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The oratory of Sylvester was enclosed in a monastery founded in 746 by Carloman, son of Charles Martel, and uncle of Charlemagne, and though later buildings have succeeded upon the same spot, and the existing edifice is externally of 1500, it encloses much of the church of Carloman, and the more ancient hermitage of Sylvester. The walls of the church are covered with mediaeval frescoes, fading, but still very beautiful. On the right of the entrance is S. Buonaventura; then come S. Anne, the Virgin, S. Roch

[graphic]

Convent of S. Silvestro, Summit of Soracte.

and S. Sebastian, but all have been much injured by the goat-herds who used to shelter their flocks here when the church was utterly deserted. The beautiful old high-altar is richly carved in stone taken from the mountain itself. Behind it are a curious holy water basin, and a priest's chamber. A martyr's stone—' Pietra di Paragone'—may be seen in the wall.

Beneath the lofty tribune is the cell of Sylvester, half cut in the mountain itself. It encloses the sloping mass of rock which formed the bed of his hermitage, and his stone seat. Here also is the altar on which, first Sylvester himself, and afterwards Gregory the Great, said mass. On the walls are dim frescoes of the 7th century, faintly lighted by the rays stealing in above the altar—Christ, S. Sylvester, S. Gregory, and the Archangel Michael. A long inscription in the upper church tells the story of a later sainted monk of Soracte, Nonnosus, who is reported to have performed three miracles here. The first was when a monk broke a valuable lamp—' una lampada orientale'—quite into small pieces in this church, and was in despair about the consequences, when Nonnosus fell on his knees and prayed, and the culprit saw the fragments miraculously joined together again. In the second, the olive-gardens of the convent failed, and the abbot was about to send out to buy up the oil of the paesani, when Nonnosus took the convent oil—' il poco che fu'—and it was miraculously multiplied. In the third, he lifted by the force of prayer a large stone which had fallen back to its mountain ledge, where it may still be seen in proof of the power of this saint.

Behind the convent is its little garden, where legend tells that S. Sylvester would sow one day his turnips for the meal of the morrow, and that they were miraculously brought to perfection during the night. There is a grand view from this over all the wide-spreading country, but especially into the blue gorges of the Sabina, and the effect from hence is most beautiful when each of the countless villages within view lights its bonfire on the eve of the Ascension. The last monks who lived in S. Silvestro were Franciscans, and they left it in 1700, because seven of their number were then killed by lightning in a storm.

In descending the mountain, S. Romana is seen through the woods at its eastern base, near which are the deep fissures called Voragini, whence pestilential vapours arise. Pliny mentions these exhalations from Soracte as fatal to birds, and quotes Varro, who speaks of a fountain on Soracte four feet in width, which flowed at sunrise, and appeared to boil, and of which, when birds drank, they died. By Servius a story is told of some shepherds who were sacrificing to Pluto, when the victims were carried off from the very altar by wolves. The shepherds pursuing them came upon the cave whence the pestilential vapours issued, which destroyed all who came within their reach. A malady ensued, and the oracle declared that the only remedy was to do as the wolves did—to live by plunder.1 Hence they were called Hirpini Sorani—Pluto's wolves, from hirpus, which was Sabine for a wolf, and Soranus, another name for Pluto, and accordingly, robbers there always were on Soracte till the forests which clothed the whole neighbourhood were for the most part cut down in recent times. With the robbers the wolves and bears, which abounded on the sides of the mountain, disappeared, many persons being still alive who have had adventurous escapes from them. Cato says that there were also wild goats upon Soracte, of such wonderful activity, that they could leap sixty feet at one bound !2

From S. Oreste one looks across a wooded country to the village of Rignano, about 33 miles distant. It claims to be the birthplace of Caesar Borgia. Fragments of ancient columns and altars abound there, and in the piazza is preserved a curious primitive cannon. Rignano gives a title to the eldest son of Duke Massimo.

Seven miles south-east of Rignano is a hill crested by the ruined church of San Martino, which occupies the site of the Etruscan Capena, the faithful ally of Veii ; indeed Cato says that Veii was founded by the Capenates. The citadel was strongly defended by nature, being situated on an insular rock connected with the neighbouring heights by a kind of isthmus, and was consequently almost impregnable. It was never taken by siege, but capitulated to the Romans, after vainly joining with the Falisci, in an attempt to succour Veii.

