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Thomas Allies
Journal in France in 1845 and 1848 with Letters from Italy in 1847

Journal in France in 1845 and 1848 with Letters from Italy in 1847
Thomas Allies

T. W. (Thomas William) Allies

Journal in France in 1845 and 1848 with Letters from Italy in 1847 / Of Things Concerning the Church and Education


Of the vast number of English men and English women who have travelled on the Continent in late years, comparatively few, I imagine, have deemed it worth their while to give much thought and attention to the action of the Church in the countries they have visited. Doubtless all have entered the material fabrics of Roman Catholic worship, but generally it has been to treat them as public monuments, rather than as "the house of prayer for all nations." But how many of those travellers who enjoy leisure and independence have made it their study to understand those manifold institutions for the education of the clergy or the laity, for the consolation of the suffering, for the instruction of the poor and outcast, or for the advancement of the interior life, by which the Church christianises the world, and lays hold of the heart of humanity? I am not now expressing an opinion whether the whole Roman system be true or false, pure or corrupt; I am looking at it simply as a fact. And in this view, perhaps, there is no object on the face of the earth so worthy of contemplation by the thoughtful mind as the Roman Church. As an English Churchman, I do not think it truthful, honest, christian, or safe, to shut my eyes to such a fact existing in the world. It seems to me that one ought to endeavour to understand it. Those who strive to rekindle ancient animosities, those who take not the trouble to understand doctrines as taught by their professors, but wilfully misconceive and mis-state them; those even who rest contented in a state of separation, do they not sin against Him, who in the days of His humiliation prayed to His Father, "that they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me." Do they in the least realise the fact that the Church of England considers the Church of Rome to be quite as truly a part of the Church Catholic as she is herself?

Thus it is that between the two communions there has grown up a prodigious ignorance of each other's true state. I have found well informed Roman Catholic ecclesiastics ignorant that we possess a ritual, use fixed prayers, have a regular hierarchy; while scarcely any one is aware that we have a form of absolution as categorical as their own, and one which presupposes special confession. They are in the habit of taking for granted that we have no succession, besides asserting that our orders are invalid through defect of the formularies. The present Pope, conversing lately with an English clergyman, seriously inquired of him, whether we administered, what, in condescension to the supposed feelings of his auditor, he termed "la cena," once a year; and whether we passed the cup from hand to hand? Two notions, I imagine, which must have given him the poorest impression of the Anglican communion which a Roman Catholic could have. And in conversing with theologians, they ordinarily direct themselves against merely Protestant feelings and arguments, such as touch the Lutherans and Calvinists abroad, or dissenters here, but which have nothing to do with English Churchmen.

But Roman Catholic ignorance of us is, I think, almost exceeded by our ignorance of them.

Would that I could be in any degree instrumental to the removal of a prejudice, or the clearing up of a misconception. My means of observation have not been large, my time very limited; but I have seen enough to be convinced, that those who hate and denounce the Roman Church most violently, do not hate and denounce her more than she would that thing which they suppose to be the Roman Church.

If both sides knew each other well, if all had been done which could be done for a reconciliation, and the present state of enmity and opposition still subsisted, it would indeed be a grievous prospect for the future; but when ignorance and misapprehensions make up so much of the difference between the Churches, are we not to hope for better things? Is not Providence teaching us, by what is taking place on both sides, that the Church of God in all lands must unite against the common foe? Is He not removing on both sides the impediments to that union?

Moreover, an English Churchman conversing with a Roman Catholic will find, in proportion as both are earnest-minded, that they have generally the same friends and the same enemies, the same likings and the same antipathies, which, if the great heathen philosopher be correct, is a strong proof of an inward identity.[1 - Arist. Rhet., lib. 2. 4.] Very rarely indeed will they differ in principle, though sometimes in facts; the inward character will be the same in both.

