This book describes the life of the Feudal Ages in terms of the concrete. The discussions center around a certain seigneury of St. Aliquis. If no such barony is easily identifiable, at least there were several hundred second-grade fiefs scattered over western Christendom which were in essential particulars extremely like it, and its Baron Conon and his associates were typical of many similar individuals, a little worse or a little better, who abounded in the days of Philip Augustus. No custom is described which does not seem fairly characteristic of the general period. To focus the picture a specific region, northern France, and a specific year, A.D. 1220, have been selected. Not many matters have been mentioned, however, which were not more or less common to contemporaneous England and Germany; nor have many usages been explained which would not frequently have been found as early as A.D. 1100 or as late as 1300. Northern France was par excellence the homeland of Feudalism and hardly less so of Chivalry, while by general consent the years around 1220 mark one of the great turning epochs of the Middle Ages. We are at the time of the development of French kingship under Philip Augustus, of the climax and the beginning of the waning of the crusading spirit, of the highest development of Gothic architecture, of the full blossoming of the popular Romance literature, and of the beginning of the entirely dissimilar, but even more important, Friar movement. To make the life of the Middle Ages live again in its pageantry and its squalor, its superstition and its triumph of Christian art and love, is the object of this study. Many times has the author been reminded of the intense contrasts between sublime good and extreme evil everywhere apparent in the Feudal Epoch. With every effort at impartiality, whether praising or condemning, it is dangerously easy to write in superlatives.
Das E-Book können Sie in Legimi-Apps oder einer beliebigen App lesen, die das folgende Format unterstützen:
About A.D. 1220, when King Philip Augustus was near his end, there was exceptional peace in northern France, and conditions around St. Aliquis were entirely normal. We purpose, therefore (with the help of Our Lady, of holy St. Aliquis himself, and perhaps also of that very discreetféeQueen Morgue, "the wife of Julius Cæsar and the mother of King Oberon"), to visit the aforesaid barony as it existed at that time. We shall look around us unseen by the inhabitants, but able to ask many questions and to get pertinent answers. Thereby shall we gather much knowledge, and that, too, not about St. Aliquis only; for this little world by itself is a cross-section, as it were, of a great part of France; nay, of all feudal Europe.
It is fortunate that we are suffered, when we make this return journey to the Middle Ages, to arrive not long after the year 1200. A century or two earlier one might have found conditions decidedly more crude, semi-barbarous, disgusting; one would have indeed been tempted to doubt whether from so lawless and uncultivated a world any progressive civilization could really develop. On the other hand, had we postponed the excursion until, say, A.D. 1400, we would have found a society already becoming sophisticated and to no slight extent modernized. The true mediæval flavor would have been partially lost. But A.D. 1220 represents the epoch when the spirit of the Middle Ages had reached its full development. The world was still full of ignorance, squalor, and violence, yet there were now plenty of signs of a nobler day. France was still scattered with feudal castles and tales of baronial ruthlessness abounded, but the rise of the royal power and the growth of the chartered communal towns were promising a new political era. The bulk of the people were still illiterate peasants, and many of the nobility even felt very awkward when fumbling over books; but the monasteries had never been so full of worthy activities and of very genuine learning. Thousands of scholars were trudging to the University of Paris; and meantime, even in the more starving towns were rising Gothic churches and cathedrals, combining in their soaring fabrics not merely the results of supreme architectural genius, but a wealth of masterpieces of sculpture and of colored glass which were to draw visitors of later days from the very ends of the earth.
The crusading fervor had somewhat waned, but around the castles there were still elderly knights who had once followed Richard the Lion Hearted or Philip Augustus upon the great Third Crusade to Palestine, likewise a good many younger cavaliers who had shared the military glory and moral disgrace of the Fourth Crusade, which had ended not with the recovery of Jerusalem, but the sack and seizure of Christian Constantinople. At Rome the great and magnanimous Pope Innocent III had hardly ceased to reign (1216); while the founders of the remarkable Friar movement—that new style of monasticism which was to carry the message of the Church closer to the people—St. Francis, the apostle of love, and St. Dominic, the apostle of learning, were still alive and active. The world, therefore, was looking forward. The Middle Ages were close to apogee.
The Fief of St. Aliquis
We purpose to tell what may be found on the barony of St. Aliquis, first at the castle itself and in the household of Messire the Seigneur, then in the villages of peasants round about; next in the abbey slightly removed; and lastly in the chartered town and cathedral seat of the bishop a few miles further off. But first one must ask about the origin of the principality and how there came to be any such barony at all, for St. Aliquis would have been an exceptional seigneury if it had not had considerable history behind it, and had not represented the growth of several different elements.
The castle of St. Aliquis lies at the junction of two rivers. The smaller of these, the Rapide, tumbles down from some hills, cutting a gorge through the dense beech forest until it runs under a precipitous slope, then dashes into the greater, more placid current of the Claire. The Claire is an affluent, perhaps of the Seine, perhaps of the Loire. It is navigable for flat barges a good many miles above its junction with the Rapide, and the tolls upon this commerce swell the baron's revenue.
At the triangle formed by the converging streams rises an abrupt rocky plateau practically inaccessible from the banks of either river and which can be approached only from the third side, where the land slopes gently away from the apex of the triangle. Here rise some jagged crags marking out the place as a natural fortress. Most castles which dot feudal Europe are thus located in the most advantageous spot in their respective regions.
Possibly human habitations have existed upon this promontory ever since God drove Adam and Eve out of Eden. If we consult Brother Boniface, the librarian at the local monastery, the best-read person in the district, the good old man will tell us that long before the Romans came, the ancient Druids ("now in hell") had their pagan altars here, and sacrificed human victims under a great oak. Some chiseled masonry found on the spot also indicates an extensive settlement in Roman days, when Gaul was a province of the Cæsars. Of course, all the pious people know that under the persecuting Emperor Diocletian, the holy Aliquis himself, a centurion in the Legions, was shot to death with burning arrows because he preferred Christ to Jupiter, and that the place of his martyrdom is at the new abbey church about a league from the castle.
