the heart,
not even a pious cry!

How far were these rhapsodies all cast in the same mould from this
penitent and simple language, from this easy and candid communion of the
soul with God?

Then Durtal dipped again here and there, and read:--

"My God and my Mercy, I am ashamed to pray to Thee for very shame of my
evil conscience; give a fountain of tears to my eyes, and my hands
largess of alms and charity; give me a seemly faith, and hope, and
abiding charity. Lord, Thou holdest no man in horror save the fool that
denies Thee. Oh, my God, the Giver of My Redemption and Receiver of my
soul, I have sinned and Thou hast suffered me!"

Then, turning over a few more pages, he came at the end of the volume to
a few passages collected by Monsieur de la Brière, among them these
reflections on the Eucharist culled from a manuscript of the fifteenth

"Not every man can assimilate this meat; some there be who eat it not,
but swallow it down in haste. It should be chewed as much as possible
with the teeth of the understanding, to the end that the sweet of its
savour be pressed out of it, and may come forth from it. Ye have heard
it said that in nature, that which is most crushed is most nourishing;
now the crushing of the teeth is our deep and keen meditation on the
Sacrament itself."

Then, after having elucidated the individual use of each tooth, the
author adds, in speaking of the fifteenth, "the Sacrament on the altar
is not merely as meat to fill and refill us; but, which is more, to make
us divine."

"Lord!" murmured Durtal, laying down the book. "O Lord! If we allowed
ourselves nowadays to use such materialistic comparisons and make use of
such homely terms in speaking of Thy supremely adorable Body, what a
clamour would arise from the 'respectable' among the worshippers and the
blessed legion of the good women who have comfortable praying-chairs and
reserved places near the altar--like front seats in a theatre--in the
House where all are equal."

And Durtal pondered over these reflections which assailed him every time
he happened to take up a clerical journal or one of the Manuals
introduced by some prelate's note of approval, like a clean bill of

He could never get over his amazement at the incredible ignorance, the
instinctive aversion for art, the type of ideas, the terror of words,
peculiar to Catholics. Why was this? For after all there was no reason
why believers should be more ignorant and stupid than any other folks.
Indeed, the contrary ought to be the truth.

Whence did this inferiority proceed? And Durtal could answer himself. It
was due to the system of education, to the training in intellectual
timidity, to the lessons in fear, given in a cellar, far from a vital
atmosphere and the light of day. It really seemed as if there were some
intention of emasculating souls by nourishing them on dried-up
fragments, literary white-meat; some set purpose of destroying all
independence and initiative in the disciples by levelling them, crushing
them all under the same roller, and restricting the sphere of thought by
maintaining a deliberate ignorance of art and literature.

And all merely to avert the temptation of forbidden fruit, of which the
idea was suggested under the pretext of inspiring dread of it. By this
method curiosity with regard to the veiled unknown tormented their young
brains and excited their senses, for it was always in the background,
and in a form all the more dangerous because it had the effect of a more
or less transparent gauze. The imagination could not fail to exasperate
itself by cogitating its desire to know and its fear of knowing, and it
was ready to fly off at the least word.

Under these circumstances the most anodyne book was a source of danger
from the simple fact that love was alluded to, and woman depicted as an
attractive creature; and this was enough to account for all--for the
inherent ignorance of Catholics, since it was proclaimed as the
preventive cure for temptations--for the instinctive horror of art,
since to these craven souls every written and studied work was in its
nature a vehicle of sin and an incitement to fall.

Would it not really be far more sensible and judicious to open the
windows, to air the rooms, to treat these souls as manly beings, to
teach them not to be so much afraid of their own flesh, to inculcate the
firmness and courage needed for resistance? For really it is rather like
a dog which barks at your heels and snaps at your legs if you are afraid
of him, but who beats a retreat if you turn on him boldly and drive him

The fact remains that these schemes of education have resulted, on the
one hand, in the triumph of the flesh in the greater number of men who
have been thus brought up and then thrown into a worldly life, and on
the other, in a wide diffusion of folly and fear, an abandonment of the
possessions of the intellect and the capitulation of the Catholic army
surrendering without a blow to the inroads of profane literature, which
takes possession of territory that it has not even had the trouble of

This really was madness! The Church had created art, had cherished it
for centuries; and now by the effeteness of her sons she was cast into a
corner. All the great movements of our day, one after the
other--romanticism, naturalism--had been effected independently of her,
or even against her will.

If a book were not restricted to the simplest tales, or pleasing fiction
ending in virtue rewarded and vice punished, that was enough; the
propriety of beadledom was at once ready to bray.

As soon as the most modern form of art, the most malleable and the
broadest--the Novel--touched on scenes of real life, depicted passion,
became a psychological study, an effort of analysis, the army of bigots
fell back all along the line. The Catholic force, which might have been
thought better prepared than any others to contest the ground which
theology had long since explored, retired in good order, satisfied to
cover its retreat by firing from a safe distance, with its old-fashioned
match-lock blunderbusses, on works it had neither inspired nor written.

The Church party, centuries behind the time, and having made no attempt
to follow the evolution of style in the course of ages, now turned to
the rustic who can scarcely read; it did not understand more than half
of the words used by modern writers, and had become, it must be said, a
camp of the illiterate. Incapable of distinguishing the good from the
bad, it included in one condemnation the filth of pornography and real
works of art; in short, it ended by emitting such folly and talking such
preposterous nonsense, that it fell into utter discredit and ceased to
count at all.

And it would have been so easy for it to work on a little way, to try to
keep up with the times, and to understand, to convince itself whether in
any given work the author was writing up the Flesh, glorifying it,
praising it, and nothing more, or whether, on the contrary, he depicted
it merely to buffet it--hating it. And, again, it would have done well
to convince itself that there is a chaste as well as a prurient nude,
and that it should not cry shame on every picture in which the nude is
shown. Above all, it ought to have recognized that vices may well be
depicted and studied with a view to exciting disgust of them and showing
their horrors.

For, after all, this was the great theory of the Middle Ages, the
theological method in sculpture, the literary dogma of the monks of that
time; and this is the meaning and purpose of certain groups which even
now shock the propriety of our methodistical purists. These unseemly
subjects and images of indecency are very numerous at Saint Benoît on
the Loire, in the cathedral of Reims, at le Mans, in the crypt at
Bourges, everywhere in our churches; for in those where they do not
occur, it is because the prudery which was most rife in the most immoral
times, broke them by stoning them in the name of a morality very unlike
that which was inculcated by the mediæval saints.

These subjects have for many years been the delight of Freethinkers and
the despair of Catholics; those see in them a scathing satire on the
manners of the monks and bishops, these lament that such turpitude
should ever have fouled the walls of the Temple. And yet it would have
been so easy to explain the purpose of these scenes; far from seeking to
apologize for the tolerance of the Church that allowed them, her honesty
and breadth should have been held up to admiration. By acting thus, the
Church manifested her determination to inure her sons by showing them
the ridiculous side of the temptations which assail them. It was, so to
speak, an object lesson or demonstration, and at the same time a bidding
to self-examination before venturing into the sanctuary which was thus
prefaced by a catalogue of sins as a reminder to confession.

This was part of her plan of education, for she aimed at moulding manly
souls and not crippled creatures such as are turned out by the spiritual
orthopedists of our day; she dragged out vice and lashed it wherever it
lurked, and did not hesitate to preach the equality of men before God,
insisting that bishops and monks should, when guilty, be placed in the
pillory of its doorways; nay, she gibbeted them more willingly than
others, to set an example.

These scenes were practically a comment of the Sixth (Seventh)
Commandment, a sculptured paraphrase of the Catechism; the Church's
accusation and teaching plainly expressed so as to be understood of all

And Our Mother did not restrict herself to one mode only of expressing
Her warnings and reproofs; to reiterate them she borrowed the language
of other arts. Literature and the pulpit were inevitably the
interpreters that she employed to vituperate the sins of the people.

And they were not a whit more prudish or less audacious than sculpture.
We have only to open the books of the Church to convince ourselves of
the violent language in which she was wont to lash the sins of the
flesh. Beginning with the Scriptures, the Bible itself--which no one
dares read now but in mawkish French versions--what priest, for
instance, would venture to recommend to the nerveless spirit of his
flock the study of the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel or of the Song of
Songs, that Epithalamium of Jesus and the Soul--down to the Fathers and
the Doctors?

How our modern Pharisees would reprove the uncompromising language of
Saint Gregory the Great when he exclaims, "Speak the truth! A scandal is
better than a lie;" or Saint Epiphanius' plain speaking in discussing
the Gnostics and describing in detail the abominations of that sect,
quietly adding in the face of the congregation, "Why should I shrink
from speaking of the things you do not fear to do? By speaking thus, I
hope to fill you with horror of the turpitude you commit."

Or what would they think of Saint Bernard expatiating in his third
meditation on horrible physiological details to demonstrate the baseness
of our carnal ambition and the foulness of our pleasures? Or of Saint
Hildegarde, who placidly discusses the various factors of such
pleasures, Saint Vincent Ferrier freely dealing in his sermons with the
sins of Onan and of Sodom, using the simplest language, and comparing
confession to a purgative, and asserting that the priest, like a doctor,
should examine the excreta of the soul and prescribe for it?

What reprobation would be poured on the splendid passage by Odo of Cluny
quoted by Rémy de Gourmont in his "Latin Mystique," the passage where
that terrible monk analyzes the attractions of woman, turns them over,
eviscerates them, and flings them aside like a drawn rabbit on a
butcher's stall; and again on Clement of Alexandria, who sums the whole
matter up in two sentences:--

"I am not ashamed to name the parts of the body wherein the foetus is
formed and nourished; and why indeed should I be, since God was not
ashamed to create them?"

None of the great writers of the Church were prudish. This mock-modesty
which has so long stultified us dates actually from the ages of impiety,
the period of paganism, the return on threadbare classicism which was
known as the Renaissance; and see how it has developed since! Its
hot-bed and nursery ground lay in the lewd and gorgeous years of the
so-called _Grand-siècle_; the virus of Jansenism, the old Protestant
taint mingled with the blood of Catholics, and pollutes it still.

"It is very true! And pretty results have come of this infection of
decency!" Durtal burst out laughing as he thought of the cathedral at

"Here," said he to himself, "we reach the climax; pious imbecility can
go no further. Among the subjects in sculpture in the ambulatory of the
choir there is a group representing the Circumcision, Saint Joseph
holding the Infant while the Virgin has a napkin ready and the High
Priest is preparing to operate. And there has been a priest so modest, a
divine so decorous as to regard this scene as licentious and to paste a
piece of paper over the Child's nakedness!

"The indecency of God, the obscenity of a new-born Babe is too much!

"Bah!" said he. "The time has slipped away in all this meditation, and
the Abbé will be waiting."

He ran quickly downstairs and hurried across to the cathedral, where the
Abbé Plomb was pacing to and fro in front of the northern porch,
reciting his Breviary.

"The side where sinners and demons are figured is especially that of the
Virgin, who saves those and crushes these," said the Abbé. "The northern
porch of a church is usually the most lively of all; here, however, the
Satanic incidents are on the southern side, because they form part of
the Last Judgment represented over the south door. Otherwise Chartres,
unlike her sister cathedrals, would have no scenes of that kind."

"Then the rule in the thirteenth century was to place the Virgin in the
northern portion?"

"Yes. To the men of that time the north meant the gloom of winter, the
dejection of darkness, the misery of cold; the ice-bound chant of the
winds was to them the very blast of evil; to the north was the home of
the devil, the hell of nature, as the south was its Eden."

"But that is absurd!" cried Durtal, "the greatest blunder ever
introduced into the symbolism of the elements. The medieval sages were
mistaken, for snow is pure and cold is chastity. It is the sun, on the
contrary, that is the active agent in developing the germs of
rottenness, the ferment of vice!

"They forget that the third Psalm of Compline speaks of the hot hour of
noon as the most harassing and dangerous of all; they must have
overlooked the horrors of sweat and unwholesome heat, the risks of
relaxed nerves, of loosened dresses, all the abominations of leaden
clouds and hard blue skies!

"There are diabolical effluvia in the storm, and in weather when the air
stirs like the vapours from a furnace, rousing evil instincts and
bringing about us the raging swarm of evil angels."

"But remember the passages in which Isaiah and Jeremiah speak of Lucifer
as dwelling in the blast of the north wind; and recollect that the great
cathedrals did not originate in the south but in the middle and north of
France; consequently, after having adopted this symbolism of seasons and
weather, the pious architects dreamed of the horror of men buried in
snow, and longing for a gleam of sunshine and a bright day. Naturally
they thought of the east as the region of the original Paradise, and of
those lands as milder and less inclement than their own."

"That does not hinder the fact that this theory was controverted by Our
Lord Himself."

"Where do you find that?" asked the Abbé Plomb.

"On Calvary; Jesus died" turning His back to the south, which had
crucified Him, and extending His arms on the Cross to bless and embrace
the north. He seemed to be withdrawing His favours from the east, 'to
bestow them on the west. Hence, if any region is accurst and inhabited
by Satan, it is the south and not the north."

"You abominate the south and its races, that is evident," said the Abbé,

"I do not love them. Their scenery, vulgarized by crude daylight, their
dusty trees standing out against a sky of washerwoman's blue, have no
charm for me; as to the natives, hairy and noisy, with a blue bar under
their nostrils if they shave, I flee from them!"

"Here, in short, we are face to face with a fact which no discussions
can alter. This side of the church is dedicated to the Virgin. Shall we
now examine it, first as a whole, and then in detail?

"This portal, brought forward like an open porch, a sort of verandah in
front of the doors, is an allegory of the Saviour showing the way into
the heavenly Jerusalem. It was begun in the year 1215 under Philip
Augustus, and finished by about 1275, under Philip the Bold; thus it was
nearly sixty years in building, the greater part of the thirteenth
century. It is divided into three parts, corresponding to the three
doors behind it; there are more than seven hundred statues grouped here,
large and small, representing, for the most part, personages from the
Old Testament.

"It forms, in fact, three deep bays or gulfs.

"The central portal, before which we are standing, and which leads to
the middle door, has for its subject the Glorification of the Virgin.

"The left-hand bay contains the life and virtues of the Virgin.

"The right-hand bay is devoted to images of Mary Herself.

"According to another interpretation, put forward by Canon Davin, this
porch, which was built at the time when Saint Dominic instituted the
Rosary, is a reproduction in images of its mysteries."

"On that theory, the left-hand arch, containing the scenes of the
Annunciation, the Visitation, and the Nativity, answers to the Joyful
Mysteries; the central bay, containing the Assumption and Coronation of
the Virgin, to the Glorious Mysteries; and that to the right, where we
find a presentment of Job, precursor of the Crucifixion under the
ancient law, to the Sorrowful Mysteries."

"There is a third interpretation," said Durtal, "but it is ridiculous.
That of Didron, who regards this front as the first page of the Book of
Chartres. He opens it at this porch, and asserts that the sculptors
began to render the Encyclopedia of Vincent de Beauvais by representing
the creation of the world. But if so, where are those wonderful
representations of Genesis hidden?"

"There," said the Abbé, pointing to a row of statuettes lost in a hollow
moulding at the very edge of the porch.

"But to ascribe so much importance to tiny figures which, after all, are
there merely to fill up, as stop-gaps--it is preposterous!" cried

"No doubt. But now let us examine the work.

"You will observe in the first place that, in opposition to the ritual
observed in most of the great churches of the time--those of Amiens,
Reims, and Paris, to name but three--it is not the Virgin who stands on
the pillar between the two halves of the door, but Her Mother, Saint
Anne; and inside, in the windows, we find the same thing: Saint Anne, as
a negress, her head bound in a blue kerchief, holds Mary in her arms, as
brown as a half-caste."

"Why is this?"

"No doubt because the Emperor Beaudouin, after the sack of
Constantinople, bestowed that Saint's head on this cathedral.

"The ten colossal statues placed on each side of Her in the niches of
the porch are familiar to you, for they attend Our Lady in every
sanctuary of the thirteenth century--in Paris, at Amiens, at Rouen,
Reims, Bourges, and Sens. The five to the left are a series figurative
of the Son; the five on the right symbolize Our Lord Himself. They
stand in chronological order: the prototypes of the Messiah, or the
Prophets who foretold His birth, death, resurrection, and everlasting

"To the left, Melchizedec, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, and David; to the
right, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Simeon, Saint John the Baptist, and Saint

"But why," remarked Durtal, "is the son of Jonas in the midst of the Old
Testament? His place is not there, but in the Gospels."

"Yes, but you will observe that Saint Peter here stands next to Saint
John the Baptist; the two statues are side by side and touch each other.
Then do you not perceive the meaning of this juxtaposition? One was the
Precursor and the other the Successor of Christ; the first anticipated
Him, the second carried out His mission. It was quite natural to place
them together, and that the Chief of the Apostles should figure as the
conclusion to the premisses set forth by the other statues of this

"Finally, in addition to this series of patriarchs and prophets, you may
see there, in the hollow between the pilasters, a pair of statues, one
on each side of the door: Elijah the Tishbite, and Elisha his disciple.

"The first prefigures the Saviour's Ascension by his being carried up
alive to Heaven in a chariot of fire; the second typifies Jesus saving
and preserving mankind in the person of the Shunammite's son.

"Argument is vain," murmured Durtal, who was meditative. "The Messianic
prophecies are irresistible. All the logic of the Rabbins, the
Protestants, the Freethinkers, all the ingenuity of the Germans, have
failed to find a crack or to undermine the old rock of the Church. There
is such a body of evidence, such certainty, such demonstration of the
truth, such an indestructible foundation, that a man must be stricken
with spiritual blindness to dare deny it."

"Yes: and to the end that there should be no mistake, no possibility of
alleging that the inspired Scriptures were written subsequent to the
arrival of the Messiah they prophesy, to prove that they were neither
invented nor added to after the event, it was God's pleasure that they
should be translated into Greek in the Septuagint version and known to
the whole world more than two hundred and fifty years before the birth
of Christ."

"To imagine the impossible--supposing the Gospels were to be
annihilated, they could, I suppose, be restored, and a brief history
written of the Saviour's life as they relate it merely by studying the
Messianic announcements in the books of the Prophets?"

"No doubt; for, after all, and it cannot be too often repeated, the Old
Testament is the story before the event of the Son of Man and the
founding of His Church; as Saint Augustine bears witness, 'the whole
history of the Jewish people was a perpetual prophecy of the expected

"You will see, apart from personages prefiguring the Redeemer which you
may find in every page of the Bible: Isaac, Joseph, Moses, David, Jonah,
to name five taken at random; apart, too, from the animals and objects
that symbolized Him under the Old Laws, as, for instance, the Paschal
Lamb, the Manna, the Brazen Serpent, and others, we can, if you please,
simply by quoting the Prophets, trace the broad outlines of Emmanuel's
life and epitomize the Gospels in a few words. Listen!"

The Abbé paused for thought, his hand over his eyes.

"That he should be born of a Virgin is foretold by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and
Ezekiel--that this Advent should be preceded by a special messenger,
Saint John, is noted by Malachi, whom Isaiah confirms, adding for
greater certainty that he should be as 'the voice of one crying in the

"The place of His birth, Bethlehem, is mentioned by Micah; the adoration
of the Magi, offering gold, myrrh and frankincense, is announced by
Isaiah and the Psalm ascribed to Solomon.

"His youth and His calling are clearly suggested by Ezekiel, who speaks
of Him as seeking the lost sheep, and by Isaiah, who tells beforehand of
the miracles He would perform on the blind and the deaf and dumb, and
who finally declares that He will be 'a stone of stumbling' to the Jews.

"But it is when they speak of His Passion and Death that the prophecies
become mathematically exact, incredibly precise. The offering of palm
branches, the betrayal by Judas, and the price of thirty pieces of
silver appear in Zechariah; and Isaiah takes up the parable to describe
the rejection and opprobrium of Calvary: 'He was wounded for our
transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.... The Lord hath laid
on Him the iniquity of us all.... He was despised and rejected of men; a
man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.... He was brought as a lamb
to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb.'

"David expatiates on the dreadful scene: 'He was a worm and no man, a
very scorn of men and the outcast of the people.'

"Details are multiplied. The wounds in His hands are spoken of by
Zechariah; David enumerates the circumstances of the Passion, word for
word: the pierced hands, the division of His raiment, casting lots for
the robe. The hooting of the Jews, bidding Him to save Himself if He be
the Son of God, is mentioned in chapter ii. of the Book of Wisdom, and
again by David; the gall and the vinegar offered Him on the Cross and
the very words of Jesus giving up the ghost are to be found in the

"Nor is this the last of the prophecies to be found in the Old

"Its prophetic mission is carried out to the end. The establishment of
the Church in the place of the Synagogue is foretold by Ezekiel, Isaiah,
Joel, and Micah; and the Mass, the Eucharistic Sacrament, is plainly
adumbrated by Malachi, who declared that for the offerings of the Old
Law offered only in the Temple at Jerusalem shall be substituted 'a pure
offering to be offered in every place and by all nations'--by priests
chosen from among all people, Isaiah adds, and David says after the
order of Melchizedec.

"Pascal very truly remarks that 'the fulfilment of the prophecies is a
perpetual miracle, and that no other proof is needed to show the divine
origin of the Christian Religion.'"

Durtal had gone closer to the statues, standing by Saint Anne, and was
looking at one on the left wearing a pointed cap, a sort of papal tiara
with a crown round the edge, robed in an alb girt round the middle with
knotted cord, and a large cope with a fringe; the features were grave,
almost anxious, and the eye fixed with an absorbed gaze into the
distance. This figure held a censer in one hand, and in the other a
chalice covered with a paten on which there was a loaf; and this image
of Melchizedec, the King of Salem, threw Durtal into a deep reverie.

He was, in fact, one of the most mysterious types of the Holy
Scriptures--this monarch mentioned in Genesis as the Priest of the Most
High God. He consummates the sacrifice of bread and wine, blesses Abram,
receives tithes from him, and then vanishes into the darkness of
history. And suddenly his name is found in a psalm of David's, who
declares that the Messiah is a priest for ever after the order of
Melchizedec, and again he is lost without leaving a trace.

Then quite unexpectedly he reappears in the New Testament, and what
Saint Paul says of him in the Epistle to the Hebrews makes him more
enigmatical than ever. The apostle speaks of him as "without father,
without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor
end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abiding a priest
continually." Saint Paul is explicit to show how great a person he
was--and the dim light he casts on this figure goes out.

"You must confess that this King of Salem is a puzzle. What do the
commentators think of him?" asked Durtal.

"They say but little. Only Saint Jerome observes that when Saint Paul
speaks of him as without parents, without descent, without beginning,
and without end, he does not mean to convey that Melchizedec came down
from Heaven or was created _ab initio_ like the first man, by the
Ancient of Days. The phrase simply means that he is introduced into the
history of Abraham without our knowing whence he came, who he was, when
he was born, or at what time he died.

"In fact, the inscrutable part played by this prototype of Jesus in the
canonical Scriptures has led to the most grotesque legends and heresies.

"Some have asserted that he was Shem, the son of Noah; others have
thought that he was Ham. Simon Logothetes considers him an Egyptian;
Suidas believes him to have belonged to the accursed race of Canaanites,
and that this is why the Bible says nothing of his ancestry.

"The gnostics revered him as an Eon superior to Jesus; and in the third
century Theodore le Changeur also asserted that he was not a man, but a
virtue transcending Christ, because Christ's priesthood was but a copy
of Melchizedec's.

"According to another sect, he was neither more nor less than the
Paraclete. But come, in the absence of early Scriptures what do the
seers say? Does Sister Emmerich speak of him?"

"She tells us nothing precise," replied Durtal. "To her he was a sort of
priestly angel charged with the preparation for the great Act of

"That is very much the view held by Origen and Didymus, who also
ascribed to him the angelic nature."

"Thus she perceives him long before the advent of Abram in various
desert spots of Palestine; he unlocks the springs of Jordan, and in
another passage of the life of Christ she adds that it was he who taught
the Hebrews the culture of wheat and of the vine. In fact, she throws no
light on this insoluble enigma."

"From the artist's point of view," Durtal went on, "Melchizedec is one
of the best statues in this porch. But what a strange face is that of
his neighbour Abraham, seen only three-quarters full, with hair like
rolled grass, a beard like a river god, and a long nose straight from
the forehead, coming down between the eyes without a bridge, like the
proboscis of a tapir, with cheeks that seem swollen with cold, and a
look--how shall I describe it?--of a conjuror who has made away with his
son's head."

"In point of fact, he is listening to the commands of the angel, whom he
cannot see; observe, below on the pedestal the ram caught in the
thicket, and the symbolism is evident.

"This is the Father sacrificing his Son, and Isaac is the very image of
the Son--Isaac bearing the wood to fire the altar, as Jesus bore the
Cross; then the ram becomes figurative of the Saviour, and the bush in
which he is caught by the horns is symbolical of the Crown of Thorns.

"To do full justice to this subject and to the teaching by figures that
it contains, we ought also to have had the Patriarch's two wives carved
on the supporting pillar or plinth, and his other son Ishmael. For, as
you know, these two women are emblems, Hagar of the Old Dispensation,
and Sarah of the New; the former disappears to make way for the second,
the Old Law being merely the preparation for the New; and the two sons
born of these two mothers are by analogy the children of the Books, and
thus Ishmael represents the Israelites, and Isaac the Christians.

"Next to Abraham, the father of believers, stands Moses, as a symbol of
Christ; for the deliverance of Israel is an image of the Redemption of
Man snatched by the Saviour from the devil, just as the passage of the
Red Sea is an image of Baptism. He holds the Table of the Law and the
staff round which the Brazen Serpent is twined. Then comes Samuel, in
many ways typical of Christ, the founder of the Royal Priesthood and of
Pontifical Kingship; and last of all, David holding the Lamb and Crown
of Calvary.

"I need hardly remind you that this Prophet-King, more than any other
personage, prefigured the sorrows of the Messiah, and that he too, to
make the resemblance more perfect, had his Judas in the person of
Achitophel, who, like the later traitor, hanged himself."

"You must admit," said Durtal, "that these statues, before which the
historians of this cathedral go into ecstasies, declaring in chorus they
are the highest achievement of thirteenth-century sculpture, are far
inferior to those of the twelfth century that adorn the great north
porch. How evident is the lowering of the divine standard! Their action
is freer, no doubt, and the play of drapery is broader. The rhubarb-stem
plaits of the robes are fuller, and have some movement, but where is the
grace as of a sculptured soul that we see in the royal porch? All these
statues, with their massive heads, are thick-set and mute, devoid of
communicative life. This is pious work--fine work, if you will--but
devoid of the 'beyond'; here is art indeed, but it has ceased to be

"Look at St. Anne with her gloomy expression, either cross or
suffering--how far she is from the so-called Radegonde and Berthe!

"With the exception of two, St. John and St. Joseph over there in the
innermost part of the arch, these are familiar figures. They also occur
at Reims and at Amiens. And do you remember the Simeon, the Virgin, and
the St. Anne at Reims? The Virgin so guilelessly charming, so
exquisitely chaste, holding out the Infant to Simeon, who stands mild
and devout in his solemn garb as High Priest. St. Anne--a head of the
same type as St. Joseph's, and as those of two angels on the same
frontal, standing by St. Nicasius, with his head cut off at the
brows--St. Anne with a smiling, arch expression and yet elderly--a sharp
little chin, large eyes, a thin, long, pointed nose, the look of a
youthful dueña, kindly but knowing.

"But, indeed, those image-makers excelled in creating these singular,
indefinable countenances. Do you recall Our Lady of Paris, later, I
believe, by a century? She is scarcely pretty, but so expressive, with
the smile of happiness parting such melancholy lips. Seen from one side
She is smiling at Jesus, watchful, almost sportive; it would seem as
though she were waiting for the Child to say some merry word before
laughing out; She is a girl-mother, not yet accustomed to her Child's
caress. Seen from another angle, this smile, apparently in the bud, has
vanished. The mouth is puckered in sorrow, and promises tears.

"Perhaps when he succeeded in stamping on the face of Our Lady two such
opposite expressions of peace and of fear, the sculptor intended to
suggest at once the joy of the Nativity and the anticipated anguish of
Calvary. Thus he has portrayed in one and the same image, the Mother of
Sorrows and the Mother of Joy--has, without knowing it, embodied the
prototypes of the Virgin of La Salette and the Virgin of Lourdes.

"And yet all this is inferior to the living and dignified art, so full
of individuality and mystery, that we see in the royal porch of

"I will not contradict you," said the Abbé Plomb. "Now that we have
studied the series of types placed on St. Anne's left hand, let us
consider the prophetic series on her right.

"First we see Isaiah; the pedestal on which he stands represents Jesse
sleeping. The familiar stem, rooted in him, passes between the prophet's
feet, and the branches of the Virgin's ancestry according to the flesh
and the spirit, as they rise, fill the four courses of moulding in the
central arch. By his side is Jeremiah, who, meditating on the Passion of
Christ, wrote this lamentable passage which is read in the fifth lesson
of the second Nocturn on Easter Eve: 'All ye that pass by, behold and
see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow.' Next Simeon holding the
Infant whose Birth he had foreseen, at the same time with the sorrows of
the Virgin and the anguish of Golgotha; Saint John the Baptist, and
finally Saint Peter, whose dress is an interesting study since it is
copied from that of the thirteenth-century Popes.

"With what care is every detail wrought! Admire the treatment of the
sandals, the gloves, the broidered amice, the alb, the maniple, the
dalmatic, the pallium marked with six crosses, the triple crown, the
conical tiara of brocaded silk, the pontifical breastplate, everything
is chiselled, pierced, and patterned as if by a goldsmith."

"Very true. But how superior altogether is the Saint John to his fellows
on this front. What mastery we discern in that hollow, emaciated face,
as expressive as the others are dull. He is apart from the conventional
and hackneyed type. He stands upright, savage but mild, with his beard
in curling prongs, his lean frame, his raiment of camel-skin; we can
hear him speaking as he points to the Lamb carrying the hastate cross
surrounded by a nimbus, pressing it to his bosom with both hands. That
statue is sublime, and it is most certainly not by the same hand that
carved the Abraham, nor even his immediate neighbour, Samuel. This
prophet appears to be offering to David, who cares not, a lamb he is
feeling, head downwards. He is a butcher pricing his goods, weighing the
meat, inviting you to feel it, and hesitating to sell till he gets the
best price. How different from the Saint John!"

