100 Years Ago: July 1922
This is the 90th entry in my series of reviews of National Geographic Magazines upon reaching the centennial of their publication.
The first article in this month’s issue (and the second one listed on the cover) is entitled “Camargue, the Cowboy Country of Southern France” and was written by Dr. Andre Vialles. The article contains thirty-three black-and-white photographs taken by Clifton Adams, Staff Photographer, National Geographic Magazine. Eight of those photographs are full-page in size. The article also contains a sketch map, on page 4, of La Camargue with an inset of France showings its location.
Sketch Map courtesy of Philip Riviere
When the Roman legions were encamped in Gaul, the delta of the Rhone was the granary of the imperial armies. In 1922, desert wastes and malarial swamps had so enveloped the Camargue that its dashing herdsmen and beautiful horsewomen had not yet fully rescued it. Given over to herds of horses, cattle, and sheep, that cowboy land was little known, even by the people of France. At Arles, the hitherto swift Rhone divided into two sluggish streams, whose floods, combined with the waves of the tideless Mediterranean, had built up an alluvial plain which was inherently rich. It was despoiled by Louis XIV in much the same way that the fertile fields of Babylonia, ruined by the Assyrian and Persian, became the desolation of modern Mesopotamia. History clustered richly about the Camargue. Phoenician traders came hither to trade with the Ligurians even before the Greeks founded Marseille. When that port was threatened, appeal was made to the Romans, who thereupon invaded Gaul, and from the Provincia Romana, Provence gained its name. In the third century of the Christian era, St. Trophimus established a church at Arles, which, two centuries later, became the capital of Gaul. Then came the Visigoths and Ostrogoths to build Carcasonne, and the Franks, whom the Arabs held in subjection until the advent of Charles Martel. Italy extended her power to the Rhone, and later the House of Barcelona added Camargue to its domain. With the fall of Rome, the language of Cicero gave way to the vernacular of the slave. That rude speech not only triumphed over Latin, but also developed into the rich language of the Troubadours. With the dispersal of the Albigenses came the unification of France. The north fought on the side of centralization, and the south fostered provincialism. The north won, but, even in 1922, Camargue was proud of its own institutions and language.
If not for that pride, the Camargue might have been given over to waste. The people were rehabilitating the region which once rivaled in richness the delta of the Nile. In 1922, irrigation was making the desert blossom and the vineyards grow, and drainage was reclaiming the swampy wastes. Highroads had been constructed along elevated bunds shaded by umbrella pines. Railways were laid across the moor, thus opening up the Camargue to easy access from the outside world. Among the clumps of scrubby tamarisks dotting the landscape were found a great variety of game. From all sides came flocks of sea-ravens, plovers, herons, and wild ducks of all sorts. On the shallow borders of the marsh stood lines of pink flamingoes. Sometimes, a blue Egyptian ibis strayed that way. On the salt moor, the rabbit multiplied as in Australia, in spite of the inroads made by sportsmen. Beavers, which were numerous many years before, were still found on the banks of the Rhone, and small land-tortoises were often seen. When you had crossed the fertile lands, where crops and vineyards grew, you entered the wild Camargue. It was a marshy plain reaching the shores of the sea. Thereon was found the salt moor, and what scanty vegetation that grew along those marshes. The extraordinary feature of that wild section of France was the great herds of bulls and horses grazing peacefully, with flocks of sheep nibbling the scant grasses of the desolate moor. Camargue was a land of cloudless skies and a hot sun, sometimes dangerously hot. But down from the cold central plateau of France there swept the mistral, a chilling wind which blew, on average, one day in every two. The mistral’s power was such that the roofs of the humbler homes and cowboy shelters hung low to withstand the force of the dry, cold wind, often cyclonic in power, and a cross was fixed to the wall for added protection. But as cold as it was, the mistral was a blessing, for mosquitoes and miasmic vapors could not withstand the blast, and the muddy morasses dried up quickly. For that reason, it was called the “great mud-eater”.
