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Portraits of the early Popes. — Those of SS. Peter and Paul. — The tombs of the Popes. — Their interest for the student. — The tomb of Cornelius Martyr. — Inscriptions and other monuments found in his crypt. — The two Cornelii, pagan and Christian. — The pontifical crypt in the Cemetery of Callixtus. — The tomb of Gregory the Great. — S. Peter's as a burial-place for the Popes. — Gregory's several resting-places. — The stress of Rome in his time. — The legend of the angel. — Gregory's good works. — His house. — The tomb of the Saxon Ceadwalla. — That of Benedict VII. — The turbulent times in which he lived. — The Crescenzi. — The church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. — Pope Sylvester II. — The tradition about his death and tomb. — The vicissitudes of the Lateran basilica. — The Vassalletti. — Study of the antique by mediaeval artists. — The stone-cutter's shop on the site of the Banca Nazionale. — The tomb of Innocent VIII. — The story of the holy lance. — The tomb of Paul III. — His services to art. — The tomb of Clement XIII. — Bracci and Canova. — The Jesuits in Clement's time.
Among the curiosities of the three principal basilicas of Rome, — the Lateran, the Vatican, and the Ostiensis (S. Paul's), — were collections of portrait heads of the Popes, which were painted above the colonnade on the three sides of the nave. In S. Peter's there were two sets, one on the frieze, above the capitals of the columns, the other on the walls of the nave, above the cornice; the first is marked with the letters "G H." in the drawing of Ciampini which is reproduced in chapter iii., p134; the second, with the letters "I L."• The set of the Lateran was painted by order p210 of Nicholas III (1277‑1280). Since his time the basilica has been burned to the ground twice — in 1308 and 1360 — and restored three times. Its last disfigurement, by Innocent X and Borromini in 1644, concealed whatever was left standing of the old building, and made it impossible for us to study its iconic pictures, if there were any still existing. We possess better information in regard to S. Peter's, thanks to Grimaldi, who described and copied both series of medallions before their destruction by Paul V in 1607. The lower series, which was painted by order of Nicholas III, began with Pope Pius I (142‑157) and ended with Anastasius (397‑401). Grimaldi remarks that the Popes of the times of the persecutions, from Pius to Sylvester, were bareheaded; those of a later age wore the tiara; all had the round halo, or nimbus, except Tiberius (352‑366), who had a square one. This last particular would prove that the portraits were originally painted in the time of Tiberius, because the square nimbus is the symbol of living persons. The upper series above the cornice was the more important of the two, on account of the chronological inscriptions which accompanied and explained each medallion. These inscriptions, which were too small and faint to be read with the naked eye from below, were not copied before their destruction. Grimaldi could decipher but a few: Siricius · sedit annis xv · mensibus v · diebus xx · — Felix · sedit anno i · mensibus . . . etc. The heads were bare, and framed by a round halo. They seem to have been painted at the time of Pope Formosus (891‑896), as were also the fresco-panels which appear in the above-mentioned drawing of Ciampini.
The guide-books of modern Rome describe the series of S. Paul's, restored in mosaic after the fire of 1823, as made up of imaginary likenesses except in the case of later Popes. p211 This statement is not correct. The original medallions were painted on each side of the nave, and on the cross or end wall above the entrances. Those of the end wall disappeared long since, on the occasion of some repairs to this part of the basilica. Those of the left side perished in the fire of 1823; but those of the right side, beginning with S. Peter and ending with Innocent (401‑417), were saved. They have since been detached from the wall, transferred first to canvas, then to stone, and are now exhibited in one of the corridors of the monastery.1 As regards those which perished in the fire, they had already been copied, first in the seventeenth century by order of Cardinal Francesco Barberini, and again in 1751 by Marangoni. The new series in mosaic is therefore not all fanciful and imaginary, but follows the tradition of the likenesses as they were first produced in the fifth century. At that time the study of the pontifical succession was receiving considerable attention in Rome. There were written catalogues inserted in liturgical books, which were read to the congregation on certain days of the year, so that everybody could argue on the subject, and remember the order of succession of the bishops. To impress this more forcibly on the minds of the people, it was written on the walls of the newly erected basilica of S. Paul, and illustrated with portraits. The series must have struck the imagination of visitors and pilgrims. The idea of apostolic inheritance, of uninterrupted hierarchy, of the supremacy of the See of Rome, took a definite shape in the array of these busts of bishops, led by S. Peter, and congregated, as it were, around the grave of S. Paul.
The custom found imitators in other churches and in other cities. Speaking of the gallery of Popes in the duomo p212 of Siena, Symonds remarks how the accumulated majesty of their busts, larger than life, with solemn faces, each leaning from his separate niche, brings the whole past history of the Church into the presence of its living members. A bishop walking up the nave of Siena must feel as a Roman felt among the waxen images of ancestors renowned in council or war. "Of course," Symonds concludes, "the portraits are imaginary for the most part, but the artists have contrived to vary their features and expressions with great skill." This statement may be correct in a general way, especially in regard to the Middle Ages, but is subject to important exceptions. There is no doubt, for instance, that the likenesses of SS. Peter and Paul have been carefully preserved in Rome ever since their lifetime, and that they were familiar to everyone, even to school-children. These portraits have come down to us by scores. They are painted in the cubiculi of the catacombs, engraved in gold leaf in the so‑called vetri cemeteriali, cast in bronze, hammered in silver or copper, and designed in mosaic.2 The type never varies: p213 S. Peter's face is full and strong, with short curly hair and beard, while S. Paul appears more wiry and thin, slightly bald, with a long pointed beard. The antiquity and the genuineness of both types cannot be doubted. After the peace of Constantine, when Sylvester, Mark, Damasus, Siricius, and Symmachus began to fill the city with their churches and memorial buildings, and as the habit of exhibiting in each of them portraits of the founders became general, it is evident that the author of the collection of portraits in S. Paul's, which dates from the fifth century, must have had plenty of authentic originals at his disposal.
|A||Portrait head of S. Peter; from a medallion in repoussé discovered by Boldetti in the Catacombs of Domitilla.|
|B||Portrait head of S. Paul; from a medallion preserved in the Museo Sacro Vaticano.|
Both are works of the second century.
