Biography and family record of Lorenzo Snow/Letter V
Rome and its population. The seven hills. Excavations by the Govern- ment. The Forum. Antony and Julius Csesar. Where Virginius stabbed his daughter. Famous obelisks. Temple of Venus. The Tar- peian Rock. St. Peter's. Call on the American minister. The Vatican t Michael Angelo. Paul III. Appian Way. Seneca. Baths. Foot- prints of the Savior. Naples. Mount Vesuvius.
ROME, ITALY, JANUARY 21sx, 1873. Editor Deseret News:
We arrived here on the fifteenth inst. This city is built on both sides of the Tiber, about fifteen miles from where it empties into the Mediterra- nean. In 1867 it contained two hundred and fifteen thousand inhabitants, of whom six thousand were clergymen, five thousand nuns, four thousand five hundred Jews, four hundred and fifty Protestants, seven thousand three hundred soldiers, and, in the winter season, about twenty-five thou- sand visitors. In the day of its greatest prosperity, Rome exceeded two millions; in the middle of the fourteenth century, it had been reduced by disease, poverty and war to less than twenty thousand people. What is now understood as modern Rome is surrounded by a wall twelve miles in length, about fifty feet high, and built of brick.
The famous "seven hills," on which Rome was principally erected, are now measurably uninhabited. A few churches, monasteries, nunneries, old farm-houses, gardens and vineyards occupy these hills which formerly astonished the world with marble edifices, palaces and magnificent temples; much of this glory and grandeur now lie from ten to twenty feet beneath the surface of the ground. Napoleon III purchased extensive grounds on which a portion of ancient Rome was built, and expended large sums in excavations to aid him in his "History of the Caesars." He made many important discoveries, several of which we saw while exploring the ruins portions of streets, temples, beautiful edifices, numerous statues, marble and granite columns, which were found buried twenty feet underground. The Italian government is now prosecuting the work commenced by Napo- leon, constantly bringing to light Roman history and its antiquities. We saw sufficient of the remains of the ancient Roman forum, the place of popular assemblies, where the orators addressed the people, to satisfy us of its former grandeur and magnificence. We stood where Antony, in his artful speech over the murdered body of Julius Caesar, aroused the indigna- tion of the populace against the conspirators; and where Virginius pro- cured his knife and killed his daughter to preserve her from slavery. We also walked over the ground where the Sabine women rushed frantically between their husbands and fathers to prevent the impending battle.
In the Piazza di St. Pietro, we saw a famous obelisk, which was brought to Rome by the Emperor Caligula and placed in the Vatican Circus. It was removed in 1585 and erected on its present site under the superintendency of Dominica Fontana. This huge monument weighs nearly one million of pounds. It is said that Fontana, in constructing his machines, had neg- lected to make allowance for the tension of the ropes, produced by the immense weight, and that at the critical moment, though the spectators had been prohibited, under penalty of death, from speaking or shouting, one of the eight hundred workmen cried out, "Aqua alle funif" i. e., "Water on the ropes," thus solving the difficulty. His descendants were granted important privileges for this hazardous interference. Another obelisk we noticed, called the "Obelisk of the Lateran," of red granite, covered with hieroglyphics, which was brought from Alexandria to the mouth of the Tiber in a vessel of three hundred oars. It is supposed to have been standing in Egypt anterior to the exodus of the Israelites, and probably is four thousand years old. It is one hundred and forty-one feet high, and weighs nearly four hundred and fifty-five tons.
Some portions of the celebrated Temple of Venus and Rome still remain. It was built by the Emperor Hadrian, after his own design. When it was finished, he asked Appolodoros what he thought of it. The
architect replied that it was very good for an emperor, whereupon Hadrian ordered him to be beheaded.
We went to the "Tarpeian Rock," the precipice from which criminals were thrown down; there is considerable rubbish beneath, but it is still sufficiently lofty to insure unpleasant results of a fall from its summit.
