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The district which is called the Roman Campagna has a narrower or wider significance according to our conception of its geographical limits. Firstly, we designate that vast and desolate region which lies spread out all round the walls of Rome, "the Campagna." The Anio and the Tiber traverse it, and its limits may be defined by including within them the following well-known places — Civita Vecchia, Tolfa, Ronciglione, Soracte, Tivoli, Palestrina, Albano, and Ostia. In its more extended signification the Campagna includes the Neapolitan frontier and the Liris (or Garigliano),a and the district from that river to the Sarno, which falls into the sea at Pompeii. The beautiful province which has been called the Campania stretches along the coast towards Naples, its chief town being Capua.
The Roman Campagna is really the ancient country of the Latium, which was divided from Etruria by the Tiber. Since the days of Constantine the Great, Latium has been called "the p56 Campagna," its older designation having lapsed out of use. During the Middle Ages the greater part of this district was called the Ducatus Romanus.
Since then it has been divided into the Roman Campagna and the Maritima, the latter lying along by the sea as far as Terracina. Nature has parcelled out the three great plains which constitute the inland Campagna, dividing them by mountain ranges. First, the Campagna round Rome, through which the Anio and Tiber flow, bounded by the Sabine and the Alban ranges, the mountains of Ronciglione, and the sea. Next, the great, level tract lying between the Alban and the Volscian Mountains and the sea, which includes within its boundaries the Pontine Marshes. Lastly, the wide valley of the Sacco, enclosed by the Volscian, the Hernican, and the chains of hills. The Sacco, after a short course, falls into the Liris, near Isoletta, below Ceprano.
Of this glorious Latian land I would now talk to my friends, many of whom may have chosen the route to Naples by Frosinone and Germano, in preference to the lower road by Terracina, and so will remember how beautiful is that valley of the Sacco, with its encircling mountains. I will link two of the towns together in p57 this sketch — namely, Genazzano, a celebrated place of pilgrimage at the opening of the valley, and Anagni, the abode of many of the mediaeval Popes. I spent many peaceful weeks at Genazzano, utilising my time by improving my acquaintance with the Roman Campagna, its towns and its districts, in order that the History of Rome in the Middle Ages might become more explicit to me. I found myself, at a central point in that History, in the ancestral territories of the great family of Colonna — so prominent and so important in their day — and also, as already mentioned, in one of those Papal residences where to name Boniface VIII is to arouse the liveliest interest in the locality. But, my reader, do not fear; I am not going to burden you with a superfluity of names or of researches.
This district deserves a more detailed description than either Gell or Nibby has given it. A prolonged excursion through its ancient hill-towns — 1 Anticoli, 2 Alatri, 3 Veroli, 4 Sora, and 5 Arpino (the birthplace of Cicero and of Marius), as well as amongst those wild and beautiful mountains and valleys, known as the Ciociari country or "Sandal-land," would amply repay the traveller for some slight discomfort.
The Labican Road, leading to Genazzano, and the Via Praenestina, both start from the 6 Porta p58 Maggiore in Rome. Picture to yourself that great Roman road which, of old, joining the Via Latina below 7 Anagni, proceeded to cross the river Liris at 8 Ceprano (the ancient ) after traversing the as it went south.
Faring forth to‑day from beneath that same venerable portal, you enjoy a novel spectacle, for there — lurking within the giant arches of the Claudian Aqueduct — you find the station of the first Roman railway which has traversed the States of the Church. This unsightly structure tries to hide itself beneath the ancient arches — all that remains of a work of true genius. One surveys this most modern product of our civilisation, set into the ruins of Rome's mightiest work, a work which surpasses it so greatly that Pliny or Trajan might well have gazed at it with much the same astonishment that the Latian shepherd feels as the snorting locomotive speeds past him. With the exception of that finest of all railway lines — the one which runs between Naples and Pompeii — there can be no more interesting or pleasing contrast than this line of railway affords to the moss-grown remains of the Aqua Claudia, from whence it starts, and the melancholy Campagna, through which it runs between the ancient Roman tombs and p59 the lonely towers of long-departed generations of its inhabitants.
•Three miles from Rome is 9 Torre , the tomb of Helena, the mother of Constantine.b •Six miles farther comes the bridge over the brook (Aqua Crabra),c by Torre Nuova, the castle and farm of Prince Borghese. Amidst its majestic pine-trees archaeologists are pleased to locate Papinia, the villa of Regulus, a joy we would only temper by a smile, and not try to rob them of. Lacus Regillus, yes, this is truly the Lake Regillus;h1 the ghost of King Tarquin revealed the fact to me quite indisputably. To‑day there is no water in it, this crater of a volcano is dry. It is an inconsiderable circular hole, which the people call the Laghetto, or little lake. Now comes our first station, Osteria della Colonna, by the sixteenth milestone. On an isolated hill which the Alban Mountains have here sent forth into the plain, is lifted up the town of Colonna, which was the cradle of that great race in the Middle Ages. Then comes the station Ad Statuas — called now San Cesario — merely a lonely hostelry among vineyards on broken ground, once famous for its robberies, for here bandits were wont to waylay the diligence in a hollow of the road — saltar they called it, technically. At San Cesario, may be discovered peeping out p60 of the greenery of luxuriant vines. This is the old fief of the Colonna family, whose territories we have entered.d This town is, or ought to be, that ancient Pedum, known to readers of Horace.e In the fourth epistle, to Albius Tibullus, he says —
" Albi, nostrorum sermonum candide judex,
Quid nunc te dicam facere in regione Pedana?"f
From thence, mounting ever higher and higher, after a few miles, we reach the town of Palestrina,g the old and renowned of the Romans, where still, to a certain extent, the streets retain their ancient polygonal pavement.
Here we must surely rest for a space. My readers would blame me if I passed through so old and memorable a spot with only the mention of its name. But I pledge myself to be brief.
10 Praeneste — whose grandchild Palestrina now lies before us, a grey mass of houses set on the declivity of a limestone mountain — was once the mistress of Latium, older than Alba Longa, older, far, than Rome. Her Cyclopean walls bear witness to this. They rise above the present town in two concentric rings to fortify the arx, or citadel, crowning the mountain top; so inaccessible does it appear as to be almost impregnable. A mediaeval fortress was built on the same spot. The founding of this ancient town takes us back p61 to the days of fable. It is ascribed to King , whom Virgil — Aeneid, VII.678 — represents as here commanding a legion gathered in from the surrounding districts — the Anio, the Hernican Mountains, and the "rich" Anagni.
Praeneste dominated the Campagna far and wide, until it was laid low by the Romans. In later times it is often named in history.h2 Pyrrhus took possession of the town, and halted there before marching on Rome. Praeneste fared even worse in the days of Sulla, when the young Marius strove to defend himself within its walls. When Sulla had taken the stronghold, after a strenuous siege, he killed every inhabitant of the place, planting his veterans in their dwellings. He enlarged the Temple of Fortune with such magnificence that this abode of the gods, once the most famous temple in all Latium, covered the whole of the ground now occupied by the present town, which is built on its foundations. Augustus planted new colonies in Praeneste; both he and his successor, Tiberius, often came to occupy the Imperial villa within the precincts of the town, and enjoy its pure and health-giving air. The Villa Claudia was a favourite resort of the later Emperors while Praeneste still flourished. This town fell into decay in the days of the barbarian incursions, her name then becoming Palestrina.
p62 A deed of gift exists, dated 970, by which Pope John XIII confers this Palestrina, in fief, on the Senatoress Stefania. Her granddaughter Emilia (Imilia nobilissima ) married the possessor of Colonna in 1050, and their son was possibly that Pietro de Colonna from whom the Colonna lordship of Palestrina may date. So much, at least, is indisputable, that this family was powerful in that district early in the twelfth century, their possessions reaching from the Latian to the Volscian Mountains, as well as to the territories of the ancient and Hernici.
As concerns Palestrina, Pope Boniface VIII, the bitter foe of the Colonna family, took this, their chief town, from them by force of arms in 1298, or, possibly, the two Cardinals of that family, Jacopo and Pietro, who had entrenched themselves there, may have delivered it up to him without awaiting the bursting of the storm, whereupon that furious Pope tore down the walls and the houses of the town, with the solitary exception of the Cathedral of St. Agapitus, strewing salt over the ruins, and causing a ploughshare to be passed through its soil. But Palestrina rose again from her ashes, only to be a second time destroyed. This destruction happened in 1436, when the patriarch Vitelleschi, at war with the Colonna, sacked the town and levelled even the cathedral p63 with the ground. Two years later the fortress on the summit of the mountain was also demolished.
I will not enumerate the later plunderings of Palestrina. The town, as it exists to‑day, goes no farther back than the middle of the fifteenth century. The Colonna family continued to regard it and Pagliano as their two principal possessions. They obtained, in , from Pope Pius V the title of Princes of Palestrina, but in 1630 they had to sell the town, to pay their debts to Carlo Barberini, brother of Pope Urban VIII, receiving for it the sum of 775,000 Roman scudi. The last Colonna who possessed it was Francesco, who died in 1636.
The town is built in terraces on the hillside; it looks dull and dingy till you reach the principal street, where are several palatial houses. At the upper end of this is the Palazzo Barberini, a large, but now quite dilapidated, building in the Decorated style of the seventeenth century. It describes a semicircle, following the foundations of the Temple of Fortune erected of old by Sulla. In this huge baronial edifice, with its great walls, and halls, and arcades, there is absolutely nothing to note, except a splendid mosaic pavement, which seems to be a fitting pendant to the, so‑called, Battle of Alexander at Pompeii. It represents scenes in the rural lives of the Egyptians, chiefly p64 descriptive of their religious ceremonies, excellently treated as regards the grouping of the priests and priestesses, and the officiating attendants, of the warriors, fisher-folk, shepherded, and hunters who assist, and also as a presentment of Egyptian temples, country houses, and animals, all of which are admirably portrayed. It may be of later date than Sulla, probably it belongs to the days of the Empire, possibly to Hadrian's reign. It was found in the ruins of the Temple of Fortune in the year 1638, where it had most likely decorated the floor of a recess or niche. The Barberini had it conveyed to their palace in Rome, but at the urgent petition of the municipality of Palestrina it was later on brought back to their town.
What distinguishes the palace yet more than this ancient work of art is its incomparable position on an acclivity, where fresh and balmy breezes always fan it,i and the dwellers in its houses can enjoy a prospect the beauty of which is not to be expressed in words.
There beneath the eye, lies spread out the greater part of Latium, as well as Etruria; in other words, the patrimony of St. Peter — a great classic plain — the Latian and Volscian Mountains rising from it, spacious green levels spreading between each range of hills as far as the shores of the sea, which gleams in the far distance: the p65 world-city, Rome, lifting up her domes through the blue mists of distance; Soracte, solitary, springing from the plain; and close to Soracte the Apennines; while, farther still, the Sabine group of mountains can be descried. Just beneath our feet is the deep, beautiful Sacco valley, around it rising glimmering peaks — those above Segni, and , and the Serra — all those aerial pinnacles, so varied in outline, which lie bathed in the sunny mists beyond Anagni and Ferentino. Think of it all — these plains — these mountains on which are set towns and villages, most of them rich in memories and associations with the past — of the Middle Ages — of the Empire. Call it all up before your imagination — think of Umbria — of Sabina — of Latium — of the land of the , the Hernici, the Etruscans, the Volscians — think of seeing all this with the sea on in this horizon, in one panorama, and you will have some idea of the grandeur of this prospect. When the Colonna of the Middle Ages looked forth from his ancient castle, he might well count himself the richest and the mightiest prince in Latium.
Looking upon this noble landscape, and up into the azure sky and clear air, it is easy to imagine that Palestrina was the birthplace of one of the greatest musical geniuses the world has known.j
p66 Yet wider becomes the horizon if you ascend to the ancient fortress above the palace. It crowns the summit of the Palestrina mountain, and is reached, in a short hour, by a steep and fatiguing climb over bare limestone rocks. It was a hot August midday when I scaled that airy height, and although the sun blazed hotly, the air felt cool and fresh to me. A small settlement called San Pietro nestled itself in here in very ancient days. Already, in the sixth century, a convent existed. Beside it rise the beautiful remains of the mediaeval fortress, the walls and shattered towers still standing, almost smothered in yellow broom, and covered with masses of luxuriant ivy. Here the unfortunate Conradin was held a prisoner after the battle of Tagliacozzo, and from this place he was led forth to suffer on the scaffold in Naples.