Ferdinand Gregorovius was inspired to write his book on the subject while in contemplation of the monument of Paul III, Farnese. He glanced around in the dim light of the evening and saw effigy after effigy of venerable men, p214 seated on their marble thrones, with outstretched hands, like an assembly of patriarchs intrusted with the guardianship of their church. He devoted many hours to the study of this class of monuments, so strikingly Roman, "for in Rome, more than in any other city of the world, does investigation lead one in the footsteps of Death." His volume,3 however, seems to me more like an essay written in hours of depression than an exhaustive and satisfying treatise. The materia prima has greatly increased since he wrote, owing to the discoveries made in the catacombs, in libraries and archives, and to the reproduction by photography of the fragments collected in the sacred grottoes of the Vatican. If any of our younger colleagues are willing and prepared to go over the work in a critical spirit, let them divide the subject into three periods. During the first, which began with the entombment of S. Peter, June 29, A.D. 67, and ends with that of Melchiades, A.D. 314, the bishops of Rome were interred in the depths of the suburban cemeteries, and their loculi marked with a simple name. During the second period, which begins with the peace of Constantine and ends with the destruction of the Vatican basilica in 1506‑1606, the pontifical graves were mostly ancient sarcophagi or bathing basins from the thermae, accompanied by an inscription in verse, and, as the Renaissance was approached, by canopies of Gothic or Romanesque style. In the third period, which ends with our time, the new church of S. Peter is transformed into a papal mausoleum which is worthy of being compared in refinement of art, in splendor of decoration, in richness of material, in historical interest, with the Pantheons of ancient Rome. I shall select from each of the three periods a few representative specimens. p215
The Tomb of Cornelius, on the Appian Way. In 1849, while de Rossi was exploring the Vigna Molinari between the Via Appia and the Ardeatina, in his attempt to define the site and extent of the various cemeteries which undermine that region, he found a fragment of a marble slab with the letters . . . .ELIVS MARTYR.
Excited by a discovery the capital importance of which he was able to foresee at once, he asked an audience of the Pope, Pius IX, and begged him to purchase the Vigna Molinari, and grant the funds necessary to discover the crypt to which this fragment of a tombstone belonged. After listening quietly to the arguments by which the young man was advocating his cause, the Pope answered only four disheartening words: "Sogni di un archeologo!" (dreams of an archaeologist). At the same time he gave orders for the immediate purchase of the vigna (now called dei Palazzi Apostolici) and for the appropriation of an "exploration fund." In March, 1852, a crypt was discovered on the very border of the Appian Way; in the crypt was a tomb, and with it were the missing fragments of the epitaph of Cornelius.
Tombstone of Cornelius.
Some weeks later the young discoverer escorted the Pope p216 to the historical grave, and pointing to the epitaph exclaimed: "Sogni di un archeologo!" To judge of the importance of the discovery we must remember that the identification of the crypts of Lucina, and that of all the surrounding catacombs, depended mostly upon the identification of this one. The "Liber Pontificalis" says: "The emperor Decius gave judgment in the case of Cornelius: that he should be taken to the temple of Mars extra muros, and asked to perform an act of adoration: in case of a refusal that he should be beheaded. This was accordingly done, and Cornelius gave his life for his faith. Lucina, a noble matron, assisted by members of the clergy, collected his remains and buried them in a crypt on her own estate near the Cemetery of Callixtus, on the Appian Way; and this happened on September 14 (A.D. 253)." As the Cemetery of Callixtus was the recognized burial-place of the bishops of Rome, why was this exception made to the rule? The reason is evident: the estate of Lucina contained the family vault of the Cornelii, or at least of a branch of the Cornelian race. The victim of the persecution of Decius was the first Pope of noble and ancient lineage. Apparently his relatives wished to emphasize this fact in the place selected for his burial, and by proclaiming his illustrious descent on his gravestone through the use of the old and simple language of the republic, — "Cornelius Martyr." The use of Latin at this age constitutes another conspicuous exception to the rule, because the Greek language was not only fashionable in the third century, but had been adopted almost officially by the Church. The majority of liturgical words, such as hymn, psalm, liturgy, homily, catechism, baptism, eucharist, deacon, presbyter, pope, cemetery, diocese, are of Greek origin, and the names of the Popes in the pontifical crypt of this same cemetery p217 are likewise, written in Greek letters even when they are strictly Roman, as in the case of ΛΟΥΚΙΣ for LVCIVS.
The crypt of Cornelius contains other historical records. A metric inscription composed by Damasus and placed above the loculus says to the pilgrim: "Behold: a descent to the crypt has been built: darkness has been expelled: you can behold the memorial of Cornelius and his resting-place. The zeal of Damasus has enabled him, though careworn and ailing, to accomplish the work and make your pilgrimage easier and more efficacious. If you are prepared to pray to the Lord in purity of heart, entreat Him to restore Damasus to health; not that he is fond of life, but because the duties of his mission bind him still to this earth." These verses are, probably, the very last composed by the dying pontiff († 384). His work was finished by Siricius (A.D. 384‑397), as proved by a second inscription below the loculus: "Siricius has completed the work and dressed the tomb of Cornelius in marble."
The paintings of the crypt, although they date from the Byzantine period, are of historical interest. On the right we see the images of Cornelius and Cyprian, bishop of Carthage. Their intimate connection in life, their martyrdom on the same day of the same month, made their memory inseparable. The church commemorates them on the same natale or anniversary, and their images stand side by side in this crypt. The artist who painted them prophesied the future; he saw that the time would come when, in their graves, the bodies of the two friends would be united as their souls had been while they lived. Their remains were removed to Compiègne in the reign of Charles the Bald, those of Cornelius from Rome, those of Cyprian from Carthage, never to part again.
A circular pedestal, like a section of a column, stands p218 against the wall under the images. Such pedestals are not uncommon in the catacombs; and they were intended to support a large flat bowl not unlike the holy-water basins of modern churches. Several specimens have been found in situ, in the cemeteries of Saturninus, Alexander, Agnes, and Callixtus. They are of the same make, cut in marble so delicately as to be translucent, flat-bottomed, and very low. For what were they used? We cannot think of "holy water" in the modern sense, because in those days the faithful were wont to purify their hands, not in receptacles of stagnant water, but in springs or living fountains. It seems more in accordance with ancient rites to consider them as lamps, filled with scented oil or nard, on the surface of which wicks, secured to a piece of papyrus, floated like a veilleuse, to guide the footsteps of pilgrims in the darkness.