The mistral was, perhaps, the main factor in the environment of the land; and, by a strange coincidences, a newer force which had influenced the region bore the same name. One might well have called that part of Provence the land of two mistrals. So simply and beautifully had the poems of Frederic Mistral described the herdsman’s land and life that one of them, Mireio, won for him the Nobel prize in literature in 1904, and the lasting love of his people. Before he died in 1914, he had the satisfaction of knowing that his art had given new life to his land and new pride to its people. Frederic Mistral had a great teacher, Joseph Roumanille, a gardener and poet, whose love of his native tongue was stirred by a trifling incident. Roumamille was once reading one of his own poems in French to some friends who were gathered in his home. Praise came to the lips of his fellow-artists, but to his mother’s eyes came tears, because she could not understand that strange tongue, although she was native to France. Roumanille then decided to work for the reestablishment of the language of the Troubadours. The finest flowering of modern Provencal was Mireio, in which his pupil, Mistral, described the simple country life and the love of a basket-weaver’s son for the daughter of one of the rich farmers of Provence. Thus was the recent renaissance of Provencal literature mothered by a tear and sired by a song. Mistral, thrilled by Homer and the Eclogues of Virgil, awakened anew the native speech of Provence. Master of phrase that he was, Mistral was also a master of psychology. He saw dances, sports, and costumes as the unifying factors in a native life which was threatened by the melting pot of cosmopolitan civilization, and he sought in every way to conserve all such native elements as would make for happiness and patriotism, for race expression and for individual glory.
The herdsman of the Camargue was a picturesque figure. Living a lonely life among the herds of black cattle and wild horses, he had developed the same manly traits that distinguished the American Western cowboy. Courage, chivalry, determination, endurance – all were his. But individualism and self-reliance left little room for patriotism, and it was there that the poet hoped to round out the character of the fearless desert rider. Hence the rodeo, or roundup, had become a cultural conference, during which the freedom-loving herdsmen impressed upon themselves the mark of Provence while they brand their cattle. The women had not been neglected in that plan to unite the people of Provence into a happy family of families. Their lovely dress had been revived and the fashion dictates of Paris repudiated in favor of a costume which was not only the costume of their mothers but which was beautiful in its own right. The mas was the farmhouse home of the Provencal herdsman. His interest was in his ranch and herds, but home meant more to him for all that. Nor was he ashamed to live under the same roof with his animals or harvest. The flavor of the soil permeated the very home life of the Camargue peasant. Near the house one was sure to note the tree or trees which added distinction to the spot. Trees were few and far between in the Camargue. Tall trees, like the stately poplar, were seldom found there due to the high winds, but a clump of stout trees or somber cypresses was fostered by the farmers of the Camargue. The rude well without a sweep, the creaking grindstone, the clutter of outworn tools, the peculiar spindle for making the horsehair lariat, the rickety ladder, the small stack of coarse fodder – these were the homely features that surrounded the mas. To an extent that was not common in cities, the mas was the true home of the people. In an inhospitable land, the home was a welcome retreat to host as well as stranger.
The kitchen was the housewife’s realm, a large bare, whitewashed room with rough-hewn rafters browned by the smoke of the wood fire which blazed below the large black kettle on its smoky chain. The great fireplace filled almost an entire side of the room, perhaps with a brick oven on one side and a masonry alcove for the few dishes on the other, while from the ceiling hung sprigs of drying herbs. Here the humble housewife ruled as a queen, with a gay shawl about her shoulders and her high chignon, bound with black velvet and lace, taking the place of a crown. Primitive as were the arrangements, the cooking left nothing to be desired. Where everyone knew everyone else’s virtues and failings, a lack of culinary skill would have been as just a cause for feminine reproach as lack of courage to a man. Each herdsman had his reputation for skill, for strength, or for endurance, which gave him a justifiable pride of craft, and the culinary excellencies of his wife were equally well known. The gardian of Camargue could be likened not only to the American cowpuncher, but also to the vaquero of Spain, to the gaucho of South American pampas, and the rough riders of Australian stations or the South African veldt. He was, however, a special type, having more to do than protect cattle or horses. More than all else, the gardian was preserving the old traditions of the Camargue peasant, his customs, his melodious Provencal language, and something of his old-fashioned dress. The gardian still wore a bright-colored shirt and a black coat lined with velvet. His trousers were of brown cloth, resembling leather, and were supported by a taiolo, a kind of large woolen belt several yards long. In winter the gardian used wooden sabots even when riding. Sometimes he wore chap-like leggings made of calfskin to protect from the cold wind and rain. He also wore a wide-brimmed felt hat, like the sombrero of the Western cowboy.
