Project Gutenberg's Seeing Europe with Famous Authors, Volume 7, by Various

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Title: Seeing Europe with Famous Authors, Volume 7
       Italy, Sicily, and Greece (Part One)

Author: Various

Editor: Francis W. Halsey

Release Date: July 16, 2006 [EBook #18845]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Janet Blenkinship and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at

[Pg ii]

[Pg iii]


Courtesy International Mercantile Marine Co.




Title Page Illustration
Title Page Illustration






Editor of "Great Epochs in American History"
Associate Editor of "The Worlds Famous Orations"
and of "The Best of the World's Classics," etc.

Title Page Illustration
Title Page Illustration




Vol. VII


Part One

Copyright, 1914, by
[Printed in the United States of America]

[Pg v]


Italy, Sicily and Greece

Tourists in great numbers now go to Italy by steamers that have Naples and Genoa for ports. By the fast Channel steamers, however, touching at Cherbourg and Havre, one may make the trip in less time (rail journey included). In going to Rome, four days could thus be saved; but the expense will be greater—perhaps forty per cent.

... "and now, fair Italy!
Thou art the garden of the world, the home
Of all Art yields, and Nature can decree;
Even in thy desert, what is like to thee?
Thy very weeds are beautiful, thy waste
More rich than other climes' fertility;
Thy wreck a glory, and thy ruin graced
With an immaculate charm which can not be defaced."

At least four civilizations, and probably five, have dominated Italy; together they cover a period of more than 3,000 years—Pelasgian, Etruscan, Greek, Roman, Italian. Of these the Pelasgian is, in the main, legendary. Next came the Etruscan.[Pg vi] How old that civilization is no man knows, but its beginnings date from at least 1000 B.C.—that is, earlier than Homer's writings, and earlier by nearly three centuries than the wall built by Romulus around Rome. The Etruscan state was a federation of twelve cities, embracing a large part of central and northern Italy—from near Naples as far north perhaps as Milan and the great Lombard plain. Etruscans thus dominated the largest, and certainly the fairest, parts of Italy. Before Rome was founded, the Etruscan cities were populous and opulent commonwealths. Together they formed one of the great naval powers of the Mediterranean. Of their civilization, we have abundant knowledge from architectural remains, and, from thousands of inscriptions still extant. Cortona was one of their oldest towns. "Ere Troy itself arose, Cortona was."

After the Etruscans, came Greeks, who made flourishing settlements in southern Italy, the chief of which was Paestum, founded not later than 600 B.C. Stupendous ruins survive at Paestum; few more interesting ones have come down to us from the world of ancient Hellas. The oldest dates from about 570 B.C. Here was once the most fertile[Pg vii] and beautiful part of Italy, celebrated for its flowers so that Virgil praised them. It is now a lonely and forsaken land, forbidding and malarious. Once thickly populated, it has become scarcely more than a haunt of buffalos and peasants, who wander indifferent among these colossal remains of a vanished race. These, however, are not the civilizations that do most attract tourists to Italy, but the remains found there of ancient Rome. Of that empire all modern men are heirs—heirs of her marvelous political structure, of her social and industrial laws.

Last of these five civilizations is the Italian, the beginnings of which date from Theodoric the Goth, who in the fifth century set up a kingdom independent of Rome; but Gothic rule was of short life, and then came the Lombards, who for two hundred years were dominant in northern and central parts, or until Charlemagne grasped their tottering kingdom and put on their famous Iron Crown. In the south Charlemagne's empire never flourished. That part of Italy was for centuries the prey of Saracens, Magyars and Scandinavians. From these events emerged modern Italy—the rise of her vigorous republics, Pisa, Genoa, Flor[Pg viii]ence, Venice; the dawn, meridian splendor and decline of her great schools of sculpture, painting and architecture, the power and beauty of which have held the world in subjection; her literature, to which also the world has become a willing captive; her splendid municipal spirit; a Church, whose influence has circled the globe, and in which historians, in a spiritual sense, have seen a survival of Imperial Rome. But here are tales that every schoolboy hears.

Sicily is reached in a night by steamer from Naples to Palermo, or the tourist may go by train from Naples to Reggio, and thence by ferry across the strait to Messina. Its earliest people were contemporaries of the Etruscans. Phœnicians also made settlements there, as they did in many parts of the Mediterranean, but these were purely commercial enterprises. Real civilization in Sicily dates from neither of those races, but from Dorian and Ionic Greeks, who came perhaps as early as the founding of Rome—that is, in the seventh or eighth century B.C. The great cities of the Sicilian Greeks were Syracuse, Segesta and Girgenti, where still survive colossal remains of their genius. In military and political senses, the island for 3,000[Pg ix] years has been overrun, plundered and torn asunder by every race known to Mediterranean waters. Beside those already named, are Carthaginians under Hannibal, Vandals under Genseric, Goths under Theodoric, Byzantines under Belisarius, Saracens from Asia Minor, Normans under Robert Guiscard, German emperors of the thirteenth century, French Angevine princes (in whose time came the Sicilian Vespers), Spaniards of the house of Aragon, French under Napoleon, Austrians of the nineteenth century, and then—that glorious day when Garibaldi transferred it to the victorious Sardinian king.

The tourist who seeks Greece from northern Europe may go from Trieste by steamer along the Dalmatian coast (in itself a trip of fine surprizes), to Cattaro and Corfu, transferring to another steamer for the Piræus, the port of Athens; or from Italy by steamer direct from Brindisi, the ancient Brundusium, whence sailed all Roman expeditions to the East, and where in retirement once dwelt Cicero. No writer has known where to date the beginnings of civilization in Greece, but with Mycenæ, Tiryns, and the Minoan palace of Crete laid bare, antiquarians have pointed the way to[Pg x] dates far older than anything before recorded. The palace of Minos is ancient enough to make the Homeric age seem modern. With the Dorian invasion of Greece about 1000 B.C., begins that Greek civilization of which we have so much authentic knowledge. Dorian influence was confined largely to Sparta, but it spread to many Greek colonies in the central Mediterranean and in the Levant. It became a powerful influence, alike in art, in domestic life, and in political supremacy. One of its noblest achievements was its help in keeping out the Persian, and another in supplanting in the Mediterranean the commercial rule of Phœnicians. Attica and Sparta became world-famous cities, with stupendous achievements in every domain of human art and human efficiency. The colossal debt all Europe and all America owe them, is known to everyone who has ever been to school.

F. W. H.

[Pg xi]


Italy, Sicily, and Greece—Part One

Introduction To Vols. VII and VIII—By the Editor.
First Days in the Eternal City—By Johann
Wolfgang von Goethe1
The Antiquities—By Joseph Addison10
The Palace of the Cæsars—By Rodolfo
The Coliseum—By George S. Hillard24
The Pantheon—By George S. Hillard29
Hadrian's Tomb—By Rodolfo Lanciani32
Trajan's Forum—By Francis Wey35
The Baths of Caracalla—By Hippolyte
Adolphe Taine37
The Aqueduct Builders—By Rodolfo Lanciani41
The Quarries and Bricks of the Ancient
City—By Rodolfo Lanciani45
Palm Sunday in St. Peter—By Grace
[Pg xii]Greenwood (Mrs. Lippincott)53
The Election of a Pope—By Cardinal Wiseman55
An Audience With Pius X.—By Mary Emogene
The Ascent of the Dome of St. Peter's—By
George S. Hillard64
Santa Maria Maggiore—By Hippolyte
Adolphe Taine67
Catacombs and Crypts—By Charles Dickens69
The Cemetery Of the Capuchins—By Nathaniel
The Burial Place of Keats and Shelley—By
Nathaniel Parker Willis75
Excursions Near Rome—By Charles Dickens78
The Approach by Carriage Road—By Nathaniel
The Old Palace and the Loggia—By Theophile
The Origins of the City—By Grant Allen92
The Cathedral—By Hippolyte Adolphe
The Ascent of the Dome of Brunelleschi—By
[Pg xiii]Mr. and Mrs. Edwin H. Blashfield102
Arnolfo, Giotto and Brunelleschi—By
Mrs. Oliphant106
Ghiberti's Gates—By Charles Yriarte116
The Ponte Vecchio--By Charles Yriarte119
Santa Croce—By Charles Yriarte121
The Uffizi Gallery—By Hippolyte Adolphe
Florence Eighty Years Ago—By William
Cullen Bryant131
The Approach From the Sea—By Charles
The Approach by Train—By the Editor140
A Tour of the Grand Canal—By Theophile
St. Mark's Church—By John Ruskin148
How the Old Campanile Was Built—By
Horatio F. Brown155
How the Campanile Fell—By Horatio F.
The Palace of the Doges—By John Ruskin163
The Lagoons—By Horatio F. Brown174
The Decline Amid Splendor--By Hippolyte
[Pg xiv]Adolphe Taine177
The Doves of St. Mark's—By Horatio F.
Torcello, the Mother City—By John Ruskin186
Cadore, Titian's Birthplace—By Amelia B.

[Pg xv]


The Coliseum and the Arch of Titus
The Pantheon, Rome
Rome: the Tiber, Castle of St. Angelo, And Dome of St. Peter's
Rome: Ruins of the Palace of The Cæsars
Rome: the San Sebastian Gate
The Tomb of Metella on the Appian Way
The Tarpeian Rock in Rome
Interior of the Coliseum
The Coliseum, Rome
St. Peter's, Rome
Rome: Interior of St. Peter's
Rome: Interior of Santa Maria Maggiore
The Cathedral, Florence
Florence: Bridge Across the Arno
Florence: the Old Palace
Florence: the Loggia Di Lanzi
Florence: Cloister of Santa Maria Novella
Florence: Cloister of San Marco
Florence: the Pitti Palace
Florence: House of Dante
Front of St. Mark's, Venice
Interior of St. Mark's, Venice
The Ducal Palace, Venice
Venice: Piazza of St. Mark's, Ducal Palace on the Left
View of Venice From the Campanile

Illustration: Courtesy John C. Winston Co.

Illustration: Courtesy John C. Winston Co.



Courtesy John C. Winston Co.

Courtesy John C. Winston Co.



Courtesy John C. Winston Co.




[Pg 1]





At last I am arrived in this great capital of the world. If fifteen years ago I could have seen it in good company, with a well-informed guide, I should have thought myself very fortunate. But as it was to be that I should thus see it alone, and with my own eyes, it is well that this joy has fallen to my lot so late in life.

Over the mountains of the Tyrol I have as good as flown. Verona, Vicenza, Padua, and Venice I have carefully looked at; hastily glanced at Ferrara, Cento, Bologna, and scarcely seen Florence at all. My anxiety to reach Rome was so great, and it so grew with me every moment, that to think of stopping anywhere was quite out of the question; even in Florence, I only stayed three hours. Now I am here at my ease, and as it would seem, shall be tranquilized for my whole life; for[Pg 2] we may almost say that a new life begins when a man once sees with his own eyes all that before he has but partially heard or read of.

All the dreams of my youth I now behold realized before me; the subjects of the first engravings I ever remembered seeing (several views of Rome were hung up in an anteroom of my father's house) stand bodily before my sight, and all that I had long been acquainted with, through paintings or drawings, engravings, or wood-cuts, plaster-casts, and cork models are here collectively presented to my eye. Wherever I go I find some old acquaintance in this new world; it is all just as I had thought it, and yet all is new; and just the same might I remark of my own observations and my own ideas. I have not gained any new thoughts, but the older ones have become so defined, so vivid, and so coherent, that they may almost pass for new ones....

I have now been here seven days, and by degrees have formed in my mind a general idea of the city. We go diligently backward and forward. While I am thus making myself acquainted with the plan of old and new Rome, viewing the ruins and the buildings, visiting this and that villa, the grandest and most remarkable objects are slowly and leisurely contemplated. I do but keep my eyes open and see, and then go and come again, for it is only in Rome one can duly prepare oneself for Rome. It must, in truth, be confessed, that it is a sad and melancholy business to prick and track out ancient Rome in new Rome; however, it must be done, and we may hope at least for an incalculable gratification. We meet with traces both of majesty and of ruin, which alike surpass all con[Pg 3]ception; what the barbarians spared, the builders of new Rome made havoc of....

When one thus beholds an object two thousand years old and more, but so manifoldly and thoroughly altered by the changes of time, but, sees nevertheless, the same soil, the same mountains, and often indeed the same walls and columns, one becomes, as it were, a contemporary of the great counsels of Fortune, and thus it becomes difficult for the observer to trace from the beginning Rome following Rome, and not only new Rome succeeding to the old, but also the several epochs of both old and new in succession. I endeavor, first of all, to grope my way alone through the obscurer parts, for this is the only plan by which one can hope fully and completely to perfect by the excellent introductory works which have been written from the fifteenth century to the present day. The first artists and scholars have occupied their whole lives with these objects.

And this vastness has a strangely tranquilizing effect upon you in Rome, while you pass from place to place, in order to visit the most remarkable objects. In other places one has to search for what is important; here one is opprest, and borne down with numberless phenomena. Wherever one goes and casts a look around, the eye is at once struck with some landscape—forms of every kind and style; palaces and ruins, gardens and statuary, distant views of villas, cottages and stables, triumphal arches and columns, often crowding so close together, that they might all be sketched on a single sheet of paper. He ought to have a hundred hands to write, for what can a single pen do here; and, besides, by the evening one[Pg 4] is quite weary and exhausted with the day's seeing and admiring.

My strange, and perhaps whimsical, incognito proves useful to me in many ways that I never should have thought of. As every one thinks himself in duty bound to ignore who I am, and consequently never ventures to speak to me of myself and my works,[2] they have no alternative left them but to speak of themselves, or of the matters in which they are most interested, and in this way I become circumstantially informed of the occupations of each, and of everything remarkable that is either taken in hand or produced. Hofrath Reiffenstein good-naturedly humors this whim of mine; as, however, for special reasons, he could not bear the name which I had assumed, he immediately made a Baron of me, and I am now called the "Baron gegen Rondanini über" (the Baron who lives opposite to the Palace Rondanini). This designation is sufficiently precise, especially as the Italians are accustomed to speak of people either by their Christian names, or else by some nickname. Enough; I have gained my object; and I escape the dreadful annoyance of having to give to everybody an account of myself and my works....

In Rome, the Rotunda,[3] both by its exterior and interior, has moved me to offer a willing homage to its magnificence. In St. Peter's I learned to understand how art, no less than na[Pg 5]ture, annihilates the artificial measures and dimensions of man. And in the same way the Apollo Belvidere also has again drawn me out of reality. For as even the most correct engravings furnish no adequate idea of these buildings, so the case is the same with respect to the marble original of this statue, as compared with the plaster models of it, which, however, I formerly used to look upon as beautiful.

Here I am now living with a calmness and tranquility to which I have for a long while been a stranger. My practise to see and take all things as they are, my fidelity in letting the eye be my light, my perfect renunciation of all pretension, have again come to my aid, and make me calmly, but most intensely, happy. Every day has its fresh remarkable object—every day its new grand unequaled paintings, and a whole which a man may long think of, and dream of, but which with all his power of imagination he can never reach.

Yesterday I was at the Pyramid of Cestius, and in the evening on the Palatine, on the top of which are the ruins of the palace of the Cæsars, which stand there like walls of rock. Of all this, however, no idea can be conveyed! In truth, there is nothing little here; altho, indeed, occasionally something to find fault with—something more or less absurd in taste, and yet even this partakes of the universal grandeur of all around....

Yesterday I visited the nymph Egeria, and then the Hippodrome of Caracalla, the ruined tombs along the Via Appia, and the tomb of Metella, which is the first to give one a true[Pg 6] idea of what solid masonry really is. These men worked for eternity—all causes of decay were calculated, except the rage of the spoiler, which nothing can resist. The remains of the principal aqueduct are highly venerable. How beautiful and grand a design, to supply a whole people with water by so vast a structure! In the evening we came upon the Coliseum, when it was already twilight. When one looks at it, all else seems little; the edifice is so vast, that one can not hold the image of it in one's soul—in memory we think it smaller, and then return to it again to find it every time greater than before.

We entered the Sistine Chapel, which we found bright and cheerful, and with a good light for the pictures. "The Last Judgment" divided our admiration with the paintings on the roof by Michael Angelo. I could only see and wonder. The mental confidence and boldness of the master, and his grandeur of conception, are beyond all expression. After we had looked at all of them over and over again, we left this sacred building, and went to St. Peter's, which received from the bright heavens the loveliest light possible, and every part of it was clearly lit up. As men willing to be pleased, we were delighted with its vastness and splendor, and did not allow an over-nice or hypercritical taste to mar our pleasure. We supprest every harsher judgment; we enjoyed the enjoyable.

Lastly we ascended the roof of the church, where one finds in little the plan, of a well-built city. Houses and magazines, springs (in appearance at least), churches, and a great tem[Pg 7]ple all in the air, and beautiful walks between. We mounted the dome, and saw glistening before us the regions of the Apennines, Soracte, and toward Tivoli the volcanic hills. Frascati, Castelgandolfo, and the plains, and beyond all the sea. Close at our feet lay the whole city of Rome in its length and breadth, with its mountain palaces, domes, etc. Not a breath of air was moving, and in the upper dome it was (as they say) like being in a hot-house. When we had looked enough at these things, we went down, and they opened for us the doors in the cornices of the dome, the tympanum, and the nave. There is a passage all round, and from above you can take a view of the whole church, and of its several parts. As we stood on the cornices of the tympanum, we saw beneath us the pope passing to his mid-day devotions. Nothing, therefore, was wanting to make our view of St. Peter's perfect. We at last descended to the piazza, and took in a neighboring hotel a cheerful but frugal meal, and then set off for St. Cecilia's.

It would take many words to describe the decorations of this church, which was crammed full of people; not a stone of the edifice was to be seen. The pillars were covered with red velvet wound round with gold lace; the capitals were overlaid with embroidered velvet, so as to retain somewhat of the appearance of capitals, and all the cornices and pillars were in like manner covered with hangings. All the entablatures of the walls were also covered with life-like paintings, so that the whole church seemed to be laid out in mosaic. Around the[Pg 8] church, and on the high altar more than two hundred wax tapers were burning. It looked like a wall of lights, and the whole nave was perfectly lit up. The aisles and side altars were equally adorned and illuminated. Right opposite the high altar, and under the organ, two scaffolds were erected, which also were covered with velvet, on one of which were placed the singers, and on the other the instruments, which kept up one unbroken strain of music....

And yet these glorious objects are even still like new acquaintances to me. One has not yet lived with them, nor got familiar with their peculiarities. Some of them attract us with irresistible power, so that for a time one feels indifferent, if not unjust, toward all others. Thus, for instance, the Pantheon, the Apollo Belvedere, some colossal heads, and very recently the Sistine Chapel, have by turns so won my whole heart, that I scarcely saw any thing besides them. But, in truth, can man, little as man always is, and accustomed to littleness, ever make himself equal to all that here surrounds him of the noble, the vast, and the refined? Even tho he should in any degree adapt himself to it, then how vast is the multitude of objects that immediately press upon him from all sides, and meet him at every turn, of which each demands for itself the tribute of his whole attention. How is one to get out of the difficulty? No other way assuredly than by patiently allowing it to work, becoming industrious, and attending the while to all that others have accomplished for our benefit.[Pg 9]

Of the beauty of a walk through Rome by moonlight it is impossible to form a conception, without having witnessed it. All single objects are swallowed up by the great masses of light and shade, and nothing but grand and general outlines present themselves to the eye. For three several days we have enjoyed to the full the brightest and most glorious of nights. Peculiarly beautiful at such a time is the Coliseum. At night it is always closed; a hermit dwells in a little shrine within its range, and beggars of all kinds nestle beneath its crumbling arches; the latter had lit a fire on the arena, and a gentle wind bore down the smoke to the ground, so that the lower portion of the ruins was quite hid by it, while above the vast walls stood out in deeper darkness before the eye. As we stopt at the gate to contemplate the scene through the iron gratings, the moon shone brightly in the heavens above. Presently the smoke found its way up the sides, and through every chink and opening, while the moon lit it up like a cloud. The sight was exceedingly glorious. In such a light one ought also to see the Pantheon, the Capitol, the Portico of St. Peter's, and the other grand streets and squares—and thus sun and moon, like the human mind, have quite a different work to do here from elsewhere, where the vastest and yet the most elegant of masses present themselves to their rays.[Pg 10]



There are in Rome two sets of antiquities, the Christian, and the heathen. The former, tho of a fresher date, are so embroiled with fable and legend, that one receives but little satisfaction from searching into them. The other give a great deal of pleasure to such as have met with them before in ancient authors; for a man who is in Rome can scarce see an object that does not call to mind a piece of a Latin poet or historian. Among the remains of old Rome, the grandeur of the commonwealth shows itself chiefly in works that were either necessary or convenient, such as temples, highways, aqueducts, walls, and bridges of the city. On the contrary, the magnificence of Rome under the emperors is seen principally in such works as were rather for ostentation or luxury, than any real usefulness or necessity, as in baths, amphitheaters, circuses, obelisks, triumphal pillars, arches, and mausoleums; for what they added to the aqueducts was rather to supply their baths and naumachias, and to embellish the city with fountains, than out of any real necessity there was for them....

No part of the antiquities of Rome pleased me so much as the ancient statues, of which there is still an incredible variety. The work[Pg 11]manship is often the most exquisite of anything in its kind. A man would wonder how it were possible for so much life to enter into marble, as may be discovered in some of the best of them; and even in the meanest, one has the satisfaction of seeing the faces, postures, airs, and dress of those that have lived so many ages before us. There is a strange resemblance between the figures of the several heathen deities, and the descriptions that the Latin poets have given us of them; but as the first may be looked upon as the ancienter of the two, I question not but the Roman poets were the copiers of the Greek statuaries. Tho on other occasions we often find the statuaries took their subjects from the poets. The Laocöon is too known an instance among many others that are to be met with at Rome.

I could not forbear taking particular notice of the several musical instruments that are to be seen in the hands of the Apollos, muses, fauns, satyrs, bacchanals, and shepherds, which might certainly give a great light to the dispute for preference between the ancient and modern music. It would, perhaps, be no impertinent design to take off all their models in wood, which might not only give us some notion of the ancient music, but help us to pleasanter instruments than are now in use. By the appearance they make in marble, there is not one string-instrument that seems comparable to our violins, for they are all played on either by the bare fingers, or the plectrum, so that they were incapable of adding any length to their notes, or of varying them by those insensible swell[Pg 12]ings, and wearings away of sound upon the same string, which give so wonderful a sweetness to our modern music. Besides that, the string-instruments must have had very low and feeble voices, as may be guessed from the small proportion of wood about them, which could not contain air enough to render the strokes, in any considerable measure, full and sonorous. There is a great deal of difference in the make, not only of the several kinds of instruments, but even among those of the same name. The syringa, for example, has sometimes four, and sometimes more pipes, as high as the twelve. The same variety of strings may be observed on their harps, and of stops on their tibiæ, which shows the little foundation that such writers have gone upon, who, from a verse perhaps in Virgil's Eclogues, or a short passage in a classic author, have been so very nice in determining the precise shape of the ancient musical instruments, with the exact number of their pipes, strings, and stops....

Tho the statues that have been found among the ruins of old Rome are already very numerous, there is no question but posterity will have the pleasure of seeing many noble pieces of sculpture which are still undiscovered; for, doubtless, there are greater treasures of this nature under ground, than what are yet brought to light.[5] They have often dug into lands that are described in old authors, as the places where such particular statues or obelisks stood, and[Pg 13] have seldom failed of success in their pursuits. There are still many such promising spots of ground that have never been searched into. A great part of the Palatine mountain, for example, lies untouched, which was formerly the seat of the imperial palace, and may be presumed to abound with more treasures of this nature than any other part of Rome.

But whether it be that the richest of these discoveries fall into the Pope's hands, or for some other reason, it is said that the Prince Farnese, who is the present owner of this seat, will keep his own family in the chair. There are undertakers in Rome who often purchase the digging of fields, gardens, or vineyards, where they find any likelihood of succeeding, and some have been known to arrive at great estates by it. They pay according to the dimensions of the surface they are to break up; and after having made essays into it, as they do for coal in England, they rake into the most promising parts of it, tho they often find, to their disappointment, that others have been beforehand with them. However, they generally gain enough by the rubbish and bricks, which the present architects value much beyond those of a modern make, to defray the charges of their search.

I was shown two spaces of ground, where part of Nero's golden house stood, for which the owner has been offered an extraordinary sum of money. What encouraged the undertakers, are several very ancient trees, which grow upon the spot, from whence they conclude that these particular tracts of ground must have lain un[Pg 14]touched for some ages. It is pity there is not something like a public register, to preserve the memory of such statues as have been found from time to time, and to mark the particular places where they have been taken up, which would not only prevent many fruitless searches for the future, but might often give a considerable light into the quality of the place, or the design of the statue.

But the great magazine for all kinds of treasure, is supposed to be the bed of the Tiber. We may be sure, when the Romans lay under the apprehensions of seeing their city sacked by a barbarous enemy, as they have done more than once, that they would take care to bestow such of their riches this way as could best bear the water, besides what the insolence of a brutish conqueror may be supposed to have contributed, who had an ambition to waste and destroy all the beauties of so celebrated a city. I need not mention the old common-shore of Rome, which ran from all parts of the town with the current and violence of an ordinary river, nor the frequent inundations of the Tiber, which may have swept away many of the ornaments of its banks, nor the several statues that the Romans themselves flung into it, when they would revenge themselves on the memory of an ill citizen, a dead tyrant, or a discarded favorite.

At Rome they have so general an opinion of the riches of this river, that the Jews have formerly proffered the Pope to cleanse it, so they might have for their pains what they found in the bosom of it. I have seen the valley near[Pg 15] Ponte Molle, which they proposed to fashion into a new channel for it, until they had cleared the old for its reception. The Pope, however, would not comply with the proposal, as fearing the heats might advance too far before they had finished their work, and produce a pestilence among his people; tho I do not see why such a design might not be executed now with as little danger as in Augustus's time, were there as many hands employed upon it. The city of Rome would receive a great advantage from the undertaking, as it would raise the banks and deepen the bed of the Tiber, and by consequence free them from those frequent inundations to which they are so subject at present; for the channel of the river is observed to be narrower within the walls than either below or above them.

Next to the statues, there is nothing in Rome more surprizing than that amazing variety of ancient pillars of so many kinds of marble. As most of the old statues may be well supposed to have been cheaper to their first owners than they are to a modern purchaser, several of the pillars are certainly rated at a much lower price at present than they were of old. For not to mention what a huge column of granite, serpentine, or porphyry must have cost in the quarry, or in its carriage from Egypt to Rome, we may only consider the great difficulty of hewing it into any form, and of giving it the due turn, proportion, and polish. The most valuable pillars about Rome, for the marble of which they are made, are the four columns of oriental[Pg 16] jasper in St. Paulina's chapel at St. Maria Maggiore; two of oriental granite in St. Pudenziana; one of transparent oriental jasper in the Vatican library; four of Nero-Bianco, in St. Cecilia Transtevere; two of Brocatello, and two of oriental agate in Don Livio's palace; two of Giallo Antico in St. John Lateran, and two of Verdi Antique in the Villa Pamphilia. These are all entire and solid pillars, and made of such kinds of marble as are nowhere to be found but among antiquities, whether it be that the veins of it are undiscovered, or that they were quite exhausted upon the ancient buildings. Among these old pillars, I can not forbear reckoning a great part of an alabaster column, which was found in the ruins of Livia's portico. It is of the color of fire, and may be seen over the high altar of St. Maria in Campitello; for they have cut it into two pieces, and fixt it in the shape of a cross in a hole of the wall that was made on purpose to receive it; so that the light passing through it from without, makes it look, to those who are in the church, like a huge transparent cross of amber.[Pg 17]



The Palatine hill became the residence of the Roman emperors, and the center of the Roman Empire, not on account of its historical and traditional associations with the foundation and first growth of the city, nor because of its central and commanding position, but by a mere accident. At daybreak on September 21st, of the year 63 B.C., Augustus was born in this region, in a modest house, opening on the lane called "ad capita bubula," which led from the valley, where now the Coliseum stands, up the slopes of the hill toward the modern church and convent of St. Bonaventura.

This man, sent by God to change the condition of mankind and the state of the world, this founder of an empire which is still practically in existence,[7] never deserted the Palatine hill all through his eventful career. From the lane "ad capita bubula" he moved to the house of Calvus, the orator, at the northeast corner of the hill overlooking the forum; and in process of time, having become absolute master of the Roman Commonwealth, he settled finally on the top of the hill, having purchased for his residence the house of Hortensius, a simple[Pg 18] and modest house, indeed, with columns of the commonest kind of stone, pavements of rubble-work, and simple whitewashed walls.

Whether this selection of a site was made because the Palatine had long before been the Faubourg St. Honoré, the Belgravia of ancient Rome, is difficult to determine. We know that the house of Hortensius, chosen by Augustus, was surrounded by those of Clodius, Scaurus, Crassus, Caecina, Sisenna, Flaccus, Catiline, and other members of the aristocracy. I am persuaded, however, that the secret of the selection is to be found in the simplicity, I will even say in the poverty, of the dwelling; in fact, such extreme modesty is worthy of the good sense and the spirit of moderation shown by Augustus throughout his career. He could very well sacrifice appearances to the reality of an unbounded power. It is just, at any rate, to recognize that even in his remotest resorts for temporary rest and retirement from the cares of government, he led the same kind of plain, modest life, spending all his leisure hours in arranging his collections of natural history, more especially the palaeo-ethnological or prehistoric, for which the ossiferous caverns of the Island of Capri supplied him with abundant materials.

It was only after the victory of Actium that, finding himself master of the world, he thought it expedient to give up, in a certain measure, his former habits, and live in better style. Having bought through his agents some of the aristocratic palaces adjoining the old house of Hortensius, among them the historical palace[Pg 19] of Catiline, he built a new and very handsome residence, but declared at the same time that he considered it as public property, not as his own. The solemn dedication of the palace took place on January 14th, of the year 26 before Christ. Here he lived, sleeping always in the same small cubiculum, for twenty-eight years; that is to say, until the third year after Christ, when the palace was almost destroyed by fire.

As soon as the news of the disaster spread throughout the empire, an almost incredible amount of money was subscribed at once, by all orders of citizens, to provide him with a new residence; and altho, with his usual moderation, he would consent to accept only one denarius from each individual subscribed, it is easy to imagine how many millions he must have realized in spite of his modesty. A new, magnificent palace rose from the ruins of the old one, but it does not appear that the plan and arrangement were changed; otherwise Augustus could not have continued to sleep in the same room during the last ten years of his life, as we are told positively that he did.

