The diary of John Evelyn

Regular posts from the diary of John Evelyn

Month: September 1644 (page 1 of 2)

Friday 30 September 1644

We bargained with a waterman to carry us to Avignon on the river, and got the first night to Vienne, in Dauphiné. This is an Archbishopric, and the province gives title to the heir-apparent of France1. Here we supped and lay, having among other dainties, a dish of truffles, which is a certain earth-nut, found out by a hog trained to it, and for which those animals are sold at a great price. It is in truth an incomparable meat.

“Vienna vulgo Vienne” by Braun & Hogenberg, 1598. Source:Sanderus maps. Used with permission. Mont Pipet in foreground.

We were shown the ruins of an amphitheatre2, pretty entire3; and many handsome palaces, especially that of Pontius Pilate4, not far from the town, at the foot of a solitary mountain, near the river, having four pinnacles. Here it is reported he passed his exile, and precipitated himself into the lake not far from it. 5

“Veüe de la Ville de Vienne en Dauphiné, le 20 1619” by Etienne Martellange. 1619. Source: BnF.

The house is modern , and seems to be the seat of some gentleman; being in a very pleasant, though melancholy place. The cathedral of Vienne is St. Maurice; and there are many other pretty buildings, but nothing more so, than the mills where they hammer and polish the sword blades.

  1. The eldest son of France is, during the life of his father, called the Dauphin, from the stipulation (as it seems) made with Umbert: who bequeathed that province [Dauphine] conditionally to Philip de Valois” [Evelyn’s State of France, Miscellaneous Writings, 1825, p. 54]  –AD  

  2. On the slopes of Mont Pipet –AD 

  3. “On the slopes of Mont Pipet the remains of a Roman theatre may, it is said, be traced amount the vineyards, but they are very inconsiderable.” – from A handbook for travellers in France: being a guide to Norway, Brittany, the rivers Seine, Loire, Rhône, and Garonne, the French Alps, Dauphiné, Provence, and the Pyrenees by John Murray, 1858. -GS 

  4. The Castle of Salomon. According to Eusebius and others, Pilate was banished to Vienne, after his return to Rome from Judaea. –AD 

  5. This is widely regarded to be a legend – for example  “Tiberius built that high Tower where Pilate is said to have ended his Days. In the neighbouring Vineyards, there are still large Pyramids near the Place where ’tis said his Palace stood, and a Lake in which they say he drown’d himself. ‘Tis pretended, he was a Native of this Town; but some account all that is said of his Birth and Death here a meer Legend, that took its Rise from Humbert Pilati, Secretary to the last Dauphin, before it came to the Crown of France, whose Country House near St. Valliere is by the Vulgar called the House of Pilate” – Book: Atlas geographus -GS 

Tuesday 27 September 1644

We rode by Pont Charu to Lyons, which being but six leagues we soon accomplished, having made eighty-five leagues from Tours in seven days. Here at the Golden Lion, rue de Flandre1 known as , I met divers of my acquaintance, who, coming from Paris, were designed for Italy. We lost no time in seeing the city, because of being ready to accompany these gentlemen in their journey. Lyons is excellently situated on the confluence of the rivers Soane and Rhone, which wash the walls of the city in a very rapid stream; each of these has its bridge; that over the Rhone consists of twenty-eight arches.

“Lyon” by Matthäus Merian. About 1650. Source:

The two high cliffs, called St. Just and St. Sebastian, are very stately; on one of them stands a strong fort, garrisoned. We visited the cathedral, St. Jean, where was one of the fairest clocks for art and busy invention I had ever seen2. The fabric of the church is gothic, as are likewise those of St. Etienne and St. Croix. From the top of one of the towers of St. Jean (for it has four) we beheld the whole city and country, with a prospect reaching to the Alps, many leagues distant. The Archbishop’s palace is fairly built.

