ORANGE

Orange seems at first thought more intimately associated with
comparatively modern history than with the fortunes of the Roman
colonists of Gaul. Its name at once recalls the acquisition of liberty
by the Netherlands and the establishment of free institutions in
Britain. But one of the most important monuments of Roman times stands
in the little town, and connects it by stronger links with the early
struggles between the Gauls and the Cimbri and Teutons or the more
disciplined legions of Marius and Cæsar.

Had it not been for the ravages of time and the vandalism of the Middle
Ages, the Triumphal Arch which stands where the Lyons road enters the
town from the north would tell its own story so plainly that
archæological speculators would have been spared much conjecture and
difference of opinion. That this arch commemorates some great event or
series of events of great importance is unquestionable, for its size
places it in the front rank of triumphal arches. Only two extant surpass
it–that of Constantine and the Arch of Septimus Severus at Rome. The
triumphal arch in commemoration of great victories was a purely Roman
institution, and one is immediately faced with the query, when standing
in front of the great archway at Orange, what Roman general and which
victory does it celebrate?

[Illustration: THE ARCH AT ORANGE]

The monument has been studied and examined for nearly three centuries,
and conflicting opinions still obtain concerning it. The arch is in a
good state of preservation in spite of the many dangers it has passed
through. In the Middle Ages one of the de Baux family, who was also a
Prince of Orange, turned the triumphal arch into a fortress, and the
sculptures on the east front suffered much damage. The Prince evidently
treated the great arch much in the same way as his family did the rocks
of Les Baux. He altered and built round it staircases and rooms, and
erected a great tower over the attic, making it the watch-tower or
donjon of a fortress that has vanished centuries ago.

[Illustration: The TOWN HALL. ORANGE.]

Whether these building operations of Raymond de Baux did more to
preserve the arch than to damage it cannot be known, but to-day it
retains many of its original features in remarkably good condition. The
great block of masonry has three arches, the centre one larger than the
other two. On each of its façades there are four fluted Corinthian
columns which support a cornice and pediment of great delicacy. The
sculptures that remain well defined upon the west front are symbols of
battles by land and sea; they tell of captives taken and victories won.
Carved in rich profusion are spears and javelins, arms and armour,
helmets, breastplates and shields, prows of war galleys, rigging, ropes
and anchors, gladiators and slaves, male and female captives.

The different theories as to the origin of this arch have each been
supported by apparently good evidence. Suetonius, the Roman historian of
the first century, is quoted as the authority that Domitius Ahenobarbus
celebrated a triumph in Gaul, which gave his name to the road he
traversed. The Domitian way, the route Domitius is supposed to have
followed, was via Orange, Carpentras, and Cavaillon, and at each of
these places he is reported to have erected the triumphal arches, and
that would make all three of these date from the second century before
Christ.

[Illustration: OLD HOUSES AT ORANGE]

The next theory, which for a long time has had its supporters, makes
Marius the hero whose triumph it celebrates; and they point to the name
of Marius carved on one of the shields of the monument in support of
their contention. Julius Cæsar has been suggested as the possible
builder, and so has Octavius; but the general opinion held to-day is
that it was erected during the reign of Tiberius to commemorate his
overthrow of Julius Sacrovir, who tried to incite the Gauls to rebel
against Rome A.D. 21. This theory has been supported by the discovery of
the marks of nails which held in position the bronze letters of an
inscription removed by Raymond de Baux when he transformed the arch into
a fortress in the thirteenth century. These marks have been supposed to
correspond with the first letters of the name of Tiberius; but whatever
the victory may have been that the triumphal arch commemorates, its
presence in Orange is one of many proofs of the importance of the
ancient city of Arausio.

The ramparts and towers that surrounded the Roman town have all
disappeared. Visigoth and Teuton broke down the power of the Empire,
demolishing its works on every hand. The Saracens in turn possessed the
town, and fierce battles raged around it before Charlemagne drove them
out. In the Middle Ages it was subjected to the continued strife and
warfare of contending feudal factions, but the Arch and the Theatre
remain to speak of its former greatness.

At the opposite side of the town from where the Lyons

[Illustration: THEATRE. AT ORANGE]

road enters it, a great hill rises from the plain, and on its crest the
castle of the Princes of Orange stood in former days. At the foot of the
hill, on its townward side, stands a huge wall, some 340 feet long, 120
feet high, and 13 feet in thickness. One can only stand awestruck in
front of this gigantic structure that overshadows and dwarfs the town.
No wonder that Louis XIV. called it the finest wall in all his wide
kingdom. It awakens emotions akin to those one feels on beholding “The
Pyramids” of Egypt, or its nearer neighbour the “Pont du Gard.”

This wall forms the back of the proscenium of the Roman theatre, and is
the most unique specimen in existence. The great façade, with its
projecting corbels which supported tall masts, its rows of blind and
open arches, even though damaged, much worn, and shorn of its carvings,
has a noble grandeur due mainly to its size. Originally there was a
forecourt, bounded at either end by two projecting structures, which
gave a greater architectural beauty to the pile. The Theatre, although
so purely Roman, is built at the foot of the hill which is used for the
cavea, a practice that was adopted invariably by the Greeks and seldom
by the Romans.

Inside, the stage must have occupied more and the orchestra less space
than in the Greek theatre. The great background formed by the back of
the stage was probably embellished with niches containing statues and
framed with costly marble columns. Over the central or royal door which
opened on to the stage, it is supposed that a colossal statue of an
Emperor was placed, and the whole of the stage was roofed over with a
richly panelled ceiling. In the large wings on either side of the stage
were the dressing-and green-rooms for the actors, as well as waiting-and
refreshment-rooms for the higher social grades of the public. The seats
for the spectators are cut out of the hill, and form an ascending series
of horseshoe-shaped steps which could accommodate about seven thousand
spectators.

[Illustration: THEATRE AT ORANGE]

In the seventeenth century the Princes of Orange, who dwelt in a
stronghold upon the hill overlooking the theatre, attached it to their
castle, converting it into a fortress. Much of its ornamentation
disappeared at this period, and more was destroyed at a later date when
the town was taken by Louis XIV., who ordered the demolition of the
castle and fortress. A squalid town of houses and stables occupied the
interior of the Theatre after this; but happily they were all cleared
out at the beginning of the last century, and to-day the monument is
jealously guarded by a Government department.

From the hilltop behind the castle one looks over a country as rich as
any in Provence. The Rhone glides through meadows, orchards, vineyards,
and great mulberry plantations, past little red-tiled farmhouses, and
long white roads lined by tall poplars and thickset hedges.

Orange is the gateway to Roman Gaul, and its two monuments are a
magnificent introduction to the neighbouring towns of Arles and Nîmes.
There are many curious streets and houses in the town, and the Hôtel de
Ville, which stands in the principal square, is a pleasing bit of
seventeenth-century architecture. Down one of the narrow streets near
the great wall of the Theatre there stands a little church surmounted by
an old crumbling tower. The interior of this ancient little building is
so striking in contrast to the usual magnificence displayed in the
churches of Provence, that one is not surprised to

[Illustration: THE PROTESTANT CHURCH ORANGE]

discover that in it the Protestants of Orange worshipped. The plain
whitewashed walls are reminiscent of the churches of Holland–perhaps
the only association discoverable in the town with the Stadholders, who
were also Princes of Orange. Many of the older streets have quaint
arcades with bold round arches that naturally suggest a Roman origin.

* * * * *

Carpentras lies to the east of Orange and Avignon, about fifteen miles
from either place. In the old days the dusty mud-stained diligences
plied from Avignon to Carpentras, but to-day the cross-country motor-bus
has found in Provence a hearty welcome and plenty of passengers, and the
ancient relationship between the two towns is more closely knit
together. Carpentras is no longer the important town it was before the
Revolution. From being a Roman town of great consequence,
“Carpentorate,” it grew during the Middle Ages to become the capital of
the Papal province, the “Comtat Venaissin.” When Pope Clement V., by the
orders of Philip the Fair, removed his Papal See from Rome, his time was
divided between Carpentras and Avignon, and it was in the former town
that he breathed his last.

In 1305, when Clement took up his temporary abode in Carpentras, it was
strongly fortified with machicolated battlements, towers and gateways,
and all the other accessories of a mediæval town. Churches had been
established for ages, the oldest one, St. Siffrein, dating from the
sixth century. The present Cathedral of that name is the fifth building
that has been erected upon the same site: the first having been built in
the sixth century, the second in the eighth or ninth, the third in the
tenth, and the fourth at the end of the thirteenth century. Nothing
remains of the two earliest, although some parts of the third building
were incorporated in the fourth.

The present church was built by the anti-pope Benedict XIII., who at the
period of the schism had a large following among the clergy of France.
He thought to establish himself and the Papacy in Carpentras, having
previously been kept a prisoner at Avignon by the factions who refused
to acknowledge his papal authority. He was, however, only successful in
retaining the loyalty of a portion of the French Church and nobility,
for a few years later, in 1409, the General Council of Cardinals met at
Pisa, together with the influential envoys of France and England, and
the two rival Popes, Benedict XIII. and Gregory XII., were both tried
and deposed for contumacy and the violation of their solemn engagements.
But for this Carpentras might have been a second Avignon.

[Illustration: CATHEDRAL OF S^{T} SIFFREIN CARPENTRAS]

The Cathedral of St. Siffrein, which Benedict started in the Gothic
style, was never completed in a satisfactory manner. The south porch
remains, however, a most beautiful piece of Gothic, with delicately
designed and carved pinnacles and arches, worthy of a much finer
building. The west front of the Cathedral is a makeshift, and although
the flowered pillars in the buttresses are very beautiful, the porch and
doorways are of much later date, entirely out of keeping with the
character of the building. There is plenty of elaborate decoration in
the interior, for the chapels contain pictures by Mignard and Parrocel,
and there are also great decorative pictures of the life of the
name-saint, St. Siffrein, who was the Bishop of Carpentras in the sixth
century.

[Illustration: NOTRE DAME CARPENTRAS.]

[Illustration: THE PORTE DE ORANGE CARPENTRAS.]

The Cathedral is the fortunate possessor of one or two nails from the
true Cross, which are exhibited on certain days from a small gallery
that projects into the nave over the south entrance. Over the west
doorway there are four pictures in magnificent carved wood frames which
compel the attention more than the works of art they surround. The
frames are the work of an artist who accomplished much of the beautiful
wood carving in the Cathedral. His name was Jacques Bernas, but the
names of the painters of the pictures have been absolutely forgotten.

In the early part of the nineteenth century Carpentras suffered a severe
loss. The ramparts which had hemmed in and protected the town for five
centuries were pulled down, the lofty Porte d’Orange alone excepted.
This magnificent tower, which is 120 feet high, crenellated with a
machicolated battlement, and pierced with only one comparatively small
entrance, is a perfect example of mediæval defensive architecture. The
houses which now stand on the site of the ancient ramparts look mean and
insignificant; even the great plane-trees that line the broad avenue
which surrounds the town look like dwarfs when compared with the ancient
gate. Quaint flights of steps lead from this avenue up to the town, and
rare picturesque bits of old tiled houses delight the eye at unexpected
turnings.

The town is full of twistings and winding streets, ancient doorways with
richly sculptured fronts, sunny courts, shady boulevards, and charming
vistas. It is delightfully situated, with a lovely country spread like a
rich carpet all around its base. From the courtyard in front of the
Église de l’Observance, the view, over the

[Illustration: THE ARCH AT CARPENTRAS.]

valley in which are the ruins of a Roman aqueduct, to the bare slopes of
the snow-crested Mont Ventoux, is one of varied charm. Groups of little
houses peep out from amongst the trees; clumps of tall cypress, ranged
like a wall of spires, protect the vineyards from the blighting
mistral’s chill; villages nestle in the shelter of trees whose rich
foliage lingers long after summer has departed; a Provençal landscape
lies all around the town, bewitching the eye and captivating the
emotions.

Standing in a small courtyard surrounded by the walls of a
seventeenth-century bishop’s palace, now the Hôtel de Ville, is a small
triumphal arch which has been battered by wind and rain for twenty
centuries. It is only a single arch, and considerable doubt exists as to
its exact age. On the two sides there are sculptured in high relief
figures of captive Gauls. The columns that form each angle of the arch
are little more than fragments, but the engaged columns on the inside
have suffered less. This arch was supposed by some archæologists to have
some connection with the great arch at Orange, but nothing can be proved
with any certainty. It remains one of those puzzling relics of the past
that will continue to provoke differences of opinion until the fabric
crumbles out of human sight and mingles with the dust of ages.

