Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

Energetically as these hypogees were ex- Even whilst that earlier organization
plored in the sixteenth and seventeenth continued, the loss and destruction of monu-
centuries, little was accomplished, in com- ments from catacombs reflects most un-
parison with results quite recent, by any favourably on those responsible. Maran-
earlier undertakings; and much of the goni, after long experience as assistant cus-
wealth secured was lost through Vandalic rode with Boldetti, tells us that thousands of
spoliation or inexcusable neglect. It was in epigraphs were taken from these cemeteries
December, 1593, that the first exploration to the church of S. Maria in Trastevere ;
was commenced by Bosio, in company with seven cartfuls to S. Giovanni de' Fioren-
Pompeo Ugonio and others; and sub- tini; two cartfuls to another church of S.
sequently, between that year and 1600, Giovanni in Rome; yet, at the present day,
were explored by the former all subterra- only about a score of epitaphs remain in
neans into which he could find access along the portico of the former, not one in either
the Appian, Salarian, Flaminian, Ostian, of the two latter churches. Mazzolari
Latin, and Portuense Ways. In the library (" Vie Sacre,” 1779) describes what he had
of the Oratorian Fathers at Rome are four himself seen, - the deliberate destruction
large folio volumes of MS., entirely written of a corridor and cubiculum (sepulchral
by Bosio, comprising the vast material for chapel) in the Catacombs of St. Lawrence,
the work he did not live to produce; and almost immediately after they had been
another example of industry, frustrated by reopened in the long-inaccessible cemetery
fatal accident, was the compilation intended on the Tiburtine Way.
to comprise all the art objects, epigraphs, The works carried on within recent years
&c., from catacombs, on which Marangoni have led to most interesting results. First
and Boldetti had been occupied for seven- of all may be classed, for importance, the
teen years, when the whole fell a prey to discovery of the vast hypogee which took
the flames in 1720 ; the few fragments its name from St. Callixtus, though of ori-
saved being, however, turned to account by gin still earlier; not founded, but enlarged,
the former, and brought out as an appendix by that Pope, and in which all the Roman
to his “ Acta S. Victorini,” 1740.

bishops were interred during the third Bosio, in the course of his long labours, century; the first mention of this, as a discovered only one group of sepulchres cemetery whose possession was legally historically noted (in 1619); another such guaranteed to the Church, occurring unwas found by Boldetti in 1720; and in 1845 der the reign of Septimius Severus. About Father Marchi accomplished a like dis- two miles beyond the Appian Gatecovery in the tombs of the martyrs Protus way stands, on elevated ground, an old and Hyacinthus. The catacombs called brick edifice with apse and vaulted roof, after the Christian matron Lucina, were re- long used as a gardener's storehouse, now opened by the accidental sinking of the identified as the chapel raised for his own soil in 1688; and access to those of St. sepulture by Pope St. Damasus. Near this

Tertullianus, on the Latin Way, was alike were begun, in 1844, the researches that due to mere accident. In 1849 the Cavalier led to the opening of those long-unexplored de Rossi began his task of directing excava- catacombs, at a short distance from the tions, for the costs of which a monthly sub- Basilica of St. Sebastian, below which exvention had been assigned by the Pope. tend other subterraneans long supposed to Soon afterwards, Pius IX. appointed an be the real Callixtan. Some years pre“ apostolic visitation,” for ascertaining the viously had been found, near this spot, a condition of all Roman Catacombs; and a broken marble slab, with the letters of an more practically important step, that soon inscription, “ NELIUS MARTYR;” and followed, was the creation of a “ Committee the discovery of the tomb of St. Cornelius of Sacred Antiquities,” with charge and soon rewarded the labours here undertaken; superintendence over all works and objects the missing fragment, with the letters within that sphere, under whose direction “ COR . EP” [iscopus), within a the first excavations were commenced in cubiculum dimly lighted from above, being 1851. By this arrangement was superseded soon found near à tomb, beside which are the ordinance of Pope Clement X., dated the painted figures of St. Cornelius and St. 1672, entrusting the care of all these hypo- Cyprian of Carthage, near the figures of gees to the Cardinal Vicar, under the two other saints ; one designated by the authority of whom, and that of the papal written name " Sixtus," another martyred sacristan (a prelate), subterranean works pope; the two first being thus associated, used to be directed by custodi, as official because commemorated by the Church on deputies.

