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Chapter 2

It is a very beautiful church of the second order
of importance, with a charming mouse-colored com-
plexion and a pair of fantastic towers. There is a
commodious little square in front of it, from which
you may look up at its very ornamental face; but for
purposes of frank admiration the sides and the rear
are perhaps not sufficiently detached. The cathedral
of Tours, which is dedicated to Saint Gatianus, took
a long time to build. Begun in 1170, it was finished
only in the first half of the sixteenth century; but the
ages and the weather have interfused so well the tone
of the different parts, that it presents, at first at least,
no striking incongruities, and looks even exception-
ally harmonious and complete. There are many
grander cathedrals, but there are probably few more
pleasing; and this effect of delicacy and grace is at
its best toward the close of a quiet afternoon, when the
densely decorated towers, rising above the little Place
de l'Archeveche, lift their curious lanterns into the
slanting light, and offer a multitudinous perch to
troops of circling pigeons. The whole front, at such
a time, has an appearance of great richness, although
the niches which surround the three high doors (with
recesses deep enough for several circles of sculpture)
and indent the four great buttresses that ascend beside
the huge rose-window, carry no figures beneath their
little chiselled canopies. The blast of the great Revo-
lution blew down most of the statues in France, and
the wind has never set very strongly toward putting
them up again. The embossed and crocketed cupolas
which crown the towers of Saint Gatien are not very
pure in taste; but, like a good many impurities, they
have a certain character. The interior has a stately
slimness with which no fault is to be found, and
which in the choir, rich in early glass and surrounded
by a broad passage, becomes very bold and noble.
Its principal treasure, perhaps, is the charming little tomb
of the two children (who died young) of Charles VIII. and
Anne of Brittany, in white marble, embossed with sym-
bolic dolphins and exquisite arabesques. The little
boy and girl lie side by side on a slab of black marble,
and a pair of small kneeling angels, both at their head
and at their feet, watch over them. Nothing could be
more perfect than this monument, which is the work
of Michel Colomb, one of the earlier glories of the
French Renaissance; it is really a lesson in good taste.
Originally placed in the great abbey-church of Saint
Martin, which was for so many ages the holy place of
Tours, it happily survived the devastation to which
that edifice, already sadly shattered by the wars of
religion and successive profanations, finally succumbed
in 1797. In 1815 the tomb found an asylum in a
quiet corner of the cathedral.

I ought, perhaps, to be ashamed to acknowledge,
that I found the profane name of Balzac capable of
adding an interest even to this venerable sanctuary.
Those who have read the terrible little story of "Le
Cure de Tours" will perhaps remember that, as I
have already mentioned, the simple and childlike old
Abbe Birotteau, victim of the infernal machinations
of the Abbe Troubert and Mademoiselle Gamard, had
his quarters in the house of that lady (she had a
speciality of letting lodgings to priests), which stood
on the north side of the cathedral, so close under its
walls that the supporting pillar of one of the great
flying buttresses was planted in the spinster's garden.
If you wander round behind the church, in search of
this more than historic habitation, you will have oc-
casion to see that the side and rear of Saint Gatien
make a delectable and curious figure. A narrow lane
passes beside the high wall which conceals from sight
the palace of the archbishop, and beneath the flying
buttresses, the far-projecting gargoyles, and the fine
south porch of the church. It terminates in a little,
dead, grass-grown square entitled the Place Gregoire
de Tours. All this part of the exterior of the cathe-
dral is very brown, ancient, Gothic, grotesque; Balzac
calls the whole place "a desert of stone." A battered
and gabled wing, or out-house (as it appears to be)
of the hidden palace, with a queer old stone pulpit
jutting out from it, looks down on this melancholy
spot, on the other side of which is a seminary for
young priests, one of whom issues from a door in a
quiet corner, and, holding it open a moment behind
him, shows a glimpse of a sunny garden, where you
may fancy other black young figures strolling up and
down. Mademoiselle Gamard's house, where she took
her two abbes to board, and basely conspired with
one against the other, is still further round the cathe-
dral. You cannot quite put your hand upon it to-
day, for the dwelling which you say to yourself that
it _must_ have been Mademoiselle Gamard's does not
fulfil all the conditions mentioned in BaIzac's de-
scription. The edifice in question, however, fulfils con-
ditions enough; in particular, its little court offers
hospitality to the big buttress of the church. Another
buttress, corresponding with this (the two, between
them, sustain the gable of the north transept), is
planted in the small cloister, of which the door on the
further side of the little soundless Rue de la Psalette,
where nothing seems ever to pass, opens opposite to
that of Mademoiselle Gamard. There is a very genial
old sacristan, who introduced me to this cloister from
the church. It is very small and solitary, and much
mutilated; but it nestles with a kind of wasted friend-
liness beneath the big walls of the cathedral. Its
lower arcades have been closed, and it has a small
plot of garden in the middle, with fruit-trees which I
should imagine to be too much overshadowed. In
one corner is a remarkably picturesque turret, the
cage of a winding staircase which ascends (no great
distance) to an upper gallery, where an old priest, the
_chanoine-gardien_ of the church, was walking to and fro
with his breviary. The turret, the gallery, and even
the chanoine-gardien, belonged, that sweet September
morning, to the class of objects that are dear to paint-
ers in water-colors.

Henry James