The building retains, at this time, only two of its celebrated painted windows; but they are fortunately the two which were always considered the best. One of them represents the history of St. Romain; the other, the genealogy of Jewish kings, from whom the Holy Virgin descended. Rouen has, from a very early period, been famous for its manufactories of painted glass. But the windows of this church were still esteemed the chef d’oeuvre of its artists; and these had so far passed into a proverb, that Farin tells us it was common throughout France to say, in recommendation of choice wine, that “it was as bright as the windows of St. Godard.” The saying, however, was by no means confined to Rouen, for it was also applied to the windows of the Ste. Chapelle, at Dijon.
It was at St. Godard that the burst of the reformation was first manifested. The Huguenots, taking courage from the secret increase of their numbers, broke into the building, in 1540, demolished the images, and sold the pix to a goldsmith. But the man suffered severely for his purchase: he was shortly afterwards sentenced, by a decree of the parliament, to be hanged in front of his shop; and two of those concerned in the outrage also suffered capital punishment. The spark thus lighted, afterwards increased into a conflagration; and, to this hour, there is a larger body of Protestants at Rouen, than in most French towns.
I do not expect that you will reproach me with the prolixity of these details. The subject is attractive to me, and I feel that you will accompany me with pleasure in my pilgrimage, from chapel to shrine, dwelling with me in contemplation on the relics of ancient skill and the memorials of the piety of the departed. Nor must it be forgotten, that the hand of the spoliator is falling heavily on all objects of antiquity. And the French seem to find a source of perverse and malignant pleasure in destroying the temples where their ancestors once worshipped: many are swept away; a greater number continue to exist in a desecrated state; and time, which changes all things, is proceeding with hasty strides to obliterate their character. The lofty steeple hides its diminished head; the mullions and tracery disappear from the pointed windows, from which the stained glass has long since fallen; the arched entrance contracts into a modern door-way; the smooth plain walls betray neither niches, nor pinnacles, nor fresco paintings; and in the warehouse, or manufactory, or smithy, little else remains than the extraordinary size, to point out the original holy destination of the edifice.