We left the interior of the church and stood upon its steps. The Louvre in all its magnificence stood before me. I looked up at the tower of the church, and listened to the very bell which, more than three hundred years ago, gave the signal for the commencement of the massacre of St. Bartholomew. While I stood there it seemed to me that I could go back to the past—to that night of horror when the Protestants were gathered at the fete of St. Bartholomew. When twelve had struck, in the dead of night, the bell in St. Germain l’Auxerrois gave out the solemn signal, and there ensued a scene of horrible atrocity, such as the world has rarely witnessed, and which will make the names of its perpetrators infamous so long as the world lives.
It was in the house of the dean of St. Germain l’Auxerrois that the beautiful Gabriel d’Estrees lived for awhile and died.
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The Sainte Chapelle is one of the finest specimens of florid Gothic architecture in the world, and I went with a Frenchman one day to see it. It is impossible to give the reader any adequate idea of its peculiar beauty, but I can briefly sketch it, and at least point out some of its most striking features. It was erected by St. Louis in 1248, and set apart for the reception of relics bought of the emperor of Constantinople. The Chapelle consists of an upper and a lower chapel—the upper communicating with the old palace of the ancient kings of France. It was formerly appropriated to the king and court. The lower chapel opens into the lower courts of the palace, and was appropriated to the use of the common people in and around the palace. The interior has of late undergone extensive repairs, and it is now thoroughly restored.
The entrance is unpleasant, for it is very narrow—so much so that a good view of the front cannot be had. It has a portico of three Gothic arches with intersecting buttresses, and in connection with lateral buttresses there are two spiral towers with spiral stair-cases. Between the towers there is a splendid circular window, which was constructed by Charles VIII. The spires of the church are octagonal, and are adorned with mouldings and traceries, and also at about half-height with a crown of thorns. The different sides of the Chapelle are in the same style—with buttresses between the windows, gables surmounting these, and a fine open parapet crowning all. The roof is sloping, and the height is over a hundred feet. The spire measures, from the vaulting, seventy feet. We entered by a stair-case the upper chapel, and an exquisite view presented itself. A single apartment, a half-circular chair, with fine, large windows, detached columns with bases and capitals, and fine groining—these all strike the eye of the visitor as he crosses the threshold. The whole is gorgeously painted and interspersed with fleur de lis. In the nave there is a carved wooden stair-case of the thirteenth century. The windows are filled with stained glass of 1248, which has escaped destruction during two great revolutions.