The diary of John Evelyn

Regular posts from the diary of John Evelyn

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Wednesday 5 October 1644

We lay at Loumas ; the next morning, came to Aix, having passed that extremely rapid and dangerous river of Durance. In this tract, all the heaths, or commons, are covered with rosemary, lavender, lentiscus, and the like sweet shrubs, for many miles together ; which to me was very pleasant.

Aix is the chief city of Provence, being a Parliament and Presidential town, with other royal Courts and Metropolitan jurisdiction. It is well built, the houses very high, and the streets ample. The Cathedral, St. Saviour’s, is a noble pile adorned with innumerable figures ; especially that of St. Michael ; the Baptisterie, the Palace, the Court, built in a most spacious piazza, are very fair. The Duke of Guise’s house is worth seeing, being furnished with many antiquities in and about it. The Jesuits have here a royal College, and the City is a University.

Tuesday 4 October 1644

…and, lodging one night on the way, we arrived at noon at Avignon.

This town has belonged to the Popes ever since the time of Clement V.; being, in 13521 alienated by Jane, Queen of Naples and Sicily2. Entering the gates, the soldiers at the guard took our pistols and carbines, and examined us very strictly ; after that, having obtained the Governor’s and the Vice-Legate’s leave to tarry three days, we were civilly conducted to our lodging.

“De la ville d’Avignon et par dela : Veüe de la Ville d’Avignon et des Environs” by Etienne Martellange. 1608. Source: BnF.

The city is on the Rhone, and divided from the newer part, or town, which is on the other side of the river, by a very fair stone bridge (which has been broken); at one end is a very high rock, on which is a strong castle well furnished with artillery. The walls of the city are of large square freestone, the most neat and best in repair I ever saw. It is full of well-built palaces; those of the Vice-Legate and Archbishop being the most magnificent.

There are many sumptuous churches, especially that of St. Magdalene and St. Martial, wherein the tomb of the Cardinal d’Amboise is the most observable  ((I believe Evelyn is referring to the tomb of Cardinal Jean de la Grange, a somewhat famous tomb. Jean de la Grange was Cardinal of Amiens otherwise known as the diocese of Ambianum – possibly leading to Evelyn’s confusion. The tomb of Cardinal d’Amboise has always been in Rouen Cathedral -GS)) . Clement VI. lies buried in that of the Celestines, the altar whereof is exceeding rich : but for nothing I more admired it than the tomb of Madonna Laura, the celebrated mistress of Petrarch3

We saw the Arsenal, the Pope’s Palace, and the Synagogue of the Jews, who here are distinguished by their red hats. Vaucluse, so much renowned for the solitude of Petrarch, we beheld from the castle ; but could not go to visit it for want of time, being now taking mules and a guide for Marseilles.


  1. In 1348. -AD 

  2. Jane, or Joanna I Queen of Naples, sold Avignon to Pope Clement V in 1348 for 80,000 florins – GS 

  3.  In the Church of the Cordeliers, destroyed in the Revolution. It was then, says Arthur Young (Travels, etc., 1792, i. 173:

    “nothing but a stone in the pavement, with a figure engraven on it partly effaced, surrounded by an inscription in Gothic letters, and another in the wall adjoining, with the armorial of the family De Sade”—to which Laura belonged. The last remains of Laura were taken to the Bibliothèque Nationale in 1793—says Mr. Augustus Hare—and have been lost. But he quotes a charming quatrain, either by Francis I. or Clement Marot, which was added when the tomb was opened in 1533 :—
    “0 gentille âme, estant tant estimée,
    Qui te pourra louer qu’en se taisant ?
    Car la parole est toujours réprimée
    Quand le sujet surmonte le disant.”

    [Translation

    O gentle Soul, being so esteemed,
    Who could praise you save in silence?
    For speech is always restrained
    When the subject surpasses the speaker. ]

    South-Eastern France, 1890, p. 368.   –AD 

Monday 3 October 1644

and the next morning by Pont St. Esprit, which consists of twenty-two arches; in the piers of the arches are windows, as it were, to receive the water when it is high and full. Here we went on shore, it being very dangerous to pass the bridge in a boat.

“Vüe du Pont de St Esprit” by Jean-Baptiste-François Génillion. Circa 1780. Source: BnF.

Hence, leaving our barge, we took horse, seeing at a distance the town and principality of Orange

Sunday 2 October 1644

Hence, the next morning we swam (for the river here is so rapid that the boat was only steered) to a small village called Tain, where we dined. Over against this is another town, named Tournon, where is a very strong castle under a high precipice. To the castle joins the Jesuits’ College, who have a fair library1. The prospect was so tempting, that I could not forbear designing it with my crayon.

“Château de Tournon. Bords du Rhône” by
Théodore Caruelle d’Aligny, 19th Century. Source: BnF

We then came to Valence, a capital city carrying the title of a Duchy; but the Bishop is now sole Lord temporal of it, and the country about it. The town having a University famous for the study of the civil law, is much frequented; but the churches are none of the fairest, having been greatly defaced in the time of the wars. The streets are full of pretty fountains. The citadel is strong and garrisoned. Here we passed the night, and… [continues next day]

“Vue de la ville de valence…” by Olivier Le May. Circa 17..


  1.  Founded by the favourite of Francis I., the Cardinal de Tournon, in 1542. It was later an Ecole Militaire. –AD 

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 Janv.er 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: libreriaperini.com

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: photo.rmn.fr

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: http://israel.silvestre.fr


  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.

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