Archaeological Journal/Volume 1/Notices of New Publications: Seances generales tenues en 1841 par la Societe Francaise pour la Conservation des Monuments Historiques (Part 1)
The above-named work shewing the good that has been already done in France by a Society whose objects are similar to those of the "British Archæological Association," is therefore selected for review in order to demonstrate what may also be eventually achieved in this country.
The "Société pour la Conservation des Monuments Historiques de France" was founded about nine years ago by the zeal and talent of M. de Caumont, a gentleman of Caen in Normandy. He was immediately joined by M. Lair of Caen, by the Comte de Beaurepaire de Louvagny, and by the Abbé Daniel, Rector of the 'Academie' at Caen; and shortly afterwards by many members of the 'Institut de France' and other learned societies, besides several of the noblesse and enlightened persons of its agricultural and industrial classes. At first the Society held its meetings only in Normandy; but it was soon invited to visit other provinces of France, in order to confer with their various literary bodies, and the clergy and gentlemen who were laudably endeavouring to restore their desecrated churches, and to prevent that destruction of feudal castles, and Roman and Gaulish remains then daily perpetrated: and this feeling has since so much increased, that the Society is now called on to visit several provinces in one year, diffusing thus its civilizing influence over nearly the whole kingdom.
The meetings of the Society in 1841 took place at Clermont, at Le Mans, at Angers, at Cherbourg, and at Lyon during the session there of the Congres Scientifique de France. The meeting at Clermont was held on the 11th of June, under the presidency of M. Bouillet, its divisional inspector; but as its object was only to visit those churches and other monuments in that province, which, with the aid of government, it had recently restored, I shall proceed to relate the transactions of the sitting at Le Mans, on the 17th of June, under the presidency of the venerable M. Cauvin, and at which his wife, with a few other ladies of acknowledged literary acquirements were permitted to be present. Business commenced by a report on the restoration of a window of the twelfth century in the cathedral there, and a description of its subject, (the history of St. Julien;) followed by a notice of a Dolmen lately discovered in the vicinity, and the presentation of sundry archæological prints and drawings. M. de Caumont, as Director of the Society, then distributed a list of the questions for discussion at its subsequent great meeting at Angers, in which those questions not otherwise intelligible were illustrated by marginal woodcuts, and he afterwards read an essay on the Lantern-towers of ancient cemeteries, which was succeeded by a description of a beautifully carved organ-case put up A.D. 1531. A grant of money was then voted for two casts from some ancient sculpture at Le Mans; one for the museum there, and one for the Society's museum at Caen. A statistical report was next made on the civil and religious edifices in the diocese of Le Mans, whence it appeared that of seven hundred churches therein no fewer than five hundred were as old as the eleventh and twelfth centuries—many of them having crypts and stained glass, of which a tabular view was in course of publication for the Society. An enquiry was thereupon addressed to the Clergy present as to what particular restorations were most urgently requisite in the diocese, and their replies having been noted by the Secretary, the sitting at Le Mans then terminated.
The Society subsequently met on the 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th, and 25th of June, at Angers, into which city it was honourably welcomed by the Bishop, the Clergy, and the literary societies there. The business was opened with a panegyric by M. Cauvin on the general utility of Archæology; the services which it had already rendered towards the settling of several historical opinions previously doubtful, and an enumeration of those towns wherein branches of the Society had been planted. The architect of the department having then reported on the church reparations recently effected in it, funds were voted for casts from a capital, which he had spoken of as very remarkable, and for the purchase of a certain tumulus which seemed to him likely to afford, on excavation, some interesting objects. A map of the Celtic monuments of Le Maine having been presented, the director suggested that its value might be much augmented by the addition to it of the Roman roads.
At the afternoon sitting of this industrious Society, under the presidency of the Bishop, notice was given of a Credence-table of the twelfth century lately found in a church, remarkable also for containing an equestrian statue. A request was then made that a grant of money voted in 1839 for the restoration of certain carved stalls should not be revoked because of such restoration not having been commenced within the period assigned by the Society for so doing. M. Barraud announced that he had instituted a research into the several materials and ornaments of chalices and other ritual vessels of known date. A notice of a mass of bronze fish-hooks, and bronze celts, arms, and ornaments, all found under one large stone, then led to an enquiry how such heterogeneous articles became so placed together. Next followed a report on the monuments of the Upper Loire, chronologically and geographically arranged, and again subdivided according to their supposed purport or style of art: its author eloquently deprecating the frequent indifference to such things on the part of the authorities to whose guardianship the laws of France now commit them, and, in some degree, also of the clergy, even towards sacred objects. A new edition of the map called Peutinger's table was afterwards exhibited; and the Bishop having announced that a Chair of Archæology was about to be established in his diocesan seminary, M. de Caumont, in the name of the Society, thereupon offered its best thanks to his lordship, and suggested the introduction of some archæological instruction into the Government school of mechanical arts at Angers.
At the morning sitting on the 22nd, the chief judge of the Cour Royale condescendingly acted as Secretary, and business began by a report from the Society's inspector of the Aisne (no less a person than the Préfet himself) upon the several works recently executed in that department. Among these were some restorations in the cathedral at Laon, and other churches there, and the upholding of certain feudal castles and Roman camps—naming the members under whose Special superintendance these works had been conducted. The inspector of the Moselle then enumerated the labours of the Society in his department, one of which was the preservation of a Roman aqueduct, and the purchase of which structure was recommended as an instructive example of ancient subterraneous masonry. He stated, moreover, that the Préfet had forbidden any appropriation of the stones of a certain Roman causeway in the vicinity of some modern roadmaking, and that he had ordered all designs for any 'beautifications' of the cathedral at Metz to be previously subjected to the approval of a committee of taste; and concluded by informing the Society that a sum had been granted by the department for the maintenance of an interesting edifice formerly serving both for sacred and military purposes.
The Director then commenced the following series of questions addressed especially to members inhabiting the neighbouring departments. Are there any Dolmens? Of what stone are they formed? What are their dimensions? Are they single or divided? Is their chief opening to the east or south? Have any bones or cinerary urns, or instruments of stone or bronze, been found beneath them? Are there any Celtic tumuli in their vicinity, and are there any collections of upright stones artificially placed in circles or otherwise? These questions elicited much information, (but which it would take too much space here to detail,) and led to a vote requesting the Préfets of the several departments in which Celtic remains had been thus shewn to exist, authoritatively, to forbid their destruction.
At the second sitting on the 22nd, which was again presided over by the Bishop, the Director put the following questions. Are there any villas in the departments bordering on Angers referable to the Gallo-Roman epoch? Or any remains of ancient masonry near mineral springs? Do the fragments of Gallo-Roman sculpture, hitherto found, throw any light on its general system of ornamentation? and of what form was the architectural capital usually adopted? The subject of the middle age geography of Anjou having been introduced, M. Marchegay, the departmental archivist, furnished some documentary information thereon. The Secretary then read a memoir on the tombs of certain Dukes of Anjou, formerly existing in the cathedral of Angers, one of which, that of King Réné, he concluded with a motion for entreating government to restore. At seven in the evening the Society visited some of the principal buildings in Angers, inspecting first, under the guidance of the Bishop, his cathedral, and the ancient portions of his palace; then the interesting castle, and, finally, the pretty little chapel of Lesvieres, one of the many Angevine edifices erected by 'the good' King Réné.
(To be continued.)