HotFreeBooks.com
Roman Mosaics - Or, Studies in Rome and Its Neighbourhood
by Hugh Macmillan
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

ROMAN MOSAICS

OR

STUDIES IN ROME AND ITS NEIGHBOURHOOD

BY

HUGH MACMILLAN

D.D., LL.D., F.R.S.E., F.S.A. Scot.

AUTHOR OF

'BIBLE TEACHINGS IN NATURE,' 'FIRST FORMS OF VEGETATION,' 'HOLIDAYS IN HIGH LANDS,' 'THE RIVIERA,' ETC.

London

MACMILLAN AND CO.

AND NEW YORK

1888



PREFACE

The title of this book may seem fanciful. It may even be regarded as misleading, creating the idea that it is a treatise like that of Mr. Digby Wyatt on those peculiar works of art which decorate the old palaces and churches of Rome. But notwithstanding these objections, no title can more adequately describe the nature of the book. It is applicable on account of the miscellaneous character of the chapters, which have already appeared in some of our leading magazines and reviews, and are now, with considerable changes and additions, gathered together into a volume. There is a further suitableness in the title, owing to the fact that most of the contents have no claim to originality. As a Roman Mosaic is made up of small coloured cubes joined together in such a manner as to form a picture, so my book may be said to be made up of old facts gathered from many sources and harmonised into a significant unity. So many thousands of volumes have been written about Rome that it is impossible to say anything new regarding it. Every feature of its topography and every incident of its history have been described. Every sentiment appropriate to the subject has been expressed. But Rome can be regarded from countless points of view, and studied for endless objects. Each visitor's mind is a different prism with angles of thought that break up the subject into its own colours. And as is the case in a mosaic, old materials can be brought into new combinations, and a new picture constructed out of them. It is on this ground that I venture to add another book to the bewildering pile of literature on Rome.

But I have another reason to offer. While the great mass of the materials of the book is old and familiar, not a few things are introduced that are comparatively novel. The late Dean Alford made the remark how difficult it is to obtain in Rome those details of interest which can be so easily got in other cities. Guide-books contain a vast amount of information, but there are many points interesting to the antiquarian and the historian which they overlook altogether. There is no English book, for instance, like Ruffini's Dizionario Etimologico-Storico delle Strade, Piazze, Borghi e Vicoli della Citta di Roma, to tell one of the origin of the strange and bizarre names of the streets of Rome, many of which involve most interesting historical facts and most romantic associations of the past. There is no English book on the ancient marbles of Rome like Corsi's Pietre Antiche, which describes the mineralogy and source of the building materials of the imperial city, and traces their history from the law courts and temples of which they first formed part to the churches and palaces in which they may now be seen. Every nook in London, with its memories and points of interest, has been chronicled in a form that is accessible to every one. But there is an immense amount of most interesting antiquarian lore regarding out-of-the-way things in Rome which is buried in the transactions of learned societies or in special Italian monographs, and is therefore altogether beyond the reach of the ordinary visitor. Science has lately shed its vivid light upon the physical history of the Roman plain; and the researches of the archaeologist have brought into the daylight of modern knowledge, and by a wider comparison and induction have invested with a new significance, the prehistoric objects, customs, and traditions which make primeval Rome and the surrounding sites so fascinating to the imagination. But these results are not to be found in the books which the English visitor usually consults. In the following chapters I have endeavoured to supply some of that curious knowledge; and it is to be hoped that what is given—for it is no more than a slight sample out of an almost boundless store—will create an interest in such subjects, and induce the reader to go in search of fuller information.

Many of the points touched upon have provoked endless disputations which are not likely soon to be settled. Indeed there is hardly any line of study one can take up in connection with Rome which does not bristle with controversies; and a feeling of perplexity and uncertainty continually haunts one in regard to most of the subjects. It is not only in the vague field of the early traditions of the city, and of the medieval traditions of the Church, that this feeling oppresses one; it exists everywhere, even in the more solid and assured world of Roman art, literature, and history. Where it is so difficult to arrive at settled convictions, I may be pardoned if I have expressed views that are open to reconsideration.

I am aware of the disadvantages connected with thus collecting together a number of separate papers, instead of writing a uniform treatise upon one continuous subject. The picture formed by their union must necessarily have much of the artificiality and clumsiness of the mosaic as compared with the oil or water-colour painting. But only in this form could I have brought together such a great variety of important things. And though I cannot hope that the inherent defect of the mosaic will be compensated by its permanence—for books of this kind do not last—yet it will surely serve some good purpose to have such a collocation of facts regarding a place whose interest is ever varying and never dying.

The personal element is almost entirely confined to the first chapter, which deals on that account with more familiar incidents than the others. Twelve years have elapsed since my memorable sojourn in Rome; and many changes have occurred in the Eternal City since then. I have had no opportunity to repeat my visit and to add to or correct my first impressions, desirable as it might be to have had such a revision for the sake of this book. I duly drank of the water of Trevi the night before I left; but the spell has been in abeyance all these years. I live, however, in the hope that it has not altogether lost its mystic power; and that some day, not too far off, I may be privileged to go over the old scenes with other and larger eyes than those with which I first reverently gazed upon them. It needs two visits at least to form any true conception of Rome: a first visit to acquire the personal interest in the city which will lead at home to the eager search for knowledge regarding it from every source; and then the second visit to bring the mind thus quickened and richly stored with information to bear with new comprehension and increased interest upon the study of its antiquities on the spot.

HUGH MACMILLAN.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER I

A WALK TO CHURCH IN ROME

A Walk to Church in Country—In the Town—Residence in Capo le Case—Church of San Guiseppe—Propaganda—Pillar of Immaculate Conception—Piazza di Spagna—Staircase—Models—Beggars—Church of Trinita dei Monti—Flowers—Via Babuino—Piazza del Popolo—Flaminian Obelisk—Pincian Hill—Porta del Popolo—Church of Santa Maria del Popolo—Monastery of St. Augustine—Presbyterian Church—Villa Borghese—Ponte Molle

CHAPTER II

THE APPIAN WAY

Formation of Appian Way—Tombs on Roman Roads—Loneliness of Country outside Rome—Porta Capena—Restoration of Appian Way—Grove and Fountain of Egeria—Baths of Caracalla—Church of Sts. Nereus and Achilles—Tomb of Scipios—Columbaria—Arch of Drusus—Gate of St. Sebastian—Almo—Tomb of Geta—Plants in Valley of Almo—Catacombs of St. Calixtus—Catacomb of Pretextatus—Catacomb of Sts. Nereus and Achilles—Church of St. Sebastian—Circus of Romulus—Tomb of Caecilia Metella—Sadness of Appian Way—Imagines Clipeatae—Profusion of Plant and Animal Life—Solitude—Villa of Seneca—Mounds of Horatii and Curiatii—Villa of Quintilii—Tomb of Atticus—Casale Rotondo—Frattocchie—Bovillae—Albano—St. Paul's Entrance into Rome by Appian Way

CHAPTER III

THE CUMAEAN SIBYL

Promontory of Carmel—Westmost Point of Italy—Mode of reaching Cumae—Few Relics of Ancient City—Uncertainty about Sibyl's Cave—Loneliness of Site—Roman Legend of Sibylline Books—Mode of Keeping Them—Sortes Sibyllinae—Different Sibyls—Apocalyptic Literature—Existing Remains of Sibylline Books—Reverence paid to Sibyl by Christian Writers—Church of Ara Coeli—Roof of Sistine Chapel—Prospective Attitude of Sibyl—Retrospective Characteristic of Greek and Roman Religion—Connection between Hebrew and Pagan Prophecy—Pagan Oracles superseded by Living Oracles of the Gospel

CHAPTER IV

FOOTPRINTS IN ROME

Footprints of our Lord in Church of Domine quo Vadis—Slabs with Footprints in Kircherian Museum—St. Christina's Footprints at Bolsena—Significance of Footmarks—Votive Offerings—Footprint of Mahomet at Jerusalem—Footprint of Christ on Mount of Olives—Footprints of Abraham at Mecca—Drusic Footprints—Phrabat, or Sacred Foot of Buddha—Famous Footprint on Summit of Adam's Peak in Ceylon—Footprints at Gaya—Footprints of Vishnu—Jain Temples—Prehistoric Footprints—Tanist Stones—Dun Add in Argyleshire—Mary's Step in Wales—Footmarks in Ireland, Norway, Denmark, and Brittany—Classical Examples—Footprints in America and Africa—Connection with Primitive Worship

