The Cathedral (1898)

cathedral cover
Translated by Clara Bell

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


THIS discussion had been of use to Durtal; it took him out of the generalities over which he had persistently mused since his arrival at Chartres. The Abbé had, in fact, shown him his bearings, and pointed out a navigable channel leading to a definite end, a haven familiar to all. The monastery which had lingered in Durtal’s fancy as a mere confused picture, apart from time, without place or date, deriving nothing from his memories of La Trappe but the sense of discipline, and on to which he had at once engrafted the fancy of an abbey of a more literary and artistic stamp, governed by a conciliatory rule, in a milder atmosphere — that ideal retreat, half borrowed from reality and half the fabric of a dream — was taking shape. By speaking of an Order that existed, mentioning it by name and actually specifying a House under its rule, the Abbe had given Durtal substantial food instead of the argumentative wordiness of a mania; he had afforded him something better to chew than the empty air on which he had fed so long.

The state of uncertainty and indecision he had been living in was at end; his choice now lay between remaining at Chartres or retiring to Solesmes; and at once, without delay, he set to work to read and reconsider the works of Saint Benedict.

This rule, summed up more particularly in a series of paternal injunctions and affectionate advice, was a marvel of gentleness and tactfulness. Every craving of the soul was described, every misery of the body foreseen. It knew so precisely how to ask much and yet not to exact too much, that it had yielded without breaking, satisfied the movements of different ages, and remained, in the nineteenth century what it had been in mediaeval times.

Then how merciful, how wise it was when addressing itself to the feeble and infirm. "The sick shall be served as though they were Christ in person," says Saint Benedict; and his anxiety for his sons, his urgent recommendations to the Superiors to love and visit the younger brethren, to neglect nothing that may assuage their ills, reveals a maternal care that is truly touching on the patriarch’s part.

"Yes, yes," muttered Durtal, "but there are in this rule other articles which seem less acceptable to miscreants of my stamp. This, for instance: ’No man shall dare to give or to receive anything without the Abbot’s permission, or to have or hold anything as his own — absolutely nothing, neither book, nor tablets, nor pointer — in a word, nothing whatever, inasmuch as they are not allowed to call even their body or their will their own.’

"This is a terrible sentence of abnegation and obedience," he sighed, "only, is this law, which is binding on the Fathers and the Serving Brothers, equally strict for the Oblates, the grotant members of the Benedictine army, who are not mentioned in the text? This remains to be seen. It will be well too to ascertain how far it is applied, for the rule is on the whole so skilful, so elastic, so broad that it can be made at option very austere or very mild.

"With the Trappists the ordinances are so closely drawn that they are stifling; with the Benedictines, on the contrary, they would be light and airy enough to allow the soul to breathe easily. One Fraternity clings scrupulously to the letter; the other, on the contrary, draws inspiration from the Spirit of the Saint.

"Before goading myself along this road I must consult the Abbé Plomb," was Durtal’s conclusion. He went to call on the priest; but he was absent for some days.

As a precaution against indolence, a measure of spiritual discipline, he threw himself on the cathedral once more, and tried, now that he was less overpowered by speculation, to read its meaning.

The stone text which he was bent on understanding was puzzling, if not difficult to decipher, in consequence of the interpolated passages, repetitions, and parts eliminated or abridged; in fact, to say the truth, as the result of a certain incoherence, accounted for no doubt by the circumstance that the work had been carried on, altered or extended by successive artists during a lapse of two hundred years.

The image-makers of the thirteenth century had not always taken into account the ideas expressed by their precursors; they had repeated them, expressing them from their own point of view in their personal tongue; thus, for instance, they had introduced a second version of the signs of the seasons and of the zodiac. The sculptors of the twelfth century had made a calendar in stone on the western front; those of the thirteenth did the same in the right-hand doorway of the north porch, justifying this reduplication of the subject on the same church by the fact that the zodiac and the seasons may in symbolism have several interpretations.

According to Tertullian the death and new birth of the circling years afforded an image of the Resurrection at the end of the world. According to others the Sun, surrounded by the twelve Signs, was emblematic of the Sun of Justice surrounded by his twelve Apostles. The Abbé Bulteau sees in these stony calendars a rendering of the passage in which St. Paul declares to the Hebrews that "Jesus is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever," while the Abbé Clerval gives this simple interpretation: that all times belong to Christ, and are bound to glorify Him.

"But this is a mere detail," said Durtal to himself. "In the whole structure of the cathedral itself we can trace two-fold purposes.

"The architectural mass of Notre Dame de Chartres as a whole may be divided, externally, into three great parts, as indicated by the three grand porches. The western or royal portal, which is the ceremonial entrance to the sanctuary, between the two towers; the north porch on the side next the bishop’s palace, beyond the new spire; the south porch, flanked by the old spire.

"Now, the subjects represented on the royal front and in the south porch are identical. Each glorifies the Triumph of the Incarnate Word, with this difference: that on the south porch Our Lord is not exalted alone as He is on the west front, but in the person also of the Elect and of His Saints. If to these two subjects, which may be considered as one — the Saviour glorified in Himself and in His Saints — we add the praises of the Virgin set forth in the north front we find this result: a poem in praise of the Mother and the Son as declaring the final cause of the Church itself.

"By studying the variations between the south and west fronts we perceive that, though in both Jesus is shown in the same act of blessing the earth, and though both are almost exclusively restricted to illustrating the Gospel, leaving the scenes of the Old Testament to the arches on the north, they differ greatly from each other, and are no less unlike the portals of all other cathedrals.

"In total disagreement with the mystic rituals observed almost everywhere else — at Notre Dame de Paris, at Bourges, at Amiens, to name but three churches — the Last Judgment, which is seen on the main entrance of those basilicas, is at Chartres relegated to the south porch.

"And in the same way the Tree of Jesse, which at Amiens and Reims and the cathedral at Rouen, is displayed on the royal porch, is at Chartres on the north side of the building; and many more similar changes might be noted," said Durtal to himself. "But, which is yet more strange, the parallel so commonly to be observed between the subjects treated on the inner and outer surface of the same wall, in sculptured stone without and painted glass within, does not constantly exist at Chartres. This, for instance, is the case with regard to the genealogical Tree of Christ, which is seen inside in glass on the upper wall of the west front, and is carved outside on the north porch. At the same time, when the subjects do not entirely coincide on the front and back of the page, they are often complementary, or carry out the same idea. Thus the Last Judgment, which is not to be found on the outside of the north front, blazes out, within, from the great rose window above on the same side. This, then, is not cumulative but appropriate development — history begun in one dialect and finished in another.

"In short, it is the ruling idea of the poem which governs all these differences and harmonies; which comes out like a refrain after each of these three strophes in stone; the idea that this church belongs to Our Mother. The cathedral is faithful to its name, loyal to its dedication. The Virgin is Lady over all. She fills the whole interior, and appears outside even on the western and southern portals, which are not especially Hers, above a door, on a capital, high in air on a pediment. The angelic salutation of art has been repeated without intermission by the painters and sculptors of every age. The cathedral of Chartres is truly the Virgin’s fief.

"And on the whole," thought Durtal, "in spite of the discrepancies in some of its texts, the cathedral is legible.

"It contains a rendering of the Old and New Testaments; it also engrafts on the sacred Scriptures the Apocryphal traditions relating to the Virgin and St. Joseph, the lives of the saints preserved in the Golden Legend of Jacopo da Voragine and the special biographies of the aspiring recluses of the diocese of Chartres. It is a vast encyclopaedia of mediaeval learning as concerning God, the Virgin, and the Elect.

"Didron is almost justified in saying that it is a compendium of those great encyclopaedias composed in the thirteenth century; only the theory that he bases on this truthful observation wanders off and becomes faulty as soon as he tries to work it out.

"He concludes, in fact, by conceiving of this cathedral as no more than a rendering of the Speculum Universale, the Mirror of the World of Vincent of Beauvais; above all, like that work, as an epitome of practical life and a record of the human race throughout the ages. In point of fact," said Durtal to himself, as he took the Christian Iconography of that writer down from the shelf, "in point of fact, according to him, our stone pages ought to follow in such succession that, beginning with the opening chapter on the north, they would end with the paragraphs on the south. Then we should find the narrative in the following order: First of all the genesis, the Biblical cosmogony, the creation of man and woman and Eden; and then, after the expulsion of the first pair, the tale of man’s redemption by suffering.

"’Whereby,’ says he, ’the sculptor took occasion to teach the hinds of La Beauce how to work with their hands and their head. Here, to the right of Adam’s Fall, he carves under the eyes and for the perpetual edification of all men, a calendar of stone with all the labours of the field, and then a catechism of industry, showing the works done in the town; finally, for the labours of the mind, a manual of the liberal arts."

"Then, thus instructed, man lives on from generation to generation, until the end of the world, set forth in the images on the south side.

"This treasury of sculpture would thus include a compendium of the history of nature and of science, a glossary of morality and art, a biography of humanity, a panorama of the whole world. Thus it would very really represent the Mirror of the World, and be an edition in stone of Vincent of Beauvais’ book.

"There is only one difficulty. The Dominican’s Speculum Universale dates from many years later than the erection of this cathedral; also, in developing his theory, Didron does not take into account the perspective and relations of the statuary. He assigns equal importance to a small figure half hidden in the moulding of an arch and to the large statues in the foreground supporting the picture in relief of Our Lord and His Mother. Indeed, it might be said that these are the very figures he overlooks; and, in the same way, he takes no account of the western doors, which he could not force into his scheme.

"This archaeologist’s ideas, in fact, cannot be maintained. He subordinates leading features to accessory details, and ends in a kind of rationalism entirely opposed to the mysticism of the period. He investigates the Middle Ages by levelling down the divine idea to the lowest earthly meaning, and referring to man what is intended to apply to God. The prayer of sculpture, chanted by the ages of faith, becomes, in the introduction to. his work, nothing more than an encyclopdia of industrial and moral teaching.

"Let us look closer at all this," Durtal went on, and he went out to smoke a cigarette on the Place. "That royal doorway," thought he, as he walked on, "is the entrance to the great front by which kings were admitted. It is likewise the first chapter of the book, and it sums up the whole of the building.

"But certainly these conclusions forestalling the premisses are very strange; this recapitulation, placed at the very beginning of the work, when it ought, in fact, to be placed at the end, in the apse!

"And yet," he reflected, "putting this aside, the façade thus worked out fills the position in this basilica which the second of the Sapiential Books holds in the Bible. It answers to the Book of Psalms, which is in a certain sense an epitome of all the Books of the Old Testament, and consequently, at the same time, a prophetic memento of the whole of revealed religion.

"The western side of the cathedral is similar; only, it is a compendium not of the older but of the newer Scriptures; an epitome of the Gospels, an abridgment of the books of St. John and the synoptical Gospels.

"In building this, the twelfth century did more. It added more details to this glorification of Christ, following Him from before His birth, through the Bible story, till after His Death and to His Apotheosis as described in the Apocalypse; it completed the Scriptures by the Apocryphal writings, telling the tale of Saint Joachim and Saint Anna, recording many episodes of the marriage of the Virgin and Joseph derived from the Gospel of the Nativity of the Virgin and pseudo-Gospel of St. James the Less.

