The right spelling of Nimes - Derivation of name - The fountain - Throwing coins into springs - Collecting coins - Symbol of Agrippa - Character of Agrippa - What he did for Nimes - The Maison Carree - Different idea of worship in the Heathen world from what prevails in Christendom - S. Baudille - Vespers - Activity of the Church in France - Behaviour of the Clergy in Italy to the King and Queen - The Revolution a blessing to the Church in France - Church services in Italy and in France - The Tourmagne - Uncertainty as to its use - Cathedral of Nimes - Other churches - A canary lottery - Altars to the Sun - The sun-wheel - The Cross of Constantine - Anecdote of Flechier.

I pray the reader to observe how I spell the name of Nimes, with neither an s nor a circumflex, neither as Nismes, nor as Nimes, for both are wrong. Nimes is Nemausus, and there is no s to be sounded or suppressed in the ancient name of the place, which comes from the Keltic naimh, a fountain or spring. And in very truth no other name could better suit it, for here under a limestone hill wells up the river in one large flood sufficient for boats to go on it at once. This great green spring, ever flowing, mysterious even nowadays, is the great feature of Nimes, and this fountain certainly awoke the veneration of the old Gauls, who believed it to be a direct gift of the gods. One follows up a canal between streets planted with trees, and looks down into the pure water like liquid green glass, then suddenly reaches a garden. Above rises a wooded hill, thick with pines, syringa, Judas tree of brilliant pink lake, laburnum with its chains of gold, forming an arc of flowers, and sees before one a wide enclosed pool, walled round, of the shape of the figure 8, heaving with cold pure water that flows away under the terrace and falls with a roar to the lower level of the canal. On one side are ruins - of a temple to the Nymphs; but one cannot at first look at that, the volume of water engages one - a lake lifting itself up by its own strength out of the earth, always, night and day, inexhaustible, hardly varying in volume, coming no one knows whence, deep and green, with no visible bottom, without a bubble, without a ruffle - it is indeed wonderful. I have seen the spring of the Danube at Donaueschingen: it is nothing to this; the fountain of Vaucluse one can understand - it breaks out from a cave in the mountainside, like scores of others; this is otherwise - a river rising with no fuss, no display, no noise, without even a ripple.

It does not gush, it does not boil up. It is simply one glassy surface, and looking at it you cannot conceive that it is a river rising vertically and sliding away under your feet. Pliny says of the source of the Clitumnus: "At the foot of a little hill covered with venerable and shady trees, a spring issues which, gushing out in different and unequal streams, forms itself, after several windings, into a spacious basin, so extremely clear that you may see the pebbles, and the little pieces of money that are thrown into it, as they lie at the bottom." I have quoted this passage, not because the source of the Clitumnus at all resembles that of the river at Nimes, but because of the mention of the coins thrown in. Suetonius speaks of this same practice in his life of Augustus. Now this fountain at Nimes has yielded, and yields still, an almost inexhaustible supply of Roman and Gaulish and Gallo-Greek coins that have been thus thrown in as oblations to the nymphs in remote times; and these coins are now in the museums of Nimes and Paris, and in those of private collectors. The same custom still remains, but instead of coins, pins are now cast into springs.

At the entrance to the public gardens, over the iron gate is a medallion representing a crocodile and a palm-tree. The moment I saw it I stood still and stared. I knew that symbol, had known it from a boy. And this is how I came to know it. Living much in the south of France, and having always a hankering after old things, I collected coins, and I got them from the priests. The peasants were wont to drop old Roman coins which they found in their fields into the offertory bags and plates, and as these were of no use to the cures, they were very glad to give or sell them to me for small current sous. By this means I succeeded in making a very tolerable collection of Roman coins at an incredibly small cost. Now among these, one of the very first I got, and most curious, represented Octavius and Agrippa on one side, and on the reverse this identical symbol of a crocodile under a palm tree. Often enough did I turn that coin over and wonder what it meant, and highly delighted was I to discover its signification at length. It was symbolical of the subjugation of Egypt, and was struck in compliment to Agrippa. Then most assuredly Agrippa had something to do with Nimes. I turned to a little history of the place that I had, and to my delight found that he it was who is held to have been the great benefactor, indeed maker, of this little town.

I have the greatest possible respect for Agrippa. His stern, yet noble face, once seen in this bust is never to be forgotten, and infinitely sad - sad beyond comparison in history is the story of his family.

