Study Guide

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame Book V

By Victor Hugo

Book V

Chapter 1: Abbas Beati Martini

  • A year before the novel takes place, Frollo receives an unexpected visit in his cell in Notre-Dame. It's Jacques Coictier, the King's physician. He is accompanied by another man.
  • After a lot of "Oh how are you?" passive-aggressive dialogue, Coictier introduces his companion as Tourangeau, who is looking for medical advice.
  • Now, Frollo is not one for malpractice, and he says so. Coictier thinks that Frollo is a madman, but Tourangeau had insisted on seeing him.
  • Coictier and Frollo get into a heated debate about the roles of science, astrology, and medicine. Coictier believes in astrology and medicine; Frollo is into alchemy all the way.
  • Tourangeau asks Frollo if he can make gold. Frollo can't, but Tourangeau still asks him to teach him the ways of alchemy. Frollo refuses, saying that Tourangeau is already too old. But he says that he will show Tourangeau a thing or two.
  • Tourangeau then asks Frollo where all of his books are. Frollo throws open his cell window and points to Notre-Dame. He then points to a printed book on his desk and says: "This will kill that!" Uhh...
  • The two visitors turn to leave, and Tourangeau tells Frollo to come see him tomorrow and ask for the Abbot of St.-Martin-of-Tours. Frollo recalls that the Abbot of St.-Martin-of-Tours is, in fact, the King of France.
  • After that initial meeting, Frollo and King Louis XI regularly hang out.

Chapter 2: "This Will Kill That"

  • The narrator directs our attention back to what Frollo has just said about the book killing the building. There are two thoughts behind these words:
  • The first one is that the printing press will undermine religion, because people will start putting their faith in human intellect.
  • The second is that literature will overtake architecture as an art form.
  • As the narrator sees it, architecture and buildings were the first "language," or the first way that people recorded their thoughts through symbols.
  • So, architecture was always the most important art form. But, as the narrator says, "Civilization always begins with theocracy and ends in democracy."
  • The author takes the Middle Ages as an example. In Biblical times, all the architecture was Greek or Roman. But then all of the sudden we have the Crusades happening, and the Crusades were a movement of the people, not of rulers. Suddenly, feudal lords started demanding some of the power that religion had held alone, and by golly, they get it—along with some of that churchy architecture to decorate their castles.
  • Cathedrals, too, became something that interested not just priests but also artists, who did all sorts of un-religious things with the architecture.
  • Still, architecture remains everybody's favorite art form, even if theocratic architecture and popular architecture are based on completely different ideas.
  • So why is architecture still so popular? The simple reason is that buildings last longer than paper. Duh.
  • But then the printing press came along in the 15th century, and the book, because it could be so easily and cheaply reproduced, became more long lasting than a building. What's more: all other art forms that would have been tied to architecture—sculptures, paintings, etc.—flew the coop and became their own independent art forms.
  • Also, because of the printing press, the heretical sects of the Middle Ages were able to have their revolutions, and we got Martin Luther.
  • So to sum it all up, after the Middle Ages, architecture declined, and printing was the thing that killed it and danced on its grave.
  • So says our author, anyway.