Crypt of Pope Cornelius
Portrait of Pope Cornelius; from a fresco near his grave.
The Pontifical Crypt. I have just mentioned the vault of the Popes as belonging to the same Cemetery of Callixtus. It was discovered in 1854. Its approaches were inscribed with a great number of graffiti, which marked the place as the most celebrated in the cemetery, if not in the whole of underground Rome. A pious hand had written near the entrance door: GERVSALE[M] CIVITAS ET ORNAMENTVM MARTYRVM DNI: "This is the Jerusalem of the martyrs of the Lord." The débris which obstructed the chamber was removed as quickly as the narrowness of the space would permit, and as it passed under the eyes of de Rossi, he was able to detect the names of •Anteros, •Fabianus, •Lucius, and •Eutychianus on the broken marbles. There were, besides, one hundred and twenty-five fragments of a metric inscription by Damasus, which gave the desired information, in the following words:—
"Here lie together in great numbers the holy bodies you are seeking. These tombs contain their remains, but their p220 souls are in the heavenly kingdom. Here you see the companion of Sixtus waving the trophies of victory; there the bishops [of Rome] who shielded the altar of Christ; the pontiff who saw the first years of peace [Melchiades, A.D. 311‑314]; the noble confessors who came to us from Greece [Hippolytus, Hadrias, Maria, Neon, Paulina], and others. I confess I wished most ardently to find my last resting place among these saints, but I did not dare disturb their remains."
Callixtus (218‑223), the founder of the cemetery, does not lie in it. He perished in a popular outbreak, having been thrown from the windows of his house into the square, the site of which corresponds with the modern Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, the area Callisti of the fourth century. The Christians recovered his body, and buried it in the nearest cemetery at hand, — that of Calepodius by the Via Aurelia (between the Villa Pamfili and the Casaletto di Pio V).
Urban, his successor (A.D. 223‑230), opens the series in the episcopal crypt of the Appian Way. His name, ΟΥΡΒΑΝΟϹ Επίσκοπος, has been read on a fragment of a marble sarcophagus. Then follow Anteros (A.D. 235‑236), Fabianus (A.D. 236‑251), Lucius (A.D. 252‑253), and Eutychianos (A.D. 275‑283), — in all, five bishops out of the eleven who are known to have been buried in the crypt.
In looking at these humble graves we cannot help comparing them with the great mausolea of contemporary emperors. A war was then raging between the builders of the catacombs and the occupants of the imperial palace. It was a duel between principles and power, between moral and material strength. In 296, bishop Gaius, one of the last victims of Diocletian's persecution, was interred by the side of his predecessors in the crypt; in 313, only seventeen years p221 later, Sylvester took possession of the Lateran Palace, which had been offered to him by Constantine. Such is the history of Rome; such are the events which the study of her ruins recalls to our memory.
The Tomb of Gregory the Great. In the account of his life given in the "Liber Pontificalis," I.312, two things especially attract our attention: the mission sent by him to the British Isles, and his entombment in the "Paradise" of S. Peter's. Beginning with the latter, we are told that he died on March 12 of the year 604, and that his remains were buried "in the basilica of the blessed Peter, in front of the secretarium, in one of the intercolumniations of the portico." This statement requires a few words of comment.
We have seen how the bishops of the age of persecutions were buried in the underground cemeteries, with a marked preference for those of the Via Appia and the Via Salaria. From the time of Sylvester (314‑335) to that of Leo the Great (440‑461) they still sought the proximity of martyrs, and obeyed the rule which forbade burial within the walls of the city. Sylvester raised a modest mausoleum for himself and his successors over the Cemetery of Priscilla, on the Via Salaria, the remains of which have just been discovered.6 Anastasius and Innocent I found their resting-place over the Cemetery of Pontianus, on the road to Porto; Zosimus and Sixtus in the church of S. Lorenzo; Boniface I in that of S. Felicitas, on the Via Salaria.
The Vatican began to be the official mausoleum of the Popes with Leo I in 461. The place selected is not the interior of the church, but the vestibule, and more exactly the space between the middle doorway (the Porta p222 argentea) and the southwest corner, occupied by the secretarium, or sacristy, a hall of basilican shape in which the Popes donned their official robes before entering the church. The place can be easily identified by comparing the accompanying reproduction of Ciampini's drawing with the plan published in chapter iii., p127.º For nearly two and a half centuries they were laid side by side, until every inch of space was occupied, the graves being under the floor, and marked by a plain slab inscribed with a few Latin distichs of semi-barbaric style. These short biographical poems have been transmitted to us, with a few exceptions, by the pilgrims of the seventh and ninth centuries, whose copies were collected in volumes, the most important of which is known as the Codex of Lauresheim. At the time of Gregory the p223 Great there was but a small space left near the secretarium. This was occupied by Pelasgius I, Johannes III, Benedict II, and a few others.
The Atrium of Old S. Peter's.
Sergius I (687‑701) was the first who dared to cross the threshold of the church, which he did, however, not for his own benefit, but to do honor to the memory of Leo I. The inscription in which he describes the event is too prolix to be given here. It tells us that the grave of Leo the Great was in vestibule below the sacristy. There he lay "like the keeper of the temple, like a shepherd watching his flock." But other graves had crowded the placed so that it was almost impossible to single them out, and read their epitaphs. Sergius therefore ordered the body of his predecessor to be removed to an oratory, or chapel, in the south transept of the church, and to be enclosed in a beautiful monument which he adorned with costly marbles, and with mosaics representing prophets and saints. The monument was destroyed by Paul V on Saturday, May 26, 1607.