CHAPTER V

THE ROMAN FORUM

Geological History—Volcanic Origin—Early Legends—Cloaca Maxima—Work of Excavation—AErarium—Capitol—Temple of Concord—Temple of Jupiter—Arch of Septimius Severus—Milliarium Aureum—Mamertine Prison—Pillar of Phocas—Suovetaurilia—Curia Hostilia—Comitium—Curia of Diocletian—Basilica Julia—Vicus Tuscus—Temple of Castor and Pollux—Atrium Vestae—Temple of Vesta—Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina—Church of SS. Cosma e Damiano—Colosseum—Conflagration in Forum

CHAPTER VI

THE EGYPTIAN OBELISKS

Number of Obelisks in Rome—Sun Worship—Symbolism of Obelisk—Obelisk of Nebuchadnezzar—Original position of Obelisks—Egyptian Propylons—Changes connected with Obelisks in Egypt—Transportation of Obelisks to Rome and other places—Obelisk of Heliopolis—Obelisk of Luxor—Karnac—Lateran Obelisk—Obelisk in Square of St. Peter's—Obelisk of Piazza del Popolo—Association of Fountains with Obelisks—Obelisk of Monte Citorio—Esquiline and Quirinal Obelisks—Obelisk of Trinita dei Monti—Pamphilian Obelisk—Obelisks near Pantheon—Superiority of Oldest Obelisks—Obelisk of Paris—Cleopatra's Needles in London and New York—Religious Devotion of Ancient Egyptians

CHAPTER VII

THE PAINTED TOMB AT VEII

Excursions in neighbourhood of Rome—History of Veii—Uncertainty of its Site—Journey to Isola Farnese—Village of Isola—Romantic Scenery—Desolate Downs—Roman Municipium—Old Gateway—Ponte Sodo—Necropolis of Veii—Painted Tomb—Archaic Frescoes—Objects in Inner Chamber—Etruscan Tombs imitative of Homes of the Living—Worship of the Dead—Cellae Memoriae—Antiquity of Tomb at Veii—Mysterious character of Etruscan Language and History

CHAPTER VIII

HOLED STONES AND MARTYR WEIGHTS

Bocca della Verita—Primitive Worship of Clefts in Rocks and Holes in Stones—Cromlechs—Passing through beneath Cromlechs and Gates—Tigillum Sororium—Pillars in Aksa Mosque at Jerusalem—"Threading the Needle" in Ripon Cathedral—Standing Stones of Stennis and Oath of Odin—Cremave—Jewish Covenant—Martyr Stones—Originally Roman Measures of Weight—Made of Jade or Nephrite—Remarkable History of Jade—Prehistoric Glimpses—Relics of Stone Age in Rome—Conservation of things connected with Religion

CHAPTER IX

ST. ONOFRIO AND TASSO

Church of St. Onofrio—Monastery—Garden—Tasso's Oak—Grand View of Rome and Neighbourhood—Tasso's Birthplace at Sorrento—Remarkable Epoch—Bernardo Tasso—Prince of Salerno—Youth of Tasso—Visit to Rome—Sojourn at Venice—Student of Law at Padua—First Poem Rinaldo—University of Bologna—House of Este—Leonora—Composition of Gerusalemme Liberata—Death of Tasso's Father—Visit to France—Aminta and Pastoral Drama—Publication of Gerusalemme Liberata—Della Cruscan Academy—Ariosto—Cold Treatment of Tasso by Alfonso—Confinement in Hospital of St. Anne—Story of Hapless Love—Alleged Madness—Hospital of St. Anne—Torrismondo—Release of Tasso—Pilgrimage to Loretto—Residence at Naples—Connection with Milton—Gerusalemme Conquistata—Universal Recognition of Poet—Better Days—Closing Scenes of Life at St. Onofrio—Proposed Coronation at Capitol—Too Late—Death—Estimate of Life and Work

CHAPTER X

THE MARBLES OF ANCIENT ROME

Pleasures of Marble Hunting in Rome and Neighbourhood—Artistic and Educational Uses of Marble Fragments—Geological Formation of Rome—Building Materials of Ancient Rome—Marbles of Conquered Countries introduced into Rome—Christian Churches made up of Remains of Pagan Temples—Parian Marble—Porine and Pentelic Marbles—Hymettian Marble—Thasian, Lesbian and Tyrian Marbles—Marble of Carrara—Apollo Belvedere—Colouring of Ancient Statues and Buildings—Gibson's Colour-creed—Time's Hues on Dying Gladiator—Cipollino—Giallo Antico—Africano—Porta Santa—Fior di Persico—Pavonazzetto—Rosso Antico—Sedia Forata—Faun—Black Marbles—Lumachella Marbles—Column of Trajan—Breccias—Alabasters—Verde Antique—Subterranean Church of San Clemente—Ophite and Opus Alexandrinum—Jaspers—Murrhine Cups—Lapis Lazuli—Church of Jesuits—Abundance of Marbles in Ancient Rome

CHAPTER XI

THE VATICAN CODEX

Vatican Library—Origin and History—Monastery of Bobbio—Splendour and Charm of Library—Contents of two Principal Cabinets—Letters of Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn—Vatican Codex—Freshness of Appearance—Continuity of Writing—Vacant Space at end of St. Mark's Gospel—A Palimpsest—Origin of Vatican Codex—Sinaitic and Alexandrine Codices—History of Vatican Codex—Edition of Cardinal Mai—Edition of Tischendorf—Disappearance of all Previous Manuscripts—Faults and Deficiencies of Vatican Codex—Vatican Codex used in Revised Version of New Testament—Formation of Sacred Canon

CHAPTER XII

ST. PAUL AT PUTEOLI

Landing of St. Paul in Ship Castor and Pollux at Puteoli—Loveliness of Bay of Naples—Crowded Population and Splendour of Villas—Dissoluteness of Inhabitants—Worship of Roman Emperors—St. Paul's Grief and Anxiety—Encouragement from Brethren—Christians in Tyrian Quarter at Puteoli and at Pompeii—Southern Italy Greek in Blood and Language—Quay at Puteoli—Temples of Neptune and Serapis—Changes of Level in Sea and Land—Monte Nuovo—Destruction of Village of Tripergola—Filling up of Leucrine Lake—Lake of Avernus—Sibyl's Cave—Lough Dearg and Purgatory of St. Patrick—Death Quarter among Prehistoric People in the West—Phlegraean Fields—Scene of Wars of Gods and Giants—Elysian Fields—Pagan Heaven and Hell—Via Cumana and St. Paul—Amphitheatre of Nero—Solfatara—Relics of Volcanic Fires and Ancient Civilisation mixed together—Volcanic Fires and Landscape Beauty—Completion of Gospel in St. Paul's Journey from Jerusalem to Rome



CHAPTER I

A WALK TO CHURCH IN ROME

I know nothing more delightful than a walk to a country church on a fine day at the end of summer. All the lovely promises of spring have been fulfilled; the woods are clothed with their darkest foliage, and not another leaflet is to come anywhere. The lingering plumes of the meadow-sweet in the fields, and the golden trumpets of the wild honeysuckle in the hedges, make the warm air a luxury to breathe; and the presence of a few tufts of bluebells by the wayside gives the landscape the last finishing touch of perfection, which is suggestive of decay, and has such an indescribable pathos about it. Nature pauses to admire her own handiwork; she ceases from her labours, and enjoys an interval of rest. It is the sabbath of the year. At such a time every object is associated with its spiritual idea, as it is with its natural shadow. The beauty of nature suggests thoughts of the beauty of holiness; and the calm rest of creation speaks to us of the deeper rest of the soul in God. On the shadowed path that leads up to the house of prayer, with mind and senses quickened to perceive the loveliness and significance of the smallest object, the fern on the bank and the lichen on the wall, we feel indeed that heaven is not so much a yonder, towards which we are to move, as a here and a now, which we are to realise.

