I went about to view the city, which is well built of stone, on the side of the Loire. About the middle of the river is an island, full of walks and fair trees, with some houses. This is contiguous to the town by a stately stone bridge, reaching to the opposite suburbs, built likewise on the edge of a hill, from whence is a beautiful prospect. At one of the extremes of the bridge are strong towers, and about the middle, on one side, is the statue of the Virgin Mary, or Pieta, with the dead Christ in her lap, as big as the life.
At one side of the cross, kneels Charles VII., armed, and at the other Joan d’Arc, armed also like a cavalier, with boots and spurs, her hair disheveled, as the deliveress of the town from our countrymen, when they besieged it ((This statue was broken in pieces by the Revolutionists of 1792 to melt into cannon. –AD)). The figures are all cast in copper, with a pedestal full of inscriptions, as well as a fair column joining it, which is all adorned with fleurs-de-lis and a crucifix, with two saints proceeding (as it were) from two branches out of its capital.
The inscriptions on the cross are in Latin:
“Mors Christi in cruce nos á contagione, labis et æternorum morborum sanavit.”
On the pedestal:
“Rex in hoc signo hostes profligavit, et Johanna Virgo Aureliam obsidio liberavit. Non diu ab impiis diruta, restituta sunt hoc anno D’ni 1578. Jean Buret, m. f.”—”Octannoque Galliam servitute Britannicâ liberavit. A Domino factum est illud, et est mirabile in oculis nostris; in quorum memorià hæc nostræ fidei Insignia.”
To this is made an annual procession on 12th of May, mass being sung before it, attended with great ceremony and concourse of people. The wine of this place is so strong, that the King’s cup bearers are, as I was assured, sworn never to give the King any of it: but it is a very noble liquor, and much of it transported into other countries. The town is much frequented by strangers, especially Germans, for the great purity of the language here spoken, as well as for divers other privileges, and the University, which causes the English to make no long sojourn here, except such as can drink and debauch ((They are at ye Cabaret from morning to nightquot; — says Addison of the Germans at Orleans — “and I suppose come into France on no other account but to Drink.” (Addison to Mr. Stanyan, February, 1700) –AD)).
The city stands in the county of Bealse (Blaisois); was once styled a Kingdom, afterward a Duchy, as at present, belonging to the second son ((Perhaps referring to Gaston, Duke of Orléans, son of Henry IV of France. As a son of the king he was refereed to as “Fils de Franc” or son of France -GS)) of France. Many Councils have been held here, and some Kings crowned. The University is very ancient, divided now by the students into that of four nations, French, High Dutch, Normans, and Picardines, who have each their respective protectors, several officers, treasurers, consuls, seals, etc. There are in it two reasonable fair public libraries, whence one may borrow a book to one’s chamber, giving but a note under hand, which is an extraordinary custom, and a confidence that has cost many libraries dear.
The first church I went to visit was St. Croix; it has been a stately fabric, but now much ruined by the late civil wars. They report the tower of it to have been the highest in France. There is the beginning of a fair reparation ((The Cathedral of St. Croix was begun by Henri IV. in 1601, and continued under Louis >XIII., XIV., and XV. –AD)). About this cathedral there is a very spacious cemetery. The townhouse is also very nobly built, with a high tower to it. The market place and streets, some whereof are deliciously planted with limes, are ample and straight, so well paved with a kind of pebble, that I have not seen a neater town in France. In fine, this city was by Francis I. esteemed the most agreeable of his vast dominions.