Nestled in a height of 40 m in the belfry of the church Saint-Nicolas in Beaumont-le-Roger, Régulus represents a Roman soldier. Wearing a plumed helmet, and dressed in a red tunic, he carries a sabre attached to his belt and has his calves encased in half-boots. Régulus has articulated arms at shoulder level and holds a hammer in each hand. He strikes two bells 40 and 50 cm in diameter placed behind him, the smaller one every 15 minutes. He nods his head up and down when he strikes the big bell on the full hours.

Régulus, symbol of justice, was born in 1826 thanks to Étienne Charles Martin, a carpenter from Saint-Aubin-le-Guichard (now Mesnil-en-Ouche), passionate about watchmaking and automata, who settled around 1796 in Beaumont-le-Roger near the church. Designed in oak wood and wrought iron, Régulus is 2.16 m high and weighs approximately 80 kg.

Horloge d'édifice : Regulus dit jacquemart
Own photo made in 2019.

The last time he touched the ground was in September 2013. For three hours, two alpinists ensured the dismantling of all the bolts of the mechanism, dismantled the head and arms of the automaton and then lowered Régulus, wrapped like a mummy, with a rope to the ground.

Régulus’ restoration was carried out by a specialized company from the Paris region. The same company that gave Régulus a facelift in 1985. In 2013 people estimated that his next restoration would take part in around 30 years. I took a photo of Régulus this year and to me, it looks as if the cracks in the paint are already deeper. Nothing compared to his bad state in 2013 though (there’s a picture in the last link I added below).

Own photo, 2022.

Earlier restorations have been made in 1845 by Monsieur Martin and his son, in 1854 and 1909 by other horologists.

Further reading: Plateforme ouverte du patrimoine, Événement : 28 ans après, Régulus remet pied à terre and Téléthon à Beaumont-le-Roger. Le défi « Encore plus haut » relevé avec succès This last link has photos of Régulus’ state in 2013 before the restoration. He had no paint left at all.

Litre funéraire (Painted funeral band) in Pierre-Ronde

Litre seigneuriale dans l'église de Pierre-Ronde
A litre seigneuriale aka litre funéraire is a painted band inside or outside a church, on which the local nobility got their coat of arms painted once they were dead. In the lost church Saint-Cyr et Sainte-Julitte de Pierre-Ronde this painted band still exists. Most of these painted bands were destroyed in the French Revolution (1789-1799). The revolutionists painted them over. The coat of arms on this particular litre funéraire shows the coat of arms of the family Le Conte de Nonant. They were the owners of Beaumesnil castle in the 17th century from 1604 to 1660. That means that this litre funéraire was painted in the 17th century! I don’t know what the painted sign under the litre means.

I will write about the lost church of Pierre-Ronde another time. This building deserves an article. But today I want to concentrate on the litre funéraire. The first church on this place in Pierre-Ronde, which is now part of the municipality Mesnil-en-Ouche, was built in the 10th century (found out with radiocarbon dating) in Romanesque style. What’s left of the 10th century church are foundations and part of the nave. The church was rebuilt in the 15th century. The bell tower was made in the 15th century, but remade in 1716. The choir was rebuilt in 1746. In the 19th century the hamlet of Pierre-Ronde lost most of its inhabitants and the priest left. The church wasn’t in use any more and was sold in 1966. It was owned by different people until 1992. It was completely forgotten, and the interior was completely emptied. In 1992 somebody found the church (“Oh look, we got a church there”). And the town bought it back. Some sculpted stones of the 15th- and 16th century were found in 2016 in a shed of a private person. The church is being restored by an association of inhabitants of the town. The church was not far away from Beaumesnil castle. And it seems that the noble families were using the church at least in the 17th century. The church Saint-Nicolas in Beaumesnil was built in the 19th century.