"The tympanum of the door will have no charm for us," the Abbé went on.
"The death of the Virgin, Her assumption and coronation are more curious
to read of in the Golden Legend than to study in those has-reliefs which
are but an epitome.

"We will proceed to the left-hand doorway.

"It is much mutilated, in a lamentable state of ruin. Most of the large
statues have disappeared. There were once, it would seem, as on the
royal porch of Notre Dame at Paris and the southern porch at Reims, the
figures of the Synagogue and the Church; also Leah and Rachel, typifying
the active and the contemplative life, of which we shall decipher the
details recorded in the archivolt.

"Of the large figures that remain, three are regarded as masterpieces:
the Virgin, Saint Elizabeth, and Daniel.

"That is saying a great deal," cried Durtal. "They are stupid-looking
and the drapery is cold; the arrangement of their robes recalls the
Greek peplum; they have a prophetic savour of the Renaissance."

"I will not contradict you; but what is really attractive is the scheme
of ideas expressed by the figures in the hollow mouldings of the arch
of this portal, based on an equilateral triangle. As to the tympanum,
which displays the Nativity, the calling of the Shepherds of Bethlehem,
the dream and adoration of the Kings, it is marred and worn by time; nor
is it in a style of art that can move us deeply.

"Study the mouldings of the arch with the four rows of images that adorn
them. First the inner one, with its ten torch-bearing angels; the
second, illustrating the parable of the wise and foolish virgins; the
third, representing the _Psychomachia_, or struggle between the Virtues
and the Vices; the fourth, a row of twelve queens embodying the twelve
fruits of the Spirit; and linger over the enchanting series of statues
in the moulding at the very edge of the archway of the porch,
representing the occupations of the active and the contemplative life.

"The active life, on the left, is imagined in accordance with the
picture of the virtuous woman in the last chapter of Proverbs. She is
seen washing wool in a bowl, carding it, stripping the flax, beating it,
spinning it on a distaff, and winding it into hanks.

"On the right is seen the contemplative life; a woman praying, holding a
closed book, opening it, reading it; she shuts it to meditate on it,
teaches others, and falls into an ecstasy.

"Finally, in the outermost hollow of the moulding of the arch, the
nearest to us and the most visible, there are fourteen statues of
queens, leaning on shields with coats-of-arms, and formerly holding
banners. The meaning of these statuettes has been much discussed,
especially of the second figure on the left, which is named '_Libertas_'
the word being carved in the stone. Didron believed them to represent
the domestic and social virtues; but the question has been finally and
definitively settled by the most erudite and clearsighted symbolist of
our day, Madame Félicie d'Ayzac, who, in a very edifying pamphlet
published in 1843 on these statues and on the animals of the Tetramorph,
has proved to demonstration that these fourteen queens are none else
than the fourteen heavenly Beatitudes as enumerated by Saint Anselm:
Beauty, Liberty, Honour, Joy, Pleasure, Agility, Strength, Concord,
Friendship, Length of Days, Power, Health, Safety, and Wisdom.

"Is not this porch, as a whole, so closely set with imagery, one of the
most ingenious and interesting doorways known, from the points of view
of theology and of mysticism alike?"

"And no less from the point of view of art. You are perfectly right;
these toiling and meditative women are so delicate and so loving, that
we can but regret that they should be hidden in the shadow of a cavern.
What artists must those have been who worked thus for the glory of God
and for their own satisfaction, creating marvels while knowing that no
man would see them!"

"And they had not even the vanity to sign them; they were always

"Ah! they were men of a different mould from us. Prouder souls, and

"And holier," added the Abbé. "Shall we now inquire into the iconography
of the right-hand portal? It has suffered less, and may be explained in
a few words.

"This sculptured vault is, as you know, dedicated to types of Mary; but
we might more accurately say that it is devoted to prototypes of Christ,
for in this doorway, as in the other two, indeed, the image-makers of
the thirteenth century have made it their task to identity the Son with
the Mother."

"In fact, most of the personages we have already studied relate more
especially to Christ. What, then, are those in the Old Testament, which
are more essentially proper to the daughter of Joachim, and transferred
in images of stone to be deciphered here?"

"The allegories of the Virgin in the Scriptures are numberless. Whole
books, as the Song of Songs and the Book of Wisdom, allude in every
verse to Her beauty and wisdom. As to the non-human emblems that may be
applied to Her, you know them well: Noah's Ark, in which the Redeemer
dwells; the Dove, the Rainbow, as a sign of alliance between the Lord
and the earth; the burning bush whence came out the name of God; the
cloud of fire guiding Israel in the desert; the Rod of Aaron which alone
blossomed of those of the twelve tribes taken by Moses; the Ark of the
Covenant; Gideon's fleece; and a whole series, if possible, more
obviously representative; David's tower; Solomon's throne; the garden
enclosed and the fountain sealed of the Canticle; the dial of Ahaz;
Elijah's saving cloud; Ezekiel's doorway--and I mention none but those
of which the interpretation has received the seal and sanction of the
Fathers and Doctors of the Church.

"As to the living beings that prefigured Her on earth, instances abound;
the greater part of the famous women of the Old Testament are but
anticipatory images of Her graces. Sarah, to whom an angel foretells the
birth of a son who is himself a type of the Son; Miriam, the sister of
Moses, who, by saving her brother from the river, freed the Jews;
Jephthah's daughter; Deborah, the prophetess; Jael, who, like the
Virgin, was called Blessed among women; Hannah, the mother of Samuel,
whose song of praise seems like a forecast of the _Magnificat_;
Jehosheba preserving Joash from the fury of Athaliah, as the Virgin
afterwards saved Jesus from the wrath of Herod; Ruth personifying both
the contemplative and the active life; Rebecca, Rachel, Abigail,
Solomon's mother, the mother of the Maccabees, who witnessed the death
of her sons; and again those whose names are inscribed under these
arches; Judith and Esther, the first representative of courageous
chastity, and the second of mercy and justice."

"However, to avoid confusion, we will follow the statues in order as
they stand in this porch, three on each side.

"On the left Balaam, the Queen of Sheba and Solomon.

"On the right, Jesus the son of Sirach, Judith or Esther, and Joseph."

"Balaam is this statue of a worthy peasant, smug and friendly, smiling
in his beard, a stick in his hand and a hat like a pie-dish; and the
Queen of Sheba, the woman who bends forward a little, looking as if she
were cross-questioning and arguing over some deed she condemned. But
what have these two persons to do with the life of the Virgin?"

"Balaam is a type of the Messiah. It was he who prophesied that a star
should come out of Jacob and a sceptre rise out of Israel. As to the
Queen of Sheba, according to the teaching of the Fathers, she is an
image of the Church; Solomon's spouse, as the Church is the spouse of

"Well, well," muttered Durtal to himself. "The thirteenth century could
not give a fitting presentment of that queen, whom we picture to
ourselves as dressed with foolish magnificence, rocking on a camel
across the desert at the head of a caravan under the blazing sky across
the furnace of sand. Her charms have appealed to writers, and not the
smallest of them; Flaubert for one--this Queen Balkis, Mékida or
Nicaule. But in the '_Tentation de Saint Antoine_' she has failed to
assume any form but that of a puerile and flimsy creature, a skipping
and lisping puppet. In fact, no one but Gustave Moreau, the painter of
Salome, could represent the woman, a virgin and a courtesan, a casuist
and a coquette. He only could give life, under the flowered panoply of
dress and the blazing gorget of jewels, to the crowned foreign face,
with its smile as of an artless sphinx, come from so far to ask enigmas.
Such a woman is too complicated for the spirit and the ingenuous art of
the Middle Ages.

"Indeed, the sculptured image is neither mysterious nor suggestive. She
is hardly pretty, and stands in the obsequious attitude of an advocate.
Solomon looks like a jovial good fellow. The two effigies on the other
side of the door might perhaps invite attention if they were not so
completely crushed by the third. Again a question. By what right does
the author of that admirable book 'Ecclesiastes' find a place in these
ranks of honour?"

"Jesus the son of Sirach prefigures the Messiah as a Prophet and a
Doctor. As to the figure next to him, it may equally well be Judith or
Esther: her identity is doubtful; there is nothing that can help us to
determine it.

"At any rate, as I told you but now, each is a harbinger of the Virgin.
As to Joseph persecuted and sold, a slave raised almost to the throne,
the merciful protector of his people, he is the prototype of Christ."

Durtal paused to gaze up at the beardless face, with curling hair cut
close round. The youth wore a tunic under a surcoat embroidered round
the neck, and he stood motionless, a sceptre in his hand. He might be a
very young monk, humble, simple, and so far advanced in the mystic road
that he was unconscious of it. This statue was undoubtedly a portrait,
and it seemed certain that some refined and innocent novice had served
as a model to the artist. It was the work of a chastened and happy soul
superior to the crowd. "This one, even more than the St. John, is a
perfect dream," said Durtal to the Abbé, who assented with a nod, and
went on,--

"The sculptures over the arches are practically invisible, for you must
dislocate your neck to see them. Nor is the art they display exciting.
Only the subjects are interesting. Besides a row of angels bearing stars
and torches, they represent the achievements of Gideon; the story of
Samson, who, when a prisoner, rose in the night, and carrying away the
gates of Gaza, escaped from the town, as Christ broke the gates of
death, and escaped alive from His sepulchre; the history of Tobit, as a
divine paragon of mercy and patience; and finally, in the corner we find
a replica of the grand porch, the signs of the zodiac, and a calendar in
sculptured stone.

"The tympanum, as you see, is divided into two portions.

"In the upper part we see the Judgment of Solomon, as figuring the Sun
of Justice, Christ Himself.

"In the lower half Job lies stretched on his dunghill, and the Messiah,
of whom he is a prototype, comes, supported by two angels, to give him a

"To complete the elucidation of the symbolism of these doorways, it now
only remains to glance at the three arches of the porch that precedes
them. Here we see chiefly the benefactors of the cathedral and the
saints of the See; also, mingled with these, certain prophets for whom
there was not room in the arches of the doors. This vestibule is, so to
speak, a postscript, a supplement added to the work.

"Here, where we stand in the right-hand arch are Saint Potentien, the
first apostle of Chartres, and Saint Modesta, the daughter of Quirinus,
the Governor of the city, who killed her because she would not deny
Christ. Here you see Ferdinand of Castille. He presented certain windows
distinguished by his arms, _gules, three castles or_, side by side with
the azure shield and fleur-de-lys of France, in the principal window of
this front. Next to him that shrewd and severe face is probably that of
Baruch, the judge, and here, barefoot and burthened with a penitent's
satchel, you see Saint Louis, who loaded the cathedral with gifts and
inaugurated its use.

"Under the porch of the middle door are two vacant pedestals, on which
formerly stood the effigies of Philip Augustus and Richard Coeur de
Lion, two of the most liberal donors to the church. On the other plinths
stand the Comte and Comtesse de Boulogne, a buxom dame with masculine
features, wearing a biretta; a prophet who is nameless, but no doubt
Ezekiel, for he is missing from the series in this porch; Louis VIII.,
Saint Louis' father; and, finally, that king's sister Isabella, who
founded the Abbey of Longchamps under the rule of Saint Clare. She is
dressed as a nun, and next her in the shadow is a personage of the Old
Dispensation carrying a censer, like Melchizedec. Remark, too, the firm
and solemn mien of that priest, Zacharias, the father of John the
Baptist, whose canticle '_Benedictus_' foretells the blessings of

"Thus ends our review of this wonderful text-book of the Old Testament
types, and the historical memorial of those benefactors whose gifts
endowed the church with this sculptured imagery of the Ancient Word."

Durtal lighted a cigarette, and they walked up and down in front of the
palace railing.

"Setting aside the question of art," said Durtal, "in this long array of
Christ's ancestors there is one--David--who really confounds me, for he
is the most complex of all; at once so august and so small! he is quite


"Well, only think of the life of the man who was by turns shepherd,
warrior, and outlaw chief, an omnipotent king and a fugitive without
either hearth or home; who was a wonderful poet and an exact prophet and
seer! And is not the monarch's character even more enigmatical than his

"He was mild and indulgent, devoid of rancour and hatred, and yet he was
ferocious. Remember the punishments he inflicted on the Ammonites; his
vengeance was appalling. He had them sawn asunder, cut them with harrows
of iron, and made them pass through the brick-kiln.

"He was loyal, wholly devoted to the Lord, and just; but he committed
the crime of adultery, and ordered the death of the husband he had
betrayed. What contradictions!"

"To understand David," said the Abbé Plomb, "you must not think of him
apart from his surroundings, nor take him out of the age in which he
lived, otherwise you measure him by the ideas of our own time, and that
is absurd. In the Asiatic conception of royalty, adultery was almost
permitted to a being whom his subjects regarded as superior to the
common run of humanity; besides, women were then as a species of cattle
belonging almost absolutely to him as the despot and supreme master. It
was but the exercise of his regal power, as has been plainly shown by
Monsieur Dieulafoy in his study of that king. And, on the other hand, if
he is accused of tortures and bloodshed, why, the whole of the Old
Testament is full of them! Jehovah Himself pours out blood like water,
and exterminates men as if they were flies. It is well not to forget
that the world then still lived under the Law of Fear. So it is not very
surprising that, with a view to terrifying his enemies, whose manners
and customs were not indeed any milder than his own, he should have
tortured the inhabitants of Rabbah and baked the Ammonites.

"But in contrast to these acts of violence and the sins which he
expiated, see how generous he was to Saul, and admire the magnanimity
and charity of the man whom the followers of Renan would have us regard
as a bandit chief and outlaw. Remember, too, that he taught the world,
as yet ignorant, the virtues which at a later time Christ was to
preach--humility in its most touching form, and repentance in its
bitterest shape. When the prophet Nathan reproved him for the murder of
Uriah, he confessed his sin with tears, fell on his face before God,
bravely accepted the most terrible punishment: incest and murder in his
family, the rebellion and death of his son, treason, misery, and a
desperate flight in the woods; and with what urgency he implores for
pardon in the '_Miserere_,' with what love and contrition he cries to
the God he had offended!

"He was a man whose vices were small and few if compared with those of
the kings of his time--of admirable and exceptional virtues if compared
with those of sovereigns of any time of every age. Why, then, fail to
understand that God should have chosen him as a precursor? Besides,
Jesus came to ransom sinners, He took upon Himself the sins of the whole
world. Was it not natural, then, that He should take to prefigure Him, a
man who, like others, had sinned?"

"Yes; that is true, no doubt."

And that evening, when he was away from the Abbé Plomb, from whom he
parted on the church steps, as Durtal stretched himself on his bed, he
recapitulated in his memory this theory of the Old Testament personages
and the sculpture in the porch.

"To epitomize this north front," said he to himself, "it must be
regarded as an abridged history of the Redemption prepared so long
beforehand, a table of sacred history, a compendium of the Mosaic Law,
and at the same time foreshadowing the Christian law.

"The vocation of the Jewish nation is set forth in these three doorways,
their whole mission from Abraham to Moses; from Moses to the Babylonian
Captivity; from the Captivity till the death of Christ, comprehending
three phases of its history: the making of Israel, its independent
existence, its life among the Gentiles.

"And how slowly, with what difficulty, was this fusion of tribes
achieved! With what waste and what ejection of dross! What massacres
were needed to discipline those rapacious wanderers, to quell the greed
and licentiousness of the race!"

And in a succession of bewildering images he beheld the irruption into
Judæa of the headlong and indignant prophets, hurling imprecations
against the crimes of the kings and the atrocities of that unstable race
perpetually tempted by the voluptuous worships of Asia, always rebelling
and complaining, and ready to break the iron bit with which Moses had
subdued them.

And prominent in this group of declaiming judges, towering above the
masses, he saw Samuel, the man of contradictions, going whither the Lord
drove him, achieving work which he was destined to overthrow, creating
the monarchy which he reprobated, consecrating a fanatic king--a sort of
madman, who passes across behind the transparent sheet of history with
frantic and threatening gestures; and then Samuel has to overwhelm this
extraordinary Saul under the burthen of his curses, to anoint David
king--David, whom another prophet is to accuse of his crimes. And these
inspired men succeed each other, continuing from year to year their task
of guardians of the public soul, watching over the consciences of judges
and kings, expectant of the Divine word, and ready to proclaim it over
the head of the crowd; announcing disasters, ending often as martyrs,
prominent from beginning to end of the sacred annals till they disappear
in John beheaded by an Herodias!

Then came Elijah, cursing the worship of Baal, contending with the
dreadful Jezebel; Elijah founding the first society of monks, the only
man of the Old Testament history except Enoch who did not die; and
Elisha, his disciple; the greater prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah,
and Daniel, and the groups of minor prophets announcing the advent of
the Son, rising up in commination or lamentation, threatening or
comforting the people.

The whole history of Israel flowed along in a torrent of curses, rivers
of blood, oceans of tears!

This dismal procession at last oppressed Durtal. With closed eyes he
suddenly beheld a patriarch who stood before him, and he recognized with
awe that this was Moses, an old man with a beard like a cataract, hair
sweeping his shoulders, a master workman whose powerful hands had
kneaded those rough Hebrews and coagulated their medley hordes. He was
indeed father and lawgiver to this people.

Facing the scene on Calvary there rose before him the scene on Sinai,
the close and the opening of the great chronicle of the nation that was
dispersed by its own crime, enclosing the whole purpose of its existence
in the space between those two hills.

A terrific spectacle! Moses alone on the smoking height, while
lightnings rend the clouds and the mountain trembles at the sound of the
invisible trumpet. Below, the awe-stricken people fly; and Moses,
unmoved amid the roar of thunder and the repeated fires of lightning,
listens to Him who Is, and who dictates the terms of His protection of
Israel; and then Moses, with shining face, descends from the Mount,
which, according to St. John Damascene, is the type of the Virgin's
Womb, as the smoke that rises from it is that of the desires and flames
of the Holy Spirit.

Suddenly this picture vanished; the Patriarch remained, and by his side
appeared the first High Priest of the worship of Jehovah, whom the
sculptors had omitted to represent on the exterior of the porch, but
whose image the glass-workers have portrayed in a window of the same
front; Aaron, the great Pontiff, anointed by Moses.

And this ceremony, during which Moses conferred the order of priesthood
on the person and the descendants of his elder brother, arose before
Durtal's fancy as a terrific scene. The details he had formerly read of
this ordination, the ceremonies lasting seven days, recurred to his
mind. After ablution and the anointing with oil, the holocaust of
victims began. Flesh sputtered on the walls, mingling the black stench
of burnt fat with the blue vapour of incense; the Patriarch anointed the
right ear and thumb and foot of Aaron and his sons with blood; then,
taking up the flesh of the sacrifice, he placed them in the hands of the
new-made priests, who rocked first on one foot and then on the other,
thus waving the offerings above the altar.

Then all bowed their heads under a shower of oil mingled with blood with
which the Consecrator inundated them. They looked like slaughterers from
the shambles and lamp trimmers, all sprinkled as they were with clots of
red mire, on which glistened yellow eyes.

And then, as in the swift change of magic-lantern slides, this savage
scene, this worn-out symbol of a splendid and subtle liturgy, stammered
out in a hoarse voice, disappeared, giving way to the solemn array of
Levites and priests marching in procession under the guidance of Aaron,
resplendent in his turban with the crown of gold above it, in his purple
robe, on its hem the open pomegranates of scarlet and blue, with
tinkling bells of gold; and he wore the linen ephod, girt with a girdle,
blue and purple and scarlet, and kept in its place by shoulder-pieces
fastened with onyx stones, his breastplate in a blaze, flashing sparks
that lighted up as he moved in the twelve gems of the breastplate.

Again the scene changed. He beheld an amazing palace; under the shade of
its domes of giddy height, tropical trees and flowers were planted by
tepid pools; monkeys sported there, hanging in bunches to the boughs,
while long-drawn, insinuating melodies were scraped on stringed
instruments, and the rattle of tambourines made the eyed plumes quiver
in the peacocks' outspread tails.

In this strange hot-bed, filled with clumps of flowers and of women,
this immense harem where his seven hundred princesses and his three
hundred concubines disported themselves, Solomon watched the whirl of
dances, gazed at the living hedge of women, seen against the background
of gold-plated walls, their bodies clothed only in the transparent veil
of vapour rising from resins burning on tripods.

He appeared as a typical Eastern monarch, a sort of Khalif or Sultan, or
fairy-tale Rajah--the prodigious king at once polygamous, unbridled,
insatiable by luxury, and learned, artistic, peace-loving, the wisest
among men. In advance of the ideas of his time, he was the great builder
in Israel, and the commerce of the country was of his making. He left
such a reputation for wisdom and justice that he came at last to be
regarded as an enchanter and wizard. Even Josephus tells us that he
wrote a book of Magic, of incantations for laying evil spirits; in the
Middle Ages he was said to have owned a magic ring, charms, forms of
evocation, secrets for exorcism; and in all these legends the image of
the king becomes confused.

And he would remain to this day a figure out of the Thousand and One
Nights, were it not that in the decline of his glory we see him as a
grandiose image of the mournfulness of life, the vanity of joy, the
nothingness of man.

His old age was melancholy. Exhausted and governed by women, he denied
God and sacrificed to idols. We discern in him wide gaps, vast clearings
in the soul. Weary of everything, sick of enjoyment, and drunken with
sin, he wrote some admirable reflections and anticipated the blackest
pessimism of our day, summing up the misery of him who endures the
condemnation of living, in phrases that are its final expression. What
distress is that of the Preacher: All the days of man are sorrow, and
his travail grief; better is the day of death than the day of birth; all
is vanity and vexation of spirit.

After his death, too, the old king remains a mystery. Had he expiated
his apostacy and his fall? Was he, like his fathers, received into
Abraham's bosom? And the greatest writers of the Church have not agreed
about it.

According to St. Irenæus, St. Hilary, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St.
Ambrose, and St. Jerome, his penance was accomplished, and he is saved.

According to Tertullian, St. Cyprian, St. Augustine, and St. Gregory the
Great, he did not repent to amendment, and so he is damned.

Durtal turned over in his bed and tried to lose consciousness.
Everything was in confusion in his brain, and at last he fell into
disturbed slumbers mingled with hideous nightmares, in which he saw
Madame Mesurat standing in the place of the queen on a pedestal in the
porch; and Durtal fumed at her ugliness, raging against the Canons, to
whom he vainly appealed to remove his housekeeper and replace the queen.


This church symbolism, this psychology of the cathedral, this study of
the soul of the sanctuary, so entirely overlooked since mediæval times
by those professors of monumental physiology called archæologists and
architects, so much interested Durtal that he was able by its help to
forget for some hours the turmoil and struggles of his soul; but the
moment he ceased to ponder on the inner sense of things seen, he was as
bad as ever.

The sort of requisition he had laid before the Abbé Gévresin, to put an
end to his tossing and decide for him one way or the other, was
distracting while it terrified him.

The cloister! He must reflect a long time before making up his mind to
imprison himself. And the _pros_ and _cons_ tormented him in endless

"Here I am just where I was before I set out for La Trappe!" said he to
himself, "and the decision to be taken is even more serious; for Notre
Dame de l'Atre was but a temporary refuge. I knew when I went there that
I should not stay; it was a painful time to be endured, but it was only
a short time; whereas at this moment I have to come to a determination
from which there is no turning back, to go to a place where, if I once
shut myself in, I must stay till I die. It is imprisonment for life,
with no mitigation of the penalty, no pardon and release; and the Abbé
talks as if it were the simplest thing!

"What am I to do? Renounce all freedom, be nothing but a machine, a
chattel, in the hands of a man I do not know--God knows I am willing!
But there are other and more pressing questions from my point of view;
in the first place, this matter of literature--to write no more, to give
up what has been the occupation and aim of my life; that would be
painful; still, it is a sacrifice I could make. But to write and then
see my language stripped and washed in pump-water, all the colour taken
out by another man, who may be a learned man or a saint, but have no
more idea of art than St. John of the Cross! That is too hard. That
one's ideas should be picked over and weeded, from the theological point
of view, I quite understand, nothing could be more just; but one's
style! And in a monastery, so far as I can learn, nothing is printed
till the Prior has read it; and he has the right to revise everything,
alter it--suppress it if he chooses. It would evidently be better not to
write at all, but this again is not a matter of choice, since under the
rule of obedience each one must submit to orders, and treat of any
subject in any way the Abbot commands.

"And unless the master were very exceptional, what a stone of stumbling!

"And then, besides this, which is to me the most important question of
all, there are others worth considering. From the little I have been
told by my two priests, the blessed silence of the Cistercians is not
the rule with the black-frocked Orders. Now, however perfect these
cenobites may be, they remain none the less men; or, to express it
otherwise, sympathy and antipathy live in constant and compulsory
friction; with very restricted subjects of discussion, living in
complete ignorance of all that is going on outside, conversation must
degenerate into chatter; at last the only interest of life centres in
trivialities, in petty questions which in such an atmosphere assume the
importance of events.

"A man becomes an old maid, and how infinitely wearisome must this talk
be, unvaried by the unforeseen.

"Finally, there is the question of health. In the convent nothing but
stews and salads! A disordered stomach before long, broken sleep,
crushing fatigue in an ill-treated frame--ah, all that is neither
attractive nor amusing! Who knows whether, after a few months of this
mental and physical rule, I should not have sunk into bottomless
dejection, whether the sloth of those monastic gaols would not have
crushed me and left me absolutely incapable of thought or action?"

And he concluded:--

"It is madness to think of a cloistered life; I should do better to
remain at Chartres."

But hardly had he made up his mind not to move, when the reverse of the
medal forced itself upon him.

A convent! Why, it was the only logical existence, the only right life!
All these fears he suggested to himself were imaginary. In the first
place, as to his health. Had he forgotten La Trappe, where the food was
far more innutritious and the rule far stricter? Why be alarmed

And, on the other hand, could he fail to perceive the need for
conversation, the wisdom of speech, relieving the solitude of the
cloister just when weariness might supervene? It was a remedy against
constant introspection, and exercise taken with others secured health to
the soul and gave tone to the body; and as for saying that these
monastic dialogues would be trivial, were the conversations he might
hear in any other society more edifying? In short, was not the company
of the Brethren far superior to that of men of any profession,
condition, or sort, whom he would be obliged to meet in the world

And what, after all, were these trifles, these minor details in the
splendid completeness of the cloister? What were these petty
matters--mere nothings--in the scale as against peace, the cheerfulness
of the soul in the joy of the services and the fulfilment of the task of
praise? Would not the tide of worship cleanse everything, and wash away
the small defects of men, like straws in a stream? Was it not the case
of the mote and the beam, with the parts reversed--imperfections
discerned in others, when he was so far their inferior?

"Constantly, at the end of every argument, I find my own lack of
humility," said he to himself. "What efforts are needed to remove the
mire of my sins! In a convent perhaps I might rub the rust off," and he
dreamed of a purer life, a soul soaked in prayer, expanding in communion
with Christ, who might perhaps, without too much soiling Himself, come
down to dwell in him. "It is the only life desirable," cried he. "It is

But then, like a douche of cold water, a reflection overwhelmed him. It
would in any case be the life in common, school-life, which would begin
again for him; it would be the garrison-rule of a convent!

This floored him. Then he tried to fight against it, and lost patience.

"Come, come!" he growled, "a man does not shut himself up in an abbey to
take his ease there; a convent is not a pious Sainte-Périne; he retires
there, I suppose, to expiate his sins and prepare for death. What, then,
is the use of expatiating on the kind of punishments to be endured? A
determination to accept them is all, to endure them and be strong!"

Did he, then, sincerely long for suffering and penance? He dared not
answer himself. In the depth of his soul a hesitating "Yes" rose up,
smothered at once by the clamour of cowardice and fear. Why then go?

He was only bewildering himself, and when the worst of this turmoil was
over he thought of a respite, or of some half-measure, some mild
mortification quite endurable, some repentance so slight as to be none
at all.

"I am an idiot," he concluded; "I am fighting with the air; I am
puzzling myself with words, about habits of which I have no knowledge.
The first thing to be done is to visit some Benedictine monastery--nay,
several--to compare them, and to see for myself what the life is that is
led there. Then the matter as to the oblates must be cleared up; if the
Abbé Plomb is well informed, their fate depends on the caprice of the
Abbot, who can tighten or loosen the halter according to his more or
less domineering character. But is that quite certain? There were always
oblates throughout the Middle Ages; consequently they are controlled by
the secular law!

"And all this is so human, so vile! For it is not a matter of disputing
texts and more or less accommodating clauses. It is a case of subjection
without reserve, of leaping boldly into the water; of giving oneself up
entirely to God. Any other view of the cloister is to regard it as a
citizen's home, and that is absurd. My apprehensions, my antagonism, my
compromises, are disgraceful!

"Yes; but where can I find the necessary strength to brush myself clean
from this dust of the soul?"

And at last, when he felt himself bruised by these alternating desires
and fears, he took refuge with Notre Dame de Sous-Terre.

The crypt was closed in the afternoon, but he found his way in by a
small door in the sacristy inside the cathedral, and descended into
utter darkness.

Having reached the crypt in front of the altar, he round once more the
doubtful but soothing odour of that vault, smoked by burning tapers, and
went forward in the soft, warm atmosphere of frankincense and a cellar.
It was even darker than in the early morning, for the lamps were out;
floating wicks only, shining through what looked like very thin
orange-peel, threw gleams of tarnished gold on the sooty walls.

As he turned, with his back to the altar, he could see the low aisle in
retreating perspective, and at the end, as in a tunnel, the light of
day--unluckily, for it allowed him to discern certain hideous paintings
of scenes commemorating the ecclesiastical glories of Chartres: the
visit paid to the cathedral by Mary de' Medici and Henri IV.; Louis
XIII. and his mother; Monsieur Olier offering to the Virgin the keys of
the Seminary of Saint Sulpice with a dress of gold brocade; Louis XIV.
at the feet of Notre Dame de Sous-Terre; by the grace of heaven, the
remaining frescoes seemed extinct; at any rate, they lay in shadow.

