Project Gutenberg's Rome, by Mildred Anna Rosalie Tuker and Hope Malleson

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Title: Rome

Author: Mildred Anna Rosalie Tuker
        Hope Malleson

Illustrator: Alberto Pisa

Release Date: July 23, 2011 [EBook #36817]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Melissa McDaniel and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at

Transcriber's Note:

Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

The Ambarvalia Sacrifice

The sacrifice of the suovetaurilia took place at the confines of Rome and Alba Longa after the perlustration of the Roman ager. See pages 15, 70.


Published April 1905

The twelve chapters in this book were all written for the[Pg v] present volume, but Chapters III., V., VIII., part of XI., and IX. have already been published in the Monthly Review, Broad Views, Macmillan's Magazine, and the Hibbert Journal.

So much has been written about Rome and Roman subjects within the last decade, good bad and indifferent, that the task of avoiding as far as possible hackneyed ground is not an easy one. We have attempted to present some aspects of Rome as we have ourselves seen it, and we have drawn on our long acquaintance with the city and above all with its inhabitants of the old school and the new.

Each chapter is the work of one writer.

Rome, 1905.

[Pg vii]


Rome   1
Roman Building and Decoration   17
The Roman Catacombs   41
Roman Regions and Guilds   52
The Roman Campagna   69
The Roman Ménage   93
  CHAPTER VII [Pg viii]
The Roman People    
     I. The Italians   112
     II. The Romans   125
Roman Princely Families   159
Roman Religion   180
The Roman Cardinal   200
Rome Before 1870   212
The Roman Question    
     I. Before 1870   235
     II. Since 1870   245

[Pg ix]

List of Illustrations

1. Marble relief of the Ambarvalia Sacrifice, in the Forum Frontispiece
2. The Forum from the Arch of Septimius Severus 4
3. The Forum, looking towards the Capitol 8
4. Temple of Saturn from the Basilica Julia in the Forum 12
5. S. Peter's and Castel Sant' Angelo from the Tiber 16
6. Temple of Saturn from the Portico of the Dii Consentes 18
7. A Corner of the Forum from the base of the Temple of Saturn 20
8. Temple of Mars Ultor 24
9. Temple of Vespasian from the Portico of the Dii Consentes 26
10. The Colosseum on a Spring Day 30
11. The Colosseum at Sunset 34
12. Arch of Titus 38
13. A Procession in the Catacomb of Callistus 42
14. Flavian Basilica on the Palatine 44
15. Library of the House of Domitian on the Palatine 50
16. Forum of Nerva 54
17. Fountain of Trevi 56
18. Column of Marcus Aurelius, Piazza Colonna 58
19. Pantheon, a flank view 62
20. Silversmiths' Arch in the Velabrum 64[Pg x]
21. Convent Garden of San Cosimato, Vicovaro 68
22. A Tract of the Claudian Aqueduct outside the City 72
23. Campagna Romana, from Tivoli 76
24. Subiaco from the Monastery of S. Benedict 78
25. Garden of the Monastery of Santa Scholastica, Subiaco 82
26. Holy Stairs at the Sagro Speco 86
27. Little Gleaner in the Campagna 90
28. Sea-horse Fountain in the Villa Borghese 94
29. Ornamental Water, Villa Borghese 98
30. Village Street at Anticoli, in the Sabine Hills 100
31. Villa d'Este, Tivoli 106
32. In Villa Borghese 110
33. The "Spanish Steps," Piazza di Spagna 114
34. At the Foot of the Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna, on a Wet Day 118
35. Roman Peasant carrying Copper Water Pot 122
36. Chapel of the Passion in the Church of San Clemente 126
37. A Rustic Dwelling in the Roman Campagna 128
38. Procession with the Host at Subiaco 130
39. Girl selling Birds in the Via del Campidoglio 134
40. Entrance to Ara Coeli from the Forum 138
41. In the Church of Ara Coeli 142
42. Doorway of the Monastery of S. Benedict (Sagro Speco) at Subiaco 146
43. Chapel of San Lorenzo Loricato at S. Benedict's, Subiaco 150
44. Steps of the Dominican Nuns' Church of SS. Domenico and Sisto 154
45. Porta San Paolo 158
46. The Colosseum in a Storm 162
47. Arch of Titus from the Arch of Constantine 166
48. Mediaeval House at Tivoli 170
49. Ilex Avenue and Fountain (Fontana scura) Villa Borghese 174[Pg xi]
50. "House of Cola di Rienzo," by Ponte Rotto 178
51. San Clemente, Choir and Tribune of Upper Church 182
52. Santa Maria in Cosmedin 186
53. Chapel of San Zeno (called orto del paradiso) in S. Prassede 190
54. Cloisters of S. Paul's-without-the-Walls 192
55. Cloisters in Santa Scholastica, Subiaco 196
56. Santa Maria sopra Minerva 198
57. Saint Peter's 200
58. Interior of S. Peter's, the Bronze Statue of S. Peter 204
59. A Cardinal in Villa d'Este 208
60. Villa d'Este—Path of the Hundred Fountains 210
61. Theatre of Marcellus 212
62. Island of the Tiber—the Isola Sacra 216
63. The Steps of Ara Coeli 220
64. Steps of the Church of SS. Domenico and Sisto 224
65. Santa Maria Maggiore 230
66. Arch of Constantine 234
67. Castel and Ponte Sant' Angelo 238
68. Bronze Statue of Marcus Aurelius on the Capitol 240
69. S. Peter's from the Pincian Gardens 244
70. From the Terrace of the House of Domitian 252

The Illustrations in this volume have been engraved by the
Hentschel Colourtype Process.

[Pg 1]




About seven hundred and fifty years before the Christian era some Latian settlers founded a town on the banks of the Tiber and became the Roman people. Where did they come from? Had they come across what was later to be known as the ager romanus from the Latin stronghold of Alba Longa, or were they a mixed people, partly composed of those men from Etruria who were already settled in the country round? In the confused pictures which tradition has handed down to us we see Latins in conflict with Etruscans, and Romulus relegating the latter to a special quarter of the city; but we also see one of the three tribes into which he divided the people bearing an Etruscan name, an Etruscan chief as his ally, and we know that while two at least of her six kings belonged to this race, the religion, the art, and the political institutions of early Rome were borrowed from that Etruscan civilisation which was at this epoch the most advanced on Latin soil.[Pg 2]

However this may be, four legends cling round the mighty founders of Rome—the Latian, the Aenean, the Arcadian, the Etruscan. The Arcadian Evander had brought with him a colony of the indigenous people of Greece, and founded a town at the foot of the Palatine sixty years before the Trojan war. But at Alba Longa there also reigned kings descended from Aeneas, who had come to Latium after the capture of Troy bringing with him the Palladium, the sacred image of Pallas. His descendant, the vestal Rhea Silvia, becomes the mother of the twins Romulus and Remus by Mars. The babes of the guilty priestess are cast adrift, but their cradle is carried down the Tiber to the foot of the Palatine, where they are suckled by a wolf, and brought up by the shepherd community already established there.

In the dim twilight of origins we recognise that Romulus is the type of the Roman people, whom he symbolises, who are found fighting the Sabine, the Etruscan, even the Latin, for existence as a nation. In the dim twilight we see all Roman things coming down the Tiber to the foot of the Palatine—the original Roma Quadrata—and we see that the nucleus of the settlement there was the cave of Lupercus, the Italian shepherds' god, identified later with the Arcadian Pan. This cave was just above the site of the present church of Santa Anastasia; here grew the wild fig-tree in whose roots the cradle of Rhea Silvia's babes became entangled, and here was the hut of Faustulus their foster-father.

The Grotto of Lupercus is the oldest sanctuary of[Pg 3] kingly Rome. For the people were shepherds. Other nations had risen under shepherd kings who led their people to war, but no other people had become world conquerors; no other people had been equally skilled in the arts of war and the arts of peace, the arts of the plough and the arts of the spear, in the self-discipline, the heroic devotion, the unity of purpose, of the men who once carried in their breast the destinies of the known world.

The story is aptly figured in the person of the god Mars, who was the reputed father of Romulus and Remus. The Roman god was at first an agricultural divinity—the "spears of Mars" were the rods with which the shepherd owner marked his boundaries. When, under the influence of Greece, Mars became the god of battles, the boundary marker of the fields became his war weapons. But if the Roman knew how to beat his ploughshare into a sword, he also knew how to return from the sword to the plough. The one was never far from the other—they put him in possession of those two ways of inheriting the earth, multiplying and subduing, producing and combating. Thus the pastoral legend never died out from the land of Saturn, and in the proudest flush of victory, when the relics of the hastae martis were shown to the triumphant followers of Mars, there was present to the soul of the Roman the image of the father of Romulus covering the land with gigantic strides to strike these same hastae into the soil as a sign of possession, the emblem of primitive law.

Forum from Septimius Severus

In the left corner is the lapis niger, the traditional tomb of Romulus. Facing us is the Arch of Titus, and to the right is the Palatine.

Two hills in Central Italy and a swamp between them provided [Pg 4]the theatre of perhaps the greatest millennium in human history. On the one hill were the Latins—or let us call them the Roman people—the site of Roma Quadrata the foster-land of Romulus, the birthplace of Augustus, the hill which has given its name to the imperial palaces of the earth. On the other were the Quirites and the site of the Sabine arx, that Capitolium so-called, says Montfaucon, "because it was the head of the world, from which the consuls and senators governed the universe." Whenever the marshy ground between them was passable, the Latins and Sabines descended the steep declivities of their hills and transformed it into a battlefield. But even in these early days they felt the need of a comitium where the rival chiefs could meet to decide upon terms; and in no long space this battle-ground became the nucleus and pledge of the political greatness of Rome.

For the Forum symbolises all human civilisation. It is the symbol of the common meeting ground—the common sentiments and needs—of human beings, where rancours are laid aside for the business of life—its common but its noblest business, civic, "civilised," pursuits. It is the symbol of human greatness also, for the Roman never suffered the common necessities to force upon him an ignoble peace. The battle-ground became the centre of civic life, but only on condition that the interests for which men should combat were never sacrificed to the interests for which men should co-operate. Through the symbolic trait d'union of[Pg 5] the Forum, two fortresses of barbarians became the nucleus of the city which ruled the world, and their people the imperial people of history.

The city on the Palatine had been extended so as to include the town of the Sabines or Quirites on the neighbouring Quirinal hill, before the first king, who was born in the Sabine country, was called to rule the Romans. The Capitol at this time was a spur of the Quirinal, and so remained until Trajan dug away a part of the latter to lay the foundations of his forum. The Etruscans lived on the Caelian and the two horns of the Esquiline hills; the former was incorporated in the primitive city, but the Esquiline and Viminal were not enclosed until the time of Servius Tullius when Rome first became "the city on Seven Hills." The Aventine where Remus had wished to build the city was colonised by the conquered Latin towns in the reign of Ancus Martius, and this isolated hill, overlooking the Tiber on one side and the campagna on the other, still haunts the imagination with its melancholy beauty, its pariah history, as though it embodied the undying protest of Remus, an unceasing claim upon Roman justice. The varied and interesting Christian memories here, which begin with the titulus of Priscilla and Aquila, are continued in the Priory of the once international Order of the Knights of Malta, recording the noblest effort of the lay world during the middle ages—the institution of chivalry; and in the modern Benedictine house of Saint Anselm—our English Anselm.

The Janiculum, the site of a fortress built by Ancus[Pg 6] Martius against the Etruscans, was not enclosed within the city walls till the time of Aurelian; the Vatican hill was only enclosed in the ninth century by Leo IV. All these hills were once steep defences against enemies in the surrounding country; now that there are no longer any enemies the Romans appear bent on abolishing the hills, and the mania for planing and razing is carried to an extent which must seem nothing less than childish to the visitor. The Viminal has become almost indistinguishable since the Villa Massimo was pulled down, and only the name Via Viminale, which replaces the older Via Strozzi, indicates the hill which lay between the Quirinal and the Esquiline. Some idea may be gained of the original steepness of the hills when we realise that in the memory of the Romans the road past Palazzo Aldobrandini—on a slope of the Quirinal—used to be at the level of the top of the high wall which now surrounds it. The Capitol was only approachable from the Forum, and was never connected with the city on the hither side until the construction of the historic steps of Ara Coeli, one of the rare works undertaken by the Romans during the absence of the popes in Avignon.

The Tiber is now but a narrow stream in the midst of its ancient bed. The Romans had never embanked the swift-flowing river, and the enormous deposits of the yellow sand which give it its traditional colour, and which threaten to completely dam the river by the island of the Tiber, may afford the explanation. The inundations of 1900 in fact reached the same level as[Pg 7] those of 1872, as we may see recorded in the neighbouring church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Few spots in Rome exceed in varied interest the isola sacra which with its two historic bridges the pons Fabricius and the pons Cestius spans the Tiber at the heart of the city. Here was the temple to Aesculapius, whose worship had been introduced into Rome during a time of pestilence in obedience to the Sibylline oracles. The island itself thereafter assumed the form of a huge stone ship, faced with travertine, the prow with the sculptured staff and serpent of the god being still clearly visible; and here Greece and Rome met a civilisation and an art still older than their own, for the mast of this great ship is formed by an Egyptian obelisk. Hard by is the district where the Romans, who had borrowed from them their gods and their cult, compelled the "turba impia" ("the impious crowd") of Etruscans to dwell; while the walled enclosure in which, from the eleventh century onwards, Christian Rome obliged the Jews to live, is approached by the Fabrician bridge, as we may gather from the inscription in Hebrew and Latin on the little church of San Giovanni Calibita, beneath a painting of the Crucifixion, which says: "I have spread forth my hands all the day to an unbelieving people, who walk in a way that is not good."

In the early twelfth century Otho III. brought, as he believed, the body of the Hebrew apostle Saint Bartholomew to this island, as 1400 years earlier the cult of Aesculapius had been brought there from Greece. The city of Beneventum had, however, it is supposed, palmed off on the emperor the body of Saint Paulinus of Nola which rests in the church dedicated to the apostle by the side of that of Saint Adelbert the apostle of the Slavs. The Franciscans came to the isola sacra in the sixteenth century, and one of the friars of Saint Bartholomew's is the popular dentist of the poor from all quarters.

The Forum towards the Capitol

The Palatine is to the left. See pages 4, 5, 61.

Here, then, in the midst of the river which determined the site [Pg 8]of the cosmopolitan city, is a spot to whose history Egypt, Greece, Etruria, Palestine have contributed—Aesculapius, "one of the Twelve," the Christian Slavs, the Saxon Otho, Francis of Assisi. In Paulinus of Nola we are reminded of the earliest Western monasteries, and the Franciscan friars represent for us the thirteenth-century revival of the religious spirit in Italy. What more? In the red-gowned confraternity of the island we are put in touch with an institution which seems to be as old as human history, with those burial guilds, sanctioned by Roman law, under shelter of which the first Christians obtained a legal footing for themselves and their cemeteries long before their religion was tolerated.

The vicissitudes of the city have made certain features of its life as eternal as itself. Through the middle ages it was the sanctuary and since the renascence of classical learning it has been the museum of Europe. Long before there were any kind of facilities for travelling every one came to Rome. A procession of people from every race under heaven, in every variety—every excess and defect—of costume, has passed along the streets under the observant but unastonished eyes of the[Pg 9] blasé Roman; and when a lay pilgrim in a brown tunic, hung with rosaries, and carrying a crucifix taller than himself, walked last year out of Saint Peter's among the Easter crowd, no one noticed him. The modern city in becoming the hostess of the other provinces of Italy is approximating in size to the Rome of the early empire; but the Rome of the popes made no sort of provision for the influx of Europe. The Inn of the Bear, in the street of that name leading to Ponte Sant' Angelo, provided the best accommodation; and here, it is said, Dante himself had lodged. It is but a hundred years ago that a pavement was placed for pedestrians, and then only one side of the Corso boasted a narrow footpath. The streets were encumbered with hucksters' stalls, with refuse, dirt, and stones; the nights were dark as pitch, and hygiene was only hinted at in the marble affiches which may still be seen at certain old street corners announcing that monsignore the way warden would visit with a fine of 25 scudi and divers bodily pains the practice of emptying every kind of refuse into the side streets.

Now that the city is emerging from the chrysalis of the middle ages the cry of "Vandals!" goes up on all sides. But Rome has always been destroyed. Not even her moral vicissitudes give her a greater right to be called "the eternal city" than her survival of the material ruin to which she has over and over again been subjected. That Goth and Vandal have not wrought more havoc than emperors, people, and popes is recorded in the pasquinade on Urban VIII. (Barberini),[Pg 10] who stripped the bronze off the Pantheon to adorn the baldacchino of Saint Peter's:—Quod non fecerunt Barbari, fecerunt Barberini. It is a curious coincidence that the inscription commemorating the victories of Claudius in Britain, in which our kings are irreverently spoken of as "barbarians," should now grace the garden of the Barberini palace in Rome. Tempora mutantur nos et mutamur in illis.

One factor only has been constant in the vicissitudes of Rome—barbarian invaders, rescuers of popes, foreign intruders, internecine brawlers, the flights and elections of popes, have each brought the opportunity for wholesale pillage. To the Roman love of destruction must be added the love of the large and superfluous: from the time of the emperors to the present hour when sites and buildings are doomed on all hands in order that the colossal monument of Victor Emmanuel II. may dominate the centre of the Roman tramway system—while the House of Augustus is unexcavated and his tomb is dishonoured—the Romans have proved themselves to be the sons of those who killed the prophets, by building or desecrating their sepulchres. But when "new Rome" is condemned let us not forget that it has given us what the learning and the riches of the most munificent popes never compassed—an excavated Forum.

There is no Mayfair and no Seven Dials in Rome. The poor live, and have always lived, cheek by jowl with the rich: a palace in the Ghetto and a hovel in the Corso have each existed without offence. This brings us to another permanent feature of Roman life—the[Pg 11] beggars. Rome has always lived on the foreigner, and it has always had troops of beggars patrolling its streets, in the time of the Antonines as in that of Gregory the Great, or as in that of the latest of the sovereign pontiffs, Pius IX.; and the cheerful-faced beggar who was licensed by this pope to sit by the statue of Saint Peter lived to the closing years of the century and gave a dowry of 200,000 francs to his daughter on her marriage. The difficulties which met the Roman of the era of Gregory the Great when pest and the transition to the agricultural system of coloni threw the serfs upon the streets, met the government of Italy when after September 1870 the whole motley crowd which had been the recipient of the Christian system of alms-giving was in its turn suddenly thrown upon the streets of the city. Those who remember the "seventies" or the "eighties" in Rome remember the menacing manner in which "alms" were "asked," how near together were blessing and cursing, and how unfrequented roads and hills were beset by sturdy beggars, lineal descendants of the brigand who placing his hat in the roadway levelled his gun at you as he proffered the request: "For the love of God put something in that hat."

Papal charity pauperised a whole people: notices in the streets on wet days announced the free distribution of bread in the Colosseum; doles of bread were given by all the parish clergy to the practising members of their congregations. The men women and children who had passed their time doing odd jobs in churches, following[Pg 12] viaticum and funeral processions, and providing a church crowd on all occasions, were suddenly called upon to make some concession to the modern spirit—hawking a bunch of crumpled flowers, a box of matches or a couple of bootlaces up and down the streets, in and out of the restaurants, these latest recruits to the commercial spirit exchanged the atmosphere of the sacristy for the busy whirl of trade without ceasing to be what they had always been, beggars pure and simple. Successful attempts are now being made to put down begging. The great and real distress which exists in the city is mainly due to the excessive rents and the terrible overcrowding—in the San Lorenzo quarter the modern poor of Rome may be found herded together with five, six, and even seven families living in one room. The mania for building in the "eighties" led to the "building crisis"; streets of unfinished houses mock the houseless poor and the "improvements" of the city are gradually demolishing the poorer dwellings. Amidst this misery it is still the old Roman population which receives most help; they are known in their parishes, and the old established subsidies and dowries come their way.

Temple of Saturn

The Capitol is to the left. The temple is built at the foot of the Capitol hill. See pages 3, 13, 30, 91.

The population of Rome has varied as much as its fortunes. The maximum was reached in the time of the Flavian emperors—2 millions, but even in the time of Augustus the inhabitants probably numbered 1,300,000. A period of three hundred and fifty years, which brings us to the date of the "Peace of the Church," sufficed to decrease this number by more than[Pg 13] a million (a.d. 335). After a thousand years of Christian domination the population of the city had sunk to its minimum, 17,000 (a.d. 1377). Even in the reign of the magnificent Leo X. it was not more than 30 or 40 thousand. From the beginning of the seventeenth century when it exceeded 100,000, it steadily increased, till in 1800 the population numbered 153,000. But during the "empire," 1812, it fell to 118,000. Ten years after "the Italians" entered Rome it had increased by 79,000, to 305,000. The last census, 1900, shows a resident population of 450,000—not a third of its classical total—and Naples is still the most densely populated city of Italy.

The Greek tradition in Rome seems summed in the Palatine, the hill of "Pallas"; but the Capitol, the hill of Saturn, sums Italy itself. The one represents the Roman Empire, the other the Roman Commune—those liberties and that self-government which began with the entry of the gentes and the formation from among them of the Roman Senate, and which were never to be abolished. The Palatine has not been inhabited since the officials of the Exarchate abandoned it in the eighth century; but the life of the Capitol has never been intermitted; it has never ceased to represent all the moments in the life of the Roman people. This distinction is sharply drawn to-day: the Palatine is a hill of majestic ruins visited only by the tourist, the Capitol is still the seat of the municipality of Rome, ascended by every couple for the celebration of their marriage, and[Pg 14] its registers signalise every young life born to the city.

The municipal franchises of Italy have played a large part in her history, and that of Rome is no exception. Moreover the Senate of Rome, the heads of each gens from among the original settlers, and the Populus, who be it remembered were the gentes and were never synonymous with the plebs, represented two constant facts and factors—a free Senate and free municipal government by the Populus Romanus. These flourished in the middle ages as they had flourished in the classical city, and it was thus easy for Cola di Rienzo to restore them when the popes had abandoned the city to its fate. Papal letters to Charlemagne's predecessors were indited in the name of the Senate and people of Rome—a custom which influenced the early government of the Roman Church herself, for her letters to other Christian Churches were written in the name of "the Roman Church," even when, as in the case of Clement's epistle, they were the actual handiwork of the then head of the Christian community. Again, when Pepin obliged the Lombard king to cede the exarchate of Ravenna not to the emperor but to Rome, the words employed were: "to the Holy Church and the Roman Republic." Even in the time of the proud Innocent III. the city was still governed "by the Senate and people of Rome," and when the Romans again tired of their Senate—as tradition says they had done when they made Numa king—they created in its place a supreme magistrate who was designated "the Senator,"[Pg 15] one of whose duties was to maintain the pontiff in his See, and to provide conveniently for his safe conduct and that of the Sacred College when journeying within his jurisdiction. The extent of this jurisdiction is perhaps all that now remains of the power once held by the Senate and Roman people. The municipality of Rome is the largest in the world; it is conterminous with the whole Roman agro, so that its history is inseparably linked with that of the Roman boundaries as well as with the life of the Roman people.

The outward and visible sign of these primæval Roman liberties is the tetragram S.P.Q.R.—Senatus Populus Que Romanus (the Roman Senate and People), which took the place of the earlier formula Populus Romanus et Quirites, and it is of the Sabines, not of the humble conjunction, that that Q still reminds us. All down the centuries we may recognise those four letters—surmounted in imperial times by an eagle—crowning the standard of the Romans, carried far and wide not only through the streets of the city and to the uttermost ends of the earth, but in that religious perlustration of the ager when the ambarvalia rites were celebrated at the Cluilian Trench which separated Rome from Alba Longa, the site of the combat between the Alban Curatii and the Roman Horatii. One of the finest remains in the Forum is the marble relief which represents the suovetaurilia, the sow, sheep, and bull sacrificed on this occasion. That Roman greatness which came to be synonymous with confines as large as the known world, had risen with the recognition of[Pg 16] these sacred limits, limits which still define the Roman municipality—the symbol of Roman liberties.

The Pragmatic Sanction and the world power of Rome! Can two things be more disparate? Yet the version which renders S.P.Q.R. into Si Peu Que Rien must surely be laid at the door of "Gallicanism"—it points to an ecclesiastical not a political diminutio capitis. The tract of the city which we see from the terrace on the Pincian hill, looking towards the Janiculum, has been called the most historic plot of land in the world. Is it without reason that the furthest point of this unequalled panorama is the dome which Michael Angelo erected over the tomb of S. Peter? Three mighty civilisations—the Etruscan, the Roman, the Christian—resulted in the foundation of two world empires. Rome is now entering on a third existence, its existence as the capital of Italy, but has it suffered thereby no diminutio capitis? Is it not a fact that the classical and the ecclesiastical represented her only world-wide destinies, the only life of Rome which penetrated as truly beyond the city as within its classic confines? Has not the papacy, with all its faults, been the actual link connecting ancient and modern Rome, preserving unbroken the tradition which gave her, beyond her ritual boundaries, the government of the world without?

S.Peter's and Castel Sant' Angelo

See pages 16, 32, 239, 242.

[Pg 17]



Shepherds' huts clustered upon a hill top whose base is washed by a swift yellow river rushing to the sea not far distant. This is the first faint foreshadowing of the existence of Rome which reaches us dimly across the centuries. These shepherd settlers had chosen a site propitious for the foundation of the great city which was to be raised upon those grouped hills by the skilful hands of their descendants, for the necessary building materials lay close at hand in lavish profusion. One of the neighbouring hills, known later as the Janiculum, and parts of another, the Pincian, yielded a fine yellow sand. Beneath the surface soil was volcanic rock, which, in a prehistoric age when the campagna was a sea-bed and waves lapped against Monte Cavo, had been poured out in great liquid streams from volcanoes amongst the Alban hills and at Bracciano. Close at hand in the plain lay immense beds of a chocolate-brown earth with which later builders were to manufacture cement.

The makers of Rome therefore had only to quarry their building stone on the very site of their city, and[Pg 18] we can still recognise in the few fragments that have come down to us the rectangular blocks of brown tufa used in the first period of her history. These earliest monuments, the walls of Servius Tullius and the vaults of the Mamertine prisons, were the direct outcome of a period of Etruscan dominion, and one of the first great works undertaken in the growing city, the draining of the swamps of the Forum, Campus Martius and Velabrum, was due to Tarquinius Priscus, the immense cloacae built for the purpose being still in use, and their masonry as strong as when they were constructed about 603 b.c. The two Etruscan kings, Tarquinius Priscus and Tarquinius Superbus, built the first triple shrine on the Capitol dedicated to the three Etruscan gods, Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, and the primitive Roman temples, consisting of a simple cella with a peristyle, were doubtless Etruscan in character and were decorated with terra-cotta and bronze in the Etruscan manner.

The Romans were born builders and engineers, and in these branches they quickly outstripped their predecessors and instructors. If they were deficient in artistic originality, they evinced a readiness to imitate and a power of appreciating skill and proficiency in the arts wherever they met with them, and their practical and utilitarian spirit taught them how to adopt and improve upon experience and guided them in the choice of right materials.

Temple of Saturn

One of the earliest monuments of Rome; originally built in the reign of the last of the Tarquins or the first years of the Republic, but twice reconstructed during the Empire. It served as the Treasury of Rome. The granite columns with marble capitals are of the Ionic order. See pages 30, 181.

A period when the influence of Greece predominated succeeded the first epoch in the building of Rome,[Pg 19] and to this time must be ascribed the adoption of the Greek models for public buildings, for circuses, baths, and basilicas. Ionic, Corinthian, and Doric columns were imported into Rome, the latter undergoing some modification to suit the Romans' more florid taste. The temples became Hellenic in style. The small cella was built within an open court surrounded by arcades from which the people assisted at the sacrifices. The altar stood in the open court. Later, windows were introduced into the building, and the openings were filled in with a bronze grating similar to that still in perfect preservation over the door of the Pantheon, or with a perforated marble screen, fragments of coloured glass being inserted in the interstices of the pattern. By the third century there were 400 temples in Rome, but the simple form of the early buildings was hidden with excessive ornamentation, and frieze and cornice were loaded with carving and figures.

The basilica, or kingly hall of justice, was a rectangular building divided into a central portion or nave and side aisles by rows of columns under a horizontal architrave. The columns were in two tiers, the upper one enclosing a gallery which was reached by a flight of stairs springing either within or without the building. The entrances were at the sides, and one extremity, and in some cases both were extended to form a semicircular apse or tribune where stood the judge's seat. A marble screen, the cancellum, separated this portion from the rest of the building, and this constituted the bar to which the accused were brought;[Pg 20] just beyond stood the altar, where incense burned; and here, during the persecutions, Christians were arraigned and bidden to throw incense on the fire as a sign of recantation.

These great buildings served as courts of justice and for the transaction of business, and those which stood upon the fora were in some instances so large that several cases could be conducted in them at once. Before the Empire the nave was probably unroofed or covered only with an awning, and the upper galleries were entirely open so that their occupants could at will attend to the proceedings within the basilica or watch the games and events without. Similarly a single rail or low partition only separated the open colonnades below from the Forum. Curtains could be drawn across these to shut out importunate onlookers and to muffle the sounds of street traffic, but it is evident that the basilica precincts were regarded as a place of familiar rendezvous by the idlers in the Forum, as the gaming tables scratched in the flooring of the Julian basilica testify.

A Corner of the Forum

The column of Phocas, erected in honour of the Byzantine emperor who was the contemporary of Gregory the Great, faces us, and to the right are the columns of the temple to Antoninus Pius and Faustina, now the façade of the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda. The columns are of cippolino marble. See page 32.

The era of thermae or public baths began with Agrippa in 27 b.c., and by the end of the third century eleven such existed in Rome exclusive of the smaller baths or balnae, of which there were 850. Nero, Titus, Trajan, Septimius Severus, Caracalla, Diocletian, were all builders of thermae. These huge edifices were a great deal more than public baths. They were a Roman form of the gymnasia of the Greeks, and the colossal ruins that remain can give but the barest idea of what they must have been at their best. They included immense[Pg 21] halls and courts for athletic displays, vestibules, concert rooms, picture galleries and libraries, pleasure grounds decorated with statues fountains and shrubs and surrounded by open porticoes. Feasts, concerts, and entertainments were provided, and pleasant hours could be whiled away within their walls by the gilded youth of Rome. The baths of Diocletian, of which the church of S. Maria degli Angeli is a magnificent fragment, could accommodate 3600 bathers at a time, those of Caracalla 2000. An army of slaves and attendants waited upon the bathers and sped upon their errands along underground passages from one end of the building to the other. Ruins of the thermae of Caracalla and of Titus are still standing. Out of the colossal vaults and walls of Diocletian's baths have been constructed two churches, a monastery, a large museum, and a variety of storehouses, warehouses, stables, and cellars.

Equally remarkable was the Roman system for supplying their city, their thermae, and their 1350 street fountains with pure water.

Appius Claudius was the first to collect the water from springs amongst the mountains in the neighbourhood of Rome and to bring it across the campagna. This was in 313 b.c., up to which date the inhabitants of the city had depended for their water supply upon the Tiber and upon sunken wells. Following in the steps of Claudius, fourteen aqueducts whose united length measured 360 miles were built at various times. They varied in length from 11 to 59 miles and their course lay sometimes under ground and sometimes 100 feet above it,[Pg 22] while the amount of water they poured daily into Rome has been estimated at 54,000,000 cubic feet.

Four of these ancient aqueducts are still in use. The Virgo, built by Agrippa in 27 b.c., and now known as the Trevi; the Alexandrina, constructed by Alexander Severus (222-235), probably to supply his own baths, and now known as the acqua Felice; the ancient Trajana, now Paola, and the Marcian, restored by Pius IX. The Marcian was always considered the best drinking water, and the Trevi being a softer water was preferred for bathing purposes.

The amphitheatre alone was, perhaps characteristically, a building of purely Roman origin. Intended for shows and fights of gladiators and wild beasts, these were at first temporary wooden structures. The only stone predecessor to the great Flavian amphitheatre was a smaller building in the Campus Martius, the work of Statilius Taurus in 30 b.c. The Colosseum was begun by Vespasian in a.d. 72, was dedicated eight years later by Titus, and was completed by Domitian. It stands upon the site of Nero's artificial lake, is one-third of a mile in circumference, covers some 6 acres of ground, and is 160 feet in height. It could seat 87,000 spectators, and its staircases, galleries, and entrances are so admirably planned that this crowd of sight-seers must have found their seats and filed out when the show was finished with little delay and difficulty. The numbers of the entrances, cut in stone, can still be seen over each of the arches. The Colosseum is built entirely of travertine, the blocks are fitted together without mortar and are[Pg 23] studded with holes from which the greedy despoilers of the middle ages wrenched the metal clamps. In spite of its having been used as a fortress and served as a stone quarry for centuries, it is still one of the most magnificent of the monuments of Rome.

The solidity of the public buildings seems to have been in marked contrast to the flimsy nature of the common dwellings or insulae. In the time of Augustus these numbered 46,600, the domui, or houses of the rich, 1790. The former were roofed with timber or thatch. As land was dear, they were often of several stories and perilously high; many of them were built of unbaked bricks with projecting upper floors, and they were constructed with wooden framing filled in with rush and plaster, so that when a fire broke out in the city whole regions were laid waste in a few hours. As a measure of safety Augustus limited the height of the insulae to 70 feet, and Trajan reduced this again to 60 feet, while a distance of 5 feet between each house was prescribed by the law of the Twelve Tables.

The volcanic tufa used by the earliest Roman builders was discarded gradually in favour of better materials. Peperino, a grey-green volcanic stone from the Alban hills, began to take its place, and was used for the construction of the Tabularium in 78 b.c. and for Hadrian's mausoleum. It was cut in the same way in large rectangular blocks, clamped together during the Republican and early Imperial periods with iron. Mortar was not used till later, and at first served only to level the surfaces of the stones; it came into use for binding[Pg 24] bricks together only at a later and degenerate period of architecture. Travertine was adopted towards the first century b.c. It is a cream-coloured stone hard and durable though easily calcined by fire, formed by deposit in running water. It was quarried at Tivoli and on the banks of the river Anio, where it is still plentiful. To the present day the quarries are worked at Tivoli, and the stone is brought to Rome on waggons drawn by immense white oxen which pace majestically along the dusty roads beneath the goad of their wild-looking drivers.

The chocolate-brown earth imported from Pozzuoli or dug from beds in the campagna, is known as pozzolana, and early in the history of Rome her builders discovered that when mixed with lime it made a remarkably strong cement. As such they used it for foundations, for the lining of walls and ceilings. With pieces of brick and stone a concrete was formed which was poured in a liquid state between wooden casings, and when set proved to be one of the hardest and most durable of the materials used. It was the strength of this concrete which enabled the Roman builders to give the vaults of their baths and basilicas such an enormous span; and it could be used for the flooring of upper stories without beams or supports. When especial lightness was required, the concrete was made with broken pumice stone.

Temple of Mars Ultor

The temple erected by Augustus in his Forum to the God of War under the title of Mars the Avenger. Only the upper part of the ancient arch of the Forum, now known as Arco de' Pantani, is visible. This represents the first imperial building in Rome. See pages 3, 30.

After the first century b.c. concrete became a favourite building material. The walls so made were lined with stucco and faced without in various fashions, the variety[Pg 25] of the facing determining with considerable accuracy the date of the fabric. The earliest facing, of the first and second century b.c., was of irregular blocks of tufa set in cement, and is known as the opus incertum. This was replaced in the middle of the first century b.c. by tufa blocks cut in squares and set diagonally giving the appearance of a network and hence known as opus reticulatum. In or after the first century a.d. this fashion was superseded by a facing of triangular bricks set point inwards, and by the end of the third century bricks were mixed with the opus reticulatum, a style known as opus mixtum. To the casual observer the narrow brown bricks of the ruined buildings of ancient Rome seem to play an important part, but, with few exceptions, they are merely a brick facing upon concrete.

Up to the first century b.c. there was little or no splendour or decoration introduced into the buildings of Rome, and the city of Augustus' inheritance was a city of sober-hued, volcanic rock. When marble was first sparingly used, Livy reprobates it as too showy and extravagant. Notwithstanding, the fashion rapidly spread, first in the embellishment of public buildings, then for private houses as well until in the first century of the Empire it became a common building stone.

For nearly three centuries it was imported into the city in a continuous flow from the quarries of Greece and Egypt. The native Luna marble, the modern Carrara, was not at first worked, but thousands of slaves and convicts toiled in the quarries of the Roman provinces. The great blocks were numbered and stamped[Pg 26] with the name of the reigning emperor and shipped off in the great triremes across the Mediterranean to Ostia. Thence the trading vessels were towed by oxen up the river to Rome, their slow progress ceasing with nightfall, when they were drawn up and moored to the banks till next morning, bands of vigiles watching over the safety of their cargoes and restraining their lawless crews from acts of brigandage. At their journey's end, the cargoes were unloaded upon the marble wharf beneath the Aventine; here unused blocks still lie upon the site of the once busy Marmoratum, now a deserted quay beside a deserted river; and the harbour of Ostia, built by King Ancus Martius at the river's mouth, is now four miles inland.

Occasionally a granite obelisk was brought from Thebes or Heliopolis to adorn an imperial circus. That now in the Lateran Piazza is 108 feet in height and weighs 400 tons. Ships had to be built on purpose for the task, and one of these was so enormous that after safely conveying the Vatican obelisk to Rome, it was sunk by the Emperor Claudius to serve as a breakwater for the harbour at Porto. When the laden ships arrived at the Marmoratum the obelisks were hauled on shore by men and horses and then dragged and pushed on rollers along the streets by gangs of workmen. Forty-eight obelisks were once erected in Rome, of which thirty have disappeared and left no trace.

Temple of Vespasian

Built in honour of the first Flavian Emperor by his sons Titus and Domitian. The three remaining Corinthian columns are of Carrara marble. The Arch of Septimius Severus to the right was dedicated to the emperor and his sons Caracalla and Geta in a.d. 203, to commemorate their Parthian victories. It is of Pentelic marble. The church of Santa Martina in the background is near the site of the Senate House. See pages 31, 32.

While the fashion for marble lasted, no material was considered too rare or too costly. Parian marble, the most beautiful of all white marbles, from the island of[Pg 27] Paros; Pentelic marble from Pentelicus; Hymettan marble from the mountains of Attica; rich yellow giallo antico from Numidia; cippolino with its beautiful green waves from Carystos; purple pavonazzo from Phrygia; black marble from Cape Matapan; green and red porphyries from Egypt; alabaster from Thebes; serpentine from Sparta; jasper and fluor-spar from Asia Minor; lapis lazuli, with which Titus paved a chamber in his baths, from Persia, besides countless varieties of the so-called Lumachella marbles and rare and beautiful breccias.

There arose in Rome an army of marble workers, cutters and sawyers, polishers and cleaners, carvers of simple mouldings and of inscriptions, and more skilled sculptors of ornament and of statues and busts.

Coloured marbles were first used in small pieces for making mosaic pavements. This art was introduced from Greece some time in the first century b.c., and in its simplest form was an arrangement of smooth pebbles in a rough pattern on a bed of cement. As the art developed, cubes, lozenges, and hexagons of travertine and grey lava were cut and fitted together in simple patterns. Then cubes of coloured marble were used, and the designs, of figures and flowers, became more elaborate. The floors were prepared with a bed of concrete, covered with several layers of cement; the last layer was carefully smoothed and levelled, and in this the cubes were fitted according to the pattern, and finally liquid cement was poured over the whole to fill in the cracks. When dry and hard the surface was[Pg 28] polished with sand and water rubbed on with little marble blocks.

