We found it in a most ruinous and dilapidated state, yet extremely curious; indeed not less so than the church. Its front to the west exhibits a row of three semi-circular arches, with an ornament on the archivolt altogether different from what I recollect to have seen elsewhere. The inside corresponds in profuse decoration with this entrance; but the arches in it are all pointed. An entablature of beautiful workmanship is carried round the whole building, which is now used as a mill: it was crowded with dirty children belonging to the manufactory; and the confusion which prevailed, was far from being favorable to the quiet lucubrations of an antiquary. In no part of the church is the sculpture equally curious; and it is very interesting to observe the progress which this branch of the art had made in so short a time. Two or three of the capitals to the arches in front, seem to include one continued action, taken apparently from the history of Joshua. Another capital, of which I send you a sketch from the pencil of M. Le Prevost, is a great curiosity. The group which it contains, is nearly a duplicate of the supposed statue of William the Conqueror at Caen. In all probability it represents some legendary story, though the subject is not satisfactorily ascertained. Against the pillars that support these arches, were affixed whole-length figures, or cariatides, in alto-relievo. Three of them still remain, though much mutilated; two women and a man. They hold in their hands labels, with inscriptions that fall down to their feet in front. One of the females has her hair disposed in long braided tresses, which reach on either side to her girdle. In this respect, as well as in the style of the sculpture and costume, there is a resemblance between these statues and those on the portals at St. Denys and at Chartres, as well as those formerly on that of St. Germain des Pres, at Paris, all which are figured by Montfaucon in his Monumens de la Monarchie Francaise, and are supposed by him to be of the times of the Merovingian or Carlovingian dynasty; but subsequent writers have referred them to the eleventh or twelfth century.
[Illustration: M. Langlois]
It was in this chapter-house that M. Langlois found, among a heap of stones, a most interesting capital, that had formerly been attached to a double column. By his kindness, I inclose you two drawings of it. One of them shews it in its entire form as a capital; the other exhibits the bas-relief carved upon it.
[Illustration: Bas-relief on capital]
The various injuries sustained by the building, render it impossible to ascertain the spot which this capital originally occupied; but M. Le Prevost supposes that it belonged to some gate of the cloister, which is now destroyed. A more curious series of musical instruments is, perhaps, no where to be found; and it is a subject upon which authors in general are peculiarly unsatisfactory. I am told that, in an old French romance, the names of upwards of twenty are enumerated, whose forms and nature are quite unknown at the present day; while, on the other hand, we are all of us aware that painting and sculpture supply figures of many, for which it would be extremely difficult or impossible to find names.