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Foreign Correspondence

Foreign Correspondence image
Parent Issue
Day
30
Month
May
Year
1873
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

Eome, Feb. 15, 1873. Triend Pond: If as yet 110 doscription ha been given f St. Peter's it has not been fof any want of interest it possesses, ae must ïavo appeared in the brief references alpady made to this celebrated edifice. - 'erhaps no church in Europo is so well tnown, certainly none is so extensive - nd why so largo it is difficult to say, for s a whole it could never be needed for ny religioas purpose, for it has never yf t een filled, even by the superaddod iurease which thousandí of merely curious ;rangers always mako to every imporant gathering there. Even the Ecunienieal Council held its sessions in the ïght transept only, which was partitiond off permanently for the purpose by ie constiuction of a solid screeu fifty eet high; and it is still remaining. And ie festivaia that we have attended - hristnias Day, Nativity, tho Conception, Spiphany, Purification, &c. - though atlendfid by a great crowd, scarcely served o raake it appear anything more than nteresting and animated. This magnifient ohurch was founded, it is said, by onstantine, in A. D. 306, upon the site f tho circus of Nero, consecrated as it ïad been by the blood of martyrs slaughered by that synonym of cruolty, and where, according to some, St. Peter was litnself crucifled. The body of the saint vas also supposed to be in possession of lis early church. Aftor continuing for loven centuries as the venerated threshldjof tho Apostles and the recipiënt of the ributes of Christendom, about the midlo of the lóth century the older edifice vas removed and the still more grand tructurc of our day begun by the erecion of tho Tribune in the rear of the reat dome. It was not till the next untury, under the celebrated Pope Juius II., that the great work was forwardd with much rapidity. Under this Pope bo supervisión and control was in the ïands of such diroctors as Bramonte, iaphael, Michacl Angelo, and later of fontana and Della Porta. The dome, which has received such celebrity from ts superior architetural beauty and jrandeur, was designed by M. Angelo, jut noteiected by hiin. The church was iually completeil under the direction of 5ernini, by whom most of the statuary vas designed if not executed, and was onsecrated November 18, 1626, on the ,300th anniversary of the day on which Pope Bylvestre is said to have consecrated the original church. lts present form s that of the Latin cross, covering an area of 212,321 square feet : tho internal ength is 629 feet, width of the nave and aisles 163 feet, height, 154. Height of he dome from pavcuient to tho lantern, [29, and to tho cross on the summit 465 eet ; and to complete this arithuietical bummary, there are distributod thrbughout tho church, in niches, on altars, sup)orting the basins, climbing the pilasters and upon pedestals and balustrades, nearly 400 statues, the nuniber of altars leing 46, and of columns, including the outer colonnade, 748, forming altogether ,ho largest and most imposing edifico iu ;ho world. As we approach it from the city the jrand Piazza is soarcely less attractive than St. Peter's itself. lts splendid colonnades extending like two great arras forming the vast apses of a huge ellipse, with their quadruple rows of columns, each focus being adorned by a fountain throwing up a great central jet fully fifty feet in height and with innumerable smaller ones surrounding [it, making a livingjmonument of spray on which the ï-ainbow rests, while in its center Btands the most perfect obelisk in the city, one solid piece of Egyptian red granite 130 feet high, the whole beautifully paved and as clean as a floor. From the obelisk there is a slight ascent, and going up tho flight of steps 400 feet wide we attain a broad paved area, and then again ascend a losser flight and stand beneath tho immense facade, supported by Corinthian üillars and pilasters and crowned by a balustrade, upon which stand the gtatues of tho Saviour and the Apostles, noarly twenty foet in height. Over the central of tho five entrances to the pórtico is tho small loggia where the Pope stands when he bestows hisblessingupon the people on Eastor day. The Pórtico Is a worthy vestibule to such a ohurch, about 70 feet wide, 50 high, and 250 long. The ceiling is finely decorated with stucco and gilt, its paveinent ia of variegated marble, and at the extreinity of tho long vista extending at either end of this porico are equostrian statues of Constan tine and Charlemugne. Five doors also opon nto tho chuvch, only two of which are generally unolosed, the central one boing opened upon festivals when a largo atiendanee is present, that at the extreme right being used only during the jubilee year. Passing the boggar who holds aside ;he ver y thiok and heavy curtain which aangs here and at all the Italian church doors, we are in St. Peter's, the vastness and colossal proportions of which are incsncoivable until the eye becomes habituated to its groat distances and gradually coinpreheuds that the fat cherubs holding tho holy water are about flve feet high, and that the tiny people]who stand or walk about beyond , tho grand altar are not less than ordinary mou and vromen. The ceiling throughout is of stucco panels with central rose in each aud heavily gilded. The pillars are rectangular which separate the aisles from the nave, and about twelvo feet iquare, tliose benoath the dome being much more. In order to' retain their