* * * * *

A little local train runs from Tarascon through vineyards, ploughed
fields, and pasture lands, stopping at tiny

[Illustration: FOUNTAIN TO NOSTRADAMUS AT S^{T}. REMY]

wayside shelters too insignificant to warrant a name. Its destination is
Orgon, but about midway between the limits of its journey it stops at
St. Remy, a little town of about five thousand inhabitants. This is a
typical Provençal village, full of traditions, customs, and leisured
existence, like hundreds of others in the Rhone valley, and but for its
close proximity to the ancient Roman town of Glanum Livii, few strangers
would ever walk its streets. It still retains traces of a former
prosperity, and many of the houses in its quaint streets are embellished
with fine portals of the Renaissance architecture.

It has had famous and illustrious citizens too, whom it honours with
statues that ornament the public places. The astrologer, Nostradamus,
who was patronised by the great and believed in by all, lived for some
years in retirement in the little town. It was he who was indirectly
responsible for the ruin of the poor imaginative man who spent his time
and fortune in excavating the ground floor of the Tour Magne in the vain
search for a “golden fowl.” History does not relate if the astrologer’s
prediction “that a farmer would make his fortune by the discovery of a
golden cock” ever did come true, or if the disappointed treasure-seeker
of the Tour Magne ever sought an interview with the prophet.

The oldest inhabitants of St. Remy may tell of the gradual decline in
the splendour of its fate, in the merriment of its song and dance; but
the youngest glory in the Sunday visits of the Cinema. Occasionally a
strolling troupe of players invade the town, and in the open air, with a
sad semblance of gaiety, emulate the “Jongleurs” of old in their efforts
to amuse. But the men in these little villages make their own
amusements, and in the summer evenings they congregate in the public
squares, and under the shelter of the great plane-trees play at their
game of bowls, the same game that is popular in Italy, Spain, and
Portugal, and even across the Mediterranean in Tunis and Algiers. Any
piece of ground, even the highway, will serve for their purpose, and
casual passersby or spectators run no little risks from the balls, which
are not trundled or rolled along the ground, but are thrown high through
the air.

The four cafés which St. Remy boasts are large enough for its wants, and
their clients, dressed in fustian, indulge with temperance in absinthe,
cards, and tobacco, most of them retiring early in the evening, for St.
Remy does not keep late hours like Nîmes or Arles. The Church at St.
Remy is a most imposing building for so small a town; it is classic in
design and modern in construction, but it is built beneath an ancient
belfry with a tapering spire, Gothic and beautiful, a relic of the
fourteenth century.

[Illustration: “OUR LADY OF PITY” S^{T}. REMY]

A long straight road, sheltered and shaded from wind and sun by great
plane-trees that range on either side, leads from the town to the foot
of the Alpilles. The vista is extensive, and the rugged hills that end
it assume the appearance of a gigantic fortress.

Just outside the town, sheltered by a great chestnut-tree, there stands
an ancient church, “Our Lady of Pity,”

[Illustration: A WELL NEAR GLANUM.]

the walls of its beautiful porch abandoned to the bill-poster, and its
steps and floor to the village children. All the way up this white road
there are ancient bits of masonry utilised in modern building, and many
other evidences of the Roman occupation. Here, by the roadside, there is
a curious deep well, with the mouth protected by four great slabs of
stone set on end forming a rough but solid parapet; a tall stone stands
up on end beside the others, and through a hole in it a branch of a tree
is thrust, from which is suspended the pulley-wheel and rope to lower
the bucket into the waters below. Two great troughs carved out of solid
stone lie by the side ready for use as washtubs. They look like tombs
from the Alyscamps at Arles, or possibly some other ancient
burial-ground. Who can say?

[Illustration: TOMB of the JULII]

All the little homesteads have small patios in front or at the sides of
them; vines trail up the columns that support the lean-to roofs, columns
that are either of Roman workmanship or imitations, but the ancient
character is well preserved. About a mile up this road are two monuments
of the earliest Roman time; grey as the hills that form a background to
them, delicate in contrast to nature’s rugged sculptures, they are
memorials of the skill of hands whose work was finished two thousand
years ago. The sculptors have been lavish of their time and talents, and
although the freshness of their delicate and bold carvings has worn off,
time has softened and mellowed them, even as it does a refined or noble
human face. The smaller monument is a specimen of a triumphal arch, much
damaged, but what remains is more beautiful in its proportions and
simplicity than many of the larger triumphal arches found in Provence.

The other monument, the tomb of the Julii, has an inscription on the
architrave of the second story,–SEX. L. M. JULIEI. C. F. PARENTIBUS.
SUEIS. which translated means that the monument was raised to the memory
of their parents by Sextus, Lucius, and Marcus Julii, the sons of Caius.
It is a mausoleum of exquisite symmetry and distinction; on the square
base two bas-reliefs of battle and hunting scenes indicate that Caius
was a warrior who was no less distinguished in the chase than on the
battle-field. The second story is a square turret which has four
niches, and is enriched with fluted columns at each corner; the
entablature above is embellished with mouldings and ornament and
surmounted by a small circular turret, with ten fluted Corinthian
columns, inside of which are two statues wanting the heads. The amount
of well-considered ornament lavished upon these memorials, one of
victories accomplished, the other of the highly honoured dead, is an
eloquent tribute to the sentiments that animated the Romans as well as
to the distinction and skill of their artists.

[Illustration: THE TRIUMPHAL ARCH AND TOMB AT GLANUM LIVII]

These two solitary monuments are all that remain of the ancient city,
but they stand steadfast at the foot of the rugged hills, the faithful
sentinels of a vanished empire. Far removed from the busy life of cities
to-day, they have known in the past the pressure of the multitude and
the noisy hum of humankind, for the ancient town nestled around them on
all sides.

[Illustration: IN A CAFÉ ORANGE.]

How it happened that the Visigoths, who in the fifth century destroyed
the Roman city, allowed the arch to remain, is one of those puzzles that
never will be solved; for on the two sides of the triumphal arch their
ancestors are represented as captives led in chains. Works of art,
precious and beautiful, had no influence to stay their devastating hand;
culture made no appeal to their rugged natures, for in their rage
against their persecuting masters they razed to the ground works of fine
art and beauty that were the pride and glory of the greatest Empire the
world has ever seen.

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NÎMES

Nîmes, unlike its contemporary and neighbour Arles, has contrived to
flourish even in a prosaic and commercial age. Its industries, light and
refined in character, the weaving of silk and the pressing of the
grapes, are not too violently opposed to its ancient traditions of
beauty and luxurious living. Like Arles, it has an early origin, but of
a religious rather than a mundane order. The Celtic inhabitants of Gaul
fixed upon the site, and gave it a name which in the language of its
founders signifies a spring. The Romans early in the first century
appreciated and coveted the spot, which was soon occupied and named
Nemausus. The mysterious spring that wells up at the foot of the little
mountain Cavalier, sacred to the ancient Celts, assumed great importance
in the estimation of the newcomers. Its fame spread far and wide, and
much of the wealth and ingenuity of Rome was spent in building and
beautifying the city that rapidly grew up from the ruins of the Celtic
town which nestled round the spot where the “God of the fountain”
resided and was worshipped.

[Illustration: STREET IN NIMES]

The Celtic tribes, who were dispossessed or conquered by the invading
Romans, were far from being untutored savages. They knew and bartered
with the Greek colonists at Arles and Marseilles, and Celtic coins and
bronzes discovered in the neighbourhood of Nîmes give abundant evidence
of strong Hellenic influences.

The wondrous spring which gave rise to the ancient city still gushes out
in an inexhaustible volume of water, which finds its outlet through
canals into the Vistre. The Baths, built by Agrippa in the first century
at the foot of the hill, were supplied by the sacred well, and their

[Illustration: ROASTING COFFEE. NIMES.]

extent and elegance show how important and wealthy the colony had
become. Stone terraces, courts, and promenades, ornamented with urns and
statues, are now built upon the site, and the water of the spring is
allowed to overflow into the apartments and chambers of the ancient
Baths. The gardens are very beautiful, the brilliant white of the stone
balustrade, terraces, and steps, contrasting with and adding to the
beauty of the thickly wooded hill that rises at the back. After the
gardens at Arles, and even Avignon, this garden of the Fountain seems
fresh and joyous; there is an air of perpetual youth about it which the
genii of the spring seem unwilling to abandon.

The statues that adorned the place in the Roman days have vanished;
here, as elsewhere, the collector and vandal have had their way with the
smaller objects of art, but the place is not dead nor deserted.
Succeeding ages so felt the beauty of the spot that they have adorned it
with the best works they could produce.

The habit the ancients had of throwing small coins into these waters to
propitiate the gods and goddesses to whom the spot was sacred, accounts
for the almost inexhaustible supply of coins that have been and still
are discovered in the “Spring.” Thousands of these have found their way
into museums and private collections, and amongst them the curious “pied
du sanglier,” a coin which has puzzled many numismatists.

The coin, or medal, has one of its edges extended or drawn out into a
shape resembling the leg of a boar. The obverse of these coins has the
heads of Augustus and Agrippa embossed upon it, with the letters IMP …
P.P … DIVIF …, and on the reverse is a crocodile chained to a
palm-tree, with the letters COL. to the left and NEM. to the right,
separated by the palm-tree. It is thought that the boar’s leg and foot
on these coins, or medals, may be some special compliment to the Gauls,
to whom the boar was sacred. The inscription on the coin is common
enough, and the heads of Augustus and Agrippa are of course meant for
the heads of Octavius Augustus, the grand-nephew of Julius Cæsar,
Emperor in 27 B.C., and Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, the great general who
was the life-long friend and son-in-law of Augustus.

[Illustration: The Pied de Sanglier]

He was a great benefactor to Nîmes, and built the gigantic Pont du Gard
which brought the water into the town, the spring of Nemausus being too
sacred to use for drinking and domestic purposes. It is in compliment to
Agrippa that the crocodile tied to the palm-tree is stamped on the
reverse of these coins, symbolic of the subjugation of the Egyptian
power when Antony was defeated at Actium. This device of the palm-tree
and crocodile has been adopted as the arms of the town. Agrippa was a
warrior and organiser of the first order, and the honours that his
friend the Emperor showered upon him were no more than he deserved, for
Rome owes to him its Pantheon, and Nîmes its Pont du Gard.

The brilliance of Nîmes at the beginning of the Christian era was
unrivalled in the whole of Gaul. During this epoch, buildings of the
most splendid character sprang up on all sides, until, in the time of
Antoninus Pius (whose father was a Roman Consul in Nemausus), the great
Arena was erected.

The Maison Carrée, which has for centuries excited the admiration of the
civilised world, is the finest classic temple extant. Built during the
first years of the Christian era, it was dedicated to the two sons of
Agrippa, Caius and Lucius, who were adopted by their grandfather, the
Emperor Augustus, at their father’s death. The youths both died young,
and without accomplishing anything worthy of record, but as long as the
Maison Carrée stands their names will go down to posterity.

[Illustration: The Maison Carree Nimes]

The small temple has been portrayed on canvas and paper thousands of
times; familiarity with its graceful form can never exhaust its charms;
measurements and analysis do not assist in making its beauty more
apparent. Kings and Emperors have coveted it, and the miracle is that it
has escaped destruction or removal. Napoleon was contemplating this
latter when more pressing affairs demanded his attention, and Louis
XIV., at the suggestion of the architect Colbert, would have transported
it to Versailles, but the task was found to be impossible. Each
succeeding age endeavours to pay its tribute to this flower of
Greco-Roman art, but none has ever succeeded in describing the
indescribable. Arthur Young, who visited Nîmes in the course of his
travels through France during the Revolution, says:

“I visited the Maison Carrée yesterday evening, this morning, and three
times during the course of the day. It is without comparison the most
trifling, the most agreeable building I have ever seen. Without having
an imposing grandeur, or displaying any extraordinary magnificence that
might create surprise, it rivets the attention. In its proportions there
is a magic harmony that charms the eye. It would be impossible to single
out any special part for excellence of beauty, for it is altogether
perfect in symmetry and grace.”

The temple stands in a square which was the Forum in Roman days; the
remains of the foundations indicate the position which the contemporary
buildings occupied. To-day the square is surrounded with modern
buildings, but sufficient space is left between them and the temple to
permit of its being viewed from all sides.