Pavements of the best building period can be recognised by the size of the cubes, about three to the inch, and by the neatness and finish of the work. Two varieties of mosaic can be distinguished, that in which marbles, stones, and coloured glass are cut into cubes only and the so-called sectile mosaic in which elaborate scenes and groups of figures are represented, the coloured pieces being sawn into shapes to fit in with the design. The Tablinum in the house of the vestals and the temple of Jupiter on the Capitol were paved with sectile mosaic. The most brilliant mosaic which came into use during the Empire for the decoration of walls and vaults was made of fragments of coloured marble and glass, the latter specially prepared with acids to make it opaque and to give it a brilliant appearance. The art of mosaic work has never died out entirely in Rome. The Roman mosaic pavements and mosaic wall decoration were copied by the builders of mediæval churches, and even now a mosaic factory is kept up at the Vatican.

Although first used in this way, coloured marbles were gradually employed for the interior decoration of houses, for columns, dados, and friezes. Lucius Crassus, the consul (176 b.c.), was the first so to adorn his house, and Lucullus (151 b.c.) paved his hall with black marble. Later, entire rooms were lined with thin slabs clamped to the concrete wall with iron. Sometimes such marble walls were given a thin coat of stucco and[Pg 29] painted. As the passion for sumptuous interiors grew all the decorative arts were put into requisition. Walls were painted in fresco, as we can still see at Pompeii and in the house of Germanicus on the Palatine. Ceilings, walls, and cornices were ornamented in stucco in shallow relief. An extremely hard stucco was made with lime and powdered marble—it was nearly as durable as marble and could take almost as high a polish. It was even used for floors; for internal decoration, plaster of Paris was mixed with it. Mouldings, figures, arabesques, groups and scenes were worked in this stucco and delicately coloured. Examples have been preserved in the Diocletian museum and can be seen in situ in the Latin tombs.

The greatest plans for the building of Rome were conceived by Julius Caesar and Nero. Of Nero's buildings nothing remains except some ruins of his Golden House beneath the baths of Titus, while the designs of Caesar were destined to be carried out by his great successor Augustus. Justly could this emperor boast that he found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble. The republican period succeeding the expulsion of the Tarquins, and which his accession brought to a close, had not been so fruitful in public buildings as the epoch immediately following. Of the former, the Tabularium, the tombs of Bibulus and Cecilia Metella, the temple of Fortuna Virilis, and the ruins of the Fabrician bridge, the modern Ponte Quattro Capi, have come down to us. The city, however, was beginning to assume a more majestic appearance. On the accession of Augustus, the[Pg 30] Capitol was crowned by the Tarquins' temple to Jupiter, which was to be restored by Domitian. The valley between the Palatine and the Aventine was occupied by the enormous Circus Maximus, built by Tarquinius Priscus and decorated by Julius Caesar, and which has so entirely disappeared that we can only trace its site along the present Via dei Cerchi. The temples of Concord and Castor and Pollux stood upon the Forum Romanum, while the temple of Saturn bounding the steep Clivus Capitolinus which led upwards to the Capitol—the ancient Mons Saturninus—recorded the golden age when Saturn reigned in Italy.

The streets of the city were paved, and beyond the walls the immense Appian causeway crossed the Pontine marshes and stretched onwards towards Brindisi and the east.

In the forty years following Rome was transformed. There arose in the Campus Martius, the Pantheon with the baths and aqueduct of Agrippa, the portico of Octavia dedicated by Augustus to his sister, the theatre of Marcellus and the great mausoleum where the emperor and his kindred were to lie, and which, almost smothered in poor houses, has in modern times served the ignoble offices of a bull-ring and a third-rate theatre. Temples were restored, the Basilica Julia was completed, another Forum built with the temple of Mars Ultor in its midst. Upon the site of Augustus' birthplace on the Palatine hill a great palace was raised by himself and Tiberius, and this district of Rome became henceforth the abode of the Caesars.

The Colosseum

The Flavian amphitheatre, called Colosseum from the colossus or colossal statue of Nero which stood on the velia before it. The picture is taken from an orto belonging to the Barberini on the Palatine, looking across the Arch of Constantine. See pages 22, 23, 31.

[Pg 31]

Augustus and his immediate successors were to witness the golden age of Roman building. After Hadrian came the period of decadence characterised by florid ornamentation, bad taste and workmanship, which culminated under Constantine and his sons.

Following in the steps of Augustus, Caligula and Nero erected palaces on the Palatine. Caligula connected the hill with the Forum, and Nero opened up an entrance towards the Caelian. Vespasian built there the Flavian house which his son Domitian was to dedicate as the Aedes Publica, a gift to the people. Septimius Severus extended the Palatine towards the south by the construction of his Septizonium.

Of the buildings of Tiberius, the columns of the temple of Ceres built into the church of S. Maria in Cosmedin remain to us; of those of Claudius, the beautiful ruined arches of his aqueduct. The Flavian emperors were great builders, and to this period belong the arch of Titus, built in a.d. 70 to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem, a monument of Rome's best period, the ruined baths erected by this same emperor, and the great amphitheatre and ruins of the temple of Vespasian.

Trajan's great buildings—his forum and triumphal arch, his basilica and library—are represented by a very small excavated portion of the basilica, and the column whose summit marks the height of the hill cut away by this emperor to make a roadway between the Quirinal and Capitol and thus relieve the congested traffic of the city.[Pg 32]

The only fragments left of the work of Hadrian are the ruins of a villa near Tivoli, the mausoleum and Pons Aelius, now the castle and bridge of S. Angelo; and behind the church of S. Francesca Romana in the Forum the ruins of the Templum Urbis, the temple of Venus and Rome, with its twin niches for the gods, one turned towards the convent the other looking outwards towards the Colosseum. The gilt bronze tiles from the roof of this temple were removed by Pope Honorius I. to deck the Christian Templum Urbis S. Peter's.

During the following 140 years there arose in Rome, amongst other monuments that have perished, the temple of Antoninus and Faustina built by Antoninus Pius in memory of his wife and now transformed into the church of S. Lorenzo in Miranda, the column of Marcus Aurelius, the triumphal arch of Septimius Severus dedicated to his sons Caracalla and Geta, the baths which bear this eldest son's name, although only begun by him and completed by Heliogabalus and Alexander Severus, the walls of Aurelian which still encompass the city and the thermae of Diocletian. The latest of the imperial buildings were the temple built by Maxentius to his son Romulus, now the church of SS. Cosma and Damian in the Forum, and the baths, basilica, and triumphal arch of Constantine.

A visitor to this city of the Cæsars must have been almost bewildered by what he saw. As he passes through the town great buildings meet his glance on every side, their gilded tiles and white marble walls[Pg 33] glistening in the sun and clear atmosphere. Crowds jostle him in the narrow paved roads. He crosses one Forum after another, six in all, and finally reaches the Campus Martius. He pauses upon the steps of temples and basilicas which seem on all sides to surround these busy centres of Roman life. Open spaces are crowded with trees and shrubs, fountains and statues. He can count thirty-six triumphal arches and eight bridges that span the yellow Tiber. He passes theatres and stadia for races and games, columns and obelisks. Occasionally he comes across a giant building, a colossus even in that city of marvels, the amphitheatre of Vespasian or the thermae of Diocletian, or an immense circus where 285,000 spectators are seated waiting for the chariot races to begin; he has noticed groups of charioteers in their distinctive colours, and heavy betting is going on. He has walked from one end of the city to the other sheltered from sun and rain, along covered porticoes, their pavements rich mosaics, and their length decorated throughout with a continuous series of statues and pictures. He has gazed upon the stupendous palaces of the Palatine, and has noticed the streams of people passing in and out of the city gates on their way to the suburbs which extend to Veii Tivoli and Ostia, or to the villas, parks and gardens, villages and farms, which cover the outskirts of Rome to a distance of 15 miles, amongst which great roads lined by marble tombs radiate outwards towards the hills.

With the decay of this mighty city began the era of church building. The origin of the Christian basilica is[Pg 34] still a matter of controversy, but the results of careful and recent research[1] go to confirm the view that it was modelled not upon its Pagan namesake the forensic basilica, but upon the private hall found in many of the dwellings of rich Romans of consular or senatorial rank which served for those domestic tribunals for the adjudication of family disputes sanctioned by Roman law. This conclusion has been overlooked from a mistaken belief that the first Christians were recruited from the slaves and poorer classes of the population, but it is now proved that noble Romans and even members of Imperial families early embraced Christianity, and it was more than probable that the domestic basilicas in their houses should be utilised as places of assembly by members of their faith, the gathering of a large body of persons being concealed during times of persecution, by the use of the many entrances common to the Roman house.

The domestic basilica dedicated as a place of Christian assembly, became with the development of the ecclesiastical system, the Roman titulus, the church in the house, and as no public hall was built until after the Peace of the church, these were multiplied as the Christian population grew and numbered 40 by the second century. The Christian basilica was thus in existence and perfected in all its liturgical parts in the first three centuries, and when Constantine built his great extramural churches, he only amplified a type familiar to every Christian.

The Colosseum

Taken from the Mons Oppius, one of the two spurs of the Esquiline hill. See pages 5, 11.

S. Maria Maggiore probably existed as a domestic[Pg 35] basilica at a time anterior to that of its reputed founders Liberius and Sixtus, and we know that S. Croce and the Lateran were constructed within the Sessorian palace and the house of the Laterani of which they probably formed the halls.

Architecturally also the earliest churches resembled more nearly the domestic hall than the public basilica. The latter were little more than a covered portion of the Forum upon which they stood. They were entered from either side through the open ambulatories which as we have seen were free to all. The extremities were walled up later and prolonged into an apse to increase the space available for legal purposes. The domestic basilica on the other hand was a rectangular building roofed and closed on all sides, its single apse at one extremity facing the main entrance. The central space was surrounded on three sides by porticoes dividing it into portions which became the aisles for the worshippers and the narthex for the use of catechumens. The domestic judge's seat standing in the apse was replaced by the bishop's throne, and the cancellum became the chancel rail dividing this portion, the presbytery of the church, from the rest of the building.

The ruins of the Flavian basilica in Domitian's house on the Palatine (81-96) affords us a ground plan of such a domestic hall, in this instance placed close to the triclinium of the house and not in a direct line with the vestibulum or entrance as was generally the case. Here a fragment of the cancellum can still be seen in situ.

The Christian altar of the earliest churches placed in[Pg 36] front of the apse, faced the congregation, and a space before it, beyond the depressed portion or confessio, was reserved for the choir and was surrounded by a marble balustrade. The columns supported a horizontal architrave, above it a flat wall pierced with windows and the plain roof of cedar-wood beams.

The floors were paved with a fine mosaic of marble and green serpentine alternating with slabs of white marble or discs of red porphyry. Tribune, arch, and vault, and sometimes other portions of the walls, were decorated with brilliant mosaics and examples of this work, of the fourth, sixth, ninth, and twelfth centuries, and possibly of the second or third, have happily escaped the ravishing hand of the restorer. In the twelfth century the art of marble working underwent a temporary revival under the influence of a talented family of artists, the Cosmati; and a good deal of their work and that of their school is still to be found in Rome, the carved marble and an inlay of mosaic upon marble being easily recognisable in the decoration of the cloisters of the Lateran and of S. Paul's outside the walls, upon ambones, candelabra, and tombs scattered throughout the churches.

The straight architectural lines of the Christian basilicas and their subdued colouring of floor and apse produce a delicate and harmonious effect, but they were erected during a debased building period and were not designed for strength, and only a few have weathered the storms of the middle ages and escaped destruction beneath the tasteless restorations of the Renaissance.[Pg 37]

The new building epoch born in Rome was to be nourished entirely at the expense of the old. Columns and mouldings were transferred bodily from the nearest basilica to furnish the Christian church, and were there arranged haphazard. Simpler still, walls of ancient bricks were quickly run up between the solid columns of a temple; marble casings were torn off to be used as common building stone; statues, carved cornices, and friezes were thrust into lime-kilns which sprang up all over the city wherever the ancient monuments stood thickest; priceless marbles were ground into fragments for making mosaics or were mixed with cement and made into concrete.

When Constantine left Rome to found his new capital the city had already degenerated into a squalid provincial town, and fifty years later Jerome could refer to its gilded squalor and its temples lined with cobweb.

Already the seal had been put upon the old order when Gratian in 383 abolished the privileges of the pagan places of worship, and quickly disaster followed upon the heels of destruction. Twice Alaric despoiled the city and carried off priceless booty. Vitiges tore the marble from the mausoleum of Hadrian and destroyed the aqueducts; Genseric dismantled the temple of Jupiter; Robert Guiscard laid waste the Campus Martius and other parts of the city by fire. Sieges, sacks, earthquakes, fires, and inundations succeeded each other until the old level of the city was in places buried 50 feet beneath accumulated ruin and rubbish.[Pg 38]

The scene shifts once more; centuries have slipped by and the city of Rome has become a desolation. Marble columns and granite obelisks lie prone upon the ground, and many more have found graves beneath the soil. Enormous mounds of earth and masonry, disfigured with rude battlements, represent all that is left of the great monuments; crumbling ruins and waste land stretch away to the walls, and without the campagna has become a fever-stricken wilderness.

Military fortresses, watch-towers on the walls, and bell-towers of churches are the only buildings kept in repair. Gaunt wolves snarl and fight over the refuse heaps under the walls of S. Peter's. A gibbet crowns the bare summit of the Capitol, goatherds pasture their flocks on its sides and along the green slopes of the Forum, and thus the hill and the tract of land at its foot have returned once more to their primitive pastoral state and their pastoral names, the "hill of goats" and the "field of cows." Over all broods the ominous silence of terror, bloodshed, and pestilence.

Upon this scene of ruin the Renaissance and modern city of Rome was to come into being, and the mediaeval buildings were in their turn to be destroyed or overlaid with a modern garb, leaving only a few churches and convents, a few towers and palaces, a few cloisters to mark the passing of the centuries.

Arch of Titus

Erected to commemorate this Emperor's destruction of Jerusalem, a.d. 70. It is decorated with reliefs of the seven-branched candlestick and other spoils of the Temple which were carried through the city in the Emperor's triumph. See page 31.

The remains of the imperial city are described by a modern writer[2] lying like a skeleton beneath the modern town, beneath streets, villas, and public buildings;[Pg 39] and from the fifteenth century, when Rome, which had only just escaped an extinction as complete as that of her neighbour and ancient rival Tusculum, began once more to rise from the dust, to modern times, all the building materials have been furnished by her ruins. The few monuments that have been preserved owe their safety to their consecration as churches.

Of all the despoilers to which Rome has fallen a victim, none have been so assiduous in their destruction as her own rulers and people. Streets have been paved with building stone, churches and palaces built with ancient materials. Monuments of the utmost artistic and historic value have been destroyed for the purpose, the Colosseum alone being robbed of 2522 cart-loads of travertine in the fifteenth century. The inadequate prohibitions issued at rare intervals proved impotent in presence of a practice so deep rooted and time honoured. Every villa garden and palace staircase is peopled with ancient statues. Fragments of inscriptions, of carved mouldings and cornices, marble pillars and antique fountains, are met with in every courtyard. Even a humble house or shop will have a marble step or a marble lintel to the front door. To the present day no piece of work is ever undertaken in Rome, no house foundation dug or gas-pipe laid, but the workmen come across some ancient masonry, an aqueduct whose underground course is unknown and unexplored, a branch of one of the great cloacae, or the immense concrete vault of a bath or temple whose destruction gives as much trouble as if it were solid rock.[Pg 40]

Fortunately for the student and the archaeologist a government official, a "custodian of excavations," now watches all such operations, and all "finds" of importance, fragments of inscriptions and statues, earthenware lamps, bronze or glass vessels, fragments of mosaic, and gold ornaments, are collected and reported.

[Pg 41]



From the catacombs, the subterranean burial-places of the first Roman Christians, to the basilica of S. Peter's, the greatest ecclesiastical building on earth, there is no break in the drama of history. When you come out from the cemetery of Callistus, on to the fields bordering the Appian Way, and look across to the dome of the great church commemorating Peter, you say to yourself "That is the interpretation of this": this may see in its own humble features the lineaments of that; the church which dominates the Roman country—in imperial possession of Rome—may recognise that the silent underground galleries of the Appia had already taken as effective a possession of the capital of the world.

The Roman Church is founded upon three events: the apostolic preaching, the constancy of its martyrs, its position as the heir of Imperial Rome—a position early figured and represented in the persons of its bishops. All these things have their monument in the catacombs; which bear indisputable traces of the sojourn[Pg 42] and the preaching of the Apostles, which are the earliest shrines of the Roman martyrs, and which preserve for us in the crypt in the cemetery of Callistus, set apart for the leaders of the Roman Church from Antheros to Eutychian (a.d. 235-275),[3] the veritable nucleus of papal domination. It was the successors of these men who were to fill the rôle left vacant by Constantine's departure for Byzantium; to be forced into a position of overlordship through the uncertainty of the emperor's government by lieutenants—first in Rome and then in Italy; to consolidate this power by constant accretions of Italian territory, and, finally, to acquire by spiritual conquest a universal suzerainty as real as that of the Roman emperor. If those who inscribed the proud words round the dome of S. Peter's had known that hidden in the catacombs there were frescoes representing Peter as the new Moses striking the rock from which flow forth the saving waters of Christ—the name Petrus clearly written above him—even they must have thrilled with wonder and awe: the upholders of Petrine primacy could not have imagined or devised a parable of the first centuries better fitted to their hand.

Procession in Catacomb

The nucleus of the great catacomb on the Via Appia was formed by the crypts of Lucina and the hypogaeum of the family of the Caecilii, both pagan and Christian members of which had their burial places on the Appian Way. S. Cecilia was buried here. See pages 42, 45, 46, 29.

The burial-places of the first Christians in Rome were their only certain property. The law allowed to every corporation its religiosus locus, its God's acre, property seldom confiscated even in the worst hours of the great persecutions. It was thus that the Christians,[Pg 43] though they never lived in the catacombs, came to regard them as retreats, as places where it was safe to meet for prayer, for mutual encouragement, even for the catechising of neophytes and children. Round them were their dead, their loved ones, nay, round them were their martyrs, the men and women who were to prove that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church"; whose heroic deaths had been witnessed by many; the memory of whose heroism was to prove almost as potent as ocular witness when their burial-places became the nuclei of the first Christian churches, and the abounding reverence felt for them inaugurated the Christian cult of the saints.

The catacombs lie for the most part within a three mile radius of the wall of Aurelian. They number forty-five, and it is calculated that the passages, galleries, and chambers of which they consist cover several hundred miles, forming a vast underground city—"subterranean Rome." For the first 300 years, until "the Peace of the Church," this was the ordinary place of burial, certain catacombs being affiliated, from the third century, to the ecclesiastical regions in the city. Even after the "Peace" Christians were sometimes buried here, until the fifth century, after which the catacombs were visited as places of pilgrimage for another 400 years.

From the ninth century they fell into complete neglect; no one visited these sanctuaries of the sufferings, these monuments of the human affections and religious beliefs of the first Christians. Visitors heard that Rome[Pg 44] was built upon terrible underground chasms, filled with snakes, some part of which was every now and then revealed to the terrified inhabitants. No one penetrated till the fifteenth century—the first pioneer belongs to the sixteenth—and it was not till the second half of the nineteenth that a new world was laid bare to the student by the excavations of De Rossi, who rediscovered the great cemetery of Callistus, containing the now famous "papal crypt," and whose labours have resulted in restoring to us nearly twenty catacombs.

The terrible underground chasms filled with snakes were found to be galleries of tombs, crypts of all sizes, lighted by shafts, some with seats for catechists, some adapted as miniature basilicas, decorated with frescoes recording biblical scenes, New Testament parables and symbolical representations of New Testament events—(in which the "apocrypha" is not distinguished from the "canon," and the history of Susanna and the Elders sustained the faith and comforted the courage of Christians by the side of the scene of Moses striking the rock or Christ feeding His disciples); eloquent with inscriptions in the epigraphy of the first four centuries, recorded in moments of simple human emotion, intended only for the dead and those who survived them sorrowing; and lastly, covered with graffiti, with prayers, names, acclamations, scratched on the walls of galleries leading to some favourite crypt by pilgrim visitors in later centuries.

Flavian Basilica

See pages 31, 35, 45, and fly-leaf, page 252.

In this hidden and quiet place of the dead there is recorded a revolution parallel to a volcanic upheaval of[Pg 45] nature. Here we have a permanent record of the meeting of classical Rome with Judaea and Christianity; here the graceful art of Pompeii meets the imagery of the Hebrew bible; here the Flavii met the Jews of the Dispersion; here as in a Titanic workshop, Rome, taking its religion from the Jew, moulded the faith which the Chosen People had discarded into the greatest religious organisation on earth—Catholic Christianity.

The two arch-cemeteries are those of Callistus on the Via Appia and Priscilla on the Salaria. They are arch-cemeteries because their origin and the part they played in the early years of Roman Christianity gave them a pre-eminent importance, and having been bestowed upon the Church by their owners they became the official catacombs of the Christian community. Each bears in its bosom the record of the first Roman converts; each is rich in frescoes and inscriptions; each bears testimony to the fact that from the beginning the Roman Christians counted among them many of patrician and senatorial rank; we meet with the names of the Aurelii, Caecilii, Maximi Caecilii, of Praetextatus Caecilianus and Pomponius Grecinus, and of Cornelius, the first bishop to belong to a Roman gens, in the catacomb of Callistus; and with those of the Prisci, Ulpii, and Acilii Glabriones in that of Priscilla. Priscilla, with her son the Senator Pudens, is the reputed hostess of Peter on his visit to Rome, and in the catacomb which bears her name there occurs repeatedly the Apostle's name—unknown in classical nomenclature—both in its Greek and Latin forms, Petros, Petrus. It is a region[Pg 46] of this catacomb which preserves the tradition of the Fons sancti Petri, "the well or font of S. Peter," "the cemetery where Peter baptized" or "where Peter first sat," still unconsciously recorded in the Roman feast of "the Chair of S. Peter" on January 18. Here too was buried the philosopher Justin, martyred under Aurelius in a.d. 165, who lived in the house of Pudens, and here, when Justin was describing the rite itself in his Apology to the emperors, was frescoed the earliest representation of the solemn moment of the breaking of bread at the Eucharist. The mystical number of the guests, seven, the fish on the table, archaic symbol of Christ, the "seven baskets full" in allusion to the miracle of the loaves, and the fact that the agapê was already dissociated from the Eucharist in the time of Justin, mark this out as a typical example of that symbolical treatment of real events which is characteristic of early Christian art. The celebrant stands at one corner of the crescent-shaped table breaking the bread; five men and women sit at the table, the only other standing figure being that of a woman wearing the Jewish married woman's bonnet, filling, apparently, the office of vidua or woman-elder. The catacomb of Callistus—an agglomeration of separate hypogaea, which originated in the crypts of Lucina and the cemetery of those Caecilii who were among the earliest Roman families to embrace Christianity—is no less interesting.

The unique interest of these monuments lies in the fact that they are the incorruptible record of the sentiments,[Pg 47] affections, and beliefs of the first Christians. In these frescoes and inscriptions no forgeries or interpolations could creep, no P1 and P2, no "Elohist" or "Jahvist" could confuse the issues and mystify the interpretation. The untouched story appeals to us in mute eloquence.

To what side does the testimony of the Roman catacombs lean? The critical method in history has destroyed the foundations of historical Protestantism: has it laid bare the foundations of historical Catholicism? The people who frequented the catacombs did not feel or think or believe like the men who reformed Christianity in the sixteenth century, but it is as true to say that they did not think or believe like the men of the Catholic reaction. The catacombs record a period when Christian life and Christian discipline still seemed more important than Christian dogma, when this last was not yet fixed, when it was still true that "what can be prayed is the rule of what may be believed"—lex orandi lex credendi; and here in the place of the dead "what could be prayed" became a veritable norm of what Christians were to formulate as precious dogma later.

In the first place then, the frescoes and inscriptions frequently bring before us the notions of rebirth by baptism, and of eternal life by participation in Christ through the mystical commerce of the Eucharist—the Johannine conception; new birth and new life are the keynote ideas in this place of the dead. Sacraments, conceived as material channels conveying grace, already[Pg 48] form an integral part of the Christian consciousness; but the assumption that "the seven sacraments" are to be found in the catacombs shows as little knowledge of the history of the Church for the first twelve centuries as of the habits of belief of the Christians of the first, second, and third.

If there had ever been an age of the Church before controversy, we might say that the catacombs recorded it. But there never was such an age: what can be found here, however, are the spontaneous Judaic-Gentile beliefs of Christians who learnt their faith through terrible and comforting experiences almost as much as through the first apostolic preaching or the later ministrations of those visitors between Church and Church called in the New Testament "apostles and prophets." The religion of the catacombs was partly formed in the living; it is the faith, formulated, gauged, and tested by the faithful. Hence there is not only spontaneousness, but boldness, liberty of spirit, the absence of all fear of being misunderstood, misconstrued. They did not think as we do, and centuries were to elapse before the minimisers or the maximisers would torture what they said and did with meanings they would not bear.

Of these bold spontaneous doctrines none is more conspicuous than that of the intercourse between all the members of Christ, "those who have gone before us with the sign of faith" and those "who wait till their change comes, till this corruptible puts on incorruption." A Christian called upon his dead to pray for him in the realms of light, he called upon God to[Pg 49] give to his beloved a place of light and refreshment, he besought the confessors gone to their reward to pray for both them and him. So strong was this belief in a holy and indissoluble union between the members of the one Church and the one Body of Christ, that at every celebration of the liturgy the whole body of the faithful were understood to be present—either really or mystically; and thus the Commemoration of the Living in the mass speaks of those (present) who offer and those (absent) for whom they offer the sacrifice of praise, as all equally "standing round about." And as they offered and prayed for those who were with them in the same town, so they offered and prayed for those who were already with Christ—in bono in Christo. The three commemorations of the Roman Canon, the Memento Domine ... omnium circumstantium of the living, the Communicantes et memoriam venerantes of the martyrs, and the Memento ... qui nos praecesserunt of the dead, may be thought of as liturgical features crystallised in the catacombs.

It is easy to see too how the funeral celebrations of the liturgy—given this initial idea of intercommunion and intercession among all Christians living and dead—extended the idea of eucharistic sacrifice. How easily the oblation of Christ—the Christian's one offering—became the means of intercessory prayer for all men and all occasions, and gave rise to the requiem mass, the mass for some special grace, the mass of thanksgiving, the mass in commemoration of a saint.

Bold treatment of sacred things belongs naturally[Pg 50] to an age when the sentiments of the faith, aspiration and hope, outrun dogma—before unfaithfulness in doctrine urged upon the early Church and its leaders the necessity for stricter definition, or unfaithfulness in life had made it easier to substitute a hard and fast creed for "the weightier matters of the law." The symbolism and inscriptions of the catacombs testify how freely such elements were at work there. Take as an instance the fresco representing Christ on a throne giving a book to Peter, with the legend, Dominus legem dat, "the Lord gives the law." In other examples of this subject Peter is replaced by some simple but faithful disciple—"the Lord gives the law to Alexander—to Valerius." The allusion is to the "tradition of the Gospel" in baptism; it is not hierarchical.

House of Domitian Library

Painted on a stormy day. The sombre scene of the ruined Library in the Palace of the Flavian Emperors suggests the ruin of classical learning which followed on the introduction of Christianity. The mother of Domitian's two nephews, whom he had intended to designate as his heirs, was martyred as a Christian, and their cousin of the same name—Flavia Domitilla—founded the catacomb of the Flavian House.

The catacombs influenced the Roman Church in another way. There are none but martyrs' names among the liturgic commemorations of the confessors of the faith (whom we now call "saints"); and these names loudly proclaimed in the Canon—in the solemn portion—of the eucharistic services which were held at their graves, not only on the day of deposition but on many other stated days besides, were the nucleus of that long line of "canonised" saints which figures in the modern calendar. When, after the "Peace," churches began to cover the city, the very grave of the confessor became the nucleus of the Christian edifice—that confession or sunk tomb which is the central point of the Roman basilica. And as the liturgy had been celebrated on the stone slab which closed the grave[Pg 51] so when churches were built the altar was placed over the confessor's tomb: "I saw under the altar the souls of those that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held."

Thus subterranean Rome prepared, as in the hidden working of a mine, not only many affirmations of the faith which was to assert itself in the light and replace the religion of classical Rome, but also the sanctuary of those great basilicas which were to spread over the surface of the city as soon as the Christians, in no real but nevertheless in a highly suggestive sense, "came up from the catacombs." The catacombs are the link between pagan Rome "drunk with the blood of the saints" and the Christian Rome which arose in the imperial city from the ashes of her martyrs. The pagan city on the seven hills as truly sunk into the grave with the bodies of the Roman martyrs as Christian Rome eventually took possession of the same urbs septicollis by carrying her dead into it.

[Pg 52]



The regions and the guilds of Rome illustrate two contradictory tendencies running parallel throughout the administrative history of the city, the one towards division and separation as first principles of organisation, the other towards union and centralisation as measures of strength. These antagonistic elements which we find at the very dawn of Roman history were at once utilised as factors in the new commonwealth.

It is the tradition that King Numa organised nine guilds of handicrafts amongst the Roman people that they might sink their race animosities in an identity of interests. Similarly one of the first great works for the young community, the city wall projected by Tarquinius Priscus and built by Servius Tullius, was intended to produce a fusion of the tribes which inhabited the seven hills he thus physically linked together, and which he had already united under a common government. Another enterprise, the draining of the marshes and pools which made impassable barriers of the valleys between the hills,[Pg 53] had the same aim and result—it was a levelling process, moral as well as physical, to minimise the separation between hill and hill, race and race.

On the other hand, Servius' division of the city into four regions, and these again into six parishes or vici, laid the seeds of an internal disunion which lasted throughout the centuries. These four regions (1) the Suburra or Caelian, (2) the Esquiline and its spurs, (3) the Collina, comprising the Viminal and Quirinal, which were called colles in distinction to the other hills, the montes, and (4) the Palatine, persisted until the reign of Augustus. By that time the city had grown beyond its primitive limits, a thickly populated region had sprung up on the Esquiline beyond the walls and Augustus found a new division necessary. He increased the original number of regions to fourteen, and each of these he subdivided as before into parishes, the number in each region varying from seven to twenty-eight, making 265 in all. A magistrate or curator with a set of officials under him presided over each region. Each parish had its magistrate, its officers, its chapel built upon the boundary road for the public worship of the lares compitales, the protecting spirits of the district.

At this period the poorer quarters of the city—a network of narrow streets with high houses built of inflammable materials—had been again and again devastated by fire. At night the densest darkness descended upon the city, street lighting was unknown, shop doors were shut and barred, and it was unsafe to walk abroad; those who ventured carried lights, or were preceded by[Pg 54] servants with staves and torches. The ubiquitous beggars haunted the byways, and brigands raided the outskirts of the town.

As a remedy against these evils Augustus created a force of 7000 men who were to act both as police and firemen. The whole body he placed under the command of a prefect, who acted in conjunction with the curator of the regions in keeping order, and divided it into seven battalions or cohorts, each under a tribune, and so disposed in the city that one battalion watched over the safety of two regions. The cohorts were again subdivided into seven companies under a captain or centurion. The force was distributed over the town in seven different barracks, with outlying detached quarters or excubitoria.

The firemen's duty was to inspect public furnaces and private kitchens, the heating apparatus and the offices where the wardrobes were kept and warmed in the public baths. If a fire broke out in the town it was the subject of an official inquiry, just as it is to-day, and if arson or willful neglect were suspected, punishment was meted out by the proper authorities. Like the modern policeman in Rome, Augustus' vigiles were not a popular force, and to make it more palatable he gradually increased its privileges. He built large and luxurious stations and excubitoria which were beautifully decorated with precious marbles and statues. Members of the force were granted the coveted Roman citizenship, and the captains were permitted to serve ex officio in the Praetorian guard.

Forum of Nerva

The picture represents a portion of the ornamental enclosure of the Forum built by Nerva, near Domitian's Temple of Pallas; she is represented on the entablature. This fragment is popularly known as Le Colonacce. See page 33.

At a later period, perhaps sometime in the third century, the regions [Pg 55] of Rome were reorganised on an ecclesiastical basis, and seven were formed out of the fourteen by the amalgamation of two into one, each being placed under one of the seven deacons of the city. It is not known at what precise date their number was again increased to fourteen, nor when they assumed their present names and distribution, but probably early in the middle ages. By the thirteenth century only thirteen regions are recorded, and it was not till the year 1586 that the conservators and senators of Rome and the captains of the regions consulted together and decided to include the Leonine city as a fourteenth region, granting it at the same time a captain, a standard, and an heraldic device of a lion upon a red field, his paw planted upon the three mounds of the coat of Sixtus V.

These fourteen regions do not correspond in position, name, or extent with those of Augustus except that the present thirteenth, Trastevere, is identical with the ancient fourteenth, Transtiburtina. The names that they bear to-day represent either their position or some characteristic feature within their limits. Thus the first and largest region, the Monti, formed from the union of the fifth and sixth of Augustus, the Esquilina and the Alta Semita, is so called from the hills, the Esquilina Viminal and Caelian, within its boundaries; the second the Trevi, derives its name from the famous fountain in its midst; the third, Colonna, from the column of Marcus Aurelius; the fourth, Campo Marzo, covers this historic ground; the fifth, Ponte, is named from the old Pons Triumphalis, [Pg 56]that united Rome with the Vatican region; the sixth or Parione comprises the ground of which the Chiesa Nuova is the centre, and the name was derived from the ancient wall and tower which stood close to it; the seventh, Regola, inhabited by some of the most wretched of the population, is a corruption of Arenula, the drift sand of the river near which this region lies; the eighth, S. Eustachio, behind the university, takes its name from a parish church; the ninth, Pigna, from the bronze pine cone now at the Vatican and which was once supposed to adorn the Pantheon (this region corresponds to a certain extent with the ancient Via Lata); the tenth region, Campitelli, includes the Capitol and Palatine hills and the Forum; the eleventh, the S. Angelo district, a region inhabited by the very poor, by tanners, and formerly the Jews' quarter, is named after the church of S. Angelo in Pescheria; the twelfth is the Ripa or river bank; and the thirteenth and fourteenth, as we have seen, are Trastevere beyond the river and the Leonine city or Borgo.

Fountain of Trevi

One of the numberless fountains of the city; built by Clement XII. in 1735. The red house is the palazzo of the celebrated art jeweller Castellani. Visitors leaving Rome who throw a sou into this fountain are sure to return to the eternal city. See pages 22, 55, 227.

Each region became a little civic and social centre complete in itself. Each had its captain, its sub-officers, its religious organisations, its separate funds for charities and dowries, its separate police and militia recruits. And the importance that accrued to these regions lay in the fact that they represented the plebs, the democracy of Rome. With a people so incapable of co-operation for a common end as the Roman, the spark of their civic liberties would have been trodden out or have remained for ever dormant but for this administrative setting[Pg 57] which kept it alive and through which, given the opportunity, it could become once more a living force.

The heads of the regions, the caporioni, heirs to the position of Augustus' tribunes but without their discipline, were the people's leaders and spokesmen, their representatives and the guardians of their liberties. They were elected by ballot and the ballot urn was carried in procession to the Capitol, where the chosen captains received their investiture at the hands of the Senate. In times of difficulty they assembled for consultation in that council chamber of the people, the church of Ara Coeli, but their counsels seldom led to measures of conciliation which were uncongenial to their fierce independence and to the arbitrary authority they assumed. In peace or in war, in sanguinary insurrections or in national rejoicings, the caporioni were always to the front, their banners with the regional device upon a coloured field fluttering in the breeze. It was to them that Cola di Rienzo looked for assistance and support. When a royal visitor or one of the German Emperors of Rome entered the city in state, the caporioni were amongst the officials who received them, their banners carried by their pages on horseback, and themselves clad in their gala tunics of crimson velvet, cloaks of cloth of gold, white stockings and shoes, and black bonnets jewelled and feathered. When Pope Gregory XI. returned to Rome, restoring the papacy to the land of its birth after an exile of seventy years, the caporioni rode in procession to give him welcome, and[Pg 58] at his death they hurried to the cardinals assembling in conclave at the Vatican to implore them at all costs to elect a Roman pope, and they emphasised their petition with a fierce menace which would assuredly have been carried through to its sanguinary end but for the intervention of the Colonna forces.

In the carnival processions of the fifteenth century which issued from the Capitol to perambulate the city, the caporioni, surrounded by fifty mounted grooms wearing their distinctive livery, preceded the Senators. Representatives from each region marched with them in the order of their precedence carrying halberds, banners, and lances, and shields emblazoned with their arms, and escorted by grooms on horseback. In the same procession, in front of the regions, were delegates from all the handicraft and trade guilds in the city, shoe-makers, hatters, apothecaries, tavern keepers, and many others, each with their banners captains and sergeants; the guild of ironworkers alone numbered 300, in the midst of whom a team of horses were harnessed to a cannon of their own making. The procession was headed by municipal officers and soldiers, and as an emblem of law and justice a wretched criminal was driven along with blows.

After the Renaissance the caporioni degenerated into mere regional captains, retaining only a shadow of their former power and jurisdiction, and the present government has abolished the office altogether. The organisation and the spirit of the regions are, however, by no means dead.

Column of Marcus Aurelius

The only work of the time of the emperor-philosopher which has come down to us. The column is now crowned by a colossal bronze statue of S. Paul. See pages 32, 55.

Until the racing of riderless horses down the Corso was forbidden, [Pg 59] each region entered a horse for the race which was decked in the regional colour, and its success or failure aroused a perfect passion of rivalry between region and region—an antagonism as old as the age of Plutarch, who relates that in the month of October chariot races were run in the Campus Martius; the victorious horse was sacrificed to the god Mars, but its head was borne in procession to the Forum, all the regions fighting for possession of the trophy until nothing was left of it, and the combatants themselves were wounded and disabled.

To this day, on occasions of popular rejoicing or in patriotic demonstrations, representatives from each region form into procession, the regional banner carried by vigili, who march surrounded by a group of the so-called fedeli, inhabitants of the little town of Viturcchino, who for good services rendered to Rome in the past have earned special consideration at the hands of the Roman municipality. Such processions are headed by the standard of the Commune, S.P.Q.R. upon a red and yellow ground, and immediately behind follows the banner of the Monti, the first region, three green hills on a white field.

The different devices of the regions, carved upon marble shields, were affixed to house walls in many parts of the city to mark the boundaries, by order of Benedict XIV., and can still be seen in position. All those who know Rome at all are probably familiar with the Monti escutcheon upon the wall of the Aldobrandini[Pg 60] palace, and with the Campo Marzo crescent on a house wall at Capo le Case.

The passage of time has not wholly wiped out the fierce and hereditary enmity between the inhabitants of one portion of the city and another, which has been always fostered and encouraged, though unintentionally, by the regional system.

The Monticiani and the Trasteverini were the most irreconcilable of foes. The Monti was the first region to be inhabited after the barbarian invasions, but it was left in comparative isolation and neglect when the Campo Marzo became the busy centre of papal Rome, and its people have retained something of their untamed native independence. They are proud and passionate, are the quickest with the knife in a quarrel, and will not stoop to domestic service or to menial trades. They choose husbands and wives amongst their own people—they believe S. Maria Maggiore to be the most beautiful church in the world, and will brook no dissent on the subject. Even to-day they will not speak willingly to a Trasteverino. The enmity between these two may have had a Guelph and Ghibelline origin. Certainly Trastevere was a stronghold of the Ghibellines as is shown by an episode which occurred on the day of Pope Callistus III.'s coronation in 1445. A groom in the employ of the Orsinis came to words about a girl with a groom of a rival house, the Anguillara. From words they came to blows, and quickly the quarrel became general, until in a few hours 3000 men were under arms ready to fight in an Orsini cause. The inhabitants[Pg 61] of Trastevere, separated from the rest of Rome by the river and comparatively far from its centre, have retained to the present day much of their individuality, their habits, character, and appearance. The sight of a Monticiano arouses in them all the evil passions. Even as late as the year 1838, it was their habit on every holiday to meet the Monticiani for a stoning match on the green swards of the Forum—"the field of cows" as it was then called—the historic fragments lying about serving as missiles of war. Such matches were not to revenge any particular wrong but merely for honour and glory, the victorious region bearing off the palm in triumph until the next occasion. Sometimes they met at the Navicella, sometimes in the ruined courts of Diocletian's baths; sometimes a champion from each side came forward for the contest, sometimes it was a general scrimmage, members of other regions looking on and encouraging their allies. Sometimes when the matches fell upon a market day—a market was held once a week in the Campo Vaccino—the crockery stalls were requisitioned for ammunition, and earthenware pans and pipkins flew across the Forum in company with fragments of classic statues and marble friezes. Only when heads were broken in plenty, and blood poured from wounded faces and limbs, did these fighters desist, or when the cry "al fuoco" warned them of the tardy arrival of the sbirri. Even these agents of law and order were powerless to separate the combatants unless they had had enough, and during Napoleon's occupation of Rome the cavalry had to be called out to[Pg 62] disperse them, the gendarmes having entirely failed to do so. These stoning matches between Monticiani and Trasteverini were so recognised an institution in Rome, that the poet Berneri writing two centuries ago, sums up the Forum Romanum in the words:

Campo Vaccino Luogo dove s'impara a fare a sassi.

