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LETTER LXXVIII.

ROUE CONCLUDED-FESTIVAL OF ST. PETER-ILLUMINATION OF HIS

CHURCH-FIREWORKS OF ST. ANGELO MONTE CAVALLO-TEMPLE OF THE SUN--MASSIMI PALACE-A SUMMER DAY IN ROME--MAL'ARIA

CEREMONY OF TAKING THE VEIL--THEATRES-ACADEMY OF ST. LUKE

SKULL OF RAPHAEL--CELEBRATION OF THE FOURTH OF JULYMAME

RICAN CONSUL.

June--July, 1826.

In the evening of the 28th we accompanied Signor Trentanove to the Princess Gabrielli's, to witness the illumination of St. Peter's. A first view was obtained in crossing the bridge of St. Angelo. The whole front and dome of the church were brilliantly lighted up, the lamps being disposed in fanciful shapes, and investing the proud pile in a golden hue. Pursuing our ride through the principal streets, already thronged with the congregated city, we climbed the steep ascent of Mount Janiculum, on the brow of which the Villa Gabrielli is situated, commanding a full view of Rome spreading beneath. The spacious grounds are tastefully laid out, intersected by walks and avenues, shaded with a profusion of trees, and embellished with the works of art. It is one of the finest situations in the environs of Rome. The palace is large, stately, and elegant. We were ushered into the drawing-room and presented to the Prince and Princess. She is a tall genteel woman, the daughter of Lucien Bonaparte, and the mother of four lovely children. She is extremely polished in her manners, affable, and agreeable. It is said the King of Spain wished to marry her ; but she refused the offer. Some one told her, that the contemplated marriage was a measure of state policy, and that her refusal would give offence to Napoleon her uncle. To which she replied, that "she did not fear whom she did not love”.

—an answer worthy of a Roman lady, in the days of the Republic. The Prince is a silent man, who kept his seat most of the evening, and said little to any one, leaving the entertainment of the party to bis better half. We were charmed with the simplicity and ease which prevail in this family, and with the literary taste which the Princess has inherited from her father. The tables in the several apartments were covered with books, as well as with journals, in Italian, French, and English. Many of the Roman nobility were present, among whom were a Marquis, a Count and his charming Countess, who is young, handsome, and extremely agreeable. I was as much delighted with her conversation and frankness of manners, as

with her personal accomplishments. Several other titled ladies were of the party; as also a Cardinal and several ecclesiastical dignitaries in full dress.

At 9 o'clock the attention of every one was attracted to St. Peter's, which was lighted up with larger and more brilliant lamps. The blaze was communicated with the rapidity of a flash of lightning, and in an instant the whole exterior of the immense fabric was enveloped in a sheet of the most dazzling effulgence. It was indeed a brilliant and beautiful spectacle. There is great risk in making the preparations for these illuminations, as it is necessary to descend by ropes to every part of the walls and dome. Hundreds have been killed, and the service is reckoned so dangerous, that the workmen all make their wills and partake of the sacrament, before they enter upon their labours. The expense of the exhibition is also heavy. A sufficient sum is wasted in oil and gunpowder, on each return of St. Peter's birthday, to endow a college or found a hospital. Something, however, is saved in the way of attracting foreigners to Rome, to witness these splendid illuminations.

At 10 o'clock, the fire-works at the castle of St. Angelo commenced with the discharge of cannon, and with the eruption of torrents of flame in every possible shape, scarcely less copious than the streams of lava from a volcano. The scene was indescribably grand and imposing. A succession of volleys continued for about an hour. The blaze was so intense, that the whole city was illuminated with the glare. Domes, palaces, and ruins, the Tiber and its bridges, reflecting the flood of light, bursting forth like electric flashes, presented one of the sublimest spectacles I have ever witnessed.

Illuminated buildings were seen in distant parts of the city. The front of the French Academy, on the Pincian Hill, was splendidly lighted up; and even the Villa Gabrielli exhibited its hundred mimic lamps, as a satellite to St. Peter's. Amidst so much brilliancy, in the saloons of the palace as well as abroad in the city, we passed a most agreeable and delightful evening, which was protracted to a late hour, and the pleasures of which will long be cherished with the fondest recollections.

The next day the celebration of the great anniversary was resumed. At 9 o'clock we went to St. Peter's, to hear mass and witness the ceremonies. An immense multitude had already assembled, men, women, and children, patricians and plebeians, monks, priests, and cardinals, in costumes as various as the decorations of the church. The peasantry from the neighbouring villages had all flocked in, and were distinguishable by their peculiarities of dress. Those from Nettuno

were in scarlet robes, trimmed with yellow lace. The silver skewers, neat bodices, and pretty faces of the Alban Mount were again recognized. So crowded were the aisles, that we found it difficult to reach the high altar, the scene of the religious exercises.

Soldiers were stationed in every nook and corner, to keep the peace and make way for the dignitaries. A military band occupied the nave, . and the notes of martial music rang through the chapels and domes. One would have thought, that Peter was a centurion instead of a saint. His bronze statue was on this festival fantastically decked out, with the most gorgeous and tawdry ornaments. He was clad in an under gown of dove-coloured Canton crape, over which hung a pontifical scarlet robe, embossed with gold, and descending gracefully from his shoulders. The triple crown, studded with gems, glittered on his sable brow. His fingers blazed with diamond rings; and on his breast he wore a golden sun, an eagle, and the papal arms. The Fisherman of Gallilee probably never saw so much finery in the whole course of his life, as his puny image this day exhibited. Certain it is, that the religion of his Master discountenances such mockery, which is better suited to the shrine of Isis, Diana of Ephesus, or Juggernaut, than to a Christian temple. The toe of the holy idol was left bare, and so great was the press of both sexes to rub their foreheads against it, and to give it a kiss, that a file of soldiers formed a circle round the pedestal, and kept back the crowd at the point of the bayonet. I saw a female attempt to force the lips of her child to the sacred member:

"The babe clung crying to his nurse's breast,
Scar'd at the dazzling helm, and nodding crest."

