Sunday in France - Improved observance - The cathedral of Arles - West front - Interior - Tool-marks - A sermon on peace - The cloisters - Old Sacristan and his garden - Number of desecrated churches in Arles - Notre Dame de la Majeur - S. Caesaire - The isles near Arles - Cordes - Montmajeur - A gipsy camp - The ruins - Tower - The chapel of S. Croix.

I spent the first Sunday after Easter at Arles. It was a bright and joyous spring day. I went to the cathedral at nine o'clock and found a good congregation there, listening to a sermon on the obligation of observing the Sunday. It was dull, and I left. But I may here observe what a great change has taken place in France of late years relative to this observance. I can remember when I was a boy how that every shop was open, and business went on much as on other days. But the Church has made great efforts to obtain a due recognition of the Lord's Day, and all who consider themselves to be good Catholics now shut their shops, and others, who find that there is now very little trade going on upon Sunday, shut their shops also because it is of no use having them open. It is only the polemical infidels who continue to keep their factories in full work and their places of merchandise open to invite purchasers.

Some few years ago I was talking with a Frenchman in Rome, a commercial man, about the phylloxera that was devastating the vines, and ruining the peasantry, and I asked him what was being done to correct the evil. "Bah!" said he. "Everything has been tried. Mon ami. We don't observe the Sunday. Voila le vrai phylloxera."

Now this observation of his was only worth so much, that it showed how that the clergy had been going hammer and tongs at the consciences of their sheep, till they had impressed a conviction on them that if they neglected the commandment of God relative to the observance of one day in seven, He would chastise them till they realised that they had erred, acknowledged their error, and endeavoured to rectify it.

The cathedral of Arles is a very interesting church indeed. Externally the west front is rich in the bold rude style of the twelfth century, and consists of a deeply-recessed semicircular arch resting on a horizontal sculptured frieze which forms the lintel of the door, and is continued on each side upon pillars that rest on the backs of lions and have apostles and saints standing between them. The interior of the church is very solemn and striking. It has been cleaned, but judiciously, without sand-papering away the tool-marks on the ancient stone. Has the reader never been puzzled to note the difference between old work and new, even when the new is a reproduction of the old? In the new there is an absence of something, but what we cannot tell. This something is very probably nothing more than the old tool-marks. The ancient workers left on the stone the tale of every stroke they dealt, and to ages on ages these marks tell us: here was a strong arm employed, here was dealt a vigorous blow; here Symon the hewer was tickled with a comical story that mason Peter told and he laughed, and the blow he dealt ran jagged with his laughter. These strokes were done in the morning, when the workers were fresh; those at even, when their arms were weary. But nowadays the stone is all gone over with a metal toothcomb, and scraped till not a tool-mark remains, and wood is glass-papered till every particle of sharpness and character is taken out of the work.

The aisles of the cathedral of Arles are but five feet wide, the arches are round, the windows Romanesque; the church is barrel-vaulted, nothing could be plainer, and yet somehow that old church is full of poetry and charm. I went to High Mass at eleven. It was all very homely, quiet and reverent. Another congregation was gathered; a Gregorian simple service sung, which the congregation knew and joined in heartily. Then up into the pulpit got a canon, and gave out his text, from the Gospel, S. John xx., end of verse nineteen. My heart stood still. Why - you shall hear.

Just twenty-two years ago, I was in Switzerland on Whit Sunday, and went to the little village church. The cure gave out these same words as his text, and preached a very good sermon on Peace, though perhaps not very appropriate to the day. Peace, he said, was an excellent thing, whether (1) in a country; (2) in a household; (3) in the conscience. There we had the three heads; on these he dilated. First we had a picture of the miseries of war in a country, and the converse picture of prosperity in peace. Then, secondly, we had a description of domestic discomfort, where husband and wife were at loggerheads, and - naturally, a charming family piece where both were in unity. Then came, thirdly, the special topic of his discourse, peace in the conscience, and how it was to be obtained and secured.

I bottled up that sermon in my memory and have preached it since, myself, once or twice.

One day, some fifteen years ago, I was at Eichstaedt in Bavaria, on a Saturday. The church of S. Michael there is reserved for the episcopal seminary; I wanted to see the interior and found it locked, but discovering a side door into the cloisters open, I, and my wife who was with me, entered. The church was empty, save that a sacristan with a feather brush was dusting the side altars, but to my surprise I heard a sermon being preached, and caught a glimpse of a priest in the pulpit haranguing and gesticulating to an empty church.

The sacristan, who saw us enter, went into convulsions of laughter. I did not understand the situation, and walked slowly down the aisle looking at the pictures, and listening to the discourse. I was very much surprised to hear the subject of Peace being chopped into three portions: peace in the country, peace in the family, peace in the conscience. It was my old friend the sermon on Peace again. Presently, my wife and I, having finished with the pictures in the north aisle, crossed the nave of the church to look at those in the south aisle, when, suddenly the preacher was aware of a strange gentleman and lady acting as his audience. His voice faltered, he broke down, searched for his MS., could not find his place, fell into complete confusion, turned tail, and bolted down the stairs and out of the church. He was a recently ordained seminarist rehearsing his first sermon.

