« PreviousContinue »
to be seen wherever the spectator may turn his eye. They are executed in iron, marble, and gold; and being placed over every window, door, and gallery in the palace, must, I think, form a singular, rather than a pleasing appearance. It cost eight millions sterling, and was twenty-four years in building. The bars of the gridiron form the several courts, and the royal family occupy the handle.
WILLIAM. As you may suppose, the gridiron on which St. Lawrence suffered became famous for abundance of miracles : many of them are related by St. Gregory. Soon after the martyrdom, a temple was erected to the memory of the saint, and the gridiron deposited therein with great solemnity.
MARIA. We now come to another day in the calendar, the meaning of which I have always been at a loss to comprehend. It is on the 15th, and is called Assumption; pray can you tell me to what it refers ?
WILLIAM. I can, Maria: it was first instituted in the year 813, to commemorate the supposed assumption or ascent of the Virgin Mary into heaven. It is still celebrated by both the Greek and Romish churches.
ANGELINA. And abolished in ours, I suppose ?
WILLIAM. Yes; and I think with good reason, since it is not even now agreed, whether the alleged assumption was of her soul or body: though to avoid the possibility of mistake, the assumption of both is celebrated by the Romish church. Neither is it a fact at all mentioned in sacred history, which is also another sufficient reason for its being discontinued as a festival in our church.
CHARLES. I think I have heard of a curious show or piece of machinery being exhibited in some foreign country on this day, in honour of the Virgin : pray can you inform us what it was like? MR. CONSTANCE. I suppose you allude to the pageantry observed at Messina, mentioned by Mr. Howel, in his “Descriptive Travels through Sicily.” It is certainly bordering on the ludicrous, although generally considered to be the most ingenious and superb of the many performances which have from time to time been exhibited to the honour of the supposed assumption. It consists of an immense machine, fifty feet high, and is constructed with the impious design of representing heaved. In the midst is placed a young female, personating the Virgin, with an image of our Saviour on her right hand ; round the Virgin, twelve little children turn vertically, representing so many seraphim; and below them twelve more children turn horizontally, as cherubim. Lower down in the machine a sun turns vertically, with a child at the extremity of each of the four principal radii of his circle, who ascend and descend with his rotation, yet always in an erect posture ; and still lower, reaching within about seven feet of the ground, are placed twelve boys; who turn horizontally, without intermission, around the principal figure ; designing thereby to exhibit the twelve apostles, who were collected from all corners of the earth, to be present at the decease of the Virgin, and witness her miraculous assumption.
Maria. But are all these living children? : MR. CONSTANCE. Yes, all of them; and it requires some interest with the monks, (who drag this huge machine about the streets,) for a parent to obtain a situation in it for his child.
ANGELINA. Well, I think it must be fine amusement for the children, and rather a droll assumption for the Virgin. · Mr. Constance. Not so amusing as you suppose, for some of them are frightened, others grow dizzy and sick, and some of them fall fast asleep.
Mrs. CONSTANCE. You stated that it was bordering
on the ludicrous; you might also have added on the absurd, I think; for of the many processions performed in Catholic countries, none surely can equal in these qualities, the one you have just mentioned. But we will now, if you please, William, pass to the serious consideration of the next day, commemorative of St. Bartholomew, who suffered martyrdom, I believe.
WILLIAM. He did, ma'am ; and if the manner of executing St. Lawrence was sufficient to excite feelings of horror, I fear that the narration of St. Bartholomew's sufferings, will create a similar sensation. After having preached the gospel with great fidelity and success, in the northern and western parts of Asia, he undertook a mission to India, where he met his death about the year 72, by excoriation, or the being flayed alive.
Mr. Constance. It is not certain, William, that St. Bartholomew was thus martyred, although it is more than probable that your account is correct, since that mode of punishment was in use among the Persian tribes which bordered on India ; it has, however, been contended, that Bartholomew was crucified, like St. Peter, with his head downwards. But have you no particulars of his life to relate? Can you tell us where he was born ?
WILLIAM. Not for a certainty : though probably in Galilee, from which place he was selected by Jesus, to follow him in his work of righteousness. - CHARLES. Was he one of the apostles ?
Mr. ConstaNCE. Yes: from the testimony of St. Matthew and St. Mark; and when first introduced into our Saviour's presence, by St. Philip, our Lord welcomed him by saying: “ Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile;" which strongly bespoke the pure character of the man, and the estimation in which he was held by his Divine Master. - CHARLES, But the name of Bartholomew is not in
the number of the twelve apostles mentioned by St. John. I suppose, therefore, that his name was changed; as many of the apostles had more than one appellation.
MR. CONSTANCE. It was : he is mentioned by St. John as Nathaniel, which name he received at his circumcision. The name of Bartholomew came from his father, who was called Tholomew, or Tolmai. Our saint's festival was instituted in 1130 : and he is depicted in paintings, as holding a knife in his left hand, emblematic of the horrid death which he is supposed to have suffered.
MARIA. Was there not a dreadful massacre of the French protestants, on the anniversary of this day, now called the “ Massacre of St. Bartholomew”?
WILLIAM. Yes, there was : on the 24th of August, 1572, when seventy thousand persons are supposed to have been slain throughout France. It began on the night of St. Bartholomew, by the secret orders of Charles IX. king of France, at the instigation of the Queen-dowager of Medici. It would afford you no gratification were I to enter into the particulars of this horrid transaction, in which rank, innocence, and beauty, were indiscriminately slaughtered ; but the reading of a short extract from the “Memoirs of the Duke of Sully,” may give a sufficient idea of the state of the public mind, at the same time that it will show the danger in which that esteemed nobleman was placed. “I was in bed, (he writes,) and awaked from sleep three hours after midnight, by the sound of all the bells and the confused cries of the populace. My governor, St. Julian, with my valet de chambre, went hastily out to know the cause ; and I never afterwards heard more of these men, who, without doubt, were among the first that were sacrificed to the public fury. I continued alone in my chamber, dressing myself, when, in a few moments, I saw my landlord enter, pale, and in the utmost consternation : he was of the reformed religion, and hav.
ing learned what the matter was, had consented to go to mass, to save his life, and preserve his house from being pillaged. He came to persuade me to do the same, and to take me with him. I did not think proper to follow him, but resolved to try if I could gain the College of Burgundy, where I had studied; though the great distance between the house where I then was, and the college, made the attempt very dangerous. Having disguised myself in a scholar's gown, I put a large prayer book under my arm, and went into the street. I was seized with horror inexpressible at the sight of the furious murderers ; who, running from all parts, forced open the houses, and cried aloud, Kill, kill, massacre the · Huguenots. The blood which I saw shed before my eyes, redoubled my terror. I fell into the midst of a body of guards; they stopped me, interrogated me, and were beginning to use me ill, when, happily for me, the book that I carried was perceived, and served me for a passport. Twice after this I fell into the same danger, from which I extricated myself with the same good fortune. At last I arrived at the College of Burgundy, where a danger still greater than any I had yet met with awaited me. The porter having twice refused me entrance, I continued standing in the midst of the street, at the mercy of the furious murderers, whose numbers increased every moment, and who were evidently seeking for their prey; when it came into my mind to ask for La Faye, the principal of this college, a good man, by whom I was tenderly beloved. The porter, prevailed upon by some small pieces of money which I put into his hand, admitted me; and my friend carried me to his apartment; where two inhuman priests, whom I heard mention Sicilian vespers, wanted to force me from him, that they might cut me in pieces, saying the order was, not to spare infants at the breast. All the good man could do, was to conduct me privately to a distant