Roba Di Roma




THE gay confusion of Carnival is over, with its mad tossing of flowers and bonbons, its showering of confetti, its brilliantly draped balconies running over with happy faces, its barbaric races, its rows of joyous contadine, its quaint masquerading, and all the glad folly of its Saturnalia. For Saturnalia it is, in most respects just like the festa of the Ancient Romans, with its Saturni septem dies, its uproar of “ Io Saturnalia! ” in the streets, and all its mad forlic. In one point it materially differs, however ; for on the ancient festa no criminal could be punished ; but in modern times it is this gay occasion that the government selects to execute (giustiziare) any poor wretch who may have been condemned to death, so as to strike a wholesome terror into the crowd. Truly, the ways of the Church are as wonderful as they are infallible ! But all is over now. The last moccoletti are extinguished, that flashed and danced like myriad fire-flies from window and balcony and over the heads of the roaring tide of people that ebbed and flowed in stormy streams of wild laughter through the streets. The Corso has become sober and staid, and taken in its draperies. The fun is finished. The masked balls, with their belle maschere, are over. The theatres are all closed. Lent has come, bringing its season of sadness; and the gay world of strangers is flocking down to Naples.

Eh, Signore! Finito il nostro carnovale. Adesso e il carnovale dei preti:— “ Our carnival is over, and that of the priests has come." All the frati are going round to every Roman family, high and low, from the prince in his palace to the boy in the cafe, demanding “ una santa elemosina,—un abbondante santaelemosina,—ma abbondante,”—and willingly pocketing any sum, from a halfbaiocco upwards. The parish priest is now making his visits in every ward of the city, to register the names of the Catholics in all the houses, so as to insure a confession from each during this season of penance. And woe to any wight who fails to do his duty!—he will soon be brought to his marrow-bones. His name will be placarded in the church, and he will be punished according to circumstances,—perhaps by a mortification to the pocket, perhaps by the penance of the convent; and perhaps his fate will be worse, if he be obstinate. So nobody is obstinate, and all go to confession like good Christians, and confess what they please, for the sake of peace, if not of absolution. The Francescani march more solemnly up and down the alleys of their cabbage-garden, studiously with books in their hands, which they pretend to read; now and then taking out their snuff-stained bandanna and measuring it from corner to corner, in search of a feasible spot for its appropriate function, and then rolling it carefully into a little round ball and returning it to the place whence it came. Whatever penance they do is not to Father Tiber or Santo Acquedotto, excepting by internal ablutions,—the exterior things of this world being ignored. There is no meat-eating now, save on certain festivals, when a supply is laid in for the week. But opposites cure opposites, (contrary to the homoeopathic rule,) and their magro makes them grasso. Two days of festival, however, there are in the little church of San Patrizio and Isidore, when the streets are covered with sand, and sprigs of box and red and yellow hangings flaunt before the portico, and scores of young boy-priests invade their garden, and, tucking up their long skirts, run and scream among the cabbages; for boydom is an irrepressible thing, even under the extinguisher of a priest’s black dress.

Daily you will hear the tinkle of a bell and the chant of alto child-voices in the street, and, looking out, you will see two little boys clad in some refuse of the Church’s wardrobe, one of whom carries a crucifix or a big black cross, while the other rings a bell and chants as he loiters along; now stopping to chaff with other boys of a similar age, nay, even at times laying down his cross to dispute or struggle with them, and now renewing the appeal of the bell. This is to call together the children of the parish to learn their Dottrina or Catechism,—from which the Second Commandment is, however, carefully expurgated, lest to their feeble minds the difference between bowing down to graven images, or likenesses of things in the earth, and what they do daily before the images and pictures of the Virgin and Saints may not clearly appear. Indeed, let us cheerfully confess, in passing, that, by a strange forgetfulness, this same Commandment is not reestablished in its place even in the catechism for older persons,—of course through inadvertence. However, it is of no consequence, as the real number of Ten Commandments is made up by the division of the last into two ; so that there really are ten. And in a country where so many pictures are painted and statues made, perhaps this Second Commandment might be open to misconstruction, if not prohibited by the wise and holy men of the Church.1

Meantime the snow is gradually disappearing from Monte Gennaro and the Sabine Mountains. Picnic parties are spreading their tables under the Pamfili Dori-a pines, and drawing St. Peter’s from the old wall near by the ilex avenue,— or making excursions to Frascati, Tuscuhnn, and Alba no,— or spending a day in wandering among the ruins of the Etruscan city of Veii, lost to the world so long ago that even the site of it was unknown to the Cæsars, — or strolling by the shore at Ostia, or under the magnificent pineta at Castel Fusano, whose lofty trees repeat, as in a dream, the sound of the blue Mediterranean that washes the coast at half a mile distant. There is no lack of places that Time has shattered and strewn with relics, leaving Nature to festoon her ruins and heal her wounds with tenderest vines and flowers, where one may spend a charming day and dream of the old times.