Field of cows The place where one learns to throw stones.

The movement towards association between members of a craft or of persons of identical interests, seems to be, as we have seen, as old as Rome herself. Whether or no King Numa gave it its first impulse, it is certain that throughout the first years of the Republic trade corporations were multiplied in the city without let or hindrance, and only when their number and importance seemed to menace the tranquillity of the State were measures taken for their control.

The wave of prosperity which spread over the Roman provinces during the early Empire gave a further impetus to trade in every branch, and an industrial class which had been long in the making amongst the people of Rome, awoke to its own interests and claimed if not sympathy at least recognition from the aristocratic ruling caste which held all plebs in contempt.

The Pantheon

Designed as a Hall of the Baths of Agrippa the contemporary of Augustus, but appears to have been at once dedicated as a temple. The Black Confraternity of S. John Beheaded are seen passing the building, their cross bearer preceding them. See pages 30, 56, 67, 86; [see also pp. 8, 77, 143].

The only response given however was to prohibit the formation of trade guilds, exception only being made in favour of a few of the most ancient, and those[Pg 63] devoted to purposes of religion and burial. They continued nevertheless to multiply under cover of this latter clause until under Marcus Aurelius and Alexander Severus they received final encouragement and recognition. At this time they had increased enormously in number wealth and importance throughout Rome and the provinces. Every group of merchants and all those engaged in handicrafts banded themselves together to form a college or university as they were called in Rome, as much for the social pleasures to be derived from such association as for the mutual support and protection afforded against the impositions and aggressions of outsiders. Charioteers, gladiators, disbanded soldiers, itinerant merchants, seamen, Tiber boatmen, grain weighers at Ostia, palace servants, carters and coachmen founded corporations equally with the bakers and innkeepers, dyers weavers and tanners.

Every young community sought a rich patron willing to give a plot of land or the funds necessary for the building of a club-room, promising in return certain anniversary banquets in his honour, or commemorative reunions to keep his memory green after death. Each corporation placed itself under the protection of a god whose name it adopted, and as its wealth and importance increased, by members' testamentary bequests or by gifts from patrons, the club premises were increased, and shrines and chapels were built in honour of the titular deity. Some of the corporations rose to such a position of importance that senatorial and consular families sprang from them; they supported colleges of doctors[Pg 64] sculptors and painters of their own, they contributed to the building of public monuments and made loans to the State, while on special occasions the emperor's retinue was increased by a hundred standards and five hundred lances contributed by the trade colleges of Rome from amongst their own retainers.

Although democratic in constitution, in so far as every member, however humble, could serve as one of its officers, the college was founded on the civic pattern, with president, curators, fiscal officer and all the grades of rank down to its slave members. Thus each unit represented in miniature the Roman commune and contributed to its consolidation. Unlike some of the guilds of the North however which became the nurseries of civic freedom, the Roman Colleges were too ready to subject their individuality to the spirit of civil discipline which was characteristic of Roman organisations and we find them submitting to one Imperial decree after another, losing one after another of their rights until they fell altogether under State patronage and became a mere portion of State machinery, a petrifying slavery being thus imposed upon their members whose liberties they were founded to safeguard.

Silversmith's Arch

This arch stands against the Arch of Janus, and was erected to the Emperor Septimius Severus, his wife Julia Pia, and his sons, by the guilds of silversmiths and cattle merchants. When Caracalla murdered his brother the name of the murdered prince was removed from the inscription. The arch, as the inscription proves, is on the site of the Forum Boarium.

As an integral portion of the administrative life of the State, they proved of the greatest use, not only as adding to its stability and prosperity but as affording a sort of scaffolding upon which to build its complicated daily life. To them was given the collection of taxes, the superintendence of public buildings, the development of the military system, the clothing of the militia, the[Pg 65] provisioning of the citizens and the supplying of all their daily necessities.

In return for these services they were exempt from all other obligations to the State. The livelihood and wellbeing of members of colleges were thus ensured but at the cost of their liberty. Every member was obliged to sink a portion of his estate in the funds of the college, and to contribute another to its expenses. He was forbidden to will away the remainder except to his sons or nephews who in their turn were bound to enter the same trade; no member could change his own trade for any other, the priesthood alone excepted, in which case he must furnish a substitute. The goods of the corporations were thus inalienable, and whole families were bound to the same occupation in perpetuity.

During the civil wars, barbarian invasions and general disunion following upon the decadence of the Empire, the Roman colleges are lost sight of, but there seems little doubt that their privileges were left intact by the foreign conquerors of Rome and that it was their direct descendants that we find flourishing once more as trade corporations in the middle ages. As early as the eighth century, the Lombards, Saxons and Franks had formed scholae for members of these nationalities resident in Rome, and a little later trade guilds, founded for the mutual support and protection of their members against oppression, had already grown prosperous and strong enough to take an active part in insurrections and civil wars.

We find history repeating herself. The guilds[Pg 66] placed under the protection of a Christian saint were constituted with the obligations to bury their dead, to succour the widows and orphans of poorer members, to lend them funds in case of need and to offer masses for their benefactors. All members swore to the articles of enrolment, the statutes were formally drawn up, and many of them are preserved to this day. As funds increased, hospitals were built for sick brethren, and schools for the children; dowries were given to the daughters, and the guild standard-bearers and men-at-arms swelled the ranks of mediæval processions just as those of their pagan predecessors had done. The colleges kept great feasts and festivals, and their messengers paraded the streets two and two bidding householders deck their windows with bunting for the coming festivities. They endowed convents and hospices and built churches, many of which still bear the name of their founders. S. Giuseppe de' Falegnami was built by the carpenters' guild; S. Caterina de' Funari by the ropemakers'; S. Lorenzo in Miranda in the Forum belonged to the apothecaries; S. Maria dell' Orto to the fruiterers and cheesemongers; S. Barbara to the librarians; S. Tommaso a' Cenci to the coachmen. Streets called after the cloakmakers, the ropemakers, the watchmakers and other craftsmen still mark the districts given over to these different industries.

The regulations imposed within the guilds pressed heavily upon the poorer members. The chief of each guild, the Capo d'arte exacted implicit obedience. He was the sole arbiter on all trade questions, on the[Pg 67] opening of every new shop, and the examination of every new worker, and played the part of a petty tyrant. An arduous apprenticeship of seven years from the age of thirteen was followed by two or three years as worker, and the payment of heavy fees, before the position of master-worker was reached.

These powerful guilds hampered the development of trade by the establishment of monopolies, and they were more than once suppressed, and finally abolished in the seventeenth century. Many of them, however, survived, taking on the form of religious confraternities. These had coexisted with the trade guilds throughout the later middle ages. They were founded with a purely religious object, were a more spontaneous creation and were not under any State control. One confraternity was founded for succouring the sick, another for feeding pilgrims three days gratuitously, a third begged about the town for the benefit of prisoners, and a fourth prayed with condemned malefactors. Up to the beginning of the nineteenth century, this confraternity had the right to liberate one prisoner each year, who was afterwards taken in triumph round the town. Another gave dowries to deserving girls, and to this day the chapter of S. Peter's conducts a procession of the zitelle or maidens round the basilica on the octave of Corpus Christi. At the head of the procession the capitular umbrella is carried; those girls who are destined to a convent life wear a crown of flowers, and those to be married are accompanied each by her fiancé.[Pg 68]

The confraternity of blacksmiths had the privilege of blessing animals on S. Antony's day (January 17) and the space before their church of S. Eligio, patron of blacksmiths, used to be crowded with horses, mules, dogs, sheep and oxen brought for the purpose. The owners paid large sums to the confraternity, and the Pope's horses and the equipages of Roman patricians arrived decked in flowers, the Piombino and Doria coachmen driving eighteen pairs in hand to the admiration of the crowds.

Since 1870 the confraternities have lost their importance and much of their amassed wealth, while such of the trade guilds as have not become purely religious confraternities, have resolved themselves into the modern trades unions and beneficent clubs.

Convent of San Cosimato

This convent in the Sabine hills stands on a plateau between the river Digentia (now Licenza) and the Anio. Near it is the site of Horace's Sabine farm. See page 169.

[Pg 69]



Rome is set in the campagna romana. The strange beauty of this "Roman country," the birth country of the Latin League, assails the very doors of the Roman citizen, intruding its poetry, its stillness, from point after point of vantage, causing the beholder to lead every now and then a sort of dual existence, to lose his sense of time and place and personality, and with his feet planted in the city which was once the hub of the world to find himself dreaming in a cloister garden. The atmosphere, the combination of colour and light, is characteristically Roman, it suggests what is mystic but never fails in perfect clearness. With its mystic blues, its blue-greens, its silence, its vastness, the campagna presents none of the features of the pays riant of Florence where little olive-crowned hills, so cared for, so laughing, convey a message like its history definite, homogeneous, cultured, charming. But here a dead city has been besieged day and night by a dead campagna, big with its speech of silence, untilled yet a cradle of civilisation, with the complex language suited[Pg 70] to a more difficult message, not entering into your humour but taking you into its secret, beautiful, austere, massive and careless of little things, yet yielding you out of its rich secular treasure details of beauty in abundance—here before you lies a history, a power, heedless of your judgment, but century after century looking back at you μειδιασαις' αθανατω προσωπω (meidiasais' athanatô prosôpô), as one of the finest lines in Greek verse says of Aphrodite, and recreating your universe for you.

Latium was the name of this country round about Rome, Latium—as though it were wide and spacious, suggesting the civilisation which was to spread from here, with its largeness, its spaciousness, its contempt of the trivial and restricted. The campagna (between Civita Vecchia and Terracina) embraces a tract of country some ninety miles in extent, with a maximum breadth between mountain and sea of forty miles, enclosing part of ancient Sabina, Etruria, and Latium, this last lying seawards, between the Alban hills and the Tiber. The ager antiquus, the Roman ager, however, was of much smaller extent, bounded by a point five miles out on the Via Appia, by the shrine of the Dea Dia towards the sea, by the Massa Festi between the seventh and eighth milestones on the Via Labicana, the farthest point eastwards, and by the primitive mouth of the Tiber six miles from Rome on the Ostian Way; and these always remained its confines for ritual purposes. From here derived the original families whose chiefs became the Roman patricians and formed the nucleus of the Roman Senate—the so-called gentes. The extension[Pg 71] of the campagna beyond the ager antiquus to form the ager publicus was the result of conquest, the territory thus acquired being let or assigned to private persons as tenants-at-will of the State, apportioned to poorer citizens in allotments, or colonised by Roman citizens. The hill-villages and towns, the castelli romani, are so-called not as is popularly supposed because they are near Rome, but because they too were colonised by Romans from the ager under the protection of the great feudal barons to whose fiefs they belonged in the city. Thus castello, the baronial castle, easily came to denote the village which clustered round it.

Something of the dualism which possesses the soul of the Roman, which has I think always conveyed a message to his eyes, his ears, his heart, is derived from the scene before him. Life and death, the va et vient of the world's masters, "the desolation of Tyre and Sidon"—the Roman campagna has looked on both. Chateaubriand describes it as a desolate land, "with roads where no one passes," with "tombs and aqueducts for foliage" usurping the place of trees and life and movement; the stillness is broken by no happy country sounds, the eye sees no smoke ascend from the few ruined farmsteads. No nation it would seem has ventured to succeed the world's masters on their native soil, and the fields of Latium lie "as they were left by the iron spade of Cincinnatus or the last Roman plough." Decimated by plague and pest and deserted by man, malarial, fever-bound, the smiling country-seats of the world's conquerors have given place to tiny scattered[Pg 72] colonies—as at Veii—haunted by a people emaciated by fever, where lads of eighteen, looking like boys of twelve, are certified by the parish priest as unable to bear arms. Along the world-famous roads lined by the Romans on either hand with the monuments of their dead, that they might retain a constant place in the thoughts of the living who journeyed on these most frequented ways, the ruined tombs are left in possession of the dead alone. The tombs, the hypogaea and mausolea of the great families who dwelt there, often remain standing when all trace of the villas to which they belonged have disappeared, as though one further proof were needed that this is indeed the land of the dead.

The Claudian Aqueduct

The Sabine hills are in the distance. See pages 21-22.

Nevertheless this deserted country once teemed with life—some seventy cities, it is surmised, once covered the plain, and countless villas and farms, the property of Roman patricians, consuls, and senators, made it a veritable garden. Driving within the walls of Rome being forbidden save to the Emperor and the Vestals, the tenants of these villas met the rheda outside the gates, drawn by its pair of fast-stepping horses. These light carriages were gaily painted with some classical subject, as the peasants' carts still are in Naples, and a leather hood with purple hangings protected the owner from the heat. At all the cross-roads are fountains for the use of man and beast, near which a seat shaded by ilex or olive awaits the tired traveller, as we may see it still awaiting him for example at the Porta Furba on the way to Frascati. Excellent roads kept in excellent repair honeycomb the plain, while aqueducts, temples,[Pg 73] trees, shrines, monuments, and statues rejoice the eye and enliven the journey. Villa, dependents' dwellings, the mausoleum, the farms, are seen a long way off in this flat land, and not the least curious feature as the traveller approaches is the formal garden still known to us as "an Italian garden," an entirely artificial creation where each tree and shrub has not only its prescribed place in the scheme, but its prescribed form, giving the impression of a continuous trained English box hedge. The shrubs are tortured into the semblance of beasts and snakes, the name of the owner being sometimes cut in the foliage, a device which may still be seen in the modern grounds of the Villa Pamfili-Doria. The most conspicuous features of the campagna from classical times are the aqueducts, stretching right across the agro to the walls of Rome; gigantic remains of the Claudian aqueduct extend for six miles, and the ancient peperino arches of the favourite acqua Marcia, which cross the Claudian aqueduct at Porta Furba, still bring water to the city. As classic Rome is represented by the aqueducts and mausolea, so feudal Rome is represented by the towers which rose in the campagna between the eighth and the fifteenth centuries—the early semaphores on the coast-line to give warning of the approach of Saracen or Corsair, the vedette towers which figured in the baronial wars, and the later fortified towers of the baron's castle. Last but not least Christianity has strewed the campagna with chapels and shrines, the earliest of which supplanted the cult of the local pagan divinity in the ages when Christianity was gradually[Pg 74] driving the religion of imperial Rome into the villages and hill retreats. So S. Sylvester replaced the woodland deities, Michael supplanted the god of war, S. George became the Christian protector against the depredations of ferocious beasts, S. Caesarius replaced the genius of the imperial Caesars. Of the same period are the basilicas erected over the sepulcretum of a martyr at the mouth of a catacomb.

Several causes led to the abandonment of the agro romano. The neglect of the roads and the ruin of the aqueducts, which cut off the water supply, the poverty of the despoiled landlords, and the general insecurity following the incursions of the barbarians in the fifth and sixth centuries, brought about a rapid depopulation and gradually turned the agro into a pest-bound desert. It would seem that malarial fever is virtually indigenous to the soil of the agro, besetting every region as soon as man deserts it. It did not make its appearance, we may suppose, in the inhabited towns of the classical period, but that it existed before the middle ages, the popular date for its appearance, is shown by the allusions of classical writers since the time of Augustus and by the existence of several temples to the goddess Fever. In Rome itself it is the persistent belief, which appears to be abundantly confirmed by statistics, that the more building is extended and the horribly noisy paved streets are multiplied, the faster the evil diminishes; for the malarial miasma is held to be an exhalation of the soil, and where earth is freshly turned there is danger. As we all know, it has been quite recently[Pg 75] shown that the microbe of malaria is carried by mosquitoes, mosquitoes abound where water abounds, and one of the reasons for the unhealthiness of the agro, one of the greatest obstacles to its reclamation, is that there are not less than ten thousand little water-courses which filter down to the valleys, creating marsh and stagnant pools. The evil may really date from the last years of the republic, which saw the displacement of the small freeholders by the large landowners, of the old free labour by slave labour, and the consequent fatal depopulation of the agro. But during the middle ages, from the sixth century onwards, all the causes were intensified, and the difficulties which now beset the secular problem of the restoration of agriculture in the Roman campagna and the expulsion of malaria, resolve themselves "into a vicious circle"; for men cannot live there until the malaria is exorcised, and until men live there the malaria will remain in possession. No less than seventy-nine measures for what is known in Italy as the bonifica dell' agro romano have from time to time been projected; and whether Italy will succeed where the popes failed is still doubtful. The initial necessity, the drainage of the campagna, seems in itself to be a task too great for Hercules. For the last four years the military Croce Rossa has perambulated the campagna during the summer and autumn months, combating the malaria with doctors and medicines. It is hoped that this will be followed by the establishment of a larger number of permanent sanitary stations. Since 1870 millions of eucalyptus trees have been planted as air[Pg 76] purifiers especially at the little railway stations and other inhabited sites. It is not forgotten that the agricultural colonies of the classical age were once the saving of Rome, and within the last few years similar schemes have been devised in the hope that the birth-land of the Roman people may become once more the home of agriculture. Such a colonia agricola for Roman lads, outside the Flaminian gate, was founded by a visitor who has since become the wife of an Italian well known for similar enterprise in Italian Africa.

Campagna Romana

See page 78.

The moral wants of the agro have appealed to the sympathies and occupied the attention of the excellent society of young Catholics, the Circolo San Pietro, which has opened and furnished thirty-four of the closed and neglected churches and chapels of the agro for the use of the scattered population; mass is also said in the hayfields on Sunday for the haymakers, on a wain drawn by oxen, and a very charming little picture of this scene has been prepared under the auspices of the President, Prince Barberini. There are within the city many hundreds of extra-parochial clergy—monks, friars, clerks regular, missionaries, and members of the various ecclesiastical congregations, with scores of churches and chapels where hundreds of masses are daily celebrated, and where expositions of the Sacrament, novenas, and benedictions are multiplied. But just outside the walls there are people who never hear mass, who live and die without the consolation of religion, "without a priest." When the Circolo San Pietro set their hand to the good work of opening the churches and chapels of the agro[Pg 77] their difficulty consisted in finding priests to minister in them without payment. "Your Indies are here" said the Pope of his day when S. Philip Neri, the Apostle of Rome, wished to go abroad as a missionary, and Pius X. has recently echoed the saying. There is only one confraternity in the city which imposes on itself the duty of seeking and burying the bodies of those who die from sudden illness or from violence in the campagna. This well-known black "Confraternity of Prayer and Death" accompanies the funerals of the poor gratuitously. It is affiliated to the Florentine Misericordia.

The agro romano is divided into nearly 400 farms owned by half as many proprietors. The largest of these farms comprise between 8 and 18,000 acres, the two smallest 5 acres each. About half remains ecclesiastical property, while a third belongs to the great Roman families, one-sixth being still owned by peasant holders. The proprietors allow the big estates to be farmed by the so-called mercanti di campagna, who take them on a three or nine years' tenure. These large merchants of country produce keep a fattore on the farm who is the actual manager; he is both farmer and bailiff. The cattle of the agro are, Signor Tomassetti tells us, its most considerable inhabitants. There are 32,000 sheep, 18,000 cows, 10,000 goats, 7000 horses and mules, 6000 oxen, and 1800 buffaloes. The oxen were brought by Trajan from the basin of the Danube, the buffaloes came with the Lombards and were originally natives of India.[Pg 78]

Beyond the agro are the castelli romani, the hill towns of the Alban and Sabine district. There above Frascati lies the site of Tusculum, the mighty rival of Rome; to the right is Monte Cavo the highest peak in the Alban range where stood the temple of the "Latian Jupiter," sanctuary and rallying point of the Latin League. Below lies Albano of which See the English Pope, Hadrian IV., was Cardinal Bishop. In the Sabine range is the famous city of Tibur (Tivoli), the villa of Hadrian, and S. Benedict's town of Subiaco. To the east is the rock Soracte, "the pyramid of the campagna" and the meeting place of Etruscans, Sabines, and Latins; while a score of little townships in both ranges of hills record the feudal families of Rome, and harbour the descendants of the Latin rural plebs. The life led here is not the village life of England, but the life of small, primitive townships, with a mayor, a commune, and the customs of the middle ages. There are no manufactories and no crafts, and there are no cottages, the dwellings being divided into floors as in the big towns.



The great business of the year is the vintage, which takes place in the Roman campagna in October; in land held under manorial rights, however, the tenants must await the lord's pleasure. The vines are trained round short canes set close together, and the grapes are collected in wooden receptacles narrowing towards the base: these are emptied into the tino, whence they are pressed, by the old biblical method of treading with the feet, into an enormous cask below called the botte. Here[Pg 79] the grapes are left for several days to ferment, the skins rising to the top. In the little yards of filthy houses one may see the grapes being boiled in a cauldron, an illegitimate substitute for fermentation. The wine of the castelli romani is famous; every district makes both red and white, the latter being generally preferred in Rome itself; the white "Frascati" and white "Genzano" are famous; Albano wine is praised by Horace, and excellent "Marino" is still made in the vineyards of the Scotch college which has its summer quarters there. The Sabines yield the "Velletri," a good red wine but difficult to find pure; Genazzano and Olevano also produce an excellent grape, but the difficulty in some of these small towns is to find a vine grower to take sufficient pains with his wine making. Colouring matter is usually employed for the red wines, the least noxious resource being a plentiful admixture of elderberry. The wine made one year is not as a rule drunk till the next; it is not prepared for exportation, but is kept, or sent to Rome, in barrels, from which it is decanted for retail commerce into flasks where the wine is protected with a few drops of oil in lieu of a cork. The wine is also sold by the barile (sixty litres), mezzo barile, and quartarolo (fifteen litres), the usual price given in Roman households being about seven francs the quartarolo. Every trattoria and restaurant, however, sells wine by the Roman half-litre measure—the fojetta—and the prices 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 may be seen chalked up outside the wine-shops. Outside vineyards and rural trattorie, where wine is sold, a[Pg 80] bough is hung out as a sign, reminding one of the origin of the proverb "Good wine needs no bush."

The olive harvest is in November or December. Nowhere is the olive more appreciated than in Italy where Minerva is said to have bestowed it, the horse, which was Vulcan's gift, coming only second in usefulness. The picked fruit is made into the finer oil, then the fallen olives are gathered by women and girls, and the occupation is very popular, as what is thus earned helps to provide the winter comforts. Fine oil has a very delicate scarcely perceptible taste and smell, and an Italian condemns the oil by saying "L'olio si sente" (One can taste it). Frying is generally done with oil and some vegetables and all fish are cooked with it. "Ojo è sempre ojo, ma strutto! chi sa che struttaccio sarà?" (Oil is always oil, but who knows what lard may be?) they say. The olive tree not only yields the fuel to feed the oil lamps, but it provides some of the best timber for the fire. Not only is it useful but it is one of the most beautiful things in the Italian country—and its grey-green colour, with the tender sheen on the leaf, is as characteristic of the Italian landscape as the deeper green and lordly shaft of the stone pine, or the blue of the hills. The seasons in Italy are two months ahead of ours in England, the wheat harvest being in June. There is seldom any cold before Christmas, and in fine years the winter may be said to be over after the middle of February.

The people who inhabit the Alban and Sabine[Pg 81] country are the same Latin plebs, except that they no longer serve the world's masters and take their part, if only as spectators, in a great classical civilisation: they have served for centuries a papacy which in habits of thought never belied the heredity of the middle ages. In the general outlines the same people—but more not less barbarous than of yore, because they have been arrested, literally have been brutalised, by a complete absence of that moral and intellectual growth which has been the conquest of the centuries. As in pagan Italy, the people are consulters of oracles, confiders in charms and exorcisms, slaves to the belief in "destiny," a word which is ever on their lips ("è il destino" absolves you from taking any action); they are cruel and coarse as the cruel are coarse. The inhabitants of the castelli romani were described by a compatriot as "pieni di superbia, debiti, e pidocchi" (full of pride, debts, and lice); and he who ventures to hear mass in the parish church of one of these hill towns must have a bath on his return and discard all the garments he wore. Among the Sabine villages, where in our own time the public sport was the baiting of the poor beasts who were going to the slaughter-house, there are smiling olive-crowned towns whose evil reputation for deeds of blood has made it necessary to change the name of the township more than once. In one of these villages, in the "eighties," a man raised his gun and calmly shot his brother in the presence of their mother. The mother and son were punctual in their obligations to church and convent, and the arciprete of the parish journeyed to[Pg 82] Rome to bear witness at the trial that the murderer was "il fior del paese," (the flower of the flock). When the man was acquitted, the priest had no better lesson to inculcate for the community of which this was the "pearl," than to accompany the local band which went forth to welcome the fratricide back to the village which held the still fresh grave of the brother he had treacherously murdered.

Garden of Santa Scholastica

This fifth-century monastery (restored five hundred years later) was dedicated to the sister of S. Benedict, the founder of Western Monasticism. The first printing press in Italy was established here.

It is commonly believed, even by the educated, that "things" happen in the campagna which happen nowhere else, possession, obsession, "overlooking," witchery. Hysterical manifestations are indeed common at all the noted shrines, and wherever the excitement of exorcism is at hand to feed the morbid preoccupation with self of the hysterical. Some sixteen years ago the government determined to check this source of hysteria, and directed the rural clergy to perform no more exorcisms. I visited a friary in the Sabines at this time and saw the work of the evil spirits in the shape of a packet of hairpins (complete with its sample pin), tresses of hair, or a good fat nail which had been swallowed by the energumen and which under the emotional stress attending the exorcism—the dim light, the monotonous droning of the frati who are saying their office behind the high altar—are brought up again. I enquired of the Father Guardian what happened now that exorcism was forbidden? Well, a woman had been there only the day before, and he had explained to her that he could only pronounce "a simple benediction," which had resulted after a quarter of an hour before the altar in the[Pg 83] ejectment of the objects shown me. Such an end to an ancient Christian ministry destined to free poor human beings from the toils of Satan gives food for reflection. The secular conflict between religion and science has set foot even in the Roman campagna. If in England we have our Christian scientists, in Italy the authorities have to cope with a people whose remedy for the bite of a rabid animal is a mass said at the shrine of some special madonna—both put faith before a trust in "dry powder," and there has never yet been an age of the world in which there have not been those who thought them right. The popular sanctuaries in Italy, indeed, help to keep up much that is undesirable. At the April festa at Genazzano a peasant will kneel down before the miraculous image of the Madonna which hangs, like Mohammad's coffin, without visible support, and having made his prayer will rise and shake his fist at the picture, exclaiming "Bada, Maria!" (Beware, Mary!) Many things, thin silver hearts, candles, and other dainties have been promised if the desired favour be granted, but if the Madonna be not tempted by these to accede to the wishes of her worshipper, she must look out for herself. Wax images can be laid out to melt in the sun, there to learn how agreeable is a continued drought, statuettes can be stood in the corner with their faces to the wall, a rival patron saint can be pitched into the river, by the same hand which brings gifts. "See how you like it!" Does not the primitive man create his god by looking into himself? and Caliban with his "So he!" inaugurates theology.[Pg 84]

Another Roman picture is afforded us by the lottery. It is to be found, indeed, all over Italy, but we are only concerned with its influence in Roman life, where it has always flourished, first under the popes when a prelate presided to bless the opening of the lottery and now under the State, for the Romans are born gamblers. Seventeen millions a year are raised in this way out of the pockets of the poorest of the poor. The excuse made is that as the people will gamble the only safeguard against gigantic frauds on the gamblers is to make the lottery a department of the State. Certainly it would be absolutely impossible to trust to fair play if the choice of the numbers depended on any private persons; even if they were honest, no Italian would believe it. The "Book of the Art," with its rough hideous drawings of the things represented by the lottery numbers—one to ninety—is the only book which the unlettered Italian can read. Every event national or domestic becomes the subject of play. You "play" the assassination of the King or the death of the Pope, the accident which has happened to your neighbour your master or your mistress, and you play the death of your kinsfolk. In order to get the money the people have recourse to the monte di pietà—the pawnshop—and the women will pawn the mattress off the bed. Sometimes the choice lies between the two chief pleasures of the Roman, eating and the lottery, and it is the best proof of the fascination of the latter that it is so often preferred to the joys of the table. In every tiny village as in every great city throughout[Pg 85] Italy there is a banco dell lotto, and the winning numbers are exhibited over its doors every Saturday. Five numbers—for example, 5, 9, 27, 36, 50—appear each week. This is called the cinquina. But you can win the ambo (two correct numbers), the terno (the most usual of all), or the quaterna. Not more than five numbers can be played, but if you "plump" for the cinquina you gain a big sum; or you can declare your intention to play for all four possible combinations. In this case you gain little if the cinquina comes out. It is the same with the terno, if you plump for it you gain much more. But the gain also depends on the amount you put into the lottery, and any sum from six centimes can be played. When Pius IX. died a Roman jeweller won 40,000 scudi (£8000). How can one expect the gambling of the poor to cease when even twelve centimes (less than five farthings) may bring fifty francs?

The Roman goes to the lottery with all the paraphernalia and a good deal of the sentiment of devotion. "Se ci aiuti Iddio e la Madonna," they exclaim—If God and the Madonna will help us—we shall win the terno. There are several "tips" for winning. One which is as awesome as it is efficacious consists in starting the kyrie eleison—hardly recognisable in its popular dress as crielleisonne—and then say on your knees thirteen ave marias to as many madonnas. Having invoked Baldassare, Gasper, and Marchionne (Melchoir)—though what the three wise kings have to do in that galère is not very obvious—you go out of the house, taking care[Pg 86] to answer nothing if any one calls you. You go straight to the church of S. John Beheaded, where those who suffered capital punishment used to be interred, and then whatever you see or hear inside or out, look it up in the "Book of the Art" and you are safe to win. Another bella divozione for the same end is to go up the steps of Ara Coeli on your knees reciting a requiem aeternum or a de profundis on each step. A large number of the people praying so devoutly to the Madonna di Sant' Agostino (whose other principal care is the safety of childbirth) are praying for luck in the lottery—praying or threatening, for the one is very kin to the other in the primitive mind as it is in the magic of all primitive peoples. Some of these may have been conducting a solitary nocturnal vigil, having risen from their beds, kindled two candles, and proceeded to carry through one or other of the belle divozioni.

The Sagro Speco

The ravine (above the monastery of S. Scholastica) where S. Benedict took refuge from the corruption of Rome, became the site of the Sagro Speco, the sacred cavern, with the ninth-century monastery of San Benedetto. The peasants of Subiaco ascend the stairs here represented on their knees, as the Scala Santa in Rome is ascended, and, occasionally, even the numerous stairs of Ara Coeli. See page 86.

In the country-places the great stand-by is the Capuchin, who has a reputation for suggesting lucky numbers. When he comes collecting alms in village or city the poor man asks him for a likely terno. He is not supposed to suggest these numbers, but he and the people understand each other, and every word, every allusion, which falls from his lips is thereupon eagerly noted. If he mentions a recent assassination, you "play" number 72 morto assassinato, then the numbers indicating the day or some special circumstance, "a quarrel," "the knife" with which it was done, "jealousy," "a man," or "a woman." The element[Pg 87] of chance, the ineradicable belief in luck, makes a man sure to play if three numbers come unbidden into his head. No pious person dreams of the "numbers of the Madonna"—6, 8, and 15—without at once "playing" them. The Madonna evidently intends "to do something" for you; indeed "if the Madonna suggests numbers" it is a safe thing, you can put five francs on it. It is popularly said that 2, 3, 5, 6 are numbers which always come out, these and their combinations. Fifty-eight is the number indicating the Pope, and 52, morta che parla, is played by good simple women who have dreamt of their dead mother. The industrious working middle classes and even the better classes "play," though the latter play sub rosa. On Saturday the people collect round the little lottery offices—some of them have waited to pay their bills until they ascertained their luck. On the appearance of the fateful numbers there is a general talk, a general lamentation: "If I had only done so-and-so." "If I had only played morto instead of ferito" (" dead" instead of only "wounded.") For the Roman the whole known world sacred or profane is absorbed in the business of the lottery. Thus one of the popular sonnets in the Roman dialect describes how the flight into Egypt came about. On the 27th of December the Patriarch Joseph is snoring in bed, dreaming of lottery numbers, when an angel appears to him and says: "See here, old man, what a fine festa there is going to be over number 28" (the 28th of December commemorates the massacre of the Innocents). Thereupon S. Joseph wakes like one[Pg 88] crazy, hires a young donkey, and takes the Madonna and her child off to Egypt.

Many English travellers to this favoured country of the gods since the days when Vulcan and Minerva vied with each other as to which should bestow the best gift on Italy, must have wished that nothing more sensitive than the olive had been placed in the hands of its countrymen. Signor Gabelli has described the burly Roman carter beating his horses or mules, the red cap which hangs over one ear matching his flaming face, afire with triumphant pride in this exercise of brute force and dominion. No one rebukes him. On the contrary the clergy delight to dwell on the distinction between the duties owed to men and the absence of all obligation towards the brutes. The distinction, of course, works no better in modern than in ancient times, and means nothing less than the systematic brutalisation of the Italian people. The doctrine that animals (like "the sun and moon") were "made for man" is held to justify all mishandling of them, all domineering and callousness. This is frankly immoral; and until priests overcome their reluctance to set forth ethics in a way that does not involve a break with the order and march of all human civilisation, theology will continue to accommodate itself to racial characteristics, and specious theological propositions will still serve as a cloak for bluntness of moral perception. Only this year a marchese told me that he "could not admit that animals feel." The effect of such sentiments in a squire among an illiterate tenantry may be readily imagined; the ignorant Italian[Pg 89] gentleman justifies theology by the astounding proposition that all sentient creatures below man have been provided with a set of non-sensitive nerves; the rustic finds in the pleasure which it affords him to know that this proposition is untrue an ampler justification of the ways of Providence.

The police system of Italy has always been so ineffective that many of the great Roman families have preferred to pay tribute to the brigands in return for protection for their farms and estate to claiming assistance against them from the government. One of the best known Roman princes paid this tribute regularly to the archbrigand Tiburzi. In old days the brigands came down into the villages on the great festivals in velvet jerkin and feathered cap bearing candles and gifts for the Madonna and the presbytery. Hardly less picturesque than the brigands are the chief herdsmen called butteri, in blue jacket and brass buttons with a feather in the soft-felt Italian hat. Their skill as rough-riders is celebrated and the palm remained with them when Buffalo Bill's cowboys challenged them to a trial of skill. A primitive and classical feature of campagna labour is the singing with which it is enlivened. Hour after hour while sowing a field a monotonous folk-song will be kept up, verse succeeding verse at regular intervals, a woman singing and a man whistling the accompaniment—the phrase ending always with that long-drawn dying cadence peculiar to primitive song, like the chant sung to-day by the Neapolitan girls in the caves at Baiae, though it is the[Pg 90] dirge which their predecessors made for Adonis. One of the most familiar sights which pass these workers in the fields are the wine-carts bound for Rome; a folding linen or leather hood, generally purple in colour, protects the driver, and a little dog of the common and wrathful species known as the lupetto romano—the Roman wolfling—balances himself on the cargo and constitutes himself the protector and companion of his master. At the back of the cart there is always a tiny barrel fixed transversely; this is the perquisite of the driver and his friends when his errand is accomplished. Occasionally a garlanded cross marks the spot where some carter was killed under the wheels of his cart, just as a stone wreathed with flowers showed where a wayfarer had died struck by lightning in the pagan campagna. These cart accidents are not infrequent: in the long silent journeys across the sunburnt plain of the agro the men drop asleep, and it is then easy to fall heavily and be crushed beneath the cart, while the horse or mule pursues the accustomed route to Rome. Little wayside sanctuaries like those which stud the campagna, and which the wayfarer salutes as he passes, still exist in some of the untouched parts of Rome down by the Tiber in the region of Piazza Montanara and in the Borgo of S. Peter's. The goatherds, like the butteri and the wine-carts, may also be seen by those who never leave the walls of Rome. Perhaps when we see them standing by the little herd of goats on the shady side of piazzas in May, clad in such goatskin breeches as were worn by their pagan ancestors, it is not the "Roman country" but the beginnings of the "eternal city" of which we are chiefly reminded, when figures like these with their pastoral divinities took possession of the Palatine hill.

Little Gleaner


Italy has always been the land of Saturn, the [Pg 91]nature god. Her festivals were the festivals of the doings and events of nature, the Lupercalia of Lupercus, the Palilia of Pales; she was and she remains pagan, if pagan is to mean the natural as opposed to the supernatural attitude towards life—natural and humanistic as opposed to mystic and ideal. Under the new names lie concealed the old gods. The true Latin goddess is Pales, the earth mother, the source of grace, the real giver of gifts to her devotees—enshrined, dedicated to the gospel under a hundred aspects of what Bonghi has happily called that "gentilissimo fiore del cattolicismo," the cult of the Madonna. Some unseemly tracts and pictures have represented Christ as turning away from the leprosy of the sinner's sin, and it is Mary whose compassion for the prodigal never wavers, who persuades the Christ to have pity. That, though false enough as theology, accurately represents the Italian mind. The nature goddess, the mother, the earth and its fulness, will console, recreate, and speak to the soul of the Latin on his native soil when religion has no language which reaches him. From the heart of that soil the Latin learnt his religion, and he has never parted with it.

It is the hour of the god Pan, that midday hour which Pan alone can withstand. The sun is high in the heavens, the earth exhales heat, round about are the[Pg 92] great silences. Nothing else stirs, nothing moves, nothing breathes. The great repose is indeed tense with a great activity, but a hush of nature greets this supreme hour of the sun in its glory—the world lies dead at the feet of the giver of life. The hour of the god Pan is the mystery which is daily renewed for the Italian; what has remained constant amid all changes is the nature-myth, and the secrets it is always whispering to the children of its soil.

[Pg 93]



As in other European towns, the custom in Rome is to live in flats. The houses are high, of no particular style of architecture, and in the older portions of the city they overshadow a labyrinth of narrow streets paved with large uneven slabs of stone. Here are no side walks for pedestrians who with an indifference born of long practice walk habitually in the middle of the roadway, moving leisurely to one side in obedience to the warning cries of the drivers, or patiently waiting and flattening themselves against the shop doors if two vehicles desire to pass one another. Long ragged grooves scraped along the house walls and at street corners by the hubs of heavy cart-wheels, testify to centuries of clumsy driving.

There have always existed in Rome, however, a certain number of villas within the walls, and their timbered parks and terraced gardens ornamented with fountains and statues, have been one of the characteristic features of the city. Their wealthy owners probably possessed a sombre palace as well along the Corso, but the villas[Pg 94] were pleasant in the warm weather, and two centuries ago wonderful Arcadian entertainments were given beneath the shade of their ilex groves. Some of these villas still exist in their original state or as public property, many have been crowded out and demolished and their gardens have been cut up into building plots. The taste for villa-building is, however, not yet dead, and of late years small dwellings in a Baroque style have been springing up like mushrooms in the new quarters, and immense rents are asked for them.

