It was in the year 654 or 655, that St. Philibert, second abbot of Rebais, in the diocese of Meaux, founded this monastery. He selected the site upon which the present building stands, a delightful situation, in a peninsula on the right bank of the Seine. This peninsula, and the territory extending from Ducler to Caudebec, had been granted to him for this purpose by Clovis IInd, or, more properly speaking, by Bathilda, his queen; for the whole administration of affairs was in reality under her guidance, though the reins of state were nominally held by her feeble husband. The territory had previously borne the name of Jumieges, or, in Latin, Gemeticum, a term whose origin has puzzled etymologists. Those who hold it disgraceful to be ever at a loss on points of this nature, and who prefer displaying a learned to an unlearned ignorance, derive Gemeticum, either from gemitus, because, “pro suis offensis illic gemunt, qui in flammis ultricibus non erunt gemituri;” or from gemma, conformably to the following distich,—
“Gemmeticum siquidem a gemma
Quod reliquis gemmae, praecelleret instar Eoae.”
The ground upon which the abbey was erected was previously occupied by an ancient encampment. The author of the Life of St. Philibert, who mentions this circumstance, has also preserved a description of the original church. These authentic accounts of edifices of remote date, which frequently occur in hagiology, are of great value in the history of the arts.—The bounty of the queen was well employed by the saint; and the cruciform church, with chapels, and altars, and shrines, and oratories, on either side, and with its high altar hallowed by relics, and decked out with gold and silver and precious stones, shews how faithfully the catholics, in their religious edifices of the present day, have adhered to the models of the early, if not the primitive, ages of the church.
Writers of the same period record two facts in relation to Jumieges, which are of some interest as points of natural history.—Vines were then commonly cultivated in this place and neighborhood;—and fishes of so great a size, that we cannot but suppose they must have been whales, frequently came up the Seine, and were caught under the walls of the monastery.—The growth of the vine is abundantly proved: it is not only related by various monkish historians, one