massiveness large niches have been forinod in each, in which are placed the colossal statues of tho founders of the various leading religioua ordors, the sides of each boaring various deviues - the dove with palm branch, cherubs, and inedalion heads in proflle of the various pontiffs. The vast expanse is further broken by the side chapéis extending from the aisles and by tho varioua monuments of exquisito soulpture which are conspicuous features in the church, and fitly occüpy every availabl wall apace. Advanoing up the nave, we notice the wonderf ully beautif ui paveuient of glassy marble, and occasionally notice a small brazen star set in the marble and an inscription informing us that the Cathedral of St. Paul, in London, would reach to that point - 710 Roman palms ; that at Florence not so far, 669; of Milan, 606 ; of St. Sophia, at Constan tinople, still less, 49'2. Everywhere the finely polished marble ineets tho gazo, and is especially rem&rkable upon the iuiuiense pillare. At last, standing near the grand altar, we look upward into tho doine and ono after auother of its designs in mosaic are deoiphered, till our heads reel. Of the grand sètST-Tmt little may bo added to whij,t was said in a previous letter. It stan4s above the toinb of St. Peter, as it is said, and its twisted brouzo pillara and fine marble niake it exceedingly rich, without display or tawdryness. Every time we visit the church we look down over the heavy marble balustrade and between the ever-burning lamps into the Confessio, where, mute yet expressive, kneels the fine statue of Pius VI., facing the tomb of the saint and in the attitude of prayer : it is the work of Canova. Of eourae wo stopped on our way down the nave to seo the credulous peasant, and others who wero not peasants, wipe off the projecting toes of the dark-looking bronzo statue of St. Peter in his marble chair, and touchingii first with the forehoad, then kiss, and again placing the forehead in contact, depart with u " conscience void of offense." At either side from the grand altar stretch out the transepts, the right buing shut off by the screen erected whtm the Oouncil was in session, tho other terininating in an altar at whioh the peasantry are gener.illy to be seen kiifieling even when no servicesare being hold. It is in this transept and near it that the little cöiifessionals are arranged for the accommodation of eleven different nationalities, according to the inscriptions over each. Over each of the transepts rise lofty douies, but far smaller than the central and like it adorned with mosaics. - The grand altar being placed beneath tbo central dome, the shorter upper end of the cross is continued beyond to the raised Tribune of the semi-circular apse, at the further extremity of which is that singular and reraarkable stxuqfure called the Chair of St. Peter. It is a huge prcjecting square base, upon which are grouped four gigantic figures representing the tour principal doctors of the Greek and Latin churches, bearing upon their shoulders a strange-looking super3 truc turo which incloses and sustains the nncient wooden Episcopal Chair of St. Peter at a height of about twenty-five feet. The view from the steps of the Tribune, looking back toward the entranoe and embraoing the entire length of the church, is very iinpressive. A wide friezo extends along the navo and into the transepts, ooinpletely around the church, forining a gilt mosaio ground upon which in letters four feet in length ig insoribed in Latin, " Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven." Most of the monuments in St. Peter's are to deceased Popes, and are of the most elabórate sign froin the finest marbles and by the most eminent artists. The original fine paintings whioh adorned the church were being injured by the dampness to such an extent that copies have been made in beautiful mosaio, so perfect that visitors often insist that they are genuine paintings until the light is so thrown upon them as to detect he lines which prove them to be mosaic The groat picture of the Transfiguration, by Raphael, is enlarged to four times its original size in order to make it suitably large for the space given it in St. Peter's. Besides this, there are the " Martyrdom of St. Sebastian," by Domonichino ; also his great masterpieoe, the "Communion of St. Jerorue ;" "Christ and Peter on the Sea, " by Lanfranco ; "Barial of St. Petronella," by Geurcino. About this saint there is a fine legend to the effect that she prayed to bo delivered froia her betrothal to her lover, and in auswer to her piayer when her lover came with his frionds to the nuptials she was already doad, and the young nobles assisted at tho burial instead of at the inariiage. - Tho "Crucifixion of St. Peter," by Guido Eeni, and the "Archangel Michael, by the same, are among tliese thus mado indestructible in mosaic. The weather has not always been of the best, and we soinetimes lose a day, as we cali it when compelled to remain in our rooms, yet these wet days are really needed at timos, both for rest and for notes in journals and correspondence. - But we have been having too much of this rest of late, and for four days in succession have not dared to venture out. We sometiines draw comparisons between our condition here and what it would have been during these winter months at Ann Arbor, and much as we would liko to drop in upon many of the happy circles around your warm firesides, we havo concluded for one winter at least to cheerfully forego that pleasure and makc tho best we can out of these changeful Italian skies, these grand old