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Bill Thayer

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 p18  Sir Thomas Browne on Saintes:

In his "Domestic Correspondence",
edited by Simon Wilkin (London, 1846)

From [Pons] I came to Sainctes, the chief city of Xaintoing,​a standing on the river Charente; a very pleasant place, and a bishoprick. The cathedral church of St. Peter hath a very large steeple, but no spire. The church was broken down by the protestants, but is now rebuilded. Here hath been a very strong and ancient castle, which is now somewhat demolished. It was rased towards the town by Louis XIII, a little before the siege of La Rochelle, where were found some urns and many Roman coins. Besides the city here are three suburbs; the one on the north side, called the suburb of Notre Dame, where there is an ancient abbey of nuns, built by Geoffroy Count of Xainctes; the other, on the east side, called the Fauxbourg des Britoniens, where is the ancient church of St. Eutropius, who, being sent to convert France, was martyred and buried here; and his head is shown with the wound he received at his death. Under the choir of St. Eutropius's church, (like that of St. Faith's, under St. Paul's), lieth the body of St. Eutropius: but on one day only, the last of April, when there is a great fair kept here, his head is to be seen or shown.

There are also still to be seen some remains of Roman magnificence; as, an amphitheatre, in a valley a little out of the town, nigh unto St. Eutrope; but it is much ruined. I took the draught thereof, and have set it down in my papers. There is also an ancient canal and aqueduct; but, above all, two stately  p19 and magnificent arches​b on the bridge, which containeth fourteen arches in all. On the two aforesaid arches are these words, graven in large letters,


And on the other side these words, much defaced, and hard to read​1

*   *   *   *   *

There are belonging to this town of Xainctes three principal gates. The first, Porte St. Louis, which stands to the suburbs called Britoniens; — the second, Porte d'Equière, standing to the suburbs of St. Vivier; — the third, Porte du Pont, which openeth to the bridges.

Wilkin's Note:

1 They are wanting in MS.

Thayer's Notes:

a Here someone, presumably Wilkin, inserts (St. Onge): meant to be explanatory, but unfortunately, instead, garbled so as to mystify the reader. No saint by that name! Wilkin should have written (Saintonge): the modern spelling of Browne's Xaintoing, the French province.

b The Roman bridge that Browne saw was destroyed in the 19c to make way for something wider; the arches were removed at that time to the place Bassompierre on the E bank of the Charente. For an excellent photograph (part of a very interesting site on the archaeology of the area, too), see this page.

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Page updated: 20 Nov 99