The remains of Gregory the Great have also been moved several times. His tombstone must have been worn by the feet of pilgrims, as only eighteen letters out of many hundred have been preserved to our time. These were discovered not many years ago, in a dark corner of the Grotte Vaticane. Two centuries after his death, his successor, Gregory IV (827‑844), carried his remains inside the church, to an oratory near the new sacristy, covered the tomb with panels of silver, and the back wall with golden mosaics. The body remained in this second place until the pontificate of Enea Silvio Piccolomini, Pius II (1458‑1464), who, having built a chapel to S. Andrew the apostle, removed Gregory's coffin to the new altar. The coffin is described as a conca aegyptiaca, an ancient bathing-basin, of porphyry, which was protected by an iron grating. The chapel, the altar, and the p224 tomb were again sacrificed to the renovation of the church in the time of Paul V. On December 28, 1605, the porphyry urn was opened, and the body of the great man transferred to a cypress case; on the eighth day of the following January a procession, headed by the college of cardinals and the aristocracy, accompanied the remains to their fourth and last resting-place, the Cappella Clementina, built by •Clement VIII, near the entrance to the modern sacristy. There are now two inscriptions: one on the marble lid, "Here lies Saint Gregory the Great, first of his name, doctor of the church;" the other on the cypress case, "Evangelista Pallotta, cardinal of S. Lorenzo in Lucina, dean of this church, collected in this case the remains of Gregory the Great, and removed them from the altar of S. Andrew to this new chapel. Done by order of Paul V, in the first year of his pontificate, on Sunday, January 8, A.D. 1606." The altar-piece was not painted by Muziano, as stated in old guide-books, but by Andrea Sacchi. The picture was removed to Paris, with many other masterpieces, at the time of Napoleon I; but Canova obtained its restitution in 1815. It is now preserved in the Vatican Gallery; the copy in mosaic is the joint work of Alessandro Cocchi and Francesco Castellini.
Statue of S. Gregory the Great.
p226 "On the death of Pope John III in 573, Rome was so closely pressed that it was impossible to send to Constantinople for the confirmation of Benedict I, who had been elected his successor, and the papal throne remained vacant for one year. The same appears to have been the case on the death of Benedict, in 578, when Rome was held in siege by Zoto, duke of Beneventum, for the Lombard power had been distributed among thirty-six duchies. The particulars of this siege are unknown, but it probably lasted two or three years. On withdrawing from Rome Zoto took and plundered the Benedictine convent on Montecassino.º The monks retired to Rome and established themselves in a convent near the Lateran, which they named after S. John Baptist, whence the basilica of Constantine or the Savior subsequently took its name. . . . The misery of the Romans was aggravated by some natural calamities. Towards the end of 589, several temples and other monuments were destroyed by the flooding of the Tiber, and the city was afterwards afflicted by a devastating pestilence.
"To the year 590, which is that of the election of Gregory, is referred the legend of the angel that was seen to hover over the Mausoleum of Hadrian, while Gregory was passing it in solemn procession, and to sheathe his flaming sword as a sign that the pestilence was about to cease. At the same time her angels were heard to sing the antiphony Regina Coeli, to which Gregory replied with the hymn Ora pro nobis Deum alleluja!"7
This graceful story is the invention of a later century, but it is worth while to trace its origin. It was customary in the Middle Ages to consecrate the summits of hills and mountains to Michael, the archangel, from an association of ideas which needs no explanation. Similarly, in classical p227 times, the Alpine passes had been placed under the protection of Jupiter the Thunderer, and lofty peaks crowned with his temples. Without citing the examples of Mont Saint Michel on the coast of Normandy, or of Monte Gargano on the coast of Apulia, we need only look around the neighborhood of Rome to find the figure of the angel wherever a solitary hill or a commanding ruin suggested the idea or the sensation of height. Deus in altis habitat. Here is the isolated cone of Castel Giubileo on the Via Salaria (a fortified outpost of Fidenae); there the mountain of S. Angelo above Nomentum, and the convent of S. Michele on the peak of Corniculum. The highest point within the walls of Rome, now occupied by the Villa Aurelia (Heyland) was covered likewise by a church named S. Angelo in Janiculo. The two principal ruins in the valley of the Tiber — the Mausoleum of Augustus and that of Hadrian — were also shaded by the angel's wings. The shrine over the vault of the Julian emperors was called S. Angelo de Augusto, while that built by Boniface IV (608‑615) above Hadrian's tomb was called inter nubes (among the clouds), or inter caelos (in the heavens). This shrine was replaced later by the figure of an angel. During the pestilence of 1348 the statue was reported by thirty witnesses to have bowed to the image of the Virgin which the panic-stricken people were carrying from the church of Ara Coeli to S. Peter's. In 1378 the ungrateful crowd destroyed it in their attempt to storm the castle. Nicholas V (1447‑1455) placed a new image on the top of the monument, which perished in the explosion of the powder-magazine in 1497. The shock was so violent that pieces of the statue were found beyond S. Maria Maggiore, a distance of •a mile and a half. Alexander VI, Borgia, set up a statue for the third time, which was stolen by the hordes of p228 Charles V for the sake of its heavy gilding. The marble effigy by Raffaele di Montelupo was placed on the vacant base, and remained until Benedict XIV (1740‑1758) set up a fifth and last figure, which was cast in bronze by Wenschefeld.
The Angel on the Mausoleum of Hadrian.
It is remarkable that Gregory could think of the spiritual mission of the church in times so troubled, when the last hour of Rome and the civilized world seemed to have come. He saw that neither the condition of the world nor that of the Church was hopeless, and his ability, assisted by political circumstances, gave promise of more prosperous times. A great part of Europe accepted the Christian faith during his pontificate. Theolinda,º queen of the Lombards, after the death of her husband Autharic, in 590, contributed greatly to the spreading of the gospel among her own people. The west Goths of Spain were converted through Reccared, their king. We need not repeat here the well-known story of the manner in which Gregory's sympathy for the Anglo-Saxon race was excited by seeing one of them in the slave-market of Rome.ºThe mission to which he intrusted p229 the conversion of the British Isles was composed of three holy men, Mellitus, Augustin, and John, who were accompanied by other devout followers. They left Rome in the spring of 596, but could not land on the shores of England until the middle of the following year. Mention of this fact is made in two documents only, — in the "Liber Pontificalis," vol. I. p. 312, and in a writing by Prosper of Aquitaine in which the English nation is called gens extremo oceano posita (a people living at the end of the ocean).
Not less surprising in the career of this man is the institution of a school for religious music. It was established in one of the halls of the Lateran, and even the Carlovingian kings obtained from it skilful maestri and organists. It is still prosperous. To Gregory we owe the canto fermo, or Gregorian chant, which, if properly executed, imparts such a grave and solemn character to the ceremonies of our church.