Boniface VIII had this Castrum Montis Penestrini, this old stronghold of the Colonna, the central point of their dominions in the Campagna, levelled with the ground. We may read the expostulation to Colonna of that year, 1304, in which he complains that the Pope had utterly destroyed the castle and town on the mountain of Praeneste. "Therein there were a noble fortress (Rocca nobilissima) and a beautiful palace, also very old walls (Saracenico opere), built of p67 mighty blocks, like a city wall, and, moreover, there was therein the very important church of St. Pietro, formerly a monastery; all these, with all the other houses and palaces, of which in the Castrum there were about two hundred, he entirely annihilated." Nevertheless, the renowned Stephen Colonna subsequently rebuilt the town, and the Rocca also. To this day you may read over the gateway of the ruined fortress, beneath the coat of arms of the Colonna, the following inscription: —
"Magnificus Dns Stefan Colonna redificavit civitatem Penestre cv monte et arce anno 1332."
This citadel of Praeneste is one of the oldest historical places in Latium, the seat of that fabulous King , whose name may be the same which appears under the differing form of Cocalus of , who is known through the myth of . The view from these still loftier regions is entrancing as you look over to the Sabine Mountains, standing there in all their wild grandeur, desolate, ravishing to the sight.
I will not detain my reader by leading him through the ruins which have been recently brought to light underneath the present town, p68 and which have proved a rich harvest for the antiquarian. There may be found, beneath the vineyards, a labyrinth of vaults and chambers. In their tombs may be hidden golden ornaments; but such explorations are fatiguing, and in truth, but little fruitful.
A sample of "golden ornaments" retrieved from the Barberini Tomb in ancient Praeneste: in the foreground, a gold pectoral or stomacher, a very fine piece of Etruscan work which (according to its tag in the museum) dates to 670‑650 B.C. and may have been produced in Cerveteri, possibly by an artist trained in northern Phoenicia. In this close‑up, showing the granulation technique in better detail, you can see that those are some 130 animal figurines. In the background, a pair of fibulae.
Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia, inv. 13207
Palestrina possesses two historians of note, Cecconi and Petrini. Their Memorie are of much value as concerning the Middle Ages in Rome and in the Campagna.
Just below the town the road descends into a ravine clothed with the most magnificent chestnut trees. It is the bed of a stream enclosed on each side by rocky walls, from which at first the eye seeks an outline in vain. At length, however, a great picturesque bridge appears, crossing one of the head springs of the Sacco, and before us, on a high hill, lies the dark village of , built on terraces of black tufa, but girdled about with vineyards and gardens; and now also the Volscian Mountains come into sight.
In the market-place of Cave stands a column, the actual, as well as heraldic, emblem of the Colonna, whose ancient fief this place is. The Cave folk speak a dialect which resembles the language of the mediaeval chronicle, or romance, writers, and is not unlike that of the Calabrians. p69 Instead of the vocal sound they use the diphthong. Si is Sei, or even adding the vulgar ne it becomes seine; for signor they say signaure; for , murataure; for Roma, Rauma. On the other hand, we find a spice of the Latin tongue at Palestrina; my trusty vine-dresser, , when asking me into his vineyard, said "Venite in vigna mea" (not mia). The vine-dressers of Genazzano consider themselves superior to their confrères of Palestrina therefore, whose "false accent" they talk about.
We had still •three miles to ride across the mountain-side to reach Genazzano, our eyes all the time feasting on that enchanting valley of the Sacco. Before us, in the distance, 11 Pagliano, the second in importance of the Colonna towns, was visible, with its white castle, and further still, in the haze on the horizon, old Anagni was coming forth, on its hilltop.
Then the road descended suddenly into a charming region of hill and dale, which alternated in the happiest way, a picture of rural prosperity, with its grey olive groves, shady chestnuts, cornº and maize fields and gardens, and everywhere the little dome-shaped elm trees; festooning them, dark masses of grape-vines. On the long rocky hills enclosing this picture Genazzano stands,k a narrow, dark grey strip, p70 just like the tufa rocks on which it is founded. The houses look as if they were marching in procession to the shrine of Santa Maria del buon Consiglio, the great sanctuary of the Latian Campagna, or else taking their way up to that beautiful baronial Colonna castle crowning the summit of the hill, the dutiful vassals of its lord.
A tower with battlements defends this little town. As soon as you enter it you see a rough fresco on the wall of a house depicting the sacred figure of the Madonna of Good Counsel borne up in the arms of angels, pilgrims drawing near to her reverently. Miserable streets lead to the Piazza Imperiale, the principal square. The houses are sufficiently uninviting, but an occasional semi-circular Gothic window, like some withered efflorescence surviving from the Middle Ages, charms us by its Moresque rosettes.
During my first visit to Genazzano I lived for three months with the muses of that rural region, and since then I have returned to it often. When about to take up one's residence in so remote a spot, the first desideratum, after making one's domestic arrangements, is how to find space for pleasant locomotion, good air, and green shade in which to read and reflect.l
The little town does not lend itself well to walking exercise, being too steep and too limited p71 in space, with no green shady spot to sit in; but all round it are spread vineyards and chestnut groves, where one can indulge in the delights of solitude.
There is, too, a level footway, though to reach it the Colonna palace must be traversed. Behind this palace is a bridge spanning a ravine, which rests on stone arches, not unworthy of the Romans themselves. An aqueduct, now in ruins, had been constructed by the Colonna family, to convey water to their palace, and its crumbling arches look wonderfully picturesque amongst the green trees of what was once a park, but is now no less neglected than the aqueduct. Beside it runs a path which leads on to the deserted convent of San Pio.
I recall with delight that day when, on my voyage of discovery, I first explored that path through the vineyards to its terminus. Opening suddenly to the right, the following prospect lay beneath my eyes. A foreground stretching far out embowered in green; beyond, a brown valley, miles in length, broken by groves of forest trees. Shimmering through the sunny blue mist to the right and the left magnificent chains of mountains. The Serra, its crowning pinnacle the , standing out fair and distinct — a giant pyramid. Peaks trending away in perspective into the far distance, with a brown and green p72 carpet spread at their feet, and towns and castles nestling in their recesses. Hills reaching out from the Serra across the plain to draw near to the river, holding aloft on their green summits fortresses with their little gleaming white towns. To meet them, but more cautiously, came forth spurs from the Volscian Mountains opposite, so varied in their outlines as to give variety to the view.
Many are the settlements lurking in the dark folds of those hills, or on their sunny heights. Towers, monasteries, villages, seeming to sport in the summer air, yet with an epic repose over them all. The outlines of these mountains against that purest blue of heaven are so sharp as to delude the eye. You seem as if able to float over and wander amidst their shining peaks in the fresh air of that high region. Where the Serra range dips, some soft snowy, or purple-tinted peak of the wild Abruzzi peers up, suggesting yet farther horizons. Out of the silvery clouds peep more and more mountain peaks, shadowy, of many forms, some like domes, others like obelisks, leading the imagination far away into remote "Sandal-land," on the banks of the beautiful Liris.
Who can paint this Latian landscape, when all its mountains glow in iridescent purple tints, and the wide valley below grows darker and darker, p73 and night creeps slowly up from behind the broad, glowing wall of the Serra, and then seems to wipe out, one by one, with her dark hand, all the little towns that had been shining there, till they are swallowed up in gloom? The windows of Serrone sparkle in the rose‑red sunset rays, then Rojate; then, above there, Piglio; one after another they are extinguished; even Castel Pagliano is gone, but behind her the last rays flicker still on the casements of a dark town, which may now be discovered miles away on its hill, and which from the mass of its buildings looks greater than any other town in the Campagna. So it seemed to me the first evening I ever saw it, and then I knew from the character of its surroundings it must be Anagni, the native town of Boniface VIII. I hailed the long-wished‑for sight in these words by Dante —
"Veggio in Alagna entrar lo
E nel vicario suo Cristo esser catto."
The impression made by a great landscape is enhanced to every thinking being if he knows it to be bound up with, or vivified by, historical associations. This Latian valley at our feet is the very key of the kingdom of Naples. It was the military highway of all her armies in the Middle Ages; of the Goths and the Vandals; p74 of the Franks and the Lombards; of Belisarius and the two Othos; of the Hohenstaufen, and even of the swarms of Saracens, Frenchmen, and Spaniards of later times. In short, countless multitudes have watered their horses at the Sacco river as they passed through the Virgilian meads, across the Liris, and onward to the paradise of Naples.
For the rest, Genazzano is not an ancient place — it dates only from the Middle Ages. Its name indeed may be old; it has been attributed to the Gens , who possessed the Fundus Genucianus in these parts. In the beginning of the eleventh century a fortress is first mentioned in a deed, as existing at Genazzano; and this castle belonged to a Colonna of Palestrina. It gave a title and a residence to one branch of that great family. The only Pope who came of that great race is said to have been born here. This was Pope Martin V — Oddone Colonna, elected at Constance in the year 1417, with whom the Avignon schism in the Church came to an end. That great man, at all events, belonged to the Genazzano branch of the Colonna family. He delighted in the solitude of his ancestral home. He loved the place; he built churches there, and, apparently, enlarged the palace which his nephews afterwards embellished, and constructed p75 the aqueduct. There are artistic fragments, too, of baths in a ravine outside the gate of the town, which show, by their beauty, that they were built in the style-de‑luxe prevailing in those days. Their palace or feudal castle was once vast and beautiful, but to‑day it is decaying, like all other palaces in the Campagna. The quadrangle is very noble in design, with a double arcade, lightly and gracefully proportioned, which reminds me of Bramante's period. Headless statues standing now between the columns accord well with the deserted palace. It reminded me of the old baronial castles which Walter Scott sometimes describes. In his palmy days, some Colonna has had all the towns possessed by his family depicted on the walls of one of the here. The frescoes have vanished, as have the rights and titles this rich family once enjoyed from all these towns. Through these lofty, empty halls creeps an aged, superannuated physician with a silvery beard, the only dweller in them now. He looks like an old‑world magician or sorcerer.
For the present there are no researches to make in Genazzano; we need not worry ourselves about antiquities or archaeological remains, but take our pleasure gaily, living in the fields and the fresh air, and occupying ourselves with p76 the country folk of the district. I will therefore talk about the vineyards, like any countryman, because one cannot feed for ever with ecstatic countenance on old family records, but must needs find out what one can get to eat and drink. It would seem that there is not much to be had this year, because the vines are always sickly, and the maize is now in danger of being lost, since not one drop of rain has fallen for two months past.
One day I was following an overgrown path up amongst some brambles to a vineyard where I had discovered a beautiful little lonely perch beneath the olive trees. There I sat down, drew a parchment-bound book out of my pocket, and was soon absorbed in its pages.
The dog of my house, my true and constant companion, my pioneer that pointed out all the prettiest spots to me, suddenly growled as he lay at my feet. I looked up and beheld a well-dressed woman standing about five paces off, and regarding me with every sign of fear and distrust.
"Buon uomo," she said; "what dost thou do there?" (In the Campagna they always say "thou," as they do in the Abruzzi.)
"Why, good woman, askest thou that?" said I.
"I believe," she said, "thou art after no good," p77 and she shrugged her shoulders angrily and contemptuously. "It's not at all right or fitting," she added. All amazed, I asked the woman what it was that displeased her so much; had she never seen a man reading a book in her life before?
"It may be, but it's not decent, and who knows what evil thou art about? . . ."
With these words she went away, casting back many a timid, anxious look at me, over her shoulder. I went on with my book, but soon got up, puzzled to know what this extraordinary scene could mean. In the evening I told the people of the house about it.