Roman flats or apartments as they are called, vary from magnificent suites of thirty or forty rooms to a small domain of three or four. They can be leased even in the most princely of palaces which are so much too large for the requirements of modern life that their owners are glad to let what they cannot use.

Sea-horse Fountain

The glades of Roman villas offer us some of the rare green effects, the colouring which prevails being that in picture 27. See page 46.

The single entrance-gateway, which is locked at night, is under the charge of a porter whose appearance varies according to the social standing of his employer from an imposing figure in gold lace and a cocked hat, to a surly fellow out at heels and elbows who ekes out a precarious livelihood by cobbling or carpentering while he keeps a vigilant but no friendly eye upon the incomings and outgoings of the inhabitants of the wretched tenement under his care. Often, even in good houses, a single room by the side of the gateway serves the porter with his wife and family for bedroom, kitchen, living room, and workshop, and sometimes the same number of human beings are stowed away at night in a mere hole, windowless and doorless, under the stairs.[Pg 95] Yet this employment is so sought after that a cabinet minister's portfolio is said to be easier to obtain than a position as house-porter.

One or more public staircases lead up from the central courtyard. Before 1870 it was not obligatory to light these, and many a crime has been committed on a long dark flight, the only witness the dwindling oil-lamp before an image of the Madonna.

Even now a front door will seldom be opened at once in answer to your ring; a little shutter is pushed back, and you are first inspected through a grating. Or you are greeted with a shrill chi è, and only when you have given the reassuring reply, amici, "friends," will you be admitted. A middle-class Italian household is not very approachable in the morning. Although extremely early risers—no hour seems too early in Rome for people to be up and about—the house remains en déshabillé till the afternoon. The beds are unmade, the mistress shuffles about in dressing-gown and slippers, adjuring her maid-of-all-work in shrill tones; she even goes out to shop unwashed, in an old skirt and jacket. At first sight all the rooms appear to be bedrooms which are used indifferently to sit in. Nevertheless one room, generally the smallest and least attractive, is set aside as the "reception room." The family never sit in it, and never enter it except to receive their visitors. It is kept carefully closed and shuttered, and if you arrive unexpectedly the maid lets in some light for you with pretty apologies while you wait in the doorway afraid of falling in the dark over the innumerable[Pg 96] objects, what-nots and small tables, which crowd the room. A jute-covered sofa of the most uncomfortable pattern, with a strip of carpet before it, is de rigueur, and a visitor would consider herself slighted if she were not ushered to this post of honour. There are no carpets on any of the stone floors, and no stoves or fireplaces. If there happens to be a chimney, it is considered unwholesome and is blocked up. There are no comfortable sofas and no lounge chairs. If the weather is fine and warm all is well with such a household. But Rome knows fog, frost, and snow, and though none last for long, wintry days may succeed each other and bitter winds blow down upon the city from the snow-capped Sabine mountains, and then the Romans, forced to stay at home, uncomplainingly wear their coats and jackets within doors to keep body and soul together, and sit warming their fingers over little pans of glowing wood-ash.

Like cats, they have a constitutional horror of rain, and will prefer to remain indoors than risk a wetting in search of some place of amusement, or to keep an engagement. Every carter, every beggar, every peasant carries an umbrella; horses and draught oxen are swathed in flannel and mackintosh in the wet, and the drivers of the little open cabs cower beneath leathern aprons and enormous umbrellas, under the dripping edges of which their "fares" creep in and out as best they can. Brigands only, so it is popularly believed, carry no umbrellas, and by this you may know them.

The Romans' cheerful acquiescence in what we[Pg 97] should consider considerable hardship is nothing less than admirable. After long working hours spent in government offices for example, which are for the most part despoiled monasteries and always bitterly cold, they return to their homes where creature comforts as we understand them are unknown, not because they cannot be afforded, but because they are not desired or missed; and their gaiety or their enjoyment of one another's society is in nowise diminished because they spend the evening sitting at a dining-room table on straight-backed chairs.

On the other hand much attention is devoted to the preparation of the meals. Food is daintily prepared and cooked, well flavoured and seasoned. Meat and vegetables are generally cooked in oil- or bacon-fat, and no Roman would look at a dish of food plainly boiled or roasted. Even the poor are skilful in concocting a savoury dish with polenta (ground Indian corn) bread and potatoes flavoured with a dash of onion or tomatoes. All cooking and eating utensils are kept scrupulously clean, and the dirtiest contadino will wipe out his glass carefully before he is satisfied as to its fitness for his use. Romans break their fast with a cup of black coffee and bread without butter, but it is quite usual for them to eat nothing at all until twelve or one o'clock. Their midday dinner begins with either soup or macaroni (minestra or minestra ascuitta). If with the soup, then the meat which has been boiled to make it is served next with vegetable garnishings. The macaroni is served with butter, cheese, and[Pg 98] tomatoes and there are numberless tasty ways of preparing it. Half a kilogram (eighteen ounces) is considered the portion for each person. If the meal begins with macaroni, this dish would be followed by meat in umido, a favourite Roman dressing of tomatoes and onions. People who live quite simply will never touch stale bread, and it is no unusual thing for a fresh batch to be delivered at the door three times a day. Salad, cheese, and eggs done in a variety of ways form the staple of the Roman's evening meal.

It is a perpetual wonder to the foreigner what elaborate and excellently cooked dinners can be produced in the unpromising Roman kitchens. Larders and sculleries are almost unknown. A white marble sink—marble fills the lowliest offices in Rome—and a tap in a corner do duty for the latter. The kitchen is often a slip of a room, and the "range" is little more than a table of brick and tiles fitted with small holes for holding charcoal, and with a shaft above for carrying away the unwholesome fumes. Upon these small holes all the cooking is done; the charcoal is fanned into a glow with a feather fan, and if there are many pots and saucepans they must take their turn upon the tiny fires. Scuttles do not exist, and the stock of charcoal for use is kept on the floor beneath the range.

Villa Borghese


Italians of all classes are very fastidious about the cleanliness of their beds, and in this particular their habits contrast favourably with the antediluvian practices prevalent in England, for not only is every article of bedding aired at the window daily, but all the[Pg 99] mattresses are picked to pieces and the wool pulled out and beaten every year. This process is carried on generally on the flat house-roofs when the weather is sunny; a mattress-maker with his assistant, his bench and his combs, coming round to do it for you for the modest fee of one lira and a half the mattress.

Beyond this the Roman's standard of cleanliness fails altogether. Floors are never washed; they serve to tramp about on in thick boots, to spit upon, and to receive matches and cigar-ash. Doors, painted woodwork, walls, are always soiled; if there is a terrace it becomes at once unsightly and the receptacle for hideous refuse. There is complete indifference to cleanliness as a first condition of hygiene, and it is not unusual to find fowls kept in the kitchen of a good bourgeois house, which take their walks abroad on the balcony and pick up their living under the table.

Even in the houses of the great, where many servants are kept, there is often the same Spartan indifference to comfort. Great halls are kept unwarmed except for a brazier of glowing wood-ash, and fireplaces, if they exist, are only sparingly used in the sitting-rooms. Bathrooms are rare, and the habit of the daily bath is almost unknown in a city which once boasted the finest baths the world has seen.

If the Roman does not know how to make himself comfortable indoors, no one knows better how to enjoy himself in the open air. The ragged loafer suns himself in the public squares, the workman dozes away his dinner hour at full length under the shelter of a[Pg 100] wall; it is in the streets that a Roman holiday is spent. Parents and children of the working classes, the father carrying the baby, stroll about happily for hours, or they walk out beyond the city gates to rest and refresh themselves at one of the wayside osterie. Here they gather round the rude tables under a shelter of bamboo canes and eat and drink according to their means. The most forbidding country eating-house can rise to the requirements of better-class customers, and at a pinch can furnish a cleanly cooked and quite palatable dish of macaroni or eggs and vegetable fried in oil for forty or fifty centimes the plate, which is abundant for two. All day long on festa in warm spring weather, chairs and benches outside every wine-shop and eating-house are crowded with a changing throng of holiday makers enjoying themselves simply and harmlessly; and on such days, at a likely corner, you may come across a country man or woman in charge of a huge wild boar roasted whole, stuffed with meat and sage and garlanded with green, from which a succulent morsel will be cut for you, then and there should you desire it, for a trifling sum.



Out-of-door pleasures appeal no less to the better classes. Fashionable Rome drives daily in the afternoon along the Corso and round the Pincio, the carriages drawing up at intervals near the bandstand. So dear to the Roman heart is the possession of smart clothes and a showy carriage and horses, that entire families will live with parsimony within doors that they may afford these luxuries. During long afternoon hours men will[Pg 101] congregate outside the Parliament House and along the Corso to meet and chat with their friends, and chairs and tables with their fashionable occupants block the pavements outside the cafés and restaurants, obliging the passer-by to step out into the roadway.

The Roman of the poorer class carries on as much of his domestic life also as he can in the open air. Chairs, kitchen tables, and wash-tubs are dragged out into the streets. Food is prepared and eaten, clothes are washed, and the occupations of sewing, knitting, cobbling, and carpentering are conducted in the open, subject to a lively attention to what is going on in the street.

Occasionally a basket attached to a string comes bobbing down from an upper window accompanied by a shrill message: Would Sor' Annunziata have the kindness to buy a copy of the Messagero just being cried in the street? she will find a soldo in the basket. Or would she tell that good-for-nothing vagabond Mark Antony or Hannibal (the raggedest urchins always rejoice in some such name), who is playing morra round the corner, to run at once and buy a ha'porth of white beans. The errand accomplished, the basket is drawn up with its burden, and then blissful hours of leisure slip by in desultory talk with neighbours at their doors and windows opposite, chairs tilted back comfortably against the house wall in the mellow Roman sunlight. In the quiet piazzas, and in shady nooks by the city gates, humble folk can be shaved for a small sum by barbers who ply their trade in the open and pay no shop rent.[Pg 102] It is even quite usual in the hot weather for fashionable coiffeurs to move their client's chair outside the door and continue shaving operations there without exciting any comment.

Before reading and writing were made obligatory, public letter-writers were common, and they still can be met with in Via Tor de' Specchi, in the shelter of the Salarian gate, and in other quiet places, the group of anxious clients waiting their turn round the table testifying to the inefficiency of a compulsory education Act. Girls used to dictate their love-letters to these scribes, and perhaps still do so, and even the boys did and do write to San Luigi for his festa on 21st June—the letters, tied up with blue ribbon, being subsequently deposited on his altar.

The fashion of open-air washing tanks, once universal, is gradually passing away. Outside the walls, the women wash their clothes in the streams and rivers, and inside the city, by the new Ponte Margherita, one of the old public washing-places may still be seen, protected only by a roof and surrounded by a crowd of women in bright-coloured cotton bodices and skirts, washing clothes in the cold turbid water and scrubbing them vigorously on the stone slabs in order that what is left of them after this heroic treatment may at least be clean.

Owing to the smallness and darkness of all Roman provision shops, most of the inspection of wares and all the talking, bargaining, and quarrelling is perforce done upon the pavement. Many of the Roman shops still consist of a narrow vault, with no outlet of any sort at the[Pg 103] further end, the whole front being closed with a shutter at night. In the early morning all the cooks in Rome and all the general servants are afoot in the streets buying provisions, and they crowd around the temporary market stalls set up in the small piazzas under gay umbrellas, filling the air with their noisy disputes. The curb-stones are occupied by peasant women and their baskets of country produce, which from this central position they extol to the passers-by. These women have walked into the city at dawn carrying their baskets on their heads, and at the gates their poor little merchandise has been overhauled with no gentle hand by the Customs officers, every egg and turnip has been counted, and its octroi duty paid.

It takes the foreign resident some time to grasp the idiosyncrasies of Roman shops. A linen draper looks at you with kindly pity if you ask him for ribbons or haberdashery, which can only be obtained at a mercer's devoted to this trade. A grocer only sells dry goods, the numerous shops entitled pizzicherie deal exclusively with cheese, lard, butter, bacon, salted fish, and preserves. Your fishmonger will only sell fish, your butcher closes most inconveniently between twelve and five, and will seldom sell mutton and never lamb, which must be sought at a poulterer's. Macaroni is provided by your baker, or it can be bought in one of the numerous small shops licensed to sell salt and tobacco, where you may also obtain postage stamps, soap, tin tacks, china plates, and mineral waters.

All the transactions of daily life have to be conducted[Pg 104] in Rome, as every householder soon learns, at the cost of a continuous and exasperating conflict with a class to whom it is second nature to cheat and deceive, to falsify weights and measures, who have no standard of honesty in small things, and who will always say what will please you or themselves rather than what is. The visitor naturally is their peculiar prey. To exploit him is traditional in Rome. In a town with no resources of its own, there is the foreigner and his purse to look to; and he falls an easy victim to people whose language he imperfectly understands, and who are past-masters of all the deceitful arts. The seasons are short and a plentiful harvest must be raked in while they last. Shops in the best quarters will raise the value of their goods a hundred per cent at the sight of a foreign face. Unless the legend "fixed prices" appears in the window for the benefit of the customer, the shopmen will expect you to bargain over every purchase—to haggle for half an hour over a question of six sous or ten is indeed the only commercial instinct they possess. They will generally ask about twice as much as they mean ultimately to accept, and, to their credit be it said, it is not only for the sake of the francs more or less, but quite as much for the excitement of the sport. "I say 200 lire, now it is for you to say something;" or, "The price is so-and-so, what will you give?" are the preludes to some really enjoyable quarters of an hour. The foreigner who pays unquestioningly what he is asked is a poor-spirited creature not worth fleecing.[Pg 105]

Romans still reckon up their rent or their wages in the old papal currency of a scudo (five francs), and food is cried about the streets at so much the paolo (half a franc). Half a paolo (or giulio) the grosso, two paoli the papetto, three paoli a testone, and the halfpenny or baioccho are still the familiar names which come most easily to the tongue. The difference between the old weights and the new, the papal scales and the decimal system of united Italy, is a fruitful source of gain to the tradesman. He clings, partly from sentiment and partly from self-interest, to the old unit of weight, the pound of twelve ounces, and as it appears nowhere on the official scales, he reckons it at one-third of the kilogram (330 grams) or, if you do not watch him carefully, at 300 grams, thus profiting from 1/100 to 1/10 on every kilo (1000 grams) sold. Similarly the Roman measure for firewood is a tightly packed cart-load, but the wood-seller is an adept at making a cart look full when it is not, and your only resource is to buy wood by the weight. Even then, if you desire to receive the quantity you order and pay for, you must not only see it weighed but you must keep an eye upon it on its journey to your house, or it will become beautifully less for the benefit of the carter. The charcoal for kitchen use you buy in a measured sack of a given weight. The first time you bestow your custom you are delighted with quality and quantity, but with each order the sack shrinks in size, and when you expostulate the coal-seller will answer you unblushing that if you insist upon having the coal weighed he cannot supply it at the price![Pg 106]

There is no doubt, moreover, that the universal custom of buying each morning the food for the day's consumption, is an extravagant system to the householder, and a source to the tradesmen of constant illegitimate gains, but as there are no larders where food can be kept there is no alternative. The donna di servizio or maid-of-all-work goes out each morning to spend an enjoyable half-hour or more, meeting her friends and making shrill bargains at the shop doors. An Italian's servant will buy a halfpenny worth of bacon-fat or lard or preserved tomato, and as such small quantities cannot be weighed she receives a spoonful of lard or a dab of butter wrapped up in a leaf, and the whole is tied up and carried home in a brilliant cotton handkerchief. The man-cook will not condescend to one of these shopping handkerchiefs. He will carry a few parcels, but he generally returns, a small boy in his wake bearing a basket on his head wherein all his purchases are displayed. The prevalent custom in Rome is for the servant to give the least possible price for all she buys, and to charge her mistress a higher one, the balance going into her own pocket. Servants of unimpeachable honesty in every other respect will succumb to this temptation. If serving foreigners, they can often double their wages, and so well is the practice recognised that the mistress who is too watchful to permit it is spoken of as giving only a mesata secca, a dry wage.

Villa d'Este

Built in 1549 for Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, son of Alfonso II., Duke of Ferrara. It passed thence to the heir of this family, the Duke of Modena. See pages 172, 174.

Rome used to be one of the cheapest of European cities to live in; rents were low and food was cheap; meat[Pg 107] was three sous the pound, and when it rose to four the Romans were indignant. Heavy taxation under the Italian Government has now changed all this. Beef is seventeen sous the pound, and rents have been almost doubled in the past twenty years. Wages are still very moderate. A woman servant gets from eighteen to thirty francs a month, a man thirty to sixty. If an English mistress engages an Italian servant, even if he or she is said to know their work, she must begin from the rudiments and even then there comes a point beyond which instruction fails to produce any result. The refinements of English service are looked upon as so many curious rites without meaning, and our standard of cleanliness and our fastidiousness are a perpetual source of wonder.

The pride of the Roman prevents her, as a rule, from undertaking domestic service. When she does, she makes the roughest and worst of maids. The natural instinct of every ordinary Italian servant is to throw all refuse out of the window, as she still does in the towns of the campagna, or where her kitchen window gives upon an unfrequented courtyard, and the rest of her service is in keeping with this standard, the restrictions laid upon her by the demands of civilisation being the very thinnest veneer.

She will never clean a floor on her own initiative, and very seldom on yours, and is quite capable of giving you notice should you expect it. Nevertheless if you can bring yourself to compromise with your own standard and put up with some of hers, you will find her on the whole a genial creature to deal with.[Pg 108] She is blessed with abundant leisure, and has always time to carry on protracted conversations and even flirtations out of the kitchen window. No event in the street or in the courtyard beneath escapes her attention, yet she manages to do the housework, cook the meals, wait at table, clean the boots, iron and mend the clothes, and buy the provisions. She will, moreover, think nothing of sleeping in a mere cupboard without air or light, only fit to store boxes in, or in one of the passages on a sofa-bed which is folded up in the daytime, such plans being quite usual in a Roman household.

The Italian man-servant is the most domestic of beings and is on the whole the most teachable and efficient; but he also is accustomed to lay a table by placing a knife, fork, and spoon in a bunch before each person, adding a glass, and voilà tout, and a higher ideal than this is a severe tax on memory and intelligence. "He certainly knew how to lay a cloth when he left me," an American lady said of her man-servant who had been with her nine years, "but perhaps he has forgotten"; and he certainly had, though he had only been out of her situation a year. A so-called finished servant, who had been years in a prince's establishment, thought nothing of receiving a basket of linen from the French laundress and depositing it on our dining-room table pending further instructions, and our disapproval only grieved without enlightening him. And no instruction will impress upon an Italian the impropriety of announcing English callers by a[Pg 109] description rather than attempting to pronounce their foreign names: "The gentleman from the hotel," or "The young lady who married that old man!" But their charming manners and easy grace disarm criticism and win forgiveness for many shortcomings.

In military households the master's orderly is often turned into a domestic drudge. Yet such situations are eagerly sought by young soldiers, for though they receive no extra pay they are excused military duty after the first ten months of their enrolment, and they compound their rations for a weekly government allowance. It is no uncommon thing to see a young man in uniform doing the whole work of an officer's house, cooking, cleaning, marketing, waiting at table, taking the children to school, wheeling the perambulator, and even doing the family washing and ironing.

A measure of magnificence and pomp still obtains in the great Roman households, but it is combined with a simplicity of life and an informality of relation between employer and employed which rob it of its stiffness. The servants of a great house are not a caste apart, they are part of the family establishment. Their masters give them the familiar tu, and they are treated with far more intimacy and friendliness than is ever the case with us. In return the servants identify themselves with their employers' concerns, and take the greatest interest in all their doings, an interest no doubt fostered by the utter indifference to privacy existing in most households, where conversations on all subjects are carried on with widely open doors regardless of listeners.[Pg 110]

Servants and others of the same class will generally abide by an agreement clearly made, though foreigners are always advised to have even the conditions of service in black and white, and it is never safe to trust to precedent or to general rules in one's dealings with them. They are quite unfettered by the existing laws and unwritten obligations which make up their English counterpart's code of respectability, and they will be faithful to you only so long as their interest does not clash with yours. Instances to the contrary are rare. An Italian servant is quite capable of giving you instant notice for a mere whim, and departing the same day without the slightest compunction for the inconvenience he causes.

Woe to the foreigner who seeks redress for conduct of this kind, or who is involved in any dispute however righteous his cause. Such cases are brought up in the district courts before magistrates who are appointed to act in each division of the city as conciliators (save the mark!). No solicitor of any standing likes to appear in these courts, they are beneath the dignity of his position, and he will only do so as a favour. An attorney of an inferior order, who is as often as not a layman masquerading as such, can be hired on the spot like a porter to see you through. Your opponent will certainly engage the services of one of these individuals, and when the case comes on to your no small amazement he will rise and make a fluent speech in favour of his client having little or no reference to the events as they occurred. If considered needful, he will also call several[Pg 111] false witnesses who will swear entire falsehoods with perfect sangfroid. When your solicitor attempts to state your case the attorney on the other side interrupts him with indignant denials, and the conciliator joins in with the most injudicial display of temper. The comedy ends by all three talking at once in loud excited voices, without listening to one another, and the conciliator announces the close of the sitting. He then proceeds to give his verdict which is invariably in favour of the servant, and his socialistic tendencies in this particular are assisted by his not having paid the least attention to the evidence before him.

Villa Borghese

A priest and one of the Austrian Seminarists, whose red dress has bestowed on them the popular nickname of "boiled prawns," are here seen conversing in the shade of the villa; the spring sunshine glints through the trees.

[Pg 112]



I. The Italians.

There are four great movements which moulded the political intellectual and moral life of other European countries without leaving their impress on Italy. Feudalism and scholasticism took less hold there than in Germany England or France; the spirit of chivalry never touched the Italian, and Puritanism, of course, left him scatheless. Feudalism had little affinity with a people democratic to the core, scholasticism had little attraction for the most open-minded and the least didactic nation on earth, and neither the chivalry of the Frank nor the Puritanism of the Anglo-Saxon awoke echoes in a people whose self-interestedness and lack of the sense of personal responsibility are only equalled by the absence of all illusions, and whose hatred of shams is as radical as their freedom from hypocrisy.

Compared with the non-Latin peoples the lines of Italian development have been intellectual rather than on the side of character and conduct. The intellect of[Pg 113] Italy has constantly spread a banquet before the spirit of Europe, as the beauty of the land from north to south has offered a feast of material beauty to every generation. Italian quickness in appropriating an idea is matched by Italian open-mindedness; you never meet in Italy the wall of thick-headed self-righteous prejudice—that array of pre-judgments which an Italian has aptly called idols—which the Englishman never fails to brandish when confronted by a new idea. Perhaps it is the fact that the Italians are the least prejudiced people on the face of the earth which makes living in their country delightful to Northerners. Some of our countrymen have certainly reason to be pleased that this is so; but the Italian illimitable tolerance of the foibles and eccentricities of others does not mean that they acquit us of bad manners and provincialism.

Italian intellect, the familiarity with and the play of ideas in the Italian, is not the same thing as a lofty idealism; and when a Dane recently wrote that the Italians possess the highest humanistic qualities and therefore are also nearer the supernatural than other people, he made, I think, this mistake. He confused ideas with idealism. The Italian gift par excellence is le sens très vif des réalités,[4] a vivid hold on the real; and this realism is the source at once of their qualities and their defects. The Italian has only one use for an idea, he must see it as it is. Hence he strips everything, tears away its drapery, exposes it to the garish pitiless light of fact. There is nothing which deserves in itself[Pg 114] and always reverence—for him a spade is a spade, a fiasco a fiasco, a corpse a corpse. There is none of that prevenient idealism which in the north draws a veil over the crudities of sense, and helps to illuminate the half-truths they reveal. It is easy to see that such a quality as this is intellectually valuable, but morally disastrous. The special loveliness of the nature formed in the north is the persuasion that there are things one is not to see, not to hear. That northern "custody of the senses" which is not an ascetical exercise, but an inner illumination thrown upon them.

The Spanish Steps

Erected for the Romans at the expense of a Frenchman in the eighteenth century. The Piazza takes its name from the Spanish Embassy to the Vatican which has its residence here. At the Sacred Heart Convent attached to the church of the Trinità de' Monti, at the top of the steps, generations of girls of Roman families have been educated. The Egyptian obelisk came from the gardens of Sallust and was placed here by Pius VI. See page 141.

The intellectual limitation "thus far shalt thou go and no farther," which the Englishman willingly imposes on himself, is impossible to the Italian, whose moral qualities have to reckon with the intellectual liberty which is proper to his genius. The passionate love of intellectual truth for its own sake is one of these moral qualities, and the people who do not possess it inevitably contract certain moral defects. These are not the defects of the Italian; he is not a hypocrite in his moral relations, not a snob in social concerns, not a prig in matters of intellect, and has no faculty for the mystical self-deceptions of the Northerner. His complete democracy of sentiment is shown in many pleasant ways. It is difficult for the average Englishman to imagine that rank should make no difference, to understand the dignified and simple relations which subsist between classes in Italy. A man in a good coat is not ashamed to be seen talking with a friend in fustian; people of entirely different walks in life may be seen buttonholing[Pg 115] each other; and a Roman prince arm in arm with a man of the lower bourgeoisie is no infrequent spectacle. "We are all people of consideration in this house," said a Roman to me—"on the floor below there is a Senator, upstairs there is a teacher of languages, and I am a shopkeeper." Sovereignty too, in spite of the heavy etiquette of the House of Savoy, is democratic in Italy. The King does not live in inaccessible penetralia, and the man of the people when he comes across the man to whom he invariably refers as sua maestà will speak his mind to him. King Humbert assisted at the inauguration of Bocconi's big shop in the Corso and congratulated him on this new piece of commercial enterprise in the city; which is as though King Edward VII. should pay an inaugural visit to Whiteley's. Queen Margaret has always attended some Sunday lectures given in Rome by the association for the higher education of women—no Englishman could have imagined Queen Victoria attending, say, a university extension lecture at Bedford College. The Latin believes much more than we do in the principle of authority, and cares infinitely less about its representatives.

Italian civilisation is imperialistic and social, not individualistic. There is a greater sense of public decorum (as distinguished, however, from private decency) than among us, and more sacrifice of the individual to the society. One consequence of this is that there is less of that eccentricity, which is the individualism of the poorly endowed, less personal initiative, less enterprise,[Pg 116] and nothing of that spirit of adventure which is the Anglo-Saxon's romance. The Italian would always, in spite of loud complainings to a just heaven, rather "bear the ills he has than fly to others that he knows not of." Just now it is the fashion in Italy to regard the "individualism" of modern Italians as the reason for their failure to co-operate. But a want of cohesion (mental and moral) is mistaken for individualism. It is certain that the Englishman is an "individualist" yet he achieves everything by co-operation; it is certain that he possesses that sign-manual of individualism—initiative, and certain that the Italian does not. Italy is not suffering from an orgy of individualism in her people but from an orgy of egotism—which is quite a different matter.

It is a fact worth noting that every nation believes its own family life to be the purest and most solid. The truth is that family life plays a more important part in Italy than in England, and Latin parents everywhere sacrifice themselves more for their children than we do. So strong is the blood tie that it has been said that there is nothing at the back of the Italian character but the love of family. Children make far more difference in the life of an Italian than in the life of an Englishman; and when love and devotion and obedience are required of them, they have already seen in their parents as in a mirror how life and personal comfort and personal ambition can be squandered for love. An English parent can leave all he has away from his children, and he frequently leaves the elder provided for and the[Pg 117] younger not provided for at all. A Latin parent cannot do this, and it is a signal witness to the sense of obligation towards those they bring into the world which subsists among the Latin races.

If the blood tie is strong in Italy, friendship is very rare. As in the family relations so here it is the lack of marked individualism which is the determinant. It requires little effort to come up to the family standard; such effort, too, while it may lead to self-repression seldom brings about self-development. To come up to the standard of your peers outside the home requires on the contrary an exercise of all the individual powers; and friendship belongs to the individualistic peoples, those who prize personal rather than tribal and family character; to a people with no moral indolence, with the initiative and the power to become something on their own account, and to stand by themselves. The one "provincialism" of the Italian is—perhaps—his suspicion of all who stand without the blood tie: the adventurous spirit of the Anglo-Saxon which has colonised three continents has led him to a very different estimate of reliance on and co-operation with his fellow-men, and the capacity for genuine friendship outside the blood tie may claim to have always acted as an anti-barbaric note in Anglo-Saxon civilisation.

The Italians have another strongly distinctive feature. They are a more passionate but a less sentimental people than we. I suppose the Germans are the most sentimental people of Europe, and we come next. But in Italy the Englishman is not credited with[Pg 118] sentiment. According to the Italian press, for example, he has "the patriotism of the pound sterling." For my part I regard the Italian as the least sentimental man in Europe; we, on the contrary, both as individuals and as crowds, are governed by our sentimentality. The whole British middle class would make war to-morrow to satisfy a sentimentalism which the Latin peoples regard as exclusively their own. Those who recollect that the reception accorded to Garibaldi put into the shade the entry into London of the bride of our future King, ought not to accuse the English of lack of disinterested sentiment. The Italians have the sentiment of the beautiful the grandiose and the fit—but they are the last people in the world to be put out of their course by a scruple or an élan. On the other hand there is a real sense in which the Englishman is devoid of a quality which is allied to the Latin graciousness. England shows a want of pride in and sentiment towards dependencies like the Channel Islands or Ireland which we should not find in France or Italy. She forgets, neglects, has no grip, and takes no hold on the imagination. Other nations have exploited their colonies and dependencies and the British suzerain is not appealed to in vain for protection under his flag—but something lacks, and so it comes about that the foreigner frequently likes our justice but not ourselves.

The Spanish Steps


That sentiment which comes of a certain noble graciousness in peoples is shown in other ways in Italy. It is a moving thing to see the sons bear the coffin of[Pg 119] father or mother, to see men of all classes follow the dead on foot; and then there is the Latin gracious treatment of birthdays and anniversaries, the Latin power of making a fête, of "fêteing you," surrounding you with the feeling that you are of importance for the moment, that content is really reigning round you; the many ways in which the sentiments of piety to the hearth and piety to the dead are expressed; the power of handling life lightly and of expressing feeling appropriately.

The Italian though he is not so "intense," in the slang sense, as we, and gives way to less emotional sentiment, is far more impressionable. On the other hand he is not ashamed to betray emotion, or to speak of his agitazione; and it will astonish the Englishman to be told that although the Italian is so quick of feeling that one may think he is at the death grip with a man in the street to whom he is only narrating his unexpected meeting with a relative from the country, he studiously avoids those sentimental "scenes" which are so dear to the Anglo-Saxon. The hot-blooded Italian speaks of the "furor francese"—that unmatched capacity for summing the intellectual points of a case and exhausting its emotional possibilities in one lightning moment,—and it is a fact that they judge the French people to be far more mobile and inconstant than themselves.

In common with other Latins, they have more vanity than we, but less self-consciousness, more simplicity, and none of that mauvaise honte which[Pg 120] betrays that the Englishman has not got his emotions under control. But there is in the best Englishman an excellent sort of simplicity which frees him from attending to the personal point which is always present to the Italian whether he is dealing with matters public or private. On the other hand the Italians are completely free of the French bête noir, chauvinisme. And they have another great moral superiority: in America every one brags on his own account; in England we plump for national brag—there is a howling blast of the national trumpet always chilling the air round an Englishman. But the Italians do not brag; they have, indeed, no reason at all to act as parvenus. Their scepticism applies to themselves even more than to others, and no people are so ready for self-depreciation. According to them A, B, and C—the other nations of the earth—can accomplish this or that, while "un italiano non è buono a niente." In nothing, I believe, would Italians achieve greater distinction than in medicine, where a distinguished tradition of the art of healing goes hand in hand not only with the intellectual gifts of the people, but with an unrivalled delicacy of intuition. In no country are there better doctors, men armed at all points with the science of their age; yet as an Italian has remarked "Among us the physician counts as less than nothing while in France he takes rank as a scientific authority."

The Italian and the Irishman are the only amiable men in Europe—we must go as far as Japan to find their equals. Both people have the desire to please—or[Pg 121] is it a mark of ancient breeding?—the self-effacement, the courteous absence of self-assertion so difficult to the Englishman. The Italian will offer you the reins of his horses, and any and all of those privileges and advantages which the English owner regards as inalienably his. The traditional hospitality of cold climates is indeed nowhere greater than in England, but there is no more entirely hospitable host than the Italian when he admits you to his house.

Nowhere are crowds so good-natured or so well-behaved. Yet the Italians complain louder than any other people, and have not French buoyancy in the troubles and tragedies of life. Who will believe it if we add that they have an admirable patience? The Englishman makes his holiday miserable by his indignation if the train is late, if some one steps on his toes, if he has to wait an hour while his dinner is cooking. The Italian takes all these things as part of the day's work or play, and finds his amusement in them besides. That is another great distinction—he cares for life for its own sake. The Englishman cares for it for some end he has in view, and the end may be noble or mean. With quicker sympathy and much quicker response than ours, they are a less kindly people; and what is it in the Italians that allows you to find them all at once in undress, the veneer gone, and the raw material left? The Englishman would find it hard, too, to understand a certain terrible outsideness, something callous and pitiless in the uneducated Italian: self-interest looms too large, and an apparent want of power of self-sacrifice—outside[Pg 122] the blood tie—I take to be the great moral weakness of the Italian character.

We shall already have understood that the Italian does not wait to be told these things by others—he is the first to judge himself; he has no illusions. In England we are fond of throwing a veil over our national defects or of calling them by some fine name, but the Italian of all ranks has put the defects of his qualities over and over again in the crucible of his terrible love of reality with its quick perception of shams; and to understand the defects of Italians one has only to read their own masterly appreciations of national character.

Roman Peasant


The Italian race is, I believe, prepotent in mixed marriages. In marriages between German and Italian or English and Italian the child shares indeed some of the mental characteristics of Angle or Teuton, but the personality is an Italian personality. This prepotence of the Latin people I take to be the effect of what some one has called "a great temperament"—the one quality which we may be quite sure has belonged to every remarkable man. Of all the great races the men of modern Germany leave least trace of themselves. It is noteworthy that the instances of mixed marriages are nearly all instances of women of the English German and American races intermarrying with Italian men; but whichever way it is, it remains as true of Italy as of France that "the ménage is always in the country of the Latin partner."

The Italians say: "inglese italianizzato diavolo incarnato,"[Pg 123] and this is also true of Americans and may be true of Teutons. Two Italian girls who spent a season in London described to me their attempts to imitate what they called "lo stiff," the stiff reserved manner of the Englishman of breeding. They failed, it seems, woefully, for they could not acquire "lo stiff" and they lost their own pretty manners. So it is with the Anglo-Saxon in Italy. We have not their finesse, or the mental and temperamental qualities which balance their moral defects; the Englishman adopts these with interest and his national virtues are shed like a garment. It is therefore perhaps fortunate that Italian women give Englishmen small encouragement to turn themselves into diavoli incarnati; for it must be recorded that the English and American wife in Italy runs no such risk: she remains herself, the national character does not wear off like a poor veneer, she does not outrage native susceptibilities without acquiring native graces, and distinguished women of our race have for the past two hundred years brought their native virtues to Italy while adopting Italian causes with an enthusiasm which did not yield even to that of Italians themselves. In Rome the English wife of General La Marmora, the two Talbots who became Gwendoline Borghese and Mary Doria, the American wife of Garibaldi, and the Scotch wife of the triumvir Aurelio Saffi (still alive), all played a conspicuous Italian rôle.

There are more people with great temperaments among the Latin races than among ourselves; and as it is "plenty of temperament" which is wanted for the[Pg 124] creations of art it is not difficult to understand why the Italians are artistic and we are not. And the Italians are a people of artists. In England where one man in a thousand may possess the artistic temperament it is difficult to realise the keen observation, the appreciation of technique for its own sake, the intuitive way of gauging and grouping the data of the senses, the balance and proportion implied in a race where one man in ten judges as an artist. Wagner expresses, in a letter to Boïto, his admiration of the Italian attitude to art—the open-mindedness and delicate feeling in artistic questions which make him "understand again," after a visit there, "the matchlessly productive spirit to which the new world owes all its art since the Renaissance." When Edward VII. visited Rome the Times and other English newspapers compared the consummate yet simple scheme of decoration with the tasteless and meaningless banner and bunting displays which London witnesses on similar occasions. The love of beauty—the Greek horror of deformity—is so strong with this people that its imperatives take precedence of moral considerations—of pity, delicacy, kindliness. The uneducated Italian shows his instinctive disgust at what is ugly or horrible and, as we have seen, no prevenient idealism checks the impulse.

It is an important truth that Italians learn from the outside and that Northern peoples get from without only what they bring from within; that Italians have, perhaps, as little ethical awareness as they have signal and abiding æsthetical awareness. But that uninterrupted[Pg 125] vision of reality which has relegated moral vision to the second place has bestowed on Europe not what is crude and naked and bare, but another mode of seeing, of feeling, of being—one of the great modes of human expression—art. This people who have been called "prodigals of themselves" have been so prodigal of their gifts that the hand which stripped the veil from the objects of sense is also the hand which clothed them, returning them to us with the crudity gone, replaced with new meaning, by new vision—expressed for ever in higher terms. The ruthless vision which saw so much, and suffered no illusion, saw also something which we did not see; and revealing to us what lay beyond our sight held up a mirror in which the real looks back at us as the ideal.

The imagination of the Kelt, said Matthew Arnold, "with its passionate, turbulent, indomitable reaction against the despotism of fact" has never succeeded in producing a masterpiece of art. Here we have a clue to the truth—which the Greek had already taught us—that interpretation is not left only to the peoples whose vision is turned inwards; that when, for such, the external seems bared of all meaning, the realist may restore it to us with the new vision in it.

II. The Romans.

In no European country has the secular conflict between race and race, province and province, been keener than in Italy—Lombards, Venetians, Tuscans,[Pg 126] Romans, and Neapolitans have formed not only politically but morally antagonistic communities; and Italy has yet to create that moral unity which is no more a tradition of her past than is the civil unity she has already achieved.

Nowhere, during the era of the Risorgimento, was this antagonism more keenly felt than in Rome and by the Romans who have always divided the inhabitants of that "geographical expression," Italy, into "Romans" and "Italians." To this day the difficulties of moral union are fed by the incompatibilities and the jealousies of "north" and "south." To the warm Southerner, Lombards and Piedmontese are a nation of shopkeepers; to the Northerner, the Neapolitan, the Calabrese, and the Sicilian are as brilliant impossible and mediæval Irishmen.

Church of San Clemente

The church, which is in the street leading from the Lateran to the Colosseum, belongs to the Irish Dominicans.

Midway between these two, neither north nor south, stands and always has stood the Roman: by sympathy, proclivity, and geographical position a little more south than north; but by history achievement and tradition independent of either. Florence represents the fine flower of the Italian spirit, the South its poetry, Venice and the North its civil greatness. What is notable everywhere is an incomparable productiveness in all activities of the human intellect, all fineness of the human spirit. But Rome has not produced. After that one act of creation, the Roman polity, Rome has been sterile; its function has been not to create but to criticise. Like the great Church which has developed within its borders, Rome has been the lawgiver, the[Pg 127] critic of other men's gifts, but has laid no claim—when once we cede her initial gift of an infallible magisterium—to charismata. And so the Roman possesses in its highest terms the gift of criterion. Some witty person—a Frenchman of course—said that England was an island and every Englishman was an island; and so we may say that Rome was arbiter of the world and every Roman possesses that keen vivid abounding gift of arbitrament.

Rome therefore is not Italy for taste, art, delicacies of sentiment, for the great creations of the intellect the spirit and the imagination—Rome is the ancient mistress of the world; and the rôle the function and the influence of Rome must all be viewed in relation to her gift of infallible criterion, of world dominance.