ruins, these uights without frost, these regal palaces, these priesta and churches innumorable, these light-hearted beggars jostled aside by the liveries of wealth, theso sights on the Corso and these delightful villas. - And, by the way, we took a day last week for an.excursion to the Villa Pamftli, outside tho gate Panorazio. We crossed the Tiber by the Ponto Sisto, built in 1473 under Pope Rixtus IT., and named after him. It occupies the site of the bridge of Aurelius of ancient timea, for 500 years ago bolongs to the modern end of the ages, as timo is reokoned here at Home. After leaving the bridge we soon enter the fino wide street oalled the Via dclla Fornaci and begin a long winding ascont of Mons Janiculus, which, though at its highest less than 300 feet, by taking us quite above all intervening obstacles as we proceeded opened bofore us an ever widening and splendid panorama. When at last we reaohcd the delightful Piazza del Fontanone we could not resist the temptation to stop an hour or two to enjoy the luxury of its refreshing air and sunshine, its uurivalled prospect, and to yisit the interesting church of S. Pietro in Montorio, which adjoins the Piazza. Of all the places inside the city walla we have found nono of such natural beauty combined with most judicious and tasteful improvement. It was quite a surprise to us, too, for it is not in a fashionable portion of the city or any popular resort, nor particularly notioed by the guide books. The Pincio, celebrated as it is, does not possess a tithe of its advantages as a lookout, or of its invigorating freedom from the encroachments of dense shrubbery and buildings; and as for the unceasing whirl of vehicles and confusión of gayoty and fashion in which the former excels, is it to bo preferred to the quiet beauty and glorious landscapes of this less pretontious mount ? Sittiug awhile with the wide evpanse spread out before us, we noted some of tho more prominent objects easily eeen without a glass. At the left is the dome of St. Poter's, which somehow rises into view from whatever point the city is surveyed, and yet as we come near tho church it has the singular misfortune to lose all its magnificent effect. Kearly in the same direction is the triple head of old Soracte, blue in the distance ; tben as the eyes movo along over these moro remote ob jects the Sabine mountains bound the view, with those fainous villages of old, Tivoli and Palestrina, smiling on their sunny slopes. Further still, through tho depression at this point are visible the snowy summits of the Volscian range, then more plainly the Sabine hills, lorded over by the ancient Mons Albanus, with Frascati ne6Üed half way up its wooded sidea. Southward and westerly stretch afar tho desolate campagna, not wholly a waste, howevor, as we are apt to imagine, and Bhowing here and there gliinpses of the winding Tiber and the aqueducts. Within this wide range nearly every prominent object around tho city and within is to be seeu, and hours might bo very pleasantly spent in the gtudy of its topography. The [church of St. Peitro ia Moutorio stands upontho brow of the hill, and a portion of the ground occupled by its monastery walls ia terraced out till they look like the battlements of some formidable fortress. - We feit Bome sort of ancestral proprietorship in the oíd and unpretending edifico when we learned that it was erected by Ferdinand and Isabella of glorious memory. lts site was here seleoted on account of the belief that this was the spot on whioh St. Peter suffered martyrdom. The paintings in the churchare by some of the best known artists, airer over the grand altar for nearly 300 years hung that greatest of paintings, the Transfiguration, by Kaphael, until one day Napoleon happened that way, admired and removed it to Paris. In front of this altar once re8ted the mortal rémains of Beatrice Cenci, whose turbaned portrait ia familiar to all ; but during the lous times which this city has passed through the tomb was removed and the Sacristán could inform us no further. A very pleasant Franciscan monk took us into the interior court and with apparently proud satisfaotion unlocked the doors of the really boautiful Tempietto a small circular temple with open pórtico surronnded by sixteen columns of the Doric order, and showed us the hole carved through the marble floor directly down to a corrosponding holo in the fioor below, in which stood the cross that bore the martyred foria of St. Peter, cruoitied head downwards, according to the church traditions. We looked and we saw, and though it would be impossible to say we believed yet we did not smile at the credulity of the simple-hearted monk, who, being asked how he knew that was the very placo said that it was proved by history - probably not recalling the tact that soino claim the same authenticityfor the circus of Nero, whore the great St. Peter's stands. An ever burning lamp is placed in the opening of the sacred hole. At tlie upper end of the Piazza Fontanone is tho termination of the Aqua Paola, from whioh with noisy splash several small sheets of water constantly fall into a noblo basiu seventy-five feet in diameter, whoso polished inarble rim rises scaroely more than ■ three feet above the surroundiug surfaoe. This aqueduct is thirty-five milus long, briuging its supplv of fresh water from Lagodi Brecciano, which lies in a northwesterly direction from the city, and is identical with the ancient Aqua Trojana. The turnnni of all these aquoducts present a fine arohitootural eifect, with elegant facades, sculptured figures, and gushing