A Glimpse Of Rome
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
ROME has swayed the whole world four different times.
In early days her legions took nation after nation captive and subjected them to Roman rule. Later all bowed down and adopted her great laws so that even today in our law courts one recognizes her jurisprudence. At another period she was acknowledged to be the home of art and the artistic center of the universe, and again her power was felt once more in her religious influence, for Rome became the head of the Christian world, and her authority in the church was as undisputed as her military commands had formerly been.
At every turn one is reminded here of "the days when to be a Roman was greater than to be a king." Relics of this might and grandeur are on all sides, and it is a striking contrast to picture the men as they were, and then to see them as they are. They were first, last and supposedly always to be a race of great warriors. The legend of Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome, claims both were the sons of Mars, god of war, hence the Roman idea of glory was always the glory of conquest, with triumphal arches and columns to commemorate their victories. Now, with the exception of the officers, the majority of Italian soldiers are small-framed, dirty and indolent-looking, and they will surely never stand on pedestals for future sightseers to admire.
Rome is haunted by tragedy. Here more than in any other place in the world one feels the heart throbs of history. Ampere said that in ten years one could get a superficial idea of the city, but one should remain twenty years to learn any-thing worth writing. Trajan's column still stands where Constantine the Great, before moving his capitol to Constantinople from Rome, proclaimed his conversion to Christianity in 312, and thereby planted the seed that resulted in the harvest of about three hundred and fifty churches in Rome today. To rebuild, the people never entirely tore down, so every section of each building is of another age and for another purpose, and the crumbling wonders of the past still stand triumphant among the marvels of modern architecture.
Everything in St. Peter's was planned in proportion to its vast surroundings, consequently one cannot appreciate at first its immensity, nor realize an ocean steamer could be put in this Cathedral with room left on all sides. The pen held by one of the statues is seven feet and the little cherubs are really giants in measurement. There arc three hundred and ninety beautiful statues and forty-four chapels inside its walls, the richly-colored marbles give a tone of exquisite harmony, and the dome is unequaled in any other building. Michael Angelo needed no other monument to his ability. It stands out as the master-work of a mighty master-hand.
Then you learn that the Vatican is still larger, but the human mind cannot easily grasp such colossal dimensions. There are twenty courts and two hundred and eighty stairways, and though it is known as the residence of the Pope, his apartments are but one tiny part of the great whole. It is the richest treasure house in existence, and the rooms are so endless one longs for Puss' Seven League Boots to cover the distance. In the great library are over twenty-eight thousand manuscripts, as well as the oldest known Bible. It is in Greek and absolutely priceless. Then there is Cicero's "Republic" in the original, Michael Angelo's poems (one recalls how he longed to be a writer instead of an artist), autographs of Tasso, Petrach, and dozens of other ancient writers. Not the least interesting documents in the glass cases are the love letters of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. of England, written. in old French, then the language of the English court. The seductive young woman learned soon' after how short-lived was the monarch's fancy, when her head was on the block and he was hurrying away to capture another wife. Cardinal Wolsey sent these letters to the Pope a few years later, and after six hundred years people are still gazing at them. Various presents from different sovereigns to their Popes are scattered through this great hall, including malachite vases from Czars of Russia, Berlin porcelain from rulers of Germany, and a fount of the most exquisite Sevres china from which the Prince Imperial of France was baptised.
Up-stairs are the wonderful paintings and statues. "Art; is long," in Rome, and the thousand wonderful statues that, were once ground for cement by usurpers are now neither missed nor needed. The "Apollo Belvedere," the "Laocoon" and "Father Nile," are the best known pieces among the statuary, while the greatest painting is Raphael's "Transfiguration" which was carried in his funeral procession as a proof of his fame. He was called upon, too, to fresco the papal state apartments, and they are counted among the wonders of Rome. These rooms are always known as Raphael's Stanzes and they depict great scenes from the lives of the Popes; the conversion 'of Constantine; his giving the city of Rome over to the Pope; Attila the Hun; and many other famous subjects. Few sightseers find, though it is here, the wonderful Raphael tapestry which was made from a cartoon by that artist. It is a glowing picture, from scenes in the New Testament, as marvelous as his frescoes, but the young artist died shortly after, before, unfortunately, he had finished all his work on the Stanzes.