Spring—prima vera, the first true thing, as the Italians call it—has come. The nightingales already begin to bubble into song under the Ludovisi ilexes and in the Barberini Gardens. Daisies have snowed all over the Campagna,—periwinkles star the grass,—crocuses and anemones impurple the spaces between the rows of springing grain along the still brown slopes. At every turn in the streets baskets-full of mammole, the sweet-scented Parma violet, are offered you by little girls and boys; and at the corner of the Condotti and Corso is a splendid show of camelias, set into beds of double violets, and sold for a song. Now and then one meets huge baskets filled with these delicious violets, on their way to the confectioners and caffes, where they will be made into syrup ; for the Italians are very fond of this bibite, and prize it not only for its flavor, but for its medicinal qualities. Violets seem to rain over the villas in the spring,— acres are purple with them, and the air all around is sweet with their fragrance. Every day, scores of carriages are driving about the Borghese grounds, which are open to the public, and hundreds of children are running about, plucking flowers and playing on the lovely slopes and in the shadows of the noble trees, while their parents stroll at a distance and wait for them in the shady avenues. At the Pamfili Doria villa the English play their national game of cricket, on the flowerenamelled green, which is covered with the most wondrous anemones; and there is a matinee of friends who come to chat and look on. This game is rather “slow” at Rome, however, and does not rhyme with the Campagna. The Italians lift their hands and wonder what there is in it to fascinate the English; and the English in turn call them a lazy, stupid set, because they do not admire it. But those who have seen pallone will not, perhaps, so much wonder at the Italians, nor condemn them for not playing their own game, when they remember that the French have turned them out of their only amphitheatre adapted for it, and left them only pazienza.

If one drives out at any of the gates, he will see that spring is come. The hedges are putting forth their leaves, the almond-trees are in full blossom, and in the vineyards the contadini are setting cane-poles and trimming the vines to run upon them. Here and there, along the slopes, the rude old plough of the Georgies, dragged by great gray oxen, turns up the rich loam, that “ needs only to be tickled to laugh out in flowers and grain.” In the olive-orchards, the farmers are carefully pruning away the decayed branches and loosening the soil about their old roots. Here and there, the smoke of distant bonfires, burning heaps of useless stubble, shows against the dreamy purple hills like the pillar of cloud that led the Israelites. One smells the sharp odor of these fires everywhere, and hears them crackle in the fields.

“Atque levem stipulam crepitantibus urere flammis.”

On festa-days the way-side osterias (con cucina) are crowded by parties who come out to sit under the frascati of vines and drink the wine grown on the very spot, and regale themselves with a frittata of eggs and chopped sausages, or a slice of agnello, and enjoy the delicious air that breathes from the mountains. The old cardinals descend from their gilded carriages, and, accompanied by one of their household and followed by their ever-present lackeys in harlequin liveries, totter along on foot with swollen ankles, lifting their broad red hats to the passers-by who salute them, and pausing constantly in their discourse to enforce a phrase or take a pinch of snuff. Files of scholars from the Propaganda stream along, now and then, two by two, their leading-strings swinging behind them, and in their ranks all shades of physiognomy, from African and Egyptian to Irish and American. Scholars, too, from the English College, and Germans, in red, go by in companies. All the schools, too, will be out,—little boys, in black hats, following the lead of their priest-master, (for all masters are priests,) and orphan girls in white, convoyed by Sisters of Charity, and the deaf and dumb with their masters. Scores of ciocciari, also, may be seen in faded scarlets, with their wardrobes of wretched clothes, and sometimes a basket with a baby in it, on their heads. The contadini, who have been to Rome to be hired for the week to labor on the Campagna, come tramping along too, one of them often mounted on a donkey, and followed by a group carrying their tools with them; while hundreds of the middle classes, husbands and wives with their children, and paini and paine, with all their jewelry on, are out to take their festa stroll, and to see and ne seen.

Once in a while, the sadness of Lent is broken by a Church festival, when all the fasters eat prodigiously and make up for their usual Lenten fare. One of the principal days is that of the 19th of March, dedicated to San Giuseppe, (the most ill-used of all the saints,) when the little church in Capo le Case, dedicated to him, is hung with brilliant draperies, and the pious flock thither in crowds to say their prayers. The great curtain is swaying to and fro constantly as they come and go, and a file of beggars is on the steps to relieve you of baiocchi. Beside them stands a fellow who sells a print of the Angel appearing to San Giuseppe in a dream, and warning him against the sin of jealousy. Four curious lines beneath the print thus explain it:—

“ Qual sinistro pensier l' alma ti scuote?
Se il sen fecondo di Maria tu vedi,
Giuseppe, non temer; calmati, e credi
Ch’ opra è sol di colui che tutto puote.”

Whether Joseph is satisfied or not with this explanation, it would be difficult to determine from his expression, He looks rather haggard and bored than persuaded, and certainly has not that cheerful acquiescence of countenance which one is taught to expect.

