Pagan and Christian Rome


The large number of churches in Rome.--The six classes of the earliest of these.--I. Private oratories.--The houses of Pudens and Prisca.--The evolution of the church from the private house.--II. Scholæ.--The memorial services and banquets of the pagans.--Two extant specimens of early Christian scholæ.--That in the Cemetery of Callixtus.--III. Oratories and churches built over the tombs of martyrs and confessors.--How they came to be built.--These the originals of the greatest sanctuaries of modern Rome.--S. Peter's.--The origin of the church.--The question of S. Peter's residence and execution in Rome.--The place of his execution and burial.--The remarkable discovery of graves under the _baldacchino_ of Urban VIII.--The basilica erected by Constantine.--Some of its monuments.--The chair and statue of S. Peter.--The destruction of the old basilica and the building of the new.--The vast dimensions of the latter.--Is S. Peter's body really still under the church?--The basilica of S. Paul's outside the walls.--The obstacles to its construction.--The fortified settlement of Johannipolis which grew up around it.--The grave of S. Paul.--IV. Houses of confessors and martyrs.--The discoveries of padre Germano on the Cælian.--The house of the martyrs John and Paul.--V. Pagan monuments converted into churches.--Every pagan building capable of holding a congregation was thus transformed at one time or another.--Examples of these in and near the Coliseum.--VI. Memorials of historical events.--The chapel erected to commemorate the victory of Constantine over Maxentius.--That of Santa Croce a Monte Mario.

Rome, according to an old saying, contains as many churches as there are days in the year. This statement is too modest; the "great catalogue" published by cardinal Mai[60] mentions over a thousand places of worship, while nine hundred and eighteen are registered in Professor Armellini's "Chiese di Roma." A great many have disappeared since the first institution, and are known only from ruins, or inscriptions and chronicles. Others have been disfigured by "restorations." Without denying the fact that our sacred buildings excel in quantity rather than quality, there is no doubt that as a whole they form the best artistic and historic collection in the world. Every age, from the apostolic to the present, every school, every style has its representatives in the churches of Rome.

The assertion that the works of mediæval architects have been destroyed or modernized to such an extent as to leave a wide gap between the classic and Renaissance periods, must have been made by persons unacquainted with Rome; the churches and the cloisters of S. Saba on the Aventine, of SS. Quattro Coronati on the Cælian, of S. Giovanni a Porta Latina, of SS. Vincenzo e Anastasio alle Tre Fontane, of S. Lorenzo fuori le Mura, are excellent specimens of mediæval architecture. Let students, archæologists, and architects provide themselves with a chronological table of our sacred buildings, and select the best specimens for every quarter of a century, beginning with the oratory of Aquila and Prisca, mentioned in the Epistles, and ending with the latest contemporary creations; they cannot find a better subject for their education in art and history.

From the point of view of their origin and structure, the churches of Rome of the first six centuries may be divided into six classes:--

I. Rooms of private houses where the first prayer-meetings were held.

II. Scholæ (memorial or banqueting halls in public cemeteries), transformed into places of worship.

III. Oratories and churches built over the tombs of martyrs and confessors.

IV. Houses of confessors and martyrs.

V. Pagan monuments, especially temples, converted into churches.

VI. Memorials of historical events.

In treating this subject we must bear in mind that early Christian edifices in Rome were never named from a titular saint, but from their founder, or from the owner of the property on which they were established. The same rule applies to the suburban cemeteries, which were always named from the owner of the ground above them, not from the martyrs buried within. The statement is simple; but we are so accustomed to calling the Lateran basilica "S. Giovanni," or the oratory of Pudens "S. Pudentiana," that their original names (Basilica Salvatoris, and Ecclesia Pudentiana) have almost fallen into oblivion.

I shall select from each of the six classes such specimens as I believe will convey an impression of its type to the mind of the reader.

I. PRIVATE ORATORIES. "In the familiar record of the first days of the Christian church we read how the men of Galilee, who returned to Jerusalem after the ascension, 'went up into the upper chamber,' which was at once their dwelling-place and their house of prayer and of assembly. There, at the first common meal, the bread was broken and the cup passed around in remembrance of the last occasion on which they had sat at table with Christ. There too they assembled for their first act of church government, the election of a successor to the apostate Judas. All is simple and domestic, yet we have here the beginnings of what became in time the most wide-reaching and highly organized of human systems. An elaborate hierarchy, a complicated theology were to arise out of the informal conclave, the memorial meal; and in like manner, out of the homely meeting-place of the disciples would be developed the costly and beautiful forms of the Christian temple."[61]

Rome possesses authentic remains of the "houses of prayer" in which the gospel was first announced in apostolic times. Five names are mentioned in connection with the visit of Peter and Paul to the capital of the empire, and two houses are mentioned as those in which they found hospitality, and were able to preach the new doctrine. One of these, belonging to Pudens and his daughters Pudentiana and Praxedes, stands halfway up the Vicus Patricius (Via del Bambin Gesù) on the southern slope of the Viminal; the other, belonging to Aquila and Prisca (or Priscilla), on the spur of the Aventine which overlooks the Circus Maximus. Both have been represented through the course of centuries, and are represented now, by a church, named from the owner the _Titulus Pudentis_, and the _Titulus Priscæ_. Archæologists have tried to trace the genealogy of Pudens, the friend of the apostles; but, although it seems probable that he belonged to the noble race of the Cornelii Æmilii, the fact has not yet been clearly proved. Equally doubtful are the origin and social condition of Aquila and his wife Prisca, whose names appear both in the Acts and in the Epistles. We know from these documents that, in consequence of the decree of banishment which was issued against the Jews by the emperor Claudius, Aquila and Prisca were compelled to leave Rome for a while, and that on their return they were able to open a small oratory--_ecclesiam domesticam_--in their house. This oratory, one of the first opened to divine worship in Rome, these walls which, in all probability, have echoed with the sound of S. Peter's voice, were discovered in 1776 close to the modern church of S. Prisca; but no attention was paid to the discovery, in spite of its unrivalled importance. The only memorandum of it is a scrap of paper in Codex 9697 of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, in which a man named Carrara speaks of having found a subterranean chapel near S. Prisca, decorated with paintings of the fourth century, representing the apostles. A copy of the frescoes seems to have been made at the time, but no trace of it has been found. I cannot understand how, in an age like ours, so enthusiastically devoted to archæological, historical, and religious research, no attempt has since been made to bring this venerable oratory to light.

In the same excavations of 1776 was found a bronze tablet, which had been offered to Gaius Marius Pudens Cornelianus, by the people of Clunia (near Palencia, Spain) as a token of gratitude for the services which he had rendered them during his governorship of the province of Tarragona. The tablet, dated April 9, A. D. 222, proves that the house owned by Aquila and Prisca in apostolic times had subsequently passed into the hands of a Cornelius Pudens; in other words, that the relations formed between the two families during the sojourn of the apostles in Rome had been faithfully maintained by their descendants. Their intimate connection is also proved by the fact that Pudens, Pudentiana, Praxedes, and Prisca were all buried in the Cemetery of Priscilla on the Via Salaria.[62]

A very old tradition, confirmed by the "Liber Pontificalis," describes the modern church of S. Pudentiana as having been once the private house of the same Pudens who was baptized by the apostles, and who is mentioned in the epistles of S. Paul.[63] Here the first converts met for prayers; here Pudentiana, Praxedes and Timotheus, daughters and son of Pudens, obtained from Pius I. the institution of a regular parish-assembly (_titulus_), provided with a baptismal font; and here, for a long time, were preserved some pieces of household furniture which had been used by S. Peter. The tradition deserves attention because it was openly accepted at the beginning of the fourth century. The name of the church at that time was simply Ecclesia Pudentiana, which means "the church of Pudens," its owner and founder. An inscription discovered by Lelio Pasqualini speaks of a Leopardus, _lector de Pudentiana_, in the year 384; and in the mosaic of the apse the Redeemer holds a book, on the open page of which is written: "The Lord, defender of the church of Pudens." In course of time the ignorant people changed the word Pudentiana, a possessive adjective, into the name of a saint; and the name Sancta Pudentiana usurped the place of the genuine one. It appears for the first time in a document of the year 745.

The connection of the house with the apostolate of SS. Peter and Paul made it very popular from the beginning. Laymen and clergymen alike contributed to transform it into a handsome church. Pope Siricius (384-397), his acolytes Leopardus, Maximus and Ilicius, and Valerius Messalla, prefect of the city (396-403), ornamented it with mosaics, colonnades, and marble screens, and built on the west side of the Vicus Patricius a portico more than a thousand feet long, which led from the Subura to the vestibule of the church.

In 1588 Cardinal Enrico Caetani disfigured the building with unfortunate restorations. He laid his hands even on the mosaics of the apse, considered by Poussin the best in Rome, as they are the oldest (A. D. 398), and mutilated the figures of two apostles, a portion of the foreground and the historical inscription. His architect, Francesco Ricciarelli da Volterra, while excavating the foundations for one of the pilasters of the new dome, made a discovery, which is described by Gaspare Celio[64] in the following words:--

"While Francesco Volterra was restoring the church of S. Pudentiana, and building the foundations of the dome, the masons discovered a marble group of the Laocoön, broken into many pieces. Whether from ill will or from laziness, they left the beautiful work of art at the bottom of the trench, and brought to the surface only a leg, without the foot, and a wrist. It was given to me, and I used to show it with pride to my artist friends, until some one stole it. It was a replica of the Belvedere group, considerably larger, and so beautiful that many believe it to be the original described by Pliny (xxvi. 5). The ancients, like the moderns, were fond of reproducing masterpieces. If the replica of the Pietà of Michelangelo, which we admire in the church of S. Maria dell' Anima, had been found under the ground, would we not consider it a better work than the original in S. Peter's? Francesco Volterra complained to me many times about the slovenliness of the masons; he says that, working by contract (_a cottimo_), they were afraid they should get no reward for the trouble of bringing the group to the surface."

Remains of the House of Pudens

[Illustration: Remains of the House of Pudens, discovered in 1870.]

Remains of the house of Pudens were found in 1870. They occupy a considerable area under the neighboring houses.[65]

[Illustration: Plan of Pompeian House.]

[Illustration: Remains of the House of Pudens. Front Wall, pierced by modern windows.]