the same day, having both suffered on the 16th of September, and having in their miracle of multiplying loaves; another gives lifetime held frequent correspondence. baptism to a similarly typical creature of its These four figures have all the nimbus, kind; a sheep touches a mummy-like figure also the same characteristics of style; and a with a vand, to represent the raising of period not later than the sixth or seventh Lazarus; and a sheep receives the tablets century can be assigned to these, as to other of the Law on the mount. Turning to the paintings in the same subterranean. collection in the Lateran Museum, we ob

In considering the selection to which this serve the most interesting sculptured series primitive art was so strictly confined, we are on a large sarcophagus brought from St. struck by two predominant features, — the Paul's, where it was probably placed at the avoidance of those subjects invested with time of the building of that basilica in the most awful sacredness, as the Crucifixion, fourth century, the groups in relief on its Resurrection, Ascension, the institution of front presenting a valuable record of relithe Eucharist ; also the pervading mysticism, gious ideas; but we are shocked to find here which ever led to prefer such themes, in the traditional reverence of earlier days so miracle, type, or historic incident, as suggest soon departed from in the admission, among more than they represent; for, in fact, the the now larger art-range, of such a subject more frequently recurring scenes, as here as the Supreme Being, manifest alike in the treated, always imply a truth or principle Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, under the addressed to the moral sense of the believer, aspect of humanity, with identity of type, lying far too deep for the apprehension of strongly marked and severe, indicating midthe uninitiate. In sculpture this is more dle age, in each of the co-equal Three. strikingly carried out; and in this walk of First in order is the creation of Eve out of early sacred art we have the finest example Adam's side, by God the Son, in presence of in the sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, prefect the Father and Spirit; the former seated, of Rome, who died a neophyte, A.D. 359, and in the act of blessing the new-born woand was buried at St. Peter's, where his man; the latter standing behind the Father's beautifully chiselled tomb was rediscovered, throne. Next appears the Son awarding to after

ages of oblivion, during the works for Adam and Eve the symbols of labour, which the new basilica, still being left near its was part of their punishment, a wheatoriginal place in the crypt.

sheaf to the man, a lamb (for spinning wool) In freedom of design, in conception as to the woman; and it is remarkable that in well as execution, these reliefs surpass all this instance the second Divine Person wears others of the same epoch: ten groups are a different aspect, more youthful and beauranged along two files, divided by pilasters, tiful than when associated with the Father, the lower under canopies alternately circu- -tbus to announce the mystery of bis Inlar and pointed; the subjects historic; the carnation. Successively follow the miracles principal and central figure that of the Sa- operated by our Lord upon water, bread, viour, in form a beautiful youth, seated and wine; the Adoration of the Magi (the between two apostles, with his feet upon the Virgin of a somewhat severe matronly

type), earth, this latter being personified as an old with the Holy Spirit (again in human asman just emerging from the ground, and pect) standing beside the chair of the Mothholding over bis head a canopy of draperies. er and Child; the Restoring of Sight to the The Sacrifice of Abraham, the Sufferings of Blind; the Raising of Lazarus; St. Peter Job, the Fall of Adam and Eve, Daniel in denying Christ; St. Peter between Two the Lion's Den; Christ entering Jerusalem Jews (his arrest probably intended); Moses seated on an ass, again seen before Pilate, striking the Rock; the story of Jonas; Christ who-is washing his hands; the Denial of St. entering Jerusalem; Daniel between the Peter, and the Arrest of that Apostle, are Lions - and this last of very original treatthe representations ranged around. But ment, for, besides the personages essential more curious still are the groups of sheep, to the story, another is also introduced, on minutely sculptured between the arches, each side of Daniel, meant (as we infer) for serving to atiest both the simplicity and the third Divine Person, holding by the hair earnestness of minds to which such art-treat- of his head the prophet Habakkuk, who ment could be addressed; these animals be- brings the bread (here an admitted type of ing here seen to perform acts mystically the Eucharist) for Daniel's sustenance (see selected from both the Old and New Testa- the book “ Bel and the Dragon”). As to ments, and thus naïvely admitted to person- the selection from the miracles of our Lord ify, in type, Moses, John the Baptist, and constantly repeated in others as in these the Redeemer himself. A sheep strikes reliefs), their deeper significance is admitted water from the rock ; another performs the in the following instances :- the healing of