What was really blissful was to be alone with the Virgin, who looked
down, her dark face gleaming dimly in the gloom when a wick happened to
flicker with short flashes of brighter light.

Durtal, kneeling before Her, determined to address Her, to say to Her,--

"I am afraid of the future and of its cloudy sky, and I am afraid of
myself, for I am wasting in depression and bewilderment. Thou hast
hitherto led me by the hand. Do not desert me; finish Thy work. I know
that it is folly thus to take care for the future, for Thy Son has said,
'Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.' Still, that depends on
temperament. What is easy to some is so hard for others. Mine is a
restless spirit, always astir, always on the alert. Do what I will, it
wanders, feeling its way about the world, and gets lost! Bring it home,
keep it near Thee in a leash, kind Mother, and after so much weariness,
grant me to find rest!

"Oh! to be no longer thus torn in sunder, to be of one mind! Oh! to have
a soul so quenched that it should know no sorrows, no joys, but those of
the liturgy, that it might only be claimed, day by day, by Jesus or by
Thee, and follow Your lives as they are unfolded in the annual cycle of
the Church services! To rejoice at the Nativity, to laugh on Palm
Sunday, to weep in Holy Week, and be indifferent to all else, to cease
to hold oneself as of any account, to care not at all for one's
individual self! What a dream! How easy it then would be to take refuge
in a cloister!

"But is this possible to any but a saint? What a stripping of the soul
it presupposes; what an emptying out of every profane idea, of every
earthly image; what a taming of the subjugated imagination, never
venturing forth but on one track, instead of wandering haphazard as mine

"And yet how foolish is every other care--for all that does not tend to
Heaven is vain on earth. Aye, but as soon as I try to put these thoughts
into, practice, my jade of a soul plunges and rears; do what I will, it
only bucks and makes no advance.

"Alas! Blessed Virgin, I do not seek to excuse myself and my sins. And
still I dare confess to Thee that it is discouraging, heart-breaking, to
understand nothing and see nothing! Is this Chartres where I am
vegetating a waiting-place, a halting-place between two monasteries, a
bridge leading from Notre Dame de l'Atre to Solesmes or some other
Abbey? Or is it, on the contrary, the final stage where it is Thy will
that I should remain fixed? But then my life has no further meaning! It
is purposeless, built and overthrown with the shifting of sands. To what
end, if this be the case, are these monastic yearnings, these calls to
another life, this all but conviction that I have stopped at a station,
and am not yet at the place whither I am to travel?

"If only it might be now, as on other occasions when I have felt Thee
near me, when in response to my questions Thou hast answered me, if only
it might be here as at La Trappe, much as I suffered there! But no. I
hear Thee not--Thou dost not heed me."

Durtal was silent. Then he went on,--

"I am wrong to address Thee thus," he said. "Thou dost not carry us in
Thine arms unless we be unable to walk; Thou hast care and caresses for
the poor soul born anew by conversion; but when it can stand it is set
down on the ground, and Thou lookest on while it makes trial of its

"This is meet and right; but it does alter the fact that the memory of
those celestial alleviations, those first, lost joys is crushing to the

"O Holy Virgin, Holy Virgin, have pity on the rickety souls that
struggle on so painfully when they are no longer upheld by Thee! Have
pity on the bruised souls to whom every effort is painful; on the souls
whom nothing can console, to whom everything is affliction! Take pity on
the homeless, outcast souls, the wandering souls, unable to settle and
dwell with their kind, the tender, budding souls! Take pity on all souls
such as mine! Have pity on me!"

And before quitting the Mother he would often visit Her in those depths
where, since the Middle Ages, the faithful no longer seek her; he would
light an end of taper, and, turning aside from the nave of the crypt,
follow the curved line of the wall along the entrance passage as far as
the sacristy of this underground church, where in the ponderous
stone-work was a door strengthened with iron-work.

Through and down a little flight of steps, he reached a cellar which was
the ancient martyrium where, of old, in time of war the ciborium was
concealed. An altar stood in the middle of this well, dedicated in the
name of Saint Lubin. In the crypt the distant hum of the bells, the
sounds of life in the cathedral above, could still be heard; here,
nothing! It was like being in the tomb. Unfortunately, some squalid,
square columns whitened with lime-wash, built on the altar to give
support to Bridan's group in the choir above, spoilt the barbaric
simplicity of this _oubliette_, forgotten, lost in the night of ages,
and underground.

He went up again comforted nevertheless, accusing himself of
ingratitude, and asking himself how he could dream of leaving Chartres
and going away from the Virgin, with whom he could thus so easily
converse in solitude whenever he would.

On other days, when it was fine, he would take for the object of his
walk a convent whose existence had been revealed to him by Madame
Bavoil. One afternoon he had met her in the square, and she had said to

"I am going to see the little Jesus of Prague at the Carmelite convent
here. Will you come with me, our friend?"

Durtal had no liking for these petty pilgrimages made by good women; but
the idea of going to the Carmelite chapel, which was unknown to him,
tempted him to accompany her, and she led the way to the Rue des
Jubelines, behind the railway line and beyond the station. They had to
cross a bridge that groaned under the weight of rolling trains, and
turned to the right down a path winding between the embankment on one
side, and on the other thatched huts, and old sheds, and other houses
less poverty-stricken, indeed, but closed and impenetrable after
daybreak. Madame Bavoil led him to where this alley ended under the arch
of another bridge. Overhead was a siding, with its signals round and
square, red and yellow, and posts with cast-iron ladders; and there
always in the same place an engine was being fired, or, with shrill
whistling, was moving out backwards.

Madame Bavoil stopped at a door under a round arch in an immense wall,
which not far off ran against the embankment, forming an impassable
angle; it was built of millstone grit of the colour of burnt almonds,
like that used for the Paris reservoirs; here dwelt the nuns of Saint

Madame Bavoil, as being used to convent ways, pushed open the door which
stood ajar, and Durtal saw before him a paved walk between strips of
river pebbles, dividing a garden stocked with fruit-trees and geraniums.
Two yews, clipped into spheres, with a cross on the top of each, gave
this priestly close a graveyard flavour.

The path led upwards, cut into steps. When they reached the top Durtal
saw a building of brick and plaster pierced with windows guarded by iron
bars, and a grey door with a wicket bearing these words painted in
white, "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who put our trust in

He looked about him, surprised at seeing nobody, hearing nothing; but
Madame Bavoil beckoned to him, made her way round the house, and led the
way into a sort of vestibule along which clambered a vine wrapped in
swathing, and she turned into a little chapel, where she knelt down on
the flagstones.

Durtal, amazed, seemed to breathe the melancholy that weighed on this
naked sanctuary.

He was in a building of the end of the eighteenth century; in the
middle, raised on eight steps, stood an altar of wax-polished wood in
the shape of a tomb; above it was a shrine covered with a curtain of
white brocade and surmounted by a picture of the Annunciation, a washy
painting mounted in a gilt frame. To the right and left were two
medallions in relief, on one side Saint Joseph and on the other Saint
Theresa, and above the picture, close to the ceiling, were the arms of
the Carmelites, also in relief: a shield with a cross and stars beneath
a marquis's coronet, from which an arm emerges wielding a sword. This
was held up by fat little angels, the swollen infants of the sculptors
of that period, and floating in the air was a scroll bearing the motto
of the order: "_Zelo, zelatus sum, pro Domino Deo Exercituum_."

Finally, to the right of the altar, the iron grating of the nunnery was
seen in an arch in the wall; and on the steps of the altar, inside the
railing for the communicants, an annoying statue was emerging from under
a gilt canopy--the Infant Christ holding a globe in one hand, and
raising the other as if to command attention; a statue of painted
plaster as of some precocious mountebank, with homage offered in this
deserted chapel, of two pots of hydrangea and a floating wick in a
crimson glass.

"How cold and dismal is such _rococo_!" thought Durtal. He knelt down on
a chair, and by degrees his impressions underwent a change. This holy
place, saturated with prayer, seemed to let its ice melt and grow balmy.
It was as though visions percolated through the gate of the cloister and
shed warm puffs of air in the place. A sense of warmth of soul stole
over him, of being at home in this solitude.

The only astonishing thing was to hear, in such remote seclusion, the
whistling of trains and the rumbling of engines.

Durtal went out before Madame Bavoil had finished the rosary. Standing
in the doorway, he saw, just opposite, the cathedral in profile, but
with only one spire, the old belfry being hidden by the new. Under a
cloudy sky it stood massively solid, green and grey, with its roof of
oxidized copper, and the pumice-stone hue of the tower.

"It is stupendous!" said Durtal to himself, recalling the various
aspects it could assume according to the season and the hour, as the
colour of its complexion varied. "The whole effect under a clear sky is
silvery grey, and if the sun lights it up it turns pale golden yellow;
seen from near, its skin is like a nibbled biscuit, a siliceous
limestone eaten into holes; at other times, when the sun is setting, it
turns crimson and appears like some vast and exquisite shrine, all rose
colour and green; and in the twilight it is blue, and seems to
evaporate into violet.

"And those porches!" he went on. "That of the royal front is the least
variable; it remains of a cinnamon-brown half-way up, of a dull
pumice-grey as it rises; that on the south side, more eaten into by
lichens, is wearing green, while the arches on the north, with their
stones like concrete full of shells, suggest to the fancy a sea-grotto
left high and dry."

"Well, our friend, are you dreaming?" said Madame Bavoil, tapping him on
the shoulder.

"This Carmelite convent you see is a very austere house," said she, "and
as you may suppose, grace abounds;" and when Durtal murmured,--

"What a contrast between this dead spot and the railway that runs past
it, always in a stir!" she exclaimed,--

"Do you suppose that anywhere else you will find, side by side, such an
image of the contemplative life and the active life?"

"And what must the nuns think as they hear these continual departures
for the outer world? Those who have grown old in the convent would, of
course, despise these calls, these invitations to live; the quietude of
their spirits must increase as they find themselves protected for ever
from the perils which the noisy rush of the trains must bring before
them every hour of the day and night; they will feel more drawn to pray,
for those whom the chances of life carry away to Paris, or bring back to
the country, outcasts from the city. But the postulants--the novices? In
the hours of desertion, of doubt as to their vocation, which must come
over them, is it not appalling to think of the constantly revived
memories of home, of friends, of all that they have left to shut
themselves up for ever in a convent?

"As each asks herself whether she can endure watching and fasting, must
it not be a permanent temptation to rebel against being buried alive in
a tomb?

"And I cannot help thinking of the appearance as of a reservoir that the
style of building gives to this Carmel. The image is precise, for the
convent is indeed a reservoir into which God dips to draw forth the good
works of love and tears, and restore the balance of the scales in which
the sins of the world are so heavy!"

Madame Bavoil smiled.

"A very old Carmelite nun," said she, "who had gone into this House
before railways were invented, died here hardly three months ago. She
had never been outside the walls, and never saw an engine or a railway
carriage. Under what form could she picture to herself the trains she
heard thundering and shrieking?"

"As some diabolical invention, no doubt, since these conveyances carry
us to the wicked but delightful sins of towns," replied Durtal, smiling.
"But it is a curious case, nevertheless."

He was silent; then, changing the subject, he said,--

"And do you still hold communion with Heaven, Madame Bavoil?"

"No," she answered, sadly. "I no longer have any converse or any
visions. I am deaf and blind. God is silent to me."

She shook her head, and, after a pause, she added, speaking to

"Such a little thing is enough to displease Him. If He detects a trace
of vanity in the soul on which He shines, He departs. And as the Father
tells me, the mere fact of having spoken of the special graces
vouchsafed to me by Jesus, proves that I am not humble. In short, His
will be done!--And you, our friend, do you still think of taking shelter
in a cloister?"

"I--my spirit still craves a truce; my soul is but shifting ballast."

"Because, no doubt, you are not honest in your dealings. You behave as
if you meant to strike a bargain with Him; that is not the way to set to

"What would you do in my place?"

"I should be generous; I should say to Him, 'Here I am, do with me as
Thou wilt. I give myself unconditionally to Thee. I ask but one thing:
Help me to love Thee.'"

"And do you suppose that I have not blamed myself for my cowardice of

They walked on in silence. When they reached the cathedral, Madame
Bavoil proposed that they should pay a visit to Notre Dame du Pilier.

They seated themselves in the gloom of the side aisle of the choir,
where the dark-toned windows were still further obscured by a poorly
executed wooden niche, in which the Virgin, as dark as her namesake in
the crypt, Notre Dame de Sous-Terre, stood on a pillar, hung round with
bunches of metal hearts and little lamps on coronas, from the roof.
Frames of tapers on each side shot up little tongues of flame, and
prostrate women were praying, their faces hidden in their hands or
upturned to the dark countenance, on which the light did not fall.

It struck Durtal that the woes repressed in the morning hours were
poured out in the twilight; the faithful did not now come for Her alone,
but for themselves; each one brought a load of sorrows and opened it
before Her. What anguish of soul was poured out on the stones by these
women, leaning prostrate against the railing that protected the pillar
which each kissed as she rose.

And the swarthy image, carved in the early part of the sixteenth
century, had listened, Her face invisible, to the same sighs, the same
complaints, from succeeding generations, had heard the same cries,
echoing down the ages, for ever lamenting the bitterness of life, for
ever expressing the desire, all the same, for length of days!

Durtal looked at Madame Bavoil. She was praying with closed eyes,
kneeling on the stones and sitting on her heels, her arms hanging, her
hands clasped. How happy was she to be able thus to abstract herself.

And he tried to force himself to say a prayer, quite a short one, in the
hope that he might succeed in getting to the end without letting his
mind wander. He began "_Sub tuum_"--"Under Thy protection do we take
refuge; Holy Mother of God, despise not us." What it was really
indispensable that he should obtain from the Father Superior was
permission to take his books with him into the monastery, and to have at
least a few pious toys in his cell. Ah--but how could he explain that
any profane literature was necessary in a convent, that, from an
artist's point of view, it was requisite to refresh one's memory of the
prose of Hugo, of Baudelaire, of Flaubert--"I am at sea again!" said
Durtal suddenly to himself.

He tried to brush away these distractions, and went on: "Despise not the
prayers we put up to Thee in our needs--" And he was off again at a
gallop in his dreams--"Even supposing that no difficulty were made about
this request, the question would still remain as to submitting
manuscripts for revision, obtaining the _imprimatur_; and how would that
be arranged?"

Madame Bavoil interrupted his wanderings by rising from her knees.
Recalled to himself, he hastily finished his prayer--"but deliver us
from all perils, glorious and blessed Virgin; Amen." And he parted from
the housekeeper on the steps of the church, going home much vexed by his
dissipation of mind.

He there found a note from the Editor of the _Review_, which had
published his paper on the Fra Angelico in the Louvre, asking him for
another article.

This diversion made him glad; he thought that this task might perhaps
preserve him from vain thoughts of his discomfiture at Chartres and his
fancy for the cloister.

"What can I send to the _Review_?" said he to himself. "Since what they
chiefly ask for is criticism of religious art, I might write some short
study of the early German painters. I have ample notes, made on the spot
in the galleries there; let us see!"

He turned them over, lingering to read a note-book containing his
impressions of travel. A summing up of his remarks on the School of
Cologne arrested his attention.

At every page he gave vent to his surprise in more and more vehement
exclamations, at the false ideas and absurd theories put forward for so
many years with regard to these pictures.

Every writer, without exception, had expatiated, each more
enthusiastically than the last, on the pure and religious art of these
early painters, speaking of them as seraphic artists who had depicted
superhuman beauty, white and sylph-like Virgins all soul, standing out
like celestial visions, against backgrounds of gold.

Durtal, prejudiced by the unanimity of this universal praise, expected
to find almost impalpably fair angels, Flemish Madonnas, etherealized in
some sort, having shed their husk of flesh, rapturous Memlings with eyes
full of heaven, and bodies that had almost ceased to be--and he
remembered his dismay on entering the galleries of the Cologne Museum.

In point of fact his disenchantment had begun as soon as he stepped out
of the train. Carried in the course of a night from Paris to that city,
he had made his way through narrow streets where every basement window
exhaled the fragrance of _sauerkraut_, and he had reached the cathedral
square, beautified by Farina's shop-signs, where in front of the famous
Dom he had been obliged to confess that this façade, this exterior, was
a huge piece of patchwork--a delusion. Every part of it was furbished
up, and the church sheltered no sculpture under its portals; it was
symmetrical, built by peg and line; its rigid forms, its hard outlines
were an offence.

The interior was better, in spite of the vulgar blaze, the cheap
fireworks, of ignoble modern glass. And there, in a chapel near the
choir, might be seen, for a consideration, the most famous picture of
the German school, the _Dombild_, by Stephan Lochner, a triptych
representing the Adoration of the Magi on the centre panel, with St.
Ursula on the left hand shutter and St. Gereon on the right.

Durtal's consternation had risen to the highest pitch. The work was thus
arranged. Against a gold background, a Virgin, crowned, red-haired,
bullet-headed, dressed in blue, held on her knees an Infant blessing the
Kings, two kneeling on each side of the throne. One, an old fellow with
a short beard like a retired officer, and hair curled like shavings over
his ears, was sumptuously arrayed in crimson velvet brocaded with gold,
his hands clasped; the other, a dandy with long hair and a large beard,
dressed in green shot with gold and trimmed with fur, held up a golden
cup. And behind each, other figures were standing, flourishing their
swords and standards, in cavalier attitudes, and posing for the public,
thinking much more of the visitors than of the Virgin.

This, then, was the type of Madonna, of the supersensual and sublimated
Virgins of Cologne! This one was puffy, redundant, chubby; she had the
neck of a heifer, and flesh like cream, or hasty pudding, that quivers
when it is touched. Jesus, whose expression was the only interesting
feature of the picture, a certain manly gravity that was shown without
any disfigurement of the character of childhood, was also round and
well-fed, and the scene took place on a lawn strewn with
flowers--primroses, violets, and strawberries painted in fine stipple
with the touch of a miniaturist.

You might call this picture what you pleased, the execution, smooth and
wavy, and cold in spite of the brilliant colours, was a finished piece
of work, brilliant, dexterous--but not religious; it betrayed a
decadence; the work was laboured, complicated, pretty, but it was in no
sense that of an early master.

This common, squat Virgin, fat and pudgy, was simply a good German girl,
well-dressed and squarely seated, but she could never have been the
ecstatic Mother of God! Then these kneeling and standing men were not in
prayer; there was no devotion in this picture; the personages were all
thinking of something else, folding their hands and looking round at the
painter who was depicting them. As to the wings, it were better to say
nothing about them. What was to be thought of the Saint Ursula with a
prominent forehead like a cupping-glass and a burly stomach, surrounded
by other creatures as shapeless as herself, their squab noses poking out
of the bladders of lard that did duty for their faces?

And Durtal found the same impression of insensibility to mysticism in
the picture gallery. There he could study Stephan Lochner's precursor,
Master Wilhelm--the first early German painter whose name is known--and
in this again he found the look of elaborate chubbiness as in the
Dombild. Wilhelm's Virgin was indeed less vulgar than the Virgin of the
cathedral; but in feeling she was equally insipid, over-finished, and
even more simperingly pretty. She was the triumph of delicate pertness,
and had the look of a stage chamber-maid with her hair crimped over her
forehead. And the child, twisted into an unnatural attitude, while he
caressed his Mother's chin, turned his face round to be the better seen.

In short, this Virgin was neither human nor divine; she had not even the
too realistic touch of Lochner, and could, no more than the other, have
been the chosen Mother of God.

It is indeed strange that these very early painters should have begun
where painting as an art ends, in mere finish and smoothness; men who
from the first put sugar in their new wine and betray their lack of
energy, of enthusiasm, of simplicity, while no faith projects itself
from their work. They are the very converse of every other school; for
everywhere else, in Italy, Flanders, Holland, Burgundy, pictures began
by being clumsy and unfinished, barbarous and hard, but at least ardent
and pious!

As he studied the other pictures in this collection, the mass of
anonymous work, the paintings ascribed to the Master of the Lyversberg
Passion, and the Master of the Saint Bartholomew, Durtal came to the
conclusion that the School of Cologne had known nothing of mysticism
till it had felt the influence of the Flemish painters. It had needed a
Van Eyck, and the yet more exquisite Roger van der Weyden, to breathe
the air of Heaven into these craftsmen. They thus had changed their
manner, had imitated the ascetic innocence of the Flemings, had
assimilated their tender piety and simplicity, and, in their turn, had
sung the glory of the Mother and mourned over the sufferings of the Son
in ingenuous hymns.

"This school may be thus summed up," said Durtal. "It is the triumph of
padding and puffing, the apotheosis of fatness and sheen, and this has
nothing to do with Christian art in the true sense of the word.

"If we want to understand the whole personal character of German
religious painting, we must study other schools than this, the only one
ever spoken of, and always with praise. We must turn to the less
familiar schools of Franconia and Swabia; there we find the very
opposite. As art it is savage and rough, but it lives--it weeps, nay it
cries aloud, but it prays. We must look at the works of these unkempt
geniuses, such as Grünewald, whose Christs, rebellious and wrathful,
grind their teeth; or Zeitblom, whose 'Veronica's veil,' in the Berlin
Museum, is unpleasant, no doubt; the angels have black leather crosses
on their breasts, and the Saviour's head is terrible, horrible; still
there is such energy in the work, such decision, such crudity, that the
very sincerity of its ugliness is impressive.

"Certainly," Durtal went on, "even setting apart such daring painters as
Grünewald, I prefer many an unknown artist whose work is strange rather
than beautiful, but at any rate mystical, to the honey and lard of
Cologne; for instance, an anonymous painter who is to be found in the
Grand Duke's collection at Gotha, as the author of one of those curious
Mass-scenes which in the Middle Ages were called the 'Mass of Saint
Gregory,' wherefore, we know not."

Durtal turned over his note-book and read through the description he had
recorded of this work, which he remembered as an instance of a sort of
pious brutality.

The picture was set out on a gold background. A little above the altar,
but scarcely higher, a wooden sarcophagus, a sort of square bath, was
seen, with a board over it from end to end. On this plank-bridge sat the
Christ, His legs hidden in this tomb, holding a cross. His face was
haggard and hollow, He was crowned with green thorns, and His emaciated
body was spotted all over by the ends of the scourges as if the wounds
were flea-bites. Over Him, in the air, floated the instruments of the
Passion: the nails, the sponge, a hammer and a spear; to the left, on a
very small scale, were the busts of Jesus and of Judas, near a pedestal
on which lay three rows of pieces of silver.

In front of this altar, adoring this truly hideous Saviour painted in
accordance with the prophetic descriptions of Isaiah and David, were
Pope Gregory on his knees, his hands clasped, a grave Cardinal, whose
hands were hidden under his robe, and a rough-looking Bishop, standing,
in a dark green cloak embroidered with gold; he held a cross.

It was enigmatical and it was sinister, but those austere and commanding
faces were alive. There was a stamp of faith, indomitable and resolute,
in those countenances. It was harsh to the palate, the roughest wine of
mysticism; but at least it was not the mawkish syrup of the early
Cologne painters.

"Ah! that mystical breath by which the soul of the artist becomes
incorporate in the colour on a canvas, in the lines of carved stone, in
written words, and speaks to the souls of those who can understand! How
few have had it!" thought Durtal, closing his notes of travel. In
Germany it may be seen in the very bunglers among painters; in Italy,
setting aside Angelico, whose works reveal his saintly spirit and are
the coloured image of his secret soul, and his pupil, Benozzo Gozzoli,
the last of the Mediæval painters; if we also except his precursors:
Cimabue, the survivors of the rigid Byzantines, Giotto--who thawed those
fixed and puzzling figures, Orcagna, Simone di Martino, Taddeo
Gaddi--all the very early painters--how much dexterous trickery do we
find among the great painters, mimicking the religious note, and
producing a deceptive imitation by sheer sham.

"The Italians of the Renaissance, above all others, excelled in this
spurious piety, and those are comparatively rare who, like Botticelli,
were honest enough to confess that their Virgins were Venuses and their
Venuses Virgins.

"The Berlin gallery, where he is to be seen in some exquisite and
triumphant examples, shows this very plainly; we see the two versions of
the type side by side.

"First we have a wonderful Venus, nude, with pure gold hair brought
round her body by one hand, standing out in her white flesh against a
black background, gazing with limpid grey eyes, liquid with the colour
of stagnant water, and edged with lids like a young rabbit's--pink lids;
she must have wept much, and her disconsolate look, her drooping
attitude, suggest some far-away thought of the unsatisfied weariness of
the senses and the intolerable unrest of horrible desires that nothing
can satisfy.

"And not far away is a Virgin, very like her--indeed her very self, with
her sensitive, slightly upturned nose, her lips like a folded
clover-leaf, her brackish eyes, her pink lids, her golden hair, her
greenish complexion, her strongly-moulded frame and large hands. The
countenance is the same, fretful and weary; it is evident that the same
model sat for both. They are both purely pagan. For the Venus, well and
good! But the Virgin!

"It may be added that in this picture a row of torch-bearing angels
makes the result, if possible, even less Christian, for these delightful
creatures, with their ambiguous smiles and supple grace, have all the
dangerous attraction of wicked angels. They are Ganymedes, borrowed from
mythology, not from the Bible.

"How far we are from God with this paganism of Botticelli's!" said
Durtal to himself. "What a difference between this painter and that
Roger van der Weyden whose Nativity is the glory of one of the adjoining
rooms in that magnificent Old Museum of Berlin!"

Ay, that Nativity!--He had only to turn to his notes to see it plainly
before him.

Painted as a triptych, on the right wing was an old man in front of some
wondering bystanders, burning incense to the Virgin, who is visible
through an open window above a landscape in distant perspective with
avenues undulating to the horizon; while a woman, her head dressed in a
muffler that is almost a turban, touches the old man's shoulder with one
hand and raises the other with an indescribable gesture of surprise and
joy, her face expressive of ecstasy. On the left wing kneel the three
Kings, their hands uplifted, their eyes raised to Heaven, contemplating
an Infant beaming from the heart of a star; nothing can be more
beautiful than these three transfigured faces; and these are praying
with all their heart, never troubling themselves about us.

Still, these two divisions are but accessory to the central subject
which they complement, and which is thus arranged:

In the middle, in front of a sort of ruined palace or columnar cow-shed
without a roof, the Virgin kneels in prayer before the Babe; to the
right the donor, the Chevalier Bladelin, is seen, also kneeling, and on
the left Saint Joseph, holding a lighted taper, gazes down on Jesus.
There are besides six little angels, three below at the door of the
stable and three above in the air. This is the whole scene.

It is noteworthy that the goldsmith's work, the mingled splendour of
Oriental hangings, the brocades hemmed with fur and strewn with gems of
which Van Eyck and Memling made such free use to array their figures of
the Virgin and the donors, are not to be seen in this panel. The
textures are rich and heavy, but have none of the gorgeous colouring of
the silks of Bruges or the carpets of Persia. Roger van der Weyden seems
intentionally to have reduced the whole setting of the scene to its
simplest expression, and yet, while using an unaffectedly sober key of
colour, he has produced a masterpiece of pure and lucid harmony.

Mary, with no diadem, no jewelled band, not a bracelet or a gem, her
head simply crowned by a few golden rays, is seen in a white dress,
closed to the throat, and a blue cloak of which the ample folds lie on
the ground; the sleeves of her under dress, fastened at the wrists, are
of a rich blue violet, more nearly black than red.

Her face is indescribable; of superhuman loveliness, with long red-gold
hair; the brow high, the nose straight, the lips full, the chin small;
but words are of no avail; what cannot be described is the expression of
candour and sadness, the tide of love that rises to those downcast eyes
as she looks down on the tiny, helpless Babe, round whose head there is
a rosy nimbus starred with gold.

Never was there a more unearthly and yet more living Virgin. Neither Van
Eyck, with his rather vulgar and never beautiful heads, nor
Memling--more tender and refined, no doubt, but limited to his ideal of
a woman with a round forehead and a face shaped like a kite, wide above
and pointed below--ever achieved the elegance of form or the purity of a
woman made divine by love, a being who, even apart from her surroundings
and bereft of the attributes by which she is recognizable, could be none
other than the Mother of God.

By her side the Chevalier Bladelin, dressed all in black, with his
equine type of face, his shaven cheeks, his dignity, at once priestly
and princely, is lost in contemplation, far away from the world; he is
praying in good earnest. And Saint Joseph, opposite to him, represented
as a bald old man, with a short beard, and wearing a red cloak, comes
forward as if amazed at his happiness, and scarce daring to believe that
the moment has come when he may adore the Messiah born at last; he
smiles, deferentially, mildly stepping with the almost clumsy care of an
old man who would fain be serviceable but fears to intrude.

To make the whole thing more than perfect, above the figure of Pierre
Bladelin extends a wondrous landscape, cut across by the High Street of
Middelburg, the town founded by this nobleman, a street bordered by
castellated houses with battlements and church towers, and vanishing in
a country scene lighted up by a clear sky, a blue spring day; above
Saint Joseph a meadow and woods, sheep and shepherds, and three
exquisite angels in robes, one of pinkish yellow, one of purple like a
campanula, and one of greenish citron hue; three really ethereal beings,
having no relationship with the pertly innocent pages invented by the

If we sum up the whole impression produced by this work, we are led to
the conclusion that mystical art, still dwelling on earth, and not
restricted to scenes in Heaven, as Angelico had chosen to limit it in
his "Coronation of the Virgin," has produced in Roger van der Weyden's
triptych the purest effluence of prayer to be found in painting. Never
has the Nativity been so gloriously set forth, nor, it may be said, more
artlessly and simply expressed. The masterpiece of the Christmas
festival is at Berlin, just as the masterpiece of the Deposition is at
Antwerp, in the agonized and magnificent work of Quentin Matsys.