The theory accepted by some modern writers as regards the transformation of these halls of prayer into regular churches is this. The prayer-meetings were held in the _tablinum_ (A) or reception room of the house, which, as shown in the accompanying plan, opened on the _atrium_ or court (B), and this was surrounded by a portico or peristyle (C). In the early days of the gospel the _tablinum_ could easily accommodate the small congregation of converts; but, as this increased in numbers and the space became inadequate, the faithful were compelled to occupy that section of the portico which was in front of the meeting hall. When the congregation became still larger, there was no other way of accommodating it, and sheltering it from rain or sun, than by covering the court either with an awning or a roof. There is very little difference between this arrangement and the plan of a Christian basilica. The _tablinum_ becomes an apse; the court, roofed over, becomes the nave; the side wings of the peristyle become the aisles.

Among the Roman churches whose origin can be traced to the hall of meeting, besides those of Pudens and Prisca already mentioned, the best preserved seems to be that built by Demetrias at the third milestone of the Via Latina, near the "painted tombs." Demetrias, daughter of Anicius Hermogenianus, prefect of the city, 368-370, and of Tyrrania Juliana, a friend of Augustine and Jerome, enlarged the oratory already existing in the _tablinum_ of the Anician villa, and transformed it into a beautiful church, afterwards dedicated to S. Lorenzo. Church and villa were discovered in 1857, and, together with the painted tombs of the Via Latina, are now the property of the nation. The stranger could not find a pleasanter afternoon drive. The church is well preserved, and still contains the metric inscription in praise of Demetrias which was composed by Leo III. (795-816).[66]

II. SCHOLÆ. The laws of Rome were very strict in regard to associations, which, formed on the pretence of amusement, charity, or athletic sports, were apt to degenerate into political sects. Exception was made in favor of the _collegia funeraticia_, which were societies formed to provide a decent funeral and place of burial for their members. An inscription discovered at Civita Lavinia quotes the very words of a decree of the Senate on this subject: "It is permitted to those who desire to make a monthly contribution for funeral expenses to form an association." "These clubs or colleges collected their subscriptions in a treasure-chest, and out of it provided for the obsequies of deceased members. Funeral ceremonies did not cease when the body or the ashes was laid in the sepulchre. It was the custom to celebrate on the occasion a feast, and to repeat that feast year by year on the birthday of the dead, and on other stated days. For the holding of these feasts, as well as for other meetings, special buildings were erected, named _scholæ_; and when the societies received gifts from rich members or patrons, the benefaction frequently took the shape of a new lodge-room, or of a ground for a new cemetery, with a building for meetings."[67] The Christians took advantage of the freedom accorded to funeral colleges, and associated themselves for the same purpose, following as closely as possible their rules concerning contributions, the erection of lodges, the meetings, and the ???pa? or love feasts; and it was largely through the adoption of these well-understood and respected customs that they were enabled to hold their meetings and keep together as a corporate body through the stormy times of the second and third centuries.

Two excellent specimens of _scholæ_ connected with Christian cemeteries and with meetings of the faithful have come down to us, one above the Catacombs of Callixtus, the other above those of Soter.

The first edifice has the shape of a square hall with three apses,--_cella trichora_. It is built over the part of the catacombs which was excavated at the time of Pope Fabianus (A. D. 236-250), who is known to have raised _multas fabricas per cæmeteria_; it is probably his work, as the style of masonry is exactly that of the first half of the third century. The original _schola_ was covered by a wooden roof, and had no façade or door. In the year 258, while Sixtus II., attended by his deacons Felicissimus and Agapetus, was presiding over a meeting at this place in spite of the prohibition of Valerian, a body of men invaded the _schola_, murdered the bishop and his acolytes, and razed the building nearly to the level of the ground. Half a century later, in the time of Constantine, it was restored to its original shape, with the addition of a vaulted roof and a façade. The line which separates the old foundations of Fabianus from the restorations of the age of peace is clearly visible. Later the _schola_ was changed into a church and dedicated to the memory of Syxtus, who had lost his wife there, and of Cæcilia, who was buried in the crypt below. It became a great place of pilgrimage, and the itineraries mention it as one of the leading stations on the Appian Way.

When de Rossi first visited the place, fifty years ago, this famous _schola_ or church of Syxtus and Cæcilia was used as a wine-cellar, while the crypts of Cæcilia and Cornelius were used as vaults. Thanks to his initiative the monument has again become the property of the Church of Rome; and after a lapse of ten or twelve centuries divine service was resumed in it on the twentieth day of April of the present year. Its walls have been covered with inscriptions found in the adjoining cemetery.

The theory suggested by modern writers with regard to the _scholæ_ is very much the same as that concerning the _tablinum_ of private houses. At first the small building was sufficient to meet the wants of a small congregation; with the increase of the members it became a _presbiterium_, or place reserved for the bishop or the clergy, while the audience stood outside, under the shelter of a tent, or a roof supported by upright beams. Here also we have all the architectural elements of the Christian basilica.

The name _schola_, in its original meaning, has never died out in Rome; and as in the Middle Ages we had the _scholæ_ of the Saxons, the Greeks, the Frisians, and the Lombards, so we have in the present day those of the Jews (_gli scoli degli ebrei_).

[Illustration: PLAN OF SCHOLA ABOVE THE CATACOMBS OF CALLIXTUS (From Nortet's _Les Catacombes Romaines_)]

III. ORATORIES AND CHURCHES BUILT OVER THE TOMBS OF MARTYRS AND CONFESSORS. The sacred buildings of this class are, or were formerly, outside the walls, as burial was not allowed within city limits. To explain their origin and to understand their significance we must bear in mind the following rules. The action of the Roman law towards the Christians, that is, towards persons accused of atheism and rebellion against the Empire, resulted in the execution of those who were convicted. Except in extraordinary cases, the body of the victim could be claimed by relatives and friends and buried with due honors. In chapters vi. and vii. instances will be quoted of the erection of imposing tombs to the memory of Roman patricians, generals and magistrates, who were put to death under the imperial régime. The same privileges of burial were granted to the Christians, who preferred, however, the modesty and safety of a grave in the heart of the catacombs to the pompous luxury of a mausoleum above ground. The grave of a martyr was an object of consideration, and was often visited by pilgrims, who adorned it with wreaths and lights on the anniversary of his execution. After the end of the persecutions the first thought of the victorious church was to honor the memory of those who had fought so gallantly for the common cause, and who at the sacrifice of their lives had hastened the advent of the days of freedom and peace. No better altar than those graves could be chosen for the celebration of divine service; but they were sunk deep in the ground, and the cubicula of the catacombs were hardly capable of containing the officiating clergy, much less the multitudes of the faithful. Touching the graves, removing them to a more suitable place, was out of the question; in the eyes of the early Christians no more impious sacrilege could be perpetrated. There was but one way left to deal with the difficulty; that of cutting away the rock over and around the grave, and thereby gaining such space as was deemed sufficient for the erection of a basilica. The excavation was done in conformity with two rules,--that the tomb of the martyr should occupy the place of honor in the middle of the apse, and that the body of the church should be to the _east_ of the tomb, except in cases of "force majeure," as when a river, a public road, or some other such obstacle made it necessary to vary this principle.

Such is the origin of the greatest sanctuaries of Christian Rome. The churches of S. Peter on the Via Cornelia, S. Paul on the Via Ostiensis, S. Sebastian on the Via Appia, S. Petronilla on the Via Ardeatina, S. Valentine on the Via Flaminia, S. Hermes on the Via Salaria, S. Agnes on the Via Nomentana, S. Lorenzo on the Via Tiburtina, and fifty other historical structures, owe their existence to the humble grave which no human hand was allowed to transfer to a more suitable and healthy place.

When these graves were not very deep, the floor of the basilica was almost level with the ground, as in the case of S. Peter's, S. Paul's, and S. Valentine's; in other cases it was sunk so deep in the heart of the hill that only the roof and the upper tier of windows were seen above the ground, as in the basilicas of S. Lorenzo, S. Petronilla, etc. There are two or three basilicas built, or rather excavated, entirely under ground. The best specimen is that of S. Hermes on the old Via Salaria.

It soon became evident that edifices sunk in such awkward places could hardly answer their purpose, on account of dampness and the want of air and light. Several steps were taken to remedy the evil. Large portions of the hills were cut away so as to make the edifice free on one or two sides at least, and outlets for rain or spring water provided. We have a description of the system of drainage of S. Peter's, written by its originator, Pope Damasus, in a poem the original of which, discovered by Pope Paul V., in 1607, is preserved in the Grotte Vaticane:--

"The hill was abundant in springs; and the water found its way to the very graves of the saints. Pope Damasus determined to check the evil. He caused a large portion of the Vatican Hill to be cut away; and by excavating channels and boring _cuniculi_ he drained the springs so as to make the basilica dry and also to provide it with a steady fountain of excellent water."[68]

The Acqua Damasiana is still in use, and has the honor of supplying the apartments of the Pope. Its feeding-springs are located at S. Antonino, twelve hundred yards west of S. Peter's. The aqueduct of Damasus, restored in 1649 by Innocent X., is neatly built in the old Roman style; the channel is four feet nine inches high, three feet three inches wide, and runs through the clay of the hill at a depth of ninety-eight feet. The principal fountain, in the Cortile di S. Damaso, was designed by Algardi in 1649.

Apparently the works accomplished for the same purpose at S. Lorenzo fuori le Mura, by Pope Pelagius II. (579-590), were no less important. They are described in another poem, a modern copy of which (1860) is to be seen on the side of the mosaic in the apsidal arch. The poem relates how the hill of Cyriaca was cut away, and how, in consequence of the excavation, the church became light, accessible, and free from the danger of landslips and inundations. The importance of the work of Pelagius is rather exaggerated by the composer of the poem. The church was never free from dampness and want of air and light until the pontificate of Pius IX., who cut away another section of the hill.

The damage done to the catacombs by the builders of these sunken basilicas is incalculable. Thousands of graves must have been sacrificed for the embellishment of one.

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The reader cannot expect to find in these pages a description of this class of basilicas; that of S. Peter's alone would require several volumes. I have in my modest library not less than twenty-two volumes on the subject, an insignificant fraction of the Petrine literature. And what do we know about S. Peter's? Very little in comparison with the amount of knowledge that lies yet unpublished in the volumes of Grimaldi,[69] in the archives of the Vatican, in epigraphic, historical and diplomatic documents scattered among various European libraries.

