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An inscription commemorates the wonderful series of saints who, issuing from Subiaco, became the pioneers of the Benedictine Order all over the world.
From the arches below the convent one may emerge upon a small terraced Garden, once a ridge covered with a thicket of thorns, upon which S. Benedict used to roll his naked body to extinguish the natural passions. Here, seven centuries afterwards, S. Francis, coming to visit the shrine, knelt and prayed before thorns which had such glorious memories, and he planted two rose-trees beside them. The roses of S. Francis flourish still, and are carefully tended by the monks, but the Benedictine thorns have disappeared.
'Ce jardin, deux fois sanctifié, occupe encore une sorte de plateau triangulaire qui se projette sur le flanc du rocher, un peu en avant et au-dessous de la grotte qui servait de gîte à Benoît. Le regard, confiné de tous côtés par les rochers, n'y peut errer en liberté que sur l'azur du ciel. C'est le dernier des lieux sacrés que l'on visite et que l'on vénère, dans ce célèbre et unique monastère du Sagro Speco, qui forme comme une sérierde sanctuaires superposés les uns aux autres et adossés à la montagne que Benoit a immortalisée. Tel fut le dur et sauvage berceau de l'Ordre monastique en occident. C'est de ce tombeau, où s'était enseveli tout vivant cet enfant délicat des derniers patriciens de Bome, qu'est née la forme définitive de la vie monastique, c'est-à-dire la perfection de la vie chrétienne. De cette caverne et de ce buisson d'épines sont issues ces légions de moines et de saints dont le dévouement a valu à l'Eglise ses conquêtes les plus vastes et ses gloires les plus pures. De cette source a jailli l'intarissable courant du zèle et de la faveur religieuse. Là sont venus, là viendront encore tous ceux à qui l'esprit du grand Benoit inspirera la force d'ouvrir de nouvelles voies ou de restaurer l'antique discipline dans la vie claustrale. Tous y reconnaissent le site sacré que le prophète Isaïe semble avoir montré d'avance aux cénobites par ces paroles d'une application si merveilleusement exacte: Attendite ad petram de qua excisi estis, et ad cavernam lad de qua prœcisi estis. Il faut plaindre le chrétien qui n'a pas vu cette grotte, ce désert, ce nid d'aigle et de colombe, ou qui, l'ayant vu, ne s'est pas prosterné avec un tendre respect devant le sanctuaire d'où sortirent, avec le règle et l'institut de saiDt Benoît, la fleur de la civilisation chrétienne, la victoire permanente de l'âme sur la matière, l'affranchissement intellectuel de l'Europe, et tout ce que l'esprit de sacrifice réglé par la foi, ajoute de grandeur et de charme à la science, au travail, vertu.'—Montalenwert, iLes Moines d'Occident?
Under the part of the cave which opens upon this garden all the monks are buried, and when corruption has passed away their bones are taken up and placed in an open chapel in the rock, where they are visible to all. To obtain a general view of the convent of the Sacro Speco, it is necessary to follow the lower path which diverges just above S. Scholastica. A succession of zigzags along the edge of the cliffs, amid savage scenery, leads into the gorge, which is closed in the far distance by the rock-built town of Jenne (2550 ft.), stormed in 1090 by Abbot John III., the birthplace of Alexander IV. and of the Abbot Lando. We cross the river by a bridge, whence a pathlet, winding often by stairs, up and down the rocks, allows one to see the whole building rising above the falls of the Anio. We emerge close to the ruins of a Nymphaeum belonging to Nero's Villa, and nothing can be more imposing than the view from hence up the gorge, with the rock-cresting monastery on the other side, and all the wealth of rich verdure on the nearer steeps which take the name of Monte Carpineto from the hornbeams with which they are covered. The little chapel above the Sacro Speco is that of San Biagio (S. Blaise), who is invoked whenever any catastrophe occurs in the valley, Here, once every year, mass is chaunted by the monks of S. Scholastica.
The castle, called La Rocca, built by the warlike Abbot John V., was long a summer residence of the popes. One of its towers, still called 'Borgiana,' recalls the residence here of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, afterwards Alexander VI. Magnificent views may be obtained from the windows of the rooms, which contain a few pictures.
Subiaco formerly professed the utmost devotion to the papacy, and the waggon-load of its wild flowers was one of the most suggestive and attractive of the presents to Pius IX. on his anniversary, sent by 'La sua divotissima Subiaco,' yet now the names of the streets are all changed, and we have the sickening ' Via Cavour,' 'Via Venti Settembre,' &c. Costumes still linger here, but are less striking than those seen further among the mountains. The men wear bunches of flowers in their hats on festas, the women wear spadoni, ending in a hand, an acorn, or a silver flower. Beyond the Albergo della Pernice and the gate built in honour of Pius VI., is a curious old bridge with a gate-tower over the Anio. One of the best views of the town is from just across this bridge.