The Roman of to-day not only lives in the city of the Roman who gave laws to the known world, he thinks his thoughts and to a great extent lives his life. He is the result of the grandiose memories of the past playing upon such a temperament as his. He lives surrounded by vague memories, understanding that it was something exceedingly great which fell, leaving him in the midst of these ruins. And the Roman has a supreme indifference—he looks upon every event with the same tolerance, the same sentiment of Emerson's "fine Oxford gentleman" that "there is nothing new and nothing true, and no matter." One procession passes him by to honour Giordano Bruno, victim of theological bigotry; another passes to the Vatican to render homage to the power which crushed Bruno:[Pg 128] the Roman looks out upon both with the same eyes, the same indifferent dignity. "The Roman apathy," say some; but others call it a superiority, Roman largeness of outlook, the Roman freedom from what is petty and intolerant.

Who are the modern Roman people? Are they the genuine survivors of the rulers of the world? That there has been an immense influx of alien blood since the fifth century is certain. The incredible depletion of the Roman population in some periods was repaired by immigration from other parts of Italy; but Roman characteristics at the present day are too well marked to allow us to suppose that Rome has been at any time swamped by foreign admixture, or that the persistence of these characteristics can be accounted for merely by the continuity of Roman civilisation and the Roman milieu. The Romans of to-day, therefore, are the same people as the Romans of the great epoch—but with a difference. They are Romans with the energy sapped out; with the power of self-sacrifice for a public good gone, and with it the power to impose themselves on the nations, on their fellows. Romans with no heroes and no martyrs.

Rustic Dwelling


Nowhere, in fact, can the Italian character be seen so unspoiled as in Rome, where fewer outside influences and neither education nor social polish have conspired to modify the characteristics of the nation who were once the buontemponi of Europe. The people of classic Rome had always been men of a certain roughness, whose heroic qualities were formed at the expense of[Pg 129] delicacy of sentiment. This rudeness of mind, of sentiment, of taste showed itself in every part of the Roman life. While Athenians watched the tragedies of Sophocles in theatres which could only hold a select audience, the Romans crowded into huge amphitheatres where a hundred thousand men and women gloated over the sufferings of sentient creatures—animals or men, it made no difference; the same hideous "practical jokes," as Walter Pater notes, being impartially meted out to both. Centuries after Athens met to applaud the periods of Pericles, the Roman ladies were turning down their thumbs that they might be sated with the spectacle of the last agony of the vanquished in the arena. The refined symposia of Greece became in Rome barbaric banquetings where the guests prolonged the pleasures of the table by vomiting what they had already eaten. The stern self-repression, the admirable power of devotion in a public cause, the contempt of pleasure and of life, the animus lucis contemptor of the early Republic, were qualities which did not descend to the Romans of the Empire.

The Roman Type

Not only Roman characteristics but the Roman type also have descended. The large round massive Roman head still contrasts with the narrow pointed head of the Tuscan. The type still admired in women is the tipo giunonico, the type of Juno and of the Roman matron—large massive and imposing. The Roman has a ruddy fresh complexion, the swarthy southern skin being comparatively[Pg 130] rare; he has black hair, is burly and tends to obesity. His expression is tranquil and contented, and Signor Aristide Gabelli in his essay on Rome and the Romans bids us observe that the type has improved, that we no longer see the hard, bitter, threatening expression of the busts in the Capitol and Vatican, the prominent jaw and cheek bones have been softened; and the Roman of the city, at any rate, wears a more genial and humane expression than his classic ancestor. At a church function, among the Roman peasants—though I fear the type was more frequent in the "eighties"—one may see a face which might serve as the model for Jove, for a Roman poet or philosopher. It is such a face as could never be met with even among the best specimens of our peasantry. Muffled in his great fur-collared cloak, dirty and ragged, with eyes which seem to look from a soul that harbours every noble aspiration, our old peasant who can certainly neither read nor write, is probably cogitating why Checco refused to give him the wine at three sous the measure, or whether he would have done better to put the franc the forastiero gave him into shoes, instead of following Peppe's suggestion as to lottery numbers. So much for the wonders which an old civilisation can confer without any effort or any preparation.



Many assert that the Trasteverini are the only lineal descendants of the Romans. The legend is that Trastevere was colonised by the Greeks brought by Aeneas, and the Greco-Roman type may frequently be seen there in absolute perfection—women of the[Pg 131] people having the classic features and the noble bearing of empresses. They are a more robust race than the Romans on the other side of the Tiber, the black hair of the women is still more luxuriant, the character more passionate and vindictive, the language coarser, the reputation of the women not so fair.

In common with all Italians the Romans are more graceful than English men and women. The simple dignity and grace of the pose and carriage, with no stiffness or awkwardness, makes it easy to distinguish an Italian among Englishmen Germans or Americans whether he is sitting or standing. They have the small Latin bones and small hands and feet; the foot, however, is flatter than ours, and every one from the children to the soldiers drags his feet along the ground. But the walk is so unstilted that Italians form a natural procession, whereas a procession in England is achieved with much difficulty and is not really pleasing to the eye when it is achieved. Have you ever noticed the mesquin gesture—the fear to let himself go which is so closely allied to the knowledge that he cannot do it gracefully—with which one commonplace Englishman bids good-bye to another? You will see nothing like this in Italy. The ample Roman gesture—that Italian gesture of reassurance which seems to the Englishman quite sacerdotal—is the property of every one; and a woman of the people will hail an omnibus with the classic gesture that her ancestor might have used when bidding Olympian Jove stay his thunderbolt.

The Italians have the Latin eye and eyebrow; one[Pg 132] never sees the unmodelled elementary eye, with its gaze bon enfant, of our younger civilisation. Naturally resonant, the voices of Italians are in all classes harsh and unmodulated; and there is no better evidence of the general ignorance in Rome than the uneducated speaking voices which make it impossible to distinguish a princess from a peasant at her prayers. The possession of a strong natural organ, quite untutored, is here joined to the Roman love of noise and racket; and the result is that the people scream at each other as if they were deaf, and you can only be sorry they are not also mute. It is an odd thing to hear the deep bass voice of some of the women alternating with the high thin tenor of many of the men; one may often mistake in this way the sex of unseen speakers. The deep voices of the women remind one that the contralto, and even the contro tenore, have been cultivated con amore in Italy: on the other hand a labourer in the fields or your servant-man in the kitchen region can be heard singing in high falsetto like a girl. What one will never hear in Italy are the affected speaking voices cultivated by Englishmen: the Italian does not "put on side" either in his voice or his manners, and nothing is more noticeable perhaps on one's return to England than the absurdly affected voice of the men.

There is no Roman dialect in the sense in which there is a Venetian a Piedmontese and a Neapolitan dialect—habitually spoken by all classes among themselves. The Romanesco spoken in Rome by the people is a debased Italian, not a real dialect. The purest[Pg 133] Italian is, as we all know, spoken in Tuscany, where there is no dialect, and the best pronunciation is the Roman. Hence the proverb: "The Tuscan language in the Roman mouth," Lingua toscana in bocca romana.

The Roman's Character

The pride of the Roman is his chief characteristic; it keeps him from some of the pettinesses of his neighbours and is occasionally the idol to which self-interest is sacrificed. But the same people who are too proud to work are not too proud to beg. This kind of pride, indeed, is to be found a little everywhere in Italy, and I have known a distinguished Italian with a starving family who would consent to give lessons in "Italian literature" but not in "Italian grammar." In France where there is the maximum of self-respect this kind of pride is unknown. The Roman pride, however, is consistent with hearty ways and with great frankness and sincerity of nature. The Roman, indeed, is not only famous for his bad language, but for his out-spokenness in all directions: he tells you just what he thinks of you, and will by no means conceal his own humble origin when he becomes a great man; he will not insist that his ancestor was a count or at least a baron as an Italian from another province might do. But the Roman pride is a disease; it clamours for its own license and respects no one else's liberty; it plays into the hands of the Latin lawlessness, and the Roman spirit of revolt has tormented the popes ever since Constantine[Pg 134] deserted the capital of the West. The Roman resents what he calls prepotenza, but a self-disciplined law-abiding people can hardly understand the stupid prepotenza say of the cabmen in Rome—a majority of whom are Romans. The Roman lad or the Roman man takes it into his head to make a bee-line in your direction, to walk over that particular piece of road or pavement, and the feeble sense of righteous indignation he possesses is only kindled if you attempt to thwart him. The satyr-like—half-childish, half-malignant—cult of the dispetto, the miserable pleasure taken in deliberately inconveniencing you, are so many proofs of an undisciplined nature—and where shall we see so many undisciplined faces as in Rome?—albeit that here it masquerades as the just orgoglio of a people descended from gods and heroes. "Non me lo dica, perchè io sono romano" (Do not say it to me, for I am a Roman), is a warning phrase repeated in perfect good faith, as who should say: "Do not provoke this son of a god."

Girl With Birds

The Forum in the background. The road marks the old Clivus Capitolinus. See page 30.

The Roman's most pleasing characteristic is his genuineness; that, and a certain magnanimity, a certain nobleness of mind. The Roman has no "jesuitry," and he will not say behind your back what he dare not say to your face. In contrast to other Italians is his roughness—a legacy of old Rome—a rudeness of spirit which is a curious compound of pride in the past, of age-long absence of mental cultivation—of a moral quality, brutal sincerity, and of a mental quality, a terrific realism. They are also, perhaps, the best hearted[Pg 135] people in Italy; and a dear old Roman friend used to declare that the Romans and the English were the kindest hearted people in the world.

Intellectually, no people in Italy have more talent: it is a key which opens many doors to say that the Roman is talented but not cultured. There is no real culture in any class, but there is a facility unmatched even in this land of natural gifts. The one exception to the general ignorance which exists by the side of an extraordinary quickness is an interesting one: every Roman is an archaeologist; to be unable to take your part in an archaeological discussion would be to write yourself down as an impossible ignoramus. On this subject every Roman is alert, and I was present when the foundations for the first houses which now lead to Porta Salara were being dug, and a marble relief was found which the workmen at once told me was "the rape of Lucretia." Imagine a bricklayer in London proffering a similar observation! With the general ignorance there is also in the upper class a widespread intellectual apathy; many of the Roman aristocracy have never visited the Palatine, and when it was suggested to a young Roman that she had never seen the Capitol, she answered: "Oh yes, I saw it the day I was married." Part of the Capitol buildings are the registry offices of Rome where the obligatory civil marriage takes place. The drive on the Pincio, which is not larger than the tract of the park from Hyde Park corner to the Marble Arch, satisfies the most exacting ambition; and the fussy foreigner who spends his time[Pg 136] in museums and galleries is regarded as a harmless and well-meaning lunatic.

Every human being is the product of contrasts; but the Roman is more so than other men: to explain, not what he is, but what he is not we have, I think, only to look at the contradictions, the inconsequence of a character which in the expressive Italian phrase is sconclusionato, it comes to no conclusion. For the Roman though he is turbulent is easily led; he is at once obstinate and teachable; he is not fin but he throws a terrible light on all things; without being "finto" (feigned) he puts self-interest first. He is both ingenuous and suspicious; to his overweening pride he joins considerable diffidence; and the tongue which babbles of his personal affairs is the tongue of a man who has a profound distrust of his neighbour.

A fine critic with a child's simplicity, he is sceptical and superstitious, credulous and incredulous, seeing the works of the oracle but allowing it to deceive him. Joined to his indifference is a faculty for staking his all on some absurd punctilio: his interest in ideas is greater than in many parts of Italy, his ambitions and pleasures more materialist. The changes which the Roman has witnessed in unchanging Rome are met in himself by changeableness and fickleness of purpose, though the conception of the majestic, the grandiose, the eternal is always there. What are we to say of a people who can unite the pettiest spite with a magnanimous tolerance?

The denizen of the eternal city is proverbially campanilista,[Pg 137] which may be translated "attached to the village pump"; and while on the other hand he has a sense of public decorum unequalled in Europe, the blasé Roman fritters time and talents in petty preoccupations, in distractions which are neither dignified nor stately, and eats and gambles to show his distrust of human effort in general, of all human achievement since the incomparable days when his heroes walked the earth.

The Roman does not merge in you, and he no longer imposes himself on you. He is not free of obsequiousness; and such customs as the baciamano (hand-kissing) are said to derive from the fact that the Romans have been "the hosts of Europe" and have learnt to depend on its bounty. A readier explanation is certainly afforded in that aspect of Catholic Christianity which has always encouraged personal humiliations and servilism in the inferior clergy and the laity: but perhaps the real explanation is to be found in the fact that the present day Roman is the descendant of the Empire, not of the Republic, and Christianity, as we know, easily adopted as its own the servilisms of the later Empire, with those Byzantine proclivities for despotism and adulation which at last led the independent Roman to burn his incense before the "genius" of the most infamous of the Caesars.

The Romans and the "Italians"

It is said that the Roman belittles things, that he is an easy despiser. Perhaps the gift of criterion nourished among the grandeurs of classical and Christian[Pg 138] Rome is a sorry preparation for enthusiasm over the sights to be seen in other men's cities. The fact too that his pride sometimes forbids his stooping to means which ensure the success of his "Italian" brother who comes fortune-seeking to Rome, joined to his sincerity and hatred of humbug are, he thinks, the reasons why as a rule he is cordially detested by other Italians. The "clericals" have another explanation; the Romans are hated, according to them, because they would take no part in the doings which led to the union of Italy and the invasion of Rome. We may give a little weight to all these reasons and yet understand that the Roman is disliked on other counts. His pride, so think other Italians, is altogether too immoderate for his achievements; and when they entered Rome they found a people devoid of the mental and moral qualities which make fine manners—a certain amount of self-forgetting and graciousness of mind.

Ara Coeli

The ever-open door of the popular Franciscan Church on the Capitol hill, which became in the middle ages the centre of the civic life of the Roman people. See pages 6, 57.

After "the Italians" entered the city, these provincial animosities waxed fast and furious. Men from the north were dubbed buzzuri, Neapolitans got nicknamed cafoni, and to this day a residence of twenty or thirty years does not preserve the hapless "forestiere" and his family from such epithets as buzzuri and villani if they presume to come to words with "a Roman of Rome." On the other hand "the Italians" returned these compliments with interest: the Romans were unlicked cubs, maleaucati, lazy, ignorant—the proud tetragram S.P.Q.R. was rendered by the Neapolitans Sono Porci Questi Romani "these Romans are pigs";[Pg 139] while the Roman, finding in the Neapolitan a man still dirtier than himself, retorted that the "Neapolitans' sky is beautiful, and it is clean, because they can't reach it" ("Il cielo di Napoli è bello, ed è pulito, perchè non arrivano a sporcarlo").

At the same time it is an indubitable fact that Italians who live among the Romans come to prefer them to their other compatriots; and I have heard this preference expressed by people so far apart as an educated Piedmontese and an uneducated Calabrese. Perhaps they learn from the Romans tolerance, the smallness of small things, and the greatness of great ones. Perhaps they realise that the Roman has learnt with an admirable patience and teachableness the new lessons that have been put before him. Thrown from easy circumstances into the vortex of the struggling life of the new capital—overtaxed and underfed—he has suffered as much as the newcomers for a political change which he demanded less loudly than they; and it is to his fair credit that a revolution has taken place in Rome without bloodshed, without violence, without undue bitterness, and that the element of crime and lawlessness has not been supplied by him. The Roman is not a hero, and not a saint, but neither is he a Camorrista and mafioso like the men of the South, nor a teppista[5] like the men of the North.[Pg 140]

Roman Customs and Roman Satire

The customs of the Romans have been depicted by the inimitable art of Pinelli, their ways of thinking and feeling by Belli in his sonnets and in the modern sonnets of Pascarella. Here the satire, the cynicism, the rude intellect, the ignorance, the self-interest, meet us in every picture.

Nothing and nobody have ever escaped the Roman satire, which turns everything into ridicule and burlesque. From the end of the fifteenth century the torso called after the tailor Pasquino, and the statue of Marforio kept up a running fire of wit and mockery. When Pope Sixtus V. who was of the humblest origin made his sisters countesses, Pasquin appeared in a dirty shirt. Asked by Marforio the reason, he replied the next day, "Perchè la mia lavandaia è diventata contessa," "because my washerwoman has become a countess." Pius VI. encumbered Rome with inscriptions recording his "munificence"; when bread became dear Pasquin seized the occasion to exhibit a tiny loaf with the legend munificentia Pii Sexti; and when Urban VIII. died the following epitaph alluding to the bees in his coat of arms, recorded his nepotism:

[Pg 141] How well he fed his bees
How ill he fed his sheep.

All this is very unlike the ideas held by some Catholics who cry "outrage" at the least criticism, and would consider the jests of Pasquin and Marforio sufficient to keep the Pope a prisoner in the Vatican. The popes thought differently; and preserved what face they could under the stinging satire of the Romans.

Pasquin gave place to the capo-comico Cassandrino, who was delighting every class in Rome at Palazzo Fiano in the Corso when the Italians broke upon the scene.

It must be remembered that the Roman would never accept servile occupations; the industries he chose were perforce those which required no plant and no capital, but also those which left him independent—such were the making of Roman pearls and mosaics, watchmaking, the favourite crafts of butcher, tanner, and carter, or the river industries of fisherman, boatman, and wharf porter. The most picturesque of his amusements were the dance, the mandoline, the lute, the song and serenade, and that improvisation for which he was always famous. One may still see the tarantella danced on the "Spanish steps" in May by the artists' models, dressed in the old Roman costume which persisted till Napoleonic times—the half Spanish dress of the girls and the short velvet jacket, feathered hat, and knee-breeches of the youths.

When the Roman railway was built, things were conducted in truly homely fashion; the train which was timed to leave at 10.30 was still in the station at 11. When at length it got under way, it might be[Pg 142] put back again to land two peasants who had got into the wrong train. If you fumed and fretted, you were told to remember how long the journey would have taken before the day of railways. The Roman indeed had then and has now no sense of time—least of all has he learnt the proverb which he supposes is ever on the lips of our countrymen "times is money." If you enquire of a Roman the hour of mass he replies "About ten, or half-past, or eleven—thereabouts." The shopkeeper, the waiter in a café, used to take no notice whatever of you when you entered his premises; he continued tranquilly to read his paper or finish his cigar, and only marvelled that there could in your opinion be any reason sufficiently urgent to warrant your disturbing these occupations. The Roman's time is as eternal as his city, and one of the lessons he has yet to learn is its value for other things than money-making. No one answers a letter; your lawyer or your banker think themselves as unobliged to satisfy your curiosity as to the fate of your cheque or your business as the butcher and the baker. The Roman learns on his moral side, but remains so obtuse on the material side as to be a perpetual illustration of the reputation he has for strong-headedness, for "putting Trajan's column in his head," and refusing to budge like a mule. The Romans indeed are haunted by the past, and they are perhaps the people of Europe who have least grip on the present.

Ara Coeli

See pages 57, 230-31, and interleaf, page 138.

It is in their folklore, the popular rhymes and tales, the customs and amusements of the people, that we[Pg 143] realise that no loyalty or reverence can exist by the side of that passion for laying bare; and understand the coarseness which waits on the wide-eyed gaze of the Roman, unsparing and gross, because it is the result of what Ricasoli has called "the real poverty of the poor"—a moral poverty. The Roman goes to see some tight-rope dancers and describes the treat it was for him:

Above all there's the great pleasure of the height,
For if any one of them were to fall,
Nothing in the world could save him.

He goes to the play. This is his impression of the tragedy:

The last act when he kills himself and her
I can tell you was just satisfying
(M' ha proprio soddisfatto).

Or take his summary of the problems life presents:

... a sto paese tutto er busilli
Sta ner magnà allo scrocco e ddì orazione.

"The whole difficulty in this life is how to eat without paying for it, and to get your prayers said."

But the scene may change, and the same Roman is called upon to go forth into the campagna with the beneficent confraternità dell' Orazione e Morte in search of the body of some victim of violence. He is found pancia all' aria and brought back to his family; but amidst the keen observation of all that happens, of the situation, there is not a pitiful or generous sentiment; the scenes suggest nothing of interest but the faithful[Pg 144] gross record of purely external impressions. Yet these men have trudged along the heavy roads, up and down, stumbling and struggling through the dark night to perform the act of pity which teaches them, apparently, so little.

Tragedy, comedy, a funeral, a marriage, the visit to your dead, the game of hazard, the incidents of an assassination, all these things come under the same clear, coarse, unintimate, unloving observation of a people who hold, wisely enough, that "L'occhi so' fatti pe' guardà"—the eyes are made for looking—but who care as little how they look as they trouble to select what shall be looked upon.

"Che bella giornata; che peccato che non s' impicchi nessuno" is the traditional greeting to a fine day, repeated even now with a modern humorous sense of its ghastliness. "What a fine day! what a pity no one is going to be hanged!" And the Roman's liking for distraction and noise is not sated even when he goes to bed. Before 1870 serenaders waked, and charmed, the sleeping city; but the Roman who is supposed to have been "killed between a policeman and official red tape," still reminds us that he is not so very dead after all, or that the guardia "non s' è fatto viva," for he now roars down the thoroughfares in the small hours of the night, thus procuring for himself the pleasure of disturbing you—a form of recreation with which even the police have too much sympathy to interfere. For the Roman tolerates other men's lawlessness but has no respect for their liberty.[Pg 145]

The "Coltello" and Crime

As with children who cannot "play the game," his games of chance degenerate into quarrelling and killing. The terrible habit of carrying, stowed away in a pocket at the back of the trousers, or up the sleeve, what the Romans call "the instrument" gives them a ready means of converting hot blood into hot deed. The coltello used to be, and still is at times, the favourite gift of a girl to her lover—to have used it with deadly effect is in her eyes a necessary sign of prowess, and to feel it always ready is in his sight the welcome earnest of power to assert his virility. Italian crime is committed in hot blood; sudden rage or "love" supply the motive, and there is very little of the premeditated cold-blooded crime of which Dickens gives us an example in the details of Nancy's murder in Oliver Twist. The worst crimes of violence, however, are brought about from motives so futile as to seem incredible when they are mirrored in some ghastly assassination. It is enough to disagree with your comrade, to win a litre of wine from him, to refuse to withstand the police—to find yourself on the way to Sant' Antonio or the Consolazione with three inches of steel in your stomach, nay not unfrequently in your back. Primitive, terrible, childish, barbaric, this love of blood, this power of "seeing red" in a quarrel, has made the Italian the bravo of Europe, and makes the total of Italian homicides at the present day exceed those in England, Germany, Belgium, France, and Austria put together.[Pg 146] Ninety-five homicides for every million of the population contrast in Italy with six for every million in England. In the time of the Venetian pope Clement XIII., in the middle of the eighteenth century, the proportion of homicides in Rome was twenty-five times higher than this.

Is the Italian more cruel, more brutal, more wanton than his fellows? To the first two questions I should answer No, to the last, Yes. The cruelties of the French Revolution, the coarse brutalities of England even down to the century just passed, the horrors recently revealed in the German army, would at no time have found their counterpart in Italy. But the Italian—the Roman—is wanton, he is an egoist who sates his impulses without any reference at all to the other people and the other interests involved. He is wanton, for he lacks the sense of personal responsibility; wanton, for he carries on life and government with no regard to justice. The Italian is a child of nature, a combination of his own two conceptions of "faun"-like irresponsible grace and "satyr"-like animality; an undisciplined creature living in the conditions of modern civilisation. But although the Italians are a vital people, a people alert on the side of the self-protecting instincts, and with the egoism of the vital temperament, they are not an inhumane people: they have in abundance the imaginative sympathy which instructs and softens, and if they lack the sense of justice they are in some ways more merciful than we.

Sagro Speco

See interleaf, pages 82 and 86.

No one can understand the disposition of the Italian in any part of the peninsula who does not appreciate in it a certain mildness—something expressed by the[Pg 147] Italian mitezza but not by our English meekness—which preserves him from excesses from which other peoples are not free. The Romans of antiquity boasted no such sentiments; from that cruel period there has come down to us one story of humanity—the humanity of a dog; the compassion shown by a dog for one of a group of victims executed in the neighbouring Mamertine prison, and callously thrown out upon the steps of the highway of civilisation—the Roman Forum. But as a population the Romans of the modern city are not cruel.

If you look in upon the Roman as he watches the public torture of prisoners in the first part of last century you will have the story in brief of his irresponsibility, his unstrenuous attitude towards all such matters. He shrieks with delight at the writhings of the victims, but will shout with pleasure if one of them succeeds in making good his escape. Little has been done to instruct the spirit of the ignorant Roman, yet few such scenes of repulsive cruelty to animals as Naples and Florence present are to be laid at his door; and the best of the population need fear no competitors in human and merciful sentiment. What the country cries out for is for these better sentiments to have the force of a public opinion—a civilising agent as yet completely absent in Italy. No force in the country helps the Italian to that "self-reverence" the lack of which Mrs. Barrett Browning discerned in him. Nowhere in Europe is callousness to human life so great;[6] nowhere[Pg 148] in Europe, writes an enlightened Italian priest, is there so much cruelty to animals as here; yet so unaccustomed are the people to that best form of moral education—moral suasion—a gradual civilising of spirit, that they are incapable of putting two and two together, and still urge the ignorant argument that if you inculcate humanity to animals while there is so much to be done for men, you are somehow wronging the latter; they suggest, apparently, that by kicking a dog you are somehow helping a baby. It is to be hoped that the thesis of the priest above quoted, that the protection of animals is a real means of education, may be accepted boldly by the better clergy now that Leo. XIII. has called such protection altamente umano e cristiano. Visitors are outraged by the disgusting cruelties which even the children in Italy are the first to practise, and no amount of sophistry will make them believe that such conduct is decent in the superior animal. That secular Italy will be obliged to take up the subject is certain, and one hopes that then the clergy will return to the simpler spontaneous religious feeling of the country—marred by scholastic dogmas—which gave a patron saint to the lesser creation, and which still places in every stable and cattle-shed of Umbria the image of "S. Antony, protector of animals."

Law and Justice

Those who know what it is to feel "righteous indignation" must suffer in a country where justice is not understood and not appreciated by any one. The[Pg 149] Italians still know how to make laws, and legislation here is ahead not only of the sentiment of the country but of the laws of most European peoples—what they have forgotten is how to administer them. It is no exaggeration to say that at present Italian tribunals exist for the sake of the criminal; absurd "extenuating circumstances," which can hardly be taken seriously, are always forthcoming, and as a distinguished Italian declared in the Senate the guilty man here must indeed be an unfortunate wretch (un povero disgraziato) if he cannot manage to escape a condemnation. In place of the inexorable penalty which would alone meet the case in a land where lawlessness has prescriptive rights and where capital punishment does not exist, there is a pleasing uncertainty about all penalties. With a poor sense of humour as conspicuous as the poor sense of justice, a bench of judges will gravely listen to a succession of false witnesses, vulgar perjurers, mere play-actors, who spring up hydra-headed in support of every villain or rascal, be the matter a murder or an affair of two francs.

The terrorisation exercised by the knife and the vendetta has caused the Roman for centuries to enter into a shell of reserve; if an assassination takes place—in broad daylight or in the dark, it does not matter—no one sees it; the guardia arrives round the corner in time to make the "legal verifications" as soon as the misdeed is safely accomplished, and if the victim shrieked first neither he nor any one else happened to hear it. The desire to live in peace, seeing nothing,[Pg 150] hearing nothing, making no enemies, has affected a whole people—with the result that the protected person is the malefactor. The more audacious he is, the more he affects in the city the allures of the brigand, the more successful he will be in evading the law, in gaining the support rendered by the silence or the false witness of all who encounter him. The people, writes Aristide Gabelli, "seek by silence and dissimulation their own safety rather than the public safety at their own proper peril." The consequence is, of course, that there is not the least co-operation with the law. The Roman, indeed, feels humiliated by the necessity for seeking its aid; government and law are abhorrent to him, and he alludes to the former as "questo porco di governo"—if you are unable to defend yourself the alternative is not the arm of the law but to stop at home.

The police service of Rome includes three corps—the carabineers, who hunt in couples, in three-cornered hat and cloak and sword; the municipal guard who wear a cocked hat, with cocks' feathers on feast days, and a black uniform turned up with orange; the Guardie di Pubblica Sicurezza, in black piped with blue, and a capote. These last, called questurini because they depend from the Questura, are disliked by all Romans who call them "avanzi di galera," gaolbirds and assassins. As a matter of fact it is difficult to find men of civil condition to enter the corps; such work is eminently distasteful to a Roman, and "set a thief to catch a thief" is the principle on which he supposes the governo acts.

S. Benedict

See interleaf, page 86.

Crispi tried to form one police force for the city; at present if [Pg 151]you apply to a guardia di P.S. your business is sure to concern the absent municipal guard, while the carabineers do nothing but support each other in the arduous task of standing at street corners watching the follies of men, criminals and victims.[7] To the municipal guard—the popular force, called pizzardoni—is entrusted the maintenance of decency and order in the city, and they often brave the wrath of their fellow citizens in its accomplishment. All matters not connected with municipal legislation pertain to the State police, who arrest thieves and act in criminal affairs. Soldiers, too, have certain civil duties; they are frequently called upon to act as police, they are called out to help if a house falls down, to form the cordon in case of a fire, and may in certain circumstances arrest a malefactor.

The soldiers form the most respectable and the only disciplined part of the male population in a city like Rome. One often sees, of course, battalions of men from all the Italian provinces, youths of twenty just enrolled, and among them there is seldom a vicious face. For these are the mothers' sons, and they compare very favourably with our "Tommies." The same cannot be said of the other youths who throng the city. Perhaps seven-tenths of the crime is committed by lads in their teens and early twenties; I have heard a Senator declare that there are boys of twelve in[Pg 152] the prisons who are already perfetti criminali; and surely nowhere in Europe are boys and youths worse trained. The most appalling phenomenon, however, is the existence of a degraded type, of all and every age, usually belonging to the decently-clothed classes, whose outrages on decency were described by an Italian in a Roman newspaper as "enough to sicken the coarsest navvy." These practices, according to some old Romans, are one of the results of the French occupation, but such an explanation of occurrences which are to be met with nowhere else in Europe or out of it, must be taken with all reserve. Gaolbirds like these molest women with impunity; and the amor proprio of the vile nature awakes just in time to heap further outrage when this molestation is resented. Women have always been hustled in the Roman streets, and as Italian ladies are only now beginning to walk unaccompanied, the foreign visitors bear the brunt of the amiable practice still in vogue of not moving on the narrow pavements, but leaving the lady to take the gutter. Such conduct from men to women contrasts strangely with the courtesy so often extended even to beggars; and a woman of the people, a servant or a porteress, will invite the beggar who is interrupting your conversation to desist, with such phrases as: "Move aside a little; Do me this pleasure."

Courtship and Marriage

It will be astonishing to many, no doubt, to hear that courtship in Italy is a prosaic affair. Of passion[Pg 153] there is plenty and to spare, but the tragic element does not enter every day, and then no sentiment comes in to disturb matters. After the first etiquette of the situation is over, and the letters vowing that you have il paradiso nel cuor—which are duly discounted by the peasant fiancée—have been written, things run uneventfully enough. A young Abruzzese servant—from the most saving population of Italy—became enthusiastic when recounting the virtues of his proposed bride to his mistress, which culminated with: "Signorina mia, è piena di biancheria"—"she is full of house linen."

There is among all Italian women more dignity in their relations with men than there is among English women. The Italian woman has a noble reticence, a power of self-protection, which imposes itself on lover and husband. She is not accustomed, as we are in modern times, to walking abroad unaccompanied, and there is no doubt that here the Englishwoman shows a self-respecting demeanour which is everywhere recognised as entitling her to all the respect she feels for herself. What I speak of is the Italian woman's attitude towards the man to whom she is engaged or married, in comparison with the Englishwoman's. The former will not serve her husband as an English or German frau will; nor, before marriage, will she lay herself out to keep the man at any cost as the English girl of the servant class will do. Here Italian self-respect is greater than English. The Roman woman of the lowest class habitually displays this personal dignity and reticence in the streets; and nowhere in Rome will you[Pg 154] see such scenes as are to be witnessed on any bank holiday at a seaside place in England, on Saturday evenings in London, or in country towns after dark, among men and women of the lower middle class.

The Italian woman will avoid scandal to herself and hers at whatever cost; she will suffer any deprivation or loss to compass this, to keep her trouble from the eyes of the curious world. There is none of that vulgarity of soul—consummated in modern times among Anglo-Saxon peoples—which hastens to wash dirty linen in public. This is one reason why divorce is so distasteful in Italy, and especially to the women, who would one and all suffer individually in order to bind the man, to preserve the family and its honour, in preference to the enjoyment of the personal freedom which the looser bond implies.

Church of SS. Domenico and Sisto

This and the church of Santa Caterina da Siena form a Dominican corner of Rome on a spur of the Quirinal. The garden of Palazzo Aldobrandini is seen in the background. See pages 6, 171.

A traditional characteristic of the Roman is that he has always given a fairer share of life to women than other Italians. Since the day when Romulus called the Roman curiae after the thirty Sabine women who had thrown themselves into the breach for the Romans, and conferred on them special privileges, the Roman woman has played a dignified part in the life of the city. As priestesses the vestals possessed privileges shared by none but the emperor; and the idea of the Roman matron, the wife not "in the hand" of her husband, was a Roman contribution to social ethics two thousand years before the idea occurred to Englishmen. There is nothing that antiquity has handed down to us more dignified than the seated female figures in Roman[Pg 155] museums. These views of women ceased, naturally enough, when Rome which had been the greatest political became the greatest clerical city in the world; but the Roman tradition was handed on in the Italian universities outside Rome, which admitted women five hundred years before they were allowed to share in the benefits of those colleges of Cambridge and Oxford which their money and influence had done so much to endow.

The women of the people still, however, enjoy in Rome "an almost unlimited liberty." The Roman man shares his recreations with his wife, and the wife-kicking which is such a plague spot in the life of the common people in England, is not one of them. English fair-play to women is indeed merely a matter of class; it has never penetrated to the lower strata, and in the English middle as in the English lower class the men are still "the lords of creation." This conjugal relation in fact remains a bulwark of a certain coarseness which no one can deny to the Englishman, and which is registered in the Italian's firm opinion that English wives are bought and sold in open market. In other parts of Italy, however, in Calabria and the Abruzzi (even Piedmont is conspicuous for want of gallantry), the wife is regarded simply as a chattel, and the brutal husband aims his blow at his wife's face in order that the neighbours may recognise il segno del marito. The sufficient explanation è suo (it is his own) is the same which will be given you if a youth maltreats a dog; and in both cases the moral quality of the argument is as ignoble as it can be.[Pg 156]

Socially, the talents of the Romans are not higher than our own. The Italian people have not the social gifts which are the privilegium of their Latin neighbour. On the society of ancient Rome was superimposed clerical Rome—a city where the sex which makes society was nowhere, where the pezzo grosso in every drawing-room was a Roman cardinal, not a great lady; and there can be little doubt that this has not proved a civilising influence on the Roman. But in natural gifts of disposition the Italian greatly excels us; and in no English gathering can the charm be approached which Italians will impart to an alfresco party, an impromptu festa—often including a great mixture of classes—when the simplicity, the unfailing good humour, and the successful efforts to please are a lesson to the Englishman. The Italians by gathering together make a natural festa, as by walking they make a natural procession—something that is graceful and unselfconscious, absolutely simple without missing stateliness.

The Romans and Art

The art history of Rome is as distinct from that of the rest of Italy as is its social, its religious, or its political history. We look in vain to Rome for a first-rate picture, a first-rate poem, even—with the exception of Palestrina—for a first-rate composer.[8] The fatal facility which hampers all Italians, who can achieve with little labour what less gifted peoples travail to attain,[Pg 157] meets in the Roman that curious inconclusiveness, that strange universal sterility, which begins with the character itself. Nevertheless the Roman has not failed to give us what it is his function to give—he has always been a fine-art critic; every great thing has come before him, and of all he has been an incorruptible judge, seldom deceived, using all the powers of finezza, of ridicule, of satire, and of fine judgment at his command, to raise or to create a standard of fine work. If there is one art which may be said to be not only the gift of Italy but to have remained Italian, it is singing; and here the Roman has kept in the forefront both as critic and executant. The Italian really loves a voice—the Englishman loves the sentimental rendering of a theme; and the criterion of vocal sound which the Italian possesses, he finds, perhaps, in his own throat. "Roman throats and chests must, in some particular way, be differently constructed from those of other people" wrote Walter Pater; and the resonant voices of Italians may be due to the absence of the protruding German and English chin which captures and muffles so many of our vocal tones.

The classical Roman had no taste: we wonder to-day that the Roman, dazzled with rich marbles, should adopt the expedient of painted columns in a scheme of decoration; but he did the same in the house of Germanicus on the Palatine. That there is a distinction between taste and artistic sensibility there can be no doubt whatever, and it is equally true that the former is often mistaken for the latter. The subject is an interesting[Pg 158] one; but here we can only record the two facts—that the Roman all through the centuries has been a sensitive to artistic impressions, and a fine judge of the arts, and that he has never possessed that gift of a certain refinement of sentiment—taste.

After all that has been said of the Romans, it is sad to have to record that it will soon be difficult to find genuine Roman families. The old "Romano de Roma"—the man whose ancestors, like himself, were born all' ombra del Cupolone, under the shadow of the great cupola—is disappearing, giving place to more successful, more industrious, and 'cuter men—preserving up to the last moment of his life those habits and customs which cause him and his house to suggest Noah and his ark to the more modern Italian; but also learning up to the last hour of his life new ideas, such as must also have importuned the patriarch and his family when the waters receded leaving him and the ark high and dry on Ararat, and the daughters of men began to weave their toils round the sons of God.

Porta San Paolo

Gate in the Aurelian wall rebuilt by Belisarius. This is the gate of the Ostian Way leading to the basilica of S. Paul's—one of the seven great pilgrimage churches—of which the Kings of England were Protectors.

[Pg 159]



To be a patrician of Rome is to possess one of the proudest of titles, and from the senator of the ancient city to the prince of to-day the aristocracy of Rome has been one of its most vital and characteristic institutions.

Though the Roman cardinal as a prince of the Church has always been admitted, whatever his origin, within the pale, the Roman nobility with the rarest exceptions has never swelled its ranks with newcomers owing their tides to acquired wealth or successful public life, but, conservative and exclusive, preserves the traditions of the past and forms a society unlike any other in Europe.

The greater number of the princely families whose names are familiar to every sojourner in Rome date their connection with the city from the fifteenth century and onwards, when the popes ceased to be chosen from among the Romans, and a new aristocracy grew up, the creation of successive pontiffs, who, themselves reigning but not hereditary sovereigns, wished to raise their relatives to a rank second only to their own.[Pg 160]

Others trace their descent from some mediæval chieftain, or are feudal in origin, and these alone are indigenous to the city and its surroundings, and their history is indissolubly woven into the records of Rome's past. For many dark centuries, during a barbarous period of bloodshed crime and cruelty, the history of Rome was what her great nobles made it; and they in their turn rose to fame and power or sank into oblivion, leaving no traces or but the scantiest records of their fate. The great mediæval family of Conti, Counts of Segni, whose race gave four popes to Rome, among them the great Innocent III., have disappeared from history, leaving as a magnificent monument to their greatness the huge tower which bears their name.

In the twelfth century, the Sabine Savelli and the Jewish Pierleoni were great and prominent. Streets and piazzas called after them in the region near the crowded little Piazza Montanara testify to their importance. The Savelli dwelt in a castle in the Via di Monserrato. It was afterwards turned into a prison, the Corte Savella, and here for a time the unhappy Beatrice Cenci and her accomplices were confined. Both Savelli and Pierleoni successively occupied a stronghold erected within the ancient walls of the theatre of Marcellus, and a fortified palace which stood against it, now Orsini property. One of the Savelli popes, Honorius IV., built himself a castle on the Aventine, and at one period the whole of the hill was entrenched and fortified, the ancient temple of Libertas on its summit being transformed into a citadel. These immense buildings have crumbled away,[Pg 161] and the sole monuments that remain to record the past greatness of this family are the tombs of Pope Honorius, of his father and mother, and of other Savellis in their chapel in the church of Ara Coeli on the Capitol.

