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- A LITTLE TOUR IN FRANCE - 3/42 -


jutting out from it, looks down on this melancholy spot, on the other side of which is a seminary for young priests, one of whom issues from a door in a quiet corner, and, holding it open a moment behind him, shows a glimpse of a sunny garden, where you may fancy other black young figures strolling up and down. Mademoiselle Gamard's house, where she took her two abbes to board, and basely conspired with one against the other, is still further round the cathe- dral. You cannot quite put your hand upon it to- day, for the dwelling which you say to yourself that it _must_ have been Mademoiselle Gamard's does not fulfil all the conditions mentioned in BaIzac's de- scription. The edifice in question, however, fulfils con- ditions enough; in particular, its little court offers hospitality to the big buttress of the church. Another buttress, corresponding with this (the two, between them, sustain the gable of the north transept), is planted in the small cloister, of which the door on the further side of the little soundless Rue de la Psalette, where nothing seems ever to pass, opens opposite to that of Mademoiselle Gamard. There is a very genial old sacristan, who introduced me to this cloister from the church. It is very small and solitary, and much mutilated; but it nestles with a kind of wasted friend- liness beneath the big walls of the cathedral. Its lower arcades have been closed, and it has a small plot of garden in the middle, with fruit-trees which I should imagine to be too much overshadowed. In one corner is a remarkably picturesque turret, the cage of a winding staircase which ascends (no great distance) to an upper gallery, where an old priest, the _chanoine-gardien_ of the church, was walking to and fro with his breviary. The turret, the gallery, and even the chanoine-gardien, belonged, that sweet September morning, to the class of objects that are dear to paint- ers in water-colors.

III.

I have mentioned the church of Saint Martin, which was for many years the sacred spot, the shrine of pilgrimage, of Tours. Originally the simple burial- place of the great apostle who in the fourth century Christianized Gaul, and who, in his day a brilliant missionary and worker of miracles, is chiefly known to modem fame as the worthy that cut his cloak in two at the gate of Amiens to share it with a beggar (tradition fails to say, I believe, what he did with the other half), the abbey of Saint Martin, through the Middle Ages, waxed rich and powerful, till it was known at last as one of the most luxurious religious houses in Christendom, with kings for its titular ab- bots (who, like Francis I., sometimes turned and despoiled it) and a great treasure of precious things. It passed, however, through many vicissitudes. Pillaged by the Normans in the ninth century and by the Huguenots in the sixteenth, it received its death-blow from the Revolution, which must have brought to bear upon it an energy of destruction proportionate to its mighty bulk. At the end of the last century a huge group of ruins alone remained, and what we see to-day may be called the ruin of a ruin. It is difficult to understand how so vast an ediface can have been so completely obliterated. Its site is given up to several ugly streets, and a pair of tall towers, separated by a space which speaks volumes as to the size of the church, and looking across the close-pressed roofs to the happier spires of the cathedral, preserved for the modern world the memory of a great fortune, a great abuse, perhaps, and at all events a great pen- alty. One may believe that to this day a consider- able part of the foundations of the great abbey is buried in the soil of Tours. The two surviving towers, which are dissimilar in shape, are enormous; with those of the cathedral they form the great landmarks of the town. One of them bears the name of the Tour de l'Horloge; the other, the so-called Tour Charle- magne, was erected (two centuries after her death) over the tomb of Luitgarde, wife of the great Em- peror, who died at Tours in 800. I do not pretend to understand in what relation these very mighty and effectually detached masses of masonry stood to each other, but in their gray elevation and loneliness they are striking and suggestive to-day; holding their hoary heads far above the modern life of the town, and looking sad and conscious, as they had outlived all uses. I know not what is supposed to have become of the bones of the blessed saint during the various scenes of confusion in which they may have got mis- laid; but a mystic connection with his wonder-working relics may be perceived in a strange little sanctuary on the left of the street, which opens in front of the Tour Charlemagne, - the rugged base of which, by the way, inhabited like a cave, with a diminutive doorway, in which, as I passed, an old woman stood cleaning a pot, and a little dark window decorated with homely flowers, would be appreciated by a painter in search of "bits." The present shrine of Saint Martin is enclosed (provisionally, I suppose) in a very modem structure of timber, where in a dusky cellar, to which you descend by a wooden staircase adorned with votive tablets and paper roses, is placed a tabernacle surrounded by twinkling tapers and pros- trate worshippers. Even this crepuscular vault, how- ever, fails, I think, to attain solemnity; for the whole place is strangely vulgar and garish. The Catholic church, as churches go to-day, is certainly the most spectacular; but it must feel that it has a great fund of impressiveness to draw upon when it opens such sordid little shops of sanctity as this. It is impos- sible not to be struck with the grotesqueness of such an establishment, as the last link in the chain of a great ecclesiastical tradition.

