網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

solitary abandonment, even the monks, who scantily occupy its adjoining convent, being obliged to fly into the town before the summer malaria. Outside, the restored church has no features of age or grandeur, but within, as the eye passes down its unbroken lines of grey columns, surmounted by a complete series of papal portraits, it may rest upon the magnificent mosaics of the tribune, and the grand triumphal arch of Galla Placidia, relics of the venerable basilica which perished by fire on the night of the 15th of July, 1823, on which Pius VII. lay dying, who had long been a monk within its walls, and to whom the watchers by his death-bed never ventured to tell the great catastrophe with which the sky was red, though as his last moments approached, he is believed to have seen it in a troubled vision.

Beyond San Paolo, and indeed all the way from thence to Ostia, the road was once bordered with villas, but now there are only three cottages in the whole distance, which is bare or solemn as the feelings of those who visit it. It leads through the monotonous valley of the Tiber, where buffaloes and grand slow-moving bovi feed amid the rank pastures which are white with narcissus. Here and there a bit of tufa rock crops up crested with ilex and laurestinus. A small Roman bridge called Ponte della Eefolta is passed. At length, on mounting a slight hill, we come upon a wide view over the pale-blue death-bearing marshes of the Maremma, here called Campo-morto, to the dazzling sea, and almost immediately enter a forest of brushwood, chiefly myrtle and phillyrea, from which we only emerge as we reach the narrow singular causeway leading to Ostia itself. It is a strange scene, not unlike the approach to Mantua APPROACH TO OST/A. 41

upon a small scale. On either side stretch the still waters of the pestiferous lagoon, called the Stagno, waving with tall reeds which rustle mournfully in the wind, and white with floating ranunculus. To the left, a serrated outline of huge pine-tops marks the forest of Fusano; to the right we see the grey towers of Porto, the cathedral of Hippolytus, and the tall campanile which watches over the Isola Sacra, where, with a feeling fitting the mysterious sadness of the place, Dante makes souls wait to be ferried over into purgatory. Large sea-birds swoop over the reedy expanse. In front the mediaeval castle rises massive and grey against the sky-line. As we approach, it increases in grandeur, and its huge machicolations and massive bastions become visible. The desolate causeway is now peopled with marble figures; heroes standing armless by the wayside, ladies reposing headless amid the luxuriant thistle-growth. Across the gleaming water we see the faint snowy peaks of the Leonessa. On each sandbank, rising above the Stagno, are works connected with the salt mines founded by King Ancus Martius, twenty-five centuries ago, and working still. They have always been important, as is evidenced by the name of one of the gates of Rome, the Porta Salara, through which the inhabitants of the Sabina passed with their purchases of Ostian salt.

Every artist will sketch the Castle of Ostia, and will remember as he works, that Raphael sketched it long ago, and that, from his sketch, Giovanni da Udine painted it in the background of his grand fresco of the victory over the Saracens, in the Stanza of the Incendio del Borgo in the Vatican, for here the enemy who had totally destroyed the ancient town in the fifth century, were as totally defeated in the reign of Leo IV. (a.d. 847—856). Procopius in the sixth century wrote of Ostia as "a city nearly overthrown." The present town is but a fortified hamlet, built by Gregory IV., and originally called by him Gregoriopolis. It was strengthened by Nicholas I. in 858. In the fifteenth century Cardinal d'Estouteville employed Sangallo, who lived here for two years, in building the castle, and Giuliano della Rovere, afterwards Pope Julius II. and then cardinal bishop of Ostia, continued the work. Here he took refuge

[graphic][merged small]

for two years from the persecution of Alexander VI. Afterwards he imprisoned Caesar Borgia here in 1513, whose escape was connived at by Cardinal Carbajal, to whose care he was intrusted. Nothing remains of the internal decorations but some mouldering frescoes executed by Baldassare Peruzzi and Cesare da Sfesto for Cardinal della Rovere, but the outer walls are so covered with the escutcheons of their different papal owners as "to form a veritable chapter of pontifical heraldry." Conspicuous amongst these grand coats of arms are the oak-tree (Robur) of the Delia Rovere, and the wreathed column of the OSTIA. 43

Colonna. On the battlements above, masses of the bluegreen wormwood, which is a lover of salt air and scantysoil, wave in the wind. Artists will all regret the destruction of the tall pine, so well known till lately in pictures of Ostia, which stood beside the tower, till it died in 1870.

The tiny town, huddled into the narrow fortified space, which forms as it were an outer bastion of the castle, contains the small semi-Gothic cathedral, a work of Baccio Pintelli, with a rose-window, but scarcely larger than a chapel, and seeming out of keeping with the historical recollections which we have of many mighty cardinal bishops. Some accounts state that this most ancient see was founded by the apostles themselves; others consider that Pope Urban I. (a.d. 222) was its founder, and announce St. Ciriacus as its first bishop. It is the bishop of Ostia who has always been called upon to ordain a pope who has not been in priests' orders at the time of his election, and he bears the title of "Dean of the Sacred College."*

A quarter of a mile beyond the mediaeval town we enter upon the ancient city. It is like Pompeii. The long entrance street, now quite unearthed, is paved with great blocks of lava closely dovetailed into one another, and is lined with the low ruins of small houses and shops, chiefly built of brick, set in opus reticulatum. Here and there a tall grey sarcophagus stands erect; but no building remains perfect in the whole of the great town, which once contained eighty thousand inhabitants. Thistles flourish everywhere, and snakes and lizards abound, and glide in and out of the hot unshaded stones. After a time we turn into other and

• The towns of Ostia, Portus, Silva Candida, Sabina, Praeneste, Tusculum, and Albanum, were the sees of seven suffragan bishops, afterwards called cardinal bishops, of whom the Bishop of Rome was in a special sense the Metropolitan.

smaller streets, in some of which there are evident remains of pillared porticoes. A temple of Mithras, supposed to be of the date of the Antonines, has been identified by the inscription on its pavement, " Soli Invict. Mit. D. D. L. Agrius Calendio." Three statues of Mithraic priests were found near its altar. Baths, richly decorated with mosaics, have also been discovered.

In the streets, the marks, the deep ruts of the chariotwheels—obliged by the narrow space to run always in the same groove, remain in the pavement. The ground is littered with pieces of coloured marble, and of ancient glass tinted with all the hues of a peacock's tail by its long interment. The banks are filled with fragments of pottery, and here and there of human bones. The whole scene is melancholy and strange beyond description. Emerging from the narrow, almost oppressive confinement of the ruined streets, upon higher ground still unexcavated, which stretches away in ashy reaches to the mouths of the Tiber and the sea, we find a massive quadrangular building of brick, which is more stately and perfect than anything else, and is supposed to have been a temple of Jupiter. It contains its ancient altar.

Ancus Martius was the original founder of Ostia, which then stood upon the sea-shore, and for hundreds of years it was the place where the great Roman expeditions were embarked for the subjugation of the provinces. Chief among these were the expedition of Scipio Africanus to Spain, and that of Claudius to Britain. It was in the time of Claudius that the town obtained its chief importance. He dearly loved his sea-port, often stayed here, and it was from hence that he was summoned to Rome by the news of the

« 上一頁繼續 »