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قراءة كتاب Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine

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‏اللغة: English
Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine

Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 7

stead we shall trace the last masterpiece of the reign of Napoleon the Third. Sham Romanesque is grotesque everywhere, but it is more grotesque than all when we see newly-cut capitals stuck into the windows of a roofless castle, when the grey hue of age is wiped away from a building which has stood at least seven hundred years, and when the venerable fortress is made to look as spick and span as the last built range of shops at Paris. Among the endless pranks, at once grotesque and lamentable, played by the mania for restoration, surely the "restoration" of this venerable ruin is the most grotesque and lamentable of all. The municipality of Caen have lately made themselves a spectacle to mankind by pulling down, seemingly out of sheer wantonness, one half of one of the most curious churches of their city.[10] We commend them not; but we do not place even them on a level with the subtler destroyers of Falaise. The savages of Caen are satisfied with simple, open destruction; what they cannot understand or appreciate they make away with. But there is no hypocrisy, no pretence about them; they simply destroy, they do not presume to replace. But the restorer not only takes away the work of the men of old, he impudently puts his own work in its stead. He takes away the truth and puts a lie in its place. Our readers know very well with what reservations this doctrine must be taken—reservations which in the case of churches or other buildings actually applied to appropriate modern uses, are very considerable. But in the case of a mere monument of antiquity, a building whose only value is that it has stood so many years, that it exhibits the style of such an age, that it has beheld such and such great events, there is no reservation to be made at all. In the castle of Falaise we may adopt, word for word, the most vehement of Mr. Ruskin's declamations on this head. The man who turns the ancient reality of the twelfth century into a sham of the nineteenth deserves no other fame than the fame which Eratostratus won at Ephesus, and which James Wyatt won in the chapter-house of Durham.



One would rather like to see a map of France, or indeed of Europe, marking in different degrees of colour the abundance or scarcity of English visitors and residents. Of course the real traveller, whether he goes to study politics or history or language or architecture or anything else, is best pleased when he gets most completely out of the reach of his own countrymen. The first stage out of the beaten track of tourists is a moment of rapture. For it is the tourists who do the mischief; the residents are a comparatively harmless folk. A colony of English settled down in a town and its neighbourhood do very little to spoil the natives among whom they live. For the very reason that they are residents and not tourists, they do not in the same way corrupt innkeepers, or turn buildings and prospects into vulgar lions. It is hard to find peace at Rouen, as it is hard to find it at Aachen; but a few English notices in the windows at Dinan do not seriously disturb our meditations beneath the spreading apses of St. Sauveur and St. Malo or the plaster statue of Bertrand du Guesclin. For any grievances arising from the neighbourhood of our countrymen, we might as well be at Dortmund or Rostock. But, between residents, tourists, and real travellers, we may set it down that there is no place which Englishmen do not visit sometimes, as there certainly are many places in which Englishmen abound more than enough.

We have wandered into this not very profound or novel speculation through a sort of wish to know how far three fine French churches of which we wish to speak a few words are respectively known to Englishmen in general. These are the Norman cathedrals of Bayeux and Coutances, both of them still Bishops' sees, and the Breton Cathedral of Dol, which, in the modern ecclesiastical arrangements, has sunk into a parish church. Bayeux lies on a great track, and we suppose that all the world goes there to see the tapestry. Coutances has won a fame among professed architectural students almost higher than it deserves, but we fancy that the city lies rather out of the beat of the ordinary tourist. Dol is surely quite out of the world; we trust that, in joining it with the other two, we may share somewhat of the honours of discovery. We will not say that we trust that no one has gone thither from the Greater Britain since the days of the Armorican migration; but we do trust that a criticism on the cathedral church of Dol will be somewhat of a novelty to most people.

We select these three because they have features in common, and because they all belong to the same general type of church. As cathedrals, they are all of moderate size; Coutances and Dol, we may distinctly say, are of small size. They do not range with such miracles of height as France shows at Amiens and Beauvais, or with such miracles of length as England shows at Ely and St. Albans. They rank rather with our smaller episcopal churches, such as Lichfield, Wells, and Hereford. Indeed most of the great Norman churches come nearer to this type than to that of minsters of a vaster scale. And the reason is manifest. The great churches of Normandy, like those of England, are commonly finished with the central tower. Perhaps they do not always make it a feature of quite the same importance which it assumes in England, but it gives them a marked character, as distinguished from the great churches of the rest of France. Elsewhere, the central tower, not uncommon in churches of the second and third rank, is altogether unknown among cathedrals and other great minsters of days later than Romanesque. It is as much the rule for a French cathedral to have no central tower as it is for an English or Norman cathedral to have one. The result is that, just as in our English churches, the enormous height of Amiens and Beauvais cannot be reached. But, in its stead, the English and Norman churches attained a certain justness of proportion and variety of outline which the other type does not admit. No church in Normandy, except St. Ouen's, attains any remarkable height, and even St. Ouen's is far surpassed by many other French churches. But perhaps a vain desire to rival the vast height of their neighbours sometimes set the Norman builders to attempt something of comparative height by stinting their churches in the article of breadth. This peculiarity may be seen to an almost painful extent at Evreux.