In nearly every family of herdsmen was found an apprentice, or gardianoun, chiefly distinguished by a passion for fighting cattle and a love of rough, open-air life. Practicing with his father, uncles, or brothers, the boy soon became proficient in the cattle business. He needed to learn how to plaint horsehair to make the seden, and how to brand and wean the calves. He must also learn to handle the long horseherd’s staff and the gardian’s iron trident, and follow the tracks of lost cattle over the wild salt moor. To be a good herdsman he must know the different grass lands where the bulls and horses could graze and where to locate good holes at which to water them. Above all, he needed to be a tireless horseman and rough rider, able to break the most unruly broncho to his will. In winter the herdsmen lived in the malarial marsh. When the great heat of summer hung over the sun-burnt, dusty prairies they were ceaselessly tormented by swarms of mosquitoes, horseflies, and gnats. Sober and inured to every hardship, they were patient and reserved, because of their solitary life among the cattle. That was why, at the religious festivals to which they drove their fighting bulls, they gave vent to such surprising outbursts of boisterous gaiety. While mounted, the gardian used a ficheiroun, or trident. That was a hand-forged piece of iron, of which the classic and ancient form was a half-moon with sharp horns, and a third short, triangular point in the middle. That trident was helved on a staff seven feet long. Gardians handled the ficheiroun with great cleverness. With it they threw down calves for branding and weaning, controlled unruly bulls, or stopped a stampede in the herd, and, on occasion, protect themselves from attack. They also used the long staff for fording streams. For those cowboys, the trident was the emblem of free life. It had been employed as a theme for many Provencal poems and popular songs. That trident of the cattle-herder might have also stood as an emblem of the land, whose shape it resembled.
While the sturdy ficheiroun was the rod and staff of the herdsman, of almost equal importance was the seden, a horsehair lariat, sometimes 36 feet in length, which was used as a lasso. It was never thrown from horseback, as it was light in weight and did not carry well in the air. In making the seden, strands of horsehair were slowly spun from a rough bundle and tightly twisted by a heavy spindle. The hair used in those sedens was carefully selected, not only for length and strength, but also for color. Strands of various colors were twisted into the final length, to form a pleasing pattern in white, brown, and black. The projecting ends of horsehair gave the seden a rough and fuzzy appearance. The gardian handled it with ease and precisions. Seldom did the gardian carry firearms; but the Camargue was a great game country; and the owners of large estates, who trust their herds to unarmed cowboys, hired well-armed gamekeepers to protect the birds and wild rabbits. The cowboy saddle of the Camargue was deceptive in appearance. It looked like a deeply upholstered armchair perched upon a wide skirt of cowhide. Its high back was deeply padded and outlined with brass-headed nails in fancy designs. The wide curved pommel had no horn, but instead was tufted as luxuriously as was the cantle. One would have thought that the saddle would be comfortable, but it was, at times, an instrument of torture. The large, handmade stirrups of wrought iron were much more comfortable, for it hung low. The hand-forged spurs were short, with small rowels. From the high saddle-bow hung two leather pockets and sometimes two bright-colored bags. The Camargue bridle was generally made of black leather, without blinders, with a hand-forged bit. A sort of hackamore was used to break in a horse. Only on horseback did one traverse the wild waste of marshes.