The work of Augustus was continued by his successor and kinsman, Tiberius, who built a new wing near the northwest corner of the hill, overlooking the Velabrum. Caligula filled with new structures the whole space between the "domus Tiberiana" and the Roman forum. Nero, likewise, occupied with a new palace the south-east corner of the hill, overlooking the valley, where the Coliseum was afterward built. Domitian rebuilt the "domus Augustana," injured by fire, adding to its accommodations a stadium[Pg 20] for gymnastic sports. The same emperor raised an altogether new palace, in the space between the house of Augustus, on one side, and those of Caligula and Tiberius on the other. Septimius Severus and his son restored the whole group of imperial buildings, adding a new wing at the southwest corner, known under the name of Septizonium. The latest additions, of no special importance, took place under Julia Mamaea and Heliogabalus.

Every emperor, to a certain extent, enlarged, altered, destroyed, and reconstructed the work of his predecessors; cutting new openings, walling up old ones, subdividing large rooms into smaller apartments, and changing their destination. One section alone of the imperial Palatine buildings remained unaltered, and kept the former simplicity of its plans down to the fall of the Empire—the section built by Augustus across the center of the hill, which comprised the main entrance, the portico surrounding the temple of Apollo, the temple itself, the Greek and Latin libraries, the shrine of Vesta, and the imperial residence.

The architectural group raised by Augustus on the Palatine, formed, as it were, the vestibule to his own imperial residence. We know with absolute certainty that it contained at least one hundred and twenty columns of the rarest kinds of marbles and breccias, fifty-two of which were of Numidian marble, with capitals of gilt bronze; a group of Lysias, comprising one chariot, four horses and two drivers, all cut in a single block of marble; the Hercules of Lysippus; the Apollo of Scopas; the Latona of Cephisodotos, the[Pg 21] Diana of Timotheos; the bas-reliefs of the pediment by Bupalos and Anthermos; the quadriga of the sun in gilt bronze; exquisite ivory carvings; a bronze colossus fifty feet high; hundreds of medallions in gold, silver, and bronze; gold and silver plate; a collection of gems and cameos; and, lastly, candelabras which had been the property of Alexander the Great, and the admiration of the East.

Has the world ever seen a collection of greater artistic and material value exhibited in a single building? And we must recollect that the group built by Augustus comprises only a very modest section of the Palatine; that to his palace we must join the palaces of Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, Vespasian, Domitian, Septimius Serverus, Julia Mamaea, and Heliogabalus; that each one of these imperial residences equalled the residence of Augustus, if not in pure taste, certainly in wealth, in luxury, in magnificence, in the number and value of works of art collected and stolen from Greece and the East, from Egypt and Persia. By multiplying eight or ten times the list I have given above, the reader will get an approximate idea of the "home" of the Roman emperors in its full pride and glory. I have deliberately excluded from my description the residence or private house of Augustus, because he himself had deliberately excluded from it any trace of that grandeur he had so lavishly bestowed on the buildings which constituted the approach to it....

During the rule of Claudius, the successor of Caligula, little or nothing was done toward the enlargement or the embellishment of the palace[Pg 22] of the Cæsars. Nero, however, the successor of Claudius, conceived the gigantic plan of renewing and of rebuilding from the very foundations, not only the imperial residence, but the whole metropolis. In the rebuilding of the city the emperor secured for himself the lion's share; and his Golden House, of which we possess such beautiful remains, occupied the whole extent from the Palatine to the Quirinal, where now the central railway station has been erected. Its area amounted to nearly a square mile, and this enormous district was appropriated, or rather usurped, by the emperor, right in the center of a city numbering about two million inhabitants.

Of the wonders of the Golden House it is enough to say that there were comprised within the precincts of the enchanting residence waterfalls supplied by an aqueduct fifty miles long, lakes and rivers shaded by dense masses of foliage, with harbors and docks for the imperial galleys; a vestibule containing a bronze colossus one hundred and twenty feet high; porticos three thousand feet long; farms and vineyards, pasture grounds and woods teeming with the rarest and costliest kind of game, zoological and botanical gardens; sulfur baths supplied from springs twelve miles distant; sea baths supplied from the waters of the Mediterranean, sixteen miles distant at the nearest point; thousands of columns crowned with capitals of Corinthian gilt metal; thousands of statues stolen from Greece and Asia Minor; walls encrusted with gems and mother-of-pearl; banqueting-halls with ivory ceilings, from which rare flowers and[Pg 23] precious perfumes could fall gently on the recumbent guests.

More marvelous still was the ceiling of the state dining-room. It was spherical in shape, and cut in ivory, to represent the constellated skies, and kept in constant motion by machinery in imitation of the movements of the stars and planets. All these details sound like fairy-tales, like the dream of a fertile imagination; still they are described minutely by contemporary and serious writers, by Suetonius, by Martial and by Tacitus. Suetonius adds that the day Nero took possession of his Golden House, he was heard to exclaim, "At last I am lodged like a man."

The wonders created by him, however, did not last very long. Otho, his successor, on the very day of his election to the throne, signed an order of fifty millions of sesterces (two million dollars) to bring the Golden House to perfection; but after his murder Vespasian and Titus gave back to the people the greater portion of the ground usurped by Nero. They built the Coliseum on the very site of Nero's artificial lake, and the thermæ of Titus on the foundation of his private palace; they respected only that portion of Nero's insane construction which was comprised within the boundaries of the Palatine hill.[Pg 24]



The Venerable Bede, who lived in the eighth century, is the first person who is known to have given to the Flavian amphitheater its comparatively modern and now universal designation of the Coliseum; tho the name, derived from a colossal statue of the emperor Nero which stood near it, was probably then familiar to men's ears, as we may infer from his so calling it without explanation or remark.

When in its perfect state, the exterior, with its costly ornaments in marble, and its forest of columns, lost the merit of simplicity without gaining that of grandeur. The eye was teased with a multitude of details, not in themselves good; the same defects were repeated in each story, and the real height was diminished by the projecting and ungraceful cornices. The interior arrangements were admirable; and modern architects can not sufficiently commend the skill with which eighty thousand spectators were accommodated with seats; or the ingenious contrivances, by which, through the help of spacious corridors, multiplied passages, and staircases, every person went directly to his place, and immense audiences were dispersed in less time than is required for a thousand persons to squeeze through the entries of a modern concert-room. We know that this interior of the Coliseum was decorated with great splendor. The[Pg 25] principal seats were of marble, and covered with cushions. Gilded gratings, ornaments of gold, ivory, and amber, and mosaics of precious stones, displayed the generosity of the emperors, and gratified the taste of the people.

How, or at what period, the work of ruin first began does not distinctly appear. An earthquake may have first shattered its ponderous arches, and thus made an opening for the destroying hand of time. There can be no doubt that it suffered violence from the hands of civil and foreign war. But more destructive agencies than those of earthquake, conflagration or war, were let loose upon it. Its massive stones, fitted to each other with such nice adaptation, presented a strong temptation to the cupidity of wealthy nobles and cardinals, with whom building was a ruling passion; and for many ages the Coliseum became a quarry. The Palazzo della Cancelleria, the Palazzo Barberini, the Palazzo Farnese, and the Palazzo Veneziano were all built mainly from the plunder of the Coliseum; and meaner robbers emulated the rapacity of their betters, by burning into lime the fragments not available for architectural purposes.

The material of which the Coliseum was built is exactly fitted to the purposes of a great ruin. It is travertine, of a rich, dark, warm color, deepened and mellowed by time. There is nothing glaring, harsh, or abrupt in the harmony of tints. The blue sky above, and the green earth beneath, are in unison with a tone of coloring not unlike the brown of one of our own early winter landscapes. The travertine is[Pg 26] also of a coarse grain and porous texture, not splintering into points and edges, but gradually corroding by natural decay. Stone of such a texture everywhere opens laps and nooks for the reception and formation of soil. Every grain of dust that is borne through the air by the lazy breeze of summer, instead of sliding from a glassy surface, is held where it falls. The rocks themselves crumble and decompose, and turn into a fertile mold. Thus, the Coliseum is throughout crowned and draped with a covering of earth, in many places of considerable depth. Trailing plants clasp the stones with arms of verdure; wild flowers bloom in their seasons; and long grass nods and waves on the airy battlements. Life has everywhere sprouted from the trunk of death. Insects hum and sport in the sunshine; the burnished lizard darts like a tongue of green flame along the walls; and birds make the hollow quarry overflow with their songs. There is something beautiful and impressive in the contrast between luxuriant life and the rigid skeleton upon which it rests.

As a matter of course, everybody goes to see the Coliseum by moonlight. The great charm of the ruin under this condition is, that the imagination is substituted for sight; and the mind for the eye. The essential character of moonlight is hard rather than soft. The line between light and shadow is sharply defined, and there is no gradation of color. Blocks and walls of silver are bordered by, and spring out of, chasms of blackness. But moonlight shrouds the Coliseum in mystery. It opens deep vaults of gloom where the eye meets only an ebon wall,[Pg 27] upon which the fancy paints innumerable pictures in solemn, splendid, and tragic colors. Shadowy forms of emperor and lictor and vestal virgin and gladiator and martyr come out of the darkness, and pass before us in long and silent procession. The breezes which blow through the broken arches are changed into voices, and recall the shouts and cries of a vast audience. By day, the Coliseum is an impressive fact; by night, it is a stately vision. By day, it is a lifeless form; by night, a vital thought.

The Coliseum should by all means be seen by a bright starlight, or under the growing sickle of a young moon. The fainter ray and deeper gloom bring out more strongly its visionary and ideal character. When the full moon has blotted out the stars, it fills the vast gulf of the building with a flood of spectral light, which falls with a chilling touch upon the spirit; for then the ruin is like a "corpse in its shroud of snow," and the moon is a pale watcher by its side. But when the walls, veiled in deep shadow, seem a part of the darkness in which they are lost—when the stars are seen through their chasms and breaks, and sparkle along the broken line of the battlements—the scene becomes another, tho the same; more indistinct, yet not so mournful; contracting the sphere of sight, but enlarging that of thought; less burdening, but more suggestive.

But under all aspects, in the blaze of noon, at sunset, by the light of the moon or stars—the Coliseum stands alone and unapproached. It is the monarch of ruins. It is a great tragedy in stone, and it softens and subdues the mind like a drama[Pg 28] of Aeschylus or Shakespeare. It is a colossal type of those struggles of humanity against an irresistible destiny, in which the tragic poet finds the elements of his art. The calamities which crusht the house of Atreus are symbolized in its broken arches and shattered walls. Built of the most durable materials, and seemingly for eternity—of a size, material, and form to defy the "strong hours" which conquer all, it has bowed its head to their touch, and passed into the inevitable cycle of decay. "And this too shall pass away"—which the Eastern monarch engraved upon his signet ring—is carved upon these Cyclopean blocks. The stones of the Coliseum were once water; and they are now turning into dust. Such is ever the circle of nature. The solid is changing into the fluid, and the fluid into the solid; and that which is unseen is alone indestructible. He does not see the Coliseum aright who carries away from it no other impressions than those of form, size, and hue. It speaks an intelligible language to the wiser mind. It rebukes the peevish and consoles the patient. It teaches us that there are misfortunes which are clothed with dignity, and sorrows that are crowned with grandeur. As the same blue sky smiles upon the ruin which smiled upon the perfect structure, so the same beneficent Providence bends over our shattered hopes and our answered prayers.[Pg 29]



The best preserved monument of ancient Rome, and one of the most beautiful buildings of the modern city, is unhappily placed. The Pantheon stands in a narrow and dirty piazza, and is shouldered and elbowed by a mob of vulgar houses. There is no breathing-space around, which it might penetrate with the light of its own serene beauty. Its harmonious proportions can be seen only in front; and it has there the disadvantage of being approached from a point higher than that on which it stands. On one side is a market; and the space before the matchless portico is strewn with fish-bones, decayed vegetables, and offal.[10]

Forsyth, the sternest and most fastidious of architectural critics, has only "large draughts of unqualified praise" for the Pantheon; and, where he finds nothing to censure, who will venture to do any thing but commend? The character of the architecture, and the sense of satisfaction which it leaves upon the mind, are proofs of the enduring charm of simplicity. The portico is perfectly beautiful. It is one hundred and ten feet long and forty-four deep, and rests upon sixteen columns of the Corinthian order, the shafts being of granite and the capitals of marble. Eight of these are in front, and of these eight, there are four (including the two on the extreme[Pg 30] right and left) which have two others behind them; the portico being thus divided into three portions, like the nave and side aisles of a cathedral; the middle space, leading to the door, being wider than the others. The granite of the shafts is partly gray and partly rose-colored, but, in the shadow in which they stand, the difference of hue is hardly perceptible. The proportions of these columns are faultless; and their massive shafts and richly-carved capitals produce the effect, at once, of beauty and sublimity. The pediment above is now a bald front of ragged stone, but it was once adorned with bas-reliefs in bronze; and the holes, made by the rivets with which they were fastened, are still to be seen.

The aisles of the portico were once vaulted with bronze, and massive beams or slabs of the same metal stretched across the whole structure; but this was removed by Urban VIII., and melted into a baldachino to deface St. Peter's, and cannon to defend the castle of St. Angelo; and, not content with this, he has added insult to injury, and commemorated his robbery in a Latin inscription, in which he claims to be commended as for a praiseworthy act. But even this is not the heaviest weight resting on the memory of that vandal pope. He shares with Bernini the reproach of having added those hideous belfries which now rise above each end of the vestibule—as wanton and unprovoked an offense against good taste as ever was committed. A cocked hat upon the statue of Demosthenes in the Vatican would not be a more discordant addition. The artist should have gone to the stake, before giving his hand to such a piece of disfigurement.[Pg 31]

The cell, or main portion of the building to which the portico is attached, is a simple structure, circular in form, and built of brick. It was formerly encrusted with marble. The cell and the portico stand to each other in the most harmonious relation, altho it seems to be admitted that the latter was an addition, not contemplated when the cell was built. But in the combination there is nothing forced or unnatural, and they seem as necessary and as preordained complements, one to the other, as a fine face and a fine head. The cell is a type of masculine dignity, and the portico, of feminine grace; and the result is a perfect architectural union.

The interior—a rotunda, surmounted by a dome—is converted into a Christian church, a purpose to which its form and structure are not well adapted; and the altars and their accessories are not improvements in an architectural point of view. But in spite of this—in spite of all that it has suffered at the hands of rapacity and bad taste—tho the panels of the majestic dome have been stript of their bronze, and the whole has been daubed over with a glaring coat of whitewash—the interior still remains, with all its rare beauty essentially unimpaired. And the reason of this is that this charm is the result of form and proportion, and can not be lost except by entire destruction. The only light which the temple receives is from a circular opening of twenty-eight feet in diameter at the top; and falling, as it does, directly from the sky, it fills the whole space with the purity of the heavens themselves. The magical effect of this kind of illumination it is impossible to describe....[Pg 32]

The pavement of the Pantheon, composed of porphyry, pavonazzetto, and giallo antico, tho constantly overflowed by the Tiber, and drenched by the rains which fall upon it from the roof, is the finest in Rome. There is an opening in the center, through which the water entering by the dome is carried off into a reservoir.

The Pantheon has a peculiar interest in the history of art, as the burial place of Raphael. His grave was opened in 1833, and the remains found to be lying in the spot which Vasari had pointed out.



Nerva was the last Emperor buried in the mausoleum of Augustus.[12] Trajan's ashes were laid to rest in an urn of gold under his monumental column. Hadrian determined to raise a new tomb for himself and his successors, and, like Augustus, selected a site on the green and shady banks of the Tiber, not on the city side, however, but in the gardens of Domitia, which, with those of Agrippina, formed a crown property called by Tacitus "Nero's Gardens." The mausoleum and the bridge which gave access to it[Pg 33] were substantially finished in A.D. 136. Antoninus Pius, after completing the ornamental part in 139, transferred to it Hadrian's ashes from their temporary burial-place in the former villa of Cicero at Puteoli, and was himself afterward interred there....

Beside the passages of the "Hadrian's Life," and of Dion Cassius, two descriptions of the monument have come down to us, one by Procopius, the other by Leo I. From these we learn that it was composed of a square basement of moderate height, each side of which measured 247 feet. It was faced with blocks of Parian marble, with pilasters at the corners, crowned by a capital. Above the pilasters were groups of men and horses in bronze, of admirable workmanship. The basement was protected around by a sidewalk and a railing of gilt bronze, supported by marble pillars crowned with gilded peacocks, two of which are in the Giardino della Pigna, in the Vatican. A grand circular mole, nearly a thousand feet in circumference, and also faced with blocks of Parian marble, stood on the square basement and supported in its turn a cone of earth covered with evergreens, like the mausoleum of Augustus.

Of this magnificent decoration nothing now remains except a few blocks of the coating of marble, on the east side of the quadrangle, near the Bastione di S. Giovanni. All that is visible of the ancient work from the outside are the blocks of peperino of the mole which once supported the outer casing. The rest, both above and below, is covered by the works of fortification constructed at various periods, from the time of Honorius (393-403) to our own days. In no other monu[Pg 34]ment of ancient and medieval Rome is our history written, molded, as it were, so vividly, as upon the battered remains of this castle-tomb. Within and around it took place all the fights for dominion with which popes, emperors, barons, barbarians, Romans, have distracted the city for fifteen hundred years.

Of the internal arrangement of the monument nothing was known until 1825, when the principal door was discovered in the middle of the square basement facing the bridge. It opens upon a corridor leading to a large niche, which, it is conjectured, contained a statue of Hadrian. The walls of this vestibule, by which modern visitors generally begin their inspection, are built of travertine, and bear evidence of having been paneled with Numidian marble. The pavement is of white mosaic. On the right side of this vestibule, near the niche, begins an inclined spiral way, 30 feet high and 11 feet wide, leading up to the central chamber, which is in the form of a Greek cross.

There is no doubt that the tomb was adorned with statues. Procopius distinctly says that, during the siege laid by the Goths to the castle in 537, many of them were hurled down from the battlements upon the assailants. On the strength of this passage topographers have been in the habit of attributing to the mausoleum all the works of statuary discovered in the neighborhood; like the Barberini Faun now in Munich, the exquisite statue of a River God described by Cassiano dal Pozzo, etc., as if such subjects were becoming a house of death. The mausoleum of Hadrian formed part of one of the largest and noblest cemeteries of ancient Rome, crossed by the Via[Pg 35] Triumphalis. The tomb next in importance to it was the so-called "Meta," or "sepulcrum Romuli," or "sepulcrum Neronis," a pyramid of great size, which stood on the site of the church of St. Maria Transpontina, and was destroyed by Alexander VI. in 1499.



In the midst of the busy quarters lying at the base of the Quirinal, you come out upon a great piazza which you name at once without ever having seen it before; Trajan's Column serves as ensign for a forum, of which Apollodorus of Damascus erected the porticoes. The lines described by the bases of a plantation of pillars will help you to identify the pesimeter of the temple which Hadrian consecrated, and the site of the Ulpian Library which was divided into two chambers—one for Greek books, and the other for Latin; and finally the situation of the basilica, opening on to the forum and with its apse in the north-northwest direction....

It was in the Ulpian Basilica that, in 312, Constantine, having assembled the notables of the empire seated himself in the presbyterium, to proclaim his abjuration of polytheism in favor of the religion of Christ; on that day and spot the prince closed the cycle of antiquity, opened the[Pg 36] catacombs, and inaugurated the modern world. The Acts of St. Sylvester describe many passages of the discourse in which, "invoking truth against mischievous divisions," and declaring that he "put away superstitions born of ignorance and reared on unreason," the emperor ordains that "churches be opened to Christians, and that the priests of the temples and those of Christ enjoy the same privileges." He himself undertakes to build a church in his Lateran palace.

I do not think there exists any monument in the world more precious or more exquisite in its proportions than Trajan's Column, nor one that has rendered more capital service. This has been set forth with more authority than I can pretend to, by Viollet-le-Duc, the architect who has written best on his own art; his description sums up the subject and makes everything clear. A set of pictures of the campaigns of Trajan against the Decians—the bas-reliefs—reproduces the arms, the accouterments, the engines of war, the dwellings of the barbarians; we discern the breed of the warriors and their horses; we look upon the ships of the time, canoes and quinqueremes; women of all ranks, priests of all theogonies, sieges, and assaults. Such are the merits of this sculptured host, that Polidoro da Caravaggio, Giulio Romano, Michael Angelo, and all the artists of the Renaissance have drawn thence models of style and picturesque grouping.

Trajan's Column is of pure Carrara marble. The shaft measures about ninety-four English feet, by twelve in diameter at the base, and ten below the capital, which is Doric and carved out of a single block; the column is composed of[Pg 37] thirty-four blocks, hollowed out internally and cut into a winding stair. A series of bas-reliefs, divided from one another by a narrow band, run spirally around the shaft parallel to the inner staircase of a hundred and eighty-two steps, and describes twenty-three circuits to reach the platform on which the statue is placed. The foot and the pedestal are seventeen feet high; the torus, of enormous diameter, is a monolith; the whole construction rises a hundred and thirty-five feet from the ground. These thirty-four blocks, measuring eleven meters in circumference by one in height, had—a task of considerable precision—to have holes drilled in them for the screws of the staircase, it being necessary to determine from the inside precisely where these borings must be made in order not to break the continuity of the bas-reliefs, executed by several different hands, and which are more deeply worked in proportion as they gain in height, so as to appear of an equal projection.



You reach the Baths of Caracalla, the most imposing object after the Coliseum that one sees in Rome. These colossal structures are so many signs of their times. Imperial Rome plundered the entire Mediterranean basin, Spain, Gaul, and two-[Pg 38]thirds of England, for the benefit of a hundred thousand idlers. She amused them in the Coliseum with massacres of beasts and of men; in the Circus Maximus with combats of athletes and with chariot races; in the theater of Marcellus with pantomimes, plays, and the pageantry of arms and costume; she provided them with baths, to which they resorted to gossip, to contemplate statues, to listen to declaimers, to keep themselves cool in the heats of summer. All that had been invented of the convenient, agreeable, and beautiful, all that could be collected in the world that was curious and magnificent, was for them; the Cæsars fed them and diverted them, seeking only to afford them gratification, and to obtain their acclamations.

A Roman of the middle classes might well regard his emperors as so many public purveyors, administering his property, relieving him from troublesome cares, furnishing him at fair rates, or for nothing, with corn, wine, and oil, giving him sumptuous meals and well-got-up fêtes, providing him with pictures, statues, pantomimists, gladiators, and lions, resuscitating his "blasé" taste every morning with some surprising novelty, and even occasionally converting themselves into actors, charioteers, singers, and gladiators for his especial delight. In order to lodge this group of amateurs in a very suitable to its regal pretensions, architecture invented original and grand forms. Vast structures always indicate some corresponding excess, some immoderate concentration and accumulation of the labor of humanity. Look at the Gothic cathedrals, the pyramids of Egypt, Paris of the present day, and the docks of London![Pg 39]

On reaching the end of a long line of narrow streets, white walls, and deserted gardens, the great ruin appears. There is nothing with which to compare its form, while the line it describes on the sky is unique. No mountains, no hills, no edifices, give any idea of it. It resembles all these; it is a human structure, which time and events have so deformed and transformed, as to render a natural production. Rising upward in the air, its moss-stained embossed summit and indented crest with its wide crevices, a red, mournful, decayed mass, silently reposes in a shroud of clouds.

You enter, and it seems as if you had never seen anything in the world so grand. The Coliseum itself is no approach to it, so much do a multiplicity and irregularity of ruins add to the vastness of the vast enclosure. Before these heaps of red corroded masonry, these round vaults spanning the air like the arches of a mighty bridge before these crumbling walls, you wonder whether an entire city did not once exist there. Frequently an arch has fallen, and the monstrous mass that sustained it still stands erect, exposing remnants of staircases and fragments of arcades, like so many shapeless, deformed houses.

Sometimes it is cleft in the center, and a portion appears about to fall and roll away, like a huge rock. Sections of wall and pieces of tottering arches cling to it and dart their projections threateningly upward in the air. The courts are strewed with various fragments, and blocks of brick welded together by the action of time, like stones incrusted with the deposits of the sea. Elsewhere are arcades quite intact, piled up story upon story, the bright sky appearing behind them, and above,[Pg 40] along the dull red brickwork is a verdant head-dress of plants, waving and rustling in the midst of the ethereal blue.

Here are mystic depths, wherein the bedewed shade prolongs itself among mysterious shadows. Into these the ivy descends, and anemones, fennel, and mallows fringe their brinks. Shafts of columns lie half-buried under climbing vines and heaps of rubbish, while luxuriant clover carpets the surrounding slopes. Small green oaks, with round tops, innumerable green shrubs, and myriads of gillyflowers cling to the various projections, nestle in the hollows, and deck its crest with their yellow clusters. All these murmur in the breeze, and the birds are singing in the midst of the imposing silence....

You ascend, I know not how many stories, and, on the summit, find the pavement of the upper chambers to consist of checkered squares of marble; owing to the shrubs and plants that have taken root among them, these are disjoined in places, a fresh bit of mosaic sometimes appearing intact on removing a layer of earth. Here were sixteen hundred seats of polished marble. In the Baths of Diocletian there were places for three thousand two hundred bathers. From this elevation, on casting your eyes around, you see, on the plain, lines of ancient aqueducts radiating in all directions and losing themselves in the distance, and, on the side of Albano, three other vast ruins, masses of red and black arcades, shattered and disintegrated brick by brick, and corroded by time.

You descend and take another glance. The hall of the "piscine" is a hundred and twenty paces long; that in which the bathers disrobed is eighty[Pg 41] feet in height; the whole is covered with marble, and with such beautiful marble that mantel ornaments are now made of its fragments. In the sixteenth century the Farnese Hercules was discovered here, and the Torso and Venus Callipygis, and I know not how many other masterpieces; and in the seventeenth century hundreds of statues. No people, probably, will ever again display the same luxurious conveniences, the same diversions, and especially the same order of beauty, as that which the Romans displayed in Rome.

Here only can you comprehend this assertion—a civilization other than our own, other and different, but in its kind as complete and as elegant. It is another animal, but equally perfect, like the mastodon, previous to the modern elephant.



One of the praises bestowed by Cicero on the founder of the city is that "he selected a district very rich in springs." A glance at the plan will at once prove the accuracy of the statement. Twenty-three springs have been described within the walls, several of which are still in existence; others have disappeared owing to the increase of modern soil. "For four hundred and forty-one years," says Frontinus, "the Romans contented themselves[Pg 42] with such water as they could get from the Tiber, from wells, and from springs. Some of these springs are still held in great veneration on account of their health-restoring qualities, like the spring of the Camoenae, that of Apollo, and that of Juturna."

The first aqueduct, that of the "Aqua Appia," is the joint work of Appius Claudius Cæcus and C. Plautius Venox, censors in 312 B.C. The first built the channel, the second discovered the springs 1,153 meters northeast of the sixth and seventh milestones of the Via Collatina. They are still to be seen, much reduced in volume, at the bottom of some stone quarries near the farmhouse of La Rustica.

The second aqueduct was begun in 272 B.C. by Manius Curius Dentatus, censor, and finished three years later by Fulvius Flaccus. The water was taken from the river Anio 850 meters above St. Cosimato, on the road from Tivoli to Arsoli (Valeria). The course of the channel can be traced as far as Gallicano; from Gallicano to Rome it is uncertain....

In 144 B.C. the Senate, considering that the increase of the population had diminished the rate of distribution of water (from 530 to 430 liters per head), determined that the old aqueducts of the Appia and the Anio should be repaired, and a new one built, the appropriation for both works being 8,000,000 sesterces, or 1,760,000 lire.

The execution of the scheme was entrusted to Q. Marcius Rex. He selected a group of springs at the foot of the Monte della Prugna, in the territory of Arsoli, 4,437 meters to the right of the thirty-sixth milestone of the Via Valeria; and af[Pg 43]ter many years of untiring efforts he succeeded in making a display of the water on the highest platform of the Capitol. Agrippa restored the aqueduct in 33 B.C.; Augustus doubled the volume of the water in 5 B.C. by the addition of the Aqua Augusta. In 196 Septimius Severus brought in a new supply for the use of his Thermae Severianae; in 212-213 Caracalla built a branch aqueduct, four miles long, for the use of his baths; in 305-306 Diocletian did the same thing for his great thermæ; and, finally, Arcadius and Honorius devoted to the restoration of the aqueduct the money seized from Count Gildo, the African rebel.

None of the Roman aqueducts are eulogized by Frontinus like the Claudian. He calls it "a work most magnificently done," and after demonstrating in more than one way that the volume of the springs collected by Claudius amounted to 4,607 quinariae, he says that there was a reserve of 1,600 always ready.

The works, began by Caligula in A.D. 38, lasted fourteen years, the water having reached Rome only on August 1, 52 (the birthday of Claudius). The course of the aqueduct was first around the slopes of the Monte Ripoli, like that of the Marcia and of the Anio Vetus. Domitian shortened it by several miles by boring a tunnel 4,950 meters long through the Monte Affiano. Length of channel, 68,750 meters, of which 15,000 was on arches; volume per day, 209,252 cubic meters. The Claudia was used for the Imperial table; a branch aqueduct, 2,000 meters long, left the main channel at Spem Veterem (Porta Maggiore), and following the line of the Via Caelimontana (Villa Wolkonsky), of the Campus Caelimontan (Lateran), and of the[Pg 44] street now called di S. Stefano Rotondo, reached the temple of Claudius by the church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo, and the Imperial palace by the church of St. Bonaventura.

The Anio Novus, like the Vetus, was at first derived from the river of the same name at the forty-second milestone of the road to Subiaco, great precautions being taken for purifying the water. The works were begun by Caligula in A.D. 38, and completed by Claudius on August 1, 52, on a most magnificent scale, some of the arches reaching the height of thirty-two meters above ground; and there were eight miles of them. Yet, in spite of the purifying reservoir, and of the clear springs of the Rivus Herculaneus (Fosso di Fioggio), which had been mixed with the water from the river, the Anio Novus was hardly ever drinkable. Whenever a shower fell on the Simbruine mountains, the water would get troubled and saturated with mud and carbonate of lime. Trajan improved its condition by carrying the head of the aqueduct higher up the valley, where Nero had created three artificial lakes for the adornment of his Villa Sublacensis. These lakes served more efficiently as "purgatories," than the artificial basin of Caligula, nine miles below. The Anio Novus reached Rome in its own channel after a course of 86,964 meters, but for the last seven miles it ran on the same arches with the Aqua Claudia. The Anio Novus was the largest of all Roman aqueducts, discharging nearly three hundred thousand cubic meters per day.

