The name Falaise, denotes the position of the town: it is said to be a word of Celtic origin; but I should rather suppose it to be derived from the Saxon, and to be a modification of the German word, fels, a rock, in which conjecture I find I am borne out by Adelung: falesia, in modern Latinity, and falaise, in French, signify a rocky shore. Hence, Brito, at the commencement of his relation of the siege by Philip Augustus, says,
“Vicus erat scabra circumdatus
Ipsius asperitate loci Falaesa vocatus,
Normannae in medio regionis, cujus in alta
Turres rupe sedent et mA"nia; sic ut ad illam
Jactus nemo putet aliquos contingere posse.”—
The dungeon of Falaise, one of the proudest relics of Norman antiquity, is situated on a very bold and lofty rock, broken into fantastic and singular masses, and covered with luxuriant vegetation. The keep which towers above it is of excellent masonry: the stones are accurately squared, and put together with great neatness, and the joints are small; and the arches are turned clearly and distinctly, with the key-stone or wedge accurately placed in all of them. Some parts of the wall, towards the interior ballium, are not built of squared free-stone; but of the dark stone of the country, disposed in a zigzag, or as it is more commonly called, in a herring-bone direction, with a great deal of mortar in the interstices: the buttresses, or rather piers, are of small projection, but great width. The upper story, destroyed about forty years since, was of a different style of architecture. According to an old print, it terminated with a large battlement, and bartizan towers at the angles. This dungeon was formerly divided into several apartments; in one of the lower of which was found, about half a century ago, a very ancient tomb, of good workmanship, ornamented with a sphynx at each end, but bearing no inscription whatever. Common report ascribed the coffin to Talbot, who was for many years governor of the castle; and at length an individual engraved upon it an epitaph to his honor; but the fraud was discovered, and the sarcophagus put aside, as of no account. The second, or principal, story of the keep, now forms a single square room, about fifty feet wide, lighted by circular-headed windows, each divided into two by a short and massy central pillar, whose capital is altogether Norman. On one of the capitals is sculptured a child leading a lamb, a representation, as it is foolishly said, of the Conqueror, whom tradition alleges to have been born in the apartment to which this window belonged: another pillar has an elegant capital, composed of interlaced bands.