The only merit of the following journal, if it have any, is the attempt to see things as they are in the Roman Catholic system; to put off all preconceived prejudices, not condemning that which is contrary to what one is accustomed to meet, but endeavouring to understand the principle on which it rests. It is nearly restricted to France, but perhaps that country is for more than one reason the most interesting part of the Roman Catholic communion at present. There the divorce, which all the governments of Christendom are now enacting on the Church, has been accomplished with the most harshness, contumely, and tyranny. The ample estates surrendered by the French clergy, in noble reliance on the generosity of their country, have been taken possession of by the state, which, admitting that the vast majority of its people are Catholic at least in profession, has recompensed this surrender by a grant to the clergy, yearly repeated, not a dotation once for all, and that in amount so unspeakably mean and inadequate, that every Frenchman of honour and feeling must blush for his country as he thinks upon it. The immense majority of curés throughout France receive from the state a stipend of 32l. a year, in larger populations this is extended to 48l., in the largest of all to 60l. Moreover, in France the state has done or is doing, what in England it will also do if it can; it sets up in every parish a schoolmaster without a creed, to teach children all kinds of useful knowledge, from which only a definite creed is excluded, and to be an antagonist to the clergyman in his proper sphere. Then the existing generation of Frenchmen has been brought up since the tide of infidelity swept over their land; in too many cases they are not only infidels in present practice, but even their childish thoughts and associations were not Christian. The full harvest of the terrible convulsion of 1789 is being reaped – alas, it is far from being yet gathered in! Infidelity not only stalks openly through the land, but bears open sway in it. There is nothing on which all those with whom I spoke were more agreed than that "le respect humain" was against the Church and against religion. What a fact is this alone, whereby to estimate the state of a country. If "hypocrisy be the homage which vice pays to virtue," where stands that country whose public opinion requires no hypocrisy in the open profession of unbelief? For these and other reasons, then, I conceive that the Church of God is best seen in France working by her own intrinsic powers, not only unaided by the world, but most cruelly afflicted by it, and so externally oppressed and degraded, that nothing but the irrepressible life of the Gospel could penetrate and leaven society under such conditions. God grant that such a state of things be not preparing in England – and if it be, God grant likewise that the Church, in the day of her need, may have servants and handmaidens, priests, teachers, and sisters of charity, as disinterested, laborious, patient, and zealous, as He has raised up for her in France. This further may be said, that, if France as a nation be ever brought afresh under the yoke of her Saviour, no condition of human society need be despaired of; nor the capacity of the Church of Christ to overcome any amount of obstacles doubted.

Of course the institutions mentioned in this journal are but samples of a multitude. None will feel more than the writer its great incompleteness. Still this is a field of observation which has been little worked; so that the mere partial breaking of its surface may produce fruit.

It may be as well to put together here the five congregations in France mentioned in different places of the journal, which are engaged in missionary work. They are "la Congregation des Prêtres de la Mission," or, "les Pères Lazaristes," Rue de Sèvres, 95.; the "Séminaire des Missions Etrangères," Rue du Bac, 120.; the "Congrégation des Sacrés Cœurs" (Séminaire de Picpus), Rue Picpus, 9.; the Jesuits, and the Maristes. The "Congrégation du Saint Esprit," for forming priests for the colonies, Rue des Postes, 26., I did not visit. These, with the "Congrégation de la Miséricorde," form all the French missionary establishments. I think no one can give even a transient look at the course of life pursued by the St. Sulpiciens for the education of the clergy, without admiration of the astonishing care of the interior life taken by them, and the pains they are at to ascertain the due vocation for so special a work.

The chief establishments of the Church for education are the grands séminaires in each diocese, for preparation for holy orders; and the petits séminaires, both under the direction of the bishops, the latter receiving boys for all sorts of professions. In these two classes of establishments alone, as a general rule, is strict attention paid to the religious training of the pupils. The royal colleges, which extend all over France, have been by all described to me as in the most corrupt moral condition, and as suffering their professors to instil systematic infidelity into their pupils. Of course the vast majority of the youth of the country is educated in these colleges. The result is seen in their lives. For the female sex, the chief congregations devoted to education are "Les Dames du Sacré Cœur," in Paris, Rue de Varennes; "Les Dames de Notre Dame" (couvent des Oiseaux, Rue de Sèvres); "Les Dames de la Visitation." Each has a great number of houses through France and elsewhere. For the poorer classes, "Les Frères de la Doctrine Chrétienne," and the various sisters of charity, are of incalculable benefit: they are very numerous, and widely spread. Their disinterested and loving labours would be the greatest of blessings to our parish priests, engaged in conflict with a hard practical heathenism on the one side, and on the other, with various forms of dissent, the essence of which may be said to consist in a complete negation of the Church's office in the scheme of redemption, and, generally, of all objective belief beyond the sacrifice of our Lord for the sins of men, and the operation of the Holy Spirit.

