« PreviousContinue »
THE HAUTE VIEILLE TOUR.
Halle of vast dimensions. They occupy the site of the palace-fortress commenced by Rollo, and completed by Richard the Fearless, as one of the defences of the town of Rouen. Here dwelt William the Conqueror previous to his invasion of England, and here John, King of England and last Duke of Normandy, imprisoned his nephew Arthur, and afterwards murdered him. It was whilst dwelling in this palace that John amused himself by having
a Lombard Jew's teeth pulled out, one each day, until the old man consented to pay the immense sum of money which the king demanded. When Philip Augustus, the King of
, France, heard of the murder of his relative Arthur, he made it the pretext for an invasion of Normandy. At the approach of Philip, John fled from Rouen, and the French King besieged the city, which held out for a month, and then negotiated a truce, promising to surrender to the King of France if John did not send aid within thirty days. The deputation that went to seek John found him playing a game of chess, and angry at being disturbed. He could send no aid to Rouen-Rouen (he declared) must help itself. Accordingly the French King took possession of the city, treated the inhabitants generously, but was determined to destroy all vestiges of the power of the Norman Dukes. The Haute Vieille Tour was completely demolished, and a new château built instead on another site.
In front of the Cloth Hall is a structure in the style of the Renaissance, built in 1542, consisting of four star of Corinthian architecture, and terminating in a lantern. This is the Chapel of St. Rumain, long famous for the annual custom of La Levée de la Fierté de St. Romain, which originated as follows:
It is said that in the days when good St. Romain was Bishop of Rouen, and was reaping abundant success in his efforts to root out paganism, he performed many miracles, to the edification of the faithful and the confusion of gainsayers. It happened that at that time there dwelt in the fens and morasses near Rouen a dragon of prodigious size, known as the Gargouille, which not only preyed on the flocks and herds, but also on mankind. Sometimes the city was flooded on account of the Gargouille taking a fancy for a bath in the Seine; it seriously damaged huge trees, and even the towers of churches, by rubbing itself against them; the workmen who were engaged in building a church in the city wanted to carve on it some figures of monsters, but dared not do it on account of their terror of the Gargouille. The awful creature was an epicure in its way, for it had a special fondness for devouring young girls. This state of things was too terrible to be borne, and the good St. Romain was for a long time sorely exercised to find a remedy, until at length he resolved to attack the monster, and he found in the city prison a condemned malefactor who agreed to accompany him.
The two adventurers boldly entered the Gargouille's den, and the terrific beast began to snort furiously, and advanced to devour the intruders. But St. Romain made the sign of the cross, and the Gargouille became immediately meek and tractable.
The bishop put a leash round its neck, and the criminal led the Gargouille into Rouen, where, amidst the acclamations of the rejoicing multitude, it was publicly burnt. Of course the malefactor was pardoned, and King Dagobert declared that a condemned criminal should annually be selected for pardon by the clergy of Rouen Cathedral.
And so once a year, on Ascension Day, until the time of the Revolution, the chapter used to select a condemned prisoner, and have him taken from the Palais de Justice to the Chapel of St. Romain just mentioned. Then, in grand procession, the canons and clergy brought a shrine containing the relics of St. Romain to the same spot.
A long ceremonial was here publicly gone through, and then the prisoner, with a chaplet of flowers on his head, and bearing in his hands the shrine and relics, returned with the procession to the cathedral. He was hospitably entertained and judiciously counselled, and then next morning set at liberty. The good St. Romain was Bishop of Rouen towards the beginning of the seventh century, but the miracle does not seem to have been found out till towards the end of the fourteenth, when the chapter of the cathedral publicly announced it in support of the annual Levée de la Fierté.
Some covered Halles for ordinary market purposes have stood since 1860 on the Place du Vieux-Marché. There has been a market on this spot as far back as the eleventh century. In those days they were probably of the nature of great fairs. Their privileges
THE TRAGEDY OF JEANNE D'ARC.
were very strictly guarded, and they were opened in state by the prior and canons of the cathedral. This place was the frequent scene of the burning of Huguenots with horrible refinements of cruelty. The terrible estrapade permitted the writhing victims to be alternately lowered into the flames and raised above them, till death ended the protracted agony.
The Place de la Pucelle was detached from the Vieux-Marché in the sixteenth century, and about the same time a pretty triangular fountain, with a statue of Jeanne d'Arc, was erected in commemoration of her execution near this spot. This fountain was afterwards destroyed, and was replaced in 1755 by the present tasteless monument, representing Jeanne under the semblance of Bellona.