A walk to church in town is a different thing. Man's works are all around us, and God's excluded; all but the strip of blue sky that looks down between the tall houses, and suggests thoughts of heaven to those who work and weep; all but the stunted trees and the green grass that struggle to grow in the hard streets and squares, and whisper of the far-off scenes of the country, where life is natural and simple. But even in town a walk to church is pleasant, especially when the streets are quiet, before the crowd of worshippers have begun to assemble, and there is nothing to distract the thoughts. If we can say of the country walk, "This is holy ground," seeing that every bush and tree are aflame with God, we can say of the walk through the city, "Surely the Lord hath been here, this is a dreadful place." And as the rude rough stones lying on the mountain top shaped themselves in the patriarch's dream into a staircase leading up to God, so the streets and houses around become to the musing spirit suggestive of the Father's many mansions, and the glories of the City whose streets are of pure gold, in which man's hopes and aspirations after a city of rest, which are baffled here, will be realised. I have many pleasing associations connected with walks to church in town. Many precious thoughts have come to me then, which would not have occurred at other times; glimpses of the wonder of life, and revelations of inscrutable mysteries covered by the dream-woven tissue of this visible world. The subjects with which my mind was filled found new illustrations in the most unexpected quarters; and every familiar sight and sound furnished the most appropriate examples. During that half-hour of meditation, with my blood quickened by the exercise, and my mind inspired by the thoughts of the service in which I was about to engage, I have lived an intenser life and enjoyed a keener happiness than during all the rest of the week. It was the hour of insight that struck the keynote of all the others.

But far above even these precious memories, I must rank my walks to church in Rome. What one feels elsewhere is deepened there; and the wonderful associations of the place give a more vivid interest to all one's experiences. I lived in the Capo le Case, a steep street on the slope between the Pincian and Quirinal hills, situated about three-quarters of a mile from the church outside the Porta del Popolo. This distance I had to traverse every Sunday morning; and I love frequently to shut my eyes and picture the streets through which I passed, and the old well-known look of the houses and monuments. There is not a more delightful walk in the world than that; and I know not where within such a narrow compass could be found so many objects of the most thrilling interest. For three months, from the beginning of February to the end of April, twice, and sometimes four times, every Sunday, I passed that way, going to or returning from church, until I became perfectly familiar with every object; and associations of my own moods of mind and heart mingled with the grander associations which every stone recalled, and are now inextricably bound up with them. With one solitary exception, when the weather in its chill winds and gloomy clouds reminded me of my native climate, all the Sundays were beautiful, the sun shining down with genial warmth, and the sky overhead exhibiting the deep violet hue which belongs especially to Italy. The house in which I lived had on either side of the entrance a picture-shop; and this was always closed, as well as most of the other places of business along the route. The streets were remarkably quiet; and all the circumstances were most favourable for a meditative walk amid such magnificent memories. The inhabitants of Rome pay respect to the Sunday so far as abstaining from labour is concerned; but they make up for this by throwing open their museums and places of interest on that day, which indeed is the only day in which they are free to the public; and they take a large amount of recreation for doing a small amount of penance in the interests of religion. Still there is very little bustle or traffic in the streets, especially in the morning; and one meets with no more disagreeable and incongruous interruptions on the way to church in the Eternal City than he does at home. At the head of the Capo le Case is a small church, beside an old ruinous-looking wall of tufa, covered with shaggy pellitory and other plants, which might well have been one of the ramparts of ancient Rome. It is called San Guiseppe, and has a faded fresco painting on the gable, representing the Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt, supposed to be by Frederico Zuccari, whose own house—similarly decorated on the outside with frescoes—was in the immediate vicinity. From the windows of my rooms, I could see at the foot of the street the fantastic cupola and bell-turret of the church of St. Andrea delle Fratte, which belonged to the Scottish Catholics before the Reformation, and is now frequented by our Catholic countrymen during Lent, when sermons are preached to them in English. It is the parish church of the Piazza di Spagna, and the so-called English quarter. The present edifice was only built at the end of the sixteenth century, and, strange to say, with the proceeds of the sale of Cardinal Gonsalvi's valuable collection of snuff-boxes; but its name, derived from the Italian word Fratta, "thorn-bush," would seem to imply that the church is of much greater antiquity, going back to a far-off time when the ground on which it stands was an uncultivated waste. A miracle is said to have happened in one of the side chapels in 1842, which received the sanction of the Pope. A young French Jew of the name of Alfonse Ratisbonne was discovered in an ecstasy before the altar; which he accounted for by saying, when he revived, that the Virgin Mary had actually appeared to him, and saluted him in this place, while he was wandering aimlessly, and with a smile of incredulity, through the church. This supernatural vision led to his conversion, and he was publicly baptized and presented to the Pope by his godfather, the general of the Jesuits; receiving on the occasion, in commemoration of the miracle, a crucifix, to which special indulgences were attached.

At the foot of the Capo le Case is the College of the Propaganda, whose vast size and plain massive architecture, as well as its historical associations, powerfully impress the imagination. It was begun by Gregory XV., in 1622, and completed by his successor, Urban VIII., and his brother, Cardinal Antonio Barberini, from the plans partly of Bernini and Borromini. On the most prominent parts of the edifice are sculptured bees, which are the well-known armorial bearings of the Barberini family. The Propaganda used to divide with the Vatican the administration of the whole Roman Catholic world. It was compared by the Abbe Raynal to a sword, of which the handle remains in Rome, and the point reaches everywhere. The Vatican takes cognisance of what may be called the domestic affairs of the Church throughout Europe; the College of the Propaganda superintends the foreign policy of the Church, and makes its influence felt in the remotest regions of the earth. It is essentially, as its name implies, a missionary institution, founded for the promotion and guidance of missions throughout the world. Nearly two hundred youths from various countries are constantly educated here, in order that they may go back as ordained priests to their native land, and diffuse the Roman Catholic faith among their countrymen. The average number ordained every year is about fifty. No one is admitted who is over twenty years of age; and they all wear a uniform dress, consisting of a long black cassock, edged with red, and bound with a red girdle, with two bands, representing leading-strings, hanging from the shoulders behind. The cost of their education and support while in Rome, and the expenses of their journey from their native land and back again, are defrayed by the institution. Every visitor to Rome must be familiar with the appearance of the students, as they walk through the streets in groups of three or four, eagerly conversing with each other, with many expressive gesticulations. For the most part they are a fine set of young men, of whom any Church might well be proud, full of zeal and energy, and well fitted to encounter, by their physical as well as their mental training, the hard-ships of an isolated life, frequently among savage races.

An annual exhibition is held in a large hall attached to the college in honour of the holy Magi, about the beginning of January, when students deliver speeches in different languages, and take part in musical performances, the score of which is usually composed by the professor of music in the college. The places of honour nearest the stage are occupied by several cardinals, whose scarlet dresses and silver locks contrast strikingly with the black garments of the majority of the assemblage. The strange costumes and countenances of the speakers, coloured with every hue known to the human family, the novel sounds of the different languages, and the personal peculiarities of each speaker in manner and intonation, make the exhibition in the highest degree interesting. Its great popularity is evinced by the crowds that usually attend, filling the hall to overflowing; and though a religious affair, it is pervaded by a lively spirit of fun, in which even the great dignitaries of the Church join heartily.

The jurisdiction of the Propaganda is independent. The "congregation" of the college is composed of twenty-five cardinals, sixteen of whom are resident in Rome. One of their number is appointed prefect, and has a prelate for his secretary. They meet statedly, once a month, for the transaction of business, in a magnificent hall in the college. Previous to 1851, the affairs of the Roman Catholic Church in England were administered by the Propaganda; our country being included among heretical or heathen lands to which missionaries were sent. But after that memorable year they were transferred to the ordinary jurisdiction of the See of Rome. This movement was the first distinct act of papal aggression, and provoked fierce hostility among all classes of the Protestant community. However some of us may regret that such powerful and well-organised machinery is employed to propagate to the ends of the earth a faith to which we cannot subscribe, yet no one can read the proud inscription upon the front of the edifice, "Collegio di Propaganda Fide," and reflect upon the grand way in which the purpose therein defined has been carried out, without a sentiment of admiration. At a time when Protestant Churches were selfishly devoted to their own narrow interests, and utterly unmindful of the Saviour's commission to preach the gospel to every creature, this college was sending forth to different countries, only partially explored, bands of young priests who carried their lives in their hands, and endured untold sufferings so that they might impart to the heathen the blessings of Christian civilisation. There is not a region from China and Japan to Mexico and the South Sea Islands, and from Africa to Siberia, which has not been taken possession of by members of this college, and cultivated for the Church. Names that are as worthy of being canonised as those of any saint in the Roman calendar, on account of their heroic achievements, their holy lives, or their martyr deaths, belong to the role of the Propaganda. And while sedulously spreading their faith, they were at the same time adding to the sum of human knowledge; many of the most valuable and important contributions to ethnology, geography, philology, and natural science having been made by the students of this college. Pope Pius IX. in his early days, after he had renounced his military career and become a priest, was sent out by the Propaganda, as secretary to a politico-religious mission which Pius VII. organised and despatched to Chili; and in that country his missionary career of two years exhibited all the devotion of a saint.