The history of the building has yet to be written. Duchesne's "Liber Pontificalis" and de Rossi's second volume of the "Inscriptiones Christianæ" provide the necessary foundations for such a work. Let us hope that the Vatican will soon find its own Rohault de Fleury.[70]

The following sketch of the origin of the two leading sacred edifices of Rome may answer the scope of the present chapter. But let me repeat once again the declaration that I write about the monuments of ancient Rome from a strictly archæological point of view, avoiding questions which pertain, or are supposed to pertain, to religious controversy. For the archæologist the presence and execution of SS. Peter and Paul in Rome are facts established beyond a shadow of doubt by purely monumental evidence. There was a time when persons belonging to different creeds made it almost a case of conscience to affirm or deny _a priori_ those facts, according to their acceptance or rejection of the tradition of any particular church. This state of feeling is a matter of the past, at least for those who have followed the progress of recent discoveries and of critical literature. However, if my readers think that I am assuming as proved what they still consider subject for discussion, I beg to refer them to some of the standard works published on this subject by writers who are above the suspicion of partiality. Such are Döllinger's "First Age of Christianity" (translated by Henry Nutcombe Oxenham, second edition, London, Allen, 1867); Bishop Lightfoot's "Apostolic Fathers," part ii., London, Macmillan, 1885, one of the most beautiful and conclusive works on early Christian history and literature; and de Rossi's "Bullettino di archeologia cristiana," for 1877. Bishop Lightfoot justly remarks that when Ignatius--the second apostolic father, a contemporary of Trajan--writes to the Romans "I do not command you, like Peter and Paul," the words are full of meaning, if we suppose him to be alluding to the personal relations of the two apostles with the Roman Church. In fact, the reason for his use of this language is the recognition of the visit to Rome of S. Peter as well as S. Paul, which is persistently maintained in early tradition; and thus it is a parallel to the joint mention of the two apostles in "Clement of Rome" (p. 357). Döllinger adds: "That S. Peter worked in Rome is a fact so abundantly proved and so deeply imbedded in the earliest Christian history, that whoever treats it as a legend ought in consistency to treat the whole of the earliest church history as legendary, or at least, quite uncertain. His presence in Corinth is obviously connected with his journey to Rome, and no one will accept the one and deny the other (see Cor. i. 12; iii. 22; xi. 22, 23; Clement's Ep. 47, etc.) Clement again reminds the Corinthians of the 'martyrdom of Peter and Paul ... among us,' meaning Rome. The very mention implies that S. Peter's martyrdom was a well-known fact, and it is inconceivable that his execution should have been known and not the place where it occurred, or that the place could have been forgotten, and a wrong one substituted some years later. And when Ignatius writes to the Romans--'I do not command you like Peter and Paul; they were apostles'--it is clear, without any explanation, that he desires to remind them of the two men who, as founders and teachers, had been the glory of the Church."

The Ebionite document, called "The Preaching of Peter," produced about the time of Ignatius, or very soon after, and used by Heracleon in Hadrian's time, is manifestly founded on the undisputed fact of S. Peter having labored at Rome. It is inconceivable that the author of the Ebionite document should have put forward a groundless fable, about the theatre of S. Peter's operations, at a time when many who had seen him must have been still alive. Eusebius, who had the writings of Papias (and Hegesippos) before him, maintains with Clement, that S. Peter wrote his Epistle at Rome (Euseb. ii. 15). Papias, a disciple of S. John, speaking of this epistle declares that "Babylon" means expressly the capital of the empire. Hegesippos, a Christian Jew of Palestine, who came to Rome in the first half of the second century, makes Linus the first bishop after the apostles, in accordance with Irenæus, who says: "After Peter and Paul had founded the Roman church and set it in order, they gave over the episcopate to Linus." If we consider that Hegesippos came to Rome to investigate, among other things, the succession of local bishops for the short period of eighty-three years, that he certainly spoke with persons whose fathers could remember the presence of the apostles, we cannot help accepting his evidence as conclusive.

The main objection brought forward by the opponents is that, after the incident at Antioch, we have no positive knowledge of the actions and travels of S. Peter. Still, there is nothing to contradict the assumption of his journey to Rome, and his confession and execution there. The fact was so generally known that nobody took the trouble to write a precise statement of it, because nobody dreamed that it could be denied. How is it possible to imagine that the primitive Church did not know the place of the death of its two leading apostles? In default of written testimony let us consult monumental evidence.

There is no event of the imperial age and of imperial Rome which is attested by so many noble structures, all of which point to the same conclusion,--the presence and execution of the apostles in the capital of the empire. When Constantine raised the monumental basilicas over their tombs on the Via Cornelia and the Via Ostiensis; when Eudoxia built the church ad Vincula; when Damasus put a memorial tablet in the Platonia ad Catacumbas; when the houses of Pudens and Aquila and Prisca were turned into oratories; when the name of Nymphæ Sancti Petri was given to the springs in the catacombs of the Via Nomentana; when the twenty-ninth day of June was accepted as the anniversary of S. Peter's execution; when Christians and pagans alike named their children Peter and Paul; when sculptors, painters, medallists, goldsmiths, workers in glass and enamel, and engravers of precious stones, all began to reproduce in Rome the likenesses of the apostles, at the beginning of the second century, and continued to do so till the fall of the empire; must we consider them all as laboring under a delusion, or as conspiring in the commission of a gigantic fraud? Why were such proceedings accepted without protest from whatever city, from whatever community, if there were any other which claimed to own the genuine tombs of SS. Peter and Paul? These arguments gain more value from the fact that the evidence on the opposite side is purely negative. It is one thing to write of these controversies at a distance from the scene of the events, in the seclusion of one's own library; but quite another to study them on the spot, and to follow the events where they took place. If my readers had the opportunity of witnessing the discoveries made lately in the Cemeterium Ostrianum, and the Platonia ad Catacumbas; or of examining Grimaldi's manuscripts and drawings relating to the old basilica of Constantine; or Carrara's account of the discoveries made in 1776 in the house of Aquila and Prisca, they would surely banish from their minds the last shade of doubt.

Besides the works of Döllinger, Lightfoot, and de Rossi referred to above, there are thirty or forty which deal with the same question, as to whether S. Peter was ever at Rome. The list of them is given in volume xviii. of the "Encyclopædia Britannica," p. 696, no. 1.

* * * * *

Two roads issued from the bridge called _Vaticanus_, _Neronianus_, or _Triumphalis_, the remains of which are still seen at low water between S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini and the hospital of S. Spirito,--the Via Triumphalis, described in chapter vi., which corresponds to the modern Strada di Monte Mario, and joins the Clodia at la Giustiniana; and the Via Cornelia, which led to the woodlands west of the city, between the Via Aurelia Nova and the Triumphalis. When the apostles came to Rome, in the reign of Nero, the topography of the Vatican district, which was crossed by the Via Cornelia, was as follows:--

On the left of the road was a circus begun by Caligula, and finished by Nero; on the right a line of tombs built against the clay cliffs of the Vatican. The circus was the scene of the first sufferings of the Christians, described by Tacitus in the well-known passage of the "Annals," xv. 45. Some of the Christians were covered with the skins of wild beasts so that savage dogs might tear them to pieces; others were besmeared with tar and tallow, and burnt at the stake; others were crucified (_crucibus adfixi_), while Nero in the attire of a vulgar _auriga_ ran his races around the goals. This took place A. D. 65. Two years later the leader of the Christians shared the same fate in the same place. He was affixed to a cross like the others, and we know exactly where. A tradition current in Rome from time immemorial says that S. Peter was executed _inter duas metas_ (between the two metæ), that is, in the _spina_ or middle line of Nero's circus, at an equal distance from the two end goals; in other words, he was executed at the foot of the obelisk which now towers in front of his great church. For many centuries after the peace of Constantine, the exact spot of S. Peter's execution was marked by a chapel called the chapel of the "Crucifixion." The meaning of the name, and its origin, as well as the topographical details connected with the event, were lost in the darkness of the Middle Ages. The memorial chapel lost its identity and was believed to belong to "Him who was crucified," that is, to Christ himself. It disappeared seven or eight centuries ago. At the same time the words _inter duas metas_, by which the spot was so exactly located, were deprived of their genuine significance. The name _meta_ was generally applied to tombs of pyramidal shape; of which two were still conspicuous among the ruins of Rome: the pyramid of Caius Cestius near the Porta S. Paolo, which was called _Meta Remi_, and that by the church of S. Maria Traspontina, in the quarter of the Vatican which was called _Meta Romuli_. The consequences of this mistake were remarkable; to it we owe the erection of two noble monuments, the church of S. Pietro in Montorio, and the "Tempietto del Bramante," in the court of the adjoining convent. It seems that in the thirteenth century, when some one[71] determined to raise a memorial of S. Peter's execution _inter duas metas_, he chose this spot on the spur of the Janiculum, because it was located at an equal distance from the meta of Romulus at la Traspontina, and that of Remus at the Porta S. Paolo!

The line of the Via Cornelia, which ran parallel with the north side of the circus, can be traced with precision by the help of the classical, or pagan, tombs discovered at various times along its borders. Let us start from the site of the modern Piazza di S. Pietro. Sante Bartoli, _mem._ 56-57, says that while Pope Alexander VII. was building the left wing of Bernini's portico, and the fountain of the southern semicircle, a tomb was discovered with a bas-relief above the door representing a marriage-scene ("vi era un bellissimo bassorilievo di un matrimonio antico"). On July 19, 1614, three others were found in the _atrium_, in one of which was the sarcophagus of Claudia Hermione, the renowned pantomimist. The best discovery, that of pagan tombs exactly on the line with that of S. Peter's, was made in the presence of Grimaldi, November 9, 1616. "On that day," he says, "I entered a square sepulchral room (10 ft. × 11 ft.), the ceiling of which was ornamented with designs in painted stucco. There was a medallion in the centre, with a figure in high relief. The door opened on the Via Cornelia, which was on the same level. This tomb is located under the seventh step in front of the middle door of the church. I am told that the sarcophagus now used as a fountain, in the court of the Swiss Guards, was discovered at the time of Gregory XIII. in the same place, and that it contained the body of a pagan."


We come now to the decisive point, the discoveries made in the time of Urban VIII., when the foundations of his bronze baldacchino were sunk to a great depth, in close proximity to the tomb of S. Peter. The genuineness of the account is proved by the fact that in spite of its great bearing on the question, so little importance was attached to it that, had not Professor Palmieri and Cavaliere Armellini unearthed it from the sacred dust of the Vatican archives, in which it had been buried for three and a half centuries, we should still have been wholly ignorant of its existence.

