Cola Di Rienzo
IN a series of documents illustrating the sources of Italian history, the Istituto Storico at Rome has recently published a complete edition of the epistles of Nicholas, the son of Laurence, commonly known as Cola di Rienzo. Dispersed in various European libraries, from Turin to Prague, and more or less difficult of access, these letters have always constituted one of the two chief sources of information concerning the career of one of the most extraordinary of human beings. The other is a curious piece of contemporary biography, written in the popular Roman dialect of the fourteenth century, published for the first time at Bracciano in the year 1624, and reprinted in Florence in slightly modernized Italian some fifty years ago. Of this artless yet highly dramatic narrative, the fascinating simplicity of which reminds one almost equally of Herodotus and of Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, it is interesting to observe that the results of the most laborious modern criticism — German, French, and Italian — have all tended, as with the work of the Father of History himself, to confirm its historical authority. The amazing facts in the public life of Nicholas, the son of Laurence, his more than mythical triumphs and reverses, were virtually related once for all by this candid old chronicler, whose name we shall never know, and who, all the more because, like Petrarch, he loved the great neo-Roman, and sympathized, up to a certain point, with his vast ambition, deplored and has recorded with naive regret the fatal breaches in his sanity and defections of his conduct.
On the other hand, the subjective and transcendental side of Cola’s character, the spiritual beliefs which inspired and upheld him, his deep and abiding mysticism, receive new and very striking illustration from the collocation of his epistles and their arrangement in chronological order; and the strange inner man, who firmly believed that he was called of Heaven to reëstablish in its regenerate and final form the everlasting Roman imperium, and to inaugurate the era of the Holy Ghost on earth, who once and again soared skyward on the wind of this titanic project, and perished miserably for his daring, stands forth, by his own showing, a figure at once more human and far more tragic than that tinsel hero of romance apostrophized by Byron, sung by the juvenile Wagner, attired for the stage by the gentle hands of Miss Mitford, and recklessly idealized by Bulwer in The Last of the Tribunes. Thanks, however, to these picturesque and popular authors, the outlines of Cola’s history are so well known that a very slight thread of narrative will suffice to connect the extracts which we propose to make from the voluminous writings which have survived him.
How and where he can have acquired the culture which enabled him to produce these writings, and to produce them rapidly and abundantly as occasion required, — the earlier, at least, amid the stress of tremendous action, — must always remain one of the most enticing of the mysteries which involve the beginnings of his career. He was born in 1313, —nine years later than Petrarch, eight years before Dante died in exile at Ravenna; so that this great trio of Italians who woke in the first dawn of modern history, with so proud a consciousness of their national pedigree, and so passionately bent, each in his own way, on reinstating their fallen country in her lost priority, were for a number of years contemporary with one another. Cola, the son of Rienzo, came of the very dregs of the Roman people, — of such as have no right even to resent a nickname. His father was a tavern - keeper, and his mother a washerwoman and water-carrier; but he seems never seriously to have questioned that the dregs of Rome, even in her deepest degradation, were better than any so-called nobility of barbaric extraction. We do indeed find him, in the desperation of his latest efforts, inventing, or at least accepting and relating for ulterior purposes to Charles IV. at Prague, a story in which he refers his own origin to a certain period of ten days when the Emperor Henry VIII. had lain hidden from his enemies at Rome in Rienzo’s inn by the Tiber, — the latter being absent on a raid with one of the Orsini. The old chronicler tells us this as he tells us most things, in few and earnest words, without approval or apology. It is only Cola’s latest biographer, the careful and conscientious Rodocnnachi, who falls into the essentially modern vulgarity of pausing to point a sober moral here concerning the weakness of denying a lowly origin.
The river-side inn was situated in that quarter of Rome which was, and remained until yesterday, the lowest of all, —the right bank of the Tiber, just opposite the Ponte Rotto and the great island. The Colonna family, at that period, had fortified with towers and surrounded by palisades their own particular quarter of Rome, extending from the Column of Trajan, whence they took their name, along the line of the modern Corso as far as the Porta del Popolo. The Orsini had done the same for the region about the Castle of Sant’ Angelo, which they garrisoned and held. The Savelli were intrenched upon the Aventine, and the Frangipani held the Colosseum. The Emperor was far away in the north; the Pope was at Avignon. The Roman populace, to the probable number of some thirty thousand souls, led a miserably precarious existence around and among the rival camps of the ruffianly lords, and were bitterly oppressed by them all.
A traveler of the fourteenth century,1 describing the gaunt aspect of the ruins of pagan antiquity at about this time, informs us that the sacred hill of Jove was a wilderness of brambles and manure-heaps ; the Tarpeian Rock looked as it must have done in the days of Evander; the Palatine was a mountain of broken and disjointed marbles ; and the Forum was divided between pasture ground and vegetable garden. This scene of unparalleled desolation appealed all the more powerfully, no doubt, to the wrathful imagination of the innkeeper’s haughty son, because the meaning of it must have burst suddenly upon him, on his return to Rome at the age of twenty, after an absence of some fifteen years. Poor Maddelena, his hard-working mother, had died while he was still an infant, and the boy had been sent to be brought up by relatives in the Abruzzi. He afterward took pains to tell the king of Bohemia, in the same breath — or rather upon the same sheet — with the fable of his own imperial origin, that he lived among the mountains, in those early years, like a peasant among peasants. And how, indeed, should he have lived otherwise? Yet it seems most likely that it was here, at the hands of some benevolent churchman or recluse philosopher, he received that remarkable education which gave him access to all the known literature of his day, including the whole of the sacred Scriptures, and the perfect command of an only too fluent and florid Renaissance Latin.
The place of his retreat was Anagni, immemorial Anagni, then and always one of the most romantic spots that even Italy contains, a very home and haunt of mystery. It was reputed to have been a flourishing and famous town when the Trojans landed, and Marcus Aurelius, in the second century, was overpowered by the solemn aspect of its crumbling monuments, and the indecipherable inscriptions upon its mossy altars. In the dark ages, Anagni had become a papal stronghold; and Cola may very well have imbibed here, along with his Latin accidence and his marvelous knowledge of the Bible, some part of the special abhorrence which he bore the race of Colonna, since it was here that only a few years before Benedict VIII. had been besieged and taken prisoner by them, and subjected to extraordinary personal indignity. It is even more certain that the Roman youth had first heard expounded at Anagni that doctrine of the viri spirituales, or men who looked for the immediate coming of the Holy Ghost, with which his name was later to be identified.