I had the pleasure of going through the various rooms of this famous institution in the appropriate company of one of the most distinguished Free Church missionaries in India; and was shown by the rector of the college, with the utmost courtesy and kindness, all that was most remarkable about the place. The library is extensive, and contains some rare works on theology and canon law; and in the Borgian Museum annexed to it there is a rich collection of Oriental MSS., heathen idols, and natural curiosities sent by missionaries from various parts of the world. We were especially struck with the magnificent "Codex Mexicanus," a loosely-bound, bulky MS. on white leather, found among the treasures of the royal palace at the conquest of Mexico by Cortes. It is full of coloured hieroglyphics and pictures, and is known in this country through the splendid reproduction of Lord Kingsborough.

But the most interesting of all the sights to the visitor is the printing establishment, which at one time was the first in the world, and had the means of publishing books in upwards of thirty different languages. At the present day it is furnished with all the recent appliances; and from this press has issued works distinguished as much for their typographical beauty as for the area they cover in the mission field. Its font of Oriental types is specially rich. We were shown specimens of the Paternoster in all the known languages; and my friend had an opportunity of inspecting some theological works in the obscure dialects of India. The productions of the Propaganda press are very widely diffused. There is a bookseller's shop connected with the establishment, where all the publications of the institution, including the papal bulls, and the principal documents of the State, may be procured. Altogether the college has taken a prominent part in the education of the world. Its influence is specially felt in America, from which a large number of its students come; the young priest who conducted us through the library and the Borgian Museum being an American, very intelligent and affable. The Roman Catholic religion flourishes in that country because it keeps clear of all political questions, and manifests itself, not as a government, in which character it is peculiarly uncompromising and despotic, but as a religion, in which aspect it has a wonderful power of adaptation to the habits and tastes of the people. The Propaganda rules Roman Catholic America very much in the spirit of its own institutions; and one of the most remarkable social phenomena of that country is the absolute subserviency which the political spirit of unbridled democracy yields to its decrees. The bees of the Barberini carved upon its architectural ornaments are no inapt symbol of the spirit and method of working of this busy theological hive, which sends its annual swarms all over the world to gather ecclesiastical honey from every flower of opportunity.

Passing beyond the Propaganda, we come to a lofty pillar of the Corinthian order, situated at the commencement of the Piazza di Spagna. It is composed of a kind of gray Carystian marble called cipollino, distinguished by veins of pale green rippling through it, like the layers of a vegetable bulb, on account of which it is popularly known as the onion stone. It is one of the largest known monoliths, being forty-two feet in height and nearly five feet in diameter. It looks as fresh as though it were only yesterday carved out of the quarry; but it must be nearly two thousand years old, having been found about a hundred years ago when digging among the ruins of the amphitheatre of Statilius Taurus, constructed in the reign of Caesar Augustus on the site now called, from a corruption of the old name, Monte Citorio, and occupied by the Houses of Parliament. When discovered the pillar was unfinished, a circumstance which would indicate that it had never been erected. It was left to Pope Pius IX., after all these centuries of neglect and obscurity, to find a use for it. Crowning its capital by a bronze statue of the Virgin Mary, and disfiguring its shaft by a fantastic bronze network extending up two-fifths of its height, he erected it where it now stands in 1854, to commemorate the establishment by papal bull of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It was during his exile at Gaeta, at a time when Italy was torn with civil dissensions, and his own dominions were afflicted with the most grievous calamities, which he could have easily averted or remedied if he wished, that this dogma engrossed the mind of the holy father and his ecclesiastical court. The constitutionalists at Rome were anxiously expecting some conciliatory manifesto which should precede the Pope's return and restore peace and prosperity; and they were mortified beyond measure by receiving only the letter in which this theological fiction was announced by his Holiness. The people cried for the bread of constitutional liberty, and the holy father gave them the stone of a religious dogma to which they were wholly indifferent; thus demonstrating the incompatibility of the functions of a temporal and spiritual sovereign.

The pillar of the Immaculate Conception is embellished by statues of Moses, David, Isaiah, and Ezekiel, with texts from Scripture, and very inferior bronze bas-reliefs of the incidents connected with the publication of the dogma. As a work of art, it is heavy and graceless, with hard mechanical lines; and the figure of the Virgin at the top is utterly destitute of merit. The whole monument is a characteristic specimen of the modern Roman school of sculpture. For ages Rome has been considered the foster mother of art, and residence in it essential to the education of the art-faculty. But this is a delusion. Its atmosphere has never been really favourable to the development of genius. There is a moral malaria of the place as fatal to the versatile life of the imagination as the physical miasma is to health. Roman Catholicism has petrified the heart and the fancy; and a petty round of ceremonies, feasts, and social parties dissipates energy and distracts the powers of those who are not under the influence of the Church. The decadence of art has kept pace with the growing corruption of religion. Descending from the purer spiritual conceptions of former times to grosser and more superstitious ideas, it has given outward expression to these in baser forms. Even St. Peter's, though extravagantly praised by so many visitors, is but the visible embodiment of the vulgar splendour of later Catholicism. The pillar of the Immaculate Conception is not only a monument of religious superstition, but also of what must strike every thoughtful observer in Rome—the decadence of art in modern times as compared with the glorious earlier days of a purer Church. And the art of the sculptor is only in keeping with that of the painter in connection with this dogma. For the large frescoes of Podesti, which occupy a conspicuous place in the great hall of the Vatican, preceding the stanze of Raphael, and depict the persons and incidents connected with the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception, are worthless as works of art, and present a melancholy contrast to the works of the immortal genius in the adjoining halls, who wrought under the inspiration of a nobler faith. No Titian or Raphael, no Michael Angelo or Bramante, was found in the degenerate days of Pio Nono to immortalise what he called the greatest event of his reign.

The square in which the pillar of the Immaculate Conception is situated, along with the surrounding streets, is called the "Ghetto Inglese," for here the English and Americans most do congregate. At almost every step one encounters the fresh open countenances, blue eyes, and fair hair, which one is accustomed to associate with darker skies and ruder buildings. The Piazza di Spagna, so called from the palace of the Spanish ambassador situated in a corner of it, is one of the finest squares of Rome, being paved throughout, and surrounded on every side by lofty and picturesque buildings. In the centre is a quaint old boat-shaped fountain, called Fontana della Barcaccia, its brown slippery sides being tinted with mosses, confervae, and other growths of wet surfaces. It was designed by Bernini to commemorate the stranding of a boat on the spot after the retiring of the great flood of 1598, which overwhelmed most of Rome. On the site of the Piazza di Spagna, there was, in the days of Domitian, an artificial lake, on which naval battles took place, witnessed by immense audiences seated in a kind of amphitheatre on the borders of the lake. As an object of taste the boat-shaped fountain is condemned by many; but Bernini adopted the form not only because of the associations of the spot, but also because the head of water was not sufficient for a jet of any considerable height. Quaint, or even ugly, as some might call it, it was to me an object of peculiar interest. Its water is of the purest and sweetest; and in the stillness of the hot noon its bright sparkle and dreamy murmur were delightfully refreshing. No city in the world is so abundantly supplied with water as Rome. You hear the lulling sound and see the bright gleam of water in almost every square. A river falls in a series of sparkling cascades from the Fountain of Trevi and the Fontana Paolina into deep, immense basins; and even into the marble sarcophagi of ancient kings, with their gracefully sculptured sides, telling some story of Arcadian times, whose nymphs and naiads are in beautiful harmony with the rustic murmur of the stream, is falling a gush of living water in many a palace courtyard. This sound of many waters is, indeed, a luxury in such a climate; and some of the pleasantest moments are those in which the visitor lingers beside one of the fountains, when the blaze and bustle of the day are over, and the balmy softness of the evening produce a dreamy mood, to which the music of the waters is irresistibly fascinating.

The most distinguishing feature of the Piazza di Spagna is the wide staircase which leads up from one side of it to the church of the Trinita dei Monti, with its twin towers, through whose belfry arches the blue sky appears. This lofty staircase comprises one hundred and thirty steps, and the ascent is so gradual, and the landing-places so broad and commodious, that it is quite a pleasure, even for the most infirm persons, to mount it. The travertine of which it is composed is polished into the smoothness of marble by constant use. It is the favourite haunt of all the painters' models; and there one meets at certain hours of the day with beautiful peasant girls from the neighbouring mountains, in the picturesque costumes of the contadini, and old men with grizzled beards and locks, dressed in ragged cloaks, the originals of many a saint and Madonna in some sacred pictures, talking and laughing, or basking with half-shut eyes in the full glare of the sun. These models come usually from Cervaro and Saracinesco; the latter an extraordinary Moorish town situated at a great height among the Sabine hills, whose inhabitants have preserved intact since the middle ages their Arabic names and Oriental features and customs.