The Pierleoni, a rich and prolific race, descendants of a learned Jew convert of the time of Pope Leo IX., filled important posts and made alliances with the great houses of Rome, and in 1130 a member of this Jewish family was elected and reigned several years in the Vatican as the antipope Anacletus—an event unparalleled in history. After the thirteenth century this name also slips out of historical records and is heard of no more.

The ancient consular race of the Frangipani have left to Rome some fine monuments in the church of San Marcello in the Corso, and the name is still borne by a Marquess in Udine, but they are no longer numbered amongst the princely houses. They earned their appellation of bread-breakers from having distributed bread in a great famine, but in the middle ages their name spelt terror rather than benevolence. They were a power not lightly to be reckoned with. Great allies of the papal party, they more than once gave sanctuary to fugitive popes in their strong Turris Cartularia, the ruins of which can still be seen near the church of S. Gregory. In the thirteenth century this tower fell into the hands of the Imperialists, and was utterly destroyed with all the archives which had been stored there for safety. It formed an outpost in a chain of fortifications with which the Frangipani and their allies the Corsi enclosed a large portion of the city. Their main[Pg 162] stronghold was built amongst the ruins of the Palatine, with flanking towers on the Colosseum and on the triumphal arches of Constantine, Titus, and Janus. From this dominating position they could take the field or rush upon their foes in the city at the head of hundreds of armed retainers. Another mediæval family, the Anguillara, has been merged in the Orsini, leaving a solitary tower in Trastevere to commemorate a once great and powerful race.

The Colosseum


But of all the feudal princes of Rome none played so conspicuous a part as the Orsini and Colonna, and this not alone in the history of their own city, for their names were famous throughout Europe for many centuries. These two great families were hereditary enemies and belonged to rival factions. The Colonna were Ghibellines, Imperialists, the Orsini Guelphs, supporters of the papacy, and when they were not fighting in support of their political parties they were engaged in private feuds on their own account. While in other cities of Italy feudal tyranny was gradually giving way before the more enlightened government of independent republics, Rome was too weak to struggle against her oppressors. Deserted and neglected for nearly a century by her lawful sovereigns the popes, at best ruled by a vacillating and disorderly government, the city lay at the mercy of her great barons who scorned all law and authority and asserted and maintained their complete personal independence at the point of the sword, while they swelled the ranks of their retainers with bandits and cut-throats to whom they gave[Pg 163] sanctuary in return for military service. Great and prosperous Rome had become a small forsaken town within a desolate waste, surrounded by a girdle of ancient walls far too large for the city it protected. Amphitheatres, mausoleums of Roman Emperors, temples, theatres, were converted into strongholds. Such of the churches as were not fortified were crumbling into ruin, and everywhere bristled loop-holed towers from which the nobles could defy one another, and which commanded the entrances to dark filthy and winding streets. At frequent intervals the despondent apathy of the citizens would be rudely disturbed by a call to arms, and to the sound of hoarse battle-cries, the clashing of weapons upon steel corslet and helmet, and the waving of banners with the rival Ghibelline and Guelph devices of eagle and keys, bands of Orsini and Colonna would rush fighting through the narrow streets and across the waste spaces of the city, would fall back and advance to fight again until, with the darkness, they would retire behind their barred gateways, leaving their dead as so much carrion in the streets.

These two families divided the greater part of Rome between them. The Orsini held the field of Mars and the Vatican district from their fortress in the ruins of the theatre of Pompey and their castle on Monte Giordano. This is now Palazzo Gabrielli, and it retains its portcullis and much of its mediæval appearance. Tor di Nona and Tor Sanguigna were flanking towers to the Orsini stronghold. The Quirinal hill was occupied by the Colonna, their great castle standing[Pg 164] almost on the same ground as their present palazzo, and they had an outlying fortress in the mausoleum of Augustus near the river.

Occasionally a truce was patched up between the two families that they might unite against a common enemy, and for a period they agreed that two senators, one from each family, should be appointed to govern Rome in the pope's absence. But these peaceful intervals were short lived. On the slightest provocation, barricades would be run up, new entrenchments dug, and civil war would break out afresh.

Again and again in their conflict with the Church the Colonna were worsted in the struggle, their estates confiscated, and themselves, root and branch, beggared and exiled; but there was a strength and vitality about the race that no adversity could subdue. Pope Boniface VIII., whose displeasure they had incurred, oppressed them for a while. Six Colonna brothers were exiled, and their ancestral town of Palestrina was razed to the ground by the Caetani, Boniface's relatives and adherents, and a plough was driven over the site to typify its permanent devastation. But a few years later the reckless Sciarra Colonna broke into the Pope's castle at Anagni, and made him prisoner with bitter taunts and reproaches. Later, Sciarra played a conspicuous part in the coronation of Lewis the Bavarian, and in gratitude for his services the Emperor allowed the single column of the family coat of arms to be surmounted by a golden crown.

Greatest amongst the six brothers of this period was[Pg 165] Stephen, Petrarch's friend, an able man and good soldier who met prosperity and adversity, poverty banishment and danger, throughout a long troubled life, with the same calm resolution and intrepid courage. This Stephen survived the last of his line—his two sons Stephen and Peter with two grandsons being massacred after an unsuccessful skirmish against Rienzo.

After Boniface's death, the Colonna came into their own again and received one hundred thousand gold florins in compensation for their losses, but Palestrina, which was later rebuilt, suffered again the same fate and was torn down by order of Eugenius IV. within one hundred and fifty years.

In the reign of Sixtus IV. Rome was again distracted by faction feuds. The Pope, aided by the ever-ready Orsini, pursued the Colonna with relentless hatred. Protonotary Lorenzo Colonna fell through treachery into the hands of his enemy, and his friend Savelli was captured and murdered on the spot for refusing to rejoice with the captors. Lorenzo was tortured and beheaded, and the Orsini sacked and burnt all the Colonna property in the town.

Other distinguished members of this distinguished family of a later epoch were Vittoria Colonna, the poet-friend of Michael Angelo, and Marc' Antonio, who commanded the papal fleet at Lepanto, and who was given a triumphal entry into Rome after his victory.

Nothing is known of the origin of this famous race though it is believed to have come originally from the banks of the Rhine. It first appears in history in[Pg 166] 1104, when the Lords of Colonna and Zagarolo characteristically incurred the displeasure of Pope Paschal II. They also owned part of Tusculum and were probably related to the Counts of that place. Later, Palestrina became their principal stronghold and they possessed Marino, Grotta Ferrata, Genazzano, and Paliano in the Sabines, the last giving them their princely title. The family produced many distinguished churchmen, but only one pope, Martin V. Many daughters of the house took the veil, and in the year 1318 as many as twelve had entered the convent of S. Silvestro in Capite, which had been founded by the cardinal members of the family.

In 1490 a Colonna was appointed for the first time to be constable of the kingdom of Naples, and it was popularly believed in Rome that the Pope excommunicated the King of Naples every vigil of S. Peter (28th June) because he had failed to proffer the tribute of his investiture. The formula ran: "I curse and bless you," and as the curse was uttered the Colonna palace trembled. This palace stands on the slopes of the Quirinal; it is entered from the Piazza dei SS. Apostoli, but the gardens cover the slopes of the hill as far as the Via del Quirinale, bridges connecting palace and gardens crossing the Via della Pilotta at frequent intervals. It was built by Martin V. for his personal use, and contains a fine picture gallery and magnificent suite of state rooms. After nearly eight centuries of life this family is still among the greatest and most distinguished in Rome. One prince of the name is now Syndic of the city, another shares the peaceful office of Prince Assistant at the Pontifical throne with the descendant of his ancient enemies, Filippo Orsini.

Arch of Titus

The arch which records the plenitude and the arch which records the decadence of Roman power. See page 162, interleaf, pages 38, 234, and pictures 12 and 66.

The [Pg 167]career of the Orsini race has been no less eventful, but this family has now died out in many of its branches. In a metrical account of the coronation of Boniface VIII., written by Cardinal St. George and quoted by Gibbon, the Orsini are said to come from Spoleto. Other writers believe them to have been of French origin, but at an early date they became identified with the history of Rome, and in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries two members of the family became popes, Celestin III. in 1191, and Nicholas III. in 1277. The last Orsini pope was the Benedictine monk Benedict XIII. (1724).

In the sixteenth century the Orsini fell under the Pope's displeasure, the head of the family was banished and his estates were confiscated. This individual, Giordano Orsini Duke of Bracciano, became enamoured of Vittoria Accoramboni, wife of Francesco Peretti, Sixtus V.'s nephew. Vittoria was beautiful fascinating and unscrupulous, and Giordano, no less unscrupulous, did not hesitate to rid himself of the obstacles to his desires. His own wife he strangled in his castle at Bracciano, and Francesco was set upon and murdered in the streets of Rome by his orders and with the connivance of Vittoria and her brother. Orsini and Vittoria were married, but their union was of short duration. Sixtus V. had been meanwhile elected to the papacy, and he lost no time in disgracing and banishing[Pg 168] Giordano whose end in exile is shrouded in mystery. Vittoria was shortly afterwards surprised and brutally killed by her husband's relatives for the sake of the Orsini inheritance.

The Orsini estates were at Bracciano, Anguillara, and Galera, but the Bracciano property with the ducal title that went with it now belongs to the Odescalchi. In Rome the Orsini still own and inhabit their great palace near the portico of Octavia. It was designed by Baldassare Peruzzi and was built within the ruins of the theatre of Marcellus, the high ground upon which it stands being merely a heap of fallen débris. It is approached through a gateway flanked by stone bears, the emblem of the Orsini race.

Another mediæval family, the Gaetani or Caetani, Dukes of Sermoneta and Princes of Caserta and Teano, is of Neapolitan origin. One of its members became pope as Gelasius II. in 1118 and the first of the name was military prefect under Manfred, King of Sicily, but the close union of this family with Rome only dates from the reign of the Gaetani pope, Boniface VIII. It was at this period also that the tomb of Cecilia Metella on the Appian Way was disguised with turrets and battlements to serve the Gaetani as an outlying stronghold against their enemies.

Of all the princely names which figure in the records of mediæval Rome, none can claim a more venerable antiquity than the Annibaldi, the Massimo, and the Cenci. The first, of the race of the great Hannibal, are no longer extant. The Massimi, who derive their name[Pg 169] from the ancient family of Maximus, are Dukes of Rignano, Princes of Roviano, and heirs to many other titles; they are still amongst the greatest of Rome. The present prince lives in the family palace in the Corso Vittorio Emanuele familiar to every tourist from its curved façade and rows of columns, and still keeps up much of the princely state and ceremony of a past age. The Cenci have become extinct in the male line and the name is carried on by a distant branch as Cenci-Bolognetti.

This family is first heard of in the person of Marcus Cencius, Prefect of Pisa in the year 457 of Rome; and in 914 Johannes Cencius was elected Pope as John X. In 1692 the Cenci were created Princes of Vicovaro, a little mountain town in the Sabines, and in 1723 they acquired the title and estates of Bolognetti by the marriage of Virginius with an heiress of that name. With her came into the family the dower-house, the graceful Palazzo Bolognetti-Cenci still standing in the Piazza Pantaleone. The Bolognetti palace in the Piazza di Venezia was sold to Prince Torlonia, and has just been destroyed to make way for the colossal monument to Victor Emmanuel which is to preside over Rome from the Capitol hill. The old Cenci palace, a few years ago empty and deserted, but now government property, stands in what was once the Jews' quarter of Rome, a forbidding pile eloquent of its owner's tragic history. The family chapel close to it, San Tommaso a' Cenci, dates from 1113 and was built by a Cenci who was Bishop of Sabina at that time.[Pg 170]

As these old families, "pure Romans of Rome," have died out, their place has been taken by the aristocracy of papal origin, and though as a rule natives of northern provinces, these newcomers have become Roman in sympathies and have inherited the privileges and traditions of the Roman patrician. Not only did each new pope bring his own relatives to Rome in his train and grant them titles, but he also gathered round him followers from his own province among whom he distributed the great papal offices. Sometimes the period of greatness thus bestowed was short-lived, in other cases a permanent aristocracy was created and the papal offices became hereditary. Thus the Ruspoli from father to son are Masters of the Sacred Hospice; the Colonna are Assistant Princes; the Serlupi are Marshals of the Pope's Horse; the Sforza have the hereditary right to appoint the standard-bearer of the Roman people; the Chigi are Marshals of Conclave, replacing the Savelli in this office who had held it for nearly five centuries.

Some of these families were nobles in their own province. The Boncompagni were a noble family of Bologna. Coming to Rome with Gregory XIII. in 1572, they were created Dukes of Sora and later Princes of Piombino and of Venosa.

Mediaeval House


The Ludovisi were nobles of Pisa, the Borghese patricians of Siena. This great family came to Rome with Paul V. in the early seventeenth century, and was granted princely rank with the title of Sulmona. In the middle of the eighteenth century, Marc' Antonio[Pg 171] Borghese married a Salviati heiress and at that period was owner of the beautiful Villa Borghese with its museum and priceless collection of statues, of the great palace by the Tiber, of the villas Mondragone and Aldobrandini at Frascati, and of thirty-six estates in the campagna, building and endowing at the same period the rich Borghese chapel in S. Maria Maggiore. At a later date, Camillo Borghese married Pauline Bonaparte and was appointed governor of Piedmont by Napoleon I. Of late years this family has been almost ruined by reckless building speculations, and the greater portion of their magnificent possessions has been sold and alienated. The Aldobrandini and Salviati are both off-shoots from this family.

The Barberini and Corsini are Florentines, and came to Rome with Urban VIII. and Clement XII. The Barberini villa at Castel Gandolfo and the palace in Rome are familiar to all visitors. The grounds of the Corsini villa on the Janiculum have been recently converted into a public drive; the Corsini palace in Trastevere on the river bank is famous for its library and picture galleries. Opposite to it is the Farnesina palace built in the sixteenth century by the rich banker Agostino Chigi. Here it was that he gave a famous banquet and, desiring to make a display of his enormous wealth, bade his lackeys throw the silver dishes into the river at the end of each course under the eyes of his astonished guests who did not guess that nets had been cunningly laid to catch them as they sank.

The Albani kinsmen of Clement XI. came from[Pg 172] Urbino; the Rospigliosi from Pistoja with Clement IX.; the Odescalchi from Como with Innocent XI.; the Doria Pamphili from Genoa.

This papal aristocracy occupied a unique position. Relatives of popes, who were at the same time reigning princes, they assumed royal rank and lived with a magnificence and luxury unsurpassed in Europe. In addition to the titles of Roman nobility bestowed upon them with a lavish hand, many of them became grandees of Spain and their names were inscribed in the "golden book" of the Capitol.

They bought country estates and suburban villas and built great palaces in the town. These stately Renaissance buildings, some of them larger than many royal dwellings, are grouped at the base of the Capitol and along the Corso, the most important and at one period the only great street in Rome. The Palazzo di Venezia, the home of the Venetian Paul II., the Altieri, the Grazioli, and the Bonaparte palaces, the latter originally the property of the Rinuccini, stand, a stately group, on the Piazza di Venezia and the Via del Plebiscito. The series is continued along the Piazza dei SS. Apostoli with the Colonna, the Balestra, the Odescalchi, and the Ruffo palaces.

Greatest among those in the Corso is the Palazzo Doria Pamphili. Here also are the Ruspoli, Fiano, Chigi, Sciarra, Salviati, Ferraioli, and Theodoli palaces, and before its demolition to enlarge the Piazza Colonna, the Piombino. The Costaguti in the Piazza Tartaruga, the Antici-Mattei, the Longhi and the Gaetani palaces,[Pg 173] the latter in the Via delle Botteghe Oscure, "the street of dark shops," are grouped at the foot of a further slope of the Capitol. More to the west, stand the huge Farnese palace the present seat of the French embassy and the Cancelleria built by Cardinal Riario nephew of Sixtus IV. and still papal property. The Simonetti and Falconieri palaces are built upon the banks of the Tiber close by, and face Via Giulia.

Latest of all the great papal families to settle in Rome were the Braschi, Pius VI.'s kinsmen, and they built a palace in the Piazza Navona. Not far off are the Patrizi and Giustiniani palaces near the French church of San Luigi in the street of the same name. The Giustiniani are Earls of Newburgh in the peerage of Scotland through the marriage in 1757 of the heiress of the title and estates to the Prince Giustiniani of that date.

Great was the opulence and magnificence of the Roman princes. When they issued forth into the city they were attended by mounted grooms with staves while running footmen cleared a way before them. An army of servants waited upon their needs, their stables were filled with horses, and their coaches were wonderful equipages of gilding glass and painting, costing thousands of francs. Powdered flunkeys in silk stockings stood behind on the foot board, three on a prince's coach, two on a cardinal's. One of these men carried an umbrella and a cushion. For if during his drive the prince chanced to meet his Holiness the Pope or a religious procession in which the Host was carried, he[Pg 174] would instantly stop his coach, and alighting would kneel upon the ground, the cushion being placed by his servants under his knees and the umbrella held over his bared head to protect it from the sun.

Many of the Roman nobles had private theatres in their houses; they were great collectors of books, bronzes, tapestries, and mosaics, and the Roman private galleries of pictures and statues are unsurpassed. The Borghese alone possessed four Raphaels as well as their famous collection of statues. At the same time they were generous to the city of their adoption. They threw open their beautiful parks and villas to the people, they admitted the public to their galleries museums and libraries, and they endowed hospitals asylums and orphanages. The Roman ladies had always patronised and promoted works of charity. Nevertheless the later custom, which persists to this day, of personally visiting the poor and the hospitals began with Gwendoline Talbot, the daughter of the last Catholic Earl of Shrewsbury, who as the wife of Prince Borghese was the first of the Roman ladies to walk alone at all hours, intent on her errands of mercy. The wit which made her present a gold coin to a man who on one occasion followed her, was the talk of the city. Her name is still a household word in Roman mouths, and her tragic death when only twenty-four years old, leaving four little children, one only of whom, the present Princess Piombino, survived the infection which killed their mother, moved an entire population.

Villa Borghese


Many of the Roman palaces are as big as barracks.[Pg 175] The Palazzo Pamphili-Doria can accommodate a thousand persons; but this was none too large for a patriarchal style of living which in a modified form survives to the present day. Much space was taken up by the great libraries, museums, picture galleries and reception and state banqueting halls. A small army of officials were housed within the walls—steward, bailiff, major-domo, secretaries, accountants, all the underlings necessary to the management of great and distant estates. A wing would be set entirely apart for the Prince Cardinal, a cadet of the house; the domestic chaplain would require a set of rooms; he would say the daily mass in the private chapel of the palace but would not dine with the family. The sons of the house would require tutors, the daughters governesses and companions.

The great double gates of every Roman palace which are securely locked and barred at night, lead into a central court. Round it are open colonnades, sometimes in two stories, and in the centre a fountain splashes amidst ferns and palms. A porter presides over the palace gates, magnificent in a cocked hat knee breeches and long coat trimmed with coloured braid into which are worked the heraldic devices of the family. His rod of office is a long staff twisted with cord and crowned with an immense silver knob. This personage is the descendant of the janitor who in ancient Rome watched the house door day and night and whose fidelity was ensured when necessary by chaining him to his post.[Pg 176]

A grand staircase leads to the first floor and this, the piano nobile, was and still is occupied in Roman houses by the head of the family whose rule is more or less absolute and tyrannical. The second floor is given up to the eldest son upon his marriage for his own use, and similarly the second son is given the one above, while beneath the roof accommodation is found for an immense retinue of servants and attendants. It is still the custom for the whole family, married sons and their families included, to dine together, and elaborate accounts are kept of the allowances given to each son, of the quota contributed by each to the general expenses, of the dowry of each daughter-in-law, as to whether she is enjoying the number of dishes of meat per meal and the number of horses and carriages stipulated for in her marriage settlement. In the case of an English wife, a carpet used to be among the stipulations.

Though the state coaches, the running footmen, much of the pomp and ceremony have disappeared, some curious relics remain of an order of things fast passing away. Every Roman prince has the right, should he wish it, to be received at the foot of the great staircase of any house he honours with his presence by two lackeys bearing lighted torches; and these should escort him to the threshold of his hostess's reception room. This ceremony is still observed for cardinals on state occasions.

Again every prince has the right to, and in fact still has, a throne room and throne in his palace. This is not for his own use, but for that of the Pope[Pg 177] should he elect to pay him a visit. In the hall of a Roman palace a shield emblazoned with the family arms may be seen affixed to the wall. In a prince's house it will be surmounted by a canopy, beside it should stand the historic umbrella and cushion. Four marquesses and these only the marquesses Patrizi, Theodoli, Costaguti and Cavalieri enjoy the princes' right to the canopy above their shield and are hence called the marchesi di baldacchino.

A good deal of natural confusion exists in the mind of the foreigner with regard to the different ranks and the distribution of titles in the Italian peerage. These in fact follow no general rule but depend in each case upon the patent of creation. Princely titles conferred by the Holy Roman Empire affect every member of the family equally; titles conferred by the Pope, on the other hand, are as a rule restricted to the head of the family only. Thus in the Colonna family every member is a prince or princess; amongst the Ruspoli, a papal creation, only the head of the eldest branch is legally a prince. In these latter cases however it is usual to give the eldest son one of the other family titles upon his marriage, and the same with the second son. Such an act is in the father's option, but he is obliged to notify the assumption of the title to the civil authorities. In the same way a certain amount of latitude is allowed him as to the title he uses himself or grants to his sons. Prince Gaetani, for example, prefers to be known by the older title in his family, that of Duke of Sermoneta, bestowing that of Prince di Caserta upon his eldest son.[Pg 178] The titles Don and Donna are only correct for the sons and daughters of princes and of the four marchesi di baldacchino, though they are often used for all the children of marquesses.

In the same way, the distribution of the other titles of Marquess, Count or Baron amongst the various members of the family depends upon the terms of the original patent. In some cases every member bears the title, in others the head of the family only. Collaterals of a house often take the style Giovanni dei Principi N—— , or dei Conti N—— as the case might be; "John of the Princes So-and-so," or "of the Counts So-and-so."

The distinction again between the patrician and the noble is one that is not understood by the foreigner. A patrician belongs by ancestral prescriptive right to the governing class of his province. The names of the patricians are balloted annually, and one of the number is chosen as Prior or Governor of the province. He is in fact and history of senatorial rank. Among the districts of Italy some have and some have not a patriciate. Spoleto possesses one, but Todi, next to it, has never had one.

In Rome the patrician families are called "Coscritti" in allusion to the Patres conscripti or senators of the city. Their number was limited and defined by a constitution of Benedict XIV. but later popes have added new names. There are now sixty patrician families.

House of Cola di Rienzo

The architecture of this supposed dwelling of the last of the Roman Tribunes is a bizarre mixture of styles and epochs. It has been suggested that a series of initial letters which surmount a doggerel inscription are those of the many titles which Rienzo bestowed upon himself. The people know the house as that "of Pontius Pilate."

The nobles, on the other hand, often owed their titles not only to the Pope but to their respective[Pg 179] Communes, which, until the one fount of honour was defined to be the sovereign, frequently bestowed titles on their citizens. This privilege was enjoyed by the abbots of Monte Cassino in the thirteenth century. The popes have always conferred titles of nobility, as did the Holy Roman Empire, whose heir in this matter the Pope claims to be. At present an Heraldic Commission is sitting in Rome to regulate the use of titles, many of which have been assumed for generations without any warrant. Henceforth every one will be called upon to prove his right to the title he bears, and it will be illegal for the Communes to describe any one who has not done so with "a handle to his name." Foreign titles, and among them papal titles, will in all cases have to be ratified and allowed by the sovereign of Italy.

[Pg 180]



When we think of Rome as the cradle of more than one civilisation, we should also recollect that the Roman has matured two great religions: the religion of ancient Rome and the religion of Western Christendom. Not that we can think of the Roman as a religious people, in the sense in which the Asiatic has always been and remains to this day religious, the sense in which the Hebrew or the sense in which the Egyptian was religious. The Roman never had either the imaginative philosophy which produced the religion of Greece, nor the metaphysical mysticism which made the Hindu faiths. He had in fact in common with the Hebrew, whom he was so totally unlike, a complete absence of the metaphysical temper, of mysticism, of asceticism; and like the Hebrew he did not apply any richness of imagination to religion. What he had was a genius for bringing the other world to the support of this, and what he created was the conception of religion as piety to the State; and it is in this form that it survives in the sympathies and the sentiment of the Roman people. In the pagan world[Pg 181] this State was secular, in the Christian world this State is the Catholic Church; but in both cases the spiritual came to the support of the temporal—ancient Rome deified the State by making it the subject of the Roman piety; Christian Rome moulded religion into a citizenship, and the Church became a civitas. Civis romanus sum, "I am a Roman citizen," has never ceased to be the all-embracing formula of Roman orthodoxy.

The original Roman theogony was Etruscan. Behind the veil were the three great gods, the shrouded gods, answering to the Jove, Juno, and Minerva (Menerva) of later times. Round them were their "Senate," the twelve gods and goddesses known to the Romans as the Dii Consentes; and everywhere was the great Latin cult of Vesta, the cult of the hearth. But when Rome was built its first king made of these elements the Roman religion: Numa as a matter of fact appears to have been the Roman Moses, and to have led his people forth not to the worship of their one tribal god who was above all gods, God and Lord, the unique divine realisation of the Hebrew people, to become the root of the monotheism of the Western world, but to the worship of a unit which made of the State the family, of the commonwealth the family's hearth. It was, perhaps, his genius which made the hearth-divinity preside over the little polity and confuse and identify for ever the pieties of the home with the pieties of citizenship. It is these two elements—the theological unit of Judæa and the political unit of Latium—which meeting in Rome in the age of Claudius created the religion of the West. Not once[Pg 182] but twice had the Romans come and wrested the sceptre from Judaea; under Titus, and again in the Roman organisation of Christianity venerunt Romani et tulerunt eorum locum et gentem.

We see then that the Roman religion was never a great imaginative creation, but was always a great statecraft, and that Roman religion began to be Roman statecraft when Numa identified the affections and the piety of the hearth with the affections and the piety of the res publica, and made the State the social unit. The original ingredients of Roman religion however had nothing to do with statecraft; they were the ingredients of nature worship, the ingredients brought by a pastoral people. At the source was a reverence for natural things; and old Latin paganism had the peace which belongs to the pastoral life, and to the religion which is founded on the careful observance of potent rites disturbed as yet by no speculative questionings. But it was not free of the gloom of nature-worship—the obverse side of nature-cult—fearful, suspicious, weighted with destiny, as one imagines the religion of Etruria to have been.

San Clemente

The present twelfth-century building was erected over a much more ancient church, and the site was probably one of the earliest meeting-places of the Christians and may have been that of the house of Clement (the fourth pope) as tradition affirms. A temple and altar to Mithras was found below the lower church. The ancient choir is in very perfect preservation, and its screen, removed from the lower church, is of the sixth century, with portions even of the fourth. See pages 35-36, 183, 186-7.

It is much later in its history that Rome was captivated by Greek religion and transferred to its crude impersonal gods the brilliant divine personifications of an imaginative people. The Latin had never been familiar with his gods, perhaps because they always remained impersonal abstractions, gods who did not use human speech, but whose language was the lightning-bolt of Jupiter and the wave-lashing triad of Neptune.[Pg 183] Into what had really always been impersonal, the Greek came infusing warm human life, making the gods speak the language of men, and inviting men to speak to them in their own tongue. Greek religion was subtler, more individual, freer, more joyous than Latin. The pious customs which constituted the earlier Latin religion had begotten a sense of obligation in the worshipper, but it was conscience as the response to an external stimulus; and the peace it brought was a formal peace, ex opere operato, not a peace brought home to the individual conscience face to face with the Divine. It is because conscience implies more of individualism than ever entered into Roman religion that Roman religion has always remained without it. It was only in the jaded period of the later empire that the Romans turned altogether from the simple, natural, large elements of the religion of their soil to the fantastic, emotional, and complex cults of Isis and Mithras. The simple religion of the field and the hearth, of natural law, of orderliness and decorum, of a piety provoking and sustaining a sense of what was owed to the gods, to the dead, to that State which incarnated the religion of the gods, fell away on the eve of Christianity before the foreign novelties of Greece and Egypt, better suited to the luxuriousness of mind and the growing introspection of a people who had undergone the influence of Greek thought as something indeed always alien to their nature, yet necessary to their place in the world.

When Peter's successors planted a Judaic sect on the ruins of this paganism they had only to follow the[Pg 184] genius of Numa's religion in the creation of the Catholic Church—the civitas Dei. Here, we may feel, an essential element of the new religion—the idea of the Kingdom of God—came naturally to supplant the older State religion; and the conception of the nation as a family was eminently germane to the fraternal maxims which grouped round the idea of the ecclesia. But old Rome as it had not stopped to inquire concerning small things, so it had never penetrated to interior things, and the Kingdom of God translated into the language of Rome lost in the process all its interior characters. What was delicate and subtle had never entered into Roman religion, but neither had what was petty, extravagant, or indecorous. Religion was no delicate aroma, but a concrete duty; not an individual choice, nor an individual necessity, nor an individual attraction, but a public rite, a public piety, a public decorum: and these characteristics, as we shall see, inhere in Roman religion to-day.

It is in its liturgy that the mind, or if one may call it so, the temperament of the Roman Church found an ample and worthy expression; and it is in what it lacked as much as in what it put forward that the genius of the Roman rite is seen to differ entirely from that which presided at the making of the mass in every other part of Christendom. The effusion the imagery and the gracious parts added from Gaul, the mysticism of the Oriental, the philosophy of Greece, the Northern inwardness and intimacy, contributed nothing to it. Like Roman religion itself it was not a creation of the imagination[Pg 185] or the intellect, nor the outcome of devotional sentiment; it was the creation of the Christian polity clothing its religious data, its religious certitudes, in a becoming garment—giving them a form, expression, a public characterisation. If there was no effusion there was largeness; in place of tenderness there was disengaged from the formal stately public act a perfect liberty of spirit. All through it was the public act itself which justified and consecrated, which was the sanction of the reality the criterion of the fitness of worship. Here besides, sacramenta were not mere signs nor symbola mere figures—they were stately vehicles of universal realities, always and everywhere adequate, worthy, co-ordinating, effectual. Roman ritual was quite bare of those things which in England and France are thought ritualistic; its only ritual consisted in the so-called "manual acts," that is, in the things which had to be done; those very things which the Eastern Church removed from the sight of the congregation, creating a "ritual" as a superfluous symbolism to engage the attention of the people. But the Roman dealt in real things, not imagery; nakedly setting forth his sancta in the dry light of a realism which had no reticence joined to a great reticence of the emotions. This was the temperament of all Roman religion, pagan and Christian, a persistent rejection of all that could be described as unctuous, a setting forth of worship as a great public piety which justified itself. Unlike the Greek whose god must be behind a curtain, the Roman required the divine to be recognised, always and everywhere, in[Pg 186] the res publica, in the act which had public sanction, public significance, public utility. The deacons came to the holy table bearing a cloth; one stood at one end and threw the roll across to the deacon at the other end; the oblations of the people were manipulated before the assembly; the wine collected in small phials is poured into a large chalice, repoured into a bowl; the pontiff collects the oblation bread, so do the priests, while acolytes stand at the side holding cloths to receive it; and the same things, not rites but familiar usages, are repeated at the Communion, when bishop and deacons again pour, mix, distribute, wash and put away the holy things and the sacred vessels in the presence and with the assistance of the people of God. Here was nothing "common or unclean"; it was the wisdom of Roman ritual justified of her children.

Santa Maria in Cosmedin

A very early Christian basilica, in the historic part of Rome by Ponte Rotto and the round temple of Hercules, and on the site of the temple of Ceres and Proserpine. In the sixth century it is enumerated among diaconal churches. It belonged to the Greek colony in this quarter, and its name is derived from the word kosmos. Pavement, ambones, choir, and canopy are of the twelfth century. It has been recently restored to its ancient basilica form, and its many closed windows have been reopened. See pages 28, 31, 35-36, 186.

It will be seen at once how widely different was such a conception of worship from that elaborated in the East or which we owe to the vague awe, the dreadful sense of mystery, of the middle age. If we compare the Roman basilica with a Greek or Gothic church this difference is immediately sensible. The former owed nothing to mystery, to dimness. The celebrant faced the people, as he still faces them in all true basilicas; he did not turn his back on them. No early building, indeed, was flooded with light while glazing was in a crude state and wind and weather had to be kept at bay; but the Christian basilica was not darker than other buildings, there was no religious twilight. And as we see it to-day, in Santa Sabina, Santa Maria in Cosmedin[Pg 187], Santa Maria in Domnica, SS. Nereo e Achilleo, Santa Maria Maggiore, or in the ruined basilicas of Santa Domitilla and San Stefano, so it was centuries ago—flooding the mysteries with what light there was because it was the church of a people who cared for no mysteries which could not bear the light. Nevertheless, the simple realism of the Roman ritual by no means meant, for him who could see, the absence of mysticity. Rather it recalled one to the suggestive and sane mysticity which inheres in all common things, in all common uses. Whether the somewhat rugged Roman, with his inattention to small matters and to the unobvious, saw the mysticity of the early Christian service and the early Christian basilica, may be doubted; but though it is certain he had not set himself to create this mysticity it is equally certain that he could not banish it from his churches.

Italian religion is not the same thing as Roman religion. Rome has not been "the most religious city in the world" because it felt religion more than those nations and provinces whose religious character differed so profoundly from its own, but because it was able to institute it on a scale as universal as its own imperialism. The Neapolitan has the superstition and poetry, the emotional impressionism, of the genuine South; but such a repulsive scene as the peasant, upheld by his friends, licking his way to the altar along the filthy church floor could not be witnessed in Rome. It would be difficult to imagine a Roman wishing to be exorcised after putting his head into the English or American church to see the stained glass windows.[Pg 188] The "Roman of Rome" leaves such things together with the swallowing of pious-text pills to the unrestrained fervour of some of our English Catholics. The Roman has less religious passion and also much less abandonment to the external than the Southerner or even the Englishman. Rome has had—with one illustrious exception—no great saints since the sixth century; she has been evangelised by saintly visitors from Sweden, from Tuscany, from Siena, as the primitive Church had been edified by the itinerant Gospel visitors called "prophets." From Lombardy, Venice and Umbria, from Parma, Ancona, Florence, Pisa, Naples and the Abruzzi, saints, seers, missioners, mystics, reformers, have brought her their message: but the terrible proverb Roma veduta fede perduta records the impression she has often made on visitors less elect than these. Not Rome but Venice counts as the "devout city" of Italy, and the well-known story of the Jew who became a Christian on the ground that no religion could have survived Roman corruption unless it were divine, was told me in Rome by a prelate as an encouraging episode.

It was said by Matthew Arnold that the Latin people never cared enough for Christianity to reform it; they never thought it worth while, it is true, to break with the Church to find Christianity. The Italian, moreover, had none of the things which made the Puritan—not his fierce dogmatism, the Judaic strain of his piety, his dread of the external, his contentment with doctrinal formulas. Joined to an indubitable[Pg 189] attachment to Catholicism—the magic of which inspired the art even of men who did not believe it—the Italian had also too keen an intuition of the real religious issues (as we understand them to-day) to exchange ecclesiastical tradition for biblical dogmatism. Christianity was for him much more of a self-justifying religious tradition and much less of a dogmatism than it was for the Protestant. The Christianity which the Italian would have liked was the Christianity of S. Francis, familiar, meek, tolerant, a genuine discipleship; and it did not irk him to add to this the forms of Catholicism. Like the Reformers, the Italian of the sixteenth century knew little of Church history, but his instinct was on the side of reintegration rather than disintegration of the religious forces enshrining the Christian revelation. The earlier Italian religious movements were almost entirely, like that of the seraphic frate, on the side of informing historical Christianity with the new spirit of Christ. A great horror of the ways of Rome, never echoed by the Romans, did, nevertheless, penetrate religious Italy, and few people realise that it was among the Franciscans not among the Reformers that papal Rome was first branded as the "scarlet woman," the unclean Babylon of the Apocalypse.

Has Protestantism the evangelic marks which the Italian, consciously or unconsciously, lays down for Christianity, and what chance would it have in Italy? It will bear repeating that the Puritan's definition of Christianity would never at any time have found acceptance with the Italian; he never could have cared[Pg 190] for reform in doctrine and discipline which did not necessarily, did not primarily, involve a real evangelic reform. When one remembers how very little Protestantism was, in its inception, on the side of dogmatic freedom, and that it put a theological formula before all other matters of the law, one may admit that the Italian though he did not reform may yet have loved true Christianity. In the next place the intense individualism of Protestant worship is distasteful to the Italian who, as we have already realised, does not ask or require that subordination of the society to the individual which religious subdivisions imply, and he would always be repelled by the phenomena of revivalism. It is instructive for us to realise that such things are stigmatised as "buffoonery" by the Italians, whose own elaborate ritual often appears to suggest that description to the Protestant. In the third place, he dislikes the réclame of Protestantism, its self-advertisement, the distribution of tracts at church doors and in the public streets. To his mind no religion worthy of the name can have need of such support. The Sister of Charity and the frate, indeed, appear familiarly among them in their strange dress, not as they, yet part of themselves, reminding the people of the great ideals of their religion, tracts in their own persons but making no réclame.

Chapel of San Zeno

CHAPEL OF SAN ZENO (called orto del paradiso) IN S. PRASSEDE
This mosaic chapel was erected by Paschal I. in 822. Its great beauty gave it the name of "Garden of Paradise." The church is near the house of Pudens, and is dedicated to Praxedis his daughter. See pages 45, 46, 240.

Indeed the way in which all external expression is regarded by the Italian differs radically from the way in which it presents itself to the Anglo-Saxon and the Teuton. Wagner declared that as soon as the German[Pg 191] is called on to be artistic he becomes a buffoon. We in England, also, do not know how to express ourselves by means of external symbols; but the Italian experiences no such difficulty. We are not at home with them; he is. If we use them we exaggerate, he gives them their true proportion and place. He can always be taught by his senses, and he is not, as we are, deluded by them. We, in fine, do not know what to do with the external, he does. His sense of humour is active just where the Englishman's is quiescent; he is not capable, for example, of laying store by this or that little bit of ceremony. The evangelicalism of the Italian, therefore, which one hopes he may some day achieve, will be unlike Anglo-Saxon Christianity—as the catacombs are unlike a "Little Bethel"—he will always require gracious surroundings, he will always ask for the arts to assist his imagination, and prefer fine music, and even the perfume of incense, to the bids for his soul made by the preacher. That is his reticence, and as it differs from the Anglo-Saxon's the latter does not understand it. The Italian will always best respond to a service conceived in the spirit of the mass, with its mystical renewal enacted before his eyes, at once exterior and interior, public and intimate; but with no individualistic note, no dependence on the personal element.

Cloisters of S. Paul

Erected between 1193 and 1208. The most beautiful cloisters in Rome. See interleaf, page 158, and page 36.

The visitor to Rome must be struck with the fact that the Italians are a more religious people than we. They take more trouble about it. Every morning, day after day, in scores of churches people are going in and out of the heavy leathern door hangings, up and down the[Pg 192] steps of the façades; such a spectacle as the visit to the sepulchres on Holy Thursday could not be witnessed in England from one year's end to another. At the street corners, on the stairs, in the shops and the porters' lodges, oil lamps burn before images and shrines; and the deepest curse in the Italian vocabulary is to say La mala Pasqua—"a bad Easter to you." "In all things I perceive that ye are somewhat superstitious," said S. Paul, taking as the pretext of his appeal to the Athenians the trouble and care which he saw everywhere bestowed on the unseen world and the claims of worship: and he could make the same appeal to the Romans to-day with perhaps a greater chance of converting them than the missionary from America. For there is no "provincialism" in Italian religion; the Sunday joys of discussing the anthem, the sermon, the preacher, the details of the service and the congregation, the half mystical half sentimental joy of chewing the cud of sacred things which is so Northern, offer no attractions to the man of the South. He has endless time in the South but no long twilights. In religion as elsewhere the Roman harbours no illusions. The things—petty or precious—which are possible to a people who can maintain illusions, and have no inconvenient quickness of mind, are not to be expected from him. Chadbands in Rome would have no success and no dupes; and your transcendental emotional sentiments about the Pope are perhaps as little understood as your rejection of him. The Roman dreads death, and he refers to the anointing oil as "quella cosa più peggio del viatico"—"that[Pg 193] thing which is still worse than the Viaticum." He lives familiarly with his religion and in a sort of child-like simplicity; yet he is sceptical, and we are not, he has no talent for meditative devotion, and we have.