The account published by Armellini[72] proves that S. Peter must have been buried in a small plot surrounded by other tombs, and probably protected by an enclosing wall. There were graves which in later ages had been dug in confusion, one above the other, by persons wishing to lie as near as possible to the remains of the apostle; but those of the time of the persecution were arranged in parallel lines,[73] and consisted of plain marble coffins bearing no name, and containing one or two bodies, which were dressed like mummies, with bands of darkish linen wound about the body and head. This statement is corroborated by other evidence. In 1615, when Paul V. built the stairs leading to the Confession and the crypts, "several bodies were found lying in coffins, tied with linen bands, as we read of Lazarus in the Gospel: _ligatus pedibus et manibus institis._ One body only was attired in a sort of pontifical robe. Notwithstanding the absence of written indications we thought they were the graves of the ten bishops of Rome buried _in Vaticano_." So speaks Giovanni Severano on page 20 of his book "Memorie sacre delle sette chiese di Roma," which was printed in 1629. Francesco Maria Torrigio, who witnessed the exhumations with cardinal Evangelista Pallotta, adds that the linen bands were from two to three inches wide, and that they must have been soaked in aromatics. One of the coffins bore, however, the name LINVS.[74] Let us now refer to the "Liber Pontificalis," the authority of which as an historical text-book cannot be doubted, since the critical publication of Louis Duchesne.[75] After describing the "deposition of S. Peter in the Vatican, near the circus of Nero, between the Via Aurelia and the Via Triumphalis, _iuxta locum ubi crucifixus est_ (near the place of his crucifixion)," it proceeds to say that Linus "was buried side by side with the remains of the blessed Peter, in the Vatican, October 24." Even if we were disposed to doubt Torrigio's correctness in copying the name of the second bishop of Rome,[76] the fact of his burial in this place seems to be certain, because Hrabanus Maurus, a poet of the ninth century, speaks of Linus's tomb as visible and accessible, in the year 822. Another man was present at the discoveries enumerated by Torrigio and Severano; the master-mason Benedetto Drei, whose drawing, printed in 1635, has become very rare.

The reader will remark how perfectly Drei's sketch fits the written accounts of the other eye-witnesses, even in the detail of the child's grave--"_sepoltura di un bambino_,"--which is distinctly mentioned by them.

* * * * *

The privileges which the Roman law allowed to sepulchres, even of criminals, made it possible for the Christians to keep these graves in good order, with impunity. However, they ran a great risk under Elagabalus. Among the many extravagances in which this youth indulged in connection with the circus, such as driving a chariot drawn by four camels, or letting loose thousands of poisonous snakes among the spectators, Lampridius mentions a race of four quadrigæ drawn by elephants, which was to be run in the Vatican; and as the track inside the circus was obviously too narrow for such an attempt, another was prepared outside by removing or destroying those tombs of the Via Cornelia which stood in the way.[77] It is more than probable that the body of S. Peter was at that time transferred to a temporary place of shelter at the third milestone of the Via Appia, which I shall have opportunity to describe in the seventh chapter.[78]

After the defeat of Maxentius in the plains of Torre di Quinto, Constantine "raised a basilica over the tomb of the blessed Peter, which he enclosed in a bronze case. The altar above was decorated with spiral columns carved with vines which he had brought over from Greece."[79]

The basilica was erected hurriedly at the expense of the adjoining circus. Constantine took advantage of its three northern walls, which supported the seats of the spectators on the side of the Via Cornelia, to rest upon them the left wing of the church, and built new foundations for the right wing only. His architect seems to have been rather negligent in his measurements, because the tomb of S. Peter did not correspond exactly with the axis of the nave, and was not in the centre of the apse, being some inches to the left.

The columns were collected from everywhere. I have discovered in one of the note-books of Antonio da Sangallo the younger a memorandum of the quality, quantity, size, color, etc., of one hundred and thirty-six shafts. Nearly all the ancient quarries are represented in the collection, not to speak of styles and ages. An exception must be made in favor of the twelve columns of the Confession, mentioned above, which, according to the "Liber Pontificalis," were brought over from Greece (_columnæ vitineæ quas de Græcia perduxit_: i. 176). I doubt the correctness of the statement; they appear to me a fantastic Roman work of the third century.

At all events the surmise of the "Liber Pontificalis" shows how little credit is to be attached to the tradition that they once belonged to the Temple of Solomon at Jerusalem.[80] There are eleven left: of which eight ornament the balconies under the dome; two, the altar of S. Mauritius, and one (reproduced in our illustration) the Cappella della Pietà, the first on the right. It is called the _colonna santa_ (the holy column), because it was formerly used for the exorcism of evil spirits. It was enclosed in a marble _pluteus_ by Cardinal Orsini, in 1438.


(From a rare engraving by Benedetto Drei, head master mason to the Pope. The site of the tomb of S. Peter and the Fenestella are indicated by the author)]

There are eleven left: of which eight ornament the balconies under the dome; two, the altar of S. Mauritius, and one (reproduced in our illustration) the Cappella della Pietà, the first on the right. It is called the _colonna santa_ (the holy column), because it was formerly used for the exorcism of evil spirits. It was enclosed in a marble _pluteus_ by Cardinal Orsini, in 1438.

[Illustration: The Colonna Santa]

The walls of the church were patched with fragments of tiles (_tegolozza_) and stone, except the apse and the arches, which were built of good bricks bearing the name of the emperor:--

_Dominus Noster_ CONSTANTINVS AVG_ustus_.

Grimaldi says that he could not find two capitals or two bases alike. He says also that the architraves and friezes differed from one intercolumniation to another, and that some of them were inscribed with the names and praises of Titus, Trajan, Gallienus, and others. On each side of the first gateway, at the foot of the steps, were two granite columns, with composite capitals, representing the bust of the emperor Hadrian framed in acanthus leaves.

The accompanying illustration, which was copied from an engraving of Ciampini, shows the aspect of the interior in the year 1588.

[Illustration: View of a section of the Nave of old S. Peter's (South Side).]

It gives a fairly good idea of the decorations of the nave, in their general outline; but fails to show the details of Constantine's patchwork. His system of structure may be better understood by referring to another of his creations, the basilica of S. Lorenzo fuori le Mura, of which a section of the interior is illustrated on p. 135.

The atrium or quadri-portico was entered by three gateways, the middle one of which had doors of bronze inlaid with silver. The _nielli_ represented castles, cities, and territories which were subject to the apostolic see. The doors were stolen in 1167, and carried to Viterbo as trophies of war.

The fountain in the centre of the atrium was a masterpiece of the time of Symmachus (498-514), who had a great predilection for buildings connected with hygiene and cleanliness, such as baths, fountains, and _necessaria_.[81] The fountain is described in my "Ancient Rome," p. 286; let me add here the particulars concerning its destruction.

[Illustration: Nave of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura.]

The structure was composed of a square tabernacle supported by eight columns of red porphyry, with a dome of gilt bronze. Peacocks, dolphins, and flowers, also of gilt bronze, were placed on the four architraves, from which jets of water flowed into the basin below. The border of the basin was made of ancient marble bas-reliefs, representing panoplies, griffins, etc. On the top of the structure were semicircular bronze ornaments worked "à jour," that is, in open relief, without background, and crowned by the monogram of Christ. This gem of the art of the sixth century was ruthlessly destroyed by Paul V. The eight columns of porphyry, one of which was ornamented with an imperial bust in high relief, have disappeared, and so have the bas-reliefs of the border of the fountain, although Grimaldi claims to have saved one. The bronzes were removed to the garden of the Vatican, but, with the exception of the pine-cone and two peacocks, they were doomed to share the fate of the marbles. In 1613 the semicircular pediments, the four dolphins, two of the peacocks, and the dome were melted to provide the ten thousand pounds of metal required for the casting of the statue of the Madonna which was placed by Paul V. on the column of S. Maria Maggiore.

[Illustration: The Fountain of Symmachus.]

The most important monument of the atrium, after the fountain, was the tomb of the emperor Otho II. ([Symbol: Died] 983), or what was believed to be his tomb, as some contemporary writers attribute it to Cencio, prefect of Rome, who died 1077. The body lay in a marble sarcophagus, which was screened by slabs of serpentine, the whole being surmounted by a porphyry cover supposed to have come from Hadrian's mausoleum. The mosaic picture above represented the Saviour between SS. Peter and Paul. This historical monument was demolished by Carlo Maderno in the night of October 20, 1610. The coffin was removed to the Quirinal and turned into a water-trough. Grimaldi saw it last, near the entrance gate from the side of the Via dei Maroniti. The panels of serpentine were used in the new building, the picture of the Saviour was removed to the Grotte; the cover of porphyry was turned upside down, and made into a baptismal font.

The church was entered by five doors, named respectively (from left to right) the Porta _Iudicii_, _Ravenniana_, _argentea_ or _regia maior_, _Romana_, and _Guidonea_. The first was called the "Judgment Door," because funerals entered or passed out through it. The name "Ravenniana" seems to have originated in the barracks of marine infantry of the fleet of Ravenna, detailed for duty in Rome, or else from the name "Civitas Ravenniana" given to the Trastevere in the epoch of the decadence. It was reserved for the use of men, as the fourth or Romana was for women, and the fifth, Guidonea, for tourists and pilgrims. The main entrance, called the "Royal," or "Silver Door," was opened only on grand occasions. Its name was derived from the silver ornaments affixed to the bronze by Honorius I. (A. D. 626-636) in commemoration of the reunion of the church of Histria with the See of Rome. According to the "Liber Pontificalis" nine hundred and seventy-five pounds of silver were used in the work. There were the figures of S. Peter on the left and S. Paul on the right, surrounded by halos of precious stones. They were the prey of the Saracens in 845. Leo IV. restored them to a certain extent, changing the subject of the silver _nielli_. In the year 1437, Antonio di Michele da Viterbo, a Dominican lay brother, was commissioned by Pope Eugenius IV. to carve new side doors in wood, while Antonio Filarete and Simone Bardi were asked to model and cast, in bronze, those of the middle entrance.

On entering the nave the visitor was struck by the simplicity of Constantine's design, and by the multitude and variety of later additions, by which the number of altars alone had been increased from one to sixty-eight. Ninety-two columns supported an open roof, the trusses of which were of the kingpost pattern. In spite of frequent repairs, resulting from fires, decay, and age, some of these trusses still bore the mark of Constantine's name. They were splendid specimens of timber. Filippo Bonanni, whose description of S. Peter's deserves more credit than all the rest together, except Grimaldi's manuscripts,[82] says that on February 21, 1606, he examined and measured the horizontal beam of the first truss from the façade, which Carlo Maderno had just lowered to the floor; it was seventy-seven feet long and three feet thick. The same writer copies from a manuscript diary of Rutilio Alberini, dated 1339, the following story relating to the same roof: "Pope Benedict XII. (1334-1342) has spent eighty thousand gold florins in repairing the roof of S. Peter's, his head carpenter being maestro Ballo da Colonna. A brave man he was, capable of lowering and lifting those tremendous beams as if they were motes, and standing on them while in motion. I have seen one marked with the name of the builder of the church (CON_stantine_); it was so huge that all kinds of animals had bored their holes and nests in it. The holes looked like small caverns, many yards long, and gave shelter to thousands of rats." Grimaldi climbed the roof at the beginning of 1606, and describes it as made of three kinds of tiles,--bronze, brick, and lead. The tiles of gilt bronze were cast in the time of the emperor Hadrian for the roof of the Temple of Venus and Rome. Pope Honorius I. (625-640) was allowed by Heraclius to make use of them for S. Peter's. The brick tiles were all stamped with the seal of King Theodoric, or with the motto BONO ROMÆ (for the good of Rome). The lead sheets bore the names of various Popes, from Innocent III. (1130-1138) to Benedict XII. All these precious materials for the chronology and history of the basilica have disappeared, save a few planks from the roof, with which the doors of the modern church were made.