But the bugle sounds and the Pontiff approaches, vying with St. Peter in the splendour of his costume, borne along the aisles in his gorgeous palanquin, under a crimson canopy, and fanned by the tails of peacocks. A bustle spreads through the crowd, as they cower to the pavement. The Pope ascends a temporary stage, erected behind the high altar, where he is seated amidst the circle of cardinals. Mass is celebrated, and the bugle again rings, as the host is elevated. Clouds of incense choke the air, and hang in wreaths about the heads of Apostles and the mosaics of the dome. Choirs of Italian voices warble pæans in honour of the beatified saint, instead of anthems of praise to the Most High. Such is a faithful, but imperfect sketch of the exercises on the great festival of Rome, and in the most splendid religious temple in Christendom. I leave my readers to make their own reflections.

While strolling this afternoon through a narrow street at the base of the Capitoline Hill, I called at a bookseller's stall to purchase a secondhand copy of Cicero's Epistles, which was among the shattered volumes at the door. From some hints incidentally dropped in concluding the bargain, it was ascertained that the Roman matron and her daughter Adelaide were both poetesses. Without much persuasion, they produced and read to me specimens of their verses, which were by no means contemptible, containing frequent allusions to Virgil and Augustus, Mecænas and florace. The names and offices of all the Muses were recounted with as much particularity, as Homer's enumeration of the Greek ships. One of the poems celebrates the return of an ecclesiastical dignitary to Rome.

In the evening Signor Trentanove again did us the favour to call and accompany us to another palace of the Princess Gabrielli in the city, to witness a second edition of the illumination of St. Peter's, and the fire-works of St. Angelo. But as a distant view had already been obtained, we were desirous of approaching nearer the church and castle, and accordingly went to the piazza in front of the former, which was thronged with carriages, horses, and pedestrians. The use of a chair, upon the open pavement, during the evening was obtained for half a paul. We found the glorious temple lighted up in the same style as on the preceding evening; and at 9 o'clock, at the sound of the bell, the electric flash was again cummunicated, by means of a combustible train, to the ten thousand lamps held in reserve. As we were within a hundred yards of the church, the brilliancy was much more intense, but less fanciful, and appeared less like enchantment, than when seen from the top of Janiculum. Such a spectacle will bear repetition once; but I should think it would become a matter of indifference, by recurring without variation from year to year. Yet the Italians seemed to manifest the same interest and enthusiasm in the show, as did the assemblage of strangers. They are extravagantly fond of such spectacles, and no people get them up with so much taste and cffect. This tact comes of long experience and constant habit. The whole system of their religion, as well as the character of their national amusements, leads to pompous and splendid exhibitions, handed down from the festivals and triumphal processions of the old Romans.

After the illumination had been sufficiently examined, we were borne along in the crowd towards the Castle of St. Angelo, the other great object of attraction for the evening. I found an eligible position on the right bank of the Tiber, at the bend below the bridge, in full view of the tremendous battery. At 10 o'clock the signal was given,

and the volleys again burst forth, if possible with more grandeur than at the first exhibition. By way of introduction, a circle of fire ran rapidly round the whole citadel, which appeared like an enchanted castle, illuminated by myriads of lights of the richest hues. Then came the mimic thunders and lightnings, second only to those of nature herself. The cannon of the fortress were discharged at the same moment with the most splendid pieces of the fire-works. Showers of dazzling light were thrown to immense heights, and beautifully reflected from the clouds of white smoke below. The bronze angel, hovering in the air amidst the storm, wreathed with vapour, and reddened by the glare, looked like a spirit “ hot from hell," thrown up by an eruption of the volcano. I have elsewhere said, that the Tiber seems almost to possess some of the attributes of a sentient moral being; and on this night he appeared to roll onward in silent and sullen majesty, as if contemning the unclassical spectacle, which brightened his waves. All the piazzas, bridges, balconies, and house-tops in the vicinity of St. Angelo were filled with people, who alternately became visible and were lost to the eye, in the successive flashes and intermissions. Such were some of the more prominent circumstances of an exhibition, which was infinitely the grandest and most splendid of the kind I have ever witnessed or ever expect to witness.

The next day we visited the Pontifical Palace Monte Cavallo. It is an enormous pile of buildings standing round a quadrangular court. We traverscd almost acres of apartments, finished in the French style, and expressly fitted up by the Pope, for the accommodation of the Emperor of Austria. Both the architecture and furniture are elegant; but the collection of statues and paintings is meagre. The state-bed for the Emperor is of green, and that for the Empress, of white silk. Which does his Holiness occupy in his occasional visits? White is liis passion and the colour of his robes; yet his official obligations compel him to forswear the couches of females. In the chapel is the Annunciation by Guido. "The drapery of the angel is the finest point in the picture. Mary has one of the artist's sweetest faces, which is praise enough. Another room contains portraits of St. Peter and St. Paul, which have found many admirers. In the billiard-room, there is not only an elegant table for that game, but an extensive apparatus for chess, back-gammon, draughts, and bagatelle. The last, I presurne, is the favourite play with the Pope and the Emperor

of Austria. From the balcony in the rear of the palace, overhanging a spacious and magnificent garden, there is a charming view of Rome and its

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VOL. II

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