« 上一頁繼續 »
village curiously wedged in between high rocks, which surround and conceal it on every side, as with a natural wall. A mile and a half below the town, are the hermitage and church of La Mentorella, on the edge of the precipice, jutting out over the valley of the Girano. Here, before he went to Subiaco, S. Benedict lived in the sixth century, in a cave at the foot of the rock. A tradition of far earlier date (during the reign of the Emperor Trajan) represents the crag of La Mentorella as that where the vision of a white deer, with a crucifix between his horns, led to the conversion of S. Eustace.
"S. Eustace was a Roman soldier, and captain of the guard to the Emperor Trajan. His name before his conversion was Placidus, and he had a beautiful wife and two sons, and lived with great magnificence, practising all the heathen virtues, particularly those of loyalty to his sovereign and charity to the poor. He was also a great lover of the chase, spending much of his time in that noble diversion.
"One day while hunting in the forest, he saw before him a white stag, of marvellous beauty, and he pursued it eagerly, and the stag fled before him, and ascended a high rock. Then Placidus, looking up, beheld, between the horns of the stag, a cross of radiant light, and on it the image of the crucified Redeemer; and being astonished and dazzled by this vision, he fell on his knees, and a voice which seemed to come from the crucifix cried to him, and said, 'Placidus! why dost thou pursue me? I am Christ, whom thou hast hitherto served without knowing me. Dost thou now believe?' and Placidus fell with his face to the earth, and said, 'Lord, I believe!' and the voice answered, saying, 'Thou shalt suffer many tribulations for my sake, and shalt be tried by many temptations; but be strong and of good courage, and I will not forsake thee.' To which Placidus replied, 'Lord, I am content. Do thou give me patience to suffer I' And when he looked up again the wondrous vision had departed. Then he arose and returned to his house, and the next day he and his wife and his two sons were baptized, and he took the name of Eustace."—Jameson's Legendary Art.
A flight of stairs, which troops of pilgrims devoutly ascend upon their knees on the festa of the twenty-ninth of SeptemLA MENTORELLA. 293
ber, leads to the campanile, which is surmounted by a pair of antlers, like those of the portico of the church of S. Eustachio at Rome, commemorating his conversion. The festa of La Mentorella is one of the most romantic in Italy. The peasants come by the steep mountain-paths chaunting litanies, and each carrying a stone which they add to a great commemorative pile. They spend the night in groups, sleeping round fires lighted on these wild crags, and those who have been present describe the scene as quite unrivalled in its weird picturesqueness—the brilliant costumes illuminated by the fire-light and backed by the savage precipices which overhang the Girano and Siciliano, and the rude chaunts echoing amid the rocks under the starlit sky. The name of Mentorella comes from Wultvilla or Wulturela, the ancient name of the mountain. The gothic chapel which now exists, is of the tenth century, but a church certainly existed here as early as A.d. 594, when it was bestowed upon the abbot of Subiaco by Gregory I. In A.d. 958, the mountain of Wulturela with its church, dedicated to Sta. Maria, belonged to S. Gregorio in Rome, but the building appears to have been deserted in the fourteenth century, though it was restored by the Emperor Leopold in 1660.
(Subiaco is 26 miles from Tivoli. A diligence runs daily. There is a very tolerable inn, La Pcrnice,—pension, 5 francs a day—but passing travellers must arrange their prices beforehand.)
THE road from Olevano to Subiaco passes through a dismal bare rocky district, but is a fine specimen of engineering, being one of the many excellent mountain-roads, constructed under Pius IX. A few miles before reaching Subiaco, we skirt a lake, which is probably one of the Simbriviae Aquas.
"Quique Anienis habent ripas, gelidoque rigantur
Sii. Ital. viii. 370.
The three pools called Simbrivii Lacus were made by Nero by the damming up of the Anio. Here he fished for trout with a golden net, and here he built the mountain-villa to which he gave the name of Sublacum—under the lake —which still exists in Subiaco.
"Avoir une villa dans les montagnes du pays des ^Eques, c'etait pour Keron ce que serait pour un modeme la fantaisie d'un chalet en Suisse." —Ampin, Emp. Rom. it 62.
While Nero was residing here the conspiracies were forming which led to his overthrow, and here he was warned of VILLA OF NERO.
his fate by a portent most terrible in those times of omens, when his drinking-cup was shivered in his hand by lightning whilst he was seated at a banquet near the lake, a presage which seized upon his mind with appalling effect. That very day he had bathed in the aqueduct of the Aqua Marcia, that all his people might enjoy the privilege of drinking water that had been thus defiled.* The choice of his villa amid the ^Equian mountains shows that, in spite of all his monstrosities, Nero must have been as great a connoisseur of the beauties of nature as of art, and for centuries the glorious gorge through which the Anio foams beneath its ruins, between tremendous crags clothed with evergreens and flowers, has been a sanctuary to half the poets and painters in the world.
Hither, four centuries after the time of Nero, when the recollection of his orgies had given place to silence and solitude, a young patrician, sprung from the noble family of the Anicii, which gave Gregory the Great to the Church, and many other saints to the sacred calendar, fled from the seductions of the capital, to seek repose for his soul, with God alone as his companion. The name of the fugitive was Benedictus, or "the blessed one." He was only fourteen when he renounced his fortune, his family, and the world. It was to Mentorella that he first fled, and thither he was followed by his faithful nurse Cyrilla, who could not bear to think that the child of her affections was alone and uncared for, who begged for him, and prepared the small modicum of food which he could be prevailed upon to take. Some neighbour had lent her a stone sieve to make bread,
• Claudius first made an aqueduct to bring to Rome the water of two fountains Called Curtius and Cseruleus, in the hills above Sublacum.
after the manner of the mountain district, she let it fall out of her hands, and it was broken to pieces. Moved by her distress, Benedict prayed over the fragments, and they are said to have been instantly joined together. This was his first miracle. Terrified at the excitement it caused, and at seeing the sieve hung up in the village church as a relic, Benedict evaded the solicitude of his nurse, and escaped unseen by any one to the gorge of Subiaco, where he found (c. 480) a cave in the rocks above the falls of the Anio, into which not even a ray of the sun could penetrate. Here he lived, his hiding-place unknown to any one, except to Romanus, a monk who dwelt amid a colony of anchorites founded by S. Clement on the ruins of Nero's villa. By him he was provided with a garment made of the skin of a beast, and each day Romanus let down to him from the top of the rock the half of his daily loaf, giving him notice of its approach by the ringing of a bell suspended to the same rope with the food. It is said that when the devil wished to make himself particularly disagreeable to Benedict he would cut the cord which supplied him. His hidingplace was discovered by a miracle. A village priest seated at a banquet of Easter luxuries had a revelation that while he was thus feasting a servant of God was pining with hunger, and his steps were miraculously directed to the hermitage. Benedict refused to eat the delicate food, until convinced that it was indeed the festival of Easter. The priest told what he had seen to the shepherds, who, while following their goats along one of the tiny pathlets which may still be seen on the face of these mountains, had seen a strange creature with unkempt hair, and nails like claws, and taking it for a wild beast, had fled from it in terror. They were