Page images

The architects who succeeded Bramante were Giuliano and Antonio di San Galio, with whom was associated the great Raphael who had already immortalized himself by the great paintings which he had been executing in the Vatican since 1508. Dr. Burton quotes a letter written by Raphael upon the occasion of his appointment, wherein he says, “His Holiness, in conserring an honour upon me, has placed a great load upon my shoulders: this is the superintendence of the building of St. Peter's. I hope that I shall not sink under it: and the more so, as the plan which I have made for it pleases his holiness, and is commended by many men of genius. But I raise my thoughts even higher. I could wish to reach the beautiful forms of the ancient buildings; nor can I tell whether my slight will be like that of Icarus. Vitruvius affords me great lights, but not enough.”

Raphael died in 1520, and Giuliano di San Gallo before him : they did nothing beyond strengthening the four great pillars which Bramante had raised, and which, though 59 feet in diameter, were thought insufficient for the weight of the intended cupola. The next architect was Baltassar Peruzzi, who, despairing of the time and money required for the completion of Bramante's design, intended to adopt a Greek cross for the plan; the edifice was under his superintendence during the pontificates of Adrian VI. and Clement VII., but it advanced very slowly, in those disturbed times. Paul III. who ascended the papal throne in 1534, employed Antonio di San Gallo, who brought the design back again to a Latin cross; a model of his intended edifice, which was made by his servant, at the cost of 4, 184 crowns, may be still seen in the present church. He strengthened the supports of the intended cupola, vast as they had already become ; and died in 1546.

W. have now reached the period in which Michel Angelo was called in to superintend the work, he being then 72 years old. In the brief by which he received his appointment from Paul III. he was intrusted with authority to do and undo whatever he pleased ; and in the same document he insisted upon the insertion of a declaration that he undertook the work for the love of God, and without any salary or reward. “Nor was this,” says Mr. Woods, “a vain boast, for although Paul III. repeatedly urged his acceptance of some remuneration he invariably refused it.” Michel Angelo began by producing a model of the building, according to the altered design which he intended to adopt. “There was, perhaps, a little ostentation in producing a model of the altered design, in fifteen days, and at the expense of 25 crowns; while San Gallo's model had occupied several years: but St. Peter's at this time had become a standing job, and the underlings employed in it, instead of feeling any zeal to complete it, considered an appointment in the building as an establishment for life. All this Michel Angelo endeavoured to put an end to, and excited great ill-will towards himself for so doing; but his wonderful talents and high character carried him through all opposition.” Michel Angelo seems indeed to have had even a larger number of enemies than, usually fell to the lot of great artists in those days; and Julius III., who succeeded Paul III. in 1550, was soon assailed from all sides with complaints of the overbearing temper of his architect, and of his determined opposition to the plans and labours of the most experienced brethren. The pope continued firm in his attachment, but Michel Angelo, despite of the countenance afforded him by a new diploma, confirming all his former powers, was so wearied by the incessant claim ours and manoeuvres of his enemies, that he would willingly have retired to end his days at Florence, had he consulted only his private ease. The feelings which he entertained upon the subject are often expressed in his letters to his friends ; in one to Vasari he says: “My dear friend George, I call God to witness, that I was engaged against my will, and with very great reluctance, by Pope Paul III., in the building of St. Peter's ten years ago: and if the construction of that building had been followed up to the present day in the manner it was then carried on, I should now be arrived at such a point in the building, that I should turn to it with delight; but from want of money it lias proceeded and still proceeds very slowly, just as it has come to the most laborious and difficult parts: so that by abandoming it now, the only consequence would be, that with excessive shame and impropriety, I should lose the reward of the fatigues which } have chdured these ten years, for the love of God." He concludes, “To make you understand the consequence of abandoning the said building ; in the first place, I should satisfy several scoundrels, and I should be the occasion of