Founding of the Castle
Nevertheless, secular history is not precise until after the time of the mighty Charlemagne. Under his feeble successor, Charles the Bald, tradition affirms that the vikings, Scandinavian barbarians, came up the greater river, ascended the Claire in their long dragon ships; then on the site of the present castle they established a stockaded camp, whence they issued to ravage the country. This was about A.D. 870, but after a year they departed, leaving desolation behind them. About A.D. 880 another band of vikings came with similar foul intent, but they met a different reception. The saints had raised up a brave protector for the Christian folk of those lands.
Very uncertain is the ancestry of the redoubtable warrior Heribert, who about A.D. 875 seized the rocky triangle at the mouth of the Rapide, and built the first castle of St. Aliquis. Perhaps he was descended from one of Charlemagne's famous Frankish "counts." He did, indeed, only what was then being done everywhere to check the Scandinavian hordes: he built a castle and organized the levies of the region, hitherto footmen, into an effective cavalry force. This castle was anything save the later majestic fortress. It was merely a great square tower of rough masonry, perched on the crag above the streams. Around it was a palisade of heavy timbers, strengthened on the landward side by a ditch. Inside this compound were huts for refugees, storehouses for fodder, and rude stalls for the cattle. To stop passage up the Claire a heavy chain of iron was stretched across the river and stone piers were sunk at shallow places, thus forcing boats to pass close under the fortress in range of descending missiles. Where the chain was landed there was built another smaller stone tower. All the crossing then had to be by skiffs, although somewhat later an unsteady bridge was thrown over the stream.
The second expedition of vikings found that these precautions had ruined their adventure. They lost many men and a dragon ship when they tried to force the iron chain. Heribert's new cavalry cut off their raiding parties. Finally they departed with thinned numbers and scant spoils. Heribert was hailed as savior of the region, just as other champions, notably the great Count Odo at the siege of Paris, won similar successes elsewhere on a larger scale. The vikings had departed, but Heribert's tower remained. So began the castle of St. Aliquis.
Heribert had taken possession ostensibly as the king's "man," claiming some royal commission, but as the power of Charlemagne's feeble rulers dwindled, Heribert's heirs presently forgot almost all their allegiance to their distant royal "master." This was merely as seemed the case about A.D. 900 all through the region then coming to be called "France." Castles were rising everywhere, sometimes to repel the vikings, sometimes merely to strengthen the power of some local chief. Once erected, the lords of those castles were really little princes, able to defy the very weak central authority. To capture a considerably less formidable fortalice than St. Aliquis implied a tedious siege, such as few kings would undertake save in an emergency.
The result was that ere A.D. 1000 Heribert's great-grandsons had almost ceased to trouble about the king. The person they genuinely feared was the local Duke of Quelqueparte, another feudal seigneur with more followers and more castles than they. Partly from prudence, partly from necessity, they had "done homage" to him, become "his men," and as his vassals rode to his wars. The dukes, in turn, full of their own problems, and realizing the strength of St. Aliquis, seldom interfered in the fief, save on very serious occasions. The barons of St. Aliquis therefore acted very nearly like sovereign princes. They, of course, had their own gallows with power of life and death, waged their own personal wars, made treaties of peace, and even coined a little ill-shapen money with their own superscription."Barons by the Grace of God," they boasted themselves, which meant that they obeyed the duke andhissuzerain, the king, very little, and, we fear, God not a great deal.
In the recent centuries, however, the barony had changed hands several times. About 1070 the lord had the folly to refuse his ordinary feudal duty to the Duke of Quelqueparte. The latter roused himself, enlisted outside aid, and blockaded and starved out the castle of St. Aliquis. The unfortunate baron—duly adjudged "traitor and felon" by his "peers," his fellow vassals—was beheaded. The duke then bestowed the fief, with the hand of the late owner's niece, upon Sire Rainulf, a younger son of a south-country viscount, who had visited the duke's court, bringing with him an effective battle-ax and fifty sturdy followers. Sire Rainulf, however, died while in the First Crusade. The reigning duke next tried to give the barony to another favorite warrior, but the son of the late baron proved himself of sturdy stuff. He fought off his suzerain and enlisted allies from Burgundy. The duke was forced, therefore, to leave him in peace.
Presently, about 1140, another baron died, survived only by a daughter. Her uncles and cousins did their best to expel this poor lady and induced the suzerain duke to close his eyes to their deeds, but, fortunately, the new baroness had been very pious. The influence of the great St. Bernard of Clairvaux was exerted, thereby persuading King Louis VII to warn the duke that if he could not protect his vassals "the king would do justice." So the Lady Bertrada was given in marriage to a respectable Flemish cavalier Gui, who ruled the barony with only the usual wars. He left two sons, Garnier and Henri. Sire Henri, the younger, lived at the inferior castle of Petitmur, went on the Fourth Crusade (1203-04), and perished in the fighting around Constantinople ere the French and Venetians sacked the city. Garnier, the elder, received, of course, the great castle. He was the uncle of the Baron Conon III, the son of Henri, and the present lord of St. Aliquis.
It is well said by the monks that the blessed feel joys in paradise all the keener because a little earlier they have escaped from the pangs and fires of purgatory. Certes, for all laymen and clerics on the St. Aliquis fiefs, there was purgatory enough in Baron Garnier's day to make the present "sage" rule of Baron Conon seem tenfold happy.
The late seigneur ruled about twenty years, filled up with one round of local wars, oppression of the small, and contentions with the great. Baron Garnier was assuredly a mighty warrior. Never was he unhorsed in jousting or in mêlée. His face was one mass of scars and he had lost an ear. Plenty of landless knights and wolfish men at arms rioted around his donjon. His provosts and foresters knew how to squeeze the poor of the seigneury, and by this income and by the ransoms from numerous captives he was able to rebuild the castle of St. Aliquis according to the first military art of the day.
Crimes of Baron Garnier
But his sins were more than the hairs of his grizzled head. Having taken dislike to his wife, and the bishop refusing an annulment, he kept the poor Lady Ada mewed up in one chamber for years, and, according to many stories, loaded her with chains and spared not tortures, until in mercy she died. However, he had plenty of less regular consorts. The castle courts had swarmed with loud women, the favorites of himself and his familiars, and with their coarse, unacknowledged brats. No pretty peasant girl's honor was safe in those parts. As for the prisoners—after Messire Conon came into power it was a marvel the quantity of human bones, gnawed by the rats, which they took out of the lower dungeons, as well as how they released four wretches who had been incarcerated in the dark so long that they were blinded. Needless to say, the compartments of the gallows never lacked their swinging skeletons. Women still hush their squalling children with, "Be silent—or Baron Garnier will get you!"
