“The pilgrim who journeys
To visit some far distant shrine;
If he bear but a relic away,
Is happy, nor heard to repine.”—
And happiness of this kind would on such an occasion infallibly fall to your lot and to mine. A love for botany or for antiquities would equally furnish relics on a similar pilgrimage.
As usual, the accounts which we had received proved incorrect. The greater part of the conventual edifice still exists, but it has no kind of architectural value. Some detached portions, whose original use it would be difficult now to conjecture, appear, from their wide pointed windows, to be of the fifteenth century. The other buildings were probably erected within the last fifty years.—The part inhabited by the monks is at this time principally employed as a cotton-mill; and, were it in England, nobody would suspect that it ever had any other destination. Of the church, the tower only is in existence. I find no account of its date; though authors have been unusually profuse in their details of all particulars relating to this monastery. I am inclined to refer it to the beginning of the seventeenth century, in which case it was built shortly after the destruction of the nave. Its character is simple, solid elegance. Its ornaments are few, but they are selected and disposed with judgment. Each corner is flanked by two buttresses, which unite at top, and there terminate in a crocketed pinnacle. The buttresses are also ornamented with tabernacles of saints at different heights; and one of the tabernacles upon each buttress, about mid-way up the tower, still retains a statue as large as life, of apparently good workmanship. They were fortunately too high for the democrats to destroy with ease. The height of the tower is one hundred and fifty feet, as I found by the staircase of two hundred steps, which remains uninjured, in a circular turret attached to the south side. The termination of this turret is the most singular part of the structure: it is surmounted by a cap, considerably higher than the pinnacles, and composed, like a bee-hive, of a number of circles, each smaller than the one below it. A few ruined arches of the east end of the church, and of one of the side chapels are also existing. The rest is levelled with the ground, and has probably been in a great measure destroyed lately; for piles of wrought stones are heaped up on all sides.
If historical recollections or architectural beauty could have proved a protection in the days of revolution, the church of Bec had undoubtedly stood. Ducarel, who saw it in its perfection, says it was one of the finest gothic structures in France; and his account of it, though only an abridgement of that given by Du Plessis, in his History of Upper Normandy, is curious and valuable.—Mr. Gough states the annual income of the abbey at the period of the revolution, to have exceeded twenty thousand crowns.