During all Lent, a sort of bun, called maritozze, which is filled with the edible kernels of the pine-cone, made light with oil, and thinly crusted with sugar, is eaten by the faithful,—and a very good Catholic “institution” it is. But in the festival days of San Giuseppe, gayly ornamented booths are built at the corner of many of the streets, especially near the church in Capo le Case, in the Borgo, and at San Eustachio, which are adorned with great green branches as large as young trees, and hung with red and gold draperies, where the “ Frittelle di San Giuseppe” are fried in huge caldrons of boiling oil and served out to the common people. These frittelle, which are a sort of delicate doughnut, made of flour mixed sometimes with rice, are eaten by all good Catholics, though one need not be a Catholic to find them excellent eating. In front of the principal booths are swung “ Sonetti” in praise of the Saint, of the cook, and of the doughnuts,—some of them declaring that Mercury has already descended from Olympus at the command of the gods to secure a large supply of the frittelle, and praying all believers to make haste, or there would be no more left. The latter alternative seems little probable, when one sees the quantity of provision laid in by the vendors. Their prayer, however, is heeded by all; and a gay scene enough it is,—especially at night, when the great cups filled with lard are lighted, and the shadows dance on the crowd, and the light flashes on the tinsel-covered festoons that sway with the wind, and illuminates the great booth, while the smoke rises from the great caldrons which flank it on either side, and the cooks, all in white, ladle out the dripping frittelle into large polished platters, and laugh and joke, and laud their work, and shout at the top of their lungs, “ Ecco le belle, ma belle frittelle ! ” For weeks this frying continues in the streets; but after the day of San Giuseppe, not only the sacred frittelle are made, but thousands of minute fishes, fragments of cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and carciofi go into the hissing oil, and are heaped all “ dorati” upon the platters and vases. For all sorts of fries the Romans are justly celebrated. The sweet olive-oil, which takes the place of our butter and lard, makes the fry light, delicate, and of a beautiful golden color; and spread upon the snowy tables of these booths, their odor is so appetizing and their look so inviting, that I have often been tempted to join the crowds who fill their plates and often their pocket-handkerchiefs (con rispetto) with these golden fry, "fritti dorati,” as they are called, and thus do honor to the Saint, and comfort their stomachs with holy food, which quells the devil of hunger within.2

But not only at this time and at these booths are good fritti to be found. It is a favorite mode of cooking in Rome; and a mixed fry (fritta mista) of bits of liver, brains, cauliflower, and carciofi is a staple dish, always ready at every restaurant. At any osteria con cucina on the Campagna one is also sure of a good omelet and salad; and, sitting under the vines, after a long walk, I have made as savory a lunch on these two articles as ever I found in the most glittering restaurant in the Palais Royal. If one add the background of exquisite mountains, the middle distance of flowery slopes, where herds of long-haired goats, sheep, and gray oxen are feeding among the skeletons of broken aqueducts, ruined tombs, and shattered mediæval towers, and the foreground made up of picturesque groups of peasants, who lounge about the door, and come and go, and men from the Campagna, on horseback, with their dark, capacious cloak and long ironed staff, who have come from counting their oxen and superintending the farming, and carrettieri, stopping in their hooded wine-carts or ringing along the road,—there is, perhaps, as much to charm the artist as is to be seen while sipping beer or eau gazeuse on the hot Parisian asphalte, where the grisette studiously shows her clean ankles, and the dandy struts in his patent-leather boots.

One great festa there is during Lent at the little town of Grotta-Ferrata, about fourteen miles from Rome. It takes place on the 25th of March, and sometimes is very gay and picturesque, and always charming to one who has eyes to see and has shed some of his national prejudices. By eight o’clock in the morning open carriages begin to stream out of the Porta San Giovanni, and in about two hours the old castellated monastery may be seen at whose feet the little village of Grotta-Ferrata stands. As we advance through noble elms and planetrees, crowds of contadini line the way, beggars scream from the banks, donkeys bray, carretti rattle along, until at last we arrive at a long meadow which seems alive and crumbling with gayly dressed figures that are moving to and fro as thick as ants upon an ant-hill. Here are gathered peasants from all the countryvillages within ten miles, all in their festal costumes; along the lane which skirts the meadow and leads through the great gate of the old fortress, donkeys are crowded together, and keeping up a constant and outrageous concert; saltimbanci, in harlequin suits, are making faces or haranguing from a platform, and inviting everybody into their pennyshow. From inside their booths is heard the sound of the invariable pipes and drum, and from the lifted curtain now and then peers forth a comic face, and then disappears with a sudden scream and wild gesticulation. Meantime the closely packed crowd moves slowly along in both directions, and on we go through the archway into the great court-yard. Here, under the shadow of the monastery, booths and benches stand in rows, arrayed with the produce of the countryvillages,—shoes, rude implements of husbandry, the coarse woven fabrics of the contadini, hats with cockades and rosettes, feather brooms and brushes, and household things, with here and there the tawdry pinchbeck ware of a peddler of jewelry, and little quadretti of Madonna and saints. Extricating ourselves from the crowd, we ascend by a stone stairway to the walk around the parapets of the walls, and look down upon the scene. How gay it is! Around the fountain, which is spilling in the centre of the court, a constantly varying group is gathered, washing, drinking, and filling their flasks and vases. Near by, a charlatan, mounted on a table, with a huge canvas behind him painted all over with odd cabalistic figures, is screaming, in loud and voluble tones, the virtues of his medicines and unguents, and his skill in extracting teeth. One need never have a pang in tooth, ear, head, or stomach, if one will but trust his wonderful promises. In one little bottle he has the famous water which renews youth; in another, the lotion which awakens love, or cures jealousy, or changes the fright into the beauty. All the while he plays with his tame serpents, and chatters as if his tongue went of itself, while the crowd of peasants below gape at him, laugh with him, and buy from him. Listen to him, all who have ears !