The gardians’ wives and daughters rode into the salt moors behind their husbands or fathers. They sat securely upon a little blanket bound to the crupper and, with an arm around their chevalier, they rode great distances across the drab landscape. From ancient times there had been in the Camargue horsewomen passionately fond of cattle-raising and of rough riding. In the sixteenth century mention was made of horsewomen accompanying the gardians during the cattle-branding. A few years before 1922, there was a very celebrated horsewoman, Mlle. De la Borse-Caumont. He father owned the bulls and horses of Mas d’Icard. Gardians called her “Damisello”, the Miss, and almost worshipped her. In 1922, especially in Languedoc, the number of horsewomen was increasing. They rode astride white Camargue horses saddled in true cowboy style, wearing a girl’s riding skirt, a shirt of some bright color, and a large sombrero. They were fond of the cattle business and followed the gardians at their daily tasks. One of the humble heroes of the Camargue was the village blacksmith of Le Cailar, the focus of the gardian life. In his tiny smithy, that jolly Monsieur Bonfort fashioned tridents for his cowboy friends or forged the brands with which the roving herds were marked. None could design a finer pair of stirrups than he, and, with the modern encroachment of agriculture, he would even mend a plowshare or make the irons for a rude cart. But it was the herder whom he really served, and his fame stretched far and wide. The “Nacioun Gardiano”, a sort of cowboys’ union, was organized to unite the lovers of the Camargue through pride of craft. In the Provencal festivals, it was they whose riders formed parades and followed their leader under his banner. From time to time, those riders met and played equestrian games. The specific purpose of that group was the maintenance of the herdsmen’s traditions, the perpetuation of the sports and customs of the past, and, above all, foster the sweet speech of Provence and defend the traditions of the Camargue.
The righthand man of the gardian was the Camargue pony. Light gray in color and with a shaggy coat, the steed had an unkempt appearance. His low-hanging head had sleepy eyes and a quiet expression. But never did a more disarming appearance camouflaged a more satanic spirit. When mounted, it became spirited and full of the devil, half wild and with a savage temper. Camargue horses were skittish and sly, and often they had a kick like a mule. They were seldom shod and lived to a ripe old age. The author had known good saddle-horses to have been thirty years old. The origin of the Camargue pony was unknown. Some said he was descended from Numidian horses brought over by the Roman cavalry; other ascribed his ancestry to the horses left in the Rhone delta by the Saracens. He resembled the long-haired horse of Tibet and the Siberian pony. By a perfect adaptation to its environment, he had the same flat type of foot and hard hoof that distinguished the horses of other marshy lands. He was bold, powerful, and sure of foot. Rustic and sober in appearance, he had an iron endurance and was so self-reliant that he needed little care. When the rider dismounted after the day’s work was done, the Camargue horse preferred to graze in the freedom of the sparce moor rather than be well fed in a stable. Before the advent of the modern threshing-machine, the horses were employed to thresh wheat on the large farms of Provence and Languedoc. Camargue horses were never employed in the French cavalry on account of their small size. When well broken and well trained, the Camargue horse was the cowboy’s mainstay. He was the only mount with enough strength, suppleness, spirit, and stamina for rough riding on the barren ranges.
That independent little steed was not only a good worker, but, like his master, when a holiday came, he delighted in play. Trained as was a polo pony to take a full share in the sport, the Camargue cayuse measured up to the demands of the situation. At aiguillettes, a contest in which the riders tried to impale small wooden rings on their long wooden spears, the horse showed a steadiness which was remarkable. In horse-racing he revealed unsuspected speed. But it was in the exciting game of echarpes that the Camargue pony reveled. Each of two teams had six or eight riders, each wearing three scarfs on his left arm bearing the colors of his camp. The object was to tear the scarfs from one’s opponent’s arm before he could snatch yours. The most spirited ponies were known to kick or bite in order to gain advantage. Epervier was a glorified form of “Puss in the corner”, played on horseback; and there, too, the ponies showed an uncanny intelligence in dashing for the unoccupied spot at the blast of a bugle. So spectacular were those equestrian sports that the ancient arenas of Arles and Nimes resounded to the applause of the modern Provencals as they did eighteen centuries before to the cheers of the provincials of Rome. In those ancient amphitheaters, built by imperial Rome to spread content among a conquered people, Provencal games proclaimed the fact that the joining of Provence to Northern France was a union of equal with equal, rather than the cultural domination of one people by superiors.
Just as the shaggy horse of Camargue lacked the thoroughbred look, so the bulls lack the four-square beefiness for which packers paid top prices. These cattle were of Asiatic origin, trained for speed rather than weight, and could outrun many horses. When gathered in herds they were tractable, but when segregated they were hard to control. Small in size because of the sparce pasturage, the Camargue bull’s coat was black, with occasional reddish-brown tints. He had the face of a philosopher, thin and full of expression, with bright eyes. His horns were long and sharp, so mounted on his small head as to resemble a lyre without strings. Formerly, some of those rangy beasts were broken to the plow, but they did not fit the role of dumb, driven cattle, and their flesh was so tough and had so gamy a flavor that they were seldom killed for food. In 1922, they were only used for the Provencal mode of bullfighting, of which the people were so fond. In some parts of Camargue, cattle-breeders crossed the native stock with Andalusian fighting bulls. Those crossbred animals were used in the corridas del Muerte, the bullfights of the Spanish type, which were given each year in the principal towns of the south of France. But the Camargue herdsman had his own excitement connected with his work as breeder and trainer of fighting stock.