A hundred years after the death of St. Francis of Assisi, a large proportion of his more earnest and ascetic followers had embraced that strange theory of an historic succession in the Holy Trinity which was formulated by the so-called Prophet Joachim of Flora, in Calabria, in the impressive statement that as the reign of the Father had ended with the advent of the Son, so the reign of the Son was now passing away before that of the Spirit, of whom St. Francis himself had been the precursor. A doctrine so obviously heretical had of course been condemned from the papal chair, though one of the Popes of the intervening period, Celestine V., was believed to hold it; but its disciples had suffered only just persecution enough to confirm and unite them, and their influence was paramount in all the hill - towns of the Abruzzi.
The death of Cola’s father in 1334 seems to have recalled him to Rome, and it was his phenomenal familiarity with the Latin classics which first drew public attention to him there. “Oh, what a quick reader he was ! ” cries the old biographer. “Forever quoting Titus, Livy, Seneca, Tully, Valerius Maximus! He was the only man in Rome who could decipher the old ‘pitaff’ and turn them into the vulgar tongue. If I could but have lived in the days of those men !‘ he used to say.”And then comes a vivid and significant bit of personal portraiture : “He was a handsome man, but the perpetual smile which hovered upon his lips was just a little fantastic. ”
Some ghostly reminiscence of the ancient forms of municipal government, or at least of the ancient names, had always survived in Rome. There had been a prefect — residing, however, at Viterbo—who was supposed in some especial manner to represent the Holy Roman Emperor. There had been senators, now one, now two, now forty or more; sometimes named by the reigning Pope, sometimes chosen by acclamation— though always, in Cola’s time, under intimidation of the barons and their armed followers — in an informal assembly of the people. So long, indeed, as the Pope and his cardinals lived in Rome or its immediate vicinity, they imposed a certain check upon the tyranny of the great nobles, who were most of them of foreign origin; but from the year 1305, when Clement V. took up his residence in Avignon, the state of the Eternal City can only be described as one of anarchy. “ Stava in grandissima tremaglia, ” is the expression of Cola’s biographer. To raise her from her profound prostration ; to humiliate once for all the insolent oppressors within her walls ; to restore to the Roman populace the ideal and the practice of self-government which had once made them supreme; and to bring back their spiritual sovereign to the sacred post which he had deserted, — these were the main features of that grand programme of reform which was beginning to take shape in the ardent brain of the son of Laurence the innkeeper. Such he conceived, in its practical aspects and consequences, would be that millennium of the Holy Ghost which the men of the spirit were wont to describe merely as the coming of the good state, but which he himself preferred, at this time, to call the good and ancient state.
He married a woman of the people, with a small dowry, adopted the profession of notary, and, with that singular, inspired look of his, and the gift of ready and impassioned eloquence which he presently discovered, his person soon became familiar to all classes in Rome. His own feeling toward the nobles had been greatly exacerbated by the murder of one of his young brothers in a street brawl, just after his return from the hills. He had been unable to obtain the punishment of the assassin, who was perfectly well known, but he took a larger vengeance by constituting himself the public advocate of others who had suffered similar wrongs, and in general of all the especially helpless and oppressed.
In 1342, Pierre Roger, of Limoges, became Pope at Avignon, under the title of Clement VI., and an embassy of eighteen prominent Roman citizens, with old Stefano Colonna at their head, and Petrarch as spokesman, to enhance their éclat, immediately waited upon the new Pontiff, entreating his return to Rome. They were coldly received, but, by the time they had come back discomfited, it seems to have been thought preposterous by nobody that Cola di Rienzo should have offered to make a second attempt in the same direction, in his own private capacity. He did, at all events, go, unattended, to Avignon, probably in December, 1342, with a double petition; comprising the restoration of the Holy See to Rome, and the proclamation of a general jubilee for the semicentennial year which was approaching.
The lettered Pope, who had been a doctor of the Sorbonne, seems at once to have been struck and fascinated by the high-flown eloquence and classic lore of the young notary; and Cola was also received with open arms and the most reverential faith and enthusiasm by Petrarch, who had remained at Vaucluse when the formal embassy returned, and whom Cola had seen before, no doubt, but only at a dazzling distance, when, in April, 1340, the poet visited Rome as the guest of his great friends and patrons among the Colonnesi, and received his laurel crown at the dishonored Capitol. For the measure of success which attended Cola’s romantic mission let us now apply to the first of his epistles, which was addressed from Avignon to the Roman people in the last days of January, 1343. The style in this instance is excessively figurative and Biblical, that of an initerant preacher rather than an astute politician.
“ Let the mountains round about you rejoice, and your hills be clothed with joy. . . . The city of Rome arises from her age-long prostration, and, mounting the throne of her accustomed majesty, she lays aside the mournful robes of her widowhood and puts on the purple of a bride.”The “spouse and lord ” for whom the city is to be thus adorned is of course the new Pope, who, “compassionating her calamities. ruins, and slaughters,” has been “moved by inspiration of the Holy Ghost kindly to open the arms of his clemency, offering grace and mercy to ourselves, redemption to the universal world, and remission of sins to all nations. ”
The jubilee of universal pardon had, in short, been formally decided, and proclaimed to be celebrated in the year 1350, and at intervals of fifty years for evermore; but as for that other prayer touching the restoration of the papacy, Cola was fain to be content with impressive but less explicit assurances. “Willingly accepting, moreover, the proffered headship of our city, he [Clement VI.] hath vowed, with ineffable emotion, by word, look, gesture, noble action of the body, and in short by all manner of external signs more animated than I can possibly describe, that he will assuredly visit the Apostolic See after he shall have allayed the scandals of Gaul.” This magnanimous intention should be enough in itself, Cola thinks, to entitle the new Pontiff to a statue “in our most venerable city, wherethrough it is unlawful for the Gentiles even to walk till they have unbound the chains of vice and put the shoes from off their feet ; for the place whereon you stand and where you live, dear brethren, is in very truth holy ground.”
He adds a formal expression of his own private belief that the grand restoration, both material and spiritual, is far nearer than the world imagines, and signs himself, “Nicholas, the son of Laurence, Roman consul, sole popular ambassador of the widow, the orphan, and the poor, to our lord the Roman Pontiff, of my own motion and by my own hand.”