Yet with all these deeds this baron affected great hospitality. He kept a roaring hall, with ready welcome for any cavalier who enjoyed deep drinking and talking of horses, women, falcons, and forays; and a good many seigneurs found his alliance useful. So he continued his evil ways until (praised be Our Lady of Mercies) he came to a fit end. Thrice he had been excommunicated by the bishop. Thrice he had been readmitted to ghostly favor, thanks to large gifts toward the new cathedral at Pontdebois. Then he let his men murder a priest who was traveling with a precious chalice. So he was excommunicated a fourth time. While in this perilous state (though boasting that he would soon make his new terms with the Church) his companion in sin, Suger of the Iron Arm, quarreled with him over their cups and ran him through with a boar spear. The baron lived just long enough to see Suger hewn in pieces by his comrades. Then he died (priestless, of course, and unabsolved) cursing God and crying piteously for help from the devil. Christians cross themselves when they think of his fate hereafter.
Garnier left no legitimate children. He was on very cold terms with his brother's widow, the Lady Odelina, who was rearing her two sons and daughter at Petitmur; but Odelina had faced her brother-in-law down and clung tightly to her own little fief. She had given her children a "courteous" and pious education, and induced a neighboring seigneur to take her eldest son, Conon, to "nourish" as his squire, and rear to be a knight. At length came her reward. The youth was knighted by the Count of Champagne three weeks before his evil uncle perished. Then the suzerain duke was glad to have St. Aliquis pass to so competent a vassal as young Sire Conon.
This is a bare suggestion of the contentions, feuds, and downright wars of which the barony has been the scene, and yet St. Aliquis has probably been freer from such troubles than most of its neighbors.
Baronial Fiefs and Vassals
Although this castle is the center of Baron Conon's power, it is by no means his only strong place. He has three other smaller castles (besides Petitmur, which will go to his brother) that he sometimes inhabits, but which he ordinarily rules through castellans. In the twenty-odd villages upon the fief there are some ten thousand peasants whom he governs through his provosts.Also, there depend on him his own "noble" vassals—about twelve "sires," petty nobles each with his own small castle or tower, hamlet of peasants, and right to "low justice." These vassals follow the St. Aliquis banner and otherwise contribute to the baron's glory. That seigneur himself is likewise "advocate" (secular guardian) of the neighboring Abbey of St. Aliquis—an honorable post involving delicate dealings with the lord abbot. Also, a few leagues away lies the "good town" of Pontdebois. The baron, as will be explained, has very important relations with that city. In addition he "holds" of the bishop there resident some farms with hunting and fishing rights. For this inferior fief he does homage, of course, not to the Duke of Quelqueparte, but to the Bishop of Pontdebois. Some years previous, when the duke and bishop were at war, the baron was obligated to send twenty knights to fight for the duke, but also six to fight for the bishop. The Scriptures warn us against trying "to serve two masters"; but the baron happily made shift to keep the two contingents of his little array from engaging with one another until his two overlords had made peace!
In addition to all the above, Conon holds still another small castle at quite a distance, for which he does homage to the Duke of Burgundy—a fact promising more complications when Quelqueparte and Burgundy (as is most likely) go to war. Finally, he holds a large farm from his otherwise equal, the Baron of Harcourt. Here he is sure to cut his feudal devoir to a minimum, and leave the Lord of Harcourt to consider whether to pocket his pride, risk a "private war," or attempt a lawsuit before their mutual suzerain, the Duke of Quelqueparte.
The Baron Conon would gladly be the direct vassal of the king. The higher your suzerain the higher, on the whole, your own glory in the feudal firmament; but the duke would resent bitterly any attempt to get his vassals away and all the other first-class nobles would support him. Baron Conon must wait, therefore, perhaps until the present elderly duke is dead and the duchy falls under feeble heirs. Then he will find the astute king, if Philip Augustus is still reigning, only too willing and able to meet him halfway. At present, however, Conon is on good terms with the duke, although he is just as jealous himself to prevent his own sires from "holding" directly from the duke as the latter is to check the baron's going over to the king. Everywhere there is this friction over "subinfeudation." "The vassal of my vassal isnotmy vassal": that is the angry comment daily.
All in all, the seigneury of St. Aliquis thus covers three hundred square miles, whereof about one-third is controlled by the baron as his personal domain and the remainder by his vassals. Perhaps there are two hundred similar baronies and countships dotting France, some larger, some smaller, but in their histories, feudal relationships, and general problems much alike. This fief, however, is especially fortunate in that the baron possesses an old charter, wrung from some tottering Carolingian king, giving him the right to collect a sack of grain, a large truss of hay, or a similar quota in kind from every loaded barge traversing down the navigable Claire; also to levy a copper obol for every Christian foot passenger, and three obols for every mounted traveler or Jew (mounted or walking) crossing the very important bridge by the castle. These tolls give messire many fine suits of armor, buy silk gowns for the baroness, and make all the local seigneurs anxious to marry their daughters to the baron's sons as soon as the boys can be knighted.
A Superior Type of Baron
St. Aliquis, we have said, is happy in its present seigneur. Monks, villeins, and petty nobles agree in praising Baron Conon. When a seigneur is practically a sovereign, everything depends upon his character. If the saints desire to punish certain Christians for their sins, let them merely send them an evil, or only an inefficient, quarrelsome baron! Like the unlamented Garnier, he can soon make their lives into a perfect Gehenna.
Conon III has now ruled for more than ten years. He has kept out of all private wars but one, a feat almost exceptional; but in that one war he struck so hard and so skillfully that his opponent, the Viscount of Foretvert, swore on the relics to a peace which cost him a village of peasants and the transfer of two petty sires to the St. Aliquis fealty. Conon fought also in the great battle of Beauvais so as to win the personal praise of the king himself. He compounded with the abbey over the division of the income of a farm in a manner which left him and the abbot firm friends—a singular piece of diplomacy. Better still, he held to his point about some hunting rights with the Bishop of Pontdebois, and finally won most of his claims without being even temporarily subjected to excommunication. His peasants pay their imposts loyally, for the baron not merely protects them from the raids of brigands and rival feudatories; he also represses worse pillagers still, his own seigneurial officers, who were ravaging harpies in all the little thatched villages through Baron Garnier's day. Therefore, Conon is called "a very gentle seigneur," which means that he is every inch a lord and which term does not prevent him from swinging a heavy sword, and from knocking down a villein with his own fist when there is need of teaching a lesson.