Udite, udite, O rustici!
Attenti, non fiatate!
Io già suppongo e immagino
Che al par di me sappiate
Che io son quel gran medico
Dottore Enciclopedico
Chiamato Dulcamara,
La cui virtù preclara
E i portenti infiniti
Son noti in tutto il mondo—e in altri siti.

Benefattor degli uomini,
Roparator dei mali,
In pochi giorni io sgombrerò.
Io spazzo gli spedali
E la salute a vendere
Per tutto il mondo io vo.
Compratela, compratela,—
Per poco io ve la do.

È questo l’ odontalgico,
Mirabile liquore,
De’ topi e dei cimici
Possente distruttore,
I cui certificati
Autentici, bollati,
Toccar, vedere, e leggere,
A ciaschedun farò.
Per questo mio specifico
Simpatico, prolifico,
Un uom settuagenario
E valetudinario
Nonno di dieci bamboli
Ancora diventò.

O voi matrone rigide,
Ringiovanir bramate?
Le vostre rughe incomode
Con esso cancellate.
Volete, voi donzelle,
Ben liscia aver la pelle?
Voi giovani galanti,
Per sempre avere amanti,
Comprate il mio specifico,—
Per poco io ve lo do.

Ei move i paralitici,
Spedisce gli apopletici,
Gli asmatici, gli asfitici,
Gli isterici, e diabetici;
Guarisce timpanitidi
E scrofoli e rachitidi;
E fino il mal di fegato,
Che in moda diventò.
Comprate il mio specifico,—
Per poco io ve lo do.

And so on and on and on. There is never an end of that voluble gabble. Nothing is more amusing than the Italian ciarlatano, wherever you meet him; but, like many other national characters, he is vanishing, and is seen more and more rarely every year. Perhaps he has been promoted to an office in the Church or government, and finds more pickings there than at the fairs; and if not, perhaps he has sold out his profession and good-will to his confessor, who has mounted, by means of it into a gilded carriage, and wears silk stockings, whose color, for fear of mistake, I will not mention.

But to return to the fair and our station on the parapets at Grotta-Ferrata. Opposite us is a penthouse, (where nobody peaks and pines.) whose jutting fraschi-covered eaves and posts are adorned with gay draperies ; and under the shadow of this is seated a motley set of peasants at their lunch and dinner. Smoking plates come in and out of the dark hole of a door that opens into kitchen and cellar, and the camerieri cry constantly, “Vengo subito,”Eccomi quà,”—whether they come or not Big-bellied flasks of rich Grotta-Ferrata wine are filled and emptied; and bargains are struck for cattle, donkeys, and clothes; and healths are pledged and brindisi are given. But there is no riot and no quarrelling. If we lift our eyes from this swarm below, we see the exquisite Campagna with its silent, purple distances stretching off to Rome, and hear the rush of a wild torrent scolding in the gorge below among the stones and olives.

But while we are lingering here, a crowd is pushing through into the inner court, where mass is going on in the curious old church. One has now to elbow his way to enter, and all around the door, even out into the middle court, contadini are kneeling. Besides this, the whole place reeks intolerably with garlic, which, mixed with whiff of incense from the church within and other unmentionable smells, makes such a compound that only a brave nose can stand it. But Stand it we must, if we would see Domenichino’s frescoes in the chapel within ; and as they are among the best products of his cold and clever talent, we gasp and push on,—the most resolute alone getting through. Here in this old monastery, as the story goes, he sought refuge from the fierce Salvator Rosa, by whom his life was threatened, and here he painted his best works, shaking in his shoes with fear. When we have examined these frescoes, we have done the fair of Grotta-Ferrata ; and those of us who are wise and have brought with us a well-packed hamper stick in our hat one of the red artificial roses which everybody wears, take a charming drive to the. Villa Conti, Muti, or Falconieri, and there, under the ilexes, forget the garlic, finish the day with a picnic, and return to Rome when the western sun is painting the Alban Hill.

And here, in passing, one word on the onions and garlic, whose odor issues from the mouths of every Italian crowd, like the fumes from the maw of Fridolin’s dragon. Everybody eats them in Italy; the upper classes show them to their dishes to give them a flavor, and the lower use them not only as a flavor, but as a food. When only a formal introduction of them is made to a dish, I confess that the result is far from disagreeable ; but that close, intimate, and absorbing relation existing between them and the lowest classes is frightful. Senza complimenti, it is “ tolerable and not to be endured.” When a poor man can procure a raw onion and a hunch of black bread, he does not want a dinner; and towards noon many and many a one may be seen sitting like a king upon a door-step, or making a statuesque finish to a palazzo portone, cheerfully munching this spare meal, and taking his siesta after it, fulllength upon the bare pavement, as calmly as if he were in the perfumed chambers of the great,

“ Under the canopies of costly state,
And lulled with sounds of sweetest melody.”