In the same street, on the other side, a little below, is something better worth your visit than the shrine of Saint Martin. Knock at a high door in a white wall (there is a cross above it), and a fresh-faced sister of the convent of the Petit Saint Martin will let you into the charming little cloister, or rather fragment of a cloister. Only one side of this exqui- site structure remains, but the whole place is effective. In front of the beautiful arcade, which is terribly bruised and obliterated, is one of those walks of inter- laced _tilleuls_ which are so frequent in Touraine, and into which the green light filters so softly through a lattice of clipped twigs. Beyond this is a garden, and beyond the garden are the other buildings of the Convent, - where the placid sisters keep a school, - a test, doubtless, of placidity. The imperfect arcade, which dates from the beginning of the sixteenth cen- tury (I know nothing of it but what is related in Mrs. Pattison's "Rennaissance in France") is a truly en- chanting piece of work; the cornice and the angles of the arches, being covered with the daintiest sculpture of arabesques, flowers, fruit, medallions, cherubs, griffins, all in the finest and most attenuated relief. It is like the chasing of a bracelet in stone. The taste, the fancy, the elegance, the refinement, are of those things which revive our standard of the exquisite. Such a piece of work is the purest flower of the French Renaissance; there is nothing more delicate in all Touraine.

There is another fine thing at Tours which is not particularly delicate, but which makes a great impres- sion, - the- very interesting old church of Saint Julian, lurking in a crooked corner at the right of the Rue Royale, near the point at which this indifferent thorough- fare emerges, with its little cry of admiration, on the bank of the Loire. Saint Julian stands to-day in a kind of neglected hollow, where it is much shut in by houses; but in the year 1225, when the edifice was begun, the site was doubtless, as the architects say, more eligible. At present, indeed, when once you have caught a glimpse of the stout, serious Romanesque tower, - which is not high, but strong, - you feel that the building has something to say, and that you must stop to listen to it. Within, it has a vast and splendid nave, of immense height, - the nave of a cathedral, - with a shallow choir and transepts, and some admir- able old glass. I spent half an hour there one morn- ing, listening to what the church had to say, in perfect solitude. Not a worshipper entered, - not even an old man with a broom. I have always thought there is a sex in fine buildings; and Saint Julian, with its noble nave, is of the gender of the name of its patron.

It was that same morning, I think, that I went in search of the old houses of Tours; for the town con- tains several goodly specimens of the domestic archi- tecture of the past. The dwelling to which the average Anglo-Saxon will most promptly direct his steps, and the only one I have space to mention, is the so-called Maison de Tristan l'Hermite, - a gentleman whom the readers of "Quentin Durward" will not have forgotten, - the hangman-in-ordinary to the great King Louis XI. Unfortunately the house of Tristan is not the house of Tristan at all; this illusion has been cruelly dispelled. There are no illusions left, at all, in the good city of Tours, with regard to Louis XI. His terrible castle of Plessis, the picture of which sends a shiver through the youthful reader of Scott, has been reduced to sub- urban insignificance; and the residence of his _triste compere,_ on the front of which a festooned rope figures as a motive for decoration, is observed to have been erected in the succeeding century. The Maison de Tristan may be visited for itself, however, if not for Walter Scott; it is an exceedingly picturesque old facade, to which you pick your way through a narrow and tortuous street, - a street terminating, a little be- yond it, in the walk beside the river. An elegant Gothic doorway is let into the rusty-red brick-work, and strange little beasts crouch at the angles of the windows, which are surmounted by a tall graduated gable, pierced with a small orifice, where the large surface of brick, lifted out of the shadow of the street,


A LITTLE TOUR IN FRANCE - 3/42

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