its falling to ruin, and perhaps of its being shut up for ever. Michel Angelo began his labours by strengthening the four great piers, which, although they had been repeatedly reinforced, did not even yet appear to him so strong as they ought to be. He returned to the plan of a Greek cross, widened the tribune and transepts, and gave a much freer aren than his predecessors had projected. “To what point he carried the work,” says Mr. Woods, “I do not know : but the whole, as far as the extent of the Greek cross, seems to have been continued nearly according to his design.” He died in 1553. The two small cupolas were finished by Vignola, in 1573. The great cupola was completed in 1590 : Michel Angelo had raised the drum, or the tambúroas the Italians call it, that is to say, the cylindrical part, which rises to the springing of the arch of the dome. Its completion was the work of Giacomo della Porta and Domenico J’ontana, who were the architects of Sextus W. ; and the zeal of that pope being as great, if not greater, than that of any of his predecessors, 600 workmen were employed night and day, and the money monthly expended was 100,000 golden crowns. By this incessant labour the cupola was completed in the short space of twenty-two months, or by the month of May, 1590; the outer covering of lead was all of the dome that remained unfinished; the lantern indeed was not yet erected. Paul V., who occupied the papal chair from 1605 to 1621, pursued the work with equal ardour. At his accession a part of the ancient basilica was still standing ; he lost no time in pulling it down, and on the 18th of February, 1608, laid the first stone of the great entrance. His architect was Carlo Maderno, who returned to the original plan of the Latin cross, and finished the body of the edifice in 1614. The great colonnade which stands in front of it was added by Bernini, under Alexander VII., who reigned from 1655 to 1657. The sacristy, which, strictly speaking, has nothing to do with the main edifice, was added so late as 1780 by Pius VI. “How fortunate,” exclaims Forsyth, “that a structure created by so many pontists, and the subject of so many plans, should keep its proportions inviolate, even in the smallest ornaments' Michel Angelo left it an unfinished memorial of his proud, towering, gigantic powers, and his awful genius watched over his successors, till at last a wretched plasterer came down from Como, and him we must execrate, for the Latin cross, the aisles, the attic, and the front.” Mr. Forsyth is not the only person who has heaped a load of censure upon Carlo Maderno; but it is a disputed point among the critics whether the Greek cross would have been preferable to the Latin. The render will observe from this sketch that upwards of one hundred years elapsed before the body of St. Peter's Church was completed : and that nearly three centuries were required to bring it to its present form. In the middle of the seventeenth century, Carlo Fontana drew up an account of the building, by order of Innocent the Ninth, together with a loose estimate of its cost, not from the sums actually expended, for many of the accounts were lost,--but from the value of the materials employed. According to his calculations there had been expended upon it up to that time 47,151,450 millions of scudi, or about £1 1,625,000 of our money. This amount does not include the cost of the bronze chair of St. Peter, in which was used 219,061 lbs. of that metal, nor of the bronze confessional which contains 186,392 lbs. THE APPROACH, COLONNADE, AND FRONT.

TIE Church of St. Peter stands on the left or western side of the Tiber, the great bulk of the city being on the opposite side. “There is no distant point of view,” says Mr. Woods, “in which this church gives an impression of great magnificence, or from which it has the appearance of being such an immense building as it really is. This is owing to the situation, and perhaps no building of great consequence was ever so badly placed. It stands in a hollow between the Janiculan and Vatican hills which are connected by a neck behind it: so that on three sides it is surrounded by slopes, rising anoost immediately from it, and about equalling the height of the nave, and in front, in spite of the large space before it, it seems encumbered with houses, which prevent a view down to the base.” In fact, were it not for the dome, the buildings of the Vatican would actually overtop the church, as the reader may ob serve by referring to a former engraving.” * See Saturday Magazine, Vol. IX, p. 121.

