MILITARY ANTIQUITIES—LE VIEUX CHATEAU—ORIGINAL PALACE OF THE NORMAN DUKES—HALLES OF ROUEN—MIRACLE AND PRIVILEGE OF ST. ROMAIN—CHATEAU DU VIEUX PALAIS—PETIT CHATEAU—FORT ON MONT STE. CATHERINE—PRIORY THERE—CHAPEL OF ST. MICHAEL—DEVOTEE.
(Rouen, June, 1818)
My researches in this city after the remains of architectural antiquity of the earlier Norman aera, have hitherto, I own, been attended with little success. I may even go so far as to say, that I have seen nothing in the circular style, for which it would not be easy to find a parallel in most of the large towns in England. On the other hand, the perfection and beauty of the specimens of the pointed style, have equally surprised and delighted me. I will endeavor, however, to take each object in its order, premising that I have been materially assisted in my investigations by M. Le Prevost and M. Rondeau, but especially by the former, one of the most learned antiquaries of Normandy.
Of the fortifications and castellated buildings in Rouen very little indeed is left, and that little is altogether insignificant; being confined to some fragments of the walls scattered here and there, and to three circular towers of the plainest construction, the remains of the old castle, built by Philip Augustus in 1204, near to the Porte Bouvreuil, and hence commonly known by the name of the Chateau de Bouvreuil or le Vieux Chateau.—It is to the leading part which this city has acted in the history of France, that we must attribute the repeated erection and demolition of its fortifications.
An important event was commemorated by the erection of the old castle, it having been built upon the final annexation of Normandy to the crown of France, in consequence of the weakness of our ill-starred monarch,—John Lackland. The French King seems to have suspected that the citizens retained their fealty to their former sovereign. He intended that his fortress should command and bridle the city, instead of defending it. The town-walls were razed, and the Vieille Tour, the ancient palace of the Norman Dukes, levelled with the ground.—But, as the poet says of language, so it is with castles,—
Nec castellorum stet honos et gratia vivax;”
and, in 1590, the fortress raised by Philip Augustus experienced the fate of its predecessors; it was then ruined and dismantled, and the portion which was allowed to stand, was degraded into a jail. Now the three towers just mentioned are alone remaining, and these would attract little notice, were it not that one of them bears the name of the Tour de la Pucelle, as having been, in 1430, the place of confinement of the unfortunate Joan of Arc, when she was captured before Compiegne and brought prisoner to Rouen.