This sounds sufficiently pretentious and visionary, and yet before the date of his next epistle, four years and three months later, Cola’s part in the great and seemingly hopeless reformation had been triumphantly accomplished; and that without the shedding of a drop of Roman blood. He had become dictator at Rome under the antique title of Tribune of the people; he had promulgated a concise but excellent code of laws whose execution secured peace and order within the precincts of the longdistracted city; he had worsted, one by one, and signally humiliated for the moment, almost all the great nobles, beginning with Stefano Colonna the elder; while some of the more prominent of the Orsini, the natural enemies of the former, had ranged themselves on his side. His headquarters were now at the Capitol, where he maintained a certain state, having dismantled the fortified posts of the great nobles inside the city walls, and used the wooden beams and other materials which had composed their palisades to strengthen the colonnades of the municipal palace. He had forbidden the exhibition upon gateway or tower of any arms but those of the Pope, for it was still in the Pope’s name and as his colleague that he professed to rule; and the papal legate in Italy, Raimond, Bishop of Orvieto, was apparently his willing instrument and close ally. He had organized and equipped, for the protection of life and property in Rome, a strong police force with mounted officers, constituting an admirable nucleus for an army, and under orders to be always in readiness instantly to rally to the Capitol upon the stroke of the great bell. He was even coining money with his own superscription added to the legend “Roma Caput Mundi;” and the private device which he had adopted of a sevenrayed sun, with a star at the end of each ray, was gravely explained by himself as the arms of the family of Boethius Severinus, in whose writings Cola was deeply versed, whom, as the last Roman of the old order, he regarded as his own immediate predecessor, and from whom he had adopted the name Severus, which was now added to that of Nicholas in the signature of all his letters and edicts.
Two only of the great feudal nobles in the states of the Church continued to hold out against the usurper: they were Giovanni di Vico, prefect of Viterbo, and Giovanni Gaetano, Count of Fondi, — “fratricides both, and at all times enemies of God and the Holy Roman Church,”Cola described them in writing the Pope ; and it was principally for the purpose of levying troops to accomplish their reduction that he now addressed a sort of encyclical to the communes of all the cities of central and northern Italy, in which he proclaimed the inauguration of the good state in Rome, and conjured them to aid him, with money and troops, in extending its millennial blessings to the whole of that noble territory of which Rome was the traditional head.
“Nicholas, severe and clement, Tribune of liberty, peace, and justice, and Liberator of the sacred Roman republic, ” announces to the commune of Viterbo, for instance, the pentecostal gift of the Holy Ghost which has been bestowed on the city of Rome, and which is destined, if they will but receive it, to be extended “to yourselves and all the faithful people who constitute our members.” It had been, in fact, on the feast of Pentecost, May 20. 1347, that Cola had accomplished his bloodless coup d’état, after having passed the night of the vigil in hearing masses of the Holy Spirit to the number of thirty, in the church of Sant’ Angelo-in-Pescheria. He goes on to give a prolix but perfectly lucid and circumstantial account of the late disgraceful condition of the city, which had even precluded “pious pilgrimages to the shrines of our princes and fellowcitizens, the most holy apostles Peter and Paul, and of the other holy apostles, — the bodies of eight of whom rest in this city, —and of the infinite number of martyrs and virgins, in whose blood the holy city is founded, ... to the no small detriment of Christendom at large.” It is primarily to the “ intercession with our Lord and Father Jesus Christ of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, our fellowcitizens, princes, and keepers,” that Cola ascribes the happy change which has taken place; whereby the Roman populace itself has been “restored to unity, concord, and the appetite for freedom, and inflamed with a sense of justice ; . . . and as a perpetual sign of good will, and of their own righteous and sacred purpose, this same Roman people, in public and most solemn parliament, has bestowed upon me, unworthy, full and free power and authority both to preserve and yet further to reform the pacific state of the aforesaid city and of the entire province of Rome. Wherefore, I, though I know my shoulders to be weak and unequal to the bearing of so great a burden, yet distinctly perceiving this to be the Lord’s doing and marvelous in our eyes, and trusting to the grace and protection of God and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and resting my hope upon the power of the Roman people and the adherence and suffrage of the whole Roman province, have accepted the aforesaid power and authority with a devout heart and a valiant mind. ”
Cola goes on to summon the commune of Viterbo to furnish him a military contingent, supplied with “arms, horses, and other accoutrements of war,
. . . for the immediate subjugation and treading under foot of the pride and tyranny of sundry rebellious spirits.” He likewise requests the appointment of two suitable delegates to the general parliament and council soon to be held at Rome for the purpose of celebrating and confirming the establishment of the good state; and also the immediate selection, for his own private behoof, and in token of their love and amity, of a man skilled in jurisprudence “who will take rank from this time as one of the judges of my own consistory, and will receive six months’ salary and wages and the usual emoluments.”
This letter is dated at the Capitol, May 24, 1347 ; and, considering the fact that one of the recalcitrant spirits mentioned “was the seignior of Viterbo itself, its tenor is sufficiently bold. On the 7th of June, Cola sent to the communes of Perugia. Florence, and Lucca letters couched in almost precisely the same terms, except that in these he describes himself as called of God to the pacification of all Italy, as well as of the states of the Church; and in the later letters he appoints August 1 as the day of the great celebration. Four days later, —that is to say, June 11 , —we find him prefacing a similar summons to the commune of Mantua with a private note, written entirely in the tone of one potentate to another, and addressed to his “beloved friend,
. . . the noble and potent Lord Guido di Gonzaga, ruler of the aforesaid city. ”
From this time on, chroughout all that crowded summer of incredible achievement and dreamlike pageantry, the literary activity of Cola was incessant. There are no less than ten elaborate letters and dispatches addressed to Florence and to other Italian communes. There are two long letters to Clement VI. in Avignon, minutely describing the progress of the revolution, which has all been wrought, the writer still devoutly protests, in the name and for the glory of his Holiness. There is a letter, in some respects the most extraordinary of all Cola’s public documents, addressed to those German princes who rank as electors of the Holy Roman Empire, and whom he mentions by name; announcing that confederate Rome, in which term, since the late happy events, all the lesser Italian states are to be understood as included, has resumed her immemorial right of choosing her own Imperator, and summoning, “all and singular, the prelates, emperors, elect and electors, kings, dukes, princes, counts, marquises, peoples, universities,” and all others in question, to send delegates before the feast of Pentecost in the ensuing year to a diet to be held “in Rome, in the beloved and the sacrosanct church of the Lateran; ” otherwise the assemblage will proceed with its functions “as the law appoints, and the Holy Ghost shall give it grace, ” without reference to the aforesaid potentates. Finally, there are two private letters, to which we shall presently refer, written, the one to an anonymous friend in the papal court at Avignon, the other to Petrarch at the same place.