Another sight must have struck the pilgrim as he first crossed the threshold, that of the "triumphal arch" between the nave and the transept, glistening with golden mosaics. We owe to Prof. A. L. Frothingham, Jr., of Baltimore, the knowledge of this work of art, he having found the description of it by cardinal Jacobacci in his book "De Concilio" (1538). The mosaics represented the emperor Constantine being presented by S. Peter to the Saviour, to whom he was offering a model of the basilica. It was destroyed, with the dedicatory inscription, in 1525.[83]

The baptistery erected by Pope Damasus after the discovery of the springs of the Aqua Damasiana, and restored by Leo III. (795-816), stood at the end of the north transept.[84] One of its inscriptions contained the verse--

"Una Petri sedes unum verumque lavacrum,"--

an allusion both to the baptismal font and to the "chair of S. Peter's," upon which the Popes sat after baptizing the neophytes. The cathedra is mentioned by Optatus Milevitanus, Ennodius of Pavia, and by more recent authors, as having changed place many times, until Alexander VII., with the help of Bernini and Paul Schor, placed it in a case of gilt bronze at the end of the apse. It has been minutely examined and described several times by Torrigio, Febeo, and de Rossi. I saw it in 1867. The framework and a few panels of the relic may possibly date from apostolic times; but it was evidently largely restored after the peace of the Church. The upright supports at the four corners were whittled away by early pilgrims.

[Illustration: The Chair of S. Peter; after photograph from original--_A_ Oak wood, much decayed, and whittled by pilgrims. _B_ Acacia wood, inlaid with ivory carvings.]

Another work of art deserves attention, because its origin, age, and style are still matters of controversy. I mean the bronze statue of S. Peter (see p. 142) placed against the right wall of the nave, near the S. Andrew of Francis de Quesnoy. Without attempting a discussion which would be inconsistent with the spirit of this book, I can safely state that the theories suggested by modern Petrographists, from Torrigio to Bartolini, deserve no credit. The statue is not the Capitoline Jupiter transformed into an apostle; nor was it cast with the bronze of that figure; it never held the thunderbolt in the place of the keys of heaven. The statue was cast as a portrait of S. Peter; the head belongs to the body; the keys and the uplifted fingers of the right hand are essential and genuine details of the original composition. The difficulty, and it is a great one, consists in stating its age. There is no doubt that Christian sculptors modelled excellent portrait-statues in the second and third centuries: as is proved by that of Hippolytus (see p. 143), discovered in 1551 in the Via Tiburtina, and now in the Lateran Museum, a work of the time of Alexander Severus.

There is no doubt also that there is a great similarity between the two, in the attitude and inclination of the body, the position of the feet, the style of dress, and even the lines of the folds. But portrait-statues of bronze may belong to any age; because, while the sculptor in marble is obliged to produce a work of his own hands and conception, and the date of a marble statue can therefore be determined by comparison with other well-known works, the caster in bronze can easily reproduce specimens of earlier and better times by taking a mould from a good original, altering the features slightly, and then casting it in excellent bronze. This seems to be the case with this celebrated image. I know that the current opinion makes it contemporary with the erection of Constantine's basilica; but to this I cannot subscribe on account of the comparatively modern shape of the keys. One of two things must be true,--either that these keys are a comparatively recent addition, in which case the statue may be a work of the fourth century, or they were cast together with the figure. If the latter be the fact the statue is of a comparatively recent age. Doubts on the subject might be dispelled by a careful examination of these crucial details, which I have not been able to undertake to my satisfaction.

[Illustration: Bronze Statue of S. Peter.]

The destruction of old S. Peter's is one of the saddest events in the history of the ruin of Rome. It was done at two periods and in two sections, a cross wall being raised in the mean time in the middle of the church to allow divine service to proceed without interruption, while the destruction and the rebuilding of each half was accomplished in successive stages.

[Illustration: Statue of S. Hippolytus.]

The work began April 18, 1506, under Julius II. It took exactly one century to finish the western section, from the partition wall to the apse. The demolition of the eastern section began February 21, 1606. Nine years later, on Palm Sunday, April 12, 1615, the jubilant multitudes witnessed the disappearance of the partition wall, and beheld for the first time the new temple in all its glory.

It seems that Paul V., Borghese, to whom the completion of the great work is due, could not help feeling a pang of remorse in wiping out forever the remains of the Constantinian basilica. He wanted the sacred college to share the responsibility for the deed, and summoned a consistory for September 26, 1605, to lay the case before the cardinals. The report revealed a remarkable state of things. It seems that while the foundations of the right side of the church built by Constantine had firmly withstood the weight and strain imposed upon them, the foundation of the left side, that is, the three walls of the circus of Caligula, which had been built for a different purpose, had yielded to the pressure so that the whole church, with its four rows of columns, was bending sideways from right to left, to the extent of three feet seven inches. The report stated that this inclination could be noticed from the fact that the frescoes of the left wall were covered with a thick layer of dust; it also stated that the ends of the great beams supporting the roof were all rotten and no longer capable of bearing their burden. Then cardinal Cosentino, the dean of the chapter, rose to say that, only a few days before, while mass was being said at the altar of S. Maria della Colonna, a heavy stone had fallen from the window above, and scattered the congregation. The vote of the sacred college was a foregone conclusion. The sentence of death was passed upon the last remains of old S. Peter's; a committee of eight cardinals was appointed to preside over the new building, and nine architects were invited to compete for the design. These were Giovanni and Domenico Fontana, Flaminio Ponzio, Carlo Maderno, Geronimo Rainaldi, Nicola Braconi da Como, Ottavio Turiano, Giovanni Antonio Dosio, and Ludovico Cigoli. The competition was won by Carlo Maderno, much to the regret of the Pope, who was manifestly in favor of his own architect, Flaminio Ponzio. The execution of the work was marked by an extraordinary accident. On Friday, August 27, 1610, a cloud-burst swept the city with such violence that the volume of water which accumulated on the terrace above the basilica, finding no outlet but the winding staircases which pierced the thickness of the walls, rushed down into the nave in roaring torrents and inundated it to a depth of several inches. The Confession and tomb of the apostle were saved only by the strength of the bronze door.

It is very interesting to follow the progress of the work in Grimaldi's diary, to witness with him the opening and destruction of every tomb worthy of note, and to make the inventory of its contents. The monuments were mostly pagan sarcophagi, or bath basins, cut in precious marbles; the bodies of Popes were wrapped in rich robes, and wore the "ring of the fisherman" on the forefinger. Innocent VIII., Giovanni Battista Cibo (1484-1492), was folded in an embroidered Persian cloth; Marcellus II., Cervini (1555), wore a golden mitre; Hadrian IV., Breakspeare (1154-1159), is described as an undersized man, wearing slippers of Turkish make, and a ring with a large emerald. Callixtus III. and Alexander VI., both of the Borgia family, have been twice disturbed in their common grave: the first time by Sixtus V., when he removed the obelisk from the spina of the circus to the piazza; the second by Paul V. on Saturday, January 30, 1610, when their bodies were removed to the Spanish church of Montserrat, with the help of the marquis of Billena, ambassador of Philip III., and of cardinal Çapata.

Grimaldi asserts that Michelangelo's plan of a Greek cross had not only been designed on paper, but actually begun. When Pope Borghese and Carlo Maderno determined upon the Latin cross, not only the foundations of the front had been finished according to Michelangelo's design, but the front itself, with its coating of travertine, had been built to the height of several feet. The construction of the dome was begun on Friday, July 15, 1588, at 4 P. M. The first block of travertine was placed _in situ_ at 8 P. M. of the thirtieth. The cylindrical portion or drum (_tamburo_) which supports the dome proper was finished at midnight of December 17, of the same year, a marvellous feat to have accomplished. The dome itself was begun five days later, and finished in seventeen months. If we remember that the experts of the age had estimated ten years as the time required to accomplish the work, and one million gold scudi as the cost, we wonder at the power of will of Sixtus V., who did it in two years and spent only one fifth of the stated sum.[85] He foresaw that the political persecution from the crown of Spain and the daily assaults, almost brutal in their nature, which he had to endure from count d'Olivare, the Spanish ambassador, would shorten his days, and consequently manifested but one desire: that the dome and the other great works undertaken for the embellishment and sanitation of the city should be finished before his death. Six hundred skilled craftsmen were enlisted to push the work of the dome night and day; they were excused from attending divine service on feast days, Sundays excepted. We may form an idea of the haste felt by all concerned in the enterprise, and of their determination to sacrifice all other interests to speed, by the following anecdote. The masons, being once in need of another receptacle for water, laid their hands on the tomb of Pope Urban VI., dragged the marble sarcophagus under the dome on the edge of a lime-pit, and emptied it of its contents. The golden ring was given to Giacomo della Porta, the architect, the bones were put aside in a corner of the building, and the coffin was used as a tank from 1588 to 1615.

[Illustration: S. PETER'S IN 1588. (From an engraving by Ciampini)]

When we consider that the building-materials--stones, bricks, timber, cement, and water--had to be lifted to a height of four hundred feet, it is no wonder that five hundred thousand pounds of rope should have been consumed, and fifteen tons of iron. The dome was built on a framework of most ingenious design, resting on the cornice of the drum so lightly that it seemed suspended in mid air. One thousand two hundred large beams were employed in it.

Fea and Winckelmann assert that the lead sheets which cover the dome must be renewed eight or ten times in a century. Winckelmann attributes their rapid decay to the corrosive action of the sirocco wind; Fea to the variations in temperature, which cause the lead to melt in summer, and crack in winter.