"The early Flemish painters were the greatest that ever lived!" said
Durtal to himself, "and this Roger Van der Weyden, or Roger de la
Pasture as he is sometimes called, crushed between the fame of van Eyck
and of Memling--as Gherard David was later, and Hugo van der Goes,
Justus of Ghent, and Dierck Bouts--was in my opinion superior to them

"And after them what a falling away! Theatrical Crucifixions, the fleshy
coarseness of Rubens which Vandyck tried to mitigate by making it
leaner. We must leap into Holland to find the mystic accent once more,
and it reveals itself in the soul of a Judaizing Protestant, under an
aspect so mysterious and eccentric that at first sight we hesitate,
feeling ourselves, as it were, to make sure that we are not mistaken in
regarding this as religious art.

"Nor need we go to Amsterdam to verify the truth of this impression. It
is enough to go to see the 'Disciples at Emmaus,' in the Louvre."

Durtal, started on this theme, fell into a reverie over Rembrandt's
strange conception of Christian æsthetics. It is evident that in his
mode of depicting Gospel scenes this painter still exhales a breath of
the Old Testament; his church, even if he had meant to paint it as it
was in his day, would still be a synagogue, so strong is the odour of
the Jew in all his work; he is possessed by the imagery, the prophecies,
all the solemn and barbarous side of the East. And this we can
understand when we know that he was the companion of Rabbis, whose
portraits he has left us, and the friend of Manasseh ben Israel, one of
the most learned men of his age. On the other hand, we may admit that
this Protestant Dutchman engrafted on this stock of cabalistic learning
and Mosaic ceremonial an attentive and assiduous study of the Old
Testament, for he possessed a Bible, which was sold by auction with his
furniture to pay his debts.

This would be enough to justify his choice of subjects and the
composition of his pictures; but the riddle remains unsolved of the
results achieved by an artist whom we cannot conceive of, after all, as
praying before he would paint: like Angelico and Roger van der Weyden.

Be this as it may, he, with the eye of a visionary, with his serious but
fervid art, his genius for concentration, for getting a spot of the
essence of sunlight into the heart of darkness, has accomplished great
results; and in his Biblical scenes has spoken a language which no one
before him had even attempted to lisp.

Is not this picture of the Pilgrims to Emmaus a typical instance of
this? Pull the work to pieces; it ought to seem dull, monotonous,
voiceless. As a composition it is utterly common: we see a sort of
cellar of stone-work, a table facing us, behind which sits Jesus, His
feet bare, His lips colourless, His complexion muddy, His raiment of a
pinkish grey; He is breaking the bread, while, to His right, an apostle,
clutching his napkin, looks at Him, fancies he recognizes Him, and on
the left another disciple, quite sure that he knows Him, clasps his
hands--and this one utters a cry of joy that we can hear! A fourth
figure, with an intelligent profile, sees nothing, but, attentive to his
duties, waits on the guests.

It is a meal of humble folk in a prison; the colours are limited to a
key of sad greys and browns, excepting in the case of the man who twists
his napkin, whose sleeves are thick with a vermilion like red
sealing-wax, while the others might be painted with dust and pitch.

These are the literal facts; but they are not the truth, for everything
is transfigured. The head of Christ is luminous merely by the way He
looks up; a pale radiance fills the room. This Jesus, ugly as He is,
with lips like death, asserts Himself by a gesture, a look of ineffable
beauty, as the murdered Son of a God!

We stand dumfounded, not even trying to understand; for this work,
stamped with transcendent naturalism, is beyond and apart from painting;
no one can copy or reproduce it.

"After Rembrandt," Durtal went on, "there is an irremediable decay of
religious feeling in painting. The seventeenth century has not left a
single picture in which there is a genuine stamp of manly devotion;
excepting, indeed, in Spain at the time when Saint Theresa and Saint
John of the Cross flourished there; then the mystical realism of its
painters produced some fiercely fervid works;" and Durtal recalled a
picture by Zurbaran he had seen and admired in the Gallery at Lyons,
Saint Francis of Assisi standing upright in a habit of grey serge, the
cowl over his head, his hands hidden in his sleeves.

The face looked as if it had been moulded or chiselled out of cinders;
the mouth was open, livid, below ecstatic eyes as white as if they had
been blinded. It was a wonder how this corpse, of which nothing was left
but the bones, could hold itself up; and terror came over the beholder
as he thought of the excessive maceration and overwhelming penances that
must have exhausted that frame and seamed that face.

This painting was the evident outcome of the relentless and terrible
mysticism of Saint John of the Cross, the art of the rack, the _delirium
tremens_ of divine intoxication here on earth; aye, but what a passion
of adoration, what a voice of love stifled by anguish found utterance in
this canvas.

As to the eighteenth century, it was not worth a thought; that century
was the age of the belly and the bath-room; as soon as art tried to
touch the Church it only made a washing-basin into a holy-water stoup.

In our own time, again, there is nothing to note.

Overbeck, Ingres, Flandrin--all sorry jades harnessed willy-nilly to
religious tasks by commissions from the pious. In the church of Saint
Sulpice Delacroix extinguishes all the feeble art that surrounds him,
but his sense of Catholic art is null.

In truth, faith is now dormant, and without that no mystical work is

At the present moment Signol is dead, but Olivier Merson is left;
vacuity all along the line. We need not take into account the got-up
absurdities and paintings to puzzle Rosicrucian simpletons; nor, again,
the feeble imagery of the wealthy idlers or the worthy youths who fancy
that if they paint a woman larger than life, that makes her mystical.
Silence would befit the subject, only that, unluckily, a well-meaning
publisher was struck by the idea of mobilizing the clerical forces to
hail James Tissot as an evangelical painter. His Life of Christ is one
of the least religious works conceivable, for, in fact, it might be
regarded as a hesitating paraphrase of the Life of Jesus as narrated by
that cheerful apostate and terrible jester, Renan.

The firm of Mame has completed this artist's treason by the issue of
these melancholy chromo-lithographs. Under the pretext of realism, of
information acquired on the spot, of authenticated costumes--all
extremely doubtful, since we should be forced to conclude that nothing
has changed in Palestine in the course of nineteen centuries--Monsieur
Tissot has given us the basest masquerade that anyone has yet dared
present as an illustration of the Scriptures. Look at that disreputable
trull, a street slut tired of shouting "This way to the boats!" till she
falls fainting. This is the _Magnificat_, the Blessed Virgin. That
epileptic boy with outstretched arms is Jesus in the Temple. Look at the
Baptism, the Pharisee and the Publican, the Massacre of the Innocents,
the Saint Peter walking on the Sea, the Magdalen at the feet of Jesus,
the ridiculous _Consummatum est_--look at them all: these prints are
matchless for platitude, effeteness, poverty of spirit. They might have
been designed by the first-comer, and are painted with muck, wine-sauce,

Certainly the hapless Catholics have no luck when once they try to
meddle with what they do not understand; their incurable lack of
artistic sense is once more displayed in this attempt over which the
whole world of art and letters is laughing in their sleeve.

"Then is there nothing, absolutely nothing, to the credit side for the
Church?" exclaimed Durtal. "And yet some attempts at ascetic art have
been made in this century. A few years since, the Benedictine House at
Beuron, in Bavaria, tried to revive ecclesiastical art"; and Durtal
remembered having looked through some reproductions of mural frescoes
painted by these monks in a tower at Monte Cassino.

These frescoes had gone back to the types of Assyria and Egypt, with
their crowned gods, their sphynx-headed angels having fan-shaped wings
behind their heads, their old men with plaited beards playing on
stringed instruments; and then the Friars of Beuron had given up this
hieratic style, in which, it must be owned, they succeeded but ill, and
in certain later works--especially in a volume of the Way of the Cross,
published at Freiburg in Breisgau--they had adopted a strange medley of
other styles.

The Roman soldiers who figured in those pages were huge firemen, a
bequest from the schools of Guérin and David; and then, unexpectedly, in
certain plates where the Magdalen and the Holy women appeared, a younger
spirit seemed to prevail among the commonplace groups--Greek female
types derived from the Renaissance, pretty and elegant, evidently
imported from the works of the pre-Raphaelites, and strongly recalling
Walter Crane's illustrations.

Thus the ideal at Beuron had developed into an alloy of the French art
of the First Empire and contemporary English work.

Some of these compositions were all but laughable, that of the Ninth
Station, to mention one: Christ lying at full length on His face, and
being pulled up by a rope tied to His bound hands; it looked as if He
were learning to swim. Still, but for feeble and vulgar incidents,
clumsy and obvious details, what strange scenes suddenly rose before his
mind, distinct from the mass: Veronica on her knees before Jesus, was
really distracted with grief, really fine; the borrowed or copied
figures of the other persons represented disappeared; even in the least
original of these compositions the coarse, unsatisfactory utterances of
these monks spoke an almost eloquent language; and this because intense
faith and fervour lurked in the work. A breath had passed over those
faces, and they were alive; the emotion, the voice of prayer, was felt
in the silence of this conventional crowd. This Way of the Cross was
matchless from this point of view: Monastic piety had introduced an
unexpected element, giving evidence of the mysterious power it has at
its command, infusing a personal emotion, a peculiar aroma, into a work
which, without it, would never indeed have existed. These Benedictines
had suggested the sensation of kneeling worship and the very fragrance
of the Gospel, as artists of wider scope had failed in doing.

Their attempt, however, had begotten no following, and at this day the
school is almost dead, producing nothing but feeble prints for old women
designed by the lay-brothers.

How, indeed, could it have been anything but still-born? The idea of
doing for the West what Manuel Pauselinos did for the East, of
eliminating study from nature, imposing an uniform ritual of colour and
line, of compelling every artistic temperament to squeeze itself into
the same mould, shows an absolute misapprehension of art in the mind of
the man who attempted it. The system was bound to end in ankylosis, in
the paralysis of painting, and this, in fact, was the result.

At about the same time with these Religious an unknown artist, living in
the country, and never exhibiting in Paris, was painting pictures for
churches and convents, working for the glory of God and refusing all
remuneration from priests or monks. Durtal knew his pictures, and they
had suggested much the same reflections as those aroused by the
Benedictine paintings of Beuron.

At first sight Paul Borel's work is neither cheerful nor attractive; the
phrases he used might often have made a partisan of the modern smile;
and besides, to judge his work fairly it is indispensable to get rid of
part of it, to refuse to see anything but that which has evaded the
too-familiar formulas of commonplace unction; and then what a spirit of
manly fervency, of ardent piety, filled and upheld it.

His most important paintings are buried in the chapel of the Dominican
school at Oullins, in a remote corner of the suburbs of Lyons. Among the
ten subjects that decorate the nave, we find Moses Striking the Rock,
the Disciples at Emmaus, the Healing of One Possessed, of One Born
Blind, and of Tobit; but in spite of the calm energy shown in these
frescoes, they are disappointing by reason of their general heaviness
and of the sleepy and unwonted effect of colour. Not till we reach the
choir, beyond the communion railing, do we find works of a quite
different kind of art, above some magnificent figures of saints of the
Order of Friars Preacher, amazing in the power of prayer, the essence of
saintliness that they diffuse.

There, too, Durtal had found two large compositions: one of the Virgin
bestowing the Rosary on Saint Dominic, and the other of Saint Thomas
Aquinas kneeling before an altar on which stands a Crucifix radiating
light. Never since the Middle Ages had monks been so understood and so
painted; never had a more impetuous fount of soul been revealed under so
stern a casing of features. Borel was the painter of the Monastic
Saints; his art, by nature rather torpid, soared up with them as soon as
he tried to paint them.

At Versailles, again, even better perhaps than in the chapel of the
Oullins seminary, the sincere and deeply religious work of Borel might
be studied. At the entrance to the chapel of the Augustine Sisters in
that town, of which Borel had painted the nave and the choir, there
stood a figure of an Abbess of the fourteenth century, Saint Clare of
Montefalcone, in the black robes of an Augustinian Nun, against the
stone walls of her cell, an open book on one side of the figure and a
brass lamp on the other, somewhat behind her on a table.

In that face, bent over the Crucifix she was pressing to her lips, in
that countenance, at once sweet and hungering, in the movement of the
arms closely folded over her bosom, raised to her face, and themselves
forming a cross, he had seen the complete absorption of a bride, the
rapt, ecstatic joy of the purest love, and at the same time something of
the anxious affection of a mother cherishing the Christ she kissed, and
seemed to shelter in her bosom like a suffering child.

And this was all set forth without any theatrical attitude or forced
gestures, with perfect simplicity. This Saint Clare has no ravings, no
outcries, like Saint Magdalen of Pazzi; she does not soar with the
flight of divine intoxication. The mystic possession manifests itself in
a mute rapture; her transports are controlled, and her inebriety is
grave; she does not diffuse herself, but opens her soul, and Jesus, as
He enters in, stamps her with His likeness, impresses her with the image
of the Crucifix she holds, and of which the impress was found graven on
her heart when it was examined after her death.

This was the most remarkable religious painting of our time, and it was
achieved with no borrowing from the Early painters, no trickery of
awkward attitudes supported by iron bars, no affectations, no artifice.
And what a devout Catholic, what an emotionally pious artist must the
man be who could produce such a work!

After him the rest was silence. Among the religious youth of to-day no
one is to be found equal to the presentment of Church subjects. "Only
one," said Durtal, thinking it over, "gave any hope of such powers, for
he stands apart from the rest, and, at any rate, has talent."

He rose and went to turn over his portfolios, picking out the
lithographs by Charles Dulac.

This artist had begun with a series of landscapes, idealizing nature, at
first with a timid hand--extravagantly large pools, and trees with
leaves that looked like wild wigs tossed by the wind; then he had
produced a rendering in black and white of a Canticle of the Sun, or of
Creation, and had poured out in nine plates, printed in different states
of tone, that effluence of mystical feeling which in his first set was
still latent and undecided.

The rather hackneyed dictum that "a landscape is a state of mind," was
strictly appropriate to this work; the artist had stamped his faith on
these views, studied, no doubt, from nature, but seen, it was evident,
not by the eyes alone, but by a captivated spirit singing in the open
air Daniel's hymn and David's psalm, as interpreted by Saint Francis,
and repeating after them the thought that all the Elements shall sing to
the glory of Him who created them.

Among these plates two were genuinely inspiring: that with the title,
_Stella Matutina_, and the other with the words, _Spiritus Sancte Deus_;
but another, the broadest, the most decisive, and the simplest of them
all, bearing the title _Sol Justitiæ_, seemed best of all to set forth
the individual sympathies of the artist.

It was thus composed: A light, remote, translucent distance was lost in
infinitude--a peninsula, a desert waste of waters with ribs of shore,
tongues of land planted with trees repeated in the mirror of the lake;
on the horizon the sun, half set, cast its beams reflected by the sheet
of waters; that was all, but amazing placidity and calm, a sense of
fulness was shed over all. The idea of justice, to which that of mercy
answers as its inevitable echo, was symbolized in the serene solemnity
of this expanse lighted up by the glow of a kindly season and mild

Durtal drew back to get a more complete view of the work as a whole.

"There is no denying it," said he; "this artist has the instinct, the
subtle sense of aerial space, of expanse; he understands the soul of
calm waters flowing under a vast sky! And then, this print diffuses
emanations as from a Catholic, which steal into us, slowly soak into our

"And by this time," said he, closing the portfolio, "I am far enough
away from the original matter, and none the nearer to any article I can
write for the _Review_. A paper on the primitive German painters would,
indeed, be quite in its line; yes, but what an undertaking! I should
have to work up my notes, and after dealing with Meister Wilhelm,
Stephan Lochner, and Zeitblom, to speak of Bernhardt Strigel, an almost
unknown painter, of Albert Dürer, Holbein, Martin Schongauer, Hans
Balding, Burgkmayer, and I know not how many more. I should have to
account for whatever may have survived of orthodoxy in Germany after the
Reformation; to mention, at any rate, from the Lutheran point of view,
that extraordinary painter, Cranach, whose Adams are bearded Apollos of
the complexion of a Red Indian, and his Eves slender, chubby-faced
courtesans, with bullet heads, little shrimps' eyes, lips moulded out of
red pomatum, breasts like apples close under the neck, long, slim legs,
elegantly formed, with the calf high up, and large, flat feet with thick

"Such a treatise would carry me too far. It is amusing to dream over,
but not to write. I should do better to seek a less panoramic, a
compacter subject. But what?--Well, I will see later," he concluded,
getting up, for Madame Mesurat jovially announced that dinner was ready.


To change his weariness of the place, Durtal one sunny afternoon went to
the further end of Chartres, to visit the ancient church of Saint Martin
du Val. It dated from the tenth century, and had served as the chapel by
turns of a Benedictine House and of a Capuchin convent. Restored without
any too flagrant heresies, it was now included in the precincts of an
Asylum, and was reached by crossing a yard where blind folk in white
cotton caps sat nodding on benches in the shade of a few trees.

Its small, squat doorway and three little belfries, as if it had been
built for a village of dwarfs, attested its Romanesque origin; and, as
at Saint Radegonde at Poitiers and Notre Dame de la Couture at le Mans,
the interior opened, under an altar very much raised above the ground,
into a crypt lighted by loopholes borrowing their light from the
ambulatory of the choir. The capitals of the columns, coarsely carved,
resembled the idols of Oceania; under the pavement and in the tombs lay
many of the Bishops of Chartres, and newly-consecrated prelates were
supposed to spend the first night of their arrival at the See in prayer
before these tombs, so as to imbue themselves with the virtues of their
predecessors and enlist their support.

"The Manes of these Bishops might very well have whispered to their
present successor, Monseigneur des Mofflaines, some plan for purifying
the House of the Virgin by turning out the vile musician who degrades
the Sanctuary on Sundays to the level of a music hall!" sighed Durtal.
'But, alas! nothing disturbs the inertia of that aged, and invalid
shepherd, who is, indeed, never to be seen either in his garden, in the
cathedral, or in the town.

"Ah! But this is something better than all the vocal flourishes of the
choristers!" said Durtal to himself as he listened to the bells aroused
from silence to shed the blessed drops of sound over the city.

He called to mind the meanings ascribed to bells by the early
symbolists. Durand of Mende compares the hardness of the metal to the
power of the preacher, and thinks that the blows of the tongue against
the side, aim at showing the orator that he should punish himself and
correct his own vices before he blames those of others. The wooden
crossbeam to which the bell is suspended resembles in form the Cross of
Christ, and the rope pulled by the ringer to set the bell going is
allegorical of the knowledge of the Scripture which depends on the Cross

According to Hugh of Saint Victor, the tongue of the bell is the
sacerdotal tongue, which, striking on both sides of the body, declares
the truth of both Testaments. Finally, to others the bell itself is the
mouth of the Liturgy, and the tongue its tongue.

"In fact, the bell is the Church's herald, its outer voice, as the
priest is its inward voice," Durtal concluded.

While meditating in this wise, he had reached the cathedral, and for the
hundredth time stood to admire those powerful abutments throwing out,
with the strong curve of a projectile, flying buttresses like spoked
wheels, and, as usual, he was amazed by the flight of the parabola, the
grace of the trajectory, the sober strength of those curved supports.
"Still," said he to himself, as he studied the parapet raised above
them, bordering the roof of the nave, "the architect who was content to
stamp out those trefoil arches, as if they were punched in that stone
parapet, was less happily inspired than certain other master-masons or
stone-workers who enclosed the little gutter-path they made round church
roofs with scriptural or symbolical images. Such an one was he who built
the cathedral at Troyes, where the top parapet is carved alternately
into fleur de lys and Saint Peter's keys; and he who at Caudebec
sculptured the edge into gothic letters of a delightfully decorative
character, spelling a hymn to the Virgin, thus crowning the church with
a garland of prayer, wreathing its head with a white chaplet of

Durtal left the north side of the cathedral, went past the royal door
and round the corner of the old tower. With one hand he held on his hat,
and with the other grasped the skirts of his coat, which flapped about
his legs. The storm blew permanently on this spot. There might be not a
breath of air anywhere else in the town, but here, at this corner,
winter and summer, there was always a blast that caught cloaks and
skirts and lashed the face with icy thongs.

"That perhaps is the reason why the statues of the neighbouring north
door, which are so incessantly scourged by the wind, stand in such
shivering attitudes with narrow and tightly-drawn raiment, their arms
and legs held close," thought Durtal, with a smile. "And is it not the
same with that strange figure dwelling in companionship with a sow
spinning--though it is not in fact a sow, but a hog--and an ass playing
on a hurdy-gurdy on the storm-beaten wall of the old tower?"

These two animals, whose careless herd he seems to be, represent in
their merry guise the old popular sayings: _Ne sus Minerveum_, and
_Asinus ad lyram_, which may be freely rendered by "Every man to his
trade," and "Never force a talent;" for we should but be as inept as a
pig trying to be wise or an ass trying to strike the lyre.

But this angel with a nimbus, standing barefoot under a canopy,
supporting a sun-dial against his breast, what does he mean, what is he

A descendant of the royal women of the north porch, for he is like them
in his slender shape, sheathed in a clinging robe with string-like
pleats, he looks over our heads, and we wonder whether he is very impure
or very chaste.

The upper part of the face is innocent, the hair cropped round the head;
the face is beardless and the expression monastic, but between the nose
and mouth there is a broad slope, and the lips, parting in a straight
gash, wear a smile, which as we look seems just a little impudent, just
a little vulgar, and we wonder what manner of angel this may be.

There is in this figure something of the recalcitrant seminarist, and
also something of the virtuous postulant. If the sculptor took a young
Brother for his model, he certainly did not choose a docile novice, such
as he who no doubt served for the study of Joseph standing under the
north door; he must have worked from one of the religious _Gyrovagoi_
who so tormented St. Benedict. A strange figure is this angel, who has a
father at Laon, behind the cathedral, and who anticipated by many
centuries the puzzling seraphic types of the Renaissance.

"What a wind!" muttered Durtal, hastening back to the west front, where
he went up the steps and pushed the door open.

The entrance to this immense and obscure church is always coercive; we
instinctively bend the head and advance cautiously under the oppressive
majesty of its vault. Durtal stopped when he had gone a few steps,
dazzled by the illumination of the choir in contrast with the dark alley
of the nave, which only gained a little light where it joined the
transepts. The Christ had the legs and feet in shadow, the body in
subdued light, and the head bathed in a torrent of glory; Durtal gazed
up in the air at the motionless ranks of Patriarchs, and Apostles, and
Bishops, and Saints in a glow as of dying fires, dimly lighted glass,
guarding the Sacred Body at their feet, below them; they stood in rows
along the upper storey in huge pointed settings, with wheels above them,
showing to Jesus, nailed to earth, His army of faithful soldiers, His
legions as enumerated in the Scriptures, the Legends, the Martyrology;
Durtal could identify in the armed throng of the painted windows St.
Laurence, St. Stephen, St. Giles, St. Nicholas of Myra, St. Martin, St.
George of Cappadocia, St. Symphorian, St. Philip, St. Foix, St. Laumer,
and how many more whose names he could not recollect--and paused in
admiration near the transept, in front of a figure of Abraham fixed for
ever in a threatening gesture, holding a sword over a crouching Isaac,
the blade shining brightly against the infinite blue.

He stood admiring the conceptions and the craftsmanship of those
thirteenth century glass-workers, their emphatic language, necessary at
such great heights, the way in which they had made the pictures legible
from a distance by introducing a single figure in each, whenever that
was possible, and painting it in massive outline, with contrasting
colours, so as to be easily taken in at a glance when seen from below.

But the triumph of this art was neither in the choir, nor in the
transepts of the church, nor in the nave; it was at the entrance, on the
inner side of the wall, where on the outside stood the statues of the
nameless queens. Durtal delighted in this glorious show, but he always
postponed it a little to excite himself by expectancy, and revel in the
leap of joy it gave him, repetition of the sensation not having yet
availed to weaken it.

On this particular day, under a sunny sky, these three windows of the
twelfth century blazed with splendour with their broad short blades, the
blade of a claymore, flat wide panels of glass under the rose that held
the most prominent place over the west door.

It was a twinkling sheet of cornflowers and sparks, a shifting maze of
blue flames--a paler blue than that in which Abraham, at the end of the
nave, brandished his knife; this pale, limpid blue resembled the flames
of burning punch and of the ignited powder of sulphur, and the lightning
flash of sapphires, but of quite young sapphires, as it were, still
infantine and tremulous. And in the right hand pointed window he could
distinguish in burning red the Stem of Jesse--figures piled up espalier
fashion, in the blue fire of the sky; while to the left and in the
middle, scenes were shown from the Life of Jesus--the Annunciation, Palm
Sunday, the Transfiguration, the Last Supper, and the Supper at Emmaus;
and above these three windows Christ hurled thunder from the heart of
the great rose, the dead emerged from their graves at the trumpet-call,
and St. Michael weighed souls.

"How did the glass-makers discover and compound that twelfth century
blue?" wondered Durtal. "And why have their successors so long lost it,
as well as their red?

"In the twelfth century glass-painters made use chiefly of three
colours; first, blue--that ineffable, uncertain sky-blue which is the
glory of the Chartres windows; then red--a purplish red, full and
important; and green--inferior in quality to the two others. For white
they preferred a greenish tinge.

"In the following century the palette is more extensive, but the stain
is darker; the glass, too, is thicker. And yet, what a glowing blue of
pure, bold sapphire tone the artists of the furnace had at their
command, and what a fine red they used, the colour of fresh blood!
Yellow, of which they were less lavish, was, if I may judge from the
robe of a king near the Abraham, in a window by the transept, a daring
hue of bright lemon. But apart from these three colours, which have a
sort of resonance, and burst forth like songs of joy in these
transparent pictures, others grow more sober; the violets are like
Orleans plums or purple egg-fruit, the browns are of the hue of burnt
sugar, the chive-coloured greens turn dark.

"But what masterpieces of colour they achieved by the harmony and
contrast of these tones, and with what skill did they handle the
lead-lines, emphasizing certain details, punctuating and dividing these
paragraphs of flame as if with lines of ink.

"And another thing which is amazing is the perfect agreement of all
these various crafts, practised side by side, treating the same
subjects, or supplementing each other--each, by its own mode of
expression, under one guiding mind, contributing to the whole; with what
a sense of fitness, with what skill were the posts distributed, the
places assigned to each as beseemed the purpose of his craft, the
requirements of his art.

"Architecture having finished the lower portion of the edifice, retires
into the background to make way for Sculpture, giving it the fine
opportunity of the doorways; and Sculpture, hitherto invisible at
excessive heights, as a mere accessory, suddenly finds itself supreme.
With due sense of justice it now comes forward where it can be seen, and
the sister art retires, leaving it to address the multitude, giving it
the noblest framework in those arched doorways, imitating a deeper
perspective by their concentric arches, diminishing and retreating to
the door-frames.

"In other instances Architecture does not give everything to one art,
but divides the bounty of her great _façade_ between sculpture and
painting; reserving to the former the hollows and nooks where statues
may find niches, and giving to glass-painters the tympanum of the great
door, where at Chartres the image-maker has displayed the Triumph of
Christ. This we see in the great west doors of Tours and of Reims.

"This plan of substituting glass for bas-reliefs had its disadvantages;
seen from outside--their wrong side--these diaphanous pictures look like
spiders' nets on an enormous scale and thick with dust. With the light
on them the windows are, in fact, grey or black; it is only by going
inside and looking back that their fire can be seen flashing; the
outside is here sacrificed to the inside. Why?

"Perhaps," said Durtal, answering himself, "it is symbolical of the soul
having light inwardly, an allegory of the spiritual life--"

He took in all the windows of the nave with a rapid glance, and it
struck him that their effect was a combination of the prison and the
grave, with their coals of fire burning behind iron bars, some crossed
like the windows of a gaol, and others twisting like black twigs and
branches. Is not glass painting of all arts that in which God does most
to help the artist, the art which man, unaided, can never make perfect,
since the sky alone can give life to the colours by a beam of sunshine,
and lend movement to the lines? In short, man fashions the form,
prepares the body, and must wait till God infuses the soul.

"It is to-day a high-day of light and the Sun of Justice is visiting His
Mother," he went on, as he walked to where the pillared thicket of the
choir ended at the south transept, to look at the window known as Notre
Dame de la belle Verrière, the figure, in blue, relieved against a
mingled background of dead-leaf olive, brown, iris violet, plum-green;
She gazed out with her sad and pensive pout--a pout very cleverly
restored by a modern glass-painter; and Durtal remembered that people
had come to pray to Her, as he now went to pray to the Virgin of the
Pillar and Notre Dame de Sous Terre.

Such devotion was a thing of the past; the men of our time need, it
would seem, a more tangible, a more material Virgin than this slender,
fragile image, hardly visible in dark weather; nevertheless, a few
peasants still kept up the habit of kneeling and offering a taper before
Her, and Durtal, who loved these old neglected Madonnas, joined them and
invoked Her too.

Two other windows also appealed to him by the singularity of the
figures, perched very high up, in the depths of the apse, and serving as
attendant pages, at a distance, to the Virgin holding Her Son in the
centre light commanding the whole perspective of the cathedral; these
each contained in a light-toned lancet, a barbarous and grotesque
seraph, with sharply-marked features, white wings full of eyes, and
robes with jagged, strap-like edges of a pale green colour; their legs
were bare, and they were represented as floating. These two angels had
jujube yellow aureoles tilted to the back like sailors' hats; and this
ragged attire, the feathers folded over the breast, the hat of glory,
with their general expression of refractory wilfulness, suggested the
idea that these beings were at once paupers, Apaches or Mohicans, and

As to the remaining windows, especially those which included several
figures and were divided into several pictures, it would have needed a
telescope and have taken many days of study only to make out the story
they told, and discover the details; and months would not have sufficed
for the task, since the glass had been in many cases repaired and often
replaced without regard to order, so that it was especially difficult to
decipher it.

An attempt had been made to count the number of figures represented in
the cathedral windows; they were as many as 3889; in the mediæval times
everybody had been eager to present a glass picture to the Virgin. Not
cardinals only, kings, bishops and princes, canons and nobles, but the
corporations of the town also had contributed these panels of fire; the
richest, such as the Guilds of Drapers and Furriers, of Goldsmiths and
Money-changers, had each presented five to Our Lady, while the poorer
companies of the Master Scavengers and Water-carriers, the Porters and
Rag-pickers, each gave one.