“The first modern structure,” says Mr. Hope, “that attracted my attention was St. Peter's, that splendid basilica, built over the tomb of the prince of the Apostles, in the capital of Christendom, at the expense of all the Catholic part of Europe, which took more than a century to finish, was fabricated out of the spoil of the most splendid ancient edifices that remained, and is the most gigantic and most superb structure that the modern world can boast, or that is ever likely to rise in it. “In the way to it I passed over the bridge of St. Angelo, decorated with statues by Bernini, that look, from the distortion of their limbs, and the flutter of their draperies, as if caught in a winirlwind ; and by that still more imposing mass, once the toub of Adrian, now the citadel of Rome, where Belisarius defended himself against the Goths, by throwing down upon them the marble statues that adorned its numerous zones. “From that point a noble avenue should lead to the place of St. Peter's, in order to complete its magnificence— a shabby street forius the approach. When, however, the circular colonnade, the central obelisk, the two foaming fountains, casting day and night, without ceasing, a vast stream into the air, and at the further end of a gradually ascending square, the immense façade, and the proud dome of St. Peter's suddenly opens upon the sight, all former impressions vanish, and admiration only remains. But when this again begins to cool, one smiles at the Egyptian obelisk carrying the Christian cross; one regrets its pedestal, too marrow for the spread of its base; one condemns in the Church its front so much broken by partial projections, its pediment standing on a base too narrow, and an expanse too small, and rendered evidently useless by the ponderous attic that rises behind it, and crushes the façade to which it was intended to give elevation. “Contemplating those columns of nearly nine feet in diameter, but which, formed of a masonry of small stones, only look, on a near approach, like small turrets, one cannot help casting a lingering look back on the portico of the Pantheon, and thinking that elevation of insulated columns of granite, of one single piece, though smaller in its dimensions, grander in its conceptions, and more striking in its effect, than these clusters of huge pillars, all reticulated with joints and jammed up against a wall. “Undoubtedly the accessories to St. Peter's are fine : still they do not impress one like the vast areas that precede and lead to the imperial mosques at Constantinople, form an intermediate space between the bustle of a city and the silence of the house of God, and prepare the devout for meditation and for prayer." The circular colonnade in front of St. Peter's is considered the master-piece of Bernini. It is composed of four rows of columns, forty feet high, and five feet in diameter, with a complete entablature; the pillars are 256 in number, and they are surmounted with 192 statues of saints, each 11 feet in height. The area which this colonnade encloses is 738 feet in length; its width at the broad end is 606 feet. . In the centre rises an Egyptian obelisk, of one unbroken piece of granite, to the height of 132 feet, 48 of which are occupied by the base on which it stands ; and on either side of the obelisk is a large and splendid fountain. This colonnade is a fine erection. “It is beautiful in design,” says Mr. Woods, “graceful, and even magnificent ; yet magnificence is not its character. . . . . The design has richness and magnificence; but it has not majesty or sublimity; and it is this want of majesty which makes one unwilling to admit its size, and columunicates an appearance of uselessness.” This writer expresses an opinion that the design would have been better on a smaller scale: with Corinthian columns hardly as high as the present, and ornamented Corinthian entablatures. “But you will ask me, if thus enriched and adorned, would it form a suitable approach to St. Peter's I answer, no, nor does it now ; and the proof of this is that it looks better any way than towards the church. It is more beautiful alone than united with the building it was meant to accompany." This want of harmony with the building itself seems to be generally admitted as the great defect of the colonnade; it has great beauty, but has evidently no business to be where it is. “How beautiful the colonnades' "exclaims Mr. Forsyth, “How finely proportioned to the church How advantageous to its flat, forbidding front, which ought to have come forward, like the Pantheon, to meet the decoration . How grand an enclosure for the piazza! how fortunate a screen to the ignoble objects around it. But, advance or retire, you will find no point of view that com:

bines these accessions with the general form of the church. Instead of describing its whole cycloid on the vacant air, the cupola is more than half hidden by the front; a front at variance with the body, coufounding two orders in one, debased by a gaping attic, and encumbered with colossal apostles. One immense Corinthian goes round the whole edifice in pilasters, which, meeting a thousand little breaks and projections, are coupled and clustered on the way, parted by window; and niches, and overtopped by a meagre attic. Yet the general mass grows magnificently out, in " spite of the hideous vestry which interrupts it on one side, and the palace which denies it a point of view on the other."

