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worldly-minded make a cloak of religion, converting an act of contrition into the means of greater offences,
"And e'en in penance planning sins anew."
By a flight of steps in the vicinity of the High Altar, we descended into the crypt beneath the pavement, where the old church built by Constantine is still preserved. It is only ten or twelve feet in height; but the relic is held in great veneration by the pious. The subterranean region seems to be nearly co-extensive with the pavement of the church. One or two young ecclesiastics lighted us through the gloomy labyrinth with candles, and pointed out the numerous curiosities. At the entrance, is the Chapel of the Confession in the form of a Latin cross, embellished with bas-reliefs in marble and bronze, illustrative of the lives of St. Peter and St. Paul. The workmanship of some of the ornaments is exquisite. A grate in the pavement, forming the roof of the chapel, admits a few rays of light, which fall like moon-beams on the sculptured marble. The dust of the Patron Saint is said to repose beneath the altar. Tradition says that his head was buried at St. John Lateran, while a part of the body of the Apostle, from whom that church derives its name, here mingles with the ashes of St. Peter. Such are the nice apportionments into which the Catholics enter, in the subdivisions of relics. Medallions of the two great heralds of the gospel are suspended from the altar. We groped our way like ghosts through the vaults of the dead, whose slumbers were undisturbed by any sound, save the echoes of our footsteps. Popes and cardinals, princes and nobles, here sleep in state; but the same remarks are applicable to their sarcophagi, as to the tombs above, round the walls of the church. Very few names induced the visitant to pause and strain his eyes to read the long Latin inscriptions by the gleams of the taper.
Our ascent to the top of St. Peter's, in the afternoon of a bright day, formed a striking contrast with this visit to the subterranean world. The inclination of the stair-way, or more properly the road leading to the roof of the church, is so gentle that donkeys may go up without difficulty. A little town paved with brick, and covered with small buildings, here opens to the view of the traveller, over which he strolls as carelessly, as he would through the streets of a village, occasionally leaning over the balustrades to look at the Piazza, or the gardens of the Vatican. Amidst pinnacles and minor cupolas, forming the roofs of the chapels below, the great dome swells with inconceivable grandeur, surrounded by magnificent columns joined in pairs; surmounted by the lantern, which sits like a Grecian temple
upon the apex; and overtopped by the ball and cross. This stupendous work is as indescribable as it is inimitable.
Pursuing our journey upward, we entered the dome and walked round both of the galleries, which are at such a height from the pavement, as to make the head swim and the feet to fall lightly, notwithstanding the defence of a balustrade. Whispers are distinctly heard from side to side. From this point to the lantern, the narrow stairs lead through the concentric walls of the cupola, both of stone, and substantially constructed. Thence we continued the arduous ascent by an iron ladder to the ball, which is eight feet in diameter and about four hundred and fifty feet from the ground. The wind roared like a furnace round the brazen walls, though the day was comparatively calm. Persons have ascended by a ladder of ropes, on the outside of the ball to the cross. A French lady is said to have performed the achievement, and to have leaned, like a graceful statue, with the utmost coolness, against the burnished crucifix. But the useless undertaking is attended with so much danger, that the Pope has prohibited the ascent by a special bull.
From the lantern, which contains an album for recording the names of visitants, and also a card of the dimensions of the church, we had a splendid view of Rome and its environs, the Tiber rolling beneath us, the Seven Hills strewed with ruins, the Campagna, the distant mountains, and the sea. But these objects are already too familiar to my readers, to bear a repetition. Although the dome of St. Peter's is twice the height of the tower to the Senator's House on the Capitoline Hill, the prospect from the latter is preferable, as it commands nearly the same horizon, and is more central, especially as it regards objects in the city. On this account, it is generally selected as the observatory of travellers and artists.
The history of St. Peter's may be told in few words-at least all that the generality of readers will care to know. It was founded in the 4th century, and acquired great veneration from being the rallyingpoint of the primitive christians, as well as from the reputation of containing the relics of the Apostle. The old church, erected by Constantine, became ruinous in the lapse of a thousand years, and the foundations of the present structure, the proudest temple of religion that the world ever saw, were laid at the commencement of the 16th century. From that period onward for many ages, the richest materials were collected, and through the successive reigns of thirty-five Pontiffs, the services of the first architects were put in requisition-Bramante, Michael Angelo, Raphael, Vignola, Giotto, and Bernini; names to which the present age can furnish no parallels. It may be doubted,
whether the united skill of all the countries upon the globe, notwithstanding the modern improvements in science, could now erect an edifice equally splendid. Certain it is, the experiment is not worth trying; for St. Peter's has exhausted the resources of a nation, and entailed poverty and wretchedness upon millions of people. The grandeur of domes, the magnificence of columns, the blaze of altars, and the glitter of mosaics, are but poor equivalents for the deserts of the Campagna, and an ignorant, degraded population.