"You must know," said Annunziata my hostess, laughing, "that woman takes you for a magician, or a sorcerer; she thinks you are bewitching the vines out of your parchment-covered book."
Here I had to laugh heartily, thinking of the possibility of working charms by means of that particular book — it was Platina's "Lives of the Popes."
Notwithstanding, the vines recovered this year completely, and because this is the first good year, and the disease has abated, the grape is now, the people say, a cosa santa.
During my residence at Genazzano five men p78 were murdered in that district, and all because of stealing the grapes. One case throws so much light on the then condition of justice in those parts that I cannot be silent about it. A rich man, brother-in‑law of the Prior (or Burgomaster) of Olevano, killed a poor thief of his grapes, on the highway, and then fled to his vineyard, which adjoins that of my hostess. His friends followed him armed, for the two grown‑up sons of the murdered man were just about climbing the hill with guns in their hands to avenge their father's death.
For several days the authorities took no notice of the matter. At last it was said that the widow intended getting the law followed through the aid of an influential patron: the bailiff of Olevano had been ordered to arrest the murderer. But these officials never stirred in the matter: they were suborned, people thought. The widow's hopes now turned to the San Vito police, but they were just as immovable.
Meanwhile fourteen days had gone by. "Fine justice you get here in Genazzano," I said one day to the apothecary, whose shop, like that his confrère in "Hermann and Dorothea," was the social resort of all the men of the place. Whereupon quoth this son of Aesculapius — the handsome father of his no less handsome daughter p79 Sophia — "O Signor! what do you think? That dead man was not by any manner of means killed by the Prior's brother-in‑law, for look here! our medichino (the little doctor) and the surgeon have made a post-mortem examination and proved that the man in his fright had flung himself over a cliff, and his spleen was broken in two pieces by it. So it is — si, Signore, egli si ben vero, and the arch-priest of Santa Maria del buon Consiglio says the same thing also." I held my peace. In the evening my hostess said: "I don't think that he broke his spleen, but —" and she counted with the thumb and first finger of her right hand an imaginary sum of money into her left.
The abundance of the grape crop here is astonishing. The vines cover all the hills of this pleasant Campagna as far as the eye can reach. They climb up the slopes from the plain below in long rows, supported either by rods or strong Italian reeds, or else by the little round-topped maple and elm trees. Lovers of Virgil may know that even in Roman days the vineyards were arranged in these two different ways. It gives me great enjoyment to read the Georgics in the midst of the vintage of the present day — that most glorious monument of Latin poesy, not because of the art with which it is written p80 that is mediocre, but of the pure, pregnant, quite inimitable language of it. I read that poem over and over again, beneath the vines of Genazzano, and convinced myself that all Virgil's remarks, his rules, his instructions are throughout just as sufficient now as if they had been written for the cultivators of the Campagna of to‑day.
Here the vineyards are everything to the people. They unite the three rural deities — Bacchus, Ceres, and Pomona — for between the rows of vines they sow the wheat, amongst which the slender almond trees rise gracefully. The lark chants his cento novelle antiche when he sees that the slightest breath of spring begins to open their blossoms; for this tree, this tree of love, was planted on the grave of Narcissus. Then the no less graceful olive grows between the vines, with its fine-grained, artfully folded-in bark of silver grey, and its delicate leaves, which gleam sometimes, in the changing light, like silver, sometimes like bronze. Pleasant it is to see the corn springing up to make the good, tasty bread, and the oil which will furnish a relish for it.
Then the peach, the apple, the pear trees, the fiery‑red pomegranate, the walnut, the chestnut, the fig‑tree with its honey-sweet fruit. And the fruits of all these trees come in beneficent succession: no sooner has one yielded its crop p81 than another begins to bless us, and the next is already giving promise of ripening. I have spent this long summer in the Campagna, and the table by my bed has never once been without its dish of fruit.
My hostess owned three vineyards — one at Palestrina, and another on the mountain above Olevano, •three miles from Genazzano. There a lonely house, occupied by her vine-dresser, stands on the hillside, its wide verandah decked with flowers and shaded by fig and chestnut trees, with nothing to interrupt the view from it of the majestic chain of the Serra and the wide plain of the Sacco, and there I spent many long days in the pure aromatic mountain air, living only on fruits, my only hesitation being which to break from the parent tree first, for the variety was great, and all were alike excellent and plentiful.
But what am I to say of the grapes? for, no disease having fallen upon the famous vines in this whole district, they are bending beneath the burden of their crop, the bunches supported here and there, or tied up with strong thread. These bunches are of such weight, and the berries of such size, that you would accuse me of telling stories if I stated what they weighed. The harvest is of many-hued varieties — the clear p82 golden muscat grapes, which gleam translucent in the sunshine; the whitish clear grape, called buon vino; the great blue-black ones, from the heavy clusters of which is expressed strong, blood‑red wine. Thus fed and thus refreshed, I sit between tall myrtles at the foot of the hill, or in the chestnut groves, or amongst Virgil's fennel, fragrant with menthe and serpillum, which grow everywhere, and there read our Horace, which is never left at home. The menthe is the real native plant of the Campagna — all Roman meadows smell of it. If I find it when I am in Tuscany or North Italy, its perfume instantly awakes a longing for the Roman Campagna.
Can it be believed that in the midst of all this profusion the country people themselves are poor? Looking around on this beautiful land, it seems as if it ought to be an El Dorado for the happy natives; yet, if you live among them, you will see, too often, hunger-stricken human beings coming out of this paradise to meet you. These abundant fruits (you may buy twenty figs or twenty walnuts for one bajocco, and in good years a flask of wine may be had for the same small coin) — these fruits do not nourish the peasant; he would starve if it were not for the meal of the Indian corn, which is p83 his sole nutriment. The evil of these inequalities is to be explained by the agrarian condition under which the peasant exists. From remote ages the occupier of the land has had to give a fourth of his produce to his feudal lord — Prince Colonna. It is this ancient curse of the taxation which impoverishes the people. It is true there are few of the country folk who do not possess small vineyards of their own, but this does not suffice to support the freedman. The usurer knows no limit to his extortions; even the poorest must pay him 10 per cent on a loan. When the smallest misfortune occurs, a bad harvest — many may come in succession — he gets into debt. If he borrow money or seed corn, the percentage on it grinds him down; the greedy lender, waiting for the time of his greatest need, acquires the small proprietor's farm at a nominal price. The baron, and the monasteries grow rich, the peasant becomes their vassal and their vine-dresser. I have had the opportunity of considering these conditions carefully. As a rule, this is how the evil comes about. First of all the debtor sells his land, pure and simple; the trees (gli alberi), which include the vines, remain still his own, and, if he continues to cultivate the vineyard, he may still enjoy one‑half, or even three-fourths of their produce. But p84 scarcely has a year elapsed when the vine-dresser again presents himself before the purchaser of his land, and begs him also to buy his trees; so, all becomes the property of his lord; the man's family lives on in the vineyard, attending to its cultivation, because he receives a portion of its produce. If he is one of many proprietors, even a larger one, he goes on, getting deeper and deeper into debt; a great portion of his earnings has already been resigned to his master before he receives them.
On my Padrona's vineyard, and she is a person much esteemed for her upright dealings, a Venetian, a vine-dresser, and his family of eight persons live. She tells me that she took these people as tenants, and had got them into a condition in which they might have maintained themselves. But they existed in a state of such bitter poverty that fever attacked them from bad food, and she had to send them the means of life from her own place. After the vine harvest, it appears as if these poor peasants may get into a better condition for a time, at least while the money lasts, for which they sell their wine.
Wine excites the nervous energy, but does not nourish the muscles. The peasant drinks the worst kind of wine, that of the second pressure p85 of the grapes, and he needs bread also. Wheat is too costly, so he plants or buys polenta, and eats the meal of the Indian corn. As in Lombard, that beautiful plant, the oriental corn, adorns the fields of the Italian Campagna with its great golden ears of grain, which nature seems to regard as jewels of price. All the country people eat polenta, either in the form of soup or of cakes; they call it pizza. If I meet a man on the road and ask have, "What have you had for breakfast?" he answers, "La pizza." "What are you having for supper?" "La pizza." I have eaten it myself by the peasant's hearth. They prepare in this way. The yellow porridge made with this meal is kneaded into a flat cake, and baked on a smooth stone, over the charcoal fire. It is devoured toasting hot. The whole family sits round it to enjoy the midday meal, of which it consists. For the evening meal a salad of the plants that grow in the fields, with oil poured over them, is added. Sometimes this supper is of water soup, made with chicory or other vegetables. The oil often fails them — it will probably fail this year, as, after a double crop last year, the olives give promise of a very poor harvest — an emblem of human activities, or rather of all good fortune, of happiness which ebbs and flows.
It is easy to imagine with what excitement the p86 country folk look forward to the harvest of the Indian corn. At the end of July the ear has been formed, and then the rain is needed. None has fallen now, but a glowing hot atmosphere pervades the fields. Every one was anxious, so they decided to pray to heaven for rain. There were daily processions, of an afternoon, which reminded me of the heathen festival of the ,m and of the rain-stone, of ancient Rome, which was borne along the Via Appia to the Votisque imbrem.n I beheld all these things with astonishment. It is truly amazing to find yourself in the present day among people who hold the innocent belief that the immutable decrees of Nature can be set aside by prayer and cries for mercy — that they can be changed or accelerated. Every evening the women of Genazzano passed through the town in pairs, with their red handkerchiefs falling like veils over them, not worn as they are worn when they go to church, headed by the priests, with a picture of a saint displayed. When they had got to the principal square, singing and muttering as they went, they burst into the cry, with a fervour verging on frenzy, of "Grazie, grazie, grazie, Maria!" This cry of a hundred, or two hundred, loud voices, all in accord, resounded through the air. "Et clamore in ," as Virgil p87 has it.o Each day they carried around a different saint, but it seemed that each was proving more deaf and ineffectual than the last. My hostess — she was to some extent an enlightened woman, and she owned no maize fields — said one evening, as we sat at any time supper and suddenly the cry of "Grazie, grazie, grazie, Madonna!" resounded close to the door, "Why do they pester the saints in heaven so much? They will make them so angry that they will never allow us to have any rain again!" I was infected to some extent by this feverish excitement. I wanted the rain to come just as much as they did. I visited the maize fields ever day, and, indeed, they were very nearly ruined. At length they carried St. Anthony of Padua around in procession, and when they had taken him up to the convent of San Pio, an Augustinian monk preached, by torchlight, from the steps of the church there, the townsfolk all crowding round; some had even climbed up into the trees to hear him. A strange scene! the gesticulating monk, the image of the saint, the black cross, the white surplices of the choir-boys, the women in their red veils, the glaring light of thing torches, the dark trees, and the splendid deep blue of the vast landscape, and all this, to draw down rain from the heavens! At last the sky clouded over, the third day after p88 this it thundered, and tropical rain rushed down in torrents, with tremendous force.
It would seem that the gods, or the saints who now replace them, will give us no good gift without claiming a victim in return for it. So it was now. With the rain came a water-spout, a magnificent phenomenon, which I beheld while I was out riding. It drew on towards me from the Volscian Mountains, blue-black over the valley, and when it discharged itself in hail, it devastated a long strip of the vineyards. All that afternoon we had storms, violent dashes of rain with thunder and lightning. Then they rang the church bells, in their terror. Next day the whole town was in a state of excitement; the people poured out into the streets; it appeared that four persons had been killed by the lightning. The report was confirmed. They brought the dead bodies into the vine-dresser's house, where the police kept guard over them for twenty-four hours. Next day came a much-esteemed procession on asses, the medichino (the little doctor) and the surgeon with him, to hold their post-mortem examination. These dead men had doubtless been struck by lightning. Towards evening they carried them out of the house, and laid them on biers covered with black cloth, the clergy p89 preceding them with lighted candles in their hands, accompanied by the brothers of the dead in black cloaks, also bearing torches. It was a most affecting sight. The people were waiting outside the gate of the town, and when the solemn cavalcade approached, they all began to chant the psalms for the dead. All who were waiting at the gate stretched up their hands in unspeakable agitation, and gave vent to a cry of lamentation so wild, so frightful, so full of anguish, that it must have moved the hardest heart. These poor men who had been killed by lightning were regarded with fear, as beings suddenly destroyed by God, and so perhaps doomed to everlasting perdition. Then the relations tore themselves free from the crowd, women and children (one woman especially) struggled with the bystanders, trying to fling themselves upon the biers. This scene was repeated, when the bodies, one by one, were carried into the church, where they were left on the pavement for the night. I can never forget that gloomy spectacle.
