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The tall Romanesque tower of the Cathedral is not joined to the rest of the building, but stands alone upon a little green platform at the west end of the church. Hence there is a grand view over the valley, but to Roman Catholics a more interesting feature will be the knot of brown buildings on the barren side of the mountain, about six miles above Anagni; for this is Acuto, where the recently founded but ever-increasing order of the Precious Blood had its origin, and where its foundress, Maria de Matthias, lived till her death in August, 1866. The story of her vocation is quite as romantic and curious as that of any old saintly legend, and that of her founding here a large sisterhood and school which she supported by faith and prayer, without any definite sources of assistance, in the same way in which the immense institutions of the Protestant Muller are carried on at Clifton. Of her extraordinary influence on the surrounding districts, no one who has visited them can have a doubt, or of the power of her sermons, which were simple discourses of loving practical Christianity, such as Miss Marsh might have delivered. When she was likely to preach thousands flocked to hear her, and when she appeared, a silence fell upon the crowd, with the whisper, " Hush, the great mother is going to speak to us."
(Palestrina is about 27 miles from Rome by way of Zagarolo. Public carriages leave the Piazza S. Marco daily at 6 A.m. for Palestrina and proceed to Olevano—fare, five francs. A shorter way of reaching these places is to take the railway as far as the Valmontone Station, where a post-carriage, with seats for two, meets the first train. It is about seven miles from the station to Palestrina. But the best plan of all is to drive from Velletri. There is no decent inn at Palestrina, but comfortable quarters may be obtained at the house of an artist's widow, sister of a lawyer, Anna Pastina, at the same charges as those usual in country inns. Her house—I, Via delle Concie—is the last on the left at the top of the staircase on the right of the piazza.)
AN early drive from Velletri to Palestrina, the ancient Praeneste, is delightful. Then the cloudless sky is generally opal behind the soft pink mountains. Reaching the foot of the Volscian hills, we come upon the most picturesque town of Monte Fortino, a fortress of the Conti, clambering up the side of a hill so steep that each row of houses begins over the roof of its neighbour, and each has a clear view of the sky.
About a mile distant, at the spot now called La Civita, is the site of the Volscian city Artena: portions of the Cyclopean walls of the citadel remain.
It is about three miles from Monte Fortino (passing the station) to Valmontone, the ancient Toleria, which stands on
a tufa rock in the midst of the plain between the two ranges of mountains, and is girt by old republican walls, with mediaeval towers. From the families of Conti, Sforza, and Barberini, it has passed to the Pamfili, by whom the huge palace which crowns the town was built in 1662. The eldest son of Prince Doria Pamfili bears the title of Prince of Valmontone. In the cortile of the palace are some inscriptions from the Labican catacombs. Adjoining it is a rather handsome cathedral of the 17th century, designed by Matteo de
Rossi. There are several bits at Valmontone to delight an artist, especially at the entrance of the town, where a magnificent fragment of the ancient wall forms the foreground to some very picturesque houses. Near this also is the interesting old church of Sant' Antonio, now called the Madonna delle Grazie.
Palestrina is quite a different type of place from all the others we have seen, and its people, unlike the courteous
peasants we have hitherto met with, are savage and lawless, violent and avaricious. Can the bitter warfare of reprisal, of which both ancient Praeneste and mediaeval Palestrixia have been the scene, be setting its mark still upon the inhabitants? for perhaps no place has been more often besieged, and more often utterly ruined and destroyed.
Praeneste is one of the towns of fabulous origin. Virgil ascribes it to Caeculus the son of Vulcan:
"Nec Praenestinae fundator defuit urbis,
Mn. vii. 678.
Strabo gives it a Greek origin, and says that it was first called UoXvtrrifavoc. Pliny also says that it was called Stephane, a name which is supposed to have been derived from the appearance of the castle on the top of the hill being like a mural crown. Servius derives the name from the rfxvot, ilexes, which grew here, Cato and Festus from the situation —" quia montibus praestet."
Even in the time of the Siculi, Virgil describes Praeneste as having been governed by a king called Herilus, who fell in defending his country against the Latins. Livy says that eight towns were dependent upon it. It was reduced to the condition of a Roman colony upon the failure of the struggle in favour of the Tarquins. After the defeat of Caius Marius, who killed himself within its walls, Praeneste fell into the hands of Sylla, who totally annihilated the population and the city alike :—
". . . Vidit Fortuna colonos
Lucan. ii. 193.
But Sylla rebuilt the town with the utmost magnificence, and erected the Temple of Fortune, which was so splendid that the Athenian philosopher Carneades said he had "never seen a Fortune so fortunate as that of Praeneste." Its glories were celebrated by several of the Latin poets.
"Sextus Junonis mensis fuit. Aspice Tibur,
Ovid. Fast. vi. 6l.
"^Edificator erat Cetronius, et modo curvo
Juv. Sat. xiv. 86.
". . . sacrisque dicatum
.9/7. Ital. viii. 366.
". . . sacro juvenes Praeneste creati
Id. ix. 404.
"Cicero gives a curious account of the institution of the divination called the Sortes Fortunae Primigeniae Praenestinae: 'Numerius Suffucius having, in consequence of frequent dreams, excavated in a rock, found a piece of oak, on which the necessary ceremonies seem to have been inscribed in ancient characters. The place was inclosed, honey flowed from an olive tree on the spot, and the Temple of Fortune was erected on or near the site." (De Divin. ii. 41.) "In the time of Cicero, the credit of the Sortes Praenestinae had much diminished."—GelVs Topography of Rome.
Its coolness, which was an agreeable change after the heat of Rome, made Praeneste a favourite summer resort to the emperors Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Domitian, and Hadrian. Suetonius describes Augustus as employing two days on the journey hither from Rome. Horace alludes to the freshness of the climate.