Pondering on these things, Durtal wandered round the ambulatory and
paused in front of a small stone Virgin ensconced at the foot of the
stairs leading up to the chapel of Saint Piat, constructed in the
fourteenth century as a sort of outbuilding behind the apse. This
Virgin, dating from the same period, had shrunk into the shade, effacing
Herself, deferentially leaving the more important places to the senior

She carried an Infant playing with a bird, in allusion, no doubt, to the
passage in the apocryphal Gospels of the Infancy, and of Thomas the
Israelite, which shows us the Child Jesus amusing Himself by modelling
birds out of clay, and giving them life by breathing upon them.

Then Durtal continued his walk through the chapels; stopping only to
look at one which contained relics of opposite utility and double
purpose: the shrines of Saint Piat and Saint Taurinus. The bones of the
former saint were displayed to secure dry weather in times of rain, and
those of the second to invoke rain in times of drought. But what was
far less comforting and more irritating even than this array of
side-chapels, with their wretched adornment--with names that had been
changed since their first dedication so that the tutelary protection
earned by centuries of service had ceased to exist--was the choir,
battered, dirty, degraded as if on purpose.

In 1763 the old Chapter had thought fit to deface the Gothic columns,
and to have them colour-washed by a Milanese lime-washer, of a yellowish
pink speckled with grey; then they had abandoned to the town-museum some
magnificent pieces of Flemish tapestry that screened the inner circuit
of the choir aisles, and had put in their place bas-reliefs in marble
executed by the dreadful bungler who had crushed the altar under the
gigantic group of the Virgin. And mischance had helped. In 1789 the
Sansculottes were intending to destroy this mountainous Assumption, and
some ill-starred idiot saved it by placing a cap of liberty on the
Virgin's head!

To think that some beautiful windows were knocked out in order to get a
better light for this mass of lard! If only there were the slightest
hope of ever getting rid of it; but alas! all such hopes are vain. Some
years ago, when Monseigneur Régnault was Bishop, the idea was indeed
suggested--not of making away with this petrified lump of tallow, but at
least of getting rid of the bas-reliefs.

Then the prelate--who stuffed his ears with cotton for fear of taking
cold--set his face against it; and for reasons of equal importance, no
doubt, the sacrilegious hideousness of this Assumption must be for ever
endured, and the marble screens as well.

But though the interior of this choir was a disgrace, the groups round
the ambulatory of the apse and the outer wall of the choir were well
worth lingering over.

These figures under canopies and tabernacles carved by Jehan de Beauce
began on the right by the south transept, went round the horse-shoe
behind the altar, and ended at the north transept where the Black Virgin
of the Pillar stands.

The subjects were the same as those treated in the small capitals of the
royal doorway, outside the church, above the panegyric of the kings,
saints, and queens. They were taken from the Apocryphal legends, the
Gospel of the Childhood of Mary, and the Protoevangelist James the Less.

The first of these groups was executed by an artist named Jehan Soulas.
The contract, dated January 2nd, 1518, between this sculptor and the
delegates of the authorities conducting the works of the church, still
existed. It set forth that Jehan Soulas, a master image-maker, dwelling
in Paris at the cemetery of Saint Jehan in the parish of Saint Jehan en
Grève, pledged himself to execute in good stone of the Tonnerre quarry,
and better than the images that are round about the choir of Notre Dame
de Paris, the four first groups, of which the subjects were prescribed
and explained; in consideration of the sum of two hundred and eighty
_livres Tournois_, which the Chapter of Chartres undertook to pay him as
he might require.

Soulas, who had undoubtedly learned his craft from some Flemish artist,
produced certain little _genre_ pictures well adapted, by their spirit
and liveliness, to cheer the soul that the solemnity of the windows
might have depressed; for in this aisle they really seemed to let the
light filter through Indian shawl-stuff, admitting only a few dull
sparks and smoky gleams.

The second group, representing Saint Anna receiving from an unseen angel
an order to go to meet Joachim at the Golden Gate, was a marvel of grace
and subtle observation; the saint stood listening attentive in front of
her fald-stool, by which lay a little dog; and a waiting-maid, seen in
profile, carrying an empty pitcher, smiled with a knowing air and a wink
in her eye. And in the next scene, where the husband and wife were
embracing each other with the trepidation of a worthy old couple,
stammering with joy and clasping trembling hands, the same woman, seen
full-face this time, was so delighted at their happiness that she could
not keep still, but, holding up her skirts, was almost in the act of

A little further on, the image-maker had represented the birth of Mary,
a thoroughly Flemish scene: in the background, a bed with curtains, on
which Saint Anna reclined, watched by a maid, while the midwife and her
attendant washed the infant in a basin.

But another of these bas-reliefs, close to the Renaissance clock, which
interrupts the series of this history told in the choir-aisle, was even
more astonishing. In this Mary was sewing at baby-clothes while reading,
and Saint Joseph, asleep in a chair, his head resting on his hand, was
instructed in a dream of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin. And he
not only had his eyes shut, he was sleeping so soundly, so really, that
one could see him breathe, one felt his body stretching, relaxing, in
the perfect abandonment of his whole being. And how diligently the young
mother stitched while she was absorbed in prayers, her nose in her book!
Never, certainly, was life more closely apprehended, or expressed with
greater certainty and truth to life caught in the act, at the instant,
ere it moved.

Next to this domestic scene, and the Adoration of the Shepherds and
Angels, came the Circumcision of Jesus, with a white paper apron pasted
on by some low jester; then the Adoration of the Magi; and Jehan de
Soulas and the pupils of his studio had finished the work on their side.
They were succeeded by inferior craftsmen, François Marchant of Orleans,
and Nicolas Guybert of Chartres; and after them art went on sinking
lower and lower, down to one Sieur Boudin, who had dared to sign his
miserable puppets, down to the stupid conventionality of Jean de Dieu,
Legros, Tuby, and Mazières, to the cold and pagan work of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But there was an improvement in
the eight last groups opposite the Virgin of the Pillar--some simple
figures carved by the pupils of Soulas; these, however, were to some
extent wasted, since they stood in the shadow, and it was almost
impossible to judge of them in that half-dead light.

In reviewing this ambulatory, in parts so pleasing and in others so
unseemly, Durtal could not help recalling the details of a similar but
more complete work--one that had not been wrought in succeeding ages and
disfigured by discrepancies of talent and date. This work was at Amiens,
and it, likewise, was the decoration of the outer aisle of a cathedral

This story of the life of Saint Firmin, the first Bishop and patron
saint of the city, and of the discovery and translation of his relics by
Saint Salvo, was told in a series of groups that had been gilt and
painted; then, to complete the circuit of the sanctuary, the life of the
second patron of Amiens had been added, Saint John the Baptist; and in
the scene of the Baptism of Christ a fair-haired angel was represented
holding a napkin, an ingenuous and arch being, one of the most adorable
seraphic faces ever carved or painted by Flemish art in France.

This legend of Saint Firmin was set forth, like that of the Birth of the
Virgin at Chartres, in separate chapters of stone, surmounted in the
same way with gothic canopies or tabernacles; and in the compartment
where Saint Salvo, surrounded by the multitude, discerns the beams which
radiate from a cloud to indicate the spot where the lost body of the
Martyr had been buried, a man on his knees with clasped hands, seems to
pant, uplifted in prayer, burning, projected by the leap of his soul,
his face transfigured, turning a mere rustic into a saint in ecstasy,
already dwelling in God far above the earth.

This worshipper was the masterpiece of the ambulatory at Amiens, as the
sleeping Saint Joseph was of the bas-reliefs at Chartres.

"Take it for all in all," said Durtal to himself, "that work in the
Picardy Cathedral is more explicit, more complete, more various, more
eloquent even than that of the church in La Beauce. Irrespective of the
fact that the unknown image-maker who created it was as highly gifted as
Soulas with acute observation, and persuasive and decided
simple-mindedness and spirit, he had besides a peculiar and more noble
vein of feeling. And then his subjects were not restricted to the
presentment of two or three personages; he frequently grouped a swarming
crowd, in which each man, woman, or child differed in individual
character and feature from every other, and was conspicuously marked by
that unlikeness, so clear and living was the realism of each small

"After all," thought Durtal, looking once more at the choir aisles as he
turned away, "though Soulas maybe inferior to the sculptor of Amiens, he
is none the less a delightful artist and a true master, and his groups
may console us for the ignominious work of Bridan and the atrocious
decoration of the choir."

He then went to kneel before the Black Virgin, and returning to the
North transept near which She stands, he gazed once more in amazement at
the incandescent flowers of the windows; again he was captivated and
moved by the five pointed windows under the rose, in which, on each side
of the Mauresque Saint Anna, stood David and Solomon, a forbidding pair,
in a furnace of purple, and Melchizedec and Aaron with tawny complexions
and hairy faces, with enormous colourless eyes standing out passionless
in a blaze of daylight.

The radiating rose-window above them was not of the vast diameter of
those in Notre Dame de Paris, nor of the incomparable elegance of the
star-patterned rose at Amiens. It was smaller and heavier, sparkling
with flowers like saxifrages of flame, opening in the pierced wall.

Durtal turned on his heel to look at the South transept, where five
great windows faced those on the North. There he saw, blazing like
torches on each side of the Virgin placed exactly opposite Saint Anna,
the four Evangelists borne on the shoulders of the four greater
Prophets--Saint Matthew on Isaiah, Saint Luke on Jeremiah, Saint John on
Ezekiel, Saint Mark on Daniel--each stranger than the other, with their
eyes like the lenses of opera-glasses, their hair in ripples, their
beards like the up-torn roots of trees; excepting Saint John, who was
always represented as a beardless youth in the Latin Mediæval Church, to
symbolize his virginity; but the most grotesque of these giants' was
perhaps Saint Luke, who, perched on Jeremiah's back, gently scratches
the prophet's head, as if he were a parrot, while turning woeful,
meditative eyes up to Heaven.

Durtal went down the nave, darker than the choir; the pavement sloped
gently to the door, for in the Middle Ages it was washed every morning
after the departure of the crowds who slept on it; and he looked down,
in the middle, on the labyrinth marked out on the ground in lines of
white stone and ribbons of blue stone, twisting in a spiral, like a
watch-spring. This path our fathers devoutly paced, repeating special
prayers during the hour they spent in doing so, and thus performing an
imaginary pilgrimage to the Holy Land to earn indulgences.

When he was out in the square once more, he turned back to take in the
splendid effect of the whole before going home.

He felt at once happy and awe-stricken, carried out of himself by the
tremendous and yet beautiful aspect of the church.

How grandiose and how aerial was this cathedral, sprung like a jet from
the soul of a man who had formed it in his own image, to record his
ascent in mystic paths, up and up by degrees in the light; passing
through the contemplative life in the transept, soaring in the choir
into the full glory of the unitive life, far away now from the
purgatorial life, the dark passage of the nave.

And this assumption of a soul was attended, supported, by the bands of
angels, the apostles, the prophets, and the righteous, all arrayed in
their glorified bodies of flame, an escort of honour to the Cross lying
low on the stones, and the image of the Mother enthroned in all the high
places of this vast reliquary, opening the walls, as it seemed, to
present to Her, as for a perpetual festival, their posies of gems that
had blossomed in the fiery heat of the glass windows.

Nowhere else was the Virgin so well cared for, so cherished, so
emphatically proclaimed the absolute mistress of the realm thus offered
to Her; and one detail proved this. In every other cathedral kings,
saints, bishops, and benefactors lay buried in the depths of the soil;
not so at Chartres. Not a body had ever been buried there; this church
had never been made a sarcophagus, because, as one of its
historians--old Rouillard--says, "it has the preeminent distinction of
being the couch or bed of the Virgin."

Thus it was Her home; here She was supreme amid the court of Her Elect,
watching over the sacramental Body of Her Son in the sanctuary of the
inmost chapel, where lamps were ever burning, guarding Him as She had
done in His infancy; holding Him on Her knee in every carving, every
painted window; seen in every storey of the building, between the ranks
of saints, and sitting at last on a pillar, revealing herself to the
poof and lowly, under the humble aspect of a sunburnt woman, scorched by
the dog-days, tanned by wind and rain. Nay, She went lower still, down
to the cellars of Her palace, waiting in the crypt to give audience to
the waverers, the timid souls who were abashed by the sunlit splendour
of Her Court.

How completely does this sanctuary--where the sweet and awful presence
is ever felt of the Child who never leaves His Mother--lift the spirit
above all realities, into the secret rapture of pure beauty!

"And how good must They both be," Durtal said to himself, as he looked
round and found himself alone, "never to abandon this desert, never to
weary of waiting for worshippers! But for the honest country folk who
come at all hours to kiss the pillar, what a solitude it would be, even
on Sunday, for this cathedral is never full. However, to be just, at the
nine o'clock mass on Sundays the lower end of the nave is thronged," and
he smiled, remembering that end of the church packed with little girls
brought in schools by Sisters, and with peasant women who, not being
able to see there to read their prayers, would light ends of taper and
crowd together closely, several looking over one book.

This familiarity, this childlike simplicity of piety, which the dreadful
sacristans of Paris would never endure in a church, were' so natural at
Chartres, so thoroughly in harmony with the homely and unceremonious
welcome of Our Lady!

"A thing to be ascertained," said Durtal, starting on a new line of
thought, "is whether this church has preserved its surface uninjured, or
whether it may not have been coloured in the thirteenth century. Some
writers assert that, in Mediæval times, the interiors of cathedrals were
always painted. Is that the fact? Or, admitting that the statement is
correct as to all Romanesque churches, is it equally so with regard to
Gothic churches?

"For my part, I like to believe that the sanctuary of Chartres was never
befooled with gaudiness, such as we have to endure at Saint Germain des
Près, in Paris, and Notre Dame la Grande at Poitiers. In fact such
colour can only be conceived of--if at all--as used in small chapels;
why stain the walls of a cathedral with motley? For this tattooing, so
to speak, reduces the sense of space, brings down the roof, and makes
the pillars clumsy; in short, it eliminates the mysterious soul of the
nave, and destroys the sober majesty of the aisle with its feebly vulgar
fret or guilloche, lozenges or crosses, scattered over the pillars and
walls, in a paste of treacly yellow, endive-green, vinous purple, lava
drab, brick red--a whole range of dull and dirty colours; to say nothing
of the horror of a vault dotted with stars that look as if they had been
cut out of gilt paper and stuck against a smalt background, a sky of

"It is endurable--if it must be--in the Sainte-Chapelle, because it is
very small, an oratory, a shrine; it might even be intelligible in that
wonderful church at Brou, which is a boudoir; its vaulting and pendants
are in polychrome and gold, and the ground has been paved with enamelled
tiles, of which visible traces remain round the tombs. This gaudiness of
the roof and floor was in harmony with the filagree tracery of the
walls, the heraldic glass, and the clear windows, the profusion of
lace-like carving and coats of arms in the stone-work, blossoming with
bunches of daisies mingling with labels, mottoes, monograms, Saint
Francis' girdles and knots. The colouring was in keeping with the
alabaster retables, the black marble tombs, the pinnacled tabernacles
with their crockets of curled and dentate foliage. We can then quite
easily imagine the columns and walls painted, the ribs and bosses washed
with gold, and making a harmonious whole of this _bonbonnière_, which
indeed is a piece of jewelry rather than of architecture.

"This building at Brou was the last effort of mediæval times, the last
rocket flung up by the flamboyant Gothic style--a Gothic which though
fallen from its glory struggled against death, fought against returning
paganism and the invading Renaissance. The era of the great cathedrals
ended in the production of this exquisite abortion, which was in its way
a masterpiece, a gem of prettiness, of ingenuity, of tormented and
coquettish taste.

"It was emblematic of the soul of the sixteenth century, already devoid
of reserve; the sanctuary, too brightly lighted, was secularized; we
here see it fully blown, and it never folded up or veiled itself again.
We discern in this a lady's bower, all paint and gold; the little
chapels (or pews) with chimney-places where Margaret of Austria could
warm herself as she heard Mass, furnished with scented cushions,
provided with sweetmeats and toys and dogs.

"Brou is a fine lady's drawing-room, not the house for all comers. Then,
naturally, with its screen-work, and the carving of the rood-loft
stretching like a lace portal across the entrance to the choir, it
invites, it almost requires some skilful tinting of the details, the
touches of colour that complete it, and harmonize it finally with the
elegance of the founder, the Princess Marguerite, whose presence is far
more conspicuous in this little church than is that of the Virgin.

"Even then it would be satisfactory to know whether the walls and
pillars at Brou ever were really painted; the contrary seems proven. But
in any case, though a touch of _rouge_ might not ill beseem this curious
sanctum, it would not be so at Chartres, for the only suitable hue is
the shining, greasy patina, grey turning to silver, stone-colour turning
buff--the colouring given by age, by time helped by accumulated vapours
of prayer and the fumes of incense and tapers!"

And Durtal, arguing over his own reflections, ended by reverting, as he
always did, to his own person, saying to himself,--

"Who knows that I may not some day bitterly regret this cathedral and
all the sweet meditations it suggests; for, after all, I shall have no
more opportunities for such long loitering, such relaxation of mind,
since I shall be subject to the discipline of bells ringing for
conventual drill if I suffer myself to be locked up in a cloister!

"Who knows whether, in the silence of a cell, I should not miss even the
foolish cawing of those black jackdaws that croak without pause," he
went on, looking up with a smile at the cloud of birds that settled on
the towers; and he recalled a legend which tells that since the fire in
1836 these birds quit the cathedral every evening at the very hour when
the conflagration began, and do not return till dawn, after spending the
night in a wood at three leagues from Chartres.

This tale is as absurd as another, also dear to the old wives of the
city, and which tells that if you spit on a certain square of stone, set
with black cement into the pavement behind the choir, blood will exude.

"Hah, it is you, Madame Bavoil."

"Yes, our friend, I myself. I have just been on an errand for the
Father, and am going home again to make the soup. And you, are you
packing your trunks?"

"My trunks?"

"Why, are not you going off to a convent?" said she, laughing.

"Would not you like to see it?" exclaimed Durtal. "Catch me at that!
Enlisting as a private subject to a pious drill, one of a poor squad,
whose every movement must mark time, and who, though he is not expected
to keep his hands over the seam of his trowsers, is required to hide
them under his scapulary--"

"Ta, ta, ta," interrupted the housekeeper, "I tell you once more, you
are grudging, bargaining with God--"

"But before coming to so serious a decision it is quite necessary that I
should argue all the pros and cons; in such a case some mental
litigation is clearly permissible."

She shrugged her shoulders; and there was such peace in her face, such a
glow of flame lurked behind the liquid blackness of her eyes, that
Durtal stood looking at her, admiring the honesty and purity of a soul
which could thus rise to the threshold of her eyes and come forth in her

"How happy you are!" he exclaimed.

A cloud dimmed her eyes, and she looked down.

"Envy no one, our friend," said she, "for each has his own struggles and

And when he had parted from her, Durtal, as he went home, thought of the
disasters she had confessed, the cessation of her intercourse with
Heaven, the fall of a soul that had been wont to soar above the clouds.
How she must suffer!

"No, no," he said, "the service of the Lord is not all roses. If we
study the lives of the Saints we see these Elect tormented by dreadful
maladies, and the most painful trials. No, holiness on earth is no
child's play, life is not amusement. To Saints, indeed, even on earth
excessive suffering finds compensation in excessive joys; but to other
Christians, such small fry as we are, what distress and trouble! We
question the everlasting silence and none answers; we wait and none
comes. In vain do we proclaim Him as Illimitable, Incomprehensible,
Unthinkable, and confess that every effort of our reason is vain, we
cannot cease to wonder, and still less cease to suffer! And yet--and yet
if we consider, the darkness about us is not absolutely impenetrable,
there is light in places and we can discern some truths, such as this:

"God treats us as He treats plants. He is, in a certain sense, the
soul's year; but a year in which the order of the seasons is reversed;
for the spiritual seasons begin with spring, followed by winter, and
then autumn comes, followed by summer.

"The moment of conversion is the spring, the soul is joyful and Christ
sows the good seed; then comes the cold and all is dark, the
terror-stricken soul believes itself forsaken and bewails itself; but
without its feeling it during the trials of the purgatorial life, the
seed germinates in the contemplative peace of autumn and flourishes in
the summer life of Union.

"Aye; but each one must be the helping gardener of his own soul,
listening to the instructions of the Master who plans the task and
directs the work. Alas, we are no more the humble labourers of the
Middle Ages, who toiled, giving God thanks, who submitted without
discussion to the Master's orders. We, by our little faith, have
exhausted the value of prayer, the panacea of aspirations; consequently
many things seem to us unjust and cruel, and we rebel, we ask for
pledges; we hesitate to begin our task, we want to be paid in advance,
and our distrust makes us vile!--O Lord, give us grace to pray, and
never dream of demanding an earnest of Thy favours! Give us grace to
obey and be silent!

"And I may add," said Durtal to himself as he smiled on Madame Mesurat,
who opened the door in answer to his ring, "Grant me, Lord, the grace
not to be too much irritated by the buzzing of this great fly, the
inexhaustible flow of this good woman's tongue!"


"What a fearful muddle, what a sea of ink is this menagerie of good and
evil emblems!" exclaimed Durtal, laying down his pen.

He had harnessed himself that morning to the task of investigating the
symbolical fauna of the Middle Ages. At first sight the subject had
struck him as newer and less arduous, and certainly as less lengthy,
than the article he had thought of writing on the Primitive German
Painters. But he now sat dismayed before his books and notes, seeking a
clue to guide him through the mass of contradictory evidence that lay
before him.

"I must take things in their order," said he to himself, "if indeed any
principle of selection is possible in such confusion."

The Beast-books of Mediæval times knew all the monsters of
paganism--Satyrs, Fauns, Sphinxes, Harpies, Centaurs, Hydras, Pygmies,
and Sirens; these were all regarded as various aspects of the Evil
Spirit, so no research is needed as to their meaning; they are but a
residuum of Antiquity. The true source of mystic zoology is not in
mythology, but in the Bible, which classifies beasts as clean and
unclean, makes them symbolize virtues and vices, some species being
allegorical of heavenly personages, and other embodying the Devil.

Starting from this base, it may be observed that the liturgical
interpreters of the animal world distinguished beasts from animals,
including under the former head wild and untamable creatures, and under
the second gentle and timid creatures and domestic animals.

The ornithologists of the Church, furthermore, represent birds as being
the righteous, while Boëtius, on the other hand, often quoted by
Mediæval writers, credited them with inconstancy, and Melito compares
them in turn to Christ, to the Devil, and to the Jewish nation. It may
be added that Richard of Saint Victor, disregarding these views, sees in
winged fowl a symbol of the life of the soul, as in the four-footed
beast he sees the life of the body--"And that gets us no further!"
sighed Durtal.

"This is beside the mark. We must find some other symbolism, closer and

"Here the classification of naturalists would be useless, for a biped
and a reptile not unfrequently bear the same interpretation as emblems.
The simplest plan will be to divide the Church menagerie into two large
classes, real beasts and monsters; there is no creature that we may not
include in one or the other category."

Durtal paused to reflect:

"Nevertheless to arrive at a clearer notion and better appreciate the
importance of certain families in Catholic Mythography, we had better
first take out all those animals which symbolize God, the Virgin, and
the Devil, setting them aside to be referred to when they may elucidate
other figures; and at the same time weed out those which apply to the
Evangelists and are combined in the figures of the Tetramorph.

"The surface thus being removed, we may investigate the remainder, the
figurative language of ordinary or monstrous beings.

"The animal emblems of God are numerous; the Scriptures are filled with
creatures emblematic of the Saviour. David compares Him, by comparing
himself, to the pelican in the wilderness, to the owl in its nest, to a
sparrow alone on the house-top, to the dove, to a thirsting hart; the
Psalms are a treasury of analogies with His qualities and His names.

"Saint Isidor of Seville--Monseigneur Sainct Ysidore, as the naturalists
of old are wont to call him--figures Jesus as a lamb by reason of his
innocence, as a ram because He is the head of the Flock, even as a
he-goat because the Redeemer was subject to the flesh of iniquity.

"Some took as His image the ox, the sheep, and the calf, as beasts meet
for sacrifice, and others those animals that symbolize the elements: the
lion, the eagle, the dolphin, the salamander--the kings of the earth,
air, water, and fire. Some again, as Saint Melito, saw Him in the kid,
the deer, and even in the camel, which, however, according to another
passage of the same author, personifies a love of flattery and of vain
praise. Others again find Him in the scarabæus, as Saint Euchre does in
the bee; still, the bee is regarded by Raban Maur as the unclean sinner.
Christ's Resurrection is, to yet other writers, symbolized by the
Phoenix and the cock, and His wrath and power by the rhinoceros and the

"The iconography of the Virgin is less puzzling; She may be symbolized
by any chaste and gentle creature. The Anonymous Englishman in his
_Monastic Distinctions_, compares Her to the bee, which we have seen so
vilified by the Archbishop of Mayence, but the Virgin was most
especially represented by the dove, the bird of all others whose Church
functions are most onerous.

"All authorities agree in taking the dove as the image at once of the
Virgin and of the Paraclete. According to Saint Mechtildis, it is the
simplicity of the heart of Jesus; with others it signifies the
preachers, the active religious life, as contrasted with the turtle
dove, which personifies the contemplative life, since the ring-dove
flies and coos in company, whereas the turtle dove rejoices apart and

"To Bruno of Asti the dove is also an image of patience, a figure of the

"As to the beasts symbolizing Hell and evil, they are almost without
number; the whole creation of monsters is to be found there. Then among
real animals we find: the serpent--the aspic of Scripture, the scorpion,
the wolf as mentioned by Jesus Himself, the leopard noted by Saint
Melito as being allied to Antichrist, the she-tiger representing the
sins of arrogance, the hyena, the jackal, the bear, the wild-boar,
which, in the Psalms, is said to destroy the vineyard of the Lord, the
fox, described as a hypocritical persecutor by Peter of Capua and as a
promoter of heresy by Raban Maur. All beasts of prey; and the hog, the
toad--the instrument of witchcraft, the he-goat--the image of Satan
himself, the dog, the cat, the ass--under whose form the Devil is seen
in trials for witchcraft in the Middle Ages, the leech, on which the
anonymous writer of Clairvaux casts contumely; the raven that went forth
from the ark and did not return--it represents malice, and the dove
which came back is virtue, Saint Ambrose tells us; and the partridge
which, according to the same writer, steals and hatches eggs she did not

"If we may believe Saint Theobald, the Devil is also symbolized by the
spider, for it dreads the sun as much as the Evil One dreads the Church,
and is more apt to weave its net by night than by day, thus imitating
Satan, who attacks man when he knows him to be sleeping and powerless to
defend himself.

"The Prince of Darkness is also to be seen as the lion and the eagle
interpreted in an evil sense.

"This," reflected Durtal, "is the same fact as we find in the expressive
symbolism of colours and flowers; constantly a double meaning. The two
antagonistic interpretations are almost invariably met with in the lore
of hieroglyphics, excepting only in that of gems.

"Thus it is that the lion, defined by Saint Hildegarde as the image of
zeal for God, the lion, figuring the Son Himself, becomes to Hugh of
Saint Victor the emblem of cruelty. Basing their argument on a text in
the Psalms, certain writers identify it with Lucifer. He is in fact the
lion who seeks whom he may devour, the lion who rushes on his victim.
David speaks of him with the dragon to be trodden under foot, and Saint
Peter in his first Epistle describes him as roaring in quest of a
Christian to devour.

"It is the same with the eagle, which Hugh of Saint Victor calls the
standard of Pride. Chosen by Bruno of Asti, Saint Isidor and Saint
Anselm to represent the Saviour, the Fisher of Men, because he pounces
from the highest sky on fish swimming on the surface of the water and
carries them up, the eagle, classed in Leviticus and Deuteronomy with
the unclean beasts, is transformed, as being a bird of prey, into a
personification of the Devil snatching away souls to gnaw and tear them.

"Thus every ferocious beast or bird and every reptile is a manifestation
of the Evil One," Durtal concluded.

To pass to the Tetramorph. The evangelistic animals are well known:--

Saint Matthew, who expatiates on the subject of the Incarnation and sets
forth the human genealogy of the Messiah, is symbolized by a man.

Saint Mark, who more especially devotes his book to the miracles of the
Son, saying less about His doctrine than about His acts and His
resurrection, has the Lion for his attribute.

Saint Luke, who writes more especially of the virtues of Jesus, of His
patience, meekness, and mercy, and who dwells at length on His
sacrifice, is distinguished by the Ox or Calf.

Saint John, who preaches above all else the Divinity of the Word, is
represented by the Eagle.

And the meaning assigned to the ox, the lion, and the eagle, is in
perfect accordance with the character and personal aim of each Gospel.

The lion, emblematical of Omnipotence, is also the apt allegory of the
Resurrection. All the primitive naturalists, Saint Epiphanius, Saint
Anselm, Saint Yves of Chartres, Saint Bruno of Asti, Saint Isidor,
Adamantius, all accept the legend that the lion-cub after its birth
remains lifeless for three days; then on the fourth day it awakes as it
hears its father's roar and springs full of life out of the den. Thus
Christ, rising at the end of three days, escapes from the tomb at the
call of His Father.

The belief still prevailed that the lion sleeps with its eyes open;
hence it became the emblem of vigilance, and Saint Hilary and Saint
Augustine read in this manner of taking repose an allusion to the Divine
nature, which was not extinguished even in the sepulchre, though the
human nature of the Redeemer was in truth dead.

Finally, as it was considered certain that this animal effaced the
traces of its steps in the sand of the desert with its tail, Raban Maur,
Saint Epiphanius, and Saint Isidor regarded it as signifying the Saviour
veiling His Godhead under the forms of the flesh.

