And, if we enter the interior of the edifice, who has overthrown the colossal St. Christopher, proverbial among statues as the Grande Salle of the Palais among Halls, as the spire of Strasbourg Cathedral among steeples? And the countless figures—kneeling, standing, equestrian, men, women, children, kings, bishops, knights, of stone, marble, gold, silver, brass, even wax—which peopled all the spaces between the columns of the nave and the choir—what brutal hand has swept them away? Not that of Time.

And who replaced the ancient Gothic altar, splendidly charged with shrines and reliquaries, by that ponderous marble sarcophagus with its stone clouds and cherubs’ heads, which looks like an odd piece out of the Val de Grâce or of the Invalides? And who was so besotted as to fix this lumbering stone anachronism into the Carlovingian pavement of Hercandus? Was it not Louis XIV, in fulfilment of the vow of Louis XIII?

And who put cold white glass in the place of those “richly coloured” panes which caused the dazzled eyes of our forefathers to wander undecided from the rose-window over the great doorway to the pointed ones of the chancel and back again? And what would a priest of the sixteenth century say to the fine yellow wash with which the vandal Archbishops have smeared the walls of their Cathedral? He would recollect that this was the colour the hangman painted over houses of evil-fame; he would recall the Hôtel de Petit-Bourbon plastered all over with yellow because of the treason of its owner, the Connètable—“a yellow of so permanent a dye,” says Sauval, “and so well laid on, that the passage of more than a century has not succeeded in dimming its colour.” He would think that the Holy Place had become infamous and would flee from it.

And if we ascend the Cathedral, passing over a thousand barbarisms of every description—what has become of the charming little belfry, fretted, slender, pointed, sonorous, which rose from the point of intersection of the transept, and every whit as delicate and as bold as its neighbour the spire (likewise destroyed) of the Sainte-Chapelle, soared into the blue, farther even than the towers. An architect “of taste” (1787) had it amputated, and deemed it sufficient reparation to hide the wound under the great lead plaster which looks like the lid of a sauce-pan.

Thus has the marvellous art of the Middle Ages been treated in almost every country, but especially in France. In its ruin three distinct factors can be traced, causing wounds of varying depths. First of all, Time, which has gradually made breaches here and there and gnawed its whole surface; next, religious and political revolutions, which, in the blind fury natural to them, wreaked their tempestuous passions upon it, rent its rich garment of sculpture and carving, burst in its rose-windows, broke its necklets of arabesques and figurines, tore down its statues, one time for their mitres, another time for their crowns; and finally, the various fashions, growing ever more grotesque and senseless, which, from the anarchical yet splendid deviations of the Renaissance onwards, have succeeded one another in the inevitable decadence of Architecture. Fashion has committed more crimes than revolution. It has cut to the quick, it has attacked the very bone and framework of the art; has mangled, pared, dislocated, destroyed the edifice—in its form as in its symbolism, in its coherence as in its beauty. This achieved, it set about renewing—a thing which Time and Revolution, at least, never had the presumption to do. With unblushing effrontery, “in the interests of good taste,” it has plastered over the wounds of Gothic architecture with its trumpery knick-knacks, its marble ribbons and knots, its metal rosettes—a perfect eruption of ovolos, scrolls, and scallops; of draperies, garlands, fringes; of marble flames and brazen clouds; of blowzy cupids and inflated cherubs, which began by devouring the face of art in the oratory of Catherine de Medicis, and ended by causing it to expire, tortured and grimacing, two centuries later, in the boudoir of Mme. Dubarry.

Thus, to sum up the points we have just discussed, the ravages that now disfigure Gothic architecture are of three distinct kinds: furrows and blotches wrought by the hand of Time; practical violence—brutalities, bruises, fractures—the outcome of revolution, from Luther down to Mirabeau; mutilations, amputations, dislocation of members, restorations, the result of the labours—Greek, Roman, and barbarian—of the professors following out the rules of Vitruvius and Vignola. That magnificent art which the Goths created has been murdered by the Academies.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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