Litre seigneuriale dans l'église de Pierre-Ronde
This coat of arms aka blazon of the family Le Conte de Nonant is also part of the coat of arms of the city of Beaumesnil, which is now part of Mesnil-en-Ouche too. The French description of the blazon is: D’azur au chevron d’argent, accompagné en pointe de trois besants d’or, mal ordonnés. I really don’t speak Heraldry-English. It would be something like: Azure a chevron argent in base accompanied by three bezants piled in reverse. Or anything like this. Normal people don’t understand this language. It was made to secure the jobs of heraldists. The blazon is blue with a white chevron pointing up. Under the chevron are 3 golden circles that represent coins, one on top, two on the bottom. See, that wasn’t so mysterious. On the church wall they used one colour to paint it all, and only the shapes remained. On top of the shield (field in heraldry) is a crown. The crown indicates that the defunct was at least a marquess, which could have been Jacques Le Conte, marquis de Nonant, † 1641, or Pomponne-François le Conte de Nonant (1634-1654), marquis de Nonant, baron de Beaumesnil. Or both. I’d like to add that, in my opinion, Pomponne is an awful first name. The poor guy was only 20 years old when he died. Under the shield (field) is a floral motive that goes up at the sides. It has no meaning, but it has a heraldic name: compartment.
Litre seigneuriale dans l'église de Pierre-Ronde
Here you can see the litre seigneuriale with more context. The whole interior of the church had hand-painted decoration.
Litre seigneuriale dans l'église de Pierre-Ronde
Here’s also some context. The ladder leads to the bell tower. The old Romanesque window to the left was closed.
Litre seigneuriale dans l'église de Pierre-Ronde
Litre seigneuriale dans l'église de Pierre-Ronde
Some context again. A tiny closed window and a rather modern window.

Beaumont priory on old postcards

This is an old postcard. Either from the late 19th or early 20th century. To the right you can see the priory, the walls and the entrance of the gallery. Behind the people and to the side of the carriage, there are houses hanging at the walls of the galleries. The holes of the wood construction that kept them up there are still visible today.

Here’s another shot of the houses at the street. Probably the same image though. The postcard is from 1904.

This shows the gate into the woods. I don’t think there is a gate today. Will have to check.

Turns out that my husband took this picture in March 2019.

Here you can see a bit of the ruins of the castle at the top of the hill. There is much less vegetation than today. Many of the houses in front of the priory have been destroyed in World War II.

You can find more of those postcards in the archives of Eure: https://archives.eure.fr/

History of the priory of Beaumont-le-Roger

The abbey in Bernay (Eure) was founded in 1013 by Judith of Brittany (982–1017), Duchess of Normandy and wife of Richard II (996-1026). She gave lots of land to that abbey, many villages.

Abbaye Notre-Dame de Bernay
Abbaye Notre-Dame de Bernay, own photo made in 2009.

One of the villages was Beaumont-le-Roger. At that time, Beaumont had the name of “Belmont” (beautiful mountain?). In 1030 Belmont was ceded to Onfroy († around 1050), seigneur (lord) of Pont-Audemer (Eure). Onfroy’s son, Roger (1015-1094) inherited the domain.

In 1048 Roger married Adeline de Meulan (1014/1023-1081). Chronology lacks detail, but sources show more and more often a presence of Roger and his family on the territory of Beaumont after 1050. In 1066 Roger made a first donation to a religious establishment on the site of Beaumont. Around this time Roger started to call himself Roger de Beaumont, instead of Roger, son of Onfroy. It is possible that he built a first motte-and-bailey castle and founded the church Saint-Nicolas, as well as fortified the town of Beaumont. But the sources are rather vague. The only reason to assume the existence of an earlier church than the Collegiate Church of the Trinity, is the donation Roger made in 1066.

Onfroy, Roger and his brother Robert were close to the Duke William the Conqueror (1028-1087), and Roger helped the Duchess Matilda of Flanders (1031-1083) in conducting the duchy during the conquest of England (1066-1070). The duke gave Roger land. Land that used to belong to Bernay abbey. Not only as a reward for his services, but also to create a protective fortress against the rebellious house of Tosny.

