The convent was placed under the immediate protection of the sovereign, by virtue of an ordinance issued by Philip Augustus, in 1280, at which time Peter, Count of Alencon, attempted to establish a claim to some rights affecting the monastery. He alleged a grant from a former monarch to one of his predecessors, by whom he asserted that the convent had been founded; and, in support of his claim, he urged its position within the limits of his territory. The abbot and monks resisted: they gave proof that the abbey of Bernay was really founded by the duchess; and therefore the king, after a full and impartial hearing, decided against the count, and declared that the advocation of the monastery was thenceforth to belong to himself and his successors in the dukedom for ever.—Judith died before the convent was entirely built, and the task of completing it devolved upon her widowed husband, whose charter, confirming the foundation, is still in existence. It begins by a recital of the pious motives which urged the duchess to the undertaking; it expressly mentions her death while the building was yet unfinished; and, after detailing the various lands and grants bestowed on the abbey, it concludes by denouncing the anger of God, and a fine of two hundred pounds weight of gold upon those who disturb the establishment, “that they may learn to their confusion that the good deeds of their ancestors, undertaken for the love of God, are not to be undone with impunity.”
The parochial church at Bernay is uninteresting. The sculptures, however, which adorn the high altar, are relics saved from the destruction of the abbey of Bec. The Virgin Mary and Joseph are represented, contemplating the infant Jesus, who is asleep. The statues are all of the natural size. We saw many grave-stones from the same abbey, nine or ten feet long, and covered with monumental figures of the usual description, indented in the stone. These memorials were standing by the side of the church door, not for preservation, but for sale! And at a small chapel in the burial-ground near the town, we were shewn twelve statues of saints, which likewise came from Bec. They are of comparatively modern workmanship, larger than life, and carved in a good, though not a fine, style. In the same chapel is kept the common coffin for the interment of all the poor at Bernay.
The custom of merely putting the bodies of persons of the lower class into coffins, when they are brought to the burial-ground, and then depositing them naked in their graves, prevails at present in this part of France as it did formerly in England.—In a place which must be the receptacle for many that were in easy, and for not a few that were in affluent, circumstances, it was remarkable that all lay indiscriminately side by side, unmarked by any monumental stone, or any sepulchral record.—Republican France proscribed distinctions of every description, and