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ASCENT TO BRACCIANO.
in a little piazza. The steep ascent to the fortress can only be surmounted on mule-back or on foot, and is cut out of the solid rock. On and in this rock the castle was built by the Orsini in the fifteenth century, just after their normal enemies, the Colonnas, had destroyed a former fortress of theirs. So they were determined to make it strong enough. As we enter beneath the gateway surmounted by the arms of the Orsini, we see that the rock still forms the pavement, and reaches half-way up the walls around us. The rest of these grim walls is of black lava, plundered, it is said, from the paving-blocks of the Via Cassia. Gloomy passages, also cut out of the solid rocks, lead into profundities suggestive
of the most romantic adventures and escapes. One does not wonder that Sir Walter Scott was more anxious to see Bracciano than anything else in Italy, and set off thither almost immediately after his arrival in Rome.
The inner court of the castle is much more cheerful. It has a gothic loggia and a curious outside staircase, at once descending and ascending, and adorned with frescoes. As we were sitting here to draw, the old housekeeper came out to welcome us. She had been the German nurse of the young Prince Odescalchi, to whom the castle now belongs; we brought her a letter from the Princess-mother, and she was delighted to have the break in the monotony of her life. She had "told the Princess she wished for repose — she wished to have time to think in her old age—and here she found it, but sometimes the repose was almost too much. The wind whistled through the long galleries louder than was pleasant, when there was no voice to enliven it; and last week in the earthquake—when the castle went crick-crack, and the plaster fell from the walls, and the tiles rattled upon the roof—oh, then it was roba da spaventare."
Of the few mediaeval castles in Italy which are still inhabited Bracciano is one of the largest. The Odescalchi
CASTLE OF BRACCIANO.
family still occasionally come here in summer, when the vast chambers must be delightfully cool, and the views over lake and town and mountains most enjoyable. On the upper floor is the Hall of Justice, where the Orsini barons, who had the right of appointing magistrates, and being judges in their own persons, used for several centuries to sit in judgment upon their dependants. The Great Hall on the ground floor has some rapidly-vanishing frescoes of Zucchero, and looks like a place where ten thousand ghosts might hold carnival, only perhaps their revels would be hindered by the tiny chapel which opens out of it. In the living apartments are some fine old chairs and carved modern furniture, splendid beds and wardrobes, and infinitesimal washing-apparatus. One room has family portraits from old times down to the present possessors. These are very proud of their home, though they are not often here. Some years ago, poverty obliged them to sell their castle, but they did so with aching hearts, and when it was bought by Prince Torlonia, a reservation was made, that if the wheel of their fortunes should revolve within a limited space of years, they should be allowed to buy it back again at the same price which he had given. Torlonia felt secure, spent much time and money at Bracciano, and was devoted to his new purchase. As the time was drawing to a conclusion, all doubt as to the future vanished from his mind, but, just in time, the fortune of the Princess-mother Odescalchi enabled the family to redeem their pledge, and the former possessors returned, to their own triumph and the delight of the inhabitants. The Princess Odescalchi, whose fortune redeemed Bracciano, is almost a historical character in Rome. She has been one of the strongest supporters of the Pope, which is not unnatural, for in a great illness, the physicians had given up her case as hopeless, and declared that nothing short of a miracle could save her. At this juncture, when all her family were assembled to see her die, the Pope, from the Vatican, sent her his absolution and blessing, and with it a very tiny loaf of bread—" panetella," * which he desired her to swallow, — he had prayed over . it and blessed it, and perhaps it would save her life. She did swallow it, recovered, and the next day went in person to the Vatican to return thanks to the Holy Father!
But it was only in the last century that the Odescalchi purchased Bracciano from the Orsini, who were then beginning to fall into decadence, after a splendid historical career of more than six hundred years. Pope Celestin III. (1191 —98) was an Orsini, and Pope Nicholas III. (1277—81), whom Dante sees in hell, among the Simonists.
*' Sappi ch'io fui vestito del gran manto.
But having bestowed two popes upon the Church is the least of the glories of the Orsini, and it is their ceaseless contests with the Colonnas, in which they were alternately victorious and defeated, which gives them their chief historical consequence.
"Orsi, lupi, leone, aquile e serpi
Petrarca, Cam. vi.
• "Panetelle di San Nicolo" are still eaten by the lower classes in and near Rome on the festival of that popular saint—the Bishop of Myra—" per divozione," in remembrance of the little loaves of this kind which he used to distribute to the poor.
"The Uisini migrated from Spoleto: the sons of Ursus, as they are styled in the twelfth century, from some eminent person, who is only known as the father of their race. But they were soon distinguished among the nobles of Rome, by the number and bravery of their kinsmen, the strength of their towers, the honours of the senate and sacred college, and the elevation of two popes, Celestin III. and Nicholas III., of their name and lineage. Their riches may be accused as an early abuse of nepotism; the estates of S. Peter were alienated in their favour by the liberal Celestin; and Nicholas was ambitious for their sakes to solicit the alliance of monarchs; to found new kingdoms in Lombardy and Tuscany; and to invest them with the perpetual office of senators of Rome. All that has been observed of the greatness of the Colonna, will likewise redound to the glory of the Ursini, their constant and equal antagonists in the long hereditary feud, which distracted above two hundred and fifty years the ecclesiastical state. The jealousy of pre-eminence and power was the true ground of their quarrel; but as a specious badge of distinction, the Colonna embraced the name of Ghibellines and the party of the Empire; the Ursini espoused the title of Guelphs and the cause of the Church. The eagle and the keys were displayed in their adverse banners; and the two factions of Italy most furiously raged when the origin and nature of the dispute were long since forgotten. After the retreat of the popes to Avignon, they disputed in arms the vacant republic; and the mischiefs of discord were perpetuated by the wretched compromise of electing each year two rival senators. By their private hostilities, the city and country were desolated, and the fluctuating balance inclined with their alternate success. But none of either family had fallen by the sword, till the most renowned champion of the Ursini was surprised and slain by the younger Stephen Colonna. His triumph is stained with the reproach of violating the truce; their defeat was basely avenged by the assassination, before the church door, of an innocent boy and his two servants. Yet the victorious Colonna, with an annual colleague, was declared senator of Rome during the term of live years. And the muse of Petrarch inspired a wish, a hope, a prediction, that the generous youth, the son of his venerable hero, would restore Rome and Italy to their pristine glory; that his justice would extirpate the wolves and lions, the serpents and bears, who laboured to subvert the eternal basis of the marble Column."—Gibbon's Roman Empire, ch. lxix.
"genuit quem nobilis Ursae
Progenies, Romana domus, veterataque magnis