And, indeed, so he is ; for the canopy of the soft blue sky is above him, and the plashing fountains lull him to his dreams. Nor is he without ancient authority for his devotion to those twin saints, Cipolla and Aglio. There is an “ odor of sanctity ” about them, turn up our noses as we may. The Ancient Egyptians offered them as firstfruits upon the altars of their gods, and employed them also in the services for the dead ; and such was their attachment to them, that the followers of Moses hankered after them despite the manna, and longed for “ the leeks and the onions and the garlic which they did eat in Egypt freely." Nay, even the fastidious Greeks not only used them as a charm against the Evil Eye, but ate them with delight. And in the “Banquet” of Xenophon, Socrates specially recommends them. On this occasion, several curious reasons for their use are adduced, of which we who despise them should not he ignorant. Niceratus says that they relish well with wine, citing Homer in confirmation of his opinion; Callias affirms that they inspire courage in battle; and Charmidas clenches the matter by declaring that they are most useful in “ deceiving a jealous wife, who, finding her husband return with his breath smelling of onions, would be induced to believe he had not saluted any one while from home.” Despise them not, therefore, O Saxon ! for as “ their offenee is rank,” their pedigree is long, and they are sacred plants that “ smell to heaven.” Happily for you, if these reasons do not persuade you against your will, there is a certain specific against them,—Eat them yourself, and you will smell them no longer.

The time of the church processions is now coming, and one good specimen takes place on the 29th of March, from the Santa Maria in Via, which may stand with little variations for all the others. These processions, which are given by every church once a year, are in honor of the Madonna, or some saint specially reverenced in the particular church. They make the circuit of the parish limits, passing through all its principal streets, and every window and balcony is decorated with yellow and crimson hangings, and with crowds of dark eyes. The front of the church, the steps, and the street leading to it, are spread with yellow sand, over which are scattered sprigs of box. After the procession has been organized in the church, they “ come unto the yellow sands,” preceded by a band of music, which plays rather jubilant, and what the unco pious would call profane music, polkas and marches, and airs from the operas. Next follow great lanterns of strung glass drops, accompanied by soldiers ; then an immense gonfalon representing the Virgin at the Cross, which swings backwards and forwards, borne by the confraternità of the parish, with blue capes over their white dresses, and all holding torches. Then follows a huge wooden cross, garlanded with golden ivyleaves, and also upheld by the confraternita, who stagger under its weight. Next come two crucifixes, covered, as the body of Christ always is during Lent and until Resurrection-Day, with cloth of purple, (the color of passion.) and followed by the frati of the church in black, carrying candles and dolorously chanting a hymn. Then comes the bishop in his mitre, his yellow stole upheld by two principal priests, (the curate and subeurate,) and to him his acolytes waft incense, as well as to the huge figure of the Madonna which follows. This figure is of life-size, carved in wood, surrounded by gilt angels, and so heavy that sixteen stout facchini, whose shabby trousers show under their improvised costume, are required to bear it along. With this the procession comes to its climax. Immediately after follow the guards, and a great concourse of the populace closes the train.

As Holy Week approaches, pilgrims begin to flock to Rome with their oil-cloth capes, their scallop-shell, their long staffs, their rosaries, and their dirty hands held out constantly for una santa elemosina pel povero pellegrino.” Let none of my fair friends imagine that she will find a Romeo among them, or she will be most grievously disappointed. There is something to touch your pity in their appearance, though not the pity akin to love. They are, for the most part, old, shabby, and soiled, and inveterate mendicants,—and though, some time or other, some one or other may have known one of them for her true-love, “ by bis cockle hat and staff, and his sandal shoon,” that time has been long forbye, unless they are wondrously disguised. Besides these pilgrims, and often in company with them, bands of peasants, with their long staffs, may be met on the road, making a pilgrimage to Rome for the Holy Week, clad in splendid ciocciari dresses, carrying their clothes on their heads, and chanting a psalm as they go. Among these may be found many a handsome youth and beautiful maid, whose faces will break into the most charming of smiles as you salute them and wish them a happy pilgrimage. And of all smiles, none, is so sudden, open, and enchanting as a Roman girl’s; and breaking over their dark, passionate faces, black eyes, and level brows, it seems like a burst of sunlight from behind a cloud. There must be noble possibilities in any nation which, through all its oppression and degradation, has preserved the childlike frankness of the Italian smile.