The main front of St. Peter's must be examined from the area which this colonnade encloses. The common remark is that this front is more that of a palace than that of a church; it is 160 feet high and 396 wide. It consists of two stories and an attic, with nine windows to each, and nine heavy balconies awkwardly intersecting the Corinthian columns and pilasters at half of their height. The pillars of the front are 88 feet in height, including the base and capital, and eight feet in diameter; yet the whole front looks much smaller than it really is. Mr. Woods seeks the causes of this apparent diminution in the composition of the front itself, as well as in other circumstances. The breaks of the entablature have the effect of reducing the columns and pilasters into ornaments, “ and one cannot imagine,” as he says, “mere ornaments of such gigantic dimensions.' Another cause is the division of the height into three stories, and from this arises the greater similitude which it bears to a palace than to a church. “An enormous palace is grand ; but still the imagination is conducted towards the usual appearances of human life.” The dimensions of an ordinary palace form the standard by which a spectator estimates the dimensions of a front which inevitably excites in his mind the idea of a palace; the stories form a scale by which he measures the whole height, and although the judgment to which he is insensibly led be the result of a misapplied proportion, still the effect is produced. “Then the attics form another story, and who wants garrets thirty feet high 2" It is because nobody wants them that nobody can think them so high as they are ; and a spectator, looking at the attics of the front of St. Peter's, naturally judges of their dimensions by the standard which he applies to the attics of a palace. It is from a similar cause that the colonnade looks much somaller than it is, it is useless; “it is palpably a thing of mere ornament, not connected with or forming a part of the building, or applied to any useful purpose, and the understanding is not easily reconciled to such great masses thus employed."

There are five entrances in the front of St. Peter's. They lead into a covered portico or vestibule, the length of which extends along the whole width of the front, and beyond it at either end, so as to equal 468 feet; its width is forty feet. The true magnificence of St. Peter's, observes Dr. Burton, begins here. Mr. Forsyth speaks in high terms of this losty vestibule, “vaulted with gilt stuccoes, and paved with various marbles, lengthening on the eye by a gränd succession of doors, and niches, and statues, till it ends in the perspective statue of Charlemagne. This is one architectural picture which no engraving can flatter.” The statue of Charlemagne is equestrian ; it occupies the left extremity; at the right one is a similar statue of Constantime. From this vestibule five doors lead into the body of the edifice.


According to Dr. Burton, the length of the interior of this church is 609 feet from wall to wall; if the thickness of the walls and the depth of the portico be included, the length is 722 English feet. The width of the nave is 91 fees, and its height to the top of the vault is 152 feet. The length of the transepts is .445 feet. Upon the floor, which is couposed of large blocks of unarble of singular beauty, and disposed in various figures, are marked the lengths of some of the principal churches of Europe, as well as that of St. Peter's itself; they are given thus:St. Peter's.............. 837 palms ... ... ("9 feet. St. Paul's, London ..... 710 , . . . . . . * * Milan Cathedral........ to , . . . . . . 439 o' St. Paul's, Tome - . . . . . . 4!?", S. Sophia, Coastantinople 492 , . . . . . . 896 The proportion of marble is astonishing; much of it is ancient, and the varieties are of the go o and beauty. The ceiling is composed of gilt stuccoes on a white ground. “The chief of these stuccoes,” says Forsyth, “has already fallen a victim to the vanity of an old priest,--the late pope [Pius the Sixth), whose arms are carved, painted, inlaid, cast, or hammered all over St. Peter's, had long beheld with envy the middle orb of the vault, adorned with the dragon and eagle of Borghese ; but dreading the imitation of his own example, he durst not supplant it openly. It therefore fell down in the dark (by accident to be sure), and was presently replaced by the armorial puff of Braschi.” Braschi is the family name of Pius the Sixth. The pilasters between the arches of the nave are not of marble but of stucco, their height is eighty-three feet, and in their recesses are statues of the founders of various religious orders. The side-aisles are about twenty-one feet in width, and opposite to each arch of the nave is a chapel recessed back from these aisles. These chapels are well worthy of observation from their splendid decorations. “Mosaic-work and the richest marbles are scattered about them with the greatest profusion, and almost all of them contain a specimen of that wonder of the art—pictures executed in Mosaic." It is the common remark that the profusion of marble and gilding in St. Peter's is destructive of that solemnity which ought to prevail in a religious edifice. “Were I made pope,” says Simond, “I would signalize my taste by daubing over the variegated marbles and gilt ceiling with one uniform tint; the mildest and least obtrusive I could find : yet would I do this only with a wash easily removable, that my pontifical successor, infallible as myself, so long as he lived, might if he pleased restore his Basilica to its wonted finery. I would also wall up three-fourths of the windows, and cover the others with a transparent warm colour, like a certain small window (the Spirito Santo) that I observed at the upper end of the nave; in hopes of bringing the Italian world to a proper sense of the beauty of that dim religious light, so becoming a place of worship. but for which they have not the least taste at present. I omitted to mention that although the interior of St. Peter's is dazzling at first sight, with the apparently universal richness of its materials, yet on near inspection I observed that much of the surface was only a brick wall, gray washed, which looks decidedly better than the parts covered with variegated marbles. On my repeated visits to St. Peter's, I always found it greater and more impressive in the evening twilight than during the day. Strangers are much struck with the mild temperature of St. Peter's; as much of the heat which finds its way into it during the course of an Italian Summer, lingers there all Winter, forming a nearly even temperature throughout the year.” Immediately under the dome stands the Baldacchino, or canopy which covers the high altar, beneath which the tradition is, that the body of St. Peter reposes. This canopy is, according to some accounts, 122 feet high; and it is a common saying that its height is equal to that of the Farnese palace,—one of the loftiest in Rome. It is almost entirely of bronze, and the ornaments are chiefly gilt; “the four pillars which support it are twisted, and in other respects it is by no means in good taste, nor in unison with the majestic simplicity of the rest; but from its vast size, and the richness of the work, it can hardly fail to be admired." Near the Baldacchino, and against the last pillar of the nave, stands the statue of St. Peter, which, according to the statement of a Roman antiquary, was made by order of St. Leo, out of the bronze of the statue of Jupiter Capitolinus; its workmanship is extremely rude, “’ and though it is called a bronze statue,” says Dr. Burton, “it has much more the appearance of iron. It is the figure which is so frequently kissed by the faithful: no Roman Catholic will pass it without going through this ceremony; and the usual form is to kiss the foot two or three times, pressing, the forehead against it between each salutation; some will repeat each ceremony much oftener. The right foot projects for this purpose, and great part of it is worn away by the operation; which calls to mind the words of Cicero, in his description of a statue of Hercules at Agrigentum, that his mouth and chin were somewhat worn, because in their prayers and thanksgivings they were accustomed not only to worship but to kiss it.'" The tribune contains the bronze chair, within which is said to be the identical seat used by St. Peter, and the earlier bishops of Rome. “It would be the height of temerity," says Dr. Burton, “to question the genuineness 3. this chair, after what Bonanni has said upon the subject. The reader may perhaps wish to see the passage, but he