“Lyon. Saint-Nizier” by Théodore de Jolimont. Circia 1800. Source: BnF

The church of St. Nisier is the greatest; that of the Jacobins is well built. Here are divers other fine churches and very noble buildings we had not time to visit, only that of the Charité, or great hospital for poor, infirm people, entertaining about 1,500 souls, with a school, granary, gardens, and all conveniences, maintained at a wonderful expense, worthy seeing. The place of the Belle Cour is very spacious, observable for the view it affords, so various and agreeable, of hills, rocks, vineyards, gardens, precipices, and other extravagant and incomparable advantages presenting themselves together. The Pall Mall is set with fair trees. In fine, this stately, clean, and noble city, built all of stone, abounds in persons of quality and rich merchants: those of Florence obtaining great privileges above the rest. In the Town-house3 they show two tables of brass, on which is engraven Claudius’s speech, pronounced to the Senate4, concerning the franchising of the town, with the Roman privileges. There are also other antiquities.

  1. the rue de Flandre was destroyed in the 18th century to make way for the Quai de Bondy – GS 

  2. By Nicholas Lippeus of Basle, 1508, much like that of Strasburg. –AD 

  3. Building of the Town-house or Hôtel de Ville was not started until 1645.  Perhaps an example of John Evelyn relying on travel guides whilst compiling diary entries year later. -GS 

  4. When Censor, a.d. 48. Claudius was born at Lyons. The Bronze Tables were discovered in 1528, on the heights of St. Sebastian. –AD. Also known as the The Lyons Tablet – GS 

Monday 26 September 1644

We arrived at Roane, where we quitted our guide, and took post for Lyons. Roane seemed to me one of the pleasantest and most agreeable places imaginable, for a retired person: for, besides the situation on the Loire, there are excellent provisions cheap and abundant.

“ Autre Veüe de la Ville de Roanne [Roane], le 16 May 1610” by Etienne Martellange. 1610. Source: BnF

It being late when we left this town, we rode no further than Tarare that night (passing St. Saforin1 ), a little desolate village in a valley near a pleasant stream, encompassed with fresh meadows and vineyards. The hills which we rode over before we descended, and afterward, on the Lyons side of this place, are high and mountainous; fir and pines growing frequently on them. The air methought was much altered as well as the manner of the houses, which are built flatter, more after the eastern manner.

Before I went to bed, I took a landscape of this pleasant terrace2 . There followed a most violent tempest of thunder and lightning.

  1. St. Symphorien-de-Lay, where the ascent of the Montagne de Tarare begins. –AD 

  2. “To take out one’s memorandum-book and make a sketch of a charming prospect, was the usual thing before the camera was invented.” – English Travellers of the Renaissance by Clare Howard -GS 

Sunday 25 September 1644

The next day, we went somewhat out of the way to see the town of Bourbon l’Archambaut, from whose ancient and rugged castle is derived the name of the present Royal Family of France. The castle stands on a flinty rock, overlooking the town.

“Vue de Bourbon l’Archambault (Allier), vue du château des ducs de Bourbon” by Israël
Silvestre. 17th century. Source:

In the midst of the streets are some baths of medicinal waters, some of them excessive hot, but nothing so neatly walled and adorned as ours in Somersetshire; and indeed they are chiefly used to drink of, our Queen being then lodged there for that purpose1.

“Veue des bains de Bourbon l ‘ Archambault ” (View of the baths) by Levesque. Pub 1690. Source: BnF

After dinner, I went to see the St. Chapelle, a prime place of devotion, where is kept one of the thorns of our Savior’s crown, and a piece of the real cross; excellent paintings on glass, and some few statues of stone and wood, which they show for curiosities. Hence, we went forward to La Palise, a village that lodged us that night.

