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form which had been left entire over the arches of the old steps of the amphitheatre, that, from some time in the fifteenth century, the “ Passion of our Saviour" had been performed on every Good Friday, by expert actors, to an audience which Pancirolus, in his “Hidden Treasures,' * affirms was equal to that of the ancient games. We have notice of the "Resurrection,' written by Julian Dati, the Florentine, also performed at the Coliseum, although the date in which that sacred farce (they are Tiraboschi's words †) was composed, cannot be precisely assigned. It might be contemporary with the “Abraham and Isaac,' acted at Florence in 1449, with the · Balaam and Josaphat,' the Conversion of Saint Paul,' and other mysteries brought upon the stage in the latter half of the fifteenth century.
These representations continued in the Coliseum until the reign of Paul III., whose prohibition to continue them bespeaks him perhaps guilty of devoting the building to his own purposes of plunder.
With the exception of the above-mentioned chapelbuilding, we lose sight of the destination of the amphitheatre until 1671, when permission was obtained from Cardinal Altieri and the Senate to represent bull-fights in the arena for the space of six years, and this would have certainly taken place had not Clement X. listened
* Tesori nascosti, quoted in Marangoni, p. 50.
† “Non possiamo accertare quando quella sacra farsa fosse da lui composta.”—Storia della Lett. Ital., tom. vi. par. iii. lib. iii. p. 814.
I Bramante Barsi got permission to excavate there in 1639.
to the deprecations of Carlo Tommassi, who wrote a treatise to prove the sanctity of the spot.* In consequence, the Pontiff employed the less pious zeal of Bernini, and by some arrangements of that artist set apart the whole monument to the worship of the martyrs. This was in 1675, the year of the jubilee.f The measures then taken to prevent the entrance of men, and animals, and carriages, by means of blocking up the lower arches, and to put a stop to nightly disorders, were, however, found insufficient, and Clement XI., in 1714, employed Bianchini in repairing the walls and finding other methods of closing the arcades, and about that time were also erected the altars of the Passion. A short time afterwards was painted the picture of Jerusalem and the Crucifixion, still seen within the western entrance.
* The senate granted the permission, reserving a box for themselves, holding twenty persons, “senza pagamento alcuno." See the document in Marangoni, p. 72. opo One of the inscriptions affixed on that occasion runs thus
. " Amphitheatrum Flavium
Execrata Cæsarum sævitia
The Romans were not pleased with being excluded from their amphitheatre, and in 1715 made an application for the keys which the Pope refused. The neglect of the interior may be collected from a petition presented in 1727 to allow the hermit to let out the grass which grew on the surface of the arena.* A solitary saint had been established in the ruins at the first building of the chapel, and it is to a respect for one of his successors that we owe an interposition in favour of the Coliseum, which it would perhaps never have commanded on its own account. An attempt was made in the night of the 11th of February, 1742, to assassinate the hermit, Francis Beaufort, and it was expressly on that occasion that the accomplished Lambertini was induced to renew the consecration of the Coliseum.t His inclosures and edicts cleared it of murderers and prostitutes, and repaired the fourteen altars, and erected the cross; but in spite of this judicious interference, and whatever were the cares of the truly antiquarian Braschi, half a century seems to have much hastened the progress of decay, and in 1801 the most intelligent of our countrymen foresaw the speedy dissolution of the whole structure. I
* Marangoni, ib. p. 73.
† The author of the memoir attributes the profanations suffered by the Coliseum to the devil himself. “Ma poichè l'infernale inimico continuamente procura," &c. p. 67. Benedict's edict bears date 1744.
I See Forsyth’s Remarks, &c. p. 146, 2nd edit.
The great earthquake in 1703, which threw down several large masses towards the church of St. Gregory,* most probably loosened other portions of the ruin, and in the year 1813 one of the arches fell to the ground. The late government has propped the tottering fragment, and the immense buttress, which is modestly marked with the name and number of Pius VII., and is said to have cost seventy thousand crowns, will help to. secure the yawning rents on the side towards the Lateran. Sentinels have been found a more effectual protection than the hermit, or the cross, or the walls.
With the leave of Maffei,t there is still something more than a piece of the bark left to wonder at. The antiquary may profit by the recent exposure of the substructures of the arena; but the clearing away of the soil, and the opening the arches, increases the satisfaction of the unlearned, though devout admirers, who are capable of being affected by the general result, however little they understand the individual details, and who wander amidst these stupendous ruins for no other instruction than that which must be suggested by so awful a memorial of fallen empire.
* Marangoni calls it a wing of the building, on the authority of Ficoroni, who was in Rome at the time. Vestigia e rarità di Roma, p. 39. “Essendo caduta un ala del Colosseo verso San Gregorio,” ib. p. 48. One of the internal arcades also fell down on the day on which Innocent XI. died, 12th of August, 1689.
† “ Che genera ancor maraviglia con quel pezzo della corteccia che ne sussiste."— Veron. Illust., p. iv. p. 24.
The Coliseum has been under constant repairs since 1817. I found in 1828 that a great deal had been done to clear those corridors which were the most incumbered with ruins; and that those parts which threatened danger had been propt up by substantial brick walls, a sort of new entrance had been constructed on the side fronting the Temple of Venus and Rome, and a very judicious finishing of brickwork had given strength to the ruin in that quarter. The hall allotted to the Imperial Family had been l'estored as far as was practicable, and the Imperial Podium had also been partially restored. A discovery had been made of the subterranean passage by which the Emperors proceeded from the Palatine to the amphitheatre. This passage was constructed by Commodus, and was nearly fatal to him, for here was concealed the assassin who missed his aim for the sake of the sarcasm that accompanied his blow. A garden with some agreeable walks had been planted on the declivity of the Celian Hill, immediately contiguous to the amphitheatre, and every care had been taken to protect the whole monument from future injury.
The controversy respecting the original level of the Arena has not, I believe, been yet decided ; and as the underground stone-work which gave rise to it has been again covered with the soil, it is not likely that fresh arguments will be found to assist either of the contending parties. The question, it is modestly confessed, has occasioned more clamour than has redounded to the honour of antiquarian researches; but the labours of BIANCHI could not be considered useless had they done no more than disinter the inscriptions given in a preceding page. It may be remarked, in regard to the second of these inscriptions, that if the stone-work discovered by Bianchi under the actual level, was raised by Basilius in order to prop up the arena, there is no necessity for the supposition that the ancient level was, as some contend, fifteen feet lower than it now appears to be. It is acknowledged on all hands that the construction of the underground walls denoted a period which might well accord with the præfecture of Basilius.
Some hollow passages towards, and under, the basement of the Temple of Venus and Rome seem to belong to those passages by
a Nibby, Rom. For., p. 242.