On St. John’s Day (June 24), Cola had gone in state to the Lateran basilica of chat period, clothed in white silk and riding a white horse, and rendered actions of grace for the success which had thus far attended his mission. Two days later, there came from the Pope in Provence an official sanction of the new order, and the formal appointment of Rienzo and the Bishop of Orvieto as joint vicars of Clement in Italy. The expedition against Viterbo was organized, and set out in the first days of July. On the 16th the fortress surrendered. Before the close of that month, deputations, bearing congratulations on the establishment of the good state, and offers of material assistance in maintaining it, had arrived in Rome from Siena, Arezzo, Todi, Spoleto, Velletri, Foligno, and many other cities; a letter to the same effect had come from Venice, bearing the great seal of the republic; while the Este from Ferrara, the Gonzaga from Mantua, and the Malatesta from Rimini sent messengers with magnificent presents. The rival claimants to the throne of Naples, Louis of Hungary, and the infamous Giovanna through her paramour and prime minister, Louis of Taranto, were competing for the favor of the Tribune; and the unification of Italy was thus, in very truth, “shown by the fates " for one moment five hundred years before its actual accomplishment.
Could any mortal brain have failed to be turned by so sudden and so giddy a rise ? Yet the stately ceremonies and bizarre effects of those August fêtes which Cola had so solemnly advertised were all conceived in a certain spirit of mysticism, and arranged with reference to a deep symbolic significance. On August 1, the great republican anniversary which commemorated the fall of Alexandria in the year 30 B. c., and the inauguration of an era of universal peace under Augustus, Cola, after having first plunged into that ancient and still existing font where Constantine the Great was baptized, received the accolade from a Roman nobleman whom he had himself appointed to the office, exhibited himself to the dazzled populace and the delegates of half Christendom as invested with a new and sacred order of spiritual knighthood, and duly performed his vigil in the baptistery of the Lateran. On the feast of the Assumption, a fortnight later, five great ecclesiastical dignitaries waited upon him in Sta. Maria Maggiore, with tribunal crowns of oak, ivy, laurel, olive, and silver; while the same Ludovico Scotto who had dubbed him knight presented him with a yet more sacred emblem in the form of a silver globe surmounted by a cross.
It was in signifying his acceptance of this last offering, no doubt, that Cola pronounced the startling words which sent a thrill of superstitious alarm through the hitherto enthusiastic throng. “ Like our Lord Jesus Christ,” he said, “I have, in my thirtieth year, delivered the world from her tyrants without the shedding of blood.” He was at the apex of his glory, and giddiness fell upon him by the inevitable law. “This day,” cried a pious monk upon the outskirts of the crowd to a priest of Cola’s own household, “your master is fallen from heaven. ”
The history of the ensuing months, from that eventful 15th of August to the date of Cola’s first disappearance from the Roman scene, is indeed, as we know, a tale of little else than strife and bloodshed. The barons rallied from their temporary consternation and resolutely combined against him, while the Pope recoiled definitively from the support of one whose pretensions had grown so impious as to menace even his own supremacy. Meanwhile, in the letter already noted, to his nameless friend in Avignon, which is dated July 15, the man Cola affords us a rather moving glimpse of his own inner life, and the unquestionable sincerity and disinterestedness of his chimerical purposes. “ God, to whom all things are open, knows that it is not through any ambition of dignity, office, fame, honor, or worldly wealth, which things I have ever abhorred as very slime, but through a desire for the common good of the entire republic, our own most holy state, that I have been induced to bow my neck to so heavy a yoke. ’T is God, and not man, who has laid it upon me. He knows what prayers procured me this charge: whether I have distributed favors, honors, and emoluments among my kindred, or heaped up honors for myself; whether I have swerved from truth or temporized with any man; whether I have ever accepted a bribe for myself or on behalf of my heirs, indulged in gluttony or any other delight of the senses, or worn a mask of any kind. God is my witness that what I have done, I have done for the poor and the helpless, the widow and the fatherless. Cola, the son of Laurence, led a far more tranquil existence than does the Tribune.” He mentions, a. little further on, an attempt upon his life, which, by the mercy of God, he had discovered and foiled; “but as for the rumor,” he continues, “which you say has reached you, that I am beginning to be afraid, know that the Holy Spirit, by whom I am sustained and directed, has made my heart so stout that I fear nothing at all; nay, if the entire world and all its inhabitants, both those of the holy Christian faith and the perfidious Jews and pagans, were banded against me, I should not be shaken. For my purpose is, in all reverence toward God and our Holy Mother Church, to die, if need be, for the love and the cult of justice.”
Cola’s first letter to Petrarch, or at least the first that has been preserved, is dated the 28 th of this same month of July, “in the first year of the liberated republic.” The style, from an evident straining after literary effect, is rather worse than usual; the address is extremely pompous.
“Nicholas, the severe and clement, Tribune of liberty, peace, and justice, and illustrious deliverer of the sacred Roman republic, to that man of shining virtue, the Lord Francis Petrarch, worthiest poet laureate and most dear fellow-citizen, health and plenitude of honor and of the highest joy.” He goes on to speak of the “sweet series ” of Petrarch’s letters to himself, to thank him for his precious encouragement, and to pray him to come and see with his own eyes the dawn of the new day in Rome. “For as a precious gem adorns a ring of gold, so would the glory of your person add grace and honor to our beloved city.”
Petrarch did not accept this invitation, but the admiration of the poet and patriot for the saviour of what they both delighted to call their common country, and his impassioned faith in the divine authority of Cola’s mission, found expression, during these last days of July, in that finest of all the canzoni, which begins with the sublime apostrophe : —
“Spirito gentil che quelle membra reggi, Dentro alle qua’ peregrinando alberga, Un signor valoroso, accorto e saggio,” etc.
Already, however, in the early autumn, we detect a note of hesitation, a subtle breath of warning and almost of reproof, mingling with Petrarch’s ascriptions of praise to the emancipator of Rome; nor can he quite repress a sigh on his own account over his inevitable alienation from those lifelong friends and benefactors of his among the Colonna, with whom, as the head and front of the allied barons, the Tribune was now at open war.