There are two places in the suburbs of Rome where these marvelous arches of the Claudia and Anio Novus can be seen to advantage; one is the[Pg 45] Torre Fiscale, three miles outside the Porta S. Giovanni on the Albano road (to be reached also from the Tavolato station, on the upper Albano railway); the other is the Vicolo del Mandrione, which leaves the Labicana one mile outside the Porta Maggiore and falls into the Tusculana at the place called Porta Furba.



The materials used in Roman constructions are the "lapis ruber" (tufa); the "lapis Albanus" (peperino); the "lapis Gabinus" (sperone); the "lapis Tiburtinus" (travertino); the silex ("selce"); and bricks and tiles of various kinds. The cement was composed of pozzolana and lime. Imported marbles came into fashion toward the end of the republic, and became soon after the pride and glory of Rome....

The only material which the first builders of Rome found at hand was the volcanic conglomerate called tufa. The quality of the stone used in those early days was far from perfect. The walls of the Palatine hill and of the Capitoline citadel were built of material quarried on the spot—a mixture of charred pumice-stones and reddish volcanic sand. The quarries used for the fortification of the Capi[Pg 46]tol were located at the foot of the hill toward the Argiletum, and were so important as to give their name, Lautumiae, to the neighboring district. It is probable that the prison called Tullianum, from a jet of water, "tullus," which sprang from the rock, was originally a portion of this quarry. The tufa blocks employed by Servius Tullius for the building of the city walls, and of the agger, appear to be of three qualities—yellowish, reddish, and gray; the first, soft and easily broken up, seems to have been quarried from the Little Aventine, near the church of St. Saba. The galleries of this quarry, much disfigured by medieval and modern use, can be followed to a considerable distance, altho the collapsing of the vaults makes it dangerous to visit them....

The quarries of the third quality were, or rather one of them was, discovered on February 7, 1872, in the Vigna Querini, outside the Porta St. Lorenzo, near the first milestone of the Vicolo di Valle Cupa. It was a surface quarry, comprising five trenches 16 feet wide, 9 feet deep. Some of the blocks, already squared, were lying on the floor of the trenches, others were detached on two or three sides only, the size of others was simply traced on the rock by vertical or horizontal lines. This tufa, better known by the name of cappellaccio, is very bad. The only buildings in which it was used, besides the inner wall of the Servian agger, are the platform of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, in the gardens of the German Embassy, and the "puticuli" in the burial-grounds of the Esquiline. Its use must have been given up before the end of the period of the Kings, in consequence of the discovery of better quarries on[Pg 47] the right bank of the Tiber, at the foot of the hills now called Monte Verde....

They cover a space one mile in length and a quarter of a mile wide on each side of the valley of Pozzo Pantaléo. In fact, this valley, which runs from the Via Portuensis toward the lake of the Villa Pamphili, seems to be artificial; I mean, produced by the extraction of the rock of millions of cubic meters in the course of twenty-four centuries. If the work of the ancient quarrymen could be freed from the loose material which conceals it from view, we should possess within a few minutes' drive from the Porta Portese a reproduction of the famous mines of El Masarah, with beds of rock cut into steps and terraces, with roads and lanes, shafts, inclines, underground passages, and outlets for the discharge of rain-water. When a quarry had given out, its galleries were filled up with the refuse of the neighboring ones—chips left over after the squaring of the blocks; so that, in many cases, the color and texture of the chips do not correspond with those of the quarry in which they are found. This layer of refuse, transformed by time into humus, and worked upon by human and atmospheric forces, has given the valley a different aspect, so that it looks as if it were the work not of quarrymen, but of nature.

Tufa may be found used in many existing monuments of ancient Rome, such as the drains of the middle and southern basin of the left bank, the channels and arches of the Marcia and Anio Vetus, the Servian walls, the temples of Fortuna Virilis, of Hercules Magnus Custos, the Rostra, the embankment of the Tiber, etc. The largest and most magnificent quarries in the suburban district are[Pg 48] the so-called Grotte della Cervara. No words can convey an idea of their size and of the regularity of their plan. They seem to be the work of a fanciful architect who has hewn out of the rock halls and galleries, courts and vestibules, and imitated the forms of an Assyrian palace.

For the study of the peperino mines, which contain a stone special to the Alban district, formed by the action of hot water on gray volcanic cinders, the reader should follow on foot the line of the new Albano railway, from the place called Il Sassone to the town of Marino. Many of the valleys in this district, now made beautiful by vineyards and oliveyards, owe their existence to the pickax of the Roman stonecutter, like the valley of Pozzo Pantaléo. The most curious sight is a dolmen or isolated rock 10 meters high, left in the center of one of the quarries to certify the thickness of the bed of rock excavated. In fact, the whole district is very interesting both to the archeologist and to the paysagiste. The mines of Marino, still worked in the neighborhood of the railway station, would count, like the Grotte della Cervara, among the wonders of the Campagna, were they known to the student as they deserve to be.

The principal Roman buildings in which the lapis Albanus has been used are: the Claudian aqueduct, the Cloaca Maxima, the temples of Antonius and Faustina, of Cybele, of the Eventus Bonus, of Neptune, the inclosure wall of the Forum Augustum, Forum Transitorium, and Forum Pacis, the Porticus Argonautarum, Porticus Pompeii, the Ustrinum of the Appian Way, etc. The sarcophagus of Cornelius Scipio Barbatus in the Vatican[Pg 49] museum, and the tomb of the Tibicines in the Museo Municipale al Celio are also of this stone.

Travertine stone was quarried in the plains of Tivoli at places now called Le Caprine, Casal Bernini, and Il Barco. This last was reopened after an interval of many centuries by Count G. Brazza, brother of the African explorer. Lost in the wilderness and overgrown with shrubs, it had not been examined, I believe, since the visit of Brocchi. It can be reached by stopping at the station of the Aquae Albulae, on the Tivoli line, and following the ancient road which led to the works. This road, twice as wide as the Appian Way, is flanked by substructures, and is not paved, but macadamized. Parallel with it runs an aqueduct which supplied the works with motive power, derived probably from the sulfur springs. There are also remains of tombs, one of which, octagonal in shape, serves as a foundation to the farmhouse del Barco.

The most remarkable monument of the whole group is the Roman quarry from which five and a half million cubic meters of travertine have been extracted, as proved by the measurement of the hollow space between the two opposite vertical sides. That this is the most important ancient quarry of travertine, and the largest one used by the Romans, is proved, in the first place, by its immense size. The sides show a frontage of more than two and a half kilometers; the surface amounts to 500,000 square meters. The sides are quite perpendicular, and have the peculiarity of projecting buttresses, at an angle of 90 degrees. Some of these buttresses are isolated on three sides, and still preserve the grooves, by means of which they could be separated from the solid mass....[Pg 50]

In order to keep the bottom of the works clean and free from the movement of the carts, for the action of the cranes, and for the maneuvres of the workmen, the chips, or useless product of the squaring of the blocks, were transported to a great distance, as far as the banks of the Anio, and there piled up to a great height. This is the origin of that chain of hills which runs parallel to the river, and of whose artificial formation no one, as far as I know, had the least suspicion. One of these hills, visible from every point of the neighboring district, from Hadrian's villa as well as from the Sulfur Baths, is elliptical in shape, 22 meters high, 90 meters long, and 65 meters wide. It can with reason be compared with our Testaccio. It is easy to imagine how immense must have been the number of blocks cut from the Cava del Barco during the period of the formation of this hill alone. Another proof of the antiquity of the quarry, and of its abandonment from imperial times down to our own day, is given by this fact....

There are three collections of brick-stamps in Rome; one, of little value, in the Kircherian museum; the second in the last room of the Vatican library, past the "Nozze aldobrandine;" the third and best in the Museo Municipale al Celio. This last contains over a thousand specimens, and a unique set of the products of Roman kilns. In fact, the first hall of the Museo is set apart exclusively for the study of ancient building and decorative materials.

Roman bricks were square, oblong, triangular, or round, the latter being used only to build columns in the Pompeiian style. The largest bricks that[Pg 51] have been discovered in my time measure 1.05 meters in length. They were set into an arch of one of the great stairs leading to the avenue or boulevard established in Imperial times on the top of the agger of Servius. Roman bricks are very often stamped with a seal, the legend of which contains the names of the owner and the manager of the kilns, of the maker of the tile, of the merchant entrusted with the sale of the products, and of the consuls under whose term of office the bricks were made. These indications are not necessarily found all in one seal.

The most important of them is the consular date, because it helps the student to determine, within certain limits, the date of the building itself. The rule, however, is far from being absolute, and before fixing the date of a Roman structure from that of its brick stamps one must take into consideration many other points of circumstantial evidence. When we examine, for instance, the grain warehouses at Ostia, or Hadrian's villa at Tivoli, and find that their walls have never undergone repairs, that their masonry is characteristic of the first quarter of the second century, that their bricks bear the dates of Hadrian's age and no others, we may rest assured that the stamps speak the truth. Their evidence is, in such a case, conclusive. But if the bricks are variously dated, or bear the names of various kilns, and not of one or two only, then their value as an evidence of the date of a building is diminished, if not lost altogether....

The bricks, again, occasionally bear curious signs, such as footmarks of chickens, dogs, or pigs, which stept over them while still fresh, impressions[Pg 52] of coins and medals, words or sentences scratched with a nail, etc. A bricklayer, who had perhaps seen better times in his youth, wrote on a tile the first verse of the Aeneid.

The great manufacturing center of Roman bricks was the district between the viae Triumphalis, Cornelia, and the two Aureliae, now called the Monti della Creta, which includes the southern slopes of the Vatican ridge and the northern of the Janiculum. Here also, as at Pozzo Pantaléo, the traces of the work of man are simply gigantic. The valleys del Gelsomino, delle Fornaci, del Vicolo delle Cave, della Balduina, and a section of the Val d'Inferno, are not the work of nature, but the result of excavations for "creta figulina," which began 2,300 years ago, and have never been interrupted since. A walk through the Monti della Creta will teach the student many interesting things. The best point of observation is a bluff between the Vicolo della Cave and the Vicolo del Gelsomino, marked with the word "Ruderi" and with the altitude of 75 meters, in the military map of the suburbs. The bluff rises 37 meters above the floor of the brick-kilns of the Gelsomino....

Roman bricks were exported to all the shores of the Mediterranean; they have been found in the Riviera, on the coasts of Benetia, of Narbonensis, of Spain and Africa, and in the island of Sardinia. The brick-making business must have been very remunerative, if we judge from the rank and wealth of many personages who had an interest in it. Many names of emperors appear in brick-stamps, and even more of empresses and princesses of the imperial family.[Pg 53]


BY GRACE GREENWOOD (Mrs. Lippincott)

Yesterday began Holy Week with the imposing but tedious ceremonies of Palm Sunday at St. Peter's. At nine o'clock in the morning we were in our places—seats erected for the occasion near the high altar, drest in the costume prescribed by church etiquette—black throughout, with black veils on our heads. At about ten the Pope entered, and the rites, ordinary and extraordinary, the masses and processions, continued until one.

The entrance of the Pope into this his grandest basilica was, as usual, a beautiful and brilliant sight. He came splendidly vested, wearing his miter, and borne in his chair of state under a gorgeous canopy, between the flabelli—two enormous fans of white peacock feathers. He was preceded and followed by cardinals, bishops, arch-bishops, monsignori, abbots, the apostolic prothonotaries, generals of the religious orders, officers of the state, of the army, of his household, and the Guardia Nobile.

He took his seat on the throne, and received the homage of the cardinals, who, kneeling, kissed his right hand. This is a ceremony which is always gone through with in the most formal, mechanical, business-like manner possible. Some palms, not in natural branches, but cut and wreathed in various strange, fantastic forms, lay on the altar. The Pope's chief sacristan took one of these, a deacon another, a sub-deacon a third, and knelt[Pg 54] at the foot of the throne. His Holiness read prayers over them, sprinkled them with holy water, and incensed them three times. One of these is held beside the throne by the prince assistant during the service; another is borne by the Pope when in procession.

After this, multitudes of palms were brought up for the Papal benediction. First came the cardinals, each, as he received his palm from the Pope, kissing it, the right hand and knee of His Holiness; then the bishops, who only kissed the palm and his right knee; then the abbots, who were only entitled to kiss the palm and his foot; then the governor of Rome, the prince assistant, the auditor, the treasurer, the maggiordomo, the secretaries, the chamberlains, the mace bearers, the deacons and sub-deacons, generals of the religious orders and priests in general, masters of the ceremonies, singers, clerks of the Papal chapel, students of Roman colleges, foreign ministers and their attachés, Italian, French, Spanish, Austrian, Russian, Prussian officers, noblemen and gentlemen, all came up in turn, knelt, received blest palms, and kissed the foot of the Sovereign Pontiff.

During the distribution of the palms, anthems were sung by the choir, who were caged up in a sort of trellice workbox at the right of the altar. This long but brilliantly picturesque ceremony through, the Pope, after washing his hands, again mounted into his "sedia gestatoria," and bearing his palm, preceded and followed by all those to whom he had given palms, passed slowly down the nave of the church, blessing the kneeling and bending multitude right and left. This procession of[Pg 55] palms was very striking and gorgeous from the beauty and variety of military arms and uniforms, and more than royal richness of the priestly vestments, the gleam of miters and maces, and of innumerable sacred symbols and insignia.



The interval between the close of one pontificate and the commencement of another is a period of some excitement, and necessarily of much anxiety. Time is required for the electors to assemble, from distant provinces, or even foreign countries; and this is occupied in paying the last tribute of respect and affection to the departed Pontiff. His body is embalmed, clothed in the robes of his office, of the penitential color, and laid on a couch of state within one of the chapels in St. Peter's, so that the faithful may not only see it, but kiss its feet. This last act of reverence to the mortal remains of the immortal Pius VIII., the writer well recollects performing.

These preliminaries occupy three days; during which rises, as if by magic, or from the crypts[Pg 56] below, an immense catafalque, a colossal architectural structure, which fills the nave of that basilica illustrated by inscriptions, and adorned by statuary. Before this huge monument, for nine days funeral rites are performed, closed by a funeral oration. For the body of the last Pope there is a uniform resting-place in St. Peter's—a plain sarcophagus, of marbled stucco, hardly noticed by the traveler, over a door beside the choir, on which is simply painted the title of the latest Pontiff. On the death of his successor it is broken down at the top, the coffin is removed to the under-church, and that of the new claimant for repose is substituted. This change takes place late in the evening, and is considered private. I can not recollect whether it was on this or on a subsequent occasion that I witnessed it with my college companions....

In the afternoon of the last day of the novendiali, as they are called, the cardinals assemble in a church near the Quirinal palace, and walk thence in procession, accompanied by their conclavisiti, a secretary, a chaplain, and a servant or two, to the great gate of the royal residence, in which one will remain as master and supreme lord. Of course the hill is crowded by persons lining the avenue kept open for the procession. Cardinals never before seen by them, or not for many years, pass before them; eager eyes scan and measure them, and try to conjecture, from fancied omens in eye, or figure, or expression, who will shortly be the sovereign of their fair city, and, what is more, the Head of the Catholic Church from the rising to the setting sun.

Equal they pass the threshold of that gate; they share together the supreme rule, temporal and spir[Pg 57]itual; there is still embosomed in them all the voice yet silent, that soon will sound, from one tongue, over all the world, and the dormant germ of that authority which will soon again be concentrated in one man alone. To-day they are all equal; perhaps to-morrow one will sit enthroned, and all the rest will kiss his feet; one will be sovereign, the others his subjects; one the shepherd, and the others his flock....

While we have been thus sketching, hastily and imperfectly, one of many who passed almost unnoticed in the solemn procession to conclave, on the 2d of September, 1823, we may suppose the doors to have been inexorably closed on those who composed it. The conclave, which formerly used to take place in the Vatican, was on this occasion, and has been subsequently, held in the Quirinal palace. This noble building, known equally by the name of Monte Cavallo, consists of a large quadrangle, round which run the papal apartments. From this stretches out, along a whole street, an immense wing, its two upper floors divided into a great number of small but complete suites of apartments, occupied permanently, or occasionally, by persons attached to the Court.

During conclave these are allotted, literally so, to the cardinals, each of whom lives apart, with his attendants. His food is brought daily from his own house, and is examined, and delivered to him in the shape of "broken victuals," by the watchful guardians of the turns and lattices, through which alone anything, even conversation, can penetrate into the seclusion of that sacred retreat. For a few hours, the first evening, the doors are left open, and the nobility, the diplo[Pg 58]matic body, and in fact all presentable persons, may roam from cell to cell, paying a brief compliment to their occupants, perhaps speaking the same good wishes to fifty, which they know can be accomplished in only one.

After that all is closed; a wicket is left accessible for the entrance of any cardinal who is not yet arrived; but every aperture is jealously guarded by faithful janitors, judges and prelates of various tribunals, who relieve one another. Every letter even is opened and read, that no communications may be held with the outer world. The very street on which the wing of the conclave looks is barricaded and guarded by a picket at each end; and as, fortunately, there are no private residences opposite, and all the buildings have access from the back, no inconvenience is thereby created.

While conclave lasts, the administrative power rests in the hands of the Cardinal Chamberlain, who strikes his own coins during its continuance; and he is assisted by three cardinals, called the "Heads of Orders," because they represent the three orders in the sacred college, of bishops, priests and deacons. The ambassadors of the great powers receive fresh credentials to the conclave, and proceed in state, to present them to this delegation, at the grille. An address, carefully prepared, is delivered by the envoy, and receives a well-pondered reply from the presiding cardinal.

Twice a day the cardinals meet in the chapel contained within the palace, and there, on tickets so arranged that the voter's name can not be seen, write the name of him for whom they give their suffrage. These papers are examined in their[Pg 59] presence, and if the number of votes given to any one do not constitute the majority, they are burned, in such a manner that the smoke, issuing through a flue, is visible to the crowd usually assembled in the square outside.

Some day, instead of this usual signal to disperse, the sound of pick and hammer is heard, and a small opening is seen in the wall which had temporarily blocked up the great window over the palace gateway. At last the masons of the conclave have opened a rude door, through which steps out on the balcony the first Cardinal Deacon, and proclaims to the many, or to the few, who may happen to be waiting, that they again possess a sovereign and a Pontiff.



We arrived in Rome at three in the afternoon, with letters which ensured us an audience with the Pope. A friend, long resident in Rome, who advised us to present them at once, accompanied us to the Vatican. Passing through an interesting part of the city, including the St. Angelo Bridge across the Tiber, we soon found ourselves in the world-famous Colonnade of St. Peter's. Ascending the steps leading to the Vatican, we passed the Swiss Guard in their famous uniforms designed by Michelangelo, and climbed what[Pg 60] seemed like endless stairs, passing guards at almost every turn, who pointed out the way indicated by the address on our credentials.

Arriving at an anteroom, a priestly secretary, speaking excellent English, read our letter with what seemed to us, from the expression of his face, great interest and evident approval. Why should this not have been? Our letter was from the Apostolic Delegate then in Washington—the Pope's own representative in America. It was in Italian, in the highest official form, and conveyed the intelligence that we were traveling in Italy for a brief vacation, mentioned all four of us by name, and said that, while we were not Catholics, we respected the faith and would carefully observe all the forms prescribed for an audience. The monseigneur whom we were to see was at that time engaged with several bishops. Because of this, we were asked to present ourselves at the same hour on Saturday, meanwhile leaving our letter.

Promptly at the hour I was again at the door of the major domo, Monseigneur Bisleti, to be received again by the priestly secretary, by whom I was taken into the palatial rooms of the monseigneur. A moment here was sufficient to explain my errand and receive from the monseigneur the long-coveted permission, which I found had already been made out in due form for four persons. Our cards entitled us to admission on the following day, which made necessary unexpected haste in arranging for the official costume of black. Fortunately we had all brought black veils and some of us either gowns or skirts. With help from others, we secured one or two neces[Pg 61]sary waists, and from our hostess obtained the rosaries I wished to have blest by the Pope. Our hostess then gave us a dress rehearsal, in order that we might fully understand what to us would be an imposing ceremony. An audience is a great function and the procedure accordingly is rigid.

On reaching the Vatican next day, we were directed by the Swiss Guard, not to the major domo's apartments as before, but through a court and thence up the grandest of staircases in three long flights, the walls lined with beautiful marbles more wonderful than many pictures, the light coming through magnificent stained-glass windows. In every sense here was a palatial, an imperial, entrance. At the head of the stairway we were met by gorgeous chamberlains, the body servants of the Pope, clad in superb magenta brocaded velvet, with knee breeches, magenta silk stockings, and great silver buckles on their shoes. Streamers hanging from their arms at the back, added to the official appearance of these men in their gorgeous uniforms.

We were shown through a magnificent antechamber, and then into a series of reception rooms, through which we were motioned on, until we came to the fourth, where were just four chairs which seemed to be waiting for us four. Swiss guards patrolled the rooms, and others—chamberlains, I suppose. We had a full half hour in which to wait here, but we could use it to advantage, in watching the gathering company, and viewing the magnificent room, hung as it was with rich red moire silk, as were all others of the suite. The ladies in black garb became very effec[Pg 62]tive figures in this brilliant setting. There were many beautiful tapestries in the rooms, one room having a tapestried frieze. The furniture was massive, either of inlaid wood or heavy gilt, and the floors of beautiful inlaid marble. It is not possible to give any adequate idea of these stately rooms, nor of their exquisite appointments; nor yet of the gathering company, for many high officials of the church passed before us and through to rooms beyond, which added to the interest of the occasion and the splendor of the scene.

We learned soon that this was to be no ordinary audience, but a special one granted to alumni of the American College in Rome. A few days before we left New York, a large company of American priests, graduates of the American College, had sailed on a chartered steamer to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the college, from which they had received holy orders. This audience had been specially arranged for them. We were therefore more than favored in having an audience at the same time, a fact due probably to the credentials with which we had come provided. We now understood that the officials of the church who had entered this room were our own American bishops. With them had however come others of high rank. Over their priestly robes of black they wore rich purple silk capes, falling to the floor, and purple sashes. (There are, of course, technical terms for these garments, but I do not know them.) The special body guard of the Pope, three men chosen from the Palatine guard, and in soldier's uniform, now passed through the room with a[Pg 63] noble guard of the Knights of Malta and Count Moroni, also in uniform, with chapeau, feathered with plumes of black and white.

At exactly half after eleven, Monseigneur Bisleti, watch in hand, bustled through, followed by bishops and priests. We were at once on our knees, for His Holiness was seen to be approaching from rooms beyond. As he advanced we could see his small figure, clad in white, surrounded by court attendants, American bishops, an archbishop, the Palatine guard, Monseigneur Bisleti, and the Knight of Malta. Between us and the doorway through which he approached, stood a girl of twelve, in white garments and veil. She had come from her first communion. Near her was a Franciscan monk, who evidently had just returned from some mission field, for he was bronzed, and haggard, and worn as to his garments. As the Pope passed he gave a special word of blessing to the monk, and a smile to the child.

The ceremony of the audience itself was simple. The Pope walked past the kneeling people, giving to each his hand. This each one took, kissing his ring. Filling the center of the room, as we were kneeling around the sides, were the priestly courtiers, the Papal delegate, in gray robes, a prominent figure among them. The Pope passed on through several rooms filled with waiting priests. We were then all bidden to follow to the throne room, for a special ceremony. An audience generally ends when the Pope leaves the room in which he receives you, giving his blessing to all as he leaves.

In the throne room now the American alumni[Pg 64] were to present their addresses to the Pope. As we entered, undergraduates of the college were discovered already there singing. Until the addresses were read, the singing was continued. It was all a magnificent sight, the little white father on his splendid throne, his court about him, his special body servant holding his red cape (to be used in case of drafts), and, as a background for all the colors of the court scene, several hundred black-robed priests.

Monseigneur Kennedy, rector of the college, read an address, as did Rev. Father Wall of Baltimore, president of the association. To these the Pope replied, reading from a manuscript. After this, he rose, mingled with his entourage, and chatted pleasantly with bishops and others. A picture was then taken of the court, the priests and students. These American priests and undergraduates were a fine company of men. The Pope finally gave his blessing to all who were assembled in the room, and the great function was over.



The visitor to St. Peter's should not fail to ascend to the dome; a long journey, but involving no danger and not a great amount of fatigue. From the church to the roof the pas[Pg 65]sage is by an inclined plane of pavement, with so gradual an ascent that loaded mules pass up without difficulty. In stepping out upon the roof, it is difficult to believe that we are more than one hundred and fifty feet from the ground, or that so extensive an architectural surface could have been reared in air by the patient labor of men's hands. It rather seems as if a little village had been lifted up by some geological convulsion. Here are wide spaces to walk about in, houses for human habitation, a fountain playing, and all the signs of life. The views are everywhere fine, and one can fancy that the air is purer and the sky more blue than to those left below. The dome soars high above the eye, and a new sense of its magnitude seizes upon the mind. The two cupolas which flank the façade are upward of one hundred feet high, and the five smaller ones which crown the chapels are of great size; but here they seem like dwarfs clinging about a giant's knee.

The dome of St. Peter's, as is well known, is double; and between the outer and inner wall is a series of winding passages and staircases, by which the ascent is made to the top. The length of these passages and staircases, their number, and the time it takes to traverse them, are a new revelation of the size of this stupendous structure. We begin to comprehend the genius and courage which planned and executed a work so novel and so bold. From the galleries inside, the view of the interior below is most striking. It looks as the earth may look from a balloon. The men moving upon the pavement appear like that "small infantry warred on by cranes"; and even[Pg 66] the baldacchino hardly swells beyond the dimensions of a candelabrum.

At the base of the ball, a railing, unseen from below, enables the visitor whose nerves are tolerably good to enjoy an extensive and beautiful prospect, embracing a region interesting not merely to the eye but to the mind: the cradle of that mighty Roman race which here began its ever-widening circle of conquest and annexation. It comprises the Campagna, the Tiber, the distant Mediterranean, the Apennines, the Alban and Sabine hills, and the isolated bulk of Soracte. From no point on earth can the eye rest upon so many spots on which the undying light of human interest lingers.

From this place the ascent is made to the interior of the ball itself, into which most travelers climb, probably more for the sake of saying that they have been there than anything else. Tho the ball looks like a mere point from below, it is nearly eight feet in diameter; and the interior will hold a dozen persons without inconvenience. Altho I visited it on a winter's day, the atmosphere was extremely hot and uncomfortable, from the effect of the sun's rays upon the gilded bronze. By means of an exterior ladder, it is possible to climb to the foot of the cross; a feat which few landsmen would have the nerve to undertake.[Pg 67]



We followed the street which ascends and descends, bordered with palaces and old hedges of thorn, as far as Santa Maria Maggiore. This basilica, standing upon a large eminence, surmounted with its domes, rises nobly upward, at once simple and complete, and when you enter it, it affords still greater pleasure. It belongs to the fifth century; on being rebuilt at a later period, the general plan, its antique idea, was preserved. An ample nave, with a horizontal roof, is sustained by two rows of white Ionic columns. You are rejoiced to see so fine an effect obtained by such simple means; you might almost imagine yourself in a Greek temple.

It is said that a temple of Juno was robbed of these columns. Each of them bare and polished, with no other ornament than the delicate curves of its small capital, is of healthful and charming beauty. You appreciate here the good sense, and all that is agreeable in genuine natural construction, the file of trunks of trees which bear the beams, resting flat and providing a long walk. All that has since been added is barbarous, and first, the two chapels of Sixtus V. and Paul V., with their paintings by Guido, Josepin, and Cigoli, and the sculptures of Bernini, and the architecture of Fontana and Flaminio. These are cele[Pg 68]brated names, and money has been prodigally spent, but instead of the slight means with which the ancients produced a great effect, the moderns produce a petty effect with great means.

When the bewildered eye is satiated with the elaborate sweep of these arches and domes, with the splendors of polychromatic marbles, with friezes and pedestals of agate, with columns of oriental jasper, with angels hanging by their feet, and with all these bas-reliefs of bronze and gold, the visitor hastens to get away from it as he would to escape from a confectioner's shop. It seems as if this grand, glittering box, gilded and labored from pavement to lantern, caught up and tore at every point of its finery the delicate web of poetic reverie; the slender profile of the least of the columns impresses one far more than any of this display of the art of upholsterers and parvenus. Similarly to this the façade, loaded with balustrades, and round and angular pediments, and statues roosting on its stones, is a "hôtel-de-ville" frontage.

The campanile, belonging to the fourteenth century, alone presents an agreeable object; at that time it was one of the towers of the city, a distinctive sign which marked it on the old plans so black and sharp, and stamped it forever on the still corporeal imaginations of monks and wayfarers. There are traces of every age in these old basilicas; you see the diverse states of Christianity, at first enshrined in pagan forms, and then traversing the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to muffle itself up finally, and bedeck itself with modern finery. The Byzantine epoch has left its imprint in the mosaics of the great[Pg 69] nave and the apsis, and in its bloodless and lifeless Christs and Virgins, so many staring specters motionless on their gold backgrounds and red panels, the fantoms of an extinct art and a vanished society.



There is an upper chamber in the Mamertine prison, over what is said to have been—and very possibly may have been—the dungeon of St. Peter. This chamber is now fitted up as an oratory, dedicated to that saint; and it lives, as a distinct and separate place, in my recollection, too. It is very small and low-roofed; and the dread and gloom of the ponderous, obdurate old prison are on it, as if they had come up in a dark mist through the floor. Hanging on the walls, among the clustered votive offerings, are objects, at once strangely in keeping, and strangely at variance, with the place—rusty daggers, knives, pistols, clubs, divers instruments of violence and murder, brought here, fresh from use, and hung up to propitiate offended Heaven; as if the blood upon them would drain off in consecrated air, and have no voice to cry with. It is all so silent and so close, and tomb-like; and the dungeons below are so black and stealthy, and stagnant, and naked; that this little dark spot becomes a dream within a dream; and in the vision of great churches which come rolling past[Pg 70] me like a sea, it is a small wave by itself, that melts into no other wave, and does not flow on with the rest.

