Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 432 pages of information about Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres.
Pierre le Roy plastered the gate of the chatelet, as you now see it, over the sunny thirteenth-century entrance called Belle Chaise, which had treated mere military construction with a sort of quiet contempt.  You will know what a chatelet is when you meet another; it frowns in a spirit quite alien to the twelfth century; it jars on the religion of the place; it forebodes wars of religion; dissolution of society; loss of unity; the end of a world.  Nothing is sadder than the catastrophe of Gothic art, religion, and hope.

One looks back on it all as a picture; a symbol of unity; an assertion of God and Man in a bolder, stronger, closer union than ever was expressed by other art; and when the idea is absorbed, accepted, and perhaps partially understood, one may move on.

CHAPTER IV

NORMANDY AND THE ILE DE FRANCE

From Mont-Saint-Michel, the architectural road leads across Normandy, up the Seine to Paris, and not directly through Chartres, which lies a little to the south.  In the empire of architecture, Normandy was one kingdom, Brittany another; the Ile de France, with Paris, was a third; Touraine and the valley of the Loire were a fourth and in the centre, the fighting-ground between them all, lay the counties of Chartres and Dreux.  Before going to Chartres one should go up the Seine and down the Loire, from Angers to Le Mans, and so enter Chartres from Brittany after a complete circle; but if we set out to do our pleasure on that scale, we must start from the Pyramid of Cheops.  We have set out from Mont-Saint-Michel; we will go next to Paris.

The architectural highway lies through Coutances, Bayeux, Caen, Rouen, and Mantes.  Every great artistic kingdom solved its architectural problems in its own way, as it did its religious, political, and social problems, and no two solutions were ever quite the same; but among them the Norman was commonly the most practical, and sometimes the most dignified.  We can test this rule by the standard of the first town we stop at—­Coutances.  We can test it equally well at Bayeux or Caen, but Coutances comes first after Mont-Saint-Michel let us begin with it, and state the problems with their Norman solution, so that it may be ready at hand to compare with the French solution, before coming to the solution at Chartres.

The cathedral at Coutances is said to be about the age of the Merveille (1200-50), but the exact dates are unknown, and the work is so Norman as to stand by itself; yet the architect has grappled with more problems than one need hope to see solved in any single church in the tie de France.  Even at Chartres, although the two stone fleches are, by exception, completed, they are not of the same age, as they are here.  Neither at Chartres nor at Paris, nor at Laon or Amiens or Rheims or Bourges, will you see a central tower to compare with the enormous pile at Coutances.  Indeed the architects of France

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Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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