Then came the fatal 20th of November, 1347, and that ferocious conflict outside the Porta San Lorenzo, in which twelve great Roman nobles, including six cavaliers of the house of Colonna, were slain.2 The latter were, Stefano the younger, son of the more famous Stefano; Pietro and Giovanni, his nephews, and Roman senators both; and three sons of the younger Stefano. Cola, as one drunk with slaughter, not merely permitted the persons of the dead to be infamously insulted by his men, but, on the day after the battle, he brought his own young son, Lorenzo, to the scene of it, sprinkled his brow with water from a neighboring pool mixed with the blood of Stefano Colonna, and dubbed him Knight of Victory upon the sodden field. “From that time,” says the old biographer, “the Tribune began to lose credit. There were whispers among the people. Men said that his arrogance was not small.”
The ghastly tidings met Petrarch at Parma, on his way from France, and at first he would not believe them. The tale had been brought by an itinerant monk of Orvieto, and Petrarch’s impulse was to scout it as a fable of the cloister. But his incredulity cannot have lasted long, for within a week after the battle we find him writing to Rienzo in terms of undisguised lamentation and reproach, as well as performing the far more difficult duty of expressing to his friend Cardinal Giovanni Colonna,3 at Avignon, some portion of his own distressful sympathy and compunction.
The Colonnesi had plenty of crimes to answer for; but no one of them lacked those imposing qualities of race which declare themselves in the hour of supreme misfortune and compel the obeisance of the world, qualities largely mundane, no doubt, but none the less majestic, to which the Tribune and Liberator, all his disinterestedness and all his inspiration granted, could never pretend. The sorrowful amende of Petrarch was accepted with grave magnanimity both by the cardinal and his brother Giacomo, the Bishop of Lombez; and there was no break thenceforth in the affectionate relations between them and the poet. These two ecclesiastics and their father, old Stefano, now in his eighty-third year, with one son of the younger Stefano, were all that remained of their branch to represent that “mass of fiery valor rolling on the foe ” which but yesterday had gloried in the name of Colonna. When the venerable head of the house heard of the catastrophe which had befallen his line, his words were few. “God’s will be done,” he said. “Of the two, it is assuredly better to die than to submit any longer to the tyranny of this peasant; ” and at once assuming command of the remnant of the baronial party, he conducted their operations, during the few weeks that intervened between the battle of Porta San Lorenzo and the abrupt disappearance of Cola, with all the vigor of his prime.
The anonymous biographer of Rienzo prays the reader to permit him to pause at this critical point, and relate a striking story which he has encountered in the book of Titus Livy concerning a general whose name was Anitalo di Cartagine. The victory of Canna and the dalliance at Capua are then described with all the zest of one who is conscious of having a fresh and impressive anecdote to tell; “and the point is, ” adds this engaging historian, “that if Cola di Rienzo, the Tribune, had only followed up his victory and ridden straight to Marino and taken the Castle of Marino, and made an end then and there of Giordano,4 so that he could never have raised his head again, the people of Rome would still have been free and without tribulation. ”
But no such vigorous measures appear to have occurred to Rienzo, who indulged instead in a bout of riotous feasting, all the more remarkable from the abstemiousness of his previous habits. He also, as has been already said, wrote two long letters on the very day of the battle, — one to the commune of Florence, and one to Rinaldo Orsino, his ally at Avignon, — describing in terms of rather brutal exultation the circumstances of the fight. In the first of these letters he speaks of only three of the Colonnesi as having fallen. In the second he mentions six, but does not give their names. In both he says that he was visited in a dream, two days before the battle, by Boniface VIII., the implacable foe of that haughty race, who predicted their annihilation at his hands.
There must, however, have fallen upon him, in the next few days, a great revulsion of feeling, perhaps of remorse and distrust of his own mission; otherwise, he could hardly have been so depressed and intimidated as he presently showed himself to be by the tidings that Clement had pronounced his doctrines heretical, and was sending a legate to supersede the governor whom Cola had recently appointed for the Sabine territory. On the 2d of December, the Tribune sent a circular letter to sundry communes in that region, enjoining instant submission to the papal decree. “We love you with a righteous zeal,” he wrote, “and we will not forsake you either in tempest or in calm; but you ought not to deSire us to remain at odds with the Holy See on your behalf, especially when this could in no way profit yourselves.”
This circular is the last of the original documents belonging to the period of Cola’s first ascendency. On the 14th a riot broke out in Rome, fomented by a certain active adventurer who had been raising mercenaries in the papal states for the army with which Louis of Hungary was proposing to invade the kingdom of Naples. It was an insignificant émeute enough at the outset, but it seemed to paralyze the Tribune. He caused the great alarm bell to be sounded; but when, for the first time, the troops which he had organized did not rally to the summons, his confidence wholly forsook him, and, after a night of agonized suspense, he addressed his personal attendants in a voice choked with emotion and took solemn leave of them. “I have ruled this people uprightly, ” were his words, “but through envy they are discontent, and now, in the seventh month of my dominion, I will depart.” He had still sufficient sang-froid to mount his horse, and order the brazen trumpets which had hitherto heralded his progress through the streets of Rome to be blown once more; “and thus,” says the biographer, “with an armed guard and banners flying, be descended trimnphaliter, and took refuge in the Castle of Sant’ Angelo.”
If Cola had hoped to be recalled to the Capitol by a spontaneous demonstration of the people, he was disappointed. From Sant’ Angelo he withdrew, in the first days of January, to Civita Vecchia, and from thence to Naples, which the king of Hungary entered as conqueror on the 18th of that month. We catch a glimpse of attempted negotiations with the latter, followed by a sharp summons from Avignon for the surrender of Cola to the jurisdiction of the Holy See. Then suddenly, in the awful spring of 1348, there fell out of heaven upon Italy, cutting short all human purposes, obliterating all minor distinctions, the blackness of the great plague. Louis of Hungary abandoned his late conquest and fled to his home in the north, and Cola, like many another of those who escaped the pest, assumed the habit of a monk, entered the third order of the Franciscans, and sought asylum with his co-religionists, the viri spirituales, in the great convent of Monte Majella. We will let him describe in his own words the manner of life in that mountain fastness, the highest peak of the Apennines after the Gran Sasso d’ Italia.