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

the paralytic implies absolution from sin ;Crossing of the Red Sea, the Bestowal of
the giving of sight to the blind, illumination the Keys on St. Peter, that led him to
through faith; the multiplication of loaves assume for them origin within the first two
and ishes, as well as the change of water centuries of our era ; and in the sarcophagi
into wine, the Eucharist ; Moses striking that stand first and seventh, left, in this
water from the rock implies baptism; the gallery, one with vintage scenes divided
adoration of the wise men, the calling of the into compartments by figures of the Good
Gentiles to Christ. Job is introduced as a Shepherd in higher relief; also in one of
witness to the resurrection of the body; and the statues here, the “ Pastor Bonus,” are
especially conspicuous is the type of the Sa- artistic qualities that seem to indicate date
viour's resurrection in the story of Jonas. anterior to the fourth century. (Perkins,
Elias carried up to heaven signifies the “ Tuscan Sculptors”). The Christian mu-
ascension of Him whose last sufferings and seum at the Vatican is rich in lamps, with
triumphs on earth are reverently shown un- sacred emblems, from catacombs ; also in
der veils of symbolism. On two sarcophagi bronzes of early periods, and in terrific in-
in the Lateran Museum is seen the Labarum, struments of torture, that impress us with
guarded by soldiers, with birds (symbols of the reality of what has been suffered for
the apostles, or of beautified spirits) on the our Faith. Here too is the most complete
arms of the cross supporting the holy mono- series of Christian glasses with gilt fig-
gram; and on another such sculptured tomb ures, the very specimens so well explained
here are details of architecture, where we by Padre Garrucci, -objects rarely to be
recognise a Christian basilica and a baptis- seen elsewhere, though a few are in the
tery of circular form, no doubt correct rep- Uffizi Gallery at Florence, and another set,
resentations of such sacred buildings in the from a Sicilian museum, were recently pur-
fourth or fifth century. Turning from this chased at Rome by the British Government.
museum, we find another remarkable exam- The museum at the Collegio Romano con-
ple of funereal sculpture in a small, almost tains, among antiques of various classes,
dark chapel, no longer used for worship, at some interesting art-relics of the primitive
St. Peter's — the tomb of an illustrious wed and medieval Church — among the earliest,
ded pair, Probus Anicius, prætorian prefect, a marble vase, with the Adoration of the
who died A.D. 395, and of his wife Proba Magi in relief. In the Propaganda Mu-
Falconia, whose virtues are commemorated, seum are a few of those gilt glasses from
with those of her husband, in several poetic catacombs, one with the group of the Vir-
tributes still extant. On their sarcophagus gin Mother between the two Apostles: and
here we see the Saviour, youthful and beard- objects of various description from the same
less, with the book of the Gospels, standing subterraneans, as well as copies from paint-
on a rock, from which issue the four rivers ings in their chapels, are to be seen at the
of Paradise (a type of the Evangelists ;) “ Custodia " of relics in the Apollinare Col-
beside him St. Peter and St. Paul; and, di- lege, made public for the Lenten Stations
vided by colonnettes, the other Apostles, in on the Thursday before Holy Week.
that attitude, with one uplifted hand, under- Besides those above named, there is
stood to express assent or reverential atten- another remarkable range of subjects serv-
tion. Elsewhere, at St. Peter's, S. Maria ing to illustrate doctrine or religious
Maggiore, S. Prassede, are to be seen an- usages; and the judgment of competent
cient Christian sarcophagi, adorned by critics, who assign to certain paintings an-
observable sculptures.

tiquity so high as the first or second century, But the museum founded by Pius IX. at enhances the interest we naturally feel in the Lateran contains so rich an abstract such examples. Among these may be nofrom this primitive art-range, that it is to ticed the group of two men, one kneeling, that centre we should turn, rather than any supposed to record the story of some person other, in order to study and appreciate. lapsed during the period of persecution, or Here are the facsimiles of paintings that other notorious sinner, publicly reconciled have been judiciously selected for their mys- to the Church before death. The five Wise tic interest; besides the most complete series Virgins (Catacombs of St. Agnes) are repof sculptured sarcophagi, in the greater resented with torches instead of lamps, number, no doubt, of the fourth century, conformably to Roman practice, but each though some may be supposed earlier- of carrying also a vessel for oil. A group

of the third, or even the second. Agincourt the Saviour in the midst of the Twelve Apospoints out merits of treatment in some of tles (Catacomb of SS. Nereus and Achilthese sacred reliefs - e. g., the Ascent of leus), two only, SS. Peter and Paul, Elias to Heaven (in this museum), the being seated, whilst the others stand,