It will be seen throughout, that I do not consider non-appreciation of the good in the Roman Catholic faith and practice a necessary ingredient of the English Churchman's character. I am quite convinced that the reunion of the English Church with the Church of Rome would be an incalculable blessing to the whole Church of God, and to the whole human race. Whoever made the separation, we need not despair of such a reunion; the right accomplishment of which good persons, on both sides, may earnestly hope and pray for.

JOURNAL. – 1845

Tuesday, June 24. – Reached Southampton from Oxford in good time, and left by the packet at 10 P.M. We passed the experimental fleet off Portsmouth, had a very fair passage, and were at the mouth of Havre about ten: but for two hours we could not enter; the swell was considerable. At Havre, took our places to Ivetot, which we reached about half-past-nine. The country rich but uninteresting.

Ivetot, June 26. 1845. Thursday. – We called on M. Labbé a little before ten, and were with him till half-past-three. His brother is Supérieur of the Petit Séminaire, in which are 225 youths. The whole payment, on an average, is 360 francs per annum for board and instruction; some paying as little as 200 francs, some as much as 500, but no difference whatever is made between them. The children are evidently on the most affectionate terms with the masters. "There are twelve priests, a deacon and sub-deacon, and three clerks in minor orders." – M.[2 - The observations between inverted commas, and ended with the letter M., are taken, by permission, from the journal of my fellow-traveller, the Rev. C. Marriott.] They attend confession once a month, and it is very rare that they fail in this: this is the rule of the house; but should any avoid it much longer, his confessor would not speak to him authoritatively at all, or send for him, but rather take an opportunity of referring incidentally to his absence. This hardly ever fails. "They generally thank him for doing so, the reason being something about which they were unable to get themselves to break the ice." – M. They live entirely with their pupils; sleeping, eating, playing, teaching: in the centre of a large dormitory, with beds on both sides, was a bed, nowise distinguished from the rest save that it had a chair beside it; here the Supérieur sleeps. His salary is 1000 francs a year; that of the others about 600. They said, laughing, that it was hardly what a servant in England would receive. The Supérieur has a very pleasing and paternal aspect. We heard him catechise the children in the chapel for some time; their answers were good. Several were on the sacraments, and the reply to them definite and precise: – 'Which is the most indispensable sacrament?' 'Baptism.' 'How many sorts of baptism are there?' 'The baptism of water, of blood, and of desire.' 'Can any sacrament be administered by other than a priest?' 'Yes, baptism in case of necessity.' 'Can any other?' 'None, Sir.' 'What conditions are necessary to receive the sacrament of Penance?' 'Five.' 'Are there any of those more indispensable than others?' 'Yes, fervent sorrow for sin past, and a resolution not to offend God by sinning any more.' 'If a priest conferred absolution on a person who gave no outward sign of penitence, from his state of sickness, would it benefit him?' 'If he was able to make interior actions of the soul, it would; not otherwise.' ('The Church,' said M. Labbé in explanation, 'would prefer bestowing a sacrament often inutilement, to denying it once where it might benefit.') 'Which are the three chief Christian graces?' 'Faith, Hope, and Charity.' 'Which is the most perfect?' 'Charity.' 'Why?' 'Because it presupposes the other two' (I think); and, again, 'because it will last for ever.' 'Will Faith last for ever?' 'Non, Monsieur.' 'Why?' 'Parceque, quand nous verrons Dieu, nous n'aurons pas besoin de le croire.' 'Will you see God?' 'Oui, avec nos propres yeux.' 'You have just received confirmation; what does it make him who receives it?' 'Un parfait Chrétien.' 'Etes-vous donc un parfait Chrétien?' With hesitation, 'Oui, Monsieur.' 'Etes-vous un Chrétien parfait?' 'Non, Monsieur.' 'Quelle est la différence?' 'Un parfait Chrétien est celui qui a tous les moyens pour parvenir au salut – un Chrétien parfait est celui qui est sans péché' 'En y-a-t'il?' 'Non, Monsieur' (with hesitation). 'Non, mon enfant, il n'y en a pas.'