A frequent pastoral task was that of cutting out a particular animal from the herd, changing a cow from one grazing area to another, separating a calf from its mother, or choosing the bulls for the next fight. The herd was surrounded and some riders circle it to keep it compact. Then the owner and his herders entered the group slowly, in order not to frighten the cattle. First the leader-bull was cut out. That animal was partly tame, more obedient than the rest, and trained to direct the actions of the other wild bulls and rally them when disbanded. A bell hung from his neck and his wide horns had been cut off. He was named and the gardians often called to him to remind him of his duty as a leader. Sometimes they emphasized the hint by a cut of the trident on the croup. The cowboy pony, perfectly trained, understood which animal he must follow. More difficult was the sorting of the other wild, sly animals. Once outside the herd, they often made such terrific dashes that the gardian could not outride them. The beasts which were chosen out of the herd followed the leader-bull, and the gardians surrounded them and drove them wherever they would. One could not easily realize the suppleness, the quick decision, and the fleetness of foot which the gardians required of their steeds in that everyday but exciting task. But it was above all in the branding that the gardians and their mounts showed their greatest skill and alertness. That operation was performed in the spring of each year and consisted of marking the young stock. Formerly, all the owners used the branding iron for searing their initials or mark on the left flank of the bulls. In 1922, most owners preferred to split the ear of the bull in a manner peculiar to that particular herd.
The roundup had become a great holiday gathering, to which the manadier invited his friends and neighbors. Early in the morning carriages arrived filled with Provencales in their picturesque costumes, and amateur horsemen, on white horses, came to aid the gardians in their work. A suitable ground had been chosen in advance, a large level space with no obstructions. Close by, the gardians had assembled the herd. The carriages were arranged in a vast semicircle, forming an impenetrable barrier, and in the foreground a groove marked the boundary where the horsemen must stop in their chase. In front of the carriages, filled with spectators, men and young folk on foot awaited. When a horseman chased a bull passed the trench, the crown to over, chasing the animal down and securing it. The more venturesome man defied the young bull, which charged, and bulldogged the beast. Held immobile, the bull was marked. Then it scrambled to its feet, bellowed, and joined the lowing herd. Each young bull went through the process of being muzzled, an operation which consisted of placing in its nose a slab of wood shaped like a halfmoon. The animal was free to graze, but the muzzle, falling down on its nose, prevented it from suckling. In time that slab of wood decayed and fell off. From the natural pastoral drama, the fight between man and beast incidental to the branding, was developed the Provencal “fight for the cockade”. The origin of the contest predated the oldest traditions. It gratified the passion of the Provencal and the Languedocian peasant for that peculiarly humane type of bullfighting. The Provencal fight for the cockade had nothing to do with the Spanish fight to the death, which had been celebrated for eighty years in the arenas of Nimes, Arles, Marseille, Beaucaire, and Lunel.
In the villages the fights were staged in temporary enclosures formed of carts, barrels, and boxes. Formerly, the seven animals used for the day’s sport were always driven up by gardians. In 1922, it was only in Languedoc that that picturesque custom was kept, for in Provence the animals were brought to their bovine Olympics in special wagons. At daybreak, the crowd gathered in the fields to eat, dance, and be amused by the snorting of the bulls. The gardians and amateur horsemen led the animals slowly toward the village while people with sticks try to frighten the bulls into running off, in hopes of witnessing a chase. As they neared the entrance to the village, the horsemen and bulls all broke into a gallop. A mad charge was made through the village street which led to the stable where the animals were to be confined. It was an exciting game, full of unexpected incidents. The abrivado brought in sufficient bulls during the morning. The real sport took place in the afternoon. In a narrow stall, a colored cockade was attached to the forelock of the bull between his deadly horns. That piece of ribbon was to be snatched off, by hand or by steel hook, by the professional and amateur horsemen. Each captured cockade brought with it a premium, a sum of money varying from a few francs to several hundred. The stands were crowded with spectators, and oranges and drinks were sold. The successful young man secured the cockade by executing a feint in front of the bull. When the bull charged the cockade hunter reached in between the horns, grabbed it, and detached it with a quick upthrust. Successful or not, he then ran to the barricade chased by the bull. The premiums varied with the savagery of the bull in question; they were especially trained for that purpose. With the bullfight over, the gardians led the bulls back to their pasture, galloping out of town. Every day during the festival period it was the same. Often people organized nightly fights with cows, which were very funny and not so dangerous.