A Baronial Family
As for Conon's family, his good mother, Lady Odelina, is now resting under the stones of the abbey church; but she lived to see her first-born wedded to Adela, the daughter of a rich Picard sire, a dame of many virtues. The marriage has been blessed with two healthy sons, François and Anseau—the pampered tyrants of all the castle folk. The baron's household also includes his younger brother Aimery, who has just reached the age for knighthood, and his marriageable sister Alienor. So far the family had been marvelously harmonious. There has been none of those passages at arms between elder and younger brothers which often make a castle the antechamber to hell. Adela is "the verygentledame"—beloved of husband and revered by vassals and villeins, but whose "gentleness," like her husband's, by no means keeps her from flogging her maids when their sins deserve it. Alienor is already going to tourneys and has presented at least three young knights with her stockings to tie to their lances; but she knows that it is a brother's duty to find a husband for one's sister, and Conon has promised that whoever he selects will be young, brave, and kindly. Therefore Alienor is not borrowing trouble. As for Aimery, he is proud of being almost as good a hawker and jouster as his brother. He will soon be knighted and rule over Petitmur, but his head is full of a visit to the king's court, of winning vast favor, and finally of being given the only daughter and heiress of a great count—in short, of possessing a fief bigger than St. Aliquis.
There, then, is the little world, ruled by persons perhaps a little more honorable and kindly than the run of North French barons, but by no means of impossible virtue.
It is June, A.D. 1220. The sun is just rising. Let us enter St. Aliquis as the warders unbar the gates; for the castle is the heart of the feudal civilization.
Long before the assigned date of this narrative, some king or other potentate had assuredly given the lords of St. Aliquisimmunity—i.e., exemption from ordinary jurisdiction, taxation, etc., by outside powers, with corresponding privileges for the local seigneurs themselves.
On some fiefs, as on the royal domain at this time, there would be a higher seigneurial officer, thebailli, set over the provosts.
The Baron of St. Aliquis was fortunate if his feudal relationships, conflicting overlords, etc., were not even more complicated than here indicated. There was nothing "simple" about the composition of a feudal barony!
The Castle of St. Aliquis
As we have seen, the castle of St. Aliquis is now nearly three hundred and fifty years old. Since it has been continuously inhabited by enterprising owners, its structure has been as continuously changing. However, if we had come to the barony only fifty years ago, we would have found a decidedly primitive structure. The general plan of Heribert's original stronghold was then still retained: first, on the landward side of the triangle above the two converging rivers there was a rather deep moat, next a parapet whereof the lower part was made of earth taken from this same moat, and upon the mound rose a strong palisade of tree trunks. Within the palisade were barns, outbuildings, and barracks for such of the baron's men as did not live in the inner stronghold. Then last of all was the donjon, the castle proper—a huge square tower built with little art, but which defied attack by mere solidity. The entrance to this grim tower was by a steep inclined plane leading to a small door in the second story. In case of danger, if the palisade were forced, the seigneur and his men retreated into the tower, knocked down the wooden gangway, and shouted defiance to the enemy. The mass and height of the donjon baffled any ordinary methods of attack save that of blockade and starvation—and there would be six months' supply of wheat, salt beef, and ale in the tower vaults.
TYPICAL CASTLE OF THE MIDDLE AGES
(Without large barbican court)
Nevertheless, this seemingly impenetrable fortress did not suffice. In the first place, superior methods of siege warfare were developing: the stoutest fortifications could be cracked.In the next place, if the donjon were hard to enter, it was almost equally hard to sally forth from it. No rapid sortie could be made from the door in the second story; the defense must be wholly passive. Finally, this stark masonry tower was a most uncomfortable place, with its cavernous "halls" barely lighted by tiny loopholes, frigid in winter, stifling in summer, unsanitary—in short, almost intolerable for habitation by a large body of men. After the First Crusade (1094-99) numerous cavaliers came home with great tales of the fortresses of the Byzantines and the Saracens. During the twelfth century, consequently, castle architecture underwent a remarkable transformation. Richard the Lion Hearted built Château Gaillard in Normandy. His mighty rival, Philip Augustus, built the famous Louvre to dominate Paris, and erected other new-style castles with cylindrical towers at Montargis, Poissy, Dourges, and elsewhere. Already by 1220 the plans are being drawn for a great castle at Coucy (built between 1223 and 1230) which is to be almost a model for all subsequent fortress builders, until the advent of gunpowder.
Castle Rebuilt Scientifically
Baron Garnier, whatever his crimes, had certainly understood the art of war. He rebuilt St. Aliquis in a thoroughly scientific manner, employing a learned masterbuilder and "sage," an elderly Fleming who had seen the best fortifications of the Infidels and had lived long in those famous Syrian-Christian fortresses like Krak des Chevaliers, which by the mere excellence of construction had enabled small garrisons of western "Franks" to defy the full power of Saladin. Instead of a mere ditch, palisade, and then a single vast tower, St. Aliquis has consequently become a huge complex of defenses within defenses, each line of resistance a little harder to penetrate and with every outwork commanded by an inner fortification. If at last you come to the central donjon, it still looms up above you—defiant and formidable, and you can have your fill of desperate fighting, only perhaps to be bloodily repulsed in the end. Of course, the donjon can indeed be starved out, but it is not very often that any enemy of St. Aliquis will have resources and persistence enough to keep his troops together until the castle supplies are exhausted. He must either get possession pretty quickly or not at all—and Garnier's Fleming certainly took pains he should not get in quickly!
In examining St. Aliquis or its rivals, one must remember that they are the creations of men who have devoted most of their thought to the problems of war. Every possible contingency has been anticipated. The architect and his employer have practically spent their lives studying "how can a castle be made to hold out as long as possible?" Being, despite their sins, highly intelligent men, it is not surprising that they produce remarkable results.