On this staircase used to congregate the largest number of the beggars of Rome, whose hideous deformities were made the excuse for extorting money from the soft-hearted forestieri. Happily this plague has now greatly abated, and one may ascend or descend the magnificent stair without being revolted by the sight of human degradation, or persecuted by the importunate outcries of those who are lost to shame. The Government has done a good thing in diminishing this frightful mendicancy. But it is to be feared that whilst there are many who beg without any necessity, sturdy knaves who are up to all kinds of petty larceny, there are not a few who have no other means of livelihood, and without the alms of the charitable would die of starvation. The visitor sees only the gay side of such a place as Rome; but there are many tragedies behind the scenes. Centuries of misrule under the papal government had pauperised the people; and the sudden transition to the new state of things has deprived many of the old employments, without furnishing any substitutes, while there is no longer the dole at the convent door to provide for their wants. The whole social organisation of Italy, with its frequent saints' days, during which no work is done, and its numerous holy fraternities living on alms, and its sanctification of mendicancy in the name of religion, has tended to pauperise the nation, and give it those unthrifty improvident habits which have destroyed independence and self-respect. Although, therefore, the Government has publicly forbidden begging throughout the country, it has in some measure tacitly connived at it, as a compromise between an inefficient poor-law and the widespread misery arising from the improvidence of so many of its subjects; the amount of the harvest reaped by the beggars from the visitors to Rome being so much saved to the public purse. And though one does not meet so many unscrupulous beggars as formerly in the main thoroughfares of Rome, one is often annoyed by them on the steps of the churches, where they seem to have the right of sanctuary, and to levy toll upon all for whom they needlessly lift the heavy leathern curtain that hangs at the door. We must remember that mendicancy is a very ancient institution in Italy, and that it will die hard, if it ever dies at all.

The church of the Trinita dei Monti, built in 1494 by Charles VIII. of France, occupies a most commanding position on the terrace above the Spanish Square, and is seen as a most conspicuous feature in all the views of Rome from the neighbourhood. An Egyptian obelisk with hieroglyphics, of the age of the Ptolemies, which once adorned the so-called circus in the gardens of Sallust on the Quirinal, now elevated on a lofty pedestal, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and surmounted by a cross, stands in front of the church, and gives an air of antiquity to it which its own four hundred years could hardly impart, as well as forms an appropriate termination to the splendid flight of steps which leads up to it. The church is celebrated for the possession of the "Descent from the Cross," a fresco by Ricciarelli, commonly known by the name of Daniel of Volterra, said to be one of the three finest pictures in the world. But the chapel which it adorns is badly lighted, and the painting has been greatly injured by the French, who attempted to remove it in 1817. It does not produce a very pleasing impression, being dark and oily-looking; and the cross-lights in the place interfere with the expression of the figures. We can recognise much of the force and graphic power of Michael Angelo, whom the painter sedulously imitated, in various parts of the composition; but it seems to me greatly inferior as a whole to the better-known picture of Rubens. In another chapel of this church was interred the celebrated painter Claude Lorraine, who lived for many years in a house not far off; but the French transferred the remains of their countryman to the monument raised to him in their native church in the Via della Scrofa.

Adjoining the church is the convent of the Sacred Heart, which formerly belonged to French monks, minims of the order of St. Francis. It suffered severely from the wantonness of the French soldiers who were quartered in it during the French occupation of Rome in the first Revolution. Since 1827 the Convent has been in possession of French nuns, who are all ladies of rank. They each endow the Convent at their initiation with a dowry of L1000; the rest of their property going to their nearest relatives as if they were dead. They spend their time in devotional exercises, in superintending the education of a number of young girls in the higher branches, and in giving advice to those who are allowed to visit them for this purpose every afternoon. The Trinita dei Monti is the only church in Rome where female voices are to be heard chanting the religious services; and on account of this peculiarity, and the fresh sweet voices of the nuns and their pupils, many people flock to hear them singing the Ave Maria at sunset, on Sundays and on great festivals, the singers themselves being invisible behind a curtain in the organ gallery. Mendelssohn found their vespers charming, though his critical ear detected many blemishes in the playing and singing. I visited the church one day. As it is shut after matins, I was admitted at a side door by one of the nuns, who previously inspected me through the wicket, and was left alone, the door being locked behind me. The interior is severely simple and grand, preserving the original pointed architecture inclining to Gothic, and is exquisitely clean and white, as women alone could keep it; in this respect forming a remarkable contrast to the grand but dirty church of the Capuchin monks. I had ample leisure to study the very interesting pictures in the chapels. The solitude was only disturbed by a kneeling figure in black, motionless as a statue behind the iron railing in front of the high altar, or by the occasional presence of a nun, who moved across the transept with slow and measured steps, her face hid by a long white veil which gave her a spirit-like appearance. In the heart of one of the busiest parts of the city, no mountain cloister could be more quiet and lonely. One felt the soothing stillness, lifted above the world, while yet retaining the closest connection with it. It is sweet to leave the busy crowd of various nationalities below, intent only upon pleasure, and, climbing up the lofty staircase, enter this secluded shrine, and be alone with God.

In the Piazza di Spagna some shops are always open on Sundays, especially those which minister to the wants and luxuries of strangers. Rows of cabs are ranged in the centre, waiting to be hired, and groups of flower-sellers stand near the shops, who thrust their beautiful bouquets almost into the face of every passer-by. If Rome is celebrated for its fountains, it is equally celebrated for its flowers. Whether it is owing to the soil, or the climate, or the mode of cultivation, or all combined, certain it is that nowhere else does one see flowers of such brilliant colours, perfect forms, and delicious fragrance; and the quantities as well as varieties of them are perfectly wonderful. Delicate pink and straw-coloured tea-roses, camellias, and jonquils mingled their high-born beauties with the more homely charms of wild-flowers that grew under the shadow of the great solemn stone-pines on the heights around, or twined their fresh garlands over the sad ruins of the Campagna. In the hand of every little boy and girl were bunches for sale of wild cyclamens, blue anemones, and sweet-scented violets, surrounded by their own leaves, and neatly tied up with thread. They had been gathered in the princely grounds of the Doria Pamphili and Borghese villas in the neighbourhood of Rome, which are freely opened to all, and where for many days in February and March groups of men, women, and children may be seen gathering vast quantities of those first-born children of the sun. The violets, especially in these grounds, are abundant and luxuriant, making every space of sward shadowed by the trees purple with their loveliness, like a reflection of the violet sky that had broken in through the lattice-work of boughs, and scenting all the air with their delicious perfume. They brought into the hot hard streets the witchery of the woodlands; and no one could inhale for a moment, in passing by, the sweet wafture of their fragrance without being transported in imagination to far-off scenes endeared to memory, and without a thrill of nameless tenderness at the heart. Some of the bunches of violets I was asked to buy were of a much paler purple than the others, and I was at no loss to explain this peculiarity. The plants with the deep violet petals and dark crimson eye had single blossoms, whereas those whose petals were lilac, and whose eye was of a paler red colour, were double. Cultivation had increased the number of petals, but it had diminished the richness of the colouring. This is an interesting example of the impartial balancing of nature. No object possesses every endowment. Defect in one direction is made up by excess in another. The rose pays for its mass of beautiful petals by its sterility; and the single violet has a lovelier hue, and is perfectly fertile, whereas the double one is pale and cannot perpetuate itself. And the moral lesson of this parable of nature is not difficult to read. Leanness of soul often accompanies the fulfilment of our earthly desires; and outward abundance often produces selfishness and covetousness. The peculiar evil of prosperity is discontent, dissatisfaction with present gain and a longing for more, and a spirit of repining at the little ills and disappointments of life. Humble, fragrant, useful contentment belongs to the soul that has the single eye, and "the one thing needful;" and the more we seek to double our possessions and enjoyments in the spirit of selfishness, the less beautiful and fragrant are we in the sight of God and man, and the less good we do in the world.

From the Piazza di Spagna I passed onward through a long street called the Via Babuino, from an antique statue of a satyr mutilated into the likeness of a baboon, that used to adorn a fountain about the middle of it, now removed. More business is done on Sunday in this street than in any other quarter, with the exception of the Corso. Here a shop full of bright and beautiful flowers, roses, magnolias, hyacinths, and lilies of the valley, perfumed all the air; there a jeweller's shop displayed its tempting imitations of Etruscan ornaments, and beads of Roman pearls, coral, lapis lazuli, and malachite; while yonder a marble-cutter wrought diligently at his laths, converting some fragment of rare marble—picked up by a tourist among the ruins of ancient Rome—into a cup or letter-weight to be carried home as a souvenir.