"Not an ordinary beast--the lion!" exclaimed Durtal. "Well," he went on,
consulting his notes, "the ox is less pretentious! It is the paragon of
strength with humility; according to Saint Paul it is emblematical of
the priesthood; of the preacher, according to Raban Maur; of the Bishop,
according to Peter Cantor, because, says this writer, the prelate wears
a mitre of which the two horns resemble those of an ox, and he uses
these horns, which are the wisdom of the Two Testaments, to rip up
heretics. Still, in spite of these more or less ingenious
interpretations, the ox is in fact the beast of immolation and

"Turning to the eagle, it is, as we have seen, the Messiah pouncing on
souls to catch them; but other meanings are ascribed to it by Saint
Isidor and by Vincent of Beauvais. If we believe them, the eagle that
desires to test the prowess of his eaglets takes them in his talons and
carries them out into the sun, compelling them to look with their eyes
as they begin to open, on the blazing orb. The eagle which is dazzled by
the fire is dropped and cast away by the parent bird. Thus doth God
reject the soul which cannot gaze on him with the contemplative eye of

"The eagle, again, is typical of the Resurrection; Saint Epiphanius and
Saint Isidor explain it thus: The eagle in old age flies up so near to
the sun that its feathers catch fire; revived by the flames, it drops
into the nearest spring, bathes in it three times and comes out
regenerate: is not this indeed the paraphrase of the Psalmist's verse,
"Thy youth shall be renewed as the eagle's"? Saint Madalene of Pazzi,
however, regards it differently, and takes it to typify faith leaning on

"I shall have to find a place for all these documents in my article,"
sighed Durtal, placing these notes in a separate wrapper.

Now for the chimerical fauna introduced from the East, imported into
Europe by the Crusaders, and travestied by the illuminators of missals
and by image-makers.

Foremost, the dragon, which we already find rampant and busy in
mythology and in the Bible.

Durtal rose and went into his library to find a book, "Traditions
tératologiques," by Berger de Xivrey. It contained long extracts from
the "Romance of Alexander," which was the delight of the grown-up
children of the Middle Ages.

"Dragons," says this narrative, "are larger than all other serpents, and
longer.... They fly through the air, which is darkened by the disgorging
of their stench and venom ... This venom is so deadly that if a man
should be touched by it or come nigh it, it would seem to him a burning
fire, and would raise his skin in great blisters, as though he had been
scalded." And the author adds: "The sea is swollen up by their venom."

Dragons have a crest, sharp talons, and a hissing throat, and are almost
unconquerable. Albertus Magnus tells us, however, that magicians, when
they wish to subdue them, beat as loudly as they can on drums, and that
the dragon, imagining that it is the roll of thunder, which they greatly
dread, let themselves be handled quietly and are taken.

The enemy of this winged reptile is the elephant, which sometimes
succeeds in crushing it by falling on it with all its weight; but most
times it is killed by the dragon, which feeds on its blood, of which the
freshness allays the intolerable burning caused by its own venom.

Next to this monster comes the gryphon, a combination of the quadruped
and the bird, for it has the body of the lion and the head and talons of
the eagle. Then the basilisk, regarded as the king of serpents; it is
four feet long, and has a tail as thick as a tree, and spotted with
white. Its head bears a tuft in shape like a crown; it has a strident
voice, and its eye is murderous, "A look," says the "Romance of
Alexander," "so piercing, that it is pestilential and deadly to all
beasts, whether venomous or no." Its breath is no less fetid, nor less
dangerous, for, "by its breath are all things infected, and when it is
dying it is fain to disgorge it; it stinks so that all other beasts flee
from it."

Its most formidable foe is the weasel, which bites its throat, "though
it be a beast no bigger than a rat," for "God hath made nothing without
reason and remedy," the pious Mediæval writer concludes.

Why the weasel? There is nothing to show; nor was this little creature,
who did such good service, honoured by our forefathers as having a
favourable meaning.

It is symbolical of dissimulation and depravity, and taken to typify the
degrading life of the mountebank. It may also be remembered that this
carnivorous beast, which was supposed to carry its young in the mouth
and give birth to them through the ear, is numbered among the unclean
animals in the Bible.

"This zoological homoeopathy is rather inconsistent," observed Durtal,
"unless the similar interpretation given to these two creatures, hating
each other, may signify that the Devil devours himself."

Next we have the phoenix, "a bird of very fine plumage resembling the
peacock; it is very solitary, and feeds on the seeds of the ash;" its
colour, moreover, is of purple overshot with gold; and because it is
said to rise again from its ashes, it is always typical of the
Resurrection of Christ.

The unicorn was one of the most amazing creatures in mystical natural

"It is a very cruel beast, with a great and thick body after the fashion
of a horse; it hath for a weapon a great horn, half a fathom in length,
so sharp and so hard that there is nothing it cannot pierce.... When men
need to take it they bring a virgin maid to the place where they know
that it has its abode. When the unicorn sees her and knows that she is a
virgin, it lieth down to sleep in her lap, doing her no harm; then come
the hunters and kill it.... Likewise, if she be not a pure maid the
unicorn will not sleep, but killeth the damsel who is not pure."

Whence we conclude that the unicorn is one of the emblems of chastity,
as also is another very strange beast of which Saint Isidor speaks: the

This has one foot like that of the partridge, and the other webbed like
that of a goose, its peculiarity consists in mourning over adultery, and
loving its master so faithfully that it dies of pity in his arms when it
learns that his wife has deceived him. So that this species was soon

"There must be some more fabulous beasts to be included," murmured
Durtal, again turning over his papers.

He found the wyvern, a sort of Melusina, half woman and half serpent; a
very cruel beast, full of malice and devoid of pity, Saint Ambrose tells
us; the manicoris, with the face of a man, the tawny eyes and crimson
mane of a lion, a scorpion's tail, and the flight of an eagle; this sort
is insatiable by human flesh. The leoncerote, offspring of the male
hyena and the lioness, having the body of an ass, the legs of a deer,
the breast of a wild beast, a camel's head, and armed with terrible
fangs; the tharanda, which, according to Hugh of Saint Victor, has the
shape of the ox, the profile of the stag, the fur of the bear, and which
changes colour like the cameleon; finally, the sea-monk, the most
puzzling of all, since Vincent of Beauvais describes it as having its
body covered with scales, and it is furnished, in lieu of arms, with
fins all over claws, besides having a monk's shaven head ending in the
snout of a carp.

Others were also invented, as for instance the gargoyles, hybrid
monsters, signifying the vomiting forth of sin ejected from the
sanctuary; reminding the passer-by who sees them pouring forth the water
from the gutter, that when seen outside the church, they are the
voidance of the spirit, the cloaca of the soul!

"But," said Durtal to himself, "that seems to me enough of the matter.
From the point of view of symbolism this menagerie is not particularly
interesting since these monsters--the wyvern, the manicoris, the
leoncerote, the tharanda and sea-monk--all mean the same thing, and all
embody the Spirit of Evil."

He took out his watch.

"Come," said he, "I have still time enough before dinner to go through
the list of real animals."

And he turned over his notes on birds.

"The cock," said he, "is prayer, watchfulness, the preacher, the
Resurrection, since it is the first to wake at daybreak; the peacock,
that has, as an old writer says, "the voice of a devil and the feathers
of an angel," is a mass of contradictory symbols: it typifies pride,
and, according to Saint Antony of Padua, immortality, as well as
vigilance by reason of the eyes in its tail. The pelican is the image of
contemplation and of charity; of love, too, according to Saint Madalene
of Pazzi; the sparrow symbolizes penitential solitude; the swallow, sin;
the swan, pride, according to Raban Maur; diligence and solicitude
according to Thomas de Catimpré; the nightingale is mentioned by Saint
Mechtildis as meaning the tender soul; and the same saint compares the
lark to persons who do good works with cheerfulness; it is to be noted
too that in the windows of Bourges the lark means charity to the sick.

"Here are others specified by Hugh of Saint Victor. To him the vulture
means idleness; the kite, rapacity; the raven, detraction; the white
owl, hypochondria; the common owl, ignorance; the magpie, chattering
talk; and the hoopoe, sluttishness and evil report.

"This is all a sorry medley!" said Durtal, "and I fear it will be the
same with the mammalia and other beasts!"

He compared a few passages. The ox, the lamb, the sheep, we have seen.
The sheep is the type of timidity and meekness, and Saint Pacomius
embodies in him the monk who lives punctual and obedient, and loving his
brethren. Saint Melito on his part ascribes hypocrisy to the ostrich,
temporal power to the rhinoceros, human frailty to the spider; we may
also mention among the crustacea, the crab as symbolizing heresy and the
synagogue, because it walks backwards and away from the path of
righteousness. Among fish, the whale is the emblem of the tomb, just as
Jonas, who came out of it after three days, is typical of Jesus risen
from the dead. Among rodents the beaver is the image of Christian
prudence, because, says the legend, when he is pursued by hunters he
tears with his teeth the pouch containing castoreum and flings it at the
foe. For this reason it is likewise the animal representative of the
text in the Gospel which declares that a man must cut off the offending
member which is an occasion of sin.

Let us pause before the den of wild beasts.

According to Hugh of Saint Victor the wolf is avarice; the fox is
cunning; Adamantius says that the wild boar represents blind rage; the
leopard wrath, ambush and daring; the tiger, and the hyena, which can
change its sex at will and imitate the voice of man, signifies
hypocrisy; while Saint Hildegarde shows that the panther, by reason of
the beauty of its spots, is typical of vain-glory.

We need not dwell on the bull, the bison and the buffalo; the symbolists
regard them as emblems of brute force and pride; while the goat and
boar-pig are vessels of lust and filth.

They divide this honour with the toad, an unclean reptile; the
habitation of the Devil, who assumes its form to show himself to the
female saints--for instance to Saint Theresa. As to the hapless frog it
is equally defamed because of its likeness to the toad.

The stag is in better odour. Saint Jerome and Cassiodorus say it
exemplifies the Christian who overcomes sin by the sacrament of penance,
or by martyrdom. Representing God in the Psalms, it is also taken as the
heathen desiring baptism; a legend attributes to it so vehement a horror
of the Serpent, in other words of the Devil, that whenever it can it
attacks and devours him, but if it subsequently goes for three hours
without drinking, it dies; hence after that meal it runs to and fro in
the forest seeking a spring of which, if it finds one, it drinks, and is
then many years younger. The she-goat is sometimes held in ill-fame as
being akin to the he-goat, but it more often is regarded as the
Well-Beloved, to which the Bride in Canticles compares it. The hedgehog,
hiding in crannies, is interpreted by Saint Melito as the sinner, by
Peter of Capua as the penitent. As to the horse, as a creature of vanity
and pride, it is opposed by Peter Cantor and Adamantius to the ox, which
is all gravity and simplicity. It is well, however, to observe that to
confuse the matter, by presenting the horse under another aspect, Saint
Eucher compares it to a saint, and the Anonymous Monk of Clairvaux
identifies the Devil with the ox. The poor ass is no better treated by
Hugh of Saint Victor, who accuses it of stupidity, by Saint Gregory the
Great, who taxes it with laziness, and Peter of Capua, who speaks of its
lust. It must, however; be observed that Saint Melito compares it with
Christ for its humility, and that the exegetists explain the ass's foal
ridden by Christ on Palm Sunday as an image of the Gentiles, as they
interpret the she-ass that threw Him to mean the Jews.

Finally, two domestic animals dear to man, the cat and the dog, are
generally contemned by the mystics. The dog, typical of sin, says Peter
Cantor, and the most quarrelsome of beasts, adds Hugh of Saint Victor,
is the creature that returns to his vomit; it also prefigures the
reprobates of whom the Apocalypse speaks, who are to be driven out of
the heavenly Jerusalem; Saint Melito speaks of it as the apostate, and
Saint Pacomius as the rapacious monk, but Raban Maur redeems it a little
from this condemnation by specifying it as emblematic of confessors.

The cat, which is but once mentioned in the Bible--in the Book of
Baruch--is invariably abhorred by the primitive naturalists, who accuse
it of embodying treachery and hypocrisy, and of lending its skin to the
Devil, to enable him to appear in its shape to sorcerers.

Durtal turned over a few more pages, discovering that the hare typified
timidity and cowardice, and the snail laziness; noting the opinion of
Adamantius, who ascribes levity and a mocking spirit to the monkey; that
of Peter of Capua and of the Anonymous writer of Clairvaux, that the
lizard, which crawls and hides in cracks in the walls, is, as well as
the serpent, an emblem of evil; and he recorded the special ascription
of ingratitude by Christ Himself to the viper, for He gives the name to
the Jewish race. Durtal then hastily dressed, fearing to be late, as he
was dining with the Abbé Gévresin and the Abbé Plomb. Pursued by Madame
Mesurat, who insisted on dealing him one more blow with the
clothes-brush, he rushed downstairs, and was soon at his friend's door.

Madame Bavoil, who opened it, appeared in a cap all askew and hair
loose, up-turned sleeves and scorched arms, with cheeks crimson from the
kitchen fire. She confessed to the concoction of a dish of beef _à la
mode_ softened by calf's foot jelly and strengthened by a dash of
brandy, and fled, alarmed by the impatient call of a saucepan, of which
the contents were boiling over on the hot plates of the stove, with a
noise like cats swearing.

Durtal found the old Abbé tormented by rheumatism, but as ever, patient
and cheerful. They talked a little while; then, seeing that Durtal was
looking at some little lumps of gum lying on his writing table, the Abbé

"That is incense from the Carmel of Chartres."


"Yes, the Carmelites are accustomed to burn none but genuine true
incense. So I begged them to trust me with a specimen that I might
procure the same quality for our cathedral."

"It is everywhere adulterated, I suppose?"

"Yes. This substance is found in commerce under three forms: male
incense, which is the best if unadulterated; female incense, which is
mixed with reddish fragments and dry grains called _marrons_; finally
incense in powder, which is for the most part a mixture of inferior
resin and benzoin."

"And what have you there?"

"This is male incense; do you see those oblong tears, those almost
transparent drops of faded amber? how different from that which they use
at Notre Dame; it is earthy, broken, full of scraps, and it is safe to
wager that those knobs are crystals of carbonate of lime and not beads
of pure resin."

"Why," said Durtal, "this substance suggests to me the idea of a
symbolism of odours; has it ever been worked out?"

"I doubt it; but in any case it would be very simple. The aromatic
substances used in the Liturgy are reduced to three, frankincense,
myrrh, and balm.

"Their meaning is known to you. Incense is the Divinity of the Son, and
our prayers which rise up like vapours in the presence of the Most High,
as the Psalmist says. Myrrh is repentance, the sufferings of Jesus, His
death, the martyrs, and also, according to Monsieur Olier, the type of
the Virgin who heals the souls of sinners as myrrh cauterizes the
festering of wounds; balm is another word for virtue.

"But though there are few Liturgical savours, it is not so with regard
to mystical effluences which vary infinitely. We have, however, but
little information on the subject.

"We merely know that the odour of sanctity is antithetical to that of
the Devil; that many of the Elect have diffused, during their lifetime
and after their death, an exquisite fragrance which cannot be analyzed;
such were Madalene of Pazzi, Saint Etienne de Muret, Saint Philip Neri,
Saint Paternianus, Saint Omer, the Venerable Francis Olympus, Jeanne de
Matel and many more.

"We know too that our sins stink, each according to its nature; and the
proof of this is that the saints could detect the state of men's
consciences merely by the smell of their bodies. Do you remember how
Saint Joseph of Cupertino exclaimed to a sinner whom he met: 'My friend,
you smell very badly; go and wash.'

"To return to the odour of sanctity: in certain persons it has been
known to assume a natural character almost identical with certain
familiar scents. Saint Treverius exhaled a fragrance compounded of
roses, lilies, balm, and incense; Saint Rose of Viterbo smelt of roses;
Saint Cajetan of orange-blossom; Saint Catherine of Ricci of violets;
Saint Theresa by turns of lily, jasmine and violet; Saint Thomas Aquinas
of incense; Saint Francis of Paul of musk;--I mention these at random as
they occur to me.

"Yes, and Saint Lydwine, when so ill, diffused a fragrance which also
imparted a flavour. Her wounds exhaled a cheerful savour of spice and
the very essence of Flemish home cooking--a refined extract of

"On the other hand," the Abbé went on, "the stench of wizards and
witches was notorious in the Middle Ages. On this point all exorcists
and writers on Demonology are agreed; and it is almost invariably
recorded that after an apparition of the devil a foul odour of sulphur
was left in the cells, even when the Saints had succeeded in dislodging

"But the essential odour of the devil is amply recorded in the life of
Christina of Stumbela. You are not ignorant, I suppose, of the exploits
in which Satan indulged against that saint?"

"Indeed, I am, Monsieur l'Abbé."

"Then I may tell you that the narrative of these assaults has been
preserved by the Bollandists, who have included the life of this pious
woman in their biographies. It was written by Peter of Dacia, a
Dominican, and her confessor.

"Christina was born early in the thirteenth century--1242, I believe--at
Stumbela, near Cologne.

"She was persecuted by the devil from her infancy. He exhausted the
armoury of his arts against her, appeared to her under the form of a
cock, a bull, an apostle; covered her with lice, filled her bed with
vermin, poisoned her blood, and as he could not make her deny God, he
invented fresh torments.

"He turned the food she put into her mouth into a toad, a snake, a
spider, and disgusted her so effectually with all food, that she was
dying for want of it. She spent her days in vomiting, and prayer to God
to rescue her, but He was silent.

"Still, to sustain her in such trials, the Sacrament was left to her.
Satan, knowing this, determined to deprive her of this sustenance, and
appeared in the form of these creatures even in the host when she
received it. Finally, to conquer her, he took the form of a huge toad,
and established himself in her bosom. At first Christina fainted with
fright, but then God intervened; by His order she wrapped her hand in
her sleeve, slipped it between her body and the belly of the reptile,
tore away the toad, and flung it on the stones.

"It was dashed to pieces, with a noise, said the saint, like an old

"These persecutions continued till Advent in 1268; and from that time
the plague of filth began.

"Peter of Dacia relates that one evening Christina's father came to
fetch him from his convent in Cologne, and begged him to go with him to
his daughter, tormented by the devil. He and another Dominican, Brother
Wipert, set out, and on arriving at Stumbela they found in the haunted
hut the Priest of the district, the Reverend Father Godefried, Prior of
the Benedictines of Brunwilre, and Cellarer of that convent. As they
stood warming themselves they discoursed of the pestilential incursions
of the devil, when suddenly the performance was repeated. They were all
bespattered with filth, Christina being caked with it, to use the
Friar's expression; and 'strange to say,' adds Peter of Dacia, 'this
matter, which was but warm, burned Christina, raising blisters on her

"This continued for three days. At length, one evening, Friar Wipert,
quite exasperated, began to recite the prayers for exorcism; but a
terrific uproar shook the room, the candles went out, and he was hit in
the eye by something so hard that he exclaimed, 'Woe is me! I am blind
of an eye!'

"He was led, feeling his way, into an adjoining room, where the garments
they changed were dried, and where water was constantly heated for their
ablutions; he was cleansed, and his eye washed. It had suffered no
serious injury, and he returned to the other room to say Matins with the
two Benedictines and Peter of Dacia. But before chanting the service he
went up to the patient's bed and clasped his hands in amazement.

"She was covered with filth indeed, but all was changed. The smell,
which had been supernaturally foul, was changed to angelic fragrance;
Christina's saintly resignation had routed the tempter of souls; and
they all joined in praising God. What do you say to that narrative?"

"It is astounding, certainly; but is this the only instance of such
infernal filth?"

"No; in the next century analogous circumstances haunted Elizabeth de
Reute, and likewise the Blessed Bétha. Here again Satan allowed himself
such filthy sport. It may also be noted that in modern times acts of the
same kind were observed in the house of the Curé d'Ars."

"But in all this I see nothing to illustrate the symbolism of perfumes,"
remarked Durtal. "At any rate, the subject would seem to be narrow or
ill-defined, and the number of odours that can be named is small.

"There are certain essences mentioned in the Old Testament prefiguring
the Virgin. Some of them are interpreted in other senses, as spikenard,
cassia, and cinnamon. The first represents strength of soul; the second,
sound doctrine; and the third, the sweet savour of virtue. Then there
is the essence of cedar, which in the thirteenth century symbolized the
Doctors of the Church; and there are three specifically liturgical
perfumes: incense, balm, and myrrh; besides the odour of sanctity, which
in the case of some saints could be analyzed; and the demoniacal stench,
from a mere animal smell to the horrible nastiness of rotten eggs and

"We must now inquire whether the personal fragrance of the Elect is in
harmony with the qualities or acts of which each was, on earth, the
example or the doer; and it would seem to have been so, when we remark
that Saint Thomas Aquinas, who composed the admirable sequence on the
Holy Sacrament, exhaled a perfume of incense, and that Saint Catherine
of Ricci, who was a model of humility, smelt of violets, the emblem of
that virtue, but--"

The Abbé Plomb now came in, and being informed by Durtal of the subject
under discussion, he said,--

"But you have omitted from your diabolical flavours the most

"How is that, Monsieur l'Abbé?"

"Certainly, for you have taken no account of the false fragrance which
Satan can diffuse. In fact, his baleful effluvia are of two kinds: one
characterized by the stench of sulphurous waters and drains; the other
by a false odour of sanctity, delicious gusts of sweetness and
temptation. This is how the Evil One tried to seduce Dominico de Gusman;
he bathed him in delicious vapours, hoping thus to inspire him with
notions of vain-glory; thus, too, did he to Jourdain of Saxony, who
exhaled a sweet odour when saying Mass. God showed him that this
phenomenon was of infernal origin, and it then ceased.

"And I recollect a singular anecdote told by Quercetanus concerning a
mistress of Charlemagne's who died. The king, who worshipped her, could
not bear to have her body interred, though it was decomposing, exhaling,
however, a perfume of violets and roses. The body was examined, and in
its mouth a ring was found, which was removed. The demoniacal
enchantment forthwith ceased, the body became foul, and Charlemagne
allowed it to be buried.

"We may add to this diabolical odour of seduction another, which is, on
the contrary, fetid, and is used to annoy the believer, to hinder him in
prayer, to estrange him from his fellows, and drive him, if possible,
to despair; still, this smell with which the devil infects a being may
be included in the category of the smells of temptation--not, indeed, to
pride, but to weakness and fear.

"Meanwhile, I have something else for you," said the Abbé, addressing
Durtal. "Here are the titles I have collected for you of some works on
the symbolical animals of the Middle Ages. You have read '_De Bestiis et
aliis rebus_,' by Hugh of Saint Victor?"


"Very good; you may further consult Albertus Magnus, Bartholomew de
Glanville, and Pierre de Bressuire. I have noted on this paper a series
of such beast-books: those of Hildebert, Philippe de Thann, Guillaume de
Normandie, Gautier de Metz, and Richard de Fournival. Only you would
have to go to Paris to procure them in the public libraries."

"And that would not help me much," replied Durtal. "I have, ere now,
looked through many of these works, and they contain no information that
can be of use from the point of view of symbolism. They are mere
fabulous descriptions of animals, legends as to their origin and habits.
The _Spicilegium Solesmense_ and the _Analectae_ of Dom Pitra are far
more instructive. By his help, with that of Saint Isidor, Saint
Epiphanius, and Hugh of Saint Victor, we can decipher the figurative
meaning of monsters.

"They are all alike; there has been no complete or serious work produced
on symbolism since the Middle Ages, for the Abbé Auber's work on the
subject is a delusion. In vain will you seek for a treatise on flowers
which even alludes to the Catholic significance of plants. I do not, of
course, mean those silly books compiled for lovers, and called the
Language of Flowers, which you may find on the bookstalls with old
cookery-books and dream-books. It is the same with regard to colours;
nothing proven or authentic has been written concerning infernal or
celestial hues; for in fact the treatise by Frédéric Portal is
worthless. To explain Angelico's work I had to hunt here and there
through the Mystics, to discover where I might the meanings they ascribe
to colours; and I see plainly that I must do the same for my article on
the emblematical fauna. There is, on the whole, nothing to be found in
technical works; it is in the Bible and in the Liturgy, the
fountain-head of symbolical lore, that I must cast my net. By the way,
Monsieur l'Abbé, had you not some remarks to communicate on the zoology
of the Scriptures?"

"Yes, we will go--"

"To dinner, if you please," said Madame Bavoil.

The Abbé Gévresin said grace, and when they had eaten the soup the
housekeeper served the beef.

It was strengthening, tender, savoury to its inmost fibre, penetrated by
the rich and highly-flavoured sauce.

"You don't get the like at La Trappe, our friend, eh?" said Madame

"Nor will he get anything so good at any other religious retreat," said
the Abbé Plomb.

"Do not discourage me beforehand," said Durtal, laughing; "let me enjoy
this without a pang--there is a time for all things."

"Then you are fully determined," said the Abbé Gévresin, "to write a
paper for your _Review_ on allegorical beasts?"

"Yes, Monsieur l'Abbé."

"I have made a list for you from the works of Fillion and of Lesêtre of
the blunders made by the translators of the Bible when they disguised
real beasts under chimerical names," said the Abbé Plomb. "This, in a
few words, is the upshot of my researches.

"There was never any mythological fauna in the Sacred Books. The Hebrew
text was misread by those who translated it into Greek and Latin, and
the strange zoology that we find in certain chapters of Isaiah and Job
is easily reduced to the nomenclature of well-known creatures.

"Thus the onocentaurs and sirens, spoken of by the Prophet, are neither
more nor less than jackals, if we examine the Hebrew original. The
lamia, a vampire, half woman and half serpent like the wyvern, is a
night bird, the white or the screech owl; the satyrs and fauns, the
hairy beasts spoken of in the Vulgate, are, after all, no more than wild
goats--'schirim,' as they are called in the Mosaic original.

"The reptile so frequently mentioned in the Bible under the name of
'dragon' is indicated in the original by various words, which sometimes
mean the serpent or the crocodile, sometimes the jackal, and sometimes
the whale; and the famous unicorn of the Scriptures is merely the
primæval bull or auroch, which is to be seen on the Assyrian
bas-reliefs--a race now dying out, lingering only in the remotest parts
of Lithuania and the Caucasus."

"And Behemoth and Leviathan, spoken of by Job?"

"The word Behemoth is a plural form in Hebrew meaning Excellence. It
designates a prodigious and enormous beast--the rhinoceros, perhaps, or
the hippopotamus. As to Leviathan, it was a huge reptile, a gigantic

"That is a pity," said Durtal. "Imaginary zoology was far more
amusing!--Why, what is this vegetable?" he inquired, as he tasted a
curious stew of greens.

"Dandelions cut up and boiled with shreds of bacon," replied Madame
Bavoil. "Do you like the dish, our friend?"

"Indeed I do. Your dandelions are to garden spinach and chicory what the
wild duck is to the tame, or the hare to the rabbit. And it is a fact
that garden plants are generally poor and tasteless, while those that
grow wild have a certain astringency and pleasant bitter flavour. It is
the venison of vegetables that you have given us, Madame Bavoil!"

"I fancy," said the Abbé Plomb, who had been thoughtful, "that just as
we tried to compile a mystic flora the other day, we might make a list
of the deadly sins as represented by animals."

"Obviously, and with very little trouble. Pride is embodied in the bull,
the peacock, the lion, the eagle, the horse, the swan, and the wild
ass--according to Vincent de Beauvais. Avarice by the wolf, and, says
Saint Theobald, by the spider; for lust, we have the he-goat, the boar,
the toad, the ass, and the fly, which, Saint Gregory the Great tells,
typifies the turbulent cravings of the senses; for envy, the
sparrow-hawk, the owl, and screech-owl; for greediness, the hog and the
dog; for anger, the lion and wild boar, and, according to Adamantius,
the leopard; for sloth, the vulture, the snail, the she-ass, and, Raban
Maur says, the mule.

"As to the virtues antithetical to these vices, humility may be typified
by the ox and the ass; indifference to worldly possessions by the
pelican, the emblem of the contemplative life; chastity by the dove and
the elephant, though it is true that this interpretation of Peter of
Capua is contradicted by other mystics, who accuse the elephant of
pride, and speak of him as an 'enormous sinner'; charity by the lark and
the pelican; temperance by the camel, which, taken in another sense,
typifies under the name of _gamal_ extravagant fury; vigilance by the
lion, the peacock, the ant--quoted by the Abbess Herrade and the
Anonymous monk of Clairvaux--and especially by the cock, to which Saint
Eucher attributes this virtue in common with all other symbolists.

"I may add that the dove alone epitomizes all these qualities and is the
synthesis of all virtue."

"Yes, and she alone is never spoken of as having any evil significance."

"A distinction she shares with white and blue, the only colours which
are exempt from the law of antithesis and are never ascribed to any
vice," said Durtal.

"The dove!" cried Madame Bavoil, who was changing the plates; "she plays
a beautiful part in the story of Noah's Ark. Ah! our friend, you should
hear what Mother Jeanne de Matel says of her."

"What does she say, Madame Bavoil?"

"The admirable Jeanne begins by saying that original sin produced in
human nature the deluge of sin from which the Virgin alone was exempted
by the Father, who chose Her to be His one Dove.

"Then she relates how Lucifer, represented by the raven, escaped from
the ark through the window of free will; then God, to whom Mary had
belonged from all eternity, opened the window of the Will of His
Providence, and from His own bosom, from the heavenly Ark, He sent the
original dove on the earth where she gathered a spray of the olive of
His mercy, took her flight back to the Ark of Heaven, and offered this
branch for the whole human race; She then implored Divine grace to abate
the deluge of sin, and besought the Heavenly Noah to descend from that
high Ark; then, without quitting the bosom of the Father from whom He is
inseparable, He came down."

"_Et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis_," the Abbé Gévresin
added, in conclusion.