must not expect me to incur the penalties of it by attempt ing to refute it. “This is the chair of St. Peter, which he occupied as universal pastor, till he suffered death for Christ's sake. This fact has been so fully proved that the few sectaries who deny it must be most barefaced, or a set of children, and silly children too, such as Welcinus whom Rosiensis has refuted, Sebastian of France, and some obscure Englishmen to be found in Saunders.' Besides the danger of classing ourselves among these our unfortunate countrymen, it would be lost labour to dispute the question after the arguments adduced by Bonanni. In the first place the miracles that have been wrought by it fully attest its apostolical antiquity. Secondly, Calvin doubted because it was made of wood, so perishable a material. “But if this were a true ground for doubt,' says the honest Bonanni, “the true cross and the cradle of our Saviour are made of wood, and nobody doubts about them.' It would, perhaps, have been more to his purpose to have reminded his readers, that Eusebius, who wrote in the fourth century, says that “the episcopal chair of St. James was still shown at Jerusalem in his time.' " The intervals between the pillars which separate the nave on either side from the aisles, are filled by twenty-four colossal marble statues, “representing the Fathers of the Church in finical attitudes, and their draperies in high slutter; the very reverse of antique simplicity.” On this subject the critical observation of one of the numerous architects of St. Peter's, and the smart reply of one of the sculptors, form a standing Roman jest; “What makes your draperies fly about in this manner 7" said the one. “The wind through the cracks in your walls ''' answered the other. “The draperies continue to fly about although no cracks are now seen except in the cupola, rent six years ago (1811) by the shock of an earthquake which damaged many other edifices, and the Coliseum in particular. This cupola had been secured with an iron hoop bent round it; but that hoop, strong as it was, has lately been found not only broken through, but riven asunder,<-an ominous circumstance this undoubtedly; and the curious who walk in St. Peter's must look to it.” On entering St. Peter's, every observer is astonished that its dimensions appear so much less than they really are. This has been considered by some as a merit, by others a defect. Dr. Burton calls it the principal excellence of the whole; “it is the beautiful adaptation of the proportions, which distinguishes this edifice from every other. Accordingly there are many objects which seem small, or only of the common size, which are really far above it. As an instance of this, the two angels may be mentioned, which support the fonts on the first pillars of the nave. they have the appearance of representing children, but are really larger than the natural size of a man. So also the dove with an olive-branch in its mouth, which occurs so frequently in this cathedral, (being the arms of Innocent the Tenth, Pamfili,) and forms an ornament on each of the pillars of the nave, seems to be easily within reach of every person, but can with difficulty be reached by the hand of the tallest.” “After all the abuse," says Mr. Woods, “which has been bestowed on the building for looking little, and all the absurd admiration it has obtained for this defect, the spectator must perceive at once that he is in the largest, far the largest room he ever saw, and if he have any sentiment in the art, he must feel the strong impression of a most noble and magnificent piece of architecture:—of one, where the richness of the material is combined with justness of pro portion, and where science, taste, and genius have united with riches and power to produce sublimity. For my own part I was indeed on my own guard against the deception, but it seemed to me to be impossible that any one should seriously believe the cupids or angels at the font to be no bigger than little children, or suppose the doves mentioned by Eustace to be of the natural size".” Mr. Woods, however, admits that the interior does look smaller; but instead of ascribing it to the excellence of the proportions, he tells us that “a great part of the secret lies in a single word, disproportion.” This view is supported by a critic in the Quarterly Review, who observes that upon a very little consideration it must appear a most extraordinary error to regard the apparent diminution as a merit. “If indeed it be owing to the proportions of St.