These country folk express their feelings in primitive ways, and the most ancient natural conditions of life remain still in existence here.
The separation of the sexes from each other reminded me pleasantly of the East. This p90 means that the fashion was for men to consort with men, women with women. It would have been thought quite laughable if a married man should give his arm to his wife, and the girls would think their characters were quite in danger if they were seen speaking to a young man in the street openly, or if he accompanied them a little way along it. Lovers have their discorso, that is to say, they talk through the window, or the house door, to one another: this is the lenes sub noctem susurri of Horace.p The fair one is serenaded, with guitar accompaniment, sometimes also by the bagpipe. Its plaintive sounds float out sadly on the night air, yet are melodious, withal. The country folk, too, sing simple, long-drawn‑out ritornelli charmingly.
It is pleasant to hear, from afar in the vineyards, the question and reply of a pair of lovers; they remind one of the cicadas calling to each other through the summer air unceasingly.
They marry very early in these parts — a young fellow of twenty‑one chooses frequently a girl who has only numbered fifteen summers. It is more usual to find a real love match, a courtship — far amore this is always called — which continues for some length of time, in the peasant class than among the citizens or p91 burghers, who look upon marriage as a commercial transaction. There was an instance of this while I was living at Genazzano. A young Abbé of twenty‑one was suddenly seized with the wish to return to a secular life. He was the son of a well-to‑do family, so, one fine day arrived a Franciscan monk (the Franciscans are the go‑betweens in all family arrangements in these regions) from Civitella, to inform the youth's mother that a certain fair one, living at Pesciano, was looking out for a husband, that her dowry would be 1000 scudi, and that she belonged to one of the first families of the town. Her age was twenty-eight; if the Signora approved of the suggestion, she could talk to her son about it. No sooner had the young Abbé heard of this lady's proposal than he decided in its favour; he had no manner of doubt about it. The very next day he got on horseback, still in his priestly garb, and rode off to visit the lady.
Then and there the two were betrothed, and on his return a tailor was called in to convert his clerical robe into a coat. His sister set to work to make him a pair of grey trousers, and as no waistcoat was to be had, the mother sent to me (secretly) to know whether I would supply the want. Thus attired, the bridegroom-elect again p92 set forth to visit his bride. They met at the cottage of a vine-dresser, and the contract was legally signed and completed. Three weeks later the lady arrived, seated in a carriage, two huge sacks filled with copper coins (her dowry) beside her. The youthful bridegroom had just seen his life's companion twice, for about an hour each time, at this stage of the proceedings; but the ceremony was straightway solemnised. A small room in his parents' house was arranged for them to live in, this was actually the only difference which the marriage made in the family.
In connection with this subject I will take occasion to tell of a strange custom which prevails in the whole of Latium.q One night there arose in our market-place the most horrible, ear‑splitting noise. Every species of untuned instrument seemed to have been got together. I turned out, and there I found all the younger portion of the community, big and little, congregated before a certain house, and regaling the inhabitants with a veritable cats' concert. Never — no, not even at any German University — had I encountered a finer discord produced by conch shells, cows' horns, the clashing of butchers' knives, and the dragging around of old pots and kettles over the rough stones, while a dozen or so of the assembly were clanging cow‑bells. "But do tell me what p93 all this diabolical row can mean," I said to a gentleman who stood by laughing. "A widow lives in that house who has taken to herself a second spouse, so they are treating her to the scampanella," he replied; for thus the barbarous concert is named, because of the cow‑bells which bear so prominent a part in it. It appears that if a widower or widow marries a second time, he or she is regaled with this cats' music for three nights running. No less than three times during my sojourn at Genazzano did this barbarous noise recur. The company marched through the whole of the town like a band of demons, swarming through its narrow streets, carrying a lanthorn made of a hollowed‑out pumpkin in front of them, and filling with their hellish music our peaceful little commune.
For truly peaceful is Genazzano. Its inhabitants seem to be of a more gentle and superstitious nature than their neighbours, and for this they have perhaps to thank their famous shrine, which brings them such shoals of pilgrims, and to their church such rich revenues from the whole of the Latian land around. In fact it represents the two ancient heathen fanes which were once so all‑powerful — the Temple of Fortune at Palestrina and its namesake of Antium.
I witnessed the Festa of this celebrated p94 Madonna of Good Counsel here, on the 8th of September, and can therefore describe it. First, however, I will relate the legendary history of the Sacred Image, which is a fitting pendant to the fable of the Holy House at .
Just before the period when that house was borne by unseen hands from Nazareth to , there suddenly appeared at Scutari in Albania a miraculous image of the Virgin. Whether this image fell straight from heaven, or came there fleeing from the Turks, seems uncertain. It was named la Madonna del buon officio, that is to say, "of good service." Now it so befell that in the year 1467 two pilgrims, escaping from the Turks and trying to get to Italy, came to Scutari to prostrate themselves before the Holy Image and beseech its aid in their further journey.
To their great amazement they could only discover, on the spot where the Madonna had once stood, a white cloud. Towards night they saw this cloud begin to move away. They followed it, till at last it came to the shores of the Adriatic Sea. It went on its way over the waves, steadily, persistently, the two pilgrims always following it dry‑shod; this shining white cloud vanished from before their eyes when they drew near to the city of Rome. Then they heard that an image of the Madonna had suddenly appeared p95 at Genazzano, and hastening to that town, they found that this was indeed the one they had worshipped formerly at Scutari.
From that day the so‑called Madonna del buon Consiglio began to work great wonders. A church, with a monastery attached to it, was built to enshrine her image, the monks of the Augustinian Order managing to get possession of the sacred treasure, which has proved not less — even more — profitable to them than the image which this Order already possessed in Rome. Indeed this goddess of Genazzano enjoys as widespread a reputation for sanctity as did the ancient heathen oracle once residing here.
Twice in the course of the year her festival is celebrated, and a double harvest of offerings is gathered into the Augustinian coffers. Countless are the gifts in money and valuables which believers bring. The poorest peasant comes to lay his mite on the altar of the Virgin. We may safely say that this shrine is as well endowed by the whole of Latium as is the State itself. I was told that the offerings by means of associations, each member giving five to the general chest each month, will sometimes bring in from one peripatetic company alone as much as 100 scudi at one time. The annual receipts of this pilgrim church are valued at 7500 thalers.
p96 The picture is preserved in a chapel lighted by perpetual lamps in a clean, and much decorated, church. Access to it is absolutely debarred by a grating and iron bars, and, in addition to this, a curtain of yellow silk is generally drawn down before it. They allege that it is suspended, hovering in the air, always upheld by unseen hands. I often saw it unveiled, but I could never discover its super-terrestrial position.
Already, on the vigil of the Festa, pilgrims begin to arrive. Not only the place itself, but the whole district then begins to be alive, and the air is filled with songs and litanies, which resound without ceasing day or night. All the roads are filled with gaily dressed, orderly processions coming along towards Genazzano.
They come from the Abruzzi, from "Sandal-land," from Sora, from the banks of the Liris, but chiefly from the Latian Campagna. We might imagine they were celebrating the feast of Jupiter , so great is the concourse of people, so varied their dress and dialect. The pageant — the spectacle — of all these country folk coming down from their mountains singing their "Oras," streaming along by the banks of the rivers, along the wide highways, all in bright festal array, moving through that vast expanse — that glorious landscape — coming on by the p97 field-paths, beside the streams, stretching out ever farther and farther into the distance, clad in red, in blue, in green, their long pilgrim-staves (bordoni, these are called) in their hands, is a spectacle well worthy the pen of the historian or poet, or the pencil of the artist.
I had ridden out to see the first companies of these pilgrims, as they streamed in on the day before the festival; seeking to bring back the Middle Ages to my imagination, and to help my historical survey of them by this great, old‑world pageant. •About two miles Genazzano the Roman frontier ends, being bounded by a branch of the river Sacco, a stone bridge, the Ponte Orsini, crossing it on the road to Genazzano. This was a famous robber-hold in days of old. The Frosinone Commune commences here, where the hills sink down softly and graciously towards the river, enclosing a most enchanting vision of plain and mountain. A very El Dorado discloses itself to the spectator — the Volscian Mountains, the Serra, the heights of Olevano all standing around, beautiful plains stretching out at their feet, clothed with every kind of tree, fertile and verdant. This bridge is a good point from which to await the arrival of the pilgrims. They halt to rest for a space, when they come to it, before entering the district in p98 which their shrine resides. As they approach the river, they pour forth fervent chants, traversing the bridge on their knees. Thus did I see innumerable multitudes cross this bridge, the women kneeling on one side, the men on the other. An old woman was acting as leader of the choir; she stood up, when the farther side was reached, and uplifted her voice in a penetrating evviva Maria, in which every one joined in chorus.
Then the long procession went on its way. Exhausted as they all must have been by their previous singing, some man or woman continued to raise a litany each time they flagged. This monotonous chant, the simple expression of their deepest religious sentiment, uttered in the plaintive voices of the people, and flowing on and on, like the sound of the waves on the sea‑shore, seemed to have a strange and exciting effect on the masses now pacing on to their goal. They moved in unison with it, and in the very rhythm of the sad strains they chanted. They seemed almost to imbue the whole procession with a moral force, guiding not only the feet of the pilgrims, but the emotions of their souls, fixed upon the object of their pilgrimage. I have always remarked that in these processions they pause for only a short time between their outbursts of song; if the overwrought pilgrims p99 fall into ordinary discourse during these pauses, some one recalls them promptly to the object in view, the leader of the band immediately starting the choral chant once more.
A pilgrimage exercises a certain charm over those even who do not take part in it, or belong to the true Church which it glorifies, especially where the illusion is not destroyed by such drawbacks as are sometimes unavoidable, when a mixed crowd first sets forth on a long peregrination. These evils are less felt in the south than under similar circumstances in the north. The clear skies, the fasting, the independence of material wants of the southerners, keep many disorders aloof from them; the artistic arrangement of these long trains of southern folk, the beauty of the women's dresses, the dignity and grace of their bearing, seem to keep aloof all low and sordid ideas; in short, their best protection is that inborn tact and decorum which are peculiar to the Italian people. Amongst all those thousands who passed before me, amongst all the processions I saw returning from their accomplished pilgrimages — and I accompanied them on their way in order to learn something of the land and of the people themselves, of their speech and their characteristics — I noticed not one instance of rude or rough behaviour.
p100 We then realise, also, this fact — that these people are brought up in those ideals of the religious life which find their highest expression in a pilgrimage to one of their holy shrines. They have waited patiently a whole year, heaping up all their little sins, their difficulties; their world of morals is confused, their souls heavily laden; then, for a couple of festal days, they seize the festal staff. They break away from their poor mountain farms, their hard work; now they can lay it aside, they move freely, they feel free, in company with their village friends or townsmen, who are uniting with them in one common object.
Then they wander hither by the banks of the Sacco, coming down from the hills come i van lor lai — like the cranes which sing as they fly. It did bring back the Middle Ages to me; I thought of those crowds of pilgrims who took their way to Rome in the Jubilee year, and more than once I found myself repeating that beautiful verse of the pilgrim sonnet in the Vita Nuova: —
"Deh! peregrini, che andate
Forse di cosa che non v' è presente
voi di si lontana gente
Com' vista voi ne dimostrate?"r
They come in bands of ten, of twenty, of fifty, of a hundred or more. Of all ages — the old man p101 walking with the same long staff which he has carried along this same road fifty times already, and which he may now be bearing for the last time; here comes the matron with her grandchildren, the blooming and beautiful young girl, the sturdy youth, a boy; even the nursling has come too, borne on its mother's head. I saw in one of the groups a young woman walking along and bearing on her head a basket; a laughing babe lay in it, with merry, wide-open eyes; it seemed to delight in the bright sunshine. Most of the women carry baskets on their heads containing eatables or a bundle of clothes; these baskets enhance the beauty of the whole pageant.
