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 pearshaped 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 Abbe Plomb to go over the Cathedral is evidently at an end," said Durtal to himself. "The Abbe 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 notes.
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 Csar 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 nonsequiturs, 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 lettershow can you endure. the atmosphere of this provincial town? "
"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 homceopathic pharmacopoeia which still makes use of the foulest matter — the extract of woodlice, 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, 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 Abbe, 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 medium.
"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 flame.
"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’Abbe, 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 words.’"
"That is Mallarmé’s idea too," thought Durtal, "and this coincidence in the views of the saint and the poet, on grounds it 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 rind 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 lie paintings discovered in catacombs, the Lamb, the Pelican, lie Lion, the Shepherd, all meant the Son; the Fish lchthys, 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 hat 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 tile 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 Cross.
"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 mediaeval 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 iuilt rising from the centre of the transepts — that is abv the very spot where, on the Cross, the breast of Christ would lie, alantern 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 oil of the soul, the swarming notes of their bells, reminling 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 SaintVictor, 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. ’MFtar,’ 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 Dorn 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 Vezelay, 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, Arch-bishop 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 rosewindow 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 medival 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 Etampes, 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 twofold 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 archaeologists 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 Abbe Devoucoux at the Cathedral of Autun, I remain sceptical as to their conclusions, which I regard as very ingenious, but far from trustworthy.
"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 Parayle-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 I’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 included.’"
"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 literally."
"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 a 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 his 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 devotlo orationis’ as it is described by Raban Maur, Archbishop of Mayence in the ninth century. I happen to remember also, apropos 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:
Mens pia; thure preces; igne supernus amor.’
The vase is the spirit of piety; the incense, prayer; the fire, divine love.
"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 minled 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 innoence; 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 tomorrow at about two o’clock? We will hope it may be fine enough to examine the outside of the Cathedral."
"And if it still rains?"
"Come all the same. But I must fly."
He pressed Durtal’s hand and was gone.
"YES, 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 Gevrésin 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 stake.
"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 loak 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 patience.
"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 Bayoil, 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 do 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, ncminated 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 Euchaiist in churces. 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 Barthelemy, 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 cured.
Then her noviciate 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 Syivester Lindermans, had determined to found a Carniel 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 Da 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 iron.
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 crcssed 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 stmach 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 more.
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 sufferings!
"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 Papebroch; 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 impracticable.
"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 Abbe Plomb; and the weather is clouding over again! I certainly have no luck."
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 height.
"It is quite true," thought he, "the towers vary like the basilicas. Those of Notre Dame de Paris are thickset and gloomy, almos: 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 he 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 louvreboards. 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 herringbone of enormous size, or a gigantic comb with teeth on each side. They spring into the air, as light s 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 differer,t 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 alike!
"Some are set in a collar of turrets at their base, held in a cir;le 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 Crecy 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 barn 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 Mediaeval 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 lodgings.
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, Pietas, 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 semidivinities, 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 choirschool, 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 runof 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 Breche, 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 recognized.
"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 cathedral, 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 Chartres.
"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 veriflcation — 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 Cross.
"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 head.
"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 erspective 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 bead 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 living.
"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, arid 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 Etampes the wall is square, as in the ancient civic basilicas, and does not describe the sort of halfmoon, 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 vestmen:s, 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 windingsheet 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 puriIang 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 tail 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-Raffaelite 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. Arid 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 Medival painting and sculpture."
"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 style."
"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."