It is an awful thing to think of the enormous caverns that are entered from some Roman churches, and undermine the city. Many churches have crypts and subterranean chapels of great size, which, in the ancient time, were baths, and secret chambers of temples, and what not; but I do not speak of them. Beneath the church of St. Giovanni and St. Paolo, there are the jaws of a terrific range of caverns, hewn out of the rock, and said to have another outlet underneath the Coliseum—tremendous darknesses of vast extent, half-buried in the earth and unexplorable, where the dull torches, flashed by the attendants, glimmer down long ranges of distant vaults branching to the right and left, like streets in a city of the dead; and show the cold damp stealing down the walls, drip-drop, drip-drop, to join the pools of water that lie here and there, and never saw, and never will see, one ray of sun. Some accounts make these the prisons of the wild beasts destined for the amphitheater; some, the prisons of the condemned gladiators; some, both. But the legend most appalling to the fancy is, that in the upper range (for there are two stories of these caves) the early Christians destined to be eaten at the Coliseum shows, heard the wild beasts, hungry for them, roaring down below; until, upon the night and solitude of their captivity, there burst the sudden noon and life of the vast theater crowded to the parapet, and of these, their dreaded neighbors, bounding in!

Below the church of San Sebastiano, two miles[Pg 71] beyond the gate of San Sebastiano, on the Appian Way, is the entrance to the catacombs of Rome—quarries in the old time, but afterward the hiding-places of the Christians. These ghastly passages have been explored for twenty miles; and form a chain of labyrinths, sixty miles in circumference.

A gaunt Franciscan friar, with a wild, bright eye, was our only guide, down into this profound and dreadful place. The narrow ways and openings hither and thither, coupled with the dead and heavy air, soon blotted out, in all of us, any recollection of the track by which we had come; and I could not help thinking: "Good Heaven, if, in a sudden fit of madness he should dash the torches out, or if he should be seized with a fit, what would become of us!" On we wandered, among martyrs' graves; passing great subterranean vaulted roads, diverging in all directions, and choked up with heaps of stones, that thieves and murderers may not take refuge there, and form a population under Rome even worse than that which lives between it and the sun. Graves, graves, graves; graves of men, of women, of their little children, who ran crying to the persecutors, "We are Christians! We are Christians!" that they might be murdered with their parents; graves with the palm of martyrdom roughly cut into their stone boundaries, and little niches, made to hold a vessel of the martyrs' blood; graves of some who lived down here, for years together, ministering to the rest, and preaching truth, and hope, and comfort, from the rude altars, that bear witness to their fortitude at this hour; more roomy graves, but far more terrible, where hun[Pg 72]dreds, being surprized, were hemmed in and walled up; buried before death, and killed by slow starvation.

Such are the spots and patches in my dream of churches, that remain apart and keep their separate identity. I have a fainter recollection, sometimes, of the relics; of the fragment of the pillar of the Temple that was rent in twain; of the portion of the table that was spread for the Last Supper; of the well at which the woman of Samaria gave water to our Savior; of two columns from the house of Pontius Pilate; of the stone to which the sacred hands were bound, when the scourging was performed; of the grid-iron of Saint Lawrence, and the stone below it, marked with the frying of his fat and blood; these set a shadowy mark on some cathedrals, as an old story, or a fable might, and stop them for an instant, as they flit before me. The rest is a vast wilderness of consecrated buildings of all shapes and fancies, blending one with another; of battered pillars of old Pagan temples, dug up from the ground, and forced, like giant captives, to support the roofs of Christian churches; of pictures, bad, and wonderful, and impious, and ridiculous; of kneeling people, curling incense, tinkling bells, and sometimes (but not often) of a swelling organ; of Madonne, with their breasts stuck full of swords, arranged in a half-circle like a modern fan; of actual skeletons of dead saints, hideously attired in gaudy satins, silks, and velvets trimmed with gold; their withered crust of skull adorned with precious jewels, or with chaplets of crusht flowers; sometimes, of people gathered round the pulpit, and a monk[Pg 73] within it stretching out the crucifix, and preaching fiercely; the sun just streaming down through some high window on the sail-cloth stretched above him and across the church, to keep his high-pitched voice from being lost among the echoes of the roof. Then my tired memory comes out upon a flight of steps, where knots of people are asleep, or basking in the light; and strolls away, among the rags and smells, and palaces, and hovels, of an old Italian street.



The cemetery is beneath the church, but entirely above ground, and lighted by a row of iron-grated windows without glass. A corridor runs along besides these windows, and gives access to three or four vaulted recesses, or chapels, of considerable breadth and height, the floor of which consists of the consecrated earth of Jerusalem. It is smoothed decorously over the deceased brethren of the convent, and is kept quite free from grass or weeds, such as would grow even in these gloomy recesses, if pains were not bestowed to root them up. But, as the cemetery is small, and it is a precious privilege to sleep in holy ground, the brotherhood are immemorially accustomed, when one of their number dies, to take the longest-buried skeleton out of the oldest grave, and lay the new slumberer there in[Pg 74]stead. Thus, each of the good friars, in his turn, enjoys the luxury of a consecrated bed, attended with the slight drawback of being forced to get up long before daybreak, as it were, and make room for another lodger.

The arrangement of the unearthed skeletons is what makes the special interest of the cemetery. The arched and vaulted walls of the burial recesses are supported by massive pillars and pilasters made of thigh-bones and skulls; the whole material of the structure appears to be of a similar kind; and the knobs and embossed ornaments of this strange architecture are represented by the joints of the spine, and the more delicate tracery by the smaller bones of the human frame. The summits of the arches are adorned with entire skeletons, looking as if they were wrought most skilfully in bas-relief. There is no possibility of describing how ugly and grotesque is the effect, combined with a certain artistic merit, nor how much perverted ingenuity has been shown in this queer way, nor what a multitude of dead monks, through how many hundred years, must have contributed their bony framework to build up these great arches of mortality. On some of the skulls there are inscriptions, purporting that such a monk, who formerly made use of that particular head-piece, died on such a day and year; but vastly the greater number are piled up indistinguishably into the architectural design like the many deaths that make up the one glory of a victory.

In the side walls of the vaults are niches where skeleton monks sit or stand, clad in the brown habits that they wore in life, and labeled with[Pg 75] their names and the dates of their decease. Their skulls (some quite bare, and others still covered with yellow skin, and hair that has known the earth-damps) look out from beneath their hoods, grinning, hideously repulsive. One reverend father has his mouth wide open, as if he had died in the midst of a howl of terror and remorse, which perhaps is even now screeching through eternity. As a general thing, however, these frocked and hooded skeletons seem to take a more cheerful view of their position, and try with ghastly smiles to turn it into a jest. But the cemetery of the Capuchins is no place to nourish celestial hopes; the soul sinks forlorn and wretched under all this burden of dusty death; the holy earth from Jerusalem, so imbued is it with mortality, has grown as barren of the flowers of Paradise as it is of earthly weeds and grass. Thank Heaven for its blue sky; it needs a long, upward gaze to give us back our faith. Not here can we feel ourselves immortal, where the very altars in these chapels of horrible consecration are heaps of human bones.



A beautiful pyramid, a hundred and thirteen feet high, built into the ancient wall of Rome, is the proud "Sepulcher of Caius Cestius." It is the most imperishable of the antiquities, stand[Pg 76]ing as perfect after eighteen hundred years as if it were built but yesterday. Just beyond it, on the declivity of a hill, over the ridge of which the wall passes, crowning it with two moldering towers, lies the Protestant burying-ground.

It looks toward Rome, which appears in the distance, between Mount Aventine and a small hill called Mont Testaccio, and leaning to the south-east, the sun lies warm and soft upon its banks, and the grass and wild flowers are there the earliest and tallest of the Campagna. I have been here to-day, to see the graves of Keats and Shelley. With a cloudless sky and the most delicious air ever breathed, we sat down upon the marble slab laid over the ashes of poor Shelley, and read his own lament over Keats, who sleeps just below, at the foot of the hill.

The cemetery is rudely formed into three terraces, with walks between, and Shelley's grave and one other, without a name, occupy a small nook above, made by the projections of a moldering wall-tower, and crowded with ivy and shrubs, and a peculiarly fragrant yellow flower, which perfumes the air around for several feet. The avenue by which you ascend from the gate is lined with high bushes of the marsh-rose in the most luxuriant bloom, and all over the cemetery the grass is thickly mingled with flowers of every dye. In his preface to his lament over Keats, Shelley says:

"He was buried in the romantic and lonely cemetery of the Protestants, under the pyramid which is the tomb of Cestius, and the massy walls and towers, now moldering and desolate, which formed the circuit of ancient Rome. It is an open[Pg 77] space among the ruins, covered in winter with violets and daisies. It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place."

If Shelley had chosen his own grave at the time, he would have selected the very spot where he has since been laid—the most sequestered and flowery nook of the place he describes so feelingly.

On the second terrace of the declivity are ten or twelve graves, two of which bear the names of Americans who have died in Rome. A portrait carved in bas-relief, upon one of the slabs, told me, without the inscription, that one whom I had known was buried beneath. The slightly rising mound was covered with small violets, half hidden by the grass. It takes away from the pain with which one stands over the grave of an acquaintance or a friend, to see the sun lying so warm upon it, and the flowers springing so profusely and cheerfully. Nature seems to have cared for those who have died so far from home, binding the earth gently over them with grass, and decking it with the most delicate flowers. We descended to the lower enclosure at the foot of the slight declivity. The first grave here is that of Keats. The inscription runs thus:

"This grave contains all that was mortal of a young English poet, who, on his death-bed in the bitterness of his heart at the malicious power of his enemies, desired these words to be engraved on his tomb: 'Here lies one whose name was written in water.'"

He died at Rome in 1821. Every reader knows his history and the cause of his death. Shelley says, in the preface to his elegy:[Pg 78]

"The savage criticism on his poems, which appeared in the "Quarterly Review," produced the most violent effect on his susceptible mind; the agitation thus originated ended in a rupture of a blood-vessel in the lungs; a rapid consumption ensued, and the succeeding acknowledgments, from more candid critics, of the true greatness of his powers, were ineffectual to heal the wound thus wantonly inflicted."

Keats was, no doubt, a poet of very uncommon promise. He had all the wealth of genius within him, but he had not learned, before he was killed by criticism, the received, and, therefore, the best manner of producing it for the eye of the world. Had he lived longer, the strength and richness which break continually through the affected style of "Endymion" and "Lamia" and his other poems, must have formed themselves into some noble monuments of his powers. As it is, there is not a poet living who could surpass the material of his "Endymion"—a poem, with all its faults, far more full of beauties. But this is not the place for criticism. He is buried fitly for a poet, and sleeps beyond criticism now. Peace to his ashes!



The excursions in the neighborhood of Rome are charming, and would be full of interest were it only for the changing views they afford of the wild Campagna. But every inch of ground in[Pg 79] every direction is rich in associations, and in natural beauties. There is Albano, with its lovely lake and wooded shore, and with its wine, that certainly has not improved since the days of Horace, and in these times hardly justifies his panegyric. There is squalid Tivoli, with the river Anio, diverted from its course, and plunging down, headlong, some eighty feet in search of it, with its picturesque Temple of the Sibyl, perched high on a crag; its minor waterfalls glancing and sparkling in the sun; and one good cavern yawning darkly, where the river takes a fearful plunge and shoots on, low down under beetling rocks.

There, too, is the Villa d'Este, deserted and decaying among groves of melancholy pine and cypress-trees, where it seems to lie in state. Then, there is Frascati, and, on the steep above it, the ruins of Tusculum, where Cicero lived, and wrote, and adorned his favorite house (some fragments of it may yet be seen there), and where Cato was born. We saw its ruined amphitheater on a gray, dull day, when a shrill March wind was blowing, and when the scattered stones of the old city lay strewn about the lonely eminence, as desolate and dead as the ashes of a long-extinguished fire.

One day we walked out, a little party of three, to Albano, fourteen miles distant; possest by a great desire to go there by the ancient Appian Way, long since ruined and overgrown. We started at half-past seven in the morning, and within an hour or so were out upon the open Campagna. For twelve miles we went climbing on, over an unbroken succession of[Pg 80] mounds, and heaps, and hills of ruin. Tombs and temples, overthrown and prostrate; small fragments of columns, friezes, pediments; great blocks of granite and marble; moldering arches grass-grown and decayed; ruin enough to build a spacious city from; lay strewn about us. Sometimes loose walls, built up from these fragments by the shepherds, came across our path; sometimes a ditch, between two mounds of broken stones, obstructed our progress; sometimes, the fragments themselves, rolling from beneath our feet, made it a toilsome matter to advance; but it was always ruin. Now, we tracked a piece of the old road above the ground; now traced it underneath a grassy covering, as if that were its grave; but all the way was ruin.

In the distance, ruined aqueducts went stalking on their giant course along the plain; and every breath of wind that swept toward us, stirred early flowers and grasses, springing up, spontaneously, on miles of ruin. The unseen larks above us, who alone disturbed the awful silence, had their nests in ruin; and the fierce herdsmen, clad in sheepskins, who now and then scowled out upon us from their sleeping nooks, were housed in ruin. The aspect of the desolate Campagna in one direction, where it was most level, reminded me of an American prairie; but what is the solitude of a region where men have never dwelt, to that of a desert, where a mighty race have left their footprints in the earth from which they have vanished; where the resting-places of their dead have fallen like their dead; and the broken hour-glass of Time is but a heap[Pg 81] of idle dust! Returning by the road at sunset, and looking, from the distance, on the course we had taken in the morning, I almost felt (as I had felt when I first saw it, at that hour) as if the sun would never rise again, but looked its last, that night, upon a ruined world.

To come again to Rome, by moonlight, after such an expedition, is a fitting close to such a day. The narrow streets, devoid of footways, and choked, in every obscure corner, by heaps of dung-hill-rubbish, contrast so strongly, in their cramped dimensions, and their filth and darkness, with the broad square before some haughty church; in the center of which, a hieroglyphic-covered obelisk, brought from Egypt in the days of the Emperors, looks strangely on the foreign scene about it; or perhaps an ancient pillar, with its honored statue overthrown, supports a Christian saint; Marcus Aurelius giving place to Paul, and Trajan to St. Peter. Then, there are the ponderous buildings reared from the spoliation of the Coliseum, shutting out the moon, like mountains; while here and there are broken arches and rent walls, through which it gushes freely, as the life comes pouring from a wound. The little town of miserable houses, walled, and shut in by barred gates, is the quarter where the Jews are locked up nightly, when the clock strikes eight—a miserable place, densely populated, and reeking with bad odors, but where the people are industrious and money-getting. In the daytime, as you make your way along the narrow streets, you see them all at work—upon the pavement, oftener than in their dark and frowsy shops; furbishing old clothes, and driving bargains.[Pg 82]

Crossing from these patches of thick darkness out into the moon once more, the fountain of Trevi, welling from a hundred jets, and rolling over mimic rocks, is silvery to the eye and ear. In the narrow little throat of street beyond, a booth drest out with flaring lamps, and boughs of trees, attracts a group of sulky Romans around its smoky coppers of hot broth, and cauliflower stew; its trays of fried fish, and its flasks of wine. As you rattle around the sharply twisting corner, a lumbering sound is heard. The coachman stops abruptly, and uncovers, as a van comes slowly by, preceded by a man who bears a large cross; by a torch-bearer, and a priest; the latter chanting as he goes. It is the dead-cart, with the bodies of the poor, on their way to burial in the Sacred Field outside the walls, where they will be thrown into the pit that will be covered with a stone to-night, and sealed up for a year.

But whether, in this ride, you pass by obelisks, or columns, ancient temples, theaters, houses, porticoes or forums, it is strange to see how every fragment, whenever it is possible, has been blended into some modern structure, and made to serve some modern purpose—a wall, a dwelling-place, a granary, a stable—some use for which it never was designed, and associated with which it can not otherwise than lamely assort.[Pg 83]





Immediately after leaving Incisa, we saw the Arno, already a considerable river, rushing between deep banks, with the greenish hue of a duck-pond diffused through its water. Nevertheless, tho the first impression was not altogether agreeable, we soon became reconciled to this hue, and ceased to think it an indication of impurity; for, in spite of it, the river is still, to a certain degree, transparent, and is, at any rate, a mountain stream, and comes uncontaminated from its source. The pure, transparent brown of the New England rivers is the most beautiful color; but I am content that it should be peculiar to them.

Our afternoon's drive was through scenery less striking than some which we had traversed, but still picturesque and beautiful. We saw deep valleys and ravines, with streams at the bottom; long, wooded hillsides, rising far and[Pg 84] high, and dotted with white dwellings, well toward the summits. By and by, we had a distant glimpse of Florence, showing its great dome and some of its towers out of a sidelong valley, as if we were between two great waves of the tumultuous sea of hills; while, far beyond, rose in the distance the blue peaks of three or four of the Apennines, just on the remote horizon. There being a haziness in the atmosphere, however, Florence was little more distinct to us than the Celestial City was to Christian and Hopeful, when they spied at it from the Delectable Mountains.

Keeping steadfastly onward, we ascended a winding road, and passed a grand villa, standing very high, and surrounded with extensive grounds. It must be the residence of some great noble; and it has an avenue of poplars or aspens, very light and gay, and fit for the passage of the bridal procession, when the proprietor or his heir brings home his bride; while in another direction from the same front of the palace stretches an avenue or grove of cypresses, very long and exceedingly black and dismal, like a train of gigantic mourners. I have seen few things more striking, in the way of trees, than this grove of cypresses.

From this point we descended, and drove along an ugly, dusty avenue, with a high brick wall on one side or both, till we reached the gate of Florence, into which we were admitted with as little trouble as custom-house officers, soldiers, and policemen can possibly give. They did not examine our luggage, and even declined a fee, as we had already paid one at the fron[Pg 85]tier custom-house. Thank heaven, and the Grand Duke!

As we hoped that the Casa del Bello had been taken for us, we drove thither in the first place, but found that the bargain had not been concluded. As the house and studio of Mr. Powers[27] were just on the opposite side of the street, I went to it, but found him too much engrossed to see me at the moment; so I returned to the "vettura," and we told Gaetano to carry us to a hotel. He established us at the Albergo della Fontana, a good and comfortable house. Mr. Powers called in the evening—a plain personage, characterized by strong simplicity and warm kindliness, with an impending brow, and large eyes, which kindle as he speaks. He is gray, and slightly bald, but does not seem elderly, nor past his prime. I accept him at once as an honest and trustworthy man, and shall not vary from this judgment. Through his good offices, the next day we engaged the Casa del Bello. This journey from Rome has been one of the brightest and most uncareful interludes of my life; we have all enjoyed it exceedingly, and I am happy that our children have it to look back upon.[Pg 86]



Every great capital has its eye; at Rome it is the Campo Vaccino; at Paris, the Boulevard des Italiens; at Venice, the Place St. Mark; at Madrid, the Prado; at London, the Strand; at Naples, the Via di Toledo. Rome is more Roman, Paris more Parisian, Venice more Venetian, Madrid more Spanish, London more English, Naples more Neapolitan, in that privileged locality than anywhere else. The eye of Florence is the Place of the Grand Duke—a beautiful eye. In fact, suppress that Place and Florence has no more meaning—it might be another city. It is at that Place, therefore, that every traveler ought to begin, and, moreover, had he not that intention, the tide of pedestrians would carry him and the streets themselves would conduct him thither.

The first aspect of the Place of the Grand Duke has an effect so charming, so picturesque, so complete, that you comprehend all at once into what an error the modern capitals like London, Paris, St. Petersburg, fall in forming, under the pretext of squares, in their compact masses, immense empty spaces upon which they run aground all possible and impossible modes of decoration. One can touch with his finger the reason which makes of the Carrousel and Place de la Concorde, great empty fields which[Pg 87] absorb fountains, statues, arches of triumph, obelisks, candelabra, and little gardens. All these embellishments, very pretty on paper, very agreeable also, without doubt, viewed from a balloon, are almost lost for the spectator who can not grasp the whole, his height only rising five feet above the ground.

A square, in order to produce a beautiful effect, ought not to be too big; it is also necessary that it should be bordered by varied monuments of diverse elevations. The Place of the Grand Duke at Florence unites all these conditions; bordered by monuments regular in themselves, but different from one another, it is pleasing to the eye without wearying by a cold symmetry.

The Palace of the Seigneurie, or Old Palace, which by its imposing mass and severe elegance at first attracts the attention, occupies a corner of the Place, instead of the middle. This idea, a happy one, in our opinion, regrettable for those who only see architectural beauty in geometrical regularity, is not fortuitous; it has a reason wholly Florentine. In order to obtain perfect symmetry, it would have been necessary to build upon the detested soil of the Ghibelline house, rebellious and proscribed by the Uberti; something that the Guelph faction, then all-powerful, were not willing to allow the architect, Arnolfo di Lapo, to do. Learned men contest the truth of this tradition; we will not discuss here the value of their objections. It is certain, however, that the Old Palace gains greatly by the singularity of this location and also leaves space for the great Fountain of[Pg 88] Neptune and the equestrian statue of Cosmo the First.

The name of fortress would be more appropriate than any other, for the Old Palace; it is a great mass of stone, without columns, without frontal, without order of architecture. Time has gilded the walls with beautiful vermilion tints which the pure blue of the sky sets off marvelously, and the whole structure has that haughty and romantic aspect which accords well with the idea that one forms for oneself of that old Palace of the Seigneurie, the witness, since the date of its erection in the thirteenth century, of so many intrigues, tumults, violent acts, and crimes. The battlements of the palace, cut square, show that it was built to that height by the Guelph faction; the trifurcated battlements of the belfry indicate a sudden change on the accession to power of the Ghibelline faction.

Guelphs and Ghibellines detested each other so violently that they exprest their opinions in their garments, in the cut of their hair, in their arms, in their manner of fortifying themselves. They feared nothing so much as to be captured by one another, and differed as much as they possibly could. They had a special salutation after the manner of the Freemasons and the Companions of Duty. The opinions of the ancient owners of the Old Palace at Florence can be recognized by this characteristic; the walls of the city are crenelated squarely in the Guelph fashion, and the tower on the ramparts has the Ghibelline battlements of swallow-tail shape.[Pg 89]

The Vecchio Palace has for its basement several steps which were used in former times as a species of tribune, from the top of which the magistrates and demagogs harangued the people. Two colossal statues of marble—Hercules slaying Cacus, by Bandinelli, and David the Conqueror of Goliath, by Michael Angelo—mount near the door their age-long watch, like two gigantic sentinels whom someone has forgotten to relieve. The statue of David by Michael Angelo besides the inconvenience there is in representing under a gigantic form a Biblical hero of notoriously small size, seemed to us a trifle common and heavy, a rare defect with this master; his David is a great big boy, fleshy, broad-backed, with monstrous biceps, a market porter waiting to put a sack upon his back. The working of the marble is remarkable and, after all, is a fine piece of study which would do honor to any other sculptor except Michael Angelo; but there is lacking that Olympian mastership which characterizes the works of that superhuman sculptor.

One of the most curious features of the Old Palace is the grand salon, a hall of enormous dimensions, which has its legend. When the Medici were driven from Florence, in 1494, Fra Girolamo Savonarola, who directed the popular movement, proposed the idea of constructing an immense hall where a council of a thousand citizens would elect the magistrates and regulate the affairs of the republic. The architect Cronaca had charge of this task and acquitted himself of it with a celerity so marvelous that Brother Savonarola caused the rumor to spread[Pg 90] that angels descended from heaven to help the masons and continued at night the interrupted work. The invention of these angels tempering the mortar and carrying the hod is all done in the legendary style of the Middle Ages and would furnish a charming subject for a picture to some ingenuous painter of the school of Overbeck or of Hauser. In this rapid construction Cronaca displayed, if not all his genius, at least all his agility. The work has been justly admired and often consulted by architects.

When the Medici returned to power and transferred their residence from the Palace of the Via Larga, which they had occupied, to the Palace of the Seigneurie, Cosmo wished to change the Council Hall into an audience chamber, and charged the presumptuous Bacchio Bandinelli, whose designs had attracted him, with various alterations of an important character; but the sculptor had undoubtedly presumed too much on his talent as an architect, and in spite of the assistance of Giuliano Baccio d'Agnolo, whom he called to his aid, he worked for ten years without being able to conquer the difficulties which he had created for himself.

It was Vasari who raised the ceiling several feet, finished the work and decorated the walls with a succession of frescoes which may still be seen, and which represent different episodes in the history of Florence—combats, and captures of cities, the whole being a travesty of antiquity, an intermingling of allegories. These frescos, painted with an intrepid and learned mediocrity, display the commonplace tones,[Pg 91] swelling muscles and anatomical tricks in use at that epoch among artists.

We have already called attention to the fact that colossal dimensions are not at all necessary to produce effect in architecture. The Loggia de Lanzi, that gem of the Place of the Grand Duke, consists of a portico composed of four arcades, three on the façade, one in return on the gallery of the offices. It is a miniature of a monument; but the harmony of its proportions is so perfect that the eye in contemplating it experiences a sense of satisfaction. The nearness of the Palace of the Seigneurie, with its compact mass, admirably sets off the elegant slenderness of its arches and columns. The Loggia is a species of Museum in the open air. The "Perseus" of Benvenuto Cellini, the "Judith" of Donatello, the "Rape of the Sabines" of John of Bologna, are framed in the arcades. Six antique statues—the cardinal and monastic virtues—by Jacques, called Pietro, a Madonna by Orgagna adorn the interior wall. Two lions, one antique, the other modern, by Vacca, almost as good as the Greek lions of the arsenal at Venice, complete the decoration.

The Perseus may be regarded as the masterpiece of Benvenuto Cellini, an artist so highly spoken of in France, without scarcely anything being known about him. This statue, a little affected in its pose, like all the works of the Florentine school, has a juvenile grace which is very attractive.[Pg 92]



Only two considerable rivers flow from the Apennines westward into the Mediterranean. The Tiber makes Rome; the Arno makes Florence. In prehistoric and early historic times, the mountainous region which forms the basin of these two rivers was occupied by a gifted military race, the Etruscans, who possest a singular assimilative power for Oriental and Hellenic culture. Intellectually and artistically, they were the pick of Italy. Their blood still runs in the veins of the people of Tuscany. Almost every great thing done in the Peninsula, in ancient or modern times, has been done by Etruscan hands or brains. The poets and painters, in particular, with few exceptions, have been, in the wide ethnical sense, Tuscans.

The towns of ancient Etruria were hill-top strongholds. Florence was not one of these; even its neighbor, Fiesole (Faesulue), did not rank among the twelve great cities of the Etruscan league. But with the Roman conquest and the Roman peace, the towns began to descend from their mountain peaks into the river valleys; roads grew important, through internal trade; and bridges over rivers assumed a fresh commercial value. Florence (Florentia), probably founded under Sulla as a Roman municipium, upon a Roman road, guarded the bridge across the Arno, and gradually absorbed the[Pg 93] population of Fiesole. Under the later empire, it was the official residence of the "Corrector" of Tuscany and Umbria. During the Middle Ages, it became, for all practical purposes, the intellectual and artistic capital of Tuscany, inheriting in full the remarkable mental and esthetic excellences of the Etruscan race.

The valley of the Arno is rich and fertile, bordered by cultivable hills, which produce the famous Chianti wine. It was thus predestined by nature as the seat of the second city on the west slope of Italy. Florence, however, was not always that city. The seaport of Pisa (now silted up and superseded by Leghorn) first rose into importance; possest a powerful fleet; made foreign conquests; and erected the magnificent group of buildings just outside the town which still form its chief claim upon the attention of tourists. But Florence with its bridge commanded the inland trade, and the road to Rome from Germany. After the destruction of Fiesole in 1125, it grew rapidly in importance; and, Pisa having sustained severe defeats from Genoa, the inland town soon rose to supremacy in the Arno basin. Nominally subject to the Emperor, it became practically an independent republic, much agitated by internal quarrels, but capable of holding its own against neighboring cities. Its chief buildings are thus an age or two later than those of Pisa; it did not begin to produce splendid churches and palaces, in emulation of those of Pisa and Siena, till about the close of the 13th century. To the same period belongs the rise of its literature under Dante, and its painting under Giotto.[Pg 94] This epoch of rapid commercial, military, and artistic development forms the main glory of early Florence.

The 14th century is chiefly interesting at Florence as the period of Giottesque art, finding its final crown in Fra Angelico. With the beginning of the 15th, we get the dawn of the Renaissance—the age when art set out once more to recover the lost perfection of antique workmanship. In literature, this movement took the form of humanism; in architecture and sculpture, it exhibited itself in the persons of Alberti, Ghiberti, Della Robbia, and Donatello; in painting, it showed itself in Lippi, Botticelli, Ghirlandajo, and Verrocchio....

We start, then, with the fact that up to nearly the close of the 13th century (1278), Florence was a comparatively small and uninteresting town, without any buildings of importance, save the relatively insignificant Baptistery; without any great cathedral, like Pisa and Siena; without any splendid artistic achievement of any kind. It consisted at that period of a labyrinth of narrow streets, enclosing huddled houses and tall towers of the nobles, like the two to be seen to this day at Bologna. In general aspect, it could not greatly have differed from Albenga or San Gimignano in our own time. But commerce was active; wealth was increasing; and the population was seething with the intellectual and artistic spirit of its Etruscan ancestry. During the lifetime of Dante, the town began to transform itself and to prepare for becoming the glorious Florence of the Renaissance artists. It then set about building two[Pg 95] immense and beautiful churches—Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella—while, shortly after, it grew to be ashamed of its tiny San Giovanni (the existing Baptistery), and girded itself up to raise a superb cathedral, which should cast into the shade both the one long since finished at maritime Pisa and the one then still rising to completion on the height of Siena.

Florence at that time extended no further than the area known as Old Florence, which means from the Ponte Vecchio to the Cathedral in one direction, and from the Ponte alla Carraja to the Grazie in the other. Outside the wall lay a belt of fields and gardens, in which one or two monasteries had already sprung up. But Italy at that moment was filled with religious enthusiasm by the advent of the Friars both great orders of whom, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, had already established themselves in the rising commercial city of Florence. Both orders had acquired sites for monastic buildings in the space outside the walls and soon began to erect enormous churches. The Dominicans came first, with Santa Maria Novella, the commencement of which dates from 1278; the Franciscans were a little later in the field, with Santa Croce, the first stone not being placed till 1294.[Pg 96]



Desirous of seeing the beginnings of this Renaissance we go from the Palazzo-Vecchio to the Duomo. Both form the double heart of Florence, such as it beat in the Middle Ages, the former for politics, and the latter for religion, and the two so well united that they formed but one. Nothing can be nobler than the public edict passed in 1294 for the construction of the national cathedral.

