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altarpieces are almost exclusively fine mosaic copies of famous pictures which are preserved elsewhere. Of these reproductions the best is generally considered to be that of Guercino's «St. Petronilla » at the end of the right aisle of the tribune. Debrosses praises these mosaic altarpieces extravagantly, and even expresses the opinion that they are probably superior in point of color to the originals from which they are copied. In execution they are certainly wonderful, and many a stranger looks at them and passes on believing them to be oil-paintings. They possess the quality of being imperishable, and beyond all influence of climate or dampness, and they are masterpieces of mechanical workmanship. But many will think them hard and unsympathetic in outline, and decidedly crude in color. Much wit has been manufactured by the critics at the expense of Guido Reni's « Michael,» for instance, and as many sharp things could be said about a good many other works of the same kind in the church. Yet, on the whole, they do not destroy the general harmony. Big as they are, when they are seen from a little distance they sink into mere insignificant patches of color, all but lost in the deep richness of the whole.
As for the statues and monuments, between the «Pietà» of Michelangelo and Bracci's horrible tomb of Benedict XIV there is the step which, according to Tom Paine, separates the sublime from the ridiculous. That very witty saying has in it only just the ingredient of truth without which wit remains mere humor. Between the ridiculous and the sublime there may sometimes be, indeed, but one step in the execution; but there is always the enormous moral distance which separates real feeling from affectation-the gulf which divides, for instance, Bracci's group from Michelangelo's.
The «Pietà » is one of the great sculptor's early works. It is badly placed. It is dwarfed by the heavy architecture above and around it. It is insulted by a pair of hideous bronze cherubs. There is a manifest improbability in the proportion between the figure of Christ and that of the Blessed Virgin. Yet, in spite of all, it is one of the most beautiful and touching groups in the whole world, and by many degrees the best work of art in the great church. Michelangelo was a man of the strongest dramatic instinct, even in early youth, and when he laid his hand to the marble and cut out his «Pietà,» he was in deep sympathy with the supreme drama of man's history. He found in the stone, once and for all time, the grief of the human mother for
her son, not comforted by foreknowledge of resurrection, nor lightened by prescience of near glory. He discovered in the marble, by one effort, the divinity of death's rest after torture, and taught the eye to see that the dissolution of this dying body is the birth of the soul that cannot die. In the dead Christ there are two men manifest to sight. «The first man was of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.»>
In the same small chapel stands a strangely wrought marble column inclosed in an iron cage. The Romans now call it the Colonna Santa (the holy pillar), and it is said to be the one against which Christ leaned when teaching in the temple at Jerusalem. A great modern authority believes it to be of Roman workmanship, and of the third century; but those who have lived in the East will see much that is Oriental in the fantastic, ornamented carving. It matters little. In actual fact, whatever be its origin, this is the column known in the middle ages as the «Colonna degli Spiritati,» or column of those possessed by evil spirits, and it was customary to bind to it such unlucky individuals as fell under suspicion of «possession,» in order to exorcise the spirit with prayers and holy water. Aretino has made a witty scene about this in the «Cortigiana,» where one of the Vatican servants cheats a poor fisherman, and then hands him over to the sacristan of St. Peter's to be cured of an imaginary possession by a ceremonious exorcism. Such proceedings must have been common enough in those days when witchcraft and demonology were elements with which rulers and lawgivers had to count at every turn.