The 1077 marriage between Raoul II of Tosny (1027-1102), seigneur of Conches-en-Ouche (Eure) and Isabelle de Montfort-sur-Risle (1057-1102) allowed the Tosnys to become Châtelains of Nogent-le-Roi in Eure-et-Loir (until around 1200). The family possessions of the Tosnys thus stretched as far as the border of the duchy of Normandy. What I don’t understand about this, is that at least one of the Tosnys was with William the Conqueror in England and got land there as a reward.

Church of the priory of Beaumont-le-Roger
The collegiate Church of the Holy Trinity. That what’s left of it. Own photo made in 2015.

To mark his presence, Roger built a big fortified castle, and founded in 1070 a religious establishment: the collegiate Church of the Holy Trinity. That’s only 4 years on from his donation in 1066. And in my opinion it is possible, that somebody wrote 1070 instead of 1066 because 1070 is an even number. Roger built castle and church of course with the consent of the duke. Roger founded those buildings to show that he was the feudal lord, “seigneur”, of the place. The castle and the church were government institutions. The “castrum and collegiate” (build a castle and a church) is part of a strategy of administrative and military structuring set up by William the Conqueror and followed by his sons.

Stars over the abbey of Beaumont
The church under the stars. Own photo, made in 2015.
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The church Saint-Nicolas of Beaumont-le-Roger

Before the French Revolution there were 5 churches in Beaumont-le-Roger. Now there’s only one: Saint-Nicolas. It’s dedicated to Saint Nicholas.

In medieval times the church belonged first to the priory in Beaumont-le-Roger but later to the abbey of Le Bec-Hellouin.

The church was built in the 13th century. But there are only 3 columns left of that time. The three columns separate the nave from the southern side aisle. You see here the southern facade.

Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
It looks as if two different churches had been glued together.

The outer walls and the tower were built in the 15th century.

The choir and the northern side aisle were reconstructed in the 16th century.

The left part, the nave, was there before the right part, the choir. So maybe they just didn’t need to make the nave bigger. They used to work on the churches to make them bigger or because parts were on the brink of collapsing. Beaumont-le-Roger used to have 5 churches. I know three of them. The priory had a church and there’s a building on the other side of the town center that must have been a church. I just didn’t take photos there yet. With 5 churches the reason for alteration of a building might have been rather a bad state of the building and not the need for more space for all the believers. There are many churches in the region on which you can see the different states of the building during the centuries. After WWII they restored the building to the former state. That is what they claim. So I have to guess, that this is the former state. My guess² is that the style was different in the 16th century. The left part is gothic flamboyant in my opinion, while the choir on the right shows the influence of the renaissance style.

Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
Looking up in the choir.

The portal on the west side was built in the 17th century.

Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
The portal

During the French Revolution (1789-1799) the church became a public building. All bells except one were melt down and everything that was made of metal was taken away to “defend the Republic”. The church was used for Republican celebrations and to store grain on market days.

In 1802 the church was opened for Roman-Catholic Mass again.

Until 1902 there were small buildings around the church. They were then demolished and a wall was built around the church, as well as a staircase to access the church.

The church was damaged severely by bombs during WWII. Only the northern side and the bell tower stayed intact. Most of the interior was gone. The church was restored from 1951 to 1971 to its former state.

Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
Southern aisle. The windows on this side are newer. This side has been destroyed in WWII.

There are several historic windows on the northern side.

