Notre-Dame de Paris

By Victor Hugo ; Alban Krailsheimer | Go to book overview

BOOK ONE

I
THE GREAT HALL

JUST three hundred and forty-eight years, six months, and nineteen days ago today Parisians woke to the sound of all the bells pealing out within the triple precinct of City, University, and Town.

The sixth of January 1482 is not, however, a day commemorated by history. There was nothing very special about the event which thus launched the bells and the people of Paris into movement from early in the morning. It was not an attack by Picards or Burgundians, not a procession of relics, not a student revolt in the Laas vineyard, not 'our aforesaid most dread sovereign Lord the King' making his entry, not even the fine spectacle of men and women being hanged for robbery at the Palais de Justice in Paris. Nor was it the arrival of some embassy, a frequent occurrence in the fifteenth century, all bedizened and plumed. It was hardly two days since the last cavalcade of that kind, the Flemish embassy sent to conclude the marriage of the Dauphin and Marguerite of Flanders, had entered Paris, much to the annoyance of the Cardinal de Bourbon, who, to please the King, had had to put on a welcoming smile for this rustic bunch of Flemish burgomasters and treat them, in his Hôtel de Bourbon, to 'a very fine morality, satire, and farce', while torrential rain soaked the magnificent tapestries hung at his door.

What, in the words of Jean de Troyes, 'excited all the people of Paris' on 6 January was the twofold celebration, combined since time immemorial, of the Feast of the Epiphany and the Feast of Fools.

That day there was to be a bonfire on the Place de Grève, a maypole set up at the chapel of Braque, and a mystery

-13-

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