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CHURCH OF GROTTA FERRATA. 127
Saviour, typified by the Lamb, represented below, not on the throne. The high altar, decorated with two angels of the Bernini school, sustains a reliquary of bronze with agate pillars, which was intended for S. Peter's, but, being found too small, was given to Grotta Ferrata by Cardinal Barbe rini.
From the left aisle we enter the famous chapel of the first Abbot, S. Bartholomew. It is a parallelogram with a small dome over the east end. The wall on the left is occupied by the famous frescoes of S. Nilus praying before the crucifix; the visit of Otho III. to S. Nilus; and, in the choir, the healing of the demoniac by S. Nilus. The frescoes on the right represent Nilus and Bartholomew, who by their prayers avert a thunder-storm from the crops which husbandmen are gathering in; the building of the Monastery; and, in the choir, the vision of the Madonna who gives the golden apple. At the sides of the altar are: S. Eustace, because he was the protector of the Farnese family, and S. Edward, because of the name of the Cardinal who built the chapel. In the dome, beneath the figure of the Almighty, are the Roman saints, Agnese, Cecilia, and Francesca Romana. All the frescoes are by Domenkhino. The altarpiece, representing Nilus and Bartholomew with the Virgin, is by Ann. Caracti. At the west end of the chapel is a curious um used as a baptismal font.
"About the year 1610, when Cardinal Odoardo Farnese was Abbot of Grotta Ferrata, he undertook to rebuild a defaced and ruined chapel, which had in very ancient times been dedicated to the interesting Greek saints S. Adrian and his wife S. Natalia. The chapel was accordingly restored with great magnificence, rededicated to S. Nilus and his companion, S. Bartolomeo, who are regarded as the two first Abbots; and Domenichino, then in his twenty-eighth year, was employed to represent on the wall some of the most striking incidents connected with the foundation of the monastery.
"The walls, in accordance with the architecture, are divided into compartments, varying in form and size. In the first large compartment, he has represented the visit of Otho III. to S. Nilus ; a most dramatic composition, consisting of a vast number of figures. The Emperor has just alighted from his charger, and advances in a humble attitude to claim the benediction of the saint. The accessories in this grand picture are wonderful for splendour and variety, and painted with consummate skill. The whole strikes us like a well-got-up scene. The action of a spirited horse, and the two trumpeters behind, are among the most admired parts of the picture. It has always been asserted that these two trumpeters express, in the muscles of the face and throat, the quality of the sounds they give forth. This, when I read the description, appeared to me a piece of fanciful exaggeration; but it is literally true. I f painting cannot imitate the power of sound, it has here suggested both its power and kind, so that we seem to hear. Among the figures is that of a young page, who holds the Emperor's horse, and wears over his light flowing hair a blue cap with a plume of white feathers; according to tradition, this is a portrait of a beautiful girl, with whom Domenichino fell violently in love while he was employed on the frescoes. Bellori tells us that, not only was the young painter rejected by the parents o. the damsel, but that when the picture was uncovered and exhibited, and the face recognized as that of the young girl he had loved, he was obliged to fly from the vengeance of her relatives.
"The great composition on the opposite wall represents the building of the monastery after the death of S. Nilus by his disciple and coadjutor S. Bartolomeo. The master builder, or architect, presents the plan, which S. Bartolomeo examines through his spectacles. A number of masons and workmen are busied in various operations, and an antique sarcophagus, which was discovered in the foundation, and is now built into the wall of the church, is seen in one corner; in the background, is represented one of the legends of the locality. It is related that when the masons were raising a column, the ropes gave way, and the column ivould have fallen on the heads of the assistants, had not one of the monks, full of faith, sustained the column with his single strength.
"One of the lesser compartments represents another legend. The Madonna appears in a glorious vision to S. Nilus and S. Bartolomeo in this very Grotta Ferrata, and presents to them a golden apple, in testimony of her desire that a chapel should rise on this spot. The golden apple was reverently buried in the foundation of the belfry, as we now bury coins and medals when laying the foundation of a public edifice.
THE FRESCOES OF DOMENICHINO.