* “The figures of the Evangelists,” says Mr. Mathews. “which decorate the inside of the cupola, do not appear larger than life; and yet the pen in St. Mark's hand is six feet long, from which we

may calculate their real stature.”



Peter's, that it appears less than it is, this must be considered as a proof, not that its proportions are exactly what they ought to be, but that there is something wrong about them; for its magnificent dimensions are generally and justly regarded as one fit cause of our admiration, and therefore that must be thought a defect which conceals their immensity. If, on the other hand, it be a merit in the proportions of St. Peter's that they diminish to the eye its real size, then, that size must be a defect, and the expense and labour of producing it must have been more than wasted. In truth, however, we doubt altogether the justness of the theory, which attributes to the general proportions of a building, unassisted by its darkness or lightness, the power of diminishing, or, augmenting the whole magnitude of a building. We think the true cause of the apparent diminution of St. Peter's, in part at least, may be the great magnitude of the numerous statues in the church. These are, in fact, all colossal, and as our eye is accustomed to statues more near the size of life, they serve as a false standard, by which we measure the ehurch in which they stand. We suspect also that statues of white marble have, from their brilliancy of colour, the appearance of being much nearer the eye than they really are, which must of course diminish their apparent magnitude, and render the scale afforded them still more fallacious. The great light of St. Peter's, especially when contrasted, as it will be involuntarily by all foreigners, with the gloominess of their own Gothic cathedrals, contributes to the same effect of reducing its seeming dimensions."


“A Noisy school for children in one corner; a sermon

preached to a moveable audience at another; a concert in this chapel; a ceremony half interrupted by the distant sounds of the same music in another quarter; a ceaseless crowd sauntering along the nave, and circulating through all the aisles; listeners and gazers walking, sitting, kneeling; some rubbing their foreheads against the worn toes of the bronze St. Peter, others smiling at them; confessors in boxes absolving penitents; laquais de place expounding