The modern theatre that stands on the left is classic in style, with
Ionic pillars supporting the entablatures of its porch, but a glance at
it is sufficient to demonstrate to what depths a modern imitation of a
classic style can sink.

The temple, although in good preservation, has in its time seen many
vicissitudes. Towards the end of the

[Illustration: A SHOEBLACK AT NIMES]

Middle Ages it was installed as a town hall or council house, and its
interior fitted to accommodate its new occupiers; but evidently it was
not quite suitable, for, in the sixteenth century, the town authorities
parted with it to a private person, in exchange for a piece of land upon
which they could erect a building more adapted to their requirements.
The new proprietor had little respect for the beauty of the ancient
temple, and had no compunction in altering it to suit his prosaic needs.
It was about this period that the Duchess d’Uzès tried to purchase the
building to serve her and her descendants as a place of sepulture. This
attempt to turn it into a family vault, however, failed; but the noble
lord was more successful who managed to purchase and convert the temple
into a stable, although this vandalism was loudly protested against by
the learned and artistic inhabitants of the city. It changed hands again
and passed into possession of the Augustine friars, who transformed it
into a church or chapel, their occupation being conditional on their
offering up on fête day masses and prayers for their King and Country.
After the Revolution, the Government of the restoration stepped in and
rescued beauty’s temple from further humiliations and abuse, and now a
collection of the rare and precious relics of the most classic town in
France is housed in its choicest building.

The other famous relic of Nemausus, the Arena, has been mentioned
previously in connection with that of Arles. It is in much better
preservation than the latter and more imposing, as it stands where an
uninterrupted view of its vast proportions can be obtained. Smaller in
actual measurement than the arena at Arles, it impresses one as being
much larger. It has had a similar history, however, for in the fifth
century the Visigoths who possessed the town turned it into a fortress,
and the Saracens, who A.D. 719 had made themselves masters of Septimania
or Languedoc, used it as a stronghold until they were driven out by the
powerful Charles Martel.

[Illustration: THE ARENA NIMES]

Later in its history the Arena was occupied by over two thousand
Nimansians, who built within the great ellipse a town of narrow streets
and houses, the endless galleries and arcades offering a series of
almost ready-made dwellings. They had a church too, the remains of which
are being carefully preserved. The exterior of this Arena is pure
Roman, as befits a building built for the Roman national sport. The two
arcades of bold, deep-sunk arches are gloomily mysterious even when the
brilliant sunlight illumines all around. At night the gloom and mystery
increases, and the footfall of the solitary passer-by awakens echoes
through the endless vaults that seem to reach into the beginning and end
of time. And yet when the moon creeps up and throws her pale rays over
the giant seats that rise in circles like the rings on a disturbed pool,
the Arena has a beauty all its own–unpaintable, unspeakable.

The gladiatorial fights would seem to have been the most prevalent kind
of sport that was witnessed in the Arena, for it has been suggested over
and over again that the low wall of the podium would render fights
between wild or ferocious animals unsafe to the most important of the
spectators. On one of the stones in the podium there is, amongst others,
one inscription which has an interest in showing that the important
guilds of Nîmes had places perpetually reserved for them in the
distinguished foremost position of the podium. This inscription reads N.
RHOD. ET. ARAR, XL. DDN. which has been deciphered “Nautæ of the Rhone
and of the Saone, 40 places by decree of the Decuriones of Nemausus.”
The watermen were evidently a guild of considerable social importance to
have such honourable positions assigned to them, unless they were a
similar body to the guilds of our own capital, whose names have little
connection with the occupations of their members.

[Illustration: The VENUS of NIMES.]

The general arrangements of the Arena are similar to those at Arles, but
the whole building is in a much better state of preservation. During the
last few years bullfighting, both in the Portuguese and Spanish
fashions, has taken place regularly in the Arena. In fact, even in the
smaller villages or towns of Provence, the sport is so very popular
that temporary makeshift buildings are often erected, but at Nîmes and
Arles the splendid arenas enable the displays to be witnessed by more
than the present populations of these towns. No use is, however, made of
the great stone corbels that project in two rows round the top of the
exterior walls, and which in Roman times supported great poles from
which enormous sheets of sailcloth were stretched to protect the
spectators from the burning sun.

The gladiators were a large fraternity at Nîmes, and many of the
inscriptions preserved in the Musée Lapidaire refer directly or
indirectly to them. The skill of the different classes of fighters is
recorded along with their domestic virtues–testimony which adds pathos
to their tragic fate. Many of them were good fathers and faithful
husbands, who left anxious hearts behind them when they entered the
arena, and aching voids when they returned no more. The Roman courage of
the professional gladiators was not less terrible than the Roman cruelty
of their employers, and loving hearts were lacerated every time a human
body was butchered to make a Roman holiday.

In the same little museum at Nîmes where these

[Illustration: THE RUINED TEMPLE

OF DIANA. NIMES.]

inscriptions now repose there are many fragments of the most exquisite
carvings, enriched mouldings, and delicate capitals, all of them
speaking eloquently of vanished buildings that adorned the ancient
Nemausus.

Of the two other monuments of the ancient city, mere wrecks of their
former selves, which have claimed the attention of architects, artists,
and archæologists, one, the Temple of Diana, stands in the beautiful
garden of the fountain on the site of a much older temple dedicated to
the nymphs of the waters by the earliest Roman colonists, probably by
Augustus himself. The ruined temple standing to-day was very likely
erected about two centuries later, and the object of its presence on the
spot has caused, as is usual with these early buildings, considerable
difference of opinion; but it undoubtedly had something to do with the
cult of the goddess of the fountain, notwithstanding the presence in it
of niches reserved for the statues of other divinities.

It is a solid structure containing a large hall with a barrel-vaulted
roof in a bad state of repair. The worship of the goddess died out in
the fourth century, and the deserted buildings falling, in the dark
ages, into the hands of the Benedictines, it was given over to the
female devotees of the new religion. These nuns continued in possession
for some six hundred years, a long period during which little is known
of it, except the facts stated.

[Illustration: HOLY ORDERS NIMES]

There is some kind of a record that a fire took place in it about the
end of the nuns’ tenancy, and there seems to be a probability that it
had at that time been turned into a hay store. Its later history is a
long record of disaster, for it was used as a fortress, and war had its
share in bringing about the ruin. But whatever troubles it may have come
through, it has an honoured old age, and all the care and protection
which the appreciative twentieth century can suggest is bestowed upon
it.

[Illustration: GATE OF AUGUSTUS–NIMES]

The other early monument, dating from before the first century, is the
Porte d’Auguste, which was built, 16 B.C., in the ramparts of the town.
It was for defensive purposes, and but little remains of the original
structure save two large arches and two smaller ones, which have still
smaller niches above. In the stormy reign of Charles VI. by his orders a
great fortress was erected over this gateway, and for nearly four
hundred years this, perhaps the earliest piece of Roman architecture in
Nîmes, was buried out of sight and out of ken. The other Roman gates of
Nîmes have nearly vanished, portions only remaining of another fortified
gateway that stood and guarded the southern entrance to the town.

On the summit of the hill from which the spring of Nemausus issues, and
which is 350 feet above the sea-level, there stands an octagonal ruined
tower, that rises to a height of about 90 feet. There is a theory that
the tower stands on the site of a more ancient one, built by a
Phocean-Celtic population to guard their city. The tower was originally
some thirty feet higher than it is to-day. The lower story of the
imposing mass was built round a rising mound of earth which filled up
the interior and made a solid stony foundation for the superstructure.
It is known as the “Tour Magne,” and was built, probably, about the same
time as the Porte d’Auguste, and formed a part of the system of the
town’s fortifications, for it commands such an extensive view of the
country round that there can be little doubt that it was a watch-tower
from which the military of the time could observe the movements of any
threatening danger to their town. The “Tour Magne” must have many
memories; if it could only speak, its autobiography would be full of
magic charm. It could tell of fierce strife and a crowd of stirring
incidents that took place between Roman and barbaric Celt, Visigoths,
Franks, and Burgundians, and of the smaller but fierce struggles of
which no history exists.

[Illustration: THE TOUR MAGNE NIMES.]

But one story has been put on record, the only legend current about the
old fortress, and strangely unconnected with warlike undertakings. In
the sixteenth century a farmer named Trucat heard of a prognostication
made by the noted astrologer Nostradamus to the effect that a
husbandman would make a fortune by discovering a golden cock. Golden
animals and birds seem to have run riot through the imaginations of the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The credulous Trucat fondly believed
that he was the fortunate man indicated by the prophecy, and that the
treasure he was to discover lay buried in the rocky earth, which filled
the lower storey of the famous “Tour Magne.”

[Illustration: FRIEZE of 12^{TH} CENTURY on the CATHEDRAL at NIMES]

He set about gaining permission to explore the earth inside the tower.
After some trouble he managed to get the consent of the King, Henry IV.,
to excavate, the condition imposed being that it should all be done at
his

[Illustration: WOMAN OF ARLES.]

own expense, and the King further displayed his characteristic
cautiousness by stipulating that two-thirds of any treasure-trove should
go into the imperial exchequer. The story of the “Golden Cock” ends
tamely enough, for neither the precious bird nor any valuables were
found by the superstitious farmer, whose purse was made much lighter
instead of heavier by his expensive search.

Nîmes, unlike Arles (the Gallic Rome), is still a prosperous and growing
city, a popular place of residence and full of modern life. Its streets,
shops, and open spaces, adorned with modern statues, many of great
merit, are highly appreciated by all classes of its inhabitants, who
delight in the beauty of their town. The older families from the smaller
towns around recognise the attractions of the largest city in the lower
valley of the Rhone, and seek it as a place of residence and retirement.

The modern churches are perhaps beautiful to a modern taste; St. Baudile
with its twin needle-pointed spires, St. Perpetué with its single spire
tapering like a pyramid, or St. Paul with its Roman-Byzantine front,
have a completeness that the Cathedral of St. Castor lacks, but they
have not its old associations. St. Castor is surrounded by houses, and
the only view that can be obtained of it is from the tiny square into
which its west door faces–an unforgettable little picture.

High up just under the pediment there is, carved in deep relief, a
series of figures of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. They represent
scenes from the Old Testament, and have the rare merit of telling their
story with a simple directness that cannot fail to be recognised by the
meanest intelligence. It is thought that the Cathedral stands on the
spot that was formerly graced by a Roman temple, and it is a likely
enough supposition, for the early Christians in the southern Gallic
towns generally selected the sites of Pagan temples for erecting places
of worship.

The interior of the church, often restored and rebuilt at later periods,
to-day presents a romanesque appearance, and has a very solemn and
mournful aspect when dressed for a funeral. Curtains of sombre velvet
encase the porch, and the little tapers carried by the mourners throw a
weird light on the procession of priests and choir boys as they pass up
the great central nave. Although the Church is disestablished and
disendowed all through France, the ministrations of the clergy are still
sought when the end comes, and these last rites for the dead are of
daily occurrence in the South.

[Illustration: THE CATHEDRAL NIMES.]

The revolutionary South is very conservative in many of its customs. The
women still gather round the wells to fill their pitchers, and one can
without difficulty eliminate the twentieth century and imagine the daily
scene and life in Roman Gaul. The warm climate and small stuffy rooms of
many of the older buildings induce a preference for the open air, and
one can often see the domestic drudges turning the drums of the
coffee-roasters by the side of the Maison Carrée or sawing logs for
firewood in the old way, holding the saw between the knees and with the
hands passing the timber backwards and forwards over its jagged edge.

From the railway station at Nîmes the broad Boulevard Feuchiers, lined
with four rows of plane-trees, leads to a large open space, the
Esplanade. Round this public circus there is an oval balustrade, the
designer of which seems, perhaps unconsciously, to have been influenced
by the great Arena which stands quite near. Even the stone seats
preserve the Roman traditions in their heavy construction. The most
important café in the town stands in the Esplanade, and in winter the
pavement outside is covered with a thick mat upon which the chairs and
table stand. A great coke stove stands in the middle, and customers sit
round the tables and fire listening to the music until the small hours
of the morning. Paris herself can offer no better fare.

[Illustration: REMOULINS]

The “Pont du Gard,” which was one of Agrippa’s greatest engineering
feats, remains the most colossal Roman monument in France. Remoulins,
the little village that lies nearest to the bridge, is easily reached by
train either from Nîmes or Avignon, and the road along the banks of the
Gard is full of rural charm, for it passes vineyards, homesteads,
ploughed fields, and green pastures. Great steep hills rising up on
either side of the river enclose the valley, and when one suddenly
catches sight of the towering masonry of the aqueduct that spans the
river the sensations aroused are bewildering.