The size and height, the number of columns, altars, statues, and pictures,--in short, the _mirabilia_ of S. Peter's,--have been greatly exaggerated. There is no necessity of exaggeration when the truth is in itself so astonishing. Readers fond of statistics may consult the works of Briccolani and Visconti.[86] The basilica is approached by a square 1256 feet in diameter. The nave is six hundred and thirteen feet long, eighty-eight wide, one hundred and thirty-three high; the transept is four hundred and forty-nine feet long. The cornice and the mosaic inscription of the frieze are 1943 feet long. The dome towers to the height of four hundred and forty-eight feet above the pavement, with a diameter on the interior of 139.9 feet, a trifle less than that of the Pantheon. The letters on the frieze are four feet eight inches high. The old church contained sixty-eight altars and two hundred and sixty-eight columns; while the modern one contains forty-six altars,--before which one hundred and twenty-one lamps are burning day and night,--and seven hundred and forty-eight columns, of marble, stone and bronze. The statues number three hundred and eighty-six, the windows two hundred and ninety.

It is easy to imagine to what surprising effects of light and shade such vastness of proportion lends itself on the occasion of illuminations. These were made both inside (Holy Thursday and Good Friday) and outside (Easter, and June 29). The outside illumination required the use of forty-four hundred lanterns, and of seven hundred and ninety-one torches, and the help of three hundred and sixty-five men. It has not been seen since 1870. I have heard from old friends who remember the illumination of the interior, which was given up more than half a century ago, that no sight could be more impressive. In the darkness of the night, a cross studded with thirteen hundred and eighty lights shone like a meteor at a prodigious height, while the multitude crowding the church knelt and prayed in silent rapture.

Before leaving the Vatican let me answer a doubt which may naturally have occurred to the mind of the reader, as it has long perplexed the author. After the many vicissitudes to which the place has been subject, from the time of Elagabalus to the pillage of the constable de Bourbon, can we be sure that the body of the founder of the Roman Church is still lying in its grave under the great dome of Michelangelo, under the canopy of Urban VIII., under the high altar of Clement VIII.? After considering the case from its various aspects, and weighing all the circumstances which have attended each of the barbaric invasions, I cannot see any reason why we should disbelieve the popular opinion. The tombs of S. Peter and S. Paul have been exposed but once to imminent danger, and that happened in 846, when the Saracens took possession of their respective churches and plundered them at leisure. Suppose the crusaders had taken possession of Mecca: their first impulse would have been to wipe the tomb of the Prophet from the face of the earth, unless the keepers of the Kaabah, warned of their approach, had time to conceal or protect the grave by one means or another. Unfortunately, we know very little about the Saracenic invasion of 846; still it seems certain that Pope Sergius II. and the Romans were warned days or weeks beforehand of the landing of the infidels, by a despatch from the island of Corsica. Inasmuch as the churches of S. Peter and S. Paul were absolutely defenceless, in their outlying positions, I am sure that steps were taken to conceal or wall in the entrance to the crypts and the crypts themselves, unless the tombs were removed bodily to shelter within the city walls. An argument, very little known but of great value, seems to prove that the relics were saved.

The "Liber Pontificalis" describes, among the gifts of Constantine, a cross of pure gold, weighing one hundred and fifty pounds, which he placed over the gold lid of the coffin. The golden cross bore the following inscription in _niello_ work, "Constantine the emperor and Helena the empress have richly decorated this royal crypt, and the basilica which shelters it." If this precious object is there, the remains must _a fortiori_ be there also. Here comes the decisive test. In the spring of 1594, while Giacomo della Porta was levelling the floor of the church above the Confession, removing at the same time the foundations of the Ciborium of Julius II., the ground gave way, and he saw through the opening what nobody had beheld since the time of Sergius II.,--the grave of S. Peter,--and upon it the golden cross of Constantine. On hearing of the discovery, Pope Clement VIII., accompanied by cardinals Bellarmino, Antoniano, and Sfrondato, descended to the Confession, and with the help of a torch, which Giacomo della Porta had lowered into the hollow space below, could see with his own eyes and could show to his followers the cross, inscribed with the names of Constantine and Helena. The impression produced upon the Pope by this wonderful sight was so great that he caused the opening to be closed at once. The event is attested not only by a manuscript deposition of Torrigio, but also by the present aspect of the place. The materials with which Clement VIII. sealed the opening, and rendered the tomb once more invisible and inaccessible, can still be seen through the "cataract" below the altar.

[Illustration: THE TWO BASILICAS OF S. PAUL The original structure of Constantine in black, that of Theodosius and Honorius shaded]

* * * * *

Wonder has been manifested at the behavior of Constantine towards S. Paul, whose basilica at the second milestone of the Via Ostiensis appears like a pigmy structure in comparison to that of S. Peter. Constantine had no intention of placing S. Paul in an inferior rank, or of showing less honor to his memory. He was compelled by local circumstances to raise a much smaller building to this apostle. As before stated, there were three rules which builders of sacred memorial edifices had to observe: first, that the tomb-altar of the saint in whose honor the building was to be erected should not be molested or moved from its original place either vertically or horizontally; second, that the edifice should be adapted to the tomb so as to give it a place of honor in the centre of the apse; third, that the apse and the front of the edifice should look towards the east. The position of S. Peter's tomb in relation to the circus of Nero and the cliffs of the Vatican was such as to give the builders of the basilica perfect freedom to extend it in all directions, especially lengthwise. This was not the case with that of S. Paul, which was only a hundred feet distant from an obstacle which could not be overcome,--the high-road to Ostia, the channel by which the city of Rome was fed. The road to Ostia ran _east_ of the grave; hence the necessity of limiting the size of the church within these two points. Discoveries made in 1834, when the foundations of the present apse were strengthened, and again in 1850, when the foundations of the baldacchino of Pius IX. were laid,[87] have enabled Signor Paolo Belloni, the architect, to reconstruct the plan of the original building of Constantine. His memoir[88] is full of useful information well illustrated. One of his illustrations, representing the comparative plans of the original and modern churches, is here reproduced.

The plan needs no comment, but one particular cannot be omitted. In the course of the excavations for the baldacchino, the remains of classical columbaria were found a few feet from the grave of the apostle, with their inscriptions still in place. He must, therefore, have been buried, like S. Peter, in a private area, surrounded by pagan tombs.

In 386 Valentinian, Theodosius, and Arcadius asked Flavius Sallustius, prefect of the city, to submit to the Senate and the people a scheme for the reconstruction _a fundamentis_ of the basilica, so as to make it equal in size and beauty to that of the Vatican. To fulfil this project, without disturbing either the grave of the apostle or the road to Ostia, there was but one thing to do; this was to change the orientation of the church from east to west, and extend it at pleasure towards the bank of the Tiber. The consent of the S. P. Q. R. was easily obtained, and the magnificent temple, which lasted until the fire of July 15, 1823, was thus raised so as to face in a direction opposite to the usual one.

[Illustration: The Burning of S. Paul's, July 15, 1823. (From an old print.)]

The name of Pope Siricius, who was then governing the church, can still be seen engraved on one of the columns, formerly in the left aisle, now in the north vestibule:--


Another rare monument of historical value, in spite of its humble origin, came to light at the beginning of the last century, and was published by Bianchini and Muratori, who failed, however, to explain its meaning. It is a brass label once tied to a dog's collar, with the inscription "[I belong] to the basilica of Paul the apostle, rebuilt by our three sovereigns [Valentinianus, Theodosius, and Arcadius]. I am in charge of Felicissimus the shepherd." Such inscriptions were engraved on the collars of dogs, and slaves, so that in case they ran away from their masters, their legal ownership would be known at once by the police, or whoever chanced to catch them.

In course of time the basilica became the centre of a considerable group of buildings, especially of monasteries and convents. There were also chapels, baths, fountains, hostelries, porticoes, cemeteries, orchards, farmhouses, stables, and mills. This small suburban city was exposed to a constant danger of pillage, on account of its location on the high-road from the coast. In 846 it was ransacked by the Saracens, before the Romans could come to the rescue. For these considerations, Pope John VIII. (872-882) determined to put the church of S. Paul and its surroundings under shelter, and to raise a fort that could also command the approach to Rome from this most dangerous side.

The construction of Johannipolis, by which the history of the classical and early mediæval fortifications of Rome is brought to a close, is described by one document only: an inscription above the gate of the castle, which was copied first by Cola di Rienzo, and later by Pietro Sabino, professor of rhetoric in the Roman archigymnasium (Sapienza), towards the end of the fifteenth century. A few fragments of this remarkable document are still preserved in the cloister of the monastery. It states that Pope John VIII. raised a wall for the defence of the basilica of S. Paul's and the surrounding churches, convents, and hospices, in imitation of that built by Leo IV. for the protection of the Vatican suburb. The determination to fortify the sacred buildings at the second milestone of the Via Ostiensis was taken, as I have just said, in consequence of the inroads of the Saracens, which, under the pontificate of John, had become so frequent. The atrocities which marked their second landing on the Roman coast were so appalling that the whole of Europe was shaken with terror. Having failed in his attempt to secure help from Charles the Bald, John placed himself at the head of such scanty forces as he could gather from land and sea, under the pressure of events. Ships from several harbors in the Mediterranean met in the roads of Ostia; and on hearing that the hostile fleet had sailed from the bay of Naples, the Pope set sail at once. The gallant little squadron confronted the infidels under the cliffs of Cape Circeo, and inflicted upon them such a bloody defeat that the danger was averted, at least for a time. The church galleys came back to the mouth of the Tiber, laden with a considerable booty.

It seems that the advance fort of Johannipolis was finished and consecrated by Pope John soon after the naval battle of Cape Circeo (A. D. 877), because the inscription above referred to speaks of him as a _triumphant_ leader,--SEDIS APOSTOLICÆ PAPA JOHANNES OVANS.

The location of this fortified outpost could not have been more judiciously selected. It commanded the roads from Ostia, Laurentum, and Ardea, those, namely, from which the pirates could most easily approach the city. It commanded also the water-way by the Tiber, and the towpaths on each of its banks. It is a great pity that no stone of this historical wall should be left standing. It saved the city from further invasions of the African pirates, as the _agger_ of Servius Tullius had saved it, centuries before, from the attacks of the Carthaginians. I have examined the ground between S. Paul's, the Fosso di Grotta Perfetta, the Vigna de Merode, at the back of the apse, and the banks of the river, without finding a trace of the fortification. I believe, however, that the wall which encloses the garden of the monastery on the south side runs on the same line with John's defences, and rests on their foundations. We must not wonder at the disappearance of Johannipolis, when we have proofs that even the quadri-portico, by which the basilica was entered from the riverside, has been allowed to disappear through the negligence and slovenliness of the monks. Pope Leo I. erected in the centre of the quadri-portico a fountain crowned by a Bacchic Kantharos, and wrote on its epistyle a brilliant epigram, inviting the faithful to purify themselves bodily and spiritually, before presenting themselves to the apostle within. When Cola di Rienzo visited the spot, towards the middle of the fourteenth century, the monument was still in good condition. He calls it "the vase of waters (_cantharus aquarum_), before the main entrance (of the church) of the blessed Paul." One century later the whole structure had become a heap of ruins. Fra Giocondo da Verona looked in vain for the inscription of Leo I.; he could only find a fragment "lying among the nettles and thorns" (_inter orticas et spineta_). The same indifference was shown towards the edifices by which the basilica was surrounded. They fell, or were overthrown, one by one.

