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"1/ ABBA YE AUX HOMMES."
It has been calculated, that at one time there were in France thirty thousand churches, fifteen hundred abbeys, eighteen thousand five hundred chapels, two thousand eight hundred priories. What havoc was wrought among this magnificent array of ecclesiastical establishments at the outburst of the Revolution by the destroyer, and how far it has been since completed by the restorer, we may not stay to enquire. The novelty of the antiquities which greet the eye of the traveller is often most startling; and at times completely dissipates the charm attaching to scenes of historic interest. In a sanitary point of view, if Aristotle is right, French town3 have gained by the streets and boulevards driven ruthlessly through the most picturesque portions for which they were conspicuous; but it is well nigh impossible to repress feelings of compassion for the relics of the past, which protrude in the midst; as for instance, in the case of the tower of St. Jacques de la Boucherie at Paris. There is a story that it was preserved in the Revolution with some undefined object of preserving it for conversion into a shot manufactory, and it seems almost a pity that the design was not carried out; so purposeless does it stand out now in the presence of uncongenial elements, like the mast of a ship which has been engulfed in the waste of waters.
But we must not be beguiled into wandering away from the more immediate subject of our meditations, the "Abbaye anx Hommes," at Caen, which has been so long and so deservedly the cynosure of travellers in Normandy. Marred as it is by the surrounding buildings, which have nothing in common with the glorious structure, and are a sorry substitute for the old conventual fabric which sheltered the Benedictine monks when the abbey was first founded, and flourished under the rule of its two successive abbots, Lanfranc and Anselm,—in itself, the Church of St. Etienne presents " a thing of beauty " upon which the eye rests with delight. The choir is a later addition, as are also portions of the side aisles; but the main body of the church stands forth in all the simplicity and majesty of its original design, a noble specimen of Norman architecture, admirably consonant with the spirit of its founder.
But a while ago, wo were lingering in the aisles, casting a farewell glance around upon what had afforded us so much interest and pleasure, when the western doors were thrown open, and up the nave, in solemn procession, came priests and choristers, chanting the preliminary portions of the funeral service of the Romish Church. There was a fair amount of that pomp and display which Rome has at her disposal, as the rites were paid to some petty official, the mayor of a neighbouring commune. The corpse was deposited in front of the choir; friends and neighbours, who had followed in long array, gathered around it; the mass was sung, and ever and anon the glorious organ over the western door pealed forth its solemn strains;
"While bells tolled out their mighty peal
All around was peaceful and solemn in the freshness of the early morning; and in musing on the scene before us, we could not help reverting in thought to other funeral rites, which in yet greater pomp and splendour, but with far more awful and tumultuous accessories, had been celebrated within the Bame walls some eight hundred years ago.
Then it was the body of the mighty founder which was being committed to the grave. In the whole compass of history we know nothing more awful than the account recorded, realizing in most literal exactness the awful passage of Scripture which might have formed the text for the sermon preached over his remains: "Dominatur homo homini in malum suum. Vidi impios sepultos qui etiam cum adhuc viverent in loco sancto erant, et laudabantur in civitate quasi justorum operum: sed et hoc vanitas est." (Eccles. viii. 10.) Out of good nature, and for the love of God, the naked and dishonoured corpse of the conqueror, which had been left plundered on the ground, had been transported from Rouen by a private gentleman named Herluin. He had hired men and a hearse at his own expense, and removed the body by water and sea to Caen; there it was met by a procession headed by the abbot Gilbert. But even the short passage from the boat to the abbey was not without its fearful incidents; a dreadful fire broke out in the town, and the procession dissolved, even the priests forsaking the ranks, and leaving only the monks to convey the body onwards. At length the churchmen seem to have awakened to a consciousness of the shamefulness of their conduct. When the day appointed for the funeral came, all the bishops and abbots of Normandy came and gathered around the open grave of him who had been their lord and their benefactor. William of Rouen, Odo of Bayeux, Gislebert of Lisieux, Anselm the future primate of England, then abbot of Bee, with many others less known to fame, in the habits of their order, with crosses and candles and censors, assembled within the sacred walls. The citizens of Caen flocked to the solemnity, and filled the nave to overflowing. Scarcely, however, had the Bishop of Lisieux closed his sermon, asking the people to pray for the departed and to pardon him if he had wronged any of them, when a citizea of Caen, Asselin Fitz Arthur, stepped forward from the crowd, and in stern accents, at the foot of the open bier upon which the corpse was, exclaimed :—" Priests and Bishops, this land is mine. It was the site of my father's house. This man, for whom you are now praying, took it from me by force, and built his church upon it. I have not sold it; I have not pawned it; I have not forfeited it; I have not given it; it ia mine by right, and I demand it. In the name of God, I forbid the body of the spoiler to be placed here, or to be covered with my glebe."* The crime was too notorious to be g-aiusaid by the monks whose church towered over the ruins of Asselin's home; his voice could not be stilled, nor could perhaps the forbearance of his fellow citizens be reckoned upon. Sixty shillings were given for permission for immediate sepulture; and a subsequent charter, granted to the abbey by Uenry the Second, records a formal entry, specifying that a final arrangement was made with Ranulf Fitz Asselin for an unconditional surrender of the ground. Once again the interrupted rites proceeded, but the grave was too small. We cannot even allude to subsequent horrors. Again bishops and abbots and priests dispersed confounded and panic-stricken, and with maimed and huddled rites the interment was brought to a close. But not even so were the ashes of William to find a continued resting place. Centuries passed away, but at length terrible wars arose—warstermed in France "wars of religion." As the historian of the Abbaye records, the Cardinal of Tournon, who among his other offices was Abbot of St. Btienne, " ent le malheur de douner le signal des persecutions, et par suite des executions sanglantes, qu' eureut a subir les nouveaux religionnaires. II ne prevoyait pas les terribles reprcsailles qu'ils SQauraient exercer plus tard contre les Catholiques." Upon the Cardinal's abbey the storm fell heavily in due season. The conventual buildings were well nigh demolished; the rich plate and vessels were melted; the choice relics, including amongst others one of the stones with which St. Stephen had been stoned, were scattered to the winds; and the tomb of William was broken open in search of concealed treasure. Then the remains of the mighty king were ignominiously cast forth; and only one thigh bone, somewhat larger than those of ordinary men, was recovered; it was sealed up in a small leaden box a few inches in size, and deposited once more in the ground under a tomb subsequently twice demolished. This bone, covered with a flat slab bearing an
inscription, is all that bears witness that the unconquered conqueror, the Duke of the Normans and the King of England, the founder of St. Etienne, ever rested in that spot.