Modern façade of the Monastery of
S. Gregory on the Caelian.
These, however, are comparatively recent memories. In the vestibule of S. Peter's, not far from the original grave of Gregory the Great, we should have found that of a British king, reckoned among the saints in the old martyrologies, who had come in grateful acknowledgment of the double civilization which his native island had received from pagan and Christian Rome.8 Under the date of 688 the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records: "This year king Ceadwalla went to Rome and received baptism from Pope Sergius, and he gave him the name of Peter, and in about seven days afterwards, on the twelfth before the Kalends p232 of May (April 20), while he was yet in his baptismal garments, he died, and he was buried in S. Peter's." The fair-haired convert, who had met with a solemn and enthusiastic reception from Pope Sergius, the clergy, and the people, received after his death the greatest honor that the Church and the Romans could offer him: he was buried in the "Popes' Corner," or porticus pontificum, almost side by side with Gregory the Great. The verses engraved on the tomb of the latter —
"Ad Christum Anglos convertit pietate magistra
Sic fidei acquirens agmina gente nova,"
(by pious cares he converted the English to Christ, acquiring thereby for the true faith multitudes of a new race)a — could not have found a more convincing witness to their truth than this grave of Ceadwalla, because with his conversion, which was due to the preaching of S. Wilfrid, the Christian religion spread rapidly among the Saxons of the West, and that part of the country which had most resisted the new faith was forever secured to Christian civilization. In fact Wessex became the most powerful member of the Heptarchy, till it attained absolute dominion over the whole island.
Ceadwalla's tomb, forgotten, and perhaps concealed by superstructures, was brought to light again towards the end of the sixteenth century. Giovanni de Deis, in a work published in 1588, says: "The epitaph9 and the tomb on which it was engraved lay for a long time concealed from the eyes of visitors, and only in later years it was discovered by the masons engaged in rebuilding S. Peter's. Not a fragment of the monument has come down to us, and such was the contempt with which the learned men of the age looked upon these historical monuments, that none p233 of them condescended to give us the details of the discovery. "It is deeply to be regretted," says cardinal Mai, "that such a notable trophy as the tomb of Ceadwalla, the royal catechumen, which was erected and inscribed by Sergius I, disappeared from the Vatican, and was irretrievably lost, owing to the calamities of the times, the avidity of the workmen, and the negligence of the superintendents."
"Ceadwalla's tomb," I quote from Tesoroni, "was not the only monument of Anglo-Saxon interest to be seen in the old S. Pietro. William of Malmesbury and other chroniclers mention two other kings, Offa of Essex, and Coenred of Mercia, as having renounced their crowns and embraced the monastic life in one of the Vatican cloisters. They were also buried in the Paradise near the Popes' Corner. It is doubtful whether king Ina, who succeeded Ceadwalla, and his queen, Aethelburga, were buried in the same place, or in the Anglo-Saxon quarter by the church of S. Maria in Saxia, founded, probably, by Ina himself. It is certain, however, that at a later time king Burrhed of Mercia was entombed in the same quarter, and in the same church. The place is still named from the Anglo-Saxons, S. Spirito in Sassia."
The threshold of S. Peter's once crossed, we hear no more of Popes being buried outside, in the old atrium. The second aisle on the left — that entered by the Gate of Judgment — was intended to receive their mortal remains. Hence its name of porticus pontificum (the aisle of the pontiffs). On the day of his coronation the newly elected head of the church was asked to cross this aisle on his way from the chapel of S. Gregory to the high altar, that the sight of so many graves should impress on his mind the p234 maxim, "The glory of the world vanisheth like the flame of a handful of straw;" and a handful of straw was actually burned before his eyes, while the dean of the church addressed to him the words, "My father, sic transit gloria mundi."
The Tomb of Benedict VII (974‑983). The basilica of S. Croce in Gerusalemme contains but one tomb, that of Benedict VII, whose career is described in a metric inscription of seventeen verses, inserted in the wall of the nave on the right of the entrance. I mention it because Gregorovius seems to have been unaware of its existence, in spite of its historical value.10 It recalls to our mind one of the most turbulent and riotous periods in the annals of Rome and the papacy, the fight between the "independents" led by the Crescenzi, and the party of the Saxon emperors, represented by Popes Benedict VI and VII. The Crescenzio mentioned in the epitaph of Benedict VII was the son of John and Theodora, and one of the most active members of a family which has thrice attempted to reëstablish the republic of ancient Rome and shake off the yoke of German oppression. This one is known as Crescentius de Theodora, from the name of his mother; and also as Crescentius de Caballo, from his residence on the Quirinal, near the colossal statues of Castor and Pollux, which have given to the hill its modern name of Monte Cavallo. The Castel S. Angelo was the stronghold of the family. Under the shelter of its massive ramparts they were able to dictate the law to the Popes, and commit bloodshed and sacrilege with impunity. In 928 Marozia and her second husband Guido, marquis of Tuscany, with p235 their partisans, fell on Pope John X, who was staying in the Lateran Palace, murdered his brother Pietro before his eyes, and dragged him through the streets of Rome to the castle. The unfortunate Pope lingered awhile in a dark dungeon, and was ultimately killed by suffocation. Marozia, perhaps to dispel the suspicions of a violent death, allowed him to be buried with due honors near the middle door of the Lateran, at the foot of the nave. His grave-stone was seen and described by Johannes Diaconus, but has long since disappeared. In 974 Crescenzio, son of Theodora, committed another sacrilegious murder, that of Benedict VI Helped by a deacon named Franco he confined him in the same dungeon of Castel S. Angelo, while Franco placed himself on the chair of S. Peter, under the name of Boniface VII. The legal Pope was soon after strangled. Such crimes startled for a moment the apathy of the Romans, who besieged and stormed the castle, deposed the usurper, and named in his place Benedict VII, whose grave we are now visiting in S. Croce in Gerusalemme. Yet Crescenzio and Franco did not pay dearly for their crimes. Franco, after plundering the Vatican basilica of its valuables, migrated to Constantinople, a rich and free man. Crescenzio died peacefully in the monastery of S. Alessio on the Aventine in the year 984. His tomb, the tomb of a murderer, whose hands had been stained with the blood of a Pope, was allowed the honor of a laudatory inscription. It can still be seen in the cloisters of the monastery: "Here lies the body of Crescentius, the illustrious, the honorable citizen of Rome, the great leader, the great descendant of a great family," etc. "Christ the Saviour of our souls made him infirm and an invalid, so that, abandoning any further hope of worldly success, he entered this monastery, and spent his last years in prayer and retirement."
p236 All these events are alluded to in the epitaph of Benedict VII, in S. Croce. This church has been so thoroughly deprived of its charm and interest by another Benedict (XIV., in the year 1744) that one cannot help paying attention to the few objects which have survived the "transformation," and equally to this humble stone hardly known to students.