Leave the column and its legends in the lonely chapel, with the exquisite « Pietà »; wander hither and thither, and note the enormous contrasts between good and bad work which meet you at every turn. Up in the right aisle of the tribune you will come upon what is known as Canova's masterpiece, the tomb of Clement XIII, of jesuitical memory, as strange a mixture of styles and ideas as any in the world, and yet a genuine expression of the artistic feeling of that day. The grave pope prays solemnly above; on the right a lovely heathen genius of Death leans on a torch; on the left rises a female figure of Religion, one of the most abominably bad statues in the world; below, a brace of improbable lions, extravagantly praised by people who do not understand leonine anatomy, recall Canova's humble origin and his first attempt at modeling. For the sculptor began life as a little waiter in a canova di vino, or
wine shop, whence his name, and it was when a high dignitary stopped to breakfast at the little wayside inn that he modeled a lion in butter to grace the primitive table. The thing attracted the rich traveler's attention, and the boy's fortune was made. The pope is impressive, the Death is gentle and tender, the Religion, with her crown of gilded spikes for rays, and her clumsy cross, is a vision of bad taste, and the sleepy lions, when separated from what has been written about them, excite no interest. Yet somehow, from a distance, the monument gets harmony out of its surroundings. One of the best tombs in the basilica is that of Sixtus IV, the first pope of the Rovere family, in the Chapel of the Sacrament. The bronze figure, lying low on a sarcophagus placed out upon the floor, has a quiet, manly dignity about it which one cannot forget. But in the same tomb lies a greater man of the same race, Julius II, for whom Michelangelo made his great « Moses » in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli-a man who did more than any other, perhaps, to make the great basilica what it is, and who, by a chain of mistakes, got no tomb of his own. He who solemnly laid the foundations of the present church, and lived to see the four main piers completed, with their arches, has only a little slab in the pavement to recall his memory. The protector and friend of Bramante, of Michelangelo, and of Raphael,—of the great architect, the great sculptor, and the great painter, has not so much as the least work of any of the three to mark his place of rest. Perhaps he needed nothing but his name, which must always stand among the greatest. After all, his bones have been allowed to rest in peace, which is more than can be said of all that have been buried within the area of the church. Urban VI had no such good fortune. He so much surprised the cardinals, as soon as they had elected him, by his vigorous moral reforms, that they hastily retired to Anagni, and elected an antipope of milder manners and less sensitive conscience. He lived to triumph over his enemies. In Piacenza he was besieged by King Charles of Naples. He excommunicated him, tortured seven cardinals whom he caught in a conspiracy, and put five of them to death, overcame and slew Charles, refused him burial, and had his body exposed to the derision of the crowd. The chronicler says that «Italy, Germany, England, Hungary, Bohemia, Poland, Sicily, and Portugal were obedient to the Lord Pope Urban VI.» He died peacefully, and was buried in St. Peter's in a marble sarcophagus.
But when Sixtus V, who also surprised the cardinals greatly, was in a fit of haste to finish the dome, the masons, wanting a receptacle for water, laid hands on Urban's stone coffin, pitched his bones into a corner, and used the sarcophagus as they pleased, leaving it to serve as a water-tank for many years afterward.
In extending the foundations of the church, Paul III came upon the bodies of Maria and Hermantia, the two wives of Honorius, the emperor who «disestablished » paganism in favor of Christianity. They were sisters, daughters of Stilicho, and had been buried in their imperial robes, with many rich objects and feminine trinkets; and they were found intact, as they had been buried, in the month of February, 1543. Forty pounds of fine gold were taken from their robes alone, says Baracconi, without counting all the jewels and trinkets, among which was a very beautiful lamp, besides a great number of precious stones. The Pope melted down the gold for the expenses of the building, and set the gems in a tiara, where, if they could be identified, they certainly exist to-day-the very stones worn by empresses of ancient Rome.
Then, as if in retribution, the Pope's own tomb was moved from its place. Despoiled of two of the four statues which adorned it, the monument is now in the tribune, and is still one of the best in the church. A strange and tragic tale is told of it. A Spanish student, it is said, fell madly in love with the splendid statue of Paul's sister-in-law, Julia Farnese, He succeeded in hiding himself in the basilica when it was closed at night, threw himself in a frenzy upon the marble, and was found stone dead beside it in the morning. The ugly draperies of painted metal, which now hide much of the statue, owe their origin to this circumstance. Classical scholars will remember that a somewhat similar tale is told by Pliny of the «Venus » of Praxiteles in Cnidus.
In spite of many assertions to the effect that the bronze statue of St. Peter which is venerated in the church was originally an image of Jupiter Capitolinus, the weight of modern authority and artistic judgment is to the contrary. The work cannot really be earlier than the fifth century, and is therefore of a time after Honorius and the disestablishment. Any one who will take the trouble to examine the lives of the early popes may read the detailed accounts of what each one did for the churches. It is not by any means impossible that the statue may have been made under St. Innocent I, a contemporary of Honorius, in whose time a Roman lady called Vestina made gift to the
Church of vast possessions, the proceeds of which were used in building and richly adorning numerous places of worship. In any case, since it is practically certain that the statue was originally intended for a portrait of St. Peter, and has been regarded as such for nearly fifteen hundred years, it commands our respect, if not our veneration.
The practice of dressing it in magnificent robes on the feast of St. Peter is connected with the ancient Roman custom, which required the censors, when entering upon office, to paint the earthen statue of Jupiter Capitolinus a bright red. But the connection lies in the Italian mind and character, which cling desperately to external practices for their hold upon inward principles. It is certainly not an inheritance of uninterrupted tradition, as Roman church music, on the contrary, most certainly is; for there is every reason to believe that the recitations now noted in the Roman missal were very like those used by the ancient Romans on solemn occasions.