"Whereas, it being of sovereign prudence on the part of a people of high origin to proceed in its affairs in such a manner that the wisdom no less than the magnanimity of its proceedings can be recognized in its outward works, it is ordered that Arnolfo, master architect of our commune, prepare models or designs for the restoration of Santa Maria Reparata, with the most exalted and most prodigal magnificence, in order that the industry and power of men may never create or undertake anything whatsoever more vast and more beautiful; in accordance with that which our wisest citizens have declared and counselled in public session and in secret conclave, to wit, that no hand be laid upon the works of the commune without the intent of making them to correspond to the noble soul which is composed of the souls of all its citizens united in one will."

Courtesy John C. Winston Co.

Courtesy John C. Winston Co.

Courtesy John C. Winston Co.

Courtesy John C. Winston Co.

Courtesy John C. Winston Co.

Courtesy John C. Winston Co.

Courtesy John C. Winston Co.

Courtesy John C. Winston Co.

Courtesy John C. Winston Co.

Courtesy John C. Winston Co.

Courtesy John C. Winston Co.

Courtesy John C. Winston Co.

[Pg 97]

In this ample period breathes the grandiose pride and intense patriotism of the ancient republics. Athens under Pericles, and Rome under the first Scipio cherished no prouder sentiments. At each step, here as elsewhere, in texts and in monuments, is found, in Italy, the traces, the renewal and the spirit of classic antiquity.

Let us, accordingly, look at the celebrated Duomo—but, the difficulty is to see it. It stands upon flat ground, and, in order that the eye might embrace its mass it would be necessary to level three hundred buildings. Herein appears the defect of the great medieval structure; even to-day, after so many openings, effected by modern demolishers, most of the cathedrals are visible only on paper. The spectator catches sight of a fragment, some section of a wall, or the façade; but the whole escapes him; man's work is no longer proportioned to his organs. It was not thus in antiquity; temples were small or of mediocre dimensions, and were almost always erected on an eminence; their general form and complete profile could be enjoyed from twenty different points of view.

After the advent of Christianity, men's conceptions transcended their forces, and the ambition of the spirit no longer took into account the limitations of the body. The human machine lost its equilibrium. With forgetfulness of the moderate there was established a love of the odd. Without either reason or symmetry campaniles or bell-towers were planted, like isolated posts, in front or alongside of cathedrals; there is one of these alongside of the Duomo,[Pg 98] and this change of human equipoise must have been potent, since even here, among so many Latin traditions and classic aptitudes, it declares itself.

In other respects, save the ogive arcades, the monument is not Gothic, but Byzantine, or, rather, original; it is a creature of a new and mixed form like the new and mixed civilization of which it is the offspring. You feel power and invention in it with a touch of quaintness and fancy. Walls of enormous grandeur are developed or expanded without the few windows in them happening to impair their massiveness or diminish their strength. There are no flying buttresses; they are self-sustaining. Marble panels, alternately yellow and black, cover them with a glittering marquetry, and curves of arches let into their masses seem to be the bones of a robust skeleton beneath the skin.

The Latin cross, which the edifice figures, contracts at the top, and the chancel and transepts bubble out into rotundities and projections, in petty domes behind the church in order to accompany the grand dome which ascends above the choir, and which, the work of Brunnelleschi, newer and yet more antique than that of St. Peter, lifts in the air to an astonishing height its elongated form, its octagonal sides and its pointed lantern. But how can the physiognomy of a church be conveyed by words? It has one nevertheless; all its portions appearing together are combined in one chord and in one effect. If you examine the plans and old engravings you will appreciate the bizarre and[Pg 99] captivating harmony of these grand Roman walls overlaid with Oriental fancies; of these Gothic ogives arranged in Byzantine cupolas; of these light Italian columns forming a circle above a bordering of Grecian caissons; of this assemblage of all forms, pointed, swelling, angular, oblong, circular and octagonal. Greek and Latin antiquity, the Byzantine and Saracenic Orient, the Germanic and Italian middle-age, the entire past, shattered, amalgamated and transformed, seems to have been melted over anew in the human furnace in order to flow out in fresh forms in the hands of the new genius of Giotto, Arnolfo, Brunnelleschi and Dante.

Here the work is unfinished, and the success is not complete. The façade has not been constructed; all that we see of it is a great naked, scarified wall similar to a leper's plaster.[31] There is no light within. A line of small round bays and a few windows fill the immensity of the edifice with a gray illumination; it is bare, and the argillaceous tone in which it is painted depresses the eye with its wan monotony. A "Pieta" by Michael Angelo and a few statues seem like spectres; the bas-reliefs are only vague confusion. The architect, hesitating between medieval and antique taste, fell only upon a lifeless light, that between a pure light and a colored light.

The more we contemplate architectural works the more do we find them adapted to express the prevailing spirit of an epoch. Here, on the flank of the Duomo, stands the Campanile by[Pg 100] Giotto, erect, isolated, like St. Michael's tower at Bordeaux, or the tower of St. Jacques at Paris; the medieval man, in fact, loves to build high; he aspires to heaven, his elevations all tapering off into pointed pinnacles; if this one had been finished a spire of thirty feet would have surmounted the tower, itself two hundred and fifty feet high. Hitherto the northern architect and the Italian architect are governed by the same instinct, and gratify the same penchant; but while the northern artist, frankly Gothic, embroiders his tower with delicate moldings, and complex flower-work, and a stone lacework infinitely multiplied and intersected, the southern artist, half-Latin through his tendencies and his reminiscences, erects a square, strong and full pile, in which a skilful ornamentation does not efface the general structure, which is not frail sculptured bijou, but a solid durable monument, its coating of red, black and white marble covering it with royal luxuriance, and which, through its healthy and animated statues, its bas-reliefs framed in medallions, recalls the friezes and pediments of an antique temple.

In these medallions Giotto has symbolized the principal epochs of human civilization; the traditions of Greece near those of Judea; Adam, Tubal-Cain, and Noah, Daedalus, Hercules, and Antaeus, the invention of plowing, the mastery of the horse, and the discovery of the arts and the sciences; laic and philosophic sentiment live freely in him side by side with a theological and religious sentiment. Do we not already see in this renaissance of the fourteenth[Pg 101] century that of the sixteenth? In order to pass from one to another, it will suffice for the spirit of the first to become ascendant over the spirit of the second; at the end of a century we are to see in the adornment of the edifice, in these statues of Donatello, in their baldness so expressive, in the sentiment of the real and natural life displayed among the goldsmiths and sculptors, evidence of the transformation begun under Giotto having been already accomplished.

Every step we take we encounter some sign of this persistency or precocity of a Latin and classic spirit. Facing the Duomo is the baptistery, which at first served as a church, a sort of octagonal temple surmounted by a cupola, built, doubtless, after the model of the Pantheon of Rome, and which, according to the testimony of a contemporary bishop, already in the eighth century projected upward the pompous rotundities of its imperial forms. Here, then, in the most barbarous epoch of the Middle Ages, is a prolongation, a renewal, or, at least, an imitation of Roman architecture. You enter, and find that the decoration is not all Gothic; a circle of Corinthian columns of precious marbles with, above these, a circle of smaller columns surmounted by loftier arcades, and, on the vault, a legion of saints, and angels peopling the entire space, gathering in four rows around a grand, dull, meager, melancholy Byzantine Christ. On these three superposed stories the three gradual distortions of antique art appear; but, distorted or intact, it is always antique art. A significant feature, this, throughout the[Pg 102] history of Italy; she did not become Germanic. In the tenth century the degraded Roman still subsisted distinct and intact side by side with the proud barbarian....

Sculpture, which, once before under Nicholas of Pisa, had anticipated painting, again anticipated it in the fifteenth century; these very doors of the baptistery enable one to see with what sudden perfection and brilliancy. Three men then appeared, Brunelleschi, the architect of the Duomo, Donatello, who decorated the Campanile with statues, and Ghiberti, who cast the two gates of the baptistery, all three friends and rivals, all three having commenced with the goldsmith's art and a study of the living model, and all three passionately devoted to the antique; Brunelleschi drawing and measuring Roman monuments, Donatello at Rome copying statues and bas-reliefs and Ghiberti importing from Greece torsos, vases and heads which he restored, imitated and worshiped.



The traveler who, turning his back to the gates of Ghiberti, passes, for the first time, under the glittering new mosaics and through the main doors of Santa Maria Del Fiore experiences a sensation. He leaves behind him[Pg 103] the façade, dazzling in its patterns of black and white marble, all laced with sculpture, he enters to dim, bare vastness—surely, never was bleaker lining to a splendid exterior. Across a floor that seems unending, he makes long journeys, from monument to monument; to gigantic condottieri, riding ghost-like in the semi-darkness against the upper walls; to Luca's saints and angels in the sacristies; to Donatellos's Saint John, grand and tranquil in his niche, and to Michelangelo's group, grand and troubled in its rough-hewn marble.

At length, in the north transept, he comes to a small door, and entering there, he may, if legs and wind hold out, climb five hundred and fifteen steps to the top of the mightiest dome in the world, the widest in span, and the highest from spring to summit. For the first one hundred and fifty steps or so, there are square turnings, and the stone looks sharp, and new, and solid; a space vaulted by a domical roof follows, and is apparently above one of the apsidal domes to the church; then a narrow spiral staircase leads to where a second door opens upon a very narrow, balustraded walk that runs around the inner side of the dome.

He is at an altitude of sixty-seven meters, exactly at the spring of the cupola and the beginning of the Vasari frescoes; the feet are at an elevation of one meter less than is that of the lower tops of Notre Dame de Paris, and yet the dome follows away overhead, huge enough, high enough to contain a second church piled, Pelion-like upon the first. Before, in the dimness, is the vastest roof-covered void in the[Pg 104] world; it is terrific, and if the visitor is susceptible, his knees shake, and his diaphragm seems to sink to meet them.

The impression is tremendous; no wonder that the Tuscans felt Brunelleschi to be the central figure of the Renaissance. Again and again, whether in the gallery or between the walls of the dome, the thought comes; men built this, and one man dared it and planned it. Not even the Pyramids impress more strongly; for if Brunelleschi built a lesser pyramid, he hollowed his and hung it in the air.

On the other side of the space, a small black spot becomes a door when the traveler has giddily circled half the dome; it opens upon another staircase, up which he climbs between the two skins of the cupola, or rather between two of the three, like a parasite upon a monster. Sometimes the place suggests a ship, with the oculi as gunports, piercing to the outer day, or else, his mind fresh from that red inferno of Vasari's frescoes, the traveler is tunneling up through a volcanic crater with a whole Typhonic Enceladus buried below.

To right and left, the smooth, cemented surface curves away and upward, brick buttresses appear constantly, but always with the courses of brick laid slanting to the earth's level, and perpendicular to the thrust of the dome. Every possible effect of light and obscurity makes the strange vistas yet more weird, and, now and then, there is a feeling of standing upon the vast, rounding slope of some planet that shines at one's feet, then gradually falls away into the surrounding blackness.[Pg 105]

The famous "oaken chain" of Vasari's life of Brunelleschi is there, bolted together in successive beams. Last of all, a long, straight staircase, straight because without turn to right or left, curves upward like an unradiant, bowed Valhalla-bridge to a great burst of daylight, and the climber is upon the top of the dome.

He is as completely cut off from the immediately surrounding earth as upon a cloud girdled mountain, for the dome swells so vastly below that the piazza can not be seen about transept or choir, and not one of the apsidal domes shows a tile of its covering, while the nave, that huge and tremendous nave of Santa Maria, looks but a narrow, and a distant roof. At one's back, the marble of the lantern is handsome and creamy in color, but battered and broken; its interior is curious—a narrow funnel of marble, little wider than a man's body, set with irons on either side, is the only ladder, so that the climb up is a close squeeze. There is a familiar something gone from the surroundings, and that something is soon remembered to be Dante's baptistery, which does not exist from Brunelleschi's dome, being blotted out by the façade of Santa Maria. One hundred feet below, showing its upper and richer portion gloriously from this novel point of view, is what from the piazza is the soaring bell tower, the Campanile of Giotto.[Pg 106]



Arnolfo, sometimes called di Cambio and sometimes di Lapi, was the first of the group of Cathedral builders in Florence. Who Arnolfo was seems to be scarcely known, tho few architects after him have left greater works or more evidence of power. His first authentic appearance in history is among the band of workmen engaged upon the pulpit in the Duomo at Siena, as pupil or journeyman of Niccolo Pisano, the great reviver of the art of sculpture—when he becomes visible in company with a certain Lapo, who is sometimes called his father (as by Vasari) and sometimes his instructor, but who appears actually to have been nothing more than his fellow-workman and associate....

The Cathedral, the Palazzo Pubblico, the two great churches of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella, all leaped into being within a few years, almost simultaneously. The Duomo was founded, as some say, in 1294, the same year in which Santa Croce was begun, or, according to others, in 1298; and between these two dates, in 1296, the Palace of the Signoria, the seat of the Commonwealth, the center of all public life, had its commencement. All these great buildings, Arnolfo designed and began, and his genius requires no other evidence. The stern strength of the Palazzo, upright and strong[Pg 107] like a knight in mail, and the large and noble lines of the Cathedral, ample and liberal and majestic in ornate robes and wealthy ornaments, show how well he knew to vary and adapt his art to the different requirements of municipal and religious life and to the necessities of the age.

We are not informed who they were who carried out the design of the Duomo. Arnolfo only lived to see a portion of this, his greatest work, completed—"the three principal tribunes which were under the cupola," and which Vasari tells us were so solid and strongly built as to be able to bear the full weight of Brunelleschi's dome, which was much larger and heavier than the one the original architect had himself designed. Arnolfo died when he had built his Palazzo in rugged strength, as it still stands, with walls like living rock and heavy Tuscan cornices—tho it was reserved to the other masters to put upon it the wonderful crown of its appropriate tower—and just as the round apse of the cathedral approached completion; a hard fate for a great builder to leave such noble work behind him half done, yet the most common of all fates. He died, so far as there is any certainty in dates, in 1300, during the brief period of Dante's power in Florence, when the poet was one of the priors and much engaged in public business; and the same eventful year concluded the existence of Cimabue, the first of the great school of Florentine painters—he whose picture was carried home to the church in which it was to dwell for all the intervening centuries with such[Pg 108] pride and acclamation that the Borgo Allegri is said to have taken its name from this wonderful rejoicing....

No more notable or distinct figure than Giotto is in all the history of Florence. He was born a peasant, in the village of Vespignano in the Mugello, the same district which afterward gave birth to Fra Angelico. Giotto had at least part of his professional training in the great cathedral at Assisi built over the bones of St. Francis, was one of those homely, vigorous souls, "a natural person," like his father, whom neither the lapse of centuries nor the neighborhood of much greater and more striking persons about them, can deprive of their naive and genuine individuality. Burly, homely, characteristic, he carries our attentions always with him, alike on the silent road, or in the king's palace, or his own simple shop. Wherever he is, he is always the same, shrewd, humorous, plain-spoken, seeing through all pretenses, yet never ill-natured in doing so—a character not very lofty or elevated, and to which the racy ugliness of a strong, uncultivated race seems natural—but who under that homely nature carried appreciations and conceptions of beauty such as few fine minds possess.

Of all the beautiful things with which Giotto adorned his city, not one speaks so powerfully to the foreign visitor—the forestiere whom he and his fellows never took into account, tho who occupy so large a space among the admirers of his genius nowadays—as the lovely Campanile which stands by the great cathedral like the white royal lily beside the Mary of the[Pg 109] Annunciation, slender and strong and everlasting in its delicate grace. It is not often that a man takes up a new trade when he is approaching sixty, or even goes into a new path out of his familiar routine. But Giotto seems to have turned without a moment's hesitation from his paints and panels to the less easily-wrought materials of the builder and sculptor, without either faltering from the great enterprise or doubting his own power to do it. His frescoes and altarpieces and crucifixes, the work he had been so long accustomed to, and which he could execute pleasantly in his own workshop or on the cool new walls of church or convent, with his trained school of younger artists round to aid him, were as different as possible from the elaborate calculations and measurements by which alone the lofty tower, straight, and lightsome as a lily, could have sprung so high and stood so lightly against that Italian sky.

Like the poet or the romancist when he turns from the flowery ways of fiction and invention, where he is unencumbered by any restrictions save those of artistic keeping and personal will, to the grave and beaten path of history—the painter must have felt when he too turned from the freedom and poetry of art to this first scientific undertaking. The Cathedral was so far finished by this time, its front not scarred and bare as afterward, but adorned with statues according to old Arnolfo's plan, who was dead more than thirty years before; but there was no belfry, no companion peal of peace and sweetness to balance the hoarse old vacca with its voice of iron.[Pg 110]

Giotto seems to have thrown himself into work not only without reluctance but with enthusiasm. The foundation-stone of the building was laid in July of that year, with all the greatness of Florence looking on; and the painter entered upon his work at once, working out the most poetic effort of his life in marble and stone, among the masons' chippings and the dust and blaze of the public street. At the same time he designed, tho it does not seem sure whether he lived long enough to execute, a new façade for the Cathedral, replacing Arnolfo's old statues by something better.

Of the Campanile itself it is difficult to speak in ordinary words. The enrichments of the surface, which is covered by beautiful groups set in a graceful framework of marble, with scarcely a flat or unadorned spot from top to bottom, have been ever since the admiration of artists and of the world. But we confess, for our own part, that it is the structure itself that affords us that soft ecstasy of contemplation, sense of a perfection before which the mind stops short, silenced and filled with the completeness of beauty unbroken, which Art so seldom gives, tho Nature often attains it by the simplest means, through the exquisite perfection of a flower or a stretch of summer sky.

Just as we have looked at a sunset we look at Giotto's tower, poised far above in the blue air, in all the wonderful dawns and moonlights of Italy, swift darkness shadowing its white glory at the tinkle of the Ave Maria, and a golden glow of sunbeams accompanying the mid-day angelus. Between the solemn antiquity of[Pg 111] the old baptistery and the historical gloom of the great cathedral, it stands like the lily—if not, rather, like the great angel himself hailing her who was blest among women, and keeping up that lovely salutation, musical and sweet as its own beauty, for century after century, day after day. Giotto made not only the design, but even, Vasari assures us, worked at the groups and "bassi-relievi" of these "stories in marble, in which are depicted the beginning of all the arts." ...

Filippo of Ser Brunellescho of the Lapi, which is, according to Florentine use, his somewhat cumbrous name, or Brunelleschi for short, as custom permitted him to be called, was the son of a notary, who as notaries do, hoped and expected his boy to follow in his steps and succeed to his practise. But, like other sons doomed their fathers' soul to cross, Filippo took to those "figuretti" in bronze which were so captivating to the taste of the time, and preferred rather to be a goldsmith, to hang upon the skirts of art, than to work in the paternal office. He was, as Vasari insinuates, small, puny, and ugly, but full of dauntless and daring energy as well as genius. From his gold and silver work, the "carvings" which old Bartoluccio had been so glad to escape, and from his "figuretti," the ambitious lad took to architectural drawing, of which, according to Vasari, he was one of the first amateurs, making "portraits" of the Cathedral and baptistery, of the Palazzo Pubblico, and the other chief buildings of the city. He was so eloquent a talker that a worthy citizen declared of him that he seemed[Pg 112] "a new St. Paul;" and in his thoughts he was continually busy planning or imagining something skilful and difficult.

The idea of completing the Cathedral by adding to it a cupola worthy of its magnificent size and proportions seems to have been in the young man's head before the Signoria or the city took any action in the matter. Arnolfo's designs are said to have been lost, and all the young Filippo could do was to study the picture in the Spanish chapel of Santa Maria Novella, where the cathedral was depicted according to Arnolfo's intention; and this proof to the usefulness of architectural backgrounds, no doubt, moved him to those pictures of building which he was fond of making.

After his failure in the competition with Ghiberti for the baptistery gates, Filippo went to Rome, accompanied by Donato. Here the two friends lived and studied together for some time, one giving himself to sculpture, the other to architecture. Brunelleschi, according to Vasari, made this a period of very severe study. He examined all the remains of ancient buildings with the keenest care; studying the foundations and the strength of the walls, and the way in which such a prodigious load as the great dome, which already he saw in his mind's eye, could best be supported.

So profound were his researches that he was called the treasure-hunter by those who saw him coming and going through the streets of Rome, a title so far justified that he is said in one instance to have actually found an ancient earthenware jar full of old coins. While[Pg 113] engaged in these studies, his money failing him, he worked for a jeweller according to the robust practise of the time, and after making ornaments and setting gems all day, set to work on his buildings, round and square, octagons, basilicas, arches, colosseums, and amphitheaters, perfecting himself in the principles of his art.

In 1407 he returned to Florence, and then there began a series of negotiations between the artist and the city, to which there seemed at first as if no end could come. They met, and met again, assemblies of architects, of city authorities, of competitors less hopeful and less eager than himself. His whole heart, it is evident, was set upon the business. Hearing Donatello at one of these assemblies mention the cathedral at Orvieto, which he had visited on his way from Rome, Filippo, having his mantle and his hood on, without saying a word to anyone, set straight off from the Piazza on foot, and got as far as Cortona, from whence he returned with various pen-and-ink drawings before Donato or any one else had found out that he was away.

Thus the small, keen, determined, ugly artist, swift and sudden as lightning, struck through all the hesitations, the consultations, the maunderings, the doubts, and the delays of the two authorities who had the matter in hand, the Signoria and the Operai, as who should say the working committee, and who made a hundred difficulties and shook their wise heads, and considered one foolish and futile plan after another with true burgher hesitation and wariness.[Pg 114]

At last, in 1420, an assembly of competitors was held in Florence, and a great many plans put forth, one of which was to support the proposed vault by a great central pillar, while another advised that the space to be covered should be filled with soil mixed with money, upon which the dome might be built, and which the people would gladly remove without expense afterward for the sake of the farthings! An expedient most droll in its simplicity. Brunelleschi, impatient of so much folly, went off to Rome, it is said, in the middle of these discussions, disgusted by the absurd ignorance which was thus put in competition with his careful study and long labor. Finally the appointment was conceded to him.

The greatest difficulty with which he had to contend was a strike of his workmen, of whom, however, there being no trades' unions in those days, the imperious master made short work. And thus, day by day, the great dome swelled out over the shining marble walls and rose against the beautiful Italian sky. Nothing like it had been seen before by living eyes. The solemn grandeur of the Pantheon at Rome was indeed known to many, and San Giovanni[34] was in some sort an imitation of that; but the immense structure of the cupola, so justly poised, springing with such majestic grace from the familiar walls to which it gave new dignity, flattered the pride of the Florentines as something unique, besides delighting the eyes and imagination of so beauty-loving a race.[Pg 115]

With that veiled and subtle pride which takes the shape of pious fear, some even pretended to tremble, lest it should be supposed to be too near an emulation of the blue vault above, and that Florence was competing with heaven; others, with the delightful magniloquence of the time, declared that the hills around the city were scarcely higher than the beautiful Duomo; and Vasari himself has a doubt that the heavens were envious, so persistent were the storms amid which the cupola arose.

Yet there it stands to this day, firm and splendid, uninjured by celestial envy, more harmonious than St. Peter's, the crown of the beautiful city. Its measurements and size and the secrets of its formation we do not pretend to set forth; the reader will find them in every guide-book. But the keen, impetuous, rapid figure of the architect, impatient, and justly impatient, of all rivalry, the murmurs and comments of the workmen; the troubled minds of the city authorities, not knowing how to hold their ground between that gnome of majestic genius who had fathomed all the secrets of construction and built a hundred Duomos in his mind, while they were pottering over the preliminaries of one; have all the interest of life for us.

Through the calm fields of art he goes like a whirlwind, keen, certain, unfailing in his aim, unsparing in means, carried forward by such an impulse of will and self-confidence that nothing can withstand him. Sure of his own powers, as he was when he carved in secret the crucifix which was to cover poor Donatello with[Pg 116] confusion, he saw before him, over his carvings, as he worked for the Roman goldsmith, the floating vision of the great dome he was to build—and so built it, all opposition notwithstanding, clearing out of his way with the almost contemptuous impatience of that knowledge which has no doubt of itself, the competing architects.



The Baptistery is the most ancient building in Florence. If not of pagan origin it dates from the earliest ages of Christianity. It was coated with marble of different colors by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1293, while in the sixteenth century Agnolo Gaddi designed the lantern; but long before Arnolfo's time it had been employed as a Christian place of worship, being used as a cathedral up to 1128, when it was converted into a baptistery.

This building contains three gates, which have no parallel in the world. The oldest is that on the southern side, upon which Pisano spent twenty-two years of his life, a most beautiful work representing, in twenty compartments, the life of St. John the Baptist. The frieze which runs round it was commenced nearly a century afterward by Ghiberti, and Pollaiuolo had much to do with its completion.

The northern gates are by Ghiberti, and, like those of Pisano, are divided into twenty com[Pg 117]partments, the subject being the life of Christ. The bronze door-posts are delicately carved with flowers, fruit, and animals. These gates were first placed on the eastern side, but in 1452 were removed to make room for Ghiberti's still finer work.

On the third façade, that which faces the Duomo, is the Porta del Paradiso, so named by Michael Angelo, who declared that this gate was worthy to be the entrance into Paradise. Ghiberti divided each panel into five parts, taking the following as his subjects, after suggestions made by Leonardo Bruni Aretino: (1) Creation of Adam and Eve; (2) Cain and Abel; (3) Noah; (4) Abraham and Isaac; (5) Jacob and Esau; (6) Joseph in Egypt; (7) Moses on Mount Sinai; (8) The Capture of Jericho; (9) David Slaying Goliath; (10) The Queen of Sheba and Soloman.

The frieze contains statuettes of the prophets and prophetesses and portrait-busts of men and women still alive, including Ghiberti himself, and his father; while the frame-posts, with their masses of vegetation and flora wrought in bronze, are admirable for their truth to nature. Bronze groups representing the "Decapitation of St. John the Baptist," by Danti, and the "Baptism of our Lord," by Andrea Sansovino, surmount two of the gates, which were at one time heavily gilded, tho few traces of this are now visible.

The Baptistery, empty as it appears to the eye upon first entering it, is replete with beautiful monuments, a description of which would fill a good-sized volume. It is built, as I have already said, upon an octagonal plan. The altar, which formerly stood beneath the cupola, has been re[Pg 118]moved. On the 24th of June every year the magnificent retablo in massive silver, which is preserved among the treasures in the Opera del Duomo, is displayed in the Baptistery. The silver alone weighs 325 pounds, including two center-pieces, two side-pieces, and a silver crucifix with two statuettes seven feet high, and weighing 141 pounds, the group being completed by two statues of Peace in engine-turned silver. Many artists were employed upon the making of it. Finiguerra, Pollaiuolo, Cione, Michelozzi, Verrocchio, and Cennini made the lower parts and the bas-reliefs of the front, while the cross, executed in 1456, is by Betto di Francesco, and the base of it by Milano di Domenico dei and Antonio Pollaiuolo.

The interior of the cupola of San Giovanni is ornamented with some of the oldest specimens of mosaic decoration in Florence, these Byzantine artists being the first, after Murano and Altino, to exercise their craft in Italy, and being succeeded by Jacopo da Turita, Andrea Tafi, and Gaddo Gaddi.

The handsome tomb of Baldassare Cossa (Pope John XXIII., deposed at the time of the Council of Constance), was reared in the Baptistery by Donatello. The Holy of Holies is relatively modern, having been erected at the expense of the Guild of the "Calimala," as the men who gave the finishing touch to the woolen stuffs manufactured abroad were called. The baptismal font, in a building specially used for christening, would, as a matter of course, be intrusted to artists of great repute, and that at San Giovanni is attributed to Andrea Pisano. Upon each face is represented one of the baptisms most famous[Pg 119] in the history of the Catholic religion, an inscription beneath explaining each episode; but this font is, unfortunately, so much in the background that it escapes the notice of many visitors.

Donatello carved the wooden statue of the Magdalen which occupies one of the niches, the thin emaciated face being typical of the artist's partiality for reproducing in their smallest details the physical defects of his subject. The exterior aspect of the Baptistery does not give one the idea of a building restored in the thirteenth, but rather in the fifteenth century.



Until the close of 1080 the Ponte Vecchio was built of wood, the heavy masses of timber, tho offering no steady resistance to the stream, dividing the muddy course of the waters into a thousand small currents, and breaking its force. But in 1177 occurred one of those inundations which were so frequent that traces of them may still be seen on the walls of the quays. These inundations were one of the curses of Florence, and tho the evil has been, to a certain extent, cured by the construction of massive quays, they still occur in the direction of the Cascine. An attempt was accordingly made in the twelfth century to obviate this inconvenience by the construction of a stone bridge. This, in turn, was[Pg 120] carried away in 1333, and Taddeo Gaddi, who had already made a name for himself by his architectural skill, was employed to build a bridge capable of resisting the highest floods. The present bridge was therefore erected in 1345, being 330 feet long by 44 wide.

With the double object of obtaining an income for the city and of introducing a novel feature, shops were built on the two pathways, which were 16 feet wide, and these were let to the butchers of Florence, thus realizing the Eastern plan of concentrating the meat trade of a town in one place. This arrangement lasted from 1422 until 1593, but in the latter year, under Cosimo I., the "Capitani di Parte," who had the supervision of the streets and highways, ordered that all the goldsmiths and jewelers should take the place of the butchers, and in a few months, the Ponte Vecchio became the wealthiest and most crowded thoroughfare of Florence. In order to avoid shutting out a view of the stream and interfering with the perspective, an open space had been reserved in the center, and when the Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi were connected with the Pitti Palace by means of the large covered way carried over the bridge, this space was left intact so as to afford a view of the eminence of San Miniato upon one side, of the windings of the stream on the other, and of the Cascine shrubberies and the mountains upon the horizon.[Pg 121]



Built by Arnolfo, then fifty-four years of age, by order of the Friars of St. Francis, this venerable temple was raised upon the piazza called Santa Croce, where formerly stood a small church belonging to the order of the Franciscan monks. They had resolved to embellish and enlarge their church, and Cardinal Matteo D'Acquasparta, general of the Franciscan Order, proclaimed an indulgence to all contributors toward the undertaking. The church was far enough advanced in 1320 for services to be held in it, tho the façade was then, as until a very recent period it remained, a plain brick wall, without facing or any other ornament. Santa Croce was not singular in this respect, for San Lorenzo and many other Florentine churches have never been decorated externally.