The Via Babuino opens upon the Piazza del Popolo, the finest and largest square in Rome. In the centre is a magnificent Egyptian obelisk of red Syene granite, about eighty feet in height, carved with hieroglyphics, with four marble Egyptian lions at each corner of the platform upon which it stands, pouring from their mouths copious streams of water into large basins, with a refreshing sound. Perhaps the eyes of Abraham rested upon this obelisk when he went down into Egypt, the first recorded traveller who visited the valley of the Nile; and the familiarity of the sight to the Israelites during their bondage in the neighbourhood may have suggested the wonderful vision of the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night which regulated their wanderings in the wilderness. God does not paint His revelations on the empty air, but weaves them into the web of history, or pours them into the mould of common earthly objects and ordinary human experiences. Many of the rites and institutions of the Mosaic economy were borrowed from those of the Egyptian priesthood; the tabernacle and its furniture were composed of the gold and jewels of which the Israelites had spoiled the Egyptians; and its form, a tent moved from place to place, accommodated itself to the wandering camp-life of the Israelites. It is not unreasonable, therefore, to suppose that He who appeared to Moses at Horeb, not in some unknown supernatural blaze of glory altogether detached from earth, but in the common fire of a shepherd in the common dry vegetation of the desert, and who made use of the common shepherd's rod which Moses carried in his hand to perform the wonderful miracles before Pharaoh, would also make use of the obelisk of Heliopolis, one of the most familiar objects which met their eye during their captivity, as the pattern of the Shechinah cloud which guided His people in their journey to the land of Canaan. The symbol of the sun that shone upon their weary toil as slaves in the clay-pits beside the Nile, now protected and illumined them in their march as freemen through the desert. What they had probably joined their oppressors in worshipping as an idol, they now beheld with awe and reverence as the token of the overshadowing and overshining presence of the living and true God. That flame-shaped obelisk was the link between Egypt and the Holy Land. The divine effigy of it in the sky of the desert—like the manna as the link between the corn of Egypt and the corn of Canaan—marked the transition from the false to the true, from the old world of dark pagan thought, to the new world of religious light. I need not say with what profound interest such a thought invested the obelisk in the Piazza del Popolo. I was never weary of looking up at its fair proportions, and trying to decipher its strange hieroglyphics—figures of birds and beasts in intaglio, cut clear and deep into the hard granite, and all as bright in colour and carving as though it had been only yesterday cut out of the quarry instead of four thousand years ago. It was my first glimpse into the mysterious East. It made the wonderful story of Joseph and Moses not a mere narrative in a book, but a living reality standing out from the far past like a view in a stereoscope. Every time I passed it—and I did so at all hours—I paused to enter into this reverie of the olden time. The daylight changed it into a pillar of cloud, casting the shadow of the great thoughts connected with it over my mind; the moonlight shining upon its rosy hue changed it into a pillar of fire, illumining all the inner chambers of my soul. Every Sunday it was the cynosure guiding me on my way to church, and suggesting thoughts and memories in unison with the character of the day and the nature of my work. No other object in Rome remains so indelibly pictured in my mind.

From the Piazza del Popolo, three long narrow streets run, like three fingers from the palm of the hand; the Via Babuino, which leads to the English quarter; the famous Corso, which leads to the Capitol and the Forum; and the Ripetta, which leads to St. Peter's and the Vatican. These approaches are guarded by two churches, S. Maria di Monte Santo and S. Maria dei Miracoli, similar in appearance, with oval domes and tetrastyle porticoes that look like ecclesiastical porters' lodges. The name of the Piazza del Popolo is derived, not from the people, as is generally supposed, but from the extensive grove of poplar-trees that surrounded the Mausoleum of Augustus, and long formed the most conspicuous feature in the neighbourhood. The crescent-shaped sides of the square are bounded on the left by a wall, with a bright fountain and appropriate statuary in the middle of it, and a fringe of tall cypress-trees, and on the right by a similar wall, adorned with marble trophies and two columns rough with the projecting prows of ships taken from the ancient temple of Venice and Rome, and rising in a series of terraced walks to the upper platform of the Pincio. At the foot of this Collis Hortulorum, "Hill of Gardens," which was a favourite resort of the ancient Romans, Nero was buried; and in earlier republican times it was the site of the famous Villa of Lucullus, who had accumulated an enormous fortune when general of the Roman army in Asia, and spent it on his retirement from active life in the most sumptuous entertainments and the most prodigal luxuries. Here he gave his celebrated feast to Cicero and Pompey. From Lucullus, the magnificent grounds passed into the possession of Valerius Asiaticus; and while his property they became the scene of a tragedy which reminds one of the story of Ahab and Jezebel and the vineyard of Naboth. The infamous Messalina, the wife of the Emperor Claudius, coveted the grounds of Asiaticus. With the unscrupulous spirit of Jezebel, she procured the condemnation to death of the owner for crimes that he had never committed; a fate which he avoided by committing suicide. As soon as this obstacle was removed out of her way, she appropriated the villa; and in the beautiful grounds abandoned herself to the most shameless orgies in the absence of her husband at Ostia. But her pleasure and triumph were short-lived. The emperor was informed of her enormities, and hastened home to take vengeance. Having vainly tried all means of conciliation, and attempted without effect to kill herself, she was slain in a paroxysm of terror and anguish, by a blow of the executioner's falchion; and the death of Asiaticus was avenged on the very spot where it happened.

The gardens of the Pincio are small, but a fairer spot it would be hard to find anywhere. The grounds are most beautifully laid out, and so skilfully arranged that they seem of far larger extent than they really are. Splendid palm-trees, aloes, and cactuses give a tropical charm to the walks; rare exotics and bloom-laden trees of genial climes, flashing fountains, and all manner of cultivated beauty, enliven the scene; while the air blows fresh and invigorating from the distant hills. From the lofty parapet of the city-wall which bounds it on one side, you gaze into the green meadows and rich wooded solitudes of the Borghese grounds, that look like some rural retreat a score of miles from the city; and from the stone balustrade on the other side you see all Rome at your feet with its sea of brown houses, and beyond the picturesque roofs and the hidden river rising up the great mass of the Vatican buildings and the mighty dome of St. Peter's, which catches like a mountain peak the last level gold of the sunset, and flashes it back like an illumination, while all the intermediate view is in shadow. No wonder that the Pincian Hill is the favourite promenade of Rome, and that on week-days and Sunday afternoons you see multitudes of people showing every phase of Roman life, and hundreds of carriages containing the flower of the Roman aristocracy, with beautiful horses, and footmen in rich liveries, crowding the piazza below, ascending the winding road, and driving or walking round between the palms and the pines, over the garden-paths, to the sound of band music. And thus they continue to amuse themselves till the sun has set, and the first sound of the bells of Ave Maria is heard from the churches; and then they wind their way homewards.

We pass out from the Piazza through the Porta del Popolo, the only way by which strangers used to approach Rome from the north. It was indeed a more suitable entrance into the Eternal City than the present one; for no human being, with a spark of imagination, would care to obtain his first view of the city of his dreams from the outside of a great bustling railway station. But the Porta del Popolo had annoyances of its own that seemed hardly less incongruous. One had to run the gauntlet of the custom-house here, and to practise unheard-of briberies upon the venal douaniers of the Pope before being allowed to pass on to his hotel. And the first glimpse of the city from this point did not come up to one's expectations, being very much like that of any commonplace modern capital, without a ruin visible, or any sign or suggestion of the mistress of the world. The Porta del Popolo almost marks the position of the old Flaminian gate, through which passed the great northern road of Italy, constructed by the Roman censor, C. Flaminius, two hundred and twenty years before Christ, extending as far as Rimini, a distance of two hundred and ten miles. Through that old gate, and along that old road, the Roman cohorts passed to conquer Britain, then a small isle inhabited by savage tribes. Hardly any path save that to Jerusalem has been trodden by so many human feet as this old Flaminian road. The present gate is said to have been designed by Michael Angelo; but it shows no signs of his genius. On the inner side, above the keystone of the arch, is a lofty brick wall in the shape of a horse-shoe, built exclusively for the purpose of displaying in colossal size, emblazoned in stucco, the city arms, the sun rising above three or four pyramidal mountains arranged above each other. The external facade consists of two pairs of Doric columns of granite and marble flanking the arch, whose colour and beauty have entirely disappeared through exposure to the weather. In the spaces between the columns are two statues, one of St. Peter, and the other of St. Paul, of inferior merit, and very much stained and weather-worn. The inscription above the arch, "To a happy and prosperous entrance," seemed a mockery in the old douanier days, when delays and extortions vexed the soul of the visitor, and produced a mood anything but favourable to the enjoyment of the Eternal City. But now the grievances are over. The occupation of the place is gone. The barracks on the left for the papal guards are converted to other purposes; no custom-house officer now meets one at the gate, and all are free to come and go without passport, or bribe, or hindrance. Since I was in Rome this old gateway being found too narrow has been considerably widened by the addition of a wing on each side of the large central arch, containing each a smaller arch in which the same style of architecture is carried out.