Could we but lift the veil from their souls, we might see blood-guiltiness walking beside innocence, in the same band — sin, repentance, suffering, and virtue, in strangely mingled alternation, as they stream past. This moving mass, with all its varied physiognomies, its colours, its dresses, is like some vast, beautiful procession of solemn masqueraders, pacing slowly on through the loveliest land, the most glorious of nature's landscapes. They have come from Frosinone, from Anagni, from Veroli, from Arpino, from Anticoli, from Ceprano, and from Sora, on the Neapolitan side of the frontier.
Look at these! see their olive complexions, p102 their beautiful oval faces. The women look fantastic, like Arab women, with thick strings of coral or gold chains hanging round their necks, and heavy gold ear‑rings. Their head-cloths (panni) of white, or brown, have deep fringes, which hang far down the back, shrouding them like a Madonna's veil. Their white chemises are gathered into innumerable folds over the bosom by a narrow, reddish-purple bodice, or corset. The skirt, of brilliant red or blue, is short, and bordered with a yellow band. And their eyes! how large and dark they look beneath their black, boldly arched brows!
Then the pilgrims! The women wear bodices of an amaranthine hue, matching their long aprons. Their white head-dresses have long white ends, and they wear sandals. The men have peaked hats, and jackets of amaranth colour; the sash round the waist is wound round with bright ribbons.
The pilgrims from Pontecorvo! How splendid, and how majestic, do the women look in their purple‑red skirts, beautifully bordered with embroidery, their heads bound round with red ribbons!
The pilgrims from Filettino! simple, yet charming, in their black velvet bodices, and plain white skirts.
p103 And then the Ciociari — the men and women from "Sandal-land" — from the district round Ferentino, or even farther away, beyond the Neapolitan frontier, from the Liris or Melfa. Theirs is a land of lovely wild mountains stretching away towards Naples, and there they wear the ciocie or sandals, that most simple covering for the feet, from which their country has taken the name of La Ciociaria. I even found these sandals in wear at Anagni; and more primitive, and also, I may say, more convenient foot-gear could not well be found. The shoe is formed of a square piece of donkey-skin or horse-skin. Holes are bored all round this, through which a thong of parchment is run and then drawn up, so as to enclose the foot firmly, while forming a point at the toe which sometimes bends upwards in classical fashion. The leg is wrapped in a piece of coarse grey linen, bound round by cord, or strong thread, up to the knee, where it is gartered round firmly. Thus protected, the Ciociaro moves freely, whether tilling his fields (zappar la terra) or following his sheep and goats over the rocks, his bagpipes under his arm, his sheep-skin flung over his shoulders. The sandals are classic, you see; Diogenes would have worn them if he had not gone barefoot; or Epictetus would have extolled them, doubtless, p104 when setting forth in some treatise the beauty of simplicity. When new and well arranged, the ciocie look smart and well, but when the leg‑wraps grow old and shabby, the Ciociaro is apt to assume a beggarly, wretched aspect; and this being too often his plight, he has got an unfortunately disreputable character. His name has even grown to be a term of reproach. A San Vito citizen, pointing out the beautiful panorama of the Campagna to me one day, said, "See, sir, yonder, Ciociaria lies up there," and he smiled superiorly, as much as to say, "A poor set of creatures, you!"
These Ciociari wear long, fiery‑red waistcoats, and black, peaked felt hats, which are seldom without either a smart feather or bunch of bright flowers. I found amongst them, as elsewhere in the Campagna, a pleasing mixture of fair-haired, blue-eyed folk. They crop their hair short at the back, like the Landwehr, leaving two long locks to fall down, one on each side of the face, from the temples. Fling a shabby grey waterproof or a white or black sheep-skin about the Ciociario, and behold your "Sandal‑man" fully equipped. But we won't give him a gun in his hand, lest he fall upon us in the Pass of Ceprano, crying out "Faccia in terra," and forthwith our pockets will be emptied with astounding p105 dexterity. The women wear sandals also, a short grey-coloured gown, a bright woollen apron, worn cornerwise across the person, a white or red head-shawl of wool, and finally a busto, the crowning glory of all female attire in Latium. This is a bodice, or corset, of stiffly quilted linen, high and wide, with straps resting on the shoulders. Within this corselet rests the breast, as it were shielded by a bulwark; as the busto stands out, and is so tall and capacious, it also serves as a pocket.
The bands of pilgrims grew more numerous as the vigil of the Festa approached; you heard nothing but the melancholy chanting of the processionists, who, one after another, streamed through the streets drawing on towards the church. Arrived at this goal after their long march, each seemed to forget his fatigue, and their faces beamed with fervent devotion. They fell on their knees before the church door, their hands folded on their long staves, their bundles still on their heads, singing litanies in a loud voice, and then raising the shrill cry of "Grazie, Maria!" They dragged themselves up to the steps on their knees; here and there women might be seen kissing the steps, or licking them with their tongues — a revolting spectacle, which is none the less revolting to me because I recollect p106 the fact that Charlemagne crawled up the steps of St. Peter's in just this same degraded way.
Scenes are not wanting which shock the beholder even more than this. I saw a man shuffling up on all fours, like a dog, to be carried into the church on a piece of carpet, while he howled like a were-wolf. They said, indeed, that he had the disease which is called in Latin lupomania. I heard a woman howling for hours before the iron rails of the chapel of the Madonna; they declared that she was possessed.
On and on the procession glided through the side aisle of the church, then in front of the altar, singing, praying, crying aloud ecstatically for pardon. That cry, "Grazie, Maria!" yelled out with frightful energy, the feverish, almost frantic, fervour with which they poured it forth, made me shudder.
The lights were kindled, the night deepened. The columns threw dark shadows over the pavement and on the groups of human beings, their figures by turns dimly seen in the chiaroscuro, or catching the full glare of the lights. Beautiful pictures disclosed themselves. All round the columns, by the altars, seated on the marble floor of the church before the chapels, were groups of tired pilgrims, most varied in their dress, their ages, their physiognomies — living p107 pictures which had a great charm for any one who could recognise it.
All this time the Augustinian monks were sitting at a small table, receiving gifts, selling indulgences — or masses — gathering in the money of these poor peasants — stolidly, calmly.
Outside the church similar groups were seated on the bare ground, new bands of pilgrims always coming in, never ceasing. One followed another without intermission during the whole of the night preceding the festival. The solemn resonance of their Latin hymns, poured forth into the silent night, spread a mystic atmosphere of deep sadness through the whole place. Yet even when it is a sad one, any great emotion which harmonises the souls of so many people, and has sent them forth afar with one and the same impulse, exerts a certain soothing influence on the human mind.
The town could not house all the pilgrims. As the night deepened the poor people, used to hardships, lay down on the rough pavement of the streets in crowds. They gathered round the wells and in the squares, for country people care little about losing a night's rest when travelling. But it is an ancient ordinance of the heavens that it must rain when there is any great gathering of holiday-makers. There is no greater p108 mocker of festivity than your sky, when any unusual concourse of the children of men is gathered beneath it: accordingly, no sooner had these poor people stretched themselves on the bare stones — some hundreds of them — than down came the rain. Then flight, confusion, cries of distress, and the crowding of these unfortunates beneath every projecting roof and outer wall of the houses; and how many of them, whether from their poverty, or in fulfilment of some vow, were fasting!
In the morning there was service in all the churches, and a further sale of masses. Gilt ornaments, pictures, and rosaries were bought at the door of the pilgrim church, as well as bottles, the size of one's finger, filled with oil taken out of the lamps which burn eternally before the shrine of the Madonna. They were bought eagerly for a bajocco each, and were held to be an infallible cure for all manner of diseases.
There was a concert given by a band of music in the afternoon; then the never-failing tombola or lottery, and fireworks in the evening. The pilgrims danced merrily under the oaks in the park, though many had to set forth on their homeward journey as soon as their prayers had all been repeated, their offerings bestowed. p109 Then the same groups, in orderly procession, wandered away, singing and decked out with those posies of artificial roses and pinks which are always sold in the south on such occasions as this.
When they reached the last point, on their homeward way, from which Genazzano was visible, they all knelt down, their hands folded round their pilgrim-staves, and said a parting prayer. This scene beneath the free heavens seemed to me the most beautiful of all. I liked to see the women's figures as each one knelt down with such a graceful gesture, her eyes fixed on the shrine from which she was now taking her leave comforted.
We then also left Genazzano, to ride to Pagliano and Anagni.
11 Pagliano,s a town of 3700 inhabitants, is distant •six miles from Genazzano. It stands on an isolated hill rising out of the plain, and is clothed with umbrageous trees and vineyards. A good road through fields of maize leads to it. The great pyramidal peak of the Serrone overshadows it to the left, and lends a certain majesty to the whole landscape.
Still more charming than this road, however, is the field-path by which we rode quite easily up to it, until we had reached the last steep bit of p110 the rocky summit itself. Here is set a small but very strong fortress, often and pertinaciously besieged in old times, more especially during those wars, or feuds, waged between the Papal See and the great family of Colonna. Standing on so high and steep a rock, Pagliano was hard to reach by means of artillery. The Citadel is now used for a , or Papal prison, and here reside over 200 captives who have been condemned to the galleys, and over whom the Papal soldiers keep watch and ward. The town is gathered about the castle. Its streets are narrow, its houses dark, and for the most part unsightly. There is no sign of commercial activity, but when the country folk go forth of a morning to till the fields in the plain below, and when they return at night, there is a certain amount of stir and movement in the place. The only one of the palatial-looking houses still existing which need occupy us now, is the great Colonna palace — Pagliano confers a title upon the principal branch of this illustrious family. It is a beautiful structure, built of dark tufa, in a symmetrical quadrangle, and although only two storeys high, it is spacious. It stands at the entrance to the town, on the declivity of the hill, from which a prospect spreads out before the eye of which one would never tire. Its graceful p111 architecture is of the seventeenth century, when the castle has evidently been restored.
When we realise how profoundly this dominating race of Colonna has influenced the history, not only of Rome, but of all Italy, and if we know something about its more prominent historical personages, we are bound to tread the floors of their old ancestral home here with no trivial interest. It may be well to give a few outlines of the family history while we are near this ancient dwelling-place of the race.
The Roman writer Antonio Coppi, known for his valuable edition of Muratori's famous "Annals," has earned our gratitude by having published in 1855 the Memorie Colonnesi. This contains a history of the House of Colonna, as well as of Rome, during the Middle Ages. It is filled with valuable materials taken from their family archives. Coppi, as well as the other Colonna chronicler, Count Litta of Milan, was put in full possession of the family archives by Dom Vicenzo Colonna of Rome. (That estimable old man died at his castle at Marino in 1855. I also have to thank him for the unstinted and prolonged use of those archives, and for all the light which they have thrown upon many events in Roman history.)t
Among the records, of which so great a p112 number exist, of the great houses of Italy, a whole library could, indeed, be filled with the annals of this one family, which deserve the closest attention, from their historical importance. Restless, ambitious, warlike, they were a constant motive power in the history of Rome. Grown rich by the acquisition of estates, they could never attain to the rank of independent princes, which so many of the younger families, especially in North Italy, had succeeded in effecting, because their lands lay within the Pope's jurisdiction. Thence came constant conflicts with the Papal power, and their adhesion to the Roman Emperors. For deeds of arms this house was more renowned than for peaceful exploits, nevertheless it was the one Pope of their race, Martin V, who put an end to the schism in the Church. Several Cardinals were amongst their descendants. Culture and science have perhaps not much to thank them for; the name of Colonna is eclipse in this respect, in Rome, by individual names, most of them of strangers — Popes and their families to name whom would be superfluous.