When the siege of Orleans had been raised, and Charles VII. crowned at Rheims, and the enthusiastic maiden of Domremy had declared her mission accomplished, she was persuaded to remain with the army, and in May, 1430, was taken prisoner by the Burgundians, and sold for 10,000 livres to the English. She was brought to Rouen, and it was resolved to put her on her trial for sorcery; and in order to procure evidence, spies were employed to inveigle her. In March, 1431, a court was formed, and sixteen times was the intrepid maiden examined, and astonished her hearers by her mingled courage, simplicity, and acuteness. Strangely enough, the French seemed more eager for her death than the English, and the University of Paris was loud in its appeals to King Henry to deliver Jeanne to the secular authorities. On May 24th she was placed on a scaffold in the Cemetery of St. Ouen, a crowd of dignitaries and ecclesiastics occupying a platform opposite. Jeanne was then preached at and publicly interrogated, and at length her fortitude gave way, and she consented to abjure her pretensions and visions. But on her return to prison the visions again appeared to her. She resumed male attire, which seems to have been left at hand to entrap her; she re-asserted that she had been sent by God, and was accordingly abandoned as a relapse to the secular arm. On the 30th of May, 1431, the young girl, who had not yet reached her twentieth birthday, was brought out to die at the stake, on the spot henceforward sacred to her memory.
Six scaffolds had been prepared on the old market-place. Upon one sat the English Cardinal, upon the others were the judges, priests, and various officials. When the condemned arrived on the funeral car, escorted by eight hundred English soldiers, tears were streaming from her eyes, and she was heard to repeat two or three times, “O Ronen ! Rouen ! je devais donc mourir dans les murs !”
The ceremony began with an accusatory and maledictory sermon by a preacher from the University of Paris ; but Jeanne, kneeling with folded hands, heard not the stormy eloquence of the preacher: she was communing with her heavenly visions, and “ Priez pour moi! priez pour moi !” she cried to the saints and angels she saw thronging round her. Her touching accents and fervent aspect moved the hearts of the assistants, and some began to shed tears, when some of the captains, fearing that their prey might even yet escape them, chafed at the delay. "Come, priests,” cried one, “do you mean us to dine
, here?” and, losing all patience, he sent two sergeants to snatch the girl from the clergy, and deliver her to the executioner without waiting for the official notification. As she felt the hands of the English soldiers laid on her, Jeanne shuddered, and cried, “O Rouen, tu seras donc ma dernière demeure !” The executioner, moved with compassion, protested against the unusual height of the pile beneath the stake-a veritable mountain of wood and sulphur, calculated to prolong the sufferings of the victim. Above her head was placed an inscription, “Heretic, relapse, apostate, idolater!” The pile was lit, and Jeanne uttered a cry of terror. Then, recovering her fortitude, and seeing that the priest who exhorted her was not heeding the flame, she bade him descend. She prayed that the city of Rouen might not suffer on account of her death, and asked for a cross. A soldier held
up one rudely constructed on the spot with two sticks, and, gazing over the flames at the sacred symbol, Jeanne d'Arc was
soon heard uttering her last prayer. Remorse speedily visited the participants in this tragedy.“ Many, both French
, and English,” says the historian Crowe, “felt horror-stricken at having contributed to the fearful death of one so simple, so pure, and so devoutly religious, who had been animated by a patriotism so disinterested, and whose mission or whose aim was but to rid France of its factions and its invaders."
After the expulsion of the English from Rouen an inquiry was instituted for the purpose
of revising the sentence. A papal bull was published declaring her innocent, and Rouen, and
indeed all France, now honours HOTEL BOURGTHEROU'DE.
the memory of Jeanne d'Arc
as that of a saint and martyr. In the Rue Morand stands an ancient donjon-tower (now restored), the last of seven that once appertained to the château built by Philip Augustus. This château was long a residence of the Dauphins of France, as Dukes of Normandy. It was demolished by Henry IV. after the siege of Rouen, but the great donjon-tower was left, as it formed part of the city fortifications. The tower is now known as the Tour Jeanne d'Arc, as it was the scene of the private interrogations of the unfortunate maid, and of her being threatened with the instruments of torture which were displayed to her view.
In the Place de la Pucelle there is a large stone mansion, partly dating from the same era as the Palais de Justice, and partly of later origin. It is very rich in sculptures, and
THE HÔTEL BOURGTHÉROUDE.
is an exceedingly interesting specimen of Norman domestic architecture. The house was begun towards the end of the fifteenth century by William Leroux, Lord of Bourgthéroude, and completed by his son in 1537. Slender buttresses or pilasters divide the entire front into compartments, between which are bas-reliefs by different masters. Every available
space is covered with ornament. The labours of the field and vineyard, fishing, banqueting, and so forth, are carefully depicted, and the salamander, the device of Francis I., is very conspicuous amongst the ornaments. On the north side of the interior court, and contiguous to the octagonal tower, there is a spacions gallery with foliaged pilasters bounding the arched windows; beneath are the celebrated bas-reliefs on marble tablets representing the interview of Henry VIII. and Francis I. at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and in the proces