A sufficient sum has been wasted, emphatically wasted, upon the Vatican Mount, to render the inhabitants of the papal dominions free, great, and happy, instead of sinking them into miserable and abject. slaves. The original cost of St. Peter's was something like sixty millions of dollars; and the gorgeous, tasteless Sacristy added by Pius VI. with other embellishments which every new Pope is ambitious of introducing, has increased the total expenditure to an amount not less than a hundred millions! And what is the intrinsic value of this gewgaw, with all its dazzling glories? For any purposes of religious worship, the humble temple of Goldsmith's Curate,
"The decent church that topp'd the neighbouring hill,"
is worth more than all the pomp and glare of St. Peter's, leading the thoughts astray, and fixing the eye, not on heaven, but on the monuments of human pride. Long, long may it be, before our country shall in the remotest degree follow an example, as fatal to national prosperity, as it is contrary to the spirit of christianity!
CONTINUED-VATICAN-SALA JUDGMENT OF MICHAEL ANGELO-PAOLINE CHAPEL-GALLERIES AND CHAMBERS OF RAPHAEL-COLLECTION OF PICTURES.
ADJOINING St. Peter's on the north is the Vatican or the Palace of the Pope, an irregular, enormous pile, covering an area twelve hundred feet in length by one thousand in breadth, and forming a congeries of buildings, which have been added one after another, from the days of Constantine to the present period. As no systematic plans or orders of architecture have been followed, and as the various sections have sprung up in ages widely differing in character, the exterior is without form and void, presenting nothing striking except its magnitude. Some of the twenty-five courts enclosed by these vast ranges of palaces are rather splendid, adorned with fountains, and the other usual embellishments. One peculiar feature prevails in the construction of these buildings. They conform to the original contour of the hill, rising one above another on the acclivity; and the extensive galleries, which have been opened in the interior, are in the forms of inclined planes, which may be considered an ornament rather than a defect.
The whole of the Vatican, except the suite of apartments appropriated to the Pope, is occupied as an immense repository of the fine arts -by far the most extensive and splendid in the world, not excepting the Gallery at Florence, or the Louvre at Paris. Several days were industriously employed in examining its various compartments; and as many months might be passed without exhausting their interesting contents. But I am neither an artist nor an amateur, and a cursory notice of a few of the more prominent objects will alone be attempted. A mere specification of the articles in the Vatican would fill a volume, which nobody of course would read.
The entrance is by the Sala Regia or Regal Stair-way, a magnificent flight of steps, springing from the Porch of St. Peter's, near the equestrian statue of Constantine, and leading to the second story of the palace. First in the labyrinth of apartments, which soon bewilder
* The number of rooms in the Vatican is said to be thirteen thousand, and the palace to cover as much ground as the city of Turin. I did not take the trouble to count the one, or to measure the area of the other.
the visitant, and render either a pocket compass or a cicerone indispensable, is the Sala Regia or Royal Hall. It is filled with frescos ; and lest the subjects might be mistaken, the artists have adopted the precaution of giving long explanatory inscriptions in Latin. These ornaments are in no other respect interesting, than as illustrating the prevailing spirit of the Popes. The scenes delineated are all of a temporal, proud, imperious character. One represents the triumphal entry of Gregory XI. into Rome, after the restoration of the papal see from Avignon; another, Gregory VII. receiving acts of humiliation from Henry IV.; a third, the reconquest of Tunis; and a fourth, a victory over the Turks at Lepanto.
Expectation was on tiptoe, as the guide ushered us into the Sistine Chapel, the Sanctum Sanctorum of papal rites, and rendered still more sacred in the eyes of ordinary visiters, by the genius of Michael Angelo. This may be denominated the chamber of his peculiar presence, although in my estimation, it is very far from being the throne of his glory. Here the boldest, the most daring of artists attempted to portray the sublimest of subjects-subjects to which the powers of even his imagination and his pencil were wholly inadequate. On the ceiling he endeavoured to give form to the Most High, surrounded by the hosts of heaven; and the western wall is entirely covered with his fresco of the Last Judgment, to which he devoted three of the best years of his life. It is a melancholy thought, that so much talent and so much skill could scarcely redeem his efforts from ridicule ; and the only matter of astonishment is, that such a mind could have been so mistaken in the measure of its capacity. In his too lofty aspirations, he seems to have been led astray by the example of Dante,* venturing to follow his great predecessor through the depths of hell and to the heights of heaven, and fancying the pencil capable of delineating themes, which the muse had successfully sung. But however nearly allied in some respects are the kindred arts of poetry and painting, the former may sometimes present to the mind those shadowy images of thought, which the latter cannot safely embody and invest with the broader light of vision. The speaking shades of Virgil, or the warring angels of Milton, if reduced to the canvass by the ablest artists, would be no better than caricatures. Critics have selected
*That the artist had the scenes of the poet in his eye, is evident from the circumstance of the former having adopted the mixed theology of the latter. Dante in his Inferno does not scruple to make use of Charon and his boat to ferry over his christian ghosts; and the same machinery is delineated in the Last Judg