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length received the hardly-earned crown of martyrdom; and the angels, full of joy and wonder at such Invincible fortitude, bore her pure spirit into heaven." '—Jameson, 'Legendary Art :
The beautiful Church o/S. Cristina stands near the Romaji gate. In front of it is a splendid sarcophagus, with Bacchic bas-reliefs. The doors have ornaments by Lucca delta Mobbia's school. Within, is the shrine of the saint, with three scenes from her prolonged martyrdom—the cutting off of her breasts, her being roasted in a furnace, and her being shot with arrows. It is comforting to read that all these horrors were of no avail, and she was, according to one account, thrown into the lake and drowned.
A dark chapel on the left is famous as the scene of the Miracle of Bolaena, portrayed by Raffaelle on the walls of the Stanze, when, to convert an unbelieving priest, the consecrated wafer bled at the moment of elevation. The institution of the festival of Corpus Domini by Urban IV. is often attributed to this story, but really resulted from the visions of S. Julienne, abbess of Mont Cornillon, near Liege. The miracle of Bolsena has, however, a still nobler memorial in the Cathedral of Orvieto.
'The story of the miracle of Bolsena presents one of the most singular examples of the acceptance, and intensely-felt influences in the popular mind, of the miraculous, admitted without any such proofs or investigations as modern intellect would demand. And the two versions of the same story are essentially different. A German priest, troubled in conscience for having doubted, not (it seems) the doctrine of a real, but of a carnal Presence, in the Eucharist, set out for Rome, with the hope of securing the intercession of the chief Apostle, for the solving of his doubts or pardoning of his errors. Resting one day on the shores of the beautiful lake of Bolsena, he celebrated mass in the church of S. Cristina; and after the consecration, whilst holding the sacred Host in his hands, with mind earnestly bent, as was natural, on the mysterious question that had led him to undertake his pilgrimage, beheld blood issuing from the consecrated species, and staining the linen corporal; each stain severally assuming the form of a human head, with features like the *' Volto Santo," or supposed portrait of the Saviour! Such is one version; but different indeed are even leading details in the other—namely, that the priest merely let fall some drops of consecrated wine on the corporals, and when endeavouring to conceal this by folding up the linen, found that the liquid had passed through all the folds, leaving on each a red stain, in circular form like the Host!" Tbe rest of the story is given without discrepancies, and is perfectly credible. Too much awe-stricken to consume the elements, that priest, now for ever cured of scepticism, reverentially reserved both those sacramental species ; proceeded to Orvieto, and threw himself at the feet of the Pope, confessing his doubts, and narrating the miracle. Urban IV. immediately sent the BisHop of Orvieto to bring thither the Host and the corporals ; and himself, with all the local clergy, went in procession to meet the returning prelate, at a bridge some miles distant, where he received the sacred deposit from his hands. It was soon afterwards, in 1264, that Urban IV. published at Orvieto the bull instituting the Corpus Domini festival, and commissioned S. Thomas Aquinas, who was then giving theological lectures in that city, to compose the office and hymns for the day.'—Hemans, 'Hist of Mediaeval Christianity.'
Three stones 'insanguinati' are enclosed in the altar, and beneath it is another relic, the stone which was tied to the feet of S. Cristina, that she might sink in the lake, but which miraculously bore her up like a boat, and on which her holy foot-marks may still be seen. In the sacristy is a predella telling the story of S. George.
We were amused by the curious sense of proprietorship manifested by the little children who surrounded us while we were drawing at Bolsena. 'You think that those roses in your hand are beautiful, don't you?' said one little child of six years old to another; 'you should see the roses in my vigna.'
'Ah, tu hai una vigna I' exclaimed the little listener with wide jealous eyes.
Most lovely is the ascent from Bolsena into the vine-clad hills, where, between the garlands hanging from tree to tree, one has glimpses of the broad lake with its islands, and the brown castle and town rising up against it in the repose of their deep shadow. Finally the direct road to Orvieto is reached.
Seven miles to the right of it, but accessible from this road, stands the picturesque mediaeval Bagnorea (Balneum Regis) (Albergo Barili), by the Torbido, in a wild volcanic district, and occupying a lofty hill-top, only approached by narrow ridges across great depressions which separate it from the table-land, on the right bank of the Torbido. This remote town was the birth-place (1221) of Giovanni da Fidanza, the 'Seraphic Doctor,' who obtained his name of S. Buonaventura from the exclamation of S. Francis, '0 buona ventura,' when, during a severe illness, he awoke from a death-like trance in answer to the prayers of his great master. He died in 1275, leaving behind him a vast number of mystic works, bearing such names as—' The Nightingale of the Passion of our Lord fitted to the Seven Hours,' ' The six wings of the Cherubim and the six wings of the Seraphim,' and ' The Soul's Journey to God.' Dante introduces him as singing the praises of S. Dominic in Paradise:—
'Io son la vita di Bonaventura
Da Bagnorcgio, che ue' grandi ufflci
—Par. xii. 127.