seems evidence to the idea of superiority In regard to another vast range of monualike shared by those co-founders of the ments — the epigraphy of the catacombs — Church in Rome. A banquet, at which are we must turn for the best of authorities to seated guests waited upon by two allegoric De Rossi's “ Inscriptiones Christianæ Urbis personages, Peace and Love (Irene and Romæ,” an immense compilation, intended Agape), whose names are written near, is to comprise nearly 11,000 epigraphs, all supposed to represent the joys of Paradise. collected by the writer during twenty-one A group, representing two persons, male years of assiduous research, and to be evenand female, the latter with arms extended tually classified, under the same gentleman's in prayer, beside a tripod table, on which direction, in the Christian museum at the are laid a fish and loaves marked with the Lateran. De Rossi infers that numerous cross (Catacomb of St. Callixtus), is a strik- decorative details hitherto ascribed to the ingly expressive illustration of the eucharis- third century are really of much higher antic doctrine, with not only the proper sub- tiquity, approaching even the apostolic age; stance of that sacrament in one kind, proof of which he sees in the classic style of but also the mystic emblem of our Lord's various frescoes and decorations on stucco, person — the Divine Presence — associated also in the constructed (not merely exwith it: another sacramental subject in the cavated) chambers and corridors, provided same catacomb, a man pouring water over with ample recesses for sarcophagi, instead the head of a boy, while both stand in a of the usual sepulchral niches ; lastly, in river, conveying proof that infant, or at various epitaphs wanting the known Chrisleast pædobaptism, was the practice of the tian formulas, and with nomenclature quite ancient Church. It is, indeed, in the aggre- classic, found in certain hypogees. Till the gate, a grand and affecting ideal of primi- latter years of the third century no spoliative Christianity that this monumental series, tion had impaired these cemeteries, no inpainted, sculptured, and chiselled, presents tolerant edict had driven the faithful from to us — a moral picture of purity and peace, their limits; but during the persecution by earnestness without fanaticism, — mystic or- Diocletian all places of Christian assemblage dinances undegraded by superstition, true were burned down or devastated, all eccledevotion manifest in the supreme sacrifice siastical books given to the flames, the Roof the heart, the mind, and life. The va- man See being left vacant for more than six ried and mystic illustration of sacraments, (if not seven) years.

That tempest was the select representation of such miracles stilled by the relenting policy of Maxentius, as convey lessons of Divine goodness and A.D. 306, but the restitution of what the love, or confirm belief in immortal life, may Church had lost did not ensue before 311. be said to revolve around one subject, that The legalized possession of cemeteries, dominates like a star whose hallowed light and that of their churches likewise, by the illumes the entire sphere — namely, the Christians under pagan government, is one Person and Office of the Redeemer, towards historic point clearly established by De Whom all hope and faith tend, from Whom Rossi's arguments and proofs. Valerian forproceed all power, all strengthening and bid to the faithful even access into these saconsoling virtue.

cred retreats, but Gallienus restored such The idea of a headship vested in St. Pe- sites to the bishops, implying the recogniter appears occasionally with decided ex- tion of an aggregate claim; and during the pression, though indeed tempered by other third century, at latest, that possession was proofs of an admission to spiritual equality generally guaranteed. The Christians of for those co-founders, SS. Peter and Paul. Antioch applied to Aurelian in order to In the sculptures (the greater number re- compel a bishop deposed in council, the ferred to the fourth and fifth centuries) this heretical Paul of Samosata, to quit “ the idea of St. Peter's supremacy becomes more house of the Church,” and in the sequel manifest, as natural at periods when the the decree of a Catholic synod was enRoman bishopric was rapidly advancing in forced by a pagan magistrate. An ingepower and grandeur. Moses and the Apos- pious suggestion in the Roma Cristiana tle constantly appear in juxtaposition, – the is that originally, perhaps, it was under colone striking the rock, the other standing our of associations for mutual aid and charibetween two Jews; the aspect of both ab- table interment that the Christians obtained solutely identical, and the wand, symbolic the first conceded tolerance, gradually exof authority, as often held by the Apostle tending to their places of worsbip as well as as by the Lawgiver. In an enamel on glass those of sepulture. this becomes an absolute interchange of of- The chronology of primitive Christian art fices, St. Peter (designated by name) strik-cannot, of course, be brought within bounds ing water from the rock in place of Moses. I of distinct definition, and bas been subject

of various conjectures. Its earliest forms than in the entire range of those from pa were purely symbolism, - sacred emblems, gan monuments

