Norman Legends: the bells of Corneville

There is an operetta called “Les Cloches de Corneville”. It was written by the composer Robert Planquette (1848-1903) in 1877. The operetta plays in Normandy in the 17th century. The reason to write the operetta at all was a legend. A legend of Corneville-sur-Risle, which is a village east of Pont-Audemer.

musicsheet of the operetta, public domain because of age,

During the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) english troops seized the abbey of Corneville. They pillaged it and carried everything away and put it on 20 carts. One cart was still empty. “What shall we put on that empty cart?” wondered the marauders. One of them suggested to take a huge barrel of wine out of the cellar. The idea was acclaimed, it would have been nice to have some wine on the way to Rouen. But the barrel was much too big and they couldn’t get it out of the cellar. Another one bawled: “Let’s take the biggest of the bells as a sign of our victory.” 12 of the English ascended the bell tower, took the biggest bell and carried it down with lots of pain, sweating and gasping like oxen. Thy lifted it on the empty cart and went off. Some meters later the shaft of the cart broke. One of the thieves saw a boat on the Risle. So they took the bell and carried it on the boat. The boat capsized because of the heavy weight of the metall and the bell fell in the river. It didn’t want to become English. While the raiders tried to recover the bell from the floods a group of soldiers of the king of France passed by, spotted the English, jumped at them and dispersed them.

Ever since then the bell in the Risle joined in when the Carillon (bell orchestra) of the abbey plays. As if it evinced it’s joy to have stayed French.

Hotel in Corneville-sur-Risle, eigenes Foto, public domain/gemeinfrei

Hotel in Corneville-sur-Risle, own photo, public domain

The bells of a carillon are tempered chromatically or diatonic. They are played by striking a keyboard with the fists and by pressing the keys of a pedal keyboard with the feet.

The last seigneur of Corneville, the Marquis de la Rochethulon et Grente, felt sad about the destruction that had been caused by the French Revolution in Corneville. Thinking about the old legend he commissioned the operretta and he bought a new carillon, which is stored in the hotel “les Cloches de Corneville” nowadays.

Kirche Notre-Dame in Corneville, eigenes Foto (auf commons), Lizenz:public domain/gemeinfrei

church Notre-Dame in Corneville (12th century), own photo (on wikimedia commons), public domain

Eingang der Kirche, eigenes Foto (auf commons), Lizenz:public domain/gemeinfrei

entrance of the church, own photo (on wikimedia commons), public domain

3 old postcards of Corneville
more old postcards in the archive of the departement Eure

Les Légendes Normandes, by Louis Bascan, a collection of Norman legends of older sources, reprint of 1929, published by “les Editions du Bastion”, 1999, ISBN=2745500503, page 182f, (French)


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