Two years later I was in Brussels. A new dean had been appointed to S. Gudule, and was to preach his first sermon. I went there with a friend. He gave out his text. I pricked up my ears. Then he addressed himself to his subject, Peace; and showed how it naturally divided itself into three heads, peace in a country, peace in a household, peace in the conscience. It was my old friend again.

Now when I heard this text given out by a canon at Arles, I thought with a shock: Bless me! we shall have those three heads once more! But I was mistaken. The old man gave us a simple, crystal-pure discourse of ten minutes on the peace that passeth man's understanding.

Now I do not mean to hint that the Swiss, the German, and the Belgian preachers all used literally the same discourse; but I suppose that in the seminaries there are supplied certain skeleton discourses for the whole year, and these skeletons are dressed up sometimes in homely fustian, sometimes in rhetorical tinsel: yet they never remain other than dressed-up skeletons.

There is very little of colour in the cathedral of Arles - only nine great pieces of Flemish tapestry, green and soft pale yellow, that are suspended in the aisles. All the rest is of unadorned limestone blocks, unadorned save for the chipping marks of the old masons seven hundred years ago.

On the south side of the church is a delightfully rich cloister, the arcade resting on double columns whose capitals are richly sculptured with sacred subjects, incidents from the Old and New Testament. In the cloister is a well, fed, I believe, originally by the old Roman aqueduct that supplied the town with pure water from the hills, but which was suffered in the Middle Ages to fall into complete ruin. This aqueduct was older than the amphitheatre, for it ran in a cut channel through the rock beneath it. One evening that I was in the cloister the aged sacristan was engaged drawing from this well and watering a little garden of flowers he had made in the sunny sheltered nook within the cloister, against the south wall.

It was a pretty little subject; the old man in his long black coat, with silvery hair, stooping over his anemones and tulips, tying up the white narcissus that a swirl of the mistral had broken; with the quaint sculptured capitals of the pillars above, and the deep shadows between the pillars before him; in the junctions of the old blocks above the arcade were wild gillyflowers blooming, and under the tiles were swallows busy over their mud nests. And as the old man tied up the bruised narcissus, in a cracked voice he sang to himself one of the vesper psalms, and I caught the verse:

"Haec requies mea in saeculum saeculi: hic habitabo quoniam elegi eam." ("This shall be my rest for ever, here will I dwell, for I have a delight therein.")

Arles was at one time a city of churches, but the hurricane of the Revolution swept over her, and now she has left but four. On the walls, is a very early Romanesque church, tottering to ruins, because the Society for the Promotion of Athletic Sports, to whom it has been surrendered up for tumbling, climbing, wrestling, are impecunious and cannot keep it watertight. Hard by is another church, still earlier, a temple adapted to Christian worship, now half swept away, half devoted to a cabaret. The church of the Cordeliers is turned into a school, and the octagonal tower rises out of the roof of the dormitory. The beautiful fourteenth-century church of the Dominicans is a stable for the horses of the omnibuses that ply between the train and the town. S. Martin is desecrated, so is S. Isidore. The earliest church in Arles is Notre Dame de la Majeur, near the Arenes, but it does not look its age. It was in that church that the Council assembled in 475 on the doctrine of Grace, when the Gallican prelates were by no means disposed to admit S. Augustine's predestinarian teaching. Outside the church in the open space are traces of walls that are level with the earth; and if I am not mistaken, they are the foundations of an early basilica, with apse to the west. The church was rebuilt in the Middle Ages, and made to orientate, and was thrown further east than the earlier church. That is my impression, but nothing can be determined without pick and spade.

In the church of S. Antonine is a metal font, made to resemble the laver of Solomon, resting on the backs of oxen.

The old Grand Priory has a charming Renaissance front to the river, and some late rich flamboyant work in a street at the back. It is now turned into a gallery of indifferent pictures. The Church of S. Caesaire is modernised, and has, alas! nothing of interest remaining in it, only its historic memories to hallow it.

S. Caesarius, son of a count of Chalons, born in 470, had been educated at Lerins, but thence he was drawn in 501, to succeed the first fathers of that holy isle, Honoratus and Hilary, upon the archiepiscopal throne of Arles. He was engaged in erecting a great monastery for women outside the walls, when the Ostrogoths and the Franks met in a furious conflict beneath them. His monastery was reduced to a ruin. A priest, a relative of Caesarius, had the meanness to let himself down the walls at night, escape to Theodoric the Ostrogoth king, and denounce him as engaged in secret communication with Clovis, king of the Franks. As soon as Arles was taken, Caesarius was led under custody to Theodoric, but was speedily set at liberty by that great-minded prince. Another and similar charge was made against him later, and Caesarius was forced to travel to Ravenna to exculpate himself. On his return to Arles he set to work to rebuild his monastery, not this time without the walls. He made his own sister, Caesaria, the abbess, and she governed it for thirty years, and gathered about her a community of two hundred nuns. This brave Christian woman caused to be prepared, and ranged symmetrically round the church, stone coffins for herself and for each of the sisters. They sang day and night the praises of God in the presence of the new tombs that awaited them. When each sister was dead, she was placed in one of these stone coffins and carried off to the Elysian Fields, and most likely some of them are among those there strewn about or being now broken up. It was into this church that Caesarius himself, feeling his end approach, had himself conveyed, that with feeble uplifted hands he might bestow his final blessing on that band of faithful women who were labouring to bring a higher ideal of womanhood before the Arles folk, corrupted by the vices of the decayed civilisation of Rome.