In 1442 Cardinal Bessarion, the founder of St. Mark's Library at Venice, was delegated to perform the ceremony of consecration. Donatello and Ghiberti, incomplete as was the façade, executed some statues and a stained-glass window for it, but it is only within the last few years that the city of Florence completed the work, leaving untouched the grand piazza which had been the scene of so many fêtes and intestine quarrels, and upon which is now erected a statue to Dante. The façade of Santa Croce was completed in 1863. The expense was principally borne by Mr. Francis Sloane, an Englishman.[Pg 122]

The interior is striking from its vast size, the church being built in the shape of a Latin cross with nave, aisles, and transepts, each of the seven pointed arches being supported on the octagonal column. Opposite the front entrance is the high altar, while all around the walls and between the side altars—erected in 1557 by Vasari by order of Cosimo I.—are the monuments of the illustrious dead. First of all on the left there is Domenico Sestini, a celebrated numismatist, whose bust was carved by Pozzetti. While in the first chapel on the right is the tomb of Michael Angelo, who died at Rome on the 17th of February, 1564; the monument was designed by Vasari, the bust was executed by Battista Lorenzo. Two contemporary sculptors, Valerio Cioli and Giovanni Dell'Opera, did the allegories of Sculpture and Architecture, the frescoes around the monument being by Battista Naldini. A nobler tomb might well have been raised to the memory of Michael Angelo. The body was deposited in the church on the 12th of March, 1564, and lay in state, for the people of Florence to come and pay him the last tribute of respect.

The next tomb is only commemorative, for it does not contain the ashes of Dante, in whose honor it was erected in 1829 by Ricci, as a tardy homage on the part of Florence to one who suffered so much for her sake in life.[38]

After Dante comes Victor Alfieri, whose name has been borne with distinction by his descen[Pg 123]dants. This monument was erected by Canova in 1807. Compared with the monuments of the fifteenth century and of the Renaissance, which are to be seen in such splendid profusion in Florence, these tombs seem so inferior that it is impossible not to wonder how the decadence was brought about. It is not at Florence alone that this feeling manifests itself; for at Venice, in the splendid temple of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, beside the tombs of doges and condottieri of the fifteenth century there stands that wretched monument upon which the great name of Titian has been traced. This is evidently the result of an inevitable law to which humanity is subject. Genius comes into the world, grows, spreads, and covers the earth with its shadow; then slowly the sap runs back from the verdant trunk, the tree yields less luscious fruit and flowers not so fair, until at last the branches wither and the tree dies.

Close beside Alfieri is buried Machiavelli, his tomb, like so many of the others, being of modern erection, and consequently less beautiful than if it had been the work of a sculptor who had studied in the school of Ghiberti or Donatello. By the side of Machiavelli rests Luigi Lanzi, a name less generally known, tho celebrated in his time as an historiographer of painting, or an art critic as we should now call him. His friend, Chevalier Ornofrio Boni, prepared the design for his tomb, which was executed at public cost. The pulpit—a fine specimen of fifteenth-century sculpture, carved by Benedetto da Maiano at the cost of Pietro Mellini, who presented it to the church—is well worth close inspection; and close by, be[Pg 124]tween the tombs of Lanzi and Leonardo Bruni, is a group in freestone, representing the Annunciation. This was one of the first of Donatello's works, and gave an earnest of his future genius.

The tomb of Leonardo Bruni Aretino is one of the five or six greatest works of this nature which ever left the sculptor's hands; it has been used as a model by the sculptors of all the tombs in Santa Maria del Popolo at Rome. The monument to Leonardo Bruni is the highest expression of sculptural art, combining all the taste of ancient Greece with the grace, the power, the calm, the supreme harmony, and the perfection which genius alone confers, its tranquil and subdued beauty comparing favorably with the theatrical effect and garish splendor of the monuments in St. John Lateran and St. Peter's at Rome. The superb mausoleums of Leopardi and of the Lombardi at Venice are, perhaps, equally beautiful; but I am inclined to give the preference to the work of Bernardo Rossellini. He became acquainted with Leonardo Bruni at the Papal Court, where he, as well as Leo Battista Alberti, was a director of the pontifical works. The Madonna let into the upper part of the monument is by Andrea Verocchio....

In visiting Santa Croce it is impossible not to feel how erroneous are the views often held as to the exact place which will be allotted in the roll of history to the men of the day. Many of the names in this Pantheon are almost unknown, the tomb next to that of Galileo containing the dust of Mulazzi-Signorini, who has never been heard of out of Italy. Another unavoidable reflection is that the talent of the sculptor is rarely[Pg 125] in proportion to that of the man whose memory he is about to perpetuate. Machiavelli was commemorated by two obscure sculptors like Foggini and Ticcati, and Michael Angelo by Battista Lorenzi. What has the world not lost by the refusal of Michael Angelo's offer to erect a tomb to Dante when the city of Florence was about to ask Ravenna to restore his remains to her!

The convent annexed to Santa Croce was also built by Arnolfo. It was originally occupied by the Franciscan monks, and it was here that, from 1284 to 1782, the Inquisition held its sittings. The notorious Frenchman, Gaulthier de Brienne, Duke of Athens, who for a brief period ruled Florence as Captain of the People, selected this monastery as his residence in June, 1342, but having in September of the same year succeeded in getting himself elected ruler of Florence for life, he removed to the Palazzo Vecchio. His reign, however, was of only brief duration, for the year following he was expelled by the people.



What can be said of a gallery containing thirteen hundred pictures? For my own part I abstain. Examine catalogs and collections of engravings, or rather come here yourself. The impressions borne away from these grand store-[Pg 126]houses are too diverse and too numerous to be transmitted by the pen. Observe this, that the Uffizi is a universal depot, a sort of Louvre containing paintings of all times and schools, bronzes, statues, sculptures, antique and modern terracottas, cabinets of gems, an Etruscan museum, artists' portraits painted by themselves, twenty-eight thousand original drawings, four thousand cameos and ivories and eighty thousand medals. One resorts to it as to a library; it is an abridgment and a specimen of everything....

We ascend the great marble staircase, pass the famous antique boar and enter the long horseshoe corridor filled with busts and tapestried with paintings. Visitors, about ten o'clock in the morning, are few; the mute custodians remain in their corners; you seem to be really at home. It all belongs to you, and what convenient possessions! Keepers and majordomos are here to keep things in order, well dusted and intact; it is not even necessary to give orders; matters go on of themselves without jar or confusion, nobody giving himself the slightest concern; it is an ideal world such as it ought to be. The light is excellent; bright gleams from the windows fall on some distant white statues on the rosy torso of a woman which comes out living from the shadowy obscurity. Beyond, as far as the eye can see, marble gods and emperors extend away in files up to the windows through which flickers the light ripple of the Arno with the silvery swell on its crests and eddies.

You enter into the freedom and sweet repose of abstract life; the will relaxes, the inner tumult subsides; one feels himself becoming a monk,[Pg 127] a modern monk. Here, as formerly in the cloisters, the tender inward spirit, chafed by the necessities of action, insensibly revives in order to commune with beings emancipated from life's obligations. It is so sweet no longer to be! Not to be is so natural! And how peaceful the realm of human forms withdrawn from human conflict! The pure thought which follows them is so conscious that its illusion is transient; it participates in their incorporeal serenity, and reverie, lingering in turn over their voluptuousness and violence, brings back to it plenitude without satiety.

On the left of the corridors open the cabinets of precious things—the Niobe hall, that of portraits, that of modern bronzes, each with its special group of treasures. You feel that you have a right to enter, that great men are awaiting you. A selection is made among them; you reenter the Tribune; five antique statues form a circle here—a slave sharpening his knife; two interlocked wrestlers whose muscles are strained and expanded; a charming Apollo of sixteen years whose compact form has all the suppleness of the freshest adolescence; an admirable Faun instinct with the animality of his species, unconsciously joyous and dancing with all his might; and finally, the "Venus de Medici," a slender young girl with a small delicate head, not a goddess like her sister of Milo, but a perfect mortal and the work of some Praxiteles fond of "hetairae," at ease in a nude state and free from that somewhat mawkish delicacy and bashful coquetry which its copies, and the restored arms with their thin fingers by Bernini, seem to impose on her.[Pg 128]

She is, perhaps, a copy of that Venus of Cnidus of which Lucian relates an interesting story; you imagine while looking at her, the youths' kisses prest on the marble lips, and the exclamations of Charicles who, on seeing it, declared Mars to be the most fortunate of gods. Around the statues, on the eight sides of the wall, hang the masterpieces of the leading painters. There is the "Madonna of the Goldfinch" by Raphael, pure and candid, like an angel whose soul is a bud not yet in bloom; his "St. John," nude, a fine youthful form of fourteen, healthy and vigorous, in which the purest paganism lives over again; and especially a superb head of a crowned female, radiant as a summer noonday, with fixt and earnest gaze, her complexion of that powerful southern carnation which the emotions do not change, where the blood does not pulsate convulsively and to which passion only adds a warmer glow, a sort of Roman muse in whom will still prevails over intellect, and whose vivacious energy reveals itself in repose as well as in action.

In one corner a tall cavalier by Van Dyck, in black and with a broad frill, seems as grandly and gloriously proud in character as in proportions, primarily through a well-fed body and next through the undisputed possession of authority and command. Three steps more and we come to the "Flight into Egypt," by Correggio, the Virgin with a charming spirited face wholly suffused with inward light in which the purity, archness, gentleness and wildness of a young girl combine to shed the tenderest grace and impart the most fascinating allurements. Alongside of this a "Sibyl" by Guercino, with her carefully adjusted[Pg 129] coiffure and drapery, is the most spiritual and refined of sentimental poetesses.

I pass twenty others in order to reserve the last look for Titian's two Venuses. One, facing the door, reclines on a red velvet mantle, an ample vigorous torso as powerful as one of Rubens' Bacchantes, but firmer—an energetic and vulgar figure, a simple, strong unintellectual courtezan. She lies extended on her back, caressing a little cupid naked like herself, with the vacant seriousness and passivity of soul of an animal in repose and expectant. The other, called "Venus with the Dog," is a patrician's mistress, couched, adorned and ready. We recognize a palace of the day, the alcove fitted up and colors tastefully and magnificently contrasted for the pleasure of the eye; in the background are servants arranging clothes; through a window a section of blue landscape is visible; the master is about to arrive.

Nowadays we devour pleasure secretly like stolen fruit; then it was served up on golden salvers and people sat down to it at a table. It is because pleasure was not vile or bestial. This woman holding a bouquet in her hand in this grand columnar saloon has not the vapid smile or the wanton and malicious air of an adventuress about to commit a bad action. The calm of evening enters the palace through noble architectural openings. Under the pale green of the curtains lies the figure on a white sheet, slightly flushed with the regular pulsation of life, and developing the harmony of her undulating forms. The head is small and placid; the soul does not rise above the corporal instincts; hence she can resign her[Pg 130]self to them without shame, while the poesy of art, luxury and security on all sides comes to decorate and embellish them. She is a courtezan but also a lady; in those days the former did not efface the latter; one was as much a title as the other and, probably, in demeanor, affection and intellect one was as good as the other. The celebrated Imperia had her tomb in the church of San Gregorio, at Rome, with this inscription: "Imperia, a Roman courtezan worthy of so great a name, furnished an example to men of perfect beauty, lived twenty-six years and twelve days, and died in 1511, August 25." ...

On passing from the Italian into the Flemish galleries one is completely turned around; here are paintings executed for merchants content to remain quietly at home eating good dinners and speculating over the profits of their business; moreover in rainy and muddy countries dress has to be cared for, and by the women more than the men. The mind feels itself contracted on entering the circle of this well-to-do domestic life; such is the impression of Corinne when from liberal Italy she passes to rigid and dreary Scotland. And yet there is a certain picture, a large landscape by Rembrandt, which equals and surpasses all; a dark sky bursting with showers among flocks of screaming crows; beneath, is an infinite stretch of country as desolate as a cemetery; on the right a mass of barren rocks of so mournful and lugubrious a tint as to attain to the sublime in effect. So is it with an andante of Beethoven after an Italian Opera.[Pg 131]



There is a great deal of prattle about Italian skies; the skies and clouds of Italy, so far as I have had an opportunity of judging, do not present so great a variety of beautiful appearances as our own; but the Italian atmosphere is far more uniformly fine than ours. Not to speak of its astonishing clearness, it is pervaded by a certain warmth of color which enriches every object. This is more remarkable about the time of sunset, when the mountains put on an aerial aspect, as if they belonged to another and fairer world; and a little after the sun has gone down, the air is flushed with a glory which seems to transfigure all that it encloses.

Many of the fine old palaces of Florence, you know, are built in a gloomy tho grand style of architecture, of a dark-colored stone, massive and lofty, and overlooking narrow streets that lie in almost perpetual shade. But at the hour of which I am speaking, the bright warm radiance reflected from the sky to the earth, fills the darkest lanes, streams into the most shadowy nooks, and makes the prison-like structures glitter as with a brightness of their own.

It is now nearly the middle of October, and we have had no frost. The strong summer heats which prevailed when I came hither, have by the slowest gradations subsided into an agreeable autumnal temperature. The trees keep their verdure, but I perceive their foliage growing thin[Pg 132]ner, and when I walk in the Cascine on the other side of the Arno, the rustling of the lizards, as they run among the heaps of crisp leaves, reminds me that autumn is wearing away, tho the ivy which clothes the old elms has put forth a profuse array of blossoms, and the walks murmur with bees like our orchards in spring. As I look along the declivities of the Appenines, I see the raw earth every day more visible between the ranks of olive-trees and the well-pruned maples which support the vines.

If I have found my expectations of Italian scenery, in some respects, below the reality; in other respects, they have been disappointed. The forms of the mountains are wonderfully picturesque, and their effect is heightened by the rich atmosphere through which they are seen, and by the buildings, imposing from their architecture or venerable from time, which crown the eminences. But if the hand of man has done something to embellish this region, it has done more to deform it. Not a tree is suffered to retain its natural shape, not a brook to flow in its natural channel. An exterminating war is carried on against the natural herbage of the soil. The country is without woods and green fields; and to him who views the vale of the Arno "from the top of Fiesole," or any of the neighboring heights, grand as he will allow the circle of the mountains to be, and magnificent the edifices with which the region is adorned, it appears, at any time after mid-summer, a huge valley of dust, planted with low rows of the pallid and thin-leaved olive, or the more dwarfish maple on which vines are trained.

The simplicity of nature, so far as can be done,[Pg 133] is destroyed; there is no fine sweep of forest, no broad expanse of meadow or pasture ground, no ancient and towering trees clustered about the villas, no rows of natural shrubbery following the course of the brooks and rivers. The streams, which are often but the beds of torrents dry during the summer, are confined in straight channels by stone walls and embankments; the slopes are broken up and disfigured by terraces; and the trees are kept down by constant pruning and lopping, until half way up the sides of the Appenines, where the limit of cultivation is reached, and thence to the summit is a barren steep of rock, without herbage or soil. The grander features of the landscape, however, are fortunately beyond the power of man to injure; the lofty mountain-summits, bare precipices cleft with chasms, and pinnacles of rock piercing the sky, betokening, far more than any thing I have seen elsewhere, a breaking up of the crust of the globe in some early period of its existence. I am told that in May and June the country is much more beautiful than at present, and that owing to a drought it now appears under disadvantage....

Florence, from being the residence of the Court,[41] and from the vast number of foreigners who throng to it, presents during several months of the year an appearance of great bustle and animation. Four thousand English, an American friend tells me, visit Florence every winter, to say nothing of the occasional residents from France, Germany, and Russia. The number of[Pg 134] visitors from the latter country is every year increasing, and the echoes of the Florence gallery have been taught to repeat the strange accents of the Slavonic. Let me give you the history of a fine day in October, passed at the window of my lodgings on the Lung Arno, close to the bridge.

Waked by the jangling of all the bells in Florence and by the noise of carriages departing loaded with travelers, for Rome and other places in the south of Italy, I rise, dress myself, and take my place at the window. I see crowds of men and women from the country, the former in brown velvet jackets, and the latter in broad-brimmed straw hats, driving donkeys loaded with panniers or trundling hand-carts before them, heaped with grapes, figs, and all the fruits of the orchard, the garden, and the field. They have hardly passed, when large flocks of sheep and goats make their appearance, attended by shepherds and their families, driven by the approach of winter from the Appenines, and seeking the pastures of the Maremma, a rich, but, in the summer, an unhealthy tract on the coast.

The men and the boys are drest in knee-breeches, the women in bodices, and both sexes wear capotes with pointed hoods, and felt hats with conical crowns; they carry long staves in their hands, and their arms are loaded with kids and lambs too young to keep pace with their mothers. After the long procession of sheep and goats and dogs and men and women and children, come horses loaded with cloths and poles for tents, kitchen utensils, and the rest of the younglings of the flock.

A little after sunrise I see well-fed donkeys,[Pg 135] in coverings of red cloth, driven over the bridge to be milked for invalids. Maid-servants, bare-headed, with huge high carved combs in their hair, waiters of coffee-houses carrying the morning cup of coffee or chocolate to their customers, baker's boys with a dozen loaves on a board balanced on their heads, milkmen with rush baskets filled with flasks of milk, are crossing the streets in all directions. A little later the bell of the small chapel opposite to my window rings furiously for a quarter of an hour, and then I hear mass chanted in a deep strong nasal tone.

As the day advances, the English, in white hats and white pantaloons, come out of their lodgings, accompanied sometimes by their hale and square-built spouses, and saunter stiffly along the Arno, or take their way to the public galleries and museums. Their massive, clean, and brightly-polished carriages also begin to rattle through the streets, setting out on excursions to some part of the environs of Florence—to Fiesole, to the Pratolino, to the Bello Sguardo, to the Poggio Imperiale. Sights of a different kind now present themselves. Sometimes it is a troop of stout Franciscan friars, in sandals and brown robes, each carrying his staff and wearing a brown broad-brimmed hat with a hemispherical crown. Sometimes it is a band of young theological students, in purple cassocks with red collars and cuffs, let out on a holiday, attended by their clerical instructors, to ramble in the Cascine. There is a priest coming over the bridge, a man of venerable age and great reputation for sanctity—the common people crowd around him to kiss his hand, and obtain a kind word from him as he passes.[Pg 136]

But what is that procession of men in black gowns, black gaiters, and black masks, moving swiftly along, and bearing on their shoulders a litter covered with black cloth? These are the Brethren of Mercy, who have assembled at the sound of the cathedral bell, and are conveying some sick or wounded person to the hospital. As the day begins to decline, the numbers of carriages in the streets, filled with gaily-drest people attended by servants in livery, increases. The Grand Duke's equipage, an elegant carriage drawn by six horses, with coachmen, footmen, and out-riders in drab-colored livery, comes from the Pitti Palace, and crosses the Arno, either by the bridge close to my lodgings, or by that called Alla Santa Trinità, which is in full sight from the windows. The Florentine nobility, with their families, and the English residents, now throng to the Cascine, to drive at a slow pace through its thickly-planted walks of elms, oaks, and ilexes.

As the sun is sinking I perceive the Quay, on the other side of the Arno, filled with a moving crowd of well-drest people, walking to and fro, and enjoying the beauty of the evening. Travelers now arrive from all quarters, in cabriolets, in calashers, in the shabby "vettura," and in the elegant private carriage drawn by post-horses, and driven by postillions in the tightest possible deer-skin breeches, the smallest red coats, and the hugest jack-boots. The streets about the doors of the hotels resound with the cracking of whips and the stamping of horses, and are encumbered with carriages, heaps of baggage, porters, postillions, couriers, and travelers. Night at length arrives—the time of spectacles and funerals.[Pg 137]

The carriages rattle toward the opera-houses. Trains of people, sometimes in white robes and sometimes in black, carrying blazing torches and a cross elevated on a high pole before a coffin, pass through the streets chanting the service for the dead. The Brethren of Mercy may also be seen engaged in their office. The rapidity of their pace, the flare of their torches, the gleam of their eyes through their masks, and their sable garb, give them a kind of supernatural appearance. I return to bed, and fall asleep amid the shouts of people returning from the opera, singing as they go snatches of the music with which they had been entertained during the evening.[Pg 138]





To taste in all their fulness his first impressions of Venice, the traveler should arrive there by sea, at mid-day, when the sun is high. By degrees, as the ship which carries him enters the channels, he will see the unparalleled city emerging from the lap of the lagoon, with its proud campaniles, its golden spires, its gray or silvery domes and cupolas. Advancing along the narrow channels of navigation, posts and piles dot here and there with black that sheet of steel, and give substance to the dream, making solid and tangible the foreground of the illusive distance.

Just now, all that enchanted world and fairy architecture floated in the air; little by little all has become distinct; those points of dark green turn into gardens; that mass of deep red is the line of the ship-building yards, with their leprous-looking houses and with the dark-colored stocks on which are erected the skeletons of polaccas and feluccas in course of construction; the white line showing so bright in the sun is the[Pg 139] Riva dei Schiavoni, all alive with its world of gondoliers, fruit-sellers, Greek sailors, and Chioggiotes in their many-colored costumes. The rose-colored palace with the stunted colonnade is the Ducal Palace. The vessel, on its way to cast anchor off the Piazzetta, coasts round the white and rose-colored island which carries Palladio's church of Santa Maria Maggiore, whose firm campanile stands out against the sky with Grecian clearness and grace. Looking over the bow, the traveler has facing him the Grand Canal, with the Custom House where the figure of Fortune veers with the wind above her golden ball; beyond rise the double domes of the Salute with their great reversed consoles, forming the most majestic entrance to this watery avenue bordered by palaces.

He who comes for the first time to Venice by this route realizes a dream—his only dream perhaps ever destined to be surpassed by the reality; and if he knows how to enjoy the beauty of nature, if he can take delight in silver-gray and rose-colored reflections in water, if he loves light and color, the picturesque life of Italian squares and streets, the good humor of the people and their gentle speech which seems like the twittering of birds, let him only allow himself to live for a little time under the sky of Venice, and he has before him a season of happiness without alloy.[Pg 140]



After leaving Padua the land for several miles is flat sand. No grass or tree grows here. Lagoons and canals intersect the land. At the right are marshes bordering the Adriatic. Along the horizon, light smoky clouds blend imperceptibly with the water. Other clouds, floating overhead, are reflected in the brown and waveless water. Far across this expanse glides here and there a small boat, propelled by a man standing erect. Through dim mists, settled over the bay, we sight flying birds that call loudly as they increase their flight. Absolutely without motion is this water. The sole objects that move are boats and birds. The water shimmers and sparkles wherever the sun, passing in and out of clouds, lights it up. The shallow bay broadens until our view includes no land. Everywhere extends a realm of waveless waters, in which fishing stakes stand erect, and tall plants grow.

How strangely all this differs from the blue Mediterranean we saw a fortnight ago when riding from Genoa to Leghorn, under that cloudless sky of blue; in that stirring breeze, and an almost tropical temperature, tho it was late in December; along that rocky, tunnel-pierced coast, with deep olive groves bordering the way; the sea a boundless vision of water moving and resounding against the shore; whitecaps everywhere visible on its broad expanse. Here on this road to Ven[Pg 141]ice is complete repose, lifeless, sleepy repose—as of the dead—not without poetry, but of the Orient and of mystics, rather than of Provence, or the Ligurian shore and active, stalwart men.

We sight in the distance over the lagoon, the white walls and roof line of Venice. The railway starts on its long course over one of the noblest bridges in the world. It is more than two miles long. Some 80,000 piles were used in its foundations, the superstructure entirely of stone, with arches of 33 feet span each, and 222 in number. Along the roadway, on either side is a stone balustrade. At each pier a balcony curves outward. For four years a thousand men were engaged in building this viaduct, and the total cost was $10,000,000. Having crossed, we reach an island; then cross another, but shorter, bridge and pass to another island. Our train thereafter comes to a stop for we have reached Venice and enter a magnificent station, built of stone, with high semi-circular roof, lofty waiting rooms, mosaic floors. We pass out through a spacious doorway, and directly below, and in front, see the Grand Canal, bordered on its farther shore by palaces and other noble structures of white marble. A wide and broad plaza here fronts the water, and a stairway at its edge leads downward to where are waiting a score of gondolas.

We step into one of these boats, and begin our first gondola ride in Adriatic waters. It is late afternoon. The western sun lies dying in a mass of yellow and soft brown clouds. On the high walls of the great white station its rays fall with startling brightness and cast long shadows of waiting gondoliers upon the plaza floor. The[Pg 142] white palaces opposite are shrouded in somber hues. A warm mist seems to rise from the water. All is still as in the mid-Atlantic. When a sound is made, echoes sharp and clear come from shore to shore.

Our boat glides away from this scene. Adjusting ourselves to its motion, we roll from side to side in our little house of glass on a downy seat and could pass the whole night here contentedly. Such rest, such appalling silence, we never knew before. Those gondoliers do their work with consummate skill. They have all the ease that comes of practise in any calling however difficult. The sharp cut of an oar as it enters the water is for a moment heard, but never a splash. The boat rolls constantly, but we feel no strain. It moves as if it were a toy swan drawn by a magnet in a child's hand.

From the Grand Canal we enter a narrow street. Sharp corners are turned quickly, swift-moving boats are passed, narrow passages entered, and we glide into deep shadows under bridges, but never a collision, or danger of one, occurs. The gondolier at crossings cries out his warning. We hear, but do not see, another who calls aloud in similar tones. The two voices are heard again, each in an echo. Far away in this watery but populous solitude, a church bell tolls.

We have had a quarter-hour's ride when the gondola comes to rest before broad stone steps leading upward to a wide doorway. Here is our hotel, an ancient palace, rich in marble and granite, with broad corridor, a noble stairway, and mosaic floors. It is Sunday on St. Mark's Place—a bright, warm Sunday it has been, such as win[Pg 143]ter can not give in our own country. Here, indeed, is a foreign land, its life and spirit more foreign than Rome. No scene in the wide world can rival this St. Mark's scene, with the islands across the way in the broad lagoon—a magnificent piazza, bordered by the façades of splendid palaces, by statues, columns, and ornate capitals, another piazza near it surrounded on three sides by noble arcaded structures and on the fourth by the half Gothic, half Byzantine Church of St. Mark's, the most resplendent Christian edifice in Europe. In one corner rises the stupendous Campanile, high above palace roofs, arcades and church domes, its bells sounding their notes upon an otherwise silent world.



The Grand Canal of Venice is the most wonderful thing in the world. No other city affords a spectacle so fine, so bizarre, so fairy-like. As remarkable bits of architecture, perhaps, can be found elsewhere, but nowhere located under such picturesque conditions.

There each palace has a mirror in which to gaze at its beauty, like a coquettish woman. The superb reality is doubled by a charming reflection. The water lovingly caresses the feet of these beautiful façades, which a white light kisses on[Pg 144] the forehead, and cradles them in a double sky. The small boats and big ships which are able to ascend it seem to be made fast for the express purpose of serving as set-offs or ground-plans for the convenience of the decorators....

Each bit of wall narrates a story; every house is a palace; at each stroke of the oars the gondolier mentions a name which was as well known in the times of the Crusades as it is to-day; and this continues both to left and right for a distance of more than half a league. We have made a list of these palaces, not of all, but the most remarkable, and we do not dare to transcribe it here on account of its length. It covers five or six pages: Pierre Lombard, Scamozzi, Sansovino, Sebastiano Mazzoni, Sammichelli, the great architect of Verona; Selva, Domenico Rossi, Visentini, have drawn the plans and directed the construction of these princely dwellings, without reckoning the unknown artists of the Middle Ages who built the most picturesque and most romantic of them—those which give Venice its stamp and its originality.

On both banks, façades altogether charming and beautifully diversified succeed one another without interruption. After an architecture of the Renaissance with its columns comes a palace of the Middle Ages in Gothic Arab style, of which the Ducal Palace is the prototype, with its balconies, lancet windows, trefoils, and acroteria. Further along is a façade adorned with marble placques of various colors, garnished with medallions and consoles; then a great rose-colored wall in which is cut a large window with columnets; all styles are found there—the Byzantine,[Pg 145] the Saracen, the Lombard, the Gothic, the Roman, the Greek, and even the Rococo; the column and the columnet; the lancet and the semicircle; the fanciful capital, full of birds and of flowers, brought from Acre or from Jaffa; the Greek capital found in Athenian ruins; the mosaic and the bas-relief; the classic severity and elegant fantasy of the Renaissance. It is an immense gallery open to the sky, where one can study from the bottom of his gondola the art of seven or eight centuries. What treasures of genius, talent, and money have been expended on this space which may be traversed in less than a quarter of an hour! What tremendous artists, but also what intelligent and munificent patrons! What a pity that the patricians who knew how to achieve such beautiful things no longer exist save on the canvases of Titian, of Tintoretto, and du Moro!

Even before reaching the Rialto, you have, on the left, in ascending the Canal, the Palace Dario, in Gothic style; the Palace Venier, which presents itself by an angle, with its ornamentation, its precious marbles and medallions, in the Lombard style; the Fine Arts, a classic façade joined to the old Ecole de la Charité and surmounted by a figure riding upon a lion; the Contarini Palace, in architectural style of Scamozzi; the Rezzonico Palace with three superimposed orders; the triple Giustiniani Palace, in the style of the Middle Ages, in which resides M. Natale Schiavoni, a descendant of the celebrated painter Schiavoni, who possesses a gallery of pictures and a beautiful daughter, the living reproduction of a canvas painted by her ancestor; The Foscari Palace, recognizable by its low door, by its two stories of columnets[Pg 146] supporting lancets and trefoils, where in other days were lodged the sovereigns who visited Venice, but now abandoned; the Balbi Palace, from the balcony of which the princes leaned to watch the regattas which took place upon the Grand Canal with so much pomp and splendor, in the palmy days of the Republic; the Pisani Palace, in the German style of the beginning of the fifteenth century; and the Tiepolo Palace, very smart and relatively modern. On the right, there nestles between two big buildings, a delicious little palace which is composed of a window and a balcony; but such a window and balcony! A guipure of stone, of scrolls, of guillochages, and of open-work, which would seem possible of execution only with a punching machine upon one of those sheets of paper which cover baptismal sugar-plums, or are placed upon globes of lamps. We greatly regretted not having twenty-five thousand francs about us to buy it, since that was all that was demanded for it....

The Rialto, which is the most beautiful bridge in Venice, with a very grandiose and monumental air, bestrides the canal by a single span with a powerful and graceful curve. It was built in 1691, under the Dogeship of Pasquale Cigogna, by Antonio da Ponte, and replaced the ancient wooden drawbridge. Two rows of shops, separated in the middle by a portico in the form of an arcade and permitting a glimpse of the sky, burden the sides of the bridge, which can be crossed by three paths; that in the center and the exterior passageways furnished with balustrades of marble.

