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This was about the time when our own Edward the Confessor was so taken with the new style of architecture (“novo compositionis genere, as Matthew Paris says), then lately introduced from over the Channel, and afterwards known as the Norman, that he re-constructed, on the lines of this new style, the abbey church of Westininster, even as Odolric had but just re-built the abbatial church of Conques. In fact, Norman was the fashionable style of the period, as the Gothic 'revival” is the fashion now, but with the difference that, while in the one case original genius makes itself unmistakably felt in the boldness, the novelty, the beauty, of its conceptions, and of almost every detail of execution, in the other case we see highly gifted adapters of the ideas handed down from the Art Ages, but rarely the genius of creation.
Ste.-Foy de Conques is further enriched by a series of open air tombs, for the most part in fair preservation, built up against its outer walls, chiefly at the back of the apse; some exhibiting shields with coats-of-arnis carved on them, and one against the south wall retaining an inscription to Abbot Bego III., who, towards the year 1100, constructed the cloister. Of this Norman cloister only two imperfect, half-buried arches remain, divided by slender coupled shafts, with sculptured already or bears, indeed, s, work was design,
capitals: a leading feature in Romanesque buildings, and specially characteristic of the triforium already described, to which latter this claustral fragment bears, indeed, so close an affinity as to suggest that Abbot Bego's work was designedly based on that of his predecessor, Abbot Odolric, half a century earlier.
A CONVENT INTERIOR.
Historical Associations. —Domestic Offices.—The White Canons
of Prémontré. - Moonlight Scene.—Prayer Meeting' in the Library.—Taking the Vows. – The Convent Roll.
THE present writer was indebted to an acquaintance of long standing with a literary member of the brotherhood (spite of the Protestantism of the one and the advanced Ultramontanism of the other) for the privilege of resting awhile on his journey through Guienne at the inonastery of Ste-Foy, beneath the shadow of the grand monumental church of the same name. To an observer of men and things Latin monasticism is chiefly interesting from a philosophical point of view, quite apart from the specialities of Romanist dogmas and practices, as the visible embodiment in these Western longitudes of the wide-spread monastic idea-an idea which in the East takes form and substance in the populous monasteries of Greek Christianity, and the yet more populous Buddhist conventual hives of both sexes. This idea, let it be ever so little realized in practice, is the same in each case. It is the spirit of retirement from an unsympathetic world that led the Psalmist and the Baptist alike to withdraw into the wilderness—'Lo, I fled, and got me far away: and dwelt in the wilderness'and which, for more than two thousand years, has prompted many in all countries to follow their example, by exchanging the turmoil and ambitions of a gregarious lise for the cloister—whether that cloister be Roman, Greek, or Buddhist, or whether it represent the mildest of all forms of claustral life, the so-called Anglican Sisterhoods and Brotherhoods of our own day and country.
It was, then, from this somewhat broad and decidedly undenominational standpoint, no less than from an appreciation of its artistic and romantic aspects, that the writer was induced to accept the invitation of Father Louis of Gonzaga (a canon regular of Prémontré), and impart a touch of adventure to a recent peregrination through Eastern and Central Guienne by alighting on his way at a retired house of the Premonstrant Order amid the wilds of Rouergue. He proposed to take up his abode at the convent for a few days; and, to borrow the thought, if not the words, of an anonymous author in the early part of the present century, he knows no more agreeable quarters where a man disposed to take the world as it goes could spend his time. He has the variety of a large household, without the bustle of an inn; the cheerfulness of a table-d'hôte, free from the vulgarity of a travelling mob; and the society of a body of gentlemen who entertain you with the quiet courtesy of well-bred hosts.
No place pleasanter, or more fraught with teeming associations, could well have fallen to his lot as a base for that part of his tour which lay through this eastern extremity of Guienne. The grandeur of the scenery; the architectural charm of the vast abbatial church; the mediæval characteristics of mine hosts; and the quaintness of the tiny hill-town in the midst of which the convent stands, each contributed its share to this result. Nor were historical associations wanting. Charlemagne, his ancestor Pepin-le-Bref, and his son Louis-le-Débonnaire, all pass before us as we look back through the mist and haze of ten centuries. Thus to Pepin-le-Bref Conques is indebted for its name, said to have been suggested by a fanciful resemblance to a shell (Latin concha) imparted to the straitened valley by the curving slopes of hills and mountains that rise from every side.' And
This fact of the naming of Conques by the premier Roi de la race des Karles' is asserted in a remarkable poem by Ernold, a contemporary of Charlemagne, which has received the honour of translation by M. Guizot.