Still another indication of the approach of Holy Week is the Easter egg, which now makes its appearance, and warns us of the solemnities to come. Sometimes it is stained yellow, purple, red, green, or striped with various colors ; sometimes it is crowned with paste-work, representing, in a most primitive way, a hen,—her body being the egg, and her pastry-head adorned with a disproportionately tall feather. These eggs are exposed for sale at the corners of the streets and bought by everybody, and every sort of ingenious device is resorted to, to attract customers and render them attractive. This custom is probably derived from the East, where the egg is the symbol of the primitive state of the world and of the creation of things. The new year formerly began at the spring equinox, at about Easter; and at that period of the renewal of Nature, a festival was celebrated in the new moon of the month Phamenoth, in honor of Osiris, when painted and gilded eggs were exchanged as presents, in reference to the beginning of all things. The transference of the commencement of the year to January deprived the Paschal egg of its significance. Formerly in France, and still in Russia as in Italy, it had a religious significance, and was never distributed until it had received a solemn benediction. On Good Friday, a priest, with his robes and an attendant, may be seen going into every door in the street to bless the house, the inhabitants, and the eggs. The last, colored and arranged according to the taste of the individual, are spread upon a table, which is decorated with box, flowers, and whatever ornamental dishes the family possesses. The priest is received with bows at the door, and when the benediction is over he is rewarded with the gratuity of a paul or a scudo, according to the piety and purse of the proprietor; while into the basket of his attendant is always dropped a pagnolta, a couple of eggs, a baiocco, or some such trifle.3

It is on this day, too. that the customary Jew is converted, recants, and is baptized; and there are not wanting evil tongues which declare that there is a wonderful similarity in his physiognomy every year. However this may be, there is no doubt that some one is annually dug out of the Ghetto, which is the pit of Judaism here in Rome ; and if he fall back again, after receiving the temporal reward, and without waiting for the spiritual, he probably finds it worth his while to do so, in view of the zeal of the Church, and in remembrance of the fifteenth verse of the twenty-third chapter of Matthew, if he ever reads that portion of the Bible. It is in the great basaltic vase in the baptistery of St. John Lateran, the same in which Rienzi bathed in 1347, before receiving the insignia of knighthood, that the converted Jew, and any other infidel who can be brought over, receives his baptism when he is taken into the arms of the Church.

It is at this season, too, that the pizzicarolo shops are gayly dressed in the manner so graphically described by Hans Andersen in his “ Improvvisatore.” No wonder, that, to little Antonio, the interior of one of these shops looked like a realization of Paradise; for they are really splendid ; and when glittering with candles and lamps at night, the effect is very striking. Great sides of bacon and lard are ranged endwise in regular bars all around the interior, and adorned with stripes of various colors, mixed with golden spangles and flashing tinsel; while over and under them, in reticulated work, are piled scores upon scores of brown cheeses, in the form of pyramids, columns, towers, with eggs set into their interstices. From the ceiling, and all around the doorway, hang wreaths and necklaces of sausages, or groups of the long gourdlike cacio di cavallo, twined about with box, or netted wire baskets filled with Easter eggs, or great bunches of white candles gathered together at the wicks. Seen through these, at the bottom of the , shop, is a picture of the Madonna, with scores of candles burning about it, and gleaming upon the tinsel hangings and spangles with which it is decorated. Underneath this, there is often represented an elaborate presepio,—or, when this is not the case, the animals may be seen mounted here and there on the cheeses. Candelabra of eggs, curiously bound together, so as to resemble bunches of gigantic white grapes, swung from the centre of the ceiling, and cups of colored glass, with a taper in them, or red paper lanterns, and terra-cotta lamps, of the antique form, show here and there their little flames among the flitches of bacon and cheeses ; while, in the midst of all this splendor, the figure of the pizzicarolo moves to and fro, like a high-priest at a ceremony. Nor is this illumination exclusive. The doors, often of the full width of the shop, are thrown wide open, and the glory shines upon all passers-by. It is the apotheosis of ham and cheese, at which only the Hebraic nose, doing violence to its natural curve, turns up in scorn; while true Christians crowd around it to wonder and admire, and sometimes to venture in upon the almost enchanted ground. May it be long before this pleasant custom dies out!

At last comes Holy Week, with its pilgrims that flock from every part of the world. Every hotel and furnished apartment is crowded,—every carriage is hired at double and treble its ordinary fare,—every door, where a Papal ceremony is to take place, is besieged by figures in black with black veils. The streets are filled with Germans, English, French, Americans, all on the move, coming and going, and anxiously inquiring about the funzioni, and when they are to take place, and where,—for everything is kept in a charming condition of perfect uncertainty, from the want of any public newspaper or journal, or other accurate means of information. So everybody asks everybody, and everybody tells everybody, until nobody knows anything, and everything is guesswork. But, nevertheless, despite impatient words, and muttered curses, and all kinds of awkward mistakes, the battle goes bravely on. There is terrible fighting at the door of the Sistine Chapel, to hear the Miserere, which is sure to be Baini’s when it is said to be Allegri’s, as well as at the railing of the Chapel, where the washing of the feet takes place, and at the supper-table, where twelve country-boors represent the Apostolic company, and are waited on by the Pope, in a way that shows how great a sham the whole thing is. The air is close to suffocation in this last place. Men and women faint and are carried out. Some fall and are trodden down. Sometimes, as at the table this year, some unfortunate pays for her curiosity with her life. It is “Devil take the hindmost!” and if any one is down, he is leaped over by men and women indiscriminately, for there is no time to be lost. In the Chapel, when once they are in, all want to get out. Shrieks are heard as the jammed mass sways backward and forward,— veils and dresses are torn in the struggle,—women are praying for help. Meantime the stupid Swiss keep to their orders with a literalness which knows no parallel ; and all this time, the Pope, who has come in by a private door, is handing round beef and mustard and bread and potatoes to the gormandizing Apostles, who put into their pockets what their stomachs cannot hold, and improve their opportunities in every way. At last, those who have been through the fight return at nightfall, haggard and ghastly with fear, hunger, and fatigue ; and, after agreeing that they could never counsel any one to such an attempt, set off the next morning to attack again some shut door behind which a “ function ” is to take place.