There are very few monuments that exhibit more effectually the splen- dor of ancient Rome than the remains of the celebrated Colosseum. It was commenced by Vespasian and completed by Titus, after his conquest of the Jews. It is said that sixty thousand Jews were engaged ten years in this gigantic antique structure. After it had fallen into decay, it was used as a quarry from which were built churches and palaces until, by its consecra- tion as holy ground, on account of the number of martyrs supposed to have suffered within its walls, this vandalism was discontinued. It seated eighty- seven thousand people, with standing room for twenty thousand. Its inau- guration, Anno Domini 81, continued one hundred days, during which five thousand wild beasts and ten thousand captives were slain. Its circumfer- ence is one thousand six hundred and forty-one feet, the height of the outer wall one hundred and fifty-seven, the length of the arena two hundred and seventy-eight, and its width one hundred and seventy-seven feet, the whole superficial area, six acres. In the museum
of the Capitol, we saw a strik-
ing representation of the character of the former scenes enacted in the arena of this amphitheatre. A marble statue of a dying gladiator a wonderful specimen of the perfection to which the art of sculpture had attained. The figure is in a reclining posture, a deep cut in the side, the blood trickling down, a broken sword lying beside it, the muscles gradually relaxing and strength failing, the lineaments of the face express- ing intense anguish, yet determined resolution to conceal pain, as the poet says:
"I see before me the gladiator lie;
He leans upon his band his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony,
And his drooped head sinks gradually low,
And through his side, the last drops, ebbing slow,
From the red gash tall heavy one by one,
Like the first of a thunder shower; and now
The arena swims around him; he is gone
Ere ceased the inhuman shout which hailed
The wretch who won."
We visited several celebrated Roman cathedrals, St. Peter's first and foremost. The area of this church is two hundred and twelve thousand three hundred and twenty-one square feet, its exterior six hundred and fifty-
one feet in length, its height from the pavement to the cross on the summit is four hundred and forty-eight feet. It contains two hundred and ninety windows, three hundred and ninety statues, forty-six altars and seven hun- dred and forty-eight columns. The dome rises three hundred and eighteen feet above the roof, and has a circumference of six hundred and fifty-two feet. In the seventeenth century the dome showed signs of giving way, and was strengthened by means of huge iron hoops.
We ascend to the lantern by an easy stairway, where we have a mag- nificent view of the surrounding country, extending to the blue waters of the Mediterranean. The ball on the summit affords room for sixteen per- sons, though from the ground it appears little larger than a man's hat.
Previous to the Papal states being incorporated into the Italian kingdom, it was customary, on certain days in the year, to present from this church a grand spectacle a vast illumination of the dome, facade and colonnades by four thousand four hundred lamps. It is thought that this great display will never be repeated. The Pope has remained singularly quiet, refusing to officiate at public festivals since Victor took possession of Rome. Some attribute this inaction to a design to awaken sympathy and create a stirring interest in his favor with Catholic communities throughout the world. We were informed to-day that the Pope had just received a delega- tion of distinguished gentlemen from England, representing a large body of men, who had solemnty engaged to render whatever assistance he might require.
We called at the American minister's to-day; not finding him at home, we left our cards with his secretary. We shall probably have an interview with him before leaving Rome. Our tour under Mr. Cook's management thus far has proved perfectly satisfactory. Our railroad transits have invari- ably been first-class, and our hotels generally. We remain here three days, then go to Naples.
NAPLES, ITALY, JANUARY 28TH, 1873.
We were much interested in the Vatican Palace, the residence of the Pope. It embraces an immense area one thousand one hundred and fifty- one feet in length, seven hundred and sixty-seven in breadth, eight grand staircases, two hundred smaller ones, twenty courts and four thousand four hundred and twenty-two apartments. It contains a vast collection of the most celebrated marble statuary and paintings in the world.
The ingenuity and wealth of the Roman pontiffs during many centuries have been employed to make this palace suitable for the accommodation of the representatives of St. Peter in regard to splendor and magnificence.
The distinguished artist, Michael Angelo, was engaged a number of 36
years in decorating some of these apartments with his best paintings. One of these we noticed in particular was a large picture in fresco, covering one end of a lofty room, fifty feet wide; it is called "The Last Judgment." Michael Angelo labored nearly eight years upon this work. Pope Paul III manifested much interest in this painting, and, to encourage the artist, went to his studio, accompanied by ten of his cardinals, which was consid- ered an extraordinary condescension on the part of "His Holiness." He wished the picture painted in oil, but the artist would not consent, declaring that "oil painting was an occupation fit only for women and idlers and such as had plenty of time to throw away." In the upper part of the pic- ture is the Savior seated in the act of pronouncing judgment, On one side are a multitude of saints and patriarchs, on the other the martyrs with the symbols of their sufferings St. Catherine with the wheel on which she was broken, St. Sebastian with the arrows by which he was killed, St. Bartholo- mew carrying his skin, etc. Below is a group of angels sounding the last trumpet and carrying the books of judgment. On the left is represented the condition of the damned the demons are seen coming out of the pit to seize them as they, struggle to escape, their features expressing the utmost despair, at the same time exhibiting passions of rage, anguish and defiance. On the opposite side the saints are rising slowly from their graves, aided by angels to ascend into the regions of the blest.
