There is little to recount concerning the See of Avranches. Its bishopric and its cathedral were alike destroyed during the parlous times of the bickerings and ravages of Royalists and Republicans of the Revolutionary period. All that remains to-day is a trifling heap of stones which would hardly fill a row-boat, – a fragment of a shaft on which is a tablet reading:
“ON THIS STONE, HERE AT THE DOOR OF THE CATHEDRAL OF AVRANCHHS, AFTER THE MURDER OF THOMAS A BECKET, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, HENRY II, KING OF ENGLAND AND DUKE OF NORMANDY, RECEIVED ON HIS KNEES, FROM THE LEGATES OF THE POPE, THE APOSTOLIC ABSOLUTION, ON SUNDAY, 22D MAY 1172.”
At its feet is another slab, the aforementioned door-step, on which, before the papal legate, the remorseful monarch did penance before his later expiation at Canterbury.
A little farther on is a small heap consisting of shafts and capitals of columns, a stone sarcophagus and a brass plate stating that they are the ” Derniers restes de la cathedrale d’Avranches; commencee vers 1090 et consacree par l’eveque Turgis en 1 121.” The nave having fallen in, the rest of the edifice had to be taken down in 1799.
Because of its picturesque environment and situation, Avranches is perhaps a more than ordinarily attractive setting for a shrine, and it is well worthy of the attention of the passing traveller, in spite of its ancient cathedral being now but a heap of stones. Apart from this it is of little interest, and hence, to most, it will probably remain, in the words of a French traveller, a mere ” silhouette in the distance.”