"But, indeed, in every early sanctuary such use was made of these legends, and no church is really intelligible when they are ignored.

"Nor is there anything to surprise us in this mixture of the authentic Gospels and mere fables. When the Church refused to recognize by canonical authority the divine origin of the Gospels of the Childhood, of the Nativity, the writings of St. Thomas the Israelite, of Nicodemus, of St. James the Less, and the History of Joseph, it had no intention of rejecting them altogether, and consigning them to the limbo of inventions and lies. In spite of certain anecdotes which are, to say the least of it, ridiculous, there may be found in these texts some accurate details and authentic narratives which the Evangelists, cautiously reticent, did not think proper to record. The Middle Ages by no means lent themselves to heresy when they ascribed to these purely human Scriptures the value of probable legend and the interest of pious reminiscence.

"As a whole," thought Durtal, who was now standing in front of the doors between the two towers, the royal western front, "as a whole, this vast palimpsest, with its 719 figures, is easy to decipher if we avail ourselves of the key applied by the Abbé Bulteau in his monograph on this cathedral.

"Starting from the new belfry and working across the western front to the old belfry, we follow the history of Christ embodied in nearly two hundred statues lost in the capitals. It starts with Christ’s ancestors, beginning with the story of Anna and Joachim, and giving the legend in minute images. Out of deference perhaps to the Inspired Books, this history creeps along the wall, making itself small so as to be inconspicuous, and narrates, as if in secret, by artless mimicry, poor Joachirn’s despair when a scribe of the Temple named Reuben reproves him for being childless, and rejects his offerings in the name of the Lord who has not blessed him then Joachim, in sorrow, separates from his wife and goes away to bewail the curse that has lighted on him, till an angel appears to him and comforts him, and bids him return to his wife, who shall bear a daughter of his begetting.

"Then we see Anna, weeping alone over her barrenness and her widowhood; and the angel comes to her and bids her go forth to meet her husband, and she finds him at the golden gate. And they fall on each other’s neck and go home together. And Anna brings forth Mary, whom they dedicate to the Lord.

"Years then pass, till the time comes when the Virgin is to be betrothed. The High Priest bids all of the children of the House of David who are of age, and not yet married, to come to the altar with a rod in their hand; and to discern which of these shall be chosen to marry the Virgin, Abiathar, the High Priest, inquires of the Most High, who repeats the prophecy of Isaiah which declares that a flower shall come out of Jesse on which the Holy Spirit shall rest.

"And immediately the rod blossoms of one of those present, Joseph the Carpenter, and a dove descends from heaven to settle on it.

"So Mary is given to Joseph, and the marriage takes place; Messiah is born, and Herod massacres the Innocents and there the gospel of the Nativity ends, and the story is taken up by the Holy Scriptures, which follow the Life of Jesus to the hour of His last appearance on earth after His death.

"These scenes, set forth in small simple imagery, serve as a border at the bottom of the vast presentment which extends from tower to tower over all three doors.

"Here the scenes are placed which are intended to attract the crowd by plainer and more visible images; here we see the general theme of this portal in all its splendour, recapitulating the Gospels and achieving the purpose of the Church itself.

"On the left we see the Ascension of Our Lord, soaring triumphant on clouds rendered by a waving scroll held on each side, in the Byzantine manner, by two angels; while below, the Apostles with uplifted faces, gaze at this ascension pointed out to them by other angels who have descended and hover over them, their fingers extended towards the sky.

"The hollow moulding of the arch is filled up with a calendar and zodiac of stone.

"The right-hand side shows the Assumption of Our Lady, seated on a throne, sceptre in hand, and holding the Infant, who blesses the world. Beneath are the episodes of Her life the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the homage of the shepherds, and the presentation of Jesus to the High Priest; and the bend of the arch, rising to a point like a mitre above the Mother, has the mouldings enriched with two lines of figures, one of archangels bearing censers, with wings closely imbricated as if with tiles, the other of personifications of the seven liberal arts, each represented by two figures — one allegorical, and the other the presentment of the inventor, or of the paragon of that art in antiquity. This is the same scheme of expression as we see in the cathedral at Laon; the paraphrase in sculpture of scholastic theology, and a rendering in images of the text of Albertus Magnus, who, after rehearsing the perfections of the Virgin, declares that She possessed a perfect knowledge of the seven arts grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music — all the lore of the Middle Ages.

"Finally, in the middle, the great doorway illustrates the subject round which the storied carving of the other doors all centres: the Glorification of Our Lord, as Saint John beheld it at Patmos; the Apocalypse, the last book of the Bible, spread open on the forefront of the basilica, above the grand entrance to the church.

"Jesus is seated, on His head the cruciform nimbus, robed in the linen talaris and draped in a mantle which hangs in a fall of close pleats; His bare feet rest on a stool, emblematical of the earth, according to Isaiah. With one hand He blesses the world; in the other He holds the Book with the seven Seals. About him, in the oval glory or Vesica, we see the Tetramorph — the four evangelical emblems with closely fretted wings: the winged cherub, the lion, the eagle, and the ox, figuring St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. John, and St. Luke. Above are the twelve Apostles holding scrolls and books.

"And to complete the Apocalyptic vision, in the hollow mouldings of the arch are the twelve Angels and four and twenty Elders described by St. John, in white raiment and crowned with gold, playing on musical instruments, and singing in the perpetual adoration which some few souls, dwelling isolated in the midst of the indifference of this age, still carry on. They magnify the glory of the Most High, throwing themselves on their faces when the Evangelical Beasts, responding to the fervent and solemn prayers that go up from the earth, utter, in a voice that resounds above the roar of thunder, the word which in its four letters, its two syllables, sums up every duty of man to God — the humble, loving, obedient Amen.

"The text has been very closely followed by the imagemaker, excepting with regard to the Beasts, for one detail is omitted; they are not represented with the eyes of which the prophet tells us they were ’full within.’

"Thus, regarding this whole front as a triptych, we find that in the left doorway we have the Ascension framed in the signs of the zodiac; in the middle, the triumph of Jesus as described by the Seer; on the right, the triumph of Mary, surrounded by certain of Her attributes. The whole constitutes the scheme to be carried out by the architect: the Glorification of the Incarnate Word.

"In fact, as the Abbé Clerval says in his important work on the cathedral of Chartres, ’we have the scenes of His life which prepared the way for His glory; we have this actual entrance into glory; and then His eternal glorification by the Angels, the Saints, and the Blessed Virgin.’

"From the point of view of artistic execution the work in the grand subject is crisp and splendid; the smaller figures are obscure and-mutilated. The panel representing the Virgin Mary has suffered severely, and both it and that representing the Ascension are strangely rough and barbarous, quite inferior to the central tympanum, which contains the most living, the most haunting, of many figures of Christ.

"Nowhere, indeed, in medival sculpture does the Redeemer appear as more saddened or more pitiful, or under a more solemn aspect. Seen in profile, His hair flowing over His shoulders, smooth in front and divided down the middle, with a nose slightly turned up and a heavy mouth under a thick moustache, with a short, curling beard and a long neck, He suggests not so much a Byzantine Christ, such as the artists of that time were wont to paint and carve, but a pre-Raphaelite Christ designed by a Fleming, or even derived from the Dutch, showing indeed that slightly earthy taint which reappeared at a later time with a less pure type of head, at the end of the fifteenth century, in the picture by Cornelis Van Oostzaanen, in the gallery at Cassel.

"He rises enthroned, almost sorrowful in His triumph, unamazed as He blesses, with pathetic resignation, the generations of sinners who for seven centuries have gazed up at Him with inquisitive, unloving eyes as they cross the square; and all turn their back on Him, caring little enough for this Saviour unlike the head familiar to them, recognizing Him only with sheep-like features and a pleasing expression; such, in short, as the foppish image at the cathedral at Amiens before which the lovers of a softer type go into ecstasies.

"Above this Christ are the three windows invisible from outside, and over them again the huge dead rose window, looking like a blind eye, and lighting up, like the windows, only when seen from within, when they glow with clear flame and pale sapphires set in stone; then, higher yet, above the rose, is the gallery of French kings, under the great triangular gable between the towers.

"And the two belfries fling up their spires; the old one carved in soft limestone, imbricated with scales, rising in one bold flight to end in a point, and send up a vapour of prayer among the clouds; the new one, pierced like lace, chiselled like a jewel, wreathed with foliage and crockets of vine, rises with coquettish dalliance, trying to make up for lack of the inspired flight and humble entreaty of its senior by babbling prayer and ingratiating smiles; to persuade the Father by child-like lisping.

"But to return to the west portal," Durtal went on, "in spite of the importance of its grand decoration, displaying the Eternal Triumph of the Word, the interest of artists is irresistibly attracted to the ground storey of the building, where nineteen colossal stone statues stand in the space that extends from tower to tower; part against the wall, and part in the recesses of the door-bays.

"The finest sculpture in the world is certainly that we find here. There are seven kings, seven saints or prophets, and five queens. There were originally twenty-four of these statues,— but five have disappeared and left no trace.

"They all wear glories excepting the three first, nearest to the new belfry, and all stand under canopies of pierced work, representing roofs or tabernacles, palaces, bridges — a whole town in little, Sion for children, a dwarfed New Jerusalem.

"They all are standing, each on a column with a guilloche pattern; on plinths carved over with lozenges, diamond points, fir-cone scales, with chain patterns, fret-work, billets, chequers like a chess-board of which the alternate squares are hollowed out; and paved with a sort of mosaic, inlaid patterns which, like the borders of the church windows, suggest a reminiscence of Mussulman goldsmith’s work, and show the origin of the style brought from the East by the Crusaders.

"The three first statues in the recess to the left, nearest the new spire, do not stand on any pattern borrowed from the heathen; they are trampling on indescribable monsters. One, a king whose head having been lost, has been fitted with the head of a queen, treads on a man entangled by serpents; another king stands on a woman who holds a reptile by the tail with one hand, and with the other strokes the plait of her own hair; the third, a queen, her head crowned with a plain gold fillet and her shape that of a woman with child, while her face is smiling but commonplace, has at her feet two dragons, a monkey, a toad, a dog, and a snake with an ape’s head. What is the meaning of these enigmas? No one knows — no more, indeed, than we know the names of the sixteen other statues placed along the porch.

"Some believe that they represent the ancestry of the Messiah, but this assertion has no evidence to support it; others find here a mixed assemblage of the heroes of the Old Testament and the benefactors to the Church, but this hypothesis is no less illusory. The truth is that, though all these personages have had sceptres in their hands, scrolls, ribands, and breviaries, not one of them displays the attributes which would serve to identify them in accordance with the religious symbolism of the Middle Ages. At most might we venture to give the name of Daniel to a headless figure because a formless dragon writhes under his feet, emblematical of the Devil conquered by the prophet at Babylon.

"The most striking and the strangest of these figures are the queens.