Should any of my readers care to arrange their researches in Rome systematically, and study its monuments group by group, according to chronological and historical connections, they will find abundance of material in the period in which the murders of John X and Benedict VI took place. There is the tomb of Landolfo, brother of Crescenzio, at S. Lorenzo fuori le Mura; that of Crescenzio at S. Alessio; the house of Nicola di Crescenzio,• near the Bocca della Verità, a fascinating subject for a day's work.
The church of S. Croce has seen another strange death of a Pope, — that of Sylvester II (999‑1003), a Frenchman, Gerbert by name. A legend, related first by cardinal Benno in 1099, describes him as deep in necromantic knowledge, which he had gathered during a journey through the Hispano-Arabic provinces. He is said to have carried in his travels a sort of diabolical oracle, a brazen head which uttered prophetic answers. After his election, in 999, he inquired how long he should remain in power; the response was "as long as he avoided saying mass in Jerusalem." The prophecy was soon fulfilled. He expired in great agony on Quadragesima Sunday, 1003, while celebrating mass in this church, the classic name of which he seems not to have known. The legend asserts that his sins were pardoned by God, and that he was given an honorable burial in the church of S. John Lateran. A mysterious influence, however, hung over his grave. Whenever one of his p237 was approaching the end of life, the bones of Sylvester would stir in their vault, and the marble lid would be moistened with drops of water, as stated in the epitaph, which is still visible in S. John Lateran, against one of the pillars of the first right aisle. It begins with the distich:—
iste locvs mvndi Silvestri membra sepvlti
ventvro Domino conferet ad sonitvm.
We are ready to forgive the originators of the legend about the rattling of his bones; the verses are so bad that it is no wonder they were wrongly understood. Their author wanted to express the readiness of the deceased to appear before the Lord at His coming; but, not being particularly successful in the choice of his language, his simple-minded contemporaries, so inclined towards the supernatural, saw in the words venturo domino an allusion to the coming, not of the Sovereign Judge, but of the future Pope; and they thought the expression ad sonitum referred not to the trumpet of the last judgment, but to the rattling of the bones whenever a dominus venturus might appear on the scene.
This popular interpretation soon became official. John the Deacon has accepted it blindly in his description of the Lateran. "In the same aisle (the last on the left, near the Cappella Corsini) lies Gerbert, archbishop of Reims, who took the name of Sylvester after his election to the pontificate. His tomb, although in a dry place, sends forth drops of water even in clear and dry weather," etc. The tomb was opened and destroyed in 1648. Rasponi, an eye-witness, describes the event in his book "De Basilica et Patriarchio Lateranensi" (Rome, 1656, p. 76): "In the year 1648, while new foundations were being laid for the p238 left wing of the church, the corpse of Sylvester II was found in a marble sarcophagus, •twelve feet below the ground. The body was well composed and dressed in state robes; the arms were crossed on the breast; the head crowned with the tiara. It fell into dust at the touch of our hands, while a pleasant odor filled the air, owing to the rare substances in which it had been embalmed. Nothing was saved but a silver cross and the signet ring."
The church of S. John Lateran has passed through the same vicissitudes as that of S. Croce in Gerusalemme, but with less detriment. •Clement VIII, who reconstructed the transept; •Sixtus V, who rebuilt the north portico; •Innocent X, •Pius IX, and •Leo XIII have all been more merciful than •Benedict XIV. At all events, if the sight of the church itself in its present state is distasteful to the true lover of ancient and mediaeval Rome, nothing could delight him more than the cloisters of Vassalectus which open at the south end of the transept. I speak of the building as well as of its contents. The cloisters have just been restored to their original appearance by Leo XIII and by his architect, conte Francesco Vespignani, and a museum of works of art from the old basilica has been formed under its arcades.º
Inscription of Vassalectus.
Candelabrum in the church of S. Paolo fuori le Mura.
The site of the Palazzo della Banca Nazionale, p241 in the street of the same name, was occupied in old times by the house of Tiberius Julius Frugi, a member of the college of the Arvales. This house shared the fate of all ancient buildings: it was allowed to fall to ruin, and later became the property of whoever chose to occupy it. Among these mediaeval occupations was a stonecutter who collected in the half-ruined halls fragments, blocks of columns, and marbles of various kinds, some of which had already been re-cut for new uses. There was also a deposit of the fine sand which is even now employed for sawing stones. We can judge of the approximate age in which the stonecutter lived, by the fact that in his time the pavements of the Roman house were already covered with a stratum of rubbish •six feet thick.
The Antinous of the Banca Nazionale.
As representative specimens of later art and later glories I venture to suggest the tombs of Innocent VIII (1484‑1492) by Antonio Pollaiuolo, of Paul III (1524‑1549) by Guglielmo della Porta, and of Clement XIII (1758‑1769) by Antonio Canova.
Tomb of Innocent VIII
To this extraordinary gift of Bayazid we owe one of the masterpieces of the Renaissance, the ciborio della santa p244 lancia, begun by Innocent VIII, and finished by the executors of his will, Lorenzo Cibo and Antoniotto Pallavicino, in 1495. Unfortunately we have now only a drawing of it by the unskilful hand of Giacomo Grimaldi;14 it was taken to pieces in 1606, and a few of its panels, medallions, and statues, which were of the school of Mino da Fiesole, were removed to the Sacred Grottos, where no one is allowed to see them. Grimaldi, who wrote the procès-verbal of the demolition of the ciborium, says that the desecration and the removal of the relics took place on Septuagesima Sunday, January 22, about seven in the evening; at nine o'clock lightning struck the unfinished roof of the basilica; heavy pieces of masonry fell with a crash; mosaics were wrenched from their sockets, and fissures and rents produced in various parts of the building. In the same night the Tiber overflowed its banks, and the turbulent waters rushed as far as the palace of Cardinal Rusticucci in the direction of the Vatican.