“But there are those,” he says, by way of contrast to a graphic picture he has just been drawing of the corruption of the Avignonese clergy, “who, having sold all their worldly goods and given to the poor, spurning all manner of soft raiment, and clad simply in two tunics of coarse wool ’’ (precisely the dress, by the way, which the Roman peasant had worn in those very mountains of the Abruzzi a thousand years before), “bare - legged and, so far as possible, bare-footed, sundered utterly from the world, have betaken themselves to wild woods and solitary places, after the manner of the holy fathers. No avarice flourishes among these men, no envy, no ambition, no scandal, but poverty ardently embraced. sincere humility, a joyful patience, innocence and purity, and a life of unmixed charity. For whether they be sons of counts, barons, and other nobles, or men learned in theology, of whom many have rallied hither, and many more will rally, unless they be first pierced by the arrows and slain by the engines of the Church, they are glad to bear upon their shoulders, from far-away farms and castles, through snow and rain and mountain pass, ” some alms to their companions. “And the command lies upon them that if any one of the order, in asking alms among the farmsteads, should chance to encounter abuse or personal violence, he may not taste of the bread he has begged until he has offered a special prayer for the salvation of the violent or blasphemous man. . . . They fast much, but they pray yet more; . . . and if their countenances be not disturbed by mirth, yet are they truly glad and satisfied at heart, and sometimes they work famous miracles. . . . O mortal life that bringest forth immortality! O angelic life, above reproach by any save the friends of Satan! If I had not actually seen these things, my own soul could never have been so moved and drawn by love and longing for them! ”
There seems no reason to doubt the sincerity of Cola’s self-consecration, nor the profound regret with which he soon found himself summoned, as he believed, of Heaven to detach himself from the contemplative life, and embark once more upon the stormy ocean of this world’s affairs. How this happened he shall also tell us. The Vatican codex containing the long discourse from which our last extract comes is entitled, Reply of the Tribune to the Cæsar concerning his Eulogium of Charity. The Cæsar is the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV. of Bohemia; for when Cola reappears in the world of action, we find him, to our amazement, transformed into as completely convinced a Ghibelline as ever Dante had been. The transitory dream of an Italian inrperium was over; and it is upon the northern potentate that the Tribune now rests his last hope of the purification and pacification of Rome.
Arriving in Prague, a footsore pilgrim, in July of 1350 (after having paid a flying visit to Rome in disguise, and snatched, as it were, the blessing of the jubilee), he was received into the house of a druggist, who was by birth a Florentine, and thence requested and obtained audience of the Emperor.
“And these,” observes the anonymous biographer, “were his words, and this was his excellent discourse to Charles, the king of Bohemia, grandson of the Emperor Henry, and himself lately elected Emperor by the Pope: ‘Most serene prince and glorious ruler of the entire world: I am that Cola to whom God once gave such grace that I was able to govern Rome and her whole territory in justice, liberty, and peace. Tuscany, Campania, and the seacoast acknowledged my authority; I bridled the arrogance of the great ; I abolished many an iniquitous abuse. But I am a worm, and a fallible man, and a weakly plant, like another, and God hath willed to chastise me. A rod of iron was in my hand, which I, out of very humility, converted into a rod of wood. The men of might pursue me and they seek my life. In their pride and hatred they have chased me from my dominions, and they remain unpunished. I, who am of your own lineage, a bastard son of the valiant Emperor Henry, betake myself to you, under the shield and shadow of whose wings a man ought surely to be safe;
. . . for I have seen a prophecy of Brother Angelo of the Mount of Heaven in Monte Majella, which says that the eagle shall devour the carrion crows.’ ”
There must surely still have been a mysterious power in Cola’s personality and an irresistible fascination about his address, for the royally descended Kaiser, to whom the effrontery of the innkeeper’s son in claiming kindred with himself must have been simply astounding, — the creature of Clement VI., who knew that Cola had long since been excommunicated by the latter, —not only received him without rebuke, but requested a written statement of his experiences and his views, which Cola forthwith prepared.
“Most serene Cæsar Augustus, ” this remarkable document began, “it has pleased your Serenity to invite me to repeat in proper writing what I have already said in your imperial presence, and glad am I that in the royal city, where silver and gold are purged from dross,5 my message also shouh be carefully tried. For if any error do indeed lurk therein, I would fain see it eliminated by the scrutiny of men wiser than I. Who I am, and what I have done for the defense and safety of churches, monasteries, hospitals, and all the poor and suffering everywhere; what I have been also to the pilgrim and the stranger, and all who desire to live purely and without guile, and what to the tyrants and robbers of Italy,—these things, I say, can by no means be blinked or hidden. The Holy Roman See and all the people of Italy know them; they are as a city set upon a hill. . . . But when, in the fullness of that glory and felicity to which the Lord had raised me, I began to invest myself with the pomps and splendors of this world, I was most righteously chastised of God. The flowers and the fruitage of my high estate fell from me, and I became sterile for a season, like a tree stripped bare by the violence of the wind. . . . For, as I have already explained to your Majesty, I fled from the pursuit of those very foes whom previously, by God’s help, I had laid low. By God, not man, was I driven forth, and freely, in view of the whole people in parliament assembled [ ! ],having solemnly laid aside the sceptre of justice and the tribunal crown, I departed, amid the tears of the multitude, and remained in solitude, looking always for the coming of one who should deliver me at once from the stormy tempest and the weakness of my own heart. So dwelt I, passing my time in prayer, among the hermits in the Apennines of Apulia, and I wore the garb of poverty. And when I had thus lived and labored some thirty months, there arrived a certain friar named Angelo, of Monte Vulcano, announcing himself a hermit of the hermits, and revered of many. This man saluted me by my true name, to my great amazement, for my name was not known in that place, and told me that I had now been long enough in the desert for the good of my soul, and that once more it behooved me to be laboring for the world at large, and not for myself alone. He then told me that he had had a direct revelation from Heaven concerning the place of my retreat, and proceeded to open to me the designs of God touching that universal restoration which has been so often predicted by the men of the spirit, and invoked in the prayers of the all-powerful and glorious Virgin.” The crowding calamities of the last few years, earthquake, famine, and pestilence, were declared to have been but the wholesome scourges of God, designed for the reformation of the Church and the world; “and in a short time, more especially through the return of the Catholic Church to her state of pristine sanctity, an era of great peace would begin, and that not for the worshipers of Christ alone, but for all Christians,2 and even for Saracens, who would thus receive the grace of the Spirit at the hands of the one Shepherd immediately to be set over them, for that the era of the HolyGhost wherein God shall be verily known of man was in truth close at hand. He also told me that, in the furtherance of this great work of the Spirit, God had selected a certain holy man, whom all would be taught of Heaven to recognize, who would cooperate with the Emperor elect in reforming the universal world, and in stripping the pastors of the Church of all their superfluous luxuries and perishable riches.” Cola then proceeds more explicitly to identify the persons who will compose this earthly trinity of the new order. He was himself, of course, that man of God who was to be associated in the government of Rome and of the world with the Emperor Charles, whom he now addresses as “the one hundredth in direct succession from Augustus Cæsar; while the Pope who should succeed Clement VI. within two years’ time, and restore the Holy See to Rome after an exact half-century of exile, would be no other than that Pastor Angelicus of ancient prophecy whom the Catholic Church had been so long expecting, and indeed, for that matter, is expecting still.