His festival is held here on July 14.
THE PONTINE MARSHES (PALUDI PONTINI)
(This district may be visited from Velletri, or direct from Rome. Carriages may be engaged at Velletri for the whole excursion, going the first day to Terracina, with a divergence of some hours to Ninfa; the second day remiiining at Terracina and visiting S. Felice and the Monte Circello; the third day diverging to Fiperno and Fossanuova and returning to Velletri or Rome ; or, it may be better to sleep the third day at Piperno, when Sonnino may be visited.)
IT is a dull descent from Velletri toward the levels. The road runs through low woods of oaks, once much frequented by brigands—even indeed from classical times:
'Interdum et ferro subitus grassator agit rem,
—Juvenal,'Sat' iii. 305.
About nine miles from Velletri we reach Cisterna, the Oisterna Neronis of the Middle Ages, but not, as is often said, the Three Taverns (Tres Tabernae) of the New Testament, which is better placed at B. Gennaro.
'And- so we went towards Rome. And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and the Three Taverns; whom when Faul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.'—Acts, xxviii. 15.
The Three Taverns, probably three wayside Osterie for travellers by the Via Appia, are frequently mentioned by Cicero and other classical authors. But S. Gregory the Great in one of his letters (to John, Bishop of Velletri), says that no remains existed in his time of Appii Forum, or that if any such did exist, the Pontine Marshes had made them inaccessible; he adds that the Three Taverns were identical with the place then known as Cisterna.
The town of Cisterna clnsters around the vast, gloomy, Palace of the Caetani, built at intervals, and without regularity of design, around their old machioolated tower. The whole of this district still belongs to the Caetani, whose Duchies, and Principalities, and Countships, with the cities, lands, and castles belonging to them, would at one time have made a very considerable kingdom. Their name is supposed to have been assumed when the absolute sovereignty of Caieta was conferred upon them by the Greek Emperor Basil.
Besides Gaeta their southern Signories included Itri, Teano, Sessa, 8. Germano, Sperlonga, Teleseo, Rocca Guglielma, S. Donato, Garigliano, Avella, Aquino, Calvi, Casti^-lione, Castroforte, Cerreto, Dragone, Fondi, Gioja, Cajazzo, Arezze, Matalone, Pontecorvo, the Principality of Caserta, the Countship of Mucrone, the Duchy of Trajetto, the Principality of Altamura, of the cities of Monte Peluso, Minervino, and Mottola, and of the lands of Piedemonte, Grottula, Masafro, Monterodune, and Maccia, &c.
In the plain to the right of Cisterna, in the direction of Porto d'Anzio is Campo Morto, where the Papal generals Malatesta and Riario gained a victory in 1482 over the troops of Naples and Ferrara commanded by Alfonso Dnke of Calabria.
A short distance beyond Cisterna, a road on the left turns off two miles to the mysterious ruined city of Ninfa, and strikes off on another to Sermoneta, six miles further, superbly occupying the summit of a spur projecting from the mountains, separated from them on one side by a beautifully wooded ravine, and overlooking marsh, plain and forest. At the foot of the hill we pass on the left an old Basilica, with a fine rose-window, interesting as having been built in fulfilment of the vow of Agnesina Caetani (a sister of Marc Antonio Colonna and wife of Onorato Caetani), that if her husband returned in safety from the battle of Lepanto, she would build and endow a church in honour of S. Francis, on the spot where she met him.
The earliest mention of Sermoneta is in 1222, in a bull of Honorius III. In 1297 it was bought from the Annibaldeschi by Pietro Caetani, Count of Caserta, nephew of Boniface VIII. In 1500 Alexander VI. besieged and took the town, putting to death Monsignor Giacomo Caetani, and Bernardino Caetani, who was only aged seven. Till this time there were no titles in Italy, the great personages were only ' Seigneurs' of their own lands, but with the Spanish Borgia this was changed, and Alexander VI. made his own son Duke of Sermoneta. In his time the prisons here were erected, and were well filled. When Julius II. came to the throne, he restored Sermoneta with all their other confiscated possessions to the Caetani, and also bestowed upon them the title which his predecessor had attached to the property. The Caetani retained their complete feudal rights, even the power of life and death, until the present century.