We are approaching the castle as the morning mists are lifting from the Claire and the Rapide. Ahead of us, out of the dispersing fog, is rising what seems a bewildering mass of towers, walls, battlements gray and brown, with here and there a bit of green, where a little earth has been allowed to lodge and a few weeds shoot forth. High above all soars the mass of the great central tower, the donjon, from the summit of which Baron Conon's banner is now idly trailing.
We come down a road that takes us over the toll bridge across the Rapide and find ourselves in a kind of parade ground where there are only a few cattle sheds and possibly a rude cabin or two for such of the baron's herdsmen as must sleep outside overnight. This open ground is the scene for martial exercises, rallyings of the vassals, and even for tournaments. Many people are headed toward the castle, mostly from the village of peasants just westward across the river; but there is also the subprior on a mule, riding over from the abbey, and also a messenger who has spurred down very early from Pontdebois with a communication from the bishop. As we near the castle its tower and inner and outer wards become more distinct. We readily believe that it took Garnier's architect three years to carry through the work; that all the peasants of the barony had been put to grievouscorvées(forced labor) digging, hewing and dragging stone, or working the great derricks; and that ten expert stonecutters and fully eighty less skilled masons had been hired in from Paris, Rheims, and Orléans, besides a master mason who demanded rewards that seemed outrageous for a mere villein and not for a belted knight.
The Barbican and Lists
These speculations end as we come, not to the castle, but to a semicircular palisade inclosing the regular gate on the landward side. This palisade is too high to scramble over; the piles are too sharply pointed and stout enough to stand considerable battering. This outwork is the barbican—the first of the long series of obstacles awaiting the foe. Of course, it could not be defended in a regular siege, but its purpose is to stop any surprise attack long enough to enable the garrison to rally, close the great gate, and man the walls. The whole crowd of folk now entering make for the heavy wooden barrier which is just being thrown open by a rather sleepy porter. Since it is a time of profound peace, he lets them all stream inside, merely requiring everyone to leave his weapons in his custody. We pass unchallenged, thanks to the kindféeaforementioned, who has rendered us as invisible as the owner of Gyges's ring. If, however, we had been guests of noble rank, we would have proceeded onward to the inner gate and rung loudly on a heavy metal gong hanging there. One of the baron's squires would then have greeted us. If we had been the baron's equal or superior in the social scale, Conon himself would next have come down to lead us in; if somewhat inferior, we would have been conducted by the squire to the great hall, where we would have removed hood and gloves before the magnate presented himself. But we have much to examine ere we penetrate the seigneurial hall.
Once inside the barbican, one discovers that between this extreme barrier and the fortress proper there is another open space with a road, and another place for equestrian exercises extending from the Claire straight over to the abrupt slopes of the Rapide. The palisades run all the way from river to river. This space within the barbican forms the lists, where two young sergeants are breaking in a balky stallion. The lists are a great convenience in peace time, but the real utility is in war, and they are even more important in the castles that have land on every side. They supply a good road by which men can be hurried round the castle circuit in reasonable safety. On the other hand, if the enemy suddenly forces the barriers, he finds himself most awkwardly in a limited space between the palisade and the castle moat, with all the arbalists (crossbows) playing on him from the walls above.
Inside the lists and next to the masonry walls runs the moat. It is some twenty feet wide, partly filled now with scum-covered rain water. In the spring the varlets have great joy here hunting frogs, but as the year advances it assuredly breeds mosquitoes. It constitutes, however, another formidable barrier to an enemy, and that is its sole object.
After crossing these lists, the path leads straight to the drawbridge. This has just been lowered by means of heavy counterpoises swung on a kind of trestle overhead, for even in peace times no seigneur will sleep soundly before the drawbridge is up. The portcullis, the frame of iron bars which is lowered whenever the bridge is raised, has also been hoisted in its groove by the gateway. The heavy oaken gates, faced with metal, have not been unbarred, however. A smaller door, just big enough for a horse, has been opened in one of them, admitting to the castle proper. Despite the earlier scrutiny at the barbican, one now catches a watchful eye at the small window in the turret close beside the portcullis. The chief porter has a very responsible position. Many a fortress has been lost because he has been careless or unfaithful. He would, in any case, be chargeable if he admitted unwelcome guests or idle rascals. Porters are often accused of being gruff, insolent, fat, and lazy, but part of their bad name comes because they have to repel bad characters.
The Bailey, Gates and Towers
And now we are about to enter the outer ward, or bailey, of the castle of St. Aliquis. The walls and towers of these outer defenses are less formidable than those of the inner ward; yet they seem of massive thickness and imposing altitude. There is a solid round tower covering either side of the gate; to about fifteen feet these twain rise above the moat naked and sheer, then are pierced with narrow slits intended, not to let in light, but to permit archers to cover every inch of the way from the barbican to the drawbridge. Even if the foe should cross the moat, shatter the portcullis, and split open the heavy doors, he would be merely at the beginning of terrible hours of ax- and sword-play. He would be in a narrow and low vaulted passage, with many loopholes on either side for archers, and also with slits in the ceiling for pouring down boiling oil, seething pitch, molten lead, and other pleasantries; and if he rushed past all these forms of death into the courts, there, behind him, capable still of very stout defense, would rise the two strong gate towers, rendering every attempt to re-enforce the original attacking party a dice-throwing with death, and making retreat equally dangerous. Few leaders, therefore, will be foolish enough to try to storm St. Aliquis simply by a desperate rush against the gate.
From the two gate towers, right and left, there extends a considerable stretch of sheer wall terminating at either extremity with two more towers which mark the corners on the landward side of the fortress. These four towers, of course, by projecting far beyond this curtain wall, are posted so as to permit a steady fire of missiles on any enemy who may somehow ensconce himself close under the wall. The two sections of curtain wall themselves are some dozen feet thick, with a firm walk along their summit, protected by a stone parapet. To enable the defenders, however, to drop stones and other forms of destruction upon attackers who may be under the very base of the wall and defying the bolts from the towers, a structure of heavy timbers can be built out all along the wall overhanging the moat. These wooden hordings are strong enough to withstand many stones from the casting engines, but they can sometimes be set on fire. In a siege, therefore, they will be covered with raw hides. The same will also be put over the conical wooden roofs which cap the towers. Since this is a time of peace, however, the hordings stand weather-stained and bare. To cover the entire woodwork with hides will be one of the first tasks of the garrison in case of a serious alarm.