The particulars of his alleged imperial birth Cola reserved for a second letter to the Emperor, which must have followed the first almost immediately, and wherein the tale of Maddelena’s seduction is told with a gravity and seeming candor that savor almost more of hallucination than of willful deceit. It is to be noted, also, that when, a few months later, in the immediate prospect, as he fancied, of a violent death, Cola addressed to one of the brothers at Monte Sant’ Angelo a letter reviewing his career and making general confession of his sins, he expressed penitence for having revealed the secret of his mother’s shame, but not at all as if he had slandered her. “ If I had only kept quiet about that,” are his words,
“ I could better have borne these things.
I attribute it all to my impatience and meanness of spirit. I pretended afterward that I had spoken figuratively. For,” he naively adds, ”to have been devoured by the archimandrites of the beloved city will sound much better in the ears of the world than to have been born out of wedlock. . . . But I have drunk many cups, and I can drink this too, if it be needful for my salvation.”
The Emperor replied briefly and evasively to these long-winded communications, but he did think it worth while to reply, and a mixture of motives, personal and political, appears to have determined him to keep Rienzo near him for a time, notwithstanding the repeated and imperative demands of Clement VI. that he should be sent to Avignon to stand his trial for heresy before the proper authorities there. Cola’s vehement denunciations of clerical vice and corruption created something like a party for him in the land of John Huss, and indeed throughout the whole of that region which was so soon to be Protestant Germany; and Charles professed a desire to win him, by gentle means if possible, from the error of his opinions. Cola was therefore subjected to a nominal and at first sufficiently light imprisonment in an ancient fortress overlooking the town of Raudnitz and the river Elbe, a little to the north of the Bohemian capital; while the Archbishop of Prague, Arnest de Padubitz, a man of eminent piety and learning, was entrusted with the business of his conversion. During the ensuing autumn these two had repeated interviews, and a number of written communications passed between them, some if not all of which are included in the present Epistolario. Their controversial interest is considerable, but Cola proved, as might have been expected, a difficult catechumen to instruct. Little by little, as months elapsed, and the rigors of the northern winter began to tell upon a frame already enfeebled by the commencement of organic disease, the tone of lofty confidence which marks the earlier of these letters gives place to one of deep discouragement, and that fixed presentiment of impending death which is expressed in Cola’s letter of confession, already quoted, to the monk of Monte Sant’ Angelo.
Cola admits at last that he may have exaggerated the importance of his own mission, but never for one moment does he profess himself convinced of doctrinal error. Finally he appears himself to have entreated the Emperor to hand him over to the papal tribunal, and so end the wearing suspense of his position in Bohemia; and accordingly, in June, 1352, nearly two years after his arrival in Prague, he was at last sent, under a strong guard, to Avignon.
There is no particular reason for supposing that the cell in the great papal palace there, which continues to this day to be shown as Cola’s, was in reality his; but it makes little difference. Into one of the innumerable dungeons which underlie that stupendous fabric Cola was unquestionably thrown, and he lay there for several months before his trial came on. In some respects he was mercifully treated. He was permitted to engage an advocate for his trial; he was allowed his favorite books, namely, the Bible and the History of Livy; and Petrarch, now living in sad seclusion and mourning for his Laura at Vaucluse, appears to have done all he could for his friend and hero of former days. “Consider to what he is reduced, ” wrote the poet to a friend in Florence,6— “that terrible Tribune, before whom the world once trembled, who inspired the weak with confidence and the great with terror. The Emperor has made a present of him to the Pope! I have no words in which to qualify so infamous a transaction.” Petrarch also addressed a stirring appeal to the Roman people (unsigned, indeed, but its authorship was sufficiently well known) on behalf of the man to whose genius and devotion they had owed their one brief glimpse, in that generation, of peace and prosperity. Afterwards, when judgment had gone against the heretic and usurper, as of course it was bound to do, the poet actually contrived to delay the execution of his sentence on the curiously frivolous plea of “ Rienzo’s services to literature; ” and thus, as the event proved, he saved his life, and made way for his last brief and lurid apparition upon the Roman stage.
On the 6th of December, 1352, Clement VI. died suddenly, and the choice of the hastily assembled conclave fell upon a man who had very little in common with his luxurious and lettered predecessor. Etienne Aubert, who took the name of Innocent VI., was a born ascetic and a determined reformer. “He was a man of pure life and little learning, ” says Villani, and his views concerning the insolence of the secular lords and the shameful license of the clergy were much the same as Cola’s own. One of his first acts as Pontiff was to order a new trial for the Tribune, reverse the sentence which had been passed upon him, and pronounce him free from all taint of fatal heresy. Later on, the new Pope conferred upon Rienzo the dignity of Roman senator, and in the ensuing year dispatched him to Italy, in the suite of his lately elected legate, the warlike Spanish Cardinal Albernoz, to try the effect upon his own more than ever intractable subjects in the states of the Church of whatever might remain of Cola’s old prestige.
Two only of the documents collected in the Epistolario belong to this closing period of Rienzo’s career. They are an appeal for aid to the commune of Florence, expressed with much of the old force and fire, and a singular communication. to which we may perhaps refer in another place, addressed to the most modest and yet plausible of all royal pretenders, that claimant of the crown of France who is known in history as Gianni di Guccio of Siena.
After serving during the summer in the army of Albernoz, and assisting at a second capitulation of Viterbo, Cola considered that the time was ripe for him to begin to act independently of his colleague, and once more, and for the last time, he turned his face toward the Mecca of his soul. It seemed at first as though the enthusiasm of the Romans for their Tribune and Liberator had revived in full force. Lhey sent deputations as far as Orte to meet him on his way, and on the 1st of August, 1354, exactly seven years from the day of that pompous fête when all the world had been invited to witness Rienzo’s earlier triumph, he entered Rome after a fashion which recalled to one, at least, of the spectators “the return of Scipio Africanus.”