Again, the "respectability" of English Church religion would be as little tolerated as the réclame of sheer Protestantism. There is absolutely nothing answering in the Italian temperament to that pride and pleasure in the respectability of church and chapel going which is so potent a factor in England. The sects which proselytise in Rome are the American Methodists, Baptists, and Wesleyans; many of the better educated preferring to all these the native Waldensian Church. One of the chief attractions of what I have called sheer Protestantism lies in its familiarity as compared with the stiff and terrible "respectability" of the English Church. But this is precisely where Italian Catholicism has itself never failed, and the Catholic in Italy is already accustomed to familiar and simple relations with priest monk and friar—to a complete democracy of sentiment. I was recently motioned to a vacant seat by a dignified French ecclesiastic who was giving out the usual notices from the altar after the Gospel of the mass; a Latin priest will notify the congregation by a gesture when he is about to preach and they can sit down; even an English Catholic priest I know of turns to the people before beginning the Christmas midnight mass to wish them and theirs a happy and blessed festival. These fraternal familiarities do not lack in the Nonconformist chapels, but they would most certainly be deemed out[Pg 194] of place and not quite decorous in the English Church. Latin simplicity and human interest, the brotherhood of class, oppose themselves here to English self-consciousness, English inflexibility, the Puritan sense of propriety; and no one can have lived in Italy without seeing instances multiplied in all ranks of the clergy of that familiarity without loss of dignity to which we have not the key. Another thing little understood in England is that the Italian is not "priest-ridden"; he does not depend upon or run after the priest, and the attitude which the priest in Ireland and the minister in Scotland have been able to assume towards the people would never have been possible in Italy. The Roman, more especially, has never ceased to let his satire play upon popes and cardinals, and has known how to do so without scorning dogma and discipline. The bigotte is not an Italian type; and is disliked and distrusted, in either sex, when met. The Roman peasant trudging into the city on Sunday morning halts at the big church of S. Paul in the Via Nazionale, enters, and walks up to the top. A verger at once points out to him his place in the house of God—for this is the American Episcopal church—and he returns to the door: he was uncertain about the church but he is quite certain now, this is not Latin Christianity. But if the Italian comes to London another surprise is in store for him; he goes to the Catholic church and finds he must take a ticket for his footing there—and, often, he goes no more, he has not sufficient threepences and sixpences; he does not mind being poor but he does not think it very fitting to label[Pg 195] you from the start as a threepenny Catholic or a six-penny Catholic.

These things show that certain qualities of Italian Catholicism—its familiarity, its independence (for the Italian has greater liberty of spirit though the Anglo-Saxon has greater liberty of conscience)—are the outcome of the Latin spirit and can only be enjoyed where this has sway. It has most influence in Italy and least in Germany. In the city which inherits the sour persecuting spirit of Westphalia, for example, Catholicism is a very different thing from what it is in the land of its birth. There the faithful are a regiment—human automata—standing up and kneeling down with the uniformity of clockwork; every one who enters is suspected, every one who stands at the door creates scandal, the priests are quæstors and their vergers are lictors. Such things certainly have their compensations for the Teutonic and even the Anglo-Saxon mind—but how different they are from the tolerant liberty of the domus Dei in Italy which is, by the same title, the house of the people, with all that familiarity of spirit loved by S. Francis, that utter freedom from self-righteousness! Twice in the course of twelve years, in my personal knowledge, visitors to Cologne Cathedral, in both cases women and Catholics, were assaulted by the beadle in charge and hustled by physical force out of the building, their innocent desire having been to enter the chapel where they supposed the reserved Sacrament to be. The Englishman is no bully, and he does not easily feel that desire to assault which possesses the Teutonic[Pg 196] official; moreover if there is one thing he understands it is political liberty—but I may venture on a rough guess that the vergers of some of our cathedrals—S. Paul's not excepted—have the making of a Cologne beadle in their souls.

The question of racial religious characteristics apparently resolves itself into one of compensations. For those who think that Catholicism decorated with the notes of Puritanism, with the sour Teutonic or the dour Spanish accompaniments to religion, or with the florid sentimentalism of the Gaul, loses its birthright, Italian Catholicism will always retain its primacy: but they must bid good-bye in Italy to memories of religious recollection and mysticity, to the beauties and sedateness possible among an interior people who are not wooed by the senses; the beauty of holiness will have to be pictured through a mist of dirt, ignorant superstition, and slovenliness, but not athwart the haze of bigotry, cant, and self-gratulation.

Santa Scholastica

One of the three cloisters in this Benedictine monastery; it was built by Abbot Lando in 1235, and is decorated on the vault with mosaic work by the Cosmati. See page 36, and interleaf, page 82.

The Roman skeleton of religion has been clothed upon by other races, who have filled in, expanded, and added those things which fitted Christianity for reception among more complex and introspective or more devout natures; but in the eternal city itself, from the catacombs to a solemn mass in S. Peter's, the religion of Latium and the religion of imperial Rome have set their indelible seal on Christianity. The familiar pastoral figure of Christ with his crook in catacomb frescoes, carrying a pail, the milk of the Eucharist, has its primitive counterpart in the shepherds' god Lupercus[Pg 197] "driver away of wolves," whose worship was celebrated in Roma Quadrata by the original settlers, clad in their goat skins, who offered him milk as a libation. But he who said Ego sum pastor bonus is gathering the sheep (and the goats), not driving away the wolves, and he is giving the food which is himself to them, not seeking it of them. The Person of Christ had introduced as much of the intimate and personal as Roman religion was capable of assimilating; but the moral implications of this personality—after the first brilliant epoch of the planting of the Faith, with its consciousness of the Person of Christ and its realisation of the moral uses of the Eucharist—were never really appropriated by Rome. Again, the master of ceremonies at papal mass prompts the pontiff at each stage of the function as did his predecessors for Antoninus Pius or Marcus Aurelius when they too officiated as pontifex maximus. The very chairs of the bishops in Rome (where no bishop save the pope or a cardinal in his titular church sits on a throne) are the curule chairs of the Roman magistrates. Nay more mysterious still are the roots of sacred things in Latin soil, for the Roman pontiffs were to adopt that Etruscan pontifical system in which both civil and ecclesiastical functions were vested in the Lucomones. Though Greek theology twice enriched Latin religion, pagan and Christian, nowhere is religion less Greek and more Roman than in Rome. It may be said to be the distinctive feature of Christianity that it is a preaching religion; in France and in England it is more a preaching religion than in Italy, but it is[Pg 198] least of all a preaching religion in Rome; and so it has always been. There is no pulpit in the Roman basilica. In the eternal city as elsewhere Christianity in its inception was a Jewish sect, it rose there as elsewhere among the "Jews of the dispersion," and certain Hebrew things, lections, chants, and exposition of the Scriptures, at once took their place in its public worship. But Rome has, here also, preserved less of the Judaic strain of piety than any other Christian Church. The Roman has blotted out the Hebrew element.

At the founts of the Roman and the Hebrew story we come indeed upon one mysterious link—the history of each people begins in a fratricide. As Cain slays Abel so Remus is slain by Romulus, but there the likeness ends; there is no reproach in the Roman story—"the voice of thy brother's blood" cries out through the whole course of Hebrew history.

The act of Romulus founded what was most precious to the Roman, his Kingdom of God on earth—the Roman state, the Roman polity: the act of Cain awoke what lay at the source of Jewish theocracy, the persuasion of sin and of righteousness, the Kingdom based on the conscience. Neither has ever been able to enter freely into the sentiment of the other. Romulus is a hero, Cain is outcast humanity; but the temple to Romulus still evokes more response in Rome than the moral considerations connected with Abel.

Santa maria Sopra Minerva

The Dominican church near the Pantheon, called "S. Mary above Minerva" because it was erected upon Pompey's temple of the goddess, was built by Florentines in the fourteenth century, and is the only instance of pointed architecture in Rome. Its unlikeness to the Roman basilica is manifest.

It is the pax romana, the peace of the Roman empire, which was actually established as "the Peace of the Church." The peace, juridical or religious, of a world[Pg 199] which acknowledged the sway of Rome. Without were barbarians and heretics, within was the civis romanus. It was a peace consistent with all war save internecine, and Rome, whether political or religious, created in the world it conquered the ambition to live and die united to the greatest of earthly entities—to live and die as catacomb epitaphs to orthodox strangers dying in Rome record—in pace. The Roman citizenship becomes the Catholic citizenship through the mediation of the Apostle who could say "But I am a Roman born," while setting forth imperially a Palestinian sect to the Gentile world. The stranger Roman citizen who dies in Rome for Christ links two worlds with his blood, dedicates that new imperium where Rome may claim that all homage is paid et mihi et Petro, confounds those two things which the master of the Gospel "of the Kingdom" had set apart, the things of Cæsar and the things of God.

[Pg 200]



What is a cardinal? In the early days of the Church in Rome the presbyters and deacons of the city, the council and administrators of its bishop, were considerable personages—indeed the bench of presbyters had always been of great importance in the government of the Church in Rome as elsewhere, as Jerome testifies, and the seven deacons were even more conspicuous partly perhaps, as Jerome suggests, because they were few and the presbyters were many, and partly because the diaconate appears very early in Roman Church annals, and may indeed have been a relic of the evangelisation of the eternal city by Peter, at whose instance "the seven" were first instituted (Acts vi. 3). To the presbyters and deacons must be added the rural bishops of the Roman district who came in time to assist the Pope at the great ecclesiastical solemnities, and are an example of those parochial oversights, no larger than parishes, over which we find "bishops" presiding at a time when—except in the great metropolitan Sees—bishops were little more than rural deans.

Saint Peter's


As the Church grew these presbyters of the original "titles" or [Pg 201]parish churches of Rome, together with the regional deacons of the city, and the suburban bishops, took rank as the cardinal or principal Roman clergy, and in time the privilege of forming part, even in only a titular sense, of this body of presbyters and deacons of the great See of Rome, was coveted by other than Romans, and the Pope would create the metropolitan of a foreign See or some distinguished foreign ecclesiastic cardinal priest or cardinal deacon of the Holy Roman Church. By the eleventh century the cardinals of the Roman Church are a recognised body, the Senate of the Pope, whose election is being gradually confined to their hands alone. In the next century the popular vote—the vote of the clergy and people of Rome—is altogether abolished, and thenceforth the election of a pope is exclusively vested in the College of Cardinals, whose privileges and dignity were further enhanced at the close of the thirteenth century by Boniface VIII.

Cardinals therefore are the honorary parish clergy of Rome, nominally holding the place of the presbyters of the Roman titles and of the deacons of the Roman regions; and though a foreign cardinal cannot of course be also a local parish priest in Rome, he is bound to appoint a "vicar" to represent him. The six suburban Sees are always held by six of the senior cardinals di curia, that is the cardinals resident in Rome, among whom is always the Pope's cardinal-vicar, and they are called the cardinal bishops. Cardinal priests are usually in episcopal orders, and cardinal deacons are usually in[Pg 202] priest's orders. Each cardinal priest or deacon takes his title from one of the Roman churches, and is styled John Cardinal Priest (or deacon) of the title of Saints John and Paul on the Caelian. The oldest presbyteral titles are to be found in the outlying districts—as SS. Andrea and Gregorio, Archbishop Manning's title, S. Clemente, S. Prisca, SS. Bonifacio and Alessio, or S. Eusebio, on the Caelian Aventine and Esquiline, or among the old ecclesiastical foundations in Trastevere. The diaconal titles, on the contrary, are to be found in the centre, corresponding to the ancient regions—S. Maria in Aquiro behind Piazza Colonna, S. Adriano on the Forum, or S. Giorgio the title of John Henry Newman in the ancient quarter of the Velabrum.

The Pope was chosen from among the deacons of Rome for eight hundred years, and was consecrated bishop on his election; later on the Pope was chosen from the bishops, but if, as has happened, a layman were elected he proceeded at once to receive the three major orders. A man in deacon's orders or a layman may similarly have the Hat conferred on him, but in this case he may remain in deacon's orders, or if a layman may take simple minor orders. The last deacon in the College of Cardinals was created by Pius IX. He had been a member of the High Council in the "forties," and as such formed one of the deputation sent by the Romans after the flight to Gaeta to beg Pius IX. to return to Rome. The deputation was not even received. Antonelli, this Pope's Secretary of State, was another cardinal who was never in priest's orders.[Pg 203]

A cardinal is called the Pope's creatura; at the time of Leo XIII.'s death the only surviving cardinal of Pius IX.'s creation was the Cardinal Chamberlain Oreglia di Santo Stefano, so that Leo could all but declare in the words of one of his predecessors, with an allusion to S. John xv. 16, "You have not elected me, but I have elected you."

The full number of the Roman cardinals is seventy. About twenty-five of these are always resident in Rome, and form the papal Curia, or administrative council of the Church, with the entrée at all times to the Vatican. They are the chief members of the Roman Congregations, the Congregation of Rites, of the Inquisition, the Index, the Bishops and Regulars, etc., through which all ecclesiastical affairs are administered. Cardinals di curia receive a sum of twenty-four thousand francs a year, or less than one thousand pounds. A special stipend is also added for the work done as members of the various congregations.

Their position before 1870 was however a very different one. Then they enjoyed large incomes and their comings and goings were attended with a certain measure of regal state; and in the preceding centuries when the Hat was often conferred, like any other secular distinction, on mere youths and on laymen, their wealth and the luxury and magnificence of their style of living was unsurpassed in Rome, while the power and position of some cardinal nephew or relative of the Pope was second only to his own.

Cardinals are created—and the process is long and[Pg 204] elaborate—in a special assembly of the Pope and his Council of Cardinals known as Consistory. In a preliminary and secret meeting, the Pope proposes the names of those he wishes to honour to his assembled councillors, and as a relic of the ancient custom of asking the consent of the people to the election of their bishop or deacon, the question: "quid quis videtur?" is put as each name is announced. No opportunity of dissent is however afforded the cardinals, and all they are expected to do is to rise, take off their berrettas or stiff caps, and bow as a sign of assent. The Pope may, and often does, keep back "in his breast," in petto, the name of some candidate if he thinks it expedient. But this candidate comes forward nevertheless at a future consistory for the subsequent formalities.

At another secret consistory, the Pope first closes the mouths of the newly created cardinals and then pronounces them open with the words: "I open your mouth that in consistory, in congregations, and in other ecclesiastical functions, you may be heard in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost."

Most important of all these ceremonies is the public consistory held in one of the great halls of the Vatican, and before 1870 this was a "festa" of the first magnitude. The new porporati, wearers of purple, rode in triumph through the streets upon gaily decked horses, wearing their scarlet robes and hats; bands of ecclesiastics, grooms on foot and on horseback, papal guards and attendants escorted them; cannon were fired and church bells rung, and the Roman people never so[Pg 205] happy as when a procession is afoot, crowded into the streets. On reaching the Vatican, the cardinals-elect take their oaths in the Sistine chapel and then accompanied by two cardinal deacons as sponsors, one walking on each side, they are led into the presence of the Pope.

Saint Peter's Interior

The statue, the origin of which is uncertain, is near the shrine of the apostle, and peasants and seminarists kiss the outstretched foot, and then touch it with their foreheads. See page 11.

The Pope sits enthroned in full state, surrounded by his court, all his cardinals in a great semicircle around him, cardinal bishops and priests on his right, cardinal deacons on his left—the train bearers sitting on foot-stools at their feet. Kneeling on the steps of the throne, the new cardinals kiss the Pontiff's foot, hand, and cheek; they then rise and embrace the whole college in the order of their precedence, and as a final ceremony, they kneel again before the Pope, the hoods of their cloaks are drawn over their heads by two masters of ceremonies, and a cardinal's hat is held over them while the Pope addresses a few words to each. The new cardinals now take their seats according to the rank just conferred upon them, and the proceedings close with an address of thanksgiving to the Pope made upon his return to his apartments, and a Te Deum in the Sistine chapel. In the afternoon of the same day, couriers and messengers hurry through the streets of Rome. The new red hat is carried to the happy recipient by a "monsignore of the papal wardrobe," the rochet and the scarlet berretta are conveyed by less important functionaries, and all and each have to be thanked and entertained and recompensed when possible. The Secretary of State, all the cardinals and papal officials, as well as personal friends and private individuals[Pg 206] hasten to pay congratulatory visits (visite di calore) upon the new cardinals; and royal fashion, the state calls have to be immediately returned. If the cardinal is a foreigner and out of Rome, his hat is carried to him by a papal messenger especially appointed, and in Catholic states is presented with considerable ceremony by his sovereign.

The cardinal's hat, at one time an article of attire, is now only a symbol. It is of red cloth with a wide brim and shallow crown, and on either side hang fifteen red tassels, the number denoting the ecclesiastical rank of the wearer. From the day of its presentation the hat is put by until its owner's death, when it is brought out once more to be hung up in some side chapel of his titular church, where it remains until it falls to pieces with age.

One of the first duties of a new cardinal is to take possession of his titular church, and in old days this was another occasion for pomp and display, and the Pope's guards attended in full dress uniform. Now the cardinal drives quietly in his sombre closed carriage. At the church door he is divested of his cloth cloak and hat, and in flowing scarlet silk he walks up the nave bestowing benedictions on all sides. He seats himself on his throne in the chancel and the vicar of the parish reads to him an address in Latin to which he replies, he is then saluted by all the clergy of the parish in the order of their precedence ending with the acolytes, and the "taking possession" is over. He must however present the church with his portrait[Pg 207] painted in oils which is hung with that of the reigning pope in the nave; and with a large escutcheon of his heraldic coat, emblazoned in colour and surmounted by the red hat and tassels, which is placed over the main entrance to the building, and which side by side with the papal arms is the outward and visible sign of a titular church. As princes of the Church, cardinals enjoy the princely distinction of displaying their coats of arms in the halls of their houses, affixed to the wall and sheltered beneath a silken canopy. Further they must have a throne and throne room, but unlike the secular princes of Rome who are entitled to the same privilege, their thrones are turned towards the wall, and are only reversed during a vacancy of the Holy See, when they may be used by their owners, who, for the time, become sovereigns and rulers of the Church.

No great church ceremony is complete without a cardinal, who by his very presence makes a function, but except for such occasions as these little is seen of the Roman cardinals by the casual visitor to the city. Their heavy carriages, painted black, drawn by black horses their harness unrelieved by brass or plating, pass unnoticed in the streets. Only occasionally on the Janiculum or outside the city gates on fine afternoons, a cardinal may be seen taking a walk, his servant at a discreet distance behind him, and his carriage following at a foot's pace. Before 1870 the streets of Rome were enlivened by the cardinals' brilliant equipages. A cardinal possessed two or three coaches[Pg 208] to be used according to the degree of state required. He drove to the Vatican on grand occasions with all three to convey himself and his retinue of attendants, and his gala carriage drawn by six horses with postilions and standing footmen was of brilliant scarlet and was so magnificently gilded and painted that it cost over a thousand scudi.

A Cardinal

Villa d'Este at Tivoli was the residence of the late Prince-Cardinal Hohenlohe. See interleaf, page 106.

During the period of their greatest splendour, it was no uncommon thing for a cardinal to have a household of several hundred persons, and though this number was later greatly reduced, a considerable retinue of servants, secretaries, domestic chaplains, and attendants of all sorts was always considered necessary to his princely state. Chief among these was his gentiluomo. This gentleman was indeed his constant "guide, philosopher and friend"; he drove with him, paid visits for him, entertained his friends, and in a wonderful Elizabethan dress of black velvet, with silk stockings, lace ruffles and a rapier, he was by his side at all state and church functions. Cardinal Wiseman's gentiluomo still lives in Rome where he received the guests of the new cardinal in the palace of the Consulta opposite the Quirinal, then occupied by Pius IX., and he remembers the cardinal taking the official costume with him to England for his English substitute. At the present day when the temporal rôle of cardinals is shorn of its significance, nothing better illustrates the unworthy subordination of the civil career to the clerical than the position of a cardinal's gentiluomo. Dressed in his knee breeches, a sword by his side, this attendant who[Pg 209] belongs to the good bourgeoisie and may be an architect or engineer, is to be seen at every cardinal's high mass, waiting with the minor clerks, and presenting himself on one or two occasions during the ceremony with a ewer and basin which he offers kneeling on one knee while the cardinal washes the tips of his fingers.

It is fondly believed by the tourist, who will go any distance as a rule, and push through any crowd for a sight of the scarlet clothes, that a cardinal habitually lives in robes of red silk, with a white fur tippet round his shoulders. As a matter of fact his red robes are for state occasions only—either for attendance at the papal court or for great church functions. He wears a plain black cassock in ordinary life with a red sash and red buttons and silk pipings, and thus cannot be easily distinguished from other prelates whose silk trimmings vary with every shade from crimson to purple. The state robes of scarlet are very splendid indeed. The soutane of light scarlet cloth has a train; over this is worn the white rochet trimmed with deep lace and over this again the cappa magna a voluminous circular cloak of red watered silk, with a single opening for the head. It is gathered up to the elbows in front and floats behind into an ample train which is carried by pages or acolytes. The stockings, gloves, skull cap and berretta are of scarlet. The cappa magna has a hood pointed behind and forming a sort of shoulder cape in front, which in the winter months is covered with white ermine. Canons of the Roman basilicas wear a cappa magna of purple cloth, but they are not permitted to spread it[Pg 210] out, it must be tightly coiled into a long rope and slipped through a loop at the side.

At social receptions a cardinal wears his black soutane and red sash, and over it a flowing scarlet silk cloak from the shoulder. If the occasion is an important one he is received at the palace gates by two servants with lighted torches, and these accompany him up the stairs to the door of the salon and there await his departure, when they escort him to his carriage again. When in this gala attire, a cardinal wears as an out-door wrap a gorgeous cloth cloak with many capes of purple and deep red, and a red priest's hat around which is twisted a red and gold cord finished with minute tassels the requisite fifteen in number.

The most responsible and arduous duty of the College of Cardinals is the conclave when the election of the future head of the Church depends upon their united vote. With the death of a pope their position changes on the instant from that of subject to ruler, and for the time being the destinies of the Church lie in their hands. They receive deputations and state visits seated upon their thrones, they drive in their carriages alone upon the principal seat, no companion being of sufficiently exalted rank to sit beside them, and the first among them, the Cardinal Chamberlain, is attended by a detachment of the Swiss guard and affixes his own seal to papal documents.

Villa d'Este


Scarcely in accordance with this regal state are the rules still in force for conclave, which are, to say the least, antiquated. The incarceration to which the[Pg 211] cardinals are obliged to submit is of the strictest, and for its maintenance the secular arm is called in in the shape of the Marshal of Conclave, a Roman nobleman who with his officers and subordinates assumes complete control outside the building. Accustomed to spacious rooms and numerous domestics, the cardinals are now forced to lodge in a tiny apartment of two rooms in a circumscribed portion of the Vatican palace—the rules prescribe one cell—one valet and one secretary each are allowed them, while two barbers and one confessor are considered sufficient to shave and shrive the whole college. From sumptuous living they are reduced to meals brought to their cells by their servants, and the rules permit a gradual reduction of the menu to an ultimate diet of bread and water, as a means of bringing pressure to bear upon the voters and so precipitating their agreement. This rigorous treatment has been often tried in the past with various results.

When assembled for the scrutiny in the Sistine chapel each cardinal is provided with a throne before which stands a small table with ink and paper. Over the throne is a canopy or baldacchino the emblem of sovereignty. These are ingeniously fitted with a hinge and when the election of the new pope is announced all the canopies fold up except one, leaving the elected member of the college alone sitting enthroned beneath his baldacchino, a sovereign amongst his subjects.

[Pg 212]



A stranger who had found himself in Rome the week before September 20, 1870 would have noticed the strange expectation, and also the strange apathy in the Romans. "The Italians" were besieging their city, and when it pleased them to enter they would enter. The Pope would not resist them, and no one in his city thought it his business to die a martyr to such a cause. Some workmen who had had orders to make a barricade had got themselves under way with much difficulty and not without many complaints, declaring as they prepared their tools and tramped along the hot road in the September sun: "ci vuole molto vino per queste cose, molto vino." At five o'clock on the morning of the 20th the bombardment began and at ten the white flag was hoisted in Rome. Then a great silence succeeded in the city, every one stayed within doors, and the papal brigand corps patrolled the streets. Thus ingloriously the "Patrimony of Peter," the historical sway of the popes, came to an end.

Theatre of Marcellus

Begun by Julius Caesar, and completed by Augustus who dedicated it to his sister's son. See pages 30, 160, 168, 228.

Did the Romans welcome or reprobate the entry of[Pg 213] "the Italians"? To answer this question for ourselves we must bear in mind the political events which preceded 1870 and the various elements represented in the city. In September 1870 when the Italians entered, Rome was already won for Italy, the Pope could not have offered any effective resistance to Italian arms, Italian unity was already an accepted fact; it only remained to take possession of Rome as the centre and capital of this political unity, Victor Emmanuel having, out of consideration to the Pontiff, fixed his capital first at Turin and afterwards at Florence. And the events which led up to this result had not spelt harmony between the Pope and his subjects or been years of peace in the papal states. When Pius mounted the throne in 1846 people were tired of Gregory XVI.'s old world methods, and Giovanni Mastai-Ferretti was no sooner elected than the Romans asked him for a constitution, a parliament, the substitution of laymen for clerks in various departments of the executive. Pius IX. accorded a constitution and a parliament of laymen. He did more. Against the suffrages of his cardinals he granted a general amnesty to political offenders, and the story runs that when he saw the rows of forbidding black balls which the cardinals had cast, he lifted his little white skull cap and covering the balls with it, said "I will make them all white," and so the amnesty was granted.

It is often said that the liberal impulses of Pius IX. and his ready response to popular clamour were repaid by outrageous ingratitude, and that his Romans made[Pg 214] him fly from Rome at the risk of his life to ponder in solitude at Gaeta the futility of liberal pretences on the part of popes. But the Romans were not simply ungrateful, they wanted more, they thought they had a right to more—and what they wanted was more than any pope could concede. They asked for modern civilisation and the papacy represented ancient civilisation. The original demands had not been demands made in bona fides of a prince who has power to give and to withhold what is asked. They were part of a political campaign, the end of which was to be the destruction of the temporal power. Mazzini's instructions to Young Italy to make one demonstration after another under the windows of the Quirinal, when one liberty was accorded to return the next day and demand another, until the Pope's position was rendered intolerable and impossible, are not pleasant reading; what is to be said in their favour is that the revolutionary annals of no other people afford any better.

The time had come when men who lived in contact with the Italy outside the walls of Rome, in contact with the ideas which were the conquest of the nineteenth century, could not admit that the governed had only duties and the ruler only rights, or reconcile with the modern ideal of civil life the notion of a prince-bishop governing a subject people in virtue of a theocratic idea, the abstract idea that certain temporal rights fell—mal gré bon gré of all concerned—to the vicar of Jehovah on earth. The time will come when the existence of such a pretension, the existence of such a[Pg 215] government one moment after it responded to the universal sentiment, will appear the strangest fable. Will they be better or worse times? The future alone knows what it has in store, but we can only say that they cannot ever be worse times than some of those which the papacy created for the Romans. This consideration would have sufficed at any time to make the tenure of temporal power on the part of the Roman bishops, precarious—but it did not by any means stand alone. We have to add to it the rise of Italian patriotism, the passionate call for a united Italy, for the country to issue once and for all from the tyrannies, the immoralities, the crushing canker of pettiness which clung to the princely and ducal governments, and rise to its place among the nations.

Thus in September 1870 the feeling was very mixed in Rome. A large part of the population had helped to prepare the dénouement, knew its advent was only a question of time; others, members of faithful Roman houses, had used voice and influence to induce the Pope to institute necessary reforms and had fallen into despondency when Pius on his return from Gaeta issued his non possumus and settled down to a morose implacable reactionism. There remained the large army of priests, of papal functionaries and retainers, the cardinals and their numerous personnel, the religious orders and congregations of both sexes and the hundreds upon hundreds of persons dependent on them, the papal police and soldiery with their families. There were the great families which owed their titles and their fortunes[Pg 216] to the popes, those whom common gratitude or honour kept at his side. And lastly there was the popolino, the ignorant poor, untouched by modern aspirations, by socialistic theories, living from day to day, from hand to mouth in the strictest sense, with no ambitions, no "standard of comfort" or of human dignity—ready to fall on their knees at any hour of the day when the Pope "Dio in terra" passed, agape at the latest royal visitor to the palace of their pontiff, content to encounter injustice with cunning fraud, to sweeten the hard buffets of life by the finesse required for some small scheme of peculation, some dastardly scheme of revenge. Such human passions as lay outside the gratification of hunger and the greed for spectacles were satisfied by the periodical uprising and savage disloyalty habitual to the turbulent Roman people. And what applied to the populace applied in some sense also to the small bourgeoisie. There are always those who find it easier and pleasanter to keep within the pale of small joys and small miseries, small achievements and small risks. There were thousands of such people who stood well with the papacy, and who could only lose by a competition with the outsider for which they were, by training and talent, unprepared.

The Isola Sacra

To the right is the Fabrician bridge, to the left the pons Cestius which joins the island to Trastevere. See pages 7, 229, 240.

These then were "for the Pope." Not because he had a divine right to be in Rome but because they individually and collectively flourished under his rule. They flourished because there was no hunger, because though there were unsanitary hovels there were no haunts of starving people who could obtain neither[Pg 217] bread nor work—if any were in need of bread they threw a supplica into the Pope's carriage and he sent it to them when he got home. They flourished, because "where ignorance is bliss 'tis folly to be wise" and no wave of unrest, few of the ignobilities and none of the nobilities of a more strenuous life had passed over them. The papal government compared to a modern European government was like a blunderbuss in a modern arsenal, but though it was entirely ineffectual, though the people under its care merely lived out their lives with enough to eat and generation succeeded generation neither better nor worse than the men who went before them—it was an honest government in the financial sense. The people were not taxed, prices indeed were kept low as a means of humouring them, and the Pope's subjects were not exploited to fill his exchequer. In the strange medley of Roman ideas it seemed better to accomplish this end by the methods of the Jubilee year which exploited the soul of the foreigner. The papal government did not peculate, but the hated sbirri—the papal police—were often responsible for a missing bale of cloth or a burglary, and a child who had been left a fortune by her aunt only learnt when she was grown up that the curato of the Pantheon who had been made erede fiduciario (trustee) and executor of the testament had not thereby been constituted sole beneficiary. The administration in all departments was simpler than now, and the evils of the present bureaucracy were not known, but it was a government of privilege and patronage; "one under which a gentleman could live"[Pg 218] said an Irishman, but the unprivileged person might find himself in prison for not kneeling when the Pope passed. A resident English sculptor who remembered the days of Gregory XVI. told me that Rome was the paradise of artists, who in their velvet jackets and squash felt hats did what seemed good in their own eyes, no man hindering them. The curious traveller of family and fortune—it was before the day of Cook's tourists—enjoyed every liberty under the hospitable papal government save only the liberty to speak or write about politics and religion, and suffered nothing save the occasional loss of a newspaper or book which the paternal government stopped at the frontier as likely to imperil the peace of mind of the Romans. They lived in a picturesque world, which recalled the middle ages at every step, where the prosaic dead level to which justice and civilisation had reduced the rest of Europe, did not penetrate, and they admired in Rome and for the Romans what they would have exposed in Parliament or the Times as intolerable abuses in their own country. From 1848 onwards political rigours unworthy of the Holy See were resorted to, though these were relaxed before 1870. Some art students who had prepared Bengal fireworks to celebrate the anniversary of the victory over the French at Porta San Pancrazio, were sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment. A similar sentence was passed on a "non-smoker" (not to smoke was a protest against the papacy at the expense of its tobacco trade) who came to words with a "smoker" and this barbarous sentence was enthusiastically upheld[Pg 219] by such a journal as the Civiltà Cattolica. Commendatore Silvagni who cites these and similar instances in his Corte e Società romana writes indeed like a man too sore at what he has seen and too near to what he describes to present it in perspective, and he seems to the present writer a prejudiced guide to Rome before 1870. Sedition and conspiracy have met with scant ceremony at the hands of every nation and every prince in turn, and the way in which Pius IX. treated "the patriots" does not differ from that which may be read of in the history of any other country.

What was peculiar to the papal states was the confusion of the spiritual and the temporal; the special scandal came from the union of these two powers in one authority, the temporal being used to enforce the "spiritual" and the spiritual being abused to assist the temporal. The spectacle of priests, your "fathers in God," your spiritual directors, ordering the public floggings, nay the public torture, of men and women could hardly edify or civilise; Gregory XVI. had abolished these public castigations which used to be suffered in the Campo de' fiori (under an archway which may still be seen), but Antonelli strove to revive them in the Piazza del Popolo in 1856. Other mediæval barbarisms ceased the day the Italians entered Rome, among them the Ghetto.

Ara Coeli

The church which occupies the site of the Sabine arx. See pages 6, 86, 230-31.

The people as we see were not taxed, but neither were they taught. Some subjects were altogether taboo—modern history was among them. Obscurantism reigned supreme. Girls were taught to read in order that[Pg 220] they might read their prayers, but they did not learn to write lest they should indite love letters. This was typical of the papal system. You took away the light lest the child should ever happen to burn itself, and you pursued the same policy with the adult. No instruction was vouchsafed, no information given, no education whatever of the intellectual or moral man. Girls were often destined from birth to the nunnery, and the veil was the never-failing remedy against a marriage distasteful to the parents or even the brothers, grand-parents, or uncles of the victim. No one denies that this compulsory enclosure was commonly practised in Rome. "Are you not ashamed to be reading, go and knit stockings" shouted a Jesuit to a poor lady who sat reading in her carriage in the Corso as the worthy father, who had been preaching a retreat to women, crossed the street. Many of the poor ladies in convents became imbecile so void were their minds, so vacuous their lives, and in our own day a Roman community of thirty nuns required the services of no fewer than thirty-one confessors. The education received by the boys of good families sent them home with the airs and gestures of so many little abbés. The children's games were tarred with the same brush, the same universal insipidity. The little boys dressed up as priests and said sham masses or moved about pieces of white cardboard which represented the host; explaining to their little sisters that such solemn fooling was not for "wicked girls." Occasionally, the natural talent, the natural wit and moral courage of a girl might provide her with a[Pg 221] rôle and allow her to dominate instead of being the sport of circumstances. But the young men as a rule fell victims to that weak-kneedness which makes them the prey of the fear of derision in their school-days, intensified by a training which made self-dependence and self-development impossible. Thus one of the Doria, a family which had given heroes to its country, the younger brother of that Doria whose English wife's name Mary is cut in a box hedge in the Villa Pamfili, broke the heart of the noble Vittoria Savorelli because his uncle, of whom he was independent, objected to their engagement. A Roman marchese having been struck in the face by another Roman in the middle of the Corso at midday rushed off to consult his confessor as to what steps he should take, and we are not surprised to learn that he was able to follow the advice proffered, and "bear it patiently." There is a story of a frate who could have taught him differently. As he was crossing a bridge a man struck him on the cheek; the good frate immediately turned the other, then he picked up his man and pitched him into the river; for, as he explained, the Gospel bid him turn the other cheek to the smiter, but it did not tell him what he was to do afterwards.

The fierce light of publicity has transformed the lives of the Roman clergy and religious since 1870. Those Roman priests who live without reproach themselves, confess that "the revolution" has brought about this signal benefit. The Accademia dei Nobili Ecclesiastici which received impoverished nobles, ordained them,[Pg 222] and sent them at twenty-five years old to rule as prefects over the papal provinces was the fertile nursing-ground of a corrupt prelacy. The proud and affectionate interest with which the Romans, despite many lapses, regarded the popes, was not extended to the great papal officers who from the Governatore di Roma downwards did not cease to provide a scandalous example to the people until the moment when "the Italians" entered the city.

It will be said: these people at least were taught their religion? They were taught their religion as they were taught everything else—that is, not at all. They knew that you must obey the pope and obey the priest, that you would be damned if you did not go to confession and hear mass. But they thought one Madonna would hear their petitions better than another ("Non andate da quella, non vale niente" "don't go to that one, she is no good") and that exorcism was a surer remedy for a plague of bugs than cleanliness. They never heard a single verse of the Gospel explained to them, and young men of the higher bourgeoisie learnt their religion if they learnt it at all, after 1870, when they were grown up and thought and read for themselves. Such men, many of whom belong to the Circolo San Pietro, are to-day the mainstay of intelligent and faithful religion in the city. Before 1870 there was in Rome a real ignorance of the doctrines, the beauties, and the duties, of Christianity. The one moment chosen for a great religious impression was of course the first Communion. Boys and girls were then enclosed[Pg 223] and eight days were spent in pious exercises and instruction. The sons of the poor went to the Cappellette di San Luigi at Ponte Rotto, the well to do to the same institution near Santa Maria Maggiore. On the other side of the basilica the girls of well to do families were prepared at the Bambin Gesù, the poor at San Pasquale. I am assured that at Ponte Rotto the effect of these eight days shut up in a religious house frequently changed the lives of boys with vicious tendencies. In other classes the appeal to unreal emotions was not always so successful, and the girls at the Bambin Gesù, dressed up in the stiff unaccustomed habit of the religious, often communicated with the one dread filling their minds that they might inadvertently commit "the sin" of touching the host with their teeth. Not less mistaken was the custom of the "Six Sundays," the girls and boys alike for the next six weeks communicating "in honour of the chastity of S. Lewis Gonzaga." And then buon viaggio, as the Italians say; they probably never communicated again except as "paschal lambs" at Easter. They communicated then of course. At the rails, the moment they had received the host, a ticket was handed to them with the name of the parish and some pious Latin verse inscribed on it. To this the communicant appended his name and address, and no succour was given, no "grazia" accorded except to those provided with this ticket. The names of those who had not communicated were posted at the church doors. Thus not only did all who could in conscience do so communicate once a[Pg 224] year, but those who could not and would not procured the services of some woman who made it her business to communicate every day, or several times a day, during Easter tide, selling the tickets thus received for a franc or two francs each.

SS. Domenico and Sisto

Above the steps of Magnanapoli which lead from the Forum of Trajan to the Quirinal hill. Their architect was Bernini. See page 231.

Here was one of the inevitable degradations of a theocracy. Another was this—people found working at their trade, in their back shop, in their private room, on festas were arrested and imprisoned sometimes for several days. Respectable citizens who found themselves compelled to finish a piece of work, behind closed doors, in this way, were subjected to the ignominious and futile punishment, which was certainly not calculated to educate their own religious sense or that of their families and children. Spies, under such a government, were always easy to find, and this and similar laws gave fine scope to the purveyors of private revenge. You could not ostentatiously abstain from going to mass, if you were poor you could not abstain at all, for the Roman parish priests were so many civil magistrates with definite powers, and if the answers to their numerous questions were not satisfactory it was the worse for the householder and his prospects. One means of finding out people's private affairs was through the servants who acted as spies reporting everything to the parocco. Pinelli the famous designer and engraver, whose bust to-day adorns the Pincio, who had never been pious or even respectable, repaid the old woman who reported his habitual absence from mass by ringing up the neighbourhood between half past four and[Pg 225] five every morning, and in reply to the usual "Chi è?" calling out "è Pinelli che va a messa"; nor did he desist ringing at his enemy's door till she got out of bed to hear his announcement. The carabineers of the theocracy also had a mixed service. A room had to be set apart for the temerarious folk who required meat on a Friday or a fast day, and the carabineers entered the restaurants and eating houses, sequestrating the dish which smoked before the customer if this regulation was not observed. Moreover, at the head of every department was a cardinal; the Roman wife of a political exile once described to me what a via crucis it was for a young woman to run the gauntlet of these clerical departments if she had to ask some favour for the exiled husband.