Baie 16 Credo Apostolique 15e siècle
Window 16. This church window was made in the 15th century. It shows the Apostles’ Creed.
Baie 14 Résurrection de la fille de Jaïre, Résurrection de Lazare
Window 14. This church window was made in the 16th century. It shows the raising of Jairus’ daughter and the raising of Lazare. There’s a guy on the right who holds something that could be a musical instrument. Or he’s deaf and it’s a hearing aid and he wants to get cured by Jesus. There’s a medieval manuscript from the 12th century in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (National Library of France) that shows King Arthur hunting while using an ear trumpet.
Baie 7 Noces de Cana, Miracle de Théophile
Window 7. This church window was made in 1550. It shows the wedding at Cana and the miracle of Theophilus of Adana.
Baie 9 la Passion
Window 9. This church window was made in 1557. It shows the Passion of Jesus.
Baie 11: Entrée du Christ à Jérusalem
Fenster 11. This window was made in 1553. It shows the Entry of Christ into Jerusalem.
Baie 15: Décollation de saint Christophe (baie 15)
Window 15. This is a bit more complicated and also made in the 16th century. On the upper field Saint Christopher is baptised. On the lower right field Saint Christopher carries Jesus over the river and on the lower left Saint Christopher gets beheaded. “Décollation” is derived from latin: collum (neck) and means cutting the neck, just like “beheading”. Makes you wonder why there are so many words for things like that. On Flickr we had a little digression over the topic of Saint-Christopher. In the art of the Eastern Orthodox church he’s often shown with the head of a dog when he carries Jesus. Legend has it, that he became human because he was carrying Jesus. That’s of course very odd, since dog people have never existed. Historians seem to fight about the reason for this. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was really a translation error because somebody read “Cananeus” (Canaanite) as “caninus” (translation is always difficult and weird errors occur all the time, think of Chinese instruction manuals). But we’ll never know. The other historians, that don’t think it’s a bad translation, think it’s a reference to Anubis. I think it’s a bit far fetched, really. Originally it was Osiris who was protected by Anubis and Osiris was no child. Anubis brings the deceased to the water, but he doesn’t carry them over the water. Horus was a child but he didn’t die. There is of course a resemblance between the relationship of Mary and Jesus and Isis and Horus. Anubis had a brother by name of Upuaut, who was also a dog-headed god (jackal). He is actually a more likely candidate for Saint Christopher, since he was “the opener of ways” which could be interpreted as travelling. And he was often depicted standing in the skiff of the dead. Charon was never depicted with a dog’s head. You see .. I could go on and on.
Aigle-lutrin d'église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
In the choir. The eagle lectern was made in the 18th-century.
Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
Southern side altar in mono.
Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
The main altar in mono.
Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
The baptismal font.
Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
View of the nave.
Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
The organ.
Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
This looks like one of the older columns.
Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
Ceiling of a side aisle.
Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
One of the new old gargoyles.
Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
I love gargoyles and just look at that little angel to the left.
Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
Big mouth strikes again.
Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
Horloge d'édifice : Regulus dit jacquemart
Meet Regulus, a Roman centurion made in 1825. He is supposed to bang on the bells with the things he holds in his hand. But I never saw it happen.

The church is open during the day. And a lot of people visit it, to pray, light candles or play the organ or listen to the organist.

Candles in the church of Beaumont-le-Roger
Candles in Saint-Nicolas.
Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
The church seen from a car park in the middle of the town. A lot of those houses look interesting.
Decoration on the facade at the eastern side.
Gargoyles on the church Saint-Nicolas of Beaumont
The new old facade with a line of gargoyles.

I will add new photos below.

Gargoyle on the church Saint-Nicolas in Beaumont-le-Roger
My parents in law visited us this September (2022) and they stayed in a gîte (holiday accommodation) opposite to the church. I was able to take some shots out of their windows on the first and second floor. Look at that ape to the left of the gargoyle.
Gargoyle on the church Saint-Nicolas in Beaumont-le-Roger
Gargoyles on the church Saint-Nicolas in Beaumont-le-Roger
Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
The line of gargoyles at the facade and the church place (place de l’église).
Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
The entrance door.
Clocher de l'Église Saint-Nicolas de Beaumont-le-Roger
The bell tower.

I just did some research and found this old postcard, taken before WWII and there the styles are also different, but the choir doesn’t look as big as it looks now.

And I found only one image online, to show the damages after WWII. The whole southern facade was gone.

All the photographs are of course made by me. Why the heck do I write in English? I comment my photographs on Flickr in English. I’m lazy. It’s far easier to copy my own “outpourings” than to write new ones.