In 1633, when Giovanni Severano wrote his book on the Seven Churches, only one bit of ruins could be identified, the door and apse of the church of S. Stephen, to which a powerful convent had once been attached. Stranger still is the total destruction of the portico, two thousand yards long, which connected the city gate--the Porta Ostiensis--with the basilica. This portico was supported by marble columns, one thousand at least, and its roof was covered with sheets of lead. Halfway between the gate and S. Paul's, it was intersected by a church, dedicated to an Egyptian martyr, S. Menna. The church of S. Menna, the portico, its thousand columns, even its foundation walls, have been totally destroyed. A document discovered by Armellini in the archives of the Vatican says that some faint traces of the building (_vestigia et parietes_) could be still recognized in the time of Urban VI. This is the last mention made by an eye-witness.

Here, also, we find the evidence of the gigantic work of destruction pursued for centuries by the Romans themselves, which we have been in the habit of attributing to the barbarians alone. The barbarians have their share of responsibility in causing the abandonment and the desolation of the Campagna; they may have looted and damaged some edifices, from which there was hope of a booty; they may have profaned churches and oratories erected over the tombs of martyrs; but the wholesale destruction, the obliteration of classical and mediæval monuments, is the work of the Romans and of their successive rulers. To them, more than to the barbarians, we owe the present condition of the Campagna, in the midst of which Rome remains like an oasis in a barren solitude.

S. Paul was executed on the Via Laurentina, near some springs called _Aquæ Salviæ_, where a memorial chapel was raised in the fifth century. Its foundations were discovered in 1867, under the present church of S. Paolo alle Tre Fontane (erected in the seventeenth century by Cardinal Aldobrandini) together with historical inscriptions written in Latin and Armenian. I have also to mention another curious discovery. The apocryphal Greek Acts of S. Paul, edited by Tischendorff,[89] assert that the apostle was beheaded near these springs under a stone pine. In 1875, while the Trappists, who are now intrusted with the care of the Abbey of the Tre Fontane, were excavating for the foundations of a water-tank behind the chapel, they found a mass of coins of Nero, together with several pine-cones fossilized by age, and by the pressure of the earth.

[Illustration: Tombstone of S. Paul.]

The "Liber Pontificalis," i. 178, asserts that Constantine placed the body of S. Paul in a coffin of solid bronze; but no visible trace of it is left. I had the privilege of examining the actual grave December 1, 1891, lowering myself from the _fenestella_ under the altar. I found myself on a flat surface, paved with slabs of marble, on one of which (placed negligently in a slanting direction) are engraved the words: PAVLO APOSTOLO MART···

The inscription belongs to the fourth century. It has been illustrated since by my kind and learned friend, Prof. H. Grisar, to whom I am indebted for much valuable information on subjects which do not come exactly within my line of studies.[90]

IV. HOUSES OF CONFESSORS AND MARTYRS. This class of sacred buildings has been splendidly illustrated by the discoveries made by Padre Germano dei Passionisti under the church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo on the Cælian. The good work of Padre Germano is not unknown in America, thanks to Prof. A. L. Frothingham, who has described it in the "American Journal of Archæology." The discoverer himself will shortly publish a voluminous account with the title: _La casa dei SS. Giovanni e Paolo sul monte celio_.

The church has the place of honor in early itineraries of pilgrims, because of its peculiarity in containing a martyr's tomb _within_ the walls of the city. William of Malmesbury says: "Inside the city, on the Cælian hill, John and Paul, martyrs, lay in their own house, which was made into a church after their death." The Salzburg Itinerary describes the church as "very large and beautiful." The account of the lives of the two brothers, and of their execution under Julian the apostate, is apocryphal; but no one who has seen Padre Germano's excavations will deny the essential fact, that in this noble Roman house of the Cælian some one was put to death for his faith, and that over the room in which the event took place a church was built at a later age.

Tradition attributes its construction to Pammachius, son of Bizantes, the charitable senator, and friend of S. Jerome, who built an hospice at Porto for the use of pilgrims landing from countries beyond the sea. The church, according to the rule, was not named from the martyrs to whose memory it was sacred, but from the founders; and it became known first as the _Titulus Bizantis_, later as the _Titulus Pammachii._

Strictly speaking, there was no transformation, but a mere superstructure. The Roman house was left intact, with its spacious halls, and classical decorations, to be used as a crypt, while the basilica was raised to a much higher level. The murder of the saints seems to have taken place in a narrow passage (_fauces_) not far from the _tablinum_ or reception room. Here we see the _fenestella confessionis_, by means of which pilgrims were allowed to behold and touch the venerable grave. Two things strike the modern visitor: the variety of the fresco decorations of the house, which begin with pagan genii holding festoons, a tolerably good work of the third century, and end with stiff, uncanny representations of the Passion, of the ninth and tenth centuries; second, the fact that such an important monument should have been buried and forgotten, so that its discovery by Padre Germano took us by surprise. The upper church, the "beautiful and great" Titulus Pammachii, was treated with almost equal contempt by Cardinal Camillo Paolucci and his architect, Antonio Canevari, who "modernized" it at the end of the seventeenth century. The "spirit of the age" which lured these _seicento_ men into committing such archæological and artistic blunders, placed no boundary upon its evil work. It attacked equally the great mediæval structures and their contents. To quote one instance: in the vestibule of this church was the tomb of Luke, cardinal of SS. Giovanni e Paolo, the friend of S. Bernard, the legate at the council of Clermont. It was composed of an ancient sarcophagus, resting on two marble lions. During the "modernization" of the seventeenth century, the coffin was turned into a water-trough, and cut half-way across so as to make it fit the place for which it was intended. Had it not happened that the inscription was copied by Bruzio before the mutilation of the coffin, we should have remained entirely ignorant of its connection with the illustrious friend of S. Bernard. But let us forget these sad experiences, and step into the beautiful garden of the convent, which, large as it is, with its dreamy avenues of ilexes, its groves of cypress and laurel, and its luxuriant vineyards, is all included within the limits of one ancient temple, that of the Emperor Claudius (_Claudium_).

The view from the edge of the lofty platform over the Coliseum, the Temple of Venus and Rome, and the slopes of the Palatine, is fascinating beyond conception, and as beautiful as a dream. No better place could be chosen for the study of the next class of Roman places of worship, which comprises:--

V. PAGAN MONUMENTS CONVERTED INTO CHURCHES. The experience gained in twenty-five years of active exploration in ancient Rome, both above and below ground, enables me to state that every pagan building which was capable of giving shelter to a congregation was transformed, at one time or another, into a church or a chapel. Smaller edifices, like temples and mausoleums, were adapted bodily to their new office, while the larger ones, such as thermæ, theatres, circuses, and barracks were occupied in parts only. Let not the student be deceived by the appearance of ruins which seem to escape this rule; if he submits them to a patient investigation, he will always discover traces of the work of the Christians. How many times have I studied the so-called Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli without detecting the faint traces of the figures of the Saviour and the four saints, which now appear to me distinctly visible in the niche of the cella. And again, how many times have I looked at the Temple of Neptune in the Piazza di Pietra,[91] without noticing a tiny figure of Christ on the cross in one of the flutings of the fourth column on the left. It seems to me that, at one period, there must have been more churches than habitations in Rome.

I shall ask the reader to walk over the Sacra Via from the foot of the Temple of Claudius, on the ruins of which we are still sitting, to the summit of the Capitol, and see what changes time has wrought on the surroundings of this pathway of the gods.

The Coliseum, which we meet first, on our right, was bristling with churches. There was one at the foot of the Colossus of the Sun, where the bodies of the two Persian martyrs, Abdon and Sennen, were exposed at the time of the persecution of Decius. There were four dedicated to the Saviour (_S. Salvator in Tellure_, _de Trasi_, _de Insula_, _de rota Colisei_), a sixth to S. James, a seventh to S. Agatha (_ad caput Africæ_), besides other chapels and oratories within the amphitheatre itself.

Proceeding towards the Summa Sacra Via and the Arch of Titus we find a church of S. Peter nestled in the ruins of the vestibule of the Temple of Venus (the S. Maria Nova of later times).

Popular tradition connected this church with the alleged fall of Simon the magician,--so vividly represented in Francesco Vanni's picture, in the Vatican,--and two cavities were pointed out in one of the paving-stones of the road, which were said to have been made by the knees of the apostle when he was imploring God to chastise the impostor. The paving-stone is now kept in the church of S. Maria Nova. Before its removal from the original place it gave rise to a curious custom. People believed that rainwater collected in the two holes was a miracle-working remedy; and crowds of ailing wretches gathered around the place at the approach of a shower.

On the opposite side of the road, remains of a large church can still be seen at the foot of the Palatine, among the ruins of the baths attributed to Elagabalus. Higher up, on the platform once occupied by the "Gardens of Adonis" and now by the Vigna Barberini, we can visit the church of S. Sebastiano, formerly called that of S. Maria in Palatio or in Palladio.

I am unable to locate exactly another famous church, that of S. Cesareus de Palatio, the private chapel which Christian emperors substituted for the classic Lararium (described in "Ancient Rome," p. 127). Here were placed the images of the Byzantine princes, sent from Constantinople to Rome, to represent in a certain way their rights. The custody of these was intrusted to a body of Greek monks. Their monastery became at one time very important, and was chosen by ambassadors and envoys from the east and from southern Italy as their residence during their stay in Rome.

The basilica of Constantine is another example of this transformation. Nibby, who conducted the excavations of 1828, saw traces of religious paintings in the apse of the eastern aisle. They are scarcely discernible now.

The temple of the Sacra Urbs, and the heroön of Romulus, son of Maxentius, became a joint church of SS. Cosma and Damiano, during the pontificate of Felix IV. (526-530); the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina was dedicated to S. Lorenzo; the Janus Quadrifrons to S. Dionysius, the hall of the Senate to S. Adriano, the offices of the Senate to S. Martino, the Mamertine prison to S. Peter, the Temple of Concord to SS. Sergio e Bacco.

The same practice was followed with regard to the edifices on the opposite side of the road. The Virgin Mary was worshipped in the Templum divi Augusti, in the place of the deified founder of the empire; and also in the Basilica Julia, the northern vestibule of which was transformed into the church of S. Maria de Foro. Finally, the Ærarium Saturni transmitted its classic denomination to the church of S. Salvatore in Ærario.