The mere facts of real interest connected with the basilica, its foundation, its construction, and its subsequent history, would fill a volume, and overfill one man's brain. The church is not only a real landmark. Astronomers say that if there were a building of the same dimensions on the moon we could easily see it with modern telescopes. It is also, in a manner, one of time's great mile-stones, of which some trace will probably remain till
the very end of the world's life. Its mere mass will insure to it the permanence of the great pyramid of Cheops. Its mere name associates it forever with the existence of Christianity from the earliest time. It has stamped itself upon the minds of millions of men as the most vast monument of the ages. Its very defects are destined to be as lasting as its beauties, and its mighty faults are more imposing than the small perfections of the Greeks. Between it and the Parthenon, as between the Roman empire and the Athenian commonwealth, one may choose, but one dares make no comparison. The genius of the Greeks absorbed the world's beauty into itself, distilled it to perfection, and gave humanity its most subtle quintessence; but the Latin arm ruled the world itself wholesale, and the imperial Latin intelligence could never find any expression fitted to its enormous measure. That is the secret of the monstrous element in all the Romans built. And that supernormal giantism showed itself for the last time in the building of St. Peter's, when the Latin race had reached its last great development, and the power of the Latin popes overshadowed the whole world, and was itself about to be humbled. Before Michelangelo was dead Charles V had been emperor for forty years, Dr. Martin Luther had denied the doctrine of salvation by works, the nations had broken loose from the popes, and the world was at war.
OLD LADY LAZENBERRY.
S Mr. Pate advanced in age it seemed to console him much that, though interested listeners to his chattings gradually diminished in numbers on account of his deafness and growing garrulousness, I remained steadfastly loyal. One Saturday afternoon, sure that, as usual, he would be at the store, I went there. After all except myself, with one and another excuse, had gone away from him, knowing that he expected me to ask him for another story, I did so.
«Another story, eh? Ain't you afeard you'll git sp'ilt, havin' a man o' expe'unce and obserwation talkin' to thes you by your lone self? No; no danger. Pity but what some grown people would follow the egzample of not a-interruptin' ner runnin' away from convisation which is meant for their good, and their good only, if they had the jedgment to see it. Well, what sort o' story you wantInjun story, fightin' story, or what?»
I answered that, if all the same to him, I preferred one with a good deal of love and courting strung along, and some marrying toward the end.
«Thes listen to that! This here boy! And him nine year old last Chuesday! Fer I were at the house and I heerd his ma say it were his birthday. And I had to run my hand in my pocket and jerk out a thrip for him. And his ma hizitated about him takin' of it; but she give in when she see my feelin's would be hurted, and I conwinced her that a thrip give by a neighbor at sech a time were n't big enough money to make a fool o' nobody noways. Yes, he were nine year old a Chuesday, this here boy, and he want to hear about courtin' and marryin'. Yit a body is obleeged to acknowledge that it 's in the blood o' people, old or young. Courtin' and marryin' has been goin' on ever sence Adam and Eve in the gyarden, and down till yit it's the interestinest occepation people can foller and hear tell about. I have putt my mind a right smart on the subject, and it have arriv' to the settlin' of it that the good Lord made 'em so in the offstart, fer to make 'em have and keep up their respect of a inst'ootion he see
it were the best he could do fer thes sich a set. For my expe'unce of the good Lord have been and is that he know his own business better than anybody can tell him; that I have said so to warous people many and many a time, some of 'em heedin' my word, and some not, as the case might be, a'cordin' to the gumption that deffer'nt people has, more or less. And-but this here boy want a story, he do.">
For a moment or so he seemed dropped into reminiscent mood; then, looking down upon me, he said:
«I ruther think I'll make a few remarks to-day on the old lady Lazenberry.»>
He smiled with benevolent compassion, moving his head slowly up and down, and proceeded:
"My expe❜unce of old people—that is, what you might call oldish people-it is that when courtin' once take a start with 'em, it is rapider and it is p'inteder than young people, and it's because, a-knowin' what little sunshine they got left, they see the importance o' getherin' in what hay they see a-layin' round. Now the old lady Lazenberry she never liked the name herself, but they called her that to sip'rate her from her daughterin-law.
«The family lived on t' other side the Ogeechee, not fur from Long Creek meetin'house, where she were a member in good standin' from the time she j'ined, a girl, till now, when she have outlived two husbands, and active and spry as the youngest widder a-goin'. Her first husband were 'Lihu Lazenberry, and after he died, leavin' her with three children, his brother Isaac, a-feelin' hisself adequate to the above, stepped in and extenduated the family two better. Then he died, thes like everybody do when their time come. And when, some time atterwards, she begun to streak her black with red ribbins and things, people that thought she were goin' to give up to numerous affliction acknowledged they were mistakened in their mind. She were always one o' that kind o' wimming that, when they know they 've got a better head on 'em than them around 'em, would go 'long and do what they wanted. Both