The Cathedral (1898)

cathedral cover
Translated by Clara Bell

blue  Chapter I-II.
blue  Chapter III-IV.
blue  Chapter V-VI.
blue  Chapter VII-VIII.
blue  Chapter IX-X.
blue  Chapter XI-XII.
blue  Chapter XIII-XIV.
blue  Chapter XV-XVI.


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 I 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 anaemia 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 hominess. 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 anaemia 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; 1 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 Itake up a book of the higher mysticism — Saint Theresa or Saint Angelathat 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 souland 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 Christ.

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 Mediaeval 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 legends.

"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 type of perverse disbelief. Not satisfied with having 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 speak.

"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 Thaddaeus and Lebbaeus, 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 others.

"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 wefe 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 rest.

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 far 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 widespread 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 martyrs.

There, in the archway of the door, dwelt, side by side, Saint Vii?cent 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’euvre 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 imagemaker 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 writings. 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 stonework 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 Fiat 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 Corb ion in the forests of the Orne.

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 Saints?

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: Latria, 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 corners 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 doubt.

"In Medival times Saint Christopher was invoked for the cure of weakly children, and also as a protector againt 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 Genevieve 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 town?

"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 plain-song.

"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 one.

"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 dancing.

"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 all.

"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 mysticism.

"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 better.

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 spitting 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 Guranger, and it may be hoped that the Benedictines at last will also bring all the churches back to the strict use of plain-song.

"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 Abbe 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 Abbe, "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 possession."

"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 help.

"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 tomorrow 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 groundby 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, 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 hive 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 Lourdes".

"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. Pulcra 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 stories and glass echo hymns to Rer. 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 ordornita, the privilege She possesses when She chooses to use it, of being ’terrible as an army arrayed for battle.’

"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 ripen 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 go."

"I hope, Monsieur l’Abbé, that during my absence your rheumatism will grant you a little respite," said Durtal, pressing the old priest’s hand.

"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 cloister?"


She tried to imagine Durtal clean-shaven, and she concluded with a laugh,-

"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."