Arlesian women had a reputation in the Midi as prefect beauties of the Greek type, descendants of the colonists who came hither in ancient times, and fit rivals of the lovely ladies of Georgia and Kashmir, with the same classic nose and fine features. Some of them had a Saracenic aspect, with olive complexions and long, dark, Arabic eyes. But Arlesian dress they wore. their harmonious beauty was enhanced by the graceful, old-fashion. That costume, in style since 1830, was still worn in 1922, in spite of the “ready-mades” and Parisian fashion. Girls begin wearing the style when they turn fourteen. That day of costuming was a great holiday in the home. If the headdress was the most important article in the girl’s outfit, the next was the white capello, a pleated muslin shawl, crossed over “her rounded bosom like a double peach, not ripe as yet.” Over that shawl she wore another, of printed calico, of the same color as the long, trailing gown. A long-sleeved bodice of black satin set off the bright colors of the shawl and gown. Pins, brooches, bracelets, and other ancient jewelry completed the look. A quarter of a century prior [to 1922], the fair Arlesiennes, fearing humiliation if they failed to follow the dictates of Paris, gradually began to discard the far more lovely peasant dress. Mistral sought to retain for the Camargue the graceful dress of olden times. So was the Festo Vierginenco, or young girls’ festival, established. In 1904, the same ceremony took place in the splendid ruins of the ancient Roman theater of Arles. On a glorious Easter Monday there was a great parade of young Provencal girls in full dress, and the people were most enthusiastic over those who came from their moorland home. The people roundly praised the procession of Provencal beauties and the return of traditional costumes. In 1899, Mistral created in the town of Arles a Provencal museum. Here had been gathered an almost priceless collection of Provencal peasant art. There was also an important collection of old furniture.
Camargue’s wider reputation rested upon a religious legend. It was the landing place of the Holy Maries of the Sea, exiled from the Holy Land to unfamiliar scenes. When they died, the mantle of their holiness fell; so that to this day [in 1922], the lame walked and the sick were healed through pilgrimage to their shrine. On a spit of land so low that in the church yard there were tying-posts for boats, there stood a fortress-church to which offerings had come from kings and fishermen. Among the marshes and the vast wastes of the salt moor, where only saltwort grew, lied the fishing village of Saintes Maries de la Mer. Its red-tiled cottages bordered the blue Mediterranean and nestled against the fortified walls of the cathedral. Saintes Maries de la Mer, or “Li Santo”, as the people often called it, was the lodestone that attracted each year many pilgrims. A legend told in that quaint village related that after the death of Christ the Jews seized Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, Mary Jacobee, and Mary Salome. They were left in the care of an Egyptian servant and cast adrift in a disabled boat, from which they were shipwrecked on the sands of Camargue. The spot which the holy women landed became the site of the village of Les Saintes Maries. Legend had it that after preaching in southern Gaul, they returned to that spot to die. Many years later, an unknown prince built on the same spot a fortified cathedral in honor of the sacred visitation and provided therein a receptacle for the safe keeping of the sacred relics. That cathedral was the scene of many fierce attacks during the invasion of Gaul by the Saracens. At the time of the annual pilgrimage, the reliquaries were lowered to the chancel from a chapel above. The following day there was a procession along the beach. The pilgrims bore a flowered stretcher on which rested a miniature boat containing statues of the three Marys. The from a fishing-boat the priest blessed the blue sea which gave them to Camargue.