Nevertheless there are a few individuals of the Colonna family connected with the revival of art and literature in the highest degree. There is that old Stephen Colonna, and his p113 chivalrous and cultivated children, whose relations with Petrarch are so well known; and the celebrated poetess, Vittoria Colonna; and contemporary with her were those two beautiful women, Julia Gonzaga and Giovanna of Aragon, both of whom married into the Colonna family.
The origin of the race is uncertain, but they probably can be traced back to that Count of Tusculum who dominated Rome in the tenth century. According to this view, the Margrave Alberich, the husband of the famous Marozia,u may be deemed their ancestor. He died in 924, and five of his family, in an unbroken series, filled the Chair of St. Peter. The name of Colonna first appears in history in connection with Pietro Colonna in the twelfth century. Of him I have spoken before.
At this, their earliest period, we find them in possession of the towns of Colonna, Zagarolo, and Monte Porzio. Whether they really came of that ancient race, the Counts of Tusculum, or not — a race which disappeared when the Romans sacked their town in 1191 — they did come, at all events, from those Tusculum hills, and spread out over the Campagna from thence. Their possessions extended from Fortino, that is to say from the Volscian Mountains to the and Hernican ranges, even as far as to the Sabina. p114 Palestrina was their chief town, and they owned all the land lying around it.
In the thirteenth century their power, their great influence, began to be felt in Rome, where they had possessed a palace near the church of the Santi Apostoli in the Via Lata for a long period. During this century Cardinals of their race were conspicuous — who is there who does not recollect the part they played in the fall of Boniface VIII? In the history of the Hohenstaufen dynasty the House of Colonna was called the most zealous for the Ghibelline cause in Rome.
In the fourteenth century, when the Popes were in exile in Avignon, they strove with the powerful Orsini for the suzerainty of the city of Rome. The Orsini became henceforth their sworn enemies, and the zealous adherents of the Papacy. It was then that Stephen Colonna the elder shone forth as their leader. To him Petrarch dedicated sonnets and addressed letters. During this century also the two great branches of this house split up into two separate families, the Colonna of Palestrina and of Pagliano respectively.
In the fifteenth century the favour shown to them by Ladislaus of Naples still further strengthened them. The friendship of Queen Joanna II increased their power, which culminated in the election of Ottone — or Otho — Colonna to the p115 Papal Chair, when he reigned as Martin V. Many fiefs fell to them in the kingdom of Naples, also the Duchy of Marsi ( Dux) and the title of Count of Celano. They then possessed, in all, forty-four towns and castles.
With the accession of Pope Sixtus IV war broke out again between the Papal See and the Colonna. Girolamo Riario, the nephew of Sixtus, besieged Pagliano, but the sudden death of his uncle saved the town. The conflict with his successor, Alexander VI, raged persistently. Few years went by without wars ravaging the Campagna. This was the period when many distinguished men of the Colonna family began to come to the front. I need only name the first Connetable, Fabricius, of the Pagliano branch, and his two children — Ascanio, who married Joanna of Aragon, and Vittoria, the wife of Fernando d'Avalos, Pescara. Ascanio's son, Marcantonio, won the battle of Lepanto.
The share borne by Colonna in the fall of Pope Clement VII and in the Sacco di Roma is known to all who may have read of those events.
The family of Colonna was threatened with great disasters in the middle of the sixteenth century, when it quarrelled with Paul IV, and that irascible Pontiff, like his predecessor, Boniface VIII, p116 now robbed the family of Pagliano; raising it to the position of a Duchy, he bestowed it on his nephew, John Caraffa. Marcantonio, the head of the Colonna family, invaded the Campagna — assisted by the Duke of Alba — in order to recover this town. Hence arose the famous war between Pope Paul IV and the King of Spain, which came to be designated the War of the Campagna. This war ended in 1557 through the intervention of Alba, and of Cardinal Carlo Caraffa, the articles of peace being signed at Cave, near Genazzano. Before this took place, however, Marcantonio had got back his estates owing to the death of the Pope. John Caraffa, Duke of Pagliano, who had seized them, came by a frightful death; he was beheaded in the Torre di , in Rome, while Cardinal Caraffa was strangled in his Castle of St. Angelo.
Marcantonio may justly be called the last great Colonna. He was buried at Pagliano in the year 1584. After his death the times were changed, the barons ceased to wage war against the Popes, but their estates were diminished by sales, to which they were driven by debts. The glory gained at Lepanto was costly. I was told by Dom Vicenzo that Marcantonio contributed a million out of the family property towards that war, and that the House of Colonna has never recovered from the p117 expense it incurred by that expedition. In 1622 the ancestral estates of Colonna and Zagarolo were sold; in the year 1630 Palestrina was sold; the Barberini are now lords of these territories (1856). Though the family was always falling from its former high estate, the Pagliano branch continued to preserve its name and dignity. Its present head is Isabella Alvarez of Toledo. The Colonnas have migrated from Rome to Naples, and live there for the most part. The greater portion of their fiefs are now in that kingdom. Philip, the third Colonna, possessed twenty-seven of these in the States of the Church, sixty‑two in the kingdom of Naples, and eight in Sicily — in all he had vassals. Their properties within the States of the Church are the following — Anticoli, , Castro, Cave, Ceccano, Collepardo, Falvaterra, , Ripi, Rocca di Papa, San Lorenzo, Santo Stefano, , Serrone, , Trivigliano, Vallecorsa, and (in 1858).
These fiefs were entailed in the order of primogeniture, and remained so for the most part, but subject to the local laws. In the kingdom of Naples feudal jurisdiction was abrogated in the year 1806, in Sicily in 1812. Following the example of Prince Colonna, most of the nobles in the States of the Church relinquished their fiefs in 1816. In 1807 the law of entail was p118 partially abolished in Naples; in 1809 it was entirely abolished there. At the time of Philip Colonna's death it was still in force in Sicily,1 as well as in the States of the Church, where it is so to this day (1858). As a consequence the law of inheritance was regulated according to different enactments, and the paternal inheritance came to be divided amongst the offspring.
Philip, the lineal descendant of Marcantonio, left three daughters — Maria, who married Giulio Lante Rovere; Margherita, who married Giulio Cesare Rospigliosi; and Vittoria, who married Francesco Barberini. Philip's brother then became head of the house.
This much it has seemed to me well to recall, before I take my reader into the palace of so renowned a race as were these Colonnas of Pagliano. This castle — once so magnificent, so brilliant, so filled with eager life — is now, as are so many old palaces in Italy, silent and deserted. A surly castellan leads you through the great rooms, pointing out where fine trophies of arms, the spoils of the Colonna victories, used to hang on walls now also denuded of their pictures. These last have been either sold or removed to other places.
It is pleasant to wander through these old p119 feudal castles, where the family tree hangs on the wall, withered and dry, and the tapestries are torn and defaced, as are the patents and other documents, which their former vassals have now destroyed. What ghostly, shadowy apparitions those blackened portraits of their old ancestors are in their gilt frames — portraits of warriors, or Cardinals, or of beautiful ladies, with their Marie Stuart ruffs, denoting the age in which they lived. I found but few — indeed, perhaps but thirty in all — and about these the custodian could tell me nothing. His head was still more empty and forlorn than the palace of his lord; all the records of the past had been expunged from it. They were dead and forgotten by this modern being. What would I not have given to know who was that beautiful pale lady with the dark-brown eyes, shrouded in a great red velvet robe! yet she must still have remained but a name to me, whether she had been Felice Orsini, Lucrezia Tomacelli, or Diane . Might she, indeed, have been that hapless Duchess of Pagliano whose tragic fate formed one of the strangest romances of those days? That hapless lady was not done to death here, but in one of her husband's other castles.
In the smaller gallery the portrait of the astrologer p120 of the family is not missing, he of whom we are wont to think as the spiritus familiaris of every baronial castle of olden days, with his long white beard and his capacious robe of black velvet. This garment accords well with the sad and solid furniture of such mediaeval palaces, where the frockcoat and kid gloves of modern days would seem quite absurdly incongruous. The star-gazer at whose picture I was looking was Nicholas Colinus de Paliano astrologus — according to the inscription which his portrait bore.
The walls of another room were covered with sketches of towns, and plans of such cities as Madrid, Paris, Venice, Florence, and Genoa. Some rooms are of medium size; others reminded me of that princely state-room which is so much admired in the Colonna palace in Rome.
Close by is St. Andreas, the family church and Colonna place of sepulture, an elegant structure of massive proportions. This is said to contain the tombs of all the members of the Pagliano branch of the family, Philip I having brought the ashes of all his ancestors here, and constructed the family vault. When I went down into it I was no little astonished to find it perfectly empty. The walls of this large circular p121 building were whitewashed; there was not one sarcophagus, not even a marble monument left — nothing but a series of inscriptions all round the walls, all of them in the uniform lettering of the seventeenth century. Here were the epitaphs of Marcantonio and his wife, Felice Orsini; of Ascanio and Joanna of Aragon, his father and mother; of and Agnes of Montefeltro, his grandparents. Whether Julia Gonzaga, the wife of Vespasian Colonna, and the most beautiful woman in Italy, may have been interred here I know not. Just as little do I know concerning the last resting-place of Vittoria Colonna. By her will, completed as she lay on her deathbed in the old palace of the Cesarini, near Argentina, this celebrated lady, under date of the 15th of February 1547, bequeathed a sum of money to the nuns of the Convent of Sta. Anna, at Falegnani,v who nursed her in her last illness, and whose convent was the nearest one to the spot where she drew her last breath.
There was no carriage road by which we might reach Anagni, which possesses but one gate, that opening on the Genazzano road. As we came from a different direction, we had to ride round the walls before we found ingress to the town. A labyrinthine passageway, possible for horses, though often rough and steep, the limestone p122 over which it climbs being washed bare by the winter rains, led us safely, through a wilderness of rocks, to Anagni.
I rode there with a native of the Campagna, whom I had engaged as guide, on a glorious September day, and this I shall always regard as the most enjoyable of all my many excursions through the Saturnia Tellus, so beautiful was that wild hillside, so majestic the mountain chains all around us. The spur on which Pagliano is built stretches forth towards the river, and rises abruptly from the plain on every side. From base to summit this hillock is girdled about by vineyards; its crest, over which we rode, through thickets of mastic, myrtle, and raspberries, was hard withal to surmount, and to descend from. Myrtle I wondered to find up here, as it loves the sea‑shore, and the sea air. Colonies of wanderers live in these hills, in their conical huts, just as one finds them in the neighbourhood of Rome, on the Roman Campagna.
Between these huts we rode on till we came to a solitary Convent, hidden in the heart of a deep forest of oaks, chestnuts, and elms. This wood is called the Santa Maria di Pagliano.
From thence a narrow path has been cut through the wood which clothes the hill. This path descends so rapidly into the depths below p123 that it is hard to ride down it. The romantic, deserted district which lies between the hills of Pagliano and of Anagni is very wild. Here and there you come upon an isolated farm, or mill built of brown stone, and set by some tumultuous stream, tumbling and foaming down from the mountain — this stream we have to ford. The landscape is enlivened by herds of cattle and flocks of sheep.
Here we saw the pifferaro who comes to Rome at Christmas, in his native haunts, and here we heard the strange tones of the cornamusa, or bagpipe, which the shepherd blows into as he follows his flocks and herds. These creatures seem restless. They try to snatch at the grass as they speed over the pastures.
Towards the end of September there descend from all these mountains which we see around us great flocks of sheep into the plains. They wander on, as far as even to the walls of Rome, in search of winter pasturage. On my way back I came upon one of these flocks of sheep — so great a flock that it literally filled the road — watched over and kept in bounds by barking dogs, and shepherds both on foot and on horseback. I reckoned that they might number about 3000 head of sheep; but a shepherd told me that in this flock there were more nearly 5000, p124 coming down from the Serra on their way to Rome. The cries of the mother sheep, the bleating of the lambs, filled the air with soft, plaintive tones. The Campagna resounds with such sounds outside the city gates during October and November, when the Campagna more than ever displays to us a great classic idyll.