The inscription on the tomb of Innocent VIII mentions, among the glories of his pontificate, the discovery of a new world. Thirty years before his election Constantinople had been taken by the infidels; but the conquests made in the West brought a compensation for the losses sustained on the shores of the Bosphorus. Innocent lived to hear of the capture of Granada and of the conquest of Ferdinand of Aragon, in the Moorish provinces of southern Spain; and just at that time the Hispano-Portuguese branch of the great Latin family seems to have burst forth with renewed vitality and religious enthusiasm, destined to give Rome new victories and new worlds. Bartolomeo Diaz had already doubled the Cape of Good Hope; the sea route to p245 India was opened. The Pope could once again consider himself the master of the world, and was able to present John II of Portugal with "the lands of Africa, whether known or unknown." Death overtook the gentle and peaceful pontiff on July 26, 1492. Eight days after his demise another Genoese,15 another worthy representative of the strong Ligurian race, set sail from the harbor of Palos to discover another continent, and begin a third era in the history of mankind.
Tomb of Paul III
The original design of the monument required four statues, because it was intended to stand alone in the middle of the church, and not half concealed in a niche. The other two statues were actually modelled, one as Abundance, the other Tenderness; they are now preserved in one of the halls of the Farnese palace.
Paul III, Alessandro Farnese, was the first Roman elevated to the supreme pontificate after Martin V, Colonna (1417‑1424). Pomponio Leto, his preceptor, had imbued him with the spirit of the humanists. His conversation was gay and spirituelle; he seemed to bring back with him the fine old times of Leo III. He died beloved and worshipped p247 by his subjects. We may well share a little of these sentiments, if we remember how much art is indebted to him.
The Palazzo Madama, now used as the Senate-house, and the Villa Madama, on the eastern slope of Monte Mario, still belonging to the descendants of the Farnese family, were given by him to Marguerite of Spain, after her marriage with his grandson Ottavio. The Farnesina, which he bought at auction in 1586, associates his memory with that of the Chigis, of Raphael, Michelangelo, and Baldassare Peruzzi. Then comes his share in the construction of S. Peter's; in the painting of the "Last Judgment," and in the finishing of the "Sala Regia," the richest hall in the Vatican. But no other work, in my estimation, gives us as true an idea of his taste and delicate sentiment as the apartments which he caused to be built and decorated, on the summit of Hadrian's Mole. I am writing these lines in the loggia or vestibule which opens from the great hall. Paul himself placed on the lintel a record of his work, of which Raffaello da Montelupo and Antonio da Sangallo were the architects; Marco da Siena, Pierin del Vaga, and Giulio Romano, the decorators. The ceilings of the bedroom and dining-hall, carved in wood, and those of the reception-room, in gilt and painted stucco, are things of beauty which no visitor to Rome should fail to see. The bath-room, a work of his predecessor, Clement VII, is copied from the antique. In 1538, while the building of this artistic gem was in progress, Benvenuto Cellini was thrown into one of the dungeons below, as a prisoner of state. He was accused of having stolen jewels belonging to the apostolic treasury; but the true reason seems to have been an offence against the Pope, which he had committed in 1527, while the hosts of the constable de Bourbon were besieging the castle. The offence is described by Benvenuto himself in the following words:—
p248 "While I was performing this duty [of keeping guard on the ramparts] some of the cardinals who were in the castle used to come up to see me, and most of all cardinal Ravenna and cardinal de' Gaddi, to whom I often said that I wished they would not come any more, because their red caps could be seen a long way off, and made it mighty dangerous for both them and me from those palaces which were near by, like the Torre de' Bini; so that, finally, I shut them out altogether, and gained thereby their ill-will quite decidedly. Signor Orazio Baglioni, who was my very good friend, also used to come and chat with me. While he was talking with me one day, he noticed a kind of a demonstration in a certain tavern, which was outside the Porta di Castello, at a place called Baccanello. This tavern had for a sign a red sun, painted between two windows. The windows being closed, Signor Orazio guessed that just behind the sun between them, there was a company of soldiers having a good time. So he said to me, 'Benvenuto, if you had a mind to fire your cannon near that sun, I believe you would do a good piece of work, because there is a good deal of noise there, and they must be men of importance.' I replied to the gentleman, 'It is enough for me to see that sun to be able to fire into the middle of it; but if I do, the noise of the gun and the shock it will make will knock over that barrel of stones which is standing near its mouth.' To which the gentleman answered, 'Don't wait to talk about it, Benvenuto, for, in the first place, in the way in which the barrel is standing, the shock of the cannon could not knock it over; but even if it did, and the Pope himself were under it, it would not be as bad as you think; so shoot, shoot!' So I, thinking no more about it, fired right into the middle of the sun, exactly as I had promised I would. The barrel fell, just as I said, and struck the ground between p249 cardinal Farnese and messer Jacopo Salviati. It would have crushed both of them had it not happened that they were quarrelling, because the cardinal had just accused messer Jacopo being the cause of the sacking of Rome, and had separated to give more room to the insults they were flinging at each other.'17 The cardinal never forgot his narrow escape.
From the point of view of archaeological interests Paul III will always be remembered as long as the Museo Nazionale of Naples and the Baths of Caracalla of Rome continue to hold the admiration of students. In reading the account of his excavation of the Baths, we seem to be transported to dreamland. No one before him had laid hands on the immeasurable treasures which the building contained. Statues were found in their niches or lying in front of them; the columns were standing on their pedestals; the walls were still incrusted with rare marbles and richly carved panels; the swimming-basins were still ready for use. Pietro Sante Bartoli says: "The excavation of the Baths of Caracalla, which took place in the time of Paul III (1546) is the most successful ever accomplished. It yielded such a mass of statues, columns, bas-reliefs, marbles, cameos, intaglios, bronze figures, medals, and lamps, that no more room could be found for them in the Farnese palace." The collection comprises the Farnese Bull, the two statues of Herakles, the Flora, the Athletes, the Venus Callipyge, the Diana, the "Atreus and Thyestes," the so‑called "Tuccia," and a hundred more masterpieces, which were, unfortunately, removed to Naples towards the end of the last century.
The Tomb of Clement XIII. From the golden age of Guglielmo della Porta to the barocco art of the eighteenth p250 century; from the tomb of Alessandro Farnese to that of Prospero Lambertini (Benedict XIV, 1740‑1758), we can follow, stage by stage, the pernicious influence exercised on Roman art by the school of Bernini. The richness and magnificence of papal mausolea increased in proportion to the decline in taste. The sculptors seem to have had but one ambition, to produce a theatrical effect; their abuse of polychromy is incredible; the grouping of their figures conventional; the contortions to which they submit their Hopes and Charities, their Liberalities and Benevolences, their Justices and Prudences are simply absurd.