“Veüe de la Saincte Chapelle de Bourbon l’Archambaut.” by Israel Silvestre. 17th century. Source:

  1. Henrietta Maria (see ante). She passed some three months at Bourbon, “arriving there in so crippled a condition that she could not walk without being supported on either side, and so weakened in nerves that she was almost always in tears.” At the conclusion of the treatment she began “to hope she should not die” (1905, ii. 311).  James II. also came to Bourbon shortly before his death. But the visitor most associated with the place is Mme. de Montespan.  –AD 

Saturday 24 September 1644

By Franchesse, St. Menoux, thence to Moulins, where we dined. This is the chief town of the Bourbonnais ((Bourbonnais was a historic province in the centre of France that corresponded to the modern département of Allier, along with part of the département of Cher. -Wikipedia)) on the river Allier, very navigable. The streets are fair; the castle has a noble prospect, and has been the seat of the Dukes. Here is a pretty park and garden. After dinner, came many who offered knives and scissors to sell; it being a town famous for these trifles. This Duchy of Bourbon is ordinarily assigned for the dowry of the Queens of France.

“ De la ville de Molins en Bourbonnais : Autre Veüe de Moulins en Bourbonnais” by Étienne Martellange. 1620. Source: BnF

Hence, we took horse for Varennes1, an obscure village, where we lay that night.

  1. i.e. Varennes, in the Dep. of Allier, not the more noted Varennes-en-Argonne, Dep. of the Meuse. –AD 

Friday 23 September 1644

I took my leave of Mr. Nicholas, and some other English there; and, on the 23d, proceeded on my journey by Pont du Charge; and lay that evening at Coulaiure, thirteen leagues.

Thursday 22 September 1644

The next day by Murg to Bourges1, four leagues, where we spent the day. This is the capital of Berry, an University much frequented by the Dutch, situated on the river Eure. It stands high, is strong, and well placed for defense; is environed with meadows and vines, and the living here is very cheap. In the suburbs of St. Privé, there is a fountain of sharp water which they report wholesome against the stone.

“Bourges. Le 13 Aoust 1635”. Artist unknown. 1635. Source: BnF.

They showed us a vast tree which they say stands in the center of France. The French tongue is spoken with great purity in this place. St. Stephen’s church is the cathedral, well built à la Gothique, full of sepulchres without-side, with the representation of the final Judgment over one of the ports2.

“Veüe de la Croupe de l’Eglise de S. Etienne de Bourges” (Bourges Cathedral) by Étienne Martelange. 1621. Source: BnF

Here they show the chapel of Claude de la Chastre, a famous soldier who had served six kings of France in their wars. St. Chapelle is built much like that at Paris, full of relics, and containing the bones of one Briat, a giant of fifteen cubits high. It was erected by John, Duke of Berry, and there is showed the coronet of the dukedom. The great tower is a Pharos for defense of the town, very strong, in thickness eighteen feet, fortified with graffs and works; there is a garrison in it, and a strange engine for throwing great stones, and the iron cage where Louis, Duke of Orleans, was kept by Charles VIII.

“Veüe de la Ste Chapelle du Palais de Bourge’” (Saint Chapel of Bourges, “chapel of Claude de la Chastre”  ) by Étienne Martellange. 1621. Source: BnF

Near the Town-house stands the College of Jesuits, where was heretofore an Amphitheater. I was courteously entertained by a Jesuit, who had us into the garden, where we fell into disputation. The house of Jaques Cœur3 is worth seeing. Bourges is an Archbishopric and Primacy of Aquitaine. I took my leave of Mr. Nicholas4, and some other English there; and, on the 23d, proceeded on my journey by Pont du Charge; and lay that evening at Coulaiure, thirteen leagues.

“Bourges. Hôtel de Jacques Coeur” by Jean-Lubin Vauzelle, 1816. Source: BnF.

  1. Bourges is said to be in the centre of France. –AD 

  2. The central door in the W. façade. –AD 

  3. Afterwards the Hôtel de Ville –AD 

  4. See ante, p. 104. –AD 

Wednesday 21 September 1644

We passed by Villefranche, where we dined, and so by Muneton, lying at Viaron-au-mouton, which was twenty leagues

Friday 16 September 1644

We returned to Tours, from whence, after nineteen weeks’ sojourn, we traveled toward the more southern part of France, minding now to shape my course so, as I might winter in Italy. With my friend, Mr. Thicknesse (See ante p14 –AD)), and our guide, we went the first day seven leagues to a castle called Chenonceau1, built by Catherine de Medicis, and now belonging to the Duke de Vendôme, standing on a bridge. In the gallery, among divers other excellent statues, is that of Scipio Africans2, of oriental alabaster.