All this, however, is done by the strangers. The Romans, on these high festivals, do not go to Saint Peter’s, but perform their religious services at their parish churches, calmly and peacefully; for in Saint Peter’s all is a spectacle. “ How shall I, a true son of the Holy Church,” asks Pasquin, “obtain admittance to her services ? ” And Marforio answers, “ Declare you are an Englishman, and swear you are a heretic.”

The Piazza is crowded with carriages during all these days, and a hackman will look at nothing under a scudo for the smallest distance, and, to your remonstrances, he shrugs his shoulders and says, “ Eh, signore, bisogna vivere; adesso e la nostra settimana, e poi niente. Next week I will take you anywhere for two pauls,—now for fifteen.” Meluccio, (the little old apple,) the aged boy in the Piazza San Pietro, whose sole occupation it has been for years to open and shut the doors of carriages and hold out his hand for a mezzo-baiocco, is in great glee. He runs backwards and forwards all day long, —hails carriages like mad,—identifies to the bewildered coachmen their lost fares, whom he never fails to remember,—points out to bewildered strangers the coach they are hopelessly striving to identify, having entirely forgotten coachman and carriage in the struggle they have gone through. He is everywhere, screaming, laughing, and helping everybody. It is his high festival as well as the Pope’s, and grateful strangers drop into his hand the frequent baiocco or half-paul, and thank God and Meluccio as they sink back in their carriages and cry, “A casa.”

Finally comes Easter Sunday, the day of the Resurrection ; and at twelve on the Saturday previous all the bells are rung, and the crucifixes uncovered, and the Pope, cardinals, and priests change their mourning-vestments for those of rejoicing. Easter has come. You may know it by the ringing bells, and the sound of trumpets in the street, and the jar of long trains of cannon going down to the Piazza San Pietro, to guard the place and join in the dance, in case of a row or rising among the populace; for the right arm of the Church is the cannon, and Christ’s doctrines are always protected by the bayonet, and Peter’s successor “ making broad bis phylacteries,” and his splendid cortege “enlarging the borders of their garments ” and going up to “ the chief seats in the synagogues” “in purple and fine linen” to make their “long prayers,” crave the protection of bristling arms and drawn swords.

By twelve o’clock Mass in Saint Peter’s is over, and the Piazza is crowded with people to see the Benediction,—and a grand and imposing spectacle it is! Out over the great balcony stretches a huge white awning, where priests and attendants are collected, and where the Pope will soon be seen. Below, the Piazza is alive with moving masses. In the centre are drawn up long lines of soldiery, with yellow and red pompons and glittering helmets and bayonets. These are surrounded by crowds on foot, and at the outer rim are packed carriages filled and overrun with people mounted on the seats and boxes. There is a half-hour’s waiting while we can lock about, a steady stream of carriages all the while pouring in, and, if one could see it, stretching out a mile behind, and adding thousands of impatient spectators to those already there. What a sight it is!—above us the great dome of Saint Peter’s, and below, the grand embracing colonnade, and the vast space, in the centre of which rises the solemn obelisk thronged with masse of living beings. Peasants from the Campagna and the mountains are moving about everywhere. Pilgrims in oil-cloth cape and with iron staff demand charity. On the steps are rows of purple, blue, and brown umbrellas: for there the sun blazes fiercely. Everywhere cross forth the white hoods of Sisters of Charity, collected in groups, and showing, among the party-colored dresses, like beds of chrysanthemums in a garden. One side of the massive colonnade casts a grateful shadow over the crowd beneath, that fill up the intervals of its columns ; but elsewhere the sun burns down and flashes everywhere. Mounted on the colonnade are masses of people leaning over, beside the colossal statues. Through all the heat is heard the constant plash of the two superb fountains, that wave to and fro their veils of white spray. At last the clock strikes. In the far balcony are seen the two great snowy peacock fans, and between them a figure clad in white, that rises from a golden chair, and spreads his great sleeves like wings as he raises his arms in benediction. That is the Pope, Pius the Ninth. All is dead silence, and a musical voice, sweet and penetrating, is heard chanting from the balcony;—the people bend and kneel; with a cold, gray flash, all the bayonets gleam as the soldiers drop to their knees, and rise to salute as the voice dies away, and the two white wings are again waved; —then thunder the cannon,— the bells dash and peal,—a few white papers, like huge snowflakes, drop wavering from the balcony;—these are Indulgences, and there is an eager struggle for them below;—then the Pope again rises, again gives his benediction, waving to and fro his right hand, three fingers open, and making the sign of the cross,—and the peacock fans retire, and he between them is borne away,—and Lent is over.