But if they were unlettered and superstitious were the people in those days better than now? The comparisons we sometimes hear urged are not really fair for two reasons. There is to be found in Rome to-day among the lower and the half educated classes all that want of moral equilibrium which a revolution of ideas brings with it. Moral Italy has yet to be made, as the moral unity of Italy is also as yet only in the making. Before 1870, on the other hand, those who were faithful to the standard then put before them, were faithful to what was never better than a poor and low ideal of conduct, sentiment, and religious duty. The papal standard required no refinement of feeling, no education of the conscience: no one was scandalised that a shop should display the barbarous notice[Pg 226] "Qui si castrono per la cappella papale," or that the popular story ran that when Guido Reni was painting his picture of the Crucifixion before a living model attached to a cross, he killed him at the last moment in his frenzy to see and seize the death struggle, and fled the city; but that the holy father had absolved him because, as you who go may see, it is a capo d'opera. And the poor man killed to make a fine picture of Him who endured death to teach us pity for each other? Ebbene, poveretto.... The pope is like Nemesis, like the blind forces of nature, like an avalanche, a falling mountain, or an earthquake—not a moral force, but a weight of authority. As you can see for yourself if you go to San Lorenzo in Lucina the work is a capo d'opera and the pope knows better than you. Moral judgment is silent before the weight of authority.

My narrator, who only wished to magnify a great picture, not to raise a moral problem, always carried with him a paper blest by the pope, and of extraordinary efficacy, that is it was Spanish and was covered with writing, every corner had something pious in it, and no one who carried it could die unabsolved. The proof was set forth in the blest paper itself, for one man did die unabsolved, they cut off his head in fact; but the head was not to be brow-beaten, it simply went off to the nearest town—and in these cases, as the witty Marquise du Deffand said to Gibbon, Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coûte—and found a priest (what priest ever shows himself the least dérouté in such circumstances?) who at once confessed the head, and there the matter ended.[Pg 227]

Rome before 1870 was not even externally what we see it now. An old world city of tall palaces, the windows in the lower story grated, of monasteries and churches, of ruins in unconscious beauty, of fountains of waters, of cabbage gardens and orti, of orange and lemon gardens which at every turn surprised and delighted the eye. The main streets straight as Roman roads, the piazzas, in contrast to these, full of sun, intolerable from May onwards at noonday. A city of narrow squalid streets huddled together, in which the domesticities are carried on unrebuked and unabashed—in the poorer quarters every third house appeared to be a washerwoman's, the linen hung across the road on lines stretched from window to window. And everywhere an unpromising door, an open gate, may reveal a little picture, a cool garden and fountain, orange and lemon trees, a bend of the river, a view of the Janiculum or the Aventine. A Roman smell pervading everything and sufficiently characteristic to make you sure, if you were suddenly set down in any part of the town, that you were in Rome: and at night another smell, the smell of the ages, unwholesome, penetrating, coming up from the soil, or the freshly turned earth, and making one shut the windows hastily on the loveliest of moonlit evenings. A wealth of street cries, varying with the season, and the nocturnal serenades, assist that atmosphere of noise for noise' sake and movement which are essential to the Italian, the noise of the shabby two-horsed carriages grinding along on the paved streets and driven by the bad Roman[Pg 228] drivers with a continual cracking of the whip and a constant application of the squeaking break, of wine carts lazily winding their way across the streets of the eternal city with that sense of infinite time and space born of long colloquies with the sun by day and the moon by night across a deserted campagna, a score of little brazen bells, perhaps, clanging and jingling at the driver's ear—the constant noise by day and night of a life-loving, loquacious, complaining, gesticulating, rebellious and keenly observant people. A city of priests and dependents of priests, here there are no industries, no great machines are set in motion every day, no factories open with daylight to give employment to hundreds of skilled workmen. Every one who is not a priest works for priests or for the monasteries. The little workshops may be seen in the Borgo of S. Peter's, in Campo Marzo, in the arches of the theatre of Marcellus—every little doorway contains a cobbler, the piazze which lead to the big churches are crowded on festas with vendors of religious pictures and rosaries. The convents of women make their own habits, but there is a great industry for providing the thousands of priests, the seminarists, canons, monsignori, cardinals and cardinals' retainers, and Vatican functionaries with cassocks, robes, uniforms, hats, berrettas, stocks and pumps. In the centre of this life, which is ecclesiastical even for the layman, it seems right that when we notice a stir and turn round with the rest, we should see the papal cortège and the Pope round whom all this life revolves; the centre of this city of churches and[Pg 229] cassocks, because he is the centre of a far larger world. For Rome is what it is because its sovereign bishop is the cynosure for the eyes of that Christendom which counts the largest number of adherents on the face of the globe, and their Mecca is his city, Rome.

Santa Maria Maggiore

The great façade of the Liberian basilica, the first church in the city to be dedicated to the Madonna. To the right is the Military Hospital of Sant' Antonio. The house was until 1870 the residence of the Camaldolese nuns, and here S. Francis of Assisi was received when he first arrived in Rome. The site is presumed to be that of the Temple of Diana. The column facing the basilica is one of the eight Corinthian columns which supported the vault of the basilica of Constantine. See pages 34, 60, 145, 231, and interleaf, page 252.

Let us follow a pedestrian who is starting on his afternoon walk, one bright day in April, from the neighbourhood of Santa Maria dell' Orto on the other side of the Tiber, and see Rome before 1870 with his eyes. Like all good Italians he is curious, and he crosses the street when he sees a man with a large oblong box covered with some black waterproof stuff ring at what is apparently a convent door—and the meanest door in Rome may give access to the scene of busiest monastic life. The door is opened by the convent porteress, and when the lid is removed our friend sees the ostie, the hosts for the use of the convent, which are brought round every week or every fortnight to the monasteries and churches, a hundred here, twenty there, according to the need. As he passes the convent of Santa Maria in Capella he gets a glimpse of the beautiful cool cloister garden with its lemon trees and sees the cornette of the "Daughter of France" whose application for permission to remain and work on French soil was immediately granted at a time when so many companies of priests monks and friars applied in vain. While crossing the river by the island of the Tiber, he meets a procession from the church hard by with its Franciscan friars who walk next after the confraternity of the quarter in their well-known red "sacks" or gowns;[Pg 230] the priest in his short surplice and stole is followed by the men bearing the bier, all carry lighted torches and chant the Miserere or the Gradual psalms. Leaving the Ghetto well to the left he takes the street which passes the famous Roman house of the Oblates of Tor de' Specchi, and crosses in front of the Capitol and the steps of Ara Coeli. He meets many priests, monks, and friars, but the numerous suore to be seen in the modern city are conspicuous by their absence. The nuns, of course, are never seen, the Oblates occasionally drive in large closed landaus like those in which the cardinals progress to-day; but new communities of women find it difficult to obtain authorisation, and a constant supervision, no longer feasible, checks the mushroom growth of "active" congregations. Just beyond he hears a bell and guesses, rightly enough, that the Viaticum is being brought from the neighbouring parish church of San Marco to some sick or dying parishioner—in a moment he sees the little familiar procession, the acolytes with incense and bell, the priest carrying the host enveloped in the humeral veil under the ombrellino, the women and men who were in or near the church at the time following with lighted candles, and stopping beneath the windows of the sick man while his Lord visits him—if it were wet a little dark knot of people under umbrellas would be waiting, and would accompany the host with candle and umbrella just the same. Is it for the same sick person, he wonders, that the gala carriage of Duca Torlonia next passes him carrying the Bambin Gesù, the little wooden painted doll from[Pg 231] Ara Coeli. If the person whom it visits is to live the Bambino will turn red, if he is to die he will turn pale. Our pedestrian crosses the Forum of Trajan and as he mounts the steps he encounters a man of the people who tells him as he hurries breathless along that he is going to fetch Monsignor B., one of the episcopal canons of Santa Maria Maggiore, to cresimare his baby, three weeks old, who is dying. He and the mother are bent on their baby going to paradise with all the glory of the added sacrament. A baby of three weeks old "confirmed" will sound strange in English ears. It must be borne in mind therefore that the rite of confirmation in the English Church is a new rite unlike that in use in any ancient Christian Communion. In the Roman Church the rite of chrism is the ancient sacramental rite complementary to baptism, which always included the imposition by the bishop of the sign of the cross on the forehead of the newly baptized, "for a type of the spiritual baptism." As such it is not properly a separate ceremony at all from the baptism with water. Our friend turns to the left and as he reaches the piazza before the Quirinal palace he sees the papal cortège approach. The Pope (it is Pius IX.) is coming—not in his state carriage with the gilt angels, which we may still see at the papal stables on the way to the Vatican museum of sculpture or the papal garden—but in the carriage he uses every day. Every one kneels, and a mother who holds up her baby for the apostolic blessing secretly "makes the horns" with her free hand, for Pius IX. is reputed to have the evil eye and to cast the jettatura.[Pg 232]

But it is drawing towards the Ave Maria, the sunset hour, and it is rather free and easy even in a monsignore's servant to be abroad after that late hour. We will therefore leave our pedestrian in the Via del Quirinale, first noticing with him a group of seminarists on their way to pay their evening visit at the church of the Santi Apostoli; they raise their hats as they pass the door of the Sacramentate, opposite the palace, where the host is constantly exposed, and then hurry on to see the Pope and receive his paternal blessing. We, however, will turn down at the Four Fountains, and follow a priest who mounts a narrow staircase to the apartment occupied by a canon of the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere in an old granary of Palazzo Barberini, which has been converted into dwellings for faithful retainers of the princely house. It contains all that is necessary for his wants—a chapel where he says his daily mass, the kitchen regions and some slips of rooms where his food is prepared and eaten in company with the two orphan relatives who, at his invitation, arrived at his door hand in hand one winter's evening many years ago, two little girls of ten and fifteen, who had come alone all the way from a northern town.

They communicate at his daily mass, but their generous guardian, who sees to their moral training, carefully hides away his copy of the Scriptures as a perilous work for two young souls. The sisters enjoy an incredible distinction among their commari and compari—their neighbours and gossips—for in the canon's chapel there is a corpo di santo sano. Besides the[Pg 233] chapel he has a bedroom and sitting-room, communicating—they are decorated with full length Magdalenes grasping skulls in evident deprecation of their want of apparel, of crucifixes painted on canvas, and of pictorial compositions consisting of a crucifix hung with a rosary, flanked by a couple of guttering church candles and enlivened with a book, a death's head, or an hour glass. These are his own handiwork, and no intimacy with the works of art in the eternal city enlighten him as to their relative merits. The priest enters the sitting-room first, and finds six or seven men, all priests, on their knees, in the various corners of the room. Presently the door beyond opens, and a priest comes in and kneels down by a vacant chair. Another rises enters the bedroom and shuts the door carefully behind him. Our canon is a favourite confessor among his brother clergy, and it is the general custom for priests to be confessed at the houses of the religious or secular clergy they select as confessors, the rule about the use of the public confessionals in the churches applying especially to the confessions of women. The men kneeling in the first room are preparing for their weekly confession or making their thanksgiving after it.

When the poor canon died, leaving his orphan kinswomen unprovided for, the corpo di santo sano, which might have fetched something, was taken away at once because it was against ecclesiastical rules for them to keep it, but the pictures, which could fetch nothing, continued to gaze on the struggles of the little sisters, reminding them of the poor canon and also of[Pg 234] the fickleness of the public taste in articles de virtu—for during his lifetime these pictures had received their full meed of respectful admiration.

As our pedestrian enters his own house door, which is covered with immagini and texts serving as charms—among which S. Anna the mother of the Madonna is not absent as a house-patron, and the faded rose brought from the festa of the Divin Amore figures conspicuously—he may indeed have a vague sense that the annus Domini will soon be too strong for the life he has just been witnessing, but he will hardly be disturbed by any speculation as to the elements which have conspired to form the atmosphere surrounding the first Bishop of Christendom in this his capital once the capital of the world. He will not think of the apotheosis of the emperor in ancient Rome, of the orientalism which crept into Western Christendom through Byzantium, imposing things which especially here in Rome were alien to its religious genius; he will scarcely remember that the Pope's temporal sovereignty added a diadem to his tiara, for he has never distinguished the temporal from the spiritual arm, or discerned the part which the former has played in determining the manifestations of the latter.

Arch of Constantine

Erected by the Senate in his honour a.d. 312. Eighteen years later he retired to Byzantium, leaving the Roman Bishops in virtual possession of the eternal city. See pages 32, 42, 237.

[Pg 235]



I. Before 1870

The "Roman Question" represents the only "religious" question in Italy. The problems which agitate other lands leave the Italian unaffected, uninterested. He has no genius for reforming, and no genius for sect-making, he is as tolerant of abuses as of diversities. So it comes about that the one and only "religious" question in Italy is a political question—the rights and wrongs of the situation created for the papacy when it was despoiled of its temporalities.

It is certainly not generally remembered that ideals for a great future for Italy were not confined in the "forties" to the Italian unità men. Pius IX. had read Cesare Balbo's "Speranze d'Italia" and had understood that it was desirable that Italy should free herself from the stranger. But he had been most strongly moved by Gioberti's "Primato morale e civile degli Italiani" in which "the majesty of Christianity and the destinies of Italy" were set forth as mutually interdependent, Italy gaining its pre-eminence from the Christian primacy[Pg 236] which had grown in its midst and was of its soil. There he read that "Italy is the capital of Europe because Rome is the religious metropolis of the world," and there he gained his notion of an Italian federation under the civil headship of the Pope. That this idea was unrealisable was not the fault of Pius IX. It was the fault of the age in which he lived. He was not by temperament an obscurantist, and he began by being something of a political idealist. He had been brought up piously and carefully, and had no political arts, and he wondered that the papal government should be found opposing reforms which were demanded by modern progress. Yet his own papal career ended in political obscurantism and the absurdities of the Syllabus. Even had the flight to Gaeta, however, never intervened to chill the Pope's political idealism, things could not have had a different ending; for if on the one hand no European nation would have consented to place itself, even nominally, under a theocratic suzerain, on the other hand the papacy was not in the "forties" and had not been for centuries in a position to accept the civil headship of a great European state. Gioberti himself said enough to show that his golden visions for Catholicism were contingent on a complete restoration of the Church which was not undertaken then and has not been undertaken since.

Now that Rome is lost to the popes it is the fashion to conceive of the temporal power as a divinely ordained instrument for the protection and free development of the Kingdom of God on earth—self-consistent,[Pg 237] identical, uninterrupted. Such a conception does not correspond to facts. We all know that the "Donation" of Rome to the popes in the fourth century by the first Christian Emperor Constantine, is only a pious myth, but even Charlemagne in the eighth retained his imperial rights over Rome and over the person of the pontiff. It was not till the age of the renascence and the rise of the great European states with the absorption of the small principalities and duchies, that the temporal power of the popes was ideated by them in its modern sense; and it is then that they completed the territorial aggressions by which they carved out for themselves an Italian state extending north and east to Tuscany and Venetia and southwards to Naples. The history of the papacy since then has been a history not of war between the forces of the world and the forces of Satan, the efforts of princes to enslave and the efforts of popes to establish Christian freedom, but a history of the efforts of the civil power and the civil prince to curb papal encroachments on their rights—efforts which during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries attained the proportions of true Magna Chartas of civil liberties. The modern conception of the temporal power aggravated the "pre-eminent domain" which the popes claimed in temporal affairs; the conception of civil liberties which had smouldered in the middle ages burst into flame in the modern world, and less than a century in fact elapsed between the final destruction of all "home rule" in the papal states and the loss of the temporal power.[Pg 238]

When we speak of the servitude of the Pope in the King of Italy's dominions, we forget that Catholic princes have always found themselves obliged to restrain the papal arm, and to propound from time to time laws protecting the minor against the major clergy, the prelates against the pretensions of the papacy, the people against the publication of obnoxious Bulls, and the public peace by subjecting the correspondence between the Pope and the bishops to scrutiny. Thus the disciplinary canons of the Council of Trent were not published—and were never accepted—in many Catholic states. Canon law has been the constant butt of civil legislation which has denied one by one the immunities of ecclesiastics and abolished the existence of ecclesiastical courts for the trial of clerical offenders. The abstract question of the popes' relation to civil rights and to temporal power cannot be viewed apart from the sober teaching of history.

Castel Sant'Angelo

The castle of S. Angelo, fortified in the time of the popes, was built by Hadrian as his mausoleum. The bridge is the ancient pons Aelius of which the parapet is modern, and the statues of SS. Peter and Paul and of angels bearing the instruments of the Passion were added by Clements VII. and IX. It was built by Hadrian to reach his mausoleum. In the middle ages it was lined by a double row of booths, and two hundred people were crushed to death here in the Jubilee of 1450. See pages 32, 239, 242.

Already in the reign of Pius VI. the Romans had imbibed from the French some of the doctrines of the Revolution, among them that of the sovereignty of the people. From that time onwards the papal power could never have been upheld except by foreign arms; and the spirit in which the great Napoleon offered his services should be sufficient evidence that the task of preserving the patrimony of Peter was not undertaken by those whom we ought to regard as having understood better than the Italians the things which belonged to Catholic peace. Every one will admit that the pontifical states were not really independent during[Pg 239] these foreign occupations: what appears to be less clear is that a pope-king is not necessarily more free to exercise his high office than a pope who does not rule or who may even be the subject of another government. There is a covered way from the Vatican to Castel Sant' Angelo which is itself a parable of the history of the Roman popes. It was constructed as a means of fleeing in secrecy and safety from the Vatican when the turbulent Romans or foreign invaders made the pope's life insecure and placed his city at the mercy of vandals. The "Pope's own city of Rome" should never be thought of without a mental picture of the covered passage from the episcopal palace to the fortified castle, along which popes young and old, bad and good, have hurried praying or cursing. Let us look upon some of these fugitive popes, and realise from their trembling steps, their impotent objurgations, the hunted look in their eyes, how much of dignity and liberty the possession of Rome secured to them in the exercise of their divine mission. There is a type of Catholic whose favourite theme is Canossa, as his adversary's favourite theme is the Copernican system. An emperor standing outside the Pope's castle in a penitent's shirt through weary days and icy nights beseeching him to withdraw the decree of excommunication strikes the imagination to the exclusion of the sequel of the story. Four years after the experience of Canossa, the "penitent" emperor, accompanied by his antipope, brought an army to Rome and made Gregory fly to Castel Sant' Angelo. The people abandoned the cause[Pg 240] of the great Hildebrand, betrayed Rome to the enemy at its gates and deposed their lawful pope. But imperial vengeance for a humiliation which had been undertaken to satisfy the superstition of the vulgar did not end there. Henry V. exacted from Paschal II. a further penalty, and while Europe looked on in apathy, the Pope and his cardinals were made prisoners and a number of priests were drawn through the mud at the horses' tails as the imperial troops rode off. Gelasius II. was seized in the conclave which elected him, trampled underfoot and chained in a tower belonging to the Frangipani. Rescued by the Romans of Trastevere and the Island, he is next found hiding in the Borgo from the emperor, who pursued him in his flight to Gaeta, annulled his election and proclaimed an antipope. On the Pope's return to Rome he was entrapped at a mass in S. Prassede, but escaping to the meadows by S. Paul's where he was found weeping with the women of the neighbourhood, he died an exile in a Cluniac convent in France.

Marcus Aurelius

Placed here by Michael Angelo in 1538, who removed it from the Lateran Piazza. It owed its preservation to the belief that it represented Constantine. To the right and left are the museums of the Capitol. In the rear is the Palace of the Senator overlooking the Forum. See pages 13-15, 57, 58, 241.

In 1144 the Romans determined to restore their free Senate and demanded, under Arnold of Brescia's influence, the abolition of the temporal power. Lucius II. stormed the Capitol and died defending his rights, but his successor was forced to fly the eternal city. Our one English Pope, who possessed the fine old English sounding name of Nicholas Breakspear, declared on his death bed that the Pope of Rome must find means to content the sordid soul of the Roman people or quit his throne and his city a fugitive. Indeed[Pg 241] nothing is more noticeable than the strict impartiality with which the Romans meted out violence to popes good and bad; and exactly a century before they were deposing the great Hildebrand, they could have been seen outraging the body of the infamous Boniface VII., surnamed "Francone," whose bleeding corpse was kicked and rolled down the streets of Rome to the foot of the statue of the good Marcus Aurelius. In the same century which saw the English Hadrian IV. reigning in Rome, two German archbishops led troops against a pope. The Romans, as usual, required the vanquished pope to abdicate, and accepted Barbarossa as their ruler, who gave them an antipope. Of one emperor at this time it could be truthfully said that he had "the whole College of Cardinals in his pay" which affords some notion of the spiritual dignity of conclaves, while the ups and downs to which the papal rulers of Rome were subject is illustrated in the case of Pope Alexander who in the same twelfth century was received with open arms after ten years' exile by the fickle people, who however duly stoned his coffin when he died. Clement III., himself a Roman, was obliged to sanction once more the powers of the Roman Senate, and to hand over to the people part of the tolls. Innocent IV. fled to Genoa, this time from fear of the emperor, who afterwards kept him a prisoner in his own Lateran palace. Even a Boniface VIII. narrowly escaped being kidnapped by the French King and died most miserably in the Vatican. Benedict XI., the saintly Venetian pope, attempted to punish the perpetrators of this[Pg 242] outrage, but had to withdraw his Bulls, and retire himself to Perugia. The election of his successor the French Pope Clement V. was followed by the exile of the popes in Avignon, and since their return to Rome in 1377 the popes have not belied their character for alternately inspiring and flying from violence foreign and internecine.

That mute but eloquent parable in stone is the real synthesis of the history of the papacy—the episcopal palace by the tomb of the Apostle, in the first Christian church, at one end, and at the other the fortress which was once a pagan emperor's mausoleum, with its dungeons and its history, secret and open, of crime and bloodshed; and between these the covered way along which the popes pass and repass from one to the other, symbol not of the separation but of the fateful conjunction of spiritual and temporal which has haunted their history.

It would, indeed, be strange if ages of barbarism could have secured to the first Christian bishop the honour and safety which can now be assured to him by that civilisation and tolerance which we have substituted for "the ages of faith"; and United Italy must have a long future ahead of it before it can have heaped on the popes one hundredth part of the indignities and sufferings which they underwent when nominally masters of Rome. But such modern conditions have not always prevailed, and those who in all ages have waged war against the theory of the temporal power—saints and philosophers—ought to have recognised that at[Pg 243] one period of European history territorial lordship, feudal rank and power, were a necessity. The Church did not create and did not choose the feudal system, which was indeed opposed in principle to the spirit and teaching of Christ's Gospel, and the days have long since gone by when "secular grandeur guaranteed to the Church her religious integrity"—nevertheless these days once existed, and then the Catholic Church was as a strong man armed cap à pie fighting for life, and leaving to the individual—the saintly bishop, the saintly clerk or layman—the task of softening the rigours and planing the roughnesses of a Christian system which was also at war with itself. Although it is true that no form of the popes' temporal sway has at any time secured to the papacy the benefits that have been alleged for it by ultramontane writers since 1870, and conversely true that the events of 1870 did not deprive the pope of those benefits, yet it is also perfectly true that the papacy has been, through the centuries, the means of preserving for Italy its ancient character of a world power, and of preserving for Rome, abandoned by Constantine and his successors to the fate of a small provincial town, cowering in its own ruins and filth, the prestige and significance of the city which ruled the world. It is the successors of Peter who have perpetuated the meaning of its title "the Eternal City," and have carried on, through fine weather and foul, the immortality of Augustus. This surely constitutes the papacy's chief claim on Italy's consideration.

There is, moreover, a curious and subtile, but perfectly[Pg 244] comprehensible, tie between Italy and the popes, to which expression was given by the priest-philosopher Gioberti in his book on "The Primacy" already quoted. The Italian who never goes to church, nay the Italian who believes in no Church—and in Italy he is not at all necessarily the same person—contemplates the papal primacy with pleasure and pride, and considers with approval the phenomenon which brings the rest of Europe to kiss the foot of an Italian. He is perfectly aware, on the one side, that the Christian primacy—which is an Italian primacy—adds lustre and a cosmopolitan atmosphere to the city and the land which was the cradle of modern civilisation; and in some undefinable, yet I think definite, way he sees in it a compensation for the glory which has departed from his land of glories, a tangible pledge and earnest of that world-mastery whose sceptre is now wrenched from his hands.

S. Peter's

See pages 16, 100, 135.

The modern ultramontane has accustomed the modern simple faithful to an historical picture which has had, as we see, no existence in fact: the Vatican standing solemn and decorous, at its Bronze Gate the Swiss Guard; the papal sovereignty and the papal troops—disbanded, these latter, by evil men in 1870—guaranteeing to pope and cardinal the freedom of their sacred ministry both within and without the papal confines. It is only since 1870 that such a picture can be seen, in miniature, and within the walls of the Vatican, under the respectful tutelage of a united Italy which now surrounds the solemn and decorous palace,[Pg 245] certainly not the least turbulent centre of Europe before 1870.

II. Since 1870

The pretension of the popes to wield "the two swords" had ever been a fruitful cause of friction in Europe; but in Rome the immense spiritual claims of the papacy joined to the claim that the Pope was de jure divino monarch of monarchs, and could command the sword of princes in carrying out his ecclesiastical behests, wore a unique aspect, for here the Pope was in actual possession of the temporal sword, and ruled the bodies as well as the souls of men. The civil supremacy of the State is, indeed, a permanent conquest of the age in which we live, and the last European stronghold of the opposing theory was to be seen in Rome itself.

It is interesting therefore to notice that it was for internal civil reform that the Romans were agitating during the last years before 1870. The interference of the clergy in municipal administration was an intolerable grievance, and municipal reforms were still being urged on the Pope in 1857. The agitators were chiefly to be found among the lawyers and doctors, the educated bourgeoisie—always a minority in Rome—who were joined by a few heads and scions of great families. But in the previous pontificate "demonstrations" in favour of the falling papacy had still been engineered in Rome. Incited by a cardinal the people would take the horses out of Gregory XVI.'s carriage, and drag the Pope in procession; but the venal demonstrators had each his own personal petition to present, and when, shortly[Pg 246] afterwards, one of the principal demonstrators assassinated his wife and aggravated the murder by brutally locking her in a room so that she might expire without assistance, the tender conscience of his comrades was outraged to find that Gregory sent him to the gallows without hesitation. The mercenary troops—the recruited refuse of all nations—described by an eye witness as "a drunken rabble," were also a thorn in the side of the Romans. The character of these papal supporters was in general so infamous that soldato del papa was a proverbial contumely: they were the defenders of Rome in September 1870, under a German Swiss colonel, appointed general for the occasion, whose opponent, Cadorna, an officer of very different standing, wrote the history of the siege.

In the thirty-four years that have since elapsed, the millennium has certainly not come in Italy, nor is everything better than it was before. But at least everything has a chance of being better. Some of the things which the popes were asked to concede, especially as regards penal procedure, are not bettered to-day, for the Italian laws though in certain departments they are ideal schemes of legislation are in practice very frequently dead letters—and some of the crimes which made old Rome hideous have ceased owing to the very simple expedient of lighting the streets at night.

The Statuto, the constitution of united Italy, begins with a declaration that the religion of the State is the Catholic religion. The Pope's relation to the State was defined by "the Law of Guarantees" in 1871.[Pg 247] His status is not that of a subject, but of a sovereign, though of a sovereign without territorial possessions. He is, however, sovereign in his palaces of the Vatican, Lateran, and Cancelleria, which with the papal country seat of Castel Gandolfo still belong to him. Within the Vatican he can and does maintain certain companies of soldiers and guards, and extraterritorialisation applies to the Vatican precinct, no Italian official having any right to enter there unless invited to do so. Foreign nations can accredit ambassadors and ministers plenipotentiary to the Pope's court, and he can maintain ambassadors, or nunzios, at foreign courts. The archbasilicas of S. Peter's, S. John Lateran, and S. Maria Maggiore, also belong to the Pope, and their possession enabled Leo XIII. to refuse any one of the great basilicas for the marriage of the present King of Italy. The palace of Santa Maria Maggiore was confirmed to the popes in compensation for the loss of the Quirinal, and this territory, like all the other palaces churches and villas named, is papal territory, not Italian territory. In addition, the Law of Guarantees provides that a sum of £130,000 (three and a quarter million francs) should be paid annually to the popes as a compensation for their revenue. This has never been accepted. The Law was intended to secure the Pope's complete independence of the Italian Crown, a matter which it was felt would be jealously watched over by other Catholic States; it guarantees his complete personal and administrative independence in the government of the Church, and in his and his agents'[Pg 248] communication with countries outside Italy. That the popes have never been satisfied with it their continued protest and invocation of the liberty and dignity of temporal sovereignty amply proves.

The relation of Church and State in Italy is like that in other Catholic countries. The entire revenue of the papal States passed of course into the hands of the Italian Government, which also took over the revenues of such institutions as Propaganda Fide. A Fondo Culto was created, and the nation continued to administer the ecclesiastical revenues of the country for the same objects as did the Pope. It pays the stipends of the parish priests, and a project has just been matured for increasing these in parishes where they are less than 1000 francs (£40) a year. Only in May of last year (1904) the Camera had under discussion the relief of the lower and unbeneficed clergy, and of the poorer provincial seminaries for training priests. Bishops and canons cannot become possessed of their "temporalities" without the royal exequatur, and all public religious fabrics throughout the country belong to the State. Where the ecclesiastical face of Italy has been changed is in the suppression and expropriation of its monasteries and religious houses—the historical sites (with their treasures) have been declared national monuments, the gradual suppression of the communities which inhabited them has been provided for by a law forbidding the profession of new members, and the monastic revenues have been partly converted into insignificant pensions—varying from two francs to[Pg 249] fifty centimes a day—paid to each individual of the suppressed communities. That the law has not been pressed with great severity by the tolerant Italian Government is evidenced in the fact that communities still exist who have escaped final confiscation for thirty-eight years by silently adding to their number so that it might never fall below the fatal six which spelt dissolution. At the end of the century there were still 13,875 religious who under this law were in receipt of 176,000 pounds. As to Rome itself, the Religious Congregations have proved that it has not been made an insupportable place of residence for them. The historic houses are national monuments, and the ancient communities are only recruited sub rosa, but new "Mother Houses" of all the great orders are taking possession of commanding sites in Rome, the illegal "professions" take place every day, and the number of monks, friars, and religious of both sexes is considerably larger than it was before 1870. So true is it that no district, hardly a street, in Rome is without its convent, that it has been wittily declared that the "temporal power" is in fact returning in this way—and Rome is again in roods and acres becoming ecclesiastical property.

It is difficult to suppose that we are near a conciliation between the Pope and Italy, or that there is still time for a satisfactory coalition between the conservative forces of law and order in the country and the moral forces of Catholicism against the inrush of the subversive forces of socialism and political radicalism. Many of[Pg 250] the best men on the Italian side would indeed deplore any reconciliation with the Pope at present on the ground that it would involve a check to the civil progress of the Italian people. Meanwhile the Italians are certainly not becoming more religious under a system which assumes that if you are a good citizen you cannot be "a good Catholic," and it is for the popes to determine whether the irreligion of the people is or is not too heavy a price to pay for the upkeep of their protest against the events of 1870. The consequent alienation of some of the better religious elements in the country is, at least, doing serious harm in that it makes the abler men outside doubt whether the religious elements which remain are worthy to be regarded as in any sense a moral force which could be invoked to co-operate with the best modern secular forces.

Meanwhile the opposing factions have been face to face for thirty-four years. How have they behaved, and how have they altered since then? The official Vatican behaviour never varied until Pius X. ascended the Chair of Peter. Pius IX. had set the example of violent public utterances, and had permitted the subsidised clerical newspapers to attack Victor Emmanuel both in his private and public character. On the other hand he would never tolerate in his presence a word against the King, and his own letters to him were not only friendly but affectionate. This little comedy scandalised the Italian's sense of decorum, and as a policy has succeeded in alienating Italian sympathy. The general tendency on the secular side has been[Pg 251] conciliatory; the Italians, indeed, began with a farce on the morrow of their entry into Rome, a farce duly recorded in the name of the street which runs past the church of the Gesù. The plébiscite registered the will of the "whites" but not the will of the "blacks," none of whom voted; and the forty-six votes against the new régime which appeared in the total, had been cast by the "whites" themselves. Nevertheless the Catholics in Rome who do not make a politica of their religion, willingly allow that they enjoy a large measure of liberty. Not long since at the request of the visiting chaplain the authorities arranged for a man to be brought back to the prison where his wife was still undergoing sentence, in order that their civil marriage might be completed with the religious rite. For some years past the present Cardinal Vicar of Rome has administered the Easter Communion to the inmates of the Regina Coeli prison to the joy of the prison officials and the reciprocal consolation of the cardinal and the black sheep whom he that day bears home on his shoulder rejoicing. It is well known that the officers encourage the men to attend to their religious duties at Easter, and remind them of these as the seasons come round. Every soldier may then have leave of absence for confession and communion, and a rule is made requiring all men out on leave in this way to bring back with them the Communion ticket which is given at the rails to each Easter communicant. Many of the soldiers choose to go to S. Peter's, and the carabineers in their sober black uniforms may always be seen there during Holy Week.[Pg 252]

It will readily be understood that both incongruities and accommodations are rife in such a condition of affairs as the existence of a State Church by the side of a hostile papacy. The King wants a regimental banner blest, or the Pope wants to have the roads kept while fifty thousand pilgrims flock to S. Peter's. During the latter years of Leo XIII.'s pontificate the Italian police were invited into the basilica, and headed a procession with all the decorum of its traditional vergers, the Sampietrini. These reciprocal interests even require telephonic communication between the Quirinal and the Vatican. In theory, the House of Savoy, the members of the Government and every person in its pay down to the custodi of the ruins and museums of Rome with their families are excommunicated. In practice the Pope provides a chaplain for the Royal palace, the parish priest has of late years entered the Quirinal and penetrated to the royal bedrooms for the customary blessing of houses on Easter eve, Italian officials and their families receive absolution like any one else, and the irony of history required that the "excommunicated" Queen Margaret of Savoy was the only princely personage to fulfil the conditions of the last Jubilee year in Rome.

The House of Domitian

Before us is the church built on the site of the Temple of Venus and Rome and dedicated to S. Francesca Romana, the greatest of Roman saints. To the left the huge ruins of the basilica of the first Christian emperor, while to the right is the Arch of Titus, commemorating the fall of Jerusalem, and the road with its via crucis which leads to the church of S. Bonaventura, the biographer of S. Francis, built against the Stadium of Domitian.

The view is taken from the terrace outside that domestic basilica of the Flavian House which still retains more of the form of a Christian basilica than any other pagan building. Here are brought together the old and the new, Christian and pagan, papal and imperial—the shock of the two world empires. See interleaf, pages 44, 50.

And the "blacks and the whites"? In the "eighties" the distinction between those who clung to the old régime and those who adopted the new was still sufficiently marked, but in the last decade of the century the "blacks" became "gray" or as they themselves liked to express it caffè-latte, neither black[Pg 253] nor white. The acceptance of invitations to the Quirinal has, up to now, entailed the forfeiture of those official invitations to the Vatican which are extended to the Roman aristocracy for every great papal function. Many of its older members still absent themselves from all official "white" receptions, and a daughter is still presented not at the Court but to the Pope, with her fiancé, on her engagement. But in private society the great "black" ladies now know and meet the "white" society with which many of the Roman families are related by marriage; and it is not infrequently the case that one branch of an old Roman house clings to the Pope while another attaches itself to the King. But everywhere, even where the parents absent themselves from official "white" society, their children now go to the Quirinal. Thus we are very far from the time when no member of the Roman aristocracy met the King or Queen, when the Court was entirely composed of new men, or the Piedmontese whom the King brought with him. The day has gone by when even in a ball-room the "blacks" took care to label themselves by wearing a yellow (papal) rose, and only priests and the English converts still make a point of not saluting the sovereign. One Roman prince, however, has kept up a picturesque protest—and the great door of Prince Lancellotti's palace has never been opened since the day the King of Italy entered the Pope's capital. Even when, quite recently, invitations to a ball were issued from the great silent house, all the guests crowded through the postern door.[Pg 254]

When one asks any of the old school now whether the old Government did well or ill, the best, and the wisest, answer that they can give us is "They were altri tempi, other times." And this is the reason why it is impossible that the two parties should continue to exist after the present generation. The cleavage has really been due to the fact that the Vatican and Quirinal parties live in two different epochs; they live in different worlds and speak a different language. The old fashioned "blacks" can only think in a circle of ideas and sentiments, political and moral, to which they were born but which has no present point of contact with reality, with the living world around them, with "things as they are." The old has its beauty and the new has its uglinesses, as always; but also they frequently change these positions. Fifteen years ago one of the most distinguished Italian diocesans wrote a pamphlet entitled "Roma e l'Italia, e la realtà delle cose, pensieri di un prelato italiano"—"Rome, Italy, and things as they are; thoughts of an Italian Prelate." As soon as his name was discovered, he was told to withdraw the pamphlet, publicly from his own pulpit. This was not encouraging to others who thought as he in a country where secular public opinion still counts for so little, the individual "courage of your opinions" counts for still less, and where a public opinion among ecclesiastics is simply non-existent. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, a Cardinal Secretary of State had the courage of his opinions as the following passages from his Memoirs will prove. He is[Pg 255] known for his protection of the Jesuits against the Jansenists during his sojourn in Paris as papal Envoy Extraordinary, and by the Pacca law, which is called after him, prohibiting private owners from disposing of great works of art out of Italy. "Providence," he writes, "has taken away the temporal power from the Holy See and prepared those changes in States and Governments which shall once more render it possible for the Pope, although a subject, to rule over and govern the whole body of the faithful." "The popes, relieved from the burden of the temporal power which obliged them to devote a great part of their time to secular affairs, may now turn all their attention and all their care to the spiritual government of the Church; and when the Roman Church lacks the pomp and magnificence which temporal sovereignty has given her, then there will be numbered among her clergy only those who bonum opus desiderant."

That pathetic combatant for papal rights in the twelfth century Gelasius II., exclaimed to his cardinals "We must leave Rome, where it is impossible to stay." That plaintive cry need, we trust, have no further echo: the ages of which Gregorovius writes that popes "were obliged to leave Rome to realise in foreign countries that they were still actually reverenced as representatives of Christ" closed, we hope, with the entry of the Italians into Rome and the consequent creation—in lieu of the elusive "Roma intangibile"—of what Bismarck happily called an "intangible Vatican."

[Pg 257]



[1] Le Basiliche Cristiane. Mons. Pietro Crostarosa. Rome.

[2] Gabelli, Roma e i Romani.

[3] The popes from the time of Zephyrinus, the predecessor of Callistus, to Miltiades, who lived on the eve of the "Peace," rest in this great cemetery.

[4] Gebhart, L'Italie Mystique.

[5] The Teppa and the Camorra are respectively institutions of the north and south of the peninsula. The former is recruited exclusively from the lowest classes, and is nothing less than a league of the ill-conditioned bent on every sort of evil deed. The Camorra—like the Mafia—is more akin to a secret society, and to those factionist practices which are eminently characteristic of Italy. In this sense the Camorra is a national institution, which infects every Italian enterprise, and functions in every Italian theatre. The Mafia, like the Camorra, is widespread in Naples and Sicily and counts men of all ranks among its members. None of these were ever Roman institutions; and the teppisti who now afflict Rome are an importation from the north.

[6] The zone which supplies the maximum of crimes of violence is Lazio (Latium).

[7] Very different is their rôle in the country districts, which they police entirely, and with courage and devotion.

[8] Clementi, indeed, was a Roman, and a Roman buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey.


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