"This prefiguration of the Word by Noah is certainly curious," remarked

"Animals are also introduced in the iconography of the saints," the
Abbé Plomb resumed. "So far as I can recollect, the ass is the attribute
of Saint Marcellus, of Saint John Chrysostom, of Saint Germain, of Saint
Aubert, of Saint Frances of Rome, and of some others; the stag of Saint
Hubert and Saint Rieul; the cock of Saint Landry and Saint Vitus; the
raven of Saint Benedict, Saint Apollinarius, Saint Vincent, Saint Ida,
Saint Expeditus; the deer of Saint Henry; the wolf of Saint Waast, Saint
Norbert, Saint Remaclus, and Saint Arnold; the spider betokens Saint
Conrad and Saint Felix of Nola; the dog accompanies Saint Godfrey, Saint
Bernard, Saint Roch, Saint Margaret of Cortona, and Saint Dominic, when
it bears a burning torch in its mouth; the doe is the badge of Saint
Giles, Saint Leu, Saint Geneviève of Brabant, and Saint Maximus; the pig
of Saint Anthony; the dolphin of Saint Adrian, of Saint Lucian, and
Saint Basil; the swan of Saint Cuthbert and Saint Hugh; the rat is seen
with Saint Goutran and Saint Gertrude; the ox with Saint Cornelius,
Saint Eustachius, Saint Honorius, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Lucy,
Saint Blandina, Saint Bridget, Saint Sylvester, Saint Sebaldus, Saint
Saturninus; the dove belongs to Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Remi,
Saint Ambrose, Saint Hilary, Saint Ursula, Saint Aldegonde, and Saint
Scholastica, whose soul flew up to Heaven under that form.

"And the list might be indefinitely extended. Shall you mention in your
article these accompaniments to the saints?"

"In point of fact," replied Durtal, "most of these attributes are based
on history or legend, and not on symbolism; so I shall not devote any
particular attention to them."

There was a silence.

Then, abruptly, the Abbé Plomb, looking at his brother priest, said to

"I am going to Solesmes again a week hence, and I told the Reverend
Father Abbot that I should take you with me."

Then, seeing Durtal's amazement, he smiled. "But I will not leave you
there," he went on, "unless you wish not to return to Chartres. I only
propose that you should pay a visit there, just long enough to breathe
the atmosphere of the convent, to make acquaintance with the Benedictine
Fathers, and try their life."

Durtal was silent, somewhat scared; for this proposal, simple enough as
it was, that he should go to live for some days in a cloister, had
startled him into a strange, a grotesque notion that if he should
accept, it would be playing away his last card, risking a decisive step,
taking a sort of pledge before God to settle there and end his days in
His immediate presence.

But what was most strange was that this idea, so imperative and
overpowering that it excluded all possible reflection, bereft him of all
his powers of self-protection, left him disarmed at the mercy of he knew
not what--this idea, which nothing justified, was not centred, not fixed
on Solesmes; whither he should retreat was for the moment of small
importance; that was not the question; the only point to settle was
whether he meant to yield at all to a vague impulse, to obey
unformulated orders which were nevertheless positive, and give an
earnest to God, Who seemed to be harassing him without any sufficient

He felt himself inexorably condemned, tacitly compelled to pronounce his
decision then and there.

He tried to struggle, to reason, to recover his self-possession; but the
very effort was fatal. He felt a sort of inward syncope, as though,
while his body was still upright, his soul was fainting within him with
fatigue and terror.

"But this is madness!" he cried. "Madness!"

"Why, what is the matter?" cried the two priests.

"I beg your pardon. Nothing."

"Are you in pain?"

"No, it is nothing."

There was an awkward pause which he was determined to break.

"Did you ever take laughing gas?" said he; "the gas which sends you to
sleep and is used in surgery for short operations? No? Well, you feel a
buzzing in your brain, and just as you hear a great noise of falling
waters you lose consciousness. That is what I am feeling; only the
experience is not in my brain, but in my soul, which is giddy and
helpless, on the point of fainting away."

"I should like to think," said the Abbé Plomb, "that it is not the
thought of a visit to Solesmes that has thus upset you."

Durtal had not courage enough to own the truth; he was afraid of
seeming ridiculous if he confessed to such a panic; so to avoid a direct
answer he vaguely shook his head.

"And I cannot help wondering why you should hesitate, for you will be
welcomed with open arms. The Father Abbot is a man of the highest merit,
and, moreover, no enemy to art. Besides--and this I hope will suffice to
reassure you--he is a most simple and kind-hearted monk."

"But I have to finish my article."

The two priests laughed.

"You have a week before you to write your article in."

"And then, to get any benefit from a monastery, I ought not be in the
state of dryness and diffusion in which I find myself vegetating,"
Durtal went on with difficulty.

"The saints themselves are not free from distractions," replied the Abbé
Gévresin. "For instance, think of the monk of whom Tauler speaks, who,
on quitting his cell in the month of May, would cover his face with his
hood, that he might not see the country, and so be hindered from
contemplating his soul."

"Oh, our friend, must that gentle Jesus, as the Venerable Jeanne says,
be for ever the poor man pining for admittance at the door of our heart?
Come, just a little goodwill--open yours to Him," cried Madame Bavoil.

And Durtal, finally driven into his last intrenchments, by a nod
signified acquiescence in the wish of all his friends. But he did it
with deep reluctance, for he could not rid himself of a distracting idea
that this concession implied a vow on his part to God!


This idea, which had taken firm possession of him for a few minutes,
seemed to fade away, and by the morrow there only remained a startled
excitement which nothing could account for; he now shrugged his
shoulders, but still, at the bottom of his soul a vague sense of dread
would surge up.

Was not the very absurdity of it a proof that this notion was one of the
presentiments that we sometimes feel without understanding it? Was it
not, again, for lack of a command plainly given by some inward voice, a
warning, a direct and secret hint, that he should be on his guard not to
think of this visit to a cloister as a mere pleasure trip?

"But this is monstrous!" Durtal exclaimed at last. "When I went to La
Trappe for my great purification, I was not harassed by apprehensions of
this kind; when I have gone there again several times since, it never
occurred to me that I should really bury myself in a monastery; and now
that it is a matter merely of a short visit to a Benedictine monastery,
I am trembling and recalcitrant.

"Such a commotion is quite childish! And yet no, not so very childish,"
he suddenly told himself. "When I have been to Notre-Dame de l'Atre I
have been sure that I should not remain, since I knew that I could not
endure more than a month of their austere Rule; so there was nothing to
fear; whereas in a Benedictine Abbey, where the Rule is lighter, I am
not certain that I could not stay.

"In that case--well, well, so much the better! for after all sooner or
later I must decide, I must make up my mind as to what I really mean;
have some definite notion of the value of my promissory notes, of the
greater or less strength of my energy, my fitness, my limitations.

"A few months ago I longed for the monastic life, that is beyond
doubt--and now I am wavering. I have abortive gushes of feeling,
ineffectual projects, inclinations which fail, wishes which come
short--I will and I will not. Still it is needful to understand oneself;
but of what use is it for me to try to sound the well of my own soul? If
I go down into it, I find everything dark and cold and empty.

"I am beginning to think that by dint of staring into that darkness I am
becoming like a child that fixes its eyes on the blackness of night; I
end by creating phantoms and inventing terrors. That is certainly the
case as regards this excursion to Solesmes, for there is nothing,
absolutely nothing to justify my alarms.

"How silly this all is; how much simpler it would be to allow myself to
live, and, above all, to be led!"

"I have hit it," he went on after a moment's reflection. "The cause of
this turmoil is evident. It is my lack of self-abandonment, my want of
confidence in God--yes, and my little love, my dryness of spirit, which
have brought me to this state.

"In the lapse of time this disorder has brought on the malady from which
I am suffering, an utter anæmia of the soul, aggravated by the patient's
terrors, since he, unaware of the nature of the complaint, exaggerates
its importance.

"Thus stands my balance-sheet since I came to Chartres.

"The position is very different from what it was in Paris. For the phase
I am going through is the very contrary to that in which I previously
lived; in Paris my soul was not dry and friable, but dank and soft; it
was saponaceous; the foot sank in it. In short, I was melting away, in a
state of langour, more painful perhaps than this state of drought which
is toughening me to horniness. Still on close examination, though the
symptoms have changed, the evil persists; softness or dryness, the
results are identical.

"At the same time it seems strange that this spiritual anæmia should now
exhibit such opposite symptoms. On one hand I am conscious of weariness,
indifference, and torpor in prayer; it seems to me, bitter, vain, and
hollow, so badly do I pray; I am inclined to let everything go, to cease
the attempt, to wait for a glow of fervour which I cannot hope for; on
the other hand, I am at the same time conscious of a persistent and
obstinate yearning, an invisible touch, a craving for prayer, a
constant invitation from God keeping me alert. And there are times, too,
when, though I can prove to myself that I am not stirring, I fancy I am
trembling and shall be swept away by a tide.

"That is very much of what I feel. In this frame of mind, half
stay-at-home, half gipsy-like, if I take up a book of the higher
mysticism--Saint Theresa or Saint Angela--that subtle touch gains
definiteness, I am aware of shocks running through me; I fancy that my
soul is convalescent, that it is young again, and breathes once more;
but if I try to take advantage of this lucid moment to collect myself
and to pray, it is all over--I flee from myself--nothing will work. What
misery, and how pitiable!

"The Abbé Gévresin has guided me so far, but how?

"He has trusted chiefly to the method of expectancy, restricting himself
to combating my generally flaccid state, and invigorating me rather than
contending with details. He has prescribed the heroic remedies of the
soul, desiring me to communicate when he found me weak. But, if I am not
mistaken, he is now turning his batteries. Either he is giving up a line
of attack which has failed, or else, on the contrary, he is improving
it, his treatment having produced, without my being aware of it, the
effects he was aiming at; in either case, to promote or complete the
cure, he wants to send me to a convent.

"The plan seems to be, indeed, part of his system, for he did the same
thing when he was helping in my conversion. He sent me off to a health
resort for the soul--and the waters were powerful indeed and terrible;
now he thinks I no longer need have so severe a treatment inflicted on
me, and he is persuading me to stay in a more restful place, a less
bracing air--is that it?

"Even his way of coming up unexpectedly and hurling his opinion at me is
not quite the same as it was. This time, it was, indeed, not he who
undertook to crystallize my irresolution by announcing my departure for
Solesmes; but it comes to the same thing. For, after all, there is
something not quite above board in this affair. Why did the Abbé Plomb
promise the Benedictines that he would take me with him?

"He certainly acted on the request of the Abbé Gévresin. There can have
been no other reason for his talking of me to the Fathers. I have,
indeed, spoken to him of my distress of mind, of my vague craving for
retirement, and my love for monasteries. But I certainly did not suggest
that he should thus take the lead, and hurry matters on so!

"Here I am, as usual, imagining plots and schemes, looking for things
that never existed, and discerning motives where perhaps there are none.
And even if there were! Is it not for my benefit that these good friends
are laying their heads together?

"I have only to hear and obey. Now to have done with this and return to
the Bestiary; for I want to finish this work before I go." And posting
himself in front of the cathedral, he studied the south porch, which had
most of zoological mysticism and devilries.

But he did not find the monstrosities of his fancy. At Chartres the
Vices and Virtues were not symbolized by more or less chimerical
creatures, but by human faces. After careful search he discovered on
some of the pillars of the middle doorway the Vices embodied in small
carved groups: Lust, as a woman fondling a young man; Drunkenness as a
boor about to hit a bishop; Discord by a husband quarrelling with his
wife, while an empty bottle and a broken distaff lie near them.

By way of infernal monsters, the utmost he could discern,--and that by
dislocating his neck--were two dragons in the right-hand bay, one
exorcised by a monk and the other bridled by a Saint with his stole.

Of divine beasts he could distinguish in the row of Virtues certain
female figures with symbolical creatures by their side: Docility
accompanied by an ox; Chastity by a phoenix; Charity by a sheep;
Meekness by a lamb; Fortitude by a lion; Temperance by a camel. Why
should the phoenix here typify Chastity, for it is not used generally in
that sense in the Bird-books of the Middle Ages?

Somewhat disconcerted by the poverty of the fauna of Chartres, he
comforted himself by a study of this southern porch; it was a match for
that on the north, and repeated, with a variant, the subject of the west
front--the glorification of Christ, but in His function as the Supreme
Judge, and in the person of His Saints.

This front, begun in the time of Philip Augustus, and built at the cost
of the Comte de Dreux and his wife Alice of Brittany, was not completed
till the time of Philippe le Bel. It was divided, like the other two,
into three portions: a central door with a tympanum in a pointed arch
bearing the presentment of the Last Judgment; one on the left devoted to
the Martyrs, and one on the right dedicated to the Confessors.

The central bay suggested the form of a boat set on end, its prow in the
air; its deeply spreading sides contained in their niches six Apostles
on each, and in the middle, between the doors, stood a single statue of

This statue, like that at Amiens, was famous; every guidebook sings the
praises of the regular features, the calm expression of the face; in
reality the countenance is particularly fatuous and cold, beautiful but
lifeless. How inferior to that of the twelfth century, the expressive
and living God seated between the symbols of the Tetramorph in the
tympanum of the royal front.

The Apostles were perhaps rather more refined, rather less squat than
the patriarchs and prophets supporting Saint Anne under the north porch,
but their quality as works of art was less striking. They resembled the
Christ, Whom they escorted with decent duty: it was honest work,
phlegmatic sculpture, so to speak.

They held the instruments of their death with placid propriety, like
soldiers presenting arms.

On the right hand stood Saint Peter, holding the cross on which he was
bound head downwards; Saint Andrew, with a Latin cross, however, and not
the X-shaped cross to which he was nailed; then Saint Philip, Saint
Thomas, Saint Matthew, Saint Simon, all armed with the sword, though
Saint Philip was crucified and stoned, Saint Thomas pierced with a
lance, and Saint Simon sawn asunder.

To the left were Saint Paul, substituted for Saint Matthias, chosen to
succeed Judas; he carried a sword; Saint John, bearing his Gospel; Saint
James the Great, with a sword; Saint James the Less, with a fuller's
club; Saint Bartholomew, with the knife that served to flay him, and
Saint Jude with a book.

Perched on twisted columns, they trampled under their feet--bare, in
token of their apostleship--the executioners of their martyrdom. They
had long flowing hair, and forked beards cut into two points, excepting
Saint John, who was beardless, and Saint Paul, who, tradition says, was
bald; and they were all dressed alike in cloaks hanging in formal
curves. Saint James the Great was alone distinguished by a tunic
sprinkled with shells, like that of the pilgrims who were wont to visit
him at Compostella in one of the huge sanctuaries erected in his honour
in Mediæval times.

He was the patron Saint of Spain; but did he really ever preach in those
lands, as Saint Jerome and Saint Isidor assert, and the Toledo Breviary?
Some doubt it. At any rate his story, as related by Durand of Mende, in
the thirteenth century, was as follows: Being sent into Spain to convert
the idolaters, he failed, and returned to Jerusalem, where he was
beheaded by Herod. His body was subsequently carried to Spain, and his
remains performed such miracles as he had never wrought in his lifetime.

"Indeed," reflected Durtal, "we have singularly little information with
regard to the Apostles. They appear, for the most part, only
incidentally in the Gospels; and excepting a few--Saint Peter, Saint
John, and Saint Paul--whose figures are more or less definite, they
float past like shades, lost, veiled as it were, in the halo of glory
shed about Him by Jesus Christ. And after His death they vanish into
thin air, and their very existence is only sketched in a few vague

"Take Saint Thomas, the Treasure of God, as Saint Bridget calls him:
where was he born? We are not told. What were the circumstances and
reasons of his call? None knows. In what lands did he preach the new
faith? Here disputes begin. Some report him among the Medes, the
Parthians, the Persians, in Ethiopia, in Hindustan. He is commonly
represented with a cubit-measure and a square, for it is said that he
built a church at Meliapore; for which reason he was taken in the Middle
Ages as the patron Saint of architects and masons.

"According to the Roman Breviary he was killed at Calamine by a
spear-thrust; according to the Golden Legend he was killed with the
sword in an uncertainly described place; the Portuguese assert that they
have his relics at Goa, the chief of their Indian possessions.

"In the thirteenth century this saint was regarded as the type of
perverse disbelief. Not satisfied with having failed to believe in
Christ until he had seen and put his finger into His wounds, he was
equally incredulous, if our forefathers are to be believed, when he was
told of the Assumption of the Virgin, and Mary was fain to show Herself
to him and throw down Her girdle to convince him.

"Saint Bartholomew is even more obscure, lost in the thick shade of the
ages. He was the best educated of the Apostles, says Sister Emmerich,
for the others, particularly Peter and Andrew, had preserved rough
manners and a clumsy exterior from their humble origin.

"It is supposed that his name was Bartholomew. The Synoptical Gospels
number him among the Apostles, but Saint John omits him, and mentions in
his place one Nathanael, of whom the other three Evangelists do not

"It seems tolerably certain that these two were identical, and Saint
Bernard supposed that this Bartholomew or Nathanael was the bridegroom
of the marriage at Cana.

"He is said to have preached in Arabia, in Persia, in Abyssinia, to have
baptized among the Iberi, the races of the Caucasus, and, like Saint
Thomas, in India, but there is no authentic evidence to show this.
According to some writers he was decapitated; others say he was flayed
alive and then crucified, near the frontiers of Armenia.

"This last view was adopted by the Roman Breviary and prevailed; hence
he was chosen as the patron Saint of fleshers, who skin beasts, of
leather-dressers and skinners, shoemakers and binders, who use leather,
and even of tailors, for the early painters represent him with half his
body flayed and carrying his skin over his arm like a coat.

"Stranger and still more puzzling is Saint Jude. He was also called
Thaddæus and Lebbæus, and was the son of Cleophas and of Mary the
Virgin's sister; he is said to have married and had children.

"He is scarcely mentioned in the Gospels, but they point out that he is
not to be confounded with Judas--which, however, was done, actually by
reason of the similarity of name, during the Middle Ages; Christians
rejected him and sorcerers appealed to him.

"He never speaks in the course of the Sacred Narrative but when he
breaks silence at the scene of the Last Supper to ask the Lord a
question as to predestination; and Christ replies beside the mark, or
rather does not answer him at all. He was also the author of a Canonical
Epistle, in which he seems to have been inspired by the Second Epistle
of Saint Peter; and, according to Saint Augustine, it was he who
introduced the dogma of the Resurrection of the flesh into the _Credo_.

"In legend he is associated with Saint Simon; according to the Breviary,
he is said to have evangelized Mesopotamia and to have suffered
martyrdom with his companion Saint in Persia. The Bollandists, on the
other hand, assert that he was the Apostle to Arabia and Idumea, while
the Greek Menology relates that he was shot to death with arrows by the
infidels in Armenia.

"In fact all these accounts differ; and iconography adds to the
confusion by representing Jude with the most various attributes.
Sometimes, as at Amiens, he holds a palm, or, as at Chartres, a book. He
is also seen with a cross, a square, a boat, a wand, an axe, a sword,
and a spear.

"But in spite of the unfortunate reputation earned for him by his
namesake Judas, the symbolists of the Middle Ages regard him as a man of
charity and zeal, and attribute to him the splendour of the purple and
gold fires of the chrysoprase, regarded as emblematical of good works.

"All this is but incoherent," thought Durtal, "and what also strikes me
as strange is that this Saint, so rarely invoked by our forefathers--who
for long never dedicated any altar to him, is twice represented in
effigy at Chartres--supposing the Verlaine of the royal porch to
represent Saint Jude; but then that seems improbable."

"What I should now like to know," he went on, "is why the historians of
this cathedral pronounce the scene of the last Judgment represented on
the tympanum of the door as the most remarkable of its kind in France.
This is utterly false, for it is vulgar, and certainly inferior to many

"The demoniacal half is far less vigorous, more supine, less crowded
than in other churches of the same period. At Chartres, it is true, the
devils with wolves' muzzles and asses' ears, trampling down bishops and
kings, laymen and monks, and driving them into the maw of a dragon
spouting flames--the demons with goats' beards and crescent-shaped jaws
seizing hapless sinners who have wandered to the mouldings of the arch,
are all very skilfully arranged, in well composed groups round the
principal figure; but the Satanic vineyard lacks breadth and its fruit
is insipid. The preying demons are not ferocious enough, they almost
look as if they were monks and were doing it for fun, while the damned
take it very calmly.

"How far more desperate is the devil's festival at Dijon!" Durtal
recalled to mind the church of Notre Dame in that city, so strange a
specimen of thirteenth-century gothic of the Burgundian stamp. The
church was of almost elementary simplicity; above its three porches rose
a straight wall with two storeys of columns forming arcades and
surmounted by grotesque figures. To the right of this front was a small
tower with a pointed roof; and on the roof a "Jacquemart" of iron
tracery, with three puppets that strike the hours; behind, rising from
the transept, was a small tower with four little glazed belfries.

This building, small as compared with great cathedrals, was stamped with
the Flemish hall-mark; it had the homespun peasant expression, the
cheerful faith of the race. It was a domestic sanctuary, very native to
the soil; the folks would hold converse with the Black Virgin standing
there on an altar, tell her all their little concerns, make themselves
at home there in confidential gossiping prayer, quite without ceremony.

But it was not well to trust too much to the benign and genial aspect of
this building, for the long rows of grotesque figures that were ranged
above the doorways and the arcades belied the jovial security of the

There they were, in high relief, in close array, grinning and jibing; a
motley crowd of demented nuns and mad monks, of bewildered rustics and
outlandish women; hobgoblins writhing with laughter, and hilarious
devils; and in the midst of this mob of the reprobate a figure of a real
woman, held by two demons tormenting her, stood out, leaning forward as
if she wanted to throw herself down. With haggard, dilated eye, and
clasped hands, in terror she beseeches the passer-by, shows him the
place of refuge, and cries to him to enter. Involuntarily he pauses in
amazement to look at that face, distorted with fear, pinched with
anguish, struggling amid this pack of monsters, this vision of frenzied
nightmare. At once fierce and pitying, she threatens and entreats; and
this image of one for ever excommunicate, cast out of the temple and
left to all eternity on the threshold, is as haunting as the memory of
suffering, as a nightmare of terror.

Nowhere, certainly, in the satanic menagerie of La Beauce, is there a
statue of such startling and assertive art.

From another point of view--that of the picture as a whole, and of the
broad view taken of the subject, the Judgment of Souls at Notre Dame de
Chartres is for beneath that of the cathedral at Bourges.

"That, indeed, is, I think, the most wonderful of all," said Durtal to
himself. "The similar scenes at Reims and at Paris, with the gangs of
sinners held in chains tugged by demons, and those of the same kind at
Amiens, have none of them such breadth of scope."

At Bourges, as in all works of this class in the Middle Ages, the dead
are escaping from their sepulchres, and on the uppermost frieze, below a
figure of Christ, with whom the Virgin and Saint John are interceding,
Saint Michael is weighing souls; to the left devils are dragging away
the wicked, and to the right angels are conducting the blessed.

The resurrection of the dead, as it is represented by the image-maker of
Le Berry, is enough to set the noisy prudery of the Catholics neighing,
for the figures are nude, and certain reticences, usually observed at
any rate in the female form, are here omitted. Men and women push up the
lid of the tomb, stride across the edge, leap up, roll over pell mell,
one above another; some ecstatically clasping their hands in prayer,
their eyes fixed on heaven; others anxiously looking about them on all
sides; others praying with terror, throwing up their arms; others,
again, in dejected attitudes, beating their breasts in lamentable
self-accusation; and yet others who are dazzled by the abrupt change
from darkness to light, shaking their numbed limbs and trying to move.

The mad confusion of all these human beings, suddenly awakened, and
brought like owls into the light of day, trembling with fear or with joy
as they see and understand that the day of Judgment is come, is all
expressed with a fulness, a spirit, a certainty of observation which
leave the petty accuracy and mild energy of the Chartres sculptor far
behind them.

In the upper division, again, the weighing of souls goes on in a
magnificent composition; Saint Michael with wide-spread wings holds a
large pair of scales and smiles as he caresses a little child with
folded hands, while a goat-headed devil watches eagerly to seize him if
the Archangel should turn away; and behind this lingering demon begins
the dolorous procession of the outcast. Nor have we here the infernal
courtliness of the scene as represented at Chartres, the doubtful
consideration of an evil spirit gently driving in a nun; it is brutality
in all its horror, the lowest violence; the sometimes comic side of
these struggles is not to be seen here. At Bourges the myrmidons of the
deep work and hit with a will. A devil with a wild beast's muzzle and a
drunkard's face in the middle of his fat stomach, is hammering the skull
of a wretch who struggles, grinding his teeth, while the devil bites his
legs with the end of his tail that bears a serpent's head. Another
monster, with a crushed face and pendant breasts, a man's face in his
stomach and wings springing from his loins, has clasped a priest in his
arms and is pitching him head foremost into a cauldron boiling over the
flames from a dragon's mouth blown up with bellows by two of the devil's
slaves. And in this cauldron sit two figures symbolical of slander and
lust, a monk and a woman writhing and weeping, for enormous toads are
gnawing at the tongue of one and at the heart of the other.

On the other side of Saint Michael the scene is different; a chubby,
smiling angel is playing with a child whom he has perched on one of his
fellow-angels' shoulders, and the infant delightedly waves a bough;
behind him slowly marches a representative group of saints--a woman, a
king, a cenobite, conducted by Saint Peter towards a doorway leading to
a sanctum where sits Abraham, an old man with a cloth spread over his
knees full of little heads all rejoicing--the souls that are saved.

And Durtal, as he recalled the features of Saint Michael and his angels,
perceived that they were the brethren in art of the Saint Anne, Saint
Joseph, and the angel of the great portal at Reims. They were all of the
same peculiar type--a young and yet old countenance, a long sharp nose
and pointed chin; only here, perhaps, a little rounder, a little less
angular than at Reims.

This sort of family likeness gave support to a theory that the same
sculptors or their pupils had worked on the carvings of those two
cathedrals, but not at Chartres, where no similar type is to be seen;
though a certain striking resemblance exists between other statues in
the north porch and some figures, of a different class however, on the
façade at Reims.

"Anyone of these hypotheses may be correct, though there is no chance of
proving their truth, for we can discover no information with regard to
the schools of art of the period," said Durtal to himself, as he turned
his attention to the left-hand bay of the south porch, dedicated to the

There, in the archway of the door, dwelt, side by side, Saint Vincent
the deacon, of Spain; Saint Denys the bishop; Saint Piat the priest; and
Saint George the warrior; all four victims of the ingenious cruelty of
the infidels.

Saint Vincent in his long gown hung a contrite head over his shoulder.

"He," thought Durtal, "was literally butchered and cooked, for we are
told in the legend according to Voragine that his body was torn with
sharp combs of brass till his bowels fell out, and that after this
foretaste, this _hors d'oeuvre_ of torture, he was broiled on a
gridiron, larded with nails, and basted with the sauce of his own blood.
He lay calm, praying while he was being toasted. He remained unmoved,
grilling and praying. When he was dead, Dacian, his persecutor, ordered
that his body should be cast out on a field to be devoured by beasts;
but a raven came to settle by him, and drove away a wolf by pecking at
it. Then a millstone was tied about his neck and he was thrown into the
sea, but his body came to land near some pious women who buried it.

"Saint Denys, the first Bishop of Paris, was thrown to the lions, who
retreated before him; he was then beheaded at Montmartre, with Saint
Eleutherius and Saint Rusticus. The image-maker had not here represented
him, as usual, carrying his head, but had shown him standing with his
crozier and mitre. And he was not humble and pitiable, like his
neighbour, the Spanish Deacon, but upright and imperious, with his hand
uplifted, in the attitude rather of admonishing the faithful than of
blessing them, and Durtal stood lost in thought before this writer,
whose brief book holds so important a place in the series of mystical

"He, more than any other, and first among the contemplative authors,
had overstepped the threshold of Heaven and brought down to men some
details of what happens there. The knowledge of the angelic ranks dates
from him, for it was he who revealed the organization of the heavenly
host as an order, a hierarchy copied by human beings and parodied in
hell. He was a sort of messenger between Heaven and earth, and was the
explorer of our celestial heritage, as Saint Catherine of Genoa at a
later date was the explorer of purgatory.

"A less interesting personage was Saint Piat, a priest of Tournai,
beheaded by a Roman proconsul. In this assembly of famous saints he was
rather the poor country-cousin, a mere provincial Saint. He figured here
because his relics repose in the cathedral, for historians record the
translation of his remains to Chartres in the ninth century. By his side
was Saint George, arrayed as a knight of the time of Saint Louis, his
head bare with an iron fillet, armed with a lance and shield; standing
as if on guard on a pedestal, showing the wheel which was the instrument
of his martyrdom.

"The companion statue, on the opposite side of the door, was that of
Saint Theodore of Heraclea, wearing a coat of mail, and a surcoat, and
also holding a shield and spear.

"Next to this saint, who was subsequently roasted to death by a slow
fire, in the town of Amasea, were Saint Stephen, Saint Clement, and
Saint Laurence.

"Above this double rank of martyrs the tympanum represented the story of
Saint Stephen disputing with the Doctors and stoned by the Jews; and on
all sides, on the square pillars that supported the roof of the porch,
was carved stone-work representing the tortured bodies of the righteous:
Saint Leger, Saint Laurence, Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Saint Bacchus,
Saint Quentin, and many more; a whole procession of the Blessed, being
blinded, burnt, cut in pieces, flogged with vigorous energy, and
beheaded. But it was all in melancholy decay. The _sans-culottes_, by
amputating more of their limbs in their tempest of fury, had crowned the
martyrdom of these Saints.

"The doorway to the right, dedicated to the Confessors, was a vast hull
set on end; on the sloping side to the left of the door stood Saint
Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra, holding up a gloved hand, and trampling
under foot the cruel host killing the children whose death became a
theme for so many laments; Saint Ambrose, Doctor of the Church and
Bishop of Milan, wearing a singular peaked mitre, like an extinguisher;
Saint Leo, the Pope who defied Attila; and finally Saint Laumer, one of
the glories of the Chartres district.

"He, like Saint Piat in the left-hand bay, is somewhat of a stranger
dragged into this illustrious company. He was of old highly venerated in
La Beauce, having, in his lifetime, had a career which may be briefly
summed up. During his childhood he had kept sheep; he had then been
cellarer to the cathedral; had become first an anchorite, then a monk,
and finally Abbot of the Monastery of Corbion in the forests of the

"The opposite slope of the bay sheltered Saint Martin, Bishop of Tours,
Saint Jerome, as a Doctor of the Church, Saint Gregory, Pope and Doctor,
and Saint Avitus.