"The first, the royal virago with the prominent stomach, is ordinary enough; the last, opposite to this princess at the furthest end of the front near the old tower, has lost half her face, and the remaining portion is not attractive; but the three others, standing in the principal doorway, are matchless.

"The first, tall, slender, and very straight, wears a crown on her brow, a veil, hair banded on each side of a middle parting, and falling in plaits on her shoulders; her nose turns up a little, is somewhat common; her lips firm and judicious; her chin square. The face is not very young. The body is swathed, and rigid, in a large cloak with wide sleeves, and the richly-jewelled sheath of a gown that betrays no feminine outline of figure. She is upright, sexless, shapeless; her waist slight and bound with a girdle of cord, like a Franciscan Sister. She stands looking, with her head slightly bent, attentive to one knows not what, seeing nothing. Has she attained to the perfect negation of all things? Is she living the life of Union with God beyond the worlds, where time is no more? It might be thought so, since it is noteworthy that, in spite of her royal insignia and the magnificence of her costume, she has the self-centred look, the austere demeanour of a nun. She seems more of the cloister than of the Court. Then we wonder who can have placed her on guard by this door, and why, faithful to a charge known to none but herself, she watches, day and night, with her far-away gaze across the square, waiting motionless for some one who for seven hundred years has failed to come.

"She might be an embodiment of Advent, stooping a little to listen to the woeful supplications of man as they rise from earth; in that case, she must be an Old Testament queen, dead long before the birth of the Messiah she perhaps may have prophesied.

"As she holds a book, the Abbé Bulteau thinks it may be a full-length statue of Saint Radegonde. But other princesses have been canonized, and, like her, hold books. At the same time, the monastic aspect of this queen, her emaciated figure, her eye vaguely fixed on the region of internal dreams, would well befit Clotaire’s wife, who retired to a cloister.

"But for what can she be watching? The dreaded arrival of the king bent on tearing her from her Abbey at Poitiers to replace her on the throne? For lack of any information every conjecture must be futile.

"The second statue again represents a king’s wife holding a book. She is younger; she wears neither cloak nor veil; her bosom is full and closely fitted in a clinging dress, tightly drawn over the bust like wet linen; a bodice resembling the Carlovingian rokette, fastened on one side. Her hair lies fiat in two bands on her forehead, covering her ears and falling in long tresses plaited with ribbon, and ending in loose tufts.

"Her face is wilful and alert, and rather haughty. She is looking out of herself; her beauty is of a more human type, and she knows it. Saint Clotilde, is the Abbé Bulteau’s guess.

"It is very certain that this Elect lady was not always a pattern of amiability — not what could be called easy to get on with. Before being reproved and chastened we see her in history. as vindictive, unrelenting to pity, eager for retaliation. She would be Clotilde before her repentance — the Queen, before she became a saint.

"But is it really she? The name was given her because a statue of the same period and very like this, which was formerly at Notre Dame de Corbeil, was dubbed with this name. It was, however, subsequently admitted that it represented the Queen of Sheba. Are we then in the presence of that sovereign? And why, if her name is not in the Book of Life, has she a glory?

"It is highly probable that she is neither the wife of Clovis, nor Solomon’s friend — this strange princess who stands before us, at once so earthly and yet more spectral than her sisters; for time has marred her features, injured her skin, dotted her chin with hail-specks, vulgarized her mouth, injured her nose, making it look like the ace of clubs, and put the stamp of death on that living countenance.

"As to the third, she is tall and slender, a fragile spindle, a slim, sylph-like creature, suggesting a taper with the lower portion patterned, embossed, brocaded in the wax itself; she stands magnificently arrayed in a stiff-pleated robe channelled lengthwise, like a stick of celery. The bodice is richly trimmed and stitched; below her waist hangs a cord with loose jewelled knots; on her head is a crown. Both arms are broken; one hand rested on her bosom; in the other she held a sceptre, of which a small portion remains.

"This queen is smiling, artless, and engaging — quite charming. She looks down on all corners with wide open eyes under high-arched brows. Never, at any period, has a more expressive face been formed by the genius of man; it is a masterpiece of childlike grace and saintly innocence.

"Here, amid the pensive architecture of the twelfth century, one of a crowd of devout statues, symbolical to some extent of simple love in an age when men were in perpetual dread of everlasting hell, she seems to stand at the. Gate of the Lord as the exorable image of forgiveness. To the terrified souls of habitual sinners who after perseverance in guilt no longer dare cross the threshold of the Sanctuary, she stands kindly reproving such reticence, conquering regrets and soothing terrors by her familiar smile.

"She is the elder sister of the prodigal son, of whom St. Luke indeed makes no mention, but who, if she ever existed, would have pleaded for the absent wanderer, and have insisted with her father on the killing of the fatted calf when the son returned.

"Chartres, to be sure, does not see her in this indulgent aspect; local tradition names her Berthe of the broad foot; but while there is no argument to support this hypothesis, it is in fact quite absurd, as the statue is graced with a nimbus. This mark of holiness would not have been given to Charlemagne’s mother, whose name is not on the list of the saints of the Church Triumphant.

"According to the notions of those archaeologists who believe that the sculptured dignitaries of this porch represent the ancestry of Christ, she must be a queen of the Old Testament. But which? As Hello very truly remarks, tears abound in the Scriptures, but laughter is so rare that Sarah’s, when she could not help mocking at the angel who announced that she should bear a son in her old age, has remained on record. So it is in vain that we inquire to what personage of the ancient books this queen’s innocent joy may be ascribed.

"The truth is that she must remain a perennial mystery she is an angelic, limpid creature, who has attained, no doubt, to the purest joy in the Lord; and withal so attractive, so helpful, that she leaves in us an impression of a healing gesture, the illusion of a blessing made visible to all who crave it. Her right arm indeed is broken at the wrist, and her hand is gone; but we can fancy it there still when we look for it; as a shade, a reflection; it is very plainly seen in the slight fulness of the bosom, as though it were the palm; in the folds of the bodice, which distinctly show the four taper fingers and raised thumb to make the sign of the cross over us.

"How exquisite a forerunner of the Blessed Mother is this royal guardian of the threshold, this sovereign, inviting wanderers to come back to the Church, to enter the door over which She keeps watch, and which is itself one of the symbols of Her Son!" exclaimed Durtal, as he glanced at the opposite figures — such different women! one a nun rather than a queen, her head a little-bowed; another, every inch a queen, holding hers aloft; the third saucy, though saintly, her neck neither bent nor assertive, holding herself in a natural attitude, and moderating the august mien of a sovereign by the humble, smiling expression of a saint.

"And perhaps," said he to himself, "we may see in the first an image of the contemplative life, and in the second the embodied idea of the active life; while the third, like Ruth in the Scriptures, symbolizes both!"

As to the other statues — prophets wearing the Jewish cap with ears, and kings holding missals or sceptres, they too are impossible to identify. One in the middle arch, divided from the so-called Berthe by a king, was more especially interesting to Durtal because it was like Verlaine. The statue had indeed thicker hair, but just as strange a head, a skull with curious bumps, a flattish face, a curling beard, and the same common but kindly look.

Tradition gives this statue the name of St. Jude, and this resemblance is suggestive between the saint whom Christians most neglected, and who for several centuries found so few devotees that suddenly, one day, on the theory that he; less than the others, would have exhausted his credit with God, people took to imploring him for desperate cases, lost souls, and the poet so utterly ignored or so stupidly condemned by the very Catholics to whom he has given the only mystical verses produced since the Middle Ages.

"They were ill-starred, one as a saint and the other as a poet," Durtal concluded, as he drew back to get a better view of the front.

It was indeed incredible, with the chasing of silvery flowers wrought on the panes by frost; with its churchdrapery, its lace rochets, its fine pierced work, as light as gossamer, running up to the level of the second storey, and forming a fretted frame for the great stone-carvings of the porch. — And above that it rose in hermit-like sobriety, unadorned, cyclopean, with the colossal eye of its dull rosewindow between the two towers, one full of windows and richly wrought like the doorway, the other as bare as the façade above the porch.

But after all, what absorbed and possessed Durtal’s mind was still those statues of queens.

He finally thought no more of the rest, listened to nothing but the divine eloquence of their lean slenderness, regarding them only under the semblance of tall flowerstems deep in carved stone tubes and expanding into faces of ingenuous fragrance, of innocent perfume, while Christ, touched and saddened, blessing the world, seemed to bend from His throne above them to inhale the delicate aroma that rose from these up-soaring chalices full of soul. Durtal was wondering — what potent necromancer could evoke the spirits of these royal doorkeepers, compel them to speak, and enable us to overhear the colloquy they perhaps hold when in the evening they seem to withdraw behind the curtain of shadow?

What have they to say to each other — they who have seen Saint Bernard, Saint Louis, Saint Ferdinand, Saint Fulbert, Saint Yves, Blanche of Castille-so many of the Elect walking past on their way into the starry gloom of the nave? Did they cause the death of their companions, the five other statues that have vanished for ever from the little assembly? Do they listen, through the closed doors, to the wailing breath of heart-broken psalms, and the roaring tide of the organ? Can they hear the inane exclamations of the tourists who laugh to see them so stiff and so lengthy? Do they, as many saints have done, smell the fetor of sin, the foul reek of evil in the souls that pass by them? Why, then, who would dare to look at them?

And still Durtal looked at them, for he could not tear himself away; they held him fast by the undying fascination of their mystery; in short, he concluded, they are supra-terrestrial under the semblance of humanity. They have no bodies; it is the soul alone that dwells in the wrought sheath of their raiment; they are in perfect harmony with the cathedral, which, divesting itself of its stones, soars in ecstatic flight above the earth.

The crowning achievement of mystical architecture and statuary are here, at Chartres; the most rapturous, the most superhuman art which ever flourished in the flat plains of La Beauce.

And now, having contemplated the whole effect of this façade, he went close to it again to examine its minutest accessories and details, to study more closely the robes of these sovereigns; then he observed that no two were alike in their drapery. Some flowed without any broken folds, in ridge and furrow like the fall of rippling water; others hung closely gathered in parallel flutings like the ribs on stems of angelica, and the stern material lent itself to the needs of the dressers, was soft in the figured crape and fustian and fine linen, heavy in the brocade and gold tissue. Every texture was distinct; the necklaces were chased bead by bead; the knots of the girdles might be untied, so naturally were the strands entwined; the bracelets and crowns were pierced and hammered and adorned with gems, each in its setting, as if by practised goldsmiths.

And in many cases the pedestal, the statue, and the canopy were all carved out of one block, in one piece. What were the men who executed such work?

It is probable that they lived in convents, for art was not at that time cultivated or practised but in the precincts of God. And just then they were in their glory in the Ile de France, the Orleans country, the provinces of Maine, Anjou, and Berry, for we find statues of this type in all; still, it must be said that they are not equal to these at Chartres.