In drawing sheet no. xxix. of my archæological map of Rome, which represents the region of the Sacra Via, I have had as much to do with Christian edifices as with pagan ruins.[92]

VI. MEMORIALS OF HISTORICAL EVENTS. The first commemorative chapel erected in Rome is perhaps contemporary with the Arch of Constantine, and refers to the same event, the victory gained by the first Christian emperor over Maxentius in the plain of the Tiber, near Torre di Quinto.

[Illustration: Statue of Constantine the Great.]

The existence of this chapel, called the _Oratorium Sanctæ Crucis_ ("the oratory of the holy cross"), is frequently alluded to in early church documents. The name must have originated from a monumental cross erected on the battlefield, in memory of Constantine's vision of the "sign of Christ" (the monogram [Symbol: Christ]). In the procession which took place on S. Mark's day, from the church of S. Lorenzo in Lucina to S. Peter's, through the Via Flaminia and across the Ponte Milvio, the first halt was made at S. Valentine's,[93] the second at the chapel of the Holy Cross. The "Liber Pontificalis," in the Life of Leo III. (795-816), speaks of this strange ceremony. It was called the "great litany," and occurred on the twenty-third of April, the day on which the Romans used to celebrate the Robigalia. The Christian litany and the pagan ceremony had the same purpose, that of securing the blessing of Heaven upon the fields, and averting from them the pernicious effects of late spring frosts. The rites were nearly the same, the principal one being a procession which left Rome by the Porta Flaminia, and passed across the Ponte Milvio to a suburban sanctuary. The end of the pagan pilgrimage was a temple of the god Robigus or the goddess Robigo, situated at the fifth milestone of the Via Claudia; that of the Christian the monumental cross near the same road, and ultimately the basilica of S. Peter's. In course of time the oratory and cross lost their genuine meaning; they were thought to mark the spot on which the miraculous vision had appeared to Constantine on the eve of battle. This was not the case, however, because Eusebius, to whom the emperor himself described the event, says that the luminous sign appeared to him before the commencement of military operations, which means before he crossed the Alps and took possession of Susa, Turin, and Vercelli. But, if the heavenly apparition of the "sign of Christ" on Monte Mario is historically without foundation, the existence of the oratory is not. Towards the end of the twelfth century it was in a ruinous state, and converted probably into a stable or a hay-loft. The last archæologist who mentions it is Seroux d'Agincourt. He describes the ruins "on the slopes of the hill of the Villa Madama," and gives a sketch of the paintings which appeared here and there on the broken walls. Armellini and myself have explored the beautiful woods of the Villa Madama in all directions without finding a trace of the building. It was probably destroyed in the disturbances of 1849.

The noble house of the Millini, to whom the Mons Vaticanus owes its present name of Monte Mario (from Mario Millini, son of Pietro and grandson of Saba), while building their villa on the highest ridge, in 1470, raised a chapel in place of the one which had been profaned, and called it Santa Croce a Monte Mario. It was held in great veneration by the Romans, who made pilgrimages to it in times of public calamities, such as the famous plague (_contagio-moria)_ of Alexander VII. I well remember this interesting little church, before its disappearance in 1880. Its pavement, according to the practice of the time, was inlaid with inscriptions from the catacombs, whole or in fragments, twenty-four of which are now preserved in the Lipsanotheca (Palazzo del Vicario, Piazza di S. Agostino). They contain a curious list of names, like _Putiolanus_ (so called from his birth-place, Pozzuoli) or _Stercoria_, a name which seems to have been taken up by devout people, as a sign of humility. Another inscription over the door of the sacristy spoke of a restoration of the building in 1696; a third, composed by Pietro and Mario Mellini in 1470, sang the praises of the cross. The most important record, however, was engraved on a slab of marble at the left of the entrance:--

"This oratory was first built in the year of the jubilee, MCCCL, by Pontius, bishop of Orvieto and vicar of the city of Rome."

The inscription, besides proving that the removal of the oratory from its original site to the summit of the mountain had been accomplished before the age of the Millini, is the only historical record of the jubilee of 1350, which attracted to Rome enormous multitudes, so that pilgrims' camps had to be provided both inside and outside the walls. Petrarca and king Louis of Hungary (then on his way back from Apulia) were among the visitors. Bishop Pontius of Orvieto, Ponzio Perotti, is also an historical man. He was intrusted with the government of the city in consequence of the attempted assassination of his predecessor, cardinal Annibaldo, by a partisan of Cola di Rienzo.

This chapel, to which so many interesting souvenirs were attached, which owed its origin to one of the greatest battles in history, which commanded one of the finest panoramas in the world, is no more. It was sacrificed in 1880 to the necessity of raising a fortress on the hill. No sign is left to mark its place.


[60] In volume ix. of the _Spicilegium romanum_, pp. 384-468.

[61] Baldwin Brown: _From Schola to Cathedral_, p. 1. Edinburgh, Douglas, 1886.

[62] See de Rossi: _Bullettino di archeologia cristiana_, 1867, p. 46; _Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum_, vi. no. 1454.--Spalletti: _Tavola ospitale trovata in Roma sull' Aventino._ Roma, Salomoni, 1777 (p. 34).--Lanciani: _The Atlantic Monthly_, July, 1891.--Armellini: _Chiese_, first edition, p. 500.

[63] 2 Timothy, iv. 21.

[64] Gaspare Celio: _Memoria dei nomi degli artefici_, p. 81. Napoli, Bonino, 1638.

[65] See Duchesne: _Liber pontificalis_, vol. i. pp. 132, 133.--De Era: _Storia di S. Pudenziana_, two MSS. volumes in the library of S. Bernardo alle Terme.--Bartolini: _Sopra l'antichissimo altare di legno della basilica lateranense._ Roma, 1852.--De Rossi: _Bullettino di archeologia cristiana_, 1867, p. 49; _Musaici delle chiese di Roma._--Pellegrini: _Scavi nelle terme di Novato_, in the _Bullettino dell' Instituto_, 1870, p. 161.

[66] See Lorenzo Fortunati: _Relazione degli scavi e scoperte fatte lungo la via Latina._ Roma, 1859.

[67] Baldwin Brown: _ubi supra_, p. 17.

[68] Dionysii: _Vaticanæ basilicæ cryptarum monumenta_, pl. xxvii.--De Rossi: _Inscriptiones Christianæ urbis Romæ_, ii. p. 56, 350, 411.--Duchesne: _Liber pontificalis_, i. cxxii.

[69] See Eugene Müntz: _Ricerche intorno ai lavori archeologici di Giacomo Grimaldi_. Firenze, 1881.--The best autograph work of Grimaldi, dedicated to Paul V. in 1618, belongs to the Barberini library, and is marked xxxiv. 50.

[70] The author of _Le Latran, dans le moyen âge_.

[71] S. Pietro Montorio, rebuilt towards 1472, by Ferdinand IV. and Isabella of Spain, from the designs of Baccio Pontelli, stands on the site of an older church.

[72] _Chiese di Roma_, 1st edition, p. 520.

[73] "Collocate e poste una appresso all' altra con diligenza e cura esatta."

[74] Francesco Maria Torrigio: _Le sacre grotte vaticane_, p. 64. Roma, 1639.

[75] _Le liber pontificalis: Texte, introduction et commentaire par l'abbé L. Duchesne._ Paris, Thorin, 1886-1892.

[76] The letters LINVS might be the termination of a longer name, like [ANUL]LINVS or [MARCEL]LINVS.

[77] See Lampridius: _Heliog_, 23.

[78] See p. 345 sq.

[79] _Liber Pontificalis_, Silvester, xvi. p. 176.

[80] Pietro Mallio says that they came from the Temple of Apollo in Troy. This statement, however absurd, confirms the opinion that the tradition about Solomon's Temple is of modern origin. It seems that Constantine's canopy was borne by only six columns, and that the other six were added at the time of Gregory III.

[81] Venuti: _Ragionamento sopra la pina di bronzo_, etc., in the _Codex Vaticanus_ 9024.--Gayet Lacour: _La pigna du Vatican_, in the _Mélanges de l'Ecole française_, 1881, p. 312.--Lanciani: _Il Pantheon e le terme di Agrippa_, in the _Notizie degli scavi_, 1882.--De Rossi: _Inscriptiones christianæ urbis Romæ_, vol. ii., 428-430.--Gori: _Archivio storico artistico_, 1881, p. 230.

[82] _Numismata summorum pontificum templi vaticani fabricam indicantia_, by Philippus Bonanni. Rome, 1696.

[83] See _Bullettino di archeologia cristiana_, 1867, p. 33, sq.--_Idem_, 1883, p. 90.

[84] De Rossi: _Inscriptiones christianæ_, ii. p. 428-430.--Febeo: _De identitate cathedræ S. Petri_, Rome, 1666.--Cancellieri: _De secretariis_, p. 1245.

[85] But Sixtus V. (+ 1590) did not complete the lantern surmounting the dome, upon which the gilded cross was placed November 18, 1593.

[86] Vincenzo Briccolani: _Descrizione della basilica vaticana_, third ed. Roma, 1816.--Pietro Ercole Visconti: _Metrologia vaticana_. Roma, 1828.

[87] The baldacchino raised with questionable taste above the ciborium of Arnolfo di Cambio, a pupil of Nicolò Pisano (A. D. 1285), rests on four columns of Oriental alabaster, from the quarries of Sannhur, in the district of the Beni Souef, offered to Gregory XVI. by Mohammed Ali, viceroy of Egypt. The pedestals are inlaid with malachite, a present from the emperor Nicholas of Russia.

[88] _Sulla grandezza e disposizione della primitiva basilica ostiense_. Roma, 1835.

[89] _Acta apost. apocrif._ p. 1-39. Lipsiæ, 1851.

[90] See: _Die Grabplatte des h. Paulus: neue Studien über die römischen Apostelgräber_, von H. Grisar, S. I. In the _Römische Quartalschrift_, 1892. Heft. I., II.

[91] See chapter ii., p. 99.

[92] My map of ancient Rome (scale 1:1000), which has cost me twenty-five years of labor, will be published in forty-six sheets measuring 0.90 m. × 0.60 m. each. The first, comprising sheets nos. iii., x., xvii., xxiii., xxx., and xxxvi. (from the gardens of Sallust to the Macellum Magnum on the Cælian), will be ready in May, 1893. The plan is drawn in five colors, referring respectively to the royal, republican, imperial, mediæval and modern epochs.

[93] The basilica of S. Valentine, discovered in 1886, by our archæological commission, is mentioned on p. 120 of the present volume.


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