But now we drew near to Anagni; already we were at the foot of the hill on which this ancient metropolis of the Hernici is built.w
A tall and stately gate stood up before us, bearing on its entablature the arms of the town, a lion, in whose back an eagle has buried her talons.
Anagni surprised me, accustomed as I had been to the dark streets and shabby houses of other Campagna towns. Here I rode in between rows of important-looking buildings and palaces, which bore every mark of the seventeenth-century luxury of Rome, and gave a certain well-to‑do air to the whole town. Its modern aspect set me wondering; I failed to understand it until I had made myself better acquainted with the history of the place.
Presently I came to the principal square, a small quadrangle enclosed by modern dwelling-houses on one side, by palaces on two others, on the fourth by a low stone fence, or enclosure, from p125 whence, as it lies on the slope of the hill, the valley of the Sacco is visible, and through it the Via Latina, winding up in graceful curves from Valmontone. This ancient road does not touch Anagni, but goes on its way, skirting the foot of the hill, till it arrives at Ferentino and Frosinone, and the banks of the river Liris, which it reaches just below Ceprano. From this piazza the view is so fine that it may well enchant even those who have beheld the whole of Italy, from the Alps to the African and Ionian Seas. Just opposite rise the Volscian Mountains, their sunlit rocks clearly defined, the very windows in the towns set upon them being visible. These towns catch the eye in every direction as they succeeded each other all along the slopes of Monte Fortino, the famous Segni, Gavignano, Rocca Gorga, and Sgurgola. Then come Morolo, , and Patrica, behind which the tall, bold pyramid of Monte Cacume stands out, blue and beautiful. In the distance peak after peak arises, then more town — Ferentino behind a hill, Frosinone, whose fortress is still visible, , , Ceccano, and many other places can the eye discover. Towards Rome stretches out a vast plain, bounded by the heights of Palestrina, which may itself be seen in the far distance. The Latian Mountains come within our ken, and so the greater part p126 of Latium can, without effort, be beheld from thence.
Turning out of this square, an entirely different view presents itself, and here we realise the position of Anagni for the first time. The hill on the outer edge of which it is built joins on to the Serra, or springs out from that range, in the form of a sickle. The brown rocks lie bare and rugged all around as you look out on a wilderness from which Monte Acuto springs up hard by, a dark castle which takes its name from the precipice on which it stands.
Seeing what its position is, it is no wonder that Anagni became the favourite place of retreat, or summer abode, of so many Popes during the Middle Ages — a country town raised above the Campagna, its air so health-giving, while it is sheltered and protected by those rocks and walls.
It is only to the Middle Ages that Anagni owes its historical fame. Although capital of the Hernici, a powerful race in Latium, it was of no significance during the Roman epoch. After being conquered it remained merely a subject town. Very few fragments of old Roman work remain to recall the past, only some portions of walls, and, on the north side of the town, a row of colossal arches supporting the steep hillside. Yet these p127 — the most conspicuous monuments of her older epoch — lend a great charm to the place. No remains of any fortress are to be found; probably the cathedral now occupies the place where it formerly stood. Of Cyclopean walls, like those of Ferentino and Segni, there is no trace.
Anagni became an important place for the first time at the end of the thirteenth century. Then it had the unusual good fortune of seeing four of its citizens raised to the Papal Chair within one century. The first of these Popes was Innocent III Conti — 1198‑1216. Then followed Gregory IX Conti — 1227‑1241; Alexander IV Conti — ‑1261; and finally Boniface VIII — 1294‑1303. But still earlier Anagni was chosen as a resort by the Popes. During the period when the Romans revolted from the Papal rule, several of the Popes withdrew within its walls. Breakspear, otherwise Adrian IV, died here, a fugitive, in 1159, fleeing from the demands of the Roman Senate that he should reinstate the republican government in Rome. He was the only Englishman ever raised to the Papacy. Hither also fled his celebrated successor Alexander, and also Alexander's successor, III.
The fact of her having been the nursing mother of no less than four Popes must have p128 tended to enrich Anagni, and have been immensely to her advantage. She adorned herself with palaces and other great structures built in the Romano-Gothic style of architecture which prevailed so largely in many parts of Italy up to the fifteenth century. Even in Genazzano Gothic remains may still be found. Anagni has not many to boast of now, however, besides the cathedral, her most remarkable Town Hall, and the Gigli Palace.
The Communal Palace possesses a great arcade, over which one storey is built. The street runs under this arcade, as through a long gateway. On its façade the stone is sculptured and adorned with many coats of arms of mediaeval days: amongst these stands a bust of one of the captains of the town of the House of Rovere, of the fifteenth century. The back of the arcade is still more remarkable from the ornamentation of its plinth, and its row of little double-columned windows of that Moresque style which we find at Rovello, above Amalfi.
This Town Hall has been rescued from the universal destruction of the Middle Ages, and with the Casa Gigli still remains a fine monument of the past. The house of the Gigli family, a small structure probably of the fourteenth century, reminded me of the houses in Palermo. It is p129 built round a quadrangle, with a flat roof and an outer court. This latter consists of two round arches, resting where they join on a single pillar. A flight of stone steps leads up from these to the doorway, which is also circular. This architectural style is finely reproduced in the one window of this vestibule, with its round arches resting on pillars. Are the top there is an open cornice, simple, and harmonising charmingly with the Eastern character of the building, which is rendered still more Oriental by vases filled with flowering plants set all around on the flat roof.
When I had discovered this Casa Gigli, I sat down on a stone to make a sketch of it in my notebook. Straightway a crowd of townsfolk gathered round me. While they watched my attempt to depict this monument of their palmy days, I could see how proud they were of their past. They complained bitterly of those four Popes — their fellow-townsmen — for having done so little to improve the condition of their birthplace — they "had not even given them a supply of good water." This is, indeed, a misfortune, and the water in the cisterns seemed to me dirty and unwholesome; yet an aqueduct could only have been constructed at great cost, as it would have had to span a deep valley in order to reach Anagni from Monte Acuto. "Well," p130 said one of the burghers, "no doubt it would have cost a large sum of money, but — just consider — there were four of those Popes, and if each had given something (qualche cosa per uomo) the work would have been completed in the end."
The cathedral stands on the highest level in the town, by the Ferentino gate, but on a site rather enclosed by buildings, so that only its façade and its bell-tower, which stands by itself, produce any effect. It is one of the oldest cathedrals in Latium, older than most those in the States of the Church. It dates from the First Crusade. Peter, the then Bishop of Anagni, of the family of the Lombard Prince of Salerno, built it in 1074.x He himself took part in that Crusade, in company with Boemund of Tarentum. We may read, on a stone beside the portal, the following inscription:
"Quisquis ad hoc templum tendis venerabile gressum
Mox conditorem cunctorum nosce bonorum
Condidit hoc Petrus magno conamine praesul
Quem genuit tellus nobis dedit altaº Salernus
Sic miserere sibi Patris unice Fili.
The character of the writing is modern — it may be of the sixteenth century — but the spirit and p131 mode of expression of this inscription are of the date of the founder of the cathedral.
Though frequently restored by the Bishops of Anagni and the Popes, this still retains its original Romano-Gothic style. The façade is rude in character, rising to a gable with obtuse angles, yet curtailed by a cornice. A simple arched window has been placed in it; another, a plain square one evidently of later date, has been broken out below it. The doorway — it has only one — has a tasteless entablature, pieced together out of various blocks of stone, and adorned with roughly sculptured heads of oxen and lions, dating from the Middle Ages. Without any apparent object, two pilasters have been placed together, their capitals joining, on one side of this doorway. A round stone arch rises above the portal, ornamented with simple arabesques. The stone is, throughout, the dark limestone tufa found here to the present day. The façade evidently belongs to its original period, but it has been restored hastily, as necessity may have dictated.
Within it is spacious and beautiful, of the ancient basilica form, and of that mixed early Gothic which is best displayed in the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome. There are three large aisles, a lofty choir crossing them. The pavement, of fine mosaic, the work of the p132 famous brothers, dating from 1226, was placed there at the cost of the Raimondo Conti, who became afterwards Pope Alexander IV.
The crypt is under the choir, and deserves careful attention as well as restoration. It is supported by columns of medium height. The roof and the floor are both beautifully adorned and overlaid with mosaic, and the walls are covered by various, but, alas! much damaged frescoes. Though these are often hard to make out, they are evidently of very different dates, for while many of their Biblical figures are of the rudest Byzantine form, others are handled much more freely. Among them are heads beautifully and gracefully painted. One picture especially charmed me. It represents the Adoration of the Cross, and seems to be of the period of Cimabue.
In this lower church is the tomb of St. Magnus, the patron saint of the cathedral, and an old inscription tells us that in the year 1231 "the said Master Cosma was busied with the translocation" of the martyr and saint. Thus it would appear that this old family of artists, who enriched Rome with so many architectural gems, were then also busied in the embellishment of the towns of the Campagna.
There is also one of their monuments in the p133 choir chapel — in the inner aisle — a Gothic tabernacle, over a sarcophagus of marble. This reminds one, at first sight, of the tomb of Bishop Gonsalvo which John, the son of Cosmato, erected in 1298, in Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. This tabernacle is most undoubtedly designed and wrought by him, and only four years previously, for the inscription runs:
"In isto tumulo requiescunt ossa D. Petri episcopi
Qui nutrivit D. Bonifacium Pap. VIII. item subtus
Ossa D. Goffredi Cajetani comitis Casertani.
Item ossa D. Jacobi Cajetani hic recondita kal. Augusti
Anno D. 1294."
On this very simple sarcophagus, enclosing their remains, the arms of this great family of Gaetani are carved, but without the eagle. Their shield usually bears two fields, one with two ribbons or baldricks involved, the other bearing the eagle.
In the choir of the same chapel there is another interesting ancient relic, a picture of the Madonna, beneath which we may read:
"Hoc opus fieri fecit Don. Raynald, presbyter et clericus istius ecclesiae anno Dni. M.CCCXXII. mense Madii."º
p134 It was also given, then, by the same Pope, Alexander IV Conti.
A few other memorials of the Anagni Popes still remain in the cathedral. The vestments of Innocent III and Boniface VIII are kept in a press in the sacristy. The cope of the famous Innocent is blue, richly and heavily embroidered with gold, into which the most exquisite pictures are introduced from the New Testament. They resemble Giotto's work, or that of the later Fiesole artists, rather than designs of so early a period. The ponderous cope of Boniface VIII is ruder in its ornamentation, being wrought all over solely with golden lions and eagles.
With these treasures the sacristan also showed me many old mitres and pastoral staves. Their curious shapes would delight an antiquary.
In vain did I seek for any statues of those Popes who belonged to the place. I could only find, in a niche, or tabernacle, outside the church and under its roof, one marble figure seated on a throne. I was told that this shapeless effigy, more like a heathen idol than a Pope, was meant to represent Boniface VIII.
At a later date, four medallions of the four Anagni Popes, huge painted heads on canvas, were suspended over the gallery of the choir. They are fantastic and absurd, evidently belonging p135 to the seventeenth or eighteenth century.
Before we leave the cathedral to go in search of the Papal palace, let us recall some of the scenes which, occurring here, seriously affected the history of Germany, for this cathedral at Anagni was intimately connected with the dynasty of Hohenstaufen. From this very altar, on a Maundy Thursday, Pope Alexander III laid his anathema on the great Emperor Barbarossa, in 1160. From this spot Innocent III read out the Bull which excommunicated Frederick II, and here stood Pope Alexander IV when he placed the heroic young Manfred under his ban. Wild and barbarous scenes of the Middle Ages, now long past and gone, as is the glory of our own German Empire,2 and, indeed, the power of the Papacy itself.
The last of the Anagni Popes was Boniface, of the Gaetani family. Who is there who does not know the story of his imprisonment in his own palace here, of his release, and of his tragic death immediately afterwards?