On the right as you go out is the remarkable church of Santa Maria del Popolo. It is built in the usual Romanesque style; but its external appearance is very unpretending, and owing to its situation in a corner overshadowed by the wall it is apt to be overlooked. It is an old fabric, eight hundred years having passed away since Pope Paschal II. founded it on the spot where Nero was said to have been buried. From the tomb of the infamous tyrant grew a gigantic walnut-tree, the roosting-place of innumerable crows, supposed to be demons that haunted the evil place. The erection of the church completely exorcised these foul spirits, consecrated the locality, and dispelled the superstitious fears of the people. Reconstructed in the reign of Sixtus IV., about the year 1480, this church has not the picturesque antiquity in this dry climate and clear atmosphere which our Gothic churches in moist England present. Not more widely did the external aspect of the tabernacle in the wilderness, with its dark goat-skin coverings, differ from the interior of the Holy of holies, with its golden furniture, than does the commonplace look of the outside of the church of Santa Maria del Popolo differ from its magnificent interior. It is a perfect museum of sculpture and painting. Splendid tombs of eminent cardinals of the best period of the Renaissance, rare marbles and precious stones in lavish profusion adorn the altars and walls of the chapels; while they are further enriched by beautiful frescoes of sacred subjects from the pencils of Penturicchio and Annibale Caracci. Above the high altar is an ancient picture of the Madonna, with an exceedingly swarthy eastern complexion, which is one among several others in Rome attributed to the pencil of St. Luke the Evangelist, and which is supposed to possess the power of working miracles. One especially magnificent chapel arrests the attention, and leaves a lasting impression—that of the Chigi family, built by Fabio Chigi, better known as Pope Alexander VII. The architecture was planned by Raphael. The design of the strange fresco on the ceiling of the dome, representing the creation of the heavenly bodies, was sketched by him; and he modelled the beautiful statue of Jonah, sitting upon a whale—said to have been carved from a block that fell from one of the temples in the Forum—and sculptured the figure of Elijah, which are among the most conspicuous ornaments of the chapel. This is the only place in which Raphael appears in the character of an architect and sculptor. Like Michael Angelo, the genius of this wonderfully-gifted artist was capable of varied expression; and it seemed a mere accident whether his ideals were represented in stone, or colour, or words. On his single head God seemed to have poured all His gifts; beauty of person, and beauty of soul, and the power to perceive and embody the beauty and the wonder of the world; the eye of light and the heart of fire; "the angel nature in the angel name." And yet amid his fadeless art he faded away; and at the deathless shrines which he left behind the admirer of his genius is left to lament his early death.

Such thoughts receive a still more mournful hue from a touching tomb—touching even though its taste be execrable—which records a husband's sorrow on account of the death of his young wife—a princess of both the distinguished houses of Chigi and Odescalchi—who passed away at the age of twenty, in the saddest of all ways—in childbirth. It goes to one's heart to think of the desolate home and the bereaved husband left, as he says, "in solitude and grief." And though the weeper has gone with the wept, and the sore wound which death inflicted has been healed by his own hand nearly a hundred years ago, we feel a wondrous sympathy with that old domestic tragedy. It is a touch of nature that affects one more than all the blazonry and sculpture around. In this weird church of Santa Maria del Popolo, which seems more a mausoleum of the dead than a place of worship for the living, the level rays of the afternoon sun come through the richly-painted windows of the choir; and the warm glory rests first upon a strange monument of the sixteenth century at the entrance, where a ghastly human skeleton sculptured in yellow marble looks through a grating, and then upon a medallion on a tomb, representing a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, illumining the inscription, "Ut Phoenix multicabo dies." And this old expressive symbol speaks to us of death as the Christian's true birth, in which the spirit bursts its earthly shell, and soars on immortal wings to God. And the church straightway to the inner eye becomes full of a transfiguration glory which no darkness of the tomb can quench, and which makes all earthly love immortal.

A venerable monastery, tenanted by monks of the order of St. Augustine, is attached to this church, upon whose brown-tiled roofs, covered with gray and yellow lichens, and walls and windows of extreme simplicity, the eye of the visitor gazes with deepest interest. For this was the residence of Luther during his famous visit to Rome. He came to this place in the fervour of youthful enthusiasm; his heart was filled with pious emotions. He knelt down on the pavement when he passed through the Porta del Popolo, and cried, "I salute thee, O holy Rome; Rome venerable through the blood and the tombs of the martyrs!" Immediately on his arrival he went to the convent of his own order, and celebrated mass with feelings of great excitement. But, alas! he was soon to be disenchanted. He had not been many days in Rome when he saw that the city of the saints and martyrs was wholly given up to idolatry and social corruption, and was as different as possible from the city of his dreams. He cared not for the fine arts which covered this pollution with a deceitful iridescence of refinement; and the ruins of pagan Rome had no power to move his heart, preoccupied as it was with horror at the monstrous wickedness which made desolate the very sanctuary of God. When he ascended on his knees the famous Scala Santa, the holy staircase near the Lateran Palace—supposed to have belonged to Pilate's house in Jerusalem, down whose marble steps our Saviour walked, wearing the crown of thorns and the emblems of mock royalty which the soldiers had put upon him—he seemed to hear a voice whispering to him the words, "The just shall live by faith." Instantly the scales fell from his eyes, and he saw the miserable folly of the whole proceeding; and like a man suddenly freed from fetters, he rose from his knees, and walked firm and erect to the foot of the stairs. He could not remain another day in the city. Returning to his monastery, he there celebrated mass for the last time, and departed on the morrow with the bitter words, "Adieu, O city, where everything is permitted but to be a good man!" Ten years later he burnt the Bull of the Pope in the public square of Wittemberg, and all Europe rang with the tocsin of the Reformation. I never passed that venerable monastery without thinking of the austere German monk and his glorious work; and the old well-known motto of the Reformation which had been his battle-cry in many a good fight of faith received new power and meaning from the associations of the place. To the enlightenment received there, paving the way for religious and political liberty throughout Christendom, I owed the privilege of preaching in Rome.

The Presbyterian church—I speak of the past, for since my visit the church has been removed to a more suitable site within the walls—is a little distance farther on, on the opposite side of the street. You enter by a gateway, and find yourself in an open space surrounded with luxuriant hedges in full bloom, and large flowering shrubs, and commanding a fine view of Monte Mario and the open country in that direction, including the meadows where the noble Arnold of Brescia was burnt to death, and his ashes cast into the Tiber. The church is a square, flat-roofed eastern-looking building, in the inside tastefully painted in imitation of panels of Cipollino marble; and on the neat pulpit is carved the symbol of the Scotch Church, the burning bush and its motto, nowhere surely more appropriate than in the place where the Christian faith has been subjected to the flames of pagan and papal persecution for eighteen hundred years, and has emerged purer and stronger. In that simple church I had the privilege of preaching to a large but fluctuating congregation, each day differently composed of persons belonging to various nationalities and denominations, but united by one common bond of faith and love. At stated intervals we celebrated together the touching feast that commemorates our Saviour's dying love, and the oneness of Christians in Him. The wonderful associations of the place lent to such occasions a special interest and solemnity. Surrounded by the ruins of man's glory, we felt deeply how unchanging was the word of God. In a city of gorgeous ceremonials that had changed Christianity into a kind of baptized paganism, we felt it indescribably refreshing to partake, in the beautiful simplicity of our own worship, of the symbols of the broken body and shed blood of our Lord. We seemed to be compassed about with a great cloud of witnesses, apostles, martyrs, and saints, who in the early ages of the Church in this city overcame the world by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and loved not their lives unto the death. More vividly than anywhere else, we seemed in this place to come to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to realise that we were built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.