But it was not the same Cola who thus came back to the city of his pride and devotion. He was barely fortyone years old, but his frame was bloated and enfeebled by advanced heart disease, and his mind, partly, it may be, from the same cause, more than ever unbalanced and visionary; so that he who had once dared to compare his own work for the people whom he loved to that of the Saviour of mankind might well have remembered, as he passed the gates of Rome, the triumphal entry of our Lord into the city over which he had wept and where he was so soon to be slain. Cola had a populace to reduce to order among whom matters and manners had been going from bad to worse ever since the year of the jubilee. He had a war upon his hands with Stefanello Colonna, the only direct descendant of old Stefano’s line, heir to the accumulated hatred of all his race, and their determined avenger. Last, but not least, he found an empty treasury; and the imposts which he proceeded to levy for carrying on the indispensable military operations were instantly and angrily resisted. Stefanello had thrown himself into the citadel of Palestrina, that fortress of his race, over whose dark and crumbling gateway the white marble pillar of the Colonnesi still glances, in hours of sunshine, across the whole breadth of the Campagna, like the flashing of a haughty eye. Cola led in person, as far as Tivoli, a sullen and unwilling army to the assault of this stronghold, but here his troops mutinied and demanded pay for their services of the previous year, under Albernoz, at the siege of Viterbo; and there lies against the Tribune the heavy imputation of having arrested on a false accusation, and treacherously slain, at this crisis, his ally, the condottiere Monreale, for the sake of appropriating the enormous booty which this man was known to have deposited with certain bankers in Perugia. If he did indeed sanction this crime, it availed him nothing. The siege of Palestrina had to be abandoned. Cola returned, discomfited, to the Capitol, and it only remains for us to gather from the painfully minute narrative of his contemporary biographer a few particulars concerning the last scene of all in this strange and eventful history.
“It was in October , and the eighth day of the month. Cola was in bed in the morning, when he suddenly heard voices crying, ‘Viva lo popolo! Viva lo popolo! ’ At the sound of these words men began to pour in from the neighboring streets, and as the crowd gathered the tumult increased. Armed bands also arrived from Sant’ Angelo and the Column of Trajan ” (that is, from the posts of the Orsini and Colonnesi), “as though they had planned to effect a junction; and then the cry changed, and what they said was, ‘Death to the traitor, Cola di Rienzo! Death to the traitor who has laid the tax upon us! ’ But the Tribune made no answer to these cries. He neither caused the great bell to be rung, nor ordered his people to arms. Only at first he said, ‘They say, long live the people, and I say so, too. ’T is to save the people that I am here.’ But when he found that the cries grew more hostile, and especially when he perceived that he had been abandoned by all except three of those who dwelt within the Campidoglio, —• judges, notaries, guards, all had fled to save their own skins, —a terrible doubt seized him. . . . He asked those three what was to be done; then, recovering his own courage, he cried, ‘By my faith, this thing shall not be! ’ and he proceeded to put on all his knightly armor, greaves, cuirass, and plumed helmet. He then grasped the banner of the people, and, stepping out alone upon the balcony of the great upper hall, he stretched forth his hand as though he would speak. Doubtless, if they would but have listened to him, he might have changed their temper and defeated their purpose; but the Romans would not hear him. They were like swine. They flung stones, and battered the walls, and ran for brands to set fire to the doors. . . . Then Cola unfurled the standard, and pointed with both hands to the letters of gold and the arms of the citizens of Rome, as who should say, ‘You will not let me speak! Yet I am a citizen, and I am of the people, like yourselves, and I love you, and if you will kill me, kill me as a Roman citizen! ‘ But these gentle ways availed him nothing. The senseless populace only raged the more, shouting, ‘Death to the traitor! ’ . . .
“Then the Tribune, in his despair, surrendered himself to chance. Standing in full view behind the railing, he first took off his helmet and then put it on again, which showed that he was wavering between two opinions. The first was the desire to die with honor, sword in hand and fully armed, in the face of all the people, like a magnificent and imperial personage, and this he signified when he put on his helmet; and the second was the longing to escape, and this he betrayed by taking off his helmet. These two desires contended in his mind, but the longing for life conquered; for he was a man like another, and he did not wish to die. And so. hesitating in his mind, he chose at last the most spiritless and shameful part of all. . . . Already the Roman mob, with oil and pitch and wood, had fired the outer door, and now the ceiling of the loggia and the second door began to kindle, and all the woodwork, bit by bit, and the cracking noise was horrible to hear. Then it seemed to the Tribune as if he might escape through the fire itself, . . . and he took off his grand seigniorial outer garments and flung aside his armor, and
— alas that I should have to tell it!
— he cut off his heard and blackened his face, and so disguised went down,
. . . and passed the burning door and the stairs and the terror of the falling beams and the inner door in safety, and the fire had not touched him.
Only at the last door one stopped him with the cry, ‘Whither goest thou?’ ... He was discovered, and there was no help. They took him by the arm and forced him backward over all the stairways, yet without harming him, until they came to that place of the Lions where so many other men had heard their death-warrant. Where he had condemned others, there was he stayed, and there fell upon all a great silence, for at first no man dared to touch him. S0 stood he for well-nigh an hour, with shorn beard and blackened visage, in his green silk tunic girded at the waist, with his goldembroidered gauntlets and purple hose, after the fashion of a lord; and he held his arms steadily folded, and merely glanced about him from time to time. Then Cecco del Vecchio seized a beam, and gave him a great blow in the abdomen, and another smote him over the head with a sword, and another and another, but he never moved. He was dead with the first blow, and felt no pain. . . .
“Such was the end of Cola di Rienzo, the great Tribune of Rome, who set himself as an example to the Roman people.”
Harriet Waters Preston.
- Bracciolini Poggio, Hist, de Varietate Fortunæ.↩
- We have followed Paponcordt and Rodocanachi, as well as the general tradition of the time, in this enumeration of the Colonna victims. The old biographer’s account is a somewhat confused one, and the editor of the Epistolario points out that there is no positive proof of the death of more than three of that family. Cola himself, as we shall see, gives the numbers differently in two letters which are otherwise almost identical. But if both these letters were really written, as they are dated, on tile day of the battle, some hours may have intervened between them, leaving time for the Tribune to receive a fuller list of the slain.↩
- The youngest of the three Cardinals Colonna of that period.↩
- Orsino. The Colonnesi did not acquire Marino till the following century.↩
- He alludes to a celebrated coinage of Prague.↩
- Christcolas and Christianos. It would be curious to know the exact distinction between these two in Cola’s mind. One can hardly suspect him, in this grave connection, of a pun upon his own name.↩
- Francesco di Nello, prior of the SS. Apostoli.↩