A singular chance had raised the Anchorite, Pietro, to the Papal throne in the year 1294. He was forced from his hermitage on the mountain of Majella, and consecrated at Naples, where p136 he remained a helpless tool in the hands of Charles II. But the ambitious Cardinal Benedict Gaetani of Anagni aimed at the Papacy, and Pietro, or Celestine V, gladly laid down the tiara, after wearing it for five months, and fled back to his mountain once more. No sooner had Gaetani seated himself in the Chair of Peter, as Boniface VIII, than he dragged the unfortunate Celestine from his hermitage and brought him to the Anagni palace, sending him afterwards to the fortress of Fumone, where this helpless man ended his days a few months later.
Boniface did not forget that two Cardinals of the Colonna family had opposed his election as Pope, and he now considered in what manner he might best humiliate that powerful house. A war broke out between Boniface and the Colonna in 1297, under circumstances which I need not here detail. A regular crusade followed, when the Cardinals, unable to withstand his fury, repaired to Rieti to consult with the head of the family, Sciarra Colonna. With him, they proceeded to France, where they were gladly welcomed by Philip the Fair, also at war with Boniface, who had excommunicated him and pronounced his throne vacant. A plot was devised in 1313, by which the p137 Pope was to be seized and made a prisoner when he retired to his palace at Anagni for the summer. With the assistance of William Nogaret, a confidant of Philip, they got together three hundred horse and a large body of foot soldiers; and, having stationed Nogaret at Ferentino, hard by, to be ready if needed, Sciarra fell upon Anagni from Sgurgola on the night of the 7th September. Confederate Ghibellines within the walls opened the gates, Sciarra then stormed the Gaetani palace, and forced his way into the Pope's bedchamber. Boniface confronted him with dignified heroism. For three days they held him a prisoner, giving him his choice between death and his abdication of the Papacy, just as he had previously forced Pietro to abdicate it.
Meantime, Cardinal Luca Fiesco had been stirring up the citizens to rescue their Pope, their own townsman, from these desecrating and infuriated hordes. The inhabitants seized their arms, and succeeded in expelling their invaders.
The liberated prisoner was conveyed to Rome, where he died, raving mad, on the 11th of October — three days later.
His countrymen, Cardinals, members of the Curia, had betrayed Boniface. His successor, Benedict IX, soon after his consecration issued a Bull against his predecessor's foes. It begins p138 thus: "His own ancestral home could not shield him, his own palace was no asylum for him. The Head of the Church was humiliated: she and her Bridegroom both lay in chains. To what place are we to flee for refuge? Who can be safe if the Pope of Rome himself was thus betrayed? O godless sin! O unheard‑of outrage! Woe be unto thee, Anagni, thou who hast witnessed such deeds done within thy walls! May no dew nor rain fall on thy mountains, as it falls elsewhere! May it pass thee by! for thou hast seen these things done and hast not hindered them; the mighty are fallen, and he who was girt round with strength has been overpowered."
The curse pronounced by Benedict IX no longer rests upon Anagni; yet, so recently as the year 1616, its superstitious inhabitants believed that they were suffering under it. When the then well-known traveller, Leandro of Bologna, visited the town, he found it in a heap of ruins; even the Gaetani palace had been destroyed. The frightful war waged against the Lords of the Campagna by Alba had reached this place, and the poor townsfolk complained to their visitor from Bologna that since Boniface, the proud Pope, had been betrayed there, their town had been pursued by constant calamities.
p139 I asked to be shown the spot where the all‑conquering Papacy, as once organised by Gregory VII, had met with its death-blow; but the scene of that famous event no longer exists. The Gaetani palace was destroyed long ages ago, and the house which the citizens now call by the Gaetani name is a modern structure belonging to the Marquis Traetti. This occupies the site of the famous Gaetani palace, close to the cathedral and on the side of the hill. That palace, they said, had been connected with the church, and some old walls are shown in the precincts of the cathedral, which belonged to it. On the outer side of the present edifice there are also the considerable remains of a loggia; three great round arches are still standing, which support the steep hillside. Far below, in the ravine, is a great wall, which the people point out as the stable of Boniface.
I found that current events possess much greater interest for the Anagni folk than the memories of their past glories. These, indeed, I lost sight of myself when that grand landscape which is here disclosed to the traveller lay before my eyes. Rising from amidst wildernesses of sombre rocks, a solitary Doric temple, belonging to the Campo Santo of the place, suddenly stood before my eyes. Beyond it, p140 Monte Acuto stands up on its pyramidal rock. A few steps more, and you see, turning a corner, covering the top of a bare mountain, a sad‑looking, forlorn fortress, at a height of •6000 feet, with a dark, neglected little town gathered round it. "That is Fumone," said a woman who came by; then she added, in a sort of scornful tone: "Quando Fumone fuma, la Campagna trema." As I did not comprehend what this proverb might mean, I asked her to explain it. However, the good woman only said: "See you! see you! it is such a wretched place that the people up there are hungry both by day and night." That, then, was Fumone, where Celestine V lived a prisoner — the one Pope who abdicated, and whose story is as strange and romantic as are the Middle Ages themselves.
But now I must tell you of an absurd thing that occurred. I had taken out my field-glasses, which had clear metal rims, to examine Fumone, when, accidentally, I turned them on a boy standing a little way off; this youth suddenly emitted a yell and ran off, filling the air with his piercing shrieks. At this outcry came men, women, and children on the scene, to know what I had been doing to the child. This recalled my adventure at Genazzano, where I had spread p141 such a terror amongst the natives by my parchment-bound book.
Having seen all the lions of Anagni, we could soon depart from the town. With Boniface our interest in it ends, but not its history. Twice again has it been brought into notoriety: In , when the French Cardinals fled hither, after the election of Pope Urban VI, in order to elect another Pope in opposition to him and the Roman faction. With this began the great Avignon schism. In 1556 the Duke of Alba ravaged Anagni during the Campagna war. The town was then entirely destroyed, and this accounts for its comparatively modern aspect of to‑day. It is now a remote and dead-alive provincial town, with, perhaps, 6000 inhabitants, proud of its former glories, its Popes, and its twelve noble families — the so‑called twelve stars of Anagni. Of these the Gaetani and the Conti are reckoned as the oldest and the most illustrious. Newer names are always being added to those of the old families. Among these it will always be a great pleasure to me to mention honourably the charming family of Ambrogi.
1 On the second of August it was totally abrogated in Sicily.
2 These words were written before 1870. (Translator's note.)
a Liris is the ancient Latin name of the river. The modern convention is to call the river as a whole the Garigliano; the Liri (the modern Italian name has no ‑s) is its upper course down to Sant' Apollinare where it receives the Gari.
The reader will also notice that after having told us of the Campagna Romana strictly speaking, as defined by the list of towns which I've shown in the map, Gregorovius is now going to focus on a small pocket within the "more extended" area, the one I show in my second map.
b The Torre Pignattara — Gregorovius himself writes Pignatara — has now given its name to the surrounding quarter of suburban Rome, as Torpignattara, but originally referred just to Helena's mausoleum: a tower with pignatte, large hollow amphorae sunk into the structure to lighten it. The word is familiar to many more people thruout the world as the name of its Spanish cousin, the piñata, which consists of a similar large hollow pottery jar, although put to a very different purpose.
In this photo of Helena's mausoleum, a row of these pignatte, or more properly, what remains of them, can be seen near the top of the structure.
Photo E. Ranalletta 2007, kindly ceded to the public domain.
c The Marrana and the Aqua Crabra are two different water channels, but which do join right before the bridge crossed by the road from Rome. In Antiquity they were part of the Aqua Julia system that fed the City: Frontinus, I.9 gives us the details. The Italian word marrana means "ditch"; the channel no doubt owes its alternate name Mariana to a mix of commendation and popular piety.
e Pedum was somewhere in the neighborhood; Nibby (vol. I, ch. 18) places it at Zagarolo. References to it, as given by him, are found in Livy, VIII.12‑14; Plutarch, Life of Coriolanus, 28.3; Dionysius, V.61.3 and VIII.19.3.
f "Albus, you frank critic of my satires, what now shall I say you are doing in the countryside of Pedum?"
h1 h2 The foundation of Praeneste is noted in Diodorus, VII.5.9. The city was one of the more than twenty Latin towns that are said to have joined in a war against Rome in the early 5c B.C., ending in the Roman victory of Lake Regillus (Dionysius, V.61.3). She also fought another war against Rome in the early 4c B.C. (Livy, VI.22.1‑3, Vell. Pat. I.14.2). Marius' defeat by Sulla and death in Praeneste is recounted in Appian, B. C. I.87 ff., Vell. Pat. II.26.1‑27.3, and very summarily in Plutarch, Life of Marius, 46.6. Pyrrhus' occupation of Praeneste is recorded by Florus, I.18.24. Fulvia had a command post in the town under Anthony in the Perusine War (Dio, XLVIII.10.3). The city is very frequently mentioned by ancient authors in connection with the Temple of Fortune and the "Praenestine Lots" cast there (citations are collected in the article Oraculum of Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities), as well as such things as wine and filberts.
j Gregorovius actually wrote "that Palestrina was the birthplace of one of the greatest masters of church music, who took his name from this city", which is more accurate and more informative.
l My own first desideratum is to find a good grocer. That's not in the least a "domestic arrangement", but a serious recommendation for anyone who wants to get to know an area well: since I will spend a quarter of an hour at the grocer's almost every day — you can calculate how that adds up during a 3‑month stay — my ideal grocery is a small family-run store, with a congenial, well-informed grocer who chats with his customers. If my fellow customers are inclined to talk, that too is good: I've learned a great deal about my surroundings, including historical and archaeological information, at the grocery store. (One quick example from my grocer Angelo in Umbertide in 2004 is typical; if you've read my diary, you'll have read others.)
q The shivaree is a custom found in many parts of the world; and is particularly to be expected in the hinterland of Rome, where in Antiquity it was called fescennina: see the article in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.
r Vita Nuova, Sonnet 40. Online,
t This sentence — the parentheses are Roberts' — does not appear in the text of Gregorovius online; it's evidence that the Wanderjahre underwent more than one edition, and that the discrepancies, which I note here and there, between the English and the German texts are not necessarily due to carelessness on the translator's part.
u Mistress, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, and murderer of Popes.
v The confusion and garbles in this sentence are only partly due, if at all, to the translator: the printer, the author, and his sources all come in for their share.
Though the impression is produced that Vittoria Colonna died in or near the castle at Pagliano, she died in Rome. The misspelled "Falegnani" is not a place: the convent is that of S. Anna dei Falegnami (St. Anne of the Carpenters) in Rome, not far from the Largo and Torre Argentina. There is general agreement that she died on February 25th, although for all I know, her will may well have been dated the 15th, of course. That much is certain.
The specific place in Rome where she died is less certain, though. The article Vittoria Colonna in the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica gives it as S. Silvestro, on what grounds I don't know; the following summary of the facts as given by Lilian Whiting, Italy, the Magic Land (Boston, 1907), pp329‑330, seems better to me and accords with the majority opinion:
Rota, her Italian biographer, states that she died in February of 1547, in the Palazzo Cesarini. This palace is in Genzano, on Lago di Nemi, and has been one of the Colonna estates; but from Visconti and other authorities it is evident that she died in Rome, either in the convent of Santa Anna or in the palace of Cesarini, the husband of her kinswoman, Giulio Colonna, which must have been near the convent in Trastevere, the old portion of Rome across the Tiber.
Finally, there have been several churches of S. Anna in Rome: the identification of the church as S. Anna dei Falegnami is not in the edition of Gregorovius online, but whether in a later edition or supplied by Roberts, is correct: Armellini's pages on the church state that Vittoria Colonna retired to its convent in 1544, and include details of her death there.
Thus, the passage should read, assuming the date of the will is correct:
. . . near the Largo Argentina [in Rome], this celebrated lady, under date of the 15th of February 1547, bequeathed a sum of money to the nuns of the Convent of Sta. Anna dei Falegnami . . .
x Students, especially, should be careful about what we read in books; here we have a piece of loose writing. The First Crusade was undertaken in 1095. The cathedral of Anagni, on the other hand, according to its own website, was built over a couple of decades, 1072‑1104. That span does, however, fall entirely during the episcopate of Peter, who became bishop in 1062 and died in 1105; as a side note, he is the only bishop of Anagni to have been canonized.
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