pictures; and all these individual objects and actions lost under an artificial heaven, whose grandeur and whose beauties delight and distract the eye. Such is the interior of this glorious edifice,—the Mall of Rome; but religious sentiments are perhaps the last which it inspires.” “The view of the interior of St. Peter's" says Mr. Williams “is perhaps, the best near the bronze statue of St. Peter. e saw it under the most striking effect, adorned with the beams of the sun, playing upon its gorgeous magnificence,—the noble dome with its various colossal paintings in Mosaic, of angels, prophets, and apostles, the latter, in the spandrils, at least twenty-five feet in height. In the transept of the cross are seen the noble sepulchral monuments of the popes, by Canova, Bernini, Michel Angelo, and others; splendid pictures in Mosaic, designed by Raffael, Domenichino, Guercino, and Guido, scarcely distinguishable from the finest paintings; grand columns of marble, porphyry, and granite, the gigantic supporters of the dome, each of which, were it hollow, would contain hundreds of people. Numerous colossal statues of saints, in miches at least thirteen feet high; the various and precious stones which impanel the walls of the whole building; the richness of the ornamented roof; the galleries from which the relics are occasionally exhibited; the great altar of Corinthian brass, by Bernini, (the height of which is not less than that of the highest palace in Rome,) with its twisted columns wreathed with olive; the hundred brazen lamps continually burning, and surrounding the tomb of the patron saint, with its gilded bronze gate, enriched to the utmost with various ornaments; the massive silver lamps; the hangings of crimson silk; the chair of St. Peter, supported by two popes, statues of great magnitude; the pavement, composed of the most rare and curious marbles, of beautiful workmanship; the statue of St. Peter, with a constant succession of priests, and persons of all descriptions kissing his foot;—form a whole not to be paralleled on earth; especially when seen as I saw it, with . the sun's beams darting through the lofty windows of the dome, throwing all into mysterious light, tipping the gilded and plated ornaments, and giving additional richness to the colours of the Mosaic paintings, and to the burnished silver lamps, which sparkled like little constellations; while the effect of all was |..." by the sound of the organ at vespers, swelling in notes of triumph, then dying upon the ear, and sinking into the soul; the clear melodious tones of the human voice, too, filling up the pauses of the organ, diffusing a deeper solemnity through this great temple, and making us feel, an involuntary acknowledgement to God, who had gifted man with such subliute coilceptions." The inside of St. Peter's has fewer faults than the outside. “One is astonished,” says Mr. Hope, “to find so much splendour, and even glitter, united with such an air of repole, of majesty, and of quiet. There is a serently of look,' and an equability of temperature in this vast edifice, which throws over all its parts an inexpressible charm and in many of its finishings, by peculiar good luck, have been avoided a number of blemi hes in architecture, that were in High vogue, at the time it was finished. One won: ders, for instance, how its eeiling should have escaped allegorical paintings. Bernini, however, who had the worst taste of any man who ever acquired the reputation of a great artist, was still in time to exhibit some of his wretched conceits. Treating the adorning of the first church of Christendom in the same tawdry slippant style as he would have done that of a temporary stage, he contrived not only to introduce at one end of the vestibule a theatrical exhibition of Constantine starting at the vision of the cross, but to place in the central point of the church a transparency of the Holy Ghost, surrounded by a glory of rays of plaster gilt. Yet such is the immensity and splendour of St. Peter's that this defect and that of the twisted columns of the altar-piece, and a hundred others, are absorbed in the galaxy of beauties with which they are mingled. “Yet has not St. Peter's, among all its magnificence, above one or two excellent works of art. Michel Angelo has left his name on a small and pitiful Pietà: Algardi has intrusted his celebrity to an immense bas-relief which imitates a painting, and consequently sails in its effect; and on every side you see gorgeous mural monuments, which being neither mere decorations of walls, nor positive sarcophagi, encroaching too much for the former, and too little detached and fanciful for the latter, have not the imposing appearance of the most uncouth Gothic tomb. Aunong these, however, that of Paul the Third, by Guglielmo della Porta is much spoken of, and that of Pope Rezzonico by Canova deservedly admired. To judge of the size of this enormous pile, two hundred feet longer, and a hundred feet higher, than St. Paul's, one should ascend the cupola, and look down upon the inside... It is here that, suspended over an immense abyss, not hollowed out by the potent hand of nature, but formed by the slow manual operation of man, that man himself lo like an insect creeping within his own work." The feelings excited by this edifice in a religious mind will be of a very mixed character, and at times of a tendency most painful. The vastness, the symmetry, the beauty and sightness, of the architecture, impart to it “a character of lostiness and perpetuity," perhaps unequalled by any other edifice; yet to some it may seem the “presencechamber of the monarch of the world, rather than the scene which a sinner would select in order to meet his God.” “From this temple of high beauty and exquisite skill,” to use the words of an eloquent writer, “ have any waters issued forth to heal the sickly places of the moral wilderness 2 Alas! is it not here that the slumbers of the soul are the most entire, that the despotism of ignorance is the most cruel,-that the degradation of the intellect is lowest, and the darkness of the heart the most unbroken and profound 2 Is it not here that the deep warning falls the loudest upon the startled ear? “Woe unto thee Chorazin' woe unto thee Bethsaida' for if the mighty works which were done in thee had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for thee.' " “How perfect a contrast of feeling,” exclaims the same writer, “have I experienced sometimes, when standing within that majestic edifice of St. Peter's ' This hour, the quietness, the warmth, the beauty, the fragrance, the light, the solitude, the vastness of the scene, have placed me in an element with which earth has been scarcely connected. I have felt detached from all human and immediate interests. The presence of God has cheered my spirit, and united me to all the lofty objects of eternity. The love and