As already said, Arles was formerly surrounded by water, river on one side, meres on the other. Out of the lagoons, however, rose islets of limestone rock; of these there are two, Cordes and Montmajeur, but there were also formerly a number of smaller tofts standing above the water, but not always rocky, forming an archipelago, and were covered with the cottages of fishermen and utriculares, and farmers who cultivated vines and olives on the slopes above the reach of the water. Such were Castelet, Mont d'Argent, Pierre-Feu, and Trebonsitte. Nowadays we can go by road to all these spots, formerly they could be reached only by boat or raft. The isle of Cordes is about five miles from Arles, it was evidently at one period fortified, and is believed to have formed for some time the camp of the Saracen invaders who scourged and swept Provence with sword and flame. In the rocks of Cordes is a very curious cave, called the Trou des Fees, formed exactly in the shape of a sword, with lateral galleries to answer to the cross-piece at the hilt. It was undoubtedly a prehistoric habitation, probably enlarged by the Saracens and used by them as a storehouse for their spoils. It is entered through an oval antechamber which resembles the hilt of the sword; and which most likely was the original prehistoric dwelling. But the largest of the islands was Montmajeur, that now rises abruptly from the plain, crowned with ruins. I walked to it in driving rain and mistral. As I approached, I saw a gipsy woman bringing water in a pail to the camp, but the wind literally scooped the water out of the pail as with a spoon, and when she reached her destination very little remained. I stopped and had a little chat with the gipsies. They had tried to set up their tent, but it had been blown down over their heads, and had been rolled along with them in it, as they said, like a bag of potatoes. They were now squatted in the lee of a wall, an old ruined wall, and were endeavouring to boil a kettle, but the flames were carried by the wind in horizontal flashes, and would not touch the bottom of the vessel. They wanted me to have a cup of coffee with them when I returned from seeing the ruins, and I promised to do so, but, on my return, I found that rain and wind had blown and soused out their little fire, and they had not been able to get the water to boil, so were drinking it lukewarm. Good-natured, merry folk, they laughed over their troubles as though it were a sovereign joke, and yet they were drenched to the skin.

Montmajeur was a great Benedictine abbey, with a glorious church founded in the sixth century, that was rebuilt in the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, over a large and interesting crypt, and with cloisters at the side like those of Arles, but by no means as rich. Beneath the abbey are the chapel and the reputed cell of S. Trophimus, who probably never lived there - a charming specimen of early Romanesque. Part of this chapel is scooped and sculptured out of the living rock. But what is one of the grandest portions of the abbey is the machicolated tower that commands the plain for miles to the sea, a noble specimen of a donjon, and in excellent preservation. The abbey buildings adjoining the church were erected about fifty years before the Revolution, when the monastery was in the plenitude of its wealth. They form the wreckage of a palace for princes rather than of an abbey for the sons of S. Benedict, who I am quite sure would have been one of the first, had it been possible for him to be there, to lay his hand to destroy it, along with the mob of Arles' republicans, as utterly out of accord with the spirit of his rule. Indeed, on looking up at these sumptuous halls and stately galleries, one cannot but feel that the time was past in which the monastic orders, wealthy and luxurious and idle, could be endured. The church is no longer in use, and is ruinous.

Below the rock is a spit of land that stood anciently dry above the meres, and on that is a very singular old church dedicated to the Holy Cross, round which has been discovered a minor Alyscamp, a place of sepulture utilised from the earliest times. Sainte Croix is now regarded as a national monument, and is preserved carefully. It consists of a central square tower, from which project four equal semicircular apses, that to the west having a porch attached. It was consecrated in 1019. It is lighted by three little windows, only one to the east and two to the S. and S.E. Internally it is entirely deficient in sculpture, and was probably decorated with paintings. This was a funeral chapel in the midst of the cemetery, and was never used as a church. "The monks brought their dead hither," says Viollet le Duc, "processionally; the body was placed in the porch; the brethren remained outside. When Mass was said, the body was blessed, and it was conveyed through the chapel and out at the little S. door, to lay it in the grave. The only windows which lighted this chapel looked into the walled cemetery. At night, a lamp burned in the centre of this monument, and, in conformity with the use of the first centuries of the Middle Ages, these three little windows let the gleam of the lamp fall upon the graves. During the office for the dead a brother tolled the bell hung in the turret, by means of a hole reserved for the purpose in the centre of the dome." A similar but earlier mortuary chapel is at Planes, in Roussillon.