Figure from the tomb of Clement XIII
Disguised in ecclesiastical robes, Canova mixed with the crowd, and was able to hear for himself that the reign of a false taste in art was once more over, so unanimous was the admiration and approval of the multitudes for his bold attempt. The tomb of Clement XIII rests on a high basement of the Doric style, giving access to the vault. The two world-renowned marble lions crouch upon the steps, watching the sarcophagus; Religion stands on the left, holding a cross in the right hand; while the Genius of Death, with an inverted torch, is seen reclining on the opposite side. It is p251 a graceful, but slightly conventional figure. One can easily perceive the influence of the study of the antique in the head of this Genius, which Canova considered one of his best productions. It is the Apollo Belvedere of modern times, the "Catholic Apollo," as Forsyth calls the archangel of Guido in the church of the Capuchins. The Pope is represented kneeling and praying, with hands clasped, and a face full of sentiment and thought. When, seated before this monument, we turn our eyes towards the tombs of Clement X and Benedict XIV, and other similar productions of the eighteenth century, we can hardly realize that Canova was a contemporary of Pietro Bracci and Carlo Monaldi.
The tomb is also historically interesting. It was under Clement XIII that the order of the Jesuits was tried before the tribunal of Europe. The kingdom of Portugal, where they had made their first advance towards greatness and fame, was the first to attack them. The marquess of Pombal, prime minister of Joseph I, taking advantage of the uneasiness caused by the earthquake of 1755 and by a murderous attempt against the king, expelled the order from the country and the colonies (January 9–September 3, 1759). One hundred and twenty-four were put in irons; one, named Malagrida, executed; thirty-seven allowed to die in prison; and the rest were embarked on seven ships and transported to foreign lands. Charles III of Spain, and his minister, count d'Aranda, followed the example of Portugal. The Jesuits were banished from Spain, February 28, 1767; and in the night between April 2 and 3, they were put, five thousand in number, on transport vessels, and sent to Rome. King Louis XV and the duc de Choiseul used the same process in France. The attempt of Damiens, January 5, 1757, and an alleged scandal in the administration p252 of the property of the order at la Martinique were taken up as pretexts for punishment, and the order was banished in 1764. King Ferdinand IV of Naples, the grand master of Malta, the duke of Parma, and other potentates took their share also in the crusade. Whatever may be the sentiment which we personally feel towards this brotherhood, the figures of Lorenzo Ricci, the general who so bravely contested every inch of the battlefield, and of Clement XIII, who died before signing the decree of suppression so loudly demanded by Portugal, Spain, France, Parma, Naples and Malta, will always be remembered with respect. The pressure brought on the old Pope by half the kingdoms of Europe, was not merely that of diplomacy. He was deprived of Avignon and the comté Venoisinº in France, of Benevento in southern Italy; but to no purpose. The decree suppressing the order was only signed by his successor Clement XIV, Ganganelli, on July 21, 1773. Lorenzo Ricci died the following year, a state prisoner in the castle of S. Angelo.
now exhibited in one of the corridors of the monastery: Garrucci has reproduced them in the Storia dell' arte cristiana, vol. II. pl. 108‑111.
vetri cemeteriali: Garrucci: Vetri adornati di figure in oro. — Swoboda, quoted by De Waal in the Römische Quartalschrift, 1888, p. 135. — Armellini: ibidem, 1888, p. 130. — De Rossi: Bullettino di archeologia cristiana, 1864, p. —;º 1887, p. 130.
Gregorovius' book on the tombs of the popes: Les tombeaux des papes romains. Traduction Sabatier. Paris, 1859.
hypogaeum of the Cornelii Scipiones: The hypogaeum, discovered in 1617, excavated and pillaged in 1780‑81, has, through my exertions, become national property, together with the Columbaria of Hylas.
mausoleum of Pope Sylvester: It contained the graves of Marcellus † 308, Sylvester † 385, Siricius † 396, and Celestinus † 422.
legend of the angel that was seen to hover over the Mausoleum of Hadrian: Dyer: History of Rome, p. 344.
grave of a British king: See the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, edited by J. A. Giles, in Bohn's Antiquarian Library; and the excellent memoir of Domenico Tesoroni, King Ceadwalla's Tomb in the Ancient Basilica of S. Peter (Rome, Bertero, 1891), from which I quote almost verbatim.
epitaph of Ceadwalla: De Rossi: Inscriptiones christianae, II p288.
tomb of Benedict VII: Duchesne: Lib. pontif. II.258. — Marucchi: Iscrizioni relative alla storia di Roma dal secolo V al XV. (p74). Roma, 1881.
Pietro Vassalletto and his son: Barbier de Montault: Revue archéologique, XIV.244. — Frothingham: American Journal of Archaeology, 1891, p. 44. — De Rossi: Bullettino di archeologia cristiana, 1875, p. 29; 1891, p. 91. — Stevenson: mostra di Roma, all' esposizione di Torino, 1884, p. 174. — Rohault de Fleury: Le Latran au moyen âge (planches 45, 46). Paris, 1877.
A fact mentioned by Winckelmann proves that one of them owned and studied a statue of Aesculapius: Storia delle arti, edizione Fea, vol. II. p. 144.
Zizim: Zizim died by poisoning, February 24, 1495, during the pontificate of Alexander VI, Borgia.
a drawing of it by Giacomo Grimaldi: Published by Müntz, in the Archivio storico dell' arte, vol. IV., 1891, p. 366.
another Genoese: The question as to the birthplace of Christopher Columbus seems to have been finally settled in favor of Savona. Unquestionable evidence has been discovered on June 17 of the present year, by the Historical Society at Madrid.
The strange infatuation of a Spanish gentleman for her is described by Sprenger, Caylus, and Cancellieri: Theodor Sprenger: Roma Nova, p. 232. Frankfort, 1660. — Caylus: in vol. XXV. of the Mémoires de l'Académie des inscriptions et belles lettres. — Cancellieri: Il mercato, p. 42.
Benvenuto Cellini's offence against the Pope: Vita di Benvenuto Cellini, lib. 1, xxxvi.
a agmina is a technical military term; hosts or even armies, considering the period, would be a better translation than "multitudes".
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