This siege took place in the second invasion or conquest of the Franche Comte by Louis XIV., when Besancon held out for nine days against Vauban and the King: on the first occasion it had surrendered to Conde after one day’s siege, making the single stipulation that the Holy Shroud should not be removed from the town. The Saincte Suaire was the richest ecclesiastical treasure of the Bisuntians, being one of the two most genuine of the many Suaires, the other being that of Turin, which was supported by Papal Infallibility. Both were brought from the Crusades; and the one was presented to Besancon in 1206, the other to Turin in 1353. Bede tells a story of the proving of a Shroud by fire in the eighth century, by one of the caliphs; and as its dimensions were 8 feet by 4, like that of Besancon, while the Shroud of Turin measured 12 feet by 3, the people of Besancon claimed that theirs was the one spoken of by Bede.
The Cathedral of Besancon is no longer S. Stephen, since the destruction of that church by Louis XIV. The small Church of the Citadel is now dedicated to that saint, an inscription on the wall stating that it takes the place of the larger church, ex urbis obsidio anno 1674 lapsae, and offering an indulgence of 100 days for every visit paid to it, with the sensible proviso una duntaxat vice per diem. Soldiers not being generally made of the confessing sex, or of confessing material, there is only one confessional provided for the 6,000 souls which the citadel can accommodate.
The Cavalry Barracks are in the lower part of the town, and near them is a large building with evident traces of ecclesiastical architecture on the outside. It is, in fact, a very fine church converted into stables, retaining its interior features in excellent preservation. Under the corn-bin lies a lady who had two husbands and fifteen children, Antigone in parentes, Porcia in conjuges, Sempronia in liberos; while a few yards further east, less agreeably placed, is an ecclesiastic of the Gorrevod family, who reckoned Prince and Bishop and Baron among his titles. The nave of this Church of S. Michael accommodates thirty horses, and the north aisle thirteen; the south is considered more select, and is boarded off for the decani, in the shape of officers’ chargers. The north side of the chancel gives room for six horses, and the south side for a row of saddle-blocks. It had been an oversight on the part of the original architect of the church that no place was prepared for the daily hay; a fault which the military restorers have remedied by improvising a lady-chapel, where the hay for the day is placed in the morning. With Spelman in my mind, I asked if the stables were not unhealthy; but the soldiers said they were the healthiest in the town.