water playing all sorts of fantastic pranks. ïhere is still a ascent all the way to the city gate, which occupies the summit of the Janiculus and very nearly the same site as the ancient Aurelian gate in the wall of Septimus Severus. From this poiut we have a fine view of tho triumphal arched gate way which constitutea the entrance to the Doria Pauíttli Villa. In 1849 the French under Oudiliot did muoh damage to this viciuity in their approach, and finally stormed the Porta Pancrazio successfully, and till 1866 tho French garrison at Rome kept the indirect control of Roman affairs in the hands of the Frenoh Emperor and prolonged the temporal goxereignty of the Pope. On Alondays i Af ter being wearied with conitant sight-soeing itmoiig the oolleotioni and ruin3 it is a rcfreshing change to ipend m few hours in the grounds of some of the many delightful villas, all of which are ftlled with fine slirubbory, ampie walks, fountains, flowers, and objects of art. - Tho Doria Pamfili "Villa, however, is laid off upon tho grandest Boale, embracing some hundreds of acres, with mile of drives over hill and dale, extensiva avenues, cascades and forests of the most enjoyable varioty, two Casinos, an extensivejtnonastery, and oven an anoient Columbarium. Tho grounds woro laid out over two hundred years ago and havo not been ueglocted since,nd on account of its elevated situation and extent hal received the charining appellation of " Bel Respiro." The carriage drive países beneath the triumphal arch, a modern erection of fine proportions and splendidly located upon an eminence just in advance of tho entrance gate. The grounds at once expand into a delightful rural appearanee - with hedgos and bits of woodland, clumps of trees, and along the road borders of the centurjr plant, the flower-stalks of somo of which, 25 feet high, had but recently borne myrmds of blossoms. There were thousands of their conspicuous tufts of radiating, thick leaves, arranged in linea and in beds whero we passed, and ancient sculptures and inscriptions were also profusely distributed along. Tho principal Casino is situatod in a fine grove, und the lurrounding grounda made particularly attractive. Tho flower garden, from it location in the lower ground in the rear of the Casino, presented a most beautiful appearance, for it einbraced fully an acra laid off in ornamental designa of most graceful intricacy, every border being in most perfect condition, all trees and shrubbery being confined to the outer boundary and the whole enlivened with two capacious ornamental fountains in constant play. It was a vast piece of ohoice mosaic, and with the numerous orange and lemon trees, laden with their golden fruit, along the walls, it has not been our pleasure to have seen elsewhere anything so extensivo, delightful and faultless. Across the carriage road, in the wido open gpace bordered with a splendid forest of pines from one to two feet in diameter, carpeted beneatb. with velvety grass, stands an ancient altar with represontations of various goda and a sacrificial sceno. Further on, in the direction of the little hamlot in which the nunierous laborers live, we foundjthe open field decorated with thousands of bright anemones of soveral varieties in color and size, and in the month of January a sight like this in the open air and_ without the aid of cultivation or protection, waa one we do not often meet with in America. In the valley we found a small lake and an artist sketching the swans. The small stream forining the supply to the lak was mado to form lesser reservoirs on tha descending slope of the hill, and cascades were tastefully arranged in tha forra f rrottos with gravelly pathsleading í ín OH ; the rocks and behind the falliug w. ter and in one place steppingstonea so placed that the pedestrian could cross directly in front of the rippling fall. The path now took us alongsida the commodious houses occupied by the silver pheasants, whose gay colora and prolonged caudal appendages we did not enjoyfora long time on account of two larwe pointer dogs, who, placed like sentinels upon the high wall forming the enclosure, marched back and forth witk that peculiar briskness of bark and motion which made us apprehensive they ruight accidental ly t 'all down in our midst. Just above the pheasantry is a very chaste structure in the form of a small temple over a small obelisk commemorating those of the French who feil ia that vicinity in the siege of Rome ia 1849 ; and this brings us around in the circuit we had undertaken to the Casino again. From the low wall in its front we had a very extensivo view of the hilly región back of St. Peter's and far beyond to the Sabine mountains, wbile direotly before us ran the Aqua Trajana, doing its work in behalf of temperance and oleanliness in modern as it did in ancient days. We returned by way of the fine Pauline fountain with its oble basin of gleaming water, and again rambled about the beautiful Piazza where the panaiei looked in their most brilliant hues in the face of the sun, and candy-tuft and lilies and marigolds and several other varietie wede putting forth their fairest colors to attract tho admiration we could not withhold. Immediately at the base of the Janiculus lies a barrack and military parade ground, and from the Piazza all their evolutions can be overlooked and their stirring music heard as from the saats of an amphitheater. The view down the Tiber and over the Campagna southward is literally limitless as the ocean, which it very much resembles. - But I must stop.

Article

Subjects
Old News
Michigan Argus