Notre-Dame De Paris
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A few years ago, while visiting or, rather, rummaging about Notre-Dame, the author of this book found, in an obscure nook of one of the towers, the following word, engraved by hand upon the wall:


Publié par
Date de parution 27 septembre 2010
Nombre de lectures 25
EAN13 9782819922759
Langue English

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A few years ago, while visiting or, rather, rummaging aboutNotre–Dame, the author of this book found, in an obscure nook ofone of the towers, the following word, engraved by hand upon thewall:—
These Greek capitals, black with age, and quite deeply graven inthe stone, with I know not what signs peculiar to Gothic caligraphyimprinted upon their forms and upon their attitudes, as though withthe purpose of revealing that it had been a hand of the Middle Ageswhich had inscribed them there, and especially the fatal andmelancholy meaning contained in them, struck the author deeply.
He questioned himself; he sought to divine who could have beenthat soul in torment which had not been willing to quit this worldwithout leaving this stigma of crime or unhappiness upon the browof the ancient church.
Afterwards, the wall was whitewashed or scraped down, I know notwhich, and the inscription disappeared. For it is thus that peoplehave been in the habit of proceeding with the marvellous churchesof the Middle Ages for the last two hundred years. Mutilations cometo them from every quarter, from within as well as from without.The priest whitewashes them, the archdeacon scrapes them down; thenthe populace arrives and demolishes them.
Thus, with the exception of the fragile memory which the authorof this book here consecrates to it, there remains to–day nothingwhatever of the mysterious word engraved within the gloomy tower ofNotre–Dame,—nothing of the destiny which it so sadly summed up. Theman who wrote that word upon the wall disappeared from the midst ofthe generations of man many centuries ago; the word, in its turn,has been effaced from the wall of the church; the church will,perhaps, itself soon disappear from the face of the earth.
It is upon this word that this book is founded.
March, 1831.
Three hundred and forty–eight years, six months, and nineteendays ago to–day, the Parisians awoke to the sound of all the bellsin the triple circuit of the city, the university, and the townringing a full peal.
The sixth of January, 1482, is not, however, a day of whichhistory has preserved the memory. There was nothing notable in theevent which thus set the bells and the bourgeois of Paris in aferment from early morning. It was neither an assault by thePicards nor the Burgundians, nor a hunt led along in procession,nor a revolt of scholars in the town of Laas, nor an entry of "ourmuch dread lord, monsieur the king," nor even a pretty hanging ofmale and female thieves by the courts of Paris. Neither was it thearrival, so frequent in the fifteenth century, of some plumed andbedizened embassy. It was barely two days since the last cavalcadeof that nature, that of the Flemish ambassadors charged withconcluding the marriage between the dauphin and Marguerite ofFlanders, had made its entry into Paris, to the great annoyance ofM. le Cardinal de Bourbon, who, for the sake of pleasing the king,had been obliged to assume an amiable mien towards this wholerustic rabble of Flemish burgomasters, and to regale them at hisHôtel de Bourbon, with a very "pretty morality, allegorical satire,and farce," while a driving rain drenched the magnificenttapestries at his door.
What put the "whole population of Paris in commotion," as Jehande Troyes expresses it, on the sixth of January, was the doublesolemnity, united from time immemorial, of the Epiphany and theFeast of Fools.
On that day, there was to be a bonfire on the Place de Grève, amaypole at the Chapelle de Braque, and a mystery at the Palais deJustice. It had been cried, to the sound of the trumpet, thepreceding evening at all the cross roads, by the provost's men,clad in handsome, short, sleeveless coats of violet camelot, withlarge white crosses upon their breasts.
So the crowd of citizens, male and female, having closed theirhouses and shops, thronged from every direction, at early morn,towards some one of the three spots designated.
Each had made his choice; one, the bonfire; another, themaypole; another, the mystery play. It must be stated, in honor ofthe good sense of the loungers of Paris, that the greater part ofthis crowd directed their steps towards the bonfire, which wasquite in season, or towards the mystery play, which was to bepresented in the grand hall of the Palais de Justice (the courts oflaw), which was well roofed and walled; and that the curious leftthe poor, scantily flowered maypole to shiver all alone beneath thesky of January, in the cemetery of the Chapel of Braque.
The populace thronged the avenues of the law courts inparticular, because they knew that the Flemish ambassadors, who hadarrived two days previously, intended to be present at therepresentation of the mystery, and at the election of the Pope ofthe Fools, which was also to take place in the grand hall.