At Bourges, for instance, analogous prophets and very similar queens stand meditative in one of the extraordinary side bays where the Arab trefoil is so conspicuous. At Angers the statues are weather-beaten, almost ruined, but it can be seen that they were less stately, merely human; they are no longer chastely slender, fit for Heaven, but earthly queens. At Le Mans, where they are in better preservation, they vainly strive to soar above their narrow weed; they lack spring, they are nerveless, feeble, almost common.

Nowhere do we find a soul clothed in stone as at Chartres; arid if at Le Mans we study the front, of which the scheme is the same as at Chartres, with Christ enthroned and benedictory between the winged beasts of the Tetramorph, what a descent we note in the divine ideal! Everything is pinched and airless. The Christ, too roughly wrought, looks savage. The pupils only of the supreme masters of Chartres evidently adorned these portals.

Was there a guild, a brotherhood of these image-makers, devoted to the holy work, who went from place to place to be employed by monks as helpers of the masons and labourers, builders for God? Did they first come from the Benedictine Abbey of Tiron founded at Chartres near the market, by that Abbot Saint Bernard whose name figures on the list of benefactors to the church, in the necrology of the cathedral? None may know. They worked humbly, anonymously.

And what souls these artists had! For this we know: they laboured only in a state of grace. To raise this glorious temple, purity was required even of the workmen.

This would seem incredible if it were not proved by authentic documents and undoubted evidence.

We possess letters of the period preserved in theBenedictine annals, a letter from an Abbot of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dive, found by Monsieur Léopold Delisle, in MS. 929 of the French collection in the Bibliothèque Nationale, and a Latin volume of the Miracles of Our Lady, discovered in the Vatican Library, and translated into French by Jehan le Marchant, a poet of the thirteenth century. And these all relate the way in which the Sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin was rebuilt after destruction by fire.

What then occurred was indeed sublime. This was a crusade, if ever there was one. It was here no question of snatching the Holy Sepulchre from the power of the infidels, of meeting armies on the field of battle, and fighting with men; the Lord Himself was to be attacked in His entrenchments, Heaven was besieged, and conquered by love and repentance And Heaven confessed itself beaten; the angels smiled and yielded; God capitulated, and in the gladness of defeat He threw open the treasury of His grace to be plundered of men.

Then, under the guidance of the Spirit, came a battle in every workshop with brute ’matter, the struggle of a nation vowing, cost what it might, to save a Virgin, homeless now as on the day when Her Son was born.

The manger of Bethlehem was a mere heap of cinders. Mary would be left to wander, lashed by bitter winds, across the icy plains of La Beauce. Should the same tale be repeated, twelve hundred years later, of pitiless households, inhospitable inns, and crowded rooms?

Madonna was loved then in France — loved as a natural parent, a real mother. On hearing that she was turned adrift by fire, seeking woefully for a home, everyone grieved and wept; and that, not only in the country about Chartres; in the Orleans country, in Normandy, Brittany, the Ile de France, in the far north, whole populations stopped their regular work, left their homes to fly to Her help, the rich giving money and jewels, and helping the poor to drag their barrows and carry corn and oil, wine, wood and lime, everything that could serve to feed labouring men or help in building a church.

It was a constant stream of immigration, the spontaneous exodus of a people. Every road was crowded with pilgrims, all, men and women alike, dragging whole trees, pushing loads of sawn beams, and cartfuls of the moaning sick and aged forming the sacred phalanx, the veterans of suffering, the unconquerable legions of sorrow, all to help in the siege of the heavenly Jerusalem, forming the outer guard to support the attack by the reinforcement of prayer.

Nothing — neither sloughs, nor bogs, nor pathless forests, nor fordless rivers, could check the advancing tide of the marching throng; and one morning, from every point of the compass, lo! they took possession of Chartres.

The investment began; while the sick opened the first parallels of prayer, the sound pitched the tents; the camp extended for leagues on all sides; tapers were kept burning on the carts, and at night La Beauce was a champaign of stars.

What still seems incredible, and is nevertheless attested by every chronicle of the time, is that this horde of old folks and children, of women and men, were at once amenable to discipline; and yet they belonged to every class of society, for there were among them knights and ladies of high degree; but divine love was so powerful that it annihilated distinctions and abolished caste; the nobles harnessed themselves with the villeins to drag the trucks, piously fulfilling their task as beasts of burthen; patrician dames helped the peasant women to stir the mortar, and to cook the food; all lived together in an undreamed surrender of prejudice; all were alike ready to be mere labourers, machines, loins and arms, and to toil without a murmur under the orders of the architects who had come out of the cloister to direct the work.

Nothing was ever more simply or more efficiently organized; the convent cellarers, forming a sort of commissariat for this army, superintended the distribution of food, and saw to the sanitation of the huts and the health of the camp. Men and women were no more than docile instruments in the hands of the chiefs they themselves had chosen, and who in their turn obeyed gangs of monks. These again were under the orders of the wonderful man, the nameless genius, who, after conceiving the plan of this cathedral, directed the whole work.

To achieve such results the spirit of the multitude must really have been admirable, for the humble and laborious work of plasterers and barrow-men was accepted by all, noble or base-born, as an act of mortification and penance, and at the same time as an honour; and no man was so audacious as to lay hand on the materials. belonging to the Virgin till he had made peace with his enemies and confessed his sins. Those who were reluctant to repair the ill they had done, or to frequent the Sacraments, were dismissed from the traces, rejected as reprobates by their comrades, and even by their own families.

At daybreak every morning the work decided on by the foremen was begun. Some dug the foundations, cleared away the ruins, carried off the rubbish; others, going in parties to the quarries of Berchere-l’Evèque, at about five miles from Chartres, cut out enormous blocks of stone, so heavy that in some cases a thousand workmen were not many enough to hoist them from their bed to the top of the hill where the church was presently to rise.

And when these silent toilers paused, exhausted and broken, the sound went up of prayers and psalms; some would groan over their sins, imploring Our Lady’s mercy, beating their breast and sobbing in the arms of priests who bade them be comforted.

On Sundays long processions formed with banners at theit head, and the shout of canticles filled the streets that blazed from afar with tapers; the canonical services were attended by a whole people on their knees; relics were carried with much pomp to visit the sick.

And all the time the walls of the Celestial City were being shaken by battering-rams of supplication, catapults of prayer; the living forces of the whole army combining to make a breach and take the place by storm.

Then it was that Jesus surrendered at discretion, conquered by so much humility and so much love; He placed His powers in His Mother’s hands, and miracles began to abound.

All the tribe of the sick and crippled are on their feet the blind see, the dropsical dry up, the lame walk, the weak-hearted run.

The tale of these miracles, which were repeated day after day, sometimes being produced even before the pilgrim had reached Chartres, has been preserved in the Latin manuscript in the Vatican.

The natives of Château Landon are dragging a cart-load of wheat. On reaching Chantereine they discover that the food they had taken for the journey is all gone, and they beg for bread from some unhappy creatures who are themselves in the greatest want. The Virgin intercedes for them and he bread of the poor is multiplied. Again, some men set out from the Gâtinais with a load of stone. Ready to drop, they pause near Le Puiset, and some villagers coming out to meet them, invite them to rest while they themselves take a turn at the load; but this they refuse. Then the natives of Le Puiset offer them a cask of wine, and pour it into a barrel hoisted on to the truck. This the pilgrims accept, and, feeling less weary, they go on their way. But they are called back to see that the empty vat has refilled itself with excellent wine. Of this all drink, and it heals the sick.

Again, a man of Corbeville-sur-Eure employed in loading a cart with timber has three fingers chopped across by an axe and shrieks in agony. His comrades advise him to have the fingers completely severed, as they hold only by a strip of flesh, but the priest who is conducting them to Chartres disapproves. They all pray to Mary, and the wound vanishes, the hand is whole as before.

Some men of Brittany have lost their way at night in the open country, and are suddenly guided aright by flames of fire; it is the Virgin in person descending that Saturday after Complines into Her church when it is almost finished, and filling it with dazzling glory.

And there are pages and pages of such incidents.

"Ah, it is easy to understand," thought Durtal, "why this Sanctuary is so full of Her. Her gratitude for the love of our forefathers is still felt here — even now She is fain not to seem too much disgusted, not to look too closely.

"Well, well! we build sanctuaries in another way nowadays. When I think of the Sacred Heart in Paris, that gloomy, ponderous erection raised by men who have written their names in red on every stone! How can God consent to dwell in a church of which the walls are blocks of vanity joined by a cement of pride; walls where you may read the names of well-known tradesmen exhibited in a good place, as if they were an advertisement? It would have been so easy to build a less magnificent and less hideous church, and not to lodge the Redeemer in a monument of sin! Think of the throng of good souls who so long ago dragged their load of stones, praying as they went! It would never have occurred to them to turn their love to account and make it serve their craving for display, their hunger for lucre."

An arm was laid on his, and Durtal recognized the Abbé Gévresin, who had come up while he stood dreaming in front of the cathedral.

"I am going on at once, they are waiting for me," said the priest. "I only took advantage of our meeting to tell you that I had a letter this morning from the Abbé Plomb."

"Indeed! And where is he?"

"At Solesmes; but he comes home the day after tomorrow. Our friend seems greatly taken with the Benedictine life."

And the Abbé smiled, while Durtal, a little startled, watched him turn the corner by the new belfry.


ONE morning Durtal went out to seek the Abbé Plomb. He could not find him in his own house, nor in the cathedral; but at last, directed by the beadle, he made his way to the house at the corner of the Rue de l’Acacia, where the choir-school was lodged.

He went in by a gate that stood half open, into a yard littered with broken pails and other rubbish. The house, beyond this courtyard, was suffering from the cutaneous disease that affects plaster, eaten with leprosy and spotted with blisters, with zig-zag rifts from top to bottom, and a crackled surface like the glaze of an old jar. The dead stock of a vine stretched its gnarled black arms along the wall.

Durtal, looking in at a window, saw a dormitory with rows of white beds, and he was amused, for never had he seen beds so tiny.

A lad was in the room, whom he called, by tapping on the pane, and asked whether the Abbt Plomb were still about the place. The boy nodded an affirmative, and showed Durtal into a waiting-room.

This room was like the office of an exceedingly inferior and pious hotel. The. furniture consisted of a mahogany table of a sort of salmon pink colour, on which stood a pot. stand bereft of flowers; arm-chairs with circular backs fit for a gatekeeper’s room, a chimney-piece adorned with statues of saints much fly-bitten, and a chimney board covered. with paper representing the Vision of Lourdes. On the walls hung a black board with rows of numbered keys; opposite, a chromo-lithograph of Christ, displaying, with an amiable smile, an underdone heart bleeding amid streams of yellow sauce.

But what was chiefly characteristic of this bedizened porter’s lodge was a horribly sickening smell, the smell of lukewarm castor oil.

Durtal, nauseated by this odour, was on the point of making his escape, when the Abbé Plomb came in and took his arm. They went out together.

"Then you have just come back from Solesmes?" said Durtal.

"As you see."

"And were you satisfied with your visit?"

"Enchanted," and the Abbé smiled at the impatience he could detect in Durtal’s accents.

"What do you think of the monastery?"