“Le château de Chenonceaux sur le Cher, côté du levant ”. Artist unknown. 18th century.


  1. Chenonceaux has also memories of Diane de Poitiers and Louise de Lorraine, widow of Henry III. It escaped the Revolution, owing chiefly to the respect felt for the proprietress, Mme. Dupin, d. 1799, who here entertained Bolingbroke, Voltaire, and Rousseau. The Devin du Ullage of the last was first performed in its little theatre. –AD 

  2. A Roman general who defeated Hannibal in the Second Punic War. -GS 

Thursday 15 September 1644

The next day, we arrived, and went to see the Cardinal’s Palace, near it. The town is built in a low, marshy ground, having a narrow river cut by hand, very even and straight, capable of bringing up a small vessel. It consists of only one considerable street1, the houses on both sides (as indeed throughout the town) built exactly uniform, after a modern handsome design. It has a large goodly market house and place, opposite to which is the church built of freestone, having two pyramids of stone, which stand hollow from the towers. The church is well built, and of a well-ordered architecture, within handsomely paved and adorned.

Detail from “Vue de la Ville de Richelieu…” showing the church “Eglise Notre-Dame de Richelieu”.


“Vue de la Ville de Richelieu en Poitou construitte par le Grand cardinal de Richelieu.” 1790. Source: BnF.

To this place belongs an Academy, where, besides the exercise of the horse, arms, dancing, etc., all the sciences are taught in the vulgar French by professors stipendiated by the great Cardinal, who by this, the cheap living there, and divers privileges, not only designed the improvement of the vulgar language, but to draw people and strangers to the town; but since the Cardinal’s death2, it is thinly inhabited; standing so much out of the way, and in a place not well situated for health, or pleasure. He was allured to build by the name of the place, and an old house there belonging to his ancestors.

This pretty town is handsomely walled about and moated, with a kind of slight fortification, two fair gates and drawbridges. Before the gate, toward the palace, is a spacious circle, where the fair is annually kept.

“Vue générale du chateau de Monseigneur le Duc de Richelieu en Poitou.” (Château de Richelieu). 1790. Source: BnF

About a flight-shot from the town is the Cardinal’s house, a princely pile, though on an old design, not altogether Gothic, but mixed, and environed by a clear moat. The rooms are stately, most richly furnished with tissue, damask, arras, and velvet, pictures, statues, vases, and all sorts of antiquities, especially the Cæsars, in oriental alabaster3 . The long gallery is painted with the famous acts of the Founder; the roof with the life of Julius Cæsar; at the end of it is a cupola, or singing theatre, supported by very stately pillars of black marble. The chapel anciently belonged to the family of the Founder. The court is very ample. The gardens without are very large, and the parterres of excellent embroidery, set with many statues of brass and marble; the groves, meadows, and walks are a real Paradise.

  1. the “Grand rue” -GS 

  2. See ante -AD 

  3. From “Richelieu”  By R J Knecht – “if paintings were the main decorative element at the Palais-cardinal, sculpture was much in evidence at the chateau of Richelieu. Above the entrance stood an equestrian statue of Louis XIII by Berthelot. In niches flanking the gateway were two ancient statues of Hercules and Mars. On the dome above the gate stood a bronze statue of Fame with a trumpet in each hand, also by Berthelot. Around the main courtyard were many statues, busts and vases in niches. A visitor noted “gods on all sides in the walls” whilst another described the chateau as the ”Pantheon with all the Roman Court”. Some visitors thought the abundance of sculpture was to mask the irregularities in Le Mercier’s building, but it seems more likely that it was more likely to give grandeur to Richelieu’s ancestral home.” -GS 

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