"The chapel is a pretty and simple building of the early decorated character, designed by Père Robert, who was formerly an engineer. The windows and buttresses are in excellent taste; and the ceiling, though of sham stone, is so well done that I doubted whether it were not real, though a look at the buttresses, after seeing the interior, would convince one of the contrary. There is a subterraneous chapel, or rather a crypt which will be one, which I like particularly. Père Robert showed us his design for ornamenting the east end of the chapel, which is in excellent taste." – M.

We dined with them at twelve "in the refectory. There was a crucifix at one side, in the middle of the long room; and before it stood the Supérieur while we said grace." – M.; and we supped with them at seven, in the midst of 180 boys. Absolute silence was kept, and a youth at a tribune in the middle read first a verse or two of the Gospels, and then some of 'Daniel's History of France.' Nothing could be more simple than their dress; the masters were distributed at intervals down the tables. The school was to educate laymen and ecclesiastics together, and they showed with pride a young man who had become priest out of their house, just twelve years after his first communion. This is generally in the twelfth year, but earlier or later according to the state of the individual. They take their first communion after special confession, and before confirmation; we narrowly escaped seeing this sacrament conferred by the archbishop, who had only left two days before. Confession begins at seven according to rule, but generally before that age in fact.

Study commences always with the hymn beginning "Veni Sancte Spiritus," the collect for Pentecost, and "Ave Maria." One half holiday, Thursday. "Afterwards we walked in their little garden and play ground. It being Thursday, the boys went out to walk with some of the clerks. Some, however, remained about the premises, doing some of the painting, &c. that was required. Much of the work has been done by them. They carried all the bricks and mortar while the chapel was building, &c. &c. They seem to be quite a family." – M.

We talked on many subjects respecting the Churches of Rome and England. In their opinion we are utterly heretical and dead. But M. Pierre Labbé, who was chief spokesman, and a very clever talker, admitted, that in case of invincible ignorance, that is, where the person was, with all his endeavours, unable to see that the Church of Rome was the only true Church, (supposing we had the succession, which he more than doubted,) such person might receive the grace of the sacraments. And this he also applied to the Eastern and Russian Churches. He said, if things should ever come to a large, or anything like a national, accession from England to the Roman Catholic faith, the question of Anglican orders must be settled, and the Pope "se gratterait la tête" what to do.

The point we remarked in this school was the intimate terms on which the masters appeared to be with the boys; it was not only that their presence during lesson time served to keep order, but that their influence was everywhere at all times. Confession, doubtless, is the root of this. Thus the Supérieur at catechism gave, as rewards, small pictures, which each boy receiving kissed him on the cheek. There was the greatest hilarity and cheerfulness, mingled with respect, in presence of the master. We left these good people with great admiration of their zeal, and appreciation of their kindness to us.[3 - It should be mentioned that the two brothers Labbé set up this school some twenty years ago, without any resources, and have maintained it ever since, living upon Providence, gradually building accommodations for their scholars, a chapel, &c.] M. Robert would take us on our way to Caudebec on Friday morning. He conducted us in a cab belonging to the house, for the homeliness of which he apologised. We passed a rich and occasionally diversified corn country to Caudebec, over one of Henri Quatre's battle-fields; there were no signs of it now. I asked him if Louis Philippe had brought about a revolution, or only slipped in to prevent a republic: he replied, "Quand on jette une pierre par la fénêtre, il faut bien qu'elle tombe."