He was a man of obscure, plebeian birth, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, belonging to a family, the Vipsanian, of which the gentlemen of Rome professed never to have heard, or not to have found it necessary to trouble their heads to learn anything. He was a fine soldier, a man of plain manners, good morals, upright, faithful, unambitious. Octavius Augustus was warmly attached to him, and valued his good qualities and his admirable military genius; and Agrippa on his side was tenderly devoted to his noble friend. Their characters were as unlike as their faces and as their manners. When Octavius became the supreme ruler of the destinies of Rome, he heaped honours on his friend. He made him put away his wife and marry his own daughter Julia. He had children by her, Caius and Lucius, who grew to man's estate and then died, one from a wound, the other of decline, and another son, an ill-conditioned boy, Agrippa Posthumus, put to death, probably by order of Octavius, a commission given on his own deathbed, to save Rome from internecine war.

His daughter, Agrippina, starved herself to death, heartbroken at the murder of her two sons by Tiberius, and despairing at the thought that her other son, the crazy, debauched, cruel Caligula was alone left to represent her family. The other daughter of Agrippa, Julia, was infamous for her debaucheries, and died in banishment. The family was then represented by the second Agrippina, daughter of the first Agrippina, who became the mother of Nero - that son who was his mother's and his brother's murderer, and died finally by his own hand, amidst the execrations of the Roman world.

The sad shadow that lies on the brow of Agrippa almost seems to be cast there by the destiny awaiting his family. Not one drop of his blood mingled with the sacred ichor of the Julian race remains on earth. But other remnants of Agrippa abide. The Pantheon of Rome, and the Pont du Gard near Nimes, aye - and the baths he made for the washerwomen in the water he led into this town, that they might not sully the sacred spring that welled up before the temple of the Nymphs.

Agrippa in his various offices and governorships accumulated great wealth, but he was not a grasping man, nor one who spent his wealth upon himself. Wherever he was, he expended his fortune on improving and embellishing the cities under his sway. Thus it was that for quite an inconsiderable little town, which the classic authors pass over without notice, he lavished very large sums to provide it with excellent water from two springs twenty-five miles distant, not that the river that rises at Nimes is impure, but that a certain awe felt for it withheld the natives from desecrating the sacred waters to common use.

The Pont du Gard which carried the waters by three tiers of arches across the valley of the Gurdon, at a height of one hundred and eighty feet, is one of the most striking and perfect of the monuments left by the Romans in Gaul, or anywhere; and it is certainly remarkable that the two most complete relics of this great people that remain, should have been the work of Agrippa, the Pantheon and the Pont du Gard. This latter is a colossal work. Its length is 873 feet at top, and may well be compared to its advantage with the modern aqueduct that conveys water to the Prado of Montpellier, a more lengthy, but a feeble structure.

The Roman remains in Nimes are held famous everywhere. Nowhere, least of all in Rome, are the relics of that great people of builders to be seen in such perfection. There is the amphitheatre, smaller, but more perfect even, than that at Arles. There is the Maison Carree, a temple almost quite perfect, and of surpassing proportional perfection. Small this temple is: it consists of thirty elegant Corinthian columns, ten of which are disengaged, and form the portico, whereas the remainder are engaged in the naos or sanctuary. No engraving can give an idea of its loveliness. It is the best example we have in Europe, of a temple that is perfectly intact. It is mignon, it is cheerful, it is charming. I found myself unable at any time to pass it without looking round over my shoulder, again and again, and uttering some exclamation of pleasure at the sight of it.

That temple is instructive in a way the ordinary traveller would hardly suspect. It is a valuable example to us of the complete and radical difference that existed between the Pagan and the Christian ideas of worship. The Pagan world had no idea of gathering a congregation together, any more than I may say have the old canons of Florence, or of S. Peter's, Rome, who shut themselves into glass boxes, of bringing all men into one building to unite in prayer and praise. The sanctuaries of the Pagan gods were quite small and dark. Worship was simply an individual matter, a bringing of a sacrifice to an altar. There was nothing like congregational worship in the Jewish temple either. The priest alone went within to offer the incense, whilst the people stood without. But in the Christian church the condition of affairs was completely reversed. The worship of God was to be for all the people, all together, with one heart and one voice. That is why the early Christians in the fourth century never adapted a temple to a church. A temple could not be adapted. The pillars were all outside, and within was a little dark box - the sanctuary - that would not hold more than a couple of score of persons. They could not use the temples; what they wanted were temples turned outside-in, the pillars within forming great halls in which a crowd might be gathered.