Three great tiers of arches stretch across the river, and frame in the
whole horizon. The wonderful warm colour of the masonry contrasts
against the sky, which, framed in the fifty golden arches, assumes an
intensity that no pigment could reproduce. On closer inspection it is
seen that the stones of which this giant is composed are laid one upon
the other, fitted and adjusted without the aid of mortar, and that even
the smaller arches of the third tier are laid in the same fashion. The
channel, however, which carried the water along the top is lined with
hard cement. This tunnel is partly roofed with large flat stones placed
at intervals, and leaving gaps open to the sky.

[Illustration: AN OLD WATER MILL NEAR THE PONT-DU-GARD.]

To stand on the top of this immense pile of masonry and survey the
valley and distant country is to add a unique sensation to life’s
experiences. The river is far below with a toylike mill upon its edge,
the winding roadway is dotted with specks that look like insects, and
the far-off mountains float like clouds in the distant haze. From
whatever point of view it is contemplated–from above or below–from a
distance or from at hand it fills the mind with an unbounded respect for
the genius of its builders. As in the case of the arenas, mere
measurement fails to convey any idea of its vastness. That it is 880
feet or so long and 160 feet high may be interesting to builders and
engineers, but to the majority of spectators these figures utterly fail
to express anything of the magnificence of the Pont du Gard. Like the
Maison Carrée and the amphitheatres of Nîmes and Arles, the aqueduct has
figured in many a picture and engraving.

The rainbow of stone that fills the sky in Robert’s romantic picture now
in the Louvre conveys some of the beauty of the “Bridge,” but fails to
suggest the grandeur or its size. Agrippa and his soldiers accomplished
more than a difficult engineering feat when they carried the waters of
Uzès through hills and over valleys to their much-honoured colony of
Nemausus. The Pont du Gard is far too noteworthy and imposing a
structure to have escaped the attentions of the romantic imaginations of
the Middle Ages, and a legend has been handed down to the effect that
the Devil himself built it, and required as payment for his stupendous
task the soul of the first living creature who should cross it. The
first living creature was a hare (the natives presumably being backward
in risking their souls); and the Devil, exasperated at the poor reward
for all his trouble, turned the hare into stone, and to-day ingenious
natives point to a curious Roman device carved on the keystone of one of
the arches and call it the hare of the Pont du Gard.

Continue Reading

ARLES

It would seem that Arles has been an important city for over two
thousand five hundred years. History can give no authentic records of
its beginnings, but, as is generally the case with ancient towns in a
similar predicament, legend has taken in hand the task of supplying
details, and Arles has its legend, which bears on the face of it some
elements of probability. Massilia (now Marseilles) has evidence to show
that even long before the Phoceans founded their towns in Gaul,
Phœnician seamen, the pioneers of navigation, had discovered its
natural harbour, round which the town of to-day is built. Interesting
relics of these early traders are still in existence; and their
successors, the Phoceans, who undoubtedly were on the scene as early as
600 B.C., must have found on their arrival that the advantages of the
position had been fully appreciated by the earlier settlers, who had
built there a town of considerable importance, but which was then in a
declining state.

The inhabitants of Southern Gaul, a Celtic race, had even at that time
their capital at Arles, and the semi-historical legend runs that King
Nannos, or Nan, was giving a betrothal feast to which all his warriors
were invited, in order that his daughter might choose her husband from
among them–presumably the custom at this period.

When the feast was in full swing a stranger appeared upon the scene, a
handsome young Greek adventurer from Phocea. The Celtic King welcomed
him with an unsuspicious cordiality, and invited him to join the festive
board, which he did, much to the chagrin of the assembled company. The
King’s daughter fell in love with him at first sight and singled him out
for high honour, bestowing upon him her heart and hand, to the
discomfiture of the native warriors, although her father recognised in
her action the guidance of his country’s gods. The lucky Greek received
in dowry with his bride the lands lying around the spot where he first
landed.

He had not, however, a sufficient following of his countrymen with him
to populate his newly-acquired territory, so he had recourse to sending
his galleys back to his native land to gather in recruits. The
newcomers

[Illustration: THE ALYSCAMPS, ARLES.]

brought with them fire from their sacred hearths, a priestess and a
statue of Diana from Ephesus, where they called on their way, in
compliance to the commands of their oracles; and settled down in the
strange country, mixing and intermarrying freely with the native Gauls.
The colony grew and flourished; the quiet of their mercantile existence
varied occasionally by wars and skirmishes with surrounding tribes,
whose jealousy and cupidity was aroused by the rapidly growing
prosperity of the new colony.

[Illustration: THE TOWN HALL

ARLES.]

But some centuries later the Massilians were compelled to call in the
assistance of Rome to repel the increasing attacks made upon them and
their colonies by the vast hordes of Teutons, Ambrones, and other
Northern barbarians. The celebrated campaign of Marius was successful,
and gave the conquerors themselves a taste for colonising. The
flourishing state of Arles and Marseilles no doubt incited the Empire
builders to covet the favourable positions occupied by the Greek
settlers.

Cæsar, emulating and surpassing Marius in his campaigning zeal,
conquered all Gaul, and under him the first Roman colonies took a firm
hold upon the fertile regions in the valley of the Rhone. Arles became a
maritime town, which rivalled Marseilles itself. The Celtic inhabitants,
mixed strongly with the Phœnician element, were possessed of arts and
crafts almost as highly developed as those of the conquering Romans. The
city grew in importance until its population numbered 100,000. Traders
from all parts of the world flocked to its markets, everything being
brought to the city either by river-boats up and down the Rhone, or
across the lagoons on rafts, or overland on the backs of mules and
horses. The city could offer to its citizens every luxury known to the
age.

[Illustration: THE ARENA AT ARLES.]

The great amphitheatre, built or commenced during the reign of Claudius
Tiberius Nero, at the time when the power of Rome was at its zenith,
could accommodate nearly 27,000 spectators to witness the wild beast and
gladiatorial shows so popular in Rome at that period. It was constructed
in the early days of amphitheatres, and is perhaps one of the oldest
extant, and gives, together with the Arena at Nîmes, a more vivid
impression of the Empire’s strength and grandeur than any other Roman
monument in France. Although on a much smaller scale than the mighty
Coliseum at Rome (which was built at a much later date and replaced
earlier buildings in that city, could accommodate 100,000 spectators,
and was over 615 feet in length and 510 feet in width, as compared with
the Arena at Arles, 450 feet long and 351 feet wide), it gives some
notion of the important part the amphitheatre played in the life of the
Roman capital.

The amphitheatre at Arles, unlike that of Nîmes, was, if the evidence of
the height of the wall of the Podium enclosing the Arena is trustworthy,
used for the great fights of lions, tigers, elephants, and other
animals, as well as for combats between the gladiators–elaborate and
extravagant spectacles that riveted the attention and ministered to the
enjoyment of the Roman world for a period extending over seven hundred
years. The immense arenas at Arles and Nîmes are proof of the prosperity
of these two colonies. Many of the Greek traditions of the Arlesiens
were lost sight of and contemned by the

[Illustration: ARCHES OF THE ARENA.

NIMES.]

conquerors, but the refined and intellectual amusements of the Greeks
made a slight appeal to the tastes of the warrior race, who overthrew
them, and who built a theatre in Arles, in the first century, under the
strong influence of the Greek element in the colony, an influence that
had made itself felt also in the architecture of the Arena.

Arles has preserved much of this Greek influence up to the present day;
for beauty cannot die–it influences succeeding ages and fashions all
their work, and the sculptures found in Arles are in this respect
superior to those of Nîmes and other Roman provincial towns.

The Venus of Arles, which now rests in the Louvre, compared with that of
Nîmes, gives a forcible illustration of the different characteristics of
Greco-Roman from the more purely Roman art; a subtle difference to
explain, but easily recognised when face to face with the actual work.
The Venus, that should have been one of the most cherished glories of a
city, whose womenfolk have inherited the beauty of their Phocean
ancestors, is lost to it. Discovered in 1651 by two citizens in the
courtyard of their house, built on the site of the theatre, it was sold
to the town authorities for £60, and they, anxious to curry favour with
the “Grand Monarch,” presented it to him in 1683. Louis had the statue
restored and placed among his treasures in the Palace at Versailles,
whence it was removed in the last century to where it now stands in the
Louvre.

The Amphitheatre at Arles is built upon slightly rising ground, and the
practical builders took every advantage of the rocky foundations to save
themselves any unnecessary building, so that the lower galleries of the
edifice only exist on a part of its circumference. The modern buildings
that have sprung up and surrounded it prevent as good a view of the
ensemble as is possible at Nîmes. The interior galleries have stone
lintels instead of the Roman arch as in those of the latter. The
simplicity of the mouldings and carvings of the capitals is more akin to
the Greek than to the later Roman style of architectural decoration, and
although the building is not nearly so imposing as the Nîmes Arena, or
even that vast relic of the Empire at El-Djem in Tunisia, it has many
features that are distinct from either.

From the Rue Voltaire one looks up the broad flight of steps which lead
to the north end of this mass of masonry and sees superimposed stages of
arches; the

[Illustration: ARENA.

NIMES.]

lower series divided by simple square Doric pillars, the upper by
Corinthian columns, only a few of which still possess their capitals.
They are weather-worn and greatly damaged, and it is only by picking out
more or less perfect bits, here and there, that evidence of its original
beauty can be obtained. Internally, great galleries run round the inside
walls, and lead out by flights of steps and passages on to three great
ranges of seats. The original seating arrangements have undergone much
change, but the traces of the disposition of the Cavea can easily be
made out with a little trouble.

The high wall of the Podium is cased with smooth marble, upon the face
of which there is a cornice that in former times supported an extra
gallery, when the performance was not of a character too dangerous to
the spectators. The upper galleries, reserved for the common people and
slaves, have been roughly used, for during the eighth century, when the
city was threatened by an invasion of the Saracens, a large number of
the inhabitants took up their abode within the great ellipse; the arches
were built up, and four towers erected at the north and south, east and
west, turning the place into a vast fortress. Streets were formed in all
directions by the two hundred buildings that grew up, and a marketplace
and church were erected. Right on, until about a hundred years ago, when
it was cleared by the Mayor and municipality, this town remained a
squalid blot upon the city. Two of the four towers still remain.

[Illustration: ARLES]

After the removal of the “town” from the heart of the arena, it was
utilised again for the amusements of the people. The first step towards
re-establishing spectacles was the annual ceremony of branding the
bulls, which was half in the nature of a “bullfight”; and later in the
last century bullfights, very much after the fashion of those of
Portugal, were staged both here and at Nîmes–the bull being played with
in a harmless way without being killed or tortured as in Spain. But this
has not proved sufficiently exciting for the Southern blood, and to-day
tauromachy in its most aggravated forms obtains in the arenas of
Provence: horses and bulls pour out the red heart-blood upon the sanded
arena, as did the gladiators, martyrs, and savage beasts of old; and if
the Greeks have transmitted their beauty to the womenfolk of Arles, the
Romans have been no less successful in implanting in their ancient
colony some of their characteristic love of what, to put it mildly,
might be called exciting pastimes.

The world of to-day looks back with horror on the Roman holidays, which
strangely enough grew out of a religious celebration in honour of the
dead. The despised barbarians of the old world burnt victims on the
funeral pyre; the proud Romans, exulting in their superiority over the
untutored savages, outdid them in barbarity.

The rapid development of the show of dying agony went on from the
earliest times, when slaves were first immolated upon the tombs of the
illustrious dead, until the time when the Gothic King Theodoric took
Arles–one long record of the wanton pouring out of human blood. From an
offering to appease the gods, it grew to be a slaughter for the
gratification of an insatiable lust for bloodshed in the body politic.

The first gladiatorial fighters appear upon the scene about two hundred
years before the Christian era, and the strange funeral custom became so
fashionable that it was a common thing for a son to celebrate his
father’s funeral with a fight in which hundreds of forced combatants
took part and fought to the death. Julius Cæsar gave such encouragement
to the “sport” that peaceful citizens and political opponents grew
alarmed at the rapid growth of the gladiatorial fraternity, who were a
standing menace to their city. But, in spite of the endeavours of the
more enlightened emperors, the passion for the arena increased, as
hundreds of records show. Slaves, prisoners of war, fair-haired Saxons
and tattooed Britons, swarthy Moors and Oriental Turks, criminals and
Christians, were exhibited and put to death by one another in front of
thousands of spectators, who never tired of these holocausts of blood.