Rouen, June 28. Saturday. – The church of Caudebec is of great beauty, of the 15th century, covered in every part with rich sculpture, especially the western façade, which the Calvinists greatly injured. I went over every part of it with the curé, and up the tower, which is terminated by a curious flêche, something like Strasburgh, formed into crowns, marvellously rich. The height about 180 feet. The view from the top is very striking. The great defect of the interior is that the east end has two windows instead of three, or one, at the apse; the nave is very narrow. There was over the jubé, now removed, a rood with Adam at the bottom of it receiving the Blood in a cup, representing the fallen humanity restored by our Lord. A north and south aisle without transept. Caudebec is in a very pretty situation, within the cleft of the hills, with the river flowing at its feet; on each side rises the wooded amphitheatre formed by the banks of the Seine: there is a plain on the other side of the river; it might serve for the site of a great city. The church is equal to a small cathedral.

The curé has a pleasant presbytère to the north; he treated us with the greatest kindness. The government allows 1000 francs yearly to the restoration of the church; so it goes on bit by bit. There is a remarkable pendant in the Lady Chapel, said to be fourteen feet long: the curé assured me that he had ascertained it was not supported by anything. There is in the chapel to the south a sepulchre with exceedingly rich canopy, and a gigantic figure of Christ, "by which a woman seemed to be praying with great devotion. I can fancy it a great help to meditation." – M.

We set out in an indifferent cabriolet for Rouen by Jumiêges, and St. Georges de Boscherville; a fine road in parts. Jumiêges is a mournful ruin, the nave with its western towers and the arch to the east standing still; the latter of gigantic proportions, the arch being at least eighty feet high, is grievously cracked, and may fall any day. To the east of this little remains; it has been almost entirely carried away, being the most beautiful part of the church, of early or decorated character. To the south are the walls of an elegant decorated chapel of St. Peter; the ruins are covered with brushwood or trees, the arches daily threatening to fall. The garden has a very fine view of the high banks of the Seine; there is a pleasant wilderness. M. Caumont has made himself a very picturesque residence of the old gateway and adjoining buildings. The western façade, with its two towers of equal height and nearly similar form, is very simple but grand. I mounted rather more than 200 steps to the top of the northern: unluckily it had been raining, and there was no sun. It commands the high banks of the Seine for a considerable distance.

St. Georges de Boscherville is indeed a most stately and majestic Norman church, bearing its burden of nearly 800 years as if it had been built yesterday. Its west front, with two stories of three windows, each over a fine recessed door, and turrets of singular beauty and later style, is very imposing. There is a massive central tower with a high spire of Norman, slated, I suppose near 200 feet high. The interior offers all the simple and solemn grandeur of which that style is capable; the one idea is perfectly carried out from top to bottom, as in St. Ouen the Decorated, so here the Norman. I should imagine it to be a perfect model of the style.

We got into Rouen not till after dark Friday night; went to the Hotel de Normandie; not a nice house, dreadfully noisy, being in the street where the two diligences, by the most wondrous evolutions, contrive to worm themselves through the lanes of Rouen into their dens.

Saturday, June 28. – After breakfast M. set off with our letter to the curé of the cathedral, to whom M. Labbé had recommended us. He was going away in the afternoon, but asked us to dine at twelve; this is one of the few fast days in the year out of Lent, and we only agreed to go on condition that he should change nothing of his usual fare. He gave us potage maigre, fish, omelette. He was going to leave Rouen in the afternoon for a few days, so we left very early; and we much regretted this, for I have heard that he enjoys a very high reputation as confessor and spiritual guide.