'After the fall of Veii, Valerius and Servilius marched to Capena ; and, the inhabitants not daring to quit their walls, the Romans

'Aen. xi. 785. s Cato ap. Varron. Re Rust. ii. cap.3.

destroyed the country, and particularly the fruit-trees, for which it was celebrated.'—Livy, v. 24.

There are some small remains of the foundations of walls and towers, and of reticulated work, visible here and there amid the thickets of wild-pear, descendants of the fruit-trees mentioned by Livy, which are covered with blossom in spring.

'Placed, like Alba and Gabii, upon the verge of a volcano, Capena assumed the form of a crescent; the citadel was on the highest point westward, and communicated by a steep path with the Via Veientana. This road may be traced in the valley below, running towards the Grammiccia and the natural opening of the crater on the east; and it was only here, as the remains testify, that carriages could enter the city.

'On ascending from this quarter, a fine terrace is observed, which is evidently placed on the top of the ancient walls. The squared blocks with which the place is strewed show that these were parallelograms of volcanic stone. They may yet be traced by their foundations round the summit of the hill.

'Capena has something in it altogether peculiar: the situation, though commanding, seems singularly secluded, the country is once more wholly in a state of nature; nothing of animated life, except here and there flocks of goats or sheep, feeding on some green eminence or in the valleys below, which are spotted with such innumerable patches of underwood, that, were it not for the browsing of these animals, it would soon become a forest. The desolation is complete: Silvanus, instead of Ceres, is in full possession of the soil.'—GeWs 'Topography of Rome. '

'The view from the height of Capena is wildly beautiful. The deep hollow on the south, with its green carpet; the steep hills overhanging it, dark with wood—perhaps the groves celebrated by Virgil; the bare swelling ground to the north, with Soracte towering above; the snow-capt Apennines in the eastern horizon ; the deep silence, the seclusion; the absence of human habitations (not even a shepherd's hut) within the sphere of vision, save the distant town of Sant' Oreste, scarcely distinguishable from the gray rock on which it stands ;—it is a scene of more singular desolation than belongs to the site of any other Etruscan city in this district of the land.'—Dennis's ' Cities of Etruria.'

The stream of the Grammiccia probably once bore the name of Capenas.

'Dives ubi ante omnes colitur Feronia luco,
Et sacer humectat fluvialia rura Capenas.'

Sil. Ital. xiii. 84.

The site of Capena is best visited on horseback, and may be reached from Rome by leaving the Via Flaminia on the left at the Monte della Guardia About three miles from Capena, on the Tiber, is Fiano, with the castle of the Duke of that name. This village is supposed to mark the site of the Flavinium of Virgil :—

'Hi Soractis habent arces, Flaviniaque arva,
Et Cimini cum monte lacum lucosque Capenos.'

'Am.' vii. 696.

and the Flavina of Silius :—

'Quique tuos, Flavina, focos, Sabatia quique
Stagna tenent, Ciminique lacum.'—Sii. viii. 492.

Six miles north of Civita Castellana is Corchiano, a most picturesque village occupying an Etruscan site, and surrounded, like almost all the towns of Etruria, with ravines full of mutilated sepulchres. One of these, half a mile distant, on the way to Falleri, is inscribed 'Larth. Vel. Amies,' in Etruscan characters. Three miles further is Gallese, beautifully situated on a rock at the junction of two ravines. Canon Nardoni has written a work to prove that this is the Aequum Faliscum, mentioned by Strabo, Virgil, and Silius. It contains some obscure Roman remains, and there are many Etruscan tombs in the neighbouring valleys. Gallese was early the seat of a bishopric.

Six miles north-west of Corchiano is Vignanello, and four miles beyond it Soriano, both Etruscan sites.1

Dennis believes that he has identified the fragments of a city, half covered with wood, but marked by the ruined church of S. Silvestro ('a mile and a half west of Ponte Felice, on the way to Corchiano'), with the lost town of Fescennium, mentioned by Dionysius and Virgil, and celebrated in the history of Latin poetry for the nuptial songs called Carmina Fescennina, to which, according to Festus, it gave its name.

'For all these places see Dennis's Cities and Cemeteries of Etntria, vol. ii.

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