"I think it most interesting to visit, both from the monastic and from the artistic point of view. Solesmes is a great convent, the parent House of the Benedictine Order in France, and it has a flourishing school of novices. What is it that you want to know, exactly?"

"Why, everything you can tell me."

"Well, then, I may tell you that ecclesiastical art, brought to its very highest expression; is fascinating in that monastery. No one can conceive of the magnificence of the liturgy and of plain-song who has not heard them at Solesmes. If Notre Dame des Arts had a special sanctuary, it undoubtedly would be there."

"Is the chapel ancient?"

"A part of the old church remains, and the famous Solesmes sculpture, dating from the sixteenth century. Unfortunately, there are some quite disastrous windows in the apse: the Virgin between Saint Peter and Saint Paul; modern glass in its most piercing atrocity. But, then, where is decent glass to be had?"

"Nowhere. We have only to look at the transparent pictures let into the walls of our new churches to appreciate the incurable idiocy of painters who insist on treating window panes from cartoons, as they do subject pictures — and such subjects! and such pictures! All turned out by the gross from cheap glass melters, whose thin material dots the pavement of the church with spots like confetti, strewing lollipops of colour wherever the light falls.

"Would it not be far better to accept the colourless scheme of window-glass used at Citeaux, where a decorative effect was produced by a design in the lead lines; or to imitate the fine grisailles, iridescent from age, which may still be seen at Bourges, at Reims, and even here, in our cathedral? "

"Certainly," said the Abbe. "But to return to our monastery. Nowhere, I repeat, are the services performed with so much pomp. You should see it on the occasion of some high festival! Picture to yourself above the altar, where commonly the tabernacle shines, a Dove suspended from a golden crozier, its wings outspread amid clouds of incense; then a whole army of monks deploying in a solemn rhythmic march, and the Abbot standing, on his brow a mitre thickly set with jewels, his green and white ivory crozier. in his hand, his train crried by a lay-brother when he moves, while the gold of many copes blazes in the light of the tapers, and a torrent of sound from the organ bears the voices up, carrying to the very vault the cry of repentance or the joy of the Psalms.

"It is glorious. It is not the penitential austerity of the liturgy as it is used by the Franciscans or at La Trappe: it is luxury offered to God, the beauty He created dedicated to His service, and in itself praise and prayer. But if you wish to hear the music of the Church in its utmost perfection you must go to the neighbouring Abbey: that of the Sisters of Saint Cecilia."

The Abbé paused, whispering to himself, thinking over his reminiscences; and then he slowly spoke again,-

"Wherever you go, the voice of a nun preserves, merely by reason of her sex, a sort of emotion, a tendency to the cooing tone, and, it must be owned, a certain satisfaction in hearing herself when she knows that others can hear her; so that the Gregorian chant is never perfectly executed by nuns.

"But with the Benedictine Sisters of Sainte-Cecile all the graces of earthly sentimentality have vanished. These nuns have ceased to have women’s voices; the quality is at once seraphic and manly. In their church you are either thrown back I know not how far into the depth of past ages, or shot forward into time to come, as they sing. They have outpourings of soul and tragical pauses, pathetic murmurs and ecstasies of passion, and sometimes they seem to rush to the assault, and storm certain Psalms at the bayonet’s point. And they do assuredly achieve the most vehement leap that can be imagined from this world into the infinite."

"Then it is a very different thing from the Benedictine service of nuns in the Rue Monsieur in Paris?"

"No comparison is possible. Without wishing to reflect on the musical sincerity of those good Sisters, who sing quite suitably but humanly, as women, it may be asserted that they have neither such knowledge, nor such soul-felt aspiration, nor such voices. As a monk remarked, ’when you have heard the Sisters of Solesmes, those of Paris sound provincial.’"

"And you saw the Abbess of Saint Cecilia. Why, when I think of it, is not she the writer of a Treatise on Prayer (Traité de l’Oraison) which I read when I was at La Trappe, and which was not, I believe, regarded with favour at the Vatican?"

"Yes, she it is. But you are making the greatest mistake in imagining that her book was not approved at Rome. It was examined there, like every book of the kind, through a magnifying glass, strained through a sieve, picked over line by line, turned inside out and upside down; but the theologians employed in this pious custom-house service acknowledged and certified that this work, based oil the soundest principles of mysticism, was learnedly, impeccably, desperately orthodox.

"I may add that the volume was printed privately by the Abbess herself, helped by some of the nuns, in a little hand-press belonging to the convent, and has never been in circulation. It is, in fact, an epitome of doctrine, the essential extract of her teaching, and was more especially intended for those of her daughters who are unable to have the benefit of her instruction and lectures, because they live away from Solesmes, in other convents that she has founded.

"Why in these days, when for ten years past the Benedictine Sisters have made a study of Latin, when many of them translate from Hebrew and Greek and are skilled in exegesis, when others draw and paint the pages of missals, reviving the art of the illuminators of the Middle Ages, when others again — as, for instance, Mother Hildegarde — are organists of the highest attainment, you may easily understand that the woman who directs them all, the woman who has created in her Sisterhoods a school of practical mysticism and of religious art, is a very remarkable person; nay, in these days of frivolous devotions and ignorant piety, quite unique."

"Why, she is one of the great Abbesses of the Middle Ages," cried Durtal.

"She is the crowning work of Dom Guèranger, who took her in hand almost as a child and kneaded and mollified her soul with long patience; then he transplanted her into a special greenhouse, watching her growth in the. Lord day after day; and you see the result of this forcing and high culture."

"Yes, and even this does not hinder some persons from regarding convents as the homes of idleness and reservoirs of folly. When you think that obscure idiots write to the papers to say that nuns know nothing of the Latin they repeat! It would be well for them if they knew as much Latin as those women!"

The Abbe smiled.

"And the secret of the Gregorian chant dwells with them," he went on. "It is necessary not only to understand the language of the Psalms as they are sung, but to appreciate meanings which are often doubtful in the Vulgate, in order to express them properly. Without fervent feeling and knowledge, the voice is nothing.

"It may be beautiful in secular music, but it is null and void when it attempts the venerable sequences of plainsong."

"And how are the Fathers employed?"

"They also began by restoring the liturgy and Church singing; then they discovered certain lost texts of the subtle symbolists and learned saints, and collected them in a Spicilegium and Analectae. Now they are editing and printing a musical Palaeography, one of the most learned and abstruse of modern publications.

"Still, I would not have you believe that the whole mission of the Benedictine Order consists in overhauling ancient manuscripts and reproducing ancient Antiphonals and curious chronicles. The Brother who has a talent for any art devotes himself to it, no doubt, if the Superior permits; on this point the rule knows no exception; but the real and true aim of the Son of Saint Benedict is to sing Psalms and praise the Lord, to serve his apprenticeship here for his task in Heaven: namely, to glorify the Redeemer in words inspired by Himself; and in the language He spoke by the voice of David and the Prophets.

"Seven times a day the Benedictines do the homage required of the Elders in Heaven, as described by Saint John in the Apocalypse, and represented by sculptors s playing on instruments here at Chartres.

"In point of fact, their particular function is not at all to bury themselves under the accumulated dust of ages, nor even to accept in substitution the sins and woes of others as the Orders of pure mortification do-the Carmelites and the Poor Clares. Their vocation is to fill the office of the Angels; it is a task of joy and peace, an anticipation of their inheritance of gladness beyond the grave; in fact, the work which is nearest to that of purified spirits, the highest on earth.

"To fulfil their duty fittingly, besides ardent piety, a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures is required, and a refined feeling for art. Thus a true Benedictine must be at once a saint, a learned man, and an artist."

"And what is the daily life of Solesmes?" asked Durtal.

"Very methodical and very simple: Matins and Lauds at four in the morning; at nine o’clock tierce, mass for the brethren, and sext; at noon dinner; at four nones and vespers; at seven supper; at half-past eight compline and deep silence. As you see, there is time for meditation and work in the intervals between the canonical hours and meals."

"And the oblates?"

"What oblates? I saw none at Solesmes."

"Indeed-then if there are any, do they lead the same life as the Fathers? "

"Evidently; excepting, perhaps, some dispensations depending on the Abbot’s favour. I can tell you this much: that in some other Benedictine Houses that I have visited the general system is that th oblate shall follow as much of the rule as. he is able for."

"Still, he is, I suppose, free to come and go-his actions are free? "

"When once he has taken the oth of obedience to his

Superior, and, after his term of probation, has adopte’d the monastic habit, he is as much a monk as the rest, and consequently c?.n do nothing without the Father Superior’s leave."

"The deuce!" muttered Durtal. "Of course, if the ridiculous metaphor so familiar to the world were accurate, if the cloister were rightly compared to a tomb, the condition of the oblate would also be tomb-like, only its walls would be less air-tight, and the stone, a little tilted, would admit a ray of daylight."

"If you like!" said the Abbé, laughing.

As they walked, they had reached the Bishop’s palace.

They went into the forecourt, and saw the Abbé Gévresin making his way to the gardens; they joined him, and the old priest asked them to go with him to the kitchen garden, where, to oblige his housekeeper, he was to inspect the seeds she had sown.

"Aye, and I too promised long ago to look at the vegetables," exclaimed Durtal.

They went down the ancient paths and reached the orchard on the slope; and as soon as Madame Bavoil caught sight of them she grounded arms, so to speak, setting her foot in gardener fashion on the spade she had stuck into the soil.

She proudly pointed to her rows of cabbages and carrots, onions and peas, announced that she intended to make an attempt on the gourd tribe, expatiated on cucumbers and pumpkins, and to conclude, declared that at the bottom of the kitchen garden she meant to have a flower-bed.

Then they sat down on a mound that formed a sort of seat.

The Abbé Plomb, in a mood for teasing, gave his spectacles a push, settling the arch above his nose, and rubbing his hands, remarked, very seriously,-

"Madame Bavoil, flowers and vegetables are but of trivial importance from the decorative and culinary point of view; the only rule that should guide you in your selection is the symbolical meaning, the virtues and vices ascribed to plants. Now, I am sorry to observe that your favourites are for the most part of evil augury."

"I do not understand you, Monsieur l’Abbé."

"Why, you have only to consider that these vegetables which you take such care of mean many evil things. Lentils, for instance — you grow lentils?"

" Yes."

"Well, the seeds of the lentils are very cunning and mysterious. Artemidorus, in his ’Interpretation of Dreams,’ tells us that if we dream of them it is a sign of mourning; it is the same with lettuce and onion: they forecast misfortune. Peas are less ill-famed; but, above all, beware of coriander, with its leaves smelling like bugs, for it gives rise to all manner of evils.

"Thyme, on the contrary, according to Macer Floridus, cures snake-bites, fennel is a stimulant wholesome for women, and garlic taken fasting is a preservative against the ills we may contract from drinking strange waters, or changing from place to place. So plant whole fields of garlic, Madame Bavoil."

"The Father does not like it! "

"And then," the Abbé Plomb added, very seriously, you must fill your mind from the books of Albertus Magnus, the Master of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who in the treatises ascribed to himon the Virtues of Herbs, the Wonders of the World, and the Secrets of Women, puts forth certain ideas, which, as I may hope, will not have been written in vain.