The path which is approached by the bridge leads to the beautifully-situated Convent of the Cappuccini. In its portico is a quaint fresco of S. Francis, the beloved of animals, 'vir vere catholicus totusque apostolicus,' shaking hands with a wolf, much to the horror of his attendant monks.1 Endless other paths lead up the hills in different directions, through woods by rushing brooks, and along mountain ledges, and indeed the whole of the VaJle Santa, as the district of Subiaco is popularly called, is well worth exploring.
The road to Tivoli is one of the many benefits which Subiaco owes to its having been so long the residence of Pius VI. It follows, first the Via Sublacensis, constructed by Nero, and then the Via Valeria, which was the work of the censor Valerius Maximus, in the year of Rome 447. In spring, when it is chiefly visited by foreigners, the country here strikes one as bare, and the chief interest is derived entirely from the villages which crest the hills on either side. But in May and June, when the chestnut woods are in full leaf, and the luxuriant vines leap from tree to tree along the valleys, the scenery is unspeakably lovely.
A continuous avenue of mountain villages lines the way. First
1 At Gubbio a wolf that had long ravaged the surrounding country was rebuked by S. Francis, who promised it a peaceful existence and daily food, if it would amend its ways. The wolf agreed to the compact, and placed his right paw in the hand of S. Francis in token of confidence and good faith. "Brother Wolf," as S. Francis called him, " lived afterwards tamely for two years at Gubbio, in good fellowship with all, and finally died, much regretted, of old age."—From the Fioretti di S. Francesco.
we have, on the left Rocca di Ccmteramo, its long lines of old houses cresting the declivity, then, on the right, Cerbara, and Agosta, and on the left Marano. A road on the right now turns off to Arsoli, the ancient Arsula, containing the handsome, still inhabited castle of Prince Massimo. Here the apartment once occupied by S. Filippo Neri, founder of the Oratorians, is preserved with religious care. Though he frequently stayed with the Massimo family, he lived here almost as a hermit, eating only bread, with a few olives, herbs, or an apple, drinking only water, and lying on the bare floor.
Passing under Roviano, commanding the Anio valley, which has a castle of the Sciarra, we reach a more fertile country, where men train the vines, with bunches of blue iris fastened in their hats, and on the right we see Cantalupo, where Prince Roccagiovine, who married a daughter of Lucien Bonaparte, has a castle. To the left above us is Anticoli. Not far from Vico Varo a number of shrines, surrounding a little green with old ilex-trees, announce the approach to S. Cosimato, a village of hermitages, mentioned in a bull of Gregory VII. as 'Monasterium Sancti Cosimatis situm in valle Tiburtino.' No one would imagine, from merely passing along the road, that this is one of the most captivating and curious places, well-deserving of attention and study. But in the earliest ages of Latin Christianity the caverns in the cliffs which here overhang the Anio, had been taken possession of by a troop of hermits, who turned this country, for they had many caverns at Vicovaro also, into a perfect Thebaid. Passing through the convent, and its pretty garden with pillared pergolas (ladies are not admitted), a winding path, the merest ledge, ofter a narrow stair against the face of the precipice, sometimes tunnelled through the rock, leads to this extraordinary settlement, and opens upon one tiny hermitage after another, provided with its little window and its rock-hewn couch and seat. A campanile stands on its projecting crag, which summoned the recluses to prayer. The last cave, larger than any of the others, was their chapel, formed in the living rock. Mass is still occasionally said here, and the scene is most sriking, as, to admit the light, large doors just opposite the altar are thrown open, and one looks down the perpendicular cliff overhung with ilexes centuries old, into the Anio immediately beneath, and the roar of its waters mingles with the chaunting of the Psalms. In the fifth century a collection of monks had united on the heights above the river, and, before he had founded his own convent, attracted by the fame of his sanctity, they chose S. Benedict to be their superior. He declined at first, warning them that they would not like the severity of his Rule; but they insisting, he joined them here. In a short time his austerity roused their hatred, hence one of them attempted to poison him in the Sacrament cup, but when, before drinking, he made the sign of the cross over it, it fell to pieces in his hands. "God forgive you, my brethren,' he said; 'you see that I spoke the truth when I told you that your rule and mine would not agree,' and he returned to Subiaco. The scene of this story is