As we survey the outer walls of the castle, it is clear that no enemy will try to batter down the towers. Even if he could penetrate their shells, he would merely find himself in a dark, cavernous, vaulted chamber, with the defenders flinging down death from above. He would then have to bore through the inner wall, nearest the court, under every disadvantage. The towers are built so completely of masonry that it is impossible to burn them. Winding stairs, leading up through the stonework, conduct from one stage to another; and these staircases are so narrow and tortuous that a single warrior with an ordinarily lively ax can stop a hundred men ascending.The attack, therefore, must be on the curtain walls. But even here, supposing one has scaled the battlements, more troubles are awaiting. The only way downward from the curtain walls is through the towers at the end of the parapets. To leap into the court inside means broken bones. The gangways along the parapet are intercepted at several points by wooden bridges. These can be easily knocked away, leaving yawning gaps defying any leaper. If you reach the towers they are all barred, and the arbalists are shooting down on the captured gangways from a dozen loopholes. Finally, be it said, each tower is a little fortress by itself. It has its own cistern, fireplace for cooking, and storeroom. Even if isolated, its garrison can hold out stoutly. So much for the task of attacking merely the outer ward of St. Aliquis.
Inner Court and Donjon
The problems of the towers and the curtain wall detain one long, for they sum up the fundamental principles of thirteenth-century fortifications. But now before us opens the broad court of the bailey itself, the scene of much of the homely life of the castle; in fact, the place now swarms with people busy with all kinds of activities. The pavement is none too clean. There are large muck piles, and one sees hens and a few pigs and dogs foraging everywhere. A genuine village really exists inside the bailey. To the right of the gate is a rambling, thatched-roof stable where in a long row of stalls the fifty-odd horses of the seigneur are champing their morning fodder. Near the stables stand tall ricks of hay. Behind these are a second line of inelegant wooden structures: they are the barracks for the less favored castle servitors, and for a part of the heavy-handed men at arms whom Baron Conon keeps for instant duty.
Buildings and Life in the Bailey
On the left side of the gate are several more buildings. To be noted are a commodious carpenter shop where saw and hammer are already plying; a well-appointed smithy where at one ringing forge the baroness's white palfrey is being reshod, and at another the master armorer is putting a new link into a mail shirt. The castle smith's position is no sinecure. He has to keep a great quantity of weapons and armor in constant order; he has to do all the recurring small jobs around the great establishment; and in emergency to manufacture quantities of lance heads and arbalist bolts, as well as perhaps to provide the metal work for siege engines on which may rest the fate of the castle. Conon's first armorer is accordingly one of the most important and best rewarded of all the servitors.
Besides these workshops there is a long storehouse, a repository for not merely the food, but all other kinds of supplies needful in a siege. Near by stands a smaller, shedlike structure, puzzling at first to strangers, but which explains itself by the shrill screams and cries issuing thence. It is the baron's hawk house, the mews, where the chief falconer is now feeding the raw meat to the great hawks and falcons in which his noble masters take delight. Close to these secular buildings, however, there rises somewhat incongruously an elegant Gothic chapel, with soaring pinnacles, a rose window at the end of the small nave, sculptured saints flanking the portal, and within one finds glorious stained glass, more saints' images and carvings, and a rich altar. This is the little castle church to which very many dwellers of St. Aliquis, including messire and madame, had repaired piously at gray dawn, and where now good Father Grégoire has just finished a rather hasty mass.
The bailey, in short, is overrunning with activities. Horses are neighing, cows are being milked, an overladen donkey is braying. Yonder in one corner is a small building with a tall chimney. Here is the seigneur's great oven, whither not merely the castle folk, but a great number of the peasants, resort to bake their bread. In front of the chapel bubbles a little fountain, and chattering women, scantily attired, are filling their water pots. Children in various degrees of nakedness and dirtiness play everywhere. Noises of every kind blend in a hubbub. Lastly we notice, close to the inner drawbridge, another building again with a tall chimney. This is the castle cookhouse, where the dinners are prepared for the great hall within. A glance through the door shows the vast fireplace where one can roast a whole sheep or a small beef entire. The cookhouse is located here because of the danger of fire in the inner castle, and because the position is convenient for the great number of the servitors who must eat in their barracks. When it is mealtime, however, this arrangement compels a prodigious running to and fro all through the dinner hour between kitchen and hall on the part of the twenty-odd sergeants and squires who serve Baron Conon's guests and family. It bothers not the appetites of pious Christians that their food is cooked amid contending odors and that many of the doings near the cookhouse make its condition extraordinarily unsanitary.
We have now crossed the bailey and its teeming life. Before us rises the inner ward of the castle. Here are the gate and the walls of the bailey over again, but far more pretentious and formidable. There is another moat filled with muddy water; another drawbridge larger than the outer one. The two gate towers are higher; their structures are thicker, more solid. The curtain walls are so lofty that arbalistiers thereon can pick off the enemy who may have gained the parapet of the outer defenses. Finally, between the gate towers and the towers at the end of the curtains, both to right and left, there is interposed an extra tower, making the flanking fire much more close and deadly. Consequently, the foe who could force his way into the bailey would thus probably find it merely a bloody cockpit. The retreating garrison would set fire to all the rude wooden buildings, and rake the outer court with their bows and engines. If it would cost dearly to win the bailey, what would it not cost to storm the castle proper?
Inner Court, Donjon and Palais
The gate to the inner ward is flung wide, but the portcullis still slides in its grooves, being dropped every night to make sure that low fellows from the barracks do not prowl around the seigneurial residence in the darkness. Just at present swarms of people are going to and fro between the two great sections of the castle, and jostling and laughing in the narrow passages. As we pass through to the inner ward we realize a certain touch of refinement. The pavement is cleaner. Most of the servitors are better dressed and better mannered. Before us opens the great court of the castle, set with stone flags and reasonably well swept. Here the baron and his brother will practice their martial exercises when the weather is bad and they must avoid the tilting grounds. Here the horses will be mounted when Conon, Adela, and all their noble friends assemble to ride out for hunting or hawking. On either side the stately towers set into the walls frown downward, but our gaze is ahead. Straight before one rises first a rather elegant stone building with large pointed windows and a high sloping roof, and then looming before that an enormous round citadel—one that dwarfs all the other towers. It stands at the apex of the triangle; on one side is the castle court, but to right and left the crags at its base are falling precipitously away to the Rapide and the Claire.