In the month of May one met at Les Saintes Maries nomad tribes, often erroneously called Bohemians. In Austria they were called Tziganes; in Germany, Zigeunern; in Italy, Zingari, in Spain, Gitanos; and in England, Gypsies. In the south of France, they were called Caraques, or Carai. They called themselves the Gitanos and spoke a language crammed with strange words which were not connected to any other known tongue. The Gitanos were tall and broad-shouldered, with sunburnt complexions, curly hair, and soft, black eyes. The women had a wild beauty, but married only among their own people. Those nomad tribes lived away from civilization, always wandering, proud and free. They never settled down and their house was a moving “roulette”. Horse-dealing was their usual vocation, and they were excellent judges of horseflesh. At least once in their lifetime those Gypsies, scattered all over Europe, proceeded toward that wild section of France to worship a Christian saint, their patron, Saint Sara, the Egyptian. During the pilgrimage, they remained in the crypt of the church, which was specially reserved for them. On the 25th of May, in the pilgrim procession, the Gitanos carried a little flowered boat with a wooden statue of Saint Sara. Then those nomad tribes left to resume their lonely wanderings. The mysterious origin of that people had been a fascinating problem. Some said that the Gitanos might be the last survivors of forgotten Egyptian or Assyrian civilization. Others noted a similarity to the Basque people in Spain. Others attributed an Indian origin, driven westward, with the Gitan language identified with that of an Indian tribe of Sindh. According to Gitan legends, they, came from a land that vanished. Some used that legend to propose that the Gitanos, Basques, and even the American Indians came from Atlantis. Those speculations were strengthened by Gitano saying, “We are to the human race what the Camargue horse is to his – the sole survivors of a vanished world.”
At the bottom of the last page of the first article (page 34) there is a death notice for Mr. A. W. Cutler, of Rose Hill House, Worcester, England. On April 26, 1922, he died in Cava dei Tirreni, southern Italy, while photographing the scenery and the peasants for the National Geographic Magazine. He was planning to photograph Greece, Morocco, and Japan next. Mr. Cutler gifted his collection of photographs to the National Geographic Society, including his extensive work in Portugal. The Society was both saddened for his loss and grateful for his gift.
The second article in this month’s issue (and the third listed on the cover) is entitled “Midsummer Wild Flowers” and has no byline. It is not an actual article, but is, what I like to call, a Field Guide. The field guide contains sixteen Plates numbered I to XVI in Roman numerals representing pages 37 through 52 in the magazine. These sixteen Plates contain the “38 Special Illustrations in Full Color” documented on the cover. These illustrations are color paintings of wildflowers by Miss Mary E. Eaton. The structure of this entry follows the standard field guide setup – An introductory article, this one two-thirds of a page; a series of entries containing a common name, a Latin genus and species, a Plate numeral linking the entry to the drawing, and description including range and habitat; and the Plates themselves. With the Plate numeral embedded in the entry, there was no need for an index with this field guide.
This field guide is just one in a series on Wild Flowers and Plants. This series also includes “American Wild Flowers” (May 1915), “Common American Wild Flowers” (June 1916), “Our State Flowers: Floral Emblems Chosen by the Commonwealths” (June 1917), “American Berries of Hill, Dale, and Wayside” (February 1919), and “Familiar Grasses and Their Flowers” (June 1921). Most of the thirty-eight species of flower illustrations in the accompanying series were found in bloom throughout the United States during July and August. In one of the earlier flower series, the editor emphasized the danger of exterminating some wildflowers by indiscriminate gathering. Happily, only five of the flowers in this series required protection – the Bluebell, the Rosemallow, the Sheep Laurel, the Fringed Orchid, and the Spiderwort. All others may have been gathered whenever and wherever found without danger of robbing future generations of their loveliness. These beautiful illustrations, costing $25,000, were reproductions from paintings made by the gifted artist-naturalist, Miss Mary E. Eaton, of the New York Botanical Gardens. Additional flower series were in preparation and would be published in The Geographic subsequently. It was noted that some of the names on the Plates do not match up with ones in the text. The text was produced after the Official Catalogue of Standardized Plant Names, the work compiled by the American Committee on Horticultural Nomenclature. The plates had to be sent to press before that standard was adopted.