To-day in Spain, and in her now lost colonies, similar appetite exists
for the blood of bulls and horses, and all attempts to put down these
gory spectacles meet with violent opposition. The great bullrings in
Spain and Mexico still preserve something of the atmosphere, attentuated
perhaps, that pervaded the arenas of old, and, mild as the exhibitions
are by comparison with the

[Illustration: ARCADE OF ARENA AT NIMES.]

ancient pastimes, they have enough horror to sicken the strong nerves of
Northern people.

One cannot wander about the great corridors, or up and down the giant
stairways of seats of the Arenas at Arles and Nîmes, without being
haunted by the ghosts of the distant past. Here, on the front seats once
reserved for magistrates, senators, and patricians, one can picture the
richly-robed crowds who patronised the ring. There sat the guilds and
corporations whose names were inscribed upon the places reserved for
them, as can still be seen upon the Arena at Nîmes. Higher up were the
plebeians, the common people, the hundred and one unclassed folk who
followed lowly occupations; highest of all, standing outlined against
the sky, the dense crowd of slaves, with straining eyes, stretched
necks, and bated breath, gazed down upon the combatants, who looked like
specks in the distant oval.

A more pleasant train of thought is set in motion by the ruined Theatre
which lies quite near. Dating from about the same time, it betrays even
more of the Grecian influence than does the Arena. It is only, however,
by a close attention to the fragments that lie in a small railed
enclosure at the foot of the Tower of St. Roland, that one can form any
just estimate of the beauty which this example of Greek architecture
possessed. The theatre is in ruins, and the two columns of African and
Carrara marble which still stand amidst the beautiful fragments of
bruised masonry have an interest which, in the light of historical
knowledge, is of pathetic loveliness. The ruins are enclosed by houses
on three sides, the fourth being bounded by the gardens of the town. The
authorities have men at work, keeping the relic from suffering more
damage by the continual wearing of the elements, and the Cavea, or
auditorium, is being renovated, so that, when the restorations in hand
are completed, this part of the construction will regain somewhat of its
former appearance.

[Illustration: The Roman Theatre Arles]

The theatre at Arles is essentially different from that at Orange: the
latter being entirely Roman in style and construction, and adapted for
the performances which, under the Romans, degenerated into such
demoralising obscenities. So degrading did the spectacles become even in
Greek Arles that, during a wave of religious enthusiasm, which swept
over the town in the first Christian centuries, a band of the
townspeople nearly demolished the theatre, breaking up the statues,
altars, columns, and leaving it unfit for further performances.

The theatres of the Greeks, which played an important part in the life
of the people, had developed from simple wooden constructions, liable to
damage by fire, into places highly embellished with sculpture and marble
columns, carefully studied so as to render the acoustic properties
nearly perfect. The arrangement universally adopted throughout the
Ionian Isles and Asia Minor is well exemplified in the Arles theatre.
The large orchestra, floored with beautiful marble, parts of which still
remain, was not intended for the audience. This huge semicircle, which
corresponds to the stalls and pit of the modern theatre, was reserved
entirely for the musicians and chorus, two parallel flights of steps
leading up from it to the narrow stage, making communication easy
between the two divisions of the stage.

This theatre differs from the native Greek theatre in regard to the site
chosen. It was the invariable custom to select a sloping hillside upon
which the Cavea could be easily constructed, but here, at Arles, the
Roman practice has been adopted with a Greek theatre, and the great
semicircular seats of the auditorium are built up on an arcade which
rises up from the level ground. At Orange, oddly enough, the position is
reversed, and a purely Roman theatre is built upon a site such as the
Greeks would have considered perfect. Round the outside of the Cavea of
the theatre at Arles there was a beautifully chiselled frieze, fragments
of which are collected together on the site. It is doubtful if the
theatre had a colonnade behind the top row of seats, as was customary in
the native Greek theatre, but the evidences of the large orchestra, the
narrow stage, the beautiful proscenium, the refined designs of the
mouldings and carvings, are sufficient to stamp this building as Greek.

The persistence of Greek traditions throughout centuries, at Arles, is
curious, but shows how strong the element must have been in the city.
Its position upon the rocky eminence, surrounded by the miasmatic
lagoons, tended, doubtless, to preserve its insularity and the
provincialism which it still enjoys. Even the “tour de Roland,” which
was erected on the southern side of the theatre during the Middle Ages,
has not escaped the classic influence, for the engaged flat columns on
its face have a restraint which would seem to have been engendered by
the graceful beauty of its surroundings.

[Illustration: GREEK TYPE ARLES]

In the early seventeenth-century Church of St. Anne, which stands at the
northwest corner of the Place de la République, or Place Royale as it is
now called, there are gathered together many beautiful fragments of the
sculptured statues, busts, heads, and tombs that have been found in and
around the town. The tombs, both Pagan and early Christian, are of
exceptional historic interest, not only to the townsfolk, but to the
world at large, for by their curious inscriptions much may be gathered
of the occupations followed, and the lives led, by the early inhabitants
of the town. To go through them all would require a work devoted to the
subject alone, but they are varied enough to show that Arles enjoyed a
wide celebrity as a burial-ground.

The Pagan and Christian tombs found in the Alyscamps (Elysian Fields)
have been an inexhaustible mine of wealth, not only to collectors and
museums, but to the inhabitants of the town and surrounding country. The
massive monolithic stone coffins have been turned to use, and in the
district one finds them converted into water-troughs, benches, washtubs,
and even pig-troughs. The dust of the dead of twenty centuries amounts
to very little, and the natives evidently thought it a work of
supererogation to carve, with much labour, the limestone rocks into
articles of daily use when they had such quantities lying ready to their
hands.

The Church of St. Anne forms a very fitting museum for many of the
interesting tombs that have been rescued from the hands of ruthless
utilitarians, and there they can be studied in peaceful and solemn
surroundings. Many of the more imposing of these ancient funeral
monuments are now used as altars in the churches of Provence, as in the
Church of St. Trophimus, immediately opposite the Museum.

The inscriptions on these tombs form an abbreviated biography of the
former occupants of the town. They tell of “Nautæ Arlatenses,” or
boatmen, who plied the craft that carried the merchandise up and down
the Rhone; the “Fabrii navales,” or naval builders, a body that were
held in high esteem by the most exalted in the city; and the naval
architects, a grade higher still, professional gentlemen who mixed with
intimacy with the “Upper Ten”; the “Utriculare,” a separate body of
watermen who plied large rafts, supported by air bladders made of
sheep-and-goat skins, over the shallow lagoons to outlying islands and
to the port of Fos. From this source we learn of the oil merchants and
sail or tarpaulin manufacturers, as well as of the students and scholars
who flourished in the Gallic-Greco-Roman city.

One of the most interesting biographical tombs removed from the
Alyscamps is that of Julia Tyrannia. It records not only the highly
appreciated virtues and accomplishments of this young lady, whose life
was cut short at the

[Illustration: IN A CAFE ARLES.]

age of twenty, but on two panels on one side the musical instruments on
which she performed are cut in deep relief: a lyre, a guitar, very much
like a modern mandoline, a water-organ with nine pipes, one of the
earliest representations of this instrument (there is a similar one
carved in the fourth century on the tomb of Theodosius at
Constantinople), and a syrinx, or panpipes, in a box. Underneath this
latter there is a lamb, which might either typify the gentle
disposition of the occupant or that she was of the Christian faith.

There is often great difficulty in distinguishing between the Pagan and
Christian tombs, owing to the similarity of the symbols used; but in
some cases the newer faith expresses hopes that are lacking in the Pagan
inscriptions, as a comparison of these two free translations clearly
shows:

“Oh grief! how many tears have been shed upon this tomb
Of Julia Lucina, who in life was very dear to her mother:
Cut off in the flower of youth, she lies buried beneath this stone.
Would that she could return!
Were it only to know how great is my sorrow.
She lived twenty years ten months and thirteen days.
Julia Parthenope, her unhappy mother, raised this monument to her.”

And this on the tomb of Concordius, a Christian priest of the fourth
century:

“Irreproachable and pious, pure in life and body,
Concordius, here entombed, lived for eternity.
In his youth he occupied the office of a deacon,
He was afterwards chosen as a priest by the Divine Law.
He had scarcely completed his fiftieth year when
He was transported prematurely into the starry hall of the Almighty,
Where his loving mother and brother aspire to find him.”

The inscriptions on most of the tombs evince that the departed were held
in tender regard by their bereft relatives and friends. Some of them
are quite touching human documents, manifesting the deep attachment that
parents had for their children. Many elaborately carved tombs, with
short stumpy figures, lacking entirely any æsthetic beauty, but full of
ingenuity to express symbolically the Christian story and traditions,
have been found; and one of the latest additions to the Museum is an
early Pagan tomb of great excellence of workmanship, evidently belonging
to the first century of the Christian era. The figures carved round it
have an entirely different character from those on the Christian tombs
of a later date. This was found in La Camargue when the railway to Les
Maries was in course of construction.

The Alyscamps, the vast cemetery, where most of these tombs were found,
lies to the south of the town on the farther side of the broad “Avenue
Victor Hugo.” The antiquity of this burial-ground is indisputable. When
it was consecrated for Christian burial by St. Trophimus may well be a
matter for dispute, for it is a little uncertain who St. Trophimus
really was. He is the apostle of Arles, and legend makes him one of the
companions of St. Paul who accompanied him on his travels; but this
claim was not put forward until the twelfth century, and after the time
when the saint’s bones were transferred from the Alyscamps to the Church
of St. Etienne, now famous as the Church of St. Trophimus. Whoever the
St. Trophimus may have been, there is very little doubt that the Church
of St. Honorat was built by St. Virgil, who probably utilised the site
of an ancient Pagan or early Christian temple.

[Illustration: TOMBS IN THE “ALYSCAMPS” AT ARLES]

The Alyscamps was well supplied with churches and chapels, at one time
possessing as many as nineteen. Even the early Church of St. Honorat,
when it was rebuilt, had chapels added to it by the pious, and still
more by the aristocratic families of the seventeenth century. The nave
of the church is in ruins, although other parts are in tolerable repair.
The pillars, which support the roof and separate the nave from the
aisles, are enormous columns about thirty feet in circumference. The
additions of later times have made the interior plan of the church
rather confusing, and the ruinous state of the exterior gives one the
impression that a bombardment or an earthquake shock have rendered some
assistance in tumbling walls and ceilings to the ground.

All through the Middle Ages the Alyscamps was in high favour as a
burial-ground, and bodies from distant parts were brought to it for
interment, but its popularity declined somewhat after the removal of the
remains of St. Trophimus. At intervals there seemed to be a slight
revival, for we find that chapels were added to the original collection
of buildings as late as the seventeenth century, although before this
period the collector had been busy among the tombs, and Charles IX. (the
same monarch who consented to the massacre of St. Bartholomew’s day)
gave away many of the more beautiful of the sarcophagi to his friends
and intimates.

The vast field of tombs rapidly fell a prey to the vandal hands of
collectors, and one can readily understand that

[Illustration: ROMAN THEATRE, ARLES.]

[Illustration: S^{T}. HONORAT ARLES]

the large trade in stone coffins would make folk timid of patronising a
graveyard that was subject to such unholy raids. Much ground of the
Alyscamps has been turned over to the plough, and the railway company
has erected large repairing shops upon a portion of it near the Church
of St. Honorat. A number of the great massive tombs have, however, been
collected and placed at the foot of the tall poplars that line either
side of the avenue that leads from the ruined gateway of the cemetery to
the ancient church. Here and there other monuments and larger vaults
break the monotonous regularity of the long series of stone mausoleums,
but nothing can rob the Alyscamps of the mournful pathos of its history.

The Cathedral of St. Trophimus, which stands opposite the Museum, was
built in the twelfth century, and has a distinguished west portal. The
absolute plainness of the surrounding walls enhances the rich effect of
the deeply recessed arch which springs from the curious sculptured
frieze that forms the lintel of the door. On this porch the
characteristic ornamentations of the Greeks, Romans, and Gauls have all
been pressed into service without injury to one another, although the
spirit that animates the whole is mainly concerned in giving expression
to the Christian story.