The stone building is thepalais, the actual residence of the baron. The giant tower is the donjon, the great keep of the castle, built on the site of Heribert's old stronghold, but twenty times as formidable. Thepalaisis nearest to us, but since the apartments of the seigneur are there, and we wish to examine these later, it is best to pass around one end thereof and visit the donjon first.
Baron Garnier had built his donjon about one hundred and ten feet high and some fifty-five feet in diameter, with walls a dozen feet thick. This size is large, but not extraordinary. At Coucy they are planning a tower two hundred and twenty-five feet high and ninety-five feet in diameter. If Garnier had built a little earlier he would have made it square, like that pitiless tower at Loches, which is only one hundred feet high, but is seventy-six feet on its longest side. To enter the donjon we go over still another drawbridge, although the ditch below is dry, and on penetrating a small door in the masonry we wind up a passageway through the thick wall. Passing from the bright morning light of the court, one seems plunged into pitchy darkness. Strangers stumble up steep stairways, with here and there a twinkle of light from loopholes a couple of feet high, although barely wide enough at their openings to allow the free flight of an arrow. Far below may be caught glimpses of the twinkling, rushing Rapide, and of the bright green country stretching away in the distance.
When St. Aliquis was rebuilt by Baron Garnier's architect, although the donjon was greatly improved, much of the old masonry of the original tower was retained, as well as the general arrangement of the staircases, loopholes, and succession ofhalls, chambers, and lofts. We see what the castle resembled in Heribert's day. By a turn or two in the gaunt entrance we come to the original great hall of the castle. It is offensively dark; the windows are mere loopholes at the end of deep, cone-shaped passages let into the walls. Even on this balmy June morning the atmosphere is clammy. As our eyes adjust themselves, however, we see that we are in a huge vaulted chamber with a great fireplace, and with a kind of wooden gallery about eight feet above the floor, around the entire circuit. In this great chamber can be assembled a good fraction of the entire garrison. The seigneur or his spokesmen standing in the center or near the fireplace can give orders which every man present can understand. Directions can thus be given for any move needful for the defense of the castle.
As we shall see, there is now a newer and better hall in the more modern and airypalais, but the older hall is still used at great feasts for the overflow of guests. Even now are standing long oaken tables, duly hacked by the trencher knives of many boisterous diners; and on the walls—blackened by the smoke from the great fireplace—are hanging venerable trophies of the chase, antlers, the head of a bear, great boar tusks, as well as an array of all kinds of hunting weapons used by departed generations.
If we were to follow the staircase down from the hall we would come to an even darker vaulted apartment used sometimes as a supplementary dormitory for the humbler guests, but also (to the astonishment of later-day medical usage) with small rooms set off to be used as a kind of sick ward; because every physician, whether schooled at Salerno, Cordova, or Montpellier, will tell you that darkness is the friend of health and that few invalids can hope to get better unless they are kept as shaded and sequestered as possible.
The Prison and the Watch Tower
If we wished to pursue still lower, descending a black staircase with lanterns, the rocks would begin to drip dampness. We could hear the rushing of the Rapide against the base of the castle. The journey would end at a barred iron door. Within would be a fetid, reeking chamber lit only by two or three tiny chinks in the masonry, and with the bare rock for the floor. Here is Baron Conon's prison. He is counted a merciful seigneur, yet he thinks nothing of thrusting genuine offenders therein and keeping them for weeks, if not months, before releasing or hanging. Lucky if Maître Denis, the turnkey, remembers to bring down a coarse loaf each day, and if the rats do not devour the prisoners' toes; but we shall consider all such nice matters later.
It is alleged that from these lower vaults there is an underground passage leading from the castle to a secret sallyport at the foot of the precipice by the Rapide. If a passage exists, however, it is known only to Conon and a very few trusted retainers. But not all such stories are false; many castles have such secret passages; and at Coucy they are quietly planning to introduce a rather elaborate system of the same. Quite possibly St. Aliquis possesses something of this nature.
Far pleasanter is it now to ascend from the main hall through a couple of stages of upper and airier chambers (now used as apartments by part of the castle folk) until by a dizzy ladder we reach the summit of the donjon itself. Here on one edge of the broad platform is a little round turret carrying us still higher. From the turret flutters the orange banner of St. Aliquis, with some kind of a black dragon (in memory, possibly, of the viking raid) broidered upon it, and the arrogant legend of the noble family, "Rather break than bend." To lower this banner were a horrid disgrace. Never is it to be struck unless the castle surrenders, when it will be sadly flung into the moat.
Under the flagstaff is a stout projecting beam rigged with a pulley. Here is a gibbet in case the baron wishes to hang offenders as a warning for the countryside. Fortunately, however, Adela has a dislike to seeing the corpses dangling, and has persuaded Conon to order his recent hangings at the ordinary gallows across the Claire by the village. On the flag turret is always a watchman; day or night some peasant must take his turn, and even in peace he has no sinecure. He must blow on his great horn at sunrise, at "cover fire" at night, when the baron's hunt rides out and returns, and again when a strange retinue approaches the gate. The whole wide countryside spreads in a delightful panorama below him at present, but on winter nights, when every blast is howling around the donjon, the task is less grateful. No wonder that peasants impressed for this service complain that "watchmen have the lot of the damned."
So back through the donjon and again to the castle court. The donjon is purely military. In times of peace it is a mere storehouse, prison, and supplementary barrack for the seigneur's people. In war it is the last position where the garrison can stand desperately at bay. A hundred years earlier Adela and her sister-in-law, Alienor, would have lived out most of their days in the cheerless dark chambers directly above the main hall. Now they are more fortunate. They dwell in the elegant Gothic archedpalais.