As Lent is ushered in by the dancing lights of the moccoletti, so it is ushered out by the splendid illumination of Saint Peter's, which is one of the grandest spectacles in Rome. The first illumination is by means of paper lanterns, distributed everywhere along the architectural lines of the church, and from the steps beneath its portico to the cross above its dome. These are lighted before sunset, and against the blaze of the western light are for some time completely invisible ; but as twilight thickens, and the shadows deepen, and a gray pearly veil is drawn over the sky, the distant basilica begins to glow against it with a dull furnace-glow, as of a wondrous coal fanned by a constant wind, looking not so much lighted from without as reddening from an interior fire. Slowly this splendor grows, until the mighty building at last stands outlined against the dying twilight as if etched there with a fiery burin. As the sky darkens into intense blue behind it, the material part of the basilica seems to vanish, until nothing is left to the eye but a wondrous, magical, visionary structure of fire. This is the silver illumination ; watch it well, for it does not last long. At the first hour of night, when the bells sound all over Rome, a sudden change takes place. From the lofty cross a burst of flame is seen, and instantly a flash of light whirls over the dome and drum, climbs the smaller cupolas, descends like a rain of fire down the columns of the facade, and before the great bell of Saint Peter’s has ceased to toll twelve peals, the golden illumination has succeeded to the silver. For my own part, I prefer the first illumination ; it is more delicate, airy, and refined, though the second is more brilliant and dazzling. One is like the Bride of the Church, the other like the Empress of the World. In the second lighting, the Church becomes more material; the flames are like jewels, and the dome seems a gigantic triple crown of Saint Peter’s. One effect, however, is very striking. The outline of lire, which before was firm and motionless, now wavers and shakes as if it would pass away, as the wind blows the flames back and forth from the great cups by which it is lighted. From near and far the world looks on,—from the Piazza beneath, where carriages drive to and fro in its splendor, and the band plays and the bells toll,—from the windows and loggias of the city, wherever a view can be caught of this superb spectacle,—and from the Campagna and mountain towns, where, far away, alone and towering above everything, the dome is seen to blaze. Everywhere are ejaculations of delight, and thousands of groups are playing the game of “ What is it like?” One says, it is like a hive covered by a swarm of burning bees; others, that it is the enchanted palace in the gardens of Gul in the depths of the Arabian nights, —like a gigantic tiara set with wonderful diamonds, larger than those which Sinbad found in the roc’s valley,—like the palace of the fairies in the dreams of childhood,—like the stately pleasure-dome of Kubla Khan in Xanadu,—and twenty other whimsical things. At nearly midnight, when we go to bed, we take a last look at it. It is a ruin, like the Colosseum,—great gaps of darkness are there, with broken rows of splendor. The lights are gone on one side the dome,—they straggle fitfully here and there down the other and over the façade, fading even as we look. It is melancholy enough. It is a bankrupt heiress, an old and wrinkled beauty, that tells strange tales of its former wealth and charms, when the world was at its feet. It is the once mighty Catholic Church, crumbling away with the passage of the night,—and when morning and light come, it will be no more.

[To be continued.]

  1. This is a fact,—denied, of course, by some of the Roman Catholics, in argument; for what will they not deny? But it is, nevertheless, a fact. I have now before me a little Catechism, from which the Second Commandment is omitted, and the Tenth divided into two; and I have examined others in which the same omission is made. I cannot say that all are in the same category; for the Catholic Church is everything to everybody; but I can assert it of all I have seen, and especially of La Dottrina Xtiana, com-pilata per Ordine dell Eminentissimo Cardinale GONZAGA MEMBRINI, Vescovo di Ancona, per l'Uso della Città e Diocesi, published in 1830, which I mention because it is a compilation of authority, made under the superintendence of the Cardinal Bishop of Ancona,— and of the Catechismo per i Fanciulli, ad Uso delle Città e Diocesi di Cortona, Chiuso, Pienza, Pistoia, Prato e Colle, published in 1786, under the auspices and with the approval of the bishops of all these cities and dioceses.
  2. This festival of San Giuseppe, which takes place on the 19th of March, bears a curious resemblance to the Liberalia of the ancient Romans, a festival in honor of Bacchus, which was celebrated every year on the 17th of March, when priests and priestesses, adorned with garlands of ivy, carried through the city wine, honey, cakes, and sweetmeats, together with a portable altar, in the middle of which was a small fire-pan, {foculus,) in which, from time to time, sacrifices were burnt. The altar has now become a booth, the foculus a caldron, the sacrifices are of little fishes as well as of cakes, and San Giuseppe has taken the place of Bacchus, Liber Later; but the festivals, despite these differences, have such grotesque points of resemblance that the latter looks like the former, just as one’s face is still one’s face, however distortedly reflected in the bowl of a spoon; and, perhaps, if one remembers the third day of the Anthesteria, when cooked vegetables were offered in honor of Bacchus, by putting it together with the Liberalia, we shall easily get the modem festa of San Giuseppe.
  3. Beside the blessing of the eggs and house, it is the custom in some parts of Italy, (and I have particularly observed it in Siena,) for the priest, at Easter, to affix to the door of the chief palazzi and villas a waxen cross, or the letter M in wax, so as to guard the house from evil spirits. But only the houses of the rich are thus protected; for the priests bestow favors only “ for a consideration," which the poor cannot so easily give.