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CHAPTER XVII

GUILLERMUS, GODFATHER OF THE GENS

[This notice is prepared from "Sinclair Family" by Morrison]

"S.CLARUS, sive Guillermus, patria Scotus, in Gallia erermiticam egit vitam, et ibi tandem martyrio coronatur. Scripsit Divini Officii Formulas, lib. i. Claruit anno circiter DC. Colitur 17 Julii. Memoria ejus conservatur in villa Neustria ejus nominis, in publico ad Rotomagum itinere. "St.Clair, or Gui1lermus, was Scottish by country. He wrote the "Ritual of Divine Duty" (1 vo1ume), and lived the life of a hermit close to a well to which those whose sight is affected still make pilgrimages. He flourished about 600 A.D., and is worshipped on the 17th of July.

[from The Sinclairs of England]

His memory is preserved in the town of St.Clair-sur-Epte - noted also as being the place where Rollo the Northman acquired Neustria by cession from Charles the Simple - and thus originates the surname of the Orcadian "St.Clairs of the Isles", their ancestor Walter, Count of St.Clair, being designated from his territorial possessions.

The French town is situated near and north-east of Vernon, and is two hours' ride from Paris. The site of the hermit's abode is one mile distant from the railway station at St.Clair. It is situated on a rich and fertile plain among tall trees on the bank of the river Epte.

Passing through the unlocked gate, one soon reaches the "Holy Well" of St.Clair, which is surrounded by an iron railing, and is some four feet in length, three in width, and four in depth, with a brick or cemented bottom. Its clear and limpid waters are reached by three stone steps. At one end is a half-circular piece of stone masonry, six feet or more in height, surmounted by a ball of stone, and this by a stone cross. Inside of this structure, in a niche two feet from the floor, is a statue of St.Clair, made of the soft stone of the country. In his bands he bears his dissevered head, for he was executed by direction of a cruel woman whose crimes he had sharply rebuked.

Passing through another gateway, in a high faced stone wall, his hermitage is reached. This wall surrounds a plot of ground some fifteen rods in length by eight rods in width. Another wall divides this from a cultivated garden, filled with fruit trees and with vines. The wall separates the land devoted to cultivation from that dedicated especially to the honour of St.Clair. The latter is some seven rods in length by five rods in width. At regular intervals there are niches in the walls filled with statues of different individuals.

In a recess, with a roof rising from the top of the wall, is the hermitage. Its floor is of stone, rising six inches from the ground. Within is a stone altar two feet or more in height, on which is a representation of the Crucifixion and Christ's descent from the cross, while near at hand are His devoted female followers. This is surrounded upon the wall by flying angels bearing a scroll or robe. On the right of this scene is a statue of St.Clair with his neck protruding from his clothes, while within his hands is his ghastly head with face upturned towards the heavens.

In this shrine of the hermit there is another altar some three feet high, where often many candles are kept burning.

On the outer wall are various figures, while upon its front are these words:

"ICY EST LE VERITABLE HERMITAGE, OU LE BEN HEUREUX ST.CLAIR AVES, CU, ET AETED ECOLE. ET MARTYR ISE. EN L'AN, 884"

The chapel faces the hermitage. It is a one-storey building constructed of light stone, and its four roofs come to a point at the top, above which is a bell, surmounted by a roof of slate about two feet square, and this is capped by a weather vane, - a cock. The roof of the chapel is of tile. The entrance is surmounted by a ball of stone and a stone cross. Each corner is capped by a bail of stone at least eight inches in diameter. The two Norman windows and door are of equal height, and the coloured glass is protected by iron bars. Inside the chapel there is room for some thirty people.

Facing the entrance is a stained glass window, and also one window on each side. At the end of the chapel, facing the entrance, is an upraised altar, upon which are the crucifix, the holy candles, and the vases of flowers. On either side, in niches in the wall, are statues, in front of which are often kept candles burning. In the church there is the chapel of St.Clair. Upon a pedestal is placed a statue of the holy man, while his head is plastered upon the front of the upraised platform which holds his statue.

The Dictionary of Christian Biography, vol 1 (London, 1877), contains notices of nine saints named CLARUS. The account there given states that the Clarus from whom St.Clair-sur-Epte is named was a personage of the 9th century, a native of Rochester, who settled in Vexin, in the diocese of Rouen.

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