The interior of the Cathedral is plain and simple after the elaborate
work of the porch. The nave is separated from the narrow aisles by
clustered pillars, which rise gracefully into lofty ogival vaults. The
effect is a trifle gloomy and severe, but age adds its charm to this
church, as it does to all the ancient buildings of Provence. The
cloisters of St. Trophimus are justly famous, and like those at
Montmajour and St. Paul’s at St. Remy, portions of them date from the
eleventh century. The capitals of the double columns supporting the
arcade in the cloisters at Arles are carved with religious subjects, so
that even in the hours of relaxation, when they were taking exercise,
the brothers had before their eyes, written in the stone, the story of
their faith–right up to date too, for the monster “Tarasque” which St.
Martha slew has not been overlooked, and on one of the capitals the
sculptor has done his best to perpetuate its terrible visage.

Arles has a past unique in the annals of France. Every great movement
that has taken place in the civilised world for the last two and a half
thousand years helped to mould and shape the town one sees to-day. Its
history of traditions reflects something of every period. The greatest,
perhaps, was its connection with the Emperor Constantine, who lived for
a period at the Palace, now ruined, which bears his name. His influence
and tolerance combined to unite, at Arles, Pagan and Christian arts and
religions. Everywhere one sees evidences of the fusion of the Greek and
Gaul, the Gallic-Greek with the Roman, and still more the grafting of
the new faith on to the old Pagan forms.

[Illustration: CONSTANTINE’S PALACE. ARLES]

The city, proud of its traditions, may not be as happy in its relations
with modern life and commerce as it was in the past with contemporary
activities. Marseilles has left it centuries behind in the march of
progress, and the great clumsy river-boats of the Rhone, that lie moored
to the banks at Arles, contrast unfavourably with the ocean liners that
crowd the harbours of the great seaport town. The Greek theatre and the
Roman amphitheatre, built during the Empire’s greatest prosperity, are
surrounded

[Illustration: DOORWAY. AT ARLES.]

with the earliest buildings and primitive arts of the revolutionary
Christianity.

Everywhere in the town one comes across bits of ancient carvings and
sculptures built into modern walls. Even the once palatial residence of
the first Christian Emperor, to whom the town owed much of its
prosperity, is to-day surrounded by humble buildings that thrust
themselves against it with irreverent familiarity.

In the Place Royale there stands a curious obelisk found in the ancient
Roman circus–a link with a still older civilisation. This Egyptian
column was discovered towards the end of the seventeenth century, but
was not placed in its present position till 1829.

It is only natural that Arles, which was probably the first town of any
importance in Gaul to receive the Gospel, should be rich in Christian
traditions and relics, and, if one can give credence to the legends of
the city, it was, in the first century, about thirty years at most after
the Crucifixion, closely in touch with the holy men and women, who are
reputed to have landed at the point where the desolate little village of
Les Saintes Maries still stands. This little town lies not more than
twenty miles from Arles, and although most coastlines alter their
contour and position in very short periods, geologists and scientists
have asserted that the regions of the Camargue have not sensibly changed
for twenty centuries. This fact, together with the recent discovery on
the Camargue of a tomb of the first century, and the inscription found
on the site of the Church of Les Maries, has somewhat revived belief in
the ancient legend that King René popularised when he altered the name
of the Church of St. Marie of the Boats, which dated from the sixth
century, to Les Maries.

The interest that attaches to Christian Arles is deepened when we dip
into the ancient traditions of the town. These old legends of the Saints
period and the stones of Arles all speak of them, and keep alive many
customs that a too prosaic common sense would soon allow to die.

Its population has diminished sadly since the Roman ramparts hemmed in
and fortified the town, but the narrow streets and tightly packed houses
seem hardly enough for the present population, which is barely one-third
of what it was in its palmy days. Its curious twisting streets form a
maze that is puzzling to the stranger, and the four principal places are
replete with bewildering entrances and exits. The Place du Forum is
small and almost modern, squeezed into the very heart of the town.

[Illustration: ARLES]

All that remains of the ancient forum are two pillars supporting a small
entablature, so damaged and shorn of detail as to suggest the art of
Egypt. In front of it stands the statue of Mistral, the poet of
Provence, who

[Illustration: A WELL AT ARLES.]

loved his country, its natural beauty, art, and legends with a passion
that only a native can understand. His patriotism swelled so within him
that he gave the Nobel prize of £4,000, awarded to him in 1904, to the
Museum founded by him in Arles. He sang his country’s praises in
hundreds of poems and verses, and many of them in the Provençal dialect.
He was an enthusiast, whose ardour increased with advancing years. His
statue stands in the busiest, or at least the most characteristic, part
of the ancient town.

What there is of life centres in the Forum, noisy with the stamping of
the fly-tormented cab horses, who stand round the little square waiting
to be hired. Two hotels, four or five cafés and bars, two hairdresser’s
shops, two newspaper and book shops, and one devoted to the sale of
antique curios, make up the Place du Forum. Although the traffic in the
town is small, it creates a deafening noise as it passes over the
cobble-stoned streets.

So familiar are the inhabitants with classic beauty, daily before their
eyes in dying monuments and living womenfolk, that they see no
incongruity in the statuettes of the “Venus of Arles” or other classic
figures being used by shopkeepers to illustrate the application of belts
and surgical appliances and even modern clothing. Extremes meet in
Arles; beauty and decay exist side by side; art and dirt ever did go
hand in hand; and the loveliest women in the whole of France, perhaps in
the world to-day, reek of the most obnoxious odour the nostril ever
encountered, the pungent smell of garlic.

Continue Reading

MONTMAJOUR

Montmajour, or Montmajor as it is often spelt, stands upon a rocky
elevation rising out of the extensive flat plain of La Crau. Its
situation is unique, and was selected away back in the time when the
lands surrounding it were covered with water, and the only means of
access was by boats or rafts. Although the antiquity of the site of the
monastery built upon this erstwhile island is undoubted, the exact date
of the Church and Chapel which constitute the older parts of the group
of buildings there to-day, have been the subject of much debate and
controversy.

For years, nay for centuries, the famous Chapel of the “Holy Cross” was
regarded as a building of the eighth century, the exact date of its
construction being A.D. 779. The authority given was a Latin inscription
now almost illegible, setting forth how the church was built and
dedicated by Charlemagne to commemorate his great victory over the
Saracens, and further recording that the rebuilding by him of the Abbey
of Montmajour was another token of gratitude. Another inscription (more
legible) reads, “Many of the Franks who perished in the combat repose in
the chapel of the Monastery…. Brothers, pray for them.” The
inscription refers, of course, to the Saracenic invasions of Provence
A.D. 732 and 797, the earlier one repulsed by Charles Martel, and the
latter by his grandson Charlemagne. This inscription has, however, to be
ignored and regarded as the work of zealous monks at a much later date,
anxious to add to the lustre of their monastery, and not too scrupulous
in accepting traditions which gave this chapel a celebrity and antiquity
wholly undeserved.

[Illustration: CHAPEL OF S^{TE} CROIX-EN-JERUSALEM.

MONTMAJOUR]

It was early in the last century that the pretensions of the
inscription received their death-blow by the discovery of a hitherto
unnoticed dedication on the pediment of the porch. The reliability of
this find seemed to be confirmed by an ancient charter which attributed
the erection of the building to the Abbé Rambert, and its consecration
too, some three years later. This date obtained right up to the end of
the last century, when expert opinion demonstrated, by external and
internal evidences, that although standing on the site of a much older
chapel, the present one was not erected until late in the twelfth or
early in the thirteenth century.

This little chapel stands about three hundred yards away from the main
buildings of the Abbey. The hard rock all around it is carved out into
long shallow graves, which, with the exception of one, on the sloping
ground near to the larger church of the Abbey, have been opened–that is
to say, the heavy slabs of stone that formerly covered them have been
removed and the bodies have disappeared. This pillage and desecration of
the last resting-places of the brothers of the Monastery was the work of
the revolutionary mobs from Arles, who, not content with rich plunder
obtained in the Monastery itself, sought for any jewels buried with the
dead.

The Chapel of the “Holy Cross” was the mortuary chapel to this cemetery
in the rocks, and the sacredness of the spot made such wide appeals to
the religious superstitions of the age that many distinguished knights
and nobles sought the honour of resting their bones in the enduring
tombs cut in the hallowed rocks of Montmajour. The chapel is built in
the shape of a cross with equal arms, the ends apsidal, buttressed, and
half-vaulted. The square central tower is surmounted by a tiny cupola
immediately above a small bell-lantern tower. The chapel has but three
small windows, intended more to allow the light that was always kept
burning inside the chapel to shed its rays upon the graveyard outside
than to light the interior.

There are differences of opinion as to the original object of the
chapel, but it seems more than probable that the lantern in the roof was
designed to contain the beacon which it was the custom in the Middle
Ages to keep burning at night in memory of the dead.

There is no sculptured ornament in the interior of the chapel. The walls
are severely plain, but they doubtless were at one time covered with
Byzantine frescoes, in harmony with the general architectural style of
this building which stands in isolated dignity upon the rock above the
meres.

[Illustration: MONTMAJOUR.]

The Abbey of Montmajour, now in a ruined state, was in the Middle Ages a
“Benedictine” establishment of great importance and influence, with a
reputation for sanctity that drew thousands of pilgrims annually from
all parts of the world, across the shallow lagoons in boats and on
rafts, the only means of reaching it, until well on into the
seventeenth century. The work of draining La Crau began in the sixteenth
century, and gradually converted the swamp into a fertile plain; but
even as late as the eighteenth century the faithful had to make a part
of their pilgrimage by boat. The Abbey retained its great reputation,
and increased its power during the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth
centuries, and the lofty modern buildings of the seventeenth century
testify to the wealth and ambition of the Order at that time. It,
however, suffered a gradual decline after the issue of an order of Louis
XVI., confirmed by Rome, suppressing its powers. This was only about
three years before the outbreak of the Revolution, which ended for ever
the long monastic career of Montmajour.

The approach to the Abbey, across rich low-lying meadows, dotted with
feathery trees, is romantic and full of charm, and the ancient buildings
stand out like a feudal castle, in strong relief against the sky or
distant hills, according to the direction from which it is approached. A
castle strongly fortified, for the machicolated tower built in the
fourteenth century rises from the most elevated portion of the rock to a
height of nearly ninety feet.

The older parts of the chapel or church, like the buildings at Les Baux,
are for the most part cut out of the solid rock. The earliest part of
the building is hewn in this manner, and in the lowest recesses of the
subterranean church there is a small cell about four and a half feet by
two feet, carved crudely out of the rocks, and containing a massive
stone seat. A small square hole cut in the wall serves to let a stream
of light into this tiny cell, which is known as the Confessional of St.
Trophimus, the apostle of Provence. This cell is at the end of a series
of narrow caves, one of which constitutes the sanctuary, the other
contains two tombs excavated in the rock near its face. The small arched
windows in the masonry which forms one side of these underground chapels
admit the bright light of day, and from them the occupants of the little
sanctuary or vestibule could obtain a magnificent view of the distant
countryside. As the vestibule was used by the brothers when waiting
their turn at the Confessional, these windows would serve to relieve the
monotony of many a tedious hour.

The crypt of the Church of the Monastery is sepulchral and gloomy.
Instead of a staircase a long passage descends with a gentle slope from
the west end of the church above, and leads to the underground chapel,
the reason assigned to this method of entrance being that it allowed of
elaborate processions passing from the ancient to the modern building
with effective decorum. At the end of this long passage there is a
spherically vaulted gallery with seven smaller chapels radiating from
it. A massive altar of great antiquity stands in the middle of the
centre chapel. Entirely free from all rich decoration, the whole place
reeks of the dark ages, a fitting symbol of a period when art was
struggling towards a new expression.

[Illustration: THE MONASTERY. MONTMAJOUR]

The crypt was probably built in the ninth or tenth century, and rebuilt
by the Abbé Rambart towards the end of the eleventh. The church above
was started by the same abbot, but was never finished according to the
original plan, for the west front is a hurried piece of construction
evidently intended to serve until some future date when the Abbey
banking account should be in a sufficiently flourishing state to give an
imposing finish to the building.

The tower of the Monastery, which gives it the appearance of a fortress,
was built in the middle of the fourteenth century, and possesses all the
characteristics of the most advanced military architecture of the
period. Its walls are built of smaller blocks of stone than is usual in
similar buildings of that time. The great hall on the ground floor was
used by the inhabitants of the Monastery as a storehouse, containing
also a cistern into which the water was collected from the roofs, the
overflow finding its way into exterior reservoirs.