The mediaeval castle is exceedingly imposing externally, and encloses a vast courtyard. Ricchi, writing in the beginning of the last century, dilates upon the splendours of its furniture, but the Duke of Sermoneta who lived in the time of the great French Revolution was so dreadfully afraid of an attack, that he voluntarily opened his gates for pillage, and invited all the townspeople to come in and help themselves; which they did, leaving nothing whatever behind them. Only a small part of the building is now habitable. There are one or two fine old chimney-pieces, but the. parts of the castle in best preservation are the prisons, which were built by the Borgia, and which occupy an entire wing, one below another, beginning with well-lighted rooms, and ending in dismal dungeons. The prison walls in it contain plenty of graffiti made by the ill-fated captives. Permission to visit it must be obtained at Palazzo Caëtani in Rome. There is a fine view from the top of the tower and the promenade. The little town was the birthplace of the painter Girolamo da Siciolante (1504), and it is supposed that Aldus Manutius, the greatest of early printers, was also born here. There are several large convents on the neighbouring hills: that of the Bernardins belonged to the Knights Templars. We now enter the Pontine Marshes.
'Ceux qui n'ont pas vu les Marais Pontine se représentent une vaste étendue de marécages stériles et nauséabondes, aussi désagréable aux yeux que répugnante à l'odorat. Rien n'est plus loin de la vérité. Les marais Pontins sont un des plus beaux pays de l'Europe, un des plus riches, un des plus charmants, durant les trois quarts de l'année.
'Figurez-vous une longue plaine bordée d'un coté par la mer, de l'autre par un rang de montagnes pittoresques. Les montagnes sont cultivées avec soin et plantées sur tous leurs versants: c'est un grand jardin couvert d'oliviers dont le feuillage bleuâtre semble en toute saison baigné d'une vapeur matinale. Les premiers versants protègent des bois de vieux orangers bien portants. La plaine se partage en forêts, en prairies, et en cultures. Les forêts, hautes et vigoureuses, attestent l'incroyable fécondité d'un sol vierge. Elles nourissent les plus beaux arbres de l'Europe et les lianes les plus puissantes. La vigne sauvage et l'églantier grimpant colorent et parfument le feuillage toujours vert des lièges.
'Les prairies sont peuplées de troupeaux innombrables: on n'en trouverait d'aussi beaux que dans l'Amérique ou dans l'Ukraine. Des bandes de chevaux demi-sauvages galopent en liberté dans des enclos immenses; les vaches et les buffles ruminent en paix l'herbe haute et touffue. Les gardiens de ce bétail, cloués sur la selle de leurs chevaux, le manteau en croupe, le fusil en bandoulière, la lance au poing, vêtus de velours solide et guêtrés jusqu'au genou d'un cuir épais et brillant, galopent autour de leurs élèves. Les jeunes poulains, haut perchés sur leurs pattes grêles, découpent à l'horizon leurs silhouettes fantastiques.
'Les cultures son rares, mais gigantesques. Au printemps on voit jusqu'à cent paires de bœufs occupés à labourer le même champ. A la fin de juin,, il n'est pas rare de rencontrer une pièce de blé qui dore une lieue de terrain. Les blés sont beaux, les mais sont si grands qu'un homme à cheval y est aussi invisible qu'une perdrix dans nos sillons. Les foins, partout où l'eau ne fait pas foissouner le jonc et le carex, sont bien longs, bien sains et bien parfumés. La culture maraîchère trouve même une place dans cette fécondité de toutes choses. C'est dans les Marais Pontins qu'on cultive, par pièces de plusieurs hectares, ces artichauts demi-sauvages dont le peuple de Rome se nourrit en été.
'Cependant tout n'est pas fait pour les Marais Pontins, puisqu'ils ne sont point habitables. La population qui les cultive descend des montagnes, laboure, fauche on moissonne et s'enfuit aussitôt, sous peine de mort.
* C'est d'abord que les eaux ne s'écoulent pas assez vite. Il faudrait quelques canaux de plus.
'C'est aussi que les détritus de matières végétales qui composent ce sol fécond subissent, dans les grandes chaleurs, une fermentation terrible. Il s'en dégage des poisons subtils, insaisissables à l'odorat, mais funestes à la santé. La décomposition des produits animaux est fétide, mais inoffensive et presque salubre; tandis que ces prairies embaumées engendrent la peste. Quand le soleil de juillet a mis en liberté les gaz délétères qui couvaient sous l'herbe de ces campagnes, le vent les emporte où bon lui semble, et l'on voit à dix lieues de distance, dans.la montagne, en pays naturellement sain, les hommes mourir empoisonnés.'—About, 'Rome Contemporaine? p. 307.