The Sistine Chapel takes its name from its founder, Sixtus IV., and there the Pope pre-sides when he is called upon to perform any ceremony. Michael Angelo did the ceiling with scenes from the Creation, etc., then after the length of thirty years the old man was called back to add to his triumph and ! though protesting he was only a sculptor, and not a painter, , he exceeded even himself in the "Last Judgment," on the end wall. His great statue of Moses is in the church of St. Pietro in Vincoli; in fact one sees so many evidences of his work and so many great buildings erected by his skill, one appreciates 1 why Mark Twain said he understood Italy had been made from designs by Michael Angelo!
The ruins of the Baths of Caracalla and Diocletian are so vast that the original buildings must have been appalling in their size. Indeed so extensive were the baths of Rome that sixty thousand people could wash at the same time; so luxurious were they that meals were served, lectures given in them and many hours of the day were spent over these ablutions; but wash as they did for physical purity they never cleansed themselves of that immorality that brought the degeneracy of Rome. A cold plunge in the Tiber had satisfied their forefathers, and they were the mightiest Romans of them all.
Leo XIII lies in a simple marble coffin over a door in St. Peter's, where all Popes are placed until their tombs are ready. He desired to be buried in the Lateran, a church in which he made many improvements, for it was very dear to his heart as the resting place of his ideal, Pope Innocent III., whom he strove to imitate, and he is to be entombed opposite his model. Since his death, many changes have been made in this, the oldest church in Rome, hence called the Mother Church, for Leo left in his will quite a sum for its embellishment. The skulls are pre-served here of St. Peter and St. Paul, also the baptismal fount used by Constantine the Great, and in a building ad-joining, one sees the holy of holies—the stairway from Pilate's house in Jerusalem, down which the Lord walked while the blood dropped from his scourged body. This old relic is now covered with glass and pilgrims come from all over the world to climb up it on their hands and knees, kissing the blood stains in hope of absolution.
The monument of Victor Emmanuel I I. at the head of the Corso is so mammoth that after years of toil and the payment of millions of dollars, only the carving on the great marble pedestal is nearing completion. Lack of courage to tax the people for more money to finish it, delays the work on the colossal horse and rider. It is to be so high it will be seen from great distances, and is intended to eclipse all other monuments in Italy.
The popular fancy that American millionaires are richer than men have ever been before, pales before the Roman records of Prince Doria, accommodating one thousand in his palace outside the family apartments; of Cicero owning four-teen different villas, and of Caesar being able to feed the populace at twenty-five thousand tables at once, after his victories. When the conquerors, returning with the enormous and priceless spoils of war, came down the Appian Way with gold chariots, elephants, camels, horses, jewels, and thousands of prisoners from the different nations in subjection, a slave always whispered in their ear, least they should grow giddy, being the center of such dazzling display, "Remember, thou too art mortal !"
Every afternoon a long stream of carriages goes through the old square of the Popolo with scarcely a glance from the occupants at the familiar Obelisk that was one of eleven brought to Rome from Egypt, neither do they see the arch near by that was put up nearly four hundred years ago for the triumphal entry of that eccentric personage, Queen Christina of Sweden. This procession of turnouts then winds its way back and forth up the steep hill of the Pincio, and there in the warm sunlight amid the palms and the trees and the flowers, these fashionables take little interest in admiring the picturesque fountains, the graceful swans or the extravagant number of old statues, for they are on pleasure bent, more to be seen than to see. This is the daily drive of the wealthy aristocracy of Rome, and the old Dowager Princesses come forth in such attire and equipages as only the wealth of Rome can command, while mingling in the cosmopolitan crowd one notices many American millionaires, who following the dictates of fashion, spend the winter in Rome and contrive during these daily outings "to look supernaturally grand."
In old Rome the finest homes were built on the Palatine hill, and in time took from a corruption of that word the name of palaces. The old Roman days of splendor are recalled by visits today to the magnificent residences scattered through the city. Gloomy, dark and unattractive on the exterior, those on the outside little know what treasures they hide, and often tourists going through what they think an unimportant back street with deserted old stone buildings, are passing the abodes of the richest families of Rome. Thus the Doria, Colonna and Corsini palaces should not be missed.