"He tells us that the plantain-root is a cure for headache and for ulcers; that mistletoe grown on an oak opens all locks; that celandine laid on a sick man’s head sings if he will die; that the juice of the house-leek will enable you to hold a hot iron without being burnt; that leaves of myrtle twisted into a ring will reduce an abscess; that lily powdered and eaten by a young maiden is an effectual test of her virginity, for if she should not be innocent it takes instantaneous effect as a diuretic!"

"I did not know of that property in the lily," said Durtal, laughing, "but I knew that Albertus Magnus assigned the same peculiarity to the mallow; only the patient need not swallow the plant; she has only to stoop over it."

"What nonsense!" exclaimed the old priest.

His housekeeper, quite scared, stood looking at the ground.

"Do not listen to him, Madame Bavoil," cried Durtal. "I have a less medical, and more religious, idea: cultivate a liturgical garden and emblematic vegetables; make a kitchen

and flower garden that may set forth the glory of God and carry up our prayers in their language; and, in short, imitate the purpose of the Song of the Three Holy Children in the fiery furnace, when they called on all Nature, from the breath of the storm to the seed buried in the field, to Bless the Lord!

"Very good!" exclaimed the Abbé Plomb; "but you must have a wide space at your disposal, for not less than one hundred and thirty plants are mentioned in the Scriptures; and the number of those to which medival writers give a meaning is immense."

"To say nothing of the fact," observed the Abb Gévresin, "that a garden dependent on our cathedral ought also to reproduce the botany of its architecture."

"Is it known? "

"A list has not indeed been written for Chartres as it has been for Reims of its sculptured flora: the botany in stone of the church of Notre Dame there, has been carefully classified and labelled by Monsieur Saubinet; still, you will observe that the posies of the capitals are much the same everywhere. In all the churches of the thirteenth century you will find the leaves of the vine, the oak, the rose-tree, the ivy, the willow, the laurel, and the bracken, with strawberry and buttercup leaves. Indeed, as a rule, the image-makers selected native plants characteristic of the region where they were employed."

"Did they intend to express any particular idea by the capitals and corbels of the columns? — At Amiens, for instance, there is a wreath of flowers and foliage forming the string-course above the arches of the nave for its whole length and continued over the cornice of the pillars. Apart from the probable purpose of dividing the height into two equal parts in order to rest the eye, has this string-course any other meaning? Does it embody any particular idea? Is it the expression of some phrase relating to the Virgin, in whose name the cathedral is dedicated? "

"I do not think so," said the Abbé. "I believe that the artist who carved those wreaths simply aimed at a decorative effect, and made no attempt to give us in symbolical language a compendium of our Mother’s virtues.

"Moreover, if we admit that the sculptors of the thirteenth century introduced the acanthus on account of its emollient qualities, the oak because it is emblematic of strength, and the water-lily because its broad leaves are accepted as a figure of charity, we ought no less to conclude that at the end of the fifteenth century, when the mystery of symbolism was not as yet altogether lost, the toothed bunches of curled cabbage, of thistles and other deeply-cut leaves mingling with true-love-knots, as in the church at Brou, might have had some meaning. But it is perfectly certain that these vegetable forms were chosen only for their elaborately elegant growth, and the fragile and mannered grace of their outline. Otherwise we might assert that this later ornament has a different tale to tell from that set forth in the flora of Reims and Amiens, Rouen and Chartres.

"In point of fact, the natural form which most frequently occurs in the capitals of our cathedral-by no means a remarkably flowery one-is the episcopal crozier as seen in the young shoots of the fern."

"No doubt. But does not the fern bear a symbolical meaning?

"In a general sense, it is emblematic of humility, evidently in allusion to its habit of growing as much as possible far from the high road, in the, depths of woods. But by consulting the Treatise of St. Hildegarde we learn that the plant she calls Fern, or bracken, has magical properties.

"Just as sunshine disperses darkness, says the Abbess of Rupertsberg, the Fern puts nightmares to flight. The devil hates and flees from it, and thinder and hail rarely fall on spots where it takes shelter; also the mail who wears it about him escapes witchcratt and spells."

"Then St. Hildegarde made a study of natural history in its relations to medicine and magic? "

"Yes; but the book remains unknown because it has never yet been translated.

"She sometimes assigns very singular talismanic virtues to certain flowers. Would you like some instances?

"According to her, the plantain cures anyone who has eaten or drunk poison, and the pimpernel has the same virtue when hung round the neck. Myrrh must be warmed against the body till it is quite soft, and then it nullifies the wizard’s malignant arts, delivers the mind from phantoms, and is an antidote to philtres. It also puts to

flight all lascivious dreaming, if worn on the breast or the stomach; only, as it eliminates every carnal suggestion it depresses the spirit and makes it ’arid’; and for this reason, adds the saint, it should never be eaten but under great necessity.

"It is true that as a remedy against the dejection caused by myrrh we may apply the ’hymelsloszel’ (Himmelschhissel),which is — or appears to be — Frirniila offinalis, the cowslip, whose bunches of fragrant yellow blossoms are to be seen in moist woods and meadows. This plant is ’warm,’ and imbibes its qualities from the light. Hence it can drive away melancholy, which, says St. Hildegarde, spoils men’s good manners, making them utter speech contrary to God, on hearing which words the spirits of the air gather about him who has spoken them, and finally drive him mad.

"I may also tell you of the mandragora, a plant ’warm and watery,’ that may symbolize the human being it resembles; and it is more susceptible than all other plants to the suggestion of the devil; but I would rather quote a recipe that you might perhaps think useful.

"Here is our Abbess’s presciiption a propos to the iris or lily: Take the tip of the root, bruise it in rancid fat, heat this ointment and rub it on any who are afflicted with red or white-leprosy; and they will soon be healed.

"But enough of these old-world recipes and countercharms; we will study the symbolism of plants. -

"Flowers in general are emblematic of what is good. According to Durand of Mende, both flowers and trees represent good works, of which. the virtues are the roots; according to Honorius, the hermit, green herbs are for wisdom; those in flower are for progress; those in fruit are the perfect souls; finally, we are told, by old treatises on symbolical theology that all plants embody the allegory of the Resurrection, while the idea of eternity attaches more particularly to the vine, the cedar and the palm."

"And you may add," the Abbé Gévresin put in, "that in the Psalms the palm figures the righteous man, while according to the interpretation of Gregory the Great its rugged bark and the golden strings of dates are emblematical of the wood of the Cross, hard to the touch, but bearing fruit that is sweet to those who are worthy to taste them."

"Well," said Durtal, "but supposing that Madame Bavoil should wish to plant a liturgical garden, what should she select for it?

"Can we, to begin with, compose a dictionary of plants representing the capital sins and their antithetical virtues, sketch a basis of operations, and pick out by certain rules the materials at the command of the mystic gardener?"

"I do not know," said the Abbé Plomb. "At the same time, I should think it might be possible; only we should have to remember the names of the plants more or less exactly symbolizing those qualities and defects. In short, what you need is a sort of language of flowers as applied to the catechism. Let us try.

"For pride we have the pumpkin, which was worshipped of old as a divinity in Sicyon. It bears indifferently the character of pride or of fertility; of fertility by reason of its multitude of seeds and its rapid growth, of which the monk Walafrid Strabo wrote in noble hexameters a whole chapter of his poem; and of pride by reason of its huge hollow head and its bulk; and then we also have the cedar, which Peter of Capua and Saint Melito agree in accusing of pride.

"Avarice? I confess I know of no plant which represents it; we will come back to that." -

"I beg your pardon," said the Abbé Gévresin; "Saint Eucher and Raban Maur speak of thorns as emblematical of riches which accumulate to the detriment of the soul; and Saint Melito says that the sycamore means greed of money."

"The poor sycamore!" cried the younger priest. "It has been served with every sauce! Raban Maur and the Anonymous monk of Clairvaux also call it a misbelieving Jew; Peter of Capua compares it to the Cross; Saint Eucher calls it wisdom, and there are other meanings. But meanwhile I forget how far we had gone. Oh! lasciviousness; we here have ample choice. Besides certain trees there is cyclamen, or sow-bread, which, according to an ancient dictum of Theophrastus, is symbolical of this sin because it was used in the preparation of love-philtres; the nettle, which Peter of Capua says is emblematic of the unruly instincts of the flesh; and the tuberose, a more modern introduction, but known as far back as the sixteenth century, when a Minorite Father brought it to France. Its heady perfume, which disturbs the nerves, also, it is said, excites the senses.

"For envy there are the bramble and the aconite, which, to be sure, is more exactly assigned to calumny and scandal; and, again, the nettle, which, however, is also interpreted by Albertus Magnus as figuring courage and expelling fear.

"Greediness?" The Abbé paused to think. "Carnivorous plants, perhaps, as the fly-trap and the bog sundew."

"And why not the humbler cuscuta, the dodder, the cuttle-fish of the vegetable kingdom, which shoots out the antenne of its stems as fine as thread, attaching itself to other plants by tiny suckers and feeding greedily on their juices?

asked the Abbé Gévresin.

"Anger," the Abbé Plomb went on, "is symbolized by a shrub with pinkish flowers, a kind of bitter-sweet, as it is popularly called, and by Herb Basil, which ever since the Middle Ages has had the same character ascribed to it of cruelty and rage as to its namesake, the basilisk, in the animal world."

Oh!" tried Madam avoil, "and we use it to season dishes and flavour certain sauces."

"That is a serious culinary error and a spiritual danger," said the priest, smiling. He then went on:-

"Anger may also be figured by the balsam, which especially symbolizes mpatince by reason of the irritability of its seed-vessels, which fly at a touch and explode, sending them to some distance.

"Sloth finally has the whole tribe of poppies, which give sleep.

"As to the opposite virtues, the explanation they need is childish. For humility you have the bracken, the hyssop, the knotweed, and the violet, which, says Peter of Capua, is, by that same token, emblematical of Christ."

"And likewise, according to Saint Melito, of the Confessors; or, according to Saint Mechtildis, of widows," added the Abbé Gévresin.

"For indifference to the things of this world we find the lichen symbolizing solitude; for chastity, the orange-flower and the lily; for charity, the water-lily, the rose, and -the saffron flower-so say Raban Maur and the Anonymous monk of Clairvaux; for temperance, the lettuce, which also stands for fasting; for meekness, mignonette; for watchfulness, the elder, signifying zeal; and thyme, which, with its sharp, pungent aroma, symbolizes activity.

"You may dispense with the sins, which have no place in the precincts of Our Lady, and lay out your plots with the devout flowers."

"How is that to be done?" asked the Abbé Gévresin.

"Why," said Durtal, "there are two plans. One would be to sketch the plan of a real church and supply the place of its statues with plants, which would be the better way from the point of view of art; or else to compose a whole sanctuary with trees and shrubs."

He rose, and went to pick up a stick that was lying in the field.