"Expende Hannibalem, quot libras in duce snmmo Invenies?" Jt is, however, to some consideration of the motives which led to the foundation of this celebrated abbey, and of the sister abbey, the Abbaye aux Dames, that we would invite the attention of our readers. The usually received opinion is, that it was a canonical penance imposed upon William and Matilda, for having contracted a marriage within the prohibited degrees. Such is the view taken by Dean Hook, in his Life of Lanfranc, who does not seem to be aware that the penance might have been imposed for a more serious cause, and thereforo finds less difficulty in vindicating the consistency of Lanfrauc, who first sternly denounced the marriage, and subsequently procured the Papal dispensation for it, than might otherwise have been the case. In this view many previous writers, such as Miss Strickland, who like him deal with the question superficially and touch upon it slightly, coincide. There is, however, another motive suggested for this penance, which deserves serious consideration. It is elaborately handled in a note occurring in the Appendix to Mr. Freeman's third volume of his History of the Norman Conquest, recently published. He too— and his opinions deserve respectful consideration—upon a review of the matter, inclines to the opinion of marriage within prohibited degrees, but, we cannot help thinking, on insufficient grounds.
The case, we conceive, stands thus. It seems to be ascertained beyond dispute that Matilda, previous to her marriage with William, was, or had been, the wife of another man—of one Gerbod? the avoue of the celebrated Abbey of St. Bertin, at St. Omer. By him she had two children, Gerbod and Gundrada, who married William of Warren, Earl of Surrey, who was buried at Lewes.
A question arises, Was Matilda the divorced or separated wife of Gerbod? or was it because she was in some way related to William, that the Pope interfered to hinder the marriage? Mr. Freeman admits that there is no small difficulty in making out what the nearness of kin between William and Matilda was; and we do not think that either of the two possible grounds of affinity which he suggests are clearly made out, or deserving of the consideration which, in the absence of any definite knowledge, he seems disposed to attach to them. The fact that Matilda's mother had been contracted (though never married) to William's uncle, would hardly have induced such pertinacious resistance upon the part of the Court of Rome; indeed, Mr. Freeman himself doubts whether it would have been aii impediment. The other suggestion seems quite as fanciful.
Was then, as has been suggested by Mr. Stapleton, in the Archaeological Journal for 1846, Matilda the wife of Gerbod. We think that she was. As Mr. Freeman observes, "It is remarkable that no hint is found in any contemporary writer, that Matilda had been married before her marriage with William;" but he accounts for it sufficiently when he says that "the English writers are silent through indifference; the Norman writers are silent through design." It is, in our judgment, a very ominous and meaning silence, and we draw exactly the opposite conclusion from it to what Mr. Freeman does. William of Poitiers leaves out the fact that there was any opposition to the marriage at all! We feel that we may fairly ask, would such courtly chroniclers be disposed to say more than they could help upon so unpleasant a subject, as this eventually proved, not only to William and Matilda, but still more to the Church and her rulers? Again, Mr. Freeman asks, if Matilda were the wife of another man, "would the Papal prohibition have taken the form it did take? Would Pope Leo and the Council of Kheims have simply forbidden Count Baldwin to give his daughter in marriage to William the Norman?" We think it highly probable, and when the text of the prohibition is read with the context, are strongly impressed with this belief. It runs as follows—"He excommunicated also Counts Engelran and Eustache as guilty of incest, and Hugh de Brain for repudiating his lawful wife and marrying another. He also forbad Baldwin Count of Flanders to give his daughter in marriage to William the Norman, and him to marry her. He also summoned Count Tetbald for repudiating his wife."*
It is quite clear what is the class of offences in which the question of William and Matilda is ranked. It is not among censures upon forbidden degrees, but among divorce cases. The council passed decrees censuring both kiuds of offences. The actual guilt is not specified, becausethe parties had not yet violated the law, whereas the others had. It was a solemn and sufficient warning, and so far effectual that no marriage took place till the imprisonment of the Pope by the Normans four years afterwards. No Norman chronicler gives the date of the marriage; all, as Mr. Freeman says, " slur it over." The date comes from the Chronicle of Tours. No record has come down of the name of prelate or priest who performed the ceremony; and
* Excouimunicavit ptiam comites filiam suam Willelmi Norraanno nnptni
Engelranum et Eustachium proptor daret, et illi ne earn acccperit. Vocavit
inccstum, et Uugonom de Braino i[uia etiam comitem Tetbaldum quoniam
legithnam uxorem diuiiserat. Inter- suam diniiaerut uxorem. dixit et Balduino comiti Flandrensi ne