"It being a fasting vigil with them, they dine without meat at twelve, and are allowed to take a snack in the evening, not a full meal. He asked questions about the course of studies at Oxford, and whether there was not in England an inclination 'to imitate their ceremonies.' I told him I hoped the tendency was something more than that, &c. &c. We asked him about philosophy in the French Church. He said they used chiefly that of Aristotle, and that one could only find particular branches well worked out. They were much occupied in fighting Cousin. He and his four vicaires have a parish of 15,000 souls to look after. They have also many confessions to receive from other parishes; but for the Easter communion every one is expected to go to his own parish priest, or at least to communicate at his own church. He says Rouen is rather a religious place. I did not ask him the proportion of communicants, for fear I should seem to be inquiring for criticism. He was obliged to leave us soon after dinner, but sent us on to one of his vicaires, who took us to the house of the Frères des Ecoles Chrétiennes, and introduced us to one of them, who showed us the chapel, dormitory, &c. The founder of the order, the Père de la Salle, is buried behind the altar. There are seats for the brethren, and there is a room or gallery looking in at the west end for the boys, who only enter the chapel on Sundays and saints days for the Salut du St. Sacrement. They use this gallery for their morning and evening prayers, which, I believe, are those at the end of the Catechism. The brethren are laymen, but they have two aumoniers who say mass in their chapel twice a day. They have not the breviary services to say, being occupied all day with their schools, but they hear mass, use the rosary, attend the salut, &c. There are thirty-nine brethren, and they have a normal school, i. e. a training school, of forty young men. They do not admit them under seventeen. Their course is about three years. They prepare them for 'l'instruction primaire' of the superior kind, that is, extending to a little history, chemistry, and the like, (and some of them learning also modern languages,) but not comprising Latin or Greek. Twenty-seven of the brethren, however, are occupied in schools about the town, in which, if I understood right, there are as many as 2500 children. We could not see the cabinets of mineralogy, &c. or the chemical laboratory. There were two or three little organs for music lessons. The dormitories had separate cells, with a passage along the line of them. One of the brethren sleeps in each dormitory, and stays up till all are gone to bed, to be sure that good order is kept. They are licensed by the university, and some of the scholars are supported or helped by the government." – M.

Yesterday, June 29. Sunday, St. Peter's day. – We went to high mass in the cathedral at ten, but though we had looked out the service as well as we could, and were just on the outside of the higher gate of the choir, we could not in general follow; only at the Gospel and the Creed we regained our footing. Certainly the words of the service, incomparably beautiful as they are, must be in the main lost. We could not, even by observing the gestures, with the book before us, follow them; the priest's voice is hardly ever heard. A poor woman beside me chaunted through the Nicene Creed in Latin, and at vespers at St. Ouen many female voices were doing the same with the Psalms. The really edifying thing is the devotion of the people, who look upon it as a sacrifice, and do not seem to require that perpetual stimulating of the understanding as among us. For there was no sermon either at the cathedral or St. Ouen, save after the Gospel a very short address, as it seemed, in the nave, but nobody moved from the choir. This service lasted an hour and a half; then we had our own service in private. We next went to the Musée d'Antiquités, where there is a small series of stained glass windows, some very good. We had a fine view of Rouen, north of the Boulevard. At 3 o'clock vespers at St. Ouen, chanting of Psalms, followed by the exposition of the H. Sacrament. A good many people, chiefly women. They took part generally. Here again some Psalms we could find in the Paroissien, and others not. This too lasted an hour and a half; the singing was very good, and the organ came in with great effect. The whole tone of this service, as simply devotional and thanksgiving, without instruction or exhortation, struck us much. After this, dinner at five at the table d'hôte. We have frequent occasion to think with approbation of the Emperor of Russia's edict, "It is forbidden to wear a beard after the manner of ourang outangs, Jews, and Frenchmen." After dinner we walked to the top of St. Catherine's, and enjoyed the beautiful view over Rouen, and also went on to Notre Dame de bon Secours. This is a new church, of the style of the 13th century, of extraordinary purity and grace; the eastern end already finished, and full of stained glass windows. It has ten bays, and three windows in the apse. It quite surpasses any modern church I have seen in beauty. All the vaulting, both of nave and aisles, is in stone or brick. It has many ex-votos, – plain slabs let into the wall: I copied some.

J'ai prié

la Sainte Vierge,

et elle a guéri ma fille.


Gage de ma reconnaissance.

J'ai prié la Sainte Vierge,

et elle m'a exaucée,

en protégeant ma fille.

Elbœuf le 3 Oct., 1838.

A. G.

A la T. S. Vierge,

le 7 Août, 1821,

Aux pieds de cet autel

J'ai obtenu la guérison

d'une maladie de 20 ans.

A. B. Ex. voto.

Une maladie cruelle

menaçant des jours précieux,

nous avons prié Marie
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