One goes to the Barberini to see Guido Reni's famous portrait of "Beatrice di Cenci;" Raphael's love, the "Fonorina," and Andrea del Sarto's beautiful "Holy Family," while in the home of the old Rospigliosa family is Guido Reni's "Aurora" of which so many have copies. The Villa Borghese was at one time the home of Napoleon Bonaparte's sister Pauline, as she married a prince of Borghese. Canova's lovely statue of her as Venus, is considered by many to be the most beautiful marble in Rome of a woman. Among the other treasures in this palace are Bernini's exquisite "Apollo and Daphne," rep-resenting her just as the gods have heard her prayer and to save her from Apollo are turning her into a laurel tree. One sees leaves coming out on her arms, and her skin turning into bark.
Up-stairs are Titian's "Sacred and Profane Love," that Mr. Pierpont Morgan made such a determined effort to secure, and Raphael's "Entombment," which, with Correggio's "Danae," rank first in this collection of great paintings and marbles. The King has lately purchased the palace which is now a museum, and with its grounds has named it the Villa Umberto, in memory of his late father.
It is open daily to sightseers, while the beautiful park, fragrant with flowers, makes an ideal drive, where one sees the beauty of nature contrasted in the late afternoon with fashion's arts. Another well-known drive in Rome is out to the Villa Pamphilj-Doria, where the grounds are miles in circumference and game abounds, while the parts under cultivation are a veritable masterpiece of landscape gardening.
The Carnival is rapidly dying out, but it is still Folly's reign, a last chance of which many avail themselves, to sin before Lent. One sees groups of fancy-dressed masquers dancing and singing in the streets and up to all kinds of tricks and pranks, climbing on the carriages, throwing kisses and pelting their victims with confetti, but beyond attending a few extra fetes, the majority of the people now let it come and go unnoticed, and only children and the idle still take it seriously.
The Quirinale has only been occupied by the royal family since 1870, for previous to that time it belonged to the Pope, and many evidences of its ecclesiastical owners remain. It is a very old building, but the state rooms have been done over to suit modern taste, and apart from its interest as being the home of the King it occasions little enthusiasm.
Among the modern efforts in Rome is the tunnel under the Quirinale Gardens to make a short cut through the city. It is lined with white tiles and is brilliantly lighted (according to the enthusiastic Italians) by a few and far between arc lights. It saves tramways, carriages and pedestrians going around many blocks, but some one has pointed out what a bad idea to put the tunnel under the Royal Gardens in these days of anarchists and bombs—of which Italy has the largest known product.
KING OF ITALY
Queen Margherita, after the assassination of her husband, Humbert, in 1900, moved from the Quirinale to a fine modern palace at the entrance of the grounds of the Villa Borghese. She is so lovely and charmingly gracious to all, that she is the idol of the nation, and it is a well-known saying that her smile held Italy together, for even in her retired widow-hood she occasions as much admiration as the present Queen, her daughter-in-law.
Her son, Victor Emmanuel III., is proving himself an able ruler, but with the heavy taxes and distressing ignorance throughout the country, the improvement of present conditions is necessarily slow. The emigration to America has assumed alarming proportions, nevertheless the population is not de-creasing, and with the introduction of the silk and beet sugar industries, brighter times are undoubtedly in store for the masses. The Queen was Princess Helena of Montenegro, a woman educated at the Russian Court, and so well informed and attractive that her husband seeks no outside diversion, and with her two little girls, Yolande and Mafalda, and the long expected heir, the baby Humbert, they form an unusually happy family for a royal palace.
The Trevi, the finest fountain in Rome, is not only remark-able as a work of art, but is interesting to all visitors on account of the pretty little superstition that any one wishing to return to Rome should take a swallow of this water and throw in a coin. Many wishes have been made beside it, for there cannot be any place to which people from all lands would sooner return than to the Eternal City, and it is an almost universal hope that all roads will finally lead to Rome. It has attracted more noted people than any other place in the world, not even excepting the tomb of Christ. Every house has had its tragedy, every stone has tasted blood, and though its ungarnered prosperity ripened into decay, it is still without a rival among the great cities of the world. All that visitors can do just to look and wonder, it is impossible to comprehend. As Crawford says: "Time moves on, she waits, cities fall, Rome stands.