Great Hall of the Palais
Thepalaisconsists of a long, somewhat narrow building thrusting out into the inner court, and of other structures resting against the western curtain wall on one side, but with their larger inner windows looking also into the court. The rooms are high, with enormous fireplaces where great logs can warm the apartments in winter. The ceilings are ribbed and vaulted like a church, and some of the masonry is beautifully carved. Where the bare walls are exposed they are often covered with a stucco on which are sketched fresco scenes somewhat after the style of stiff Byzantine paintings, or the famous tapestry of Queen Mathilde at Bayeux. All the tints are flat red, yellow, or brown, without perspective or fine lines, and in a kind of demi-silhouette. Little touches of green, violet, and blue relieve the bareness, and despite many awkward outlines and other limitations many of the scenes are spirited as well as highly decorative. Some of the pictures are religious. We notice "Christ on the Cross" between the "Synagogue" and the "New Law," a "Last Judgment," an episode in the life of St. Aliquis himself; also many secular pictures based often on the jongleur's epics. Thus from the "Song of Roland" there is the tearing by wild horses of the traitor Ganelon.
The windows in thispalaisbetray the luxury of the owner. They are not closed by wooden shutters, as are most other apertures in the castle. They are of glass, with very small panes set in lead. The panes in the smaller rooms are uncolored, although hardly of transparent whiteness, but in the huge dining hall they are richly colored as in a church, giving a jewel-set galaxy of patron saints (e.g., St. Martin, the warrior saint of France) and of knights and paladins from Charlemagne and King Artus down, gazing benignantly upon the feasters below.
This new hall is, of course, the finest apartment in the castle. Here amid wood- and stone-work deeply carved the baron's household sits down to dinner. It is, however, more than a mere dining room. Great feudal ceremonies, such as the receiving of homage, here take place. Hither also in bad weather or on winter evenings nearly all the castle folk will resort. Messire will sit on the dais upon his canopied chair; everybody else will wedge in as closely as possible, and after infinite chatter, jesting, dice playing, and uproar the ever-popular jongleurs will take station near the fireplace, do their tricks, sing songs, or recite romances. The hall is, in short, the focus of the peaceful life of the castle.
There are other rooms in thepalais, but, considering the number of people who have to live therein, they seem rather few. There is little real privacy in St. Aliquis. The baron has a special closet indeed, where he can retire and hope that he is not overheard, but the great chamber for himself and the baroness is ordinarily full of servitors. Next to the chamber is a second room where the baron's sons sleep while they are little, and where honored guests can be lodged. Conon's brother and sister have each a large apartment, but there seems a singular lack of anterooms, boudoirs, and other retiring rooms. It is perfectly good manners to ask noble guests to share the same rooms with the family; and a couple of the baroness's maids will sleep on pallets within her chamber, with the baron's favorite squire just outside the door. As for the lesser folk at night, they often stretch unceremoniously on the tables or even on the floor in the main hall. The possession of a strictly private room is indeed a decided luxury; even a great noble is often able to go without it.
INTERIOR OF A THIRTEENTH-CENTURY APARTMENT
From the restoration by Viollet-Le-Duc. At the left the chair where sits the seigneur, the bed separated by a screen from the rest of the hall; at the back, between the two windows, a cupboard; opposite the fireplace, a large table. Tapestries ornament the walls.
Tables, Rushes and Tapestries in Hall
The furniture of these apartments seems scanty, but it is at least very solid. In the hall there are lines of tables set upon trestles, faced by long backless seats. Here it is often needful to remove these tables to arrange for a feudal ceremony or for a dance; but at one end of the apartment is a raised dais, and at right angles to the others runs the ponderous oaken table of the master. Conon faces the hall from a high carved chair under a wooden canopy. The other seats on the dais have the luxury of backs and arms. The fireplace is an enormous construction, thrusting far into the room, where long logs on high andirons can heat the stonework so it will glow furiously for hours. To keep off the heat in winter there are fire screens of osier, but of course in summer these disappear. Every festival day the paved floors of the rooms in thepalaisare strewn, if possible, with new rushes and flowers—roses and lilies, flags and mint, making a soft crackling mass under one's feet. They are fragrant and pleasant while fresh, and even through the winter are allowed to remain to protect against the chill of the floor. By springtime they are dried and are very filthy, for the diners throw their bones and bits of bread and meat into them, and the dogs and cats roaming about cannot devour all of such refuse. Certain seigneurs, indeed are introducing the use of "Saracen carpets," gorgeous rugs either imported from the East or made up in France after imported patterns; but these are an expensive innovation, and Conon as yet keeps to his river rushes.
Of another luxury, however, he is rightly proud. Stowed away in carefully guarded cupboards is a quantity of admirable wall tapestries, some of the precious sendal (taffeta) silk, some of hardly less valuable Sicilian woolen stuff. Their designs are of blazing magnificence. There is one of great elaboration showing "The Seven Virtues and the Seven Vices," another giving a whole sequence of scenes concerning Charlemagne. But such precious ornaments must be kept for great occasions. The order, "Hang the tapestries," is a sign to the servitors that Conon contemplates a tourney or a great feast or a visit from the duke. For to-day thepalaiscontents itself with its simple fresco decoration.
Furniture and Beds
„Ich bin wirklich begeistert. Auch die Möglichkeit des zusätzlichen eReaders im Abo finde ich persönlich toll.”
„Die Auswahl von Legimi ist großartig.”
„Der Leser findet seine E-Books/Hörbücher sehr schnell und sie lassen sich, ob mit oder ohne Internetverbindung problemlos öffnen.”
Wurm sucht Buch
„Ich finde das Angebot von Legimi richtig toll.”
„Besonders schön finde ich die große Auswahl an möglichen Abo-Modellen und besonders die Abos mit eReader.”
Miss Foxy Reads
„Ich muss sagen, dass ich von dem E-Reader mehr als positiv überrascht bin.”
„Das ist wirklich eine großartige Idee und mal was ganz Anderes.”
Mikka liest das Leben...
Tausende von E-Books und Hörbücher
Ihre Zahl wächst ständig und Sie haben eine Fixpreisgarantie.
Sie haben über uns geschrieben:
Dabei gewährt der E-Book-Anbieter größtmögliche Freiheiten
Größter Vorteil die Möglichkeit, in der aktuellen App komfortabel zwischen E-Book und Hörbuchversion eines Titels
Spotify for E-Books