Around the Bridge of the Rialto, one of the[Pg 147] most picturesque spots of the Grand Canal, are gathered the oldest houses in Venice, with platformed roofs, on which poles are planted to hang banners; their long chimneys, their bulging balconies, their stairways with disjointed steps, and their plaques of red coating, the fallen flakes of which lay bare the brick walls and the foundations made green by contact with the water. There is always near the Rialto a tumult of boats and gondolas and of stagnant islets of tied-up craft drying their tawny sails, which are sometimes traversed by a large cross....

Below and beyond the Rialto are grouped on both banks the ancient Fondaco dei Tedeschi, upon the colored walls of which, in uncertain tints, may be devined some frescoes of Titian and Tintoretto, like dreams which come only to vanish; the fish-market, the vegetable market, and the old and new buildings of Scarpagnino and of Sansovino, almost fallen in ruins, in which are installed various courts....

On the right rises the Palace della Cà d'Oro, one of the most charming on the Grand Canal. It belongs to Mademoiselle Taglioni,[45] who has restored it with most intelligent care. It is all embroidered, fringed, carved in a Greek, Gothic, barbaric style, so fantastic, so light, so aerial, that it might be fancied to have been built expressly for the nest of a sylph. Mlle. Taglioni has pity for these poor, abandoned palaces. She has several of them en pension, which she main[Pg 148]tains out of pure commiseration for their beauty; we were told of three or four upon which she has bestowed this charity of repair....

In going to a distance from the heart of the city, life is extinct. Many windows are closed or barred with boards; but this sadness has its beauty; it is more perceptible to the soul than to the eyes, regaled without cessation by the most unforeseen accidents of light and shade, by buildings so varied that even their dilapidation only renders them more picturesque, by the perpetual movement of the waters, and that blue and rose tint which composes the atmosphere of Venice.



Beyond those troops of ordered arches there rises a vision out of the earth, and all the great square seems to have opened from it in a kind of awe, that we may see it far away—a multitude of pillars and white domes, clustered into a long low pyramid of colored light; a treasure-heap, it seems, partly of gold, and partly of opal and mother-of-pearl, hollowed beneath into five great vaulted porches, ceiled with fair mosaic, and beset with sculpture of alabaster, clear as amber and[Pg 149] delicate as ivory—sculpture fantastic and involved, of palm leaves and lilies, and grapes and pomegranates, and birds clinging and fluttering among the branches, all twined together into an endless network of buds and plumes; and, in the midst of it, the solemn forms of angels, sceptered and robed to the feet, and leaning to each other across the gates, their figures indistinct among the gleaming of the golden ground through the leaves beside them, interrupted and dim, like the morning light as it faded back among the branches of Eden, when first its gates were angel-guarded long ago.

And round the walls of the porches there are set pillars of variegated stones, jasper and porphyry, and deep-green serpentine spotted with flakes of snow, and marbles, that half refuse and half yield to the sunshine, Cleopatra-like, "their bluest veins to kiss"—the shadow, as it steals back from them, revealing line after line of azure undulation, as a receding tide leaves the waved sand; their capitals rich with interwoven tracery, rooted knots of herbage, and drifting leaves of acanthus and vine, and mystical signs, all beginning and ending in the Cross; and above them, in the broad archivolts, a continuous chain of language and of life—angels, and the signs of heaven, and the labors of men, each in its appointed season upon the earth; and above these, another range of glittering pinnacles, mixed with white arches edged with scarlet flowers—a confusion of delight, amid which the breasts of the Greek horses are seen blazing in their breadth of golden strength, and the St. Mark's Lion, lifted on a blue field covered with stars, until at last,[Pg 150] as if in ecstasy, the crests of the arches break into a marble foam, and toss themselves far into the blue sky in flashes and wreaths of sculptured spray, as if the breakers on the Lido shore had been frost-bound before they fell, and the sea-nymphs had inlaid them with coral and amethyst.

Between that grim cathedral of England and this, what an interval! There is a type of it in the very birds that haunt them; for, instead of the restless crowd, hoarse-voiced and sable-winged, drifting on the bleak upper air, the St. Mark's porches are full of doves, that nestle among the marble foliage, and mingle the soft iridescence of their living plumes, changing at every motion, with the tints, hardly less lovely, that have stood unchanged for seven hundred years.

And what effect has this splendor on those who pass beneath it? You may walk from sunrise to sunset, to and fro, before the gateway of St. Mark's, and you will not see an eye lifted to it, nor a countenance brightened by it. Priest and layman, soldier and civilian, rich and poor, pass by it alike regardlessly. Up to the very recesses of the porches, the meanest tradesmen of the city push their counters; nay, the foundations of its pillars are themselves the seats—not "of them that sell doves" for sacrifice, but of the venders of toys and caricatures. Round the whole square in front of the church there is almost a continuous line of cafés, where the idle Venetians of the middle classes lounge, and read empty journals; in its center the Austrian bands[47]

[Pg 151] play during the time of vespers, their martial music jarring with the organ notes—the march drowning the miserere, and the sullen crowd thickening round them—a crowd, which, if it had its will, would stiletto every soldier that pipes to it. And in the recesses of the porches, all day long, knots of men of the lowest classes, unemployed and listless, lie basking in the sun like lizards; and unregarded children—every heavy glance of their young eyes full of desperation and stony depravity, and their throats hoarse with cursing—gamble, and fight, and snarl, and sleep, hour after hour, clashing their bruised centesimi upon the marble ledges of the church porch. And the images of Christ and His angels look down upon it continually....

Let us enter the church itself. It is lost in still deeper twilight, to which the eye must be accustomed for some moments before the form of the building can be traced; and then there opens before us a vast cave, hewn out into the form of a cross, and divided into shadowy aisles by many pillars. Round the domes of its roof the light enters only through narrow apertures like large stars; and here and there a ray or two[Pg 152] from some far away casement wanders into the darkness, and casts a narrow phosphoric stream upon the waves of marble that heave and fall in a thousand colors along the floor. What else there is of light is from torches, or silver lamps burning ceaselessly in the recesses of the chapels; the roof sheeted with gold, and the polished walls covered with alabaster, give back at every curve and angle some feeble gleaming to the flames; and the glories round the heads of the sculptured saints flash out upon us as we pass them, and sink again into the gloom.

Under foot and over head, a continual succession of crowded imagery, one picture passing into another, as in a dream; forms beautiful and terrible mixed together; dragons and serpents, and ravening beasts of prey, and graceful birds that in the midst of them drink from running fountains and feed from vases of crystal; the passions and the pleasures of human life symbolized together, and the mystery of its redemption; for the mazes of interwoven lines and changeful pictures lead always at last to the cross, lifted and carved in every place and upon every stone; sometimes with the serpent of eternity wrapt round it, sometimes with doves beneath its arms, and sweet herbage growing forth from its feet; but conspicuous most of all on the great rood that crosses the church before the altar, raised in bright blazonry against the shadow of the apse. And altho in the recesses of the aisles and chapels, when the mist of the incense hangs heavily, we may see continually a figure traced in faint lines upon their marble, a woman standing with her eyes raised to heaven, and the inscription[Pg 153] above her, "Mother of God," she is not here the presiding deity. It is the cross that is first seen, and always, burning in the center of the temple; and every dome and hollow of its roof has the figure of Christ in the utmost height of it, raised in power, or returning in judgment.

Nor is this interior without effect on the minds of the people. At every hour of the day there are groups collected before the various shrines, and solitary worshipers scattered through the darker places of the church, evidently in prayer both deep and reverent, and, for the most part, profoundly sorrowful. The devotees at the greater number of the renowned shrines of Romanism may be seen murmuring their appointed prayers with wandering eyes and unengaged gestures; but the step of the stranger does not disturb those who kneel on the pavement of St. Mark's; and hardly a moment passes from early morning to sunset in which we may not see some half-veiled figure enter beneath the Arabian porch, cast itself into long abasement on the floor of the temple, and then rising slowly with more confirmed step, and with a passionate kiss and clasp of the arms given to the feet of the crucifix, by which the lamps burn always in the northern aisle, leave the church, as if comforted....

It must therefore be altogether without reference to its present usefulness, that we pursue our inquiry into the merits and meaning of the architecture of this marvelous building; and it can only be after we have terminated that inquiry, conducting it carefully on abstract grounds, that we can pronounce with any certainty how far the present neglect of St. Mark's is significa[Pg 154]tive of the decline of the Venetian character, or how far this church is to be considered as the relic of a barbarous age, incapable of attracting the admiration, or influencing the feelings of a civilized community. Now the first broad characteristic of the building, and the root nearly of every other important peculiarity in it, is its confessed incrustation. It is the purest example in Italy of the great school of architecture in which the ruling principle is the incrustation of brick with more precious materials. Consider the natural circumstances which give rise to such a style. Suppose a nation of builders, placed far from any quarries of available stone, and having precarious access to the mainland where they exist; compelled therefore either to build entirely with brick, or to import whatever stone they use from great distances, in ships of small tonnage, and for the most part dependent for speed on the oar rather than the sail. The labor and cost of carriage are just as great, whether they import common or precious stone, and therefore the natural tendency would always be to make each shipload as valuable as possible. But in proportion to the preciousness of the stone, is the limitation of its possible supply; limitation not determined merely by cost, but by the physical conditions of the material, for of many marbles pieces above a certain size are not to be had for money. There would also be a tendency in such circumstances to import as much stone as possible ready sculptured, in order to save weight; and therefore, if the traffic of their merchants led them to places where there were ruins of ancient edifices, to ship the avail[Pg 155]able fragments of them home. Out of this supply of marble, partly composed of pieces of so precious a quality that only a few tons of them could be on any terms obtained, and partly of shafts, capitals, and other portions of foreign buildings, the island architect has to fashion, as best he may, the anatomy of his edifice.



The wide discrepancy of the dates, 888 to 1148, may perhaps be accounted for by the conjecture that the work of the building [the Campanile] proceeded slowly, either with a view to allowing the foundations to consolidate, or owing to lack of funds, and that the chroniclers recorded each resumption of work as the beginning of the work. One point may, perhaps, be fixt. The Campanile must have been some way above ground by the year 997, for the hospital founded by the sainted Doge, Pietro Orseolo, which is said to have been attached to the base of the tower, was consecrated in that year. The Campanile was finished, as far as the bell-chamber at least, in 1148, under the Doge Domenico Moresini, whose sarcophagus and bust surmount the portal of the San Nicoll del Lido.

The chroniclers are at variance among themselves as to the date of the foundation, nor has[Pg 156] an examination of the foundations themselves led to any discovery which enables us to determine that date; but one or two considerations would induce us to discard the earlier epochs. The foundations must have been designed to carry a tower of the same breadth, tho possibly not of the same height, as that which has recently fallen. But in the year of 888 had the Venetians such a conception of their greatness as to project a tower far more massive than any which had been hitherto constructed in Italy? Did they possess the wealth to justify them in such an enterprise? Would they have designed such a tower to match St. Mark's, which was at that time a small church with walls of wood? It is more probable that the construction of the Campanile belongs to the period of the second church of St. Mark, which was begun after the fire of 976 and consecrated in 1094.

The height of the Campanile at the time of its fall was 98.60 meters (322 ft.), from the base to the head of the angel, tho a considerable portion of this height was not added till 1510; its width at the base of the shaft 12.80 meters (35 ft. 2 in.), and one meter (3 ft. 3 in.) less at the top of the shaft. The weight has been calculated at about 18,000 tons.

Thanks to excavations at the base of the tower made by Com. Giacomo Boni, at the request of Mr. C. H. Blackall, of Boston, U. S. A., in the year 1885, a report of which was printed in the Archivio Veneto, we possess some accurate knowledge about a portion of the foundation upon which this enormous mass rested.

The subsoil of Venice is composed of layers[Pg 157] of clay, sometimes traversed by layers of peat, overlying profound strata of watery sand. This clay is, in places, of a remarkably firm consistency; for example, in the quarter of the town known as Dorsoduro or "hard-back," and at the spot where the Campanile stood. A bore made at that point brought up a greenish, compact clay mixed with fine shells. This clay, when dried, offered the resisting power of half-baked brick. It is the remarkable firmness of this clay which enabled the Venetians to raise so ponderous a structure upon so narrow a foundation.

The builders of the Campanile proceeded as follows: Into this bed of compact clay they first drove piles of about 9½ in. in diameter with a view to consolidate still further, by pressure, the area selected. That area only extends 1.25 meter, or about 4 ft. beyond the spring of the brickwork shaft of the tower. How deep these piles reach Boni's report does not state. The piles, at the point where he laid the foundation bare, were found to be of white poplar, in remarkably sound condition, retaining their color, and presenting closely twisted fiber. The clay in which they were embedded has preserved them almost intact. The piles extended for one row only beyond the superimposed structure. On the top of these piles the builders laid a platform consisting of two layers of oak beams, crosswise. The lower layer runs in the line of the Piazza, east to west, the upper in the line of the Piazzetta, north to south. Each beam is square and a little over 4 in. thick. This oak platform appears to be in bad condition; the timbers are blackened and friable. While[Pg 158] the excavation was in progress sea-water burst through the interstices, which had to be plugged.

Upon this platform was laid the foundation proper. This consisted of seven courses of stone of various sizes and of various kinds—sandstone of two qualities, limestone from Istria and Verona, probably taken from older buildings on the mainland, certainly not fresh-hewn from the quarry. The seventh or lowest course was the deepest, and was the only one which escaped, and that but slightly; the remaining six courses were intended to be perpendicular. These courses varied widely from each other in thickness—from 0.31 to 0.90 meters. They were composed of different and ill-assorted stone, and were held together in places by shallow-biting clamps of iron, and by a mortar of white Istrian lime, which, not being hydraulic, and having little affinity for sand, had become disintegrated. Boni calls attention to the careless structure of this foundation proper, and maintains that it was designed to carry a tower of about two-thirds of the actual height imposed upon it, but not more.

Above the foundation proper came the base. This consisted of five courses of stone set in stepwise. These courses of the base were all the same kind of stone, in fairly regular blocks, and of fairly uniform thickness. They were all intended to be seen, and originally rose from the old brick pavement of the Piazza; but the gradual subsidence of the soil—which is calculated as proceeding at the rate of nearly a meter per 1,000 years—caused two and a half of these stepped courses to disappear, and only two and a half emerged from the present pavement.[Pg 159]

Thus the structure upon which the brick shaft of the Campanile rested was composed of (1) the base of five stepped courses, (2) the foundations of seven courses almost perpendicular, (3) the platform of oak beams, and (4) the piles. The height of the foundation, including the base, was 5.02 meters, about 16 ft., or one-twentieth of the height they carried. Not only is this a very small proportion, but it will be further observed that the tradition of star-shaped supports to the foundations is destroyed, and that they covered a very restricted area. In fact, the foundations of the Campanile belonged to the primitive or narrow kind. The foundations of the Ducal Palace, on the other hand, belonged to the more recent or extended kind. Those foundations do not rest on piles, but on a very broad platform of larch beams—much thicker than the oak beams of the Campanile platform—reposing directly on the clay. Upon this platform, foundations with a distended escarpment were built to carry the walls, the weight of which was thus distributed equally over a wide area.

Little of the old foundations of the Campanile will remain when the work on the new foundations is completed. The primitive piles and platform are to stand; but new piles have been driven in all round the original nucleus, and on them are being laid large blocks of Istrian stone, which will be so deeply bonded into the old foundations that hardly more than a central core of the early work will be left ...

In a peculiar fashion the Campanile of San Marco summed up the whole life of the city—civil, religious, commercial, and military—and[Pg 160] became the central point of Venetian sentiment. For the tower served the double needs of the ecclesiastic and the civic sides of the Republic. Its bells marked the canonical hours; rang the workman to his work, the merchant to his desk, the statesman to the Senate; they pealed for victory or tolled for the demise of a Doge. The tower, moreover, during the long course of its construction, roughly speaking, from the middle of the tenth to the opening of the sixteenth centuries, was contemporary with all that was greatest in Venetian history; for the close of the tenth century saw the conquest of Dalmatia, and the foundations of Venetian supremacy in the Adriatic—that water-avenue to the Levant and the Orient—while by the opening of the sixteenth the Cape route had been discovered, the League of Cambray was in sight, and the end at hand.

The tower, too, was a landmark to those at sea, and when the mariner had the Campanile of San Nicolo on the Lido covering the Campanile of St. Marks, he knew he had the route home and could make the Lido port. The tower was the center of popular festivals, such as that of the Svolo on Giovedi grasso, when an acrobat descended by a rope from the summit of the Campanile to the feet of the Doge, who was a spectator from the loggia of the Ducal Palace.[Pg 161]



We come now to the dolorous moment of the fall in July, 1902. Infiltration of water had been observed in the roof of Sansovino's Loggetta where that roof joined the shaft of the Campanile. At this point a thin ledge of stone, let into the wall of the Campanile, projected over the junction between the leaden roof of the Loggetta and the shaft of the tower. In order to remedy the mischief of infiltration it was resolved to remove and replace this projecting ledge. To do this a chase was made in the wall of the Campanile, which, at this point, consisted of a comparatively modern surface of masonry, placed there to repair the damage caused by lightning strokes.

This chase was cut, not piecemeal, but continuously. The work was carried out on Monday, July 7th. During the process the architect in charge became alarmed at the condition of the inner part of the wall laid bare by the cut. He exprest his fears to his superiors, but apparently no examination of the tower was made till the Thursday following. Even then the imminence of the danger does not seem to have been grasped. On Saturday, the 12th, a crack was observed spreading upward in a slop[Pg 162]ing direction from the cut above the roof of the Loggetta toward the northeast angle of the shaft, then crossing the angle and running up almost perpendicularly in the line of the little windows that gave light to the internal passage from the base to the bell-chamber.

This crack assumed such a threatening aspect, and was making such visible progress, that the authorities in charge of the tower felt bound to inform the Prefect, tho the danger was represented as not immediate, and the worst they expected was the fall of the angle where the crack had appeared. A complete collapse of the whole tower was absolutely excluded. As a precautionary measure the music in the Piazza was suspended on Saturday evening. On Sunday orders were issued to endeavor to bind the threatened angle.

But by Monday morning early (July 14th) it was evident that the catastrophe could not be averted. Dust began to pour out of the widening crack, and bricks to fall. A block of Istrian stone crashed down from the bell-chamber, then a column from the same site. At 9.47 the ominous fissure opened, the face of the Campanile toward the church and the Ducal Palace bulged out, the angle on the top and the pyramid below it swayed once or twice, and threatened to crush either the Sansovino's Library or the Basilica of San Marco in their fall, then the whole colossus subsided gently, almost noiselessly, upon itself, as it were in a curtsey, the ruined brick and mortar spread out in a pyramidal heap, a dense column of white powder rose from the Piazza, and the Campanile was no more.[Pg 163]

It is certainly remarkable, and by the people of Venice it is reckoned as a miracle, that the tower in its fall did so little harm. Not a single life was lost, tho the crowd in the Piazza was unaware of its danger till about ten minutes before the catastrophe.



The Ducal Palace, which was the great work of Venice, was built successively in the three styles. There was a Byzantine Ducal Palace, a Gothic Ducal Palace, and a Renaissance Ducal Palace. The second superseded the first totally; a few stones of it (if indeed so much) are all that is left. But the third superseded the second in part only, and the existing building is formed by the union of the two. We shall review the history of each in succession.

1st. The Byzantine Palace. In the year of the death of Charlemagne, 813, the Venetians determined to make the island of Rialto the seat of the government and capital of their state. Their Doge, Angelo or Agnello Participazio, instantly took vigorous means for the enlargement of the small group of buildings which were to be the nucleus of the future Venice. He appointed persons to superintend the raising of the banks of sand, so as to form more secure foundations, and to build wooden bridges over the canals.[Pg 164] For the offices of religion, he built the Church of St. Mark; and on, or near, the spot where the Ducal Palace now stands, he built a palace for the administration of the government. The history of the Ducal Palace therefore begins with the birth of Venice, and to what remains of it, at this day, is entrusted the last representation of her power....

In the year 1106, it was for the second time injured by fire, but repaired before 1116, when it received another emperor, Henry V. (of Germany), and was again honored by imperial praise. Between 1173 and the close of the century, it seems to have been again repaired and much enlarged by the Doge Sebastian Ziani. Sansovino says that this Doge not only repaired it, but "enlarged it in every direction;" and, after this enlargement, the palace seems to have remained untouched for a hundred years, until, in the commencement of the fourteenth century, the works of the Gothic Palace were begun.

Venice was in the zenith of her strength, and the heroism of her citizens was displaying itself in every quarter of the world. The acquiescence in the secure establishment of the aristocratic power was an expression, by the people, of respect for the families which had been chiefly instrumental in raising the commonwealth to such a height of prosperity....

In the first year of the fourteenth century, the Gothic Ducal Palace of Venice was begun; and as the Byzantine Palace was, in its foundation, coeval with that of the state, so the Gothic Palace was, in its foundation, coeval with that of the aristocratic power. Considered as[Pg 165] the principal representation of the Venetian school of architecture, the Ducal Palace is the Parthenon of Venice, and Gradenigo its Pericles.

Before it was finished, occasion had been discovered for farther improvements. The Senate found their new Council Chamber inconveniently small, and, about thirty years after its completion, began to consider where a larger and more magnificent one might be built. The government was now thoroughly established, and it was probably felt that there was some meanness in the retired position, as well as insufficiency in the size, of the Council Chamber on the Rio.

It appears from the entry still preserved in the Archivio, and quoted by Cadorin, that it was on the 28th of December, 1340, that the commissioners appointed to decide on this important matter gave in their report to the Grand Council, and that the decree passed thereupon for the commencement of a new Council Chamber on the Grand Canal.

The room then begun is the one now in existence, and its building involved the building of all that is best and most beautiful in the present Ducal Palace, the rich arcades of the lower stories being all prepared for sustaining this Sala del Gran Consiglio. In saying that it is the same now in existence, I do not mean that it has undergone no alterations; it has been refitted again and again, and some portions of its walls rebuilt; but in the place and form in which it first stood, it still stands; and by a glance at the position which its windows occupy, the spectator will see at once that whatever can be known respecting the design of the[Pg 166] Sea Façade, must be gleaned out of the entries which refer to the building of this Great Council Chamber.

Cadorin quotes two of great importance, made during the progress of the work in 1342 and 1344; then one of 1349, resolving that the works at the Ducal Palace, which had been discontinued during the plague, should be resumed; and finally one in 1362, which speaks of the Great Council Chamber as having been neglected and suffered to fall into "great desolation," and resolves that it shall be forthwith completed.

The interruption had not been caused by the plague only, but by the conspiracy of Faliero, and the violent death of the master builder. The work was resumed in 1362, and completed within the next three years, at least so far as that Guariento was enabled to paint his Paradise on the walls, so that the building must, at any rate, have been roofed by this time. Its decorations and fittings, however, were long in completion; the paintings on the roof being only executed in 1400....

The works of addition or renovation had now been proceeding, at intervals, during a space of a hundred and twenty-three years. Three generations at least had been accustomed to witness the gradual advancement of the form of the Ducal Palace into more stately symmetry, and to contrast the works of sculpture and painting with which it was decorated—full of the life, knowledge, and hope of the fourteenth century—with the rude Byzantine chiselling of the palace of the Doge Ziani. The magnificent fabric just completed, of which the new Council Chamber[Pg 167] was the nucleus, was now habitually known in Venice as the "Palazzo Nuovo;" and the old Byzantine edifice, now ruinous, and more manifest in its decay by its contrast with the goodly stones of the building which had been raised at its side, was of course known as the "Palazzo Vecchio." That fabric, however, still occupied the principal position in Venice. The new Council Chamber had been erected by the side of it toward the Sea; but there was not then the wide quay in front, the Riva dei Schiavoni, which now renders the Sea Façade as important as that to the Piazzetta. There was only a narrow walk between the pillars and the water; and the old palace of Ziani still faced the Piazzetta, and interrupted, by its decrepitude, the magnificence of the square where the nobles daily met.

Every increase of the beauty of the new palace rendered the discrepancy between it and the companion building more painful; and then began to arise in the minds of all men a vague idea of the necessity of destroying the old palace, and completing the front of the Piazzetta with the same splendor as the Sea Façade. But no such sweeping measure of renovation had been contemplated by the Senate when they first formed the plan of their new Council Chamber. First a single additional room, then a gateway, then a larger room; but all considered merely as necessary additions to the palace, not as involving the entire reconstruction of the ancient edifice. The exhaustion of the treasury, and the shadows upon the political horizon, rendered it more imprudent to in[Pg 168]cur the vast additional expense which such a project involved; and the Senate, fearful of itself, and desirous to guard against the weakness of its own enthusiasm, passed a decree, like the effort of a man fearful of some strong temptation to keep his thoughts averted from the point of danger. It was a decree, not merely that the old palace should not be rebuilt, but that no one should propose rebuilding it. The feeling of the desirableness of doing so was too strong to permit fair discussion, and the Senate knew that to bring forward such a motion was to carry it.

The decree, thus passed in order to guard against their own weakness, forbade any one to speak of rebuilding the old palace, under the penalty of a thousand ducats. But they had rated their own enthusiasm too low; there was a man among them whom the loss of a thousand ducats could not deter from proposing what he believed to be for the good of the state. Some excuse was given him for bringing forward the motion, by a fire which occurred in 1419, and which injured both the Church of St. Mark's, and part of the old palace fronting the Piazzetta. What followed, I shall relate in the words of Sanuto.

"Therefore they set themselves with all diligence and care to repair and adorn sumptuously, first God's house; but in the Prince's house things went on more slowly, for it did not please the Doge to restore it in the form in which it was before; and they could not rebuild it altogether in a better manner, so great was the parsimony of these old fathers; because it was forbidden by laws, which condemned in a[Pg 169] penalty of a thousand ducats any one who should propose to throw down the old palace, and to rebuild it more richly and with greater expense.

"But the Doge, who was magnanimous, and who desired above all things what was honorable to the city, had the thousand ducats carried into the Senate Chamber, and then proposed that the palace should be rebuilt; saying: that, since the late fire had ruined in great part the Ducal habitation (not only his own private palace, but all the places used for public business), this occasion was to be taken for an admonishment sent from God, that they ought to rebuild the palace more nobly, and in a way more befitting the greatness to which, by God's grace, their dominions had reached; and that his motive in proposing this was neither ambition, nor selfish interest; that, as for ambition, they might have seen in the whole course of his life, through so many years, that he had never done anything for ambition, either in the city, or in foreign business; but in all his actions had kept justice first in his thoughts, and then the advantage of the state, and the honor of the Venetian name; and that, as far as regarded his private interest, if it had not been for this accident of the fire, he would never have thought of changing anything in the palace into either a more sumptuous or a more honorable form; and that during the many years in which he had lived in it, he had never endeavored to make any change, but had always been content with it as his predecessors had left it; and that he knew well that, if they took[Pg 170] in hand to build it as he exhorted and besought them, being now very old, and broken down with many toils, God would call him to another life before the walls were raised a pace from the ground. And that therefore they might perceive that he did not advise them to raise this building for his own convenience, but only for the honor of the city and its Dukedom; and that the good of it would never be felt by him, but by his successors." ...

Then he said, that 'in order, as he had always done, to observe the laws, he had brought with him the thousand ducats which had been appointed as the penalty for proposing such a measure, so that he might prove openly to all men that it was not his own advantage that he sought, but the dignity of the state.' There was no one (Sanuto goes on to tell us) who ventured, or desired to oppose the wishes of the Doge; and the thousand ducats were unanimously devoted to the expenses of the work. "And they set themselves with much diligence to the work; and the palace was begun in the form and manner in which it is at present seen; but, as Mocenigo[51] had prophesied, not long after, he ended his life, and not only did not see the work brought to a close, but hardly even begun."

There are one or two expressions in the above extracts which, if they stood alone, might lead[Pg 171] the reader to suppose that the whole palace had been thrown down and rebuilt. We must however remember, that, at this time, the new Council Chamber, which had been one hundred years in building, was actually unfinished, the council had not yet sat in it; and it was just as likely that the Doge should then propose to destroy and rebuild it, as in this year, 1853, it is that any one should propose in our House of Commons to throw down the new Houses of Parliament, under the title of the "old palace," and rebuild them....

It was in the year 1422 that the decree passed to rebuild the palace; Mocenigo died in the following year, and Francesco Foscari was elected in his room. The great Council Chamber was used for the first time on the day when Foscari entered the Senate as Doge—the 3rd of April, 1423, according to the "Caroldo Chronicle;" the 23d, which is probably correct, by an anonymous MS., No. 60, in the Correr Museum; and the following year, on the 27th of March, the first hammer was lifted up against the old palace of Ziani. That hammer stroke was the first act of the period properly called the "Renaissance." It was the knell of the architecture of Venice—and of Venice herself.

The central epoch of her life was past; the decay had already begun; I date its commencement from the death of Mocenigo. A year had not yet elapsed since that great Doge had been called to his account; his patriotism, always sincere, had been in this instance mistaken; in his zeal for the honor of future Venice, he had forgotten what was due to the Venice of long[Pg 172] ago. A thousand palaces might be built upon her burdened islands, but none of them could taken the place, or recall the memory, of that which was first built upon her unfrequented shore. It fell; and, as if it had been the talisman of fortune, the city never flourished again.

I have no intention of following out, in their intricate details, the operations which were begun under Foscari and continued under succeeding Doges till the palace assumed its present form, for I am not in this work concerned, except by occasional reference, with the architecture of the fifteenth century; but the main facts are the following. The palace of Ziani was destroyed; the existing façade to the Piazzetta built, so as both to continue and to resemble, in most particulars, the work of the Great Council Chamber. It was carried back from the Sea as far as the Judgment angle; beyond which is the Porta della Carta, begun in 1439, and finished in two years, under the Doge Foscari; the interior buildings connected with it were added by the Doge Christopher Moro (the Othello of Shakespeare) in 1462.

Some remnants of the Ziani Palace were perhaps still left between the two extremities of the Gothic Palace; or, as is more probable, the last stones of it may have been swept away after the fire of 1419, and replaced by new apartments for the Doge. But whatever buildings, old or new, stood on this spot at the time of the completion of the Porta della Carta were destroyed by another great fire in 1479, together with so much of the palace on the Rio that, tho the saloon of Gradenigo, then known as the[Pg 173] Sala de Pregadi, was not destroyed, it became necessary to reconstruct the entire façades of the portion of the palace behind the Bridge of Sighs, both toward the court and canal.