Paul III was displeased with the nudity of the figures and intended to destroy the whole. On hearing this objection of the Pope, Michael Angelo said, "Tell the Pope that this is but a small affair, and easy to be remedied: let him reform the world, and pictures will reform themselves." The Pope engaged Volterra to cover the most conspicuous figures with drapery, which caused the Italians to nickname him Braghettone, that is, the breeches maker. Michael Angelo was obliged to submit to the Pope's will, but revenged himself in the following style upon Biagio, master of ceremonies, who suggested the indelicacy of the figures. He represented him in one of the angles of the picture standing in hell as Midas, with ass's ears, his body encircled by a serpent. Biagio requested the Pope to compel the artist to expunge this figure, but he declared he could only release from purgatory.
We made an excursion of several miles in the country, traveling on the celebrated Appian Way, a road bailt in ancient times by the Romans. They were accustomed to bury their dead beyond the city along the sides of this thoroughfare, for which purpose thousands of monuments were built, thickly studding both sides of the way a distance of about thirteen miles many of them massive and lofty, built of brick, stone and concrete, with an external covering of polished marble, ornamented with beautiful statu- ary, and otherwise magnificently decorated. Among the monumental ruins
is one said to contain the remains of Seneca, the great moralist, one of my favorite authors, who unjustly suffered death by the order of Nero. His statue in marble, like a protecting angel, still remains over the crumbling ruins of his monument, and even should this statue also disappear, the elevating moral sentiments he inculcated cannot perish, but will ever per- petuate his memory.
We saw a spacious enclosure, where the Romans practised burning the bodies of the dead, in order to place their ashes in urns or vases, to be deposited in tombs. We were shown the remains of the bathing establish- ment of Caracalla, constructed somewhat on the principle of the Turkish bath. It embraced an area of about forty acres, most of which had been covered with arched mason work, now fallen down. A large portion of the wall still remains; some fifteen feet depth of earth has been excavated to show its original plan and grandeur.
We were conducted into a small chapel, held in high esteem by the Catholics through a tradition that Peter, when imprisoned in Rome, escaped in the night, and upon reaching this point the Savior met him and told him he was going to Rome to be crucified the second time, whereupon Peter, taking the hint, returned to the city and suffered crucifixion. On the floor of this church is a marble slab with a fac-simile of the footmark of the Savior, which is pretended to have been made upon the pavement on which he stood.
Rome possesses many obelisks and monumental columns; one, erected! by Bernini, formed of red granite covered with hieroglyphics, stands in the Piazza Navona, in the midst of a fountain, on rock work forty feet high; the height of the obelisk is fifty-one feet. I was amused with an anecdote connected with this monument, related by our guide. Bernini had bitter enemies, who insisted that the foundation was inadequate to the support of the column. With the greatest difficulty, overcoming the immense influ- ence against him, he succeeded in erecting the obelisk. One day his ene- mies raised a tremendous excitement by reporting that the foundation was giving way. The square was soon filled with an enthusiastic populace, every moment expecting the superstructure to go down. Bernini, on hear- ing this state of things, proceeded to the square in his carriage; arriving in front of his work, disregarding the hisses and groans of the people, he ordered ladders, connected them together, and ascending to the top of the obelisk, drew from his pocket a ball of twine, unwound until he had four strings, each of sufficient length to reach across the square, and fastened one end of each to the top of the column. He then descended gathered the opposite ends, walked around the square, fastening each end at oppo- site points to the buildings, by means of small
nails driven into the plaster
of the walls. He then coolly stepped into his carriage and drove home. Before he left the square, however, the people, comprehending the joke, honored him with thundering applause, to the great discomfiture of hia enemies.
The Forum of Trajan has been partially uncovered, revealing statues, broken columns and many other relics in great numbers. One obelisk, one hundred and twenty-four feet high, still stands in this forum, formerly sur- mounted by a colossal statue of the Emperor Trajan, now by that of St. Peter. It is covered with upwards of two thousand five hundred human figures, averaging two feet in length. In this forum it is said that Constan- tine, in the presence of the dignitaries of the empire, and a vast assem- blage of the people, renounced Paganism and declared for Christianity; that upon this announcement the Christians present raised a loud and pro- longed shout of five minutes' continuation. Some Pagan officers, who were .present, looked glum and sullen. The Christians, noticing this, and firing up under the excitement, motioned that every Pagan should be compelled to follow the example of their illustrious emperor.
There has been a slight eruption of Vesuvius in the last twenty-four hours; flames and red-hot stones were projected to a great height all day yesterday, and windows at Castellamare were shaken out by the earth's vibratory motion. There is an unusual volume of smoke issuing from the mouth of the crater, and the instruments at the observatory indicate the
presence of strong electrical currents.