"What is curious in this door," thought Durtal, "is the parallel of
personages. On one side, to the right, Saint Nicholas, the great
miracle-worker of the East; on the other side, to the left, Saint
Martin, the great miracle-worker of the West. Then, as companion
figures, Saint Ambrose and Saint Jerome;--the first often redundant and
pompous in second-rate prose, but ingenious and delightful in his hymns;
the second who, in the Vulgate, really created the language of Church
use, purifying and airing the Latin of Pagan literature, foul with
lascivious meaning, reeking at once of an old goat and of essence of
roses. Again, face to face, two Popes, Saint Leo and Saint Gregory, and
two Abbots of Monasteries, Saint Laumer and Saint Avitus, who was Prior
of a House founded in the forests of Le Perche."

These two last statues had been added later; their style and costume
betrayed a date subsequent to the thirteenth century; had they, then,
taken the place of others representing the same Monks, or different

The tympanum again expressed the same purpose of parallelism, evidently
intended by the master of the work. This was also devoted to two miracle
workers, to a correspondence in this respect of the north and the south.
It represented episodes in the lives of Saint Nicholas and Saint Martin:
Saint Nicholas furnishing a dowry for the daughters of a gentleman who
was dying of hunger, and about to sell their honour, and the sepulchre
of this archbishop exuding an oil of sovereign efficacy in the cure of
diseases; Saint Martin giving half of his cloak to a beggar, and then
beholding Christ wearing the garment.

The remainder of this porch was of secondary interest. In the mouldings
of the arches and in the pillars of the bays the ranks of the Confessors
appeared again, the nine choirs of Angels, the parable of the wise and
foolish Virgins, a replica of the four-and-twenty elders on the royal
front, the Prophets of the Old Testament, the Virtues, the Vices, the
Christian Virgins, and small statues of the Apostles, all more or less
injured and more or less invisible.

This south porch, with its seven hundred and eighty-three statues and
statuettes, spoken of by the guide-books as the most attractive of all,
was to artists, on the contrary, the least absorbing; for, with the
exception of the noble effigies of Saint Theodore and Saint George, the
glorification of the others who dwell there was on the whole, from the
artistic point of view, very inferior in interest to the sculpture on
the twelfth-century west front, or even to that of the north porch--that
complete embodiment of the Two Testaments--where the sculpture, if more
barbarous, was less placid and cold.

And Durtal came to this conclusion: "The exterior of the cathedral of
Chartres may be summed up in three words: _Latvia_, _hyperdulia_, and
_dulia_. _Latria_, the worship of Our Lord, on the west front;
_Hyperdulia_, the worship of the Blessed Virgin, in the north porch;
_Dulia_, the worship of the Saints, in the south porch.

"For although the Redeemer is magnified in this south portal in His
character of Supreme Judge, He seems to make way for the Saints. And
this is quite intelligible, since He is enthroned there for two
purposes, and His true palace, His real throne, is in the triumphal
tympanum of the royal doorway in the west front."

Before quitting this side of the building, as he glanced once more at
the ranks of the Elect, Durtal stopped in front of Saint Clement and
Saint Gregory.

Saint Clement, whose extraordinary death almost casts his life into
oblivion--a life exclusively occupied in harrowing souls. Durtal
recalled the narrative of Voragine. After being exiled to the
Chersonesus, in the reign of Trajan, Clement was cast into the sea with
an anchor tied to his neck, while the assembled Christians kneeling on
the strand besought Heaven to restore his body. Then the sea withdrew
three miles, and the faithful went dry-shod to a chapel which the angels
had just erected beneath the waters, where the body of the saint was
found reposing, lying on a tomb; and for many centuries the sea retired
every year for a week, to allow pilgrims to visit his remains.

Saint Gregory, the first Benedictine to be elected Pope, was the creator
of the Liturgy, the master of plain-song. He was alike devoted to
justice and to charity, and a passionate patron of art; and this
admirable Pope, with his broad and comprehensive spirit, regarded it as
a temptation of the Devil that made the bigots, the Pharisees of his
day, proclaim their determination not to read profane literature; for,
said he, it helps us to understand that which is sacred.

Made Pope against his will, he led a life of anguish, mourning for the
lost peace of his cloister; but he fought none the less with incredible
energy against the inroads of the Barbarians, the heresies of Africa,
the intrigues of Byzantium, and the Simony of his own priests.

He stands out in a dark age, amid a witches' sabbath of shrieking
schisms; he is seen in the midst of these storms, protecting the poor
from the rapacity of the rich, feeding them with his own hands, kissing
their feet, every day; and in spite of this overworked life without a
moment's respite, or a minute for rest, he succeeded in restoring
monastic discipline, and sowing wherever he might the Benedictine seed,
saving the headlong world by the vigilance of his Order.

Though he was not a martyr like Saint Clement, he died nevertheless for
Christ, of exhaustion and fatigue, after living in the constant
suffering of a frame undermined by disease, and weakened by voluntary
maceration and fasting.

"This, no doubt, is the reason why the face of his statue is so sad and
thoughtful," said Durtal to himself. "And yet he is listening to the
dove, the symbol of inspiration which is speaking in his ear, dictating
to him, the legend says, the antiphonal melodies, and undoubtedly
whispering his dialogues, his homilies, his commentaries on the Book of
Job, his pastoral letter--all the works which made him so immensely
famous in the Middle Ages."

As he made his way home, Durtal, still reflecting on this array of the
Righteous, suddenly was struck by this idea: "There is no portrait in
Chartres of a Saint whose present help was of yore desired above all
others: Saint Christopher, whose effigy was usually to be found at the
entrance to a cathedral, standing alone in a spot apart.

"It stood thus, formerly, at the door of Notre-Dame de Paris, and is
still to be seen in one corner of the principal front at Amiens; but in
most places the iconoclasts overthrew it, and the churches where the
statue of Christopher is now to be seen may be easily counted. It must
once have existed at Chartres--but where? The monographs on this
cathedral never allude to it."

Thus, as he walked on, he dreamed of the Saint whose popularity is
easily accounted for, since our forefathers believed that they had only
to look at his image, whether painted or carved, to be protected for a
whole day from disaster, and especially from violent death.

So he was always placed outside in a prominent spot, and very large, so
that he might easily be seen by the wayfarer, even from afar. In some
cases his effigy was found on a gigantic scale, inside the church. Thus
he is represented in the Dom at Erfurt, in a fresco of the fifteenth
century, too much restored.

This colossal figure, five storeys high, extends from the pavement of
the church to the roof. Christopher has a beard which flows in a stream,
and legs as thick as the pillars of the nave. Bending and adoring, he
bears on his shoulders a Child with a round face, as white as the chalk
of a clown, blessing all comers with a smile. The Saint is wading
barefoot through a pool full of little reeds, and imps, and horned
fishes and strange flowers--all represented on a minute scale to
emphasize the mighty stature of the Saint.

"That good friend," thought Durtal, "though venerated by the poor, was
somewhat coldly treated by the Church, for he, with Saint George and
some other martyrs, was among those whose existence remains open to

"In Mediæval times Saint Christopher was invoked for the cure of weakly
children, and also as a protector against blindness and the plague.

"But indeed the Saints were the chief healers of that time. Every
disease which the leeches and apothecaries could not alleviate was
brought to the Saints. Some indeed were reputed specialists, and the
ills they cured were known by their names. The gout was known as Saint
Maurus' evil, leprosy as Job's evil, cancer was Saint Giles', chorea
Saint Guy's, colds were Saint Aventinus' ill, a bloody flux Saint
Fiacre's--and I forget the rest.

"Others again remained noted for delivering sufferers from certain
affections they were reputed to heal: Saint Geneviève for the burning
sickness and ophthalmia, Saint Catherine of Alexandria for headache,
Saint Bartholomew for convulsions, Saint Firmin for cramp, Saint
Benedict for erysipelas and the stone, Saint Lupus for pains in the
stomach, Saint Hubert for madness, Saint Appolina, whose statue,
standing in the chapel of the Hospital of Saint John at Bruges, is
graced by way of _ex votos_ with strings of teeth and wax stumps, for
neuralgia and toothache--and how many more.

"And granting," said Durtal, "that medical science is at this day a
greater delusion than ever, I cannot see why we should not revert to the
specific of prayer and the mystical panaceas of the past. If the
interceding Saints should, in certain cases, refuse to cure us, at any
rate they will make us no worse by a mistaken diagnosis and the
exhibition of dangerous remedies. Though after all, even if our modern
practitioners were not ignoramuses, of what use would that be, since the
medicines they prescribe are adulterated?"


The day had come for Durtal to strap his portmanteau and set out with
the Abbé Plomb.

He became fidgety with waiting as the hours went by. At last, unable to
sit still, he went out to kill the time, but a drizzling rain drove him
for shelter into the cathedral.

After offering his devotions to the Virgin of the Pillar, he seated
himself amid a camp of vacant chairs to meditate.

"Before interrupting the quiet monotony of my life at Chartres by this
journey, shall I not do well to look into myself, if only for a minute,
and take stock of what I have gained before and since settling in this

"The gain to my soul? Alas! it consists less in acquisitions than in
exchanges; I have merely found aridity in the place of indolence; and
the results of the exchange I know only too well; of what use is it to
go through them once more? The gains to my mind seem to me less
distressing and more genuine, and I can make a brief catalogue of them
under three heads: Past, Present, and Future.

"In the Past.--When I least expected it, in Paris, God suddenly seized
me and drew me back to the Church, taking advantage of my love of Art,
of mysticism, of the Liturgy, and of plain-song.

"Still, during the travail of this conversion, I could not study
mysticism anywhere but in books; I knew it only in theory and not in
practice. On the other hand, in Paris, I never heard any but dull,
lifeless music, watered down, as it were, in women's throats, or utterly
disfigured by the choir schools. In most of the churches I found only a
colourless ceremonial, a meagre form of service.

"This was the situation when I set out for La Trappe: under that strict
rule I found mysticism not only in its simplest expression, written out
and set forth in a body of doctrine, but mysticism as a personal
experience, in action, simply an element of life to those monks. I could
convince myself that the science of the soul's perfection was no
delusion, that the assertions of Saint Teresa and Saint John of the
Cross were strictly true, and in that cloister it was also vouchsafed to
me to be familiar with the enjoyment of an authentic ritual and genuine

"In the Present.--At Chartres I have entered on new exercises, I have
followed other traces. Haunted by the matchless grandeur of this
cathedral, under the guidance of a very intelligent and cultivated
priest I have studied religious symbolism, worked up that great science
of the Middle Ages which is in fact a language peculiar to the Church,
expressing by images and signs what the Liturgy expresses in words.

"Or, to be more exact, it would be better to say that part of the
Liturgy which is more particularly concerned with prayer; for that part
of it which relates to forms, and injunctions as to worship, is itself
symbolism, symbolism is the soul of it. In fact, the limit-line of the
two branches is not always easy to trace, so often are they grafted
together; they inspire each other, intertwine, and at last are almost

"In the Future.--By going to Solesmes I shall complete my education; I
shall see and hear the most perfect expression of that Liturgy and that
Gregorian chant of which the little convent of Notre Dame de l'Atre, by
reason of the limited number of the Brethren, could only afford a
reduced copy--very faithful, it is true, but yet reduced.

"By adding to this my own studies of the religious paintings removed now
from the sanctuaries and collected in museums, and supplementing them by
my remarks on the various cathedrals I may explore, I shall have
travelled round the whole cycle of mysticism, have extracted the essence
of the Middle Ages, have combined in a sort of sheaf these separate
branches, scattered now for so many centuries, and have investigated
more thoroughly one especially--Symbolism namely, of which certain
elements are almost lost from sheer neglect.

"Yes. Symbolism has lent the principal charm to my life at Chartres; it
occupied and comforted me when I was suffering from finding my soul so
importunate and yet so low."

And he tried to recapitulate the science, to view it as a whole.

He saw it as a thickly branched tree, the root deep set in the very soil
of the Bible; from thence, in fact, it drew its substance and its
nourishment: the trunk was the Symbolism of the Scriptures, the Old
Testament prefiguring the Gospels; the branches were the allegorical
purport of architecture, of colours, gems, flowers, and animals; the
hieroglyphics of numbers; the emblematical meaning of the vessels and
vestments of Church use. A small bough represented Liturgical perfumes,
and a mere twig, dried up from the first and almost dead, represented

"For religious dancing once existed," Durtal went on. "In ancient times
it was a recognized offering of adoration, a tithe of light-heartedness.
David leaping before the Ark shows this.

"And in the earliest Christian times the faithful and the priesthood
shook themselves in honour of the Redeemer, and fancied that by choric
motion they were imitating the joy of the Blessed, the glee of the
Angels described by Saint Basil as executing figures in the radiant
assemblies of Heaven.

"One is soon accustomed to endure Masses of the kind called at Toledo
_Mussarabes_, during which the congregation dance and gambol in the
cathedral; but these capers presently lose the pious character that they
are supposed to bear; they become an incentive to the revelry of the
senses, and several Councils have prohibited them.

"In the seventeenth century sacred dances still survived in some
provinces; we hear of them at Limoges, where the Curé of St. Leonard and
his parishioners pirouetted in the choir of the church. In the
eighteenth century their traces are found in Roussillon, and at the
present day religious dancing still survives; but the tradition of this
saintly frisking is chiefly preserved in Spain.

"Not long since, on the day of Corpus Christi at Compostella, the
procession was led through the streets by a tall man who danced carrying
another on his shoulders. And to this day, at Seville, on the festival
of the Holy Sacrament, the choir-children turn in a sort of slow waltz
as they sing hymns before the high altar of the cathedral. In other
towns, on the festivals of the Virgin, a saraband is slowly danced round
Her statue, with striking of sticks, and the rattle of castanets; and to
close the ceremony by way of Amen the people fire off squibs.

"All this, however, is of no great interest, and I cannot help wondering
what meaning can have been attributed to cutting capers and spinning
round. I find it difficult to believe that _farandoles_ and _boleros_
could ever represent prayer; I can hardly persuade myself that it can be
an act of thanksgiving to trample peppers under foot or appearing to
grind at an imaginary coffee-mill with one's arms.

"In point of fact no one knows anything about the symbolism of dancing;
no record has come down to us of the meanings ascribed to it of old.
Church dancing is really no more than a gross form of rejoicing among
Southern races. We need mention it merely as noteworthy, and that is

"Now, from a practical point of view, what has the influence of
symbolism been on souls?"

Durtal could answer himself.

"The Middle Ages, knowing that everything on earth is a sign and a
figure, that the only value of things visible is in so far as they
correspond to things invisible--the Middle Ages, when consequently men
were not, as we are, the dupes of appearances--made a profound study of
this science, and made it the nursing mother and the handmaid of

"Convinced that the only aim that it was incumbent on man to follow, the
only end he could really need, was to place himself in direct
communication with Heaven, and to out-strip death by merging himself,
unifying himself to the utmost, with God, it tempted souls, subjecting
them to a moderate claustral course, purged them of their earthly
interests, their fleshly aims, and led them back again and again to the
same purpose of renunciation and repentance, the same ideas of justice
and love; and then to retain them, to preserve them from themselves, it
enclosed them in a fence, placed God all about them, as it were, under
every form and aspect."

Jesus was seen in everything--in the fauna, the flora, the structure of
buildings, in every decoration, in the use of colour. Whichever way man
could turn, he still saw Him.

And at the same time he saw his own soul as in a mirror that reflected
it; in certain animals, certain colours, and certain plants he could
discern the qualities which it was his duty to acquire, the vices
against which he had to defend himself.

And he had other examples before his eyes, for the symbolists did not
restrict themselves to turning botany, mineralogy, natural history, and
other sciences to the uses of a catechism; some of them, and among
others Saint Melito, ended by applying the process to the interpretation
of every object that came in their way. A cithara was to them the breast
of the devout man; the members of the human frame became emblematical:
the head was Christ, the hairs were the saints, the nose meant
discretion, the nostrils the spirit of faith, the eye contemplation, the
mouth symbolized temptation, the saliva was the sweetness of the inner
life, the ears figured obedience, the arms the love of Jesus, the hands
stood for good works, the knees for the sacrament of penance, the legs
for the Apostles, the shoulders for the yoke of Christ, the breast for
evangelical doctrine, the belly for avarice, the bowels for the
mysterious precepts of the Lord, the body and loins for suggestions of
lust, the bones typified hardness of heart, and the marrow compunction,
the sinews were evil members of Anti-Christ. And these writers extended
this method of interpretation to the commonest objects of daily use,
even to tools and vessels within reach of all.

Thus there was an uninterrupted course of pious teaching. Yves de
Chartres tells us that priests instructed the people in symbolism, and
from the researches of Dom Pitra we know that in the Middle Ages Saint
Melito's treatise was popular and known to all. Thus the peasant learnt
that his plough was an image of the Cross, that the furrows it made were
like the hearts of saints freshly tilled; he knew that sheaves were the
fruit of repentance, flour the multitude of the faithful, the granary
the Kingdom of Heaven; and it was the same with many pursuits. In short,
this method of analogies was a bidding to everybody to watch and pray

Thus utilized, symbolism became a break to check the forward march of
sin, and at the same time a sort of lever to uplift souls and help them
to overleap the stages of the mystical life.

This science, translated into so many languages, was no doubt
intelligible only in broad outline to the masses, and sometimes, when it
percolated through the labyrinthine maze of such minds as that of the
worthy Bishop of Mende, it appeared overwrought, full of contradictions,
and of double meanings. It seems then as if the symbolist were splitting
a hair with embroidery scissors. But, in spite of the extravagance it
tolerated and smiled at, the Church succeeded, nevertheless, by these
tactics of repetition, in saving souls and carrying out on a large scale
the production of saints.

Then came the Renaissance, and symbolism was wrecked at the same time as
church architecture.

Mysticism in the stricter sense of the word, more fortunate than its
handmaidens, survived that period of festive dishonour; for it may be
safely asserted that, though it was unproductive while living through
that period, it flourished anew in Spain, producing its noblest blossoms
in Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa.

Since then doctrinal mysticism seems dried up at the source. Not so,
however, as regards personal mysticism, which still dwells acclimatized
and flourishing in convents.

As to the Liturgy and plain-song, they too have gone through very
various phases. After being dissected and filtered in the numberless
provincial Uses, the Liturgy was brought back to the standard of Rome by
the efforts of Dom Guéranger, and it may be hoped that the Benedictines
at last will also bring all the churches back to the strict use of

"And this church above all!" sighed Durtal.

He looked at his cathedral, loving it better than ever now that he was
to part from it for a few days. To impress it the better on his memory
he tried to sum it up, to concentrate it, saying to himself,--

"It is the epitome of Heaven and Earth; of Heaven by showing us the
serried phalanx of its inhabitants--Prophets, Patriarchs, Angels and
Saints, lighting up the interior of the church by their transparent
figures; by singing to the glory of the Mother and the Son. Of Earth,
for it connotes the elation of the soul, the ascension of man; it
points out quite clearly to Christian souls the path of the perfect
life. They, to apprehend its symbolism, should enter by the Royal
doorway, and pass up the nave, the transept and the choir--the three
successive phases of Asceticism; reach the top of the Cross where,
surrounded by the chapels of the apse as by a Crown, the head of the
Saviour lies, His neck bent, as we see them symbolized by the altar and
the deflected axis of the church.

"There the pilgrim has reached the united ways, close to the Virgin, who
mourns no more as she does in the agonizing scene on Calvary, at the
foot of the Tree, but, under the figure of the Sacristy, remains veiled
by the side of Her Son's countenance, getting closer to Him the better
to comfort and to see Him.

"And this allegory of the mystical life as set forth by the interior of
the cathedral, is carried out by the exterior, in the suppliant effect
of the whole building.

"The Soul, distraught by the joy of union, heart-broken at having still
to live, only aspires now to escape for ever from the Gehenna of the
flesh; thus it beseeches the Bridegroom with the uplifted arms of its
towers, to take pity on it, to come to fetch it, to take it by the
clasped hands of its spires and snatch it from earth, to carry it up
with Him into Heaven.

"In short, this church is the finest expression of art bequeathed to us
by the Middle Ages. The great front has neither the awful majesty of
that of Reims, pierced as it is with tracery, nor the dull melancholy of
Notre Dame de Paris, nor the gigantic grace of Amiens, nor the massive
solemnity of Bourges; but it is full of imposing simplicity, a
lightness, a spring, which no other cathedral has attained to.

"The nave of Amiens alone grows beautifully less as it rises with as
eager a spring from the earth; but the body of the Amiens church is
light and uncomforting, and that of Chartres is mysterious and hushed;
of all cathedrals it is that which best suggests the idea of a delicate,
saintly woman, emaciated by prayer, and almost transparent by fasting.

"And then its windows are matchless, superior even to those of Bourges,
where, again, the sanctuary blossoms with glorious clumps of holy
persons. And finally, the sculpture of the west front, the Royal Portal,
is the most beautiful, the most superterrestrial statuary ever wrought
by the hand of man.

"And it is almost unique in having none of the woeful and threatening
solemnity of its noble sisters. Scarce a demon is to be seen watching
and grinning on its walls to torture souls; in a few small figures it
shows indeed the variety of penance, but that is all; and within, the
Virgin is above all else the Mother of Bethlehem. Jesus, too, is more or
less Her Child; He yields to Her when she entreats Him.

"It proclaims the plenitude of Her patience and charity by the length of
the crypt and the breadth of the nave, which are greater than those of
other churches.

"In fact, it is the mystical cathedral--that where the Madonna is most
graciously ready to receive the sinner.

"Now," said Durtal, looking at his watch, "the Abbé Gévresin must have
finished his breakfast. It is time to take leave of him before joining
the Abbé Plomb at the station."

He crossed the forecourt of the palace and rang at the priest's door.

"So you are sure you are going!" said Madame Bavoil, who opened the
door, and admitted him to her master.

"Well, yes--"

"I envy you," sighed the Abbé, "for you will be present at wonderful
services and hear admirable music."

"I hope so. And if only that could relieve the tension, could release me
a little from this incoherent frame of mind in which I wander, and allow
me to feel at home once more in my own soul and not in a strange place
open to all the winds!--"

"Ah, your soul wants locks and latches," said Madame Bavoil, laughing.

"It is a public mart where every distraction meets to chatter. I am
constantly driven out, and when I want to go home again they are in

"Oh, I quite understand that. You know the proverb, 'Who goes hunting
loses his seat by the hearth.'"

"That is all very well to say, but--"

"But, our friend, the Lord foresaw your case, when, with reference to
such distractions which flutter about the soul like this, He replied to
the Venerable Jeanne de Matel, who complained of such annoyances, that
she should imitate the hunter, who, when he misses the big game he is
seeking, seizes the smaller prey he may find."

"Ay, but even then he must find it!"

"Go and live in peace, then," said the Abbé. "Do not fret yourself with
wondering whether your soul is enclosed or no; and take this piece of
advice: You are accustomed--are you not?--to repeat prayers that you
know by heart, and it is especially under those circumstances that
wandering supervenes. Well, then, set those prayers aside, and restrict
yourself to following, very regularly, the prayers of the services in
the convent-chapel. You are less familiar with them, and merely to
follow them you will be obliged to read them with care. Thus you will be
less likely to have a divided mind."

"No doubt," replied Durtal. "But when I have not repeated the prayers I
am wont to say, I feel as though I had not prayed at all. I know that
this is absurd; still, there is no faithful soul who does not know the
feeling when the text of his prayers is altered."

The Abbé smiled.

"The best prayers," said he, "are those of the Liturgy, those which God
Himself has taught us, those alone which are expressed in language
worthy of Him--in His own language. They are complete, and supreme; for
all our desires, all our regrets, all our wailing are contained in the
Psalms. The prophet foresaw and said everything; leave him, then, to
speak for you, and thus, as your interpreter before God, give you his

"As to the prayers you may feel moved to address to God apart from the
hours devoted to the purpose, let them be short. Imitate the Recluses of
Egypt, the Fathers in the Desert, who were masters in the art of
supplication. This is what old Isaac said to Cassian: 'Pray briefly and
often, lest, if your orisons be long, the enemy will come to disturb
them. Follow these two rules, they will save you from secret upheaval.

"So, go in peace; and if any trouble should overtake you, do not
hesitate to consult the Abbé Plomb."

"Eh, our friend," cried Madame Bavoil, laughing, "and you might also
cure yourself of wandering thoughts by the method employed by the Abbess
of Sainte-Aure when she chanted the Psalter: she sat in a chair of which
the back was garnished with a hundred long nails, and when she felt
herself wandering she pressed her shoulder firmly against the points;
there is nothing better, I can tell you, for bringing folks back to
reality and recalling their wandering attention."

"Thank you, indeed!"

"There is another thing," she went on, not laughing now. "You ought to
postpone your departure for a day or two; for the day after to-morrow is
a festival of the Virgin. They expect pilgrims from Paris, and the
shrine containing our Mother's veil will be carried in procession
through the streets."

"Oh no!" cried Durtal, "I have no love for worship in common. When our
Lady holds these solemn assizes to gel out of the way. I wait till She
is alone before I visit her. Hosts of people shouting canticles with
eyes straight to Heaven or looking for Jesus on the ground by way of
unction are too much for me. I am all for the forlorn Queens, for the
deserted churches and dark chapels. I am of the opinion of Saint John of
the Cross, who confesses that he does not love the pilgrimage of crowds
because one comes back more distracted than when one started.

"No. What it is really a grief to me to leave in quitting Chartres is
that very silence, that solitude in the cathedral, those interviews with
the Virgin in the gloom of the crypt and the twilight of the nave. Ah,
here alone can one feel near Her, and see Her!

"In fact," he went on after a moment's reflection, "one does see Her in
the strictest sense of the word--or at least, can fancy that She is
there. If there is a spot where I can call up Her face, Her attitude--in
short Her portrait--it is at Chartres."

"And how is that?"

"Well, Monsieur l'Abbé, we have no trustworthy information as to our
Mother's face or figure. Her features are unknown--intentionally, I feel
sure, in order that each one may contemplate Her under the aspect that
best pleases him, and incarnate Her in the ideal beauty of his dreams.

"For instance, Saint Epiphanius describes her as tall, with olive eyes
arched and very black eyebrows, an aquiline nose a rosy mouth, and a
golden-toned skin. This is the vision of an oriental.

"Take Maria d'Agreda, on the other hand. She thinks of the Virgin as
slender, with black hair and eyebrows, eyes dark and greenish, a
straight nose, scarlet lips, and a brown skin. You recognize here the
Spanish ideal of beauty imagined by the Abbess.

"Again in, turn to Sister Emmerich. According to her, Mary was
fair-haired, with large eyes, a rather long nose, a narrow-pointed chin,
a clear skin, and not very tall. Here we have the description given by a
German who does not admire dark beauty:

"And yet both of these women were real Seers, to whom the Madonna
appeared, assuming in each case the only aspect that could fascinate
them; just as she was seen to be the model of mere prettiness--the only
type they could understand--by Mélanie at La Salette and Bernadette at

"Well, I, who am no visionary, and who must appeal to my imagination to
picture Her at all, I fancy I discern Her under the forms and
expressions of the cathedral itself; the features are a little confused
in the pale splendour of the great rose window that blazes behind Her
head like a nimbus. She smiles, and Her eyes, all light, have the
incomparable effulgence of those pure sapphires which light up the
entrance to the nave. Her slight form is diffused in a clear robe of
flame, striped and ribbed like the drapery of the so-called Berthe. Her
face is white like mother-of-pearl, and her hair, a circular tissue of
sunshine, radiates in threads of gold. She is the Bride of Canticles.
_Pulchra ut Luna, electa ut Sol_.

"The church which is Her dwelling-place, and one with Her, is luminous
with Her grace; the gems of the windows sing to Her praise; the slender
columns shooting upwards, from the pavement to the roof, symbolize Her
aspirations and desires; the floor tells of Her humility; the vaulting,
meeting to form a canopy over Her, speaks of Her charity; the stones and
glass echo hymns to Her. There is nothing, down to the military aspect
of certain details of the sanctuary, the chivalrous touch which is a
reminiscence of the Crusades--the sword-blades and shields of the lancet
windows and the roses, the helm-shaped arches, the coat of mail that
clothes the older spire, the iron trellis-pattern of some of the
panes--nothing that does not arouse a memory of the passage at Prime and
the hymn at Lauds in the minor office of the Virgin, and typify the
_terribilis ut castrorum acies ordonata_, the privilege She possesses
when She chooses to use it, of being 'terrible as an army arrayed for

"But She does not often choose to exert here, I believe; this cathedral
mirrors rather Her inexhaustible sweetness, Her indivisible glory."

"Ah! Much shall be forgiven you because you have loved much," cried
Madame Bavoil.

And Durtal having risen to say good-bye, she kissed him affectionately,
maternally, and said,--

"We will pray with all our might, our friend, that God may enlighten you
and show you your path, may lead you Himself into the way you ought to

"I hope, Monsieur l'Abbé, that during my absence your rheumatism will
grant you a little respite," said Durtal, pressing the old priest's

"Oh, I must not wish to have no sufferings at all, for there is no cross
so heavy as having none," replied the Abbé. "So do as I do, or rather,
do better than I, for I still repine; put a cheerful face on your
aridity, and your trials.--Goodbye, God bless you!"

"And may the great Mother of Madonnas of France, the sweet Lady of
Chartres, protect you!" added Madame Bavoil.

And when the door was shut, she added with a sigh,--

"Certainly, I should be very grieved if he left our town for ever, for
that friend is almost like a child of our own! At the same time I should
be very, very happy to think of him as a true monk!"

Then she began to laugh.

"Father," said she, "will they cut his moustache off if he enters the


She tried to imagine Durtal clean-shaven, and she concluded with a

"I do not think it will improve his beauty."

"Oh, these women!" said the Abbé, shrugging his shoulders.

"And what, in short," asked she, "may we hope for from this journey?"

"It is not of me that you should ask that, Madame Bavoil."

"Very true," said she, and clasping her hands she murmured,--

"It depends on Thee! Help him in his poverty, remember that he can do
nothing without Thine aid, Holy Temptress of men, Our Lady of the
Pillar, Virgin of the Crypt."


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Cathedral" ***

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