"There," said he, tracing the cruciform outline of a church on the ground, "there you have the plan of our cathedral. Supposing now we build it, beginning at the end, the apse; there we naturally place the Lady chapel, as we find it in most cathedrals.

"Plants emblematic of Our Lady’s attributes are abundant."

"The mystical rose of the Litanies!" exclaimed Madame Bavoil.

"H’m!" said Durtal; "the rose has been much bedraggled. Not only was it the erotic blossom of Paganism, but in the Middle Ages Jews and prostitutes were compelled in many places to wear a rose as a distinctive mark of infamy."

"True," said the Abbé Plomb, "and yet Peter of Capua uses it, with an interpretation of love and charity, to figure the Virgin; Saint Mechtildis, again, says that roses are symbolical of martyrs, and in another passage of her work on’ Specific Grace,’ she compares this flower to the virtue of patience."

"Walafrid Strabo, in his ’Hortiilus,’ also speaks of the rose as the blood of the martyred saints," the Abbé Gévresin murmured.

"’Rosae martyres, rithore sa ngu in is,’ according to the key of Saint Melito," the other priest added, in confirmation.

"We will admit that shrub," cried Durtal. "Now for the lily-"

"Here I must interrupt you," exclaimed the Abbé.

Plomb, "for it must be at once understood that the lily of the Scriptures has nothing to do with the flower we know by that name.

"The common white lily which grows in Europe, and which even before the Middle Ages was regarded by the Church as emblematic of virginity, does not seem to have existed in Palestine; and when, in the Song of Songs, the mouth of the Beloved is compared to a lily, it is evidently not in praise of white, but of red lips. The plant spoken of in the Bible as the lily of the valleys, or the lily of the fields, is neither more nor less than the anemone.

"This is proved by the Abbé Vigouroux. It abounds in Syria, round Jerusalem, in Galilee, on the Mount of Olives; rising from a tuft of deeply-cut, alternate leaves of a rich, dull green the flower cup is like a delicate and refined poppy; it has the air of a patrician among flowers, of a little Infanta, fresh and innocent in her gorgeous attire."

"It is certainly the fact," observed Durtal, "that the innocence of the lily is far from obvious, for its scent, when you think of it, is anything rather than chaste. It is a mingling of honey and pepper, at once acrid and mawkish, pallid but piercing; it i suggestive rather of the aphrodisiac conserves of the East and the erotic sweetmeats of the Indies."

"But, after all," said the Abbd Gévresin, "granting that there never were lilies in the Holy Land — but is it so? — it is none the less certain that a whole series of symbols were derived from this plant both by the ancients and in mediaeval times.

"Look, for instance, at Origen; to him the lily is Christ, for Our Lord alluded to Himself when He said, ’I am the flower of the field and the lily of the valley;’ and in these words, the field, meaning tilled land, represents the Hebrew people, taught by God Himself, while the valleys or fallow land are the ignorant, or, in other words, the heathen.

"Again, turn to Peter Cantor. According to him, the lily is the Virgin, by reason of its whiteness, of its perfume delectable above all others, of its healing virtues; and finally, because it grows in uncultivated ground, as the Virgin was born of Jewish parents."

"As regards the therapeutic virtues mentioned by Petrus Cantor," said the Abbé Plomb, "I may add that the Anonymous English writer of the thirteenth century tells us that the lily is a sovereign remedy for burns, and’ for this cause is an image of the Virgin, who heals sinners of their burns — that is to say, of their vices."

"You may further consult Saint Methodus, Saint Mechtildis, Peter of Capua, and the English monk of whom you spoke, and you will find that the lily is the attribute, not only of the Virgin Mary, but of virginity in general and of all virgins.

"And here is a posy of meanings culled from Saint Eucher, who compares the whiteness of the lily to the purity of the angels; from Saint Gregory the Great, who says its fragrance is like the works of the saints; and again from Raban Maur, who speaks of the lily as emblematic of celestial beatitude, of the beauty of holiness, of the Church, of perfection, of chastity in the flesh."

"Not to forget that, according to the translation of Origen, the Lily among Thorns is the Church in the midst of its enemies," the Abbé Plomb put in.

"Then it is Jesus, His Mother, the Angels, the Church, the Virgins, everything at once!" exclaiwed Durtal. "We cannot but wonder how these mystic gardeners could discern so many meanings in one and the same plant!"

"Why, yet can see: the symbolists not only considered the analogies and resemblances they discovered between the form, scent, and colour of a flower and the being with whom they compared it; they also studied the Bible, especially the passages wherein a tree or flower was named, and they then ascribed to it such qualities as were mentioned or could be inferred from the text. They did the same with regard to animals, colours, gems, everything to which they could attribute a meaning. It is simple enough."

"It is complicated enough!" said Durtal. "And now where was I?"

"In the Lady chapel, planting roses and anemones; Now add to these a shrub which is the emblem of Mary according to the Anonymous monk of Clairvaux, or of the Incarnation according to the Anonymous writer of Troyes, the walnut, of which the fruit is interpreted in the same sense by the Bishop of Sardis."

"And also mignonette," cried Durtal, "for Sister Emmerich speaks of it frequently and with much mystery. She says that this flower is very dear to Mary, who planted it and made much use of it.

"Then there is another plant which seems to me no less appropriate: the bracken-not by reason of the qualities ascribed to it by Saint Hildegarde, but because it symbolizes the most secret and retiring humility. Take one of the stoutest stems and cut it aslant, like the mouthpiece of a whistle, and you will find very distinctly imprinted in black the form of a heraldic fleur de lys, as if stamped with a hot iron. The scent being absent, we may here accept it as the symbol of humility — a humility so perfect that it is undiscoverable but in death."

"Aha our friend is not so ignorant of country lore as I had fancied," exclaimed Madame Bavoil.

"Oh, I wandered in the woods a little, as a child." -

For the choir no discussion is possible, I believe," said the Abbé Gévresin. "The eucharistic plants, the vine and corn are self-evidently appropriate.

"The vine, of which the Lord said ’Ego viE/s sum,’ is also the emblem of communion and the image of the eighth beatitude; corn, which, as the Sacramental element, was the object of peculiar care and respect in the Middle Ages.

"You have only to recall the solemn ceremonial observed in certain convents when the wafer was to be prepared.

"At Saint Etienne, Caen, the monks washed their face and hands, and kneeling before the altar of Saint Benedict, said Lauds, the seven penitential Psalms, and the Litanies of the Saints. Then a lay brother presented the mould in which the wafers were to be baked, two at a time; and on the day when this unleavened bread was prepared those who had taken part in the ceremony dined together, and their table was served exactly like the Abbot’s.

"At Cluny, again, three priests or three deacons, fasting after the above-mentioned services of prayer, put on albs and invited the aid of certain lay brethren. They mixed the flour of wheat that had been sifted by the novices, grain by grain, with a due quantity of water; and a monk wearing gloves baked the wafers one by one over a large fire of brushwood, in an iron mould stamped with the proper symbols."

"That reminds me," said Durtal, as he lighted a cigarette, "of the mill for grinding the wheat for the offering."

"I am familiar with the mystical wine-press which was often represented by the glass-workers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries," said the Abbé Gévresin. "That was practically a paraphrase of Isaiah’s prophetic verse: ’ I have trodden the wine-press alone, and there was no man with me’; but the mystic mill is, I own, unknown to me."

"I have seen it once at Berne, in a window of the fifteenth century," said the Abbé Plomb.

"I also saw it in the cathedral at Erfurt, painted, not on glass, but on a panel. The picture is by no known painter, and dated 1534. I can see it now: Above, God the Father, a good old man with a snowy beard, solemn and thoughtful; and the mill, like a coffee mill, fixed on the edge of a table, with the drawer open below. The evangelical beasts are emptying into the hopper, skins full of scrolls on which are written the effective Sacramental words. These scrolls are swallowed in the body of the machine, and come out into the drawer, thence falling into a chalice held by a Cardinal and Bishop kneeling at the table.

"And the texts are changed into a little Child in the act of blessing while the four Evangelists turn a long silver crank in the right-hand corner of the panel."

"What seems strange," remarked the Abbé Gévresin, "is that it should be the formula of Transubstantiation and not the substance that is changed, and that the Evangelists, twice represented — under their animal and their human aspect —  pour into the mill and grind. And also that the sacred oblation should be represented by the living flesh.

"Still, it is correct; since the consecrating words are uttered, the bread has ceased to be. This scheme of implied meaning, though somewhat strange, in a literal presentment, a scene of actual grinding — the wheat in the grain, in flour, and in the Host — this obvious intention of ignoring the species, the appearances, and substituting the reality which is invisible to sense, must have been adopted by the painter in order to appeal to the masses, to bear witness to the certainty of the Miracle and to make the mystery evident to the people. But let us return to the construction of our church. Where were we?"

"Here," said Durtal, pointing with his stick to the side aisles as traced in the sand. "Now, to represent the side chapels we have a choice. One we shall dedicate, of course,

to Saint John the Baptist. To distinguish it from the others we have the gilliflo\ver and the ground-ivy to which he has given his name, and more especially the St. John’s wort, which if gathered on the eve of his festival and placed in.a room, destroys malignant spells and charms, is a protection against thunder, and hinders the walking of ghosts.

"It may be added that this plant, famous in the Middle Ages, was used as a remedy for epilepsy and St. Vitus’ dance, two maladies for which the intercession of the Precursor is most efficacious.

"We will dedicate another to Saint Peter. On his altar we may lay a posy of the herbs dedicated to his service by our forefathers the primrose, the wild honeysuckle, the gentian and soap-wort, pellitory and bindweed, with others whose names escape me.

"But, first, will it not be our bounden duty to erect a tower for Our Lady of the Seven Dolours, such as we find in many churches?

"The flower obviously indicated is the passion-flower; that unique blossom, of a purplish blue, its seed-vessel simulating the Cross, its styles and stigma the Nails; its stamens mimicking the Hammer, its thread-like fringe the Crown of thorns — in short, it represents all the instruments of the Passion. Add to this, if you will, a bunch of hyssop, plant a cypress, of which Saint Melito speaks as emblematical of the Saviour, and which Monsieur Olier regards as symbolical of death; a myrtle, signifying compassion, according to a passage by Saint Gregory the Great; and, above all, do not omit the buckthorn, or Rhamnus — for of that shrub the Jews twined the stems that formed Christ’s crown-and your chapel is complete."

"The buckthorn," said the Abbé Gévresin; "yes, Rohant de Fleury says that its thorny branches were used to crown the Son’s head; but this leaves us wondering, when we remember that in the Old Testament, in the ninth chapter of the Book of judges, all the tall trees of Judea bow down before the Royalty prophetically prefigured by this humble shrub."

"Very true," replied the Abbé Plomb. "But what is most curious is the number of absolutely dissimilar senses which the oldest symbolists attribute to the buckthorn.

Saint Methodus uses it for virginity; Theodoret for sin; Saint Jerome ascribes it to the devil; and Saint Bernard takes it as symbolizing humility. Again, in the ’Theologia Symbolica’ of Maximilian Sandaeus, this shrub is made to signify the worldly prelacy, while the olive, vine, and fig, with which the author contrasts it, are the contemplative Orders. In this, no doubt, we may see an allusion to the thorns which Bishops were not always unready to thrust on the long-suffering Heads of monasteries.

