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.
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).
Earlier restorations have been made in 1845 by Monsieur Martin and his son, in 1854 and 1909 by other horologists.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The portal on the west side was built in the 17th century.
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.
There are several historic windows on the northern side.
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.
I will add new photos below.
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.