The palace was not long permitted to remain in finished form. Another terrific fire, commonly called the great fire, burst out in 1574, and destroyed the inner fittings and all the precious pictures of the Great Council Chamber, and of all the upper rooms on the Sea Façade, and most of those on the Rio Façade, leaving the building a mere shell, shaken and blasted by the flames. It was debated in the Great Council whether the ruin should not be thrown down, and an entirely new palace built in its stead. The opinions of all the leading architects of Venice were taken, respecting the safety of the walls, or the possibility of repairing them as they stood. These opinions, given in writing, have been preserved, and published by the Abbé Cadorin, and they form one of the most important series of documents connected with the Ducal Palace.

I can not help feeling some childish pleasure in the accidental resemblance to my own name in that of the architect whose opinion was first given in favor of the ancient fabric, Giovanni Rusconi. Others, especially Palladio, wanted to pull down the old palace, and execute designs of their own; but the best architects in Venice, and, to his immortal honor, chiefly Francesco Sansovino, energetically pleaded for the Gothic pile, and prevailed. It was successfully repaired, and Tintoret painted his noblest picture on the wall from which the Paradise of Guariento had withered before the flames.[Pg 174]

The repairs necessarily undertaken at this time were however extensive, and interfere in many directions with the earlier work of the palace; still the only serious alteration in its form was the transposition of the prisons, formerly at the top of the palace, to the other side of the Rio del Palazzo; and the building of the Bridge of Sighs, to connect them with the palace, by Antonio da Ponte. The completion of this work brought the whole edifice into its present form; with the exception of alterations in doors, partitions, and staircases among the inner apartments, not worth noticing, and such barbarisms and defacements as have been suffered within the last fifty years, by, I suppose, nearly every building of importance in Italy.



The colonization of the Venetian estuary is usually dated from the year 452, the period of the Hunnish invasion under Attila, when the Scourge of God, as he was named by his terror-stricken opponents, sacked the rich Roman cities of Aquileia, Concordia, Opitergium, and Padua. In one sense the date is correct. The Hunnish invasion certainly gave an enormous increase to the lagoon population, and called the attention of the mainlanders, to the admirable asylum which the estuary offered in times of danger.[Pg 175]

When Alcuin, the great scholar from Yorkshire, was teaching Charlemagne's son and heir, Pepin, he drew up for his pupil's use a curious catechism of questions and answers. Among others this occurs: "What is the sea." "A refuge in time of danger." Surely a strange answer, and one which can hardly be reckoned as true except in the particular case of the Venetian lagoons. For the mainlanders were caught between the devil of Attila and the deep sea of the Adriatic, and had they not found the lagoons ready at hand to offer them an asylum and to prove a refuge in time of danger, it must have fared hard with them.

But this date of 452 is not to be taken as the date of the very earliest occupation of the lagoon. Long before Attila and his Huns swept down upon Italy, we know that there was a sparse population occupying the estuary, engaged in fishing and in the salt trade. Cassiodorus, the secretary of the Gothic King Theodoric the Great, has left us a picture of this people, hardy, independent, toughened by their life on the salt water; their means of living; the fish of the lagoons; their source of wealth; the salt which they extracted from its waters; their houses, wattled cabins built upon piles driven into the mud; their means of locomotion light boats which were tied to the door posts like horses on mainland.

"Thus you live in your sea-birds' home," he exclaims, "rich and poor under equal laws; a common food supports you; house is like unto house; and envy, that curse of all the world, hath no place there." No doubt this early pop[Pg 176]ulation of the lagoons, already intimately associated with its dwelling-place, modified by it and adapted to it, helped to form the basis upon which the latter strata of population, the result of the Hunnish invasion, could rest; and in all probability some of the characteristics of this early population, its independence and its hardihood, passed into the composition of the full-grown Venetian race. But beyond the brief words of Cassiodorus we know little about these early lagoon-dwellers. It is really with the Hunnish invasion that the history of Venice begins its first period of growth.

The population which flocked from the mainland to seek refuge in the estuary of Venice came from many different cities—from Aquileia, from Concordia, from Padua; and tho the inhabitants of all these, no doubt, bore the external stamp which Rome never failed to impose, yet, equally doubtless, they brought with them their own particular customs, their mutual hates and rivalries.

While living on the mainland these animosities had wider space in which to play, and were therefore less dangerous, less explosive. But in the lagoons, under stress of suffering, and owing to confinement and juxtaposition, they became intensified, exaggerated, and perilous. There was a double problem before the growing Venetian population which required to be solved before Venice and the Venetians could, with any justice, be considered a place and a people. First, the various and largely hostile populations who had taken refuge in the lagoon had to be reconciled to each other; and secondly, they had to[Pg 177] be reconciled to their new home, to be identified with it and made one with it.

The lagoon achieved both reconciliations; the isolation of its waters, their strangeness, gradually created the feeling of unity, of family connection, among the diverse and hostile components of the population, till a fusion took place between the original and the immigrant inhabitants, and between the people and their home, and Venice and the Venetians emerge upon the history of the world as an individual and full-grown race. But this reconciliation and identification were not accomplished at once. They cost many years of struggle and of danger. The unification of Venice is the history of a series of compromises, an historical example of the great law of selection and survival.



Venice the beautiful city ended, pagan-like, as did its sisters the Greek republics, through nonchalance and voluptuousness. We find, indeed, from time to time, a Francis Morosini, who like Aratus and Philopoemen, renews the heroism and victories of ancient days; but, after the seventeenth century, its bright career is over. The city, municipal and circumscribed, is found to be weak, like Athens and Corinth, against powerful mili[Pg 178]tary neighbors who either neglect or tolerate it; the French and the Germans violate its neutrality with impunity; it subsists and that is all, and it pretends to do no more. Its nobles care only to amuse themselves; war and politics with them recede in the background; she becomes gallant and worldly....

But the evening of this fallen city is as mellow and as brilliant as a Venetian sunset. With the absence of care gaiety prevails. One encounters nothing but public and private fêtes in the memoirs of their writers and in the pictures of their painters. At one time it is a pompous banquet in a superb saloon festooned with gold, with tall lustrous windows and pale crimson curtains, the doge in his simarre dining with the magistrates in purple robes, and masked guests gliding over the floor; nothing is more elegant than the exquisite aristocracy of their small feet, their slender necks and their jaunty little three-cornered hats among skirts flounced with yellow or pearly gray silks.

At another it is a regatta of gondolas and we see on the sea between San-Marco and San-Giorgio, around the huge Bucentaur[54] like a leviathan cuirassed with scales of gold, flotillas of boats parting the water with their steel becks. A crowd of pretty dominos, male and female, flutter over the pavements; the sea seems to be of polished slate under a tender azure sky spotted with cloud-flocks while all around, as in a precious frame, like a fantastic border carved and embroidered, the Procuraties, the domes, the[Pg 179] palaces and the quays thronged with a joyous multitude, encircle the great maritime Venetian sheet....

In truth they never concern themselves with religion except to repress the Pope; in theory and in practise, in ideas and in instincts, they inherit the manners, customs and spirit of antiquity, and their Christianity is only a name. Like the ancients, they were at first heroes and artists, and then voluptuaries and dilettanti; in one as in the other case they, like the ancients, confined life to the present. In the eighteenth century they might be compared to the Thebans of the decadence who, leagued together to consume their property in common, bequeathed what remained of their fortunes on dying to the survivors at their banquets. The carnival lasts six months; everybody, even the priests, the guardian of the capucins, the nuncio, little children, all who frequent the markets, wear masks. People pass by in processions disguised in the costumes of Frenchmen, lawyers, gondoliers, Calabrians and Spanish soldiery, dancing and with musical instruments; the crowd follows jeering or applauding them. There is entire liberty; prince or artizan, all are equal; each may apostrophize a mask. Pyramids of men form "pictures of strength" on the public squares; harlequins in the open air perform parades. Seven theaters are open. Improvizators declaim and comedians improvize amusing scenes. "There is no city where license has such sovereign rule." ...

The Chiogga campaign is the last act of the old heroic drama; there, as in the best days of the ancient republics, a besieged people is seen[Pg 180] to save itself against all hope, artizans equipping vessels, a Pisani conqueror undergoing imprisonment and only released to renew the victory, a Carlo Zeno, surviving forty wounds, and a doge of seventy years of age; a Contarini, who makes a vow not to leave his vessel so long as the enemy's fleet is uncaptured, thirty families, apothecaries, grocers, vintners, tanners admitted among the nobles, a bravery, a public spirit like that of Athens under Themistocles and of Rome under Fabius Cunctator. If, from this time forth, the inward fire abates we still feel its warmth for many long years, longer kept up than in the rest of Italy, and sometimes demonstrating its power by sudden outbursts.

The nobles, on their side, are always ready to fight. During the whole of the sixteenth century, even up to the seventeenth and beyond, we see them in Dalmatia, in the Morea, over the entire Mediterranean, defending the soil inch by inch against the infidels. The garrison of Famagouste yields only to famine, and its governor, Bragadino, burned alive, is a hero of ancient days. At the battle of Lepanto the Venetians alone furnish one half of the Christian fleet. Thus on all sides, and notwithstanding their gradual decline, peril, energy, love of country, all, in brief, which constitutes or sustains the grand life of the soul here subsists, while throughout the peninsula foreign dominion, clerical oppression and voluptuous or academical inertia reduces man to the system of the antechamber, the subtleties of dilettantism and the babble of sonnets.

But if the human spring is not broken at Venice, it is seen insensibly losing its elasticity. The[Pg 181] government, changed into a suspicious despotism, elects a Mocenigo doge, a shameless speculator profiting on the public distress, instead of that Charles Zeno who had saved the country; it holds Zeno prisoner two years and entrusts the armies on the mainland to condottieri; it is tied up in the hands of three inquisitors, provokes accusations, practises secret executions and commands the people to confine themselves to indulgences of pleasure. On the other hand luxury arises. About the year 1400 the houses "were quite small;" but a thousand nobles were enumerated in Venice possessing from four to seventy thousand ducats rental, while three thousand ducats were sufficient to purchase a palace.

Henceforth this great wealth is no longer to be employed in enterprises and in self-devotion, but in pomp and magnificence. In 1495, Commine admires "the grand canal, the most beautiful street, I think, in the world, and with the best houses; the houses are very grand, high and of excellent stone—and these have been built within a century. All have fronts of white marble, which comes from Istria, a hundred miles away, and yet many more great pieces of porphyry and of serpentine on them; inside they have, most of them, at least two chambers with gilded ceilings, rich screens of chimneys with carved marble, the bedsteads gilded and the 'ostevents' painted and gilded and well furnished within." On his arrival twenty-five gentlemen attired in silk and scarlet come to meet him; they conduct him to a boat decked with crimson silk; "it is this most triumphant city I ever saw."[Pg 182]

Finally, while the necessity of pleasure grows the spirit of enterprise diminishes; the passage of the Cape in the beginning of the sixteenth century places the commerce of Asia in the hands of the Portuguese; on the Mediterranean and the Atlantic the financial measures of Charles V., joined to bad usage by the Turks, render abortive the great maritime caravans which the state dispatches yearly between Alexandria and Bruges. In respect to industrial matters, the hampered artizans, watched and cloistered in their country, cease to perfect their arts and allow foreign competitors to surpass them in processes and in furnishing supplies to the world.

Thus, on all sides, the capacity for activity becomes lessened and the desire for enjoyment greater without one entirely effacing the other, but in a way that, both commingling, they produce that ambiguous state of mind similar to a mixed temperature which is never too severe and in which the arts are generated. Indeed, it is from 1454 to 1572, between the institution of state inquisitors and the battle of Lepanto, between the accomplishment of internal despotism and the last of the great outward victories, that the brilliant productions of Venetian art appear. John Bellini was born in 1426, Giorgone died in 1511, Titian in 1578, Veronese in 1572 and Tintoretto in 1594. In this interval of one hundred and fifty years this warrior city, this mistress of the Mediterranean, this queen of commerce and of industry became a casino for masqueraders and a den of courtezans.[Pg 183]



In Venice the pigeons do not allow you to forget them, even if one desired to forget a bird that is so intimately connected with the city and with a great ceremony of that ancient republic which has passed away. They belong so entirely to the place, and especially to the great square; they have made their homes for so many generations among the carvings of the Basilica, at the feet of the bronze horses, and under the massive cornices of the New Procuratie, that the great Campanile itself is hardly more essential to the character of the piazza than are these delicate denizens of Saint Mark's.

In the structure of the ducal palace, the wants of the pigeons have been taken into account, and near the two great wells which stand in the inner courtyard little cups of Istrian stone have been let into the pavement for the pigeons to drink from. On cold, frosty mornings you may see them tapping disconsolately at the ice which covers their drinking troughs, and may win their thanks by breaking it for them. Or if the wind blows hard from the east, the pigeons sit in long rows under the eaves of the Procuratie; their necks drawn into their shoulders, and the neck feathers ruffled round their heads, till they have lost all shape, and look like a row of slate-colored cannon-balls.[Pg 184]

From Saint Mark's the pigeons have sent out colonies to the other churches and campi of Venice. They have crossed the Grand Canal, and roost and croon among the volutes of the Salute, or, in wild weather, wheel high and airly above its domes. They have even found their way to Malamocco and Mazzorbo; so that all Venice in the sea owns and protects its sacred bird. But it is in Saint Mark's that the pigeons "most do congregate;" and one can not enter the piazza, and stand for a moment at the corner, without hearing the sudden rush of wings upon the air, and seeing the white under-feathers of their pinions, as the doves strike backward to check their flight, and flutter down at one's feet in expectation of peas or grain. They are boundlessly greedy, and will stuff themselves till they can hardly walk, and the little red feet stagger under the loaded crop. They are not virtuous, but they are very beautiful.

There is a certain fitness in the fact that the dove should be the sacred bird of the sea city. Both English "dove" and Latin "columba" mean the diver; and the dove uses the air much as the fish uses the sea, it glides, it dives, it shoots through its airy ocean; it hovers against the breeze, or presses its breast against the sirocco storm, as you may see fish poised in their course against the stream; then with a sudden turn it relaxes the strain and sweeps away down the wind. The dove is an airy emblem of the sea upon which Venice and the Venetians live, but more than that—the most permanent quality in the color of the lagoons, where the lights are always shifting, is the dove-tone of sea and sky;[Pg 185] a tone which holds all colors in solution, and out of which they emerge as the water-ripples or the cloud-flakes pass—just as the colors are shot and varied on a young dove's neck.

There is some doubts as to the origin of these flocks of pigeons which shelter in Saint Mark's. According to one story, Henry Dandolo, the Crusader, was besieging Candia; he received valuable information from the interior of the island by means of carrier-pigeons, and, later on, sent news of his successes home to Venice by the same messengers. In recognition of these services the government resolved to maintain the carriers at the public cost; and the flocks of to-day are the descendants of the fourteenth-century pigeons. The more probable tradition, however, is that which connects these pigeons with the antique ceremonies of Palm Sunday.

On that festival the Doge made the tour of the piazza, accompanied by all the officers of State, the Patriarch, the foreign ambassadors, the silver trumpets, all the pomp of the ducal dignity. Among other largess of that day, a number of pigeons, weighted by pieces of paper tied to their legs, used to be let loose from the gallery where the bronze horses stand, above the western door of the church. Most of the birds were easily caught by the crowd, and kept for their Easter dinner; but some escaped, and took refuge in the upper parts of the palace and among the domes of Saint Mark's. The superstition of the people was easily touched, and the birds that had sought the protection of the saint were thenceforth dedicated to the patron of Venice. The charge of supporting them was committed[Pg 186] to the superintendents of the corn stores, and the usual hour for feeding the pigeons was nine o'clock in the morning. During the revolution of 1797, the birds fared as badly as the aristocracy, and were left to take care of themselves; but when matters settled down again the feeding of the pigeons was resumed by the municipality, and takes place at two in the afternoon, tho the incessant largess of strangers can leave the birds but little appetite for their regular meal.

In spite of the multitudes of pigeons that haunt the squares of the city, a dead pigeon is as rare to see as a dead donkey on the mainland. It is a pious opinion that no Venetian ever kills a pigeon, and apparently they never die; but the fact that they do not increase so rapidly as to become a nuisance instead of a pleasure, lends some color to the suspicion that pigeon pies are not unknown at certain tables during the proper season.



Seven miles to the north of Venice, the banks of sand, which near the city rise little above low-water mark, attain by degrees a higher level, and hoist themselves at last into fields of salt morass, raised here and there into shapeless mounds, and interrupted by narrow creeks of sea. One of the feeblest of these inlets, after winding for some time among buried fragments of mason[Pg 187]ry, and knots of sunburned weeds whitened with webs of fucas, stays itself in an utterly stagnant pool beside a plot of greener grass covered with ground-ivy and violets. On this mound is built a rude brick campanile, of the commonest Lombardic type, which if we ascend toward evening (and there are none to hinder us, the door of its ruinous staircase swinging idly on its hinges), we may command from it one of the most notable scenes in this wide world of ours.

Far as the eye can reach, a waste of wild sea moor, of a lurid ashen-gray; not like our northern moors with their jet-black pools and purple heath, but lifeless, the color of sackcloth, with the corrupted sea-water soaking through the roots of its acrid weeds, and gleaming hither and thither through its snaky channels. No gathering of fantastic mists, nor coursing of clouds across it; but melancholy clearness of space in the warm sunset, oppressive, reaching to the horizon of its level gloom. To the very horizon, on the northeast; but to the north and west, there is a blue line of higher land along the border of it, and above this, but farther back, a misty band of mountains, touched with snow.

To the east, the paleness and roar of the Adriatic, louder at momentary intervals as the surf breaks on the bar of sand; to the south, the widening branches of the calm lagoon, alternately purple and pale green, as they reflect the evening clouds or twilight sky; and almost beneath our feet, on the same field which sustains the tower we gaze from, a group of four buildings, two of them little larger than cottages (tho built of stone, and one adorned by a quaint belfry), the[Pg 188] third an octagonal chapel, of which we can see but little more than the flat red roof with its rayed tiling, the fourth, a considerable church with nave and aisles, but of which, in like manner, we can see little but the long central ridge and lateral slopes of roof, which the sunlight separates in one glowing mass from the green field beneath and gray moor beyond. There are no living creatures near the buildings, nor any vestige of village or city round about them. They lie like a little company of ships becalmed on a faraway sea.

Then look farther to the south. Beyond the widening branches of the lagoon, and rising out of the bright lake into which they gather, there are a multitude of towers, dark, and scattered among square-set shapes of clustered palaces, a long irregular line fretting the southern sky. Mother and daughter, you behold them both in their widowhood—Torcello and Venice. Thirteen hundred years ago, the gray moorland looked as it does this day, and the purple mountains stood as radiantly in the deep distances of evening; but on the line of the horizon, there were strange fires mixed with the light of sunset, and the lament of many human voices mixed with the fretting of the waves on their ridges of sand. The flames rose from the ruins of Altinum; the lament from the multitude of its people, seeking, like Israel of old, a refuge from the sword in the paths of the sea.

The cattle are feeding and resting upon the site of the city that they left; the mower's scythe swept this day at dawn over the chief street of the city that they built, and the swathes of soft[Pg 189] grass are now sending up their scent into the night air, the only incense that fills the temple of their ancient worship.



We reached Pieve di Cadore about half-past eleven A.M., delays included. The quaint old piazza with its gloomy arcades, its antique houses with Venetian windows, its cafés, its fountain, and its loungers, is just like the piazzas of Serravalle, Longarone, and other provincial towns of the same epoch. With its picturesque Prefettura and belfry-tower one is already familiar in the pages of Gilbert's "Cadore." There, too, is the fine old double flight of steps leading up to the principal entrance on the first floor, as in the town-hall at Heilbronn—a feature by no means Italian; and there, about midway up the shaft of the campanile, is the great, gaudy, well-remembered fresco, better meant than painted, wherein Titian, some twelve feet in height, robed and bearded, stands out against an ultramarine background, looking very like the portrait of a caravan giant at a fair....

Turning aside from the glowing piazza and following the downward slope of a hill to the left of the Prefettura, we come, at the dis[Pg 190]tance of only a few yards, upon another open space, grassy and solitary, surrounded on three sides by rambling, dilapidated-looking houses, and opening on the fourth to a vista of woods and mountains. In this little piazza stands a massive stone fountain, time-worn and water-worn, surmounted by a statue of Saint Tiziano in the robes and square cap of an ecclesiastic. The water trickling through two metal pipes in the pedestal beneath Saint Tiziano's feet, makes a pleasant murmuring in the old stone basin; while, half hidden behind this fountain, and leaning up as if for shelter against a larger house adjoining, stands-a small whitewashed cottage upon the side-wall of which an incised tablet bears the following record:

"Nel MCCCCLXXVII Fra Queste Vmili Mura Tiziano Vecellio Vene a celebre Vita Donde vsciva gia presso a cento Anni In Venezia Addi XXVII Agosto MDLXXVI."

A poor, mean-looking, low-roofed dwelling, disfigured by external chimney-shafts and a built-out oven; lit with tiny, blinking, medieval windows; altogether unlovely; altogether unnoticeable; but—the birthplace of Titian!

It looked different, no doubt, when he was a boy and played outside here on the grass. It had probably a high, steep roof, like the homesteads in his own landscape drawings; but the present old brown tiles have been over it long enough to get mottled with yellow lichens. One would like to know if the fountain and the statue were there in his time; and if the water trickled ever to the same low tune; and if the women came there to wash their linen[Pg 191] and fill their brazen water jars, as they do now. This lovely green hill, at all events, sheltered the home from the east winds; and Monte Duranno lifted his strange crest yonder against the southern horizon; and the woods dipt down to the valley, then as now, where the bridle-path slopes away to join the road to Venice.

We went up to the house, and knocked. The door was opened by a sickly, hunchbacked lad who begged us to walk in, and who seemed to be quite alone there. The house was very dark, and looked much older inside than from without. A long, low, gloomy upstairs chamber with a huge penthouse fire-place jutting into the room, was evidently as old as the days of Titian's grandfather, to whom the house originally belonged; while a very small and very dark adjoining closet, with a porthole of window sunk in a slope of massive wall, was pointed out as the room in which the great painter was born.

"But how do you know that he was born here?" I asked. The hunchback lifted his wasted hand with a deprecating gesture. "They have always said so, Signora," he replied. "They have said so for more than four hundred years."

"They?" I repeated, doubtfully. "The Vecelli, Signora." "I had understood that the Vecellio family was extinct." "Scusate, Signora," said the hunchback. "The last direct descendant of 'Il Tiziano' died not long ago—a few years before I was born; and the collateral Vecelli are citizens of Cadore to this day. If the Signora[Pg 192] will be pleased to look for it, she will see the name of Vecellio over a shop on the right-hand side, as she returns to the Piazza."

I did look for it; and there, sure enough, over a small shop-window I found it. It gave one an odd sort of shock, as if time were for the moment annihilated; and I remember how, with something of the same feeling, I once saw the name of Rubens over a shop-front in the market-place at Cologne.

I left the house less incredulous than I entered it. Of the identity of the building there has never been any kind of doubt; and I am inclined to accept with the house the identity of the room. Titian, it should be remembered, lived long enough to become, long before he died, the glory of his family. He became rich; he became noble; his fame filled Italy. Hence the room in which he was born may well have acquired, half a century before his death—perhaps even during the lifetime of his mother—that sort of sacredness which is generally of post-mortem growth. The legend, handed down from Vecellio to Vecellio in uninterrupted succession, lays claim, therefore, to a more reliable pedigree than most traditions of a similar character.


[1] From "Travels in Italy." Translated by A. J. W. Morrison and Charles Nisbet. Goethe's visit to Italy was made in 1786. He was then only thirty-seven years of age. The visit had important influence on his subsequent career. The greatest of his works were still to be written. It was not until after 1794 that Goethe devoted himself entirely to literature.

[2] Goethe at this time had published several short plays besides "The Sorrows of Werthé," "Wilhelm Meister," and a few other works less important.

[3] By that name Italians know the Pantheon.

[4] From "Remarks on Several Parts of Italy in the years 1701, 1702, 1703." At the time of his departure for Italy, Addison was twenty-nine years old. None of his important works had then been written.

[5] Addison's belief has been amply justified by the extensive excavations made since his time.

[6] From "Ancient Rome, In the Light of Recent Discoveries." By special arrangement with, and by permission of, the publishers, Houghton, Mifflin Co. Copyright, 1888.

[7] Lanciani here has referred to the Catholic Church, in which historians have seen, in the spiritual sense, a survival of imperial Rome.

[8] From "Six Months in Italy." Published by Houghton, Mifflin Co.

[9] From "Six Months in Italy." Published by Houghton, Mifflin Co.

[10] Mr. Hillard was writing in 1853.

[11] From "The Ruins and Excavations of Ancient Rome." By special arrangement with, and by permission of, the publishers, Houghton, Mifflin Co. Copyright, 1897.

[12] This mausoleum, built by Augustus on the bank of the Tiber for himself and his family, had long been used as the imperial sepulcher.

[13] From "Rome." By arrangement with, and by permission of, the publishers, John C. Winston Co. Copyright, 1897.

[14] From "Italy: Rome and Naples." By special arrangement with, and by permission of, the publishers, Henry Holt & Co. Copyright, 1868. Translated by John Durand.

[15] From "The Ruins and Excavations of Ancient Rome." By special arrangement with, and by permission of, the publishers, Houghton, Mifflin Co. Copyright, 1897.

[16] From "The Ruins and Excavations of Ancient Rome." By special arrangement with, and by permission of, the publishers, Houghton, Mifflin Co. Copyright, 1897.

[17] From "Haps and Mishaps of a Tour in Europe." Mrs. Lippincott's visit was made in 1852.

[18] From "Recollections of the Last Four Popes, and of Rome in their Times." Nicholas Patrick Stephen Wiseman (1802-1865), an English cardinal, was famous during his lifetime for intellectual vigor and scholarly attainments. In presenting an intimate view of a papal election it was his unusual privilege to describe not only "the things he saw," but also, as his later destiny revealed, to tell of the things of which he formed a part. The election pictured is that of Leo XII.

[19] From "Six Novices on the Grand Tour, by One of Them." Privately printed. (1911.) By permission of the author.

[20] From "Six Months in Italy." Published by Houghton, Mifflin Co.

[21] From "Italy: Rome and Naples." By special arrangement with, and by permission of, the publishers, Henry Holt & Co. Copyright, 1868. Translated by John Durand.

[22] From "Pictures from Italy."

[23] From "The Marble Faun." Published by Houghton, Mifflin Co.

[24] From "Pencillings by the Way."

[25] From "Pictures from Italy."

[26] From "French and Italian Note-Books." By special arrangement with, and by permission of, the publishers of Hawthorne's works, Houghton, Mifflin Co. Copyright, 1871, 1883, 1899.

[27] Hiram Powers, the American sculptor, who lived long in Florence, and is best known for his "Greek Slave."

[28] From "Journeys in Italy." By special arrangement with, and by permission of, the publishers, Brentano's. Copyright, 1902.

[29] From "Florence."

[30] From Taine's "Italy: Florence and Venice." By special arrangement with, and by permission of, the publishers. Henry Holt & Co. Translated by John Durand. Copyright, 1869.

[31] Since Taine wrote, the façade has been added.

[32] From "Italian Cities." By special arrangement with, and by permission of, the publishers, Charles Scribner's Sons. Copyright, 1900.

[33] From "The Makers of Florence." Published by the Macmillan Co.

[34] That is, the Baptistery at Florence.

[35] From "Florence." By permission of the publishers, John C. Winston Co. Copyright, 1837.

[36] From "Florence." By permission of the publishers, John C. Winston Co. Copyright, 1897.

[37] From "Florence." By permission of the publishers, John C. Winston Co. Copyright, 1897.

[38] Dante was buried at Ravenna. The reader will recall Byron's lines:

"Ungrateful Florence! Dante sleeps afar,
Like Scipio, buried by the upbraiding shore."

[39] From "Italy: Florence and Venice." By special arrangement with, and by permission of, the publishers, Henry Holt & Co. Copyright, 1869. Translated by John Durand.

[40] From "Letters of a Traveller." Bryant's letter is dated in May, 1834.

[41] The court of the Austrian Grand Duke Leopold III. In 1859 Leopold was expelled, and Florence, with Tuscany, was annexed to the Sardinian kingdom.

[42] From "Venice: Its History, Art, Industries and Modern Life." Published by John C. Winston Co.

[43] From "Two Months Abroad." Privately printed. (1878.)

[44] From "Journeys In Italy." By arrangement with, and by permission of, the publishers, Brentano's. Copyright, 1902.

[45] Marie Taglioni, the ballet dancer, who was born in Stockholm of Italian parents in 1804 and married to Count Gilbert de Voisons in 1847, when she retired from the stage. She died in 1884.

[46] From "The Stones of Venice." St. Mark's is merely a church. It is not a cathedral; that is, it is not the "cathedra" of a bishop. Originally it was the private chapel of the Doge. Likewise, St. Peter's at Rome is a church only—the church of the Pope. The cathedral of the Pope (who is the Bishop of Rome), is St. John Lateran.

[47] Venice and territory adjacent to it were long in subjection to Austria. Having put an end to the republic in 1797 (the republic had then had an unbroken existence for about thirteen hundred years), Napoleon, by the treaty of Campo Formio, ceded this territory to Austria. In 1805, however, Venetia was added by Napoleon to his Kingdom of Italy. In 1814, after the first fall of Napoleon, it was ceded back to Austria and in 1815 became part of the Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom. Under the leadership of Manin, in 1848, a republic was proclaimed in Venice, but Austria laid siege to the city and captured it. It was not until 1866, at the conclusion of the war against Austria, that Venice was annexed to the new Italian kingdom of Victor Emmanuel.

[48] From "In and Around Venice." Published by Charles Scribner's Sons.

[49] From "In and Around Venice." Published by Charles Scribner's Sons. After its fall, the Venetians set about raising funds for rebuilding the Campanile. In the course of several years, the new structure was finished and the event duly commemorated.

[50] From "The Stones of Venice."

[51] Several men of this name are famous in Venetian annals, as soldiers, statesmen and doges. The one here referred to is Tommaso, who defeated the Turks, added Dalmatia to the Venetian domain, greatly encouraged commerce and founded the Venetian library.

[52] From "Life on the Lagoons." Published by the Macmillan Co.

[53] From "Italy: Florence and Venice." By special arrangement with, and by permission of, the publishers. Henry Holt & Co. Copyright, 1869.

[54] The state ship of Venice.

[55] From "Life on the Lagoons." Published by the Macmillan Co.

[56] From "The Stones of Venice."

[57] From "Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys: A Midsummer Ramble in the Dolomites." Published by E. P. Dutton & Co.

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