grace of the great Saviour and benefactor have carried their ineffable consolations to my heart; and I have longed for the wings of a dove, that I might fly away and be for ever at rest. The next hour, the scene has been wholly changed. I have seen the multitude kiss the image which was that of Jupiter, and is that of St. Peter; I have heard the addresses to God in a language which the people cannot understand; I have considered the repugnance of the government to education ; the jealousy with which the diffusion of the Scriptures is regarded ; and all the previous enchantment has vanished from my mind have been compelled to turn from the magnificence of art, frotra the beauty of sculpture, from the lofty aspirations of an outward edifice, from the balmy breath of a stagrant atmosphere. from the fine emblems of heaven and "..." to the ap alling consideration, that the beams of truth have feebly rradiated these walls: that the chillness of a moral death reigns eternally within them; that the very structure which had given the former enchantment to my senses and my heart, owes its existence to the ambition and despotisin of human crime, and that in very truth, these magnificent buildings are, in the words of an energetic writer, as triumphal arches, erected in memorial of the exterumination of that truth, which was given to be the light of the world and the life of men How fearful is the consideration, that all the best faculties of the uind and the hand have thus been seized by a foreign force, and made instrumental against the happiness of their possessors, and against the glory and authority of Him who called them into existence.” “If,” exclaims another writer, “we could imagine a mousentary visit from Him, who once entered a fabric of sacred denomination with a scourge, because it was made the resort of a common traffic, with what aspect and voice,—with what infliction, but the rebuke with flames of fire, would he have entered this mart of iniquity, assuming the name of his sanctuary, where the traffic is in the delusions, crimes, and the souls of men. It was even as if, to use the prophet's language, the very ‘stone cried out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber answered it in denunciation; for a portion of the means of building was obtained as the price of dispensations and pardous."

— The dome, the vast, and wondrous dome,
To which Diana's marvel was a cell.

It is usually said to have been the boast of Michel Angelo that he would elevate the Pantheon in the air. “Whatever merit may attach to this idea, is certainly due to Bramante, since the cupola designed by him was certainly in pendentive, while that of Brunelleschi, at Florence, bears perpendicularly on its foundations. Perhaps to put it upon stilts would have been a more correct expression, and it is certainly better on the ground.” “To be convinced of this,” says Mr. Woods, “it is only necessary to mount into the gallery, and observe how much superior it appears in size aud beauty than when seen from below.”

The dome of St. Peter's is double, that is to say, there are in fact two domes, an inner and an outer one ; between the two is the staircase leading to the summit. The diaaeter of the internal dome is 140 feet, of the external dome, 195 feet. From the cornice immediately above the pillars to the aperture of the lantern the distance is 170 feet, from thence to the top of the cross, 110 feet; the height of the supporting piers themselves, is 178 feet, so that the total elevation of the top of the cross above the pavement of the church is 458 feet.

Miuch alarm has been felt at different times for the stability of the cupola of St. Peter's. Towards the end of the seventeenth century it was reported that the dome was about to give way, but on being examined it was found that there was no cause for reasonable alarm. In 1742 the report again prevailed ; mathematicians and architects were called in, and gave conficting opinions. There are now several bands of iron in the cupola; two were affixed when it was at first raised. There are cracks all round the drum, and according to Mr. Woods, they demote soune enlargement in that part from the expansion of the dome, “13ut, in spite of all the iron ties, the cracks in the buttresses are the most important, and from their direction, almost uniformly outward and downward, indicate a settlement of the whole drum upon the pendentives, while the columns, resting upon the direct arches of the nave, have retained, or nearly retained, their position. The great piers have therefore probably gone outward, and when in the building, by bringing my eye carefully, so as to compare

« PreviousContinue »