- a further proof of the the lamb, the dove, the ship, the lyre, worn prevailing beneficence, the new-born doon rings or bracelets, or embroidered on mestic virtues, to which so many outcast vestments (vide Clement of Alexandria, sec- children owed their maintenance and even ond century); if any human figures were life, as members of the Christian commurepresented, no other save the Good Shep- nity. herd, mentioned by Tertullian early in the Before the nineteenth year of Diocletian, third century, as sometimes seen, probably - the date of the persecuting edict which enamelled, on chalices. But it seems cer- enforced the destruction of all Christian tain that all attempts' at portraiture were churches, — the new worship is said to have prohibited till after the time of Constantine, been celebrated in forty buildings publicly and Mabillon concludes that ten centuries dedicated to sacred use in Rome. had passed before images were permitted to The clergy, till the end of this primitive appear above the altar.

period, continued to officiate attired in the The beauty of the social picture presented classic wbite vestments common to Roman by those ages of faith could indeed be little citizens, but distinguished by the long hair appreciated were we only to regard ritual and beard of philosophers; and not till the and asthetic aspects apart from life's daily Constantinian period did the bishops begin realities and practical duties. It is well to wear purple; not till the ninth century: known how the economies and charities of was that primitive white costume (which the primitive Church were regulated, one- sometimes was slightly adorned in purple or third of ecclesiastical revenues going to the gold) laid aside by the priesthood generally. relief of the poor, another to the bishops and An example of superiority in the conclergy, another to public worship and sacred structive character of a catacomb, conveying edifice. Before the end of the fourth century proof of comparatively late origin, is seen in existed hospitals for the poor and aged, that of ss. Peter and Marcellinus, which foundling asylums, and xenodochia for trav- communicates with the mausoleum of St. ellers, all supported by the several communi- Helena, but can now be only entered, and ties, and mostly founded by bishops, who were to slight extent penetrated, in the villa of their local superiors. The Christian stranger Signor Grande, about two miles from Rome, was always at home among his fellow-worship- on the Via Labicana; the portion of this pers, and maintained gratuitously if he cemetery here accessible having been rebrought letters of recommendation (epistolæ opened in 1838, as described by Marchi. formata) from the bishop of his diocese. In Entering, we are struck by the unusual each city now rose, beside the episcopal res- width and loftiness of the corridors, and the idence, an ample edifice open to all strangers, ample arched recesses, evidently destined with separate wings for the sick, for infants, for sarcophagi, instead of the narrow sepuland the aged, each under its proper adminis- chral deposits elsewhere seen; but most tration. " There,” says St. Gregory of Naz- remarkable is an ornamental detail, not ianzen, “ disease is endured with calmness; found in any other catecomb, of rich mosaic adversity becomes happiness." In the ob- pavement, for the greater part in diamondservance of fast-days it was enjoined that shaped cubes of black and white stone, one the economies of the table should be set compartment adorned with a dove holding aside for the relief of widows, orphans, or an olive branch, well designed in coloured others in want (vide the “ Pastor" of Her marbles. Diverging from this principal mas). The religious instruction of children corridor are others now entirely filled with was from an early period provided for on soil, one permeable to some extent, but besystem. Proof how promptly was condemned coming narrower and lower as we advance, by the Church, and, to the extent of her till further progress is impeded. Above one means, put down, that great social evil of of the two entrances, from each of which is paganism, slavery, is supplied with striking a descent by marble stairs, are the ruins of force in Christian epigraphs: among the en- an oratory in antique Roman brickwork, tire number, about 11,000, belonging to the with some traces of architectural ornament first six centuries, scarcely six (and, as Mr. — cornices, mouldings, fragments of sculpNorthcote shows, two or three among these tured frieze, broken columns of inarble and doubtful) containing allusion, in their brief peperino. Another instance of superior and simple language, to this fundamental constructive style is seen in the Catacombs, division of ancient Roman society, whilst reopened 1852, of Domitilla (entered from alumni (adopted foundlings) are named in the estate of Flavia Domitilla, a Christian a greater number of Christian inscriptions matron), where a façade and vestibule pre

« ZurückWeiter »