And here is a list of the Midsummer Wildflowers:
The third and last article is entitled “Cathedrals of the Old and New World” and was written by J. Bernard Walker. This article is listed first on the cover and is highlighted in larger print. The “50 Full-page Illustrations” are from Photographs in the National Geographic Society Collection. One of the fifty full-page black-and-white photographs serves as the frontispiece to the article. While there are fifty pages of photographs, there are only five pages of text in this article.
Among the capital cities of the world, Washington carried the unenviable distinction that it possessed no monumental building dedicated to the worship of God. France had its Notre Dame, London its Westminster, Rome its St. Peter’s, and even in far-distant Constantinople there was the majestic dome of Sancta Sophia. But Washington, the capital of the greatest nation of those later days, for all its superb display of costly buildings, had seemingly forgotten to raise any national tribute to that God of our fathers in recognition of whom the Republic was founded, and under whose fostering care it had grown to its present [in 1922] commanding position among the sovereign states of the world. Our founding fathers were not to blame. Washington saw that one was included in Major L’Enfant’s plan for the Federal City. A large plot of land, centrally situated, was reserved for such a purpose. Upon that square, in 1922, stood the red, Brobdingnagian pile of the Pension Office Building. A change of location of the cathedral was for the better. When completed, the Protestant Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul would occupy the noblest site of any cathedral in the Old World, the summit of Mount St. Albans. Conspicuous from any point in Washington, the 500-foot stretch of the nave and choir, crowned by the lofty towers of the western front and the crossing, would be also visible throughout a far-flung radius of the surrounding country. More often than not, the cathedrals of Europe were so closely beset with commonplace buildings as to render any near view of their beauties impossible. The Washington cathedral would suffer no such disadvantage. The site, 60 acres, laid on the crest of a hill, elevated 400 feet above the Potomac River. In every direction the ground fell away from the Cathedral close, giving an unobstructed view of the majestic structure. The following chart shows how the new cathedral compares to some other famous churches:
The revival of interest in Gothic architecture began in the middle of the nineteenth century and had gradually developed a group of architects who had caught the spirit of the medieval builders, but avoided the constructive and decorative exaggerations the architects of old were apt at times to stray. In respect of its proportions, the Washington nave escaped the exaggerated length of the English and the disproportionate height of the French cathedrals. As a rule, English cathedrals were too long for their height, the French too high for their length. In the Washington cathedral, with 95 feet of height to 500 feet of length, the architect had found the happy median. The author then reviewed the design of the cathedral, its 500-foot sweep of the nave, choir, and already completed apse, the two western towers and the great central tower; The western front; and the nave itself. He the jumped the Atlantic and began to discuss the Old World cathedrals. [Footnote: In a subsequent issue of The Geographic, will detail the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the cornerstone of which was laid on the grounds of Catholic University, September 20, 1920, and should be completed by 1950].
The Gothic style found its most perfect expression in the French cathedrals of the thirteenth century and the English of the fourteenth, the French developing later the luxurious Flamboyant and the English the rigid but stately Perpendicular style. Although France and England were the birthplace of Gothic, it exercised a profound influence upon church architecture throughout the whole of Christendom, and notably in Italy and Spain, modified by climate, history, and taste. The Roman Basilica, or Law Court, with its central nave and side aisles, was well suited for the people’s simple form of service. In the Roman Basilica was the general plan for the Romanesque churches, many examples of which were throughout Italy – St. Paul’s, outside the walls of Rome; the beautiful cathedral at Pisa; St. Mark’s at Venice; the Milan Cathedral, built of marble; and the cathedral of Florence, one of the greatest churches in the world. Spanish Gothic, like that of Italy, was an importation, but it bore the strong imprint of national tastes and predilections, especially in its decorative enrichment. After shaken off the Moorish yoke, Christian Spain was actively engaged in erecting churches in the Norman style. It later adopted the pointed arch and assumed Gothic characteristics. The finest examples of pointed Spanish Gothic belonged to the “Middle” period (1225 to 1425). Three notable cathedrals of the world, Toledo, Burgos, and Seville, belonged to that period. The Cathedral of Seville carried the distinction of being the largest, and in some respects the noblest, of all the Gothic cathedrals. It formed a parallelogram, 415 feet long by 300 feet wide, with an area of 123,000 square feet. No other Gothic cathedral approached those dimensions.