I had been looking at this delightful little temple and considering this, and it was a Sunday. I sauntered on, this still on my mind, when I fell in with trains of school children, all drifting in one direction. I followed them, and found myself in the great new church of S. Baudille. The time was afternoon. The church, quite a cathedral in size, was crowded, boys' schools, girls' schools, men, women, of all sorts and ranks were there. Then I heard such a service as did the heart good to hear. It was only vespers - just five psalms, a hymn, and the Magnificat; nothing more. But the psalms were sung in alternate verses between the choir and the congregation, who knew every word and every note, and sang lustily from their hearts' depths, the plain old Gregorian tones with which many of us are so familiar at home. I found the words welling up in my mind: "The voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth." I was glad there was no one with me as we dispersed, to speak to me. I could not have answered, my heart was too full. But I went back to the Maison Carree, and looked again at it for long, and then realised, in a way I had never realised before, how that the Carpenter of Nazareth had transformed the whole idea of worship into something of which the world previously had no conception.

To the ordinary English traveller the services in a foreign Roman Catholic church are so unintelligible that I may be excused if I say a word on vespers that may enable him to understand it. Usually - always on week days - two evening services, vespers and compline are said together, or rather one immediately after the other. Each consists of confession and absolution, a short Scriptural lesson, psalms, a canticle, a hymn and collects. The canticle for vespers is the Magnificat; for compline is the Nunc Dimittis.

Now as the two services were practically united, what our Reformers did was to weld them together. They cut out the second confession and absolution and the second batch of psalms, but retained the second lesson and the second canticle. The English even-song is therefore simply the Latin vespers and compline pressed into a single service. The Reformers, by putting a psalm as alternative for each canticle, perhaps intended the English even-song to serve as either vespers (when Magnificat was sung) or as compline (when Nunc Dimittis was sung).

When I was in Rome during the winter, I was very much astonished, one day, as the King of Italy passed, to see a whole school of little boys under the direction of three Christian Brothers, strut by with their little noses in the air, and without raising their hats. At the same pension with myself was a young Swiss Benedictine monk, who sat by me at table d'hote, and with whom I struck up a warm friendship. I commented to him on what I had seen. "Oh!" he replied, "we make a point of never saluting the king. Why," he continued, "only yesterday I was walking down the Corso with Cardinal U - - , when we saw the queen's carriage approaching. I asked what was to be done. His eminence replied, 'Keep your hat on, don't notice her.'"

I confess that my English blood boiled up, and for the first and last time I spoke sharply to my friend. I believe I made a certain allusion to an injunction of S. Paul, and told him plainly that I thought such conduct unbecoming in a gentleman and a Christian, and a priest.

On entering France ones sees what devastation the Revolution wrought on the Church, and one compares the condition there with the very light and easy way in which she has been taken out of her temporal throne and seated on the ground in Italy. She has been treated there too easily, so easily that she pouts, and frets, and sulks; whereas in France she has been an Antaeus who rose from the ground stronger than when cast down. In Rome, the Church shuffles along in her old slouching, hands-in-the-pockets, half-asleep, don't-care style, letting every opportunity slip away, neglected by the people, because she neglects them. In France, the Church is tingling with fresh life-blood to her fingers' ends, full of energy, activity, zeal. Why, there is not to be found in Rome, or Florence, or Naples, a church where a tolerable service is to be heard sung. In Rome one gets sick of and angry with the squalling of eunuchs, and longs for a scourge of small cords to drive them out of the temple. No one cares for the Church services in Rome. No attempt is made to attract the people to them. At Florence the service is like the bleating of a flock of sheep driven into a pen to be shorn, and the old canons who baa are enclosed within glass against draughts, and to the exclusion of all congregational worship. But in France, the people who have any religion in them love their services - love them and have made them their own, sing in them and follow them with eager interest. I remember, when I was a youth in France, that few men were seen in church, and the ladies lounged through the service. It is not so now, you see as many men in church as you will in England, and the women are attentive and devout. The Italian Church must suffer deeper humiliation, and learn to touch her cap to "the powers that be, ordained of God," before the people will rally to her and show her reverence.

On the summit of the hill above the fountain and temple of the Nymphs is a most puzzling building, the Tourmagne. It is of Roman construction, a great tower like that of Babel, in stages, the upper stage with semicircular recesses that sustained the external wall, now in part fallen. No one can tell its purpose. It has clearly been utilised since its first construction by the Romans, by making it an angle tower of some other building, the foundations of which have been quite recently exposed. The tower is octagonal. It resembles the structure of the lighthouse at Ostia, already mentioned as in the Torlonia gallery. But why a lighthouse here? It is true that to the south of Nimes was lagoon and marsh, with islets and strips of dry land scattered about among the tracts of water, all the way to the sea, but one hardly supposes such a lighthouse would have been raised to guide the utriculares on their skin-sustained rafts. Yet for what other purpose it can have been raised it is hard to imagine. It stands on very high ground, and commands a most extensive prospect. It has long been, and is likely to remain, a hard nut for antiquaries to break their teeth upon.