It was no easy matter on that day, to force one's way into thatgrand hall, although it was then reputed to be the largest coveredenclosure in the world (it is true that Sauval had not yet measuredthe grand hall of the Château of Montargis). The palace place,encumbered with people, offered to the curious gazers at thewindows the aspect of a sea; into which five or six streets, likeso many mouths of rivers, discharged every moment fresh floods ofheads. The waves of this crowd, augmented incessantly, dashedagainst the angles of the houses which projected here and there,like so many promontories, into the irregular basin of the place.In the centre of the lofty Gothic [1] façade of thepalace, the grand staircase, incessantly ascended and descended bya double current, which, after parting on the intermediatelanding–place, flowed in broad waves along its lateral slopes,—thegrand staircase, I say, trickled incessantly into the place, like acascade into a lake. The cries, the laughter, the trampling ofthose thousands of feet, produced a great noise and a great clamor.From time to time, this noise and clamor redoubled; the currentwhich drove the crowd towards the grand staircase flowed backwards,became troubled, formed whirlpools. This was produced by the buffetof an archer, or the horse of one of the provost's sergeants, whichkicked to restore order; an admirable tradition which theprovostship has bequeathed to the constablery, the constablery tothe maréchaussée , the maréchaussée to our gendarmeri of Paris.
Thousands of good, calm, bourgeois faces thronged the windows,the doors, the dormer windows, the roofs, gazing at the palace,gazing at the populace, and asking nothing more; for many Parisianscontent themselves with the spectacle of the spectators, and a wallbehind which something is going on becomes at once, for us, a verycurious thing indeed.
If it could be granted to us, the men of 1830, to mingle inthought with those Parisians of the fifteenth century, and to enterwith them, jostled, elbowed, pulled about, into that immense hallof the palace, which was so cramped on that sixth of January, 1482,the spectacle would not be devoid of either interest or charm, andwe should have about us only things that were so old that theywould seem new.
With the reader's consent, we will endeavor to retrace inthought, the impression which he would have experienced in companywith us on crossing the threshold of that grand hall, in the midstof that tumultuous crowd in surcoats, short, sleeveless jackets,and doublets.
And, first of all, there is a buzzing in the ears, a dazzlementin the eyes. Above our heads is a double ogive vault, panelled withwood carving, painted azure, and sown with golden fleurs–de–lis;beneath our feet a pavement of black and white marble, alternating.A few paces distant, an enormous pillar, then another, thenanother; seven pillars in all, down the length of the hall,sustaining the spring of the arches of the double vault, in thecentre of its width. Around four of the pillars, stalls ofmerchants, all sparkling with glass and tinsel; around the lastthree, benches of oak, worn and polished by the trunk hose of thelitigants, and the robes of the attorneys. Around the hall, alongthe lofty wall, between the doors, between the windows, between thepillars, the interminable row of all the kings of France, fromPharamond down: the lazy kings, with pendent arms and downcasteyes; the valiant and combative kings, with heads and arms raisedboldly heavenward. Then in the long, pointed windows, glass of athousand hues; at the wide entrances to the hall, rich doors,finely sculptured; and all, the vaults, pillars, walls, jambs,panelling, doors, statues, covered from top to bottom with asplendid blue and gold illumination, which, a trifle tarnished atthe epoch when we behold it, had almost entirely disappearedbeneath dust and spiders in the year of grace, 1549, when du Breulstill admired it from tradition.
Let the reader picture to himself now, this immense, oblonghall, illuminated by the pallid light of a January day, invaded bya motley and noisy throng which drifts along the walls, and eddiesround the seven pillars, and he will have a confused idea of thewhole effect of the picture, whose curious details we shall make aneffort to indicate with more precision.
It is certain, that if Ravaillac had not assassinated Henri IV.,there would have been no documents in the trial of Ravaillacdeposited in the clerk's office of the Palais de Justice, noaccomplices interested in causing the said documents to disappear;hence, no incendiaries obliged, for lack of better means, to burnthe clerk's office in order to burn the documents, and to burn thePalais de Justice in order to burn the clerk's office;consequently, in short, no conflagration in 1618. The old Palaiswould be standing still, with its ancient grand hall; I should beable to say to the reader, "Go and look at it," and we should thusboth escape the necessity,—I of making, and he of reading, adescription of it, such as it is. Which demonstrates a new truth:that great events have incalculable results

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