The most modern part of the Monastery is to-day in the hands of private
owners, but in such a dilapidated condition that it is almost unsafe to
venture among its tottering walls. These buildings, erected during a
period of the institution’s greatest prosperity, suffered more at the
Revolution than the older parts of the Abbey. If the florid
eighteenth-century buildings were all removed, they would be little loss
to the place from an architectural point of view, for their features
strike a discordant note among the simple early Gothic surroundings.

The cloisters of Montmajour are not very unlike those of St. Trophimus
at Arles, and if the pillars and capitals of the arcade are less
interesting in detail than those of the more famous cloisters, they have
a more pleasing and less confusing effect in the mass. Round the walls
there are several very beautiful tombs with a variety of early styles of
arched canopies–pointed, round, and inflected.

Amongst these is the tomb of Geoffrey VI., a Count of Provence, who died
in 1063. He was a generous patron and friend to the Monastery, and in
the eleventh century conceded, along with other rights, the privilege of
claiming the first sturgeon which should be caught in the river between
Mourrade de Bourques and the sea. This typically feudal privilege was,
until the Revolution, enforced more by way of custom latterly, and a
great procession of holiday-making fishermen, with bands playing and
banners flying, accompanied by innumerable sightseers, came on rafts and
in boats to the Abbey with their offering. Masses were celebrated for
the soul of the good Count, a handsome pourboire given to the fishermen,
the sturgeon cooked and placed upon the already groaning

[Illustration: THE MONASTERY. AT MONTMAJOUR.]

board of the epicurean brothers, and everybody was contented and happy.

[Illustration: NEAR MONTMAJOUR.]

The Benedictine Monastery of Montmajour enjoyed so many other privileges
and bequests that it grew to be one of the richest and most powerful in
the whole of France. No wonder the laity were keen to swell its holy
ranks and enjoy its privileged security and bountiful board, its
immunity from taxation and public service. The amazing contrast to the
luxury of the Abbey’s latter days is the legend of the poverty and
homelessness of those for whom it was founded.

The story runs, or, as the troubadours say, it is told and said and
related, that when Villegis, King of the Goths, who had already
dispossessed the Romans of Arles of their last colony in Gaul,
surrendered to the Frankish conqueror Childebert, the latter, hunting
one day over his newly-acquired territory in the vicinity of Arles, met
with some hermits on a lonely mountain-side whose piety and poverty so
touched the victorious barbaric King that he founded for them the
Monastery of Montmajour.

Continue Reading

LES BAUX

The little chain of rugged hills with fantastic contours, which breaks
away from the great Alpine range and juts into the peaceful valley of
the Rhone, is called “Les Alpilles,” or little Alps. On the south side
of this small mountain chain, upon cliffs that stand almost isolated
from the main group, lie the ruins of the ancient Provençal town of Les
Baux.

The approach to this extraordinary place from over the mountain chain is
full of interest and surprises, if one starts out from St. Remy, which
lies well over to the north. The ascent by the winding road that curves
and twists round the great hills is a fitting preparation for the
scenery that lies to the south, for the distant hilltops are crowned
with great rocks, carved and chiselled by nature into such shapes that
the eye continually mistakes them for buildings erected by the hands of
men.

The tall cypress-trees that in the plains spire up into the sky
disappear as one ascends, and few shrubs or trees clothe the bald
hillside. Wild thyme and lavender betray their presence by the fragrance
of their perfume. Rabbits burrow amongst the undergrowth; hawks hover
high overhead, and with keen, penetrating vision sweep the rugged
landscape in search of prey. Few other signs of life disturb the quiet
of the lonely hills.

[Illustration: LES BAUX]

From the crest of the chain, just before the descent into the great
plains of La Crau, a weird scene breaks upon the eye. A valley of rocks,
so fantastic, so unearthly, that one can easily credit the Provençal
poet Mistral’s belief that it was here that Dante got the inspiration
for his graphic description of the topography of the infernal regions.
It is a valley of death, of ghosts of skeletons, rocks naked and gaunt,
altogether baffling description.

[Illustration: THE CASTLE LES BAUX]

As the limestone of which these rocks are composed is admirable for
building purposes, quarrymen have been at work upon the scene, and the
great square doorways, or openings, cut into the grotesque formless
masses accentuate the unreality of this spot. One could imagine it
inhabited by strange monsters of human shape bereft of man’s feelings
and emotions. But the wild mysterious grandeur of the valley
constitutes only half the astoundingness of the place. For on a great
precipitous rock, at the end of it, stands the town of Les Baux,
half-built, half-excavated, more than half-ruined, a strange confusion
of man’s and nature’s architecture. Above the town, which is carved and
built upon a plateau half-way up this mountain rock, a castle rears its
ruined towers.

This gaunt fortress looks right over the great, flat plain of La Crau to
the distant blue waters of the Mediterranean, over to the lands about
fifty miles distant upon which one of the world’s most decisive battles
was fought, when Marius with his legions laid 200,000 Ambrones dead upon
the field.

The great plateau of La Crau has undergone much change since Roman
times. In the fifteenth century a canal was dug across its arid surface,
and lands that were once marshy swamps and barren stony ground are
gradually yielding to the persuasive hand of the agriculturist, and
producing rich harvests of grapes and olives, mulberries, and almonds.

In the Middle Ages this stronghold of Les Baux was the capital of one of
the most powerful lordships in the whole county of Provence, and the
independent sovereignty of its rulers was unquestioned by neighbouring
and distant nobles alike. It was an important and celebrated town, its
name familiar wherever the minstrel sang his song or the troubadour his
lay. Its population mustered more than four thousand strong; but that
was long ago, in the days when a highway connected it with Orgon and
Arles. Year by year, ever since this was abandoned, the town’s
prosperity has declined; its churches, convents, and castle have lost
heart, for their inhabitants have fled. The wind howls through its
abandoned ramparts, and the sun’s rays penetrate into once gloomy
dungeons. Yesterday four hundred souls possessed the town; to-day there
are scarce a hundred who find shelter among its ruins; to-morrow Nature
will again take possession, and man’s architectural efforts will have
crumbled away.

Throughout all the many changes that Provence has experienced in its
rulers, the ancient family of Des Baux clung tenaciously to their rock
fortress, and their name was held in high esteem. Their coat of arms, a
star with sixteen rays, can still be seen along with several others
within the ruined Chapel of St. Claude. It occurs also in other parts of
Provence, and typifies the proud claim of the Des Baux to a direct
descent from one of the Kings who, guided by a star, came from the East
to lay rich gifts before the Infant Christ lying in the manger at
Bethlehem. The descendants of the Oriental King, proud of their origin,
added to their titles of Princes of Baux those of Princes of Orange,
Viscounts of Marseilles, Counts of Provence, Kings of Arles and Vienne,
Seneschals of Piedmont, Podestas of Milan, Counts of Milan, along with
many others.

To follow the fortunes of the Des Baux family, the feudal chiefs of the
surrounding country, is to dip deep into the history of Provence, for
their names are constantly cropping up over divisions of land and
inheritance by marriage with neighbouring and distant families. Suffice
it to say that from the time of Count Leibulfe, who founded the house
and lived probably in the eighth century, to that of Honoré Camille de
Grimaldi, from whom the marquisate of Baux was taken by force during the
Revolution, its princes have been related to nearly every great family
in Europe. The Château, which has resisted many a siege, is of almost
monolithic construction; its ramparts, towers, staircases, banqueting
halls carved out of the rocks. The builders have made use of the natural
foundations, and the result of the natural and artificial construction
is one of the most fantastic castles that ever existed.

[Illustration: Church at Château. Renard.]

When René succeeded to the Barony of Baux the town was in a thriving
condition, and in 1444 he set about putting the castle, much battered by
successive sieges, into repair, restoring the ramparts and towers; and,
internally furnishing it with all the resources the period could
command, made it over to his second wife Jean de Laval for her lifetime.
Old King René, artist, poet, and musician, found in Baux an ideal spot
after his own heart. For nearly three centuries Baux had been a
favourite rallying-place for the Troubadours and the ancient “Court of
Love.”

The records of the numerous wars and forays in which the Lords of Baux
and their retainers were engaged have not, however, aroused the curious
interest of later times so much as have the town’s romantic associations
with the literature of the dark ages, written in the dialect of the
Langue d’Oc, better known as Provençal.

This language, which still lingers in the South of France, arose
gradually out of the corrupted Roman dialects of the first centuries,
throughout the colonies occupied by the conquering Empire of the West.
The particular variety of dialect known as Provençal gained a wider
celebrity than that spoken in Iberia, or in the districts north of the
Loire. It was developed from the old Romance language, and about the
eleventh or twelfth century was extensively in vogue among the cultured
classes throughout Europe.

A crop of poets sprang up in amazing profusion in the valley of the
Rhone, and all who had pretensions to learning and refinement wrote in
the language of Romance until well on into the fifteenth century, when a
decay set in and other languages developed into more permanent and
literary forms. The Provençal language, with its smooth and pleasant
sounds, seemed eminently adapted to the feelings and voluptuous thoughts
of a people who delighted in song, music, and the dance.

[Illustration: DAUDET’S WIND·MILL.]

The Troubadours, or finders (inventors), sprang from all classes of the
people, and the admiration which was accorded their productions,
combined with the flattery and praise bestowed upon the authors, tended
to awaken latent vanity and draw thousands into the field of poetry.
Princes and Knights, the aristocracy of the country, entered into this
domain; and lays, thousands of verses long, recounted the adventures of
the Brave Knights who fought for the Cross, and incidentally for
themselves, against Saracens and Turks. The lack of any other
literature, unless among a few obscure monastic students, gave a great
impetus to these lays, written by the Troubadours and sung sometimes by
themselves, but more often by the strolling minstrel who learnt by heart
the long-winded romances.

Of a lower order were the Jongleurs, who entertained the Lords and
Ladies in their great halls in winter, and in the courts and gardens in
the summer months. They were tumblers and acrobats, who practised every
kind of antic and contortion to amuse audiences who knew neither theatre
nor music-hall.

An old romance relates how one of these Jongleurs, fallen upon evil
days, sought refuge in a monastery, where he assumed the cowl.
Distressed at his inability to render the Holy Virgin sacred service,
and worried lest this might be discovered by the inmates of the convent
and lead to his dismissal, at last, in all humility, he betook himself
into a vault at the hour when the monks were engaged in their devotions.
Here, in front of the statue of the Blessed Virgin, divesting himself of
hooded gown, he went through a series of

[Illustration: A STREET IN CHATEAU. RENARD]

antics and contortions with such determination and fanatic zeal, that at
last he fell in a fainting condition upon the hard cold floor. When he
recovered, he rejoined the brethren in the refectory and partook of
food, which he ate tremblingly and with sore misgivings. The poor
tumbler continued his eccentric devotions at matins and vespers daily,
always in fear that the Abbot should discover his strange worship and
insist upon some more becoming form of service beyond his power to
render. The Abbot and brothers, anxious to know the “why and wherefore”
of the tumbler’s daily visit to the lonely crypt, concealed themselves
to witness his devotions. The astonishment they felt on observing his
extraordinary method of doing homage to the Queen of Heaven was further
increased when they beheld the glorious Lady, crowned and clothed in
shining raiment, accompanied by the angelic hosts, descend from the roof
and minister with loving care to the unconscious acrobat. The unearthly
visitors vanished when the exhausted tumbler revived, and he returned to
his cell, equally unconscious of the heavenly ministrations and the
espionage of his brethren. The story goes on to relate, in the sequel,
how the Abbot honoured the tumbler ever after, admitted him as a
perpetual brother to the monastery, recognised the efficacy of his
worship, and pointed out to those whose sense of religious propriety was
shocked when the story of the tumbler’s carryings on leaked out, that
the true spirit of religious service was of more account than its
method.

This romance throws a little ray of light on some aspects of life in the
Middle Ages, but there are many more, less elevated in sentiment, which
depict the curious conception of chivalry, religion, superstition, and
love common at a period when society was emerging from the darkest age
that Europe has experienced since the advent of civilisation.

The literature and traditions of the Troubadours is extensive, and the
lives of nearly one hundred and fifty of them have been written. Nearly
every king and great prince in the Middle Ages had a troubadour attached
to his court. Richard Cœur de Lion, who had pretensions to poetry
himself, patronised and encouraged some of the most famous of the
fraternity, such as Arnaud, Daniel, Vidal, and Flouquet of Marseilles.
The Princes of Baux were most enthusiastic patrons of the poetic
brotherhood, the tourney, the joust, and that most curious pastime of
the age, the “Court of Love.”

