Page:A book of the Pyrenees.djvu/353

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297
THE CHURCH

western doorway is unornamented. The plan of the church is a nave with side aisles and no transepts. It is very plain within as without, with huge piers supporting round-headed arches and vault. The high altar was of silver, and dated from 1069, but was sent to the mint at Perpignan to be coined into money in 1721. The new altar-piece is as Prosper Merimde described it—"a masterpiece of meanness and bad taste."

The original choir stalls were fine. A writer in 1787 says of the woodwork: "It is grand, and remarkable for the beauty of the stall-work covered with sculpture of the end of the thirteenth century, as is known by an inscription on one of the stalls." All this has disappeared.

In the sacristy is preserved a little bell with the date on it, 1554, ornamented with a figure of Apollo playing on the rebec, a monkey doing the same, and dancing bears, an eagle, a rabbit, and a boar.

But the great glory of Elne is its cloister raised on a terrace of the ancient acropolis of Illiberis, on the north side of the cathedral. Entrance to it is obtained by a doorway, which for the purity of its style and the sobriety of its ornamentation deserves notice. The arch is pointed, and of marble, alternatively white and red, and dates from the fourteenth century. The ironwork of the door is simple but graceful. Alart, the historian and antiquary says: "Without dispute, from the point of view of art, and from the historic reminiscences attached to it, the cloister is the most remarkable and precious relic that remains of Roussellonnaise architecture." It was begun in the twelfth century, but was continued and retouched in the fourteenth, so that whereas some of the capitals and columns are of Byzantine or Romanesque design, others have Gothic ornament. All is in white marble, and