"Opposite is the fresco which ranks as one of the finest and most expressive of all Domenichino's compositions. A poor epileptic boy is brought to S. Nilus to be healed; the saint, after beseeching the Divine favour, dips his finger into the oil of a lamp burning before the altar, and with it anoints the mouth of the boy, who is instantly relieved from his malady. The incident is simply and admirably told, and the action of the boy, so painfully true, yet without distortion or exaggeration, has been, and I think with reason, preferred to the epileptic boy in Raphael's Transfiguration.
"In a high, narrow compartment, Domenichino has represented S. Kilns before a crucifix: the figure of our Saviour extends his arm in benediction over the kneeling saint, who seems to feel, rather than perceive, the miracle. This also is beautiful.
"S. Nilus having been a Greek monk, and the convent connected with the Greek order, we have the Greek fathers in their proper habits— venerable figures pourtrayed in niches round the cornice. The Greek saints, S. Adrian and S. Natalia; and the Roman saints, S. Agnes, S. Cecilia, and S. Francesca, are painted in medallions.
"A glance back at the history of S. Nilus and the origin of the chapel will show how significant, how appropriate, and how harmonious is this scheme of decoration in all its parts. I know not if the credit of the selection belongs to Domenichino; but, in point of vivacity of conception and brilliant execution, he never exceeded these frescoes in any of his subsequent works; and every visitor to Rome should make this famous chapel a part of his pilgrimage."—Jameson's Monastic Orders, P- 35
Grotta Ferrata formerly possessed the finest Greek library in Italy, but its treasures were removed, partly to the Vatican by Sixtus V., and partly to the Barberini collection by Urban VIII.
In the Palace of the Abbots, in Jan. 1824, died Cardinal Gonsalvi, the famous minister and friend of Pius VII., having survived his master only five months. His body, being opened after death, in consequence of unfounded suspicions, proved that he died from entirely natural causes.
About miles from Grotta Ferrata, on the way to Vol 1. 9
Albano, is the very picturesque mediaeval town of Marina, which has been identified, from inscriptions which have been found there, as occupying the site of Castrimonium, a town fortified by Sylla, and which continued to be a " municipium" to the time of Antoninus Pius. As, in the Middle Ages, Colonna was a principal fortress of the family of that name, so Marino was the stronghold of the great rival family of the Orsini, from whom, however, it was wrested in the 14th century by the Colonnas, who built the walls which still remain.
Beyond the town is the beautiful glen called Parco Colonna, once the "Lucus Ferentinae," which was the meeting-place of the Latin league after the destruction of Alba. A pleasant walk leads up the valley through the green wood fresh with rushing streams and carpeted with flowers, to a pool formed by several springs, with an old statue and remains of 17th-century grottoes. One of the small springs on the right is pointed out as the " Caput Aquae Ferentinae," where Turnus Herdonius of Aricia, who had inveighed against the pride of Tarquinius Superbus and warned his countrymen against placing any trust in him, having been accused of plotting the death of the King and condemned by the great council of the Latins, was drowned in the shallow water, being held down by a hurdle, upon which stones were piled.*
• Lay, i. 50—5a.
(An excursion should be made to Veii before the weather becomes too hot for enjoyment in walking about its steep ravines. A sunny day in February is the best time to choose.)
IT is a drive of about an hour and a half from Rome to Veii. At first we follow the Via Cassia, one of the three roads which led to Cisalpine Gaul, and which passed through the centre of Etruria: Cicero says—" Etruriam discriminat Cassia." It is now one of the pleasantest drives near the city, with its high upland views over the wide plains of the Campagna to the towns which sparkle in the sun under the rifted purple crags of the Sabina, or down bosky glades studded with old cork-trees, whose rich dark green forms a charming contrast to the burnt grass and poetic silvery thistles. Three miles from Rome, on a bank on the left of the road, is the fine sarcophagus adorned with griffins in low relief, which is popularly known as Nero's tomb, and is really that of Publius Vibius Marianus and his wife Reginia Maxima. Beyond this, on the right, is the castellated farm-house of Buon-Riarvero, picturesquely situated with pine trees upon a grassy knoll.