[Illustration: The. Pavilion of Queen Jeanne. Les. Baux]

These parliaments of Love, which were the outcome of the cult of
gallantry, flourished in Provence, and particularly in the romantic town
of Les Baux. The walled “Court of Queen Jeanne,” as it is called, can
still be seen in the valley, and a very beautiful little pavilion of
Renaissance architecture adorns the spot. In this tribunal women were
the only judges and reigned supreme. Troubadours came from all parts to
extol the beauty of their mistresses, and put nice points relating to
the etiquette of gallantry before the Court. Contesting parties argued
out these impossible subtleties with grave seriousness, and the pedantic
ingenuity of the Council and Court was exercised to determine imaginary
cases, in which bright glances, stolen kisses, and furtive
hand-squeezings constituted the most important evidence.

Another part of the diversion offered at these gatherings was the
recital by the princely troubadours of their songs, to the accompaniment
of the viol and guitar, played by themselves or by the jongleurs. It was
at this court that Guillaume de Cabestan sang the praises of the
Princess Bérengère, wife of Lord des Baux, and those of her
sister-in-law, Tricline Carbonnelle. These songs are largely concerned
with the adventures of princes and knights in the domains of Love and
War, and descriptions and histories of violent passions, to which the
warm-blooded peoples of the South were peculiarly subject. So obsessed
were these early poets with the fascination of the greater passions
that one can hardly wonder at some of the fantastic turns their songs
and stories took. Most of them have failed to stand the test of time;
their affectations and pedantic unreality failing utterly to reflect
natural feelings and spontaneous emotions.

The strange relationship that grew up between the troubadours and the
great ladies to whom they offered their platonic admiration and regard,
is sufficient to brand many of the lays with the stamp of insincerity.
Each troubadour was, by a sort of unwritten code, bound to choose some
lady-love; it did not matter if she were married–indeed, she generally
was–and to this divinity, were she fair, fat, or ugly, he offered lays
and songs that praised her beauty in extravagant terms.

As the troubadour was generally dependent on the patronage of the great
for his bread, it was common to select the wife of his patron for this
high honour. Doubtless if the troubadour were of humble or lowly origin,
the difference of his estate from that of the object of his poetic
worship would prevent any undue familiarity being encouraged, although
many of the earlier love-songs of the troubadours affect a deep and
“love-at-a-distance” kind of worship of the fair divinity. There are
many stories told by the troubadours themselves that unblushingly
proclaim that the relationships existing between worshipper and
worshipped were such as to disturb domestic peace; but when outraged
husbands wreaked their just wrath upon these sighing swains, the
sympathy of the narrator of the story is invariably on the side of the
author of the trouble.

One of the best known of these tales is as follows: Guillaume de
Cabestan, before mentioned, made love in troubadour fashion to the wife
of Raymond de Seillans. Raymond, doubtless, saw more in the attachment
than he thought consistent with his honour, and to revenge himself upon
the guilty lovers, he slew the poet, tore out his heart and had it
cooked and served up for dinner. After his unsuspecting spouse had eaten
of the dish, and he had made known to her the loathsome nature of her
repast, the lady lost her reason and threw herself from a window on to
the rocks below.

The Castle of Baux is now a crumbling mass of ruins. Every year sees
additions to the collection of fallen boulders that lie like tumbled
giants on the sloping terrace below.

The only chapel still in use, the best-preserved building

[Illustration: MONTMAJOUR.]

in the dismantled town, is dedicated to St. Vincent, the patron saint of
Les Baux. It has a central nave flanked by two side aisles of unequal
proportions and different dates, and of these the more ancient, to the
right of the entrance, has little side chapels, cut out of the rock
which forms the south side of the edifice.

[Illustration: THE CHURCH LES BAUX]

Towards the end of the last century, for unexplained reasons,
excavations were made in the crypt of the church, and several of the
heavy slabs of stone that covered tombs were raised. Bodies, clad in
rich garments, in a perfect state of preservation, were discovered,
which, however, crumbled away on being handled and exposed to the air.
All that remained were the long tresses of golden hair that belonged to
a young girl, supposed to have been one of the princesses of Baux, whose
wonderful beauty had long ago incited the troubadours to eulogy.

The value of this find was quickly appreciated by the keeper of the
languishing little hotel that stands in the “Place Fortin.” He obtained
possession of the “Golden Tresses,” and, with an eye to business,
altered the name of his hostelry to “A la Chevelure d’Or,” and exhibited
the relic to his customers. After this curious relic was recovered by
Mistral and lodged in the Museum which he founded in Arles, the sign of
the hotel was changed to “The Hôtel Monaco,” a name obviously suggested
by the connection of the town with the Grimaldi family, who were
presented with the marquisate of Les Baux by Louis XIII. in 1642. But
change and decay is the keynote of Les Baux; the name has again altered
with the declining fortunes of the town, and, as if in mockery of the
destitution and poverty that lie around it on all sides, the sign upon
the weather-beaten walls of the neglected hotel reads “Hôtel de
MONTE-CARLO.”

[Illustration: The MANSION of The MANVILLES LES BAUX.]

An old man upon whose hatband the word “Guide” is with difficulty
discerned, one or two stray hungry-looking dogs, a few wild-looking
fowls, the Hôtel Proprietaire, and innumerable flies constitute the
crowd who forgather daily in the most popular resort of the town. The
arrival of a traveller awakens but mild excitement in Les Baux. Two
human hearts may beat a little quicker in the hopes of gain. The dogs
sniff round the stranger with bewildered curiosity, and the flies buzz
gleefully on discovering a new victim to torment. The guide (and a guide
who knows the place is necessary to the stranger), bent with age, is
quite in harmony with the surroundings. With a pathetic humour he leads
his clients up the “Grande Rue,” and tells them, with a smile, that it
is not like the “Cannebière” at Marseilles, for the only café in Les
Baux is the Hôtel de Monte-Carlo.

At every step he points to some ruined doorway with fine carving of the
seventeenth century; windows with beautifully moulded mullions and
inscriptions; houses once inhabited by noble families whose fame still
survives. At every turning, in front of every doorway, in the ancient
chapel, in the roofless convent of the White Penitents, at the cemetery
and the Château, the old man shakes his head and croons to himself in a
voice ineffably sad, “Ah! Les Baux!” Nearly every house in the town is,
in some part, hewn out of the rocks, and what carving and masonry they
possess is generally on their fronts and gables. The

[Illustration: A WINDOW AT LES. BAUX.]

kitchens and cellars are excavated in the rocks. The ruins of the Chapel
of St. Catharine show still the remains of the architecture of the
thirteenth century, but the other four churches that once ministered to
the religious population contain only vestiges of their former style.

Of the larger mansions of the town, the most important is that of the
“Hôtel de Manvilles,” at the end of the Grande Rue, a
fifteenth-to-sixteenth-century building, the chief features of which are
the beautiful windows, framed in with delicate classic pilasters,
supporting entablatures composed of simple and dignified mouldings. On
one of the wings of the building the inscription “Post Tenebras Lux
1571,” on the frieze over a window of great beauty, recalls that Claud
II., one of the counts of this house, espoused, at the instigation of
his Protestant wife, the cause of the party at the Reformation.

The mansion of the Porcelets, near by the Church of St. Vincent, has
been restored, and, after being an orphanage, is now the school for the
handful of children who have had the misfortune to be born amidst these
melancholy surroundings. Few of them will remain in their native town
after they have grown up, and one would imagine that the memories they
will carry away with them of their early days will seem like some
fantastic dream. The Porcelet family were of the highest social rank in
the fourteenth century, and they were also very numerous. These were the
first nobles of the town of Arles and Marquises of Maillane, friends of
King René, and the object of his satire.

Regarding the origin of their name, there is a legend that relates in
detail how a haughty dame of this family flouted and taunted a poor
beggar-woman with having a family too large for a person in her
miserable condition to maintain. The woman was, so the story says,
really a fairy in disguise, who laid a spell on the high-born dame,
condemning her to give birth to as many children as a sow, which
happened to be near by, should bring forth little pigs. In time the sow
had a litter of nine, and when the great dame had, in the course of
time, a family equally large the people nicknamed them Porcelets, a name
that stuck to them ever after.

These legends of the past, when recounted on the spot, have a
fascination that is enhanced by the romantic surroundings.

One stumbles upon curious reminders of feudal customs, such as the deep
narrow cisterns which received a tithe of all the wine made in the
district under the manorial sway of the Des Baux.

Across the wide valley, to the westward, the rocks tower one above the
other and form the hill of Costa Pera. Time and the elements have worn
its face into crevices and wrinkles and honeycombed it with innumerable
caves. Midway up the cliff, there appears a deep hollow which at first
might be mistaken for a well. It is, however, the entrance to a series
of large caverns, that locally go by the name of the Grotto of the
Fairies. Here in the very heart of the rock, cut and worn into weird and
fantastic shapes, are halls, passages, and declivities, twistings and
windings, amongst which the imagination runs riot and calls up the
visions of strange, elfish, unearthly forms to people the uncanny
surroundings.

One can easily comprehend that this grotto became the foundation for
grotesque legends, and how it might readily acquire a reputation for
being the abode of witches who guarded jealously a she-goat made of
solid gold, which was bound to bring fortune and prosperity of every
conceivable kind to the mortal fortunate and daring enough to carry off
the precious curiosity. There are no limits to the phantasms that the
mind’s eye can see in the deep, mysterious recesses, according to its
mood or to the state of the owner’s digestion.

Les Baux has many curious legends and traditions, some of them based
upon actual experiences, slightly exaggerated, and others the effects
of the unaided imagination. Of the latter class, a very beautiful one,
that has formed the subject of many poems, records the death of the last
of the noble house of Des Baux. When the Princess Alix was on her
death-bed, the star which had guided her remote ancestor to Bethlehem’s
manger shone with its last flash of splendour through the window on the
fading princess, and at the moment her soul passed away, the light,
which for a thousand years had been the beacon of this illustrious
family, went out for ever.

[Illustration: On the road to Montmajour]

On the heights above the Grotto of the Fairies are the remains of the
ancient Roman Camp built by the army of Marius, and within its enclosure
the upper casing walls of a cistern remain intact. The remains of
another camp of Marius, which still goes by his name, lie on the hills
that overlook the town from the north. The impregnable nature of these
positions on the hills around Les Baux thus early singled them out for
occupation in times of war and danger, and, when the Phocean colonists
of Arles were driven from their city by the Visigoths, led by Euric, in
the fifth century, they found a refuge on these austere mountain slopes.

Two relics of the Roman times, that have aroused much discussion, stand
at the foot of the powdery cliffs of Baux. One of these is a huge block
of greenish sandstone, about twenty feet high, which has fallen from the
heights above. For years, the three life-size figures that are
sculptured on this stone were regarded in the country as representing
the three Saints, Marie, Martha, and their black servant Sara, whose
bodies were alleged to lie in the church by the sea at Les Maries. About
the middle of last century a tiny chapel, erected in front of the carved
monolith, was dedicated to the three Marys, and called “Les Tremaie.” On
close examination, it is discovered that the figures are dressed in
Roman garments, and although much mutilated and corroded by the weather,
they are unmistakable Roman work of either the first century before or
after the Christian Era. Below the figures is an inscription which is
undecipherable, containing only the characters

F. CALDUS

AE . POSUIT . P…..

The opinion of experts to-day is practically unanimous in making the
three figures represent Caius Marius, Julia Marii, his wife, and Martha,
the Syrian prophetess who accompanied them, and was carried about in a
litter throughout the campaign. If these deductions are correct, it
fixes the date of the monument somewhere about 100 B.C., and gives
further proof of the antiquity of Les Baux.

[Illustration: THE POSTERN

LES BAUX]

The other Roman monument lies at a little distance, and although smaller
is almost as interesting. It has attracted the attention of curious
archæological investigators, who have deduced a variety of origins for
this stone; some making it an ancient sacrificial altar, others a simple
monument to a man and his wife, probably Caius Marius and Julia.

Les Baux has finished its brilliant career, and it seems fitting that
its castle, churches, convents, and mansions should crumble and mingle
with the dust of centuries, vanishing from man’s sight along with the
jousts and tourneys, “Courts of Love,” gorgeous processions, Saints’ day
celebrations, picturesque midnight masses, and all the showy properties
of its once romantic stage.

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