The cathedral of Nimes has been, not so much restored as transformed internally, so as to void it of much interest, but it must have been a curious church at one time. Externally, at the west end, is a most wonderful frieze, a band of rich sculpture representing the story of man from the Creation to the drunkenness of Noah. In one chapel within is an old Christian sarcophagus utilised as an altar, on it our Lord is represented as teacher surrounded by the apostles. S. Paul is a modern church good in proportion, with an admirable central octagonal tower and spire. The only fault to be found with the church is in the details. S. Baudille is a pretentious Gothic church, with two asparagus shoots as western towers, it has a square east end, with a really marvellously ugly east window. The new church of S. Perpetue is beneath criticism.

There are two Roman triumphal arches at Nimes, but neither is remarkable. In front of one I found a man exhibiting a cage of canaries. He had a little table before the cage on which small cards, each numbered, were set out. Then he sold among the bystanders tickets with corresponding numbers. There were eighteen numbers, and each card sold for a sou, and the whole constituted a lottery for a chain and some seals that the fellow dangled before the eyes of the little circle of lookers-on. The lots were taken up after a little persuasion and chaffering. Then he opened the cage door; out hopped a canary that trotted up and down the little table, and finally picked up one of the cards. "Number nine," called the proprietor of the canaries. "Which monsieur is the happy possessor of card number nine?" A soldier stepped forward, presented his tally, and received the silver watch-chain. Then all those who had been unsuccessful restored their cards, and the same process was repeated, this time among women, for a silver thimble.

Nimes struck me as one of the very brightest, pleasantest towns I have ever visited, and the one in which, if forced to live out of England, I think I could live most happily in. I have said not one word about the museum at Nimes, which is within the Maison Carree, and yet the museum contains some objects deserving of attention. There are two altars with wheels carved on them, both small, the largest only two feet three inches high, and that has on it not the wheel only, but the thunderbolt. These are altars to the Gaulish god of the sun. The second bears an inscription "et terrae matri." It was dedicated doubtless to the "sun and to the earth mother," but the first portion of the legend is lost. In the Avignon Museum is a statue of a Gaulish Jupiter in military costume, with his right hand on the wheel, and with the eagle on his left. [1]

[Footnote 1: Others at Treves, Moulin, and Paris.]

Moreover, in the Nimes museum are some bronze circular ornaments, found in 1883 in the caves of S. Vallon in Ardeche, representing the wheel. On the triumphal arch of Orange are Gaulish warriors with horned helmets, and wheels as crests between the horns. The wheel, as symbol of the sun, was very general everywhere, in the east as well as the west, among the Germans as well as among the Gauls, but among the latter it assumed a very special importance, and it is due to this fact that in the French cathedrals the west window is a wheel window. At Basle there is a round window in the minster with figures climbing and falling on the spokes, and Fortune sits in the midst. It is a wheel of Fortune. It is the same at Beauvais, at Amiens, and elsewhere. At Chartres is a representation in stained glass of the Transfiguration; and Christ is exhibited in glory in the midst of an eight-spoked wheel. A curious statue at Luxeuil, now lost, represented a rider protecting a lady whilst his horse tramples on a prostrate foe; his raised hand over the woman is thrust through a six-rayed wheel. On the Meuse a similar peculiarity has been noticed in a fragment of a sculptured figure, it is a hand holding a four-spoked wheel. In the Museum Kircherianum at Rome are bronze six-rayed wheels, the spokes zigzagged like lightnings, found at Forli, others at Modena. All these were symbols of the sun. Now when Constantine professed to have seen his vision, which was in all probability a mock-sun, he thought that the rays he saw formed the Greek initials of Christ, and he therefore ordered these initials, forming a six-rayed wheel, to be set up on the standards of his soldiers. The only difference between his "Labarum" and the symbol of the Gaulish sun-god was that his upper spoke was looped to form the letter P. No doubt whatever, that his Keltic soldiers hailed the new standard as that of their national god, and that when they marched against Maxentius and met him at Saxa Rubra, eight miles from Rome, they thought that they, as Gauls, were marching to a second capture of the capital of the world, under the protection of their national god.

Among men of note that have been associated with Nimes is Flechier, born at Pernes in Vaucluse in 1632, who became Bishop of Nimes in 1687. He was the son of a tallow-chandler. From his eloquence he was much regarded as a preacher, but unfortunately his discourses contain very little except well-rounded sentences of well-chosen words. He was a favourite of Louis XIV., who respected his integrity and piety. One day a haughty aristocratic prelate about the Court had the bad taste to sneer at him for his origin. "Avec votre maniere de penser," replied Flechier calmly, "je crois que si vous etiez ne ce que je suis, vous n'eussiez fait, toute votre vie - que de chandelles."