On the opposite side of the road is the classic portico that leads to the Borghese Villa. The gate is almost always open; and every person is free to wander at will through the magnificent grounds, upwards of three miles in circuit, and hold picnics in the sunny glades, and pull the wild flowers that star the grass in myriads. On Sunday afternoons multitudes come and go, and a long line of carriages, filled with the Roman nobility and with foreign visitors, in almost endless succession, make the circuit of the drives. The Porta del Popolo becomes too strait for the seething mass of carriages and human beings that pass through it; and it is with difficulty, and some danger to life and limb, that one can force a passage through the gay pleasure-loving crowd. At the Carnival time the ordinary dangers and difficulties are increased tenfold; and the scene presents anything but a Sabbath-like appearance. Nor are the danger and difficulty over when the gate is passed; for the Piazza del Popolo and the streets that lead from it are crowded with carriages and pedestrians going to or returning from the favourite promenade on the Pincian Hill. One runs the gauntlet all the way; meditation is impossible; and the return from church in the afternoon is as different as possible from the morning walk to it. What pleasure can these people derive from the beautiful walks and drives in the Borghese grounds, except perhaps that of seeing and being seen in a crowd? There is no seclusion of nature, no opportunity of quiet thought.

On week-days, at certain hours, one may enjoy the place thoroughly without any distraction, and feel amid the lonely vistas of the woods as if buried in the loneliest solitude of the Apennines. And truly on such occasions I know no place so fascinating, so like an earthly Eden! The whole scene thrills one like lovely music. All the charms of nature and art are there focussed in brightest perfection. The grounds are gay with starry anemones, and billowy acacias crested with odorous wreaths of yellow foam, dark and mysterious with tall ilexes, cypresses, and stone-pines, enlivened by graceful palms and tender deciduous trees, musical with falling and glancing waters, and haunted by the statues of Greek divinities that filled men's minds with immortal thoughts in the youth of the world—dimly visible amid the recesses of the foliage. The path leads to a casino in which sculpture and painting have done their utmost to enrich and adorn the apartments. But the result of all this prodigal display of wealth and refinement is exceedingly melancholy. It would be death to inhabit these sumptuous marble rooms when their coolness would be most agreeable; and the witchery of the shadowy wood paths and bowers in their summer perfection can be enjoyed only at the risk of catching fever. Man has made a paradise for himself, but the malaria drives him out of it, and all its costly beauty is almost thrown away. Only during the desolation of winter, or the fair promise and half-developments of spring, can one wander safely through the place. The sting of the serpent is in this Eden. Cursed is the ground for man's sake in the fairest scene that his industry, and genius, and virtue can make for himself; but cursed with a double curse is the ground that he makes a wilderness by his selfishness and wickedness. And this double curse, this fatal Circean spell, has come upon these beautiful grounds in common with all the neighbourhood of Rome because of ages of human waste and wrong-doing. How striking a picture do they present of all earth's beauties and possessions, which promise what they cannot fully accomplish, which give no rest for the head or home for the heart, and in which, when disposed to place our trust, we hear ever and anon the warning cry, "Arise and depart, for this is not your rest, for it is polluted, for it will destroy you with a sore destruction." And not without significance is the circumstance that such a lesson on the vanity of all earthly things should be suggested by what one sees over against the house of prayer. It illustrates and emphasises the precept which bids the worshipper set his affections on things above, so that the house of God may become to him the very gate of heaven.

From the entrance of the church, through a long suburb, you trace the old Flaminian road till it crosses the Tiber at the Ponte Molle, the famous Milvian Bridge. It is strange to think of this hoary road of many memories being now laid down with modern tramway rails, along which cars like those in any of our great manufacturing towns continually run. This is one of the many striking instances in which the past and the present are incongruously united in Rome. You see on the right side of the road a picturesque ridge of cliffs clothed with shaggy ilexes and underwood, overhanging at intervals the walls and buildings. It was formed by lava ejected from some ancient volcano in the neighbourhood; and over it was deposited, by the action of acidulated waters rising through the volcanic rock, a stratum of travertine or fresh-water limestone. Not far off is a mineral spring called Acqua Acetosa, much frequented by the inhabitants on summer mornings, which may be considered one of the expiring efforts of volcanic action in the neighbourhood. The Milvian Bridge is associated with most interesting and important historical events. The Roman citizens, two hundred years before Christ, met here the messengers who announced the defeat of Asdrubal on the Metaurus at the end of the second Punic war. Here the ambassadors of the Allobroges implicated in Catiline's conspiracy were arrested by order of Cicero. And from the parapets of the bridge the body of Maxentius, the rival pagan emperor, was hurled into the Tiber, after his defeat by Constantine in the great battle of Saxa Rubra, which took place a little distance off. Visitors to the Vatican will remember the spirited representation of this battle on the walls of Raphael's Stanze, designed by the immortal master, and executed by Giulio Romano, the largest historical subject ever painted. By the tragic details of this battle, men and horses being entangled in the eddies of the river, the Christians were reminded of the destruction of Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, and the consequent deliverance of Israel. The victory on the side of Constantine led to the total overthrow of paganism, and put an end to the age of religious persecution. On this memorable day the seven-branched golden candlestick which Titus had taken from the temple of Jerusalem, according to tradition, was thrown into the Tiber, where it lies under a vast accumulation of mud in the bed of the river. It would thus seem as if the Jewish religion, too, of which the golden candlestick was the most expressive symbol, had come finally to an end in this triumph of Christianity. Of the monuments by which the great battle was commemorated one still survives near the Colosseum, the well-known triumphal arch of Constantine, which is at once a satire upon the decay of art at the time, and the halting of the new emperor between the two religions, containing, as it does, pagan figures and inscriptions mixed up incongruously with Christian ones.

We gaze with deep interest upon the serene violet sky which broods over the Milvian Bridge, and which still seems to the fancy to glow with the consciousness of the ancient legend, when we remember that it was in that sky, while on his march to the battle, Constantine saw, surmounting and outshining the noonday sun, the wondrous vision of the flaming cross, with the words "In this conquer," which assured him not only of victory in the approaching engagement, but of the subsequent universal ascendancy of Christianity throughout the world. This vision, which in all probability was only a parhelion, exaggerated by a superstitious and excited imagination, produced a crisis in the life of Constantine. He adopted the Christian faith immediately afterwards, and introduced the cross as the standard of his army; and in the faith of the visionary cross he marched from victory to victory, until at last he reigned alone as head of the Church and Emperor of the world, and brought about relations between Church and State which seemed to the historian Eusebius to be no less than the fulfilment of the apocalyptic vision of the New Jerusalem. Beyond this scene stretches to the faint far-off horizon the desert Campagna; a dim, misty, homeless land, where the moan of the wind sounds ever like the voice of the past, and the pathos of a vanished people breathes over all the scene; with here and there a gray nameless ruin, a desolate bluff, or a grassy mound, marking the site of some mysterious Etruscan or Sabine city that had perished ages before Romulus had laid the foundations of Rome. From the contemplation of these wide cheerless wastes beyond the confines of history, peopled with shadowy forms, with whose long-buried hopes and sorrows no mortal heart can now sympathise, I turn back to the fresh, warm, human interests that await me in the Rome of to-day; feeling to the full that from home to church I have passed through scenes and associations sufficient to make a Sabbath in Rome a day standing out from all other days, never to be forgotten!



CHAPTER II

THE APPIAN WAY

It was the proud boast of the ancient Romans that all roads led to their city. Rome was the centre and mistress of the world; and as the loneliest rill that rises in the bosom of the far-off mountain leads, if followed, to the ocean, so every path in the remotest corner of the vast empire conducted to the great gilded column in the Roman Forum, upon which all distances without the walls were marked. To the Romans the world is indebted for opening up communications with different countries. They were the great engineers and road-makers of antiquity. This seems to have been the work assigned to them in the household of nations. Rome broke down the barriers that separated one nation from another, and fused all distinctions of race and language and religion into one great commonwealth. And for the cohesion of all the elements of this huge political fabric nothing could have been more effectual than the magnificent roads, by which constant communication was kept up between all parts of the empire, and armies could be transported to quell a rising rebellion in some outlying province with the smallest expenditure of time and strength. In this way the genius of this wonderful people was providentially made subservient to the interests of Christianity. At the very time that our Lord commissioned, with His parting breath, the apostles to preach the gospel to every creature, the way was prepared for the fulfilment of that commission. The crooked places had been made straight, and the rough places smooth. Along the roads which the Romans made throughout the world for the march of their armies and the consolidation of their government, the apostles, the soldiers of the Prince of Peace, marched to grander and more enduring victories.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse