The following extract from a letter written in March last, and addressed to ourselves, from the Rev. David Kay, the able pastor of the Scotch congregation in Genoa, will be read with deep interest. We know none who knows better than Mr Kay the condition of Sardinia, or is more familiar with all that has been done and is doing there. What he says of the moral condition of Genoa may be taken as a fair sample of the other towns and States of Italy. None of them are superior to Genoa in this respect, and most of them, we believe, are below it. Alas! the picture is a sad one.
"Nothing could be more foolish or detrimental to the evangelical work in Sardinia than for every man and woman who enters the country, to pass through it or spend a few months even, to commence 'doing something,' as they generally express it. They scatter Bibles and tracts broad-cast, without knowing anything of the people they give them to; and nine-tenths of these books are carried forthwith to the priest or the pawnshop, generally the former, and are burned. This does not affect them much, perhaps, because they will soon be off; but it renders the position of those stationed in the country very precarious. The priest likes very much to collect all the Bibles, Testaments, tracts, &c., into a heap, and, before setting the match to them, bring some of his English friends to see them. This is no exaggeration. At least two such cases have come under my notice. Knowledge and prudence are very essential qualities,—some knowledge of the country and its people, and some little common sense to use that knowledge well. If our British travellers and residents would give the Italians a better example of how the Sabbath ought to be kept, and is kept, by the serious in Britain, and let precept for the most part alone,—the real missionary work to be done by people competent,—generally speaking, they would advance the work far more than by the way they often adopt. We talk of liberal Sardinia; but liberal is a relative term, and all who know Sardinia will only apply it relatively. When an injudicious thing is done, or even when a lawful thing is done injudiciously, we soon see where the liberty of Sardinia is. It is as lawful for a man to have a thousand Italian Bibles in his house as to have a thousand copies of 'Rob Roy.' Both packages come regularly through the custom-house, and duty is paid for them; and yet the other day in Nice several houses were searched by the gendarmes, and all Bibles and tracts carried away. This is contrary to the Constitution of the country, and yet it was done. Englishmen will make a cry about it, and demand justice (a thing generally sold to the highest bidder); but it is no use,—only harm will be done by it. Every day things in kind differing in degree are done throughout the State. The long and short of the matter is this; the minds of the people must open, and be allowed time to open gradually, ere the liberal Constitution of Sardinia can be applied to its full extent. And it is the forgetting this, or not knowing it, that usually brings these things about. Something, perhaps a very common thing, and quite lawful, and done every day, is done in a foolish way, and a foolish thing is done by the executive Government to meet it. It is not the present generation,—it has been too long under the yoke,—but the rising generation, that will exhibit the new Constitution. The grand secret is to do as much as possible,—and almost anything may be done,—and say nothing about it. It is truly interesting to watch the gradual opening up of the long shut kingdom, and very exciting to give every day a stronger blow to the wedge that opens it. I remember well, when I came here, nearly two years ago, Italian Bibles could not be got into Genoa, as other goods, by paying the duty on them, although it was perfectly lawful then, as now, to bring them in that way. For a year past we have got all the Bibles the Bible-senders of Britain will send us. Hundreds or thousands of them can be brought through the custom-house without any difficulty. We are anxiously waiting the arrival of six thousand at this moment. And yet a month has not passed since four thousand religious books,—less mischievous by far than the Bible,—were sent from our port to Marseilles. They could not be landed in any part of his Majesty's dominions. From these facts you will see that we live in a kingdom of practical contradictions.
"The priests, meanwhile, are by no means idle. They are instructing their people in the dogmas of their Church; and for this they have classes in the evening,—the zealous at least, among them have. Apart from their petty persecution in preventing us getting a place of worship (the affair of the 'Madre di Dio' you know all about, as also their general story of every convert being paid), they send missionaries to England once or twice a-year, (there is a priest whom I know just now returned), who bring, generally prostitutes, but women of a better order if they can find them, put them into a convent, to train, and, when trained, send them out to strengthen the Catholics here in their faith, and, if possible, bring back to the fold those who have gone to Geymonat; and highly accomplished trustworthy dames they send home to England to bring out others, or remain there and proselytise; or they send them here and there among the English on the Continent, sometimes to profess one thing and sometimes another. A few weeks ago one tried her skill upon us residing in Genoa, and partially succeeded. Her tale was, that she was the daughter of an English clergyman, who came abroad with her aunt, travelling in great style of course, and was put into a convent, and kept there against her will; and now she had contrived to make her escape, and perfectly trembled when she saw a priest, or even heard one named; and, although of high family, was ready to teach or do anything in an English family, to be out of reach of the priests. The things she told were most harrowing, and some of them very true-like. One English gentleman here thought of taking her into his family as governess, until he should get her father to come for her. I was asked to visit her at his house, and hear her woeful history. I went; but the line 'Timeo Danaos,' &c., was ever forcing itself upon me as I walked musingly along to the house, which was a little distance out of town. While hearing her long unconnected string of falsehoods, the thing that astonished me was, why the Roman Catholic priests should have chosen such an ugly woman to do such a piece of work; and not only had she the most forbidding appearance of any woman I ever saw, but she was the most illiterate; not a single sentence came correctly from her lips, and, in pronunciation, the letter 'h' ever was prefixed to the 'aunt' and the 'Oxford,'—the very quintescence of Cockneyism. It was clear to my mind that she had 'done' the priests, and the sequel proves my suspicions to be correct. That day before she left, she discovered that she was suspected, and very prudently threw off her mask very soon after. Her correct history we are only getting bit by bit; but all we have learned convinces us that she has deceived the Italian priest, who knows very little of English, by persuading him that she is the daughter of an English clergyman, and very highly connected in England. You have enough of the story to see the kind of plot regularly carried on. What they expected to gain by passing her off upon us, we cannot tell, unless that they wished to know earlier and more fully our movements. There is an English pervert here just now,—a weak fool, but an educated one,—on a mission to Geymonat's people, to assure them that they have committed a great sin. Having proved both systems of religion, he can judge, and there is no comfort whatever in the Protestant. He has taken up his abode here, and is prosecuting his mission vigorously.
"A traveller passing through Genoa, and visiting the churches, particularly on a feast-day, would fancy that the Genoese, or, indeed, the Catholics in Sardinia generally, are the most devoted Catholics in Italy. Many have gone away with that impression. The reason is this. All who attend the churches in Genoa do so from choice,—from religious motives; and even feel, in these days of heresy, that they are wearing the martyr's crown,—standing firmly for the true Church, while all without are scoffers; whereas in the Tuscan, Roman, and Neapolitan States, people attend church from compulsion. If they are not in church on certain days, and at mass, they are immediately suspected. I believe the male population of Italy is one moving mass of infidelity. Sardinia is professedly so. In Genoa not one young man in a hundred attends church. If you see him there, it is to select a pretty woman for his own purposes. Morality is at a very low ebb,—lower far than you can have any idea of. Every man is sighing after his neighbour's wife; and he confesses it, and talks as gallantly of his conquest as if he had fought on the heights of Alma. A stranger walking the streets in the evening would not suppose this, for he would not be attacked, as in a town in Britain; but they have their dens, and licensed ones too. Shocking as it may appear, these houses are regularly licensed by the Government; and medical men visit them once every week for sanitary purposes. The defilement of the marriage-bed is little or nothing thought of. Marriage here is generally a money speculation, and is very frequently brought about through means of regular brokers or agents, who receive a per centage on the bride's dowry. A woman without a pretty good dowry has very little chance of a husband, unless she is young and very pretty, and willing to accept an old man. There are very few women in Geymonat's congregation. The converts are nearly all men."
While we rejoice in the spread of the light, we cannot but marvel at the mysterious connection which may be traced between the first and the second reformations in Italy, as regards the spots where this divine illumination is now breaking out. We have already adverted to the progress of the Gospel in the sixteenth century in so many of the cities of Italy, and the long roll of confessors and martyrs which every class of her citizens contributed to furnish. Not only did these men, in their prisons and at their stakes, sow the seeds of a future harvest, but they appear to have earned for the towns in which they lived, and the families from which they were sprung, a hereditary right, as it were, to be foremost in confessing that cause at every subsequent era of its revival. We cannot mark but with a feeling of heartfelt gratitude to God, in whose sight the death of his saints is precious, and who, by the eternal laws of his providence, has ordained that the example of the martyr shall prove more powerful and more lasting than that of the persecutor, that on the self-same spots where these men died of old, the same mighty movement has again broken out. And not only are the same cities of Turin, and Milan, and Venice, and Genoa, and Florence, figuring in this second reformation of Italy, but the same families and the same names from which God chose his martyrs in Italy three centuries ago are again coming forward, and offering themselves to the dungeon, and the galleys, and the scaffold, in the cause of the Gospel. Does not this finely illustrate the indestructible nature of truth, which enables it to survive a long period of dormancy and of apparent death, and to flourish anew from what seemingly was its tomb? And does it not also shed a beautiful light upon the order of the providence of God, whereby he remembers and revisits the seed of the righteous man, and keeps his mercy to a thousand generations of them that fear Him?
On Wednesday the 6th of November, after a stay of well-nigh a week in Florence, I took my departure by rail for Pisa. The weather was still wild and wintry, and the Apennines were white with snow to almost their bottom. The railway runs along the valley, close to the Arno, which, swollen with the rains, had flooded the vineyards and meadows in many places. A truly Italian vale is that of the Arno, whose silvery stream in ordinary times is seen winding and glistening amid the olives and the chestnut groves which border its course. When evening came, a deep spiritual beauty pervaded the region. As we swept along, many a romantic hill rose beside our path, with its clustering village, its mantling vines, and its robe of purple shadows; and many a long withdrawing ravine opened on the right and left, with its stream, and its crags, and its olives, and its castles. What would we have given for but a minute's pause, to admire the finer points! But the engine held its onward way, as if its course had been amidst the most indifferent scenery in the world. It made amends, however, for the enchanting views which it swept into oblivion behind, by perpetually opening in front others as lovely and fascinating. The twilight had set, and the moon was shining brightly, when we reached the station at Pisa.
The Austrian soldier who kept the gate challenged me as I passed, but I paid no attention, and hurried on. Had he secured my passport, I would infallibly have been detained a whole day. I traversed the long winding streets of the decaying town, crossed the Arno, on which the city stands, and, coming out on the other side of Pisa, found myself in presence of its fine ecclesiastical buildings. A moon nearly full, which seemed to veil while it in reality heightened their beauty, enabled me to see these venerable edifices to advantage. The hanging tower is a beautiful pile of white marble; the Cathedral is one of the most chastely elegant specimens of architecture in all Italy; the baptistry, too peculiar to be classic, is, nevertheless, a tasteful and elegant design. Having surveyed these lovely creations of the wealth and genius of a past age, I returned in time to take my seat in the last train for Leghorn.
The country betwixt Pisa and the coast is perfectly flat, and the flooded Arno had converted it into a sea. I could see nothing around me but a watery waste, above which the railway rose but a few inches. I felt as if again amid the Lagunes of Venice. After an hour and a half's riding, we reached Leghorn, where I took up my abode at Thomson's hotel, so well and so favourably known to English travellers. After my long sojourn in Italian albergi, whose uncarpeted floors, and chinky windows and doors, are but ill fitted to resist the winds and cold of winter, I sat down in "Thomson's,"—furnished as it is with all the comforts of an English inn,—with a feeling of home-comfort such as I have rarely experienced.
FROM LEGHORN TO ROME.
First Sight of the Mediterranean—Embark at Leghorn—Elba—Italian Coast—Civita Vecchia—Passport Offices—Aspect and Population of Civita Vecchia—Papal Dungeons—Start for Rome—First View of the Campagna—Its Desolation—Changed Times—The Postilion—The Road—The Milestones—First Sight of the Eternal City—The Gate—Desolate Look of the City by Night—The Pope's Custom-House and Custom-House Officer.
I rose early next morning, and walked down to the harbour, to have my first sight of the Mediterranean,—that renowned sea, on whose shores the classic nations of antiquity dwelt, and art and letters arose,—on whose waters the commerce of the ancient world was carried on, and the battles of ancient times fought,—whose scenery had often inspired the Greek and Latin poets,—and the grandeur of whose storms Inspiration itself had celebrated. A stiff breeze was blowing, and a white curl crested the wave, and freckled the deep blue of the waters. The Mediterranean looked young and joyous in the morning sun, as when it bore the fleets of Tyre, or heard the victorious shouts of Rome, albeit it is now edged with mouldering cities, and listens only to the clank of chains and the sigh of enslaved nations.
Early in the forenoon I waited on the Rev. Dr Stewart, the accomplished minister of the Free Church in Leghorn. He opened freely to me his ample stores of information on the subject of Tuscany, and the work in progress in that country. We called afterwards on Mr Thomas Henderson, a native of Scotland, but long settled in Leghorn as a merchant. This kind and Christian man has since, alas! gone to his grave; but the future historian of the Reformation in Italy will rank him with those pious merchants in our own land who in former days consecrated their energy and wealth to the work of furthering the Gospel, and of sheltering its poor persecuted disciples. After sojourning so long among strange faces and strange tongues, it was truly pleasant to meet two such friends,—for friends I felt them to be, though never till that day had I seen their faces.
At four of the afternoon I embarked in the steamer for Civita Vecchia, the port of Rome. The vessel I did not like at first: it was dirty, crowded, and, from some fault in the loading, lurched over while a stiff breeze was rising. By and by we got properly under weigh, and swept gallantly over the waves, along the coast, whose precipices and headlands were getting indistinct in the fading twilight. I walked the deck till past midnight, watching the moon as she rode high amid the scud overhead, and the beacon-lights of the island of Elba, as they gleamed full and bright astern. "What of the night?" I asked the helmsman. "Buono notte, Signore," was the reply. I descended to my berth.
I awoke at four of the morning, and found the steamer labouring in a rolling sea. The sirocco was blowing, and a huge black wave rolled up before it from the south. The distant coast stretched along on the left, naked and iron-bound, with the high lands of Etruria rising behind it. I wondered whether that coast had looked as unkindly to Aeneas, when first he cast anchor on it after long ploughing the deep? We drew towards that silent shore, where signs of man and his labours we could discover none; and in an hour or so a small bay opened under the vessel's bows. The swell was rising every moment, and the steamer made some magnificent bounds in taking the entrance to the harbour. We entered the port of Civita Vecchia at six, passing between the two round towers, with their tiers of guns looking down upon us; and cast anchor in the ample basin, protected by the lofty walls of the forts, over which the green-topped waves occasionally looked as if enraged at missing their prey. Here we were, but not a man of us could land till first our passports had been submitted to the authorities on shore. The passengers, who were of all classes, from the English nobleman with his equipage and horses, down to the lazzaroni of Naples, crowded the deck promiscuously; and amongst them I was happy to meet again my two Russian friends, with whom I had shared the same bed-room among the Apennines. In about an hour and a half we were boarded by a police-officer. Forming us into a row on deck, and calling our names one by one, this functionary handed to each a billet, permitting the holder to go ashore, on condition of an instant compearance at the pontifical police-office. An examination of the baggage followed. This done, I leaped into one of the small boats which lay alongside the steamer, and was rowed to the quay at a few strokes, but for which service I had to recompense the boatman with about as many pauls. No sooner had I set foot on shore, than the everlasting passport bother began. The "apostolic consul" at Florence had certified me as "good for Rome;" the governor of Leghorn had but the day before done the same; but here were I know not how many officials, all assuring me that without their signatures in addition, Rome I should never see. First came the English consul, who graciously gave me—what Lord Palmerston had already given—permission to travel in the Papal States, charging me at the same time five pauls. I could not help saying, that it was all very well for nations that made no pretensions to liberty to sell to their subjects the right of moving over the earth, but that it appeared to me to be somewhat inconsistent in Britain to do so. The consul looked as if he could not bring himself to believe that he had heard aright. The number of my visa told me that I was the 4318th Englishman who had entered the port of Civita Vecchia that season. I next took my way to the French consulate in the town-hall. I found the ante-chamber filled with Etrurian antiquities, in which the district adjoining Civita Vecchia on the north is particularly rich; and the sight of these was more than worth the moderate charge of one paul, which was made for my visee. At length I got this business off my hand; and, having secured my seat in the diligence for Rome, I had leisure to take a stroll through the town.
Civita Vecchia, though the port of Rome, and raised thus above its original insignificance, is but a poor place. A black hill leans over it on the north, and a naked beach, dreary and silent, runs off from it on the south. A small square, overlooked by stately mansions, emblazoned with the arms of the consuls of the various nations, forms its nucleus, from which numerous narrow and wriggling streets run out, much like the claws of a crab, from its round bulby body. It smells rankly of garlic and other garbage, and would be much the better would the Mediterranean give it a thorough cleansing once a-week. Its population is a motley and worshipful assemblage of priests, monks, French soldiers, facini, and beggars; and it would be hard to say which is the idlest, or which is the dirtiest. They seemed to be gathered promiscuously into the caffes,—priests, facini, and all,—rattling the dice and sipping coffee. Every one you come in contact with has some pretext or other for demanding a paulo of you. The Arabs of the desert are not more greedy of backsheish. A gentleman, as well dressed as I was at least, made up to me when I had taken my seat in the diligence, and, after talking five minutes on indifferent subjects, ended by demanding a paulo. "For what?" I asked, with some little surprise. "For entertaining Signore," he replied. Yet why blame these poor people? What can they do but beg? Trade, husbandry, books,—all have fled from that doomed shore.
There are three conspicuous buildings in Civita Vecchia. Two of these are hotels; the third and largest is a prison. This is one of the State prisons of the Pope. Rising story above story, and meeting the traveller on the very threshold of the country, it thrusts somewhat too prominently upon his notice the Pope's peculiar method of propagating Christianity,—namely, by building dungeons and hiring French bayonets. But to do the Pope justice, he is most unwearied in Christianizing his subjects after his own fashion. His prisons are well-nigh as numerous as his churches; and if the latter are but thinly attended, the former are crowded. He is a man "instant in season and out of season," as a good shepherd ought to be: he watches while others sleep; for it is at night that his sbirri are most active, running about in the darkness, and carrying tenderly to a safe fold those lambs which are in danger of being devoured by the Mazzinian wolves, or ensnared by Bible heretics. But to be serious,—when one finds as many prisons as churches in a territory ruled over by a minister of the Gospel, he begins to feel that there is something frightfully wrong somewhere.
When I passed the fortress of Civita Vecchia, many a noble heart lay pining within its walls. No fewer, I was assured, than two thousand Romans were there shut up as galley-slaves, their only crime being, that they had sought to substitute a lay for a sacerdotal Government,—the regime of constitutionalism for that of infallibility. In this prison the renowned brigand Gasperoni, the uncle of the prime minister of the Pope, Antonelli, had been confined; but, being too much in the way of English travellers, he was removed farther inland. This man was wont to complain loudly to those who visited him, of the cruel injustice which the world had done his fair fame. "I have been held up," he was used to say, "as a person who has murdered hundreds. It is a foul calumny. I never cut more than thirty throats in my life." He had had, moreover, to carry on his profession at a large outlay, having to pay the Pope's police an hundred scudi a-month for information.
At last mid-day came, and off we started for Rome. We trundled down the street at a tolerable pace; and one could not help feeling that every revolution of the wheel brought him nearer the Eternal City. Suddenly our course was brought to an unexpected stop. Another examination of passports and baggage at the gate! not, I verily believe, in the hope of finding contraband wares, but of having a pretext to exact a few more pauls. The half-hour wore through, though wearily. The gate was flung open; and there lay before us a blackened expanse, stretching far and wide, dreary and death-like, terminated here by the sea, and there by the horizon,—the Campagna di Roma. I turned for relief to the ocean, all angry with tempest as it was; and felt that its struggling billows were a more agreeable sight than the tomb-like stillness of the plain. The sirocco was still blowing; and the largest breakers I ever saw were tumbling on the beach. The only bright and pleasant thing in the picture was the shining, sandy coast, with its margin of white foam. It ran off in a noble crescent of fifty miles, and was seen in the far distance terminating in the low sandy promontory of Fumacina, where the Tiber falls into the sea. Alas! what vicissitudes had that coast been witness to! There, where the idle wave was now rolling, rode in other days the galleys of Rome; and there, where the stifling sirocco was sweeping the herbless plain, rose the villas of her senators, amid the bloom and fragrance of the orange and the olive. To that coast Caesar had loved to come, to inhale its breezes, and to pass, in the society of his select friends, those hours which ambition left unoccupied. But what a change now! There was no sail on that sea; there was no dwelling on that shore: the scene was lonely and desolate, as if keel had never ploughed the one, nor human foot trodden the other.
I had seated myself in front of the vehicle, in the hope of catching the first glimpse of St Peter's, as its dome should emerge above the plain; but so wretched were our cattle, that though we started at mid-day, and had only fifty miles of road, night fell long before we reached the gates of the Eternal City. I saw the country well, however, so long as daylight lasted. We kept in sight of the shore for twenty-five miles; and glad I was of it; for the waves, with their crest of snow and voice of thunder, seemed old friends, and I shuddered to think of plunging into that black silent wilderness on the left. At the gate of Civita Vecchia the desolation begins; and such desolation! I had often read that the Campagna was desolate; I had come there expecting to find it desolate; but when I saw that desolation I was confounded. I cannot describe it; it must be seen to be conceived of. It is not that it is silent;—the Highlands of Scotland are so. It is not that it is barren;—the sands of Arabia are so. They are as they were and should be. But not so the Campagna. There is something frightfully unnatural about its desolation. A statue is as still, as silent, and as cold, as the corpse; but then it never had life; and while you love to gaze on the one, the other chills you to the heart. So is it with the Campagna. While the sands of the desert exhilarate you, and the silence of the Swiss or Scottish Highlands is felt to be sublime, the desolation of the Campagna is felt to be unnatural: it overawes and terrifies you. Such a void in the heart of Europe, and that, too, in a land which was the home of art,—where war accumulated her spoils, and wealth her treasures,—and which gave letters and laws to the surrounding world,—is unspeakably confounding. One's faith is staggered in the past history of the country. The first glance of the blackened bosom of the Campagna makes one feel as if he had retrograded to the barbarous ages, or had been carried thousands and thousands of miles from home, and set down in a savage country, where the arts had not yet been invented, or civilization dawned. Its surface is rough and uneven, as if it had been tumbled about at some former period; it is dotted with wild bushes; and here and there lonely mounds rise to diversify it. There are no houses on it, save the post-houses, which are square, tower-like buildings, having the stables below and the dwellings above. It has its patches of grass, on which herds depasture, followed by men clothed in sheepskins and goatskins, and looking as savage almost as the animals they tend. It is, in short, a wilderness, and more frightful than the other wildernesses of the earth, because the traveller feels that here there is the hand of doom. The land lies scathed and blackened under the curse of the Almighty. To Rome the words of the prophet are as applicable as to Babylon, whom she resembled in sin, and with whom she is now joined in punishment: "Because of the wrath of the Lord, it shall not be inhabited, but it shall be wholly desolate. Every one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished, and hiss at all her plagues. Cut off the sower from Babylon, and him that handleth the sickle in the time of harvest. I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah: it shall never be inhabited, neither dwelt in from generation to generation; but wild beasts of the deserts shall lie there, and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures, and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there."
About half-way to Rome the road parted company with the shore, and we turned inland over the plain. The night came on with drifting showers, which descended in torrents, lashing the naked plain, and battering our vehicle with the force and noise of a waterspout. And though at length the moon rose, and looked out at times from the cloud, she had nothing to show us but houseless, treeless desolation; and, as if scared at what she saw, she instantly hid her face in another mass of vapour. The stages were short, and the halts long; for which the postilion had but too good excuse, in the tangled web of thong and cord which formed the harnessings of his horses. The harnessing of an Italian diligence is a mystery to all but an Italian postilion. The postilion, on arriving at a stage, has to get down, shake himself, stride into the post to announce his arrival, unharness his horses, lead them deliberately into the stable, bring out the fresh ones, transfer the same harness to their backs, put them to, gulp down his glass of brandy, address a few more last observations to the loiterers, and, finally, light his cigar. He then mounts with a flourish of his whip; but his wretched nags are not able to proceed at a quicker trot than from three to four miles an hour. He meets very probably a brother of the trade, who has been at Rome, and is returning with his horses. He dismounts on the road, inquires the news, and mounts again at his pleasure. In short, you are completely in the postilion's power; and he is quite as much an autocrat in his way as the Czar himself. He sings, it may be, but his song is the very soul of melancholy,—
"Roma, Roma, Roma, non e piu, Come prima era."
It needed but a glance at that pale moon, and drifting cloud, and naked plain, to tell me that "Rome was not now as in her first age."
As the night grew late, the inquiries became more frequent, "Are we not yet at Rome?" We were not yet at Rome; but we did all that men could with four, and sometimes six, half-starved animals, bestrode by drowsy postilions, to reach it. Now we were labouring in deep roads,—now fording impetuous torrents,—and now jolting along on the hard pavement of the Via Aurelia. By the glimpses of the moon we could see the milestones by the roadside, with "ROME" upon them. Seldom has writing thrilled me so. To find a name which fills history, and which for thirty centuries has extorted the homage of the world, and still awes it, written thus upon a common milestone, and standing there amid the tempest on the roadside, had in it something of the sublime. Was it then a reality, and not a dream? and should I in a very short time be in Rome itself,—that city which had been the theatre of so many events of world-wide influence, and which for so many ages had borne sway over all the kings and kingdoms of the earth? Meanwhile the night became darker, and the torrents of rain more frequent and more heavy.
Towards midnight we began to climb a low hill. We could see that there was cultivation upon it, and, unless we were mistaken, a few villas. We had passed its summit, and were already engaged in the descent, when a terrific flash of lightning broke through the darkness, and tipped with a fiery radiance every object around us. On the left was the old hoary wall, with a whitish bulby mass hanging inside of it. On the right was a steep bank, with a few straggling vines dripping wet. The road between, on which we were winding downwards, was deep and worn. I had had my first view of Rome; but in how strange a way! In a few minutes we were standing at the gate.
Some little delay took place in opening it. The moments which one passes on the threshold of Rome are moments he never can forget. While waiting there till it should please the guard to open that old gate, the whole history of the wonderful city on whose threshold I now stood seemed to pass before my mind,—her kings, her consuls, her emperors,—her legislators, her orators, her poets,—her popes,—all seemed to stalk solemnly past, one after one. There was the great Romulus; there was the proud Tarquin; there was Scylla with his laurel, and Livy with his page, and Virgil with his lay, and Caesar with his diadem, and Brutus with his dagger; there was the lordly Augustus, the cruel Nero, the beastly Caligula, the warlike Trajan, the philosophic Antoninus, the stern Hildebrand, the infamous Borgia, the terrible Innocent; and last of all, and closing this long procession of shades, came one, with shuffling gait and cringing figure, who is not yet a shade,—Pio Nono. The creak of the old gate, as the sentinel undid its bolt and threw back its ponderous doors, awoke me from my reverie.
We were stopped the moment we had entered the gate, and desired to mount to the guard-room. In a small chamber on the city-wall, seated at a table, on which a lamp was burning, we found a little tight-made brusque French officer, busied in overhauling the passports. Declaring himself satisfied after a slight survey, he hinted pretty plainly that a few pauls would be acceptable. "Did you ever," whispered my Russian friend, "see such a people?" We were remounting our vehicle, when a soldier climbed up, with musket and fixed bayonet, and forced himself in between my companion and myself, to see us all right to the custom-house, and to take care that we dropped no counterband goods by the way. Away we trundled; but the Campagna itself was not more solitary than that rain-battered and half-flooded street. No ray streamed out from window; no sound or voice of man broke the stillness; no one was abroad; the wind moaned; and the big drops fell heavily upon the plashy lava-paved causeway; but, with these exceptions, the silence was unbroken; and, to add to the dreariness, the city was in well-nigh total darkness.
I intently scrutinized the various objects, as the glare of our lamps brought them successively into view. First there came a range of massive columns, which stalked past us, wearing in the sombre night an air of Egyptian grandeur. They came on and on, and I thought they should never have passed. Little did I dream that this was the piazza of St Peter's, and that the bulb I had seen by favour of the lightning was the dome of that renowned edifice. Next we found ourselves in a street of low, mean, mouldering houses; and in a few moments thereafter we were riding under the walls of an immense fortress, which rose above us, till its battlements were lost in the darkness. Then turning at right angles, we crossed a long bridge, with shade-like statues looking down upon us from either parapet, and a dark silent river flowing underneath. I could guess what river that was. We then plunged into a labyrinth of streets of a rather better description than the one already traversed, but equally dreary and deserted. We kept winding and turning, till, as I supposed, we had got to the heart of the city. In all that way we had not met a human being, or seen aught from which we could infer that there was a living creature in Rome. At last we found ourselves in a small square,—the site of the Forum of Antoninus, though I knew it not then,—in one of the sides of which was an iron gate, which opened to receive us, diligence and all, and which was instantly closed and locked behind us; while two soldiers, with fixed bayonets, took their stand as sentinels outside. It was a vast barn-looking, cavern-like place, with mouldering Corinthian columns built into its massive wall, and its roof hung so high as to be scarce visible in the darkness. It had been a temple of Antoninus Pius, and was now converted into the Pope's dogana or custom-house.
In a few minutes there entered a dapper, mild-faced, gentle-mannered, stealthy-paced man, with a thick long cloak thrown over his shoulders, to protect him from the night air. The Pope's dogana-master stood before us. He paced to and fro in the most unconcerned way possible; and though it was past midnight, and trunks and carpet-bags were all open and ready, he seemed reluctant to begin the search. Nevertheless the baggage was disappearing, and its owners departing at the iron gate,—a mystery I could not solve. At length this most affable of dogana-masters drew up to me, and in a quiet way, as if wishing to conceal the interest he felt in me, he shook me warmly by the hand. I felt greatly obliged to him for this welcome to Rome, but would have felt more so if, instead of this salute, he had opened the gate and let me go. In about five minutes he again came round to where I stood, and, grasping my hand a second time, gave it a yet heartier squeeze. I was at a loss to explain this sudden friendship; for I was pretty sure this exceedingly agreeable gentleman had never seen me till that moment. How long this might have lasted I know not, had not a person in the dogana, compassionating my dullness, stepped up to me, and whispered into my ear to give the searcher a few paulos. I was a little scandalized at this proposal to bribe his Holiness's servant; but I could see no chance otherwise of having the iron gate opened. Accordingly, I got ready the requisite douceur; and, waiting his return, which soon happened, took care to drop the few pauls into his palm at the next squeeze. On the instant the gate opened.
But alas! I was in a worse plight than ever. There was no commissario to be had at that hour. I was in total darkness; not a door was open; nor was there an individual in the street; and, recollecting the reputation Rome had of late acquired for midnight assassinations, I began to grow a little apprehensive. After wandering about for some time, I lighted on a French sentry, who obligingly led me to a caffe hard by, which is kept open all night. There I found a young German, an artist evidently, who, having finished his coffee, politely volunteered to conduct me to the Hotel d'Angleterre.
Tower of Capitol best Site for studying Topography of Rome—Resemblance in the Sites of great Cities—Site of Rome—Campagna di Roma—Its Extent and Boundaries—Ancient Fertility and Magnificence—Modern Desolation of Campagna—Approach to Rome from the North—Etruria—Solitariness of this once famous Highway—First Sight of Rome—The Flaminian Way—The Porta del Popolo—The Piazza del Popolo—Its Antiquities—Pincian Hill—General Plan of Rome—The Corso—The Via Ripetta—The Via Babuina—Population—Disproportionate Numbers of Priests—Variety of Ecclesiastical Costumes—Dresses of the various Orders—Their indescribably Filthy Appearance—The ordinary Priest—The Priest's Face—The Beggars—Want of Arrangement in its Edifices—Rome an unrivalled Combination of Grandeur and Dirt.
One of my first days in Rome was passed on the top of the tower of the Capitol. It is incomparably the best spot on which to study the topography of the Eternal City, with that of the surrounding region. Here one stands between the living and the dead,—between the city of the Caesars, which lies entombed on the Seven Hills, with the vine, the ivy, and the jessamine mantling its grave, and the city of the Popes, spread out with its cupolas, and towers, and everlasting chimes, on the low flat plain of the Campus Martius. The world has not such another ruin,—so vast, colossal, and magnificent,—as Rome. Let us sketch the features of the scene as they here present themselves.
There would appear to be a law determining the site, as well as the character, of great events. It has often been remarked, that there is a resemblance between all the great battle-fields of the world. One attribute in especial they all possess, namely, that of vastness; inspiring the mind of the spectator with an idea of grandeur, to which the recollection of the carnage of which they were the scene adds a feeling of melancholy. The Troy and the Marathon of the ancient world have found their representative in the modern one, in that gloomy expanse in Flanders where Napoleon witnessed the total defeat of his arms and the final overthrow of his fortunes. We would make the same remark regarding great capitals. There is a family likeness in their sites. The chief cities of the ancient world arose, for the most part, on extensive plains, nigh some great river; for rivers were the railroads of early times. I might instance queenly Thebes, which arose in the great valley of the Nile, with a boundary of fine mountains encircling the plain on which it stood. Babylon found a seat on the great plain of Chaldea, on the banks of the Euphrates. Niniveh arose on the same great plain, on the banks of the Tigris, with the glittering line of the snowy Kurdistan chain bounding its horizon. To come down to comparatively modern times, ROME has been equally fortunate with her predecessors in a site worthy of her greatness and renown. No one needs to be told that the seat of that city, which for so many ages held the sceptre of the world, is the CAMPAGNA DI ROMA.
I need not dwell on the magnificence of that truly imperial plain, to which nature has given, in a country of hills, dimensions so goodly. From the foot of the Apennines it runs on and on for upwards of an hundred miles, till it meets the Neapolitan frontier at Terracina. Its breadth from the Volscian hills to the sea cannot be less than forty miles. Towards the head of this great plain lies Rome, than which a finer site for the capital of a great empire could nowhere have been found. By nature it is most fertile; its climate is delicious. It is watered by the Tiber, which is seen winding through it like a thread of gold. A boundary of glorious hills encloses it on all sides save the south-west. On the south-east are the gentle Volscians, clothed with flourishing woods and sparkling with villas. Running up along the plain, and lying due east of Rome, are the Sabine hills, of a deep azure colour, with a fine mottling of light and shade upon their sides. Shutting in the plain on the north, and sweeping round it in a magnificent bend towards the west, are the craggy and romantic Apennines. Such was the stage on which sat invincible, eternal Rome. This plain was traversed, moreover, by thirty-three highways, which connected the city with every quarter of the habitable globe. Its surface exhibited the richest cultivation. From side to side it was covered with gardens and vineyards, in the verdure and blossoms of an almost perpetual spring; amid which rose the temples of the gods of Rome, the trophies of her warriors, the tombs and monuments of her legislators and orators, and the villas and rural retreats of her senators and merchants. Indeed, this plain would seem, in imperial times, to have been one vast city, stretching out from the white strand of the Mediterranean to the summit of the Volscian hills.
But in proportion to its GRANDEUR then is its DESOLATION now. From the sea to the mountains it lies silent, waste, unploughed, unsown,—a houseless, treeless, blackened wilderness. "Where," you exclaim, "are its highways?" They are blotted out. "Where are its temples, its palaces, its vineyards?" All swept away. Scarce a heap remains, to tell of its numerous and magnificent structures. Their very ruins are ruined. The land looks as if the foot of man had never trodden it, and the hand of man never cultivated it. Here it rises into melancholy mounds; there it sinks into hollows and pits: like that plain which God overthrew, it neither is sown nor beareth. It is inhabited by the fox, haunted by the brigand, and frequented in spring and autumn by a few herdsmen, clad in goats'-skins, and living in caves and wigwams, and reminding one, by their savage appearance, of the satyrs of ancient mythology. It is silent as a sepulchre. John Bunyan might have painted it for his "Valley of the Shadow of Death."
I shall suppose that you are approaching Rome from the north. You have disengaged yourself from the Apennines,—the picturesque Apennines,—in whose sunny vales the vine still ripens, and on whose sides the olive still lingers. You are advancing along a high plateau which rises here and there into conical mounts, on which sits some ancient and renowned city, dwindled now into a poor village, whose inhabitants are husbandmen, and who move about oppressed by the languor that weighs upon this whole land. Beneath your feet are subterranean chambers, in which mailed warriors sleep,—for it is the ancient land of Etruria over which your track lies. Before the wolf suckled Romulus, this soil had nourished a race of heroes. The road, so filled in former times by a never-failing concourse of legions going forth to battle or returning in triumph,—of consuls and legates bearing the high behests of the senate to the subject provinces,—and of ambassadors and princes coming to sue for peace, or to lay their tributary gifts at the feet of Rome,—is now solitary and untrodden, save by the traveller from a far country, or the cowled and corded pilgrim whose vow brings him to the shrine of the apostles. Stacks of mouldering brickwork attract the eye by the wayside,—the remains of temples and monuments when the land was in its prime. You scarce take note of the scattered and stunted olives which are dying through age. The fields are wretchedly tilled, where tilled at all. The country appears to grow only the more desolate, and the silence the more dreary and unsupportable, as you advance. "Roma! Roma!" is chanted forth in melancholy tones by the postilion. "Roma" is graven on the milestones; but you cannot persuade yourself that Rome you shall find in the heart of a desert like this. You have gained the brow of a low hill; you have passed the summit, and got half-way down the declivity; when suddenly a vision bursts on your sight that rivets you to the spot. There is the Tiber rolling its yellow floods at your feet; and there, spread out in funereal gloom between the mountains and the sea, is the CAMPAGNA DI ROMA. The spectacle is sublime, despite its desolation. There is but one object in the vast expanse, but that is truly a majestic one. Alone, on the silent plain, judgment-stricken and sackcloth-clad, occupying the same spot where she "glorified herself and lived deliciously," and said in her heart, "I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow," is ROME.
You are to cross the Tiber. Already your steps are on the Pons Milvius, where Christianity triumphed over Paganism in the person of Constantine, and over the parapet of which Maxentius, in his flight, flung the seven-branched golden candlestick, which Titus brought from the temple of Jerusalem. The Flaminian way, which you are now to traverse, runs straight to the gate of Rome. In front is the long line of the city walls, within which you can descry the proud dome of St Peter's, the huge rotundity of St Angelo, or "Hadrian's Mole," and a host of inferior cupolas and towers, which in any other city would suffice to give a character to the place, but are here thrown into the shade by the two unrivalled structures I have named. You are not less than two miles from the gate; yet such are the purity and transparency of an Italian sky, that every stone almost in the old wall,—every scar which the hand of time or the ravages of war have made in it,—is visible. As you advance, Monte Mario rises on the right, with a temple on its crest, and rows of pine-trees and cypresses on its sides. On the left, at a goodly distance, are seen the purple hills of Frascati and Albano, with their delicate chequering of light and shadow, and the Tiber, appearing to burst like a river of gold from their azure bosom. The beauty of these objects is much heightened by the blackness of the plain around.
We now enter Rome. The square in which we find ourselves,—the Porta del Popolo,—is worthy of Rome. It is a clean, neatly-paved quadrangular area, of an hundred and fifty by an hundred yards in extent, edged on all sides by noble mansions. Fronting you as you enter the gate are the domes of two fine churches, in one of which Luther preached when he was in Rome. Between them the Corso is seen shooting out in a long narrow line of lofty facades, traversing the entire length of the city from north to south. On the right is the house of Mr Cass, the United States' consul, behind which rises a series of hanging gardens. There was dug the grave of Nero; but the ashes of the man before whom the world trembled cannot now be found. On the left rises the terraced slope of the Pincian hill, with its galleries, its statues, its stately cypresses, and its noble carriage-drive. On the opposite declivity are the gardens of Sallust, looking down on the campus sceleratus, where the unfaithful vestal-virgins were burned.
In the middle of the spacious area is a fine fountain, whose waters are received into a spacious basin, guarded by marble lions. And there, too, stands the obelisk of Rhamses I., severe and solemn, a stranger, like ourselves, from a far land. This is the same which that monarch erected before the Temple of the Sun in Heliopolis, the ON of Scripture, and which Augustus transported to Rome. It is a single block of red granite, graven from top to bottom with hieroglyphics, which it is quite possible the eyes of Moses may have scanned. When that column was hewn, not a stone had been laid on the Capitol, and the site of Rome was a mere marsh; yet here it stands, with its mysterious scroll still unread. Speak, stranger, and tell us, with thy deep Coptic voice, the secrets of four thousand years ago. Say, wouldst thou not like to revisit thy native Nile, and spend thine age beside the tombs of the Pharaohs, the companions of thy youth, and amidst the congenial silence of the sands of Egypt?
The traveller who would enjoy the finest view of the modern city must ascend the Pincian hill. In the basin beneath him he beholds spread out a flat expanse of red-tiled roofs, traversed by the long line of the Corso, and bristling with the tops of innumerable domes, columns, and obelisks. Some thirty or forty cupolas give an air of grandeur to the otherwise uninteresting mass of red; and conspicuous amongst these, over against the spectator, is the princely dome of St Peter's, and the huge bulk of the Castle of St Angelo. The Tiber is seen creeping sluggishly at the base of the Janiculum, the sides of which are thinly dotted with villas and gardens, while its summit is surmounted by a long stretch of the old wall.
Standing in the Piazza del Popolo, the person is in a good position for comprehending the arrangement of modern Rome. Here three streets have their rise, which, running off in diverging lines, like spokes from the nave of a wheel, traverse the city, and form, with the cross streets which connect them, the osteology of the Eternal City. This at least is the arrangement which obtains till you reach the region lying around the Capitol, which is an inextricable network of lanes, courts, and streets. The centre one of the three streets we have indicated is the Corso. It is a good mile in length, and runs straight south, extending from the Flaminian gate to almost the foot of the Capitol. To an English eye it is wanting in breadth, though the most spacious street in Rome. It is but indifferently kept in point of cleanliness, though the most fashionable promenade of the Romans. Here only you find anything resembling a flag-pavement: all the other streets are causewayed from side to side with small sharp pieces of lava, which pain the foot at every step. The shops are small and dark, resembling those of our third and fourth-rate towns, and exhibiting in their wares a superabundance of cameos, mosaics, Etruscan vases, and statuary,—these being almost the sole native manufacture of Rome. It is adorned with several truly noble palaces, and with the colonnades and porticos of a great number of churches. It was the boast of the Romans that the Pope could say mass in a different church every day of the year. This, we believe, is true, there being more than three hundred and sixty churches in that city, but not one copy of the Bible that is accessible by the people.
The second street,—that on the right,—is the Via Ripetta, which leads off in the direction of St Peter's and the Vatican. It takes one nigh the tomb of Augustus, now converted into a hippodrome; the Pantheon, whose pristine beauty remains undefaced after twenty centuries; the Collegio Romano; and, towards the foot of the Capitol, the Ghetto,—a series of mean streets, occupied by the Jews. The third street,—that on the left,—is the Via Babuino. It traverses the more aristocratic quarter of Rome,—if we can use such a phrase in reference to a city whose nobles are lodging-house keepers, and live—
"Garreted In their ancestral palace,"—
running on by the Piazza di Spagna, which the English so much frequent, to the Quirinal, the Pope's summer palace, and the form of Trajan, whose column, after the many copies which have been made of it, still stands unrivalled and unapproached in beauty.
"And though the passions of man's fretful race Have never ceased to eddy round its base, Not injured more by touch of meddling hands Than a lone obelisk 'mid Nubian sands."
On the Corso there is considerable bustle. The little buying and selling that is done in Rome is transacted here. Half the population that one sees in the Corso are priests and French soldiers. The population of Rome is not much above an hundred thousand; its ecclesiastical persons, however, are close on six thousand. Let us imagine, if we can, the state of things were the ecclesiastics of all denominations in Scotland to be doubled, and the whole body to be collected into one city of the size of Edinburgh! Such is the state of Rome. The great majority of these men have no duty to do, beyond the dreary and monotonous task of the daily lesson in the breviary. They have no sermons to write and preach; they do not visit the sick; they have no books or newspapers; they have no family duties to perform. With the exception of the Jesuits, who are much employed in the confessional, the whole fraternity of regulars and seculars, white, black, brown, and gray, live on the best, and literally do nothing. But, of course, six thousand heads cannot be idle. The amount of mischief that must be continually brewing in Rome,—the wars that shake convents,—the gossip and scandal that pollute society,—the intrigues that destroy families,—may be more easily imagined than told. Were the secret history of that city for but one short week to be written, what an astounding document it would be! and what a curious commentary on that mark of a "true Church," unity! Well were it for the world were the plots hatched in Rome felt only within its walls.
On the streets of the Eternal City you meet, of course, every variety of ecclesiastical costume. The eye is at first bewildered with the motley show of gowns, cloaks, cowls, scapulars, and veils; of cords, crosses, shaven heads, and naked feet,—provoking the reflection what a vast deal of curious gear it takes to teach Christianity! There you have the long black robe and shovel hat of the secular priest; the tight-fitting frock and little three-cornered bonnet of the Jesuit; the shorn head and black woollen garment of the Benedictine;—there is the Dominican, with his black cloak thrown over his white gown, and his shaven head stuck into a slouching cowl;—there is the Franciscan, with his half-shod feet, his three-knotted cord, and his coarse brown cloak, with its numerous pouches bulging with the victuals he has been begging for;—there is the Capuchin, with his bushy beard, his sandaled feet, his patched cloak, and his funnel-shaped cowl, reminding one of Harlequin's cap;—there is the Carmelite, with shaven head begirt with hairy continuous crown, loose flowing robe, and broad scapular;—there is the red gown of the German student, and the wallet of the begging friar. This last has been out all morning begging for the poor, and is now returning with replenished wallet to his convent on the Capitol, where dwell monks now, as geese aforetime. After dining on the contents of his well-filled sack, with a slight addition from the vineyards of the Capitol, he will scatter the crumbs among the crowd of beggars which may be seen at this hour climbing the convent stairs.
But however these various orders may differ in the colour of their cloaks or the shape of their tonsure, there is one point in which they all agree,—that is, dirt. They are indescribably filthy. Clean water and soap would seem to be banished the convents, as indulgences of the flesh which cannot be cherished without deadly peril to the soul, and which are to be shunned like heresy itself. They smell like goats; and one trembles to come within the droppings of their cloak, lest he should carry away a few little souvenirs, which the "holy man" might be glad to part with. A fat, stalwart, bacchant, boorish race they are, giving signs of anything but fasting and flagellation; and I know of nothing that would so dissipate the romance which invests monks and nuns in the eyes of some, like bringing a ship-load of them over to this country, and letting their admirers see and smell them.
Even the ordinary priest appears but little superior to the monk in the qualities we have named. Dirty in person, slovenly in dress, and wearing all over a careless, fearless, bullying air, he looks very little the gentleman, and, if possible, less the clergyman. But in Rome he can afford to despise appearances. Is he not a priest, and is not Rome his own? Accordingly, he plants his foot firmly, as if he felt, like Antaeus, that he touches his native earth; he sweeps the crowd around with a full, scornful, defiant eye; and should Roman dare to measure glances with him, that brow of brass would frown him into the dust. In Rome the "priest's face" attains its completest development. That face has not its like among all the faces of the world. It is the same in all countries, and can be known under every disguise,—a soldier's uniform or a porter's blouse. At Maynooth you may see it in all stages of growth; but at Rome it is perfected; and when perfected, there is an entire blotting out of all the kindly emotions and human sympathies, and there meets the eye something that is at once below and above the face of man. If we could imagine the scorn, pride, and bold bad daring of one of Milton's fallen angels, grafted on a groundwork of animal appetites, we should have a picture something like the priest's face.
The priests will not be offended should the beggars come next in our notice of the Eternal City. The beggars of Rome are almost an institution of themselves; and, though not chartered, like the friars, their numbers and their ancient standing have established their rights. What is it that strikes you on first entering the "Holy City?" Is it its noble monuments,—its fine palaces,—its august temples? No; it is its flocks of beggars. You cannot halt a moment, but a little colony gathers round you. Every church has its beggar, and sometimes a whole dozen. If you wish to ascertain the hours of any ceremony in a church, you are directed to ask its beggar, as here you would the beadle. Every square, every column, every obelisk, every fountain, has its little colony of beggars, who have a prescriptive right to levy alms of all who come to see these objects. We shall afterwards advert to the proof thence arising as to the influence of the system of which this city is the seat.
Rome, though it surpasses all the cities of the earth in the number, beauty, and splendour of its public monuments, is imposing only in parts. It presents no effective tout ensemble. Some of its noblest edifices are huddled into corners, and lost amid a crowd of mean buildings. The Pantheon rises in the fish-market. The Navonna Mercato, which has the finest fountain in Italy, is a rag-fair. The church of the Lateran is approached through narrow rural lanes. The splendid edifice of St Paul's stands outside the walls, in the midst of swamps and marshes so unwholesome, that there is not a house near it. The meanest streets of Rome are those that lie around St Peter's and the Vatican. The Corso is in good part a line of noble palaces; but in other parts of the city you pass through whole streets, consisting of large massive structures, once comfortable mansions, but now squalid, filthy, and unfurnished hovels, resembling the worst dens of our great cities. It cannot fail to strike one, too, as somewhat anomalous, that there should be such a vast deal of ruins and rubbish in the Eternal City. And as regards its sanitary condition, there may be a great deal of holiness in Rome, but there is very little cleanliness in it. When a shower falls, and the odour of the garbage with which the streets are littered is exhaled, the smell is insufferable. One had better not describe the spectacles that one sees every day on the marble stairs of the churches. The words of Archenholtz in the end of last century are still applicable:—"Filth," says he, "infects all the great places of Rome except that of St. Peter's; nor would this be excepted from the general rule, but that it lies at greater distance from the dwellings. It is incredible to what a pitch filthiness is carried in Rome. As palaces and houses are mostly open, their entrance is usually rendered unsufferable, being made the receptacle of the most disgustful wants." In fine, Rome is the most extraordinary combination of grandeur and ruin, magnificence and dirt, glory and decay, which the world ever saw. We must distinguish, however: the grandeur has come down to the Popes from their predecessors,—the filth and ruin are their own.
ANCIENT ROME—THE SEVEN HILLS.
Site of Ancient Rome—Calm after the Storm—The Seven Hills—Their General Topography—The Aventine—The Palatine—The Ruins of the Palace of Caesar—View of Ruins of Rome from the Palatine—The Caelian—The Viminale—The Quirinal—Other two Hills, the Janiculum and the Vatican—The Forum—The Arch of Titus—The Coliseum—The Mamertine Prison—External Evidence of Christianity—Rome furnishes overwhelming Proofs of the Historic Truth of the New Testament—These stated—The Three Witnesses in the Forum—The Antichrist come—Coup d'OEil of Rome.
But where is the Rome of the Caesars, that great, imperial, and invincible city, that during thirteen centuries ruled the world? If you would see her, you must seek for her in the grave. You are standing, I have supposed, on the tower of the Capitol, with your face towards the north, gazing down on the flat expanse of red roofs, bristling with towers, columns, and domes, that covers the plain at your feet. Turn now to the south. There is the seat of her that once was mistress of the world. There are the Seven Hills. They are furrowed, tossed, cleft; and no wonder. The wars, revolutions, and turmoils of two thousand years have rolled their angry surges over them; but now the strife is at an end; and the calm that has succeeded is deep as that of the grave. These hills, all unconscious of the past, form a scene of silent and mournful beauty, with fragments of temples protruding through their soil, and humble plants and lowly weeds covering their surface.
The topography of these famous hills it is not difficult to understand. If you make the Capitoline in which you stand the centre one, the remaining six are ranged round it in a semi-circle. They are low broad swellings or mounts, of from one to two miles in circumference. We shall take them as they come, beginning at the west, and coming round to the north.
First comes the AVENTINE. It rises steep and rocky, with the Tiber washing its north-western base. It is covered with the vines and herbs of neglected gardens, amid which rises a solitary convent and a few shapeless ruins. At its southern base are the baths of Caracalla, which, next to the Coliseum, are the greatest ruin in Rome.
Descend its eastern slope,—cross the valley of the Circus Maximus,—and you begin to climb the PALATINE hill, the most famous of the seven. The Palatine stands forward from the circular line, and is divided from where you stand only by the little plain of the Forum. It was the seat of the first Roman colony; and when Rome grew into an empire, the palace of the Caesars rose upon it, and the Palatine was henceforward the abode of the world's master. The site is nearly in the middle of ancient Rome, and commands a fine view of the other hills, the Capitol only overtopping it. The imperial palace which rose on its summit must have been a conspicuous as well as imposing object from every part of the city. Three thousand columns are said to have adorned an edifice, the saloons, libraries, baths, and porticos of which, the wealth and art of ancient Rome had done their utmost to make worthy of their imperial occupant. A dark night has overwhelmed the glory that once irradiated this mount. It is now a huge mountain of crumbling brickwork, bearing on its broad level top a luxuriant display of cabbages and vines, amid which rise the humble walls of a convent, and a small but tasteful villa, which is owned, strange to say, by an Englishman. The proprietor of the villa and the little colony of monks are now the only inhabitants of the Palatine. In walking over it, you stumble upon blocks of marble, remains of terraces, vaults still retaining their frescoes, arches, porticos, and vast substructions of brickwork, all crushed and blended into one common ruin. In these halls power dwelt and crime revelled: now the owl nestles in their twilight vaults, and the ivy mantles their crumbling ruins. The western side of this mound rises steep and lofty, crested with a row of noble cypress trees. They are tall and upright, and wear in the mind's eye a shadowy shroud of gloom, looking like mourners standing awed and grief-stricken beside the grave of the Caesars. When the twilight falls and the stars come out, their dark moveless figures, relieved against the sky, present a sight peculiarly impressive and solemn.
The general aspect and condition of the Palatine have been sketched by Byron with his usual power:—
"Cypress and ivy, weed and wallflower, grown, Matted and massed together, hillocks heaped On what were chambers, arch crushed, column strown In fragments, choked up vaults, and frescoes steeped In subterranean damps, where the owl peeped, Deeming it midnight;—temples, baths, or halls, Pronounce who can; for all that learning reaped From her research hath been, that these are walls. Behold the imperial mount! 'tis thus the mighty falls."
But Cowper rises to a yet higher pitch, and reads the true moral which is taught by this fallen mount. For to Rome may we apply his lines on the fall of the once proud monarchy of Spain.
"Art thou, too, fallen, Iberia? Do we see The robber and the murderer weak as we? Thou that hast wasted earth, and dared despise Alike the wrath and mercy of the skies, Thy pomp is in the grave, thy glory laid Low in the pits thine avarice has made. We come with joy from our eternal rest, To see the oppressor in his turn oppressed. Art thou the god, the thunder of whose hand Rolled over all our desolated land, Shook principalities and kingdoms down, And made the mountains tremble at his frown? The sword shall light upon thy boasted powers, And waste them, as thy sword has wasted ours. 'Tie thus Omnipotence his law fulfils, And Vengeance executes what Justice wills."
One day I ascended the Palatine, picking my steps with care, owing to the abominations of all kinds that cover the path, to spend an hour on the mount, and survey from thence the mighty wrecks of empire strewn around it. The steps of the stair by which I ascended were formed of blocks of marble, the half-effaced carvings on which showed that they had formed parts of former edifices. Protruding from the soil, and strewn over its surface, were fragments of columns and capitols of pillars. I emerged on the summit at the spot where the vestibule of Nero's palace is supposed to have stood. I thought of the guards, the senators, the ambassadors, that had crowded this spot,—the spoils, trophies, and monuments, that had adorned it; and my heart sank at the sight of its naked desolation and dreary loneliness. The flat top of the hill ran off to the south, covered with a various and somewhat incongruous vegetation. Here was a thicket of laurels, and there a clump of young oaks; here a garden of vines, and there rows of cabbages. A monk, habited in brown, was looking out at the door of his convent; and one or two women were busy among the vegetables, making up a load for market. On the farther edge of the hill rose the tall, moveless, silent cypresses of which I have spoken. On the right rose the square tower of the Capitol, with the perperine substructions of its Tabularium, coeval with the age of the kings; and skirting its base were the cupolas of modern churches, and the nodding columns of fallen temples, beautiful even in their ruin, and more eloquent than Cicero, whose living voice had often been heard on the spot where they now moulder in silent decay. A little nearer was the naked, jagged front of the Tarpeian rock, crested a-top with gardens, and its base buried in rubbish, which is slowly gaining on its height. In front was a noble bend of the Tiber, rolling on in mournful majesty, amid the majestic silence of these mighty desolations. Beyond were the red roofs and mean streets of the Trastevere, with the empty upland slope of the Janiculum, crowned by the line of the gray wall. Behind, and immediately beneath me, was the Forum, where erst the Romans assembled to enact their laws and choose their magistrates. A ragged line of ghastly ruins,—porticos without temples, and temples without porticos, their noble vaultings yawning like caverns in the open day,—was seen bounding its farther edge. Its floor was a rectangular expanse of shapeless swellings and yawning pits. Here reposed a herd of buffaloes; there a little drove of swine; yonder stood a row of carts; and in the midst of these noways picturesque objects rose the gray arch of Titus. At its base sat a beggar; while an artist, at a little distance, was sketching it with the calotype. A peasant was traversing the Via Sacra, bearing to his home a supply of city-baked bread. A dozen or two of old men with spades and barrows were clearing away the earth from the ruins of the Temple of Venus and Rome. In the south-eastern angle of the plain rose the titanic bulk of the Coliseum, fearfully gashed and torn, yet sublime in its decay. Over the furrowed and ragged summits of the Caelian and Esquiline mounts were seen the early snows, glittering on the peaks of the Volscian and Sabine range. Such was the scene which presented itself to me from the top of the Palatine. How different, I need not say, from that which must have often met the eye of Caesar from the same point, prompting the proud boast,—"Is not this great" Rome, "that I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?" "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, that didst weaken the nations!... Is this the man that did make the earth to tremble,—that did shake kingdoms,—that made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof?"
A little eastward of the Palatine, and seen over its shoulder, as surveyed from the tower of the Capitol, is the CAELIAN Mount. Its summit is marked by the ruins of an ancient edifice,—the Curia Hostilia,—and the statued front of a modern temple,—the church of S. John Lateran, which is even more renowned in the pontifical annals than the other is in classic story. Moving your eye across the valley of the Forum, it falls upon the flat surface of the ESQUILINE. It is marked, like the former, by an ancient ruin and a modern edifice. Amid its vineyards and rural lanes rise the massive remains of the baths of Titus, and the gorgeous structure of Maria Maggiore. The VIMINALE comes next; but forming, as it did, a plain betwixt the Esquiline and the Quirinal, it is difficult to trace its limits. It is distinguishable mainly by the baths of Dioclesian, now a French barrack, and the church of San Lorenzo, which occupies its highest point. The QUIRINAL is the last of the Seven Hills. It is covered with streets, and crowned with the summer palace and gardens of the Pope.
Thus have we made the tour of the Seven Hills, commencing at the Aventine on the extreme right, and proceeding in a semicircular line over the low swellings which lie in their peaceful covering of flower and weed, onward to the Quirinal, which rises, with its glittering casements, on the extreme left. They hold in their arms, as it were, modern Rome, with the Tiber, like a golden belt, tying in the city, and bounding the Campus Martius, on which it is seated. On the west of the Tiber are other two hills, which, though not of the seven, are worth mentioning. The first is the JANICULUM, with the Trastevere at its base. The inhabitants of this district pride themselves on their pure Roman blood, and look down upon the rest of the inhabitants as a mixed race; and certainly, if ferocious looks and continual frays can make good their claim, they must be held as a colony of the olden time, which, nestling in this nook of Rome, have escaped the intermixtures and revolutions of eighteen centuries. It has been remarked that there is a striking resemblance between their faces and those of the ancient Romans, as graven on the arch of Titus. They are the nearest neighbours of the Pope, whose own hill, the VATICAN, rises a little to the north of them. On the Vatican mount stood anciently the circus of Nero; and here many of the early Christians, amid unutterable torments, yielded up their lives. On the spot where they died have arisen the church of St Peter and the palace of the Vatican,—now but another name for whatever is formidable to the liberties of the world.
But beyond question, the spot of all others the most interesting in Rome is the Forum. You look right down into it from where you stand. Whether it be the eloquence, or the laws, or the victories, or the magnificent monuments of ancient Rome, the light reflected from them all is concentrated on this plain. How often has Tully spoken here! How often has Caesar trodden it! Over that very pavement which the excavations have laid bare, the chariots of Scylla, and of Titus, and of a hundred other warriors, have rolled. But the triumphs which this plain witnessed, once deemed eternal, are ended now; and the clods which that Italian slave turns up, or which that priest treads on so proudly, are perchance part of the dust of that heroic race which conquered the world. The tombs of the Caesars are empty now, and their ashes have been scattered long since over the soil of Rome. Of the many beautiful edifices that stood around this plain, not one remains entire: a few mouldering columns, half buried in rubbish, or dug out of the soil, only remain to show where temples stood. But there is one little arch which has survived that dire tempest of ruin in which temple and tower went down,—the Arch of Titus, which has sculptured upon its marble the sad story of the fall of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews. That little arch, wonderful to tell, stands between two mighty ruins,—the fallen palace of the Caesars on the one hand, and the kingly but ruined mass of the Coliseum on the other.
As regards the Coliseum, architects, I believe, do not much admire it; but to myself, who did not look at it with a professional eye, it seemed as if I had never seen a ruin half so sublime. I never grew weary of gazing upon it. It rises amid the hoar ruins of Rome, scarred and rent, yet wearing an eternal youth; for with the most colossal size it combines in the very highest degree simplicity of design and beauty of form. To stand on its area, and survey the sweep of its broken benches, is to feel as if you were standing in the midst of an amphitheatre of hills, and were gazing on concentric mountain-ranges. How powerfully do its associations stir the soul! How many spirits now in glory have died on that arena! The Romans, we shall suppose, have been occupied all day in witnessing mimic fights, which display the skill, but do not necessarily imperil the life, of the combatants. But now the sun is westering; the shadow of the Palatine begins to creep across the Forum, and the villas on the Alban hills burn in the setting rays, and the Romans, before retiring to their homes, demand their last grand spectacle,—the death of some poor unhappy captive or gladiator. The victim steps upon the arena amid the deep stillness of the overwhelming multitude. It is no mimic combat his: he is "appointed to death." This lets us into the peculiar force of Paul's words, "I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were, appointed to death; for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men."
But the most touching recollection connected with this city is this,—even that part of the Word of God was written in it, and that a greater than Caesar has trodden its soil. A few paces below where we stand is the Mamertine prison, in whose dungeons, it is probable, Paul was confined; for this was the state-prison, and offences against religion were accounted state-offences. It is hewn in the rock of the Capitoline hill, dungeon below dungeon; and when surveying it, I could not but feel, that among all the exploits of Roman valour, there was not one half so heroic as that of the man who, with a cruel death staring him in the face, could sit down in this dungeon, where day never dawned, and write these heroic words,—"I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."
Here I may be allowed to allude to a branch of the external evidence of Christianity which has not received all the notice to which it is entitled. When surveying from the tower of the Capitol the ruins of ancient Rome, I felt strongly the absurdity—the almost idiotcy—of denying the historic truth of Christianity. On such a spot one might as well deny that ancient Rome existed, as deny that Christianity was preached here eighteen centuries ago, and rose upon the ruins of paganism. At the distance of Rome, and amid the darkness of Italian ignorance, we can conceive of a Roman holding that the life of Knox is a fable,—that no such man ever existed, or ever preached in Scotland, or ever effected the Reformation from Popery. But bring him to the Castle Hill of Edinburgh,—bid him look round upon city and country, studded with the churches and schools of the reformed faith, planted by Knox,—show him the mouldering remains of the old cathedrals from which the priesthood and faith of Rome were driven out,—and, unless his mind is constituted in some extraordinary way, he would no longer doubt that such a man as Knox existed, and that Scotland has been reformed from Romanism to Presbyterianism. So is it at Rome. Around you are the temples of the ancient paganism. Here are ruins still bearing the inscriptions and effigies of the pagan deities and the pagan rites. Can any sane man doubt that paganism once reigned here? You can trace the history of its reign still graven on the ruins of Rome; but you can trace it down till only seventeen centuries ago: then it suddenly stops; a new writing appears upon the stones; a new religion has acquired the ascendancy in Rome, and left its memorials graven upon pillar, and column, and temple. Can any man doubt that Paul visited this city,—that he preached here, as the "Acts of the Apostles" records,—and that, after two centuries of struggles and martyrdoms, the faith which he preached triumphed over the paganism of Rome? Look along the Via Sacra,—that narrow paved road which leads southward from the Capitol: the very stones over which the chariot of Scylla rolled are still there. The road runs straight between the Palatine Mount, where the ivy and the cypress strive to mantle the ruins of the palace of the Caesars, and the wonderful and ever beautiful structure of the Coliseum. In the valley between is a beautiful arch of marble,—the Arch of Titus. The palace of the world's master lies in ruins on the one side of it; the Coliseum, the largest single structure which human hands ever created, stands rent, and scarred, and bowed, on the other; and between these two mighty ruins this little arch rises entire. What a wonderful providence has spared it! On that arch is graven the record of the fall of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews; and the great fact of the existence of the Old Testament economy is also attested upon it; for there plainly appears on the stone, the furniture of the temple, the golden candlestick, the table of shew-bread, and the silver trumpets. But further, about two miles to the south of Rome are the Catacombs. In these catacombs, which, not unlike the coal-mines of our own country, traverse under ground the Campagna for a circuit of many miles, the early Christians, lived during the primitive persecutions. There they worshipped, there they died, and there they were buried; and their simple tombstones, recording that they died in peace, and in the hope of eternal life through Christ, are still to be seen to the number of many thousands. How came these tombstones there, if early Christianity and the early martyrs be a fable? If Christianity be a forgery, the arch of Titus, with its sacred symbols, is also a forgery; the catacombs, with all their tombstones, are also a forgery; and the hundred monuments in Rome, with the traces of early Christianity graven upon them, are also a forgery; and the person or persons who forged Christianity, in order to give currency to their forgery, must have been at the incredible pains of building the arch of Titus, and chiselling out its sculpture work; they must have dug out the catacombs, and filled them, with infinite labour, with forged tombstones; and they must have covered the monuments of Rome with forged inscriptions. Would any one have been at the pains to have done all this, or could he have done it without being detected? When the Romans rose in the morning, and saw these forged inscriptions, they must have known that they were not there the day before, and would have exposed the trick. But the idea is absurd, and no man can seriously entertain it whom an inveterate scepticism has not smitten with the extreme of senility or idiotcy. There is far more evidence at Rome for the historic truth of Christianity than for the existence of Julius Caesar or of Scipio, or of any of the great men whose existence no one ever takes it into his head to doubt.
Here, in the Forum, are THREE WITNESSES, which testify respectively to three leading facts of Christianity. These witnesses are,—the Arch of Titus, the fallen Palace on the Palatine, and the Column of Phocas. The Arch of Titus proclaims the end of the Old Testament economy; for there, graven on its marble, is the record of the fall of the temple, and the dispersion of the Jewish nation. The ruin on the Palatine tells that the "let" which hindered the revelation of the Man of Sin has now been "taken out of the way," as Paul foretold; for there lies the prostrate throne of the Caesars, which, while it stood, effectually forbade the rise of the popes. But this solitary pillar, which stands erect where so many temples have fallen, with what message is it freighted? It witnesses to the rise of Antichrist. That column rose with the popes; for Phocas set it up to commemorate the assumption of the title of Universal Bishop by the pastor of Rome; and here has it been standing all the while, to proclaim that "that wicked" is now revealed, "whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming." Such is the united testimony borne by these three Witnesses,—even that the Antichrist is come.
To complete this coup d'oeil of Rome, it is necessary only that we transfer our gaze for an instant to the more distant objects. Though swept, as the site of Rome now is, with the besom of destruction, the outlines, which no ruin can obliterate, are yet grand as ever. Immediately beneath you are the red roofs and glittering domes of the city; around is a gay fringe of vineyards and gardens; and beyond is the dark bosom of the Campagna, stretching far and wide, meeting the horizon on the west and south, and confined on the east and north by a wall of glorious hills,—the sweet Volscians, the blue Sabines, the craggy Apennines, with their summits—at least when I saw them—hoary with the snows of winter. Spectacle terrible and sublime! Ruin colossal and unparalleled! The Campagna is a vast hall, amid the funereal shadows and unbroken stillness of which repose in mournful state the ASHES OF ROME.
STRIKING OBJECTS IN ROME.
The Baths of Caracalla—The Catacombs—Evidence thence arising against Romanism—The Scala Santa, or Pilate's Stairs—Peasants from Rimini climbing them—Irreverence of Devotees—Unequal Terms on which the Pope offers Heaven—Church of Ara Caeli—The Santissimo Bambino—Conversation with the Monks who exhibit it—The Ghetto, or Jew's Quarter—Efforts to Convert them to Romanism—Tyrannical Restrictions still imposed upon them—Their Ineradicable Characteristics of Race—The Vatican—The Apollo Belvedere—Pio Nono—His Dress and Person—St Peter's—Its Grandeur and Uselessness—Motto on Egyptian Obelisk—Gate of San Pancrazio—Graves of the French—The Convents—Exhibition of Nuns—Collegio Romano and Father Perrone—An American Student—The English Protestant Chapel—Preaching there—American Chaplain—Collection in Rome for Building a Cathedral in London—Sermon on Immaculate Conception in Church of Gesu—Ave Maria—Family Worship in Hotel—Early Christians of Rome—Paul.
I have already mentioned my arrival at midnight, and how thankful I was to find an open door and an empty bed at the Hotel d'Angleterre. The reader may guess my surprise and joy at discovering next morning that I had slept in a chamber adjoining that of my friend Mr Bonar, from whom I had parted, several weeks before, at Turin. After breakfast, we sallied out to see the Catacombs. I had found Rome in cloud and darkness on the previous night; and now, after a deceitful morning gleam, the storm returned with greater violence than ever. Torrents swept the streets; the lightning was flashing on the old monuments; fearful peals of thunder were rolling above the city; and we were compelled oftener than once during our ride to seek the shelter of an arched way from the deluge of rain that poured down upon us. Skirting the base of the Palatine, and emerging on the Via Appia, we arrived at the Baths of Caracalla, which we had resolved to visit on our way to the Catacombs. No words can describe the ghastly grandeur of this stupendous ruin, which, next to the Coliseum, is the greatest in Rome. Besides its saloons, theatre, and libraries, it contained, it is said, sixteen hundred chairs for bathers. As was its pristine splendour, so now is its overthrow. Its cyclopean walls, and its vast chambers, the floors of which are covered to the depth of some twelve or twenty feet with fallen masses of the mosaic ceiling, like immense boulders which have rolled down from some mountain's top, are spread over an area of about a mile in circuit. The ruins, here capped with sward and young trees, there rising in naked jagged turrets like Alpine peaks, had a romantic effect, which was not a little heightened by the alternate darkness of the thunder-cloud that hung above them, and the incessant play of the lightning among their worn pinnacles.
Resuming our course along the Appian Way, we passed the tomb of the Scipios; and, making our exit by the Sebastian gate, we came, after a ride of two miles in the open country, to the basilica of San Sebastiano, erected over the entrance to the Catacombs. Pulling a bell which hung in the vestibule, a monk appeared as our cicerone, and we might have been pardoned a little misgiving in committing ourselves to such a guide through the bowels of the earth. His cloak was old and tattered, his face was scourged with scorbutic disease, misery or flagellation had worn him to the bone, and his restless eye cast uneasy glances on all around. He carried in his hand a little bundle of tallow candles, as thin and worn as himself almost; and, having lighted them, he gave one to each of us, and bade us follow. We descended with him into the doubtful night. The place was a long shaft or corridor, dug out of the brown tuffo rock, with the roof about two feet overhead, and the breadth two thirds or so of the height. The descent was easy, the turnings frequent, and light there was none, save the glimmerings of our slender tapers. The origin of the Catacombs is still a disputed question; but the most probable opinion is, that they were formed by digging out the pozzolana or volcanic earth, which was used as a cement in the great buildings of Rome. They extend in a zone round the city, and form a labyrinth of subterranean galleries, which traverse the Campagna, reaching, according to some, to the shore of the Mediterranean. He who adventures into them without a guide is infallibly lost. They speak at Rome of a professor and his students, to the number of sixty, who entered the Catacombs fifty years ago, and have not yet returned. Certain it is, that many melancholy accidents have occurred in them, which have induced the Government to wall them up to a certain extent. I had not gone many yards till I felt that I was entirely at the mercy of the monk, and that, should he play me false, I must remain where I was till doomsday.
But what invests the Catacombs with an interest of so touching a kind is the fact, that here the Christian Church, in days of persecution, made her abode. What! in darkness, and in the bowels of the earth? Yes: such were the Christians which that age produced. At every few paces along the galleries you see the quadrangular excavations in which the dead were laid. There, too, are the niches in which lamps were placed, so needful in the subterranean gloom; and occasionally there opens to your taper a large square chamber, with its walls of dark-brownish tuffo and its stuccoed roof, which has evidently been used for family purposes, or as a chapel. How often has the voice of prayer and praise resounded here! The Catacombs are a stupendous monument of the faith and constancy of the primitive Church. You have the satisfaction here of knowing that you have the very scenes before you that met the eyes of the first Christians. Time has not altered them; superstition has not disfigured them. Such as they were when the primitive believers fled to them from a Nero's cruelty or a Domitian's tyranny, so are they now.
These remarkable excavations were well known down till the sixth century. Amid the barbarism of the ages that succeeded, all knowledge of them was lost; but in the beginning of the sixteenth century, when the art of printing had been invented, and the world could profit by the discovery, the Catacombs were re-opened. Most of the gravestones were removed to the Vatican, and built into the Lapidaria Galleria, where I spent a day copying them; but so accurately have they been described by Maitland, in his "Church in the Catacombs," that I beg to refer the reader who wishes farther information respecting these deeply interesting memorials, to his valuable work. They are plain, unchiselled slabs of marble, with simple characters, scratched with some sharp instrument by the aid of the lamp, recording the name and age of the person whose remains they enclosed, to which is briefly added, "in peace," or "in Christ." Piety here is to be tested, not by the profession on the tombstone, but by the sacrifice of the life. A palm branch carved on the stone is the usual sign of martyrdom. I saw a few slabs still remaining as they had been placed seventeen centuries ago, fastened into the tuffo rock with a cement of earth. When the Catacombs were opened, a witness rose from the dead to confront Rome. No trace has been discovered which could establish the slightest identity in doctrine, in worship, or in government, between the present Church of Rome and the Church of the Catacombs.
Will the reader accompany me to another and very different scene? We leave these midnight vaults, and tread again the narrow lava-paved Appian road; and through rural lanes we seek the summit of the Caelian mount, where stands in statued pomp the church of St John Lateran. Here are shown the Scala Santa which were brought from Jerusalem, and which the Church of Rome certifies as the very stairs which Christ ascended when he went to be judged of Pilate. On the north side of the quadrangle is an open building, with three separate flights of steps leading up from the pavement to the first floor. The middle staircase, which is covered with wood to preserve the marble, is the Scala Santa, which it is lawful to ascend only on your knees. Having reached the top, you may again use your feet, and descend by either of the other two stairs. Placed against the wall at the foot of the Scala Santa, is a large board, with the conditions to be observed in the ascent. Amongst other provisions, no one is allowed to carry a cane up the Scala Santa, nor is dog allowed to set foot on these stairs. On the pavement stood a sentry-box; and in the box sat a little dark-visaged man, so very withered, so very old, and so very crabbed, that I almost was tempted to ask him whether he had been imported along with the stairs. He rattled his little tin-box violently, which seemed half full of small coins, and invited me to ascend. "What shall I have for doing so?" I asked. "Fifteen years' indulgence," was the instant reply. There might be about fifteen steps in the stair, which was at the rate of a year's indulgence for every step. The terms were fair; for with an ordinary day's work I might lay up some thousands of years' indulgence. There was but one drawback in the matter. "I don't believe in purgatory," I rejoined. "What is that to me?" said the old man, tartly, accompanying the remark with a quick shrug of the shoulders and a curl of his thin lip.