"You have forgotten, too, in the blazonry of your chapel, the reed which formed the sceptre of mockery forced into the Son’s hands. But the reed, like the buckthorn, is a sort of Jack-of-all-trades. Saint Melito defines it as the Incarnation and the Scriptures; Raban Maur as the Preacher, the hypocrite, and the Gentiles; Saint Eucher as the sinner; the Anonymous monk of Clairvaux as Christ; and others which I have forgotten..’

"These are many meanings for a single plant," observed Durtal. "But now if we want to specialize some chapels as dedicated to saints, nothing can be easier; at any rate, for such as have lent their names to plants.

"For instance, the Valerian, known as Herb Saint George, the white flower with a hollow stem, which grows in moist. places, and its popular name is quite intelligible since it was used in treating nervous diseases, for which the saint’s intercession was invoked.

"Then we have the plant or plants dedicated to Saint Roch: the pennyroyal, and two species of Inula, one with bright yellow flowers, a purgative that cures the itch. Formerly on Saint Roch’s day branches of this herb were blessed and hung in the cow-houses to preserve the cattle from epidemics.

"Saint Anne’s wort, a humble creeper, the samphire — an emblem of poverty.

"Herb Barbara, the winter-cress, a cruciferous plant, antiscorbutic-a poverty-stricken flower, creeping along the wayside like a beggar.

"To Saint Fiacre is dedicated the mullein, with its emollient leaves; boiled to make a poultice, it relieves colic, which this saint has ’a reputation for curing.

"Saint Stephen’s wort is the enchanter’s nightshade, a beneficent plant with red berries on a hairy stem. And there are many others.

"For the crypt, supposing we dig one out, it must certainly be filled with the trees mentioned in the Old Testament, of which this portion of the building is itself an allegory. In spite of climate we must grow the vine and the palm, emblems of eternity; the cedar, which by reason of its incorruptible wood is sometimes thought to symbolize the angels; the olive and the fig, emblems of the Holy Trinity and of the Word; frankincense, cassia and balsarnodendron Myrrha, a symbol of the perfect humanity of Our Lord; the terebinth — meaning exactly what?"

"According to Peter of Capua, the Cross and the Church; but Saint Melito says the saints. According to the monk of Clairvaux, it is the false doctrine of the Jews and heretics; and as to the drops of resin, they are Christ’s tears, if we may believe Saint Ambrose," replied the Abbé Plomb.

"And even so, our cathedral remains incomplete. We are but feeling our way, without logical sequence. I admit that at the entrance we must plant the purifying hyssop in the place of the holy-water vessel; but with what can we build the walls unless we accept the alternative of a real church having walls but unfinished?"

"Take the figurative sense of the walls and translate that; the great walls are representative of the four Evangelists, Can you find plants for them?"

Durtal shook his head. "The Evangelists are, of course, symbolized in the fauna of mysticism by. the animals of the Tetramorph; the twelve apostles have their synonyms in the category of gems, and two of the Evangelists are naturally to be found there: Saint John is associated with the emerald, the emblem of purity and faith; Saint Matthew with the chrysolite, the emblem of wisdom and watchfulness; but none, so far as I know, has found a representative among either trees or flowers. And yet, to be sure, Saint John has the sun-flower, signifying divine inspiration; for he is represented in a window in the church of Saint Rémy at Reims, his head crowned with a nimbus surmounted by two of these flowers."

"Saint Mark, too, has a plant — the tansy, so named in the Middle Ages."

"The tansy?"

"Yes; a bitter, aromatic plant with yellow flowers, which grows in stony ground, and is used in medicine as an anti-spasmodic. Like Saint George’s herb, it is used in nervous maladies, the intercession of Saint Mark being, it vould seem, of sovereign efficacy.

"As to Saint Luke, he may be represented by clumps of mignonette, for Sister Emmerich tells us that while he was a physician it was his favourite remedy. He macerated mignonette in palm oil, and after blessing it, applied the unction in the form of a cross on the brow and mouth of his patients; in other cases he used the dried plant in an infusion.

"Only Saint Matthew remains; but here I give in, for I know of no vegetable species that can reasonably be assigned to him."

"Nay, do not think it hopeless," cried the Abbé Plomb. "A mediaeval legend tells us that balms exuded from his tomb; hence he was represented as holding a branch of cinnamon, symbolical of the fragrance of virtue, says Saint Melito."

"Well, it would be better to accept the real walls of a church, making use of the structure, and limiting ourselves to completing the idea by details borrowed from the symbolism of flowers."

And the sacristy?" suggested the Abbé Gévresin.

"Since, according to the Rationale of Durand of Mende, the sacristy is the very bosom of the Virgin, we will represent it by virginal plants such as the anemone, and trees such as the cedar, which Saint Ildefonso compares to Our Mother. And now, if we are to furnish the instruments of worship, we shall find in the ritual of the liturgy and in the very form of certain plants almost precise guidance. Thus, flax, of which the cornice and altar napery is to be woven, is indispensable; the olive and the balsamum, from which oil and balm are extracted, and frankincense, which sheds the drops of gum for the incense, are no less indicated. For the chalice we may choose from among the flowers which goldsmiths take as their models: the white convolvulus, the frail campanula, and even the tulip, though, having some repute as connected with magic, that flower is in ill odour. For the shape of the monstrance there is the sunflower."

"Yes," interrupted the Abbé Plomb, wiping his spectacles, "but these are fancies borrowed simply from superficial resemblance; it is modern symbolism, which is really not symbolism at all. And is not this the case t a great extent with the various interpretations that you accept from Sister Emmerich? She died in 1824."

"What does that matter?" said Durtal. "Sister Emmerich was a primitive saint, a seer, whose body indeed lived in our day, but whose soul was far away; she dwelt niore in the Middle Ages than in ours. It might be said indeed that she was more ancient still, for, in fact, she was contemporary with Christ, whose life she fdllows step by step through her pages.

"Hence her ideas of symbolism cannot be set aside. To me they are of equal authority with those of Saint Mechtildis, who was born in the early part of the thirteenth century.

"In point of fact, the source whence they both alike derived them is the same. And what is time, or past or present, when we speak of God?

"These women were the sieves through which His grace was poured, and what need I care whether the instruments were of yesterday or to-day? The word of the Lord is supreme over the ages; His inspiration blows when and where it lists. Is not that true? "

"I quite agree."

"And all this time," said the housekeeper, "you do not think of making use in your building of the iris, which my good Jeanne de Matel regards as an emblem of peace."

"Oh, we will find a place for it, Madame Bavoil, never fear. And there is yet another plant which we must not omit; the trefoil, for sculptors have strewn it broadcast in their stony gardens, and the trefoil, like the fruit of the almond tree, which shows the elongated nimbus, is an emblem of the Holy Trinity.

"Suppose we recapitulate:

At the end of the nave, in the shell of the apse, in front of a semicircle of tall bracken turned brown by autumn, we see a flaming assumption of climbing roses hedging a bed of red and white anemones, edged with the sober green of mignonette. And to give variety by adding symbols of humility — the knotweed, the violet, and the hyssop — we may form a posy of which the meaning will represent the perfect virtues of Our Mother.

"Now," said he, pointing with his stick to the plan of the nave he had traced, "here is the altar, overgrown with red-leaved vines, purple or pearly grapes, sheaves of golden corn. Ah! but we must have a cross over the altar."

"That will not be difficult," replied the Abbé Gévresin.

From the grain of mustard seed, which all the symbolists accept in a figurative sense as representing Christ, to the sycamore and the terebinth, you have a wide range; you can at pleasure have a tiny cross, a mere nothing, or a gigantic crucifix."

"Here," Durtal went on, "along the bays where trefoils flourish, different flowers rise from the ground, corresponding to the saints of their ascription; here is the chapel of Our Lady of the Seven Dolours, recognizable by the passion-flower full blown on its creeping stem, with its many tendrils; and the background is a hedge of reeds and rhamnus, full of sad meaning, mitigated by the compassionate myrtle.

"Here, again, is the sacristy, where smiles the soft blue flax on its light stem, the abundant flowers of the convolvulus and campanula, tall sun-flowers, and, if you choose, a palm, for I recollect that Sister Emmerich speaks of this tree as a paragon of chastity, because, she says, the male and female flowers are separate, and both kept modestly hidden. Another interpretation to the credit of the palm!"

"But after all, you are absurd, our friend! "cried Madame Bavoil. "All this will not hold together. Your plants are the growth of different climates, and in any case they could not all be in bloom at the same time; consequently, by the time you have planted this, that will be dead. You, can never grow them side by side."

"That is symbolical of many unfinished cathedrals, where the building is carried across from century to century," said Durtal, snapping his stick. "But listen, fancy apart, there is something which may be done, and has not ’been done, for celestial botany and pious posies.

"That is, to make a liturgical garden, a true Benedictine garden, where flowers may be grown in succession for the sake of their relations to the Scriptures and hagiology. Would it not be delightful to follow out the liturgy of prayer with that of plants, to place them side by side in the snctuary, to deck the altars with flowers all having their meanings according to the days and festivals; in short, to associate nature in its most exquisite manifestation — that is, its flowers — with the ceremonies of divine worship?"

"Yes, indeed!" exclaimed both the priests with one accord.

"Meanwhile, till these fine things are accomplished, I will be content to dig in my little kitchen garden with an eye to the savoury stews in which you shall share," said Madame Bavoil. "There I am in my element; I do not lose my footing as I do in your imitation churches."

"And I, on my part, will meditate on the symbolism of eatables," said Durtal, taking out his watch. "It is near breakfast time."

As he was going off, the Abbé Plomb called him back and said, laughing.

"In your future cathedral you have forgotten to reserve a nook for Saint Columba, if, indeed, we can find some ascetic plant native, or at any rate common, to Ireland, the land where this Father was born."

"The thistle, figurative of mortification and penance and a memento of asceticism, is conspicuous as the badge of Scotland," replied Durtal. "But why Saint Columba?"

"Because of all saints he is the most neglected, the least invoked by those of our contemporaries who ought to be most assiduous; since he is regarded in the attributions of special virtues as the patron saint of idiots."

"Pooh!" cried the Abbé Gévresin. "Why, if ever a man revealed a magnificent comprehension of things human and divine, it was that great Abbot and founder of monasteries "

"Oh! there is no suggestion implied that Saint Columba was feeble of brain; and as to why the mission was trusted to him rather than another of protecting the greater part of the human race, I do not know."

"Perhaps he may have cured lunatics and, healed those possessed?" the Abbé Gévresin suggested.

"At any rate," said Durtal, "it would be vain to erect a chapel to him, since it would always be empty; no one would come to entreat him, poor saint! for the essential mark of an idiot is not to think himself one!"

"A saint out of work!" remarked Madame Bavoil.

"And who is not likely to find any," said Durtal, as he left them.